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During King Arthur’s last stand, the magician Merlin chose to bond two evils—a demon and a traitor—in the hopes that, combined, their abilities might be used to avenge Camelot and gain retribution against the witch Morgaine Le Fay.  Thus, the legend of Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon began…and continues into the present day.

 

Real Name:  Jason Blood

Voiced by Michael T. Weiss

Centuries ago, during the age of Camelot, a nobleman named Jason Blood fell in love with Morgaine Le Fay, a powerful sorceress and half-sister of the legendary King Arthur.  In an attempt to curry her favor, he betrayed his king and assisted the witch in her conquest of Arthur’s throne—an act that led to his murder by her hand.  However, the wizard Merlin learned of his deeds and, as punishment for his treachery, mystically bound his spirit to Etrigan, a powerful demon from the underworld.  Thus, Jason Blood was cursed, and would remain so until the day that he is able to atone for his deeds.

Today, the now-immortal Blood is known to the world as a leading authority of the paranormal but, should the need arise, he can transform into the Demon in order to protect humanity from mystical threats.  Though they are separate identities, both share the same goal:  the downfall of Morgaine Le Fay.

nothing on "A Knight of Shadows":  “'The Demon Story' [the episode’s original name]...deals with how Jason Blood was cursed with the Demon [and gives the audience] some depth of the Demon and Jason Blood’s characters (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

 

Real Name:  Etrigan

Voiced by Michael T. Weiss

The unholy spawn of the Archduke Belial and the demoness Raan Va Daath, the demon Etrigan was originally summoned to this reality by his half-brother Merlin, who sought his aid in protecting Camelot’s throne against the forces of Morgaine Le Fay.  Despite his evil leanings, the demon fought valiantly against her forces, and might have overcome them had the nobleman Jason Blood not compromised Camelot’s defenses.  Seeking to punish Blood—and desperate to find a way to restrain the barely-controllable demon and stop him from wreaking havoc across the world—Merlin mystically bound the demon Etrigan to Jason Blood, until a time when the fallen nobleman would be able to atone for his sins.

Today, Etrigan is still bound to Jason Blood, and can be called forth from Hell at will to fight the forces of Morgaine Le Fay or any others who dare oppose them.  However, when not in Blood’s service, Etrigan resides in the underworld and is free to indulge in his wicked pursuits; finding new ways to rise in the elaborate hierarchy of Hell's demons.  In the end, one must not forget that Etrigan the Demon is still capable of committing any number of cruel and horrific acts, even though his connection to Jason Blood has tempered some of his darkest impulses.

Bruce Timm on Etrigan’s design #1 (circa 1999):  “We were really consciously at that point trying to do a lot of Kirby stuff in [Batman Adventures Annual #2].  That was overt; we wanted to really put as much Kirby into it as possible without actually doing a swipe.  […] That was one that I and Glen Murakami, who worked on that annual with me, we were really trying to achieve.  Well, the thing with the Demon, especially, is that the character had gone through so many permutations in the DC universe since the Kirby days—they'd changed him so much—so I thought, ‘Well, gosh, he's hardly even the Kirby Demon any more, so if we're going to use him in the Annual, we should go back to the source and try to make it as true to Kirby as possible' (courtesy of Comic Book Artist Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on Etrigan’s design #2 (circa 2004):  “I really liked this piranha-head Etrigan, but Glen [Murakami] wanted to stay truer to Kirby.  He was right, of course (courtesy of Modern Masters, Volume Three:  Bruce Timm).”

DarkLantern on Etrigan’s missing penchant for rhyming:  “While a rhyming Demon from the comics is preferred, I can understand why the producers and writers nixed the idea—it would have required more precious TV time for his dialogue, which would cut some of the action scenes down a bit (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

 

Images

Jason Blood Image | Etrigan the Demon Image #1 (TNBA Design)

Etrigan the Demon Image #2 (JL Design)

Etrigan the Demon Image #3 | Etrigan the Demon Image #4 | Etrigan the Demon Image #5 | Etrigan the Demon Image #6

Etrigan the Demon Image #7 | Etrigan the Demon Image #8 | Etrigan the Demon Image #9

 

Commentary

“You…you and that demon.  You’re the same person.”

“Yes…yes, I suppose we are.  It hasn’t always been this way.  Once we were very different—our psyches constantly at war—[so] we struck a bargain, a spiritual compromise.  We would grow more like each other, there would be a balance, but a bargain with a demon is no bargain at all.  Demons cheat; it is their nature.

“Oh yes, I have grown more like Etrigan, and he…he too has grown more like Etrigan.  He has merely borrowed a little of my intellect, my vocabulary.  He has not changed.  We are still at war, and I fear that I am losing.”

An exchange between Abby Cable and Jason Blood from “…By Demons Driven,” The Saga of the Swamp Thing #27

As the second appearances of Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon (the first one being the Batman episode "The Demon Within"), the creative team needed to do little in terms of adapting these characters for "A Knight of Shadows"; save for finding a new voice actor to portray them (with Michael T. Weiss replacing the departing Billy Zane).  However, they instead took the opportunity to re-imagine the characters' origins, adding a few new wrinkles and adapting some old elements back into their shared history.

Created by Jack Kirby in 1972, their origins have been in a constant state of flux, with each new writer providing a new take on the unusual partnership.  For example, in their earliest appearances, Etrigan the Demon was the primary character, with Jason Blood only being a disguise, a glamour, that the Demon wore to better integrate himself into the world of men.  However, as the character evolved, Jason Blood became more significant to the equation, and the story changed to accommodate Blood into the backstory as a human who was bonded to Etrigan by Merlin, who sought to balance the Demon’s more destructive impulses.  However, the reason why Merlin chose Jason Blood to be the Demon’s host was unknown until "A Knight of Shadows," when the Justice League creative team chose Blood to be the reason for Camelot’s fall, and the bonding to Etrigan his punishment.  By taking this course, the creative team succeeded in making Jason Blood’s character more sympathetic—mirroring the tragedy surrounding the other Justice League members—and, in addition, added a rationalization for why Merlin chose to bond the Demon to that particular human (in the comics it seemed rather arbitrary).  In a way it’s ironic that, in the above excerpt, Jason Blood laments that he is losing the war between them in terms of personality when, for several decades, it is Jason Blood who has become the dominant character of the two.

Otherwise, the characters remain relatively unchanged from their prior Batman appearance.  There have been some cosmetic modifications, however:  Jason Blood’s model design has been slightly redrawn; while Etrigan has been redesigned to be more Kirbyesque in appearance—he now has a blue cape (instead of the gray one from "The Demon Within") and is shorter (whereas he was formerly a hulking brute that towered over Batman).  In addition, he now is drawn with black lips; which is an unusual choice, considering that it does not draw from any previous version of the character.  Instead, it may have been added so Bruce Timm and the other artists could add their own unique mark to the character, or perhaps it was meant to accentuate the black eyebrows that highlight his eyes (and add variety to his face by eliminating some of the overpowering yellow).

Finally, some fans lament the absence of Etrigan’s famous rhyming dialogue, which was also not used on Batman.  However, while I agree that the end result removes the some of the character’s distinctiveness, I’m afraid that I can also see the practical reasons why this was eliminated.  In addition to DarkLantern’s statement above—that rhyming dialogue would take up valuable screen time that could be better used elsewhere—one must also realize that, if scripted by a writer with poor poetry skills, the resulting lines could turn out really horrible (to compare, read Alan Moore's superb dialogue, from his classic Swamp Thing run, to Kevin Smith's rather lackluster verse, from the Demon's appearance in Green Arrow).  In addition, as the creative team often prefers to utilize the earlier incarnations of the characters they adapt (especially in the case of Jack Kirby’s creations), they may have decided to ignore it completely, as Kirby’s original Demon only used rhyme during his transformation sequence; his status as a rhyming demon came later.  In the end, perhaps that would be the most elegant reason:  Etrigan simply hasn’t risen to that level of status in Hell’s hierarchy just yet.  Maybe in a future appearance—if there is one—Etrigan will achieve that vaunted level of status and speak exclusively in verse as he now does in the comics.

 

Images courtesy of Toon Zone, Modern Masters, Volume Three:  Bruce Timm, New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage, The Bruce Timm Gallery, Batman:  Tomorrow and Beyond, and The World's Finest.

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