Writer: Alan Grant
Artists: Val Semeiks, Denis Rodier
DC Comics, 1990
SAYING THE TRUTH will set you free is horribly false when you glimpse a demon face sneer back at you through the looking glass. A face from the past stalks you, the truth of what is done and etched in the wood-grain of time. Let me free, it says.
THE demon laughs, hands on belly, enjoying your despair, too stupid to care what world you share as he rears to seal your fate.
No truth or pain
will set you free
until you fight
or forget again
Returning to back issues I missed in THE DEMON, issues 6-8, from 1990, by author Alan Grant and artist Val Semeiks, the virtual reality of a demon alter-ego impressed me with fresh vigor. For me, this is a classic version of Etrigan, the Demon, displaying a variety of grimy moods, and spouting infernal rhymes like a demented tap dancer smoothing his grooves.
This three-issue set gives a stunning tour through hell, with rampaging fiends, a fascinating permutation on Dante, a cameo by Lucifer, and a showdown with demon dad Belial over who rules. All in musical time. Sing a ditty here. One two one two.
Meanwhile, the human shell and the demon core glare at each across the mirror, one evil eye to the other, pupil to pupil. I have suffered a millennium and a half in this prison shell! both exclaim, how I despise thee and cannot spit thee free.
So goes the fugue of revolt endlessly varied between the Demon and his hapless human host, Jason Blood, incanted together by Merlin in the age of King Arthur to live eternally bound as a schizoid pair who occasionally snatch opportunities to co-exist and fume at one another.
Who will dare to stop and stare
or stand with upraised hand
to tell me no you may not sow
this brand upon the land
That is me trying to express the character. Lyrics by Alan Grant are much better, and better than most all others who try.
The Demon challenge makes a poignant story: living with a demon. I think you know how that goes. Equally impressive versions of The Demon are found by Matt Wagner in 1987, in a four-issue mini-series that first drew me to the character; and of course, the original version of The Demon created by Jack Kirby in his own series, in 1972, featuring stunning interdimensional scenery.
Now my blood is up again, so to speak. I fret about it. Ah Blood, how often must you relinquish yourself to that other, and explain to your friends, or shield your friends and try to protect them from what you sometimes become.
Listen, the demon coos, once we are restored into the world, we are the ones with power. Let me free. We shall be the ones with power over the hosts of hell. Recognize the evil you cannot escape. Let me free.
Jason Blood, on his part, once re-grounded, does not curl up in a ball and try to cover his ears. He decides, when the truth hurts: hurt it back.