Classification: Underworld magical text

Creator: Master Judge of the Lower Depths

User/Possessors: Master Judge of the Lower Depths, Messenger, Red Skull (see comments)

Aliases: Forbidden Book, Great Volume

First Appearance: Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1 (October, 1949)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: The book kept a list of the deceased and any names appearing inscribed in fire would die and their souls would be consigned to Hell. The Fatal Book is able to return the dead back to life if the name was stricken from the record by the Master Judge of the Lower Depths. The book may have other mystical properties which are as yet undefined.



(Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1 - BTS) - The demon referring to himself as the Master Judge of the Lower Depths, created in the distant past, a great magical volume that would contain the names of the presently deceased whose souls were destined to arrive in Hell. He assigned an unnamed demon messenger to watch over the Fatal Book and fetch anyone whose name that appeared inside by returning to the Land of the living and transporting their souls to the Lower Planes.

(Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1) - The Red Skull whose soul now resided in Hell came upon the Fatal Book left unguarded. Wishing revenge on Captain America, he wrote his name in fire on a page of the Fatal Book. The Master Judge of the Lower Depths’ messenger later read the new names inscribed within the ledger and quickly returned to the Earthly plane to retrieve Captain America’s soul. Captain America arrives in Hell and is sent down the river Styx by Charon to his destination and is met by The Master Judge of the Lower Depths who was a bit surprised by Captain America’s appearance but was also excited at being able to break his fiery spirit. The great demon’s messenger arrived soon after to inform his master that Captain America’s name in the book was a mistake. This is proven to be true as the Red Skull suddenly steps out from the shadows and claims responsibility for the error as an act of vengeance. The Master Judge of the Depths decides to pit the Red Skull against Captain America in mortal combat to decide the hero’s fate. If he won he would return to the living and if he lost would remain in Hell for eternity. Captain America overcomes the Red Skull’s attack and defeats him. True to his word the Master Judge of the Lower Depths struck his name from the Fatal Book and returns Captain America to the mortal world.

Comments: Created by an unaccredited writer and artist.

I’m not sure which versions of the Red Skull or Captain America these were in the story since no real information was given. All I can do is speculate so here are a few possible theories.

The Red Skull featured in this tale could be the original Nazi version. If Captain America was Jeff Mace, William Nasland or the man who later became the Grand Director as per Marvel retcons, this would be acceptable as the only name the Red Skull placed in the Fatal Book was the words "Captain America". Since no secret identity was listed in the book as to who it was, it is safe to assume that whoever assumed the role of Captain America at this time would the one sent to Hell. Another possibility is that this was the original Captain America, Steve Rogers retelling a past tale since no date of reference appeared to imply when this took place.

It can't be the Nazi Red Skull because he was never dead. It could've been an impersonator, though. Or it could have all been a deception. You never know.
--Ronald Byrd

The Red Skull in this story could've been George Maxon. He was dead at the point this story was released and he once was the Red Skull.
--Markus Raymond

It would've been Jeff Mace. However, "Steve Rogers" is given as Cap's real name in several golden age stories from late 1945 to 1949, but none of those stories feature the original Cap, who was on ice at the time. Those would be a variation on "topical references," I suppose. Per the handbooks, Cap's last "original" golden age appearance was in Captain America Comics #48, which was also the last appearance of James Barnes as Bucky. William Nasland was Cap from #49 to #58, after which it was Jeff Mace until 1949.
-—Ronald Byrd

The demon called the Messenger bears a striking similarity, although artistically dated, to another demon called the Messenger from Marvel Spotlight#8 wherein it confronts the Ghost Rider in Hell and convinces him to place the dead body of Crash Simpson upon an altar where it’s soul could go on to it’s final reward.

You can read more speculation regarding the nature of the demon called the Master Judge of the Lower Depths in the comments section of his own profile.

Even the spirits of the clinically dead have to obey Death Incarnate. Right? And, the same probably holds true for every other mystical entity of non-human origin in the Marvel Universe.
So, the Red Skull seen in this story was probably the original, having an out-of-body experience during his forced hibernation, back then. Ditto, for the Cap. And, if such is the case, then the "Master Judge" was more likely Nightmare Incarnate having a bit of psionic "fun" at their expense.

Profile by AvatarWarlord72.

The Fatal Book has no known connection to:

The Messenger has no known connection to:


(Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1 - BTS) - This minor demon was given the task of overseeing the Fatal Book as its guardian. Whenever a new name was placed within the great book he would travel to the mortal world and escort the deceased to the Lower Planes.

(Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1) – After leaving the Fatal Book momentarily unguarded, he returns to his duties and finds Captain America’s name inscribed within its pages. The Messenger soon after arrives on the mortal plane at the stroke of midnight and knocks on Captain America’s door. After answering the knock, the Messenger appears before the hero and informs him that his time has come for departure as his name has been written in fire in the great volume. Captain America begins to voice his opinion but he is told that it is futile to resist and is quickly immobilized and unable to move on his own. With a burst of hellfire from his fingers he opens a portal to the Lower Regions and transports Captain America to the River Styx to begin his journey via Charon to his awaiting master.

(Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1) – Once Captain America arrives at his destination at the throne of the Master Judge of the Lower Depths, the Messenger informs the great demon that his name was placed in error and he should not be there. The Red Skull steps out from behind the shadows and revealed his meddling with the Fatal Book and wrote Captain America’s name inside out of vengeance. He stood witness as the two enemies were forced by the Master Judge of the Lower Planes to battle over the fate of Captain America.

--Captain America's Weird Tales#74/1

images: (without ads)
Captain America’s Weird Tales#74/1, p1, pan2 (Fatal Book)

p6, pan3 (Master Judge edits the book)
p2, pan1 (Messenger face image)
p2, pan3 (Messenger sends Cap to Hell)

Captain America's Weird Tales#74 (October, 1949)

First Posted: 04/20/2008
Last updated: 07/05/2014

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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