Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
The Demon has become one of Kirby's more interesting creations, visually exciting, the leaping gargoyle of a hero is at once mysterious and colorfully blatant.
As always with any Kirby creation, the art dominates and the storytelling in the Demon is some of the most effective of Kirby's Bronze Age career. I don't think I got lost for a single panel as the stories rumbled along, often at a beautifully breakneck pace.
The creatures and villains he encountered were recognizable motifs from the classic horror landscape, but all of them had that Kirby panache which invested them with a fresh energy.
The Demon is a character who can successfully play in DC's larger environment, more freely than just about any of Kirby's other Bronze Age creations for the company. The New Gods are defined by their origins and limited as to their focus. Kamandi is isolated in time. But the Demon lives in the heart of Gotham City, a hub of superhuman activity and is free to interact with other prime heroes.
One aspect of the Demon comics which I've neglected is the contribution of Mike Royer. Royer was Kirby's handpicked inker at this stage of his career. Also a denizen of California, Royer was convenient, but it was a union which resulted in some stunning comics pages.
Royer, especially in his earliest days on Kirby cleaved close to the penciled pages and enhanced what was on the page already. Later, as the two got more used to one another you can see Royer asserting his influence a bit more, or perhaps Kirby came to trust him enough to leave some elements in his hands.
Often overlooked in Royer's work on Kirby, but crucial to the overall look is the lettering. Royer's lettering gave the Kirby books a look unique in the DC line at the time, more free form than the typical material. When the Kirby stories started using more and more chapter breaks it gave Royer lots of opportunities to letter massive words, often with fascinating effect.
Reading The Demon over the last several weeks has been enlightening. Some of the comics I haven't read since I picked them up decades ago, and so sat largely unremembered. They are better comics than that, they deserve to be read. The will reward anyone who gives the effort.
No more to come.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The Demon returned off and on over the decades.
The first and the only one I followed other than the original Jack Kirby run was in the pages of Detective Comics.
Drawn by up and coming superstar artist Michael Golden, this was a pretty successful translation of the series, with a whisper of Wrightsonian style added to the bombast of Kirby's original designs. Golden was a perfect choice as artist at the time, as he somehow successfully blended these two disparate styles in one delicious hybrid.
I no longer own these stories and cannot read them again alas, but I do remember liking them mightily at the time they came out. The Demon lasted only a few issues in the dollar-sized Detective Comics format.
Since then, DC has trotted him out several times in limited series and ongoing ones as well. Growing out of his appearances in Swamp Thing, he even got a run in Action Comics Weekly, a cover for which (see above) was the last time Jack Kirby drew his creation for publication.
He seems to have found some level of success as some of the runs have been impressive, at least in terms of numbers. I cannot speak to quality as I've never read any of them at all.
Here are some of the debut covers.
The Demon has even made it to television. Simplified, but effective, the classic Kirby design holds up well in the animated look.
Heck there are even toys. Sheesh, that would look pleasant under the Christmas tree. Aargh.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
During the original run of Jack Kirby's The Demon, Jason Blood and his demonic alter ego made only guest-starring appearance that I'm aware of, in the pages of The Brave and the Bold #109. That makes perfect sense since the Demon was set in Gotham City, the fabled home base of Brave and Bold's star The Batman.
Written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo, the story begins with a bang when a molten murderer rises out of the river at a bridge construction site and viciously attacks and murders a tug boat captain. Later the creature murders a purser on a docked cruise ship.Called into the case Batman ruminates with Commissioner Gordon and neither can find any real motive to the savage slayings.
Meanwhile Jason Blood, alias the Demon entertains Glenda Mark who at this time is still unaware of Jason's dual nature. Randu Singh and Harry Matthews, the latter dressed nautically as they plan an evening on his yacht. After his friends have departed Jason gets a message from Merlin who reminds he will need him later at Tintagel.
Then Jason sees that on the street below Harry has been attacked by the molten creature and assuming the role of the Demon leaps to his defense. A furious battle ensues and the creature proves immune to the Demon's fire. Batman arrives just in time to snare the Demon who thanks to Randu's incantation returns to his Jason identity.
The quartet go to Jason's apartment where they fill Batman in on the nature of Jason and the Demon and put their heads together to try and discover something out about the creature. Randu uses his powers of E.S.P. to look into the past and he sees the ship off the coast of Krakatoa in the year 1883 and aboard the captain prepares to hang Jack Dobbs, a murderous sailor but who declares he will not hang. The eruption of Krakatoa proves him right, but he goes down with the ship but does not die. Later a ship named the Lady Claire arrives and Dobbs in his new monstrous form boards it and ultimately it enters Gotham harbor where it sinks, burying Dobbs until the bridge construction freed him to carry out his vengeance on any nautical man.
Batman rushes to engage Dobbs again while the Demon goes to the local museum and gets a mysterious loop of rope. Later during the battle with the creature the Demon transforms back into Jason as Merlin not realizing why his aide has not arrived punishes him. Randu communicates the problem and Merlin chagrined returns the Demon to normal just in time for his to rip off a metal band around the neck of Jack Dobbs and loop a noose about it. It seems that hanging was his destiny after all and with a rope scavenged all those decades before by the crew of the Lady Claire.
It's a boisterous adventure, a rock solid excursion into the Haneyverse with some of Aparo's best artwork. This was valiant effort to promote the character and Aparo's rendition of the Demon has much merit to it, more mysterious in many ways than Kirby's bold version. But alas the plug didn't work as the series came to an end only a few months later.
I can locate two more guest-starring roles for the Demon.
He appeared again in The Brave and the Bold, but in 1977 long after his own series had been cancelled.
Many years later still he guested with in 1984 Superman in DC Comics Presents.
The Demon was a good guest-star and often going without his own regular series, one would've thought he'd have shown up more often.
But alas it was not so.
Monday, October 27, 2014
The sixteenth and final issue of Jack Kirby's The Demon wraps up the storyline but returning the Demon's most implacable foe, the deadly Morgaine Le Fay.
Morgaine Le Fay in many ways is responsible for the centuries spanning Demon, as her assault on Camelot so long before is why Merlin summoned his Demon to begin with.
The story begins with the Demon on patrol in Gotham City when he comes across another of his kind, a demon named Kafir the Horned One who looks rather like a two-legged buffalo. They fight, but the Demon is overcome by magical mist which puts him to sleep.
When he awakes he is the prisoner of Morgaine Le Fay who seeks to make a slave of the Demon and Jason Blood by branding him on the forehead with her mark. She seems successful.
Meanwhile Glenda Mark is practicing with the Philosopher's Stone and begins to realize its great power. She is suddenly confronted by Warly, the old sorcerer who we first encountered in the debut issue of the series and who is a servant of Morgain Le Fay. He tells Glenda that if she follows him he can take her to Jason Blood.
When they arrive at Morgaine's hideout, the Demon is busy entertaining her by fighting an ancient gladiator. The battle is ended Morgaine entertains her guest by showing her control over the Demon and over Jason Blood himself and Glenda for the first time sees the transformation and leans the truth about the man she has come to care for.
Morgaine wants the Philosopher's Stone, but Glenda does not give in so easily and as they banter Warly suddenly snatches it and attacks his former mistress turning her into what appears to be a metallic mummy case. But Morgaine's magic is not done and red tendrils reach out from another dimension and snare Warly who counters with Nether-Flame. The flames get out of control and Jason and Glenda flee when suddenly Jason realizes that he's free of Morgaine's control.
Using his powers as the Demon he gets himself and Glenda free of the flames and ends the menace of Morgaine Le Fay. He then reclaims the Philosopher's Stone and confronts Glenda with the truth that he and the Demon are one and the same. With that revelation the series comes to an end.
It's clear that Kirby knew the this was the last issue and so he was able to give it a send off, though it was a flawed one. We still get no word on Harry Matthews and Randu Singh who had been saved but still suffer from the idea that Jason had turned on them. That plot is not resolved, at least not directly. I do like that Glenda is finally let in on the secret of Jason, and she proves a worthy partner for him in this adventure.
Bringing in Morgaine Le Fay again was smart and I was especially surprised to see old Warly again. This gives the series a nice circular structure and on that level an interesting ending.
That's the end of the series but there's a bit more to come still.