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27 November 2011 @ 01:09 pm
"The Fish-Men of Nyarl-Amen"  

This is from MORE FUN COMICS# 65, back in March 1941. Written by Gardner Fox, art by Howard Sherman. The early Dr Fate is one of my favorite Golden Age characters. He was just plain weird, living in his stone tower in Salem that had no doors or windows (he just walked through the walls), never taking off that golden helmet that covered his head completely, talking about being hundreds if not thousands of years old. The best aspect is that, although he did cast spells as needed, Dr Fate was not just a typical sorceror. Gardner Fox explained that Fate had learned ancient secrets from earlier civilizations. It was lost science, not exactly magic as such, that enabled him to turn his body immaterial or invulnerable, to shoot atomic flame from his hands. "He has learned the ultimate secret of the universe- the true conversion of energy into matter and matter into energy." Take that, Einstein, you're not so smart.

After the first year and a half, Fate began to degenerate into a mere super-hero. He replaced his helmet with one that exposed the lower half of his face, he abandoned eldritch knowledge and lost science for simple roundhouse punches. He still could fly and limited superstrength but he started fighting racketeers and grifters rather than evil gods and warlocks. Ah well. The same dwindling affected the Spectre, so maybe it was just the sign of the times.

Roy Thomas explained this all very well by expanding on slight clues in Fate's conflicting origins. Kent Nelson was a mortal man, but when he put on the full hemet, he was possessed by the spirit and power of Nabu, immortal God of Order and a bit of a jerk. The change to the half-helmet reflected Nelson rejecting Nabu and becoming his own man. If there ever is a Dr Fate movie (he did appear briefly on TV's dismal SMALLVILLE), I would love to see this inner conflict as the major premise.

EGM3egm3 on November 27th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
Nice how Dr Fate saved the world in the space of 5 pages whereas it other heros would have taken a dozen full issues.
dochermesdochermes on November 27th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
Things were brisker then, and besides he shared the book with the Spectre, Aquaman, Green Arrow...