Oh, nice! I loved this book when it came out... so much fun! And really the beginning of James Jesse's turn from being a straight-up suppervillain, too!
Fury of Firestorm #24 - "Blue Devil"
Cover Date: June 1984
Writer: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
Artist: Paris Cullins
A blond man and a child are reading an article in a magazine about an upcoming movie, featuring a character wearing a special "super stunt suit" that can do wonders. As the blond man scoffs in wonder, the child marvels over the suit's abilities. The character wearing the suit removes the head, revealing himself as Dan Cassidy, stuntman and special effects expert. He addresses the boy as Gopher and tells him that the suit still has a few bugs to work out. Meanwhile,the blond realizes that he wants the suit for himself. We find out that both have been reading "Stuntman" magazine, and that details of the suit have been leaked beyond expectations.
As Dan works on the suit, he explains to Gopher that he's the only one who can actually use the suit because of cybernetic relays. He's still tinkering but trying to keep his activity secret from his director, Marla Bloom. Just then, she enters the shop and tells Dan that a photographer will be coming by shortly to take some publicity photos for the movie. Dan wants to work on the suit instead. Gopher suggests another actor named Wayne Tarrant wear the mock up suit for the promo stills. Wayne is reluctant, but Marla talks him into doing the photos. Wayne then asks his co-star Sharon out to dinner, but she refuses. He then accuses her of being more interested in Dan Cassidy. He also accuses her of cradle robbing, but she explains she's only a couple of years older than Dan.
Later at the photo shoot, the blond has shown up and is talking to the security guard. As it turns out the blond is also a stuntman/special effects guru. He attacks the guard, and is revealed to the Flash's old foe, the Trickster. Meanwhile, Wayne is clowning around in the mock up of the Blue Devil suit and generally giving an unsatisfying performance. Suddenly the Trickster shows up and kidnaps Wayne. Gopher watches him carry Wayne away through the air and goes to get Dan. He convinces Dan to put on the suit and rescue Wayne.
Dan agrees to rescue Wayne and heads off towards the Trickster. However, the trident that he uses for flight still has a few bugs and is difficult to control, so he misses at first and has to come back. The Trickster lands with Wayne, who attempts to fight him off now that they're on firm footing, but is easily bested by the Trickster, who quickly realizes that Wayne isn't Dan Cassidy and that the suit is a fake.
At this point, Cassidy arrives. They fight, and Dan wins pretty easily. However, as Dan is checking on Wayne, the Trickster manages to escape, and the malfunctioning trident means that Dan cannot pursue him. Later, Dan goes back to work on the suit and trident, unhappy with it's performance.
My rating: 7/10
One of the best things for me about comics in the 1980's was that there was a little bit of something for everyone, and a great deal of innovation going on. Smaller publishers like First, Eclipse and Fantagraphics were making inroads on Marvel and Dc, edgier, more experimental content was coming from everywhere, but there was also still room for a simple, fun and slightly absurd superhero series like Blue Devil on the stands. It's a shame that the success of some of the edgier titles seemed to lead to the downfall of the more fun ones, but for the purpose of this discussion, that's not the point.
Anyway, this is a perfectly good introduction to the main characters of the new series, albeit one that seems slightly rushed. The primary plot is standard superhero fare, but it's fun and light and very comfortable like an old sweater. If I had any major complaints, it would be that we are not introduced to the series' primary antagonist during this preview, as Jock Verner is nowhere to be seen. However, it's also entirely possible that Jock simply hadn't been invented yet.
On the plus side, we do get some good stuff here as well. It's nice to see some of the capabilities that the suit contains at the beginning, as many of them are glossed over in later stories especially after the supernatural aspect is introduced. I think using an established villain like the Trickster was also a good idea, as it gave readers a reasonable comparison and idea of what this new hero might be capable of and where he fit in the grand scheme of things.
Something I hadn't known until I read this story was that Sharon was older than Danny. Not in any significant way apparently, and it doesn't particularly make a difference, but it's still interesting.
DC used the free Preview insert for titles like All Star Squadron, Wonder Woman, Night Force, Amethyst, Captain Comics Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and the little-known New Teen Titans!
(Hmm. A lot of Roy Thomas books there!)
The odd thing about the Blue Devil preview was that it really wasn't. It was a neat little yarn that didn't even hint at what the book really would be. Not a complaint, just an observation.
I consider Blue Devil the Last Major Pre-Crisis DC Super-Hero! (Whew!)
I think there was also a Preview insert for something called Omega something. I remember the Amethyst one didn't explain why she was a kid on Earth.
In the case of Blue Devil, and at least some of the others, it was not so much a "Preview" as a prologue.
As an interesting tidbit, Blue Devil was actually created for Steve Ditko. Here's a bit of info from Back Issue Magazine #21:
COHN: Our editor for a number of things we were
doing was a guy named Dave Manak. At this point,
Dan was living in Michigan and I was in New York. I was
the point guy who went to the DC office once a week
and schmoozed the editors.
One day Manak says, “Ditko’s been hanging
around the office and he really wants something to
do. Do you think you and Dan can come up for
something for him?” I went home and I called Dan and told him about this, and
we were both very excited. Ditko was the guy who created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, and we were gaga for Ditko!
So what were we going to do for Ditko? We decided to do something that takes something from every Marvel character we ever loved. Let’s take Iron Man,
the guy in the costume; the Thing, the tragedy of the guy stuck in a shape he didn’t want; and a light-hearted, bouncy approach and a character who was going to
move like Spider-Man.
MISHKIN:You were going to look at his movement and say, “It’s Ditko-ish.”
COHN:And we wanted something like the Green Goblin. How about Blue Devil? We called him that because Dan’s wife is from North Carolina and he was a
[Duke University] Blue Devils fan. Then we started creating Blue Devil and thinking, “Ditko is going to love this!” We created this great proposal, and it was everything that we knew was going to set Ditko’s light on high beam. We took it in to Manak and he gave it to
Ditko. Ditko looked at it and said, “I’ll do it if I have to, but this is really not my kind of stuff at all.” [laughter]
MISHKIN:I think what Ditko wanted to go with was something that was really his, something that wasn’t us imitating him. He wanted something he created
and controlled. Ditko might have been happy to find some writers that wrote the dialogue for what he came up with, and God knows this was an unimaginably
creative person. In this period, when he was doing stuff for the mystery anthologies, he was coming up with really clever concepts that he was just tossing off
for an eight-pager.
COHN:[With Ditko on Blue Devil,] that could have been the great series of the decade.
MISHKIN:He was so brilliant, but Blue Devil left him cold. But it gave us the opportunity to present this thing and it gave us the opportunity to meet Steve Ditko, which nobody does.
Makes you wonder why Ditko agreed to do Speedball!!
One other little thing: Initially, Cohn and Mishkin thought that Blue Devil would be a much darker shade of blue, but apparently his skin was lightened so it would stand out more against the Trickster's costume.
It looks to me like his skin had to be lighter than his garment. Nightcrawler is darker, but his costume is coloured red for contrast.
I would never have guessed that's how BD was created. It's interesting.
I enjoyed your recap of this BD preview, Randy.. I don't have this issue but I do have all 31 issues of the regular series and the Annual. I'm going to dig out Issue 1 so I can be ready when you discuss it.
And the Squirrel Girl beats Dr. Doom story.
Philip Portelli said:
Makes you wonder why Ditko agreed to do Speedball!!
Ditko created Squirrel Girl. I'm pretty sure that's the difference.