First of the Fallen
|First of the Fallen|
Panel from Hellblazer #42 (June 1991).
Art by Will Simpson.
|First appearance||Hellblazer #42 (June 1991)|
Garth Ennis (writer)|
Will Simpson (artist)
|Place of origin||Hell|
|Supporting character of||John Constantine|
|Notable aliases||Satan, Theo|
|Abilities||Nigh-omnipotent demonic powers, such as telekinesis and omnipresence|
The First of the Fallen is a fictional demon published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. He debuted in Hellblazer #42 (June 1991), and was created by Garth Ennis and Will Simpson. He is considered the archenemy of John Constantine.
The First of the Fallen was introduced to be the iconic Vertigo Comics manifestation Devil, but due to continuity conflicts with Neil Gaiman's use of Lucifer in The Sandman an alternate background had to be developed. Instead, he was revealed to be the first being created and the first to be banished to Hell—hence the First of the Fallen. Intended as a powerful antagonist for the lead character, John Constantine, the First proved to be a popular character and the majority of regular series writers since Ennis have used the character in one form or another.
The First of the Fallen was created by Garth Ennis and Will Simpson, appearing as an adversary to John Constantine, the lead character of the Hellblazer comic. In his first appearance, the First tried to claim the soul of a friend of Constantine's that had been sold to him, and was tricked (and assaulted) by Constantine, resulting in him missing his agreed-upon deadline. Later in the same storyline, he was shown as being one of a triumvirate of rulers in Hell—with the other two devils (the Second and Third of the Fallen) only having the power to defeat him if they acted together.
From his actions and his power, it was implied that the First was Satan or Lucifer, the Christian Devil. However, at the same time that Ennis introduced the First, Neil Gaiman used the character of Lucifer in his Season of Mists storyline for The Sandman. In Gaiman's story, Lucifer was the sole ruler of Hell who decided to give up his position in order to travel the world, with the key to the gates of Hell eventually being returned to the representative of Heaven. Because of this, Ennis made it clear that the First of the Fallen, aka Satan, was a separate character; banished from Heaven prior to Lucifer's fall from whom Lucifer usurped Hell with his greater power and who reclaimed control following the Morningstar's abdication. How this ties in with the leadership of Hell as shown in Mike Carey's Lucifer spin-off series has not been clarified, but the First's status as separate to Lucifer was confirmed by the appearance of both in Carey's run writing Hellblazer.
The battle between Constantine and the First became one of the recurring themes of Ennis' run on the comic, with his final climactic storyline involving Constantine's final victory and the First's death. However, the character's position in the Hellblazer universe was so assured that several of the writers who followed Ennis onto the comic found a variety of ways to reintroduce him, with Paul Jenkins' run on the comic restoring the First both to life and his throne.
The being that would become the First was originally brought to life by the Presence as the first entity ever formed; the embodiment of His conscience and His companion. However, the First concluded that his Creator had gone mad and was thus exiled from the Silver City into Hell. He was soon joined by the Second and Third of the Fallen - beings whom he thought were disappointments to the Creator like himself, but were in truth merely extremely powerful demons. Believing them his equals, he established a ruling triumvirate in the Underworld to prevent war. This precarious state of affairs endured for some time - Hell's civilization forming under their reign - until the next exile from Heaven arrived: the fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar, the third most powerful being in Creation next to God and his elder brother, Michael Demiurgos. However, once Lucifer abdicates, the triumvirate resumed their former positions and delicate truce.
In his ongoing battle against God, the First became aware of another attempt by Heaven to birth a new Messiah and charged the demon Nergal with preventing it. Nergal succeeded in this by infecting a magician named John Constantine with its blood and blackmailing him into sleeping with the Messiah's intended mother, a pure innocent called Zed. Tainted by Nergal's demon blood, Zed became an unsuitable vessel for the Messiah, and Heaven's plans were defeated. However, the First discovered that Constantine was attempting to get the Messiah born through other means, acting as a surrogate father to the daughter of a plant elemental. Nergal attempted to prevent the birth, but was defeated by Constantine and then killed by the First on his return to Hell.
The First came into contact with John Constantine himself in Ireland, where the demon attended the death of an alcoholic who had sold his soul in exchange for the greatest collection of wine in the world. Constantine was also visiting his friend, trying to find a magical cure for his terminal lung cancer, and delayed the First in claiming the soul by tricking him into drinking holy water. This invoked a clause in the contract allowing the alcoholic's soul to go to heaven because it wasn't collected by midnight. The First decided to exact his revenge on Constantine once his cancer claimed his life - but when he came to claim the soul that was his "by right of insult", he found that Constantine had managed to sell his soul to both the Second and the Third of the Fallen. In order to prevent all out war over who would claim the soul, the triumvirate were forced to cure the magician's cancer and save his life; their meager consolation was to do this in the most painful manner imaginable. This only served to increase the First's lust for revenge against the mortal who had bested him.
Things only went worse as the First discovered that Constantine had a spy in hell, the succubus Ellie. In trying to punish the demon, the First was again bested by Constantine, which invoked an ancient law that a demon bested three times by a mortal would receive their torment instead. The First, being the most powerful being in hell at time, declined to receive Constantine's destined torment, but it didn't improve his disposition towards the magician. The First took this vendetta against Constantine extremely seriously: he once spent twenty years making nightly visits to a priest in an asylum, tormenting him to suicide simply to show Constantine the kind of torment that was awaiting him. The priest was pushed over the brink by hearing the First's confession that he had seen for himself that God was insane and so acted against His will.
The First continued to brood over Constantine, until he discovered the true nature of his "brothers" in the triumvirate. Realising that although they might be powerful, they ultimately shared the weaknesses of other demons, he destroyed them both and set about claiming Constantine's soul. Unfortunately, the whole plot turned out to be a long-con arranged by the magician: the First of the Fallen was killed by the succubus Ellie, wielding a knife made from the remains of the Second and Third of the Fallen. Instead of true death, however, the First was reincarnated as a Greek fisherman named Theo whilst retaining his memories of his previous existence. He grew close to defeating Constantine with the help of a demon named Buer, but although the First was restored to his previous life and position the magician still managed to escape damnation through more sneaky trickery.
The First contented himself with occasionally tormenting Constantine, as the events slowly came into place to give the demon the closest thing to victory over Constantine that he ever achieved. The magician's plotting had left him and his friends with a magical taint that was slowly destroying their lives: the First removed this and saved Constantine's friends - at the price of his immortal soul. Constantine only managed to escape by convincing God to intercede on his behalf, denying the First of the satisfaction of complete victory.
Whilst his desire to obtain revenge on Constantine seemed to be sated, the First still enjoyed the opportunity of causing the magician pain wherever he could. He passed on the opportunity of purchasing Constantine (thinking that he wasn't being given the genuine article) but as a final twist of the knife convinced Cheryl Constantine to volunteer to remain suffering in Hell by taking half of her husband Tony's punishment, after her brother John had successfully arranged her freedom.
Powers and abilities
As sovereign of the Underworld, the First of the Fallen is effectively the focal point of all sinful impulses and corruptible influences. As such, his raw power within the realm of Hell is essentially omnipotent in that he is all but unchallenged by any other demon or malign god. Even when venturing outside of his domain, the First still wields overwhelming abilities. He's exhibited incalculable strength and telekinesis in battle, even to the extent of defeating a god with relative ease. He's also shown to be effectively omnipresent with cosmic awareness. In addition to this raw power, the First is effectively both immortal and invincible to any physical or magical form of harm. Accordingly, only the Presence itself has the final word on when he may be destroyed; as the First returned to life as soon as God had returned to Heaven.
During the Rake at the Gates of Hell arc, his presence alone in the world warped every human mind before eventually creating chaos and carnage. He also has a degree of control over the sins of mortal men, seen where he managed to kill a group of fishermen using their deviousness.
- As a special story to commemorate the 120th issue of Hellblazer, then current writer Paul Jenkins showed a stand-alone issue showing John Constantine meeting for his regular weekly story telling session with the reader, ostensibly in the real world. The majority of the series' regular writers made cameo appearances in the pub, from Alan Moore through to Jenkins himself, as did several of the series' regular characters—all of them suggesting that Constantine was taking the reader for a ride and his stories were exaggerations of the truth at best. As if to prove this, the First of the Fallen appeared briefly, not as a demon from hell but as a grumpy Salvation Army officer that Constantine advised the reader to avoid.
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