"Old Haunts"

Written by Gary Cohn and Dan Miskin, pencilled by Alan Kupperberg. Cover date, January 1986. Published by DC Comics.

This October, for HorrorQuest, I was planning on making some big serious statements about horror on a literary level, but by chance, I seem to have been thumbing through many Halloween-themed things of a less serious bent. So when I saw that among my purchases from a long box at a library book sale was the "Halloween Issue" of Blue Devil, a lesser known DC hero from the 1980s, I was intrigued.

First, a little bit about Blue Devil. Despite the "devil" part of the name, Blue Devil was not a horror or occult comic...for the most part. It was instead a somewhat camp and tongue-in-cheek series about a Hollywood stunt man who accidentally fused with his costume to become an unwitting superhero, and who spent most of his time around the LA party scene.

So on to this, our Halloween issue. The story begins with Cain from DC comics classic horror anthology House of Mystery inviting someone to his home: while it seems he is addressing the reader, he is actually addressing a small furry creature who has entered the house. And then, unexpectedly, the protagonist, Blue Devil, comes crashing through a door. It seems that a closet in the House of Mystery shares a door with a closet in a condo that Blue Devil was taking a tour of in Los Angeles. How wacky! The little furry thing escapes into Los Angeles, and Cain follows Blue Devil back to LA. And now we are introduced to another plot: Jim Morrison is still alive, even though everyone thought he was dead (although he isn't called Jim Morrison, but Black Jack McCullough, but since his band is called "The Windows", well, the reference is pretty obvious (this also makes the cover, which shows the Blue Devil and Cain looking up at what appears to be only a portion of Jim Morrison's leg more interesting: the looks on their faces make it clear this is a reference to the incident of Jim Morrison exposing himself, and I wonder what the Comics Code Authority thought of that, but more on that later). It turns out that Jim Morrison was dead, and is kind of undead, and is going to conduct a ritual during his concert to strengthen his hold on the land of the living! This ritual may or may not involve a human sacrifice of a woman (it is implied that is what is happening but it isn't very graphic). And, as it turns out, it does this by summoning the small creature that was on the loose, and who is now out trick-or-treating (because this is the Halloween issue, remember?) This leads to a battle, and the demon is defeated.

Now the question is: does this sound scary? Does this sound like horror? Although we have a demonic ritual, it is done in a comedic fashion. But of course, that is me reading this as a 40 year old in 2019. It is easy to forget now, but back in the 1980s comic books were for kids. This comic book is full of advertisements for toys and candy, and classified ads for Charles Atlas and 88 cent fake dog vomit. For the kids of the 1980s, this comic book might have been slightly unnerving, and the hip pop culture references and the slight sexiness, probably would have been just as much a part of that as the kind-of-scary storyline. And this all had to take place within the Comics Code Authority guidelines. If you squint at this comic book hard enough, you can kind of see it as a link between superhero comic books, and the Vertigo horror titles that would be popping up a short four years later.

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