Superman Comic Books
Superman: Special Reports
Demons - Part 2 (of 2)Author: Sean Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last updated: February 25, 2002
The Blaze/Satanus War
The "Blaze/Satanus War!" begins in Adventures of Superman #493 (written by Jerry Ordway, with Tom Grummett on pencils and Doug Hazlewood on inks). Blaze gloats over the fate of her pawn, Foswell. As Foswell enters the Newstime building, an unearthly blue glow suddenly surrounds the building, the lights inside dim and computer screens go blank. Foswell's handshake delivers an electric shock to Thornton, surprising both men.
Later, when Foswell visits the men's room, demons stare back at him from the mirror. The demons begin to emerge from every mirror Foswell passes, and he is oblivious to the havoc they begin to wreak on his fellow employees.
A new player emerges from a mirror near Thornton's office -- Lord Satanus. The majestic, horned and helmeted purple demon reassures a secretary, "Fear me not, human. No misery awaits you -- this day. These mirrored portals spew forth demons from a dank place."
Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen, knocked unconscious in an unrelated incident, sees a vision of the Newstime building and is warned by his dead pal, Jerry White, that Blaze has returned. He and Lois Lane head to the building, while Clark slips away to fly there as Superman.
Demonic fights ensue. Jimmy and Lois enter the building, only to become trapped as a mysterious force seals it off from the outside world. When Satanus tells Superman that it may require Foswell's death to shut the gates to the Netherworld, Superman replies, "That puts us at odds, mister!" As the issue ends, Blaze gloats that, "The pawns are in place, dear brother, and my knight has made his move!"
The battle continues in Action Comics #680 (written by Roger Stern, with art by Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier). Blaze, in angelic guise, removes Foswell from the fight and convinces him that Superman, Jimmy, and Lois are his enemies. Foswell tells her, "Help me, angel! Help me get back at them! I'll do anything you ask!" Blaze seals the pact with Foswell's blood and welcomes him to "--MY HELLISH HOST!" as she transforms him into a fierce, winged gargoyle (inelegantly called "Fosgoyle").
Meanwhile, Superman, Satanus, Lois, and Jimmy continue to battle the other demons. When Superman comments that Satanus seems to take great enjoyment from dispatching his opponents, Satanus replies, "Perhaps, one takes brief pleasures where one may." (Personally, I prefer bad guys to have a good sense of humour and irony).
Fosgoyle attacks, taking Superman and Satanus cannoning through several floors of the building. Outside, Supergirl is using her powers to breach the barrier that surrounds the building. Satanus feels the barrier weakening and worries that a breach would draw the physical world into Blaze's domain. To prevent that, he adds his powers to the barrier and transports the entire building away, directly into Blaze's hellish home.
The next issue in the saga is an interesting one. Superman: The Man of Steel #15 is written by Louise Simonson, but the art chores are divided. The team of Kerry Gammill and Dennis Janke handle the normal scenes inside the building and in Metropolis, while Keith Giffen and Trevor Scott draw all the scenes in the underworld. Giffen's art is surrealistic and garish -- emphasizing strange vistas, weird shadowing and unusual 'camera' angles. It makes a nice contrast between the real world and the netherworld scenes.
Superman's struggles send him and Satanus outside the building into the hellish realm. As demons spew forth to attack them, Superman finds that his powers behave unpredictably. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Perry and Alice White are standing near the police cordon when they see what appears to be the ghost of their son, Jerry, beckoning them from the abandoned church that had been converted to Blaze's nightclub. As they enter, Blaze removes the building to her domain, gloating that they have been "caught like mice in a trap." Her reason is that to neutralize Superman, "one must simply endanger his friends."
Perry sees the demon-filled Newstime building and, noting that the church seems free of demons, rings the church bells to signal those trapped in the other building. Lois, Jimmy, and the rest are fighting a losing battle when they hear the bells and decide to cross over to the church.
Superman is diverted from his battle to help the humans cross safely. As his attention is turned, Blaze strikes her brother. She gloats that although it was virtually impossible to defeat Satanus while Superman aided him, "separated, each of you is pathetically easy to defeat!"
Indeed, Superman also soon falls to the demon horde. As Satanus finally manages to get a stranglehold on Fosgoyle, Blaze reveals her trap to Superman: killing Foswell (her "living portal") will return the demons to her pits, but saving Foswell will trap Superman and his friends in her realm for eternity. Superman must choose to fight Satanus to save Foswell, or allow Foswell to die to save his friends.
The Blaze/Satanus War ends in Superman #71. While Blaze's hell no longer has that Giffen look, the lovely Jurgens/Breeding art is a pleasure to look at, in any dimension. The fight intensifies on all fronts as Superman attacks Satanus and the humans fend off attacking demons. Superman refuses to accept either Blaze or Satanus' rules, vowing that he will "get all of them out of here! Just watch me!"
Satanus tells Superman, "You would do well to recognize that you are naught but a weapon in the Blaze - Satanus war!". Satanus preys on Superman's fears to convince the hero to ally with the devil, "Think, Kryptonian! Are you truly prepared to pay over one thousand souls -- to save just one?"
Finally, Satanus succeeds in trapping Superman, advising him, "It is time you realize you have no choice or independence here, mortal ... choose now! Do you serve Blaze or Satanus!"
Blaze merges her demons into one monstrous hellspawn, intent on demolishing the church and the humans inside. Superman's convictions and self-confidence begin to erode as he watches the destruction of the church and the helpless victims inside. He begins to doubt his ability to win both wars. Satanus tells Superman that Blaze will "feast on your friends ... their flesh ... their souls! Is this what you want? Is your independence worth so much?"
Superman desperately thinks, "how do I give in to an evil like Satanus?" Unable to free himself, and with Blaze moments away from destroying his friends, Superman finally gives in to Satanus' goading and says, "You WIN! Let me LOOSE!"
Suddenly, Fosgoyle intervenes and frees Superman, saying "You made the right choice, Superman. I'm not worth all those lives." Together, the three unite against Blaze.
Blaze has allowed herself to be distracted, entering the church to taunt Alice and Perry with more visions of their son (mass mayhem always tastes better with a pinch of mischief to flavour it). She tells them Jerry is "mine, body and soul" and gloats that she conjured visions of Jerry to lure them.
Suddenly, the church bells peal again, reminding Blaze of her other prey. She realizes that Satanus has directed Superman to ring the bells allowing the vibrations to be channelled as a sonic weapon. As Blaze appears and attacks Superman, Perry White replaces him on the bellrope, vowing to continue for the sake of his deceased son. Perry struggles, despite the serious injuries he receives from Blaze, to continue ringing the bells.
Satanus' attack, fuelled by Perry's efforts, succeeds in opening a portal, allowing both buildings to return to their proper places in Metropolis. An explosion tears through the netherworld, blasting Superman and Blaze elsewhere. Back on Earth, Lois confronts Satanus, but the demon lord tells her that the missing Superman, "is no longer my concern. He will have to survive on his own."
Satanus also answers the Whites' questions, telling them, "Rest assured. Neither I nor my sister claim your son. His soul lives in a place you would undoubtedly favor." Finally, in private, Satanus returns Foswell to normal saying, "Now that your soul is mine I grant you your true form ... I do this for my own benefit. Someday I may have need of your earthly form. For now -- BE GONE!"
As Foswell scurries away, Satanus transforms, revealing his mortal disguise for the first time. "Though victory is mine, the war between my sister and me continues. Nevertheless, I have gained a loyal servant this day and protected the greatest secret of all. Not Superman or Foswell, or any of the rest suspect that Satanus -- walks the Earth as Colin Thornton!"
While Blaze and Satanus go their separate ways (for now), Superman still has to find a way home, and to find a way to reconcile his actions in allying with Satanus and therefore putting Foswell's life at risk. Adventures of Superman #494 (by Ordway, Grummett, and Hazlewood) examines morality and choices as Superman confronts some of his most significant failures and fears.
Superman awakens in yet another dimension -- the home of Kismet (her first appearance). She is aware of Superman's moral dilemma, telling him, "Kismet exists between dark and light, illuminating the pathways to both. The choice belongs to those at the crossroads." When Superman complains that not all choices are black and white and that there are shades of grey everywhere, Kismet replies, "I do not judge -- I merely offer the choice."
Superman reflects, "I was taught by the tenets of religion by my adoptive parents, as a child ... that is where much of my concepts of right and wrong were formed. Those concepts are shaken with every encounter I have with a so-called greater being!"
Kismet reshapes her dimension to review some of these significant incidents. Superman recounts what is still the heaviest of his burdens, his execution of the Phantom Zone criminals. Yet this time, Kismet alters the ending and, as the criminals plead for mercy, has Superman relent and seal the kryptonite in it's canister. Kismet shows Superman how this might have ended with his own death at the hands of the Kryptonians.
Superman asks himself, "Was I wrong to kill those villains? Was I right for the wrong reasons or wrong for the right reasons? Either way -- I tried to grow from the experience."
As Kismet continues to probe, Superman retorts, "Look, I'm not stupid - I've heard your message! I'm sick of this 'soul-search' Kismet. Let me go, to rejoin my friends and loved ones!"
Kismet refuses, "You cried out for help, and there is much more to be done ... many significant events left to review ... you pondered 'what might have been' and I am obliged to show you."
She returns him to his youth, when a friend, Scott Brubaker, crashed while drinking and driving (from Adventures of Superman #474). Clark, Lana, and Pete were in the car with Scott, yet failed to stop him from driving. Scott spent the next 10 years in a coma, before dying.
Superman argues that Scott's life would have been changed if they had only called for a ride from his parents instead of driving. Kismet points out that Scott may have taken the same risk on another day, without the lesson on responsibility given to Clark by his parents. She asks, "Would their words have had the same weight without Scott Brubaker's tragic example?"
They discuss other risks and possibilities -- the possibility of harm to Superman's loved ones by his enemies, the chance that Superman might one day decide to rule the world in order to better control its violence (to which Superman replies, "That could never happen, Kismet!").
As Kismet ends the conversation, a frustrated Superman cries out that he still has doubts about himself and his mission, "What if I hesitate the next time I come across a drowning man? A suicide? An accident about to happen? Do I think about Sam Foswell, and wonder if some OTHER omnipotent being is pulling my strings?"
Kismet, realizing that this question cannot be answered by words, returns Superman to Earth, just in time for him to save a family from danger. This, more than any of Kismet's lessons, assures Superman that he will not be paralyzed by indecision. Superman appears to realize from his instinctive action that he will have to accept that he is not perfect, and that he will continue his never-ending battle to help as best he can whenever he sees danger or injustice.
While Superman's adventures have led him to face many other challenges, decisions, and even demons, he has not yet had to deal directly with either Blaze or Satanus again (although Blaze does manipulate Superman and Captain Marvel into fighting each other in Superman #102). While Blaze moved on to other battles, Satanus remains in Metropolis disguised as Colin Thornton. While we occasionally see him step out of his role as Thornton (such as his protection of the Newstime building from Luthor's missiles during the "Fall Of Metropolis" story arc), his master plan has never been fully explained. To paraphrase George Costanza pitching a Seinfeld show, 'See! There's a story'. Let's hope someone gets around to it someday.
For those interested in further stories featuring Blaze, Jerry Ordway featured her in the first year of his wonderful Captain Marvel series, The Power of Shazam, especially issues #8-12. Blaze's manipulations peak in a climactic battle with the entire Marvel Family. That storyline also examines the history of the wizard Shazam and, in a brilliant linking of the Superman and Captain Marvel legends, Ordway reveals Shazam as the father of Blaze and Satanus.
Satanus has one other significant story, when the wizard and Captain Marvel visit Metropolis in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow #4. Satanus recognizes his father's presence and releases a demonic drug which turns its victims into monsters. Satanus' plan is to create havoc and distract Shazam from learning of Satanus' hidden presence. The story doesn't spend much time on the father/son dynamics, but focuses on the two heroes as they fight the victims of the drug.
As for Kismet, she has appeared in a couple of significant Superman story arcs. In the 1998 special, Superman Forever #1 (where Superman regains his classic costume and powers following the electric red and blue Supermen vs Millennium Giants storyline), her eyes appear briefly to introduce the next arc as the villain, Dominus, creates alternate realities for the Man of Steel.
The issues are great fun with The Adventures of Superman #558-560 having fun with the 1960's era Superman, Action Comics #745-747 doing a similar job with a 1970's type Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel doing an outstanding homage to the original 1940's Superman and Superman #136-138 giving readers a treat with the Superman of 2999. The four separate storylines converge with the disclosure in Superman #138 that Dominus has been warping reality to draw out Kismet, who has a mysterious connection to Superman.
The fight continues with the intervention of the self-appointed time police, the Linear Men, in Superman: The Man of Steel #83 and Superman #139. In the final issue, Waverider of the Linear Men spirits Kismet into the past and merges her spiritual presence with a little girl from Smallville named Sharon who should have suffered a fatal accident while playing with young Clark Kent, Pete Ross and Lana Lang.
Dominus and Kismet both return in the "Superman 24/7" and "Superman: King of the World" arcs from 1999. Their origins are revealed in Action Comics #754 when Superman is thrown into the Phantom Zone and meets aliens who kindly explain that the two were mortal lovers named Tuoni and Ahti, until Ahti was selected by their holy beings to become "Kismet, illuminator of reality's pathways" (which would be a really cool job title to have). Tuoni snapped, fried his body while using "infernal magic", but ended up in the Phantom Zone where he used Kryptonian technology to rebuild himself as Dominus and set forth on his conquer and vengeance world tour.
With Dominus gone by the end of that story arc, Sharon Vance, now an adult but still an unknowing host of Kismet's essence, comes to Metropolis and is mysteriously transformed by a lightning bolt into a female version of the electric blue Superman with the uninspired name of Strange Visitor (Action Comics #759 and Superman: The Man of Steel #94). Strange Visitor reveals her origin to Superman during "Our Worlds At War" in Superman #173 before sacrificing herself in the final thrust against the villain, Imperiex. Kismet's final fate is still unknown.