So why the Blue Devil? It's a fair enough question and, actually, eight years later and coming back here to do a content update after being away from it a while, I find myself asking the same thing.
To be perfectly honest, as I revise this (July 2006), having uploaded the site nearly eight years ago, I no longer remember exactly what made me think that doing a shrine to the Blue Devil would be a good idea (I never had any delusions about it being a popular one). Though I can tell you one thing: I apparently had a crapload of time on my hands!
At the time, the character was resting somewhat in comic book limbo. I don't think that anybody had touched him since Mark Waid did his damnedest to destroy the character in the pages of [UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED].
So I suppose my intention was—at least to some extent—to preserve the memory of this somewhat forgotten comic book character, first introduced during the 1980s heyday of DC's funny books. It wasn't a grand ambition, to be sure, but in the intervening years since this site first appeared on the World Wide Web, and DC has gone from dark to flat-out bleak, I think I may have come to believe that a Blue Devil page could in fact be a sort of important thing afterall.
See, here's the thing. In the years since DC said, "Why the hell not?" to an ongoing comic about a stuntman-hero who gets stuck in a high tech monster movie costume, superhero storytelling has changed. A lot. You really don't see too many series played just for laughs anymore—even less amongst the titles that get mainstreamed.
[Post-Crisis], characters haven't so much evolved as they have become increasingly damaged. I think the rationale here is that you simply couldn't write a compelling or admirable character for adult comic book readers without burdening that character with myriad tribulations (and often some sort of single-minded obsessiveness). Basically, the archetypical character in contemporary comics is a hero who suffers copious abuse, but suffers it boldly in order to continue fighting crime another day.
Ugh. That sort of thing is okay for some characters, but enough is enough already.
Let's be honest here: BLUE DEVIL wasn't consistently Grade "A" human drama—particularly during the second half of the run, during which time the writers lost some of their dramatic focus and Alan Kupperberg's often ugly art replaced Paris Cullins's lively, attractive pencils—though at its best it proved that it could be done, and done well. (And in any case, it sure as sugar made me laugh. And that's what counts, right?)
I think that it couldn't be a bad thing for comic book writers and editors to look back at comics written during more light-hearted years as a reminder that you can, in fact, do good drama while at the same time having some serious fun lampooning the very genre in which you're writing, essentially having your cake and eating it, too. You and I can probably agree that getting stuck in a Blue Devil costume is no laughing matter, but it was the way that Dan Cassidy dealt with his tragedy that separates him so distinctly from today's superhero set.
He didn't get all dark and brooding about it, he simply made the best of a bad situation.
That is exactly what makes him interesting, and at the same time, what makes him so identifiable to the common shlub reading comics. The Blue Devil didn't pop out of some superhero mold saying, "Bring it on! Sign me up for the Justice League!"
I always loved that, upon finding out that he couldn't remove his Blue Devil costume, Dan's reaction wasn't, "This is a sign that I must fight supervillains." Instead, it was, "Oh shit! I'm stuck in this friggin' Blue Devil costume! Can I still keep my day job?" (which he did, by the way). He had no desire to be a hero—and in fact, throughout the series he never did really throw in with that lot—but he always stepped up when he had to.
Dan Cassidy, the man, was inherently heroic, much to his own surprise. It was the costume that merely brought his heroism to the forefront, without fundamentally changing what Dan Cassidy was all about.
BLUE DEVIL followed the adventures of an essentially ordinary man, endowed with a share of power, who allowed it to bring out the best in himself and to grow as a human being. For me—that is, somebody who has at times been known to refer to himself as a humanist—this is truly a touching and interesting tale as viewed upon any level; but also, I would say, a character arc likely to appeal to anybody who has ever read a superhero comic book and felt some sort of possibly untapped nobility stirred within himself.
The Blue Devil was a hero through and through, but underneath, he was always just a regular guy who was, somewhat reluctantly, learning how to live up to his potential. That's a good pitch, and I wish there were more of this in modern comics.
Justin Garrett Blum ([e-mail])
31 July 2006