FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (1987) – Written by David Quinn with artwork by Tim Vigil. Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this review of the 1987-2012 “adult” comic book series Faust. This series included very graphic and very unusual sex and violence while offering a twisted update on the story of Faust selling his soul to Mephistopheles. The year 2000 Brian Yuzna (’nuff said) movie version of Faust: Love of the Damned is pretty bad but does capture the blood-soaked, anarchic WTF air of the series.
Before I get into plot details I’ll point out that, despite the criticism that Quinn and Vigil get for providing stories featuring extreme sex and gore in a purely sensational manner they never sold out their indy comic vision by watering down either the sex or the violence just for wider distribution and more money.
Only fifteen issues of the Quinn/ Vigil Faust were produced with years between installments at some points. That angle puts me in mind of the way that assorted mainstream European and Australian comic books have been produced over the decades, just a few issues here and a few issues there.
Complicating timely release of Faust issues was the way the book was banned in multiple countries from time to time over its explicit content.
After the outrightly pornographic sexual content and next-level gore one of the biggest criticisms of the Faust series is that the claws that sprout from his forearms are, shall we say, far too “reminiscent” of Wolverine. However, it is only fair to point out that this Faust character is more like depraved Freddy Krueger crazy than short-tempered Wolverine crazy.
I can’t picture Logan gleefully lapping the blood of his victims off his claws or french-kissing a foe’s head after decapitating them. And Faust is illustrated using his claws to regularly sever limbs and other body parts the way Wolverine would never be allowed to do. The darkness in Faust is what Spawn can only deliver pale imitations of, but then the storytelling in Faust is not exactly refined.
Criminally insane artist John Jaspers aka Johnny Faust, seeking revenge, sells his soul to the crime lord known as M, who is obviously Mephistopheles. It’s an interesting albeit somewhat on the nose metaphor for the way a life in organized crime can provide money for all the sex and drugs that one wants, but at the figurative cost of one’s soul.
M bought John Jaspers’ soul in exchange for his superpowers and weaponry (flight, paranormal strength, metal claws, etc). Jaspers was fine unleashing savage, serial-killer level violence on rival gangsters of M’s but ultimately rebelled after dispatching less guilty and “deserving” targets.
M dealt with his mutinous minion by slaying him, but Faust comes back from the dead and battles M and his allies – both human and otherwise – as a supernatural wild card whose ferocity and fondness for bloodletting rival M himself.
A lot of criticism is leveled against Quinn’s writing over inconsistencies regarding the nature of Faust’s resurrection and personality and that criticism is well founded. For brevity’s sake I’ll provide a composite of the reasoning and often sophomoric philosophy behind Quinn’s creation.
John Jaspers is indeed insane. In real-world legal terms it is always a point of contention just how responsible the insane are for their actions and what level of punishment they can or should be subjected to. In religious terms as well, what type of afterlife punishment – if any – the insane should receive is similarly debated.
Faust seems in some of the stories to have been deemed immune to confinement in Hell because his insanity negates his culpability for his killings, yet he is also certainly too violent and vile for entry to Heaven. And so he remains in this undead state between life and death, while wreaking havoc on M’s plans.
Before hardcore Faust fans bother leaving novel-length comments ripping that summary to shreds I will remind you I stipulated that my explanation was just a brief composite of the various in-universe origin details for this ultra-violent main character.
Another major character in the Faust stories is Dr Jade DeCamp, John Jaspers’ psychiatrist and lover at the insane asylum where the sinister M secretly manipulated his treatment. Yet another character would be reporter Ron Balfour who gets caught up in the saga of Faust, M and Jade. Claire, a devil-worshiping dominatrix who serves M also figures into the stories.
The Faust series is a must read for anyone interested in independent and/or underground comics. There is absolutely no compromising on the sex and violence and overall there’s a Heavy Metal music feel to the theological approach.
I can’t entirely recommend this series because I found too much of it repetitious and overblown, but a review of it seemed perfect for Halloween season given how far its horror and violence go beyond even some R-rated horror films. Hellraiser fans in particular should enjoy Faust: Love of the Damned. +++
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