Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Character I Don't Get...

It occurs to me, rereading JSA (again. I like JSA) that I've never really understood Dr. Fate.

I mean, I've got some vague knowledge of the back story, I know who Kent and Inza are, Linda and Eric, Jared Stevens and Hector Hall. I've got some vague idea of what/who Nabu is supposed to be.

But I don't really get him. He's not connecting for me.

It's not Hector Hall's fault, I don't really dislike the character. I found the neverending quest for Lyta boring, but Hector had interesting potential, especially being annoying as in Infinity Inc. (Though I think JSA's Hector was never quite as irritating and thus not as much fun as II's. Possibly because, like his dad, he's a character I love to be irked by.)

Maybe it's the Order/Chaos thing. I've only read bits and pieces of Gemworld or Hawk and Dove. I know Kid Eternity's connected to it somehow, but I don't really understand.

I don't think it's the magic thing. I tend to like magic using characters. (Speaking of, am I the only one who'd think it'd be awesome if this new Zatara is like the Kingdom Come one, kid of Constantine and Zatanna. I mean sure with the Vertigo-DC divide it'd be a trick even getting him to meet his dad, but that'd be some pedigree right there. Definitely would be fun to play with. But I digress).

I don't know. Probably what I need is to find specific stories in which Dr Fate (any of them) is being particularly Dr. Fate-ish. Stories that contain the quintessential Doctor Fate if you will, so I can get a better handle on the concept of the character. I don't suppose there are any huge Dr. Fate fans out there that can recommend some stories to me?


  • At August 23, 2006 3:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I actually really liked the post-Crisis Dr. Fate series, both the Linda/Eric/humanized-Nabu-in-Kent's-body DeMatteis one, and the Inza-Fate helping-the-black-skins Messner-Loebs one. So I'd recommend any arc from those, if you can get 'em.

    (Actually, I'm wondering how Nabu lost that humanity. Probably had to do with the later pointy-ankh-Fate series. Bah.)

  • At August 23, 2006 4:12 AM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    My main interest in Dr Fate was almost more as a plot device than an actual character.

    The JSA seems to be becoming 'magical crises' team, since that lets them save the world constantly but in less flashy ways than the JLA, in an arena that the JLA itself is actually pretty bad at dealing with.

    Having Dr Fate, any Dr Fate, on the team just makes it easier to bring these plots about.

  • At August 23, 2006 4:28 AM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

    I always liked pre-Crisis Doctor Fate, where much like his Marvel descendent Doctor Strange - he flew around, made dire pronouncements, provided quick hops to alternate dimensions, erected cool shields in the shape of ankhs and zapped other stuff.

    Somewhere along the line, all of that fell into disfavor among fans and pros and now the character is a bit of a mess.

    Although Zatanna remains awesome in the new Catwoman at least.

  • At August 23, 2006 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really can't recommend enough the DeMatteis run on Dr. Fate. It had a whole heap of good runs. And it my humble opinion they really hit on the head what a “Dr. Fate” is. Having said that I doubt that you’d really like it that much, it’s pretty much a stand alone series which at best vaguely attached to the DC universe (Think Vertigo pre-Vertigo) and totally ignores the JSA and all that rich history that you love

  • At August 23, 2006 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't really weigh in Doctor Fate, since I don't really get him either. About the only interpretation of the character that ever made sense to me was the animated one. Never read the Messner-Loebs series, though, and what I've seen of it looks neat.

    As for the new Zatara, I actually share your theory. In his first appearance, he kind of looked like Keanu Reeves, which I took as a reference to Constantine via the movie interpretation. There's more overlap between DCU and Vertigo these days, so it might be possible.

  • At August 23, 2006 7:36 AM, Blogger Hugo said…

    I've always loved Dr. Fate, I remember a story a couple of stories that really felt like him. One is the Cosmic Odyssey the other one's are actually related to JLI and JLE. I remember one of the first stories of the giffen era being about a bacteria posessing everyone except the martianmanhunter and Dr. Fate's Helm. There was also some great stories relating to the Grey Man, the only one with him I remember was on JLE some vampires.

  • At August 23, 2006 7:37 AM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    I've never really understood any of DC's magical characters. (Save for Hawk and Dove! L-O-V-E-D me some Kesel H&D!) They only ever appeared as ancillary to any storyline I've ever read. CoIE was probably my intro to most of these characters, but that doesn't really help because you're all the sudden swamped with 180 "magic-based" characters whose powers are all entirely different. I think it's kind of like New Gods stuff. If you don't actively seek out their core stories, they'll always only remain these oddities on the periphery - because they're so far outside the superhero norm. Unlike, say, Batman, whose whole character you basically get after a single guest spot in whatever book you decide to pick up.

  • At August 23, 2006 9:24 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ununnilium: Thanks!

    flidget: Mine too. I'd really like to get some handle on him/it as a character though.

    keeper: That does sound like fun!

    friscovi: I don't always need a LOT of continuity/history...

    But I admit, it doesn't hurt. :-P I'll give it a shot. :-)

    mela: Now there's a thought! The movie Constantine did seem a lot more directly magically inclined than the comic version too. :-)

    hugo: I remember Cosmic Odyssey some. I'll have to reread it for the Dr. Fate perspective. :-)

    dane: Probably. :-) Never hurts to get recommendations though. :-)

  • At August 23, 2006 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always enjoyed Fate's visuals much more than his actual contributions to stories, which (as someone already mentioned), served more to advance the plot than to reveal anything about the character.

    From the first time I ever saw the character (the JLA-JSA team-up in JLA #184), I loved the cool helmet and the ahnk-shaped spell thingies...but personality? It's just not there. The 90's distortions of the character (culminating in the ill-advised Jared Stevens interation) didn't make it any better....and the recent Hector Hall version didn't do much to rectify the problems.

    However, I think Fate fits into that great "supporting character" category, where it's cool to have him show up, play a role, and go...and leave the character development to stronger, more well-rounded cast members. Some characters, I believe, were never meant to take up too much of the spotlight, or have their own series. Dr. Fate is probably one of them.

  • At August 23, 2006 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since I haven't seen anyone else recommend it, The Immortal Dr. Fate was a 3-issue mini that reprinted Dr. Fate back-up stories from Green Lantern, I think. First issue art was by Walt Simonson, the rest was by Keith Giffen. Been awhile since I've read it but the thing that I remember best about the first issue is the antagonistic relationship between Inza and Nabu. She sees Dr. Fate as this thing that uses her husband to fight evil without any regard for his well being.

  • At August 23, 2006 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I feel you on this one. There's always been a disconnect with me on this character, even though I don't dislike him. I've liked the past series with Dr. Fate, but, as time has passed, I don't find myself saying to myself, "God, you know what DC needs to do! It needs to do a Dr. Fate series!"

    I don't think, though, for me it's the Order/Chaos thing because I've actually enjoyed that whole portion of the magical universe. I think it's because, for me, like the Spectre when he has no human host, Dr. Fate is, for the most part, always Dr. Fate. Oh, yes, he may have a human host, but it's not like they have a life outside of that. You never see the inner conflict of having a secret identity or even him going out with Wildcat and Flash to have a beer.

    I agree with Mark that he makes a much better visual character (because I love his look) and comes in better as somebody who supports the main cast.

  • At August 23, 2006 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since I haven't seen anyone else recommend it, The Immortal Dr. Fate was a 3-issue mini that reprinted Dr. Fate back-up stories from Green Lantern, I think.First issue art was by Walt Simonson, the rest was by Keith Giffen.

    I believe the Simonson story was from something called First Issue Special, while the Giffen stories were the back-up feature in Flash during the early 80's.

    I think the arena Fate works best in is his original Lovecraftian monster/Secret Society environment. While the art wasn't that great, his early Golden Age adventures had an eerie, unsettling feel about them than none of the modern Fate stories have duplicated...not even the cosmic Order vs. Chaos stuff. If someone could somehow recapture the same bizarre, eerie feel of the early Dr. Fate, I think it would help the character stand out a bit more from the crowded hocus-pocus crowd.

  • At August 23, 2006 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The art was a bit up and down, the Messner-Loebs run -was- a lot of fun and full of character. Inza as Fate always tweaked me in the right way, and the highlight was the issue - #39, I think - where she's put on trial by the government for illegally manipulating her neighbourhood; they're concerned she's employing mind control and abusing her powers. It explained some aspects of her character, where she was coming from - what it means to be extremely long-lived, what it means to have been around during the Depression, et cetera - and she got the upper hand in an extremely amusing way...

  • At August 23, 2006 11:40 AM, Blogger Sano said…

    I'd go for the Linda/Eric Dr. Fate arc, covered in Dr. Fate 1-24 and the miniseries (1-4)

    It's hard to describe, but J.M. DeMatteis turned it into a new-age sort of series that explored what it meant to have a soul. I think this was the period when DeMatteis was into Meher Baba, and this religion would show up in his work.

    Actually, this link might describe that series far better:

  • At August 23, 2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I also Love the DeMattis issues. I can scan the first issue if you'd like a preview.

  • At August 23, 2006 1:11 PM, Blogger Greg said…

    I was going to toot my own horn, but Sano did it for me. Thank you, Sano!

    The reason why the DeMatteis run on Dr. Fate is so good, in my humble opinion, is precisely because it was divorced from the greater continuity. I'm a continuity nerd as much as the next guy, but Dr. Fate within DC continuity can only really be a bad-ass magician with ties to Order and Chaos. DeMatteis says, "This character can help us understand ourselves, the soul, and the cosmos, so why the hell not do it?" And he runs with it. Very cool stuff. Good art by Shawn McManus, too.

  • At August 23, 2006 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes! Exactly. And worked well, too.

    There was actually a Hector Hall Dr. Fate miniseries too, at one point. It was okay. Introduced some supporting characters that I'm not sure were ever used again.

    I actually liked Fate in JSA a lot. Especially the bits in the world inside the amulet.

  • At August 23, 2006 7:43 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    mark: That's similar to me. I'd like to get to like the character himself though.

    anon: Inza vs. Nabu? Sounds awesome!

    loren: Yeah. Nabu bores me honestly. I thought JSA 80 was such a misstep for much that reason. 79 was awesome. Both teams fighting their enemy. Everyone on the team being cool. Sand kicking Mordru's ass (always cool). Next issue. Both teams give way for Thunderbolt and Nabu. Who are the least interesting characters for me.

    mark: I could see that working better.

    ben: That sounds like a lot of fun!

    sano: Thanks for the link! I'll check it out!

    mallet: I wouldn't mind a sneak peek! :-)

    greg: It does sound very promising!

    ununnilium: I didn't mind Fate in JSA. But I thought he seemed more like a plot device than a person. It seemed like it went from *mope about Lyta* to *cool magic spell* and that's it. Which is a shame because Hector seemed like he had potential.

  • At August 23, 2006 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Which is a shame because Hector seemed like he had potential.

    The kinda-sad, kinda-funny thing about Hector is that Dr. Fate was his...what....third distinct superhero identity? Silver Scarab, Sandman II, then Dr. Fate (not to mention the father of the Daniel-Sandman).

    Sounds like DC might be evoking the "three strikes and your out" rule with old Hector.

  • At August 24, 2006 12:06 AM, Blogger Erich said…

    I really enjoyed Messner-Loebs' run on Dr. Fate...perhaps my favorite issue was the one in which Inza used her powers to repair a traffic light. I think I remember some complaints in the letters column a few issues later about this being "a waste of her powers" or somesuch, completely missing the story's points that (1) even seemingly insignificant problems can have serious consequences, and so no job is too small, and (2) part of what makes a hero is being willing to help others in ANY way you can.

  • At August 25, 2006 6:45 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    mark: Heh good point!

    erich: that sounds like a fun read actually!


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