SPX Pulls: Satan is Alive / by Philip Skurski

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A suburban Chicago winter is a terrible thing. The world turns and awful gray, everything is uncomfortably damp, and boredom rains supreme. It was in these dark days, where the malaise was compounded by the inevitable horrible darkness of being a fifteen year old, that I succumbed to the Dark Prince. Sure, things started out simple enough, an Iron Maiden album and a leather jacket covered in patches, spikes, and pins, but it eventually led me to Mercyful Fate. Mercyful Fate is something else, when I first heard them I was not a fan, the music was all good, but I could not get past the lead singer, King Diamond. He sang songs about Satan and H.P. Lovecraft stories, all things I was getting my grubby little hands on at the time, but he had this goofy falsetto voice that he used, and it just didn’t jive with me for the longest time. I’ve since learned to appreciate the vocal gymnastics that King Diamond is capable of, and the quality of the songs speaks for themselves. So when I was wandering the floor during SPX and I saw King Diamond’s signature upside down cross corpse paint, I had to stop and take a looksee.

It was the cover to Satan is Alive: A Tribute to Mercyful Fate, a collection of short comics and images inspired by the band and their, let’s go with eccentric, lead singer.  The Satanic comic shenanigans are bookended by introductions coming from heavy metal icons, most notably, Fenriz from black metal progenators Darkthrone, and an afterword by Phil Anselmo of Pantera and a second band I never had interest in listening to. These are great anecdotal justifications for why there should be a book about Mercyful Fate.

But enough about why we all love metal. Here’s why I loved this book. There are so many great artists that contributed to it, some are just a single drawing of King Diamond, others gave multiple stories and images. The collection is edited by Mark Rudolph, who also contributes some of the best comics in the collection. There’s honestly so many works in this collection that, even after reading through multiple times, I still can’t remember them all. It’s not because they aren’t worth remembering, quite the contrary, I wasn’t let down by any of the pieces in Satan is Alive, they are all very strong.

One aspect of tributes like this that I have always loved is that the collection is about expressing how much something means to you, so inevitably artists are putting their hearts into this work in a very personal way. There’s this feeling of camaraderie when you read a good tribute book, or listen to a good tribute album. It’s akin to the feeling you get when you’re talking to someone and you both realize that you love something so unconditionally that perhaps not all of your friends are into.

The quality of the work in Satan is Alive is undeniable, but there are some definite highlights. A re-envisioning of King Diamond’s childhood in Copenhagen where King plays the part of an anarchic Devil worshipping Encyclopedia Brown, going about solving mysteries with his pet goat, Mendes is certainly one of those highlights. A short by Vasilis Lolos provides for some of the most interesting art in the book, but my favorite, by far, is by Tom Neely. It’s simple, all it shows is a group of teenagers hanging out around a fire in the back yard, smoking dope, drinking brews, and trying to learn how to play the riffs alongside a Mercyful Fate tape. Sounds like a pretty good evening.

Satan is Alive is a delight for fans of Mercyful Fate, sure, but the art is interesting and the stories being told and sometimes retold/interpreted are so hauntingly engaging that even someone that’s never heard a Mercyful Fate tune will be enthralled by the powers of darkness bestowed upon this book by Lucifer himself.In conclusion, Hail Satan.

TL;DR: Satan is Alive is some brutal comics for metalheads. Hail Satan.

Satan is Alive is written and drawn by various creators and edited by Mark Rudolph. It is published by CV Comics with support from Monster Worship 2012. You can pre-order the book from Mark Rudolph’s website.