How the Devil is Portrayed in Pop Culture

Graham Host
Comics TV
Comics TV

Good vs. evil is the oldest tale in any book. Batman has Joker, Spider-Man has Green Goblin and, of course, God has Lucifer. The fight between Heaven and Hell is an ancient idea that has been battling on for millennia. More recently, the Devil has been making a return to pop culture in a big way. But with the Devil an angel in a former life, how exactly has modern media portrayed the dark and devilish?

Lucifer – Supernatural

Lucifer in Supernatural
Lucifer as he appears in Supernatural

In SupernaturalLucifer was one of the four archangels God created at the start of his work. Then Chuck settled down and made humanity. Lucifer became jealous of the attention this new creation was getting and set out to ruin them.

Twisting and torturing a human soul, Lilith – the first demon – was born. Demons corrupted more humans to create more demons to ruin God’s plan. In “We Happy Few,” Lucifer and Chuck eventually sit down to discuss their differences. God reveals that he gave Lucifer the Mark of Cain because Lucifer was his favourite and thought he could resist the corrupting influence. Lucifer in Supernatural comes across as the oldest father-son schism in history and makes the Devil somehow both relatable and pitiable.

Lucifer – Lucifer

Tom Ellis as Lucifer on FOX

Going by the name of Lucifer Morningstar, this show portrays the King of Hell during a mid-afterlife crisis. Torturing the souls of Hell has become boring, so Lucifer leaves his throne to live on Earth.

Morningstar ends up running a piano bar called Lux — an ironic name as Lux is Latin for ‘light’. Helping run the bar is demonic assistant known as Mazikeen or ‘Maze’. Lucifer ends up helping Detective Chloe Decker of the LAPD after a murder occurs outside his club. Although he frequently tells people who he really is, nobody actually believes him. This incarnation of the Devil can compel people to tell the absolute truth and enjoys exposing sinners in public. It appears that some remnant of his angelic origins drives him to help — in a slightly twisted way, of course.

The Beast – Doctor Who

the-beast-doctor-who-the-satan-pit

For all the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey questionable science in Doctor Who, an almost-sense can be made from the mess. That was until the Doctor and Rose land on a planet orbiting a black hole. A team of scientists are drilling to the centre of the impossible planet to find what keeps it from falling. The Doctor volunteers to find the source after the TARDIS falls into a chasm that originated near the energy source. What lays at the bottom is a chained creature – the Beast.

It claims that before time, the “Disciples of Light” waged war on him and threw him into this prison. The gravity funnel would collapse if it attempted to escape and the planet would fall into the event horizon. By body-jacking an escaping scientist, the creature almost escapes, but the Doctor casts it into the darkness.

The Beast captures two versions of the Devil – mindless beast and a scheming intellect to manipulate people. With a sci-fi twist to tie it all together, this is one of the more masterful interpretations of the Lord of Hell.

Nick – Top Cow

nick-devil-top-cow

Branching out slightly, this is one of the lesser-known incarnations of the Devil. The old Top Cow comic universe had Nick as the leader of Hell. Top Cow had a slightly bleaker look on Hell than was already there. All souls go to Hell, get reborn, and then it’s back to the roasting pit. Nick was simply a businessman who realised early on the worth that human souls would have. He was also the first to realise the problem in the system – souls were escaping Hell.

Nick was curious enough about what comes after the cycle to become human himself. Hell might have been plunged into a war zone, and Nick destined to burn, but the Devil wanted to evolve. This was an intriguing and unique look at the root of all evil.

Neron – DC Universe

Neron in DC comic

DC has possibly the most devious incarnation of the Devil. In exchange for a person’s soul, Neron will grant any wish. The comic arc Underworld Unleashed centred around his various plots and schemes with a variety of DC characters.

The Devil is traditionally portrayed as manipulating others into his plans, and Neron does exactly that. Instead of taking out a prison directly, he arms a psychotic inmate. Forgoing attacking a city, Neron weaponises Major Disaster. A few heroes even fell into the lure of his deals. DC captured the duplicitous nature of the devil in this creation.

Mephisto – Marvel Universe

mephisto devil vampire-looking comic with seriously ripped abs and a cape

In much the same vein as Neron is to DC, Mephisto is “not” the devil, but it’s the closest thing they can make. This incarnation of evil is probably also the most versatile around doing both minor deeds of good and great evil as he slowly gains a foothold on the mortal realm.

The New Mutants once accidentally teleported into Mephisto’s realm. Mephisto made them a bargain: he would transport them to where they wanted to go in exchange for a date with Magma. The pair went out a few times afterwards. Then you have the Faustian bargain with Mr and Mrs Spider-Man. Aunt May was shot, and he offered to save her in exchange for their love.

Say what you want, Mephisto upset an entire fandom in one fell swoop and is possibly the biggest comic devil around.

Find more devilish goodness with our list of the best devil appearances in film history.

Graham Host
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight. Contactable only via Twitter or trained carrier pigeon.
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