Underworld Unleashed #1|
Mark Waid (writer)|
Howard Porter (artist)
|Place of origin||Hell|
|Abilities||superhuman physical attributes, shapeshifting, telepathy, teleportation, mastery of maleficium|
Neron first featured as the major antagonist in the DC Comics multi-title comic book cross-over event Underworld Unleashed released by DC Comics in 1995. As well as the core story-line of the three-issue Underworld Unleashed mini-series (November 1995 - December 1995), most of the DC titles published in November and December 1995 and a number of one-off titles were also part of the series. Neron appeared in most of these. After this introduction, he was next used in several storylines simultaneously: the three-part 'Hell to Pay' in Flash vol 2 #127 - 129 (July - September 1997), by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Wonder Woman vol 2 #123 - 125 (July - September 1997) by John Byrne, and a two-part story in JLA #6 -7 (July - August 1997) by Grant Morrison, with art by Neron's co-creator Howard Porter. That last storyline continued in JLA: Paradise Lost #1 - #3 (January - March 1998) a key early story in the long process of re-ordering the position of Hell in the DC Universe.
Neron then appeared in New Year's Evil: Rogues (February 1998), part of the New Year's Evil series that ran in nine one-off titles, followed by a two-page vignette featuring Etrigan The Demon in the one-off anthology title DCU Villains Secret Files #1 (1999); ending the year with a part in the weekly series Day of Judgement #1 - #5 (November 1999) and a stand-alone tale by J.M. DeMatteis, 'Heart of Hell' in the last issue of Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, #15 (Fall 1999) which fit into the Day of Judgement series.
His next appearances came in the Deadman: Dead Again weekly series #1 - #5 (October 2001) written by Steve Vance, a humorous Christmas story '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). Over a year later he featured in the last four parts of the 'Out Of the Past story-arc in Richard Dragon #9 - #12 (March - June 2005), then during the DC cross-over event 52 Neron was involved in Week 25 (October 25, 2006), Week 42 (February 21, 2007), followed by 'Devil May Care' in Teen Titans #42 (February 2007). None of these stories were critical to his character development or storyline. This was left to Keith Giffen, whose Reign In Hell (August 2008 - April 2009, missing September) eight-issue mini-series featured all-out war between Hell and Purgatory and re-defined Hell in DC comics continuity. Since then there has been one further vignette, a short non-continuity joke in typical Giffen Ambush Bug style in Ambush Bug Year None #3 (November 2008).
Fictional character history
Neron is one of the major demons of Hell, a "Wishweaver", the "King of Hate", and "Lord of Lies". It is not known how old he is, but he has claimed 'I brought the very first couple together' , and 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 he is the Lord of Lies. Although he is unknown to Earth's heroes until the events of Underworld Unleashed, the ancient villain Vandal Savage is already long-acquainted with him -- 'still making deals .. still collecting souls?' is his first seen greeting to Neron and they discuss matters as old acquaintances.
He specializes in making deals with people for their souls in exchange for their greatest desires. '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 deal maker or their death, either as a result of their actions or by Neron claiming their soul when they fail in their task. In other cases he achieves his aim by offering similarly treacherous information, or by granting 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 candle (a "demon stick" made from demon's blood) which, when lit, either summons him or brings them to Hell.
Neron appears to be unable to forego a chance to deal; he is attracted to bargaining to corrupt and gain souls. He is also attracted to purity, and wishes to corrupt and destroy it where he finds it. Both of these are his downfall.
Neron's first appearance to Earth's superheroes and villains occurs during the Underworld Unleashed event, when he plots to take over Earth and Apokolips by either enhancing the powers of, or offering their greatest desires to, dozens of supervillains and superheroes in exchange for their immortal souls. When attempting to tempt Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, he offered to bring back his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, from the dead, similarly he offers to revive Jason Todd to Batman and to bring Barry Allen back from the dead to Wally West.
He tricks five of The Flash's Rogues Gallery (Captain Boomerang, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master II, and Weather Wizard) into causing a series of explosions that killed them. When seen from the sky, the five explosions resemble the points of a pentagram and the symbol, combined with the deaths of the villains, creates a gateway which enables Neron to travel to Earth and to influence humanity. Many super-villains and superheroes are either approached directly with deals for their soul, or given candles which, when lit, either summon Neron to them or them to Hell. Around fifty super-villains had their powers increased to varying degrees as a result.
Ultimately Neron is scheming to take over Earth, and to obtain a "pure soul" that he could corrupt. Initially everyone assumes this refers to Superman's soul, but he actually seeks the soul of Captain Marvel. In the end, he is thwarted by the Trickster suggesting Cap should accept the deal, and the most powerful members of the Justice League America, including Captain Marvel, though not before causing mass chaos and worldwide destruction on Earth and killing the alien despot Mongul and a number of other villains who refused his deals. Neron makes a deal with Captain Marvel to not destroy Earth, but Captain Marvel's soul is too pure for Neron to touch; Neron, however, had to honor his agreement. Critical to later events, he also makes a deal so that the essence of The Spectre will not go against him, and reveals that he wants The Spectre as his agent and slave and ultimately his replacement in Hell.
After the Underworld Unleashed event, an unknown number of Neron's candles still existed and cause major trouble for their possessors, and others, in later years.
The Flash: Hell to Pay
Two years later, the soulless Rogues previously killed by Neron's trickery return to cause havoc in Keystone City, causing The Flash to challenge Neron for their souls after gaining an audience in Hell by using a candle that The Piper had kept, all of which Neron had supposedly planned. Neron offers The Flash a deal for the Rogues' souls, but he refuses and is allowed to leave Hell with the original Flash, Jay Garrick, whom Neron had captured earlier. Knowing that the now almost-immortal Rogues are too powerful, Neron's ploy is that Flash will be forced to bargain to save Keystone City. Neron refuses Flash'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 bargained earlier in exchange for Neron not going after Flash's soul. Neron planned this in order to use Flash's 'Speed Force' to enter and rule Heaven, but the plan backfires and the essence of their love "corrupts" him, forcing him to frantically offer Flash and Linda a deal to take their love back.
Immediately afterwards he captures Wonder Woman and Artemis in Hell as part of a plan to bring about the downfall of his enemy Etrigan the Demon. After being seriously hurt by Artemis in the ensuing battle, he kills Wonder Woman.
JLA: Paradise Lost
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 a million 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 help 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.
Immediately after this he is once again tricked by Trickster and defeated by an agent of Heaven.
Day of Judgment and after
Etrigan the Demon causes trouble in Neron's realm by bonding Asmodel (who is bound in Hell and tortured by Neron) to the spirit of The Spectre (who is awaiting a new host after the death of Jim Corrigan). The Spectre freezes Neron. In the chaos caused by Hell's realms invading Earth, Neron uses Superman's body as a gateway, and once again attempts to claim The Spectre's force for himself. He is thwarted when the Spectre chooses ex-Green Lantern Hal Jordan as its new human host instead, and is punished by his fellow Hell-Lords for using Hell's power for his own pleasure. His royalty is stripped from him, and he is demoted to the position of Rhyming Demon -- Etrigan's plan all along. Later it is disclosed that Superman was not just used as a conduit to Earth, but was actually replaced by Neron in disguise while his psyche was battling for Lois Lane's soul in Hell.
To regain his place in Hell's pantheon, Neron next tries to collect a number of dead superheroes' souls: Deadman, Flash (Barry Allen), Robin (Jason Todd) and Superman (who has been killed by Doomsday). Unable to enter Superman's body himself, he discovers that his surrogate Caldera is rejected by Superman's body also, so uses Caldera's soul as the fourth of the five he requires. He then turns his attention to Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, tricking Deadman into saving Green Lantern from death during his battle with Mongul, ensuring Neron will have the chance to tempt Green Lantern later in his history after he has destroyed the planet Oa, and thus win back his position in Hell. Neron erases Deadman's memory of him so he cannot prevent this happening, but is thwarted when The Spectre restores his memory and Deadman changes the future by ensuring Caldera dies before Neron can offer him a deal.
Despite this setback, Neron appears to have somehow regained his position and powers within two years, after which the demon Calcabrina offers Neron the souls of 66 members of the Human Defense Corps in an attempt to deflect the both the Corps and other Earthly forces from 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). A year after this he enters into a deal with Richard Dragon which fails.
Under thrall to Neron, Felix Faust plots to deliver him Ralph Dibny's soul at its moment of greatest despair. Pretending to be Dr. Fate, he attempts to convince Dibny that he can resurrect his dead wife, Sue, and teaches him magic skills, but is tricked by Ralph, who has known for some time that he is not Dr. Fate and that Neron is responsible for the plot. When Neron appears, he is goaded by Dibny into killing him, but discovers Dibny has tricked him and has established a circle of binding around Dr. Fate's tower which can only be undone by the person who created it. Neron is trapped in the Tower of Fate with Faust.
The binding does not last long; through some unknown method, Neron soon finds a way to escape and makes a deal with Kid Devil, exchanging the superpowers he has dreamed of for his soul when he reaches 20 years old if his trust in his idol Blue Devil is broken. Typically Faustian, he then reveals Blue Devil was responsible for Kid Devil's aunt Marla dying and had hidden the fact from him.
Reign in Hell
Neron is opposed by the demons Blaze and Satanus, who attempt to take control of Hell while he is imprisoned in the Tower of Fate. The hordes of Purgatory invade Hell under their command and influence Hell's demons against Neron by offering hope and redemption for the damned. 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 this, and when Neron seems to be victorious, he is killed by Satanus, who had used the cover of war to infect Hell with a magical microbe that reverts demons to humans. For Neron the infection causes the many demonic entities he had consumed over the millennia to be driven from him and, no longer a match for Satanus, he is beheaded.
Powers and abilities
Neron is normally portrayed as being one of the most powerful magical creatures in the DC Universe; almost invulnerable and can warp reality and raise the dead. However, despite manifesting great strength and magical powers on occasion, he normally relies on a bargain to obtain human souls and only claims them when the deal is up or they fail their side of the bargain. He is able to give superheroes and villains magic-based powers (as he did with Kid Devil) and greatly enhance a metahuman's existing powers, and has the ability to assume a human-like appearance - although he sometimes uncontrollably reverts to demon form when angry. He possesses immense physical strength, as evidenced when he killed Mongul with his bare hands or when killing demons. He is also adept at creating items of power, for example Ocean Master's trident, or more common items such as the Secret Six's recently acquired "Get Out of Hell - Free" card, or a box of Cuban cigars for The Joker. It should be noted that if killed, he returns to his own domain, and is considerably more powerful while there, even at times depicted as near omnipotent while in his realm.
Neron is unable to refuse a deal, and has often been tricked out of the deals he has made with mortals (especially Trickster, who outdealt him twice). He is also unable to deal with pure spirits, such as that of Captain Marvel, Superman, and when he took the love that Wally West (the Flash) and Linda Park had for each other, he discovered to his dismay that the purity of it began to corrupt him to the extent he begun to feel compassion for the damned souls in his realm. 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 had an important, albeit off-screen role, in the myth arc of the Starman series. After The Shade spurns Neron during the 'Underworld Unleashed' event (Showcase '95 #12), he grants extra abilities to four of the series' villains: the Mist, Copperhead, Ragdoll and Dr. Phosphorus.
- Teen Titans #42 (February 2007)
- Spoken by the demon Ghast in JLA #6 (June 1997)
- Superman, The Man of Tomorrow #15 (Fall 1999)
- Richard Dragon #10 (April 2005)
- Wonder Woman #124 (August 1997)
- The Ray #18
- Vandal Savage to Neron in The Ray #18
- Underworld Unleashed #2
- Underworld Unleashed #1 (November 1995)
- Ironic, as The Flash later points out in The Flash vol 2 #127 (February 1997) -- Neron is defeated by 'Of all people - King of the con men'
- A full list of the titles involved in the Underworld Unleashed cycle and the fate of heroes and villains involved is at Underworld Unleashed
- Neron claims he knew The Piper wouldn't 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 #128, March 1997). But of course Neron is a liar, so it may not be true.
- The Flash #128, March 1997
- Wonder Woman vol 2 #123 - 125 (July - September 1997)
- Wonder Woman #125 (September 1997)
- JLA #6 -7 (July - August 1997)
- JLA Paradise Lost #1 - #3 (January - March 1998)
- New Year's Evil: Rogues (February 1998)
- Details of the demon hierarchy in DC Comics - Hell (DC Comics)
- Superman, The Man of Tomorrow, #15 (Fall 1999)
- Green Lantern vol 3 #46 (October 1993), unseen event retcon
- Deadman: Dead Again #1 - 5 (weekly - October 2001)
- Human Defense Corps #6 (December 2003)
- Richard Dragon #9 - #12 (August 2005 - December 2005)
- 52 Week 25 (25 October 2006) and 52 Week 42 (21 February 2007)
- as narrated by the still trapped Felix Faust in Black Adam: The Dark Age #2 (November 2007). Note: the binding does not appear to have been very effective; Faust also escapes within the year
- In yet another failure, Lady Blaze later revealed that Kid Devil's powers weren't granted by Neron as per the deal; he had unlocked a metagene already present in Kid Devil, so the deal was not binding.(Teen Titans #68, April 2009)
- Reign in Hell #6 (February 2009)
- JLA #7 (August 1997)