Raised by a drunken father and a quiet mother, Payne demonstrated a sixth sense early in life. He derived great hope from his religious beliefs, but this dwindled with age as he filled his time with books, violence, petty crimes, and girls. Payne joined the Marines alongside his best friend Brian Kingston, married his lover Cory, and lived in Brooklyn.
Serving in a military action in southeast Asia, Payne was forced to make terrible choices, follow questionable orders, commit artrocities, and watch children and innocents die, though he once tried to have his fellow marine McCloskey court-martialed for razing an innocent village. Payne returned home un-welcomed, he and Cory grew apart, she divorced him for another man, and he sank into alcoholism. Desperate for work, Payne begged California mobster Carlo Boccino for a job, becoming his hitman.
Developing a strong reputation over the next year, Payne told himself it was okay to kill criminals. Eventually, he was unwittingly sent to bomb the car of reporter Ian Fate, instead slaying Fate's wife and child; upon learning the truth, Payne quit.
He was recruited by the hybrid demon-woman Vera Gemini and her Cult of the Harvesters of Eyes, serving as their Reaper of Souls and Agent of Death (assassin). The Cult honed Payne's psychic powers and gave him his Shadow-Cloak, but he quit upon learning that they wished to bring about Xenogenesis, restoring to prominence an ancient demon race that once ruled the Earth. Taking the name "Devil-Slayer," he dedicated himself to fighting demons.
Devil-Slayer first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #33 (1977).
Mayor Story Arcs
Once a Defender
Wishing to make amends before his potential death at the Cult's hands, Payne sought out Cory at New Grace Hospital where she worked as a nurse. Mistaking the time-traveling Deathlok the Demolisher for a demon, Devil-Slayer battled him before they teamed up to drive off demon cultists who had followed Payne. Devil-Slayer then learned that the Cult had stolen Doctor Strange's mystic Eye of Agamotto to open a portal to the demon realm. Payne joined the Defenders in opposing the Cult and their demon-lord Belathauzer. Vera Gemini outwitted the other demon lords and usurped their right to rule Earth, but Hellcat used a Shadow Cloak stolen from one of Gemini's Agents of Fortune to banish Vera extradimensionally, while Dr. Strange and Nighthawk shut down the portal to the demon realm. This caused all of the demons, presumably including Belathauzer, to be pulled back into their own realm.
Payne was briefly reunited with Cory, but their differences again proved too strong and she left to follow seeming Messiah David Kessler in Jerusalem. Following contact with Strange, Payne correctly suspected that the demonic Six-Fingered Hand was behind Kessler. He led the Defenders to confront Kessler, exposing the Hand's demon Hyppokri as the source of Kessler's power, and the truly religious Kessler committed suicide upon Payne's sword.
Devil-Slayer joined the Defenders and continued to oppose the Six-Fingered Hand, unwittingly furthering the demons' plot to open a portal between the Hell-realms and Earth by weakening the dimensional barriers via numerous teleportations. When the Hand were revealed as pawns of the Hell-lords, Payne and his fellow Defenders continued to fight, lending their spirits to the Son of Satan to oppose his father and returning to Earth after the threat had ended.
Payne found new purpose in helping the homeless Ira Gross overcome his drug addiction between battles with the demon Null the Living Darkness and the Serpent Men, as well as attending the death of Captain Marvel and observing the Grandmaster's contest of champions against Death.
Ian Fate - now an accomplished sorcerer - then returned seeking vengeance on Payne for his family's death. Fate kidnapped Cory, and Payne led the Defenders to rescue her. Fate seemingly slew Cory, though he soon revealed that - despite Payne's crimes - he couldn't harm the innocent Cory, and had replaced her with Ira Gross. Still furious, Payne attempted to kill Fate, but was stopped by Wonder Man, who reminded him that he was responsible for Fate's actions. Payne wandered off, haunted by Ira's ghost and contemplating suicide, but he ultimately accepted responsibility for his actions and was imprisoned in California for past crimes.
Cory supported Eric during his imprisonment and convinced him to help the police arrest his former mob bosses. Upon his release, he remarried Cory and relocated via the Witness Protection Program. An Air Force man asking his assistance in repelling another Xenogenesis attempt contacted Payne, but the man proved to be Belathauzer (a.k.a. Balthazar), who wished to steal his Shadow-Cloak. Summoning forth the sword Dragonfang, Payne slew Balthazar and drove off his demons.
Soon after, a mobster located the Paynes and bombed their car, though it was Cory who died. The despondent Devil-Slayer was contacted by the Flying Dutchman's Ghost, an agent of Mephisto, who promised him happiness in exchange for his soul. Payne refused and was sent to Central America's Potega, which he fought to save from mercenaries, including McCloskey and Ramirez, who were then given powerful exoskeletons by the Ghost. The mercenaries destroyed Devil-Slayer's Shadow-Cloak, but not before he had withdrawn a staff that protected him. Via holy water, Payne drove off the Ghost and saved Potega.
Regaining a Shadow-Cloak somehow, the increasingly withdrawn Payne fought off an invasion by the Infinks, infantile Lilin (spawn of the demonqueen Lilith), as well as other demons who tempted him with alcohol. He was later ambushed, stabbed and nearly killed by the mad zealot Silver Dagger as part of a plot against Doctor Strange.
Saved by Strange, Payne ended up in Massachusett's Rosewell Sanitarium where he became imbedded with a fragment of the Nexus of Realities, which had been shattered by recent dimensional trave. Payne was comforted by Sorrow, a member of the Fallen Stars who had been spawned by an ancient creator being, each an embodiment of one of the creator's thoughts, each involved in the development of reality. Another Fallen Star, Mr. Amodeus Q. Termineus - the embodiment of Cosmic Finality, attempted to push Payne further into insanity to damage reality. The Man-Thing - at the time possessed by the first man Adam K'ad-Mon - restored the disrupted reality, and the Nexus fragment was given to Ellen Brandt, the former wife of the Man-Thing's human form, Ted Sallis.
Payne regained his sanity and subsequently joined Sorrow and other Fallen Stars in opposing Termineus' near destruction of all reality. With the danger averted, Payne and Sorrow walked off into the sky, fading into seeming nothingness.
Civil War and the Initiative
Following the Civil War he was willing to join a new team of Defenders. However, when Nighthawk suggested it to Initiative boss Tony Stark, he declined the offer. Instead, Eric became a member of the Hawaiian Initiative team, the Point Men, serving the team as their "Monster Hunter."
During the Skrull Invasion, when the new 3-D Man arrived in Hawaii, Devil-Slayer informed him that he had sensed portents of doom all day. When 3-D Man identified team member Magnitude as a Skrull impostor, the Skrull attacked and severely wounded the other Point Men, Star Sign and Paydirt. The Skrull was killed, and Devil-Slayer used his Shadow Cloak to teleport Delroy to Camp Hammond before taking Star Sign and Paydirt to a hospital. Devil-Slayer later appeared in Utah with the cyborg Jocasta to aid 3-D Man and the Skrull Kill Krew.
The Heroic Age
Payne recently joined the Revengers, a team of former superheroes, mostly Avengers, whom thought that the team had become more of a danger then a help to humanity and intended to stop them.
Fear Itself: The Deep
Attuma has become one of the Worthy and is transformed into Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans after he comes into possession of one of the mystic hammers. Nerkkod destroys New Atlantis with his army and Namor is forced to retreat. Namor would eventually liberate the occupied city of New Atlantis with the help of Silver Surfer, Loa, Dr. Strange and Lyra the Savage She-Hulk. Nerkkod would bolster his army and prepare to conquer the oceans but is confronted by Namor and company. Dr. Strange would conjure up a spell and call upon the Defenders from the past and present including Devil-Slayer for reinforcements. Nerkkod is forced to retreat and his army is defeated.
Powers & Abilities
Payne can telepathically read minds, decipher languages, transmit thoughts, cast illusions and influence the perceptions and thoughts of others within 100'. He frequently projects a non-costumed image of himself. He has a danger-warning precognitive sense and possesses minor telekinesis, allowing levitation (for instance, lifting someone up to the ceiling), jamming of weapons, lifting weights up to 300 pounds, moving objects at 80 mph, etc. He can perform destructive acts more easily than reparations. Payne briefly contained a fragment of the Nexus of Reality, allowing manipulation of reality. He is a highly trained combatant, marksman and assassin, and is experienced in occult forces.
He often wears a Shadow-Cloak, which contains numerous spatial, interdimensional and temporal portals, via which he can teleport himself and/or others, re-direct assaults, and summon weapons. He most frequently utilized archaic weapons such as swords, axes, spears and maces, but also used conventional weapons such as guns and rocket launched, and futuristic weaponry such as energy blasters or an anti-matter mace.
His magical weaponry included a staff that protected him from harm and healed his wounds; a blade that hungered for demon blood; and Dragonfang, the former sword of the Valkyrie, which could cleave virtually any substance and deflect most assaults. Interestingly, when he transports himself through his Cloak, he maintains possession of the Cloak (or a counterpart) and can still access its portals. He often uses his telekinetic powers to grasp or bind people with the Cloak. It is uncertain whether he has worn several Shadow-Cloaks, or whether his original has regenerated.