Etrigan in action. Artist: Jack Kirby.

THE DEMON

Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1972
Creator: Jack Kirby
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There have been many, many demons in comics and cartoons, from Tchernobog (in the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence of Fantasia) to Hot Stuff the Little Devil. But when …

continued below

… toon buffs refer to The Demon, they're talking about a denizen of the infernal realm named Etrigan, created in 1972 by cartoonist Jack Kirby, for DC Comics.

Like so many comic book characters, Etrigan maintained a double identity. His Demon persona lay buried under that of Jason Blood, who appeared normal in every way except that he didn't age. In fact, Blood himself didn't know about his dual nature until, in The Demon #1 (Aug-Sep, 1972), a spell brought out The Demon in him. Since then, he's used his demonic powers in dozens of adventures, often serving a righteous cause (probably because of having been somewhat humanized during his centuries as Jason Blood), but seldom able to keep his evil nature completely in check. Between times, he sometimes reverts back to human form, and sometimes doesn't.

The Blood/Etrigan connection goes back to the time of King Arthur. To counter an all-out attack by Arthur's half-sister, the sorcerous Morgaine le Fay, Merlin the Magician conjured up Etrigan from the depths of Hell. But Camelot fell anyway; and to neutralize the menace he'd unleashed, Merlin transformed The Demon into a man.

And by the way, that wasn't The Demon's only connection to King Arthur's court. It's widely known that Kirby based his character's appearance on a "demon" impersonated by Prince Valiant in a 1937-38 sequence of Val's King Features series. Val made his demon mask out of a goose's skin, with the bird's quills functioning as tusks and its webbed feet as ears.

Etrigan was one of several series created by Kirby for DC in the early 1970s — New Gods, Kamandi, Omac … these began to flow from him immediately upon his departure from Marvel Comics, where he and Stan Lee had been responsible for most of the company's biggest stars. His DC creations weren't as commercially successful as The Fantastic Four, X-Men, et al. The Demon, for example, ended with its 16th issue (January, 1974).

But the character didn't stay banished for long. In 1979, a brief series in the back pages of Detective Comics indicated there was still interest in the character. Since then, he's been seen in the usual mini-series, specials and guest appearances (including several guest shots in animated versions of Batman and The Justice League), and continues to function as sort of a wild card in the DC Universe — not quite a villain, but always sparkling with little flashes of the chaos inside.

— DDM

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Text ©2002-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.