Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blue Devil Annual #1 - 1985

After so many dour adventures, it was about time The Phantom Stranger had a little fun!

So here he is, guest-starring, along with fellow supernatural/horror-esque stars The Creeper, Black Orchid, The Demon, Man-Bat, and Madame Xanadu in the Blue Devil Summer Fun Annual, by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin (writers and co-creators of Blue Devil) and artists Paris Cullins, Gary Martin, and Bill Collins.

But before we get to all the fun, let's see how all these characters end up together:
As we watch Blue Devil return to his workshop, we see that there is someone lurking in the shadows...Felix Faust!

Faust uses his magic on the nearby training robots, causing them to go berserk, which keeps BD out of his workshop. Faust sneaks in, and finds what he's looking for--a giant glass orb.

But once he has it, The Phantom Stranger appears demanding Faust cease his evil plan! Meanwhile, The Demon shows up, thinking he's helping BD out by smashing those million-dollar robots into tiny bits.

But before BD can read The Demon the riot act, the battle between the Stranger and Faust erupts outside the workshop, drawing them in.

Faust, seeing he's outnumbered, vanishes into smoke, leaving a bewildered Blue Devil:
I love that exchange of dialog: "I am...a Stranger!" "Well, hey, that sure clarifies things, all right!"

But as we can see, Faust did not escape with what he was looking's an egg?

Meanwhile, Jack Ryder is being dragged across town by Madame Xanadu, who claims he is needed since "There is great evil afoot." Ryder isn't so sure, even if he ended up at Xanadu's place after being chased by Man-Bat.

Later, we see that Man-Bat is under the control of Faust, who is directing him to steal another one of these "eggs", this time one that resides in the Museum of Natural History!

After grabbing it, The Creeper and Madame Xanadu show up to stop him, grabbing the egg from him, and pouring a Spell of Subjugation down Man-Bat's throat, freeing him from Faust's control.

Eventually we see what the plan is--these eggs are hatching, giving birth to a horde of tiny little demons, who are already growing at an enormous rate!

All the heroes grab butterfly nets, and start apprehending them, including new recruit Black Orchid! Creeper asks who she is, and Madame Xanadu tells Creeper her origin story, which sounds suspiciously like the one that created Daredevil, the Man Without Fear! More on that in a moment...

The Demon stops eating the baby demons long enough to join Blue Devil and the Stranger on magical trip, across the country, to where Faust is holed up executing his plan.

Eventually he does the old superheroes-on-my-fingers bit, but then the other heroes showup to take him on, as well. Black Orchid swoops in, grabs Faust, and dumps him off a cliff!

BD then asks the Stranger who this Black Orchid is:
...Madame Xanadu's retort "Of course, Stranger! Everything is special in your stories!" makes me laugh out loud, every time. And I love how defensive the Stranger is when his story is questioned.

Anyway, we see the final part of Faust's plan--after bunch of the mini-demons have jumped into a pool of goo, they emerge as the giant demon Nebiros!

The group of heroes take him on (with a magical assist from the Stranger and Xanadu) and eventually defeat Nebiros, but then Faust reappears to kill them all himself:
...the end!

An extraordinarily fun story, I love Cohn and Mishkin's use of all the supernatural characters in this very lighthearted setting. And, well, I don't know--I would've bought a Creeper and His Spirit Squad book, no problem.

This is truly a "Summer Fun" annual, since in addition to this story, the book comes with two pin-ups (one by Cullins, one by Brian Bolland), a schematic of BD's suit, plus a two-page "Blue Devil Weirdness Magnet Board Game" complete with game pieces! Ye Gods, all this for a measly buck and a quarter?

As regular readers of this blog will recall, this was not Dan Mishkin's first shot at writing The Phantom Stranger, since had written the two-parter where the Stranger guest-starred with Swamp Thing--two very different sets of circumstances for the character, both executed equally well.

So be here tomorrow when we'll have a little chat with Dan Mishkin, about his experiences writing The Phantom Stranger!


Anonymous said...

I'd read about this but never seen it, so thanks for giving us such an in-depth low-down.

I, too, would have purchased such a book, without a moment's mystical hesitation!
(in my own head I sounded like Dr. Orpheus as I was typing that.)

Anonymous said...

I wasn't a big Blue Devil fan, but I always loved Man-Bat, so when I saw this I picked it up. I loved it, and would have bought a Spirit Squad book, too.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Blue Devil was a brilliant book, from beginning to end. The annual was a perfect of what made that book great.

It makes my heart go all warm and fuzzy to see some recognition.

The Irredeemable Shag

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Should have been
... perfect example ...

Sorry about that.

The Embarrassed Shag

Anonymous said...

The Blue Devil Annual is one of my favourite comics ever, as is the whole 31 issue run of BD, and fun all the way. It's great to see some of the mystical DC characters, including the Stranger of course, played for comedy and done so well too. The highlight for me was when the Stranger got annoyed with Blue Devil and co for interupting him. It's interesting to note that several of the characters here turned up in Alan Moore's equally excellent run on Swamp Thing, yet treated in a far more serious fashion, around the same time.

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