Golden Age Doctor Fate: Archives - VOL 01 Hardcover – Jun 6 2007
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Comparing the content to some of the other Archive Editions; this volume is pretty solid. The artwork is good, esp. the earlier stories, though not as good as the Golden Age Starman (which has the best artwork from the Golden Age books).
The stories are quite different than what we see today. The early Doctor Fate usually defeats his enemies by killing them, and in one story Fate destroys a entire planet of aliens by hurling it into the sun! That's beyond blood thirsty. Still, my vote for the most engaging of the Golden Age volumes story-wise is the Black Canary, whose stories hold up surprisingly well.
Recommended for those delving deeper into the Golden Age. I wouldn't start here, but it's an interesting follow up after reading some of the stronger titles and easily worth the admission price.
What struck me immediately about this collection, is how it progressed counter to most of the other golden age super hero comics. Unlike Superman, for instance, Doctor Fate starts out fighting super bad guys and otherworldly threats (not just thugs and hoods). There is some really fast-paced and fun-loving action in the early stories, as Fate faces off against master of science and magic, such as Wotan.
Fate also doesn't play around, either. The doctor has no problem dishing out capital punishment to his adversaries in the earlier stories. He has a death count second maybe only to the Golden Age Hawkman, who was also OK with filling cemeteries, not jails.
The art from the early stories was weird and beautiful; almost a mix between Alex Raymond and Basil Wolverton. As the stories progress, the art becomes a little less interesting, and so do the stories; by the halfway mark, Fate fights less potent villains, and mixes it up more with run-of-the-mill crooks and criminals.
Another interesting element in this book is watching the gradual metamorphosis of Dr. Fate's costume. Like Batman, Doctor Fate's look was often revised during his early adventures. The strange tear-drop shaped golden helm soon melts into the more fin-topped helmet seen today; and his bare hands soon get gloves, to better fit the growing super-hero tradition. At some point, fate reveals some skin, and trades his full-face mask for a mouth revealing version. By the end of the book, he has also shed his yellow cape, and runs around in more of the two-fisted tradition.
There are also a lot of character changes as well. Fate starts off as a lonely, almost otherworldly agent, of mystic power, and speaks with an air of arcane authority. Though he adventures with his female companion and confidante Inza from the very beginning, it takes awhile, before we see the man under the helmet...Kent Nelson. Early in the book, Fate is given an origin, and made more human (and more accessible to readers). About the time he dons the half-helmet, Fate trades his authoritative speech, for a more wise-cracking tone.
This a great read. The stories are generally brief; great for those who don't have a lot of time to read at one sitting, and packed with fun. These stories are very different from today's comic book fare, and their exuberance just made me smile from ear to ear; I hope you do too.
The collection starts off well enough with a fully powered Fate fighting strange otherworldy foes. These included aliens, mythological beings and Lovecraftian monsters. The stories were a bit flat but they were different. The main problem may have been that they were limited to about 5 to 7 pages which meant there was almost no time to develop the story. About half way through the archive Doctor Fate goes through a dramatic alteration. The writing and art change completely despite the fact that the stories were being produced by the same team. His helmet was chopped in half and over time he lost his shoulder pads, his cape and the little rectangle on his bottoms. I figure they had to stop the series because after another dozen or so stories he would have been naked.
Unfortunately Fate lost more than pieces of his costume. He lost his dignity. Gone were the mystical villains and alien life forms replaced by common thugs. Rather than weave mystical spells the new Fate would rather punch out his foes while spouting some of the worst one liners I have ever read. Gardner Fox is a legend but one of his bad habits was to latch onto a heroes one weakness and exploit it for everything its' worth. In this case after getting his truncated helmet Fate suddenly acquires an Achilles heel. He is unusually susceptible to anything that might impede his breathing. This can include a rope around the neck or even a seltzer bottle aimed at his mouth. Yes, Doctor Fate is taken down by a seltzer bottle and it seems that every single penny ante thug knows his weakness. To compound his problems Fate also seems to have a weakness to being smacked in the back of the head despite the fact that he endlessly crows about his immunity to physical damage including bullets.
Later in the archive Kent Nelson decides that since he calls himself DOCTOR Fate he should literally become a doctor and enters medical school. Around this time Fate started facing gangsters with odd facial features like `The Clock' and `The Frog' and `Mad Dog' McQuaid. So now Fate became a cross between Dr. Kildare and Dick Tracy and everything that set him apart as the master of mysticism was tossed out the window. I'm not even sure if at this point he was capable of flight. Rather than fly he appeared to be running in the air. At one point he was tossed into a hole and had to devise a plan to get out because he appeared to have no ability to fly. In later stories he is clearly able to fly. Go figure.
This collection is beyond bad, it's embarrassing. Just imagine Doctor Fate running around shouting "N'yah N'yah N'yah", getting squirted in the mouth with seltzer bottles and generally looking like a buffoon. He looks silly, he acts goofy and it's painful to read. On the other hand DC comics did a very nice job in compiling the collection. I'll give it a four for the nice hardcover archive and a two for the original material for a final score of three. If you're a big fan of Doctor Fate be warned before purchasing this collection. It's the rare fan that will love this one.
The majority of the artwork is done by Howard Sherman, who starts out illustrating Gardner Fox’s near-Lovecraftian stories with an eerie quality that’s only matched by Bernard Bailey’s work on the Spectre. However, they lost a lot when Fate started wearing that odd half-helmet. He went from a master of the mystic arts to your standard superhero in tights. John Chester Kozlek and Stan Aschmeier did the art on the last six-to-eight stories.
The later stories have Dr. Fate becoming a real doctor, losing his cape, and being able to be stopped by any bad guy with a tie and the opportunity to strangle him with it; Fate’s only real weakness was his lungs, and boy, were they weak! He got sprayed in the face with water once and almost died! Super-strong, invulnerable to bullets and fire, access to a clairvoyant orb, and can fly (when he remembers he can), but a wet handkerchief can put an end to him. It wasn’t a good day for the character that would become Earth Two’s greatest sorcerer.
And his villains were something else entirely. He did have Mr. Who, who many Doctor Fate fans might remember from the reprint in DC’s Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains series in the seventies, or the character’s appearance in the latter years of All-Star Squadron. I have to admit that the character made a lot more appearances than I thought he did, but he was pretty boring as they go; Mr. Who could change his size and, in at least one adventure, his Solution Z allowed his body to adapt to anything he needed (i.e., when he needed to escape, his body became thin enough to slide through the crack in a door). Fate’s two other…well, I hate to use the term “nemeses” here, since it’s so embarrassing…were the Frog and the Clock. The Frog was a gangster with a head that looked a tad like a frog’s. The Clock had a roundish head, a flat face, and a thin mustache that pointed down and to the sides so his face read about 8:20. Somehow, both of these cretins managed to get at least a temporary edge over a super-strong mystical hero.
Doctor Fate’s girlfriend, Inza, was a co-star in about three-quarters of his stories. She’d either tag along because “it was safer” or Fate would trundle her along for no reason. She led him into a good percentage of his cases, so she was apparently nice to have around for that bit. Gardner Fox (or the letterer) could not remember her name though; she’s called Inza, Inza Cramer, Inza Kramer, Inza Carmer and even Inza Saunders over the course of the series.
All in all, it’s a fun read. You’ve naturally got to be an old school comic book fan to really enjoy it, and you’ve got to be keen on golden age comics as well. If you grew up in the seventies, reading the voluminous reprints that DC (and Marvel) put out from that era, I think you’ll enjoy this Archive Edition a lot.