One night, deep within the the mighty Hall of Justice... master magician Dr. Fate ponders his collection of mystic artifacts...
Fate's crystal orb detected the impending arrival of "My friends Superman and the Martian Manhunter! I shall enjoy visiting with them!"
The pair spoke outside...
"This is the place, Martian Manhunter!"
"Right, Superman! Won't Dr. Fate be surprised!"
A sorcerous protective force field would have repelled enemies, but allowed the Doctor's friends entry-- to his peril! After Fate showed the duo a 3,000 year old artifact dating back to the Egyptian dynasty of Ramses the Seventh, Superman socked him and stole it. Manhunter demanded of his partner as he grasped mystical items covetously, "Hurry! Gather as many as you can for the master!"
The crystal orb alerted Dr. Fate to the influence of Darkseid and DeSaad in brainwashing his friends. However, Martian Manhunter warned Superman that Fate was still conscious...
"Let's double-team him, Manhunter!"
As the misguided heroes lunged at Fate from opposite sides, the Doctor moaned, "Forgive me for what I must do, my friends..." Fate flew up high and allowed the manipulated heroes to slam into one another. Dr. Fate then used his powers to free the mind of the Man of Steel. The Manhunter from Mars observed, "You no longer serve great Darkseid... so you too must fall!" Kal-El thought, "Got to weaken the Martian Manhunter so Fate can free his mind, too! I'll use my heat vision to set that parchment on fire!" Before dropping to his knees, Manhunter cried "NO!" Way to preserve history, right?
Doctor Fate congratulated "Quick thinking, Superman! Fire is the Martian Manhunter's one weakness!" The Doctor them magically beseeched "Rise, Martian Manhunter! Your mind is your own!" His thoughts restored, Manhunter learned, "We were compelled to fight you? I'm sorry, Dr. Fate!" All was forgiven, except by Darkseid, who swore there would be a next time.
Reading this minicomic now is funny to me, because as a kid I had both Martian Manhunter and Dr. Fate, but had no idea who either of them were nor what their powers were. If I had read/saved this comic I would have been educated!
Having read the mini-comic and a bunch of macro ones, I still don't know what the hell Dr. Fate's powers are. I'm sure they're magically delicious and ill defined like most sorcerous characters.
Hey now, that's no way to talk about one of my top five favorite superheroes. Why Doctor Fate has a long documented history of powers. He can shoot Ankh-shaped bolts, fly, and ... and ... y'know ... magic-kinda stuff. Yeah, magic. That's it!
See... clear as crystal.
And for the record, I thought this particular mini-comic was crazy-weird. The typical aloofness you get with Doctor Fate is nowhere to be seen, and he's far too chatty to himself. He's all like, here are my homeys Superman and Martian Manhunter. Y'all c'mon in to my Secret Sanctum! No problem!
The Irredeemable Shag
I was just glad Dr. Fate actively did something, instead of pulling the old "mustn't interfere with critical goings-on at this juncture" routine. I love the Dr. Fate costume, and I like magic characters, but I'm still waiting on a decent handle on the character. After reading Giffen, DeMatteis, Messner-Loebs, Kaminsky, Giffen again, Johns and Goyer, I'm still shrugging over here. Was the Simonson stuff good?
To my mind, Dr. Fate should be the Superman of magic. Give him a set of vast but reasonably defined powers, big humanoid menaces, and have him really dig into two-fisted sorcery!
But did Dr. Fate have "Martian angle vision"? I'd say Fate's powers are as well-defined as MM's were in his Detective Comics days.
Considering J'onn J'onzz limped along in the back of Detective Comics as it barely skirted cancellation until jumping over to the dilapidated House of Mystery, emulating the Silver Age Manhunter from Mars seems like a recipe for disaster to me. A big part of the strip's charm is how insanely awful it was, especially in light of the more serious, sensitive take on Martian Manhunter in later years. Vague, excessive powers also drove me nuts in the 1999 Ostrander/Mandrake series as well.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fate had a generational jump on J'onn J'onzz, but if anything it seems his powers and identity became more muddied from the '60s onward. The Golden Age Fate stories I've read indicated a more physical, direct presence-- sort of like a reinvention of the Spectre along the lines of Timely. I think Dr. Fate got burned by the host of Silver Age heroes he appeared with in JLA/JSA crossovers, and got saddled with an aloof personality to differentiate him, without considering the impact on his solo outings.
Personally, I really liked Giffen's take on Doctor Fate (not the designation-less "Fate"). Even though the aloof attitude was a product of the late Silver Age, I'm okay with it. I think it works for him.
I also enjoyed DeMatteis (McManus' art was phenomenal!) and Johns take on the character. Other than that, it's been really hit or miss.
If you really want good Doctor Fate, go back and read the First Issue Special from 1975 by Marty Pasko and Walt Simonson. Pretty much everything since has been an effort to recapture this.
The Irredeemable Shag
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