Monday, June 14, 2010

Superheroes I Love No. 3: Doctor Fate

PhotobucketSometimes, when it comes to superheroes, it's all in the name and the look. Everyone made up their own goofy superheroes when they were kids, combining two words or more to make up awesome-sounding good guys and bad guys -- Robotron! Mister Amazing! Super Ant! Whatever it is, a good name can help make a hero cooler. And so it is with today's Superhero That I Love, Doctor Fate.

Who: Dr. Fate, a sorcerer of immense power who first appeared in More Fun Comics in 1940, and who's been bopping about in DC Comics in one form or another ever since, mostly as a member of the Justice Society of America.

What: An archaeologist's son, Kent Nelson discovers a mystical helmet possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian wizard, and becomes all magical and stuff.

Catchphrase: Who summons Fate?

Why I dig: This one's simple, really -- it's the name and awesome costume. I think the visual of Fate's gleaming golden helmet, streamlined blue and gold costume and cape are just Superhero Classic 101 -- it sticks in your head. Fate's typically been played as one of the big guns in DC comics, right about up there with Superman in terms of power. He shows up, speaks in mystical epigrams, and battles forces of dark and mysterious power. I think maybe it was this sense of mystery that attracted me to Dr. Fate -- and the more routine his adventures become, the less appealing he is. He's had quite a variety of solo series in the 70 years since his creation, but few lasted too long and he's never quite been "A-list". Frankly I think the character works best in tandem with other superheroes.

PhotobucketThere have been a few good runs, including his longest lasting solo series, the 41-issue "Dr. Fate" series in the late 1980s that at least at first managed to combine Fate with a fair bit of humour and still respect the character's mystery. Theres also a nice Walt Simonson run and a Keith Giffen miniseries that had some great abstract art. But honestly, since the 1990s Fate's had a rough run of it, being replaced about 10 times (today's Doctor Fate is apparently the original's great-nephew -- really?) The character's nadir was an utterly infamous mid-1990s run where Fate was reinvented as a big hairy guy with a knife. I don't know if the character's full potential has ever been met. Dr. Fate has never quite gotten the "ultimate" story such a good-looking gent deserves. But sometimes it's just enough to stand around looking cool, I suppose.


  1. I know you're a DC Head, Nik, but...MARVEL RULES, MAN!
    I dug out my old "Treasury Edition" with Spiderman and Superman crossover. Those were the days, eh?
    Also, if you're not familiar with it and can find it, pick up "Tales Of Terror", the E.C. Companion. Amazingly detailed and comprehensive overview of not just EC Comics but the history of the industry in general, including the dreaded "Seduction Of The Innocent" hearings and the beginnings of the Comics Code. A fantastic read!

  2. Hey, I'm an equal DC/Marvel man -- and actually over the years probably much more of a Marvel reader, really. I do think DC has a lot of great characters but less great stories starring them. But I began fandom as a Marvel fanboy and I'd have to say if I had to choose between them the home of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Hulk is where I'd lean!

    Yeah that "Tales of Terror" is great. Also really recommend "The Ten-Cent Plague" which came out a year or two ago.