REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS ETRIGAN THE DEMON
Perhaps one of the most bizarre, yet strangely popular, characters in the DC Universe is Etrigan the Demon. Some of this is due no doubt to the fact that he was created by the legendary Jack Kirby. Although he has had more than one comic series of his own, as well as a handful of animated appearances, it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that Etrigan is largely a supporting or guest character these days. In that regard, it's a little surprising that he turned up fairly early on in Mattel's DC Universe Classics line, especially since he required a completely unique body sculpt in order to do so.
Let's consider the history of the character, with a little help from WikiPedia.
Etrigan, sometimes simply called The Demon, created by prolific comic book writer-artist Jack Kirby, is a demon from the DC Universe' version of Hell who, despite his violent tendencies, usually finds himself allied to the forces of good, mainly because of the alliance between the heroic characters of the DC Universe and Jason Blood, a human to which Etrigan is bound.
Etrigan was inspired by a comic strip of Prince Valiant in which the title character dressed as a demon. Kirby gave his creation the same appearance as Valiant's mask.
Jack Kirby created The Demon in 1972 when his Fourth World titles were canceled. While his first monthly comic book series was short-lived, and his second was canceled after five years, Etrigan remains a popular supporting character with occasional additional mini-series.
Etrigan was originally summoned by the wizard Merlin as part of a last-ditch defense of Camelot against the evil witch, Morgaine le Fay. When it became clear that the kingdom would fall regardless, Merlin sent the demon away and changed him into a human named Jason Blood to wait until he was summoned. One account retconned this, so that Blood was now an actual human, bonded involuntarily to the demon as his punishment for aiding Morgaine le Fay in overthrowing Camelot.
Centuries later, Jason was called to the crypt of Merlin and discovered a poem that could change him into Etrigan. Unfortunately, he was followed by the long-lived Morgaine who lusts for Merlin's secrets. That led to Etrigan's first major battle, and to the solidification of Morgaine as a major enemy. In addition, he later gained another enemy in Klarion the Witch Boy, a permanently prepubescent mage who creates trouble with his magic.
Some time after his first appearance, Etrigan began speaking entirely in rhyme (the quality of which varied considerably depending on who was writing him at the time). This was explained in Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing as the result of a promotion, with the rhyming speech being a badge of his new rank in the infernal hierarchy. Len Wein introduced this new feature of Etrigan's dialogue in DC Comics Presents #66, with simple rhymed couplets, but Moore's use of more complex and eloquent rhyme and meter established it firmly as the character's trademark.
A poem also plays a part in transforming the human Jason Blood into Etrigan, although generally only the last two lines of the poem, "Gone, gone, the form of man; Rise the demon, Etrigan" are recited. Let's face it, if Jason Blood has to call upon his alter ego, it's probably in rather dire circumstances, and even these two lines take a little longer than something like, say, "Shazam!"
The reverse poem has several different wordings, all with the basic form "Gone, gone, O Etrigan! / Resume once more the form of man!" The poem itself does not need to be recited by Jason or Etrigan to be effective, merely within their range of hearing. In emergencies when Jason cannot speak, writing it is sometimes sufficient to effect the change. On one occasion, Blood released Etrigan by using a parody of the poem ("Gone, O little man so tame / and rise the demon Whatshisname"). One would hope that Etrigan is a demon with a sense of humor...
Although portrayed as at least somewhat heroic for much of his existence -- he helped the heroes during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and years later was present at the funeral for Superman, and no one objected to his being there despite his making a few rude remarks -- more recently it seems that Etrigan has reverted to more evil tendencies, at least on his home turf. He tried to gain control of Hell with a supernatural trident, and when the Shadowpact team of heroes -- who specialize in dealing with the supernatural -- stole the trident from him, he chased them to a bizarre location called the Oblivion Bar, battled the heroes, and ended up turned into a statue. He was subsequently used as a hatrack.
Etrigan's popularity (and, I suspect, weirdness) has led to a number of animated appearances, notably turning up first in the Batman animated series. Jason Blood/Etrigan made a single guest appearance in the fourth-season episode "The Demon Within" of The New Batman Adventures, voiced by Billy Zane. There, Blood/Etrigan was revealed as a friend of Bruce Wayne, who won a magical brand in an auction on his behalf. The brand, however, was stolen by Klarion the Witch Boy, one of DC's really bizarre characters who had been a foe of Etrigan in the comics, who used it to split Blood and Etrigan apart and control the demon. Here he only rhymes when casting a spell, such as banishing Klarion once the brand's effects are reversed ("Mother's grief, Father's shame, soon he goes from whence he came"). When Robin asks what that means, Etrigan responds plainly "I'm sending him to his room". Klarion's "room" is really a crystal ball, which he has been imprisoned in ever since.
Blood's appearance in Justice League in 2002 was significant on several fronts. In addition to Michael T. Weiss voicing him, his look was redesigned by the production team so as to more closely resemble his original Kirby roots. In the two-part story "A Knight of Shadows," his origin was explained in detail: during the siege of Camelot, Blood was bound by Merlin to Etrigan as a punishment for betraying the kingdom to his secret lover, the sorceress Morgaine Le Fey (who doublecrossed him by poisoning him). While Blood, a nobleman, has been rendered immortal, he must share his soul with a demon for eternity as a curse for his betrayal.
Etrigan also appeared as one of the many members of the expanded Justice League in Justice League Unlimited. In the episode "Kid's Stuff", he is turned into a baby when all adults have been banished to another dimension by Le Fey's son, Mordred. He is "burped" at one point, breathing flame in the processs. When Green Lantern points out that he needs a diaper change, Batman says "that is a job for Superman". He is restored to normal by the end of the episode -- assuming he can be called normal to begin with.
Jason Blood/Etrigan appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He is shown as a servant of Merlin until Morgaine le Fay took control of him and used him to take on Batman and Green Arrow. Etrigan accompanied Morgaine to the location and took care of Merlin while Batman went to claim Excalibur. Merlin was able to free him from Morgaine's control and helps to fight her. After Morgaine's defeat, Etrigan left to fulfill his own destiny. This is also the first animated version of Etrigan whose dialogue is entirely in rhyme. He reappears in "Trials of the Demon" in 19th century London, where he is framed for crimes done by Jim Craddock before he became Gentleman Ghost. Batman teams up with him to clear his name after he saves him from being burned at the stake, and stop Gentleman Ghost. After Batman's suit is wrecked during a fight with a possessed cape, Etrigan conjures a Victorian styled suit (à la the Elseworlds comic book Gotham By Gaslight)
As to his powers and abilities, even among the "demons" of the DC Universe, Etrigan is considered to be extremely powerful. He has superhuman strength to the degree that he can stand against other powerhouses like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Lobo. He has a high degree of resistance to injury and can project hellfire from his body; usually from his mouth. He has a very high command of magic: other powers include mystically enhanced fangs and claws, enhanced senses, super speed, agility, telepathy, energy blasts and precognition.
So, how's the figure? Big, for one thing. Which honestly, is fine with me. Although the Wikipedia entry on Etrigan describes him as "a squat, muscular humanoid creature with yellow skin, horns, red eyes, and ears resembling bat wings", his height, I suspect, has tended to be an issue of some dispute. In Crisis on Infinite Earths, he appeared short, but not abnormally so. In the sequence leading up to the funeral for Superman, he looked more like a midget. His animated counterparts have tended to be huge. This was apparently the direction Mattel chose to take with the figure, and I'm not complaining.
The average DC Universe Classics figure stands about 6-1/2" in height. Etrigan is slightly over seven inches. He is mildly disproportionate, in that he has a greater overall musculature than the average superhuman human (did I just say that!?) in the line, but a larger torso and somewhat shorter, if stockier, legs. This is in keeping with the design of the character from the comics.
Honestly, his torso is so big he looks like he could fit in better with Mattel's Masters of the Universe Classics line, and that little thought made me curious. Did Mattel send any of Etrigan's parts over to the Masters? The answer is no. Although both figure lines have a somewhat similar design and assembly structure, Etrigan is actually even a bit larger than most of the Masters, although they look to have better muscle definition, which makes sense.
The description of Etrigan's face as provided by Wikipedia is accurate. He has deepset red eyes, a somewhat upturned nose, a mouth full of teeth that only a Rottweiler could love, two small horns on his forehead, and medium-sized bat-like ears. His skin is yellowish, but for the figure, Mattel has seen fit to darken the majority of Etrigan's overall color scheme, which also makes sense. A straight yellow with straight red costume would've looked ridiculous. Consider it a fairly dark red costume with skin probably best described as ochre.
Etrigan is wearing a red, tight-fitting uniform that leaves his legs bare. If that sounds unusual, consider that it's probably rather hot where he spends a fair portion of his time. Granted, I've seen more attractive legs in my life. They're rather short relative to the figure, but this, as I said, is in keeping with the design of the figure, and while muscular, also have some wrinkles. Hey, Etrigan's not exactly a youngster, okay? His feet are covered by red shoes.
The uniform is largely unremarkable, except for a black belt with silver buckles, and thick black bands on his lower arms with silver studs. His hands are fascinating sculpts. He has long, thin fingers, with black claws at their tips. Each finger is individually separate from the others, and his hands are rather gnarled-looking. Very interestingly, the hands are made from a very flexible, rubbery plastic. This is highly unusual for a DC Universe Classics figure, where this sort of plastic is usually reserved for capes (and in more than a few instances, could stand to be more flexible than it is. Etrigan's fingers are more flexible than Mr. Miracle's cape.
Speaking of capes, Etrigan is wearing one, blue in color, and somewhat tattered-looking. It's decently flexible, too.
Most of Etrigan has been given a slight "wash" of dark paint. I mean, if nothing else, once again, consider where this guy considers "home base". Probably a fair amount of darkness and smoke.
Of course, Etrigan has the articulation level we have come to expect from DC Universe Classics. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, in fairness, Etrigan may not be for everyone. He's a moderately obscure character, and a bit of a creepy one. He has certain elements to his backstory and nature that might well make some people uneasy. I can understand that. But let us keep in mind that he is a fictional character, and the universe which he inhabits doesn't necessarily work by the same rules as ours.
As an action figure, Etrigan comes across superbly well. Clearly Mattel went all out on this one, with an entirely distinctive overall sculpt, and a well-detailed one at that. For a less-than-prominent character, Mattel made sure that Etrigan came out right, and indeed, he certainly did. While the figure doesn't exactly look "Kirby-esque", I'd like to think that if Jack Kirby were to see this incarnation of his creation, he'd like what he saw.
With all of that in mind, the DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of ETRIGAN THE DEMON definitely has my recommendation!