The Bible isn’t the only book filled with devils and demons. For decades, comics have been a haven for some of the most vile, foul, and devious tempters and hellspawns. It seems like in the major comic book universes one can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of these horned and tentacled tempters of man.
In superhero comics, horror comics, and everywhere in between, there have always been demons and devils to make life (and afterlife) much more interesting. Not all of these demons are evil and a very select few are even adorable. So in honor of Fox’s Lucifer, let us take a look at thirteen of the most memorable demons and devils to ever foul a comic page.
First appearance: Marvel Premiere #5 (1972)
Created by Robert E. Howard, Steve Englehart, and Frank Brunner
We would be remiss not to include some kind of cosmic eldritch horror on this list of demons. Shuma-Gorath here has the distinction of not only being a major league Doctor Strange foe, this Great Old One was also created by one of the greatest dark fiction writers in history (and the creator of Conan) Robert E. Howard.
When looking for a new foe for Strange, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner looked to the weird fiction of Howard to find Shuma-Gorath, a demonic entity that first appeared in the short story “The Curse of the Golden Skull.” Englehart found a way to keep the connection to Howard when he brought Shuma-Gorath into the Marvel Universe. Y’see, when this floaty, tentacle murder eye once ruled all of reality until it was banished by a time traveling wizard. Shuma-Gorath eventually made its way to the Hyborian Age where it was defeated by Conan’s famed god Crom (Crom laughs at your murder eye).
Shuma-Gorath is the stuff of old fashioned nightmares. He belongs to a race called the Many Angled Ones, and if that name doesn’t make your sphincter slam shut, I don’t know what will. This huge mass of writhing hate would make H.P. Lovecraft piss himself and Shuma-Gorath remains one of Marvel’s most nightmarishly odd concepts.
First appearance: Marvel Spotlight # 5 (1972)
Created by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog
Zarathos might not be the most well known Marvel demon, but this foul entity was instrumental in the creation of one of Marvel’s most famed horrific heroes. Zarathos was once a demon whose power rivaled that of the great Mephisto himself. We’ll get to Mephisto in a hot minute, but rest assured, Mephisto didn’t like competition.
Anyway, the scarlet Lord of Lies defeated Zarathos through treachery (because Mephisto is a devil, how else would defeat him, with a riveting croquet match?). After the defeat, Zarathos became a vassal to Mephisto, but before that, the skull headed Zarathos commanded legions of hellspawned demons that did his bidding. Zarathos also had many loyal cult followers on Earth and became a feared and respected name because of his fearsome might and unforgiving nature.
After his defeat, Mephisto bound Zarathos to many an unsuspecting mortal, the most famous of which was stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze. Bound with Zarathos, Blaze became Ghost Rider. At times Zarathos was in control, at times, it was Blaze, but no matter who controlled the power of Ghost Rider, the leering, flaming visage of Zarathos struck fear into any mortal who dared meet the demon’s terrible gaze. Blaze’s goodness tempered Zarathos for a time, but it won’t be long before the vassal of Mephisto and demon lord preys upon humanity once again.
Plus, old fire skull here is one of the greatest visuals in all of comics. So a deep and resounding thank you to the great artist Mike Ploog who made Zarathos a truly terrible sight to behold!
11. Hot Stuff the Little Devil Harvey Comics
First appearance Hot Stuff #1 (1957)
Created by Warren Kremer
So far on this list, we’ve had manipulators, tempters, murderers, and hell lords, but now, we have the cutest devil this side of Golgotha, the adorable Hot Stuff. Like his Harvey Comics pal Casper the Friendly Ghost, Hot Stuff the Little Devil was a rascally yet harmless monster that kept kids laughing for decades. He appeared as a little red devil who wore an oversize diaper which begs the questions, does cute lil’ Hot Stuff poop the souls of the damned?
Hot Stuff had a hot temper but really was a friendly and well meaning little guy and charmed multiple generations with his antics. But, at the end of the day, Harvey was peddling the adventures of a cute little Satan child which really must have pissed off the fundamentalist Christians to no end. And for this, Hot Stuff, we salute you and your devil diaper.
First appearance Spawn #1 (1992)
Created by Todd McFarlane
Spawn has featured some of the most twisted and evil demons ever to appear in comics. The Violator, the Vindicator, and so many more have made unlife difficult for Spawn since the character exploded onto the comics’ scene. But one devil pulls the strings of these others demons, the lord of evil, Malebolgia.
Malebolgia was named after demons from Dante’s Inferno and is one of the most shockingly disgusting devils in all of comics. His lank hair, his distended belly, and his evil grin all make this collector of souls the very epitome of evil. Malebolgia has long been a puppet master extraordinaire, creating generations of Spawns to do his bidding on Earth. And hey, no one can say that Todd McFarlane doesn’t draw the most badass demons in all of comics.
Anyone remember the old school Malebolgia figure from McFarlane Toys? That thing had such heft you could have pummeled a burglar to death with it.
9. Danny Wormwood
First appearance Chronicles of Wormwood #1 (2006)
Created by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
You just knew something created by Garth Ennis would be on this list, didn’t you? Danny Wormwood, the star of Chronicles of Wormwood, is the Antichrist. He was sent to Earth by his father Satan to bring about the end time for all of God’s creations.
But something happened that Satan didn’t expect. Wormwood arrived to the realm of humanity and he fell in love with the flawed and wonderful creatures he found. That’s right, in this brilliant series by Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows, the Antichrist becomes humanity’s greatest friend.
Wormwood stayed on Earth and appropriately enough, the son of the Devil became a television executive, which explains the last half decade of NBC programming when you stop and think about it (actually, Wormwood became a cable TV exec but if I told you that my cheap dig at NBC wouldn’t have been funny). Anyway, Wormwood sets himself with a nice life on Earth and has the power to do anything he wants once a day. Wormwood used this power to give his pet rabbit Jimmy the power to speak and together, Jimmy the Rabbit and the Son of the Devil do all they can to protect human life from Wormwood’s father.
If you enjoy Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, then Chronicles of Wormwood is an absolutely perfect companion piece.
First appearance Underworld Unleashed #1 (1995)
Created by Mark Waid and Howard Porter
Not all devils take monstrous forms. Neron seems to be a typical caped super villain, but this DC villain is so much more. Neron brags that he was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and also goes by the names Wishweaver, King of Hate, and Lord of Lies. This handsome devil is known for striking Faustian bargains with super villains, amping up their power sets in exchange for their villainous souls.
Some of DC’s biggest losers no longer were jokes after they signed on Neron’s dotted line. For example, Neron made Killer Moth not a loser- now, that’s power. But seriously, DC is filled with some of the greatest mystical characters in the history of comics and with Neron, heroes like Doctor Fate, the Spectre, Deadman and so many more finally had a classic devil worth resisting. Neron weaved his special brand of evil magic in DC’s 1995 event Underworld Unleashed, an event conceived by the great Mark Waid and well worth seeking out.
First appearance Strange Tales #126 (1964)
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Ever since Hannibal Lecter Mads Mikkelsen was announced as a villain in Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange film, I have been tempted to sell my own soul to make certain than Mikkelsen will play Dormammu. Other than being an absolute bitch to spell, Dormammu is Doctor Strange’s greatest foe.
Dormammu rules over the Dark Dimension, a nether realm made up of unstoppable Mindless Ones (and no, we don’t mean followers of Donald Trump, stop it). Dormammu has his own strange sense of honor. In his first appearance, Dormammu punished perennial Strange foe Baron Mordo for cheating in a mystical battle with Stephen Strange. This act set Dormammu apart from his demonic brethren as it established this flame headed monster as a being of complex motivations and values.
But don’t let that fool you; Dormammu is a terrible threat to humanity. Many times in the past Dormammu, his consort Umar, and his Mindless Ones (and no, I’m still not talking about Donald Trump supporters, I’m going to get in trouble, stop suggesting these things), have tried to invade our world only to be stopped by the Sorcerer Supreme.
Hopefully, moviegoers everywhere will find out just how mighty and terrible Dormammu is when Doctor Strange hits theatres in November.
6. Son of Satan
First appearance Ghost Rider #1 (1973)
Created by Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas
Just to prove that Marvel had brass balls during the halcyon days of the 70s, legend has it that Stan Lee really wanted to create a comic book starring-well, Satan, entitled The Mark of Satan. After all, Marvel was having great success with Tomb of Dracula and what monster is viler than the Lord of Vampires? Why, the Antichrist of course.
The great Roy Thomas kept a more level head than Stan and suggested that the book star the heroic son of the Devil and Daimon Hellstrom, and the Son of Satan was born. Since then, Hellstrom has become a pretty important character in the Marvel Universe first in his own book and then in the pages of The Defenders. And Jessica Jones Netflix fans, guess who Daimon married? Why none other than Jessica’s TV BFF, Patsy Walker!
But no matter where Hellstrom’s heroic career took him, his demonic heritage was never far away. Many times, Hellstrom leaned into the evil side of his persona and went full Satan on the Marvel Universe. Never go full Satan.
These days, Hellstrom is a hero once again but it keeps me warm at night knowing that, if not for Rascally Roy Thomas, Disney would have owned a property called Mark of Satan.
First appearance: The New Teen Titans #2 (1981)
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
Trigon is the demonic ruler of countless dimensions. This multi-eyed monster is the product of a coupling between a female mystic and the god of a dark dimension called Azarath. When the Trigon child formed, all the evil energies of Azarath entered the being.
By the age of six, Trigon murdered a planet, by 30, Trigon ruled countless dimensions. When Trigon turned his terrible attention to Earth he mated with a mentally unstable member of a Satanic cult and produced a female child that was then taken to Azarath to be raised to control her motions lest she manifest the tendencies of dear old dad. Those knowledgeable in DC lore know that this child grew up to become the Teen Titan known as Raven. Together with her team, Raven was the only being ever able to stand up to the evil of Trigon, an evil that has crushed countless worlds.
Trigon is so important to our list because so many famed aspects of the great Wolfman and Perez run on New Teen Titans sprang from Trigon, aspects such as the legend of Raven and the Cult of Brother Blood, a murder cult sworn to restore Trigon to glory.
First appearance: The Demon #1 (1972)
Created by Jack Kirby
Any demon created by Jack Kirby just has to make this list, but other than his creative pedigree, Etrigan has to be the greatest hellspawn in DC history. First we have the fact that Etrigan is usually portrayed as a rhymer demon, so when this badass denizen of the otherworld comes to kick your ass, he drops rhymes while roasting your innards. Seriously, Etrigan is like a cross between Chuck D and Satan. In addition to his rap skills, Etrigan and his legacy stretch back to the days of Camelot so this yellow skinned demon got to drop said rhymes for Arthur and Lancelot.
Plus, ever since Jack Kirby introduced Etrigan, the Demon has starred in a number of great comics and played a number of great roles in the DCU. He’s been a frequent ally to Batman, an arch villain, the star of his own hilarious comic penned by Preacher‘s Garth Ennis, a member of a number of super teams such as the Shadowpact and Demon Knights, and a paranormal investigator extraordinaire.
Wherever Etrigan goes, great stories follow as this demon has become the premiere horned demonic presence in the DCU.
First appearance Silver Surfer #3 (1968)
Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Mephisto, Marvel’s premiere devil, has been taking souls and stealing marriages for decades. Since first appearing in the pages of Silver Surfer, Mephisto has taken on and tempted every major Marvel hero.
Mephisto is pivotal in the origins of Doctor Strange, Daimon Hellstrom, Ghost Rider, and so many more. He robbed Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson of their marriage after the couple entered a Faustian deal with this most putrid of devils. That not only robbed Pete rand MJ of their marriage, it also pissed off a generation of comic fans. Not many devils in history can say he angered an entire fandom!
But the coolest thing about Mephisto is that there is so much character depth to this devil that he can be adapted to any story. Mephisto is just as effective playing the traditional devil role in Doctor Strange as he is playing a pivotal role in a sci-fi saga like Infinity Gauntlet. You can bet that if a character holds sway in the Marvel Universe, Mephisto will be there at some point whispering in his or her ear, tempting with whatever leverage Mephisto can find just as he did to the mighty Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet saga.
So read the fine print before signing anything, because Mephisto might be providing the pen. Which begs the question, why did I have to sign my Den of Geek contact in blood? It seemed rather odd at the time. Anyone? Hello?
First appearance The Sandman #4 (1989)
Created by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth Vertigo
Soon to star in his own drama from Fox, Lucifer has charmed his way into comic book history. Lucifer first appeared in The Sandman #4, but in this first appearance, Lucifer was not taking souls, he was giving them up. When Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams met Lucifer, the Fallen One gave up his kingdom of Hell. Lucifer was sick of harvesting the damned and desired to live a mortal life. So Lucifer packed it in, gave the key of Hell to Morpheus, and opened a piano bar in Los Angeles.
From there, Lucifer Morningstar starred in his own series from Vertigo, a thoughtful, layered, profoundly mythic look at Lucifer and his nature as a divine and damned being. It was one of the finest Vertigo titles in history and remains a thought provoking, genre defying journey through the psyche of a being who is evil, divine, and oh so human.
The new Fox TV series seems to be taking some liberties with Vertigo’s Lucifer, but if he is anything, the former King of Hell is a malleable being and could be adapted to any form. Check out the devil king’s unforgettable Vertigo series for some of the finest comics imaginable. You might just sell you soul for more.
First appearance: Next Men #21
Created by Mike Mignola
With two beloved films under his gun belt, Hellboy, Mike Mignola’s greatest creation, clocks in as the greatest demonic entity in comic book history. Anung Un Rama was the son of the demon Azrael, conceived with a human woman and meant to deliver Hell on Earth. Anung Un Rama was summoned by the Mad Monk Rasputin in the waning days of World War II in order to insure an Axis victory.
In the ultimate example of nature versus nurture, Anung Un Rama was adopted by a kindly scientist and raised with love and compassion. Renamed Hellboy, the demon baby was raised to serve as Earth’s first line of defense against the demonic and strange.
From Hellboy, Mignola and his cadre of talented creators have spawned a pulp inspired universe that includes a number of spin offs to the Hellboy Universe. Helboy is one of the coolest visuals in comics with his giant fist and filed down horns, but he is also one of the bravest and most honorable heroes that continues to defy his heritage to help a world that has feared his kind since time immemorial.
Hellboy proves that even a devil can have a heart but I still would watch my ass when signing anything. Especially if the ink is red.