DC has a diverse supernatural community, with Etrigan the Demon being one of the most versatile characters. Created by Jack Kirby in 1972, Etrigan has appeared in stories such as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Kevin Smith’s Batman: The Widening Gyre and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.
Kirby created the Demon after his Fourth World titles were cancelled, and though he had no interest in horror comics, he created Etrigan because DC demanded a horror character. Kirby was said to be annoyed The Demon #1 sold so well, which meant DC required him to do sixteen issues. Although Kirby never intended for Etrigan to become popular, the character has been around for a long time and The Comic Vault is looking into his history as part of October’s supernatural theme.
During the time of King Arthur, Etrigan was summoned by his half-brother Merlin. When the wizard failed to gain his brother’s secrets, he bonded Etrigan to a knight called Jason Blood. This forced the two of them to share the same body, giving Etrigan a measure of humanity, while making Blood immortal. A Jekyll and Hyde like relationship was formed, with Blood constantly battling against his demonic side, but acknowledging that it had helped him in the past.
In the modern day, Blood lived as a demonologist in Gotham City. An early story involved him being lured to the crypt of Merlin, where he battled against Morgaine le Fey. Sometime later, Blood’s daughter was born, which inspired him to try and destroy Etrigan. He hired a metahuman hitman called Tommy Monaghan to help him. This allowed him to steal Etrigan’s heart and take full control of their body. However, Etrigan regained his heart after Monaghan traded it back to him, though he still tried to kill the assassin.
Blood was eventually welcomed into the Justice League as their magic expert and Etrigan worked with them a few times when necessary. Etrigan’s evil is kept in check by his bond with Blood, but if they’re separated, then he’ll return to his true nature.
Etrigan is one of the most powerful demons in existence, possessing enough strength to stand up to Superman, Wonder Woman and Lobo. In addition to being highly durable, his command of magic is impressive. He can shoot hellfire from his mouth, teleport, read minds and heal rapidly. Etrigan’s sadomasochistic tendencies make him fearless, even enjoying the pain people inflict on him. Like other demons, he’s vulnerable to holy water and iron. He’s also helpless against people who are strong enough to control him, such as Morgaine le Fey.
The Demon is known for his rhyming conversation, though he isn’t fixed to it. Whenever Blood needs to transform into Etrigan he uses the following rhyme:
Change! Change! O’ form of man!
Free the prince forever damned!
Free the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in the heart for fire!
Gone! Gone! O’ form of man!
Rise the demon Etrigan!
Etrigan is an interesting metaphor for the struggle between light and dark in every person. Kirby created another memorable character, joining others like Orion and Big Barda.