Comic characters as tattoos have a long and storied history together, peppered with superheroes, heroines, and comic strip comedians. Hot Stuff seems to have some serious staying power though, even as Dagwood or Jeep seem to fade away. To the point, where many people who wear the Hot Stuff tattoo might not know he has his origin in a Golden Age comic of the same name.
As noted at the Tattoo Archive, Hot Stuff made his debut in October of 1957. He’s a bit of an imp and a mischievous youngster, whose diapers are made of asbestos. He gets his name from being able to produce fire but he also carries a magical pitchfork. While he appears the little devil through and through, he sometimes performs good deeds, much to the consternation of his devlish cohort.
Hot Stuff, the Little Devil, likely created by Alfred Harvey and originally drawn by Howard Post and Warren Kremer, was a character that was featured in several comic book titles through the 1960s and even into the 90s. Unlike other famous characters in the Harvey line-up (Casper, the Friendly Ghost), Hot Stuff has managed to hang on in popularity, without benefit of an animated cartoon.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, however, that the Little Devil, has stayed strong for so long–the devil is just a popular character. While the name Satan may seem a bit too, well, diabolical for our cute comic character, all of the essential elements of Satan that we’ve come to expect are included: the pitchfork, the horns, the bat wings, the tail, and the color red. In fact, most of these elements have been in place for hundreds of years.
One of the most vivid descriptions of the devil was created by Dante, in the early 1300s, where he describes Satan in the very bottom of hell (the ninth circle), sitting in ice, with three faces (one red, one black, one yellow), weeping tears from six eyes, and beating his six wings. Each mouth gnaws on a traitor (Brutus, Cassius, and Judas). Because Satan is virtually never described in the scriptures of the various religions in which he is discussed, his form has been malleable over the years.
Even with his changing look, we instantly recognize two things about Hot Stuff: he’s a devil and he’s an infant. Not unlike Casper, Hot Stuff is just a youngster and prone to misadventures and pranks. We could say that part of his staying power in tattoos is his dual nature: evil but also childlike. The question of staying power is also a chicken-and-egg conundrum, though, where Hot Stuff, as a symbol, seems to have been preserved partially because of tattoos.
Of late, Hot Stuff, as a tattoo, also capitalizes on one of the more zany aspects in western tattooing: humor, especially as a visual pun. If you wear the Hot Stuff tattoo, are you saying that you’re “hot stuff”? Like so many other popular tattoos, Hot Stuff seems to capture more than one meaning, including something that’s a little sexy and also somthing a little naughty.