Just saying those two words can get my blood rushing with excitement. Sure, I can read many different kinds of comics by various creators… but whenever I pick up a classic comic drawn by Kirby, there’s a certain kind of electricity in the air. The most influential and innovative artist to ever work in the comic book medium, Kirby’s skill as a writer may be debatable. His characters often talk in third person stating their name as if to quickly bring the reader up to speed, but you cannot find the kind of raw excitement inherent in his work. From his early work in comics like Fighting American to the later pieces such as Silver Star, Jack was in love with his drafting table.
It is hard to think of a time when Kirby‘s creations were not part of the DC Universe, but there was. Disgruntled with his former compatriot and co-creator Stan Lee and the bureaucracy at Marvel Comics, Jack moved across the street to the Distinguished Competition to share his magic touch and invent a whole new line of characters in a lush and vibrant universe. He started slow, proving that he could transform a go-nowhere title like Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen into a hot commodity and in no time had delivered an entire line of comics, The New Gods.
He also created The Demon. Based loosely on a disguised used by Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and therefore Morte d’Arthur as well (remember when comics were based on actual literature??!!), the Demon was a monster trapped in the cage of a human body by the mighty Merlin. Apparently the mage had thought of Etrigan as a kind of final solution weapon against the forces of Morgaine Le Fey. Left unwatched, the Demon may spread destruction, so he must be caged in human form.
Following the destruction of Camelot, Etrigan was cursed to walk the Earth until summoned to service his master once more. Seeking an escape from his enchantment, he finally located his master’s enchantment capable of switching forms at least temporarily only to meet his nemesis Morgaine Le Fey who sought to finish her battle started long ago resulting in Camelot‘s demise.
A reluctant hero, Etrigan is now a regular face in the DCU, often showing up in the pages of Swamp Thing, The Justice League of America or even Neil Gaiman‘s version of Jack Kirby’s Sandman. A rhyming character, Etrigan is often a challenge to the writer’s skill (though this character trait is sometimes entirely forgotten), but his power is never in doubt. Spewing forth hellfire and acidic bile, Etrigan is more than a match for nearly any task.
Like many DC characters, Etrigan the Demon‘s back story and persona has been rewritten many times over. Matt Wagner, John Byrne and even Garth Ennis have all taken turns with Etrigan in attempts to more clearly define who and what he is… often contradicting each other. While Wagner’s Demon series was mainly about Jason Blood freeing himself of the curse of being bound to Etrigan, John Byrne‘s series Blood of the Demon saw things the other way round.
As such, it’s difficult to get a handle on what’s going on with this guy.
This week a complete Omnibus of Kirby‘s work with the Demon was released. Printed in crisp non-glossy paper (much like the New Gods Omnibus collections), this is a real find. In these pages new readers will find strange creatures and explosive full page spreads of destruction. Old readers familiar with the series will find that old electricity, still glowing after these many years.
All hail King Kirby!
Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C.
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 2
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 3
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 4