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.