Dirk the Demon
Amazing Mystery Funnies #1 (Centaur)
By Bill Everett
Reprinted in Supermen: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936 – 1941
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Fanagraphic Books, 2009
by Scott Anderson
Today I’m reviewing Dirk the Demon, another comic found in Supermen: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936 – 1941. As I noted in my last article about the comics of this era, they’re a little more violent and less kid-friendly than you might expect. And Dirk, a vicious young drag queen, is no exception. Well, he may not be a drag queen, but if he isn’t, he’s needs to stop going to Betty Grable's hair dresser and put on some clothes that don’t look like they’re stolen from Julie Newmar's Playboy shoot. Here’s how they describe him in The Golden Age Heroes Directory:
DIRK THE DEMON. "Dirk the Demon, 24th century Archaeologist," is the son of Baron Cay and lives in the Baron's castle. Dirk is also a promising young archaeologist and loves going out on digs against his father's wishes. Dirk has no superpowers but is a good archaeologist.
First Appearance: Amazing Adventure Funnies #1 (Centaur)
Why it says Amazing Adventure Funnies when the cover looks like Amazing Mystery Funnies is beyond me. I’ve only read the one Dirk the Demon comic in this book, but I guess this future kid learns about the people of our era from archeology. Kind of a cute idea, right?
But there is a dark side to Dirk! We shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. It’s right there in the title. I mean the kid’s name says it all. A “dirk” is dagger used by Scottish Highlanders and the verb form, “to dirk,” means “to stab somebody with a dagger.” And “the Demon” isn’t exactly the epithet that a normal kid gets or even a bad kid gets. This kid’s name is so full of violent, evil imagery that he makes Ming the Merciless sound like Dennis the Menace, and as we’ll see, rightfully so.
That’s Dirk on the cover with the jaunty, tasseled hat and flower hatpin, the kid with the bare legs, holster provocatively slung across his hips, and rosy cheeks on expression modeled after an inflatable doll’s O face. He’s waving a lantern that says, “Here I am, pedophiles!” I half expect Chris Hansen to pop out and to ask me why I’m reading this comic and why I brought a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZhsfT9wGp0&feature=related">Pocketful of Condoms.
Dirk’s adventure is pretty standard. He’s on rocket ship delivering a princess—who frequently looks more manly than Dirk—to her wedding. Upon landing, they are attacked by masked kidnappers who nab the princess. Dirk sasses them in order to trick them into taking him along. While they are escorting him to a prison cell, Dirk lifts a knife from one of them. Once in his cell he cuts his bonds and yells to his guard. When the guard comes in, Dirk stabs him in the heart with his knife, killing him instantly. Or more succinctly, Dirk’s dirk dirked.
Being a kid, Dirk is horrified by what he has done and weeps uncontrollably, trying desperately to wipe the blood from his … No, wait; that didn’t happen at all. What I meant was—being a sociopathic killer, Dirk the Demon lives up to his name by being completely blasé about his cold blooded murder and immediately planning how he’ll dispatch the rest of the kidnappers. He steals the mask from the man he executed and slips it over his head. I can’t help but to get the feeling Dirk was more concerned about flattening his stylish Marcel from Top Chef coif than he was about his recent slaying, like any respectable psychopath or drag queen. (Is “psychopath or drag queen” redundant? All the drag queens I’ve known … well, never mind.) He then knocks out another kidnapper by slamming the guy’s head against the ground. Then takes his latest victim’s gun and frees the princess, who is greeted by her betrothed. And they’re all smiles. From Dirk, not an ounce of regret, horror, anxiety, or any other emotion we’d expect from someone who just beat one man into senseless and shanked another—who wasn’t a member of the Hells Angels. Dirk is Dirty Harry stuffed into a Shirley Temple package IN SPACE!!! Hard to imagine why the concept didn’t take off, eh?
Bill Everett both wrote and drew Dirk the Demon. Namor the Sub-Mariner and Daredevil the Man without Fear were Everett the Everlastings more everlasting characters. Dirk never quite had the success of those characters, perhaps in part because Everett’s own vanity. Dirk the Demon was only 3 pages long and shared space within Amazing Mystery Funnies with several others so he didn’t get a whole title page, and in the title panel Everett wrote, “ANOTHER ADVENTURE OF DIRK THE DEMON as related from the diary of Bill Everett.” So if this was from Everett’s diary, wouldn’t this be about Everett himself? If it wasn’t Everett’s own vanity that caused him to think that people would be anxious to read the diary of the man who created Namor, did Everett think he was actually a young drag queen in space? I will say that reading the diary of a middle aged psychotic who thought he was a knife-wielding tranny boy archeologist from the future would be riveting.
“Dear Diary, while exploring ancient New York, a man claiming to be a police officer from the 20th Century tried to arrest me. I explained to him that a rocket ship could not be speeding because they have to travel fast and besides, I’m only 13 years old so he can’t put me in prison. Then he laughed at my Capri pants and leather red leather suspenders. That’s when I knew he was an alien assassin, so I dirked him. I dirked him good! Then I went to the princess’s baby shower!”
If that’s how they were written, you could call me Scott the … umm … Satisfied. Ugh. No. Too bland. Scott the Super Happy. Lame! Scott the … the … umm … Well, you could call me Dirk the Demon because I would so be dressed as him/her at Comic Con. Come to think of it, I will be anyway, and I will dirk, baby. I will dirk you good.
Scott Anderson settled in Nashville, Tennessee, after living in various locales across America. Although Scott currently works as a legal assistant, his past jobs have included freelance editing for several science fiction/fantasy authors and assembling sparkly fairy wands.
Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).