Welcome back to Rotten Ink. For this update, I decided to take a quick look at a hero called The Red Demon that I just discovered earlier this year, but was created way back in 1947. Wow, think about that, The Red Demon is 70 years old! That’s one thing I love about comic books is, much like horror hosts, movies, music and novels, you find yourself discovering new to you characters and adventures all the time. Over the years, I have gotten to travel to many conventions thanks to my time with Independent B Movie, Andy Copp, Baron Von Porkchop’s Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre and Sparkle Comics that have allowed me to discover such forgotten gems and discover treasures hidden among the vast merchandise that fill the cons. And I always love finding a vintage style superhero who fights crime in a costume in a big city that pre-dates the heavy hitters like Spider-Man and Daredevil, yet came after the likes of Batman and Captain America. So with a smile on my face, it’s my honor to share this hero with you, The Red Demon!
Judge Straight is the youngest judge in his home state. After a day in court where he sentenced a man to death, the doomed man’s wife goes off on the Judge about having no compassion for those who are less fortunate. This leads him into doing some of his own crime research and entering the hideout of the gang the murder victim was working for and finds a devil costume in the dead man’s room. After putting it on, he solves some crimes and decides that when he needs to be more than just a court judge to dish out justice, he will become The Red Demon and serve it more swiftly. The origin and motivation of The Red Demon is very simple and classic superhero stuff, and while in this day and age, this style of origin is dated it still is very fitting for the character as he predates this style of hero origin becoming cliché. Plus I truly think that while The Red Demon was inspired slightly by Batman, he himself clearly inspired Daredevil who was created in 1964. Both look very similar; not to mention both while not playing superhero work for the judicial law! The character was created and drawn by Bill Draut originally to be a back up character in Stuntman, a comic being made by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon but was canceled before the first Red Demon comic was published so it ended up in Black Cat Comics starting in issue # 4 put out by Harvey Comics. The stories were written by an unknown writer, and after a total of 5 appearances, the character fell to the wayside. While he might not be a household name or even all comic readers top 50 superheroes list, he still is a great hero who deserves lots of respect, and if you like classic heroes make sure to check him out!
On February 26th 2017, Sparkle Comics was a guest at the Jim & Dan Comic and Toy show that was being held at the Wright State Student Union Building that had us selling copies of Shocking Macabre Theater # 1. Our team was Damien Brunk, Juliet Fromholt and Scott Scarborough, and we made a little extra print money and also got to go and shop a little. That’s where, in a .50 box of comics, I found The Red Demon! The comic was squeezed among copies of Conan The Barbarian and Archie Comics and had a sticker from Half Price Books on it that the person had bought for .10 back in 1998. Once I saw the cover, I knew I had to read it and cover here on Rotten Ink. Before we get into the review of this cool looking comic, I do need to remind you all that I grade comics on a standard 1-4 star scale rating and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s get ready to see just how swift the justice of The Red Demon is, shall we? I also want to note that this reprint issue makes the art black and white and not color like when they first premiered in comics.
The Red Demon # 1 ***
Released in 1990 Cover Price $2.00 Recollection # 1 of 1
“The Midnight Killer” news has broken around Loston City that the famed criminals the Stefano Brothers have been arrested and delivered to the cops thanks to the masked crime fighter The Red Demon who is listing to the news on his radio like the whole city. This causes him to remember back to when he first became the crime fighter. It all started when he, as his real name Judge Straight, tries a man named Joe Monsi for the murder of crime boss Bull Brewster and sentences him to death! The man’s wife screams at Judge Straight about having a text book for a heart and that her husband was not guilty! The words stick with Straight, and he decides to walk the streets looking for criminals so that he can understand them better. Thanks to Brewster’s lost cat, he is able to find his old hideout and members of his gang, which is now being lead by Eel Egan who allows Judge Straight to hideout when he gives him a bogus name and story. While at the hideout and in the murdered man’s room, he finds a devil costume that the criminal was wearing when murdered and decides to wear it and bust crime! And thanks to some glowing hair tonic he figures out Eel was the killer and brings him to justice and saves Mr. Monsi’s life. “Double Trouble” has butler James Jenkins sentenced by Judge Straight for 40 years in prison as he is convicted of burglaries that have been taking place all around the upper class parts of town. But feeling bad and that he might have made a mistake again, he hits the streets and acts as if he is just a butler for his real self and meets two strange performers at a night club named Imp and Marline The Magician. He soon finds out that the pair are responsible for the crimes, and while Imp is taken to jail, Marline falls to her death off a cliff trying to fight The Red Demon! “The Man Who Didn’t Know His Own Strength” when a judge friend of Judge Straight is killed by a man he convicted 8 years before named Blinky Bruin, the young judge is upset and becomes The Red Demon to crack the case and prove who killed his friend. The Red Demon meets up with Blinky Bruin and his gang and makes short work of them and turns them over to the law to be tried by his alter ego Judge Straight. But before the trial can happen, Blinky escapes and once more The Red Demon must track him down and does so hiding out in a kids play room. When the two fight, a fire starts and Blinky gives his life to save the child and The Red Demon showing that not all bad guys are fully bad.
This was an amazing classic superhero reprint comic that made me a fan of The Red Demon as I found the three stories inside these pages very entertaining and well worth the read and .50 I paid for it! All three stories have a very similar plot that’s this: Judge Straight in court convicts someone of a crime they did not do, and when feeling bad about his judgment, he wears his costume and becomes The Red Demon to prove them innocent and bring the bad guys to justice. My favorite story out of the three was “The Midnight Killer” as I loved the idea of a mad chemist named Eel making a glow in the dark hair tonic so at a costume party he could turn off the lights and kill his boss and blame another man for the crime, amazing stuff! Judge Straight is a man who lives by the book and is harsh with his sentencing and has a reputation of being cold hearted and robotic as he does not bend the rules, with that said he is also a terrible judge as he has a nasty habit of finding innocent people guilty and only feels bad after court is over that makes him wonder if he did the right thing. As The Red Demon, he is more fair and wants to really find the guilty and bring them to the law so that they can face justice for their crimes and doesn’t mind using his fists and wits to do so! His criminals are like less outrageous Dick Tracy villains with Imp being a master of disguise, Blinky Bruin being strong as an ox and so on. The cool thing about this comic is that all three stories were great and showcased just how simple the golden age heroes were, and this made me feel as if I was in a time warp when comics were not over blown splash pages and origins of heroes are silly. The cover for this reprint comic is eye catching and worked on me while at a comic convention, with the interior art being done by Bill Draut and is great classic stuff and reminds me of Steve Ditko work. Over all if you love classic superheroes this comic is 100% for you, and even if you’re not but want to check out classic heroes I would suggest you check this out as well. Below is a sample of the artwork from this comic.
The Red Demon is much like other classic heroes for me like The Phantom, Dick Tracy, The Shield and The Fly, and he is now one of my favorite classic heroes as I enjoyed his crime fighting adventures that much! While he is by no means as iconic as Superman nor even as memorable as Captain America, he falls into that space where he is a forgotten hero to many, and yet it’s clear that some older comic readers still remember him. But for our next update, we will be leaving Loston City behind and will find ourselves in Egypt coming face to face with the Universal Monster, The Mummy! So until next time, read a classic comic or three, watch a classic movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host! Make sure to bring your sunscreen as Egypt can be hot this time of year and stay clear from the pyramids as who knows it might have a curse on it!