Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Demonology #0 - Dark Origins!
The Demon was one of the titles Jack Kirby commenced when it became sadly clear that his Fourth World saga (New Gods and Forever People in particular) had not found a sufficient audience, at least according to the DC powers-that-were. According to Mark Evanier the head honcho at DC, Carmine Infantino urged Kirby to create a "weird hero" comic, a type of story which DC was having some success with. Kirby wasn't eager to do it, but wanted to edit a book of that type with others supplying the art. DC said no, and after the demise of two titles in the Fourth World, it was necessary for Kirby to draw some more stuff to fulfill his contract.
Mister Miracle continued, though altered substantially by extracting much of the Fourth World mythology from the tales, and Kirby initiated two new series, Kamandi The Last Boy on Earth (inspired by the success of the Planet of the Apes franchise) and the supernatural The Demon.
The Demon was a mystical yarn set in the modern world, but having its roots in the vintage mythology of the King Arthur tales. To that end the Demon's very look was derived from the finest comic strip ever to mine the Arthurian Cycle, Hal Foster's legendary Prince Valiant. Early in the stories, Val assumes a terrifying disguise to effectively wage a battle inside a castle. He manufactures a mask which will throw a scare into his foes.
Swooping down into their midst, his plan largely works. This comic strip, removed by decades must have made quite an impression on a young Jack Kirby as he doubtless used it either consciously or unconsciously as the inspiration for the ghastly yellow face of The Demon Etrigan.
Recently I've learned that Foster's inspiration might well have been a 1922 Swedish movie titled Haxan by director Benjamin Christensen. The still above is highly suggestive, though hardly conclusive, just as we have no direct evidence that I am aware of that Kirby borrowed his design from Foster. To see this movie in all its truly weird glory see this link. The scene above occurs at about the fifty-four minute mark.
Whatever the case, off and one over the next several weeks I will be taking a close issue by issue look at Kirby's mystical classic. For a host of reasons, I did not follow The Demon as it came out in the early 70's, rather I discovered late in its run and had to gather back issues to fully appreciate what Kirby had created. I hope that this reading will unlock some of the majesty of this series for me after so many years obscured by Kirby's masterpiece the Fourth World.
I'll be using the handsome and highly readable 2008 omnibus collection of the stories. So throughout the demonic month of October look for my well-spoiled reviews of the comic.
"Gone! Gone! --the form of man--Rise the Demon, Etrigan!"