As of this writing, Devilman has been one of my all-time favorite comic book stories for years. The long-lasting impact from its powerful writing and unfaltering heroes has left it with few peers worthy to even share the same book store shelf space it's occupied since the Seventies. For me, it's a gold standard for which I judge other graphic novels against. Judging from what I just typed, though, you may not have guessed that I didn't always feel this way...
My descent into madness began one cold, dark Saturday evening when I was just a little boy. My brother and I were spending the night at our grandparents' house, and my grandma had taken us to her local Blockbuster to pick out a movie to rent. While my brother walked around with my grandma, I rushed right over to the Cartoon section. Scanning the shelves, I saw the usual Disney movies and Nickelodeon TV show episodes on tape, and nothing else that seemed out of the ordinary. However, as soon as my eyes reached the second shelf from the bottom, they stopped, frozen, fixated on one image that stood out from all the rest:
I was paralyzed, struck with a sense of fear that I had never quite known before. Being so young, the most demonic thing I had ever seen in a cartoon at the time was in Sleeping Beauty, watching Maleficent turning into a gigantic black dragon. This, however, was on a completely different level. Just this one picture was able to fill me with not just the greatest terror I had experienced up until then, but also a great curiosity. As much as it frightened me, in those moments, I felt like I wouldn't be able to rest until I knew what secrets lie beyond this horrific image. Was this "Devilman" the hero? How could a devil be a hero? Was this a story about a villain? My mind was filled with so many questions.
Suddenly, I felt a hand pull on my shoulder, sending a jolt of electricity through my entire body that snapped me out of my trance. My grandma then asked me if I had picked out a movie. Since I hadn't yet, I quickly looked back at the shelf, saw one of the Land Before Time sequels, and took it to the guy at the register without thinking. That was the last time I would think of or hear about Devilman for almost a decade.
I had always liked giant robots in some way, since I loved watching local channel reruns of the original Transformers and Voltron growing up, but I became hooked for life during my middle school years when I started watching G Gundam on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Since then, a lot of my time has been spent seeking out new titles, collecting robot figures and models, and cheering on the good guys as they triumphed over some of the greatest evils our universe will hopefully never know.
At some point when I was in high school, my search led me to a comic book writer named Go Nagai. Reading up on him, I discovered that he was the man responsible for coming up with the concept of giant robots being piloted by humans, which he accomplished through his most famous work, Mazinger Z. Intrigued, I wanted to find out what else he had created, so I went to Wikipedia to look up a list of his other series', hoping to find anything else I may have heard of. While there were a couple of titles that I recognized at the time, only one really popped out at me: Devilman.
Like a flash of lightning, it all came back to me. The intense fear and curiosity that I had felt when I was little had returned. Like then, I knew I wouldn't be at ease until I finally discovered the mysteries behind this link to my past. The first thing I thought to do was search on that new website my friends had shown me: YouTube, a video-streaming site which seemed to have anything I might have wanted to see. I knew that if I was going to be able to find clips of Devilman anywhere, it would be there. This was the first thing that came up:
I just sat there for a few minutes, not knowing what to think. The thought that an old kids' show was what terrified me so much back then left me in total shock. Then, without thinking, I lowered my head and started chuckling to myself. I felt both a little relieved and disappointed. I was really looking forward to something hardcore and violent, but it seemed like that just wasn't the case. Oh well, one of the greatest enigmas of my life had been solved, and nothing had changed as a result.
Little did I know exactly how wrong I was...