BHOC: SON OF SATAN #1

This was another book that I pulled up out of my local drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly Older Comics, and just like the issue of SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP we talked about last week, this issue was definitely purchased to round out a stack, to get me to that magic number of 5 where each book would cost only 20 cents. Otherwise, I don’t think I would ever have picked up a copy of SON OF SATAN. For one thing, I had no interest in the assorted monster books, any more than I did the western or romance or war books, of which there were always a bunch in the bin. But I suspect that the fact that this was a first issue coupled with the fact that, with that cape, Daimon Hellstrom looked like a super hero (which I’m sure was the intent behind that design) at least enough so that I took a chance on it.

Sadly for me, the first issue of SON OF SATAN wasn’t really the beginning of the story of the Son of Satan. As was typical of Marvel in this period, he had previously been staring in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT for an extended stretch before graduating to his own series in one of Marvel’s periodic expansions, while also making appearances in the Black and White horror magazines that Marvel had been putting out to compete with Jim Warren’s CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA.

The Son of Satan series had been conceived as a way for Marvel to tap into the growing interest in the occult in the early 1970s, interest which had been fueled by such films as The Exorcist and The Omen. Daimon Hellstrom had debuted in a crossover with Ghost Rider when that character was being spun off into his own title, and he inherited the Rider’s departed spot in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT. Editor Roy Thomas had named the series after a fanzine creation of firefighter Biljo White–I assume Roy got Biljo’s permission to do so, though I can’t say whether any money ever changed hands. But that was typical of Roy during this period, pulling his inspirations from all of his myriad interests and activities. The character went on to have a long life, and even a short-lived recent television series.

As his title implied, Daimon Hellstrom was the literal offspring of the Adversary, the demonic once-Angel who had fallen from the biblical Heaven. While the hope was that he would one day rule Hell by his father’s side, Daimon had other ideas, and instead studied with the Clergy, becoming a master exorcist (told you that movie was popular in those days!) dedicated to opposing his sire’s many plans and activities on the mortal plane and thus earning his way into the Kingdom of Heaven. So he was a good guy with a bad guy’s demeanor, and a dark side that would sometimes take him over uncontrollably. His series was part super hero comic, part horror comic.

This first issue was produced by writer John Warner and artist Jim Mooney, with an opening splash page contributed by Jim Starlin (and which may have been done for something else and just recycled here.) It’s a decent enough effort, if a little bit empty. Mooney, a longtime practitioner of the comic book arts, was a solid choice for the book, although his depictions of all things satanic came across as a bit pedestrian. Far from being an imposing figure, Mooney’s version of Satan looked very much like a regular joe, Joe Satan. This may have been intentional, in that SON OF SATAN had to meet the scrutiny of the Comics Code, and the very concept of the series itself had to be skirting up to their line of decency pretty dangerously.

Story-wise, there isn’t much to this issue, which lurches ahead from thing to thing. Returning home to his remote mansion after a long night of demon-fighting, Daimon Hellstrom discovers that his domicile has been defiled. He presumes that his father or his minions are responsible, and so he heads downstairs to a locked door, behind which lies the entranceway to Hell itself. Perambulating into the underworld, Daimon battles a few demons before confronting his Dad, exchanging a few barbs, then returning to the surface. As he emerges, Daimon hears a scream in the night, and heads outside to find its source, a demonic tree which has swallowed the soul of a passerby. Daimon battles the tree, but this is all an illusion created by a hooded foe, and after triumphing, he finds himself back in his home again, confronted by this mysterious enemy.

The hooded figure introduces himself as the Possessor, and he and Daimon fight and dance, with the hero eventually unmasking the Possessor to reveal that the villain has absorbed a number of Satan’s demons into his very flesh. Indicating that this has all merely been a preamble to their actual conflict, the Possessor teleports himself away, leaving Daimon befuddled–only for the three-faced man to appear before a Navaho brave who is undergoing a spirit quest. The Navaho takes the Possessor to be his spirit guide and commits to following him wherever he leads–and this will certainly be into conflict with Daimon Hellstrom next issue. To Be Continued! The two panels in the top tier where the Shaman is killed look to my eye to have been a last minute fix–possibly whatever that panel had originally shown may have been too graphic for the tastes of the Comics Code.

10 thoughts on “BHOC: SON OF SATAN #1

  1. I avoided comics like this. “Bah!” in the main character’s dialog usually spelled disaster for me. I could take it from Namor, but otherwise it was best left to mythological foes of Thor, and other weirdos. I couldn’t take Hellstrom’s outfit seriously. Even the name- decades later, Marvel made a good call calling the series “Hellstrom”. “Son of Satan” is hokey, especially paired with his looks. His dad fared much worse. 70’s pro wrestling Satan would’ve looked better. He’d have worn a cape, sunglasses, and plenty of glitter, maybe carrying a plastic pitchfork. The lord of evil in just scarlet briefs. Lol. Yeah, the success of “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Omen”, etc., was a motivator, but doesn’t crossover into 70’s superheroes well, complete with a design as low as one of the made for TV (non-comics) Superfriends’ outfits. Vertigo got the supernatural a bit better in the 80’s & 90s. Those stories would feel closer to the spirit and quality of those movies, starting with Moore’s “Swamp Thing”. At least Gene Colan’s Dracula in the 70s got the visual tone right.

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    1. Who needs “Joe Satan” when there’s Mephisto?? Asa kid raised on Catholic imagery, Mephisto was much more menacing, even though his costume was a little low budget…

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    2. I have to disagree. Son of Satan was a much stronger hook for me as a teen than Hellstrom would have been.
      Steve Gerber wrote Daimon better than Warner, though. His Tarot three-parter absolutely mesmerized me as I’d vaguely heard of the Tarot before but not heard much.

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    3. Secrets behind the comics revealed: I’m the guy who proposed using the title HELLSTORM: PRINCE OF LIES back in the 90s, when I was invited to pitch for the book.

      Rassa-frassin’ editor used the title from my pitch and gave the book to someone else!

      I’d be mad, but he asked if he could use it and I said yes. So it’s my own fault.

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  2. What that last page looks like to me is that the story was originally a page longer, and they had to lose a page. So they chopped up and maybe resized panels to combine the two pages and still get the story moments they needed into it.

    Maybe the story had been written and drawn for MARVEL SPOTLIGHT 25, which was during the 18-page era, but by the time they turned it into SOS1, they had fewer pages. So they swapped out the Mooney splash page for a Starlin pinup to make it seem more first-issue-y, and collapsed a two-page scene at the end into a single page.

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    1. I think you may be right about the story losing a page. Adding that Starlin splash to it threw me a bit, but it was a first issue so I figured that was it. The story was almost certainly intended for Marvel Spotlight before it was decided to spin Hellstrom out.

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  3. That’s interesting about Biljo White’s ‘Son of Satan’. Having no knowledge of that character I’d always assumed another character from a fanzine might have provided some inspiration, namely Jim Shooter and Bill Schelly’s ‘Brimstone’.

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      1. Yep. He appears as a comic book artist in INVADERS #16 & 17. He’s also a pfc stationed in England whose girlfriend turns out to be a Nazi spy. Just one of the perils of dating.

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  4. I don’t think I ever purchased an issue of the Son of Satan solo comic, but I do remember the fish-eye I got once from a blue-haired cashier at the drugstore when I brought a copy of Marvel Team-Up #32 up to the counter. Featuring a pairing of the Human Torch and Daimon Hellstrom, It must have looked like something spawned from the pits of hell itself to her, judging by the way she wrinkled her nose with distaste as she rang up my purchases.

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