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.