This was really well done. I liked the little touches here, with Cohn, Mishkin, and Cullins resisting the urge to go the predictable routes. Instead of guest star Superman coming in to save BD's bacon, Superman is pretty much a bystander until the end, only taking out Smithers and Rojek. Using Metallo instead of old tried and true Lex Luthor was a good call. In an almost throwaway line of dialogue, we see that Metallo doesn't much like Luthor, although it doesn't match his hatred of Superman. Also Metallo hasn't forgotten Batman; his previous appearance was in WF 270 against Supes and Bats. And the facial expression Paris Cullins gave Superman when Janet Klyburn tried to fib about why STAR Labs developed Super-K was priceless.
There have been a lot of different versions of Metallo. There was one in the Golden Age that wore a suit of armor and faced GA Superman in Superman Family. The Silver Age version, John Corben, appeared once in the same comic Supergirl debuted in (Action 252) but in a separate story. He died in that story and stayed dead. The Metallo in BD 3 is the Bronze Age version, he debuted in the late 70s, and is Roger Corben, John's brother. He faced Superman several times and was featured in Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"
John Byrne brought back and updated the Silver Age version (John Corben) in Superman 1 (Jan 87) and he was used many times in the post-Crisis era. There was also a new 52 version seen in Grant Morrison's Action Comics run.
The Golden Age guy, Metalo, appeared in World's Finest Comics #6. (The link has spoilers for all the issue's stories.) The GCD lists a second Golden Age appearance, but it's a cameo, probably a flashback. (Golden Age Superman stories sometimes referenced earlier ones.)
In 1956 the double-ll name was used for a robot from Krypton in Superboy #49.
The Metallo story in Action Comics #252 was drawn by Wayne Boring, but the story was also told in the newspaper strip while it was still being drawn by Curt Swan.
Although he didn't return Metallo was referred to several times in the later Silver Age, and the story was reprinted twice, in Superman Annual #2 and Superman #217. In Superman #214 Superman seemed to meet the ghosts of Metallo, the Composite Man and Zha-Vam, his three most dangerous foes. The cover of Action Comics #312 is worth a look. I think it inspired one of the Mark Waid/Ty Templeton gag pages in the Elseworlds 80 Page Giant.
Blue Devil #4 - "The Sorceress' Apprentice!"
Cover Date: September 1984
Writer: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
Artist: Paris Cullins
Dan and Superman are aboard the JLA satellite, and Dan is pretty impressed by the view from space. They're interrupted by the Elongated Man, who introduces himself as Ralph Dibny to Dan. Dan then asks Superman for his real name, but Ralph explains that most superheroes keep their secret identities a secret. Dan thinks it's all a tad paranoid, but he's willing to work with them.
Wanting to test the limits of the suit, Dan challenges Superman to arm wrestling. Superman is reluctant, but Ralph talks him into it. It goes pretty much as expected, but it's a fun bit.
At this point, Zatanna enters the scene. Superman introduces them, telling Dan that he thinks Zatanna may be able to help him with his problem. After Dan flirts with her (seriously, what would Sharon think), Zatanna tries a quick spell to remove the costume from Dan. However, the spell only succeeds in hurting Dan. Zatanna then asks Dan about the demon that did this to him, and he tells her Nebiros' name. She consults one of her magic books which reveals the demon's history. Dan is surprised to see an image of himself in the book, and Zatanna cryptically tells him that 'they' keep updating it. Dan then asks if the book shows a way to reverse the spell sealing him in the suit, and Zatanna tells him that the only way is to get Nebiros himself to reverse the spell.
In Hollywood (see, nobody's forgetting Dan's supporting cast) Norm is meeting with Marla. He's going over some shots that Marla wants of île Du Diable, the island where Dan became Blue Devil. She tells Norm she's sending him back there to get these shots. He doesn't want to go, but she convinces him.
After Norm leaves her office, she gets a call from Sharon, who's angry about the injunction filed against Dan wearing the suit in public. Marla tells her that she had to do it because Verner forced her hand. She tells Sharon her job is to keep Dan buttoned up out of sight, but Sharon tells her that Dan left with Superman.
Back on île Du Diable, Dan and Zatanna have teleported down to the island. When he makes a remark about the teleporter trip, she tells him he'll get used to it if he joins the JLA one day, to which he asserts that he's not cut out to be a superhero.
They enter the temple and Zatanna rebuilds the key to Nebiros' dimension. She opens a portal and pushes Dan through.
Dan is spooked by the weirdness of Nebiros' dimension and gets picked up by a flying whatsit(better than a flying doohickey any day), and eventually finds his way to Nebiros.
Nebiros still thinks Dan is another demon and welcomes him to his realm, thinking that Dan is ready to share his own realm with him. Nebiros seems extremely courteous, and then shows Dan a trident which he assumed was a gift and therefore imbued with mystical energy. Dan tells him that it wasn't a gift, but a means to imprison him. He then asks Nebiros to reverse the spell that sealed him in the suit and tells Nebiros that he's just a man. Nebiros doesn't believe him. He grabs Dan and takes him towards Zatanna's portal.
Dan tries to tell Zatanna to keep the portal closed, but she thinks that Dan is ready to come out. Of course, this allows Nebiros to escape. She fights Nebiros to keep him from fully coming through the portal, but is unable to do so. Dan grabs her and beats a hasty retreat, suggesting they go back to the JLA satellite for reinforcements.
At this point, Norm flies over the island in a helicopter. Seeing him, Dan tries to tell him to stay away, but they can't hear him over the helicopter's rotors. Nebiros attacks the 'copter and downs it.
Zatanna attacks Nebiros with plant matter, but it has little effect. Dan then attacks to give her a breather, and she tells Dan that her research shows that Nebiros is weakened by water. Dan tries it and finds that it works.
Nebiros gets tired of this fight and decides to conquer the world. Dan thinks that as long as they can keep him on the island surruonded by water they'll be okay, but Nebiros then uses the trident to fly away.
Norm and the helicopter pilot have survived the crash, but before they can get Dan and Zatanna to help, the two superheroes teleport back to the JLA satellite to head off Nebiros.
To be continued...
My rating: 7/10
The fun continues, as Dan begins to be thrust into the mainstream of the DC universe. The arm wrestling with Superman is pretty fun, and the fight with Nebiros is done quite well once again by Paris Cullins. Nebiros is also both a hoot and quite menacing in his own right.
If I do have a quibble with this story, it's that I think Zatanna acts way too cavalier about bearding a demon in it's own dimension. Quite frankly, had she taken things a little more seriously, Nebiros probably doesn't escape, and it seems to be an issue of poor judgment that she shouldn't be making, especially after doing research into the demon in question.
Another great issue. Nice to see Superman have a little fun with the arm-wrestling bit, as Kal-El often took himself too seriously in those days.
Cullins did a wonderful job on the art again. He really went to town on his depiction of Nebiros' home dimension. Very eye-pleasing.
Zatanna seemed smitten with Dan, practically inviting him to join the JLA, so perhaps that's why she was so careless later on in the story. I wonder if Mishkin and Cohn wanted BD to eventually join the JLA. That happened in 1995 when the Justice League International America series was in its final days (the Grant Morrison reboot happened the following year).
As you'll see shortly, Zatanna definitely saw something in Dan that she liked.
I think back then it was the goal of most creators to have their characters included in the JLA, because that's where the big guns were (unless we're talking about the Detroit era).
John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:
Zatanna seemed smitten with Dan, practically inviting him to join the JLA, so perhaps that's why she was so careless later on in the story. I wonder if Mishkin and Cohn wanted BD to eventually join the JLA.
Blue Devil #5 - "Viva Nebiros!"
Cover Date: October 1984
Writer: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
Artist: Paris Cullins
Dan, Zatanna and Ralph are all aboard the JLA satellite, with Dan and Zatanna licking their wounds after failing to defeat Nebiros. Zatanna admits she underestimated Nebiros' power and his willingness to free Dan from the suit. Ralph gives them a quick pep talk, then sensors that Zatanna had installed notice a large concentration of mystical energy. Dan and Zatanna bravely beam down to face Nebiros, while Ralph valiantly volunteers to cover monitor duty. They arrive in a small town called San Guadalupe where Nebiros is terrorizing the citizenry.
While the police are calling in the army, Nebiros uses Dan's trident to activate two dormant volcanoes in the area. Zatanna suggests to Dan that if he can regain control of the trident, they could reduce Nebiros' power. Dan tries (he used an electronic relay to allow the trident to act independently) but Nebiros fights his attempt at control and hits Dan with some mystical backlash. The two of them hitch a ride with the Mexican army to face Nebiros.
Nebiros uses the trident again to recover his lost temple. While he's working on his temple, the army arrives and prepares to bombard him, although Zatanna and Dan are pretty sure it won't work. Hearing an airplane, they think it's the army's jet fighters ready to attack, but it's actually Norm parachuting in with his camera. After Dan saves him from being arrested by the Mexicans, Norm explains that Marla sent him to get some footage.
Speaking of Marla, she's approached by the man she had give Dan the Cease and Desist order a couple of issues ago. She calls JOck Verner and tells him that she's dropping the injunction against Dan Cassidy, and when Verner balks, she threatens to pull out of their agreement, reminding Verner that he stands to lose more than she does.
Back in Mexico, the army can no longer wait for air support and begins their attack. In response, Nebiros calls forth a small army of demons. The air force shows and attacks, but Nebiros easily defeats them.
Dan and Zatanna wade into Nebiros' demon army, followed by Norm, who thoughtfully pre-loaded a .45 with silver bullets. Zatanna manages to cast a spell containing the demons in place.
Dan goes after Nebiros. They fight, but as long as Nebiros has the trident he has the upper hand. Zatanna casts a spell trapping Nebiros in water, giving Dan a respite.
Quick interlude to remind everyone that Crisis! is coming.
Dan tries a new tactic against Nebiros, the "betcha can't catch me even with my trident" offense. Nebiros throws the trident at Dan, and it doesn't return to the demon. Dan remarks that maybe it doesn't know which master to return to. Meawhile, there's a quick cutaway to show that Zatanna and Norm are up to their necks in demons and Dan is on his own against Nebiros.
Meanwhile, Dan and Nebiros are fighting over control of the trident. Dan declares it's a battle of man versus demon, but Nebiros insists it's demon versus demon. No matter, the trident chooses Dan. However, when he gets the trident in his hand, a change goes over Dan as he changes appearance slightly and looks much more demonic. He tells Norm that "it's mine now...all it's power is mine!" He then turns it on Nebiros. He uses it to destroy Nebiros' temple and to drive the other demons back to their own domain. Nebiros charges Dan as Dan taunts him, and Zatanna explains that by opening the portal to allow his demon army through, he's given them a way to deal with him. Working together, she creates a vortex and Dan uses the trident to force Nebiros into the vortex. They manage to seal him away as Nebiros swears vengeance against the Blue Devil.
Afterwards, Dan and Zatanna talk, and Zatanna reminds him that he just saved the world. Dan remarks that it's great to have the trident back in his hands, and Zatanna tells him that it's changed, as it still contains some latent mystical energy. The Mexican army thanks Dan for his help against Nebiros, while Norm reflacts that Dan seems to be back to normal, but that he certainly changed when he first got hold of the trident.
Dan asks Zatanna if he's still stuck in the costume, and she tells him that it's not a costume any more--that it's him. She then kisses him and departs, telling him to call her sometime.
My rating: 8/10
Cohn and Mishkin have remarked before that one of Nebiros' most defining traits is his stupidity, and that's reflected here. From the first attempt of Dan to control the trident, one would think that Nebiros would have understood that Dan had some measure of control and that letting loose of it could be a bad idea, but hey, that's a demon for you.
So for the most part this is pretty basic superheroics. Dan (aided by Zatanna and NOrm) saves the day, which is cool. It's a nicely done visual comic, with Paris Cullins once again showing his abilities at drawing action, and it's all done very nicely. I particularly liked his depiction of Nebiros' temple.
If I do have some quibbles, it's that the rest of the JLA didn't even seem to be alerted--sure they noted that they probably couldn't get there in time, but when you're dealing with the likes of Superman and the Flash, it doesn't take a whole lot of time. Someone should at least have tried to tell them. Secondly, one of the problems I have with stories based in a magical setting is that sometimes things just happen with little explanation, such as Zatanna's containment spell. I understood it was a spell of containment, but it didn't seem well-defined. I kept wanting a better explanation of at the very least the area of containment, but it just seemed to be forgotten. Also, why didn't Zatanna force Norm out of the field of battle? She's certainly got spells that can move ordinary people around for their own safety, right? There's being a little flighty and there's being irresponsible, and I'm surprised Zatanna didn't do more about that situation.
Enjoyable story but I wasn't crazy about the depiction of Zatanna. Last issue she severely underestimated the threat level of Nebiros, and in this issue she almost reminds me of the Wasp in the Silver Age. I'm sure I've seen lots of stories where she can do more than one thing at once, so like yourself I found it odd she didn't get Norm out of the battlezone. She's not Ultra Boy.
This is a good wrap up of the Nebiros storyline and Dan is starting to come into his own as a hero, even if he doesn't see it himself. The part where he has the trident and turns demonic for a moment was freaky and I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes.
Agreed, too, that Cullins did a great job on the art.
Blue Devil #6 - "Night on the Town!"
Cover Date: December 1984
Writer: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
Artist: Paris Cullins and Ernie Colón
Two aliens are being chased by a robot on another planet. One of them is named Jorj/Jorg (pronounced "George"). The two of them bicker as they run, and it's obvious they've known one another for a long time. They near their ship but a robot that they identify as police is standing between them and their ship. They rush into a building where a science demonstration is going on--"a revolution in interstellar travel". Apparently it's a transporter. We find uot the other alien is named Lehni (pronounced "Lenny") as they attempt to quietly move through the room. However, a horde or police robots begins chasing them. The commotion interrupts the delicate circuitry of the transporter, and Jorj and Lehni are transported elsewhere. The robot police follow them to destinatin unknwon.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the desert, Dan and Norm are bounding along, carried by Dan's trident. He marvels at how much more powerful it is since Nebiros had hold of it. They stop and land at a roadside diner. Meanwhile, parked outside the diner are some suspicious characters that we'll learn more about later.
Dan goes into the diner to get some food while Norm finds a phone to call Marla. Inside, the man behind the counter is a little star-struck--apparently Dan's fame as a superhero is spreading. He tells Dan that they're pretty close to Las Vegas. As Norm comes to join him, Dan pretends that he knew they were going to Vegas the whole time.
Back in Hollywood, Marla and the others are at a party hosted by Jock Verner. Verner is annoyed that Dan isn't there for publicity photos, as Gopher comes in to tell Marla that Dan and Norm need their help. They commandeer Verner's limo to go and help Dan and Norm.
Back in the diner, Dan laments how weird his life has gotten of late, and Norm theorizes that he's become a weirdness magnet. While they are waiting for the cook to warm up some apple pie, the oven starts acting up. Out come Jorj and Lehni. Jorj grabs and eats Dan's pie as the two of them continue running, and Lehni mistakes Dan for a police officer. They make a hole int eh wall and run away. Suddenly out of the oven come the police robots--which look strikingly similar to the Blue Devil--in pursuit. Dan and Norm follow the chase.
Jorj and Lehni keep running, realizing they're on another planet. Suddenly they're surrounded by robot police. Meanwhile, the suspicious characters from the diner are driving up the road and two of them are our old friends Smithers and Rojek, last seen helping out Metallo. They aren't sure about their driver, and even less sure when they come upon the aliens and robot police and their driver plows into them. Jorj and Lehni take advantage of the confusion to knock back the robot cops.
Smithers and Rojek approach the aliens and ask if they speak English, and it turns out they do as they're fans of I Love Lucy. When asked, Jorj tells them that the major religions of Maldor are based around the adventures of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He then tells the two crooks that they're on the run from the Maldorian police. Smithers suggests they hook up and help them on their latest caper, and the aliens agree, although they barely fit inside the van.
Dan and Norm arrive on the scene (FYI, Dan has been carrying Norm in one arm the whole time). They come upon the robot po.ice in the road. A couple of the robots attack, but Dan easily takes them out. After Norm gets some footage, they continue after Jorj and Lehni. However, the robot cops repair themselves and continue in pursuit.
In Las Vegas, Dan and Norm enter one of the casinos. The concierge, worried aabout Dan's appearance, wants him to leave and sics security on him, but Dan discards them easily.
Elsewhere in Vegas, Jorj, Lehni, Smithers and Rojek are outside of the van ready to pull a job while their driver, Bert, waits in the car. Suddenly police sirens are heard and Bert drives away, leaving the others high and dry. Jorj and Lehni don't recognize the Earth cops as being cops however. The police pursue Bert.
Shortly thereafter, the robot police show up. Jorj grabs everyone and makes a run for it. He ducks into a nearby casino, hoping to lose themselves in the crowd.
Of course, it turns out to be the same casino that Dan and Norm entered earlier. Dan is holding court for an admiring audience. Jorj and Lehni still think he's a cop, and of course Smithers and Rojek have prior experience with the Blue Devil. Dan spots them and recognizes the two crooks.
Jorj attacks, but Dan takes him down pretty easily. He tosses Jorj into some slot machines, busting them open. Smithers and Rojek want to grab the silver dollars within, but they're interrupted by the robot cops, who rebuilt themselves to be larger. Dan asks what's up, and Jorj tells him that they're cops just like him, to which Dan explains that he's not a cop. He asks Dan why the cops are after him, and it turns out it's because Lehni made a pass at a Governor's girlfriend, then broke the Governer's legs in the ensuing melee.
Dan attacks the robot cops as Smithers and Rojek attempt to escape. Dan takes out his frustrations at being a weirdness magnet on the robots as Jorj and Lehni assist. One of the robots is tossed Smithers and Rojek's way, causing them to spill the coins they gathered earlier.
Back on Maldor, the scientists are attempting to bring Jorj and Lehni back. They're attempting to signal the robots to bring them back, but of course they've been deactivated.
Back on Earth, Dan is trying to figure out what to do with Jorj and Lehni. Lehni mentions that he's hungry, reminding Dan that he didn't get his pie. They begin to go and look for food as Smithers and Rojek attempt to quietly crawl away.
Back in Los Angeles, James Jesse aka the Trickster is attempting to pack and leave in a hurry. Suddenly he's attacked by the villain Bolt; however, Bolt is unable to stop him and he gets away.
Back in Las Vegas, the robot cops have reformulated themselves into one giant robot. The robot attacks, knocking Blue Devil and the aliens into the kitchen. Smithers and Rojek are attempting to flee out the back door with the coins, but Dan lands on them.
The robot grabs Lehni, and Dan attacks with his trident, freeing him. Along with Jorj, the three of them reduce the robot to small pieces.
They think it's all over, but then more robots--this time tiny ones--enter the fray. These robots have been sent from Maldor, as the scientist once again attempts to "rescue" Jorj and Lehni.
As Dan evades one of the robots, it flies into a microwave oven and disappears. Realizing that this is the way to be rid of the pesky robots, Dan and the aliens grab all of the robots and stuff them into the microwave. After stuffing all of the robots into the oven, Dan then attempts to send Jorj and Lehni back the same way. However, Jorj is much too big to fit in the oven, and Dan gives up.
At this point, Earth's cops show up. They'r going to arrest Dan and the aliens when Norm steps in and tells them that the three just stopped an alien invasion. The police seem satisfied, especially given Dan's high profile of late, but the manager of the hotel is wondering who's going to pay for the damages. Dan overhears that the hotel is owned by Jock Verner and has a suggestion--hire Jorj and Lehni as bouncers and allow them to work off the debt. At this point, Smithers and Rojek rush the cops, demanding to be arrested as it's the only way they'll stay safe. The police oblige.
A little later, Marla, Sharon and Gopher arrive in Vegas and are greeted by Dan. Sharon is particularly excited to see Dan. Gopher asks where the monsters are, and Norm tells him that they're gone, but there will probably be more.
Later in the limo, Wayne is driving. He asks Dan what all the fuss was about, but Sharon hushes him up as both Norm and Dan are sleeping.
My rating: 7/10
First of all, I really enjoy the cover for this issue. It may not resmenble anything inside, but it's eye-catching and a fun gag, and Dan's facial expression is priceless.
As for the main story, it's pretty fun. I liked Norm's theory that Dan has become a weirdness magnet, and Jorj and Lehni are fun. It was also fun watching the misadventures of Smithers and Rojek, as I almost felt sorry for them by the end of the story.
That being said, I think this particular script was a little too heavy on the jokes. Humor is great, but this almost reads like the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League (in a bad way). There's a lot of business in here that's obviously just for laughs, and I think it detracts from the story rather than helping. I also don't understand the business with Bert, as it seemed to go nowhere necessary. Plus there are some very questionable calls on Dan's part. I don't understand why he trusts Jorj and Lehni so easily, or why gives up on sending them back to Maldor so easily either. Finally, while Ernie Colón is a perfectly competent artist, he';s just not quite Paris Cullins, and I think it really shows up in the facial expressions. It's not bad, just not as good as it has been.
Another fun issue. I'm glad that Jorj and Lehni had a happier fate than their inspirations did!
I didn't catch on that this was Smithers and Rojek from issue 3 until Dan recognized them, and even then I had to think about for a minute before it dawned on me, "oh yeah, those two". But then I thought we were supposed to know Bert too, and I was confused again.
I think Dan trusted Jorj and Lehni because he identified with them. He didn't ask to be a weirdness magnet - and neither did they, but weird things kept happening to them, and Dan's been there.
Blue Devil Annual #1 - Summer Fun - "The Day All Hell Broke Loose!"
Cover Date: 1985
Writer: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
Artist: Paris Cullins
Jack Ryder is being chased down the streets of New York by Man-Bat, although he hs no idea why. He finds a shop that's open and ducks inside for cover. Man-Bat watches him from outside.
Jack is interrupted by a mysterious woman who claims to know that he's also the Creeper. Jack asks what's going on. The Phantom Stranger is suddenly seen giving a monologue, but it's discovered that he's outside of the shop, and the woman will not let him inside, telling him that she can handle this one herself. However, after shutting the shop door on him, the Stranger appears inside the shop, and as Jack wonders how he got inside we see that his cloak got stuck in the door.
The Stranger is attacked by the woman, who he identifies as Madame Xanadu. She's worried that he'll disrupt the protective sigils and wards on the shop, but he says that she is the one who does not understand. Suddenly things get weird, and Etrigan the Demon shows up.
Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Dan is putting some giant robots through their paces during a test run. They break, and Marla congratulates Dan on the robots, despite their hefty cost of 2 million apiece. He tells her he has more gimmicks to show her back at his workshop, and he heads over there to grab a couple of things.
However, that no-goodnik Felix Faust is being a no-goodnik and wants to keep Dan from his workshop as he wants a couple of things from there himself. Using his magic, he animates the robots that Dan was just fighting with. Dan runs off to investigate, thinking that something is wrong with the robots. He doesn't want to damage them given their cost, so he's being careful as they run amok.
Faust takes his opportunity to enter Dan's workshop. He's not interested in Dan's electronic gizmos, but there's something else he wants. He searches the workshop until he finds a crystal globe. The Phantom Stranger materializes and tells him to put it back.
Dan is still trying not to damage the robots, hoping that Marla and crew can regain control, when Etrigan shows up and destroys them. He expects thanks, but of course Dan is livid.
At this point Dan's workshop blows up. Faust and the Phantom Stranger are revealed in mystic combat. Faust refers to the globe as the Netherpod. Etrigan joins the fray and takes the globe from Faust. Spurred on by the Stranger, Dan enters the fight, bewildered as to what's going on. Faust chooses to retreat and plan anew. He disappears in a puff of smoke.
Dan wonders how Faust did that, and the Stranger explains that it's a simple enough spell, and that he and Etrigan could follow if they knew where he was going. Dan tells them that they should go ahead and leave anyway.
As Etrigan examines the globe, the Stranger introduces himself in his usual enigmatic way. Etrigan then tells both of them that the globe is an egg.
Back in New York, Jack and Madame Xanadu are in the back of a cab. She tells him that she believes that he's the key to undoing a great evil. He tells her he's willing to help if only he could figure out what happened to him the night before.
In a flashback, Jack describes how a voice told him to climb a bridge, which he did as the Creeper. The Creeper was suddenly picked up by Man-Bat. As he fought against Man-Bat, he triggered the device turning him back into Jack Ryder, which broke whatever psychological hold someone had on the Creeper.
Elsewhere, Felix Faust is using a different strategy to achieve his goals. Using Durwood's Dictum of Digital Domination, he sends Man-Bat to break into a museum and break open a display case containing something Faust calls "his seed". The Creeper and Madame Xanadu are waiting for him however. Madame Xanadu manages to blind Man-Bat with bright light, allowing the Creeper to get a hold of him. During the fracas, the Creeper tosses the object to Madame Xanadu. Creeper pours some sort of potion ito Man-Bat's mouth, freeing him of Faust's mental domination. Man-Bat comes to his senses angry and wanting answers.
Faust is in great pain to have had his control taken away forcibly, so he makes a new plan. He breaks an egg over a crystal ball and casts a spell, then does so again with a second egg.
Back in Hollywood, the Phantom Stranger is explaining to Dan that Faust seeks world domination. The globe in Etrigan's hand suddenly begins pulsing and bulging. He puts it down, and it begins spewing out small demons.
Out in the desert--that's where Faust's hideout is--the villain waits and ponders over how he came up with this plan, namely from watching the Blue Devil movie and Dan's fight with Nebiros. He realized Nebiros was actually a demon, and decided to bring him into this dimension to serve him.
In Hollywood, the Stranger receives a mystical summons from Madame Xanadu, telling him that they're overrun with small demons in New York. The Stranger reveals to her that they're in a similar predicament.
Etrigan has a handy solution--he begins grabbing the imps and eating them. Dan is unwilling to follow suit, but the Phantom Stranger materializes mystical butterfly nets to scoop up and dispose of the imps.
In New York, Xanadu has provided Creeper and Man-Bat with similar nets. Creeper is chasing a number of imps when they suddenly fuse together into a much larger version. However, before they can attack, the enigmatic superhero Black Orchid swoops in and carries the enlarged imp away, then throws it to the ground, causing it to become a number of tiny imps again. She flies away, telling the Creeper that if they need more help, she knows where to reach them.
Creeper turns to Madame Xanadu, asking just who was that masked woman. She tells him a story of how a young woman named Mathilda Moorcock once saved an old lady from being hit by a truck, but in the process was struck with a radioactive bouquet of orchids, gifting her with super powers.
Faust realizes that his current tactic isn't quite working out the way he wants, as the imps are just too far away to find his birthing pit. He casts a spell called Portnoy's Penultimate Portal, materializing a doorway through which the imps enter and are transported to his side. Man-Bat, Creeper and Xanadu follow.
Back in Hollywood, Dan is still chasing imps all over the studio lot. He runs into Wayne Tarrant, who asks if he found that strange globe that he left in Dan's workshop. He tells Dan that he brought it back from Ile Du Diable, but that when it started glowing he figured that Dan would know what to do with it. Dan realizes that they're sending the imps to Nebiros' dimension. Etrigan chides Dan for not keeping to the task at hand, and shortly the imps have been disposed of. While the Phantom Stranger is contemplating things, Dan and Etrigan--who do not like one another--begin brawling. The Stranger addresses them, stating "The Phantom Stranger is talking!" (I love that line). They cease fighting, The Stranger gathers them under his cloak, telling them that Madame Xanadu and her allies have not succeeded in disposing of all of the imps, and he transports them to her side.
Faust is upset to be bearded within his lair now as he's quite close to achieving his goals. Dan has been put into his usual costume, and they attack Faust. Faust casts Durwood's Dictum again, this time on Dan. As Xanadu has no more potion left, the assembled heroes have to stop Dan any way they can, mainly by beating on him. As they brawl, the last imp makes it's way to the birthing pool.
Having stomped a mudhole in Dan, the Creeper asks if he's all right, while Etrigan muses it was a pleasure to beat him up. However, Xanadu and the Stranger realize they've failed, as the pit has been activated. As Faust stands on top of his mesa and cackles with villainnous glee, Black Orchid grabs him and drops him off the side.
Thinking she just killed Faust, Dan asks the Phantom Stranger who she is. The Stranger explains that she was once a brilliant science student named Paula Porter, who accidentally pricked her finger on some radioactive orchids, giving her super powers.
Creeper is confused by the Stranger's retelling of her origin, and Madame Xanadu tells him that orchids have no thorns. The Stranger insists that these orchids were special. Man-Bat gets them focused back on the task at hand, as Nebiros enters the fray--except it's not quite Nebiros. It's actually a sort of golem made of sand that has Nebiros' powers and memories.
Nebiros attacks Dan and captures him. Etrigan attempts to do battle with the demon but is overpowered. The others attack, and Dan is freed. However, Nebiros is still too powerful.
Etrigan rejoins the fracas and takes a bite out of Nebiros, sending that piece back to his dimension. The Stranger and Xanadu materialize the nets again, and pretty soon Nebiros is done for.
As the assembled heroes catch their breath, they're suddenly attacked by Felix Faust who wants revenge. They try to attack him, but he's using Baxter's Bending Bolts of Bewilderment which is keeping them all at bay. None f the heroes has any idea of how to get by them, until the Phantom Stranger sneaks up behind Faust and punches him in the jaw, declaring it "exhilarating".
The Stranger uses his cloak to transport Faust somewhere for punishment. As the heroes are about the leave, the Creeper stops them. He proposes that they get together on a regular basis to deal with supernatural problems like this one, sort of a spooky Justice League. He suggests calling the group "The Creeper and his Spirit Squad". After mulling it over, the others tell him that's the stupidest idea they've ever heard. End of the story.
Other features in the annual include a pin-up of Dan, a schematic of his suit, a board game and a poster for Blue Devil the Movie.
My rating: 9/10
This is funny.
I've spoken before about how sometimes humor is forced in superhero comics that are supposed to be "funny", but this doesn't feel like that at all. All of the humor comes from the actual characters themselves--from the Phantom Stranger's mysteriousness and ponpousness to Etrigan's rhyming to the multiple origins of Black Orchid, there's not one moment where I feel that a character acts buffonish or out of character just to sell a joke.
Once again, Paris Cullins is on great form here, making each character both comical and serious when the need arises.
There are two reasons this doesn't get a 10/10. First was using Nebiros again. I appreciate he's supposed to be Dan's arch-nemesis, but this is three times within six months that he's been used, and it's a little much. The other complaint I have is that the issue's strength is also a weakness--to really enjoy this comic, you really need to have foreknowledge of most of the characters and their traits. I do think the story works as just a straight superhero story, but it's much more effective if the reader understands just who the likes of the Phantom Stranger and Etrigan are, so it's not the most new-reader friendly comic around. Still, that being said, it's quite enjoyable.
I seriously hate Blue Devil's origin.
Is it really an actor being stuck in the costume? It can't be right?
Even back in the 80s that was dumb. I just can't get over that.