To prepare for the possibility of our eternal damnation, I’ve compiled a list of 12 of the most infamous fiends in comic-book history for us to study up on so we can make our eternal stays in the smokey pits of Hades as comfortable as possible. Read on to find out which ones will have you begging for obliteration, which might help you out (for a price), and which just want you to hail Satan.
Created by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. in 1989’s Daredevil #270, Blackheart is the rebellious son of Mephisto, ruler of the Marvel Universe’s Hell, and like his father has tormented a number of Marvel’s heroes. Formed by Mephisto from dark energy generated from centuries of murder, Blackheart first battled with Daredevil, Spider-Man and a group of Inhumans before failing to corrupt Wolverine, Punisher and Ghost Rider for use in his first attempt at seizing his father’s throne. He was eventually successful, but his father has since retaken his rightful place. While he is incredibly powerful, Blackheart tends to fail spectacularly in his attempts to corrupt superheroes and is often overshadowed and berated by his much more formidable dad.
Hot Stuff the Little Devil
Just because he’s the most adorable hellspawn on this list doesn’t mean you should get on Hot Stuff’s bad side. Created by Warren Kremer for Harvey Comics in 1957, Hot Stuff is — as his name suggests — a small red devil, complete with classic pointed tail and horns, as well as a sentient pitchfork and an asbestos diaper. Despite his cuddly appearance, Hot Stuff is quickly angered (especially if you mess with his chili peppers) and uses his various fire-based abilities to cause trouble across the medieval realm he dwells in with his devil-family. With fire-breath, teleportation, flight and lots of experience taunting dragons and giants, you definitely don’t want to be on the business end of this trickster’s trident.
Azazel is an ancient and immortal mutant and leader of the Neyaphem, a mutant subspecies who resemble demons that were banished to another dimension by the angel-like Cheyarafim. As the most powerful of his race, Azazel was the only one able to use his teleportation powers to escape. He fathered many children on Earth, most notably the X-Man Nightcrawler, who has clashed with him many times over the years. Most recently, Azazel led a fleet of demonic pirate ships in an invasion of heaven, and would have succeeded in taking its souls for himself if Nightcrawler—who was in heaven at the time—hadn’t sacrificed his own soul to bind Azazel to Earth.
Not all demons start out with their horns. In the case of DC Comics’ Blue Devil (created by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn in 1984), he started as a human stuntman named Dan Cassidy who was hired to play the titular role in Blue Devil. Unfortunately, when Cassidy and his co-star accidentally summoned the actual demon Nebiros while filming, the blasts of unholy energy bonded Dan permanently to the Blue Devil costume. After a series of solo superhero adventures, Blue Devil rented a room from Cain and Abel in the House of Weirdness and then joined the Justice League. A short time later, the demon Neron swindled him into a deal that cost the life of Dan’s close friend. Ashamed of what he’d done, Blue Devil sacrificed himself only to be promptly resurrected as an actual demon. Cassidy now uses the Trident of Lucifer to find and banish demons wandering the Earth, in addition to providing a cautionary tale to aspiring stuntmen everywhere.
Shuma Gorath, Lord of Chaos, is the malevolent ruler of the extra-dimensional deities known as the “Old Ones.” Before recorded history he used his reality-shaping and mind-controlling powers to rule not just Earth, but also countless other worlds and dimensions. Inspired by a throwaway line in a Robert E. Howard short story, Shuma Gorath was introduced to Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #5, wherein he attempted to return to Earth through the mind of the Ancient One, eventually forcing Doctor Strange to kill his mentor. Over the years he has returned to plague Strange—and the Marvel Universe as a whole—as many times as he has tentacles, but the heroes have only ever managed to banish the entity, never permanently defeat it. Resisting Shuma-Gorath, it seems, is as futile as resisting a force of nature.
Etrigan the Demon
“Change! Change, O form of man! Release the might from fleshy mire! Boil the blood in heart of fire! Gone! Gone!—the form of man—Rise, the Demon Etrigan!” It is with these magic words that Jason Blood is able to call upon the terrible power of Etrigan, one of Hell’s most powerful demons. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby for DC Comics in 1972, Etrigan was summoned by the wizard Merlin to defend Camelot, only to then be imprisoned by Merlin within the body of the knight Jason Blood. Etrigan has earned the high rank in Hell of “rhyming demon,” and as such tends to speak in rhyme, even though he doesn’t have to. Most of the time, Blood manages to exert a degree of control over Etrigan, directing his incredible strength, hellfire and various sorcerous abilities at those who deserve it. But, when Etrigan is separated from him, he becomes murderous and even more sadistic than usual. Having held his own against Superman, Wonder Woman and many other DC powerhouses, Etrigan is a demon you really don’t want to mess up a line of poetry around.
The closest thing that Spawn has to an archnemesis, Violator is the most powerful of the demonic Phlebiac Brothers, and is tasked by Satan with guiding the Hellspawns toward their purpose of harvesting evil souls for the armies of Hell. Debuting in the second issue of Spawn in 1992, Violator has spitefully trained multiple generations of human hosts for the Hellspawn. Convinced he is better suited for the job himself, he spends much of his time on Earth tormenting Spawn in order to prove to Satan that he is more powerful and worthy. He is effectively unkillable, can shapeshift, possess people and breathe fire, among many other terrifying talents. If all this wasn’t scary enough, when Violator takes human form he appears as “The Clown,” which resembles a homeless Danny DeVito who has just awoken from a meth binge and applied blue clown make-up to his face. Violator is the kind of demon that your nightmares have nightmares about.
“The Dread Dormammu,” as Stan Lee (who co-created him with Steve Ditko in Strange Tales #126) liked to call him, is the god-tyrant of the Dark Dimension and one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. Born into the extra-dimensional race of energy-beings called the Faltine, Dormammu was banished from his home dimension for turning his father into matter. He eventually found himself in the Dark Dimension and became an advisor to its ruler, King Olnar, who he taught how to expand his empire into other dimensions. One of them contained beings called the Mindless Ones, who invaded the Dark Dimension and killed Olnar, allowing Dormammu to seize power. From his throne in the Dark Dimension he conquered dimension after dimension before setting his sights on Earth. Fortunately, Doctor Strange has repeatedly stood in the way of his incursions by using his vast mystical knowledge to subvert the Dread One’s superior firepower but has never managed to stop Dormammu permanently, only delay the inevitable.
Formed from the evil energies of the entire dimension of Azarath, the six-eyed Trigon is the deadliest demon in the DC Universe. First appearing in New Teen Titans #2 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, Trigon is thousands of years old and has destroyed and ruled over millions of planets in his home dimension, where his power is virtually limitless. In order to spread his dominion, Trigon made a habit of siring children with women from other dimensions, including Angela Roth from Earth, who gave birth to Raven. Eventually, Raven learn of her demonic parentage and re-formed the Teen Titans in order to prevent her father’s conquering of the planet. Trigon clashed repeatedly with his daughter and her teammates, one time going so far as to drop Titans Tower itself on the team. They eventually pushed him back to his own dimension, but in an alternate future where Raven failed to oppose him, Trigon would use his near-infinite infernal powers to destroy the Earth and every hero that stood in his way.
Ruler of the Hell, one of the oldest beings in the universe and professional Satan impersonator, Mephisto is as close as Marvel has to the devil himself. His list of fiendish feats is unmatched: He has repeatedly attempted to corrupt the soul of the Silver Surfer, in whose comic he first appeared in 1968’s Silver Surfer #3 by Stan Lee and John Buscema. He tricked Doctor Doom’s mother into giving up her soul which he used to taunt Doom for years. Believing him to be Satan, Johnny Blaze handed his soul over to Mephisto to save his stepfather from cancer, only for him to die in a motorcycle crash. He then bonded the demon Zarathos to Blaze, turning him into Ghost Rider. Perhaps most infamously, he altered reality to make it so that Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson never existed in order to save Aunt May from death. Mephisto is a master of making you think you’re getting what you want, but always has a devil hiding in the details.
When a group of Nazi occultists tried to summon Anung Un Rama, the Right Hand of Doom, in an attempt to stem the tide of World War II, they didn’t expect that the doom they were summoning was their own. Better known as Hellboy, the young demon summoned that day was saved by U.S. soldiers and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm as his own son. Upon reaching adulthood he joined his adopted father in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, where he had a decades-long career defending the world from all manner of ghosts, ghouls, undead and unimaginable evils. Hellboy harbored a special hatred for Nazis, and ruined the plans of splinter groups countless times. Despite the prophecy that his right hand is the key to bringing about Ragnarok, Hellboy has constantly fought against his destiny, symbolically shaving down his horns in an effort to embrace his humanity. Even after dying and ending up in Hell, Hellboy refuses to accept his fate and continues to fight. If I have to go to Hell, one with Hellboy in it is at the top of my wishlist.
Banished from heaven by Yahweh after leading a rebellion, Lucifer Morningstar fell for eternity before finding himself in Hell, where he fashioned himself lord. But even Lucifer knows the pain of boredom and so, after ten billion years, he quit, leaving the key to Dream of the Endless. This version of Lucifer first appeared in The Sandman #4 by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth, before going on to star in his own series where he runs and plays the piano in a bar in Los Angeles called “Lux,” in an attempt to assert his free will from God’s plan. “Of all the angels, he was the wisest, the most beautiful, the most powerful,” Dream said of Lucifer. “Saving only his Creator, he is, perhaps, the most powerful being there is.”