causticlad: Matter-Eater Lad doing his cracky thing (Default)
[personal profile] causticlad posting in [community profile] scans_daily


Was there ever a period of creative ferment as compressed and productive as DC Comics in late 1986 and early 1987? Looking at the ads in this comic, I see that Watchmen was underway, the Giffen/Maguire "One punch!" period of the Justice League was starting, The Dark Knight Returns had just finished up and Miller/Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One was published. So was "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", and George Perez started his noted run on Wonder Woman a couple of months later. All have, quite rightly, been collected for posterity, sometimes several times.

Right in the midst of this is one more comic that would seem to be of a piece with the others but has been largely forgotten and never collected. If you want to read them, you need to track down the originals of Matt Wagner's four-issue miniseries Demon. It's a little difficult to see why, though I think it's a mixture of two factors. Wagner had just finished his acclaimed indie comic Mage: The Hero Discovered and this new work suffered by comparison for DC's lower-quality production values -- four-colour printing and newsprint didn't do Wagner's art any favours. And secondly, has there ever been a character of such promise as Etrigan who never came to fruition? Maybe it's the difficulty of writing him in rhyme all the time. He's been given a launch or relaunch no less than five times by my count and never hit the big time.

Nevertheless, there's gold to be found in this iteration of the yellow-skinned demon. This extended sequence, from issue #3, demonstrates why you never, never talk to demon lords.



The scene is set by knowing that Glenda(!), erstwhile girlfriend of Jason Blood -- alter-ego of Etrigan the demon -- has been fridged...if by fridged you mean "sucked into Hell by the demon lord Belial". Blood is determined to get her back and, using the Philosopher's Stone and a few clues he's obtained about a connection between Belial, Etrigan, and Merlin, sets about doing so. He needs help doing it, though, and recruits long-lost Demon supporting character Harry Andrews.



Harry, as you can see, doesn't want to be there but remains out of loyalty and a sick fascination.



And so the ritual begins.



All I have to say here is "Heee! Pretty!" One of the sadly few pages in the series where Wagner's work shines through the production values.



And now you know what the pigeons are for: answers cost blood.



This is the series' big reveal: Merlin and Etrigan are brothers, which explains why the former had power over the latter to stuff him into Jason Blood nigh on a thousand years ago, and why someone is now trying to do the opposite -- use Etrigan as a weapon against Merlin.



"Did I or did I not say, 'Do not distract me, Harry'?"



And that is why you do not truck with demons. Right up there with starting a land war in Asia.

I'm given to understand that Harry has since made appearances in other, later Demon comics, which strikes me as too bad -- as an actual animate seat cushion. A bit too Clive Barker for my taste, that. Far better to have left him at this, with a profoundly creepy moment that's tough to forget.

Date: 2011-10-07 04:58 pm (UTC)
thehefner: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thehefner
Was there ever a period of creative ferment as compressed and productive as DC Comics in late 1986 and early 1987?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I'd argue that it lasted even through 1989 and 1990, and I think one of the main recurring factors was the involvement of Andrew Helfer as editor. He was not only the mastermind of JLI, but also helped give us both parts of Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn (still the best GL origin ever), his own Shadow series (needs to be collected), and the greatest Batman series of all time, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.

Sadly, as evidenced by the scans here, this period of unparalleled excellence was marred by ridiculously shitty printing and coloring quality for the less-prestige books like the above and JLI.

...as an actual animate seat cushion.

Oh! That's Harry? I've seen that character in Who's Who of the early 90's, but haven't read the series. What can I say? It's Alan Grant.

Date: 2011-10-08 10:19 am (UTC)
magus_69: (pic#370599)
From: [personal profile] magus_69
He was not only the mastermind of JLI, but also helped give us both parts of Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn (still the best GL origin ever)

What I like best about the Emerald Dawn series is the risk it took with Hal's character. Certain... shall we say... current takes on pre-GL Hal have him as a fuckup-martyr, a guy who has made a couple mistakes but is ultimately suffering because of others. While Hal was scarred by the death of his father in Emerald Dawn, it was very clear that he made his own choices, and other people suffered because of them. He screwed up his job, he screwed up his relationship with Carol, and his decision to drive drunk resulted in a friend being paralyzed due to the resulting car accident. That's way more Marvel than most Marvel characters.

Also, modern Sinestro was introduced in Emerald Dawn II. Geoff Johns gets a lot of credit for making Sinestro a badass*, but from what I can tell all of the character notes that he ran with were introduced by Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones. Desire to impose order on the universe? The relationship with Hal? The reason why he fixated on Hal above all other Lanterns? Those are all found in ED II.

*-- I'm not saying he hasn't written Sinestro as a badass, but Giffen and Jones did all the groundwork, and I haven't heard them get any credit for it.

Date: 2011-10-07 08:07 pm (UTC)
filkertom: (Default)
From: [personal profile] filkertom
I have never understood why they blasted this out of continuity within months, nor why this miniseries has never been reprinted. Everything Frank Miller is supposed to have as a strength, Matt Wagner does better, and with more style.

Date: 2011-10-08 01:19 pm (UTC)
jkcarrier: me, at my old office (Default)
From: [personal profile] jkcarrier
I think this was my first exposure to Matt Wagner, and yeah, it made me wonder what all the hype was about. As you say, the art didn't come out well at all, and that narration just drones on and on. I remember a cartoon that ran in the Comics Buyer's Guide: Etrigan buried under a pile of caption boxes, saying something along the lines of "This ponderous copy / Is a two-fold fear / It can flatten my pate / Or bore me to tears".

Date: 2011-10-10 03:24 pm (UTC)
wizardru: Hellboy (Default)
From: [personal profile] wizardru
This has never been collected? That's kind of shocking, really.

Wagner's contribution to comics almost certainly needs to be noted, in his drive for making the color process a highlight of his work. No comic looked like Mage when it first came out; others had nice colors in prestige formats, but Mage took it to an entirely new level. It was also the first comic I ever read on high-quality paper stock.

Looking back, I wonder if this was the beginning of the end of accessible cost comics, though. Nicer paper and more sophisticated coloring processes ain't cheap.

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