RETRO REVIEW: Marvel Spotlight #12 (October 1973)
Or – “File This Under A For ‘Ain’t Gettin’ Away With This Kinda Thing Today’…”
I completely forgot that a couple of weeks ago was my six-year anniversary of writing for Major Spoilers. This isn’t really surprising (I forgot October 4th last year as well), given my tendency to live twelve to fourteen seconds at a time, but it always makes me feel bad for not coming up with a spectacular blast of fireworks or something for y’all, the Faithful Spoilerites. To that end, I racked my brains for something that would make this week’s Retro Review extra-special. Silver Age Legion? Too commonplace. Golden Age goofiness? Too soon after Captain Marvel. That issue of Tarot where the girl’s nether regions are haunted? Still not old enough. No, Faithful Ones, there was only one thing that would successfully do the trick, and end up being seasonally appropriate (although that may be the ONLY kind of appropriate) as well. Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review awaits!
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #12
Writer: Gary Friedrich
Penciler: Herb Trimpe
Colorist: Marie Severin
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $40.00
Previously, in Marvel Spotlight: In the early 1970s, the creative fires that spurred Marvel Comics had seemingly started to die down, as the wildly creative stories of the sixties gave way for a universe now a decade old. Spider-Man’s love life was still a shambles, Stan & Jack had left Fantastic Four, and nobody had yet thought of a way to make the X-Men work as a concept. In 1971, though, the strictures of the Comics Code Authority were loosened, allowing Marvel to launch a series based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When one monster was a hit, they went back to the well for another. The success of Dracula and Johnny Blaze led to Werewolf By Night, Frankenstein’s Monster and more. By the time Ghost Rider burst onto the scene in Marvel Spotlight #5, he seemed like a natural extension of the monstrous concepts at the heart of the Thing or the Incredible Hulk, taken to it’s (super) natural extreme. Then, writer Gary Friedrich added another member to G.R.’s supporting cast, a young demonologist named Daimon Hellstrom, who goes by a particularly provocative superhero nom de guerre…
Son. Of. Satan. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: There is NO conceivable way that this would fly in today’s comic market. I’m absolutely stunned that Marvel allowed this even in 1973, frankly, but I’m kind of happy that they did. ‘The Omen’ was still a few years off, and even ‘The Exorcist’ wouldn’t make it into movie theatres for a few months after Daimon’s debut, but it’s clear that Friedrich and Trimpe were tapping into a cultural zeitgeist of the supernatural. Though this is the first appearance of SoS (I am leery of writing his name out too many times for fear of what sort of internet hits we might start to get), Daimon himself had made his debut a month earlier as a shadowy figure seen in Ghost Rider #1. Ghost Rider #2 leads directly into this one, as the normally-calm Daimon Hellstrom transforms into his uncontrollable alter ego…
It’s sort of like The Hulk with hellfire, especially in the original conceit that he transforms into the Son of Santa each nightfall. For those of you who are young, and haven’t ever read a Bronze Age comic, this page also features the bottom-of-the-page advertisements that Matt Fraction has been homaging in the latest run of ‘Defenders.’ Daimon leaps into action to find the possessed Linda, hoping that she can lead him to his estranged father who lives in Aitch-Ee-Double-Hockeysticks. But first, he needs to rustle up a little transportation…
Holy crap, what a page! This issue comes with a rather impressive pedigree of it’s own, as Daimon’s creators are the writer behind Ghost Rider and the artist behind the first appearance of Wolverine! Herb Trimpe does some uncharacteristic work here, for those who are familiar with his Hulk pencils, making Son of El Santo’s body thin and wiry, like a devil-spawned David Bowie, and the faces on those demon horses are freaking me out a little bit even as we speak. Daimon sets out to find Linda the Witch-Woman, but first encounters Johnny Blaze’s main squeeze, Roxanne “Rocky” Simpson.
The bikers (who are drawn very carefully in this issue to hide the White Supremacist regalia on their vests seen in their previous Ghost Rider appearance) clash unsuccessfully with the Son of Seton, as Daimon melts their weapons and kicks their leather-clad butts, leaving him to question Rocky about where her boyfriend and his quarry have gone.
Proving himself to be not precisely a superhero, the Son of Stan (EXELSIOR!) leaves Rocky alone in the Arizona desert, and sets sail for the hoary netherworld that lies beneath. In retrospect, it’s really kind of breathtaking (and not always in a good way) to see the concept of a quasi-Judeo-Christian hell showing up in comic-book form, though it’s not really all that much of a stretch from the depictions of Thor or Hercules in some ways. Confronting his father (who is clearly NOT the same Nicholas Scratch who empowered Johnny Blaze a few months earlier), we get the first full-fledged vision of the Son of Saturn in combat, including his awesome blood-red cape and pointy boots.
Trimpe also does some pretty impressive eldritch abominations in these panels, as Daimon goes nuts all over his father’s realm, finally threatening to bring down the very roof of Hell itself, using his mystical trident (made of the one substance his father is powerless against.) It’s the proverbial mexican standoff, as the Son of Satriani forces his flaming daddy to capitulate…
With Witch-Woman (who has, it is said, the stars in her eyes, raven hair and ruby lips) and Ghost Rider (albeit not one in the sky) in his care, the Son of Sathyraj exits the underworld victorious, vowing vengeance for his mother and sister. (You might know her as Satana, late of the Thunderbolts.) Sadly, Daimon doesn’t learn from the example of Orpheus that you can’t fool all the debbils all of the time, exiting Hades to find himself and his charges in the path of an erupting volcano! Luckily, he has those creepy flaming horsies on speed-dial…
For the second time in a single issue, the Son of Sanskrit abandons an innocent to the barren desert, and flies off into the night, though this time he has the excuse of impending daylight coming to rob him of his powers. Still, it’s an odd first appearance, coming as a chapter in Ghost Rider’s ongoing story as much as anything else, and the two characters’ stories would remain intertwined for some time. Son of Sentai was popular enough in the short-term to earn his own ongoing series pretty quickly, though said book went only 8 issues before cancellation. Marvel Spotlight #12 is an interesting issue for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the main character’s interesting pedigree and frankly unbelievable superhero name, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. At least Marvel editorial didn’t go through with the ORIGINAL concept for Ghost Rider’s replacement in Marvel Spotlight, a story featuring Satan himself as the main character. That’d probably have played real well in the Bible belt, wouldn’t you say?
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!