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Comic Book / Etrigan

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"Change! Change, O form of man!
Free the prince forever damned!
Release the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in heart of fire!
Gone! Gone! — the form of man —
Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!"
— Jason Blood

Created by Jack Kirby and appearing for the first time in The Demon #1 (August, 1972), Etrigan has played many smaller roles in several DC comics from The Sandman (1989) to Wonder Woman, with occasional stories and miniseries wholly to himself (such as in anthology series Wednesday Comics), and a number of ongoings, including Kirby's original series, a fifty-nine issue run, not counting annuals, during The '90s, and John Byrne's Blood of the Demon.

Etrigan is a yellow skinned and red eyed demon who was summoned by Merlin to aid Camelot against the forces of Morgaine le Fay, who later became a recurring opponent in the series. After the fall of Camelot, Merlin sent Etrigan to roam the earth in the disguise of a man. Depending on the Writer, Etrigan is either bonded to one of King Arthur's noblemen or the human Jason Blood was merely created by Merlin's spell. In the present, Jason Blood, a well respected authority on demonology, is well versed in the skill of magic and has helped other superheroes in several occasions. Etrigan's habit of speaking in verses is a later addition, introduced by Len Wein in DC Comics Presents #66, but really established and explained by Alan Moore. This also makes him fall under almost every rhyme Trope there is.

Etrigan's powers include superhuman strength, speed, durability, regenerative powers, hellfire projection, teleportation, and a high knowledge of maleficium. Jason Blood on the other hand is precognitive, as well as a capable sorcerer himself.

Etrigan has also appeared in various animated adaptations of DC comics, being played by Billy Zane in Batman: The Animated Series, Michael T. Weiss in Justice League, Dee Bradley Baker in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Christopher S. Field in DC Universe Online, Ray Chase in Justice League Dark and Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, Patrick Seitz in Justice League Action, and David Shaughnessy in Young Justice: Phantoms.

His latest ongoing, Demon Knights, sees Etrigan leading a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in Dark Age Europe.

Tropes associated with Etrigan include:

  • Ambiguous Gender: Klarion's cat familiar Teekl alternates between male and female Depending on the Writer. Kirby's version (and appearance in an animated adaptation) was female (including an alternate humanoid form), while Morrison's is characterized as male.
    • Even between appearances in Kirby's original run, Teekl is referred to as male in the first appearance but female by the second appearance.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Animated adaptations, mainly the Justice League, show Etrigan as very abrasive (and a bit bloodthirsty), but still retaining heroic qualities.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil:
    • In continuities where Etrigan is a true demon, not merely a construct of Merlin's, he's depicted as at least a prince of Hell. While he was under the pen of Garth Ennis, he was briefly king of it.
    • Baron Von Evilstein.
  • Badass Normal: Jason Blood is no pushover either. Blood was briefly a member of the Justice League, and while he did invoke Etrigan once out of desperation, he was a member for his own power, not for the Demon's.
  • Big Brother Bully: Etrigan was this to his brother Scapegoat.
  • The Big Guy: Usually when teaming up.
  • Blessed with Suck: Jason is thousands of years old, has witnessed the birth and fall of nations, traveled the world, and become a future seeing sorcerer. Oh...and he is forever bonded with a destructive demon from Hell that he doesn't get along with. At all.
  • Blind Seer: Randu's power increases after he's blinded.
  • Blood Knight: Etrigan, even when he is acting as a hero on the side of the good guys, never tries to make it a secret that he enjoys fighting and general destruction.
  • Breath Weapon: Etrigan can breath hellfire from his mouth, though he can also project it from his hands.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: Etrigan's summoning spell.
    • Often, especially in adaptations, only the two last lines are used. To change back, he recites "Gone, gone, O Etrigan! Resume once more the form of man!"
    • Other versions of the poem have been seen to work. Spoofed at least once by Blood himself, while in a particularly snarky mood:
    Gone, oh little man so tame,
    Arise the demon... Whatsisname?
    • In one story, Blood is turned into a fly and is forced to write out the poem in the dust in a desperate hope that could trigger the change: it works.
  • Canon Discontinuity: John Byrne, in an act of purism, attempted to reveal that Etrigan's rhyming was the result of a curse rather than his demonic rank, in a story where the curse was undone and Etrigan was overjoyed to speak normally again. This was ignored by basically everyone.
  • Car Fu: In The Demon Annual #2, Etrigan and an alien powerhouse brawl in the street, hitting each other with cars — neither bothering to let the people out first.
  • Child Mage: Klarion the Witch Boy is an absurdly powerful little brat who, in his first appearance: cures a deadly poison, conjures up a feast, banishes a monster with a fork, and summons the Demon to his aid while tied up and suspended from the ceiling.
  • Cigar Chomper: Henry won't let go of a cigar even in a dead faint.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Etrigan enjoys receiving pain just as much as giving it. Even as an infant.
    Etrigan: Blood is drawn! I am impressed—though my hell-spawned powers will heal it! to giving pain, my favorite sport's to feel it!
  • Creepy Child: Klarion the Witch-Boy
  • Creepy Good: Jason Blood. He's got human tongues on display in his basement in one story, and in another ritually bathes in blood.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Jason Blood is immortal while he's bound to the Demon, and has influence over Etrigan's behavior. The reverse is also true.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Etrigan may be a demon, but that doesn't make him any less of a good guy. Depending on how he feels at the time, really. Sometimes Etrigan will do good for the sake of good, or need coercing by Jason.
  • Deal with the Devil: During a guest appearance in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, Jason mentions he's made a deal with Etrigan, to see if he can ameliorate some of Ety's worse behavior. Of course, as Jason points out, demons cheat. It's in their nature, and he's not sure who's getting the better of whom.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Etrigan is one of the higher-ups in Hell, a son of Belial one of the three rulers of Hell. A helpful indicator of his position in the hierarchy is his rhyming.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • The nature of his relationship to Jason Blood.
    • Whether anyone else can force the transformation.
    • The quality of his rhymes, or whether he always rhymes or only does so while spellcasting.
    • Whether he's evil, apparently, though that may just be John Byrne.
    • Whether Klarion's cat familiar Teekl is a male or female. (Female in Kirby's case, male in Morrison's.)
    • The extent of Jason Blood's power as a Badass Normal or a Black Mage.
  • Ear Fins: Has fins where human ears would be, to emphasize his other-ness.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A sizable portion of foes.
  • Enemy Mine: Tends to side with heroes more than villains, but it's usually due to not liking other villains very much.
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • Klarion. In his second appearance, he very nearly kills Jason Blood/Etrigan for good.
    • A baby Etrigan was this as well, forcing his father to create Merlin.
  • Ethnic Magician: Randu Singh.
  • Evil Is Petty: Etrigan often does things For the Evulz, and even when he's not working for his own gain, he's likely to annoy people just cause.
  • Evil Laugh: A staple of the villains. Etrigan himself has been known to have a few evil chuckles.
  • Evil Matriarch: Etrigan's mother is a serpent that Belial was afraid would eat him.
  • The Fettered: Etrigan.
  • For the Evulz: Etrigan's usually not interested in personal gain, preferring instead to just cause mayhem for his own amusement.
  • Game Face: On the occasions he only half-transforms.
  • Genius Bruiser: Etrigan is capable of going toe-to-toe with Superman, Darkseid, and Lobo. He's also one of the most powerful spellcasters in existence, powerful enough that (an admittedly weakened) Morpheus treated him with respect and he has successfully plotted the overthrow of Hell's hierarchy on at least three occasions, emerging as a Karma Houdini for orchestrating the Day of Judgement Crisis Crossover (almost nobody realizes his involvement).
  • Good is Not Nice:
    • Jason Blood, especially outside of the Demon's own series. He isn't a villain, but he also doesn't bother often interfering with any disasters that aren't supernatural in nature.
    • Even when Etrigan is considered a hero, he's pretty ruthless, resorting to cannibalism or self-mutilation without hesitation.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Part of either Etrigan's royalty in Hell, or his spells.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: During the Day of Judgement crossover, Etrigan was ultimately the one behind the scramble for control over The Spectre, though he apparently knew better than to try for control himself. This resulted in Hal Jordan taking the role, and Etrigan getting to laugh at the demons who thought they could.
  • Hell: Usually the Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • Hellfire: Etrigan can breath this from his mouth, or fire it from his hands. It has the effect of burning his target's soul and mind.
  • Horrifying Hero: Etrigan is a demon grafted onto the soul of a knight who betrayed Camelot.
  • Instant Runes: Etrigan's one of the most powerful spellcasters around, with only Merlin confirmed his superior. He can perform spells like this if he chooses, though he usually prefers hellfire or physical violence.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: His transformation is triggered by anyone saying the poem. Depending on the Writer, sometimes even writing it does the trick.
  • Least Rhymable Word: Etrigan can stretch a rhyme pretty far. He does this to annoy other people as much as being forced to rhyme due to spells or his caste in Hell.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Usually averted. Given that Etrigan's twice conquered Hell just for his own amusement, he's clearly one of DC's heavy hitters. On the rare occasion that Etrigan's convinced the threat's worth his serious attention, he's typically subject to The Worf Effect.
  • Magic Knight: Jason was a literal knight of Camelot. And he has picked up a lot of useful sorcery over his few thousand years of life. However he is more of a "sit in a mystic circle and chanting" kind of magician.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Harry Matthews.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • His foe, called Baron von Evilstein (his true name is Von Rakenstein).
    • Frequently, Jason Blood himself.
  • Noble Demon: Though not particularly noble or magnanimous himself, even when he is doing good, Etrigan is royalty, as his father is one of the three rulers of hell, making Etrigan a prince. At times when he is in the mood, Etrigan himself can recognise the good qualities of others and lend them his assistance. But it's rare to catch him in this mood.
  • No-Sell: Etrigan briefly got involved in the events of Blackest Night, where the Black Lanterns tried tearing out his heart... which didn't do anything more than annoy him. Of course, Etrigan's fire-breath did nothing to them, so neither party had any reason to stick around. Etrigan's last seen taking off in a huff complaining about how Gotham puts Hell to shame.
  • Older Than They Look: Haircut aside, Jason Blood looks exactly as he did in King Arthur's time.
  • Our Demons Are Different: All over the place. Etrigan's not much different from a horny devil, but pretty much every variation appears in Hell.
  • Painful Rhyme: In less talented hands. During Demon Knights, flashbacks to Etrigan's early days show him as not having the full mastery of verse he has in the here-and-now, and he occasionally flubs up.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: While Etrigan is very broad, he's also usually drawn much shorter than most Superman-tier bruisers, and it isn't helped by his constantly hunched back.
  • Planet of Hats: Klarion is from Witch-World, a dimension where everyone has at least some skill in wizardry. However, being a child, adults were constantly telling him what he could and couldn't do with his powers and what kinds of sorcery he could and couldn't practice. Coming to our dimension where he was free to do whatever he wanted solved that problem for him.
  • Really Gets Around: Belial, Etrigan's father has three children, by three different mothers. Though considering he is a very high ranked demon, it's understandable he'd have multiple wives.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Apparently, this is required among the nobility of Hell. It takes an incredible amount of effort for him to speak without rhyming his words.
  • The Scapegoat: Etrigan's little brother.
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: Played with. Even in stories where Jason Blood and Etrigan both predate their merge, it's not always clear whether Blood is Etrigan's prison or vice versa.
  • Shapeshifting Trickster: Frequently, Etrigan's own motivation is his own amusement... such as when he intentionally triggered a war between Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory over the vessel of God's divine rage, just to get more serious (and dull) demons abused when the heroes inevitably won.
  • Split Personality: Sometimes.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In The Demon Annual #2, after Etrigan pounds his opponent through the pavement into a sewer:
    Etrigan: By my dearest brother Goat—
    Who'd've thought the oaf would float?
    Down that sewer all so dank and dimly lit?
    But just watch the fellow hurry
    Through that mass of noxious slurry...
    He really seems at home in all that—
    Policeman: Freeze!
  • Summon Magic: Klarion the Witch-Boy is capable of summoning Etrigan to his aid in his first appearance.
  • Super Strength: He's been known to be able to trade blows with folks as strong as Superman and Lobo.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Jason Blood's sometimes shown betraying Camelot, and this is the reaction of the locals. Other times, they just notice he's not aging, and take the same response.
  • Unusual Eyebrows: Jason's are swooped and very, very noticeable.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Etrigan and Lobo are prone to physically pummeling each other as their way of saying "Hi."
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Toyed with. It's just as often against their will.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Even though it's Hell, Etrigan spent quite a lot of time terrorizing Hell as a child.
  • You Bastard!: The final issue of the Garth Ennis/John McCrea run on The Demon ends with Etrigan breaking the fourth wall to mock the reader for enjoying a comic filled with depravity and featuring a Villain Protagonist.

Alternative Title(s): The Demon