Archive for the Halloween Category

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: The Devil comes to Quantum Leap

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 9, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Hey, let’s finish out this first full week of AWESOME-tober-fest in style!  Today I’m taking a look at an episode of one of my favorite shows, Quantum Leap!

I loved Quantum Leap. I remember seeing the initial commercials for the show before it aired.  And when they said the show was about time travel, I was all in. Then, when the first episode aired back in March of 1989, I remember *begging* my parents to let me stay up and finish the episode after having only watched the first half.

So, I love the mechanics of the show, but I also love the lore it sort of built up around the leaping. Sam actually met leapers just like him in several episodes. Well, they weren’t “just like him”, they were doing the opposite of what he was doing, they were “setting things wrong what once went right.” The “evil leapers” showed up in three episodes in Season 5 and there was rampant speculation about who was running that group. Many people said that God, or the forces of “Good”, were running Sam’s leaps, so the Devil, or the forces of “Evil”, were running the evil leapers.  I love this world building and I wish it would have come up a bit more.  Like what if during sweeps week, or towards the end of a season, the entire episode of Quantum Leap was told from the POV of the “evil leapers”?  We see an entire leap featuring only the “evil leapers”.  I would have loved that.  Maybe the leap crosses over with Sam and Al, but we only see them in passing, OR, Sam and Al are there, but we never see them and we only learn they were there at the end of the episode!  That would have been pretty awesome.

I could discuss the “evil leapers” and what we know about who may be running them.  I could maybe make a case for the Devil there.  But I’m here to talk about a few years before the “evil leapers” showed up.  We got a Halloween episode that actually had an appearance from the Devil.  It was Season 3 episode 5, “The Boogieman”.

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The leap starts out like any other. It’s Halloween Day, 1964.  Sam has leaped into B horror novel writer, Joshua Ray.  Right away things seem to be going awry.  Al is acting weird and Ziggy isn’t giving Sam any information whatsoever.

People start dying in mysterious ways, Sam is seeing things no one else is seeing, and he realizes that he’s being manipulated.

Now, I’m going to say, to talk about the Devil part I need to give out a few spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the episode, first of all, GO SEE THE EPISODE.  Second of all, read through for what happens when Sam meets The Devil.

So, at the climax of the episode when Sam is most confused about what is going on, Al reveals himself to not be Al at all.

With dramatic red lighting over his eyes, Al turns out to be the Earthly incarnation of evil.  The Devil.  And the Devil is PISSED.  He’s pissed that Sam is jumping around time undoing all his evil work.  Sam says he’s just trying to get home, and the Devil laughs maniacally and says, “And you’re never going to…”  Sam realizes that the Devil intends to kill him right then and there.  I have to admit, Dean Stockwell is playing Devil/Evil Al here and he’s doing a fantastic job.  He really is menacing in his line delivery.  We don’t get a lot of time with this Devil, so we don’t really get to know much more, but what we do get to see is pretty great.

That being said, the actual Al shows up at this point and sees himself talking to Al, which confuses him.  The Devil then tries to strangle Sam, they spin around like 100 times and all of a sudden Sam’s leap starts over and he’s able to save the person he’s supposed to save.  I was a little disappointed in the ultimate confrontation with the Devil.  It doesn’t really go anywhere or say anything else about what the encounter Sam just had means.  However, I really liked the idea of the Devil showing up here.  And it subtley sets up the “Evil Leapers”, who don’t actually show up for another season and a half.

There’s another Easter Egg in the show.  We see Sam palling around with a young friend named Stevie.


Come to find out, we hear at the end of the episode in a throwaway line that little Stevie’s name is Stevie King.  Yes, *that* Steve King.  And Sam unwittingly dropped a few references to King books throughout the episode.  In fact, the car that Joshua Ray drives is a direct reference to Stephen King.  A red Plymouth Fury.

So, this is a pretty great Halloween episode of Quantum Leap.  There’s a lot it adds to the show’s mythos with the Devil actually getting involved in Sam’s leaping.  And there’s a lot it implies about the mythos, that since he couldn’t stop Sam in this episode, that the Devil started the “Evil Leaper” program to further thwart what Sam is doing.  I love stuff like that.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Marvel’s Mephisto!

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 7, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Here we are, the Wednesday entry for the first full week of AWESOME-tober-fest 2020.  I can’t believe we made it this far guys.  HIGH FIVE!  I’m still looking at the Devil and today I delve into the realm of comic books!

Each of the “Big Two” comic companies have their own analogue for “the devil”.  DC has Lucifer Morningstar, and Marvel has Mephisto. Mephisto is the personification of all evil in the Marvel Universe. He performs a lot of the duties of a traditional devil figure.  Temptation being the main one.  His name is even a shortened version of Mephistopheles.

Mephisto

Mephisto first appeared in Silver Surfer #3 in 1968 and he’s still appearing in Marvel Comics today.  The depiction of Mephisto throughout his existence hasn’t changed much. He looks like the typical depiction of a demonic devil. Red skin and hair, fangs, sometimes horns, sometimes not. He’s immortal and a very powerful magic user. He’s been around at least as long as the Marvel Universe. He lives in a “hell dimension”. And he’s a collector of souls. Marvel is very cagey about calling him the traditional “Devil”. The character does admit that he may be the inspiration for the concept of the devil, and I know he’s referenced several times that he is the demonic figure in the Faust story.

Mephisto has had his hands in many different events in Marvel history.  He’s butted heads with Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Doctor Strange, and even Thanos.  I wanted to cover a good story for AWESOME-tober-fest featuring Mephisto, and I have many choices, but there’s one I never got to read and I decided to take a look at it today, it’s Mephisto’s 4 issue mini-series from 1987, Mephisto Vs.

Mephisto 1 Mephisto 2
Mephisto 3 Mephisto 4

Mephisto Vs was written by Al Milgrom and drawn by John Buscema, and as I said, it was released in Spring 1987. It was mostly a standalone mini, but it did acknowledge a few things that happened within the books of the teams it crosses over with.

Overall, this is a pretty great story, and the art is classic Marvel.  Mephisto kicks off a long game plan by attacking the Fantastic Four and snatching the soul of Franklin Richards, the son of Reed and Sue.  This leads him to trade it for Sue’s soul, which then leads to X-Factor getting involved and Mephisto trading up different heroes’ souls from the X-Men and the Avengers.  And it’s clear that Mephisto has an endgame in mind, we just don’t know what it is until the very end.  It’s really cool too see that plan unfold throughout the books.

The story really leans into Mephisto as a soul collector.  And that he isn’t interested in just more souls, he views different souls differently.  He values some souls over others.  He makes it clear that while human souls are desirable, he covets super human souls more, and Homo Superior souls more than that.  Yes, Mephisto GRADES his souls like a comic collector!  Milgrom continues to draw this parallel between Mephisto  and readers collecting comic books when he reveals that Mephisto has a system in place for storing souls, and to some of you it may sound familiar.

Mystic Mylar Mystic Mylar

Mylar bags!  Mephisto stores his valued souls in double Mylar bags to protect them!  And Mephisto goes on to mention he needs to take inventory of the other souls he recently acquired.  Is Milgrom trying to say comic collectors are like “the devil”?  Ha, no, he’s not.  It’s just a funny metaphor.

This Mephisto business gets serious.  Serious enough that we get an appearance by The Living Tribunal.

I love the big, ethereal, cosmic entities in the Marvel Universe.  Eternity, Chaos, Living Tribunal…these guys were always a fun, unexpected appearance in books like Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange.  Only a few people in the Marvel Universe even knew they existed.  Look at that guy, he is *awesome*.

Ultimately, we get the final showdown with Mephisto taking on the current roster of Avengers in a fight for one of their members’ souls.  This roster of Avengers includes Black Knight, Silver Centurion Iron Man, She-Hulk, Tigra and Dr Druid.  Oh, and the West Coast Avengers show up as well to help out.  It’s a pretty epic battle.

This was a pretty great little mini-series.  I really enjoyed the writing but especially the art.  I would definitely recommend it if you have access to it.  Lots of fun.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Silly Symphony Hell’s Bells

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, cartoons, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Welcome back to week 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest! Starting this week updates will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Lots of good Devil content still to get through this month so why don’t we get started?

Today I’m looking at an old Disney cartoon from Disney’s Silly Symphony series.  The Silly Symphony series was created between 1929 and 1939.  The Silly Symphonies were separate from the story based Mickey Mouse cartoons.  As the name implies, the Silly Symphonies were created as funny visual companions to pieces of music. They were largely self contained, however a few of the shorts did have followups.  Donald Duck actually made his first appearance in a Silly Symphony in 1934.

The entry I’m looking at today is Hell’s Bells, which was released on October 30, 1929.  It was directed by Walt Disney and drawn by Ub Iwerks.

The depiction of the Devil we see in this cartoon is very simple; “the largest Devil who rules Hell”.  Since there’s no dialogue you don’t see him do anything like negotiating for souls, or anything else truly evil.

Let’s take a look at the cartoon.


Silly Symphonies’ Hell’s Bells from 1929. Title Card.


This is Disney’s version of Cerebus, the three headed dog that guards the gates of Hell.


There are lots of monsters creeping around this version of Hell.  And the music that’s playing for a lot of this cartoon is a version of the same funeral march that Alfred Hitchcock used on his TV show (which started in 1955).  It’s called Funeral March of a Marionette.


Here’s the Devil himself, sitting on his throne, listening to some sweet tunes played by his little devil band.  He looks similar to the other smaller devils, only larger.  He rules this underworld like a king, even sitting on a throne, and the other smaller devils serve him.


Here’s a closer look at that band. They are playing instruments that look to be made from human remains. Like skeleton bones. That bass player is using a spinal column.


At first I didn’t know what the hell to make of this.  This creature that looks like a cross between a dragon and a cow, stands up and the little devil servants MILK HIM into a bowl.  What they are milking out looks like fire.  Then that bowl of milked fire is given to the Devil who eats it like it was his last meal.  I swear, these early Disney cartoons go to some weird places.


one of the smaller devils revolts against the Devil.  The Devil chases him around Hell trying to catch him and punish him.  The smaller devil catches the Devil off guard and kicks him off a cliff.


While hanging off the cliff, flame arms grab at the Devil, pull down his…fur?…and give him a spanking.  I have to assume these flames are manifestations of the damned souls from below.  Ultimately they reach up and grab the Devil pull him down below.  This is very reminiscent of what happens to Hades at the end of Disney’s Hercules (1997).



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Devilish origins for modern popular fiction

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, Classic literature, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 1, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Welcome to Day 1 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2020!  I think this will be a fun month!  The theme for this year’s Halloween celebrations is The Devil! I’m going to talk about movies, comics, TV shows, and cartoons that feature Ol Scratch as a character.

There are many depictions of the Devil in popular culture and many of these depictions are based on very early writings.  Before I start digging into some of the more modern and fun versions of the devil in popular culture, lets take a look at some of the beginnings of his appearances.  These are the classic depictions of Satan or the Devil that many of the things I will be looking at this month will be based on.

One of the earliest appearances of Satan in popular writing was from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In this epic poem, Satan was the original bad boy anti-hero.  He is the most beautiful of all of God’s angels.  It is here in Milton that Satan declares that it is better to “reign in Hell” than to “serve in Heaven”.  Satan and his followers are expelled from heaven.  Satan argues that God rules as a tyrant and the angels themselves ought to rule as gods.  He also argues that since angels are self raised, they deny God’s rule over them.  Satan is portrayed as very charismatic.  He continues to persuade angels to follow his cause even after his group is soundly defeated in the first Angelic War.  This particular Satan is a classic character and i really enjoy Milton’s epic poem.  This particular Satan could be considered to be the basis for much of what will follow.  Specifically, DC Comic’s version of Satan, Lucifer Morningstar, is based on Milton’s version.

The next classical depiction of the devil in fiction that I want to bring up is Mephistopheles from Goethe’s Faust.

Written in the late 18th Century, Faust is also a classic devil in fiction tale. It’s even become terminology for a deal with the devil (Faustian bargain). Many deal with the devil stories are traced directly back to this gothic tale.  German doctor Faust is unsatisfied with his life.  He wishes to possibly end his suffering.  Mephistopheles, bored with ruling Hell, asks God (yes, they actually have a semi-regular gossip session in the story), well, he actually bets God that he can corrupt Faust and make him turn away from God.  God says sure because he is absolutely positive that even someone so disillusioned with his life as Faust seems to be, wouldn’t turn their back on Him.  So Mephistopheles appears to Faust and makes him a deal; he will be Faust’s servant on Earth, but when Faust dies, he has to do the same for Mephistopheles.  In this story Mephistopheles, like Milton’s Satan, is also portrayed as very charismatic.  He is cunning and easily convinces Faust to go along with whatever idea he can think of until ultimately Faust can’t see how far he has gone down the path of damnation.  It’s a very good classic story, but if you’ve never read Goethe, it can be a little melodramatic.  Faust is kind of emo about his despair.  It gets a bit old and I’m sort of glad Mephistopheles comes in to put him through the ringer.  Many versions of this story exist.  FW Murnau, who directed Nosferatu, directed a movie version of Faust in 1926.

Next up is a story by Washington Irving called The Devil and Tom Walker from 1824.

The story was originally published in Irving’s 1824 Tales of a Traveller collection.  The story starts off telling us about the notorious pirate William Kidd who made a deal with the devil to protect a large treasure of gold. Kidd died before he could reclaim his riches so the devil has been protecting it ever since.

The story then shifts to Boston, Mass around the year 1727. Tom Walker meets this version of the devil, Old Scratch, in the woods. The devil tells Tom that he knows where Kidd buried his loads of treasure and he’ll reveal it under certain conditions. Tom eventually goes back out and strikes a deal with the devil for the gold. One of the devil’s conditions was it had to be used in service of the Devil. So Tom agrees to become a money lender and loan money for exorbitant fees. He opens a shop a few days later and becomes very wealthy off the backs of the people he’s lending money to.

Needless to say, things don’t end well for good old Tom.  The end of the story tells us that people often see a spectral rider on a black horse in the woods of Boston.  I originally wondered if that was a call out to Irving’s Headless Horseman, but Sleepy Hollow arrived four years after this story.  As for Irving’s Old Scratch, he appears as a woodsman, or lumberjack, chopping down trees.  He’s also called “The Black Man” in the story, which I believe is referring to all the black ash on his skin from the fires of Hell.  He’s cunning and persuasive, as he needs to be, to convince people to do his bidding.

One last story I want to talk about today.  It’s actually inspired by the previous story, but it’s very well known by it’s own right.  I’m talking about The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet.

This story was first published in The Saturday Evening Post on October 24, 1936. It takes place in New Hampshire.  The story opens up by telling us about Daniel Webster.  Benet’s Webster is based on an actual lawyer named Daniel Webster.  The story’s version of Daniel Webster is made out to be this hugely hyperbolic man.   It says that when he spoke, “..stars and stripes came out of the sky.”  When he walked in the woods with his fishing rod (of course named KillAll), trout would jump out of the streams into his pockets because they knew it was no use putting up a fight with him.  On his farm, the chickens were all white meat down to the drumsticks, and he owned a big ram called Goliath that had horns that could butt through an iron door.  It’s really funny how much the story builds up Mr Webster.  It reminds me of those Saturday Night Live skits about the exploits of the greatest salesman alive, Bill Brasky.

Anyway, the story is about Jabez Stone, who’s farm is not doing well.  One night, after being so frustrated he yells that he’d sell his soul to the devil for good luck, he is met by a polite, refined man in a dark suit going by the name Old Scratch.  Jabez makes a deal with Old Scratch for good fortune for the next four years after which, the black suited gentleman will return to collect.  For the next 3 years Jabez enjoys fabulous wealth and luck, but during the fourth year, he becomes so anxious about the end of his deal, he can’t enjoy his fortune.  He writes to noted New Hampshire attorney Daniel Webster who visits Jabez, listens to his story and agrees to take his case.  Webster tells Jabez that “…there’s a jug on the table and a case in hand. And I never left a jug or a case half finished in my life.”

This is when Old Scratch arrives, and Daniel must use all of his lawyerly wits to argue for Jabez’s, and ultimately his own, soul.  To combat Webster, Scratch calls in a murderer’s row of jurors to try the case including  Blackbeard the pirate, an American Indian scalp hunter and a judge from the Salem Witch Trials.  It’s a fun story, I enjoyed the tall tale and the ultimate conclusion.  The Devil is a soft spoken but cunning adversary in the story.  You’d be surprised how many other stories, movies, and TV shows are based on this particular tale.  Most recently in Shortcut to Happiness, Alec Baldwin did a turn as the Jabez Stone character, Anthony Hopkins was Daniel Webster, and Jennifer Love Hewitt was the Devil.

So these stories are the bedrock of fiction featuring the Devil.  We will come across many stories, movies, and books this month that are based on or derive inspiration from one of these stories.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

The Devil Comes to AWESOME-tober-fest 2020!!

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, comic books, Halloween, holiday, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2020 by Paxton

So here we are. We are about a week away from October. I know Matt over there at Dinosaur Dracula has started his epic countdown to Halloween, so I want to inform you that, yes, I will be doing AWESOME-tober-fest this year and that it will start next week!

And the topic is going to be THE DEVIL!

Awesometoberfest 2020

I’ve always been fascinated by the depiction of the Judeo-Christian “Devil” or “Satan” in popular culture. I presaged this as a topic for AWESOME-tober-fest back in 2017 when I did an article for that year’s final week of AWESOME-tober-fest on my favorite movie and TV devils.

So, now I’m going to do the Devil as a full-on Halloween topic. There’s lots of pop culture to mine when it comes to the devil. I’ve been planning this since before the COVID crackdown and I’ve asked a few people what they think. I got several suggestions like Exorcist, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, etc.  You know, the absolute classics, but low hanging fruit nonetheless.  The problem with those is that they don’t deal directly with the “devil” as a character.  They deal with other demons (I don’t see Exorcist’s Pazuzu as the traditional Devil) or the Devil’s offspring (aka, Anti-Christ), but not really the man himself.  What I want to do this month is showcase different depictions of the devil, or Satan, or Scratch, as a character in popular culture and sort of see how a particular writer deals with the “Father of Sins”.  How does he get characterized?  Is he scary?  Charming?  Sexy?  There are lots of ways to go and I love seeing what way is chosen for a particular adaptation.

As usual I’ll be looking at movies, books, TV shows and comics for my topic.  Plus a few other surprises.  Updates should start happening next Thursday and Friday (Oct 1-2), and every week after that will have updates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through to Halloween.

So hopefully you’ll join me for another month of AWESOME-tober-fest!