Comics Go to Hell

A few days ago, I posted to Instagram photos of the cover of an issue of Satan’s Six, a short-lived 1993 comic from Topps that – like so many other comics rolled out and just as quickly dispatched during that oft-unfortunate era – bore the name of Jack Kirby, if little enough else of the King remained in their pages.

I was dimly aware of the title prior to picking up the entire run on a lark at my friendly local comic shop, spurred on by that cover. But I had never investigated it any too carefully. As I said, such things were a dime a dozen at the time, and, as one person pointed out on Facebook when I posted the picture, Topps comics of its ilk, “were so hard to get rid of for a while that my neighborhood comic shop in the 90s gave one free away with every purchase.”

When I posted the picture, the comics were all still sealed in the bags that Topps comics of that era came in – accompanied by collectible cards that, likely, no one collects. However, curiosity is what had driven me to buy the comics in the first place, and it also drove me to open them up and read what was inside.

So I can safely say that the comics themselves are, in a word, terrible. Puerile and jokey while also attempting to be edgy and hip, the ’90s have much to answer for, and no touch of genuine wonder can be found within their pages. What few contributions Kirby does bring feel dated and at odds with the tone of the rest of the book and John Cleary’s art, while certainly matching the aforementioned tone, is decidedly chaotic and difficult to follow from a storytelling standpoint.

Which all serves to obscure something delightfully strange: the subject of that cover, tacked onto the fourth issue, that prompted me to buy the comics in the first place, and to post the photo that I did.

First, a little background: Satan’s Six, for those who would prefer to be spared looking the series up, concerns a quintet of characters all consigned to limbo who are trying to earn a place in either heaven or hell – and who have been employed by Satan to do the latter. (The sixth is rounded out by Frightful, a genuine-article demon sent to keep tabs on them.)

At the beginning of the fourth and final issue, their demonic master – not Old Scratch himself, but a middle manager – arrives to chastise them for not doing a better job, and brings along a little muscle in the form of none other than Jason Voorhees. Y’see, for those who haven’t already done the math, this was the same year that Jason went to hell in the ninth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, and the comic seems to be after a little cross-promotion.

In fact, Jason’s demonic sponsor is about to utter that film’s title when he gets cut off with a glib, fourth-wall-breaking, “I can’t let you use this comic for such a blatant plug!”

So, not only does “ol’ dead-face himself” show up for a pointless brawl that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, he also crops up in the bullpen at the back of the issue, where then-editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup advertises not just the movie (which New Line claims will be the “very last, ain’t gonna be no more, no way, no how”) but the Topps comic adaptation of same.

Here’s the thing, though. This issue of Satan’s Six was released in July of 1993 – a month before the film hit theaters, and the same month as the first issue of the Topps adaptation. Meaning that this is, as near as I can tell, basically Jason’s first appearance in a comic book – even if they do manage to misspell his name.

So that’s something, anyway.

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