Halloween is nearly upon us, the day where even the pious types allow us all the chance to celebrate the macabre and revel in the awesome sauce that monsters provide. One of those enduring standard archetypes of fright is the concept of the demon. The creature from the bowels of Hell out to corrupt and destroy the innocent and the pure – the personification of sin and acquiescence to temptation. In the world of comic books, this kinda thing gets a lot of play, as there are no philosophies, concepts or nightmares too big for this medium to try and tackle. So let’s take a look at 10 of the scariest demons comic books have to offer.
Why He’s Scary: Al Simmons was an assassin sent to Hell who then – oh, nobody’s cared about any of this since the 90s. Look at how cool he looks! That big cape, those chains, all that fire! He’s cool-lookin’! Ooooooh! He looks mad!
Why He’s Not #1: Gotta do more than look cool. Plus, it was the Violator who was the true demon, and he was usually just a gross fat clown you wanted to punt. But no list of hell spawn could be complete without the actual Spawn.
Why He’s Scary: The Red Right Hand of Doom. Look at that thing. He could out-fist Fisto. There’s nothing you can put in front of Hellboy that he can’t beat the snot out of with that demonically-charged mystical bludgeoning action, no matter how big and terrifying it is.
Why He’s Not #1: He’s a good dude who likes pancakes and solves magical crimes and punches bad monsters. That’s not all that demonic. In fact, he tries his damnedest to be the opposite of a demon.
8. GHOST RIDER
Why He’s Scary: Holy crap, that biker guy’s head is on fire! It burned his face off! Not only does this metaphysical instrument of vengeance look badass, but if you’re a sinner and he catches up with you, all he’s gotta do is whip the hell out of you with his chain and then grab you by the throat and stare into your eyes, and you get KILLED WITH THE POWER OF YOUR OWN GUILT thanks the Penance Stare. All he’s gotta do is look at you. Plus, his motorcycle has fire for wheels. He can also run you over and set you on fire at the same time.
Why He’s Not #1: He’s after the guilty, not the innocent. He’s dickish, but he’s pretty much a good guy, which undercuts the whole demonic thing.
Why He’s Scary: He’s a legit demon who hangs out in Hell and has even tried to take it over. He’s violent, he’s bloodthirsty and he likes to be a huge dick in making bargains with humans. He is bonded to the sorceror Jason Blood, who takes great pains to keep him from emerging into reality at all, lest he get nasty. Plus he’s yellow with a creepy tongue. Pretty demony.
Why He’s Not #1: He talks in rhyme a lot, which gives him more of a creepy ice-cream-man vibe than a ‘yikes’ feel. Thanks to Blood’s interference, Etrigan is as often a good guy as he is a bad guy. In the New 52, he’s actually a part of a half-assed heroic team struggling to fight against the evil mage Mordru back in the post-Camelot era. When you get down to it, he seems like more of a mischievous gremlin than a BEWARE MY WRATH type.
Why She’s Scary: Unlike her brother Daimon Hellstrom, Satana has completely embraced being the daughter of Satan instead of clinging to the half-human side of their ancestry. She’s steeped in black magic, she’s a full-on succubus, she wants to eventually take over Hell and she’s more than a little batshit crazy. She’s Lucifer-spawn, yo. You best get worried.
Why She’s Not #1: Although she was initially strong-armed into it, Satana is now rather pleased to be serving on the Thunderbolts, a team of semi-reformed bad guys trying to do good. True, she’s in it for the selfish reasons of being able to recklessly wreak havoc on the mystical Man-Thing, but the fact remains that she does some good deeds now and again, even running with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos for a brief time.
Why He’s Scary: He’s got a hell of a lot of demonic power. He’s the Lord of Lies, of course, but he claims to have been around since ‘humanity’s first fall from grace.’ He’s all about corrupting and collecting souls with deceitful Faustian bargans, very standard devilish stuff, and he’s a very high-ranking dude in Hell. He once created an army of hell-powered supervillains in a grand scheme to take over Earth and consume the pure soul of Captain Marvel. He’s even managed to kill Wonder Woman once.
Why He’s Not #1: He looks like a douche.
Why He’s Scary: He’s essentially Marvel’s active Satan (although not the father of Satana). Straight-up demon stuff just like Neron, all about Faustian bargans and pure-soul consumption and skullduggerous backstabbery, and he doesn’t look like a douche. He looks like a proper demon. He’s created a son of sorts from the pure evil of hundreds of years of murder in a place called Christ’s Crown, New York and named him Blackheart, and that son is evil enough to keep trying to kill his own father. He also created Ghost Rider, and tortured Dr. Doom by holding the soul of his mother captive for many years. He even took away Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson by holding poor old Aunt May’s life in the balance.
Why He’s Not #1: Black Panther dropped him in one punch. Sure, there were extenuating circumstances (which were pretty awesome, actually – read Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira’s run on Black Panther for more), but for all his awesome power, Mephisto generally winds up getting punked.
Why He’s Scary: He’s a giant goddamned fire demon king from an entire Asgardian realm of fire demons who aren’t dickheaded tricksters, but actual badass warrior monsters who will kick the shit out of you, your entire planet and all your gods. In fact, he’s a crucial factor in ending the world of gods in the much-prophesied Ragnarok. Aka Armageddon. He’s beaten the crap out of both Thor and Odin. This ain’t a demon to mess with.
Why He’s Not #1: There’s this thing with Asgard and Ragnarok. It keeps happening. Death and rebirth, over and over, ad nauseum. It’s an endless cycle, which gives even an event as cataclysmic as that a sort of ‘…oh’ feeling. Plus, he may only be a demon because he looks the part. You could probably just get away with calling him a Fire Giant, the opposite numbers of the Frost Giants.
Why He’s Scary: When he was born, he killed everybody around him, including his own mother. By age 6, he killed a planet. By age 30, he controlled an entire dimension. He defeated the Teen Titans and the Justice League easily. He’s nigh-omnipotent and omniscient, and he’s gone around doing demonic things like seducing misguided women and creating a bunch of demonspawn kids. He’s a nasty, brutal personification of evil. And he’s huge and has four creepy eyes.
Why He’s Not #1: He just hasn’t endured. Even though his own daughter had to die in order to defeat his invasion of Earth, he hasn’t really come back with any force since then, way back in the 80s. He’s got kids based on deadly sins, though, and they’re skeevy enough – in fact, they stole what power Trigon had left for themselves, but he was actually proud of them for it. Pretty demonic.
1. SAINT OF KILLERS
Why He’s Scary: He may not be a straight-up demon, but was given his powers in Hell itself just to get his supernaturally cold hate out of his hotpot of Hell. This former bloodthisrty Confederate soldier turned family man turned vengeful fury had so much hate in him when he died that it actually froze hell over, and Satan couldn’t have that. So the Angel of Death transferred that title to him and sent him out in the service of God’s wrath. He’s immune to all harm (including nuclear bombs), his guns will never run out of ammo, will never miss and will instantly kill everything he shoots. Satan was pleased with this development, until the first thing the newly-christened Saint of Killers did was shoot Satan dead. When he found out that God himself had engineered the death of his family and took away the only good thing his rotten human life ever had, he had a new mission. It was a doozy. And he pulled it off.
Why He’s #1: He killed God. He straight-up killed God. Ain’t no better demonic triumph than that, and that earns him the top spot.