Vanishing Point
There is a place beyond time and space, between myth and reality.
A place where the mistakes of the past are brought in line
with the ways of the present,
a place called:

V A N I S H I N G POINT by Mario Di Giacomo

Welcome to Vanishing Point, a monthly column about the more outré continuity problems in the DC Universe, and my personal *non-canon* attempts to make sense out of them. This month's column is:

"Who Isn't Like God (But Wants to Be?)"

Last time, we discussed the concept of God and Heaven in the DC Universe. In the interest of equal time, this month's Vanishing Point focuses on the Other Guys. Demons, Devils, and ghouls of every kind.

Let's face it…when a writer really wants to make a dangerous opponent for a hero, a demon is a great choice. And DC has come up with a lot of them…the Demons Three, Etrigan, Satanus, Asmodus, and Neron just to name a few.

But who are these ghoulies and ghosties? Well, the Demons Three have been described on multiple occasions as beings who lived on earth before the rise of Man…and want to move back in. They don't seem to specifically fit into the whole Judeo-Christian mythos that DC promotes, and in fact calling them demons may very well be a simple matter of convenience.

Other entities are much clearer. They are the fallen angels and their offspring. Examples include Belial, his son Etrigan, Beelzebub, Azazel, Nergal Azmodus (technically the fusion of a demoness and a mortal, but close enough), Satanus, his sister Blaze, and a host of others. At the top is, of course, the big man…the Great Adversary…that lounge singer and sunset aficionado Lucifer, the former ruler of Hell.

That's right..the former ruler. As part of his work on Sandman (the seminal work on the DC version of Hell, as far as I can tell), the aforementioned Gaiman decided that after millennia of revolt, Lucifer quit. This led to a lot of political maneuvering, as various pagan gods, Lords of Order and Chaos, and a wizard or two, try to prove to the Sandman himself that they should take over.

Before I reveal who won (for those that care) I want to mention who *didn't* win .the former co-rulers of Hell, Azazel, Belial, and Beelzebub….DC, via Gaiman, rejected the balkanization of Hell made popular by the various Demon series. Instead, in the story where he quit, Lucifer basically revealed that he let them *think* they each ruled parts of Hell, mostly because he couldn't be bothered. Personally, I think he found the whole thing amusing.

I have to admit that while I'm a fan of many of the Demon incarnations, I applaud this decision. It's very difficult to believe that a being described as the most powerful of the angels would be forced to share power with a bunch of lieutenants….but the idea of these lieutenants *believing* they have any real power is delicious.

But back to the contest. Before the Sandman can decide, God basically steps in and says "this is my turf", sending the angels Remiel and Duma to take charge. Since then, with only one exception, DC has depicted those two in charge.

That exception is Neron. First appearing in Underworld Unleashed, this entity completely scrambles the hierarchy.. or does he? I did some digging, and it is true that according to some sources, Neron is the name of the Great Beast of the Apocalypse…but not as a demonic figure, but a historical one…Nero, Emperor of Rome.

Is Neron in fact a being like Azmodus? Did the Emperor make a deal with a demon that had strings attached? Possibly…while he is described as "a King of Hell", Neron clearly has strong restraints on his power…his inability to resist a deal being the most obvious. In fact, if he is allowed to operate only at the sufferance of Remiel and Duma, one of the more troubling aspects of the recent "Paradise Lost" mini becomes clear.

Neron makes a deal with Asmodel to lead another revolt in Heaven..and reneges. As shown in UU, this should be impossible, but if he's actually under angelic control, it becomes more clear. Let's see how this sounds:

1] Asmodel plans his revolt.

2] He approaches Neron, bypassing Remiel and Duma.

3] Neron, realizing the revolt is doomed to fail, promises to "send troops to Heaven during the attack". While we don't actually know the letter of the agreement, it's highly likely that it left Neron the out he needed to betray Asmodel.

4] Neron alerts Remiel and Duma, asking them to look the other way. Remiel agrees, after consultation with the Presence. Duma, as usual, doesn't say anything. J

The rest goes as we've seen….and Asmodel joins the ranks of the demons.

Other books have had other afterlives….there was a demonic being in Hawkman a while back, and the Greeks have shown up a time or two…but in no case that I know of did they claim to control *all* of the dead…perhaps Lucifer sublets. J

[There was an appearance of various "Deaths" in Captain Atom…but that was retconned away..Gaiman wasn't happy, and he had pull.]

One more entitiy deserves consideration…the First of the Fallen from Hellblazer. This guy is Lucifer's only competition, as far as I'm concerned, and I must admit he gave me problems. But I think I figured it out….he's not the first in rank….he's the first who Fell.

Before there was a Heaven, before there were Angels, even before Lucifer there was the First. Created as a companion for God, he was basically God's audience, someone with whom He could discuss his plans for Creation. God disclosed his plan to create a race with free will, something the First thought was a bad idea.

Of course, disagreeing with the boss is incredibly stupid, so its no real surprise that he was "fired". His "brothers", the Second and Third, apparently took his side, and fell with him. He wandered about, on Earth and in hell, until Lucifer fell, and basically took over.

Now, his dialogue in Hellblazer indicates that he is more powerful than Lucifer…but then again, he seems to spend all of his energies on one unshaven Brit. Probably, he's really not all that powerful, but souls are currency in the supposed hierarchy of Hell, and a magician's soul is a Gold Card.

BTW, The First destroyed the other two to get John Constantine's soul..and earned a taste of mortality in the process. Last time I checked, he'd returned to his full power, and acquired the evil side of John's soul in the bargain. Somehow, I doubt he's satisfied.

So to sum up:

God created the Heavens and the Earth. Sometime during that first "week", the Demons Three appeared, and got evicted. More or less at the same time, the First, Second and Third of the Fallen argued with the Management, and lost.

God created Man, but Lucifer had a problem with it. He and his angels revolted, and Fell. Lucifer took charge, but over the centuries has allowed others to believe they ruled, more or less out of sheer boredom. Finally, the ennui got too much for him, and he quit, leaving Remiel and Duma in charge (eventually).

Anybody else is a demon or demon-offspring of lower level…they might claim otherwise, but demons are notorious liars. Neron, the most pervasive example, seems to be the Prince of Dealmakers, and as such has become quite active in the mortal realm.

Other cultures, planets, and dimensions may very well have their own afterlives…as far as I know, there has never been reason to believe that they are or are not subservient to the "true" rulers of Hell….for ease of bookkeeping I choose to believe they are….but it's more of a tenant/landlord relationship.

Therefore, when you die, the following process takes place. First, "God", or your particular view of Him/Her (see last month), gets a shot. Hell has next dibs, although with the new management it's probable that it's much more efficient nowadays.

Anyone left gets a nice chat with Teleute (I suppose the others could get one too, but in a few cases, such as Spectre #62, there doesn't seem time), and either goes to a variant afterlife (Greek, Kryptonian, Thanagarian, etc) or gets to hang out in the Realm of the Just Dead while the Powers That Be try to figure out what to do with them.

Of course, I could be wrong….

Next Month: Angels have wings..Demons have wings…but what about heroes? My view of the whole Hawkman mess.

This article © 1998 Mario Di Giacomo