Comic Book Review: Jack Kirby’s The Demon by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer
In the 1970s, the Comics Code eased up a bit, and horror comics again became a viable subgenre. At DC Comics, most of their horror output was in short story anthologies like Ghosts or House of Secrets. But as DC happened to have comics legend Jack Kirby working for them at the time, they asked him to do a horror-tinged comic book as well.
As Mark Evanier explains in his introduction, Kirby homaged an old Prince Valiant story in the design of the central character, Etrigan. He also tied him into the Arthurian tales by having the Demon be a servant of Merlin, harking back to that character’s mixed parentage. Etrigan was bound to the seemingly human Jason Blood, an immortal who repeatedly forgot his past and believed he was the latest in a long line of identical sons. In the current lifetime, he had become a demonologist.
This proved to be due to Merlin’s secret influence, as the sorceress Morgaine le Fey was close to discovering the secrets of Merlin’s power. Soon Jason had regained much of his memory and the ability to unleash Etrigan, although not to control him. Etrigan was an anti-hero before they became cool in comics, decidedly demonic, but fighting against evil.
In addition to Morgaine le Fay, the Demon battled other evil magic users and monsters, the most memorable of which was Klarion the Witch Boy. Klarion was a chilling mix of adult cruelty and childish mischief, unpredictable but easy to trick.
Jason Blood’s supporting cast were Randu, a U.N. delegate with ESP; Harry Matthews, a tough-talking (but way out of his depth) advertising executive; and Glenda Mark, who at that point was just a pretty girl Jason dated.
This is exciting stuff, but like many new series of the 1970s, did not last long. The story ends with the sixteenth issue and Glenda discovering Jason’s secret., Kirby’s art is at its best with the monsters and action scenes–women were never one of his strong suits.
Etrigan went on to many guest appearances and short-lived series, most recently appearing in Demon Knights. http://www.skjam.com/2012/12/19/24/ for that review.
For those interested in the character, or Jack Kirby fans, this is a must-read.