Fonzie’s mirror on the wall, drugstore who’s the most Bronze Age character of them all?
What’s that, mirror? You say the Bronze Age is best defined as a number of overlapping trends — from Kirby moving to DC to the relaxation of the CCA to a new generation of socially aware creators to the appropriation of exploitation cinema themes and tropes — which make it impossible to summarize via a single character?
Fair enough, but the judges would have also accepted Devil-Slayer.
The character was a Rich Buckler creation plucked from the ruins of the Atlas-Seaboard misfire (where he went by the handle of “Demon Hunter”) and thrown (open-masked) face first into the bizarre modern day epilogue of Buckler’s Deathlok the Demolisher run.
I won’t lie to you. My thirteen year old self thought this team-up was, in the vernacular of the era, the balls. My thirteen year old self also had a greasy rat-tail and listened to Quiet Riot, so make of that what you will.
Eric Simon Payne (aka Devil-Slayer aka Demon Hunter aka Imp Offer) was an army vet and assassin for the Agents of Fortune, a demonic cult who worshipped the dreaded B’uck D’harma. To ensure their chosen minion would never fear the reaper, the cult leaders helped awaken the Slayer’s latent psychic powers in addition to granting him a teleportation cloak and the finest fighting togs the Mighty Men and Monster Maker could provide.
After turning against his masters, Devil-Slayer waged a one-man war against the forces of the supernatural that logically began with battling a cyber-enhanced super-soldier from the dystopian 1990s and ended with assisting the Defenders thwart Satan’s (Mephisto, really) invasion of the mortal realm.
Having defeated The Not-Actual Devil, Payne found the salt of demon-slaying had lost its savor and sought solace in increasingly erratic behavior and the type of foul spirits that can purchased for five bucks a gallon at the local package store.
He found a new savior, however, in the form of the ghost of a hippie junkie (wearing a “Woodstock” t-shirt, because there nothing so obvious in the Jim Shooter Era that couldn’t be explicitly restated) who helped Payne reconcile with his estranged wife, rekindle his Christian faith, and find himself a nice comfy place in the “inactive” category of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe‘s Book of the Dead.
He eventually returned to action as the star of some serialized filler in Marvel Comics Presents, followed by scattered appearances on the fringes of the “Midnight Sons” sub-imprint, and a “mature readers” (sorry, but that phrase will always appear in sarcasm quotes when it pertains to funnybooks) mini-series starring a legacy version of the character.
In recent years, the original Devil-Slayer — sporting a more generically contemporary superhero set of duds — has popped up in the Initiative books as one of Hawaii’s chosen protectors and a member of Wonder Man’s retro-extreme “Revengers” team.
He also made it onto the short list of possible candidates to replace Dr. Strange as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme…presumably right below “throw the Eye of Agamotto out the window and hope for the best.”
Everything about Devil-Slayer — the off-the-rack costume, the lurid-yet-bland name, the uneven mish-mash of period tropes — screams “character created for a mock-up comic prop for a 1977 sitcom episode.” He represents the Bronze Age of Comics in its purest and tractionless form, knocking around the edges of a shared universe before getting kicked to the curb well after his effective sell-by date.
As such, there’s part of me that can’t help but like the poor doofus, but not enough to prevent me from casting him into the eternal pit of Nobody’s Favorites.
Recommended listening: Things to Come – Speak of the Devil (from a 1966 single)
LOOK OUT! THE SOUNDS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE GARAGE!