Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So…Dr. Fate. No, not Dr. Strange. Dr. Fate. The other guy. The DC guy. Now, I love Dr. Strange. This post is most decidedly not Dr. Strange. I think Dr. Strange deserves his own full-time series. I’ve been digging through Spider-man and New Avengers comics just to find the guy for way too long. However, to give credit where credit is due, the first extremely-weird-sorcerer with various mystic accoutrements WAS in fact Dr. Fate. Just SAYING. Not that Strange is a knock-off. No one is saying that. Just Fate was first, that’s all. Take what you will from that. Fate isn’t quite as beloved as Strange is, I’m afraid. And that is to say, not even that the fans aren’t beloved of the character- sometimes, I get the impression that various writers can’t stand Fate either. Maybe that’s why there’s been a laundry list of characters who have stepped in as the new Dr. Fate and then subsequently been killed off. As if some writer somewhere was finally like “God, this guy is so confusing- can we just get rid of him once and for all, and be DONE with it?” But for every writer who’s tried to put Fate out of the picture, another has rewritten the man. And I have to say, the end result of all these revamps is the development of one weird-as-$#!% character. The short version of the story is that Dr. Fate is kind of a mantle that many individuals have taken up over the years, a sorcerer from ages ago the spirit of which mentors those who takes up that mantle (named Nabu) and the actual mystically powered physical items (helmet, amulet) that the original sorcerer left behind for his “champions” to use (which tend to have a life of their own). And at times maybe even a weird combinations of all three of these things. That is Nabu himself at one point returned from the dead and walked around the DC Universe as the current Dr. Fate. Oh, but it gets weirder. The original Dr. Fate was a guy named Kent Nelson. Nelson was an archeologist who discovered Nabu’s helmet and amulet. He, and most incarnations of the character, spent most of his time trying to keep the balance between “The Lords of Chaos” and “The Lords of Order," who almost never appear in person in comics. But I have to say in the greater scheme of things in the DC Universe Dr. Fates do not mess around and will not hesitate to turn you into a quivering blob of goo if you get in their way. One of the things that’s interesting about Fate in every version of the character (at least, from my perspective) is that sooner or later the “host” seems to get more and more detached from reality (as we see it). In the Marvel Universe, Strange is kind of the caretaker of Earth and all of it’s defenders. He’s kind of tuned into reality. Fate is as well, but it’s like the longer someone wears the helmet the less human they become. The weirder and weirder the stuff is they’re dealing with, the more time they’re spending in bizarre, mystical dimensions and less on Earth. Magic, in the DC Universe, always comes at something of a price. And Fate is no exception to the rule. In fact over the years the “mantle” seems like it’s as much a curse as it is a blessing. Not only that, wearing Nabu’s helm has had some really strange impact on different “hosts” and their loved ones. At one point Kent and his wife, Inza, were not only resurrected into new bodies following their death, but had to merge into a single being when they became Dr. Fate. So Dr. Fate was male or female at various times at his career depending on which of these two personas was most dominant in the merge. …it goes on like this, with weird stuff. The amulet that each Fate has worn actually contains a pocket dimension in it- basically just a farmhouse that Kent and his wife used to live in. Entering into it allowed the current “host” and others who traveled with him to consult with Kent and most of the other “hosts” who had been Dr. Fate at one time or another and Nabu himself. SOMETIMES, the entire Justice Society (the guys who came before the Justice League- Fate has tended to be closer to them than others) would actually “hide-out” in the amulet, if they needed to. By now, you’re probably getting the idea. I’m a big fan of the current incarnation of Fate- I really think, thematically, Stever Gerber has breathed new life into this character. Sadly, the man passed away before he could complete the series. As a tribute, DC has four different writers write four different endings to Gerber’s word in Countdown to Mystery. So how DC is going to pick which one is canonical…I don’t know. But I still think it’s a cool tribute to Gerber, rather than having just one writer pick up the thread. Anyway- the current Fate is Kent Nelson. But not THE Kent Nelson. He’s actually the grandnephew of the original- although personally, I think the possibility of some kind of resurrection time-share-soul-thing is not out of the question. What I like about Nelson? His life is a total mess. He’s divorced, out of work, an alcoholic and a gambler living in Vegas. At the begging of the series, he’s involved in a bumfight. For cash. Low, right? It’s like…there’s something inescapable in the guy’s life. We all know what it is- this thing, this mantle “Fate.” But he doesn’t know it. So you have this character who feels like something’s really missing from their lives, something they’ve never been able to explain, but dreads finding out what that thing is on top of it. The other thing I like about the character is this- magic doesn’t make your life easier. In fact, magic involves dealing with scary, extradimensional $#!& that no one else understands. It’s hard to maintain a normal, healthy lifestyle when you get sucked into mystical journeys through time and space. Also? Kent’s current love interest is a woman known as…you guessed it. Inza. The first’s Nelson’s wife. Thereby confirming suspicions that these two are some kind of…reincarnated something-or-others. But what really kind of creeps me out? Is that…this new Inza is a comic writer. Which…is weird to me. Almost like- maybe somewhere, in that vast cosmic journey of being resurrected, this woman, deep down, has gleamed some fundamental truth about the universe she lives in? And that it’s…a comic book? DC has broken the fourth wall like this from time to time. Like in that one panel in Infinite Crisis, where Alexander Luthor is looking through all of these different Earth’s to find the elements to recombine a “perfect” Earth, and then he turns towards you, the reader, and reaches out through the panels to “your” Earth. Yeah, that’s what that was about, in case you missed it. It’s subtle in Gerber’s version of the story, and I can’t say for certain, but I swear that was part of the intention here. And it freaks me out. Anyway, only time will tell if DC picks this character back up and how they are going to resolve these four “endings” to the new Nelson’s origin story. Countdown to Mystery. Worth checking out.