If you don’t know of Den from anything other than Heavy Metal, you’re missing out. You get the basic principle, but there is a lot more to the character than just getting thrown into another universe. Also, you won’t know his true origin.
David Ellis Norman (Den) follows directions from a note left by his missing Uncle Dan to build an electronic apparatus, opening a gateway to Neverwhere. Once he passes through the gateway, there is a battle for the Loc-Nar, he meets the Red Queen, and he rescues Kath.
The Fantagor Press series starts with Kath and Den battling the evil Scon over the Nar Stones. The two are separated during the fight, and we resume the story with an overweight, out of shape Den.
“Danger and sudden death are your constant companions in Neverwhere. They never leave you. Not for one second.” – Den #2
Saved by Ghasthelm at his lowest (and not for the first time), while someone was trying to best Den the “toughest fighter ever to walk Neverwhere’s mean plains.” Although, in his present condition he hardly looks the part: “I’m old. I’m fat. I’ve lost my strength… My will; I’ve lost it all.”
GhastHelm gives Den some hope of finding Kath, and off he goes on a quest to help Lusque where he regains some of his former form. Afterwards, the warrior of Neverwhere is finally on his quest to find Kath.
Joining forces with Zandor to battle Scon in an air battle, Den finds himself fighting on a wounded ship against Scon. Den escapes by plunging into the ocean where he punches a shark! (Seriously, he punches a freaking shark!)
After escaping the shark, he rejoins a captured Kath in a submarine only to be captured himself. After getting loose again, they avoid a kraken and take what they believed was a shortcut that takes them off target for weeks! This is just as amazing for a comic book as it’s realistic. Not all shortcuts take a few hours, but that doesn’t make them any less a shortcut.
In the bowels of Neverwhere, they find and use a borer to bore out of the earth and into sunlight and fresh desert air for an assault on Scon’s fortress. Scon’s multitude of devices for the battle including the Nutcracker of Death!
The series is full of sexual tension between Den and Kath, Den and the Red Queen, and Den and god-knows-who-else. The shortcut that takes weeks is a credit to how realistic they’re trying to make these superhuman characters. Time passing in comics is usually one panel and a few minutes or hours later. So, when it’s longer and more realistic, it’s a refreshing read.
If you enjoyed the John Candy-voiced Den from Heavy Metal, you’ll enjoy this series. I also encourage you to get your hands on some old Heavy Metal magazines, as Den is spread throughout them in the 1980s.
Corben’s art is, as always, amazing. It’s a style that we don’t see much of outside of his ever-growing comicography.