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Steve Gerber, the Son of Satan, and Evil

So it’s Easter when I’m writing this. And that’s always a good time to talk about evil.

This ties into one of my favorite blogger Plok’s Seven Soldiers of Steve project. I’m um…. a couple years late.

(Note from today: A couple years and a few months, as Easter is long gone.)

The whole project is a response to Steven Grant (who’s Master of the Obvious column runs on this very site) saying that Ditko and Lee’s Dormammu story in Doctor Strange was the first graphic novel. (Although he later recanted. )

Anyway, Plok responded to the core idea here – That, if any set of comics are thematically unified, are marked by a distincitve voice, sweeping narrative ambition, and are just plain good…

That pretty much makes them a NOVEL, regardless of the format the material was originally released in.

Using this as a starting point, he decided to see who, in comics, has written graphic-novels-before there were graphic novels.

And Steve Gerber was the obvious choice. He further argued that Gerber’s staggeringly ambitious (for their time) Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, and Void Indigo strips were their own animals.

BUT… Gerber’s SUPERHERO work for Marvel might, just might, have enough interconnections, in theme, setting, and character, to count as one fully formed novel, spanning many different series: Daredevil, Marvel Two-In-One, She-Hulk, the Defenders. So he sent out a challenge to the blogverse, asking for writers to tackle different aspects of Gerber’s superhero work. I claimed Gerber’s Son of Satan run, which spanned 10 issues of Marvel Spotlight. I decided to base my piece around the general theme of evil.

And, a couple years later, and several month’s after Gerber’s death I’m done!

The whole she-bang was given the catchy name Seven Soldiers of Steve, and it’s  still open, and I implore you guys to come a contribute on your own blog… Or if you don’t have a blog and want to contribute something, drop me a note in the comments section.  I made some topic suggestions t’wards the top of comment # 17.  (The long one from me, without the grey quote text.)

Note that the verry end has links to all the other SSOS posts, which are some damnfine reading.

So. Background info-dump time.

Let’s set the way-back machine for the early seventies. Marvel is having mondo success with it’s superhero line, but everything else – It’s Western, romance, and war-themed comics – are faltering.

The comics code had been loosened a little bit, allowing a greater range of content, especially supernatural horror to find it’s way into comic shops. So the PTB at Marvel decide to branch out into horror books. Here comes Tomb of Dracula, Monster of Frankenstein, Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider…

And, not TOO much later, after proposing and rejecting a series about the adventures of the Devil, a book called Son of Satan. The titular hero was Damien Hellstrom, A priest/freelance occultist who just happens to be the l-o-v-e child of…

Well, I figure you can guess.

Due to his unusual parentage, Damien was also gifted with a plethora or two of demonic superpowers. He could shoot “hellfire,” hop across dimensions, and he could magic himself up a nifty-ass flaming chariot pulled by devil horses.

This is not a terrible concept, and it was a strong enough one to catapult Mr. Hellstrom from being a Ghost Rider supporting character to the lead (actually only) feature in the Marvel Spotlight anthology starting with issue 12.

Two points: (A) The concept was good. (B) The character sucked. The Son of Satan ranked somewhere between limp dishrag and deadf fish on the personality scale, being just a little too emo to duplicate the icy charisma of Dracula and just too boring to match the wise-ass cool of John Constantine. He was originally saddled with an ungainly hero-by-day, monster-by-night schtick which worked a heck of a lot better for Werewolf by Night and the Hulk. Similarly, the stories themselves lurched back and forth between traditionally paced Marvel super-heroics and supernatural horror, never really figuring out what they wanted to be.

So. Two extremely mediocre issues of Marvel Spotlight pass before Steve Gerber starts his tenure on the character with Spotlight 14.

Poor Guy.

Gerber is stuck with this HUGE lame duck character. Damien has no personality, no supporting cast, former writers had failed to establish a consistent tone, and nobody even really knew what freaking genre they were working in.

And somehow Gerber made this mish-mash work. And, strangely, except for establishing a consistent supporting cast, he did it without really fixing any of the above problems.

Basically, Gerber did two things to make the book his own. (A) He dished out some of the most creative plots of his career, and (B) used the whole “Brat of the Devil” bit to provide a springboard for some thoughtful speculation as to the nature of life, the universe….

And evil. We’re here for the evil.

See, in most supernatural horror, evil is not clearly defined. We know it when we see it. Freddy Kruger is evil ’cause he just killed your boyfriend. The demon from the Exorcist is evil cause she just ruined your carpet. Not a heck of a lot of theophilosophical depth, there.

Conversely, Gerber used his time on Son of Satan to sketch out a fairly cohesive and effective definition of what evil IS, and how it WORKS, starting from his very first issue.

Plot summary: Doctor Katherine Reynolds, (who would hang out and sorta girlfriend for the rest of the series) calls Hellstrom in to investigate a haunted Communications Building on the campus of Gateway University. Oh shit! It’s all haunted by ice demons! (See above. Or below.) Damien takes the time to question ‘em about their campus invasion.

Invasion?

Sneers frosty the snowman.

We were summoned to that place inadvertantly — By a human who “teaches” there. Like ourselves, he seeks to squash human creative potential… For men who’s thoughts run in narrow, rigid channels, are easily dominated…

And, in case we didn’t get it the first time: When he makes a return appearance, in Marvel Spotlight 22, the demon king Ikthalon reiiterates

I dwll wherever men fear the truth, wherever minds seek not to learn! I touched the wole Earth in it’s long ago Dark Ages. I am the embodiment of man’s stagnation of thought and resistance to change.

And…

I reside within you.

So. It ain’t exactly subtle, but here it is:

Point One: Evil is rigid, and anti-creative.

Jump forward a couple pages. With Damien safely-for-the-moment imprisoned in another dimension, the Ice critters are free to begin their invasion of earth, and in doing so drop this tidbit.

Ice Demon 1: You see my lord? It is as I told you! Man has come far since we last ruled him. AYE, — In some ways, but not in the most crucial. Man is still a being who prefers ignorance to the pain of awareness.

So, denial gets you conquered by ice demons. Or, call it

Point Two: Evil is defined as Fear of Knowledge.

Not to worry, folks: Dr. Reynolds scares up Damien’s mystic trident and deux-ex machinas him homewords, where Satan’s kid sends ‘em packin’ with a few quick spells. Honestly, this issue wasn’t Gerber’s best work, although the last page over here made me smile. (Click to embiggen.)

Damien 1, Frosty 0.

Next story arc: It begins with a dream sequence, where Damey mixing it up with his pop, the spectre of greed, Dr. Reynolds and, most importantly, this dude.

A catholic priest. Which leads us to Point Three, Evil is sneaky, and can come at you from anywhere. (Keep in mind that the Son of Satan comics had adopted a fairly strong pro-Christian bias up to this point.)

it ends with Damien’s dual nature’s being merged, which ends the (fairly stupid) premise that Damien ONLY turns into the Son of Satan at night, but doesn’t seem to have any impact on the story for the rest of Gerber’s run, so I’m gonna gloss over it… And the rest of the issues as well. Damien, his sorta-girlfriend Dr. Kathleen Reynolds and her student Byron Hyatt head out to investigate a satanic ritual, Damien gets into his skirmish with his pop, the FATHER of the Son of Satan. Who looks like a goat, and Bryon decides there’s something “evil” about the Son of Satan.

*Snicker*

We move on.

# 17: Annnnnd POOF, the book gets better, as Gerber and artists Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney cheerfully deliver a chunk of congealed insanity called 4,000 holes in Forest Park!

As the title suggests, 4,000 prairie dog-size holes pop up in Forest Park, smack-dab in the middle of St. Louis overnight, with no explanation for their appearance. Damien, Katherine, and Byron head out to investigate.

And find one happening scene, man…

Because this is a seventies Marvel comic, Hellstrom ‘n pals get attacked by dudes with swords, Damien defends himself with devil fire, which somehow leads to…

The holes (A) All get set on fire,

(B) Somehow connect with each other, and give birth to a big-ass fire dragon,

who (C) sets out to destroy the world as we know it.

As we all know, the logical thing to do when confronted with a big-ass fire dragon is to go back in time to the lost city of Atlantis so you can astrally commune with The Sunning Zhered-Ha!

This is where it gets a little tricky, theology-like. Stay close.

Apparently the appearance of the above BAD is the result of the universal guardian of stability, a dude named Spyros, abandoning his post and mucking around with the mystical-double-helix thingy at the center of the universe (just work with me, OK..) After an initial encounter Spyros yanks off his mask and reveals, underneath…..

Adam!

Yep, the OG of original sin. Who informs us

Dost thou knowest me Hellstrom? Twas [your father] who made me this monstrosity.. and now his son doth attempt to compound the crime!

To which Hellstorm replies

If you are who you say, then surely this pain has taught you by <u>now.</u> My father but tempted you! YOU made the fateful choice! My “crime” is to wish the same freedom to choose for all men.

Which leads us to Point Four: Evil is a choice. (And, conversely, so is good.)

Adam’s beaten, he returns to his post, the dragon calms down. Next issue.

After this trippy little tale, the next couple issues are a bit of a disappointment. They’re a fairly standard Exorcist riff. And while the Son of Satan character pre-dated the flick… HERE, Gerber and company are almost violently ripping Friedkin’s flick off. There’s a demon, a daughter, some angry parents… Pretty typical stuff.

The saving grace being new artist Gene Colan’s genuinely nerve-wracking pencils, which perfectly convey the subtle menace that the book needs.

Sos3.jpg

It’s worth reading for Colan, but there’s not much here that relates to this essay.

Let’s move onto the last of the four major Son of Satan arcs. The major gist has ourboy Damion given a tarot card reading by an evil fortune teller. She deals him nine cards, which come to life over the rest of the story. (For the record, the cards are: The Moon, the Devil, 9 of Swords (below), 4 of Swords, 5 of Pentacles, 10 of swords, 6 of Cups reversed, Death, and the Fool In that order. )

What’s most interesting in the early issues is that the head-tarot witch lady describes herself as a “nihilist”,” which brings us to another facet of Gerberevil, one that a flip through Gerber’s (rare) responses in the Son of Satan letter columns will back up.

Ah, the letters page. You remember letter pages? Where fans used to write to comics, and the editors answer them? This book had a spectacular letter page, one which I’d like to peruse now.

There’s plenty of normal (and richly deserved) “What a great book” style letters, but there are some WEIRD compliments

Jesse Huang, New York, New York
The storyline and graphic design of demons reminds me of black lotus induced fantasies.

Lots of niggling by avowed occultists

Ms. Gil Fitzgerald, Cockeysville, Maryland
[The Tarot Card Pack drawn by Sal Buscema] is also known as the Ryder tarot and it differs from the traditional cards in many ways… it’s number cards have symbolic drawings, and not simply the correct number of pentacles or cups.”
And goes on to say

“I can’t see how choosing a deck designed by a man like Waite would appeal to an ally of the powers of darkness….”

or, more stridently

Jim Freund, New York New York
“You are, however, making one grievous error: [The Pentagram on Damien's Chest] Is a WITCHES Pentagram!”

There’s also a couple Christian types who are seriously cheesed

Bob Sodaro…not only am I angry but I am downright incensed! Why, you ask? I’ll tell you in one word: Satanism!”

None of this is especially important for our purpsoes… Until, in issue 22, Steve Gerber’s REPLIES to an incensed letter writer, a letter which includes this choice nugget..

SP5 John Kubrock CSC 1/51 Infantry
REgarding your comic Son of Satan, you are obviously trying to undermine the moral and religious fiber of our young people…. Sir, whether you know it or not I am certain you are being used as a tool of Satan.

Gerber says

Sadly, we’re receiving a lot of letters like this on SOS, and though I don’t wish to discuss my religious beliefs in detail here, I feel obliged to say something in my defense and in the defense of Marvel comics.
First of all, John –(and all the others who wrote in to express similar sentiments). I am not a tool of anybody. Not the Kremlin. Not even Irving Forbush, for crying out loud!! “I am not a number, I am a free man,” as someone once put it.
Second, I really do not see at all how a comic in which Satan is consistently defeated every time he so muc s tries to poke a pinky into our world can “undermine the moral and religious fiber of our young people.” Reality should only be so encouraging!
Want to know who I think is doing Satan’s work on earth, folks?
Anyone who asks us to close our minds to any possibility concerning anything in the universe!
God is alive. God is dead. God is in hibernation until spring. God is vacationing in Andromeda. God is within us all-even the Devil’s own son! I can’t tell you which of those to believe. (Markandrew: Although he makes it fairly clear in his last issue which HE believes.) You’ve got to make up your own minds.. And that you deserve the right to shape your own beliefs is MY strongest belief!
That’s why I don’t write you off, John, even though I do think you’re being fanatical. No one who is concerned with the wellfare of other human beings ever, ever writes off anybody.
Better, though, to panic at air we can’t breathe, populations that won’t stop growing, desert wars that could trigger nuclear holocausts, and onrushing crises in food and energy that nobody wants to admit… than at a comic book.
End of debate? Please???

Remember… the enemies in these issues are nihilists. And Gerber says anybody who HAS beliefs is worthy of respect. Therefore”

Point Five: Evil is defined by beliefs that limit, or non-beliefs.

So the plot moves on. There’s fights with demons, and half crazed sword wielding berzerkers. The ice demon returns, Damien ends up in an upside down world, he encounters his younger self, Ghost Rider shows up, he ends up in a borderline incestuous embrace with his sister Satana..

You know. The usual.

It’s the sisterly embrace that most concerns us here, though. as the text informs us

Her lips touch his cheeks… and he screams… and up from his throat flutters a black butterfly…
His sister the sucubus has stolen his soul… Or one of them, at any rate… Stolen it, and set it… FREE!

The “freed soul” is a shadowy reflection of Damion hizzself, and after a couple pages of shooting hellfire at each other, our exorcist hero comes to revelation.

YWe are one, you and I. You cannot kill me–Nor I, you. Our conflict is unresolvable… And eternal… And universal. All men are TWO men… and must restrain their own demons.. to live among other men in peace. You are immeasurably stronger than most.. almost an entity unto yourself.. but for now at least… You are still part of myself. And the way I may deal with you.. is to accept you. For what I am.

and, later

Only after after we face that demon and realize it is an energy force — capable of creative as well as destructive action — only then may the fool’s journey towards enlightenment commence.

Which brings us to the close of Steve Gerber’s tenure as solo writer of Son of Satan, and our sixth and final point: Self-knowledge, or awareness of evil, is the most potent weapon we have to fight it.

Epilogue one: Quick review:

1. Evil is anti-creative.

2. Evil feeds on ignorance.

3. Evil is subtle, and not always readily apparent.

4. Evil is a direct result of free choice, and

5. Choosing belief in nothing is evil.

6. Evil must be acknowledged to be fought, and can be harnessed through self-awareness.

Gerber’s work on Son of Satan migtt not be competitive with Heart of Darkness or Saint Augustine’s Confessions ‘”pin the definition on the devil’ department, but it does form a coherent, unified, and personal philosophy.

Which belies a careful thoughtfulness which is a rarity in comics… or, hell, pop culture in general.

And, hey, it’s the only time I’ve ever felt that reading comics might be useful come judgment day.

Epilogue Two: David at the Pah blog nicely provided links to all the Seven Soldiers of Steve posts. So I thought I’d borrow ‘em and show you what other folks had to say.)

  1. Manifesto-More Or Less (Plok on the Defenders)
  2. The Final Disconnect (RAB on Omega the Unknown)
  3. Location, Location, Location (Plok on Defenders 22-25)
  4. YJ’s Progress (Plok on the Character of Henry (Giant Man) Pym)
  5. Epilogue Part One (Sean Kleefeld on Sensational She-Hulk 11-12)
  6. Epilogue Part Two (Sean Kleefeld on Sensational She-Hulk 14-15)
  7. Epilogue Part Three (Sean Kleefend on Sensational She-Hulk 18-20)
  8. Matt Is Not Coming Back (Thomas on Daredevil 99-107)
  9. Two Earth-Clotted Hands (Jim Roeg on existentialism and Marvel Two-In-One 7-8)
  10. The Astronauts’ Tale (Plok on Guardians of the Galaxy)
  11. Oneiric Orphans And Overmen (Jim Roeg on the characters of Wundarr)
  12. Goodbye To All That (Plok on Nighthawk and Trish Starr)
  13. Recognition (Plok, on the Defenders, again)
  14. Something Like Democracy (Plok responds to Jim Roeg’s destiny essay)
  15. Kill This Duck (Plok on the Howard the Duck/Defenders team-up)
  16. Unconclusion (Plok sums up/analyzes some of the previous essays, talks about Annie Hall)
  17. The Supercontext (Plok on… I have no idea how to summarize this one. Go read.)

And, again: If anyone here has anything to add, drop Plok a line.

27 Comments

Great stuff, Mark.

Wow, astonishing, what a wonderful surprise! Terrific, MarkAndrew!

Almost my bedtime, here, but I had to — obviously had to! — take a few minutes to read through this right away. A fascinating essay, suggesting something I never thought of suggesting in a million years…

That being: what, if anything, can we extract from Steve’s work, about his own beliefs and philosophy?

If this had been a classroom, I guess that would’ve been Rhetorical Question #1 in the syllabus…but although I think I have picked up a lot about Steve from his work, I find it almost impossible to articulate what it is I think all that stuff may be…ever the social realist, he rarely gives us anything well-suited to summarization. I think you may have hit on it in this S-O-S business, though: here, it definitely is not “something like democracy”, and it isn’t a matter of the shifting values and perspectives that obtain at the fringes and outskirts either — nor even what the outsider does with what he’s given. Certainly I could argue that Daimon is the ultimate marginalized man, belonging equally to the spheres of both Inside and Outside, and therefore actually belonging to neither…but like you say: it’s EEEEEVIL! that’s at issue here: not the personality, but the soul. So maybe this is the one place, simply because of the over-the-top symbols that are in play, where Gerber just plain spelled it out.

Must think on this more…

Random Stranger

May 28, 2008 at 3:50 am

I just read this run for the first time last week and I was impressed at how Gerber managed to almost make the incredibly weak Son of Satan character work. I don’t think he quite pulled it off. The cult of nothing (I think that was their name) was an awesome idea that didn’t really pan out and that tarot storyline was just annoying. I read it in the Essential Marvel Horror (no Spawn of Satan for the title?) so I missed out on what sounds like an absolutely insane letter column.

Oh, and the Gerber run took place pretty much entirely in St. Louis, Hellstorm fights on top of the Gateway Arch at one point, not New York as you mentioned. I know it’s a tiny detail but we’re comic fans and that demands that we be pedantic.

I thought at first you were going to snark me right out of reading this, but you managed to recover nicely- and I thank you for reminding me of Gerber’s letter column response to the whackjobs that wrote those missives. I wish I had remembered it just after he died; I would have posted it as part of my tiny little eulogy.

I could go on and on about these comics, which I enjoyed tremendously as a teenager in the 70′s. I first discovered the character via those two Exorcist-inspired issues you disparaged; sure, they were just quickies designed to capitalize on the then-popular film, but they were pretty good non-stop action stories, and as you said, the Colan art was pretty good. It got better, and weirder, after those issues, and I was happy to be along for the ride…if anyone could get me to buy Sal Buscema-illustrated comics, it was Gerber.

For what it’s worth, Warren Ellis redefined and did the definitive version of the character in his eight-issue stint on the book titled Hellstorm- Prince of Lies, along with the successive “sequel”, Druid.

Good lord. I thought it was bad ’nuff (Marvel Comics spelling accepted here?) that my old Internet posts from the 80s never go away, but LoCs from the 70s? Sheesh!

Anyway, you characterized my letter to Marvel as “strident”. Ot was meant in good humor and received that way. To the point that they wrote an entire subsequent issue reversing the pentagram to change it from a Wiccan one to a Satanic one. Aside from the fact that some of my best friends are Wiccans (and they, of course, don’t believe in Satan, much less the Son of Satan,) it was the same kind of comment one might make Superman’s insignia was inverted. Now *that* would be cause to be strident! :)

I hadn’t recalled that Gerber was involved with SoS. I’ll have to dig into the basement and find those nooks –make sure they’re in good shape and give them a re-read. Gerber was clearly my favorite writer of that era. Not necessarily the best — just my favorite.

Thanks for reviving some good memories.

Non-stridently,
Jim

I like that Gerber letter response, especially the Prisoner quote. I need to read more Gerber.

Quite fascinating that everyone seems to agree that Hellstrom was a weak character. At the time, I found him much more interesting than The Ghost Rider and quite a risk for the still politically correct industry of the time. Sure Marvel had it’s Spider-Man drug issue and it’s stories were much less dated than DC, but having Satan’s name blazing on the cover and the controversial son of the Devil as a “horror-hero” was as risque as you could get. Does anyone else remember the issue of Amazing Spider-Man that re-introduced the Black Widow in her new black bodysuit and long red hair. A sihoulette of Natasha changing her clothes would reveal that she didn’t wear a bra under her costume. THIS revelation was the talk of fandom for weeks. Unlike the zombie fest of today where naked womwn and every other word being a F-bomb is the norm for many independant publishers, there were lines you just didn’t cross back then. The Son of Satan crossed the line. Just imagine the poor kids who got caught with a rolled-up copy of Son of Satan in there back pockets by their home room nun in a Catholic School!

Let’s not confuse “a weak character” with that of a character who wasn’t the usual true-blue Superhero of the time. Daimon was a occultist, a religious figure and by all other accounts, a good man. He was also the son of the Devil who obviously witnessed incredible tortures and evil in his earlier life. Through it all, he was less angst ridden than deliberate. He understood he was on Earth to lessed the evil orchestrated by the father. He was not the Anti-Christ he was bred to become, but more of an Anti-Anti-Christ. He had the powers and birthright, but his soul was originally good (although later interpretations would certainly suggest otherwise). Even his short-lived superhero identity had meaning. Citizens of Marvel-Earth were used to costumed adventurers dressed like the Devil. What better way to hide the fact that you’re the real son of the Devil than to create a superhero identity with a gaudy costume and a name like “Son of Satan”. Brilliant!

Random Stranger

May 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Jim, I don’t have the book in my hand but I recall the flipping pentagram occurred right at the beginning of Gerber’s run when he was throwing out pretty much everything that happened in the previous three appearances of the the character.

Could well be. As I recall, the flip (as it were) was in the subsequent issue. Whether that coincided with Gerber’s helming the book, I dunno, It makes sense that he would’ve used that as an excuse to help reboot the series. All I know is that I had decided it was all because of me, and I’m sticking to that bit of egotism. ;)

Does anyone have the response the ed. had to my missive?

At any rate, I’m ginna have to re-read this stuff.

Regards,
Jim

Random Stranger

May 28, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Ah, I went ahead and looked it up and it was Marvel Spotlight #15, Gerber’s second issue, in which the flip happened. It’s toward the end of the issue if you want to check it out.

Thanks, Random. (Sounds like a Zelazny charater, eh?)

Any idea when my “strident” post appeared? (I thought I was more “niggling”…)

–J

Very nice piece, Mark.

(Also, that poor fellow’s got at least two swords up his bum. That’s gotta be uncomfortable.)

Ah crap. I KNOW I said St. Louis originally, but I edited it to “New York” in the last couple days. I’ll fix it.

Jim Freund – Your letter is, likewise, in Marvel Spotlight # 15. Since you’re here, (Which is really cool, BTW) here’s the whole thing in it’s entirety. Gerber doesn’t reply (I believe his ONLY personalized reply was one I reprinted) but it’s a good example of the back-and-forth between reader and editor in the SOS letters page.

Dear Frantic Friends,

SON OF SATAN is certainly most intriguing! I am not what you call an avid comics fan, yet there are those that I find to be well-plotted enough or artistic enough or whatever to keep me buying from month to month. (Horrors! Here I am, a science fiction fanatic, looking for literature, ie Pohl, Van Voght, Sturgeon, Del Ray, Effinger, Brown, etc… while putting down that “comic book mentality.” In fact, I am doing an sf book review and interview show here at WBAI-FM. I’ve been able to have the aforementioned Pohl, Del Ray, Piglet, as well as Asimov, Chip Delaney, and others on the program.) I’m searching for WORLD’S UNKNOWN, DR. STRANGE (which is the one comic I’ve followed all my life), DEFENDERS, and some others here and there.

Anyway, for the reason I wrote. Your artist shows Son of Satan with a pentagram tattooed on his chest. Fine and good. You have, however, made one grevious error: IT’S A WITCHES’ PENTAGRAM!! Don’t cop out and tell me he was using witches’ magic; the issue itself shows quite specifically that he is not. And, in reality, there is no such thing as black or white magic; it’s all grey.

I enclose a card given to me at the Infinity Convention by a member of the Church of Satan. Believe it or not, he is quite serious. Note that there are two circles and Hebrew lettering in the Satanist version o the pentagram. The significance of the lettering escapes me.

By and by, Witchcraft and Satanism just do not get along. The Craft holds no worship for Satan or God. Each coven has it’s own god and goddess, usually taken from Greek or Welsh or some other such mythos.

Take care.

Jim Freund

…. Piglet?

Whoever answers the letters (Editor Roy Thomas?) responds:

First of all, Jm, best wishes to you and the entire crew at WBAI-FM, which, for the benefit of non-New Yorkers, is the listener supported free-form radio station in Fun City. It’s good to know you guys in the other media are doing what you’re doing.

We’ve reproduced above the Satanist card Jim sent along for all you skeptics out there in Marvel-land who still refuse to believe that such people exist. (sorry, no scanner. MA) They do. And from all indications, they’re proliferating. Some are true believers in Satanism as a religion; and some, naturally, have been driven to Satanic churches and cults out of sheer curiosity.

As nutty as it probably sounds to most of our readership, we’d like to extend an invitation to any of you who are reading this page and who happen to be Satanists to drop us a line and let us here about your group, it’s rites (as much as you can tell without violating the pledges of secrecy which some groups require their members to take), and so on. But no proselytising please – and no attempts at fakery, either. Though Steve Gerber (who’s now writing this mag) has never attended a Satanic ritual, he’s done more than enough reading about the subject to spot a fraud by about Sentence Number Two.

And now, about the “pentagram”: you’re quite right, Mr. Freund, in that the symbol on Damien’s chest in SPOTLIGHT # 12-14 was indeed a witches’ symbol. The inverted star which appears on the Church of Satan card and now on Mister Hellstrom is the Symbol of Bahomet, the Pan-like goat-headed representative of Satan. In fact, as can be seen on the car (though it’s impossible to detail it on Daimon’s bod), the goat’s head is part of the symbol, contained within the outline of the star.

According to Anton Szandor LaVey, in THE SATANIC BIBLE, “The Hebraic figures around the outer circle of the symbol which stem from the magical teachings of the Kabala, spell out “Leviathan,” the serpent of the watery abyss, and identified with Satan.”

What’s more, Jim and everyone else, the symbol ain’t a tattoo– it’s a birthmark, actually a part of Daimon’s flesh. It cannot be removed, washed off, bleached, or otherwise blotted out, or we suspect Daimon would have got rid of it long ago.

Finally, you’re absolutely right about the enmity that exists between witchcraft and Satanism, and you can expect to see that element cropping up from time to time as our series progresses. We just haven’t figured out yet whether a coven of witches would be Daimon’s allies or enemies. Again, reader opinion is invited.

I’d imagine it was Steve answering all the letters, sometimes as himself, sometimes as an “armadillo” — apparently he was famous for that.

Also, that kind of sounds like him, doesn’t it?

This was one fascinating post.

Aw, Thanks.,.. :)

Couple more points:

(A)I added a little more about the project in the first paragraph.

And there’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been touched:

Howard and the Man-Thing are off limits, but if anyone wants to write about:

Race in the early issues of the Defenders,

Shanna the She-Devil

Sub-Mariner

Gerber’s handful of issues of Captain America

Or, geez, Foolkller (my favorite single Steve G. work)

Those haven’t been touched at all! (And there’s plenty more to cover in Omega, the Son of Satan, Defenders, and Two-In-One.)

BI really DO like the idea of the character , and completely – My problems were completely with the execution. I really should read the Ellis take on the characters. And I liked the last three storylines, even the EXORCIST one, quite a bit.

C I dunno. It FEELS like Gerber’s personal philosophy was a huge part of the book. And I do see the “marganalized man’ thang Plok mentions, which is a strong theme in Howard the Duck, Omega… And, especially Man-Thing.

I think the reason Steve’s beliefs are so hard to sum up is that HE never really came to hard-and-fast conclusions. I always felt he was sharing what he had learned, but he was aware that there was A LOT of stuff he didn’t know. Like, all his writing was phrased like “Here I am at the moment… But what I think now might not be what I think tomorrow.”

Wowzers, Mark. That is an incredible essay.

Mark, a couple of things:

1. There’s no more actual arcs of Gerber Defenders left — my friend Ed foolishly called Headmen/Nebulon when it all started, and I’m sticking with that…although if anyone would like to share with him in a Photoshop way, I’m sure he wouldn’t say no.

2. So happy with you right now.

3. An outstanding piece of the Gerber puzzle is the Iron Man Annual with Man-Thing and the Molecule Man — that hasn’t been touched, and is permitted. I wanted Jim Roeg to do it, but then he had a baby. You want some gender-politics stuff, it’s in there.

4. Anything primarily Man-Thing or Howard connected could be done, but better be good — because I see Howard and Man-Thing, and their storytelling environs and associated characters, more as Virgils than as Dantes…maybe sometimes Beatrixes…if you know what I mean. Now that would be a fascinating essay, on how Howard and Man-Thing and Jennifer Kale occasionally intrude, to guide things along. I am so open to that.

5. If anyone wants to do something on “Val Goes To Jail”, that would be wonderful — and they could certainly mix it up with Dave Kraft’s “Val Goes To College”, if they wanted to.

6. Foolkiller counts as a Man-Thing associated character, I’m afraid.

7. By all means, anyone revisit anything already written, if you’ve got something to say! Race in the Defenders — let’s have it!

8. Shanna, Subby, Cap — all wide open. And if I’m not mistaken Mark probably knows a couple more that I don’t.

9. I’ll never run out of enthusiasm for this project. Remind me to ask you if I can do a guest-post on my Gerber Revelation.

10. As always, I need to throw in the datum that I think my fellow essayists agree with me on the matter of YOU HAVE TO READ THAT JIM ROEG MTIO ONE!!! Really, Bloggers, it’s good stuff. Find it in the link labelled “Two Earth-Clotted Hands”, it’s pretty amazing. Go, GO! Read it. You’ll thank me, and Mark. It’s a winner.

Back me up on that Mark, Brian…that one’s some pretty amazing blogging, don’t you think? I think Jim goes crazy on that one, it’s absolutely my favourite. If memory serves, Sean, RAB, and Thomas agree.

Cheers! Drinking now.

Also I would contend that Howard and Man-Thing and Omega are not marginalized, but true outsiders. I mean Manny doesn’t even have a mind.

And of course we just don’t know about poor James-Michael. He might actually be an outsider.

[...] of Steve project. I??™m um??¦. a couple years late. (Note from today: A couple years and a fhttp://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/05/27/steve-gerber-the-son-of-satan-and-evil/Password: Stereotype! – MSN IndiaAnd then came the Big-B who gave anger a new definition on screen. [...]

[...] It’s easy to do this kind of thing for any creator that interests you by googling blog posts like this one or by using the tailored search engine at comics.org. 2. 1980s Indy Comics Cribbed From A List [...]

Hmm, you think any of the rest of these are considered open? I noted there are a few issues of Daredevil hanging loose, there…perhaps a rumination on the body of the Defenders run? I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading about Evil and thought your take on Son of Satan was certainly thorough and insightful enough to fit. Jim Roeg’s analysis just blew me away, didn’t it you? More later.

Ah HAH! Now I see Plok’s comments. Well—better late than Never!!! And this would be two MORE years late…though I wasn’t online much if at all in 2006. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

You know, the letters page is still the first thing I read anytime I pick up an old comic book. You added so much personality to this discussion with your letters choices—and what could be better than having an original letter writer pop in? (I mean, now that Steve himself is gone). Must come back to this when I’ve slept; it’s generally worth stating that existence requires thought beyond good and evil, but evil has here been defined in such a manner that considering such a viewpoint in any way is good or growth related. I happen to have some Satanists in the back ground of the comic I’m writing and drawing in time for this year’s Comic Con (I’ll be found in Marina Park behind the ConventionCenter), as an ex-Satanist is all-too-curious to find out if he’s still being watched, after nearly dying in an accident that requires his face be reconstructed. It will cover a cross-section of the ground in your essay, though since it is based on a real life occurrence it already has an identity of its own. Nonetheless, with considerable humor, you’ve dissected this series, which I’ve yet to read, in a way that speaks to just why particular series resonated with adults now and then. Of course, you point up the very trashy element that always made comics a little risque and gawdy and quite frankly, marks the depths of their actual appeal. But Steven Grant wrote about that so eloquently in his final Permanent Damage columns, I’d simply refer people to that!

Hey, I’ve read and enjoyed this at least three or four times (and still haven’t read the issues themselves). I just wanted to add that I too contributed, much later than you, and in fact have another one based around Ruth & Amber coming up. Wanna see?

http://ceaseill.blogspot.com/2010/10/backyard-of-mind.html

http://ceaseill.blogspot.com/2010/10/swamp-of-indomitable-will.html Pardon my horn tootin’. Honk! Cecil

I would like to meat the Man that made son of Satán BEC of my name to sine my books

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