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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Comics Rainbow - Satan

Let’s talk about Satan.  Currently, Satan is enjoying his slow crawl into the hearts and minds of the public thanks to Fox’s fairly successful Lucifer show, the TV series reboot of The Omen entitled Damien, and the upcoming TV reboot of The Exorcist.  That’s a lot of Satan to go around and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more given the fantasy genre’s current fascination with seminal works of fantastical literature that we’ve all been aware from an incredibly early age.  I mean if King David is getting a TV show and Noah got a blockbuster movie I can see Satan getting more screen time.  As such, I’ve decided to dive into the world of Satan in comics because believe me it is one twisted hell of weirdness and nonsense.

This is a bit of a first for Comic Rainbow: a comic character that’s not from Marvel or DC.  I had always planned to expand the series, it just so happened that it took Satan to do it but more on that element in a little bit.  Malebolgia is one of the more recent Satans on this list, in particular he’s the Satan of the Spawn universe.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Spawn, the whole idea of his character was that he was a murderous human CIA operative sent back to Earth as a “hell spawn” (get it?)  

Malebolgia’s plan and the big reason he doesn’t really work as Satan is that whenever Spawn uses his powers to fight evil it causes him to fall more under Malebolgia’s sway.  His whole plan essentially forces Spawn to NOT do things as a form of valiant superheroing.  I’ve never encountered a character that actually featured inaction as a baked in part of their mythos save for Spawn and that inaction lays squarely at the feat of Malebolgia.  What’s more, Malebolgia is just a pretty dully designed Satan. 

I’ve talked previously about my love for the Son of Satan so this won’t be that long.  Popping up in the early ‘70s as part of Marvel trying to capitalize on an aging fan base hungry for non-superhero stories, Son of Satan was essentially a horror hero in the vein of Ghost Rider or Brother Voodoo.  His basic origin was, brilliantly, being an angry teenager rebelling against his father the devil by doing good deeds and combating evil on Earth.  

It’s a crazy idea that fits perfectly into the overall weirdness that was ‘70s comics.  Since then the Son of Satan or Damien Hellstrum has stuck around the Marvel universe in numerous great stories and was a long time member of the Defenders.  Of all the heroic takes on Satan this is easily the most interesting and compelling, owing mainly to how much of a blend he is between teen angst, Satanic imagery, and free form ‘70s imagination.

Ah the yellow entry, the character I dislike but everyone else loves, this one never wins me any favors.  In the case of Trigon, most folks probably know him from the various Teen Titans animated series.  While I like his weird overbearing father persona in Teen Titans Go I’ve never cared for the character in his more serious iterations.  He’s one of several Satan analogues that plague comics owing to the 1950s moral panic over the issue of adult themes in comics such as Satan, sexuality, and blood shed.  

My big central complaint about Trigon is that he’s just a very generic Satan stand in.  Sure he’s a threat in that he’s a big red extra-dimensional monster but it’s not like he, himself, is that interesting.  He’s basically just another conquer from not-Earth who stomps around angry and shouting and such.  He’s only all that memorable because of his rapey relationship with Raven’s mother, which is hardly a good thing. 

As far as confirmed Satans go Neron would have to be the best analog the big 2 have ever produced.  He’s more of a “angelic prince of Hell” type Satan as opposed to the whole red skin, horns, and hooves type representation that tends to dot these incarnations.  Despite the foppish design and weirdly green color scheme for a devil Neron has to be one of the most successful Satans out there.  

He had an entire event comic dedicated to his devilry called Underworld Unleashed in which he sold a ton of new super powers to various minor DC villains.  He perverted angels to his will, once tried to drop the moon on people, and even once almost perverted God’s wrath to his own merciless ends.  As far as Satans go he’s easily the most accomplished and threatening iteration of the character to go toe-to-toe with the major heroes of the big 2 universes. 

Here’s a guy you might kind of know from that terrible Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movie we endured back in the 2000s.  Black Heart’s another son of the devil type character, in fact he and the Son of Satan may very well be brothers.  Black Heart takes way more after his daddy though as he’s a big ugly monster made from darkness and hatred.  Black Heart doesn’t really DO all that much as a bad guy, he tends to pop up more often as medium level threat rather than a big, end of the world type bad guy.  

However, the Blue section is about who I personally like and I’ve always had a major soft spot for this guy after he showed up in Marvel Superheroes War of the Gems, a forgotten scrolling beat ‘em up video game that I played the hell out of when I was a kid.  It’s the game that first introduced me to Iron Man and Captain America so I’m always going to have a major soft spot for stuff that harkens back to it. 

Here’s another Satan stand-in from the guys at DC.  Lord Satanus was part of a duo along with Lady Blaze, a pair of super satanic bad guys who threatened Shazam and Superman through the ‘80s and ‘90s.  They’re essentially your basic Satan analog, complete with cloven hooves, horns, and red skin.  Eventually, the two rose to something close to major prominence in the DC event comic Reign In Hell.  During Reign In Hell, Lord Satanus launched a full on invasion of the infernal realm leading an army made up of souls trapped in Purgatory.  

Eventually, Satanus actually won the war and killed the previous head of hell Neron.  The main reason Satanus is on here is that despite enacting a massive war with Hell itself and winning that war they never did anything with his character.  Despite going through all this massive shenanigans to upset the status quo of the entire universe they never once developed it into anything worth commenting on before just rebooting the universe for the millionth time. 

Hellboy is the reason I know this Comic Rainbow would require entries from outside the big two comic companies.  Hellboy is easily the most popular comic book Satan ever produced with 2 big live action movies, a smattering of animated films, and even a few video games under his belt to say nothing of the numerous spin-off comics that’ve spawned out of this one character.  That’s a lot of success but it makes sense when you look at how great a character Hellboy is.  Hellboy, in case you hadn’t heard, is another son of Satan character, in fact he’s actually pretty similar to Damien Hellstrum only combined with another Marvel favorite: The Thing.  

Like Hellstrum Hellboy is a son of Satan who rejects his father’s teaching though the big difference is that he was also raised from childhood by humans.  The man he’s grown into is very similar to Marvel’s every-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing: a big, outsized ball of attitude and emotion all behind a blunt, rocky face.  Combine that with his 9 to 5 job literally being to punch monsters right in the face with his giant rock hand and you’ve got a formula for a beloved comic book icon with stories still being published to this day. 

Mephisto is the resident Marvel Satan and would’ve taken the green spot on this spectrum before I realized he never really did much as Satan.  He usually popped up to bedevil Dr. Strange or that one time he bought Spider-Man’s marriage for an old lady.  That whole One More Day saga almost landed Mephisto on the black list if not for what a wonderfully realized vision of Satan he really is.  What I mean is that physically speaking Mephisto actually isn’t that reminiscent of the Satan.  

They’re both big red guys sure but he doesn’t have cloven hooves or big horns or that little pointy beard like a magician.  All he’s got is a villainous and malevolent face and a pure red color scheme that absolutely screams “Satan.”  Plus he once helped Thanos wipe out ½ of all life in the universe and also convinced Reed Richards he had soled his soul for knowledge so that’s pretty cool.  Other fun fact: this is the guy who currently own Dr. Doom’s mom because he’s just that much of a satanic bastard.  

And so we reach the reason I actually made this rainbow.  See, that Lucifer TV show that’s airing on Fox is actually an adaptation of a comic book of the same name published by Vertigo, the mature readers imprint of DC comics.  Lucifer, surrounding the metaphysical adventures and antics of Lucifer Morningstar were one of their touchstone comics that helped shape the mass success of Vertigo alongside now famous hits like Sandman, Hellblazer, and Fables.  

It’s a thrilling and incredibly well written series that makes for a terrific look at the Devil, specifically imagining him through a lens more in line with that of Paradise Lost.  Lucifer Morningstar isn’t the standard big red evil dude like Trigon or even a self-loathing Satan like Hellboy, he’s a complex character who lives out his life forever removed from God’s sight and forever pushing a Luciferian agenda of almost pure anarchy.  It’s a terrific series with a great lead that’s thoroughly worth your time to explore. 

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