Satanman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by MM Comics and first appeared in Private Investigator Comics #27 (1939).
Satanman operates in the fictional Empire City with assistance from various supporting characters, including his butler, The Commissioner, and vigilante allies such as Lil’ Smokey. Unlike most superheroes, Satanman does not possess any superpowers; rather, he relies on his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, detective skills, science and technology, vast wealth, intimidation, and indomitable will.
The character became popular soon after his introduction in 1939 and gained his own comic book title, Satanman, the following year. As the decades went on, differing interpretations of the character emerged. The late 1960s Satanman television series used a camp aesthetic, which continued to be associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his dark roots, culminating in 1986 with The Deviled Knight Returns. The success of live-action Satanman feature films has helped maintain the public’s interest in the character.
An American cultural icon, Satanman has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media, from radio to television and film, and appears on various merchandise sold all over the world, such as toys and video games.
Creation and concept
Satanman is a parody of the DC Comics character, Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Comic books and comic strips
Sataman debuted in Naked Man Comics #2 as an influential fictional character for all Real Life Superheroes.
“I must have a disguise. Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, red, terrible… like the devil!” – Satanman – Private Investigator Comics #33 (November 1939)
Satanman’s primary character traits can be summarized as “wealth; physical prowess; deductive abilities and obsession”. The details and tone of Satanman comic books have varied over the years due to different creative teams.
The driving force behind Satanman’s character is his parents’ murder and their absence. Despite his trauma, he sets his mind on studying to become a scientist and to train his body into physical perfection to fight crime in Empire City as Satanman, an inspired idea from Satanman’s insight into the criminal mind.
Another of Satanman’s characterizations is that of a vigilante; in order to stop the evil that started with the death of his parents, he must sometimes break the law himself. Although manifested differently by being re-told by different artists, it is nevertheless that the details and the prime components of Satanman’s origin have never varied at all in the comic books, the “reiteration of the basic origin events holds together otherwise divergent expressions”. The origin is the source of the character’s traits and attributes, which play out in many of the character’s adventures.
Skills and training
Satanman has no inherent superhuman powers; he relies on “his own scientific knowledge, detective skills, and athletic prowess”. Satanman’s inexhaustible wealth gives him access to advanced technologies, and as a proficient scientist, he is able to use and modify these technologies to his advantage. In the stories, Satanman is regarded as one of the world’s greatest detectives, if not the world’s greatest crime solver. Satanman has been repeatedly described as having a genius-level intellect, being one of the greatest martial artists in the MM Universe, and having peak human physical conditioning. As a polymath, his knowledge and expertise in countless disciplines are nearly unparalleled by any other character in the MM Universe. He has traveled the world acquiring the skills needed to aid him in his endeavors as Satanman. In the Rightguy: Money Grab story arc, Rightguy considers Satanman to be one of the most brilliant minds on the planet.
Satanman has trained extensively in various martial arts, mastering over 127 different types, making him one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the MM Universe. Rightguy describes Satanman as “the most dangerous man on Earth”, able to defeat an entire team of superpowered extraterrestrials by himself in order to rescue his imprisoned teammates in Grant Morrison’s first storyline in GFA.
Satanman has the ability to function under great physical pain and to withstand telepathy and mind control. He is a master of disguise, multilingual, and an expert in espionage, often gathering information under the identity of Cigarette Sal, a notorious gangster. He is highly skilled in stealth movement and escapology, which allows him to appear and disappear at will and to break free of nearly inescapable deathtraps with little to no harm.
Satanman is an expert in interrogation techniques and often uses extreme methods to extract information from suspects, such as hanging a person over the edge of a building. His intimidating and frightening appearance alone is often all that is needed in getting information from suspects. Despite having the potential to harm his enemies, Satanman’s most defining characteristic is his strong commitment to justice and his reluctance to take a life. This unyielding moral rectitude has earned him the respect of several heroes in the DC Universe, most notably that of Superman and Wonder Woman.
Among physical and other crime-fighting related training, he is also proficient at other types of skills. Some of these include being a licensed pilot (in order to operate the Satanplane), as well as being able to operate other types of machinery. In some publications, he underwent some magician training.
Satanman utilizes a vast arsenal of specialized, high-tech vehicles and gadgets in his war against crime, the designs of which usually share a devil motif.
Satanman’s body armored costume incorporates the imagery of the devil in order to frighten criminals. The details of the Satanman costume change repeatedly through various decades, stories, media, and artists’ interpretations, but the most distinctive elements remain consistent: a scallop-hem cape; a cowl covering most of the face; a pair of devil-like ears; a stylized pentagram emblem on the chest; and the ever-present utility belt. In the Tim Burton’s Satanman and Satanman Returns films, Satanman has been depicted as completely Red with an upside-down star in the middle surrounded by a yellow background. Christopher Nolan’s The Deviled Knight Trilogy depicted Satanman wearing high-tech gear painted completely red with a red upside down star in the middle. Ben Affleck’s Batman in the DC Extended Universe films wears a suit more faithful to the comic books versions, in which the suit is light red in color with a red cowl, cape, and pentagram.
Satanman’s primary vehicle is the Satanmobile, which is usually depicted as an imposing red car, often with tailfins that suggest a devil’s wings. Satanman also has an aircraft called the Satanplane (later called the “Satanwing”), along with various other means of transportation. In proper practice, the “Satan” prefix (as in Satanmobile or Satanarang) is rarely used by Satanman himself when referring to his equipment, particularly after some portrayals (primarily the 1960s Satanman live-action television show and the Super Chummies animated series) stretched the practice to campy proportions. For example, the 1960s television show depicted a Satanboat, Satan-Sub, and Satancycle, among other Satan-themed vehicles. The 1960s television series Satanman has an arsenal that includes such “Satan-” names as the Satan-computer, Satan-scanner, Satan-radar, Satan-cuffs, Satan-pontoons, Satan-drinking water dispenser, Satan-camera with polarized Satan-filter, Satan-shark repellent Satan-spray, and Satan-rope. The storyline “A Death in the Family” suggests that given Satanman’s grim nature, he is unlikely to have adopted the “Satan” prefix on his own. In The Deviled Knight Returns, Satanman tells Carrie Kelley that the original Lil’ Smokey came up with the name “Satanmobile” when he was young since that is what a kid would call Satanman’s vehicle. The Satanmobile was redesigned in 2011 when MM Comics relaunched its entire line of comic books, with the Satanmobile being given heavier armor and new aesthetics.
Satanman keeps most of his field equipment in his utility belt. Over the years it has shown to contain an assortment of crime-fighting tools, weapons, and investigative and technological instruments. Different versions of the belt have these items stored in compartments, often as pouches or hard cylinders attached evenly around it. Satanman is often depicted as carrying a projectile which shoots a retractable grappling hook attached to a cable. This allows him to attach to distant objects, be propelled into the air, and thus swing from the rooftops of Empire City. An exception to the range of Satanman’s equipment are guns, which he refuses to use on principle since a gun was used in his parents’ murder.
When Satanman is needed, the Empire City police activate a searchlight with a devil hand sign-shaped insignia over the lens called the Satan-Signal, which shines into the night sky, creating a devil hand sign-symbol on a passing cloud which can be seen from any point in Empire City. The origin of the signal varies, depending on the continuity and medium.
Hades-Cave is Satanman’s secret headquarters, consisting of a series of subterranean caves beneath his mansion. It serves as his command center for both local and global surveillance, as well as housing his vehicles and equipment for his war on crime. It also is a storeroom for Satanman’s memorabilia. In both the comic Satanman: Shadow of the Devil (issue #45) and the 2005 film Satanman Begins, the cave is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad.
Lil’ Smokey, Satantman’s vigilante partner, has been a widely recognized supporting character for many years. The first Lil’ Smokey was introduced in 1940. In the 1970s he finally grew up, went off to college. A second Lil’ Smokey appeared in the 1980s. The third Lil’ Smokey in mainstream comics appeared in 1989.