In the comic: “The Sandman Presents: Lucifer” (three issue mini-series from 1999), Mike Carey presents an intricate, and at times, empathetic portrayal of the devil. The basic plot is that the once-lord-of-hell Lucifer has resigned from his post, in order to retire as a jazz bar owner in L.A. until one day, the Angel Amenadiel offers Lucifer a deal to work as a third-party on behalf of Heaven. His ensuing adventure on earth tasks him with destroying ‘the voiceless gods’: born from the minds of proto-humans without language or higher consciousness, these shadowy entities prey on human desire, granting wishes, and seeking to be worshiped once again.
Lucifer is methodical and forbearing as he interacts with the other characters throughout his escapade. To complete his task, Lucifer requires the help of a teenage girl named Flower Begai, who herself is completely clueless to the supernatural. This story is poetic both literarily and visually; it’s like reading a surrealist painting. Very little happens inside the confines of the ‘real world’, instead, we jump from landscapes of Hell to dimensions of meta-abstraction, to ‘First World’, a place ‘for which birth is a metaphor’. All the while, the narrative unfolds with a certain level of sinister austerity.
Lucifer is a fascinating villain because he doesn’t advertise his villainy like comic book villains constantly do. Instead, Lucifer’s actions operate on a subtle level; he advances toward his goals via manipulation, both of other characters, and of the literal matter/energy that surrounds him. He is arrogant, cynical, sarcastic, and his ability to orchestrate distortion to his advantage is matched only by his intelligence, as he manages to make everyone he meets a means to his own ends.
As a character that exists within the DC comics multiverse, Lucifer possesses infinite power and knowledge but chooses to remain below the radar and be ever so defiant. When he isn’t playing the piano during a relaxing evening, he’s participating in schemes which, for him, the goal seems to be to get humanity to acknowledge its inner demons. Lucifer, contemplating the human race, expresses at the end of the story: “And that’s their fall, and that’s their fellowship. Desire. The hole in the bucket: the gulf of yearning into which the soul empties itself”. A somber note to end on for a narrative with a sobering philosophy that subverts conventional notions of what protagonists should be.
Any reader who’s looking for a story with thoughtful writing, and a cerebral melancholic tone, should check out this comic mini-series.
Written By: BeNjamyn Upshaw-Ruffner