When Cal was 8 years old, he was playing in the woods near his house when he came across a dead body missing its head. When his mom called the cops, Cal told all his weird theories to them. They laughed at the young boy and told him he would make a good detective condescendingly. It was the first in a long line of bizarre crimes that seemed attracted to Cal. That set the tone for the rest of his life. He tried to join the police force, but the police academy was swarmed by the undead while he was there. Blaming himself, he started self-medicating and eventually got the boot after failing a drug test within his first year in uniform. Ultimately, he got himself a private investigator license so he can still professionally look into the weird cases.
Cal McDonald is the paranormal detective from Dark Horse's Criminal Macabre series, written by Steve Niles. Niles first created Cal in 1990, influenced heavily by Vertigo's John "Hellblazer" Constantine. The character has been used in short stories, miniseries, and even non-illustrated novels published by several different companies, but his comics are mainly published by Dark Horse.
Tom Jane, actor and co-collaborator of Niles on Bad Planet, was featured as Cal on a few covers and was a favorite for a movie that sadly never materialized.
Cal is a man of many vices. He is an alcoholic and a user of a variety of different drugs. He is also a lover of nicotine and is almost never seen without a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
He presents himself as a cynic and a misanthrope. He is prone to temper tantrums and violent outbursts. His first kill was as a child when a pedophile attacked him on a beach. He uses crude language and purposefully rubs people the wrong way. This is done mostly for their benefit as Cal believes those who get close to him meet violent ends. Thus, he behaves this way to keep them at arm's length.
He is actually a great lover of people. He has a knack for sticking his neck out for anyone in danger. He often has a woman in his life that he has, at least, romantic tension with. His best friend, Mo'lock, an undead ghoul, is almost never not by his side. He inspires loyalty and trust in the people he has helped over the years.
He is a key figure in the supernatural war that Mo believes is coming. As such, he has become a figurehead among the ghoul community, who seek to aid the humans in the war, and a target by the monsters interested in winning the war. His many cases tend to be traps from those monsters who are trying to take him out before the war kicks off.
Cal's personality has never really evolved, although, his physical form has. After he was killed sacrificing himself to stop his vampire ex-girlfriend, Cal rose from the dead as a ghoul. But not just any ghoul. He was unknowingly leeching power from the nearby ghoul colony, causing many of them to weaken and expire. He continued to grow in strength until he absorbed the power of a few demons. This mutated him further, granting him wings and claws.
In this new form, Cal was the prophesized Third Child. When he combines his powers with the first two demon children, they would start the war between monsters and humans. Cal refused and confronted them instead. Upon killing them, Cal absorbed their power transforming him back into a human from a ghoul. However, he still seemed to be possessing the demon spirits that gave him his wings.
Major Story Arcs
Cal was tracking a vampire that was feeding on UCLA coeds, when he started noticing weird behavior among the monsters. The notoriously loner predator monsters like vampires and werewolves were caught co-mingling with a human named Maynard Crandall. A pack of werewolves broke into a medical lab, and then a ghoul friend of Cal’s was shredded by a pack of vampires as a warning to the rest of the colony to get out of town. The last straw was when a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie broke into a museum and killed an entomologist.
With bodies piling up, Detective Brueger, the only cop who remotely trusts Cal, invites him down to the precinct to answer some questions. Just then, a man in the holding cell turned into the biggest werewolf that Cal had ever seen. The police shot the wolf full of holes, a strategy that usually works despite the lore, but none of it was working. On a hunch, Cal uses the silver star badge of a nearby cop as a shuriken to the wolf’s head, killing it.
That werewolf had a similar welt on his hand as Maynard Crandall, who Cal also learned worked at the museum that was broken into. So, he and Brueger took a second look at his house. They found all of his research into one of the origin points of monsters, connecting them to a particular strain of the bubonic plague, the same strain that was stolen from the medical lab. He had used the stolen strain to reinvigorate the local species to their mythic power. The hand welt was the injection site. Now, the only way to kill them was the old folklore weaknesses.
Cal would load up on traditional weapons and head into the sewers with his ghoul friend, Mo’lock, and Brueger. They heard from the ghoul colony that the monsters were seen with a subway car full of normal people. They find Crandall turned into a zombie with a giant brain with an army of amped up monsters. Crandall’s plan was to release infected fleas to turn the world into monsters. Only, when he released them, they all attacked Crandall, mutating him even further, eventually overwhelming and killing him.
His grand plan failed, but Cal still had a group of monsters at their ancient power levels to contend with.
Last Train to Deadsville
On Valentine's day, a demonically influenced boy, Billy Ray, is brought to Cal by some disguised demons looking to take Cal out. With Mo’lock’s help, they are able to smite the demons and free Billy Ray from the influence. Cal interrogates Billy, finding out he read from an occult book out loud that opened a portal in his bedroom, which was still open the last time he saw it.
Concerned the whole town could now be influenced, Cal, Mo, and Cal’s tabloid journalist girlfriend, Sabrina, head to Billy’s hometown to close it. What they find is a succubus that was raised by Billy Ray and enslaved all the men in town. Cal was powerless against her draw.
Mo and Sabrina needed to get their hands on the occult book that Billy Ray had. It told them that the only person who could slay the succubus was the woman who held the heart of her victim. While the succubus started to feed on the town’s men, Sabrina drove Cal’s car into the succubus and shot her with a bullet that now has enough magical force (thanks to Cal's genuine feelings for her) to blow her demonic brains out for good.
Supernatural Freak Machine
After recently attaining a possessed Chevy Nova to replace the one destroyed by the succubus, Cal got a call from Brueger. Dr. Polynice, a Frankenstein wannabe, had escaped from prison and might be gunning for Cal for putting him there. A few dead bodies have already turned up with strange amputations.
From the corpses, enough body parts were taken to create a whole new body, except for the head. Mo believed the head might be personal since they assume he is out for vengeance. They quickly left Brueger alone to protect Sabrina, only for Brueger to go missing instead. They feared the worst, but Polynice reached out to them. He promised she was safe and would be freed if Cal committed suicide at that moment, so that Polynice could watch it over CCTV.
Mo locates Polynice in a van outside. Polynice tries to take off, but Cal’s new Nova gives chase on its own, eventually running the van off the road. Polynice tries to leverage Brueger’s location for a safe trip to the police, but Cal opts to blow his brains out instead. When they are able to put enough pressure on one of Polynice’s creations to bring them to Brueger, they find her dead. A note reads that Polynice had a device hooked up to his heart that would kill Brueger if his own heart stopped, claiming Cal “pulled the trigger twice.”
Cal got really down on himself and went on a bender that cost him his relationship with Sabrina.
Two Red Eyes
Cal ended up in the hospital when Brueger’s city councilman husband and his crew beat the crap out of him for the role they believed he played in Brueger’ death. While there, he started going through withdrawal. The ghoul colony was standing guard outside given Cal’s vulnerable position. Their numbers had been growing as more and more were moving to LA to be close to Cal. They were concerned that Nosferatu, an ancient evil, had come to LA to kill Cal.
When Cal awoke and checked in with his concerned ex-girlfriend, he got a text back from Nosferatu that he had her. Sober for the first time in a long time, Cal grabs his gun and goes after them with Mo’lock. Using the Nova’s autopilot spirit, they make their way to the Hollywood Hills where Cal knows a werewolf that owes him a favor. Nosferatu had already gotten to him and left him a message to meet him at the Hollywood sign.
Cal and Mo loaded up on traditional lore weapons in addition to their fire power, including a jug of holy water that Cal chugged. When they made it to the top of the sign, they found Sabrina with most of her clothes torn, and Nosferatu grinning victoriously. Cal reacted impulsively. He staked him repeatedly but Nosferatu just kept coming. Cal ultimately shot his limbs off with his shotgun and then relieved himself of the Holy Water he drank, dissolving the vampire.
Unfortunately, it was too late. Sabrina was bitten. She floated away as she turned into an ancient type vampire.
My Demon Baby
Cal was still a wanted man thanks to Brueger’s widower coming up with trumped up charges. He was laying low, doing heroin in an abandoned house he once killed a vamp in. Mo tracked him down with a new case hoping it would be better to keep him busy. A priest, Father Ortega, was looking for help investigating a satanic cult that had already killed a priest Ortega sent to look into them. Ortega believes they are trying to birth the Anti-Christ.
The cult was run by a guy named Bocha, who Cal had looked into before for a fortune teller scam. He tracked him down to a house where his followers are still partying to celebrate the birth of the baby. Cal and Mo jump two of them to use their cloaks as disguises. He finds the kid with Bocha, his wife, their new German supernanny, and her killer guard dog.
Cal realized he couldn’t let either side get the baby or else the baby was as good as dead. He dropped his disguise and grabbed the baby, but before the cultists could do anything, the Last Templar Knight, an insurance policy from his Catholic Church clients, attacked everyone. Cal and Mo tried to make off with the baby while the Knight was preoccupied, but it caught up rather quickly. When the baby saw Cal in trouble, it’s powers activated and incinerated the undead knight.
After which, Cal dropped the baby off with a nice woman he had saved once.
Cell Block 666
Councilman Benson finally got Cal thrown in jail when an entire SWAT team staked out his favorite bar. A ghoul on the scene pointed Cal in the direction of the ambush. Upon hearing this, Mo hunted the ghoul down and ripped off his head. He teleported into Cal’s cell where they interrogated the ghoul. The ghoul admitted he was actually working for Benson. So, Mo smashed his head.
Cal was out of options so he got his face beat in so he had fresh blood to draw a sigil. He then cast a spell that would cause the prisoners buried in the yard to rise from their grave. They attacked those responsible for their deaths (the guards), and then released Cal and brought him to the warden. The warden hands over a disc with incriminating info on it in exchange for his safety, but Cal lets one of the undead kill him anyway.
When the contents of the disc go public, Benson's integrity was in question, and they were forced to let Cal out of prison.
No Peace for Dead Men
One day, Cal noticed a car loitering outside his house. It was a werewolf keeping an eye on him. When Cal threatened him with a silver hammer, he spilled the beans. The new vamp in town, Salem, had gathered the monsters to team up against Cal. The plan was to take out anyone who even spoke to Cal, given how hard Cal takes it when he feels responsible for the loss of a human life. He kills the werewolf for his trouble.
Mo believes it’s the war he has always prophesied. Cal just wants to keep as many people as he can safe. With the last of his Earthly connections cut off, he went to Salem’s meeting location to wipe out the monsters. They were new world monsters and easily killed by his firepower. Salem, however, was sired by Nosferatu and required folklore measures. Not only that, but she revealed herself to be Sabrina, Cal’s ex he couldn’t save.
He shot her out of the sky, and she landed in a gas station. Cal drove his car into it, blowing up the station, killing Salem and himself. At his funeral, many of the people he helped attended. At night, the ghouls showed up and waited. Cal burst out of his own grave, now a ghoul himself.
The Death of Cal McDonald
By the time the now undead Cal got back to his home, a new client was waiting for him: a large guy named Darren whose midsection is a mystical snow globe that houses his fairy-like sister, Virginia. Virginia informed Cal that she awoke when he rose from the dead. And that Cal’s rising and her waking are the first 2 of 3 signs that the coming war has started.
After a politician was publicly killed by a werewolf, Cal and Mo started running down monsters to get some answers. One lowly vamp they found said that ever since Cal’s death, it has been open season. They were told to feed, not kill, letting them all turn. That same investigation got Cal a new ally on the police force in Wheatley. However, Wheatley might have ulterior motives.
Also, Cal has been mysteriously puking black vomit from time to time.
Cal was sought out by Agent Blood of the FBI. She wanted to compare notes regarding the vampire attacks in Barrow, Alaska and on the FBI Building. She informs Cal about Eben Olemaun’s responsibility in the attacks. Cal informs Blood about recent strange vampire behavior: they have been turning more than they have been killing, convincing Cal they are building an army. This includes the FBI Building, as Blood describes the crime scene as lacking the heads of victims.
Unfortunately, Eben wasted no time tracking them down. He believed they had the ashes of his wife, Stella. They took Blood and blew a number of holes in Cal with a shotgun. They left when they realized Cal didn’t have what Eben wanted. Cal’s new cop friend, Wheatley, did. He got them from Blood’s former superior who has been turned by Eben. Using ghoul blood, they sped up Cal’s healing process so they could take the ashes to Eben.
Cal, Wheatley, and the whole ghoul colony track Eben and his vamp army to Sunset Boulevard, where they were attacking indiscriminately in public. Cal tried to make a deal with Eben: the urn in exchange for Blood. Eben denied him and killed Blood, causing a brawl between the two. In the scuffle, Stella’s ashes fell into Blood’s blood, causing Stella to resurrect. She embraced Eben, sad for his regression. Cal took the opportunity to drench them in gasoline and set them on fire.
Without Eben, the vamp army retreated. Cal dismissed the monster war as just some slap fight between vamps and ghouls, but Mo'lock still believes that this is only the beginning.
The Eyes of Frankenstein
Adam, the creature created by Dr. Frankenstein, who once got Cal’s help in scaring off the Frankenstein descendants from trying to claim property rights on Adam, was tearing up a library because he was so distraught in losing his eyesight. Cal was called in by Wheatley to talk him down.
They reach out to a Dr. Hemlock, a surgeon with an interest in the occult. Mo hopes that he could also look into Cal’s mysterious sickness causing him to violently vomit at random. Hemlock agrees in exchange for some help with a case. He is able to cast a teleportation spell that moves Cal and Mo into a vault of eyes at the local hospital, while he analyzes Cal’s black vomit.
When they return after tussling with a monster eating eyes, Hemlock is able to switch out Adam’s eyes. He also determined that Cal’s blood seems to be feeding on the power of the ghouls, causing a widespread illness weakening the ghoul colony. Hemlock believes that Cal is not a ghoul, only looks like a ghoul, and he is transitioning to something else.
Hemlock pushed to perform a supernatural rite on Cal, but it was a trap. Hemlock planned to steal the power from Cal. He trapped Cal in hellfire and raised demons to fight him, hoping Cal’s death would release his power. Adam came to his defense. He threw Hemlock into the hellfire cage, causing energy feedback that slayed the demons and forced their power into Cal.
When the smoke cleared, Cal had a giant set of demon wings and claws. And his skin was a smoky black color. He damned Hemlock for choosing the other side in the supernatural war.
The Third Child
Cal was struggling with his new changes despite Mo and Adam’s best efforts to support him. It was not a good time for new cases, but Mo had a lead on a monster team up against a hospital. Cal mobilizes with Wheatley, Mo, and Adam. In his current state, Cal needed no help taking on the monster horde. He actually needed help stopping himself. Needing to clear his head, Cal got out of LA for a while.
Meanwhile, LA went to hell. There were sightings of two strange demon children who were forcing humans to become rageful and violent towards each other. Hemlock used a ouija board to escape hell and teamed up with the demon children. They made Wheatley watch as his children ate his ex-wife. Mo also lost support of the ghoul community. They turned their back on Cal for all the misery he had brought them and decided to join the monsters in the war.
Cal returns to find Mo and Wheatley depressed and defeated, but Adam has amassed an army of monsters who believe the war is about ending both sides. Cal has bad news for them though. Cal is the third child, the fuse that will start the war. While the army tries to keep the peace in the streets, Cal and his friends confront Hemlock and the two children.
Cal disarms Hemlock and gives Wheatley the chance for his revenge. Cal then turns his attention to the children. They offer Cal the chance to rule together, but Cal turns them down. They combine themselves into one giant creature to take Cal on, but Cal is still able to best them. They explode in a white light changing Cal back to a normal living human. Without the children, the war ended before it did too much damage. He would return to his abode while unknowingly revealing his monster state again, red eyes and blackened wings spread for all to see before returning to the beat. Seeing as the monsters whom helped him save the world went about celebrating by murdering and feasting on the people he swore to protect.
Powers and Abilities
Private Detective: Cal has a curious mind and knack for putting together puzzles. It makes him an above average detective.
- Police Academy: He also graduated from the police academy and is proficient in a variety of firearms.
- Old School Tough Guy: He was not trained in any specific martial arts, but he is well experienced in street brawls. As a human, his stamina wasn't literally superhuman, however, he often walked away from very serious injuries.
Supernatural Attraction: Ever since he was a kid, Cal believed bizarre events were attracted to him.
Ghoul Physiology: After his death, Cal rose from the grave as an undead. McDonald seemingly lost these powers when they were replaced with the Third Child powers
- Immortality: He was now immortal, capable of surviving even worse injuries than he could before. Almost any injury now. He also found that even while bereft of body parts, he still maintained some physical autonomy over the severed extremities. Having operated his gun hand even when it'd been separated from his body.
- Superhuman: Stronger than an average person his size
- Teleportation: Capable of teleporting through shadows
The Third Child Prophecy: After absorbing the power of several demons; Cal now had gained claws and a strange physiological complexion resembling his old human state. He seemingly no longer had these powers after defeating the two demon children who tried to start the war.
- Wings: Had a large set of razor sharp wings growing out of his back that allowed him to fly. He learned they could also be used offensively, as they were sharp enough to cut a head off.
- Berserker Rage: The longer he stayed in this demonized state, the more vicious and aggressive he became. Whenever he lost his temper, Cal's eyes would turn bright red and his strength would increase even more than it already had. Something which often happened to him in his ghoul state before the transformation.
- Magic: He even gained access to powerful magic of his own which seemed to supplement his odd new transformation. Having once used these powers to reanimate the remains of his long deceased parents whilst looking for advice.
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