Who's Blue Devil?

Who's This? A weirdness magnet

The facts: A stuntman who got trapped inside his high-tech stunt suit by mystical energy, Blue Devil first appeared in a preview insert in Fury of Firestorm #24 (June 1984), then in his own series that lasted 32 issues. He would later be a member of the JLA during the nadir of that team's history, and they'd try to relaunch him in Underworld Unleashed. Nothing really came of it, and he would sort of start showing up in mystical stories, and made his biggest modern splash in Shadowpact.
How you could have heard of him: The New52 re-introduced him as Black Lightning's partner in DC Universe Presents, but since then, he's once again the guy who shows up randomly when a magical guest-star is needed. He did appear in a few episodes of Justice League Unlimited, in Young Justice, and in Justice League Action, but only alluded to in Arrow and Gotham. Dan Cassidy appears in the flesh (and as Blue Devil) in the ill-fated Swamp Thing series the WB tanked.
Example story: Blue Devil #27 (August 1986) "Wild Goose Chase" by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Allen Kupperberg and Bill Collins
Okay, why this one? Well, I really wanted to experience the full-on "weirdness" the character was known for, and this cover always seemed an affirmation of it. It also has a link to Blue Devil's world, i.e. Hollywood and the pastiche studio he works for, Verner Brothers. So naturally, Godfrey Goose is a VB cartoon, one of the stars of... let's call it Happy Harmonies.
Dan Cassidy is moving into the old animation studio after production on the Blue Devil sequel was halted and he's curious about a film can that says "Live and Animation". Godfrey is evidently a parody of Daffy Duck, but I really wish they'd grabbed on the DC's old funny animals from the early day (the way they made Peter Porkchops Pig-Iron in the Zoo Crew). In any case, suddenly a live-action hand appears on screen, and it looks like they're gonna pull a Walt Disney rotoscoping job on the reel. Godfrey hands it a stick of dynamite, there's an explosion and a scream, and suddenly...
But is Godfrey in our world, or are we in his? Dan's friend Norm is suddenly a cartoon bear, and everywhere Godfrey goes, people are turned into animaniacs. Only Blue Devil seems immune. And it's a safe bet the inky fowl is heading straight for the rest of the supporting cast, and a pretty fun Easter Egg actually:
Papa Kirby would be proud. But wait, Godfrey Goose isn't there yet when a criminal duo called Spit & Polish crash into the ballroom to steal the award statues!
Is it "weirdness" or "ridiculousness"? Outside, it's cartoon chaos
This is two years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, by the way! Cartoon shenanigans ensue, while over at the awards show, the two dumb clucks realize the statues aren't made of real gold. Oh comedy!
Granted, this kind of obnoxious slapstick works better on the animation cell. The fight spills into the ball room where Dan makes quick work of the thieves and then Verner, fittingly transformed into a pig, lets the goose out of the bag.
The actually creative Verne Brother has been M.I.A. - "Missing in Animation" - for all these years, the victim of his own process for combining live action and animation. Only in comics. Godfrey runs into a Rusty Raccoon short, projected on the wall, his porcine brother after him. Dan can't leave Jock in there, so he goes after them both, and the result is...

So, weird enough for you?

Blue Devil has a solid look, a distinct world of his own, and a fun light-hearted feel. But it's a very thin line between weird comedy and silliness, and this may have crossed it. It would help if Godfrey Goose were actually funny, but at his best, he's just parroting Bugs Bunny's most famous lines. Perhaps I should have picked a story from earlier in the run, when he was still dealing with supervillains like the Trapster, but as this is what Blue Devil became, and possibly the reason why he wasn't used as much as some other leading features from the 80s, I think it's still relevant.

Who's Next? One of his villains.


Diabolu Frank said...

I've read much of the Blue Devil run, but emphasizing the first half, so never this issue. Someone we both know who occasionally talks to the creators has a deep love of maybe the first year's worth of issues, and little else. I'm more generous toward that first half and replacement artist Alan Kupperberg, but admit that the property might have fared better as a series of mini-series rather than a monthly. One of my greatest joys in the Who's Editing comments game is taking the property back to its Hollywood roots, playing with the original supporting cast and themes, including the unintentional reluctant lead "hero." He's sadly devolved into DC's Hellboy analogue, and I personally don't think the supernatural angle suits the property. The flavorful formula is regular guy Dan Cassidy being confronted by weirdness and avoiding it to the best of his ability. He's much more Ben Grimm meets Simon Williams, literally an everyman technician navigating the already insane movie world put out by all the extra crazy that comes with the Blue Devil suit.

I'd point out that the novel basis for Roger Rabbit predated this issue by years, but having read the book in middle school, it was a different darker animal than the movie. He was a comic strip character there, so the dynamic was much different than the Looney Tune here.

Siskoid said...

HELLBOY! Why did it never hit me?! Yes, of course that's what they turned him into!

The Irredeemable Shag said...

“Someone we both know who occasionally talks to the creators has a deep love of maybe the first year's worth of issues, and little else.”

That’s not exactly true. My love extends to all BD stories, with the exception of the awful late Justice League America stories.

I just think the first year of the ongoing BD series is the best, and possibly the best roadmap for the way forward as well.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Yes. Shadowpact BD = Hellboy

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Great write up! So glad you picked one of the later issues to celebrate!!


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