Welcome back to My Hero, where we here at Back to the Past dip into our Custom Action Figure toybox and celebrate one of the obscure characters we find within. This week, that means we’re looking at Marvel’s Devil-Slayer!
Atlas Comics Reborn
From 1951 to 1957, the company now known as Marvel Comics went by the name Atlas Comics. It is during this era that a great many of the titles and talents that would launch Marvel;s superheroes, such as Steve Ditko and Strange Tales, made their debut. The name was revived in 1974 by former Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman in attempt to compete with his former company due to their firing of his son.
The company was notoriously short-lived (its longest running titles ran four issues) and one of its many one-issue wonders was Demon Hunter #1 from writer Dave Kraft and artist Rich Buckler. Demon Hunter is psychic Gideon Cross, a troubled Vietnam Vet turned Mafia hitman. His talents in that field got him recruited by the Cult of the Harvester of Eyes as their enforcer, gaining him an assortment of mystical weapons and powers. He eventually rebelled against their plans to turn Earth into a home for demonkind, battling them as a mystical superhero. A cool premise to be sure, but one of many left hanging by the new Atlas Comics’ quick demise.
In the (Marvel) Spotlight
1977’s Marvel Spotlight #33 pit Marvel’s cyborg soldier Deathlok against a brand new hero in a classic Marvel new-hero-mistaken-identity brawl. That new hero was the mystical Devil-Slayer, created by the familiar team of writer Dave Kraft and artist Rich Buckler. Devil-Slayer is Eric Payne, a psychic Vietnam vet turned Mafia hitman turned Demonic cult enforcer turned superhero.
Devil-Slayer would go on to significantly more success than his Atlas Comics predecessor, adventuring on-and-off with Marvel’s classic non-team The Defenders for eleven issues in the 70s & 80s before scoring his own solo tale in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents #46-49 in 1990. He would play a major role in The Initiative’s fight against the Skrull Secret Invasion in 2008, and his final major appearance came in 2011’s Avengers Annual #1. There he joined the heroes-gone-bad team The Revengers to take down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and is one of its few truly prominent members not to have turned back to the light afterwards.
I first encountered Devil-Slayer in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative, where his teleporting cloak allowed him to ferry 3D Man and other heroes around the country to battle the Skrulls. I encountered Demon Hunter when I began collecting the complete Atlas/Seaboard output. I noticed right off that they were basically the same, and that particular trivia quirk makes him worth knowing even if he hadn’t been a cult favorite member of The Defenders and The Initiative.
That said, his scanty appearances in either incarnation are why customizers, like the source of this collection, are the only source for action figures of the guy. He’s a cool character that’s worth knowing, but he’s by no means a big name.