The devil. Or Marvel’s closest equivalent thereof.
While it should be noted that the character Mephisto is not intended to be the actual Biblical devil, he is one of the most prominent demonic denizens of the Marvel Universe.
Sure, there’s been other hellish tormentors in comics for, well, just about as long as there’s been comics but few have ever been presented with the flair that they’d be considered a “super-villain”. In this, old Muffy is indeed a Hell Lord in a class all his own as he kinda delights in it as a specialty- what with the high popped-collar cape and a penchant for sitting menacingly on thrones.
That said, his fifty-plus years of appearances span a patchwork of titles and although he often works as a string-pulling, behind-the-scenes schemer, he counts among his chief adversaries the Silver Surfer, Thor and, oddly enough, Doctor Doom.
He also once vomited maggots into the Beyonder’s face, so there’s that nightmare fuel to stick with you forever…
“Pleased To Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name…”: The 1960s and ‘70s
In late 1968, Stan Lee and John Buscema launch a Silver Surfer solo series with a plot caveat that the Sentinel of the Spaceways is inescapably bound to Earth and its atmosphere. Bearing that in mind, the scope of the cosmically-tinged stories are certainly affected. Instead, Stan chooses to focus on the Surfer’s character and his purity of spirit. What better way to showcase that attribute than to introduce a counter-balancing villain that personifies pure evil?
Mephisto makes continuous plays for the Surfer’s soul either directly or through proxies for the duration of the run before Stan also begins using the character in his Thor work. It’s especially notable in that Mephisto meets Loki- the beginning of an uneasy frenemy alliance that lasts until this day.
Strangely, as restrictions loosen surrounding the Comics Code in the early 1970s and Marvel begins to publish more horror and supernaturally-based content, Mephisto rarely makes an official showing. Alternatively, there are appearances by other demonic beings in this era generically referred to as “Satan” (particularly in the adventures of Ghost Rider) however future stories, Official Marvel Handbooks and other source materials will clean it all up, streamlining it all away as a retcon so it’s Mephisto all along utilizing other guises.
Note: As of this writing, a vast majority of the 1973-1983 Ghost Rider series is uncollected and unavailable in digital format, so if you’re looking to go deep on the saga of Johnny Blaze versus Mephisto, it’s diving into the back issue bins for now…
Collects: Wolverine #1-5
Insert your commentary or clarifications here.
Collects: Silver Surfer (1968) #1-6, Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #5, Not Brand Echh (1967) #13
Mephisto makes his debut in Issue #3 of the Surfer’s late-Silver Age solo series by Stan and Big John!
Collects: Silver Surfer (1968) #7-18
The demon lord recurringly torments Norrin Radd for the remainder of the series!
Collects: Thor (1966) #173-183
In Issues #180-181, Loki is looking to escape banishment so he body-swaps with Thor, sending the Thunder God to Mephisto’s realm instead!
Collects: Thor (1966) #195-205
In the final story of this collection, Mephisto attempts to turn Thor’s own Asgardian allies against him!
Collects: Marvel Spotlight (1971) #5-12, Ghost Rider (1973) #1-5
As “Satan”, Mephisto begins to plague the life of stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze- merging him with a Spirit of Vengeance to become Ghost Rider!
Collects: Fantastic Four (1961) #151-163, Giant-Size Fantastic Four (1974) #3-4, Material from Marvel Treasury Edition (1974) #2
A three-parter in Issues #155-157 sees Mephisto as master villain responsible for the Silver Surfer’s cosmic girlfriend mysteriously appearing in Dr. Doom’s home country of Latveria?!?
Collects: Doctor Strange (1974) #10-20, Doctor Strange Annual (1976) #1, Tomb of Dracula (1972) #44
Once again appearing as a generic “Satan”, Mephisto takes on Dr. Strange (but come on, the whole red suit and cape motif- it’s a thin disguise…)
Collects: Defenders (1972) #92-109, Marvel Team-Up (1972) #101, Captain America (1968) #268
Mephisto once again operates under a false name for a while before showing his true self to Dr. Strange’s non-team in this early-80s cult fave!
Rivalries New and Old, A Limited Series and… Fatherhood?!: The 1980s
Mephisto begins the 1980s by perpetuating his alter egos, even going so far as to pawn other demons as “Maya” in an extended Defenders plotline. However, it’s not before long that he’s back to trading under his classic brand. In this, he renews antagonisms against Thor, the Surfer and even the Fantastic Four before being seemingly destroyed.
Obviously not the case, he instead empowers a mortal agent to unwittingly carry out his bidding: Master Pandemonium- a villain who will perpetually run up against the West Coast Avengers and plays a pivotal role in the saga of the Scarlet Witch’s twin sons.
Meanwhile, Mephisto gets some front-and-center showcasing courtesy of 1985’s Secret Wars II event, not missing an opportunity to give the otherworldly Beyonder an experience he won’t forget in his “stranger in a strange land’-type quest for humanity.
1987 sees the release of the four part Mephisto Vs. mini-series by Al Milgrom and John Buscema. In each issue, he takes on a different super-team but really it’s also memorable for being a semi-crossover with the very tail end of Walt Simonson’s fabled Thor run.
By the end of the decade, it’s revealed that Mephisto is also a parent- his son, Blackheart, debuting in the pages of Daredevil and his daughter, Mephista, is first seen in the Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme series.
However, the Dr. Strange story from the era that Mephisto is probably best known for is the Triumph and Torment graphic novel by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola that teams Strange up with Dr. Doom for the soul of Doom’s mother.
Collects: Thor (1966) #320-336, Thor Annual (1966) #11, Bizarre Adventures (1981) #32
Holding his soul hostage, Mephisto manipulates old FF villian Darkoth the Death-Demon into one last battle with Thor in Issue #325!
Collects: Silver Surfer (1982) #1, Silver Surfer (1987) #1-14, Super-Villain Classics (1983) #1, Material from Epic Illustrated (1980) #1, Marvel Fanfare (1982) #51
In the lead story of this collection, Stan Lee teams with John Byrne for another round of Surfer versus Mephisto!
Collects: Fantastic Four (1961) #276-284, Thing (1983) #23, Secret Wars II (1985) #2
In Issues #276-277, Mephisto meets his match in all-powerful boy mutant Franklin Richards!
Collects: West Coast Avengers (1985) #1-9, Vision and the Scarlet Witch (1985) #1-2
Mephisto is revealed to have empowered the West Coast Avengers latest adversary, Master Pandemonium!
Collects: Secret Wars II (1985) #1-9
The Beyonder’s quest to become human leaves him prone to Mephisto’s Exorcist gross out-level tormenting!
Collects: Mephisto Vs. Fantastic Four (1987) #1, Mephisto Vs. X-Factor (1987) #2, Mephisto Vs. X-Men, Mephisto Vs. Avengers (1987) #4
Mephisto stars in his own four-issue limited series!
Collects: Daredevil (1964) #253-270, Punisher (1987) #10
Durng the Inferno event, Mephisto starts to become a recurring adversary of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. This collection also features the debut of Mephisto’s equally demonic son, Blackheart!
Collects: Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (1988) #1-13, Marvel Graphic Novel: Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom – Triumph and Torment (1989)
Meet Mephista- literally the devil’s daughter in a 3-parter in Issues #6-8! Plus, Doctors Strange and Doom team-up against Mephisto in a graphic novel with art by Mike Mignola!
Collects: Avengers West Coast (1985) #51-57, 60-62
Mephisto’s plans involving Master Pandemonium and Wanda’s children reaches its fateful conclusion!
Collects: Daredevil (1964) #271-282, Daredevil Annual (1967) #5-6, Material from Punisher Annual (1988) #3, Incredible Hulk Annual (1976) #16, Silver Surfer Annual (1988) #3
Mephisto returns to antagonize Daredevil once again in the finale of the esteemed Nocenti-Romita, Jr. run!
The Infinity Trilogy and More: The 1990s
After doing Loki a quick solid that leads to architect Eric Masterson becoming the new Thor (and later the mallet-wielding Thunderstrike), Mephisto turns his sights to a different sort of cosmic prospect: the Mad Titan, Thanos.
Beginning in the pages of the Silver Surfer title, writer Jim Starlin has Mephisto accompany Thanos on his Infinity Gem quest as a literal devil’s advocate. The hell lord continues to be a player in Starlin’s cosmic saga as it rolls on through the early half of the ‘90s.
Other memorable appearances of the day would also include the time Mephisto dealt a devastating blow to the West Coast Avengers, seemingly slaying Mockingbird in the 100th issue of the series. (PS, she turns up not dead- thanks to a whole bunch of Secret Invasion retro-fanagling…)
Collects: Thor (1966) #419-436, Thor Annual (1966) #15
Mephisto makes a deal with Loki to trap an Asgardian soul as the Odinson goes missing and mortal Eric Masterson steps in as a new Thor!
Collects: Silver Surfer (1987) #39-50, Silver Surfer Annual (1988) #3, Thanos Quest (1990) #1-2, Material from Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #50
Mephisto becomes the “Thanos Whisperer” in this prelude to the Infinity Gauntlet!
Collects: Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #1-6
Mephisto remains a significant player in Jim Starlin’s epic!
Collects: Infinity Crusade (1993) #1-3, Warlock Chronicles (1993) #1-3, Warlock and the Infinity Watch (1992) #18-19
Mephisto is on hand for the conclusion of Starlin’s 90s cosmic trilogy
Collects: Avengers West Coast (1985) #92-100 & 102, Spider-Woman (1993) #1-4, Material from Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #143-144
The hell lord exacts a heavy toll when the Avengers travel through his dimension!
Collects: Silver Surfer (1987) #123-138 & -1, Silver Surfer Annual (1997) #1
Mephisto returns to making plays for the Surfer’s soul in the metaphysical dreamscape!
Collects: Black Panther (1998) #1-17
In the Marvel Knights era, the hell lord turns his attention to the King of Wakanda!
Collects: Thunderbolts (1997) #23-37, Thunderbolts Annual (2000) #1, Avengers Annual (2000) #1
Hawkeye leads another team through the hell lord’s domain but this time it leads to the resurrection of Patsy Walker, Hellcat!
Stalking the Panther and Snaring the Spider: The Marvel Knights Era Through The 2000s
In the late 1990s, Mephisto becomes the recurring adversary of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther series. It’s not the usual “I want your soul” straight up-type of confrontation, either. Instead, it’s more of a long-game trolling- particularly at the comedic expense of T’Challa’s State Department attache, Everett K. Ross.
In 2005, the Books of Doom mini-series by Ed Brubaker and Pablo Raimondi is released, chronicling in full detail Mephisto’s life-long torment of the arch-villain.
In this decade, though, Mephisto is probably best known as the means by which Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage is removed from continuity. It’s a story causing so much uproar that another story is later needed to smooth it all over.
Collects: Black Panther (1998) #36-49 & 57-58, Incredible Hulk (2000) #33, Thor (1966) #370, Material from Marvel Double Shot (2003) #2
Mephisto resumes his torment of T’Challa and Everett Ross!
Collects: Books of Doom (2005) #1-6
Mephisto is the villain of the piece as Doctor Doom recounts his secret origin!
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #544-545, Friendly Nieghborhood Spider-Man (2005) #24, Sensational Spider-Man (2006) #41
Mephisto stands at the center of one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories ever!
Journey Into Mystery: Mephisto in the 2010s
Mephisto begins the second decade of the 21st Century once again doing Loki a solid- although this one is maybe the sneakiest double-cross yet. Beginning in the pages of Thor and tying across such event stories as Siege, Fear Itself and Exiled, writer Kieron Gillen weaves a multi-year tale of the Asgardian trickster pitting his wits against the lord of lies in a metaphorical and metaphysical chess game.
Mephisto also gains some unlikely superhuman avatars during the Circle of Four storyline- a development still seeing its way to fruition in the current Venom title years later.
During this time, Jim Starlin also revisits the character in his old role as foil to Thanos in a series of graphic novels and minis. Just a word of advice surrounding these, don’t squint too hard fitting them into regular continuity…
Mephisto also features heavily in 2018’s Damnation, the Doctor Strange-led event story, wherein Las Vegas becomes literal Hell on Earth. Although defeated by story’s end, it seems you can’t keep a demon down as Mephisto is still seen up to his old tricks and scheming away in titles such as Champions and Avengers.
Collects: Thor (2007) #604-614, Siege: Loki (2010) #1, New Mutants (2009) #11
Loki’s double-dealings with Mephisto and Hela lead to a loophole in his death and resurrection!
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #638-641
The in-universe explanation as to what Mephisto did to Spidey’s world is finally revealed!
Collects: Ghost Rider (2011) #0.1 & 1-5
Mephisto is once again involved in the origin of an all-new Ghost Rider!
Collects: Journey Into Mystery (2011) #626.1 & 627-631
“The devil walks into a bar…” is the premise for the one-off feature in Issue #627!
Collects: New Mutants (2009) #33-37
During the Fear Itself event, Mephisto strikes a bargain for a single date with New Mutant Magma and now he’s come to collect!
Collects: Venom (2011) #10-13, 13.1-13.4 & 14
Mephisto joins together Agent Venom, the female Ghost Rider, Red Hulk and X-23 as a supernatural team!
Collects: Exiled (2012) #1, Journey Into Mystery (2011) #637-638, New Mutants (2011) #42-43
The wheels are coming off Mephisto and Loki’s arrangements!
Collects: X-Factor (2005) #250-256
Peter David’s mutant team gets in the middle of a demonic turf war. Guess who the real master villain is? (It’s actually not who you might think!)
Collects: Venom (2011) #27.1 & 36-42
The hell mark Mephisto placed on Agent Venom in Circle of Four is passed on to his new sidekick, Mania!
Collects: Thunderbolts (2012) #20-26
It’s a mini Circle of Four reunion when Mephisto enlists Red Hulk’s T-Bolts to retake his hellish throne from X-Factor’s Strong Guy!
Collects: Revolutionary War: Alpha (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Dark Angel (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Supersoldiers (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Motormouth (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Warheads (2014) #1, Revolutionary War: Omega (2014) #1
An event featuring all of Marvel’s British heroes and Mephisto headlines the demonic antagonists!
Collects: Thanos Vs. Hulk (2014) #1-4, Warlock (1972) #12
Disguised as Annihilus’ chief scientist, “Dr. Bultar”, Mephisto pits the Jade Giant against the Mad Titan!
Collects: Thanos: The Infinity Relativity OGN (2015)
Mephisto continues his ruse as Starlin’s 2010 cosmic saga expands into graphic novel format!
Collects: The Infinity Entity (2016) #1-4, Thanos Annual (2014) #1
More “Bultar” in this Adam Warlock side-series with art by legendary Alan Davis! Also featuring Jim Starlin and Ron Lim on a special “lost episode” of the first time Thanos encountered Mephisto!
Collects: Thanos: The Infinity Finale OGN (2016)
Mephisto stands revealed as the story arc concludes!
Damnation and Beyond!
Collects: Infamous Iron Man (2016) #1-6
Just as Victor von Doom is trying to turn over a new leaf, Mephisto begins some long-game trolling!
Collects: Infamous Iron Man (2016) #7-12
Mephisto’s masquerade is exposed, culminating in an old-time team-up of Drs. Doom and Strange!
Collects: Falcon (2017) #1-8
Demonic father-son quality time as Mephisto joins Blackheart’s evil scheming against Sam Wilson and company!
Collects: Doctor Strange: Damnation (2018) #1-4, Damnation: Johnny Blaze – Ghost Rider (2018) #1, Doctor Strange (2015) #386-389, Iron Fist (2017) #78-80, Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider (2017) #15-17
Mephisto literally remakes Las Vegas into “sin city” and only a handful of supernatural heroes can stop this Hell on Earth!
Check out Comic Book Herald’s complete reading order for Damnation here.
Collects: Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider (2017) #20-25
Spider-clones Ben and Kaine and the devilish conclusion to Peter David’s series spinning out of the Damnation event!
Collects: Avengers (2018) #7-12
In the form of a snake, Mephisto tempts a caveboy into bonding with a Spirit Vengeance to become the Ghost Rider of 1 Million BC!
Collects: Avengers (2018) #13-17
Snake-Mephisto of 1 Million BC next turns his attention to the Iron Fist of the era!
Collects: Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense (2018) #1, Namor: The Best Defense (2018) #1, Doctor Strange: The Best Defense (2018) #1, Silver Surfer: The Best Defense (2018) #1, Defenders: The Best Defense (2018) #1
Mephisto inadvertently lends an eleventh-hour assist to this informal reunion of the Titans Three plus a one-eyed, old man alternate reality ghost version of the Doc!
Collects: Doctor Strange (2018) #12-17
When Galactus is set loose in the realms of magic, regular Dr. Strange is willing to do whatever it takes to correct this cosmic imbalance. If only there was some kinda deal-making guy who could maybe help make that happen. Hmmm…
Collects: Champions (2019) #1-6
Miles Morales strikes his own “One More Day”- style bargain with Big Red for the lives of his teammates!
Collects: Deadpool (2018) #13-15, Deadpool Annual (2019) #1
Wade travels to the nether realms for his old friend but the devil wants his due!