It’s usually too controversial for mainstream comic book publishers to print stories featuring the actual biblical Devil, so Marvel and DC Comics have invented stand-ins for Satan - usually in the form of Mephisto and Neron, respectively. And while some superheroes, like John Constantine and Ghost Rider, deal with these demons more often than the rest, almost every caped crusader has found a reason to strike a devilish pact at one time or another.
In fact, some of the comic book medium’s most memorable storylines have centered around the selling of souls and other such deals with the devil. In most instances, the hero in question is able to weasel out of the bargain through some sort of plot contrivance, but that’s not always the case. Occasionally, the consequences of such negotiations last for decades.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
There are plenty of superheroes who have sold their souls to a devil, but few become superheroes by making a demonic deal (and most of them are Ghost Riders). In an origin story first told in Marvel Spotlight #5, stunt-rider Johnny Blaze sells his soul to a being he thinks is Lucifer to save his adoptive father from terminal cancer. The entity is later revealed to be Mephisto, the Marvel Universe’s most prominent lord of the underworld.
Demonstrating the malicious compliance that would become his trademark, Mephisto cures Johnny’s father's cancer, but then allows him to perish days later in a motorcycle jump gone wrong. The deal still stands, however, and as a result, Blaze is bonded with a Spirit of Vengeance - and becomes a flame-headed skeleton monster against his will.
It’s a trick Mephisto has repeated with countless other Ghost Riders throughout Marvel Comics’ history.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
Spider-Man has gone through some controversial plotlines in his several decades of existence, but One More Day stands out as the story that rankled fans the most - and with good reason. The arc, following hot on the heels of Peter Parker’s public identity reveal in Civil War, sees Aunt May take a hit meant for Spidey, resulting in a slow and painful demise that all the Marvel Universe’s spectacular technology apparently can’t prevent.
Left with no other resort, Parker and his wife Mary Jane meet with Mephisto, and Spider-Man offers up his soul in exchange for May’s life and continued health. Instead, Mephisto demands the couple’s love and marriage - and they accept. The deal wipes their memories and rewrites their history. As if this wasn’t horrific enough, moments before the incantation is complete, Mephisto introduces Peter and MJ to the child they would have had if they had stayed together, just to rub salt in the wound.
- Photo: DC Comics
Neron has long been considered one of DC Comics’ Satanic stand-ins - especially when it comes to the Devil’s notorious deal-making nature - and he certainly lives up to that reputation in the Hell to Pay storyline. That arc sees several deceased members of the Flash’s rogues’ gallery resurrected as zombies and let loose on Keystone City.
Wally West, serving in the role of the Scarlet Speedster at the time, confronts Neron and is offered a deal: give up his love for his wife, Linda, and in exchange Neron will call off the Rogues. West accepts, only to learn that Linda has already made a similar deal, and the two part ways. However, it isn’t long before the demon wants to renege.
The Wests' love proves too pure for Neron to contain within himself, and that leads to him begging the couple to take it back. They do, in exchange for all those villains being brought back to actual life.
- Photo: DC Comics
The demon Neron is the chief devilish element in the DC Universe, and his biggest moment occurs in the Underworld Unleashed crossover. An early component of a complex and convoluted scheme involves Neron recruiting several key supervillains to his “Inner Circle” by offering them something in return for their souls - and Lex Luthor is one of them.
At the time, Luthor has one foot in the grave, his body ravaged by an aggressive terminal cancer. As such, it doesn’t take much more than the offer of a cure for Luthor to accept Neron’s deal. Fortunately for him, he still gets to keep his health even after the demon is defeated and the pact ended.