Man-Bat Pt. 32: Blue Devil Annual #1
Jack Ryder (aka the Creeper) runs through the streets of Greenwich Village in New York, chased by Man-Bat, when Madame Xanadu opens her door to offer him refuge. It’s a surprise to her when both the Phantom Stranger and Etrigan, the Demon appear. Uh… what’s happening?
Near the set of Blue Devil II, Dan Cassidy approaches his workshop. Felix Faust lurks and creates a distraction so that he can get inside first, looking for an artifact. As he locates a clear globe, the Phantom Stranger appears and orders him to surrender it to him.
While the two proceed to destroy the workshop, Etrigan appears to help Blue Devil fight the distraction. The good guys, all four of them, eventually prevail, maintain custody of the globe, and send Felix Faust fleeing. Again… what’s happening?
Back in New York City, Jack Ryder explains to Madame Xanadu events from the previous night…
It turns out that Man-Bat is under the control of Felix Faust, who sends him to the Museum of Natural History to retrieve a pink globe. Madame Xanadu and the Creeper arrive to stop him. The Creeper manages to get Man-Bat to clear his head. He says:
It’s what I always drink when spells of subjugation have me down!
Faust realizes the spell is broken and there are other means to achieve his objective. What is his objective? The Phantom Stranger tells Blue Devil:
Felix Faust seeks dominion over all mankind.
Faust had seen the titular character in a movie and realized he was no special effect, “but a veritable lord of Hell,” just like the other fearsome demons he’s employed in the past to do his bidding.
Coast to coast, our heroes are beset by imps. As their nature (and size) evolves, Black Orchid arrives from nowhere to lend a hand. Madame Xanadu then explains to the Creeper who she was...
The east coast heroes follow their imps into “Portnoy’s Penultimate Portal” that Faust conjures. Then, the Phantom Stranger leads the west coast heroes to help them the in other dimension. Here, Faust places Blue Devil under his spell.
The bad guy seems to be winning and the Phantom Stranger proclaims that “great evil prepares to stride the earth anew,” when Black Orchid arrives from nowhere to lend a hand. The Phantom Stranger then explains to Blue Devil who she was… with a different origin story…
The story’s not over yet, though, as the giant demon Nebiros appears before them. The heroic attempt to stop him only enrages the monster further. The Phantom Stranger says,
I fear for us all now, Madame! Can no one halt this hellish juggernaut?
The Phantom Stranger provides everyone with butterfly nets, an odd choice of weapon, but one that seemed to be useful in dispatching the imps earlier…
Nebiros vanquished, Faust will not surrender and commands “Baxter’s Bending Bolts of Bafflement.” He warns them that they dare not come closer…
Victory finally achieved, the Creeper suggests the seven of them form a team, to which they respond all at once:
Why, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!
There’s a heck of a lot happening in the 35-page story in Blue Devil Annual #1 and I had to read it several times to follow the action. I’m not familiar with the character or the run of his title (31 issues from June, 1984 through December, 1986), so I don’t know if it’s always so chaotic.
This story puts the “funny” in “funny book,” although not all jokes stick the landing. Here are a couple examples:
There’s a running gag about how talky the Phantom Stranger is, and Madame Xanadu even suggests that he embellishes his story. I like the consistency of the joke because I’ve always believed you can never beat a dead horse too many times.
I liked the conflicting origin stories for Black Orchid. Considering I'm not familiar with that character, either, I don’t have a clue if either one of them is accurate. (I doubt Madame Xanadu’s is real… I mean, a bouquet of orchids saturated with nuclear fallout?)
As I regularly like to point out, comic books are educational. For example, I learned in Blue Devil Annual #1 that even super-villains take time off to go to the movies! That’s where Felix Faust saw Blue Devil on the big screen and assumed he was a demon that he could control.
I enjoyed the final page. It’s interesting that the Creeper proposes a “Spooky Justice League of America” because, of course, we’ve since then seen Justice League Dark. Guess who’s also currently a member of that team? Yep, Man-Bat!
This is really not a Man-Bat story, but it’s nice to see him as part of DC’s community of dark, magical characters. He shares about as much action as most of the others, even more than some. I consider it a “bonus” appearance, but that his pre-Crisis storyline ended with Batman #361.
Title: Blue Devil Annual
Issue #: 1
Cover Date: Nov. 1985
On Sale Date: Aug. 1, 1985
Writer(s): Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin
Penciller: Paris Cullins
Inker: Gary Martion
Editor: Alan Gold