Marvel Comics Flashback Friday: Mephisto
By Tj Dietsch
Witness the hellish first appearance of the demon!
Every Friday, we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place, or object that made waves this week.
They say that magic always comes with a price. Though he’s more than familiar with the concept, Stephen Strange finds himself learning that lesson once again in the pages of DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION, by writers Nick Spencer and Donny Cates alongside artists Rod Reis and Szymon Kudranski.
The Master of the Mystic Arts had great intentions—to bring the fallen city of Las Vegas back after the events of Secret Wars. However, in doing so, he opened up a door for none other than Mephisto to saunter through. Now, Strange needs to work with other mystically inclined heroes to put an end to the evil lord’s machinations.
But who was the very first hero Mephisto tangled with? That would be the Sky-Rider of the Spaceways, as seen in the pages of 1968’s SILVER SURFER #3, by legends Stan Lee and John Buscema. Much like the X-Men, Norrin Radd found himself trying to help a world that feared him. Taking it upon himself to teach humanity a lesson, he unleashed power-disrupting bolts that brought machines and technology to a standstill.
The ensuing panic rippled through the dimensions to Mephisto’s dark realm where he had his servant prepare mystic vapors to witness Earth’s calamitous state. The ruler of the depths needed to make sure our planet survived, as long ago he developed a plan that would keep humans fairly hostile until Armageddon when he would harvest all of their souls.
Upon seeing the Surfer and sensing the goodness that would soon overcome the rage, Mephisto wanted to kill the one who could ruin his long term plans. So Mephisto traveled to Zenn-La and offered Shalla Bal a chance to see her love, Radd, who had been transformed by Galactus into the Silver Surfer. Back near Earth, the Surfer saw the error of his ways and ceased his attack on Earth just as Mephisto and Shalla arrived in their spaceship. The ship, which Mephisto tampered with, crash-landed with Norrin’s love still inside.
The Surfer used his Power Cosmic to resuscitate Shalla Bal just before Mephisto reappeared to tell our hero he was too good to let live, before transporting himself and Shalla Bal away to his own realm. While there, Mephisto realized that he wanted to break the Surfer, destroy his goodness, and turn him into an agent of evil. Having followed the dark one to his lair, Silver Surfer appeared and staunchly refused.
To change his opponent’s mind, Mephisto offered the Surfer riches beyond measure, a trio of beautiful women, and his own galactic empire—none of which appealed to our hero. After sending monsters against the cosmic champion (to no avail), Mephisto paralyzed him, reduced Norrin Radd to a thought, and implanted him inside the dark one’s own brain, where Mephisto figured he could eventually erode the hero’s the goodness.
Instead, the Surfer’s goodness shone through and nearly drove Mephisto mad, resulting in his cranial expulsion. With that, Mephisto played his last hand and gave the Surfer a choice: “Swear me your undying allegiance—or I send her back—back to Zenn-La—and Shalla Bal will be lost to you—forever!” Shalla spoke up and said that they could never truly love one another if he chose the former.
Though that fit the Silver Surfer’s plan to get Shalla Bal out of this situation with her life, the brief reunion and ensuing loss pained the hero to no end. Though he would menace the Surfer on his next several appearances, Mephisto eventually branched out to trouble everyone from Thor and Ghost Rider to Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange!
Mephisto unwittingly facilitated one of the more unique partnerships in comics when he decided to kill Cynthia von Doom while her son Victor was still a boy. Many years later, Doom tricked a certain powerful sorcerer into helping him get his mother’s soul away from Mephisto’s realm as seen in DOCTOR STRANGE & DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH AND TORMENT by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola! As you can imagine, that journey forged a complicated bond between the main characters, but also ensured that the demon called Mephisto would have no shortage of enemies any time soon.