Some Thoughts on Doctor Fate – Part 1

I’m letting some Doctor Fate ideas roll around in the back of my head tonight, so I thought I might use the front of my head to post a few thoughts on the series — finally. First, let me take a moment to review what I’ve said in interviews, on various bulletin boards, and in reply to comments on this blog…

* The star of the new DOCTOR FATE series is an entirely new character.

* His other identity is Kent V. Nelson, and his grand-uncle was the original Doctor Fate.

* While the new character has that tie to his forebear, the connection won’t be emphasized in the new series.

* Readers will be able to understand and enjoy the new DOCTOR FATE #1 even if they have *no* prior knowledge of *any* version of the character. I’m avoiding any attempt at “retconning” for exactly that reason. Doctor Fate’s prior continuity is so over-complicated and confusing — second only to Hawkman’s, in my opinion — that I honestly don’t believe new readers should have to contend with it. At the same time, I’m emphatically *not* on a mission to contradict or erase earlier continuity. My intent is to respect the past by raising the subject as little as possible.

* The new Doctor Fate wears both the half-face and full-face versions of the familiar golden helmet. In fact, they’re two configurations of the same helmet. The helmet no longer contains any pocket universes, and it’s no longer the abode of Nabu, the lord of order. (Nabu died in DAY OF VENGEANCE: INFINITE CRISIS SPECIAL #1. His passing was the event that marked the end of the Ninth Age of Magic and the beginning of the Tenth, to which our new Fate belongs.) Also, the helmet no longer confers instant knowledge and power upon the wearer. The new kid will have to *learn* how to use it, and sorcery in general.

* The new Doctor Fate is no longer grounded in Egyptian mythology. In fact, he’s not confined by the mythology of *any* culture. What I hope to do over time is construct an entirely new and original system of magic for this series. In earlier versions of Fate, his powers and weaknesses were never clearly defined. He seemed able to hocus-pocus-dippity-do himself out of almost any situation with some handy-dandy-cotton-candy theretofore unmentioned spell that just *happened* to fit the occasion. That’s going to change. As this new series develops, Fate will acquire an arsenal of specific spells and charms that will behave the same way each time they’re used. No more nondescript rays from the hands! It’s my intent that Fate’s spells be as distinguishable from one another as x-ray vision is from a batarang.

* The art team on the new book will be Justiniano and Walden Wong. Paul Gulacy, who was originally slated to draw the book — and who did indeed provide the very striking first-issue cover — had to leave the project due to a scheduling conflict.

Okay, that took more than a moment.

And I’m not even sure I hit all the major points.

It’s a start, anyway.

If you have questions, please include them in a comment on this post. I’ll try to answer as many as I can next time.

52 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Doctor Fate – Part 1”

  1. scott Says:

    That sounds very cool! Any chance of a crossover with Fate, Superman, and Steel?

  2. Dwight Williams Says:

    And Las Vegas as the backdrop. Interesting choice there.

  3. Bob Kennedy Says:

    This looks wonderful, Steve. Since he’s in Vegas and all, is Kent any sort of stage magician/entertainer?

  4. Mario Di Giacomo Says:

    I like what I’m reading. I do have three questions/comments, tho.

    1: Is there a specific reason why Fate switches the helmet from half to full (and vice versa)?

    2: Given that he’s hanging around Vegas, any chance he’ll run into a showgirl with a pet ostrich? ;)

    3: I love the idea of a new system of magic for Fate. He’s been stuck with the ankh imagery ever since Walt came up with it in First Issue Special, all those years ago, and it’s time to move forward. Any hints for the peanut gallery on what it will be like?

  5. Starocotes Says:

    The idea that there is a fixed set of spells that behave the same every time is really great. I suppose ever time he uses a “new” spell it will be explained what it does.

    Everthing else sounds … strange to me. I really liked many of the backdrop to the olds Dr. Fates and so I’m a bit reluctant to jump into the praise but I really guess it will grow on me fast.

  6. Charles Bryan Says:

    This approach to a mystical character looks very sound. As I’ve read pointed out elsewhere, it’s too easy for these characters to be able to do anything.

    Question (which has probably been answered elsewhere): Is the release of the first issue delayed? That may not altogether be a bad thing, if true; last time I looked at DC’s site, #1 was slated to come out the same week as all of those World War III one-shots.

  7. Rod Hannah Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I love your work!

    I’m working on a book on documenting 1980s animation and have got Flint Dille, Christy Marx and Larry DiTillio onboard so far… I’d really like to hear from you because I’d like to shoot you a few questions for your recollections of the period. If you’d be interested in knowing more about the project please drop me an email and I’ll get back to you ASAP. rodhannah@yahoo.com

    Thanks!

  8. Buzz Dixon Says:

    Steve, please contact me. Thanx, Buzz

  9. Tim Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve never been a Doctor Fate fan, but having loved your Defenders, Howard and Hard Time, I’m really looking forward to this book. The one-shots have been quite interesting, and I’m particularly looking forward to Zauriel as we haven’t seen much of him in quite some time.

    What I’m wondering is how strongly do you think DC will support this book? Outside of Vertigo, magical characters haven’t had a lot of success at carrying books lately, though hopefully the recent Day of Vengeance/Shadowpact/Trials of Shazam stuff is beginning to reverse that trend at DC. But as you say, the Doctor Fate legacy is somewhat complex — we’ve been through a lot of them, and a new character picking up an established mantle is often a recipe for quick cancellation. Satisfying longtime readers while attracting new ones is a bloody hard act!

    Anyway! I don’t mean to sound negative; I guess all this is just a long-winded way of saying “I hope the book has a long and healthy life” (with you onboard, obviously).

    Love Justiniano’s art, too!

  10. gordon Says:

    Interesting name…

  11. Steve Gerber Says:

    “Kent Nelson” was the name of the original 1940s character.

  12. Charles Bryan Says:

    More questions, which, if I was aptient enough to wait for the book I wouldn’t have to ask:

    1. Will there be room for satire/social commentary?
    2. Will Kent Nelson the Younger have friends? (These mystic types always seem to be loners, except for a faithful manservant, a true love trapped in another dimension, and/or the disembodied spirit of a predecessor.)
    3. Will one of the early spells involve getting away with card-counting?

  13. Brian Spence Says:

    It’s interesting that you’re taking on Doctor Fate, a character I’d have zero interest in if you weren’t attached. I know that I’ll be reading it, but is DC really giving it the push it deserves? That’s not a dig at DC, I honestly don’t know. I hope they try to put at least some preview pages in the popular books, so that it really gets a chance to get off the ground.

    I think that all of us regulars here need to put the word out on comics message boards and create some buzz about the book. Even sight unseen, ‘m getting pumped up for it to show up.

  14. gordon Says:

    Still and all, I now have:
    Flash Gordon
    Clark Kent
    Kent Nelson…
    And no actual super powers of my own….

  15. scott Says:

    My Secret Manga
    I wrote a manga comic. Each night, I’ve been pouring over the pages I just got back from Hong Kong in total awe. This is so cool! I can’t wait to share it with everyone, but for now, it’s still my secret manga.

  16. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    **SPOILERS from Army of Darkness vs. Marvel Zombies #1 preview art**
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    ;
    Can Dr. Fate save Howard the Duck from what appears to be zombification? *gulp*:

    http://www.newsarama.com/dynamitenew/Mvl_AoD/02/MZvAOD2p22.jpg

  17. Charles Bryan Says:

    That zombie page is just plain sacrilege. God, I’m glad I don’t buy that stuff.

  18. Starocotes Says:

    Frankly I don’t understand Marvel anymore at all. The whole Zombie stuff is just wrong and Civil War was a great disappointment to me as well.

  19. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. As much as I believe that Marvel is moving in the wrong direction and Civil War resulted in my dropping many titles and losing hope in most of its product line for the foreseeable future, I have loved Marvel Zombies as a solid story with good characterization plus the insatiable zombie hunger twist. Kirkman is a solid writer with old school sensibilities. The zombie stuff is an ulternate universe and is very enjoyable as such.

  20. Scott Hinze Says:

    Hey Steve –

    Great blogging. I’d love to have you on the radio show I do to chat comics, culture and life sometime soon. Let me know – scott@fanboyradio.com

    Thanks,
    Scott

  21. beau Says:

    Steve,

    I wouldn’t give Fate the time of day, except that you’re doing it. But, a thought on a new system of magic and distinct spells: The second I read that I found myself thinking Anakin’s organelles. Y’can’t show what is hidden, only what was…

  22. Richard Bensam Says:

    Looks like I’ll be coming to this series from a different place than many of those who’ve posted comments here, In that I always loved the original Dr. Fate from the Forties and his appearances in various JLA/JSA teamups in the Sixties. Lost interest in the character through all the post-Crisis revamps and reworkings, though, so starting fresh by setting aside the convoluted history in favor of a new character definitely works for me. And it puts me in mind of the approach Gail Simone has used to good effect in her Atom series: putting a new character into a classic superhero identity as a way to just tell stories about a character rather than telling stories that are only about tweaking the continuity — which otherwise seems to be the rule at DC just now.

  23. Steve Gerber Says:

    Charles: “That zombie page is just plain sacrilege. God, I’m glad I don’t buy that stuff.”

    What interests me most about this page is that they’re using the old, trouserless Duck, something I wasn’t permitted to do in the MAX miniseries. I hope that means they’ve found a loophole through or way around the Disney settlement.

    Oh — and while I can’t really defend this story (or attack it, either; I haven’t read it), there’s nothing inherently “sacrilegious” about having the Duck eaten by a Zombie. There were people (most of them employed by Marvel) who were horrified at the thought of a “funny animal” bleeding, as Howard did at the end of the “Quack-Fu” story. There’s really very little difference, at lesat visually, between that ’70s scene and this one; in fact, I wanted the old scene to be almost this bloody, to drive its point home.

    BTW: Current script is almost done, so more on Fate coming soon…!

  24. Steve Gerber Says:

    Brian Spence: “I think that all of us regulars here need to put the word out on comics message boards and create some buzz about the book.”

    I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate that.

  25. Steve Gerber Says:

    Beau: “I wouldn’t give Fate the time of day, except that you’re doing it. But, a thought on a new system of magic and distinct spells: The second I read that I found myself thinking Anakin’s organelles. Y’can’t show what is hidden, only what was…”

    Well, yeah, but you also can’t reduce a concept like the Force to probiotics without somebody rolling their eyes.

    There are ways to leave hidden what needs to be hidden, ways to maintain the mystery and creepiness, ways to make the magic more understandable without turning it into a Legos project.

  26. Neil Bradbury Says:

    Actually, Steve, Howard is the zombie in this picture. He’s eating the guy. I thought the idea was quite funny, but I guess I’ll have to read how Howard is reacting to being a zombie for me to decide whether it’s cool or not.

    Anyway, onto the post! I just wanted to say I’m a young-ish reader of comics (19 is young, right?) and I’ve recently been getting into your stuff through the Essential collections of your 70’s work. I love it all and am really looking forward to both the new Fate series and moving on to some of the collections of your later stuff. Anyway, my question. I was wondering whether the Fate book would be rooted firmly within the DCU and it’s myriad crossovers, or whether you’re going to be allowed some degree of independence?

    Also, you should do that Fanboy Radio interview up there. It’s a great podcast.

  27. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    … and set up that damn myspace profile! It is a priceless promotional opportunity with near limitless potential… and free to boot.

  28. Johnny Thrillkill Says:

    I am offically STOKED for this book! Justiniano is one of my recent faves, and that only makes the deal sweeter!

  29. scott Says:

    Aw, Quack-Fu.

  30. Steve Gerber Says:

    Nag, nag, nag.

    Jeez…!

  31. Starocotes Says:

    The thing I would like to know is how far ahead you yre with the issues.

  32. Steve Gerber Says:

    That’s between me and the editor.

    (Just out of curiosity, why do you want to know?)

  33. Starocotes Says:

    Uhm just out of curiosity :D

    And so I can already know how much good Dr. Fate storys I will get. Even though I don’t like some of the things you have posted so far many of your ideas sound great and the last time the good Dr. had his own series was more of a joke.

    I’m still very excited about all this.

  34. Starocotes Says:

    BTW, could you open a new post for us to comment on the Zauriel OS as soon as it comes out? (which is tomorrow for us here in the “old world”.)

  35. beau Says:

    Spake SG: …ways to make the magic more understandable without turning it into a Legos project.

    Truth is, I haven’t a worry in the world knowing it’s you doing the work. That’s the only reason I’m letting myself get into following; I haven’t collected anything since Marvel axed the Thanos title. Of course I was probably the only guy buying it.

    I can’t help being pleased, and a tad relieved, that you took my comments in the spirit intended.

    I just bought the first three (?) one shots today, Chimp Detective, Black April, and Zauriel. I’ve only read the first two. But I had a bit of an epiphany during the Chimp mag…with that half-helmet and the elongated face and the blue togs for just one brief second I thought I was looking at Dr. Bong.

    This new mag is gonna rock.

    Scott did say: Aw, Quack-Fu.

    Yeah, that was the stuff. “The caterpillar is two metamorphoses behind the butterfly…” I was only in fifth grade, but boy did that make sense.

  36. Dan Says:

    I’ve liked Dr. Fate ever since the issue of All Star Squadron (48?) which retold his origin. Unfortunately, few stories since then were as good, or made the character as interesting, but when I see the character I think of that origin issue. You’re a great writer – I’m looking forward to the new series.

  37. Kenneth W. Lieck Says:

    Yo, Steve-O!

    1) Has your previous Dr. Fate series [the Flash back-up w/the delicious Mike Golden art] ever been collected, and/or is it fated to face collection if this Fate fares well and doesn’t fale… er, fail?

    2) Since I asked the above question, I guess I should ask if this storyline will tie in to that one, even though your comments so far would already appear to indicate a clear “no”.

    3) If i may toss an idea your way: There’s a character that’s perfectly ripe for Gerberization who already exists in the DCU*, though I’ve only seen him appear once in passing (in a late 80s DC Presents, IIRC). The character I speak of is the Bizarro World Joker, and his schtick is that as an “imperfect” Joker, he’s the only totally normal, sane, plain ol’ reg’lar guy on the Bizarro World! Talk about “trapped in a world he never made”, eh?!? Whether left on the BW or moved to the “main” DCU earth, a Vertigo one-shot with your byline (at the very LEAST) would be a real thrizzle!

    – KL

    PS: You’d think that at least Marvel could have Captain America’s last gasped words be “the stuff… *pant* …in the Gerber run… *choke* …really DID happen!”

    —————————————-

    *(I’m assuming the Bizarro World et al haven’t been permanently wiped from “existence” at some point or other…)

  38. Steve Gerber Says:

    Starocotes: “Even though I don’t like some of the things you have posted so far many of your ideas sound great and the last time the good Dr. had his own series was more of a joke.”

    All I ask is that you come to the new series with an open mind. (And it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing — so, thank you.)

    I know how difficult it can be for readers to accept a new version of any character and that change always presents challenges. I honestly believe, though, that if you liked the original Doctor Fate, you’ll *REALLY, REALY LIKE* the new one, because what I’m trying to do with this character is fulfill the *promise* of the earlier versions.

    I’ve wanted to write Doctor Fate for more than 40 years. (No, that’s not an exaggeration. I’ll explain in a later post.) The *last* thing I’m inclined to do is dismiss the original — or the readers who liked it and saw its unrealized potential. *I’m* one of those readers!

  39. Starocotes Says:

    Yes I will keep an open mind but that is something I only aquired recently. Before the summer of 2005 I was mostly a Marvel Zombie. I was a fan of the X-Men, read Wolverine and was in love with Rogue (my wife DID know that before marrying me).

    In 2005 I discovered DC (mostly through Green Lantern) and last year I started reading Sandman by Neil Gaiman and from there on my mind started to open slowly.

    So, yes, I’m anxious to see your vision of Dr. Fate. And I’m sure I will like it even if I hate it at first :)

  40. Mario Di Giacomo Says:

    Kenneth:

    Those backups (along with the First Issue Special Pasko did with Walt Simonson) were collected in the “Immortal Doctor Fate” mini. No trade, however.

  41. Bob Kennedy Says:

    I’ve got the Zauriel one-shot, and Snejbjerg’s art is so incredibly improved from the last time I saw it (One Man’s War). I particularly enjoyed the kids’ questions about God, Heaven and the afterlife.

  42. Forrest Says:

    Could you give us a mission-statement type quotation for people who don’t read comics any more but are open-minded?

  43. Mario Di Giacomo Says:

    I have to confess that the Zauriel one-shot didn’t work for me, once he left that classroom. Biblical language aside, it could have been a Hawkman story.

    But I _LOVED_ the classroom bit.

  44. Charles Bryan Says:

    You’ve always wanted to write Doctor Fate? I don’t know why I’m surprised by that, but I can’t wait to read the story behind the story.

    And as far as my “sacrilege” comment goes, maybe I should have used a different term, but I have many fond memories of the duck. Let ‘em zombify (if that’s a word) most of the rest of the line — as if it weren’t redundant — but leave Howard alone!

  45. Steve Gerber Says:

    Mario: “I have to confess that the Zauriel one-shot didn’t work for me, once he left that classroom. Biblical language aside, it could have been a Hawkman story.”

    In a weird way, that almost doesn’t bother me — I’ve wanted to write Hawkman, too, for a long time — but I know what you mean. I’ll discuss it in the comments on the Zauriel post.

    Mario: “But I LOVED the classroom bit.”

    Thanks. So did I.

  46. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    >>What I hope to do over time is construct an entirely new and original system of magic for this series. In earlier versions of Fate, his powers and weaknesses were never clearly defined. He seemed able to hocus-pocus-dippity-do himself out of almost any situation with some handy-dandy-cotton-candy theretofore unmentioned spell that just happened to fit the occasion. That’s going to change. As this new series develops, Fate will acquire an arsenal of specific spells and charms that will behave the same way each time they’re used. No more nondescript rays from the hands! It’s my intent that Fate’s spells be as distinguishable from one another as x-ray vision is from a batarang.

  47. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    Woops. Somehow it didn’t post.

    I hope magic still has some tricks up its sleeve, some quirks that keep the good Doctor on his toes.

    I like the idea of Doc using a system of magic, but somehow I hate the idea of magic itself being limited. Fairy queens, will o’ wisps, and the music of the spheres all have their place to me.

  48. Greg Fischer Says:

    This sounds pretty cool. I’ve loved your writing for awhile now, and I can’t wait to see what you do with the new Dr. Fate. Disappointed Paul won’t be doing the art, but I’m a big fan of Justininao, so that works for me.

  49. pinderpanda Says:

    I really enjoyed the Zauriel one-shot.
    And, before DC vetoed it, Morrison actually created Zauriel with the intention of making him the new Hawkman…so there’s something very appropriate about the comparison.

  50. Scott Says:

    I liked your Immortal Doctor Fate when I read it, though I don’t remember it well. I’m going to reread it before I start reading the new series. The first 3 one-shots are on a stack to be read, not even out of the bag (I found a job).

  51. Scott Hutchins Says:

    By the way, I’m reading Joe Simon’s _Prez_, and there were moments where I couldn’t help wondering if you had read it. What a weird comic…if it weren’t so superficially done it could have been groundbreaking.

  52. Kyle Standifer Says:

    Hey yall,

    check out my Dr Fate Respect Thread;

    http://www.killermovies.com/forums/445327_1-doctor-fate-respect-thread-revamped