I know that I bought this issue of MARVEL PREMIERE from out of my local drugstore’s Bib Bin of Should Have Been Pulped Slightly Older Comics, but I really have no idea after all this time why I picked up this book. I wasn’t really interested in all of the assorted monster titles that Marvel put out in the mid-1970s–TOMB OF DRACULA, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN and their ilk. My best guess so long after the fact was that I wound up buying it along with other books, and so I grabbed it in order to make the math come out even–five issues for a dollar at this time. So it was a strange choice for me, and it was a strange issue of MARVEL PREMIERE for Marvel.
It seems readily apparent to me that this issue’s Satana story wasn’t something that had been dreamed up for MARVEL PREMIERE, but was rather a hold-over from one of the Black and White magazines which had largely ceased publication. The opening Satana story is short, only 15 pages long, and thus its backed up by another reprint that I can remember much more readily than the main tale. It also underwent some revision in order to meet the strictures of the Comics Code, one possible reason why the artwork is credited to the Tribe, the consortium of artist from the Phillipines. The hand of Tony DeZuniga, who along with his wife was the main point of contact with the Tribe, but other folks worked on these 15 pages as well.
The writer of this opening story was Chris Claremont. before his rise to prominence on X-MEN, Chris was just another working writer attempting to learn his craft and make his mark on the Marvel Universe, and he wrote whatever assignments were put in front of him. As was his tendency, he enjoyed both writing female characters and getting deep into his characters’ heads, typically through narrative interludes that conveyed to the reader what they were thinking and feeling. In this way, Chris was very much a value-added writer. While the artist handled communicating the essentials of the plot visually, Chris’s focus was in highlighting aspects of the situations and characters that weren’t readily apparent in the art–indeed, that may not even have been thought of at all at the time the story was being drawn, but only dreamed up while looking at the pages later.
All that said, this is a pretty dumb story. It opens with Satana, the devil’s daughter, on a random street, where she’s knocked into by a fleeing woman. The girl is being pursued by an angry mob, the leader of which tells Satana that the lady has been found guilty of being a witch, and must be put to death by burning. Right away, this is an awesomely stupid thing to be telling some random person you just ran into. And indeed, after preparations have been made, the witch-burning is interrupted by Satana–for really no good reason at all, she’s decided to intervene. In a very Claremontian moment, when one of the mob men tries to waylay her, Satana makes him crawl in the mud like an animal. But whoops, it turns out that the woman really is possessed, by a demon called Dansker, a demon who had once been Satana’s tutor in Hell. Heck of a coincidence there.
Dansker is a typical Claremontian type as well, who even uses one of Chris’ s signature lines (“Bang. You’re dead.”) when he bests Satana in a flashback. He’s the one demon Satana was never able to overcome during her upbringing–so of course, she must do so here. And she does, really without much effort. On this final page, where Satana has forced the car driven by the possessed woman/Dansker over a cliff, the third panel looks like a hasty patch-in to my eye, a replacement for a more overtly violent moment, no doubt. It also looks to me as though all of the captions in the final two pages that were slightly lighter in color had been added at the Code’s bequest as well, to insure readers that the Dansker wouldn’t get away with having used and destroyed the body of the otherwise innocent woman he had been inhabiting. But somebody made those new captions a slightly lighter color as a way of thumbing their nose at the Code.
Because the lead story wasn’t long enough to fill the issue, behind it was reprinted a short second Satana story, reprinted from VAMPIRE TALES. This made the issue a bit of a value, as at this time the new Marvel books were only running 17 pages of story (18 in the reprints since they didn’t include a letters page.) It was produced by Roy Thomas and John Romita, and while it was simple, it was a very effective introduction to the character. Interestingly, rather than color the tale for its inclusion in this color comic, it was left in its original greytoned black and white. And it didn’t reproduce all that well even then, and possibly that’s why nobody wanted to try to add full color to it.
As with the lead story, some judicious editing had to be done to the copy in this short tale, to eliminate the threat of rape that had been present in the original. But even with these adjustments, it’s still a nice little vignette, expertly illustrated by Romita, who gets to combine his ability to draw beautiful women with some expert storytelling and a genuine sense of horror–something that might usually have been considered outside of his wheelhouse. As I mentioned earlier, this story, for all its simpleness, stuck with me–and I expect that Romita’s expert work is what caused it to do so.