Neron (DC Comics)
Art by Howard Porter
|First appearance||Underworld Unleashed #1|
|Created by||Mark Waid (writer)|
Howard Porter (artist)
|Place of origin||Hell|
|Abilities||Superhuman physical attributes|
Mastery of maleficium
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Fictional character history
- 3 Powers and abilities
- 4 Other information
- 5 In other media
- 6 References
- 7 External link
Neron is a demon-lord of Hell and was first featured as the major antagonist in the DC Comics multi-title comic book crossover event Underworld Unleashed released by DC Comics in 1995. As well as the core storyline of the three-issue Underworld Unleashed miniseries (November 1995-late December 1995), most of the issues of the DC titles that were published in November and December 1995 (including two in October 1995 and one in January 1996) and four one-shot issues that were published at the same time were also part of the event. Neron appeared in most of these. After this introduction, he was next used in several storylines simultaneously: The Flash (vol. 2) #125-129 (May–September 1997), by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #123-127 (July–November 1997) by John Byrne and a two-part story in JLA #6-7 (June–July 1997) by Grant Morrison, with art by Neron's co-creator Howard Porter. The last storyline was concluded in the three-issue miniseries JLA: Paradise Lost (January–March 1998), a key early story in the long process of reordering the position of Hell in the DC Universe.
Neron then appeared in New Year's Evil: The Rogues #1 (February 1998), a part of the 'New Year's Evil' storyline that ran in nine one-shot issues, followed by a two-page vignette featuring Etrigan the Demon in the one-shot anthology title DCU Villains Secret Files and Origins #1 (April 1999) and ended the year with a part in the five-issue weekly series Day of Judgement (November 1999) and a stand-alone tale by J.M. DeMatteis, 'Heart of Hell' in Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #15 (fall 1999), the last issue of that series, which is part of the Day of Judgement crossover storyline and concludes it.
His next appearances came in the five-issue weekly series Deadman: Dead Again (October 2001) written by Steve Vance, a humorous Christmas story called 'Merry Christmas, Justice League - Now Die!' , in JLA #60 (January 2002) and a brief encounter in 'On Duty In Hell' in Human Defense Corps #6 (December 2003), the last issue of the six-issue miniseries. Two years later he featured in the last four parts of the six-part storyline 'Out Of the Past' in Richard Dragon #7-12 (January–June 2005), then during the DC crossover event 52 Neron was involved in Week 25 (October 25, 2006) and Week 42 (February 21, 2007), followed by 'Devil May Care' in Teen Titans (vol. 3) #42 (February 2007). None of these stories were critical to his character development or storyline at all. This was left to Keith Giffen, whose eight-issue miniseries Reign In Hell (September 2008-April 2009, including DC Universe Special: Reign in Hell #1 (August 2008)) featured an all-out war between Hell and Purgatory and redefined the position of Hell in the DC Universe (but, at the same time, it had many internal continuity errors that made its place in mainstream DC Universe canon questionable). Since then there have been three further appearances, a short non-canonical joke involving Ambush Bug in typical Keith Giffen style in issue #3 of the six-issue miniseries Ambush Bug: Year None #1-5 and #7 (September 2008-January 2009 and December 2009 (issue #6 is missing here (and, in fact, was actually released as issue #7 deliberately)) and two canonical appearances, the first in issues #8-13 of the 13-issue miniseries Constantine: The Hellblazer (August 2015-August 2016) and the second in issues #2-6 of the six-issue miniseries Midnighter and Apollo (December 2016-May 2017).
Fictional character history
Neron is one of the major demon-lords of Hell, a 'Wishweaver' , the 'King of Hate'  and the 'Lord of Lies' . It is not known how old he is, but he has claimed 'I brought the very first couple together'  and he has told Wonder Woman 'I am among the first that walked abroad in this universe, and my influence has been known since humanity's first fall from grace' , although it should be remembered that he is the Lord of Lies and, therefore, he cannot be trusted. Although he is unknown to Earth's superheroes and supervillains until the events of Underworld Unleashed, the ancient supervillain Vandal Savage is already long since acquainted with him - 'Still making deals...collecting souls?' is how Savage is first seen greeting Neron and then they discuss matters as if they are old acquaintances.
He specializes in making deals with people for their souls in exchange for their greatest desires. As Vandal Savage says to him, 'Deals are your passion, Neron. You grant us the desires of our hearts-in exchange for our immortal souls' . These deals are classic Faustian arrangements made only to further his own twisted aims; half-truths and treachery which lead to either misfortune for the dealmakers or their deaths, the latter either as a result of their own actions or by Neron claiming their souls when the deal is up or when they fail to keep their side of the deal. In other cases he achieves his aims by offering similarly treacherous information or by granting a person's greatest desires in exchange for the completion of a task for him-usually with similar results. To approach a victim, he will either appear before them directly or send them a carved black candle (a 'demon stick' forged in demon's blood) which, when lit, either summons him to them directly in order for them to make a deal or brings them to Hell, where they then meet him and are offered a deal.
Neron appears to be unable to resist a chance to make a deal; he is attracted to dealmaking in order to corrupt and gain souls. He is also attracted to purity and wishes to corrupt and destroy it wherever he finds it. Both of these attractions have led to his downfall many times.
Neron's first appearance to Earth's supervillains and superheroes occurs during the Underworld Unleashed crossover event, when he plots to take over Earth by either enhancing the powers of, or offering their greatest desires to, dozens of supervillains and superheroes in exchange for their souls. When attempting to tempt Green Lantern V (Kyle Rayner), he offers to bring back his girlfriend, Alexandra "Alex" deWitt, from the dead; similarly he offers to bring Robin II (Jason Peter Todd) back from the dead for the Batman I (Bruce Wayne) and to bring the Flash II (Bartholomew Henry "Barry" Allen) back from the dead for the Flash III (Wallace Rudolph "Wally" West).
He tricks five members of the Flash's Rogues Gallery (Captain Boomerang I (George "Digger" Harkness), Captain Cold, Heat Wave, the Mirror Master II (Evan McCulloch) and the Weather Wizard) into causing a series of explosions in five separate places that kills them by consuming them in green fire. When seen from the sky, the flames from the five explosions resemble the points of a pentagram and the symbol, combined with the deaths of the Rogues, creates a gateway which enables Neron to travel to Earth and to corrupt humanity. Many supervillains and superheroes are either approached directly with deals for their souls or sent carved black candles which, when lit, either summon Neron to them directly in order for them to make a deal or bring them to Hell, where they then meet him and are offered a deal. About 50 supervillains have their powers enhanced to varying degrees as a result.
Ultimately Neron is scheming to take over Earth and to obtain a 'pure soul' that he can corrupt. Initially everyone assumes this refers to Superman's soul, but he actually seeks the soul of Captain Marvel. In the end, he is defeated by the Trickster I (Giovanni Giuseppe a.k.a. James Jesse) (who suggests that Captain Marvel should make a deal with him and then tells him what kind of deal to make) and the most powerful members of Justice League America, including Captain Marvel, though not before causing mass chaos and worldwide destruction on Earth, killing the alien tyrant Mongul I with his bare hands and sending away a large number of other supervillains who had refused his offer. Captain Marvel makes a deal with Neron to not conquer Earth and to release all of his fellow superheroes-and, by unspoken extension, all of the supervillains who had accepted his offer-from any and all debts they may have owed to him, in exchange for his soul and nothing else. Neron accepts and tries to take Captain Marvel's soul, but it is too pure for him to touch without it actually, physically burning him; Neron, however, still had to honor his side of the deal. Critical to later events, he also makes a deal with the Spectre-Force so that it will not act against him in the future and reveals that he wants the Spectre as his slave and ultimately as his successor in Hell.
After the Underworld Unleashed crossover event, an unknown number of Neron's candles still exist and cause major trouble for their owners, and others, in later years.
"Hell to Pay" and afterward
Two years later, the five now-soulless Rogues that were previously killed by Neron's treachery return from the dead as soulless killers to cause havoc in Keystone City (along with Major Disaster, who has become Neron's assistant), causing the Flash III to challenge Neron for their souls after gaining an audience in Hell by using a candle that the Pied Piper II (Hartley Rathaway) had kept but never lit, all of which Neron had supposedly planned. Neron offers the Flash III a deal for the Rogues' souls, but he refuses and is allowed to leave Hell with the Flash I (Jason Peter "Jay" Garrick), whom Neron had captured earlier. Knowing that the now almost-immortal Rogues will soon be too powerful for anyone to fight, Neron's plan is that the Flash III will be forced to make a deal with him to save Keystone City. Neron refuses the Flash III's soul and asks for his love for news reporter Linda Park instead, because of its purity. He gets it, and Linda's soul also, which she had made a deal for earlier in exchange for Neron not going after the Flash III's soul. Neron had planned this in order to use the Speed Force to enter and to rule Heaven, but the plan backfires and the essence of the Flash III and Linda's love corrupts him, causing him to feel pity and compassion for the damned souls in his realm for the first time in his existence without understanding why and forcing him in desperation to frantically offer the couple another deal to take their love back. The Flash III accepts the deal, in return asking Neron to truly bring the Rogues back from the dead and return their souls to their bodies-which Neron does, afterwards vowing revenge on the Flash III for defeating him.
Immediately afterwards, he captures Wonder Woman and Artemis of Bana-Mighdall in Hell as part of a plan to bring about the defeat of his enemy Etrigan the Demon. After being seriously hurt by Artemis in the ensuing battle, he kills Wonder Woman, although she is later restored to life by the Olympian Gods.
JLA: Paradise Lost and afterward
Next, Neron's ambitions for Heaven are furthered when he notices chaos and 'strife between the orders of angels' when Asmodel, a King-Angel who has waited 1,000,000 years to rebel against Heaven, and Zauriel, an angel who knows his secret, use Earth as their battlefield. Asmodel makes a deal with Neron to have him help him in his plans to take over Heaven, but at the last moment of the assault on Heaven, Neron abandons his support and returns to Hell without an explanation.
Immediately after this, he is once again defeated by the Trickster I and is also defeated by an agent of Heaven.
Day of Judgment and afterward
Etrigan the Demon (who is trying to cause chaos on Earth and defeat his enemy Neron) causes trouble in Neron's realm by bonding Asmodel (who is bound in Hell and being tortured by Neron) to the Spectre-Force (which is awaiting a new host after its previous host James Brendan "Jim" Corrigan's death and ascension into Heaven) with the ashes of an angel's wing feather. Asmodel, who is trying to destroy both Heaven and Hell, uses the Spectre's powers to extinguish the hellfire font, causing Hell to freeze over. In the chaos caused by the inhabitants of all of Hell's realms invading Earth, Neron uses Superman's body as a gateway and once again tries to claim the Spectre-Force for himself. He is defeated when the Spectre-Force chooses Harold "Hal" Jordan, the former Green Lantern II, as its new host instead (over both him and Asmodel) and then he is punished by his fellow demon-lords for using Hell's power for his own pleasure. His royal status is stripped from him and he is demoted to the position of a Rhyming Demon-which had been Etrigan's plan all along. Later, it is revealed that Superman was not just used as a gateway to Earth, but was actually replaced by Neron in disguise while Superman's soul was battling for Lois Lane's soul in Hell.
To win back his position in Hell and regain his full powers, Neron next travels into the past four times to collect four previously-dead superheroes' souls at the time of their deaths: Deadman, the Flash II (who had died in the Crisis), Robin II (who had been killed by the Joker) and Superman (who had been killed by Doomsday). Unable to enter Superman's body himself because of its purity, he discovers that his human surrogate Darius Caldera is rejected by Superman's body also, so he uses Caldera's soul as the fourth of the four souls he requires. He then turns his attention to Green Lantern II (Harold "Hal" Jordan), tricking Deadman into saving Green Lantern II from death during his battle with Mongul I, ensuring that Neron will have the chance to tempt Green Lantern II later in his history (after he has become Parallax) and thus succeed in winning back his position in Hell and regaining his full powers. Neron erases Deadman's memory of him so that he cannot prevent this from happening, but is defeated when the Spectre restores Deadman's memory and when Deadman changes the future by ensuring that Caldera dies before Neron can even offer him a deal.
Despite this setback, Neron appears to have somehow won back his position in Hell and regained his full powers anyway within three years (how this is done is never explained or shown), after which the demon Calcabrina offers Neron the souls of 66 members of the Human Defense Corps in an attempt to deflect both the Corps and other Earthly forces from a war with him (although the deal is never completed, as it is interrupted by the Corps launching a successful rescue bid in an attack on Hell). Two years after this he tries to make a deal with Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter and fails to do so.
52 and afterward
Under thrall to Neron, Felix Faust plots to deliver him the Elongated Man's (Randolph William "Ralph" Dibny) soul at the moment of its greatest despair. Pretending to be Doctor Fate I (Kent Nelson), Faust attempts to convince the Elongated Man that he can resurrect his dead wife, Susan Dearbon "Sue" Dibny, and teaches him magical skills so that he can do so, but is tricked by the Elongated Man, who has known for some time that he is not Doctor Fate I and that Neron is responsible for the whole plot. When Neron appears, he is goaded by the Elongated Man into killing him, but then discovers that the Elongated Man has tricked him and has established a circle of binding around Doctor Fate I's home, the Tower of Nabu, which can only be undone by the person who originally created it. Neron is thus trapped in the tower with Faust, seemingly for all eternity.
The binding does not last long; through some unknown method, Neron soon finds a way to escape and makes a deal with Kid Devil, granting him the superpowers he has always dreamed of by turning him into Red Devil in exchange for his soul when he reaches 20 years of age if his trust in his idol, Blue Devil, is broken. Typically Faustian, he then reveals that Blue Devil was responsible for the death of Red Devil's aunt, filmmaker Marla Bloom, and had hidden the truth from him. When Red Devil confronts Blue Devil, he finds out that everything that Neron had said was the truth and he becomes estranged from Blue Devil from a time, believing that his soul now belongs to Neron.
Reign in Hell
Neron is opposed by the demon siblings Blaze and Satanus, the rulers of Purgatory, who attempt to take control of Hell while he is imprisoned in the Tower of Nabu. The hordes of Purgatory invade Hell under their command and influence Hell's demons against Neron by offering hope and redemption for the damned, which has never happened before. To defeat the legions of the damned, Neron has Lilith the Mother of Monsters recall all of her children to Hell to fight on his side. Despite all of this, and just when Neron seems to be victorious, he is killed by Satanus, who had used the war as a cover in order to infect Hell with a modified airborne viral version of DMN, a magical drug that normally changes humans into monsters but, in this version, changes demons into soulless humans when combined with the magic word 'Shazam' . For Neron, the drug turns him into a soulless human as well and causes all of the demonic entities that he had consumed over the millennia to be cast out of him. No longer a match for Satanus, he is beheaded by his former enemy, after which Satanus claims the throne of Hell for himself. It all turns out to be for nothing, however, because Blaze, Satanus' sister, soon usurps her brother's position and claims the throne for herself. However, this miniseries is known to have many internal continuity errors that make its place in mainstream DC Universe canon questionable.
Ambush Bug: Year None
Ambush Bug goes to Hell and asks Neron to nullify his marriage to the Dumb Bunny, a member of the Inferior Five (who he married in Las Vegas while he was drunk)-one of several alternate realities that he travels to in order to find a way out of the marriage. This was a short non-canonical joke that was done as a parody of the storyline Spider-Man: One More Day (2007) by DC Comics' longtime rival Marvel Comics.
The New 52 and DC Rebirth
In 2011, DC relaunched all its titles in an initiative called The New 52. Neron's first appearance in The New 52 version of the DC Universe (as part of the DC YOU line) was in Constantine: The Hellblazer #8-13 (March–August 2016). In this story, Neron is retconned as originally having been a minor demon who, through unscrupulous means, became the demon-lord he is today in the 1980s (he is even given the current status of an Arch-Duke of Hell). The Underworld Unleashed crossover event is also revealed in this story as being canon in this version of the DC Universe and is said to have occurred in the 1990s. Here, he becomes an enemy of John Constantine. He also appears to be a satirical caricature of the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump.
In 2016, DC's titles were relaunched again in another initiative called DC Rebirth. Neron's first appearance in the DC Rebirth version of the DC Universe was in Midnighter and Apollo #2-6 (January–May 2017). In this story, Neron is keeping Apollo (one half of the superhero team Midnighter and Apollo) as a prisoner in Hell.
Powers and abilities
Neron is normally portrayed as being one of the most powerful magical beings in the DC Universe; almost invulnerable and able to warp reality and raise the dead. However, despite manifesting great strength and magical powers on occasion, he normally relies on a deal to obtain human souls and only claims them when the deal is up or when his victims fail to keep their side of the deal. He is able to give superheroes and supervillains magic-based powers (as he did with Kid Devil by turning him into Red Devil), can greatly enhance a superhero or supervillain's existing powers and has the ability to assume a human-like appearance-although he sometimes uncontrollably reverts to a demonic form when angry. He possesses immense physical strength, as seen when he killed Mongul I with his bare hands or when killing other demons. He is also adept at creating items of power, for example the Ocean Master's trident, or more common items such as the Secret Six's Get Out of Hell Free card or a box of Cuban cigars for the Joker. If killed, he returns to his own realm and is considerably more powerful while there, even at times depicted as near-omnipotent while in his realm.
Neron appears to be unable to resist a chance to make a deal and has often been tricked out of the deals that he has made with mortals (especially by the Trickster I, who outwitted him twice-something that no other mortal had ever done before, much less lived to tell about it-and earned Neron's eternal hatred as a result). He is also unable to deal with pure souls, such as those of Superman or Captain Marvel, and when he tries to take the love that the Flash III and Linda Park have for each other, he discovers, in shock, that the purity of that love begins to corrupt him to the extent that he begins to feel pity and compassion for the damned souls in his realm for the first time in his existence without understanding why, which forces him in desperation to frantically offer the couple another deal to take their love back. He is also unable to 'alter the fundamental laws of the universe' .
- Neron's name is based on a reading of 666 as meaning Neron Caesar in Gematria numerology.
- Neron has an important, albeit brief and off-panel, role in "Grand Guignol", a story arc chronicled in Starman (vol. 2) #61-73 (January 2000–January 2001). After the Shade I (Richard Swift), one of the series' supervillains (who, at that time, claimed to have reformed and to no longer be a supervillain), earlier refuses Neron's offer of a deal during the Underworld Unleashed crossover event, he swears to have revenge on the Shade I and ultimately gets it by making deals with, and giving enhanced powers to, two more of the series' supervillains, the Mist I (Kyle Nimbus) and the Rag Doll I (Peter Merkel Senior), in exchange for both of them-along with Doctor Phosphorus, with whom he had previously made a deal also during the Underworld Unleashed crossover event-destroying Opal City and harming the Shade I. His role here is, in fact, part of an elaborate scheme of Simon Culp, the Shade I's deadliest enemy, to get revenge on the Shade I himself.
In other media
Neron is featured in the fourth season of the TV series Legends of Tomorrow. Throughout the first half of the season, John Constantine is tormented by an unknown supernatural entity, later revealed to be Neron. In the episode "Hell No, Dolly!", Constantine reveals he had made a deal with the demon-lord so that Neron would get his soul when he dies. However, Constantine's lover and Marie Laveau's descendant, Desmond, made another deal of his own with Neron to take his soul instead of Constantine's. This led to Neron taking over Desmond's body and left Constantine no choice but to send Desmond to Hell to keep Neron from causing trouble on Earth. In the episode "Legends of To-Meow-Meow", Neron is seen possessing Desmond's body as he is playing golf with Time Bureau funder Hank Heywood.
- Teen Titans (vol. 3) #42 (February 2007)
- Spoken by Ghast, one of the Demons Three, in JLA #6 (July 1997)
- Superman, The Man of Tomorrow #15 (fall 1999)
- Richard Dragon #10 (April 2005)
- Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #124 (August 1997)
- The Ray (vol. 2) #18 (November 1995)
- Underworld Unleashed #2 (early December 1995)
- Underworld Unleashed #1 (November 1995)
- Ironically, as the Flash III later points out in The Flash (vol. 2) #127 (July 1997), Neron is defeated by 'of all people-king of the con men.'
- A full list of the titles involved in the Underworld Unleashed crossover event and the fates of the supervillains and superheroes involved in it is at Underworld Unleashed
- Fate #14 (December 1995) and Underworld Unleashed-Abyss: Hell's Sentinel #1 (December 1995)
- The Flash (vol. 2) #125-126 (May–June 1997)
- Neron claims that he knew all along that the Pied Piper II would not even use the candle. 'Why else send a candle to your friend, the Piper, all those months ago? I knew he'd never use it to light his way here. It was meant for you to find.' (The Flash (vol. 2) #128 (August 1997)) But of course Neron is a liar, so this may not be true.
- The Flash (vol. 2) #127 (July 1997)
- The Flash (vol. 2) #128 (August 1997)
- The Flash (vol. 2) #129 (September 1997)
- Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #123-125 (July–September 1997)
- Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #125 (September 1997)
- Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #126-127 (October–November 1997)
- JLA #6-7 (June–July 1997)
- JLA: Paradise Lost #1-3 (January–March 1998)
- New Year's Evil: The Rogues (February 1998)
- The details of the demonic hierarchy in the DC Universe are at Hell (DC Comics)
- Deadman: Dead Again #1 (October 2001)
- Deadman: Dead Again #2 (October 2001)
- Deadman: Dead Again #3 (October 2001)
- Green Lantern (vol. 3) #46 (October 1993); an unseen event retcon
- Deadman: Dead Again #4 (October 2001)
- Deadman: Dead Again #5 (October 2001)
- Human Defense Corps #6 (December 2003)
- Richard Dragon #7-12 (January–June 2005)
- 52 Week 25 (October 25, 2006) and 52 Week 42 (February 21, 2007)
- as narrated by the still-trapped Felix Faust in issue #2 of the six-issue miniseries Black Adam: The Dark Age (October 2007-March 2008). Note: the binding also does not appear to have been very effective either; Faust also escapes within the year.
- In yet another failure, Blaze later revealed to Kid Devil that his powers and transformation into Red Devil were not given to him or done to him by Neron as per the deal; Neron had actually unlocked a metagene that was already present in Kid Devil and did not even know it, so the deal was not binding after all-and, in fact, had been null and void right from the beginning (Teen Titans (vol. 3) #68 (April 2009)).
- Reign in Hell #7 (February 2009)
- Reign in Hell #8 (April 2009)
- Ambush Bug: Year None #3 (November 2008)
- The Amazing Spider-Man #544 (November 2007), Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24 (November 2007), The Sensational Spider-Man (vol. 2) #41 (November 2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man #545 (January 2008), all published by Marvel Comics
- Constantine: The Hellblazer #8-13 (March–August 2016)
- Midnighter and Apollo #2-6 (January–May 2017)
- Aquaman (vol. 5) #18-20 (March–May 1996)
- Secret Six (vol. 3) #1-7 (September 2008-May 2009)
- JLA #7 (August 1997)
- Showcase '95 #12 (December 1995)
- Starman (vol. 2) #70-72 (October–December 2000)