BONUS BOOK – Blue Devil (1984)

BONUS BOOK – Blue Devil (June, 1984)
Writers – Gary Cohn & Dan Mishkin
Pencils – Paris Cullins
Inks – Pablo Marcos
Colors – Bob LeRose
Letters – John Costanza
Edits – Len Wein

Sticking with Mssrs. Mishkin and Cohn today for the first look at Blue Devil!  I remember this being a fun one… and, we actually took a look at the first issue of the ongoing series wayyy back in the day!

This Prevue was included with The Fury of Firestorm #24 (June, 1984).

We open with James Jesse (though I’m not sure we’re supposed to know that it’s him quite yet) having a read of the latest Stuntman Magazine, where they’re doing a feature on all of the awesome powers that have been implemented into Dan Cassidy’s Blue Devil costume.  A young fella named Gopher is also taking in the article… and he just so happens to be reading parts of it aloud to Dan himself.  Sounds like this costume is one heckuva marvel.  So much so, that Jesse proclaims that it will soon be his!

Dan tells Gopher about all of the subsequent additions and features he’d like to add to the suit, but tells him to keep it all quiet from Marla… the Hollywood big-wig they work for.  Well, she saunters in just as he says this… and wants to know what’s up.  Dan and Gopher come up with a lie on the fly… which appears to satisfy her curiosity.  She reveals that she’s come to see them regarding some upcoming photo-ops.  Dan bows out, because he’s got work to do… and suggests perhaps sticking a fella named Wayne Tarrant into an unpowered suit instead.  She doesn’t seem to care who is under the mask, so long as she gets her photos.  Wayne, however, ain’t exactly in love with the idea.

Tarrant tries to pawn the gig off on a cameraman… who turns it down flat, before Marla decides to pull ultimate rank and insist Wayne just do his damned job.  There’s a blonde woman with a headband named Sharon present… and it seems as though Wayne’s got quite an eye for her.  She, however, doesn’t return those feelings.  In fact, if you ask me (or her), she’s more into Dan Cassidy.  Gotta be dem muttonchops… women are powerless against ’em!

We jump ahead, and Wayne’s doing the Blue Devil thang in front of the cameras… er, camera, singular.  Wow, heckuva photo-op!  Meanwhile, outside the movie lot, James Jesse chats up the security guard.  When he is not granted access (due to his being a stuntman at a rival studio), the baddie decides to go “full-Trickster”!

Once inside, the Trickster swoops overhead and snags the faux-Blue Devil on the hook of his weird fishing pole gimmick!

Marla and Company are completely bamboozled… Gopher, however, has the wherewithal to run off and grab Cassidy… and suggests he try using his “real” Blue Devil costume to catch the villain!

And, well… that’s exactly what he does!  It really didn’t take all that much in the way of prodding, did it?  Anyhoo, in a really cool (and much appreciated) bit, Cassidy springs into action… however, doesn’t appear to have complete control over his awesome pitchfork!  He overshoots the Trickster and Wayne by a half-block!

Wayne tries laying in a solid left on the Trickster’s jaw… but all that does is suggest to Jesse that this ain’t no super-powered Blue Devil.  He unmasks his hostage, revealing not-Dan Cassidy… and is rather annoyed.  Ya see, James Jesse and Dan Cassidy have worked together before on various stunt projects… so, the baddie would’ve recognized him.

Then, the real Blue Devil calls over and tells the Trickster to knock it off.  He leaps from one rooftop to another, and before we know it, he and the Rogue are exchanging punches!

We get a couple of pages of blows and banter to follow… even a bit where Blue Devil recognizes the Trickster as James Jesse!  The baddie decides to use this to his advantage by feigning surrender.  Cassidy proclaims he doesn’t want to hurt Jesse… the Trickster, however, doesn’t have the same qualms.

More fighting follows… including Blue Devil getting wrapped up in a rainbow Slinky (ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “Slinky” before… and now I’ve done it twice!).  Ultimately, and naturally, Blue Devil overcomes.  With a flick of his finger he temporarily kayos the Trickster.

I say temporarily, as in the very next panel, the Trickster is fleeing the scene.  Blue Devil attempts to give chase, but again… he’s not quite used to flying with his trident… so, he overshoots the villain.

We wrap up back at the movie lot with a pretty funny scene.  Blue Devil is trying to describe the Trickster to the police for their records… and can’t understand why they won’t just accept “It was the Trickster”.  Good stuff.  The story ends with Dan Cassidy heading back into his workshop to make further improvements to the Blue Devil costume.

Can’t deny that this was a lot of fun.  It makes me yearn for the days where we’d get new characters in “Big Two” comics.  These days, it’s all about shoving a “new” person into a Robin or Spider costume… or passing down/usurping an already established name in the superhero community.  Everything’s derivative… and nothing feels special.

This (Blue Devil) feels special.

It’s a new concept and (at the risk of sounding like a complete internet-douche) a new “Intellectual Property”.  We just don’t get things like this anymore.  I could do further into kvetching about “current year” comics, where focus is placed on brands and iconography over character… but, I’ll try and rein myself back in.

In this here story, we get to meet a whole bunch of new characters… but in a way where it doesn’t feel like a parade, if that makes any sense.  A lot of times, when a creative team is trying to “world build”, it can feel as though all of the new characters are zipping past the reader on a conveyor belt… ya know?  Here’s “this character”, and now “this character”…  The way it was done here, however… it didn’t feel quite that, I dunno, intensely impersonal.

There are a few archetypes at play here… which is to be expected.  I mean, we run across archetypal people in our real lives everyday.  Marla is perhaps the most “boilerplate” at this point.  She’s the business-first executive… and that’s basically all we get from her here.

We can already tell that Dan and Wayne will likely be butting heads over Sharon… which, is fair enough.  Nothing wrong with a bit of romantic competition… helps to “suds-up” the soapiness.

I think my favorite part of this Prevue was Dan’s unfamiliarity with his gear.  These days (yeah, I said “These Days” again), I feel like (and I might be projecting…) the “new” superhero being a goof-up at first is kind of played for laughs.  Kind of nudging the readership at the ridiculousness of the situation… being “superior” to the silliness of superhero comics.  Here, however, it felt… I dunno, almost earnest.  Dan’s trying his best… while realizing deep down that he hasn’t the foggiest idea what he’s doing.  He’s just trying to stop a bad guy.  We didn’t need to see him crash into a pile of garbage cans, and mutter “Whatta revoltin’ development!” to drive that point home.

He simply miscalculates his own equipment… which works on a few levels.  It shows that he’s overzealous… and, that, on an engineering-level, he needs to better calibrate his arsenal… or at the very least, understand it better.

Had a really good time with this… and honestly, went on quite a bit longer talking about it than I expected to!  We’ve got two pre-Crisis “Insert Prevues” to go before we hop into the actual “Bonus Book” era.

From Dick Giordano’s “Meanwhile… ” Column:

Interesting (and Relevant) Ads:

An Ad for Firestorm #24… in Firestorm #24!

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