Demian Hunter is the fourth most popular Warren character after Vampirella, the Rook, and Pantha. His saga forms the main part of the Hunter Timeline, an alternate dystopian future time track that includes the EERIE series "Schreck," "Hunter," "Hunter 2," and "Darklon the Mystic" (along with the single Exterminator story in 1994 #19).
"Hunter" was a straightforward sci-fi action series that seldom got didactic or tackled any important social or political themes, unlike many other Warren series. It had specifically defined bad guys in the guise of the 'demons,' not supernatural entities but a race of saurian skinned mutants who branched off from common humanity as a result of a nuclear conflagration many decades earlier. Demian Hunter was strictly a soldier, a hybrid human/mutant outcast who formerly worked for a U.S. Army cavalry in the days before the dissolution of the U.S.A., when humanity went to war with the mutant offshoot race. The entirety of the "Hunter" series takes place many years after the 'Demon Wars' had ended, the USAF had largely dispersed, and only a few lone mutant hunters remained to save the small outcroppings of scattered humanity from the isolated groups of mutants who preyed upon them in a very brutal fashion. In fact, the one-dimensional brutality of the mutants made this series disturbing on many levels, and certainly wouldn't be recommended to sensitive readers.
The series was very popular among Warren fans and ran for six entries before ending with a definitive resolution. A large thematic element of the series revolved around Hunter hoping to locate his biological father, the barbaric mutant Ophal, who had ravaged his mother and sired the half-breed who grew up to be the mutant race's deadliest enemy, and this long-anticipated confrontation occurred in the final chapter of the series.
Demian Hunter was a quintessential example of a Warren hero. He lived to kill, not to fight for any abstract code of justice. He rarely formed any emotional bonds with others, and those few that he did form such a bond with all ended up lost to the hordes of mutants roaming the land. He lived a lonely, solitary life that was completely taken up with stalking out and eliminating the last remnants of the mutant race. He appeared to have no life outside of this, and no time for love or other such attachments. His story was somewhat reminiscent of the type of loner hero we got in films such as "Pale Rider," and the dystopic world of Demian Hunter was much like the Old West in many ways, in that it included only bare remnants of advanced technology strewn with many primitive frontier farms and villages.
In short, readers of heroic fiction during the 1970s had a much different experience with Demian Hunter than they did with Captain America or Superman, and Warren did a good job of offering heroes who contrasted significantly with most of those published by Marvel or DC.
The series' first three entries were handled by writer Rich Margopoulos, who did a good job of setting up the tone for the series with its simple, straightforward format of the lone Hunter entering various locales on the trail of the latest mutant contingent. One story was scribed by top Warren scripter Budd Lewis, and the two-part conclusion to the series was handled by top Warren writer and editor Bill DuBay. Neither Lewis nor DuBay altered the tone of the series from the framework started by Margopoulos, and the Warren readers seemed to like it just as it was. The entire series was rendered by popular artist Paul Neary, whose penmanship was a good match for the fast-paced action adventure that this strip provided to readers.
Demian Hunter had a few crossovers with other characters in the greater Warrenverse, which establishes his timeline as being an alternate time track of the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], a different track from that which led to the timeline of the Star Trek Universe. Thanks to the element of time travel, he has crossed over with Vampirella and the Rook as one of the 'Time Force' from EERIE #130 and he was resurrected for an interesting crossover with the space-faring sorcerer Darklon the Mystic in EERIE #121; he also made a brief but important crossover with the first Exterminator cyborg to appear on his particular timeline (these crossovers are indexed in the sections dealing with "Vampirella and the Time Force," "Darklon the Mystic," and "Exterminator One," respectively).
Demian Hunter's legend also inspired the sword-wielding career of Karas Hunter for the "Hunter 2" series, which displays what an impact this series had on the Warren readers.
The tragic but illustrious history of Demian Hunter makes the solitary super-soldier an important character within the total framework of the Warrenverse (a.k.a., the Warren Universe).
Story: Rich Margopoulos
Art: Paul Neary
This initial story in the Demian Hunter saga opens with the titular character struggling through the brutally cold and blizzard-like environment that was once called "the Rocky Mountains." The text described him as being a scout for "America's elite Attack Force…in the last world-destroying war!" He strode across the snow-strewn landscape in utter silence, well aware that he was slowly freezing to death. Though the war was now long over, Hunter was still leading a private war of his own against any surviving 'demons' (i.e., mutants) left over from the war. An hour earlier, he was hunting the trail of a demon through the snow, only to lose the trail.
Hunter now realized that he needed to find shelter quickly. He happened to spot a huge stone monastery ahead of him, and he swiftly moved towards it and thumped on the front door, invoking the last Martial Law, which grants all soldiers the right to shelter in any home. He was greeted in a friendly manner by the Empiricals, a group of human monks who lived in the monastery. Hunter announced that he was seeking a demon, but the leader of the Empiricals, a monk called Brother Christopher, reminded him that no such creatures existed any longer. The leader then extends Hunter an invitation to see their benefactor, which he agreed…though a chill went through his spine as he followed them into another chamber.
There Brother Christopher revealed to Hunter a highly sophisticated computer from the 'Scientific Era' that the monks worshipped as a deity. The computer system-whom they consider to be their Messiah-quickly gives the order of monks "storm reports, crop planting dates; a near-ceaseless stream of near-useless data…" as Brother Christopher "ranted" about the grandeur of their all-knowing 'god.' After this session, the digitized face of the computer system deactivated itself. Hunter found himself saddened by the sight of the monks worshipping scientific knowledge instead of using it as a tool, as it was originally intended.
Immediately afterwards, three demons emerge from an auxiliary maintenance shaft near the huge computer and skulk about in the dark. Hunter switches his helmet's night-vision lenses on and the super-soldier quickly begins tracking the demons, whose presence he sensed. As Hunter confronts the three mutant 'demons,' they reveal themselves to be blood-brothers who share an ability-when in physical contact with each other-to pool their psychic resources and to send a wave of psionic energy into their adversary's brain so as to cause it to explode. Acting quickly before they could accomplish this goal, Hunter activated an electro-surge from his staff and sent a surge of 500,000 volts of electricity into the metal broadsword of one of the mutants, electrocuting him. The half-breed super-soldier then battles the other two mutants, one of them managing to get him in a stranglehold as the other moved to gut him with his dagger. Before the mutant could succeed, however, the computer activated itself and sent two sizzling beams of heat from its digitized eyes that consumed both of the mutants attempting to slay Hunter.
The computer then spoke and announced to Hunter-after he demanded an explanation-that it was an "honor" to save human life from mutants. When Brother Christopher and the other monks left their hiding places to see if Hunter was okay, they expressed concern about Hunter "squandering" his life in so needless a manner. It was then that Hunter removed his helmet to reveal that he was half-human, half-mutant…he looked human save for his copper-hued skin and slit-like, golden eyes.
As he explained to the Empiricals before departing, "…only I stand between the howling demon hordes and mankind unsuspecting!"
Comments: This introductory tale of Hunter was a good effort at establishing the basics of the character and what he was about, though his precise time period was described as the 21st century, with the implication that it was late in that century, following a world-devastating war that spawned the mutant race. It isn't revealed until later that this series occurs on the same timeline as Derek Schreck and that the "werewolves" from his series later evolved into the "demons" of the Hunter series. In fact, the Schreck series wouldn't debut until shortly after the Hunter series was introduced in the pages of EERIE.
In later years, Warren writers would play fast and loose regarding precisely which future time period the Hunter series took place in. As a result, this author has had to make some educated guesses as to when this future time track occurred based in part on when the Schreck series likely occurred…which appeared to be within the first few decades of the 21st century. The Hunter series seems to have occurred several decades later, based upon the appearance of the extremely elderly Derek Schreck towards the end of this series.
Demian Hunter's first name wasn't revealed in this story, nor was his origin…both would appear for the first time in the second Hunter tale.
The writing and artwork on this first Hunter story were both well-done, though the resolution of the conflict occurred due to a plot contrivance (i.e., the intervention of the computer). The basic purpose of this story was to introduce Hunter to the readers, and it did a good job of that.
The Hunter stories never had any titles.
WNU Connections: Demian Hunter's dystopian future world occurred in an alternate future time track of the WNU that was obviously very different from either the Star Trek/Legion future or the Non-Trek future, to use some choice creative mythographer parlance. This particular future time track will be referred to as the Hunter Timeline by this author. It's an important sub-section of the Warrenverse, and it includes the worlds of Derek Schreck, Demian Hunter, Karas Hunter, and Darklon the Mystic, all of whom dwell on this future timeline. This was the Hunter Timeline's first published appearance.
Demian Hunter later crosses over with Vampirella and the Rook in EERIE #130, thus definitively establishing the Hunter Timeline as occurring on an alternate future time track of the "consensus" WNU, and this time track is fully accessible from there. Demian Hunter is also later revealed to be an ancestor of Darklon the Mystic, who dwells much further in the future of the Hunter Timeline.
Time Frame: This story took place at some point in the very early 22nd century on the Hunter Timeline. It occurred some years after Demian Hunter's chronologically earlier appearance in the Exterminator story from 1994 #19, which occurred sometime between 2102 and 2104. In this story, Hunter was called a "21st century warrior." He was probably born at some point in the very late 21st century, but this story occurs in the first or second decade of the 22nd century on this particular time track.
Story: Rich Margopoulos
Art: Paul Neary
This story opens with Hunter standing triumphant over a demon that he just slew in combat…and his exhilaration over victory was subsumed by a morose feeling that the world was bereft of justice. He then began thinking back to the historical forces that created the world in which he now lived. He recalled that many decades earlier [see Comments below] a nuclear war had ensued. People caught within the blast zones eventually mutated into a race of saurian-skinned mutants who could summon powerful esper energy by joining hands together and concentrating, and they often used this psionic energy to kill humans. After a 50-year discovery period, the mutants and humans went to war with each other, and a huge amount of barbarity ensued, with the ranks of the human race greatly lessened in number. This war was referred to as the 'Demon Wars,' since the mutants were referred to as 'demons' by the human race. The humans eventually won the war. As a result of the nuclear conflagration, both human and mutant civilization used remnants of advanced technology alongside a primitive existence off the land, and much of the fighting was done with weaponry such as swords, daggers, and staffs. Transportation was provided by mutated domesticated animals that resembled horses with beaks.
It was then that Hunter's thoughts flashbacked to his own genesis.
James and Elizabeth Hunter were a married couple living in a small farm within a valley just outside the highlands of the desert. One day, the barking of their dog told them that they had unexpected visitors…visitors who shot their dog to death with a zee gun (zee guns were an example of advanced technology to be found in this dystopian landscape…they projected violet-hued laser beams as offensive weapons). The Hunter cabin was then assailed by the mutant General Ophal and a small group of his surviving men, the rest of his troop being lost in a battle. Ophal demanded that the Hunters provide him with mounts so that they may make their escape. When Jim Hunter refused, Ophal slit his throat and then he and his men attacked and raped Elizabeth Hunter. After they left, the despondent woman would learn that she was impregnated with Ophal's child. Her hybrid human/mutant son Demian was all she had left in her life, and she greatly loved the boy despite the nature of his genesis. However, because her son was a half-breed, they found themselves ostracized by the other humans who lived nearby, and Demian found himself undergoing a wanderlust regarding that which lay behind the hills by his home. By the time he was 15, his mother died of a fatal illness, and the embittered young boy spurned civilization to live off the land in the mountains.
Eventually, however, Demian Hunter encountered a human military cavalry, and he asked to join them in their battle against the demons. The captain of the troupe agreed when one of his soldiers, Sgt. Jagger, who was also a mutant/human hybrid, pointed out that hybrids make the best scouts. Hunter entered the tutelage of Jagger, who arduously trained him in hand-to-hand combat methods, including the use of a staff as a weapon. Hunter proved to be a genius in the arts of combat, and quickly took to the lessons over the course of many months. The young hybrid lost his mentor on his first mission for the cavalry, when the two of them investigated a strategic pass in the mountains, to see if was truly unguarded as reported. The reports proved untrue, and the two were attacked by a duo of demon raiders. Jagger was fatally injured when one of the mutants hit him in the chest with a con-crush-ion grenade. The young Hunter managed to kill both mutants in battle, avenging Sgt. Jagger.
With his thoughts returning to the present, Hunter could find no peace…even though the Demon Wars were long since over, he now found himself forced to confront the violence and brutality within his own soul. He wandered away into the sunset, once again wondering if there was no justice of any kind in the world.
Comments: This story was put together for the express purpose of telling Demian Hunter's origin, and here we learned his forename for the first time. Here we also met General Ophal, Demian Hunter's biological father, for the first time. The story seemed to be put together by author Rich Margopolous rather quickly, but it still served its purpose, and the pace was quite fast. Paul Neary did a good job with the artwork.
This series rarely explored any facet of humanity in any type of depth, consisting solely of simplistic but well-crafted action yarns, and it greatly appealed to Warren readers who seemed to enjoy tales of warriors in a dystopic future world. Hunter hardly boasted an original plot or origin, and the scripts certainly didn't stimulate one's intellectual faculties, but it was a nice, quickly paced read.
It wasn't revealed which part of the North American continent either the framing sequence of the story or Hunter's origin account took place.
In this story, it was stated that the nuclear war which knocked society back into barbarism and spawned the mutant race occurred in the year 2001. This is rather unlikely, because it's later revealed that the "Schreck" series (which began in this very same issue of EERIE) took place on this timeline, and led into Demian Hunter's world, and that the psychosomatic "werewolves" that Derrek Schreck faced were the precursors of the mutant 'demons' that Hunter battled. This connection probably wasn't conceived this early into the Hunter series, and it was a few months before the authors of this series decided to connect the worlds of Derrek Schreck and Demian Hunter. Hence, the brief description of the nuclear war in this story can be said to be a very simplistic allusion to the events of the "Schreck" series.
WNU Connections: As I have stated elsewhere, in the WNU the human race had a much more robust genetic structure than its counterpart in the "Real" Universe [RU]. Hence, the radiation released by the nuclear weapons caused numerous humans to evolve into a mutant, radiation-resistant race rather than simply killing or sickening them, as would have been the case in our own universe.
It was probably at some point within the first few decades of the 21st century that the Hunter Timeline diverged from the mainstream "consensus" WNU, not as early as the year 2001. See the upcoming index to "Schreck."
Time Frame: The framing sequence of this story took place anytime from a month to a few months following the last story, to give Hunter enough time to return from the frozen "Rocky Mountain" area. The flashback sequence to his origin occurs about 15 to 20 years earlier, a few years prior to his appearance in the Exterminator story from 1994 #19.
Story: Rich Margopoulos
Art: Paul Neary
As Hunter was stalking a demons' trail, he found himself overcome with hunger and thirst. Approaching a small human frontier town, Hunter noticed the smell of cooking emanating from one particular edifice, less dilapidated than the other buildings he could see. After knocking on the door and invoking Code Three, the last Presidential executive order granting all soldiers, upon request, the right to shelter and food in any house they came across during the war, Hunter was rebuked by the man inside. He reminded Hunter, "There ain't no more code…there ain't no more army…
"…an' for that matter, there ain't no more U.S. of A.!"
After telling the irate soldier that food was too scarce to give away to strangers, the man slammed the door in Hunter's face. Angered, and prodded on by hunger and thirst, Hunter broke the door down and demanded that the owner reconsider his answer. The man grabbed a shot gun, but Hunter easily disarmed him without seriously injuring him. When the man's wife came into the room to tend to her husband, Hunter demanded food from her kitchen. What Hunter didn't notice was the couple's young daughter, Kathleen, who hit the soldier on the head from behind and knocked him unconscious [now that was embarrassing!].
Hunter awakened to find himself tied up and at the mercy of the townspeople, who were about to hang him since they recognized him as a half-breed. The warrior told the people that a conclave of demons was in their area, to which Kathleen's father disagreed, telling him that the last of the mutants were destroyed in the war (this appeared to be a common but incorrect belief among the humans of this time period). Hunter replied, "Wrong! The demons fell back…retreated to re-group their forces! They're still out there…planning to attack anew!"
In fact, Hunter exclaimed that he followed a winged patrol of demons to this area, and if the people freed him, he might be able to save them from the impending mutant attack.
The townspeople disagreed and proceeded to tie a noose around Hunter's neck, and they began hanging him. Just as the warrior passed out, the people suddenly released him and fled. He fell to the ground, still alive. It turned out that a group of radioactive mutant corpse-like entities [huh?? See Comments below]-led by a powerfully built demon flying on a winged mount-suddenly appeared and attacked [very conveniently, for Hunter's sake-and very ironic for their sake]. The leader was accompanied by two other demons on flying mounts who led the ground troop of skeletal mutants to attack the humans. Kathleen quickly cut Hunter loose and he began battling this strange group of mutants to save the humans. At one point, Hunter managed to gain one of the flying mounts by leaping upon and killing the mutant on its back. Now airborne, Demian Hunter killed a second mutant on a flying mount, and confronted the leader of the group, who revealed his immediate intentions. This town had one of the last steers in the area, and the mutant leader intended to have his "deformed slaves" consume the bovine, thus preventing the humans from mating it with other steers they happened to find, "forever condemning them to weakness for lack of meat" [huh??? I guess these people didn't believe in a wholesome meal of soy and other cultivated crops].
As the corpse-like demons began to pursue Kathleen through the streets, Hunter grappled with the leader of the mutants and ended up falling to the ground, a landing which rendered him unconscious again [I think in this story, Hunter should receive a medal for the most times a character ever got knocked out in a single short story]. Unfortunately, a landing on the roof cushioned the mutant leader from the fall, and he called a group of his skeletal minions to consume Hunter's flesh. Though the mutant/human hybrid forced himself back to consciousness, he realized that he would never get up in time to save himself from the demon horde now descending upon him.
Just then, the demon leader and his horde of mutant accomplices were torn to shreds by a staccato of machine fun fire, courtesy of Kathleen's father. It turned out that he [again, conveniently] happened to have a rusting but still functional weapon and ammo left over from the war. Within moments, he cut down every one of the attacking creatures with the machine gun fire, saving Hunter's life in the process (such weapons were relatively rare in Hunter's world). At this point, the people now realized that Hunter had told them the truth about the demons and was actually on their side [despite his lack of manners].
Unfortunately, upon recovering, Hunter and his rescuer learned, to the dismay of both, that Kathleen had been killed by the 'friendly fire' of the machine gun. A battered Hunter simply told her bereaved father, "I fear her soul has more peace now than yours will ever know, old man!"
Hunter then realized that had Kathleen lived, she may have become something very special to him.
Comments: This was an interesting Hunter tale in a variety of ways. For one thing, it displayed the reaction of the surviving human populace to the presidential edict of Code Three now that the USA no longer existed. It also emphasized how Hunter certainly wasn't the same type of hero that, for instance, Superman was…first and foremost, he was a soldier as opposed to being the type of hero who functioned with a code of conduct above threatening innocent people if he needed a meal or shelter. Some may compare Hunter to the Punisher due to the desire of both to utterly exterminate their enemies, with Demian Hunter focusing his ire entirely upon the saurian mutants who inhabited his world just as the Punisher did criminals. The framing sequence of this story even had Hunter's lynching compared to white lynchings of blacks in the past, even though the "Hunter" series didn't usually deal with any "deep" subject matter, as did many other Warren series.
Though the story was mulled a bit by a number of plot contrivances (such as Demian Hunter being miraculously saved from death on two different occasions) it still had a brisk, fast pace to it.
No explanation was given for the unusual type of mutant presented in this story. They resembled walking mutant skeletons with fragments of saurian skin, and they seemed to have a voracious capacity to consume organic flesh. Despite their zombie-like appearance, these creatures appeared to be actually alive rather than reanimated corpses, since they could be killed with conventional weapons such as daggers and bullets. They were also quite swift, unlike the plodding zombies created by supernatural forces that have been seen in various sources in the past. They did seem to be near-mindless, however, and fully under the control of the three conventional mutants who led them during the attack. Since the unnamed mutant leader described them continuously as "radioactive" it may be deduced that these particular creatures were the result of certain mutants being particularly heavily irradiated, or who were further irradiated from an additional source, thus transforming them into these creatures.
These mutants appeared to be simply intended as a single-story horrific gimmick, since author Margopoulos didn't bother to explain them at all (just as other such on-the-spot horror gimmicks like the Dead-Thing from the Dracula story in EERIE #47 likewise wasn't explained). They were drawn by artist Neary in a sinister, caricature-like fashion, though not nearly as bizarre as the mutants who appeared under the pen of Alex Nino in the Exterminator story from 1994 #19. It may be surmised that Neary drew the skeletal mutants in an exaggerated fashion, since it's difficult to imagine that creatures who are barely more than a skeleton covered by pieces of skin-with no visible internal organs-could possibly have been alive.
This story wasn't told in linear fashion, but I synopsized it in linear progression to make it easier for my readers to follow.
WNU Connections: Large amounts of radiation in the WNU has sometimes produced zombie-like creatures similar to those of the mutants in this story in various sources, so such an entity was not unprecedented.
Time Frame: This story took place anytime from a month to several months after the previous tale.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
This story opens with Demian Hunter coming across the ruins of the human village of Pharmark Phal, a locale that was very familiar to him…it was a place he came to often when he was seeking friendly people and food. He traced a demon war party to this area and discovered that the village had been ravaged by the mutants.
Upon walking through the wreckage, Hunter came upon the dying form of an old man, a man whom he had called friend over the last ten years. With his dying breath, the elderly man explained to Hunter that the demons came for food, wine, and women…and upon entering the home of this man and his daughter Tynh, they discovered a glove that Hunter left behind on one of his visits. Now driven to a berserk frenzy with the realization that these people had harbored their greatest enemy, the mutants tortured all the men to death and raped all of the women, killing several of them in the process and taking others with them as captives. Once the demons grew tired of their ravaging of the village, they set it aflame.
The old man then told Hunter that Tynh had been taken, and he begged him to find her and save her life. He then expired.
Vowing vengeance, Hunter burned all of the dead of Pharmark Phal and returned to the trail of the demon war party. He also swore to slay his own biological father, the demon general Ophal [spelled 'Ofphal' in this story], who had raped his mother, inadvertently siring the mutants' greatest foe in the process.
Hunter tracked the mutant troupe into a swamp, and he slew one of them in battle. Taking to the treetops to travel quicker, he swiftly tracked the demons to their camp, where he slew two more of them. He also put a young girl who had been tortured and sexually abused in ghastly fashion by one of the mutants out of her misery.
Soon, Hunter located Tynh, who was thankfully still alive and not seriously injured, and he freed her (the majority of the demon war party seemed to have departed the camp). Freeing the rest of the women, Hunter asked Tynh to take them to a monastery located nearby, as it was filled with a friendly group of monks who would see to their safety. Before departing, Tynh begged Hunter to give up his mission-a mission that would eventually result in his death-and to go to the monastery with them to live a life of peace. He replied, "No demon is safe while I live, Tynh. While demons live, no human is safe. I cannot stay."
Hunter then returned to his quest to find the demon Ophal. As he did so, he felt a pang of sadness at leaving Tynh, a girl who he watched grow up from childhood, and whom he realized he had feelings for. He knew that he would never see her again.
Comments: With this story, Budd Lewis took over the scripting, and he kept the series as interesting as Rich Margopoulos did, as well as keeping it on the same thematic track. The mutants were still depicted as one-dimensionally evil, prone to committing hideous atrocities against humans, particularly the women, whom they used and abused to a hideous extent (in this story, it was explained that the women were raped with heated spears). Both writers of this series went out of their way to depict demons as evil, and the humans were often depicted as peaceful people who were struggling with their frontier lives and wanted no part of any war. Demian Hunter was a brutal slayer of the mutant race who never even considered the possibility of a peaceful solution between the two races. The mutants were never portrayed in any fashion that suggested that they had a thriving culture with traces of beauty and art. They were simply brutal conquerors who treated humans as victims. This one-sided portrayal of the mutants would continue into the "Hunter 2" series that succeeded this one.
It should be noted that the "Hunter" series was never intended to tackle important themes, such as the notion of two disparate races of sentient beings learning to live together despite their differences. In fact, the mutant race still had much in common with humanity, since they were able to mate with each other and produce viable offspring. "Hunter" was simply a cool adventure series with easily defined bad guys, and where the hero had to be as ruthless as the villains in order to survive in this harsh dystopian world. In this sense, Budd Lewis can be commended for keeping up the quality of the Hunter stories, and this time he added more depth to Hunter's persona by showing his compassionate side, and making it clear that he was capable of love even if his mission never allowed him time to pursue a course in his life that would provide him with a sense of inner peace and happiness. In this sense, Demian Hunter was an eminently tragic character, the ultimate soldier who could enjoy no life beyond one of constant battle and killing. This was the first story to suggest that Hunter had a much more complex character than the previous tales in the series had implied.
Paul Neary continued as artist of the series, and he continued its high quality here.
Time Frame: It's hard to tell precisely how long after the last story this one took place…the tales always seem to begin with Hunter tracking a new demon party to some different locale. Because the locations were quite different from each other, it may suggest that at least a month-or perhaps a few months-had to pass between the two stories, to give Hunter the time to travel to a new location. It's also possible that following this story, Demian Hunter was snatched out of his indigenous time track into the mainstream Warrenverse by the techno-wizard Ten Ichi, where he crossed over with Vampirella and the Rook in the story from EERIE #130 (indexed elsewhere on this site).
Story: Bill DuBay
Art: Paul Neary
As Hunter began his last mission [prior to his later resurrection in EERIE #121], he wandered into a fetid region that has been nicknamed "Hell" due to its abundance of mutated plant and animal life (this may be an area where several of the mutated mounts that have been used by both humans and mutants-both of the land-roving and airborne variety-come from). This time, it appeared that Hunter was on the trail of Ophal [also spelled 'Ofphal'], the demon general whose rape of his mother sired him so many years ago. It had long been Demian Hunter's dream to locate and slay Ophal.
Hunter was astounded to come across a large castle in the midst of this area. He was also surprised that the castle appeared unguarded. Upon entering, he discovered that it had no visible sentries but plenty of supplies, thereby implying that mutants had been using it recently. He now realized that Ophal must be nearby and possibly prepared for his errant son's arrival.
As Hunter wandered down in a dungeon area, the withered hand of an old man-who was trapped in one of the chambers-suddenly appeared between the steel bars and warned the mutant/human warrior to watch his back. The warning came too late, for Hunter suddenly found himself impaled through the shoulder by a hurled wooden spear, and he collapsed into unconsciousness. Hunter awakened to find himself the new roommate of the entrapped old man, who explained to him that one of the demons threw a disease-ridden spear through Hunter's shoulder. He was now infected, and doomed to die slowly and agonizingly. He further explained that they were within Bathory Castle [see WNU Connections below], which was inhabited by the Bathory clan for centuries, including all throughout the Demon Wars, and the last human owners of the castle-John and Margaret Bathory-had been slain by the demons who had taken over the edifice.
Hunter then told his new friend (who had tried to patch him up as best he could) that he was prepared to die, and that his only regret was being unable to actually slay General Ophal. The old man then informed him that Ophal was within Bathory Castle itself. He then explained that the castle was haunted by the ghost of a human girl called the Blood Princess, and that she was terrorizing the mutants who had taken refuge in the place. This explained why there were so few demons in the castle, and the old man opined that there were only three or four left in there with Ophal. When Hunter suggested that they were less of a threat than he imagined, the old man said, "Don't underestimate demons! They're ruthless! As long as there is one left alive, the human race is in danger!"
When Hunter finally got around to asking the old man who he was, he revealed that he was Derek Schreck, the legendary demon-hunter who had battled demons in their earliest incarnation many decades previous [see the upcoming index to "Schreck" elsewhere on this site for the full skinny on Derek Schreck]. The one-handed Schreck (now bereft of his multi-purpose metallic cup that replaced his severed right hand) described how he battled those early mutants, whom he had called 'werewolves' back then, long before the Demon Wars, and that he had been captured while out for one last mission of glory. He was now far past his prime and no longer the champion demon-hunter that he was in his youth.
After hearing a sudden sound, the duo looked outside of their chamber to see that the demon who had been guarding them had been mysteriously killed via a knife in his back. Schreck declared that this was done by the Blood Princess. Then, their chamber door was unlocked. Suspecting that it might be a trap, the wounded Hunter and ancient Schreck wandered into the hallway.
The trail left for them soon led to an area of the castle that they surmised no demon had ever been to…for it contained a nuclear missile! Schreck then concluded that the castle must have served as an armory during the war, and he had no idea that any nuclear weapons were left on Earth. He conjectured that the ghost must have led them there so that they could use that nuclear weapon against the last of the demons. Looking in the other direction, Hunter then said, "It wasn't a ghost that brought us here[,] Schreck! But now I know why you call her the Blood Princess!"
And in the corner sat a very young girl with a smile on her face and playing with a doll…whose clothes were all covered in blood.
Comments: This was the only story in the "Hunter" series that ended in a cliffhanger, and it was appropriately left for the resolution of the series.
For the final two-part story in the series, Bill DuBay took the reins in his own hands. It appears to have been his idea to tie in Demian Hunter's world with that of the previously seen Derek Schreck, whose own series just ended a few issues earlier; the original series scribe Rich Margopoulos seems to have never intended this, based upon the brief origin he gave regarding the Hunter Timeline. Paul Neary remained competently in charge of the art. This chapter of the final two-part story was well-rendered by the entire artistic team, and the inclusion of the ancient Derek Schreck was a welcome sight. The two parts to this final Hunter story make it an official crossover between the latter and Schreck. Though Schreck's series was weak, his character was moved up a few notches on the respectability meter by his inclusion in this series.
WNU Connections: The appearance of a Bathory Castle in this story was an interesting one. The Bathory family not only exists in real life (a.k.a., the "Real" Universe [RU]), but also remains an important lineage in the WNU. In the RU, the wealthy Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a ruthless serial killer who delighted in torturing and killing the many young girls who worked as her servants, and she believed that she retained her youth by bathing in the blood of these victims. It's believed that her story was a partial inspiration for Bram Stoker's novel DRACULA.
Since Bathory was European, it can be surmised that in the WNU, the Bathory clan had a prominent American branch.
The legend of the ghostly Blood Princess described in this story may derive from one of the girls who had been killed by Countess Bathory, or it may have been implied to have been the ghost of Bathory herself. Of course, the ghost turned out to be just a legend with no basis in fact even in the WNU.
In the WNU, Countess Bathory became an actual vampire, and she appears (among other places) in the 'Castlevania' video game series by Konami, as an ally of the powerful soul-clone Dracula-Mathias.
Time Frame: This story occurs anywhere from several months to a year following the previous tale. This story makes it clear that the "Hunter" series must take place no later than the first decade of the 22nd century, despite later claims that it took place much later in history, including the 23rd Century (in the Vampirella and the Time Force story in EERIE #130) and even the 24th Century (in the Exterminator story in 1994 #19). Schreck's own series clearly took place at some point in the 21st century, judging by the cars and the other technology seen. My current theory is that it took place during the 2040s. For Schreck to have still been alive to directly crossover with Demian Hunter-even as a very elderly man-the "Hunter" series could only have taken place several decades following the "Schreck" series, and not a century later. In the Hunter Timeline, no life-preserving nano-technology appears to have been developed, though biotechnology in the form of the Exterminator cyborgs (see 1994 #19 and the "Hunter 2" series, both indexed elsewhere on this site) was indeed developed.
It's my current theory, based on studying the various texts-including the story in EERIE #130-that the 'final' adventure of Demian Hunter took place around the year 2108. Derek Schreck may have been in his 90s during this story.
Story: Bill DuBay
Art: Paul Neary
Hunter and Schreck tinkered with the nuclear weapon and activated it, setting it to detonate in 60 minutes, both of them more than willing to destroy a third of the globe in order to annihilate a few surviving demons. When Hunter mentions that his only regret was that he couldn't kill Ophal personally, the 'Blood Princess'-whose name is revealed here as Princess Elizabeth Bathory [see WNU Connections below]-the young girl told the hybrid warrior that she knew exactly where the demon general was hiding in the castle and that she would take him there. Schreck warned Hunter that with the deadly poison in his system, he was in no shape to take on his sire, but the half-breed soldier reminded him that they would all be dead within the hour when the bomb detonated anyway, so he might as well have a crack at Ophal.
Elizabeth led her two new allies to the bedroom which was now Ophal's personal quarters, a chamber that used to belong to John and Margaret Bathory. [In this scene, Hunter tells Elizabeth that her parents died in a much less humiliating way than his mother and her husband died, but this is really untrue…Margaret Bathory was raped numerous times by her mutant captors and John Bathory committed suicide due to extreme anguish over his inability to protect her, which was a similar fate to that which befell Hunter's family.]
As they entered the bedchamber, they found a seated Ophal waiting for them…who was now old, half-starved, and missing one arm. Hunter told Schreck and Elizabeth to leave, as Ophal was his to kill…he then revealed who he was to the mutant general.
When Schreck left the room, he lamented to Elizabeth that he didn't have his wrist-cup and its bandolier of weapons so that he could deal with the other two demons in the castle. The young girl told him that she knew where it was hidden [and Schreck was understandably amazed at the knowledge this girl had of the castle and everything within it!]. Schreck was now re-armed, so to speak [he also gave himself a shave and a haircut…though why he felt the need to waste time doing so is beyond me]. He also donned Hunter's helmet, which was taken to the same room as his wrist-cup.
As Hunter engaged his hated biological father in discussion before killing him, Ophal told his errant offspring that he was "weak" like a human, and that mutants are, "incapable of self-pity! We feel no emotions…so we have no weaknesses!" He also said that Hunter was only "half a man" for being a half-breed, to which Hunter agreed, and being born an outcast from humans and mutants alike was one of the prime reasons he hated Ophal so much (the other reason being what he did to his mother, of course). It was then that Hunter told Ophal about the activated doomsday bomb, and that it would be detonating within ten minutes.
In the meantime, the now re-armed Schreck and Elizabeth Bathory confronted and slew the two mutant minions of Ophal in battle.
Ophal was incredulous over the revelation of the bomb, reminding Hunter that he and his allies would die with him when it detonated. With 14 seconds left to detonation, Hunter said that he was already prepared to die, and he lifted his dagger to quickly slay Ophal before the bomb robbed him of the chance…only to discover that he was unable to kill the man who was his father, regardless of how evil and brutal he was.
At that same moment, the timer expired and the bomb failed to detonate (this makes sense, because Hunter and Schreck were hardly tech-savvy enough to know how to properly activate a nuclear bomb, especially one that laid insensate for so long).
As Ophal was chastising his son for his seeming weakness, Schreck arrived at the chamber with his cupped crossbow shaft re-loaded and told the mutant general that he was now the last mutant alive. When the weakened Hunter said that it looked like humanity had now truly won, Ophal quickly took him off guard and shoved a dagger clear through his son's chest, mortally wounding him. Schreck retaliated by skewering Ophal with his crossbow shaft, and in the moments before his death the demon leader announced that in the end, his son had truly died in a "proud" and "silent" manner…worthy of a demon.
As Ophal died, Schreck ran to Hunter, only to find that he had already expired.
Sadly, Derek Schreck and Elizabeth Bathory buried the fallen warrior, with his staff and helmet marking his grave, and then departed into the valley.
Comments: This was a fine ending to the series, and the dialogue between Hunter and Ophal [spelled 'Ofphal' here] was well-crafted by author Bill DuBay, and the art by Paul Neary was pleasing to the eye. This story also demonstrated how different Warren heroes like Hunter and Schreck were from the heroes in the Marvel and DC Universes…they had no compunctions over detonating a nuclear weapon and wiping out all life over a huge area just to take out the three last mutants, whereas the typical Marvel or DC hero would never be so ruthless (I doubt even the Punisher or Wolverine would do such a thing). On the other hand, Hunter demonstrated a surprising amount of compassion when he was unable to kill his father as the moment of truth arrived. The failure of the bomb to detonate added a high degree of tragic irony to the situation. It's to author DuBay's credit that he gave us the ending that he did, which probably surprised many readers, especially when you consider that Ophal (along with all of his fellow mutants) had no sympathetic qualities whatsoever. Hunter was truly a soldier of many contradictions, and the complexity of his character was well displayed throughout his six stories. He didn't get anywhere near the page count that heroes like Spider-Man or Superman got from Warren's rivals, but the Warren writers developed a fine honed art form out of presenting the stories of characters with a finite publication length (not including Vampirella and the Rook, whose popularity dictated an ongoing publication schedule). This made Warren a good degree less predictable with their characters than Marvel or DC, even as this publishing policy prevented Warren's characters from becoming household names.
It was good to see Schreck back in action in this story, despite his advanced age. It was also very refreshing to see an elderly man and a very young girl like Elizabeth Bathory depicted as such formidable individuals, especially against so ruthless an adversary as the mutants.
As it turned out, Demian Hunter was the only slain Warren character who was given a Marvel or DC style resurrection and was not allowed to lie in peace. He was revived in the Darklon the Mystic/Hunter story in EERIE #121, which will be covered in the index to "Darklon the Mystic" elsewhere on this site.
This issue of EERIE featured an excellent cover rendition of Demian Hunter via the talented hand of Ken Kelly. It was the second of three covers that Hunter received, not including his appearance among the 'Time Force' on the cover of EERIE #130.
The entire six-part "Hunter" series was collected in EERIE #69 (where he received his third EERIE cover).
It should be noted that General Ophal's death may not have occurred as stated in this story, according to the Hunter/Darklon the Mystic story in EERIE #121.
WNU Connections: With deadly irony, the Princess Bathory was named Elizabeth after that of her infamous ancestor. Though she was as adept at spilling blood as the original Elizabeth Bathory, unlike her predecessor she thankfully didn't delight in taking innocent lives. It's a shame that the full story of Princess Elizabeth Bathory wasn't given and that her character wasn't explored in more depth, and she became one of those Warren characters who appeared without much explanation, made a strong impact on the reader, and then faded into obscurity with the end of a series or story just as quickly. It would have been interesting to know how she acquired such formidable skills of stealth and assassination, or if such traits were strictly genetic. The Bathory family of the WNU definitely deserves further research by creative mythographers in the future.
Time Frame: This story takes place immediately after the previous story. It's my conjecture that it occurred on the Hunter Timeline around the year 2108. This timeline continues into the "Hunter 2" series.
Note: For those who would like to read the indexed entry to the Hunter/Darklon the Mystic story from EERIE #121 without reading through the "Darklon the Mystic" index, go here.