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Lucifer is a DC Comics character that starred in an eponymous comic book published under the Vertigo imprint. The series, a spin-off of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, concerns the adventures of the fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar on Earth, in Heaven and through other realms of creation after abandoning Hell in the Sandman series. Lucifer also appears as a supporting character in issues of The Demon, The Spectre, and other DC Universe comics. Two angels, a human, and briefly, Superman, have taken his place as ruler of Hell (The latter in a Vertigo imprint).

In 2009, Lucifer was ranked as IGN's 68th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Fictional character biography

Sandman continuity

In the earlier related series The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman, Lucifer abandoned his lordship over Hell. While Lucifer had previously appeared in various stereotypical guises in earlier DC books, Gaiman's version was unique and premised on English poet and prose writer John Milton's Paradise Lost (at Gaiman's request of the artist Lucifer looks like David Bowie). In the Sandman series, Lucifer had ruled as lord of Hell for ten billion years. Over that time, he had manipulated the various demons of Hell against each other, provided a place for dead mortals to be tormented, and led the war against Heaven.

However, at some point during his rule, he had become bored with his existence. He became tired of the various stereotypes that mortals held of the devil, such as the idea that he purchased and traded for souls, which were largely untrue, and that he forced mortals to commit evil acts. He had become tired of his reign over Hell, and felt it an unfair punishment that he should have to rule there forever simply because he once rebelled. In the Sandman story Season of Mists, Lucifer expels all demons and damned souls from Hell before locking Hell's gates and handing over the key to Hell to Dream of the Endless, the title character of The Sandman series. Eventually, control of Hell was handed over to two Angels, Duma (the angel of silence) and Remiel ("set over those who rise"), while Lucifer simply retired to Earth, initially to Perth, Western Australiamarker and later to Los Angeles, Californiamarker.

Solo ongoing series

Lucifer was the main character in an eponymous ongoing series that ran for 75 issues and the Lucifer: Nirvana one-shot, from June 2000 to August 2006, the entire run of which was written by Mike Carey. (This series was preceded by 1999's Carey-penned The Sandman Presents: Lucifer miniseries.) Carey described the book as being "autobiographical", in so much as Lucifer is so much the opposite of the author and all humanity that he "defines [us] in negative": to Carey, the essence of the character was that "we play safe. Most of us do, most of the time . . . but Lucifer doesn't know the meaning of safe, and he never bothers to look down at the tramlines. He goes wherever the hell he likes, picks his fights where he finds them and generally wins . . . following [his] own will and [his] own instincts to the very end of the line, no matter what the obstacles are".

In the series, Lucifer runs a piano bar (an element introduced in the Sandman story The Kindly Ones) called "Lux" in Los Angelesmarker, with the assistance of his female consort, Mazikeen who is a Lilim, one of the race descended from Lilith. Lucifer is portrayed as a sophisticated and charming man, according to the stereotypical gentleman-devil.

The theme of the Lucifer series revolves around the free will problem. Carey's Lucifer is a Nietzschean figure representing will and individual willpower, who challenges the 'tyranny of predestination'. While in heaven's eyes this is blasphemy, Lucifer points out that rebellion (and indeed all sin) and damnation as consequence were pre-planned by his Creator. Lucifer rejects God's rule as tyrannical and unjust. Violent, aggressive, vengeful, and dictatorial aspects of heaven's rule are represented by the archangel Amenadiel, who has a particular hatred of Lucifer and leads attacks of various kinds against him, such as verbal criticism, marshalling the host of heaven as well as challenging him to individual combat. For his part, Lucifer disdains Amenadiel, treating his emotional outbursts with contempt and repeatedly defeating his assaults with Machiavellian scheming.

Elaborate codes of conduct and schemes of entrapment based on these codes are vital elements of the DC\Vertigo magical universe. Lucifer appears as the master of these Machiavellian arts. In an encounter during the first Sandman story arc (around issue 5#) a weakened Dream outsmarts Lucifer. Lucifer first swears revenge on Dream, but later comes to accept Dream's critique of his role and project as Lord of Hell. This inspires Lucifer's abdication, a vital element of the Sandman saga, and the point of departure for the Lucifer series.

For Lucifer and Dream, their word is bond. This shared characteristic is key to both character's mastery of manipulation and maneuvering in the realms of magic. As Daivd Easterman, a character who sees himself as a victim of Lucifer, puts it: "when the devil wants you to do something, he doesn't lie at all. He tells you the exact, literal truth. And he lets you find your own way to hell" Refusal to lie is also central to the moral position of both characters- they see themselves as neutral or amoral facilitators of forces within individuals (will and dreams respectively) with Lucifer actively and effectively combating what he regards as corrupting moral codes. While both characters avoiding lying, their callous morality seldom extends to compassion. Both sagas are moral dramas, but while Sandman involves a tale of atonement, Lucifer is concerned with war and peace in the heavens with Lucifer regarding the sacrifice of millions of souls as unimportant collateral damage.

As the series opened in 2000, Lucifer's "restful" retirement was disturbed by a series of associates from his past, and after various catalytic events, he endeavored to create a universe in competition with (and presumably against the wishes of) his father, Yahweh. This puts him on a collision course with several powerful mystical entities that have a vested interest in the new creation and draws the angelic host into the fray - including his brother, the archangel Michael Demiurgos.

The series paralleled Sandman in several ways, with epic fantasy stories being told in arcs separated by one-shot episodes depicting a smaller, more personal tale. Unlike Sandman, the series has had a consistent art team in Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly, with most of the odd issues illustrated by Dean Ormston. The title's 50th issue was penciled by P. Craig Russell, homaging Sandman #50. Structurally, aside from the meeting in Hell that Lucifer arranges with angel Amenadiel in much the same way Dream did with himself in the pages of Sandman, the series follows its own path. Numerous Gods appear, with greater focus on Judeo-Christian religion (as viewed by John Milton in Paradise Lost), Japanese and Nordic mythology than in Sandman. As for the Endless themselves, all but Destruction, Desire and Despair appear, but their appearances are small and very rare.

Cover artists included Duncan Fegredo, Christopher Moeller and Mike Kaluta. The letters are inconsistent, with the first half of the series carrying particularly established fonts of Gaudium, Michael and God only to drop almost all of them save Lucifer's towards the end with numerous changes in the letterers.

The series ended in June 2006 with issue #75 and has thus far been collected in eleven books, with a standalone story (Lucifer: Nirvana) published as a smaller graphic novel. The series' parent title, The Sandman, also ran for 75 issues.

Powers and abilities

Lucifer possesses incalculable power; he can shape the matter of creation into anything he can imagine including matter, energy, and more abstract concepts such as time. However, he does have certain limitations. Simply put, he cannot create something out of nothing. He needs existing matter (and where that is unavailable, the Demiurgic power of the archangel Michael) to provide the foundation for him to shape. Only his brother Michael Demiurgos is his equal in power, and only the God of the Covenant is superior to both of them. However, in certain dimensions he is powerless and much of his supernatural power depends upon possession of his angelic wings, but he is never without the formidable resources of his brilliant intellect and his unbending will.

Brief bibliography

Appearances outside Sandman and Lucifer
  • Secret Origins Vol. 2 #48 (April 1990), Stanley and His Monster
  • Books of Magic Vol. 1 #1 (January 1991)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #0
  • Demon Vol. 3 #2 (August 1990)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #5 (November 1990)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #6 (December 1990)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #7 (January 1991)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #19 (January 1992)
  • Demon Vol. 3 #50 (August 1994)
  • Spectre Vol. 3 #25 (January 1995)
  • Spectre Vol. 3 #57 (September 1997)
  • Hellblazer Vol. 1 #192 (March 2004)
  • The Witching Vol. 1 #1 (August 2004)
  • The Witching Vol. 1 #2 (September 2004)
  • The Witching Vol. 1 #9 (April 2005)

Other versions

  • In Weird Mystery Tales #4 (Jan-Feb 1973), a story by Jack Oleck and Rubeny depicts Lucifer, looking much like his present incarnation, save for a few panels in which he appeared as a more traditional devil, held prisoner by an order of monks. It also presents a prisoner switch trick not unlike the one performed in The Sandman: Season of Mists, in addition to being hosted by Destiny. This story may or may not be considered in continuity, or have been an influence on Gaiman and Carey. In the story, Lucifer gave Philip Burton his form in order to trade places with him and fulfill his wish for immortality. Lucifer walked away in the body of the elderly Burton.
  • The Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe lists Lucifer as first having appeared in a dream in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #65 and first genuine pre-Crisis appearance as DC Special Series #8 (The Brave and the Bold Special Starring Batman, Deadman and Sgt. Rock). The latter figure has hair like Lucifer as he appears in Sandman #4, but he is red-skinned and has a face like a traditional devil, complete with goatee, though his horns may be part of a headband. His wings are typically demonic-looking rather than the angelic wings of the Vertigo character. His appearance in the comic is brief, but he is specifically referred to as "Lucifer," rather than by other epithets. He has an advisory board consisting of Guy Fawkes, Benedict Arnold, Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Nero, and Bluebeard. He has an operative, Edward Dirkes, set bombs, while using a bronze Batman statue transported by the Easy Company like a voodoo doll.
  • A character called Lucifer, The Fallen Angel appears in Blue Devil #31 (the final issue). He has angelic wings and a halo, and his face includes dark facial hair. He does not have horns. Madame Xanadu recognizes that even with a magic book, he is not the real Lucifer. He is simply a washed-up actor who decides to be a costumed criminal for a living. He is dragged into Hell on a train at the end of the issue.
  • Writer Garth Ennis introduced a character intended to be the Devil as an antagonist in his run on the Hellblazer comic: however, as the character appeared at the same time as Gaiman's reuse of the Lucifer character, Ennis had to introduce a new back story for his character to distinguish the two: the Hellblazer character was named the First of the Fallen, and was ruler of Hell prior to and after Lucifer's reign. How this fits in with the reigns of the angels and Christopher Rudd has not been clarified.

Collected editions

Lucifer, including the Sandman Presents miniseries and the Nirvana one-shot, has been collected together into eleven trade paperbacks:



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