There it is, swooping in from the sky! There’s the thump of hooves on a roof, the heavy beats of leathery wings unfolding. It appeared so fast—how could any creature be so fast? You were walking outside the woods when the pungent smell of rotted musk came up behind you…then a hard, furry chest collided with the back of your head. The earth came rushing up. It hit right on your face and something cracked. Multiple hands wavered in your vision as you started to see double.
You scramble among the leaves and dirt while the thing whistles ahead. You get up in time to see three of them land on the cabin in front of you. Your sight clears; the silhouettes merge into one. It shakes its horselike head and gallops around on two legs, sending shingles airborne. You stare at this thing in the dead of night outside the narrow trees of Pine Barrens. That can’t be…it’s the Jersey Devil! The shock wears off, your insides now clenching into ice as the feeling turns to horror. What do in front of a predator? Look big? Just look big! You throw your jacket open and yell. Higher-pitched than usual. What a night to find out if the Jersey Devil breathes fire, right?
It definitely sees you now. It’s stopped rollicking on the roof, and is now steadily turning up each spindly leg as it shifts itself in your direction. A long, skinny tail flicks behind it, the forked tip licking at you like a tongue. You start shrieking louder, and with a dreadful realization feel the warm blood of your broken nose running down your face. Fresh meat? Hopefully it just likes to party!
What a terrible encounter to have, right? The Jersey Devil is the Garden State’s most famous case of paranormal folklore. Born cursed by the cries of its struggling mother, the Jersey Devil was the 13th child of a certain Leeds family back in the coastal plains of the 1700s Pine Barrens. The baby was healthy upon arrival, but within minutes began to shriek and change. It morphed into a long-necked creature with hooves and a tail. Its face elongated, punctuated by jagged horns bursting on top. Wings sprouted from its back. The terrible creature escaped—some say, after killing everyone in the cabin—and has been terrorizing Pine Barrens ever since. The chaotic fascination with the Jersey Devil has seen it on all sorts of merchandise, including T-shirts, stickers, and, you guessed it, comic books. Let’s take a look at some of the comics that feature this cryptid.
Artists:Tony DiGerolamo (story), Steven Cornicelli, Bill Young, Dom LaGrutta, Jr., Tom Hodges, Donn Smith, Kevin Daily (art)
Issues of Appearance: 12
This isn’t about the actual creature, but someone who thinks he is. Jersey Devil is about quasi-superhero J.D. the hermit, whose adventures take him all across Pine Barrens. To embody his namesake he constructed a costume, including a horned mask, a cape, and a red shirt dripping with his initials. The team’s idea was to recreate myths about the Devil in a modern setting. Their genre title of “folknoir” combined with the realistic, gritty covers hint this series is for mature readers.
Marvel Knights 4 – Pine Barrens arc
Artists: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (writer), Steve McNiven (artist), Jim Muniz, Valentine DeLandro. Mizuki Sakakibara, Clay Mann (additional art)
Issues of Appearance: 3 (#5 – #7)
The Fantastic Four have hit New Jersey! This arc kicks off when Franklin and his friends trek to Pine Barrens with Reed, Sue, and Ben. The campers realize they are not alone, however, when they discover something’s following them. Is it the Jersey Devil? Whatever it is, the threat must be defeated before it brings its salubrious appetite to the nearby civilians. Take note that the image source has spoilers.
Artists: Todd Dezago (writer), Craig Rousseau (artist), Art Adams, Bob Almond, Dave Tata, Blake Wilkie, Rico Renzi (additional art)
Issues of Appearance: 1 (2008 Annual)
It’s a double-meaning for “paranormal investigators” when the top-secret BEDLAM agency makes their hires. The Perhapanauts are a group of government sleuths who crack supernatural happenstances while being of the supernatural themselves. The 2008 annual focuses on a string of murders all steeped in the Jersey Devil’s M.O. Its equine biology inspires this comic, seeing it drawn as an all-red horse with wicked canine claws and demonic wings. I want to see the chariot this guy pulls—through a telescope. Cryptid fans get an extra treat, as two of the Perhapanauts are a Sasquatch and a chupacabra!
War of the Woods
Artist: Matthew Petz
Issues of Appearance: At least 1 (Season 1, Chapter 3)
During the horrifying and nihilistic events of an alien invasion, someone out there may wonder something rather odd as they dodge hyperpowered laser beams and fiery ruins burning their town: “Whatever happened to the animals?” Matthew Petz gives an answer through the story of Phin, a talking otter who becomes a hero when the Raathinaak race invades his planet. War of the Woods takes place in Pine Barrens, which clearly lends opportunity for the Jersey Devil’s appearance. It debuts in Season 1, Chapter 3, where it tells Phin about its origin.
Artist: Zander Cannon
Issues of Appearance: At least 3 (debuted Season Three, #1)
It’s lockdown for these aliens and in maximum security! Follow the adventures of Electrogot and other Kaiju inmates as they navigate all sorts of underground places on a hostile Earth. The Creature from Devil’s Creek is a goat Kaiju with clear references to the Jersey Devil. The Creature appears to be more fearful than his origin would have you believe. Zander Cannon has clear passion for this series, speaking fondly of its inspirations and filling each page with stylistic, vivid illustrations. Don’t be fooled by the colorful art—Cannon has described his series as “disgusting” and “grotesque”, among lighter things.
There’s many more, but these five are a good start. Any of these strike out to you? A lot of these issues are available at a pretty affordable price. Or maybe you can check out what’s in your local library. Happy hunting for pen and ink featuring this wonderful cryptid. Hey, I wonder if there’s anything out there for Mothman…or Lizardman…or the Thunderbird…