By Owie 3 Comments
Devil-slayer is a little-known but badass character for whom I have great love. Let’s learn about Eric Simon Payne, the Devil-slayer.
History and Summary
Devil-slayer is an ex-marine and ex-mob hitman with a long history of PTSD, alcoholism, insanity, and existential despair. He spent time with a demon cult, learning their ways before turning against them. He was a member of the Defenders, and then later was a member of the Avengers Initiative. Payne's long history of mental disabilities, stemming from his original PTSD and the trauma of working with and fighting demons, eventually culminated in a breakdown where he was situated in an asylum for a time. He has recently, and somewhat against his longterm character arc, had some brushes with criminality, working with Wonderman’s Revengers and being sighted in the Pleasant Hill prison.
Devil-slayer is a natural psychic, with telepathic, telekinetic, and “6th sense” (danger sense) powers. He can create limited illusions and has very limited mind control. He also has a Shadow Cloak, which he gained from the cult. The Shadow Cloak contains a portal to another dimension, somewhat similar to Cloak from Cloak and Dagger. He can wrap himself or others in the Cloak and teleport to that dimension, then reappear in another location in our dimension after essentially no time has passed (which is also how Nightcrawler's teleportation works). He can reach into it to grab weapons from other dimensions. He can also control the ends of his cape like tendrils, allowing him to grab people with them.
Devil-slayer, who is white, was married to a woman named Corey, who is black. This was a highly unusual interracial marriage both in reality and especially in mainstream comics publishing, for the time it was first shown in the 1970s, so the character helped break ground in that area. His marriage was also notable for the realism with which it was written, as it showed them having real strife and marriage problems, based partly on his violent nature, but also on her religious evangelism, which he did not share. They eventually divorced, and later she was killed.
A Word on Scaling and Comparisons
I will be using some other characters to scale Devil-slayer's abilities, especially Valkyrie, and I will also show several other individuals who have used a Shadow Cloak. I will provide all the background information on these folks at the end of this post. The key thing to know about all the other Shadow Cloak wearers is that Devil-slayer is more experienced at using it than any of the others are, so he can do anything they can do. Devil-slayer does not have a huge number of appearances, so showing these subsidiary Shadow Cloak wearers provides useful additional insight into its powers.
Devil-slayer has multiple innate psychic powers. It is not 100% clear whether he always had them, whether he had them as a latent ability which was awakened by the cult, or whether the cult gives these powers to all its members. I tend to believe they were latent abilities awakened by the cult.
Interestingly, whether because of his powers or his expertise in demonology, Devil-slayer was among those considered for Sorcerer Supreme (when Brother Voodoo eventually got it).
His most prominent psychic power is telekinesis. He can use it to lift someone of approximately his own body weight, as he does here with cult leader Vera Gemini.
He has fine-tuned control over small objects as well, as he shows when he jams Deathlok’s gun:
He can also use it to fly with somewhat limited maneuverability:
He also uses his telekinesis to control the ends of his cloak like tendrils. He wraps the cape around people and holds them in place or throws them around. There is some ambiguity as to whether he does this entirely with his telekinesis, or whether the power is inherent in the cape.
The Cloak's tendrils are very strong: here he grabs the Hulk, lifts him up, and teleports him away:
Here he grabs Valkyrie (she has enhanced speed, as seen in Scaling at the bottom, so he is fast with the cape), Vera Gemini, Deathlok (who also has computer-enhanced reflexes), and the Agent of Fortune, who has the same Cloak (again, see Scaling at the bottom), grabs Dr. Strange.
His telepathy can be used to read surface-level thoughts, and to speak to others telepathically, within about 100’.
He can also use it in more abstract ways, as he did to connect Valkyrie’s spirit with her sword Dragonfang, or to help Dr. Strange find something while in another dimension.
He can create an illusion to make himself look like someone else. Usually he does this to hide his costume, as he does below and here:
But he can make himself look like anyone, and can hold it for a long time in front of a lot of people. For instance, when he was stranded in a South American village, he basically made himself look like Rambo for about a week straight.
Presumably he could create other kinds of illusions but he never has.
He has used his powers to make minor mental “suggestions,” as he does here when he makes the bar tender give him a drink:
This power has not been widely explored and he hasn’t used it in combat.
He regularly uses his “sixth sense.” This is a precognitive sense that warns him of danger or evil, and sometimes gives him an intuitive pull towards a place. It is nowhere near as developed as Spider-man’s spider-sense, and does not warn him of specific blows in the midst of combat. It’s more something that would warn him that combat is about to take place.
Here it warns him of an imminent attack of demons that are about to come out of his refrigerator, even while he’s drunk and fairly insane.
While fighting Valkyrie and the Hulk, he twice notes that he is surprised his sixth sense didn’t warn him about them—which is of course because it was a mix-up and they are not evil. But this supports the fact that his sixth sense would normally notify him of opponents’ presence.
His sixth sense draws him to graveyard where the Defenders’ enemy Null resides. This shows it has a locational sense--a general idea of where the danger comes from, which he can track.
In this same way, Clea uses her magic to draw on Devil-slayer's sixth sense when they are trying to find Gargoyle., showing again that there is a locational aspect to it.
So, his Sixth Sense may warn him of an attack well ahead of time, and then also immediately beforehand, and it may also be used to find the source of danger.
Devil-slayer's main abilities come from his Shadow Cloak, which he originally got from the demon cult he worked for. He lost his Shadow Cloak multiple times but either got it back or got a new one. Multiple Shadow Cloaks exist. Another assassin for the cult (The Agent of Fortune, see below) also had one, which Patsy Walker took from him. She eventually wrapped it up in itself so it disappeared.
I will show multiple people using Shadow Cloaks in this section. See Scaling/Comparisons for details on those people. All the Cloaks have the same abilities.
The Shadow Cloak is basically a portal to another dimension. It allows you to do two main things. If you reach into it, you can pull out any weapon you want. And if you wrap it around you, you travel to the other dimension, and then reappear in ours, in essence teleporting.
He can teleport pretty swiftly at short and long range by enveloping himself in his Cloak.
He not only uses it for transportation, but also tactically, during battle, and is able to do so quite quickly. Tactically, he uses it for optimal battlefield positioning, for BFR, and for evasion.
Here he swiftly teleports away as the Hulk rushes at him:
He teleports out of the hands of some guys:
Here a lizard creature pretending to be Devil-slayer tactically uses his Cloak for a quick “teleport-in and stab immediately” maneuver.
The Agent of Fortune avoids the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, renowned for their speed, by using the Cloak.
Here another guy, called Slayer, uses Devil-slayer’s Cloak to swiftly teleport out of danger in the midst of falling during a battle.
He can also use it to tactically BFR someone. Here, the Hulk leaps at him and instead falls into the Cloak, where he is teleported back to Earth.
We also saw him BFR Hulk above.
The Cloak is capable of teleporting not only from one place on Earth to another, but also from Earth to another dimension; here they teleport to hell.
The Cloaks are also capable of penetrating mystic defenses. Here, the Agent of Fortune teleports directly inside Dr. Strange's well-protected Sanctum Sanctorum.
There do not seem to be any major limitations on how far Devil-slayer can teleport. He did become exhausted when he teleported a very large number of heroes in his Cloak multiple times in quick succession. However, he has otherwise never shown strain at teleporting.
Devil-slayer can grab all kinds of weapons out of his cape’s pocket dimensions in a way that has never been well explained. They can be literally almost any kind of weapon: melee weapons and guns; normal weapons and magic items; medieval and contemporary and future weapons. Seemingly they come from other places in the real world, not just in the Cloak itself, but this is not clear. It does not take a lot of skill to grab the weapon you want; Hellcat was able to pull weapons out without much training. The following is a list of known examples:
Devil-slayer often pulls out all kinds of classic melee weapons, for instance a morningstar.
Devil-slayer pulls out Dragonfang, Valkyrie’s fabled blade.
Devil-slayer can get weapons in huge numbers. Here he pulls out an entire arsenal of military weapons for a whole village to use.
Hellcat pulls out a dagger, also helpfully explaining how it works.
The portal can actually get pretty much anything, not just weapons. Here, learning how it works, Hellcat grabs a monster from another dimension.
Here he tells 3-D Man to pull something out in the middle of a fight; he grabs some kind of energy swords that he uses to kill a Skrull, again showing how easy it is to get a weapon you want from the portal.
Most uniquely, when the writers were clearly thinking about rebranding him as a character, he pulled a magic staff out of his Cloak, then lost the Cloak. (He later lost the staff and regained his Cloak). This staff allowed him to create a forcefield that protected him from a large explosion. He was also able to draw psychic energy from it to enhance his other powers.
Devil-slayer is officially a normal human in terms of physical stats, but in practice, like many supposedly normal humans in comics, his capabilities are beyond actual normal humans, especially his strength and durability.
Skill and Speed
Devil-slayer was a marine and a professional mob hit-man, so he has all the standard fighting and weapons skills one would expect from those careers.
Devil-slayer is particularly handy with weapons, and often fights two handed or with his off-hand:
Here he displays the skill and speed necessary to deflect a magic demon blast with his sword:
Valkyrie, considered one of the most skilled fighters in Asgard, says his skill almost matches hers. The narration backs up her reputation by saying that she is a grand master of fighting:
Valkyrie is superhumanly strong, so a normal human like Devil-slayer would require great skill to fight in such a way that his blows were not constantly dominated by her strength. She also exhibited superhuman speed a lot in this era. See Scaling below.
Although Devil-slayer is physically a normal human, he has shown surprisingly good durability. On multiple occasions, he has been hit by a traumatically damaging blow, only to recover very quickly afterward.
Here the Hulk throws him through a wall. He is stunned, but Hulk wakes him up and he fully recovers immediately after, to the extent that he is then able to defeat Hulk by grabbing him and BFRing him.
Here a super-strong Skrull (during Secret Invasion) punches him in the face. He is knocked out but recovers “soon” after, as the narrative bubble says.
Here he is just temporarily knocked down by a mystic blast from sorcerer Ian Fate, who is a good enough sorcerer that he can control demons, travel interdimensionally, and create illusions.
If he gets stunned, he may have the presence of mind to teleport away for a few seconds while he clears his head, then come back, as he does in this scene with Deathlok after he takes a third hit.
Devil-slayer is seemingly a peak human in strength.
Here, in what is probably an extreme outlier, he punches Thing, knocking his head back and breaking off a couple pebbles of rock. (That's him in the top panel.)
Devil-slayer doesn't have a huge number of high-profile one-on-one fights. Many of his fights are against hordes of demons. But he does have a few quality fights against Deathlok, Valkyrie, and Hulk.
Devil-slayer’s first fight is one of his best, against the original Deathlok. It should be noted that Deathlok back them was around a 1-tonner, nowhere near a contemporary ~100-tonner Deathlok. Still, Deathlok was a formidable foe with tech, strength, durability, speed, a computer processor brain, and skill. Devil-slayer telekinetically jams his gun, impressively grapples with him, takes some punches and kicks, notes Deathlok’s strength and speed, grabs him with his cape, gets hit again and tactically BFRs himself, then brings Deathlok to his dimension and hits him with an anti-matter mace, whereupon Deathlok sues for peace. (His internal computer thought a second hit from the mace would be fatal, showing its power.)
Devil-slayer also fought Valkyrie and Hulk. He telekinetically grabs his original target, Vera Gemini, then clashes several times with Valkyrie (whose skill is noted in the narration, as pointed out above) before she breaks his weapon. He is tossed by the Hulk, and eventually grabs the Hulk and BFRs him and himself. This shows his skill at arms and his variety of powers.
Much later, a pretty insane version of Devil-slayer temporarily rips apart the Man-thing. Note that, famously, “whatever knows fear burns at the Man-thing’s touch!” but Devil-slayer has no fear and is unaffected. Man-thing doesn’t fight back, so this is mostly about damage output.
Most of his other fights are against various demons. For example:
Here he fights a horde of demons ruled by a sorcerer named Ian Fate (see especially page 3, where he takes out 4 demons in one swipe of his morning-star, onwards) to save what Devil-slayer thinks is his wife Cory, with help from Beast, Wonder Man, and Dr. Strange.
Here he fights a bunch of demons across multiple dimensions, while drugged so he can’t use any of his psychic powers, ultimately killing a pretty major demon, Balthazar (and then reuniting Valkyrie with her sword).
Here he fights a giant bunch of small demons that come out of his refrigerator where he is hiding his Cloak, while he is both drunk and insane.
Here he fights a demon across various dimensions, using his Cloak.
And sometimes he fights military targets:
All together, these fights show a clear competence with martial combat, often against a large number of creatures that presumably have higher stats than him, as well as with the highly-skilled Valkyrie and the trained future-apocalypse-soldier Deathlok
I will also note that Slayer, another character who temporarily had Eric's Cloak, was able to defeat the skilled and Super-Soldier-Serum-enhanced Nomad twice in a row, and knocked out a slightly-serum-nerfed but still fully-skilled Captain America. And unlike Eric, Slayer was a completely un-skilled fighter. More on Slayer and all the details of his fights under Scaling, but it is an example of how effective the Cloak can be.
As noted above, I collected all the people I am scaling him with, and the other people who have worn a Shadow Cloak, here at the end in one place, so as to not clutter up his feats/capabilities.
They are: Valkyrie, who he fought with one-on-one for an extended time; Hulk; who he fought with and ultimately beat through BFR (twice); and Shadow Cloak wearers Agent of Fortune, Slayer, Hellcat, and a Lizard Man. In terms of the Shadow Cloak wearers, in each case, they're someone with less experience than Devil-slayer using his Cloak, or the same kind of Cloak.
Val’s reputation as an excellent fighter is well-earned, and not just statements.
Here she defeats Lady Deathstrike, after Deathstrike takes her by surprise. Deathstrike is a highly-skilled martial artist and long-time Wolverine nemesis.
Here she defeats Sif when they were younger, who is probably the next-best warrior in Asgard in terms of pure skill.
And here, just to show a completely different kind of fight, Val beats a giant snow worm monster, showing off various combat abilities.
Technical point: in the era that she fought Devil-slayer, Valkyrie’s spirit inhabited the human body of Barbara Norriss, and did not have the same level of strength as she does today. However she could still lift and throw tanks.
Valkyrie was also known at that time in particular for her bullet-blocking speed feats, so keeping up with her is impressive. Here Val shows her speed by spinning her sword fast enough to block fire, and to block bullets from single-shot and machine guns on multiple occasions:
The Hulk is also much faster than many people give him credit for. When Devil-slayer is able to grab Hulk, or teleport out of the way when Hulk is trying to get him, or get Hulk in the Cloak when Hulk is coming at him, that’s good reaction time on Eric’s part. Here are just a few of classic Hulk’s speed feats (from the same era as the Devil-slayer fight):
Jack of Hearts : It's impossible ! Nothing alive can move that fast !! (Jack can fly at interstellar speeds)
Agent of Fortune
The Agent of Fortune belongs to the demonic cult that Devil-slayer was temporarily a part of, and which gave Devil-slayer his Shadow Cloak. This cult is super-hierarchical. Every job category can only be achieved by beating someone at the level above. This particular guy is at the “Agent of Fortune” rank, which is below Devil-slayer’s rank, “Reaper of Souls.” This Agent wants to beat Devil-slayer so he can become a Reaper. But he can't. So again, anything the Agent can do, Devil-slayer can objectively do better, given the Cult’s very pragmatic ranking system.
The Agent of Fortune used the Cloak to dodge the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak. The Crimson Bands are very fast. As it says here, “no possible speed of flight” could avoid them. Here we see that Silver Surfer could be caught by the Bands (even if he can break out after), proving that the Bands can catch even those with very high speeds. Now, I am by no means saying that Devil-slayer is faster than the Silver Surfer in travel or reaction time. But clearly, dodging the Crimson Bands is a great example of how fast the Cloak's teleportation can work.
Patsy Walker took the Agent of Fortune's Cloak and used it for a while. Ultimately she got rid of it. She used it capably as a source of weapons on a couple occasions, but mostly used it for its tendrils capacity.
This seems to lend credence to the idea that the tendril usage of the Cloak is inherent in the Cloak itself, and doesn't come from Devil-slayer's telekinesis, but other times he makes statements to the contrary.
Also, unlike Slayer (below), Patsy had extensive psychic powers in this era, due to her training by Moondragon on Titan. She was capable, for instance, of unleashing a psionic blast that knocked out all kinds of villains and heroes at once, or knocked back Dr. Strange, and also exhibited telekinesis on her own. She eventually lost those powers. Nowadays, she has a psychic magic/danger sense. This innate psychic potential, however, is certainly why she is able to use the Cloak at all, and may be how she used the tendril technique.
Slayer is Dave Cox, a friend of Captain America’s. He was a pacifist Viet Nam vet, and is not a particularly skilled fighter. Red Skull and Sin got ahold of him and mind-warped him to turn him temporarily evil. They gave him Devil-slayer’s cape while Devil-slayer was in jail. The Cloak can normally only be used by someone with magic or psychic powers, but they modified it with tech to be usable by anyone. (That modified version of the Cloak was later destroyed.)
Cox attacked Captain America and Nomad using the Cloak. This Nomad was the Bucky from the 1950s, and has the Super Soldier Serum himself.
Slayer ambushes Nomad and beats him (off panel), then all three of them fight, and Slayer knocks out Captain America—certainly a rare feat. Then Nomad fights him again immediately after, and Slayer almost kills him before stopping himself by remembering who he really is.
There is context: we later find out that Nomad had been hypnotized into poisoning Cap, thus diluting Cap’s Super Soldier Serum. This left Cap, as he put it later on, feeling like his reflexes were much worse.
To sum up: a guy with no combat skills and without Devil-slayer's psychic powers was able to use Devil-slayer’s gear to very quickly knock out the Super Soldier Serum-ed Nomad, and then a partially-nerfed Captain America, and then beat Nomad again. Even with Cap’s serum partially negated, Cap’s tactical mind and skills were still fine, and the Serum was not totally negated (he doesn't even realize it is weakened until later).
Clearly, Devil-slayer, who is much more skilled, has more powers, and is more experienced with the Cloak, could have done even better in this fight.
The lizard man is from a race of mystic ancient lizard people who tried to take over the earth. He and his people defeated the Defenders. He took Devil-slayer's Cloak, and used magic to make himself look like Devil-slayer. Then he tried to trick Spider-man into helping his people. Spider-man eventually figured it out and the Defenders helped beat the lizard people. Since the lizard guy had almost no experience with the Cloak, Devil-slayer should be able to do anything the lizard guy could do with it.
Devil-slayer is a skilled fighter with psychic powers, including telepathy, illusions, mind-control, a sixth sense, and telekinesis. He has a Shadow Cloak which allows him to teleport himself and to BFR others, which enables him to pull out any kind of weapon from an anti-matter mace to a magic staff to a wrist-launching missile system, and which he can use to ensnare others with its tendril-like tips. Although a human, he has shown peak human (at least) strength and superhuman durability. He has fought Valkyrie, Deathlok, and a lesser version of himself was able to successfully fight both Nomad and Captain America.