The Thrill of the Hunt Part I

Groo The Wanderer Special #1

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The hunt for specific comics is one of the most thrilling aspects of the hobby. One of the comics I collect is Groo the Wanderer and a few years ago I decided that I was going to try and find every possible appearance of the character. Using the internet, The Comic Book database site, Comic Vine, and some fan sites I put together a pretty comprehensive list of comics and appearances. Groo has never been a comic for the masses and generally speaking most of the comics on the list would not be very expensive. Probably the biggest challenge that I would experience on this quest would be that because he is not the most popular character dealers do not typically bring a lot of Groo comics to shows.

Over the last couple years I have done quite well crossing items off my list. I have all the Marvel issues (#1 – 120) with the exception of nine issues from late in the series. I found the first couple of appearances in Destroyer Duck #1 and Starslayer #10. I found all 12 issues that were published by Image at one dealers booth at the Baltimore comic con two years ago. The most difficult issues to find have been the ones published by Pacific Comics and the Eclipse Comics Special that was released after Pacific went out of business. 

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Pacific Comics was a special company. They started off in the distribution business and eventually got into publishing. They started working with Jack Kirby to publish Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and branched out from there. They specifically offered creators the opportunity to publish their own characters and retain the rights to them, something the big two were not ready to do quite yet. Enter Sergio Aragones. Sergio had been working on Groo for years and Pacific Comics was the first place he, together with  Mark Evanier, were able to put out a series for Groo. In all Pacific published eight issues of Groo the Wanderer.

I was able to get the first three issues of the Pacific run pretty easily. I still see the first issue in dollar bins from time to time and on those occasions it comes home with me. The later issues, #4-8, were more challenging. A couple of years ago at the Boston Fan Expo I found #5, 6, and 7 at a dealers booth selling them for five dollars each. I don’t normally like to plunk down that much money for a comic that I could just as easily find in a dollar bin, but for these I happily made the exception. I picked up #4 in Baltimore, I don’t remember for how much. All that was left was #8 and the Eclipse special and this year at the Boston Fan Expo I finally found them.

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As my friends and I entered the convention we stopped at the first dealer near the door and decided to make our game plan. As we all had different goals, we split up and I started looking through the full sets the dealer was offering. In the very first box they had a complete run of the Pacific series and the Eclipse special! The problem was there was fifty dollar price tag on it. I could not bring myself to pay fifty dollars for two comics I needed and seven that I did not. I thought about asking the dealer if they would break up the set but decided against it, why would they do that for me? I moved on to their individual books starting with the five dollar ones. In the first box about a quarter of the way in, I came across Pacific Groo #4, then #5. I started to feel that familiar excitement that comes with searching for something and the likelihood of finding it has just increased. The same dealer appeared to have a partial set and was selling the individual issues. Dare I think it that he might have one of the two issues I needed? I proceeded with caution, #6, and #7 were there. Finally there is was, #8. I hurriedly pulled it out in order to purchase it. As I took it out, right behind it was the Eclipse Special! 

I could not believe my good fortune. Here was a dealer that not only had a complete set of Groo comics that contained two of the issues I had been searching for several years for, but he also had individual copies of the exact two issues I wanted for my collection. The story does not end there though. I finished looking through all the boxes this dealer had and pulled out a couple more comics including in a DC Comics Presents #41, one of the last few issues I need to complete that series. When I was ready to settle up my bill the dealer turned out to be the same guy I made purchases from the previous weekend in Connecticut at TerrificCon. 

What was so special about this dude was that in Connecticut I had found the last issues I was looking for to complete my collection of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and Atari Force. In a matter of two weeks time I had purchased comics from the same vendor and completed three different collections.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The comics in my collection are for reading, when I am at a shop or convention if I find a comic I am looking for I don’t give much consideration to the condition of the book. I generally prefer that there is not any writing or drawing on the cover and that the comic is readable without all the pages falling out. When I went to read the Groo Special I took it out of the bag and I could not believe the condition that it was in, it was amazing.  

The cover is a heavier stock than normal comics, not cardstock but sturdy and the paper felt like the high quality Baxter paper that was being used in the mid eighties for premium books. This issue looked and felt like the definition of a mint condition comic. There is not a single break or crease in the spine. The front and back covers were completely square without a mark on them. The paper inside was white, the color popped on the page, and there was not a mark anywhere to be found. As I was examining the comic I actually thought to myself that I should get it graded. I have never had a book graded and I don’t much care about the graded comics collecting but this was so pristine I thought it would be neat to see how high it would come back. Of course I did not do that, instead I went ahead and read it. 

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Creators
By – Sergio Aragones
Linguistitian – Mark Evanier
Letters – Stan Sakai
Color – Tom Luth

The first story, according to the introduction on the inside cover, was intended to be published by Pacific Comics but at the time their publishing business was in a lot of trouble and they could not afford to print this story. The folks at Eclipse stepped in and got it done. This story is about how Groo got his famous katanas. In this case, the Sage and Groo tell the tale to a group of travelers while sittings around a fire. 

The story begins with a battle and Groo doing something wrong. Surprise surprise. Emperor Fuchikaka and his army, with Groo, are winning a great battle when Groo is given the order to go and tell the men that they are to REPEAT what they had previously done that had been so successful. Groo happily takes the order but when he gets to the top of the hill where he is supposed to deliver his message he yells, RETREAT, instead of REPEAT. Emperor Fuchikaka’s forces are mystified by this direction but feel they must follow the order so they retreat. Both armies cannot believe what has happened. Groo is finally realizing that he has erred and is summarily taken prisoner by Emperor Sakisama’s men. 

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It turns out that Emperor Sakisama is a coward. He does not lead his army into battle and his generals berate their sad sack leader about this. The generals are discussing what had happened during the battle and how they won due to Groo’s sheer stupidity. It is world renowned stupidity after all. At the same time Groo and the other prisoners are being led past the building where the generals are conversing when one of them notices Groo. They yell for the guards to bring Groo before Emperor Sakisama. It turns out that Groo is the spitting image of the Emperor. 

The generals devise a plan where they will dress Groo up in the Emperor’s armor and give him the Emperor’s swords. Groo, who loves a good fray, will lead Emperor Sakisama’s army into battle posing as the Emperor. Groo agrees to this and thus his training begins. It does not go well. The armor is too heavy and the Emperor’s swords, the famous katanas that this story is about, are too long for Groo. He does like the new weapons though and once he begins practicing his swordplay on prisoners he becomes quite adept at using them, getting so good that he can slice a swarm of bees in half, bee by bee. 

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Eventually the time comes to put the plan into action. Groo, dressed in the Emperor’s armor and carrying his weapons, is to lead the army into battle for the first time. The soldiers show their usual disdain for their leader when suddenly Groo charges headfirst into their foes army. Everything goes according to plan and Emperor Sakisama’s forces are victorious. Groo is thrown back into his cell, fed, and the Emperor takes all the credit. It is a win win situation as Groo is quite happy to fight and eat. As time goes by the Sakisama army keeps racking up victory after victory while at the same time his old adversary Fuchikaka has no idea how he is doing it. He remembers Sakisama as a coward. 

While discussing how Sakisama is accomplishing all these victories with his general’s he is reminded that they lost to Sakisama because of Groo and no other reason. Taranto, a military man whose plans are usually foiled by Groo, makes a joke that Sakisama’s men probably captured him and made him Emperor. The meeting is broken up by a guard announcing that Sakisama’s forces are attacking Fuchikaka’s kingdom. There is a furious battle during which Taranto and the other generals are amazed at how well Sakisama fights. Taranto eventually realizes it is Groo and tries to reach out to him. 

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Groo is flaying his swords about and he slices one of the horns off Taranto’s helmet before he realizes it is his old friend. This is actually a pretty awesome scene because after this point Taranto will always be drawn with his helmet having one half horn and one full horn. Taranto convinces Groo to tell Sakisama’s army to surrender and that Fuchikaka will reward him. Groo agrees to do this but instead of telling the men to surrender as if he was their true leader, he removes his armor and tells them as Groo. This completely backfires and makes Sakisama’s men so angry believing their true Emperor was taken by Fuchikaka’s men that they double their efforts and finish their conquest of Fuchikaka’s kingdom. Realizing that Groo has again made a mistake he flees only to become a “man without an army” left with nothing but memories and the Emperor Sakisama’s swords. 

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The next story is introduced by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, as they are often depicted working together in various stories, as the first full length Groo story that Sergio created back in 1977. The story follows Groo as he tries to save a pretty maiden from the awful Kolas who attack her village. Groo mistakenly kills her returning husband, thinking he is part of the Kola horde. He eventually discovers that the Kola are a society of monkey-like creatures who capture  women and make them slaves to sing for their pleasure. 

The Kolas let Groo go as they only want the women to sing. Groo feels bad leaving all the women behind and tries to figure out to free them. He eventually comes up with a plan to make musical instruments for the Kola to play and make music instead of having the women sing for them. The plan backfires as his gives the instruments to the Kola who in turn decide to force their female slaves to sing AND play the instruments from Groo. Groo decides that he tried to think his way out of the problem and that did not go well so he goes back to what Groo does best, using his swords. 

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The comic wraps up with several pages of awesome paper figures that are meant to be cut out and played with featuring soldiers, villagers, animals, and various Groo characters. The back up story that appeared in Destroyer Duck is also reprinted in the final pages of the special. 

Final thoughts

Finding this comic was an amazing thrill and was made sweeter due to the fact I bought it from a dealer I had previous experience with. For a long time collector these kinds of stories are few and far between but they are what makes the journey so much fun. Could I have bought this comic any time I wanted to on-line? Probably. Possessing the object of desire is not the only reason that I call myself a collector though. 

There is a real sense of satisfaction in building a collection over time. The act of searching for comics is a much a part of the fun of the hobby as is finding the ones I am looking for. Along the way I have discovered lots of great comics I would not know about otherwise. I’ve made friends and talked to lots of interesting people. I’ve read amazing tales of heroism, fantasy and science fiction. I’ve spend thousands of hours cataloging and organizing my collection. I’ve had a wonderful time doing it all. All of that is highlighted by the experience of finding a comic like Groo the Wanderer Special #1. 

I close this piece with one of the house ads just to remind everyone – “Don’t Go Naked!”

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Confessions of Comic Collector

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I love collecting comic books but I have a problem, I buy too many comics. I buy more than I can possibly read. Every month when I fill out my Previews order book I say that I am going to cut back and I don’t. This month I am going to draw a line in the sand. I’m going to take a couple of weeks before I have to turn the order book in to cut back my next order. How and why am I going to do this?  

I’ll start with what I think the problems are. For starters I have piles of comics that I just don’t read. It is not because I don’t want to read them, I just don’t get around to it. One of the reasons for this that I feel modern comics cannot be just picked up and read. I feel like I have to read the whole story arc in order to know what’s going on. There is a part of me that does not want to pick up Justice League Odyssey issue #9 without having read #1-8. Is that silly? Probably. Would I be able to understand what is going on the issue if I am not caught up on the rest of the series? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a little bit like Schrodinger’s cat, I think. 

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I’m going to stick with Justice League Odyssey, because it is a good example for my poor choices when it comes to buying comics. Another reason that I have a pile of unread comics is that when DC launches a new series I almost always want to try it. That is even more true when it features characters I really enjoy, like the Green Lantern Jessica Cruz or Cyborg. I mentioned that I fill out a Previews order book every month, that’s how I get my comics. That means that I am ordering my comics in advance and have to take a fair amount of risk when something new starts, or when things are delayed. 

Coming out of the gigantic Metal event DC launched three new Justice League books; the core title, Justice League Dark, and Justice League Odyssey. I made the decision I was going to read all three of these books. Now here is where the risk comes in. I get the first issue of the main book and like it. And then another, and another while JL Dark and Odyssey are late. DC is still soliciting orders for Dark and Odyssey. Justice League Dark finally comes out and I like it. Through this period I continue to order all three books, even though I have really only read the main title and Justice League Dark. Finally the first issue of Odyssey comes out and it is not fantastic. Well I think I’ll give it a couple issues and see if it picks up. Two months later the third issue comes out, I’m committed through issue #5 or 6 at this point, and the book is not great. For the next order book I make the decision that I am going to stick with it. It ends up being a vicious cycle because I cannot tell myself to stop buying this book and keep hoping it is going to get better just because it has characters I like in it. 

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Another problem I have is that there are too many good comics out, I have a hard time limiting myself. Let’s take a look at the recent X-men comics, specifically the line that was just dropped with the latest re-launch. When X-men Blue and Gold were released back in April 2017 I read some online reviews that were very positive and suggested that it was getting back to stories that featured many of the older characters that I liked and the series was going to be done in a more “classic” vain. I picked up the first couple of issues at Newbury comics and thought they were pretty good. Soon after that they were on my Previews order. Then they came out with the X-men Red mini-series, that sounded good, so I picked that up. My brother read the New Mutants Deal Souls mini-series and said it was decent so I picked that up as well. Then Astonishing X-men was launched, then the new weekly Uncanny X-men, and you can see where this gets out of control. Finally they announced that they were all coming to an end and were going to be re-launched. That was enough and I stopped buying them. I bought the books I was committed to but dropped all the titles, many of which are still unread as I write this. 

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The final argument I’ll make in order to prove that I have a problem is that in the back of my mind there is a tiny little voice that tells me what comics I have to buy.  It is the voice that says if you stop buying that comic it is going to be cancelled and I don’t want that to happen. The same voice also reminds me that when you read a series, you should read the whole series. It also  reminds me that I keep hoping DC will try new books with some of their rich history of characters. That means that when they do release a book that does not have Batman in it I feel like I have to buy it because that is exactly what I said I wanted them to do. I call this voice the collector bug. 

The New Age of Heroes line that was launched out of Metal is the perfect example to demonstrate the control that collector bug has over me. These comics had all new characters, i.e. Silencer,  or characters that had not been seen in print in years, i.e. Damage. I thought it was pretty cool that DC was starting eight new books. These were characters that were “fresh” faces, not Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or Batman related. Mr Terrific was going to be in The Terrifics and that was one step closer to the Justice Society of America being back in the DCU. To me it almost felt like the New Universe line that Jim Shooter created for Marvel. There was a lot to like about the idea of these books. I ordered them all. 

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Of course then the books came out and they did not live up to the hype. They were released before Metal had wrapped up, due to delays with that series, making its ending even less impactful. Jim Lee did not draw much of the first issue that he was the announced artist for and was only the cover artist for that short series. The New Challengers was turned into a six issue mini series before the first issue dropped. Eventually one by one cancellations were announced. The only series to survive was The Terrifics, the best of the bunch. I’ve got all the issues of all the series with the exception of Immortal Men. From go that was delayed and when the third issue was solicited, with the Joker who Laughs on the cover, I dropped it like a hot potato. The collector bug was no match for my dislike of that particular character.

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These confessions have been pretty negative up until this point but it is not all doom and gloom. I do have a plan. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try and read the most recent issues of the series that are on my hit list. Things like Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Vampirella, and Detective Comics, all the comics I have a ton of back issues to get through before I would be caught up. I’ll read the most recent issues and if I like them well enough I’ll keep getting them. If I don’t like them, then they won’t be checked off on this month’s order form. The other thing I am going to do is think twice about ordering a new series and stick to my decision, no picking it up later at Newbury. 

I had no intention of buying the Jonathan Hickman X-men books at first. Then my brother and all my friends decided to buy it. In order to be able to talk to them about it I decided to pick the mini-series up myself. I justify this because one of the most fun things about collecting comics is talking to my friends about the comics I read and the the ones they read. It is even more fun when we are all reading the same comic. So I’ll buy these mini-series but when the new books launch in the fall I’ll get the first issue of Hickman’s X-men to see how much I like it. But that’s it. I’m not buying any of the other series no matter which ones my friends read. I’m not falling for that trap again. Marvel has pulled the relaunch trigger too many times in recent years for me to get into another series of comics that will just be cancelled or relaunched in year or so when the next big thing comes down the pike. 

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There it is. This month I will fill out a more sensible order form. I will no longer order books that I don’t like or don’t have the time to enjoy. I’ll mute that collector bug in the back of mind as best I can. Any new series or mini-series will be strongly considered and reconsidered instead of just checking it off on the list in the hopes that it might be good. DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, they are not going to go out of business if I don’t buy Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series III and I can accept that. If all this goes according to plan then I’ll post an update in a few weeks. 

It felt good to write all this down. Sort of like once it is written down I can own the problem and be free of it at the same time. I’ll close this confessional out on a happy note, The cover of the new Ragnarok series from Walt Simonson. I really enjoyed the first story and am very much looking forward to the new one!

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Super-Blog Team-Up The Immortal Dr. Fate

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When I was first invited to participate in the Super-Blog Team-Up the subject was Redemption. My initial thought was to write about the “Daredevil: Redemption” mini-series, but then I stopped for a second and decided that is a little on the nose, maybe use your imagination and think of something with a little more pizzazz. I ended up writing about Elfquest and how I thought that the chief of the tribe redeemed himself through the course of the first story. This time around I did not stop and think.

When the subject for this round of the SBTU was announced that it was going to be “Immortal” I instantly thought of the Immortal Dr. Fate and knew I wanted to write about him. Sure the concept of being immortal is right there in the name but I did not care. This was a chance to write about a character that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid and all through my collecting years. I mean what’s not to like? The character design alone is amazing. The blue and yellow color scheme of his costume just leaps off the page. The gold helmet is one of the most iconic items in all of the DC universe. He lives in a tower that is reminiscent of a lighthouse and exists between dimensions. I could go on but let’s get to the comics. 

All-Star Squadron #47

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Creators
Writer & Editor –  Roy Thomas
Guest Penciller –  Todd McFarlane (pgs 2-23)
Guest Penciller –  Mike Clark (pgs 1, 24)
Inker – Vince Colleta
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Letter – Cody (no last name listed)

My introduction to the character Dr. Fate was in the pages of All-Star Squadron. While he was technically a member of the Justice Society of America he had plenty of appearances with the Squadron (35 according to comic vine). In this particular issue we are treated to the fantastic origin of Dr. Fate. I’d like to note a couple of items about this comic before getting into the synopsis. There is an editorial note on the letters page from Roy Thomas that states that this story was supposed to appear in the forthcoming, unnamed “secret origins” comic that he was working on but because of an upcoming Dr. Fate monthly series the story was moved up. What is odd about that statement is Dr. Fate did not get his own mini series until 1987, and a regular monthly series until 1989. I have to wonder what series Thomas was referring to at this time (July 1985 cover date), was it the mini-series, the 89 monthly or a book that never saw the light of day. 

Thomas also mentions that this comic is actually guest penciller Todd McFarlane’s first work for DC, despite being the new regular artist on Infinity Inc., of which several issues had already been published by the time this issue came out. That is one reason that this book can be more difficult to come by. It was the last issue I needed to complete my set of All-Star Squadron and I paid two dollars for it. I’ve seen it as high as fifteen dollars recently, and it is always noted prominently by the dealer that it is McFarlane’s first DC comic. I guess that qualifies it as a “key” book. 

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Several issues of All-Star Squadron are used entirely to tell the origin of one golden age superhero or another and I believe they all do it using the same gimmick. The hero decides he or she wants to tell their story to John Law (a.k.a. The Tarantula) who is writing a book about masked heroes that he intends to publish when he retires from the crime fighting business. Fun Fact: John Law’s book is  called “Alter Egos”, or “Altered Egos” depending on where you look. The book shows up in Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s “Kingdom Come” as “Alternate Egos” by John Law and as “Behind the Mask” in James Robinson’s “The Golden Age”. Anyway, it is an easy way for Thomas to devote an entire issue to tell one characters story. 

Kent Nelson, wearing his half helmet, starts off the story saying that he is not really the same Dr. Fate as when his journey began. It does not come up until the end of the story but the half helmet that he is currently wearing is not a different version of the Helmet of Fate, it is just a helmet fashioned to look like Fate’s Helmet. It does not have the magical powers or contain the spirit of Nabu that the full version does. Kent wears this particular helmet to avoid being controlled by Nabu. Kent goes on to tell his story about how his father, an archaeologist, took him to Egypt after World War One had ended in order to excavate a pyramid. This particular pyramid should not exist in this part of Egypt it being so close the Tigris-Euphrates river and so far from where all the other pyramids were. 

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Kent, just a young boy, and his father, Sven, venture into the pyramid in order to unlock its secrets. Kent eventually comes across a chamber that when he opens it he finds a giant that looks very life like. The giant’s eyes turn red and a white gas cloud fills the room. Kent tries to escape but when he gets back to his father he finds him collapsed on the ground, dead. It is not stated as such in this story, but in Flash #306, the gas is supposed to preserve the giant, kill anyone who disturbs him, and finally spare the person who would replace him. The giant is Nabu, the wise. He is a Lord of Order and a sorcerer. His desire is to train Kent to carry on his work. 

While Kent is still grieving Nabu looks deep into his mind and makes all the pain go away. The young boy accepts this and Nabu becomes his mentor and guardian. This is just the first time Nabu will manipulate Kent. The years pass and Kent grows up with Nabu teaching him how to use magic to do almost anything. As the final lesson Nabu commands Kent to use all his power to destroy him. Kent refuses so Nabu reminds him of his father dying, making him feel all the anger and sorrow all over again. This works and Kent unleashes all his fury towards Nabu. The physical form of Kent’s teacher is destroyed but Nabu is far from gone. 

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In Kent’s minds eye he learns the truth about Nabu. Nabu is an exiled Lord of Order who became a guardian of mankind. He took a human form and was worshiped. Nabu tells him of the eternal struggle between Order and Chaos. He explains that the form he had taken on Earth can no longer house him, he needs a new host which Kent is to become. The energy that was Nabu transforms into the gold and blue costume that we are familiar with, the cape, the amulet and the Helmet. Kent Nelson wearing this outfit becomes Dr. Fate! It is important to understand that Dr. Fate at this point is not just Kent Nelson wearing a snazzy outfit and has a helmet that talks to him. The being known as Dr. Fate is a physical manifestation of the exiled Lord of Order using the body of Kent Nelson to exist in our world.

Dr. Fate’s first action is to find the Egyptian City of Alexandria in order to find the “single secret worth having for a lifetime unending”, whatever that means. Along the way Dr. Fate feels what he calls “an aura of incredible ageless evil”. He comes across a dead tour guide and an overturned car. Using his magic he learns that a beautiful woman is being held prisoner by a man that is familiar but he does not remember. Running on instinct Dr. Fate eventually finds a door-less tower and know he is in the right place to rescue the woman he saw. Using his powers to enter the tower he is greeted by the green faced man from his vision. The person knows Dr. Fate and refers to him by name, but Fate remembers nothing of his adversary. The green man chastises Dr. Fate and tells him that he knows Wotan and that he won’t play the same games, telling him that he knows all about him and Nabu the Wise. What he doesn’t know is what the girl means to Fate. 

After a little banter between the two sorcerers Wotan decides to give Dr. Fate the old razzle dazzle and expels him from the tower with a mighty Throoom! Wotan returns to his questioning of the young woman trying to figure out what she and Dr. Fate mean to each other. She’s giving him nothing (because she doesn’t really have anything to give). Frustrated Wotan decides to leave his tower with his hostage before Dr. Fate regains his wits and remembers who they are to each other. When Dr. Fate starts to come around, he decides to give Wotan what for and since he’s still new at these he can’t put Wotan down for the final count. Wotan gives it back as good as he received and then some, seemingly putting an end to his old foe. 

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Just before he is going to finish Dr. Fate off, the young woman frees herself, I assume because Wotan is devoting all his energy to destroying Nabu. She runs to Dr. Fate, cradles him in her lap and removes the helmet. She feels awful for the hurt, handsome, young man who was mortally wounded trying to rescue her and she starts to cry. Now, in what I can only describe as a Disney magic moment, one tear lands on Kent Nelson’s face and our hero is back in the game. 

Dr. Fate starts to rise. He dons the helmet, and with all the pep and vigor he can muster, he attacks Wotan and disintegrates him, scattering his atoms throughout the universe. This revived Dr. Fate, now more confident in his abilities, tells the young woman he should wipe her mind so that she forgets everything she’s seen. The woman convinces him not to do that and tells him that he needs her humanity and that the world needs Dr. Fate. He mulls this over and decides that she is the secret which he was searching for in the first place, the one worth having for a lifetime. She says that they should be friends and Dr. Fate agrees, picks her up and they fly off together. 

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Kent wraps up his story to John telling him the woman’s name was Inza Cramer and that they eventually fell in love. He also explains why he stopped wearing the helmet, that he can still fly, and is pretty strong but does not have much other magical power. He then poses the question, is he still Dr. Fate without all that? The comic ends with Hourman, Starman, and Firebrand bursting into the room saying the president called and Winston Churchill (who Hourman refers to as Winnie) has requested the assistance of the All-Stars, specifically the Spectre or Dr. Fate!. Personally if were the Prime Minister of the united Kingdom, I know who I’d want to come help. 

Roy Thomas is a master when it comes to golden age characters, continuity, and origin stories. In this comic he writes a complex story about a young boy who is raised by a cosmic deity who basically kills his father and then teaches him how to fly, move things with his mind, and defeat his enemies all in the name of immortality and order. This story is not as dense as Thomas usually writes. It is a good mix of storytelling, captivating dialog, and superhero action. Being a fan of Todd McFarlane I also really enjoyed the art. 

Having listened to interviews with Jerry Ordway where he talks about working with Roy on All-Star Squadron and it seems that Roy worked very closely with his creative partners to guide them how he wanted his comics to look. I’m sure this was the case with Todd on this book and as we’ll see in the next story that was originally published in DC Special Series #10 – Secret Origin of Super Heroes.  

The Immortal Dr. Fate #1

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Creators
The Immortal Destiny (The Secret Origin of Dr. Fate)
Excerpted From the Diary of Inza Nelson
Writer –  Paul Levitiz
Artists – Joe Staton & Mike Nasser
Letterer – Shelly Leferman
Colorist – Adrienne Roy 

This story is presented as being from the journal of Inza where she is struggling with the challenges of being married to Kent Nelson. It seems that Kent Nelson and Dr. Fate are two very different people and the immortal doctor has too much influence over the man she loves. Inza argues with herself about wanting to be with Kent and the problems that come with him being Dr Fate, combating the agents of chaos, all the while recounting how the twelve year old boy traveling with his archaeologist father became the man she is married too. 

Except for some minor details this origin story and the one Roy Thomas wrote in All-Star Squadron are nearly identical. Father and son enter a tomb alone. When the young Kent Nelson finds the giant Nabu a mysterious gas is released killing his father. Nabu soothes the child by making him forget his grief and begins teaching the boy magic. As a young man the final step to his training is to destroy Nabu’s human form. When he does this he learns Nabu’s origin and about the lords of order and chaos. This story ends with Kent Nelson receiving the Helmet and amulet from Nabu and becoming Dr. Fate. 

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Golden Age Classic
Reprinted from More Fun Comics #56 (Dr. Fate’s 2nd appearance)
Creators
Writer – Gardner Fox
Artist –  Hal Sherman

Gardner Fox and Hal Sherman created Dr. Fate in 1940 in More Fun Comics #55. The story in issue 56 recaps issue 55 where Dr. Fate battled Wotan. In this issue Dr. Fate and Inza have to journey to the realm of the dead to make sure that the defeated Wotan is actually dead. The story is fun, and a little hokey, but the interesting thing is that Wotan is a scientist and not a mage like Dr. Fate. He is attempting to manipulate Earth’s magnetic flow between the poles in order to destroy the planet.

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I bring up both of these stories to show how Roy Thomas used the stories that his predecessors wrote and drew to share the origin of Dr. Fate with new readers. He makes minor changes and embellishes here and there but he remains extremely faithful to the source material that he loved when he was reading these comics growing up. He honors the past and DC’s rich history. You can see this in the art as well. The character designs for Wotan and Dr. Fate are identical in All-Star  Squadron and More Fun Comics. Also take a look at the following panels from the DC Special Series story and the ones from All-Star Squadron. Thomas had to have guided McFarlane in order to tell the story as he wanted to. 

Example 1 – From The Immortal Destiny:IMG_20190825_161414

And All-Star Squadron:

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Example 2 – Immortal Destiny

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And All-Star Squadron

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Now that I’ve established where Dr. Fate comes from let’s take a look at some of his adventures. How does Kent Nelson deal with the controlling mage Nabu? Does his relationship with Inza withstand the strain of immortality and order? Let’s find out as we examine the “The Mummy that Time Forgot”!

The Mummy that Time Forgot
Reprinted from 1st Issue Special #9
Creators
Writer – Martin Pasko
Artist – Walt Simonson
Editor –  Gerry Conway

The thing that I want to talk about, before we get to this story, is how I came across this book. I was at the Baltimore Comic Con and was attending a panel where Walt Simonson was being interviewed. Along with the interview there was a power-point presentation that was being used to show examples of his work that there were going to be discussed. At one point in the interview they got to talking about the artist edition that was soon to be released “Manhunter and other Stories”. As they were showing a preview of the book there was a slide that contained the art for the cover of “The Immortal Dr. Fate”, seen above. I was blown away. I did not know that the great Walt Simonson had drawn a Dr. Fate comic. I did a quick google search for “Walt Simonson Dr. Fate” and quickly found that “The Immortal Dr. Fate” was a three issue series. From there I knew what my mission was and add the comic to my list of things to search the bins for. 

It was not too difficult to find the first two issues, but the third did take some time. Since I had only done a cursory search I didn’t really know much about the comic, and at the time I still had not yet discovered the joys of 1st issue special. I mention all this because I did not realize that “The Immortal Dr. Fate” was a reprint series. The first issue collects  wthe  three stories I am discussing here and the second and third issues collect the Dr. Fate back up stories that appeared in The Flash, vol. 1, issues 306-313. I love reprint comics, they provide a great way to read old stories, very often ones that have never been collected or that the average collector cannot afford. And because they are just reprints they are typically inexpensive. When I finally was able to read the comic I was slightly disappointed that it was not a three issue Dr. Fate mini-series drawn by Walt Simonson. I got over that feeling pretty quickly though because all the stories were so good. Now let’s check out Walter Pasko and Walt Simonson’s Dr. Fate. 

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The story begins with Dr. Fate leaving his Tower in Salem Massachusetts on a mission. He’s off to the Boston Museum of Egyptology because the crystal orb of Nabu has directed him there. It’s late and two wealthy men have decided to peruse the collection without having to be bothered by other museum patrons. They are greeted by a mummy coming out of his sarcophagus. 

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The mummy dispatches both men quickly and as they lay broken on the ground Dr. Fate arrives. The mummy recognizes Dr. Fate as the student of Nabu and Dr. Fate recalls the mummy as Nabu’s foe, Khalis. Catching Dr. Fate off guard Khalis attacks and stuns him giving him the opportunity to steal the medallion he wears around his neck. Khalis leaves the fallen Dr. Fate and the museum in order to complete his goal of enslaving mankind and worshiping the Egyptian deity, Anubis. When Dr. Fate comes too he is hurt and disoriented. He heads back to his tower and Inza. As Fate collapses on the floor he tells Inza that he has returned her husband to her. This brief dialog between Inza and Dr. Fate really reinforces the idea the Kent Nelson and Dr. Fate are different people. 

When Inza helps Kent recover from his battle with Khalis she lays into him about how she’s tired of healing his body just to have Nabu retake control of him and do it all over again as he battles his foes. Kent, obviously worn out, does not want to have this argument again and passes out, frustrating Inza even more. She decides to leave the tower and let Kent sleep it off. 

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When Kent comes to, he heads up to the library to do some research to try and find out what Khalis’s deal is. He eventually finds some ancient text that details the rise to power of a mad priest, Khalis, who worships Anubis. Anubis bestows Khalis with a magical amulet who then uses it to control the slaves. One day someone new shows up who cannot be controlled by Khalis, or the amulet. Three guesses on who that might be and the first two don’t count. If you have made it this far and guessed it was Nabu, congratulations (and thank you). Nabu thinks the priest has overstepped and that pharaoh should be the only one to command such power. Nabu separates Khalis from the amulet. Khalis loses control of his slaves and they quickly revolt turning Khalis into a mummy while he is still alive. Ouch. Anubis observes this and tells Khalis he will live on even in death until he can recover the amulet. 

Kent Nelson knows what he must do and puts on the Helmet. As Dr. Fate  leaves his tower a second time, this time to face one of his strongest foes, we turn to Inza who has rented a room for the evening. She’s starting to have second thoughts about blowing off her husband just because of Dr. Fate. She decides that helping him might be the better thing to do and heads off to the museums where she might be able to do some good. Dr. Fate catches up Khalis and they fight. One of the things I like about Dr. Fate is that he’s more like a paladin than a wizard. He’ll throw a punch or two and then whip out some eldritch magic. 

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Khalis manages to get away and just then Inza pulls up with the final piece of the puzzle. She’s found a piece of Khalis’s tomb that has his “magical name” in hieroglyphics on it. She figures it had to be used to help imprison the mummy.  Dr. Fate thanks her and splits. He’s got to stop Khalis before he can go through with his plan. 

By now Khalis has summoned Anubis who says he’ll only help him if he can destroy Dr. Fate. Deities can be tricky folks, especially the gods of Death. Dr. Fate eventually finds Khalis and decides playtime is over, he’s going for broke here. He reads the name on the tomb fragment and then summons Amon-Ra, the god of the sun (Anubis’s spiritual opposite) and together they turn Khalis to dust. Dr. Fate recovers the amulet and then passes out having used so much power. Inza pulls up in her car and helps Dr. Fate to his feet. In a cool touch, while still wearing the helmet, Dr. Fate says that “we did it”. When Inza questions this Kent Nelson takes off the helmet and says “Yeah, we. You and me”. 

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This is easily one of my favorite Dr. Fate stories. Sure it wraps up the conflict between Kent, Inza, and Nabu in a nice, neat little package but it at least addresses the challenges that they face when dealing with Nabu’s control of their lives. It also shows that Dr. Fate can be an action hero instead of just some aloof magical being that can get out of any jam by just uttering a magic word and waving his arms around. Finally we see that Kent Nelson is not the Immortal being, Dr. Fate is. After the first fight with Khalis, Kent has taken a beating and is pretty out of it. It is his physical body takes the punishment while Nabu is just a metaphysical entity using Kent as a host. With that in mind we get to our next story, the four issue Dr. Fate mini-series from 1987 by J.M DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. 

Dr. Fate (#1-4)

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Creators
Writer – J.M. DeMatteis
Illustrator – Keith Giffen
Inker –  Dave Hunt
Letterer – Agustin Mas
Colorist –  Anthony Tollin
Editor – Denny O’Neil

All I remember about reading this series when it came out in 1987 is that I did not like it. I did not like the art and the store was too cerebral for me. At the time I was not into “heady” comics. I liked my action packed stories. By 1987 I was heavily into Daredevil, The Punisher, Batman, and Spiderman. All-Star Squadron was coming to an end. Infinity Inc. and the Young All-Stars were something my brother was reading. I just wasn’t in a place to appreciate this comic. Reading it now as an adult is a whole other story. 

This story deals with chaos, madness, death, and immortality in a way that I can really get behind. By this time DeMatteis and Giffen were quite comfortable with Dr. Fate. Giffen had drawn that backup story from the Flash that I mentioned and they had co written the Justice League series that followed the Legends event, the team that Dr. Fate was on. In this story though they tear the character down only to bring him back in a new form. 

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The story begins with Dr. Fate fighting chaos demons. As strong as he is though, his opponents are belligerent and numerous. Eventually all the little demons combine to form one big demon named Typhon, a heavy among the Lords of Chaos. Just as Dr. Fate seems like he is about to defeat his foe he is pulled away. He’s as surprised as the reader is. At first it is hard to tell what is going on but as the conversation progresses we can infer that Dr. Fate has been brought to another dimension by the Lords of Order and it is not Dr. Fate that is being addressed but Nabu, the Lord of Order who has spent a millenia on Earth. The conversation here sets up the whole story but the basic premise is that time is divided up into cycles, or yugas, as they are referred to on Earth. The Lords of Order tell Nabu that the current cycle is coming to an end and that the Lords of Chaos have won, or are at least winning. Nabu is instructed to give up, let them win, so the next cycle can start and in that cycle Order will reign. 

Nabu has different ideas though and cares more for humans than maybe a Lord of Order should. The Lords of Order don’t particularly care for his tone and separate Nabu from Dr. Fate by removing the helmet and revealing a tired and broken down Kent Nelson. They question Nelson, asking him if he’s ready to accept the end, accept death and based on the crying, old man’s look, he is. 

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Back on Earth we meet Linda, a pretty, young woman in a fur coat and a young boy named Eric. Linda has brought Eric to the park to play with kids his age, but he does not seem to want to. He’s awkward and afraid. While Linda sits on a park bench we find out who these characters are. Linda is a young woman who married a rich old man for his money. It turns out becoming an heiress isn’t easy, but she is one, nonetheless. Eric is her step son, the child of her dead husband’s first wife, who killed herself rather than be with Eric’s father. Neither Linda or Eric are happy about their predicament but they also have a special relationship (yes, it is almost that kind of special). Linda thinks Eric is a very old soul trapped in a boys body and and Eric is really only comfortable around Linda. 

As Linda returns from her internal monologue we see that Eric is being lead away quietly by a man in a trench coat. The man says they are going to Salem and Eric replies that he thinks they should let Linda know where they are going but also that he thinks he’s been waiting for the man for a long time. 

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Next we meet the final actor in our story, Doctor Stoner, who works are Arkham Asylum. This doctor happens to be in his office communicating with the Lords of Chaos that we met at the beginning of the story. Since this is Arkham Asylum and there are demons talking to the doctor, we can assume he’s up to no good. We then cut back to Kent Nelson, Eric, and Nabu in Dr. Fate’s tower in Salem. This version of Kent and Nabu is slightly different than previous versions in that Nabu is a talking mouth where Kent’s belly should be. It’s pretty disturbing. Kent Nelson is a visibly tired and weary old man. We learn that Inza has passed away  and Kent is only being kept alive by the Lord of Order that he plays host for. Eric has been chosen to become the new host for Nabu. Eric actually seems pretty comfortable with this. Energy is expelled from Nabu’s mouth / Kent’s belly and Eric is transformed into a strapping young man. 

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A distraught Linda is back in her apartment fretting over the loss of Eric when there is an explosion outside. Dr. Fate appears outside her window and tells her that Eric Strauss will be back. He then flies off to fight the giant chaos demon, Typhon. Eric and Nabu don’t really know how to work well together yet. Eric did not receive all the training Kent did. Nabu took a shortcut and it does not pay off. Eric is fighting Nabu in his mind and Typhon takes advantage of that. He’s able to separate the two finally defeating Dr. Fate. Nabu’s energy returns to Kent and Eric Strauss ends up naked and babbling about only being a ten year old boy. Conveniently Doctor Stoner is called by the police to take this obviously deranged person to the asylum. 

In the next issue we see Kent and Nabu back at the Salem Tower debating whether or not the Lords of order are right and the current Yuga is coming to and end, that chaos has won. Linda decides that she needs to go and search for Eric, feeling somehow drawn to Massachusetts. Doctor Stoner torments the addled Eric who does not understand how to deal with the changes he has gone though. Stoner is also working with Typhon and getting stronger and stronger. What works really well in this story is the fact that Stoner works in the asylum. With the inmates Joker, Two Face and the rest of loonies the place is a natural breeding ground for chaos. It thrives there. The damaged minds of the patients make it a place where the negative energy can flourish in this plane. 

Kent and Nabu reach out to Eric. Nabu forces Eric further down in his own psyche so he can take full control. They transform into Dr. Fate with Nabu almost completely in control. Fate goes to challenge Stoner and Typhon. It does not go well, Typhon is too strong with all the chaotic energy of the asylum to power him. Typhon is able to expel Nabu from Dr. Fate. He has Stoner put the mantle and amulet on becoming the Chaotic Dr. Fate. Nabu returns to Kent. The Lords of Order then make a grand entrance and and question Nabu again, about giving up and letting chaos win this age. Nabu says no dice and he and Kent Nelson are alone again. Finally now that Stoner and Typhon have become Dr. Fate they leave Eric all alone. This will end up being a mistake. 

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The third issue begins with Dr. Fate sowing the seeds of chaos across the globe. He is looking to see the world burn. In a neat twist we see the Justice League meeting. Mister Miracle, Guy Gardner, the Martian Manhunter, and Batman get together because the world seems to be worse off than usual. The Phantom Stranger shows up, making one of the greatest entrances I have ever read in Comics. 

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Linda has found the tower in Salem. She and Kent are arguing about Dr. Fate, Nabu, and what they should be doing. Kent is ready to give in. Linda cannot believe it and Nabu is just pissed. Just as Kent is beginning to stand up to Nabu, Eric shows up saying they cannot  let chaos win. He’s still naked but now more confident than ever. While Eric gives Kent the ultimate pep talk the Justice League decides to tussle with demon Dr. Fate. They don’t accomplish much but they do slow him down a bit. 

In the climatic issue demon Dr. Fate decides that in order to spread chaos more quickly and speed up his victory he heads to Egypt where everything began. He’s not alone though. The newly invigorated Eric Strauss is there, now calling himself Fate, along with Kent, Nabu and Linda. Nabu is pissed that Linda is there. He thinks she’s a distraction for Eric. Eric and Kent know better in this case. Eric goes to challenge demon Dr. Fate and starts to take a pretty good beating. Kent tells Linda to go and help Eric, that he needs her. Nabu tries to prevent it but Kent is able to stop him. As demon Dr. Fate is about to finish Eric, Linda is transformed into a being of energy (it doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, in the comic is works really well). 

As Eric and Linda merge into one being Kent explains what is happening. That may be at one time Nabu had good intentions but over the years his desire for full control over his host, Kent, he made him miss out on what really mattered in life. Too much of it was spent away and apart from Inza. Dr Fate could have been so much more if there was more love, than order in his life. Kent is not going to allow that to happen to Eric and Linda. Eric / Linda resume control of the helmet and amulet becoming the new Dr. Fate. Typhon and Stoner are defeated and Order reigns. 

The story ends with Eric, Linda and Kent back in Salem. Nabu has left Kent so that he can finally be at peace and returns to the realm of order. Eric and Linda bury Kent and are ready to begin their own journey. Nabu is arguing with the Lords of Order. He’s finally comes to understand that order and chaos are not everything there is to existence. He does not come out and say it but he’s referring to love. There is also love. The Lords of Order expel Nabu for the final time, he’s never to return. He goes back to earth and decides to use Kent’s body to help teach and learn from Eric and Linda. 

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This Dr. Fate mini-series launches the monthly series with Eric and Linda Strauss taking the mantle up. It was written by J.M. Dematteis and drawn by Shawn McManus. As I mentioned I did not like this story as a kid and therefore did not read the on going title that came after it. This series really is an excellent story, maybe not for a fourteen year kid who was really into Spiderman, but it was definitely worth my time to revisit as an adult. The themes of madness feeding chaos and order struggling to survive and have meaning it today’s world were worthy explorations. Keith Giffen’s art really fits the tone of the book. The coloring and heavy inks also lend to the overall oppressive mood. Everything is heavy and drab except Dr. Fate’s awesome yellow and blue costume. It stands out against everything and brings something better to the world in this story. 

What really brings it all home is that in the end it is that love wins and that is how Dr. Fate is able to defeat chaos. It’s a good message. It is not justice or right that overcomes chaos and destruction, but simply love. And after all the stories I’ve discussed here where all Nabu wants is total control for him to come around in the end really just caps it off nicely. Finally I want to discuss briefly one more incarnation of Dr. Fate. 

Doctor Fate #1

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Creators
Storytellers – Paul Levitz & Sonny Liew
Colorist –  Lee Loughridge
Letterer – Nick J. Napolitano

This Doctor Fate comic was the DC – You story launched in 2015. DC had finally dropped the New 52 moniker and launched a couple of new titles aimed at younger readers and still ignored pretty much everything that happened prior to the launch of the New 52. Now while that may sound pretty negative, and it was mostly poorly received, I did enjoy some of the things they tried. Case in point this new Doctor Fate. 

The premise here was that Anbuis, god of the dead, is seeking to wash the world away in a great flood. He is opposed by Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess. Bastet gives the Helmet of Dr Fate to a young Egyptian boy named Nassour, who is descended from pharaohs. Nassour rejects it all at first but eventually gives in. Nassour, not fully understanding what is happening to him, struggles in his role as the mystery mage. Eventually he and Bastet will defeat Anubis and Kent Nelson will show up too in order to help.

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The series was very similar to Marvel’s Ms. Marvel where they story revolved around a Muslim family instead of a Caucasian family. It also felt a little bit little the Greatest American Hero TV show in that Nassour is given a lot of great power but has no idea what to do with it. I enjoyed the changes and it did not feel heavy handed or forced. I thought it was a well told story about a family in the city struggling to put their brightest and smartest child through college in a time when most people struggle to get by. It also just so happens that the same young man has access to magical powers that he’ll have to use to save the world. For as long as it lasted, I thought it was fine storytelling.

Wrapping it all up

Through the years there have been quite a few different creators writing Dr. Fate stories and yet his origin remained pretty much the same, not a lot of retconing happening is this case. Of course he fights crime and evil doers wherever they may be but there is also a great personal conflict that comes with the character. It is interesting to see how different writers deal with the strife between Kent, or whomever is wearing the helmet, and Nabu. I particularly enjoyed the moment in the DeMatteis / Giffen mini-series when Nabu realizes there is more to existence than order and chaos. Inza is also a complex character who is a good foil for Nabu. 

There are plenty of other instances of Dr. Fate out there to enjoy. One of these days I’ll get around to the Dematteis series that followed the mini-series. Not to mention the Earth 2 Fate from the New 52 series. He’s also featured in the new Justice League Dark series which I am looking forward to reading once I get caught up on that series. Dr. Fate has been around a long time and gone through a lot of changes (aren’t you glad that since you made it this far I didn’t discuss the Fate series). He faced all sorts of enemies, been on lots of different superhero teams, has lived and died but through it all, one thing has been constant, one thing does not change, he’s always got that SWEET ASS Helmet!  

Of course one of the great things about comic book characters is that essentially they are all Immortal as long as we are there to buy and read their stories. I’ve enjoyed the character most of my life which is why when I chose to write about him for this Super-Blog Team-Up event it felt really good. I had a ton of fun writing this and revisiting the character in all these different stories. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much I did writing it. I encourage you to now read and listen to some more really AWESOME tales of various Immortal characters please check out the rest of the what the Super-Blog Team-Up gang has to offer. You’ll be glad you did.

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Super-Blog Team Up Links:

Comic Reviews By Walt: TMNT and Highlander
https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/?p=16361

The Superhero Satellite: Super-Blog Team-Up Presents IMMORTAL: Peter Loves Mary Jane
https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/super-blog-team-up-presents-immortal-peter-loves-mary-jane

Between The Pages Blog: Big Finish: Doctor Who’s Finest Regeneration
https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2019/08/big-finish-doctor-whos-finest-regeneration.html

The Unspoken Decade: Archer and Armstrong:  Opposites Attract:  Archer and Armstrong
http://theunspokendecade.com/sbtuarcherandarmstrong

DC In the 80s: Young Animals Bug
http://www.dcinthe80s.com/2019/08/sbtu-immortal-forager-second-life-of-bug.html

Black, White and Bronze: What Price Immortality? A Review of Red Nails
https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2019/08/super-blog-team-up-what-price.html)

The Daily Rios: Arion The Immortal (1992 Six Issue Mini Series)
https://thedailyrios.com/

Chris Is On Infinite Earths: Podcast Episode 26 – Resurrection Man 1997 & 2011
https://chrisandreggie.podbean.com/e/chris-is-on-infinite-earths-episode-26-resurrection-man-1s-19972011-super-blog-team-up/?token=b1768703b32e0ffcc76bd7e7d66bda6e

In My Not So Humble Opinion : It Came from the 1990s: Ivar the Timewalker
https://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/timewalker/

Vic Sage “…of the upcoming Pop Culture Retrorama site.”: I am Legend
Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast Ep. 08 – I Am Legend

The Source Material Comics Podcast: Vampirella “Roses For The Dead”
https://www.spreaker.com/user/10409169/sm-vamp-final

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Multi-Man  LINK GOES LIVE 8/28/2019 1:00 am PST https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-immortal-foe-of-challengers-multi.html

Magazines and Monsters:
Podcast episode – Kang/Immortus: Avengers-Kang: Time and Time Again TPB (Avengers 69-71)
https://anchor.fm/magsnmonsters
Blog post: https://billydunleavy.wordpress.com/p=6243&preview_id=6243&preview_nonce=d756977e50&post_format=standard&_thumbnail_id=-1&preview=true&key=private_preview

Radulich Broadcasting Network: TV PARTY TONIGHT – Jupiter Ascending commentary
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/18840705

 

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Chicago 2019: LCS Graham Crackers Comic Loop

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When my brother and I were young our mother took us on two cross-country trips. The first trip we drove through the northern half of the lower 48 States to California and came back through the southwest and the midwest. The second trip we drove to Alaska and came back through British Columbia and again the midwest. Both journeys were made in our family minivan and we camped the entire way. These were amazing vacations and we were blessed to be able to see some of the most wonderful things in the United States and Canada. One of the highlights of both of these trips was visiting local comic shops in the towns and cities we drove through.

Each vacation was meticulously arranged months in advance with many visits to AAA for maps and trip-tics. During those planning stages, we would use the Overstreet Price Guide and the list of comic retailers in the front of the book to see if there were comic shops in the places we were going. If there were, we’d mark them on the maps. My mother knew that if she was going to stay sane driving 500 to 700 miles a day with two young boys in the back seat that she was going to have to find ways to keep us quiet and not play “he’s touching me” for the entire time. We were both avid readers so plenty of books were packed but comics were really going to do the trick. It was these family trips that instilled in me the desire to look for a comic shop whenever I travel. 

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This past July, I was asked to be part of the team traveling to Chicago for the National Conference our company hosts for the US and Canadian consultants that sell our products. We arrived on a Monday morning, a day before the truck would deliver all the items needed for the show, so I had time in the afternoon to explore a little bit on my own. Thanks to Google Maps and Uber I was able to visit Graham Crackers Comics Loop right off Millenium Park.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the shop was the huge wall of recent comics. This wall went the entire length of the store and turned the corner in the back. They obviously do quite well based on the inventory they seemed to move. It was not like the piles on the racks contained months worth of back issues, each stack seemed to go no more than one issue prior to the current month if that. The opposite wall was filled with Manga, trade paperbacks, and hardcover collections (we don’t call ‘em graphic novels on this blog unless they contain an original story and not reprinted material). The back of the store contained a nice amount of back issue bins, the dollar, and fifty-cent bins, and some “wall” books.  The most amazing thing about the place was that it had very few toys and even fewer Funko Pops. Sure they were there but they did not occupy much more than a couple of shelves. All in all, it was a wicked nice shop, now let’s get to the stuff I picked up. 

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #11 and #13

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Creators
Writer – Gerry Conway
Artist – Pat Broderick
Artist Embellisher – Rodin Rodriquez
Letters – Adam Kubert
Colors – Gene D’Angelo

If I come across the late seventies, early eighties era DC comics in the cheapo bins there is an almost one hundred percent chance that I will buy them. There are several series I am currently working on collecting, DC Comics Presents, Arak: Son of Thunder, and Infinity Inc. The discount bins are great places to work on those lines. On this trip, I was just looking for some fun stuff to read back in the hotel when I got off work at night and I came across these early issues of Firestorm. 

Due to the way modern comics are written where the reader almost always has to have all the issues in the story arc in order to understand what’s happening, I am usually hesitant to pick up non-consecutive issues for a series. Reading comics out of order, or not starting with issue #1 can make me a little twitchy. With older comics though, if the story does span multiple issues there is almost always enough exposition and narration to get the reader caught up. This is because back then any given comic really could have been someone’s first issue and the publishers and editors livelihoods depended on that. I was comfortable buying these two comics knowing that #11 was not the first part of the story. I’m was sure whatever was going on would be explained and that issue #13 would provide plenty of recap from whatever I was going to miss from not reading issue #12. 

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The story actually starts in issue #10 but it is clear from the get-go what’s happening. Firestorm has been attacked by a were-hyena and is now cursed, slowly turning into a monster himself. The story concludes in issue #13 and it was a fun ride. Ronnie and Professor Stein have to overcome the curse and not being able to separate the Firestorm matrix and return to their normal selves. The story was very enjoyable and the conflict between Ronnie and the Professor, while they were trapped, was intriguing. There was plenty of great action and Pat Broderick’s art was outstanding. I’d buy more early Firestorm comics if I came across them in a heartbeat. 

Dark Shadows – #13

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Creators
Writer – Mike Raight
Illustrator –  Nacho Tenorio
Colors – Carlos Lopez
Letterer – Troy Peteri
Cover artist – Francesco Francavilla

Honestly, I’ll buy any comic in a discount bin with a Francavilla cover. This caught my eye because not too long ago I started watching the original Dark Shadows series and am loving it. This comic had two things going for it, a subject I’d love to read a comic about and a great cover artist. For fifty cents this was a no brainer pick up. 

Blue Beetle #14 and Crossfire #15

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Creators

Blue Beetle
Writer – Len Wein
Penciller – Paris Cullins
Inker – Dell Barras
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Spanking New Editor – Denny O’Neil

Crossfire
By – Mark Evanier & Dan Spiegle
Lettering – Carrie Spiegle
Coloring – Jo Meugniot
Created by – Mark Evanier and Will Meugniot

I picked both of these up because they are series that I am collecting. I got into this Blue Beetle recently while reading BackIssue #79, the issue that is all about Charlton’s Action Heroes line. Of all the Charlton characters that DC purchased the rights to Blue Beetle was one of the most successful. I love Paris Cullen’s art and you cannot go wrong with Len Wein writing.

I discovered Crossfire recently at a show in New Hampshire. I pulled a good-sized stack of issues from one dealer’s bins simply because Mark Evanier’s name is on the cover. I love his writing and had never heard of the comic. I’ve liked what I’ve read so far and have decided to try and find the complete series. 

This is WildDog #1

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Creators
Writer – Max Collins
Penciller –  Terry Beatty
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – John Workman
Colorist –  Michele Wolfman
Editor – Mike Gold

I grabbed this one because of Chris Sheenan and his exploration of the complete run of Action Comics Weekly. There are two arcs with WildDog and I liked both. Finding the first issue of the first mini-series featuring the character and for fifty cents, I could not say no. One of the most interesting things about this story is that they do not reveal who WildDog actually is until the last issue. There is also a great editorial from Mike Gold detailing how WildDog came to be. 

It’s funny how I enjoyed reading this comic now.  This was something my brother read when it came out. I was reading Punisher at the time and was at a stage in my life where if my brother liked something I would say I didn’t like it. I probably made fun of him for reading a comic about a Punisher rip off with a stupid hockey mask. Looking back though WildDog might be the more interesting comic. It was a short mini-series and the character did not get tired and overblown. 

wilddog panel

Marvel Superspecial Magazine  #20

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Creators
Script – Dennis O’Neil
Pencils & Colors – Marie Severin
Inks – John Tartaglione
Editor – Jim Shooter

I love Marvel movie adaptations and the Super Special line. I think I have three sets of the two-issue limited series for Dragonslayer because if I see it I feel like I have to rescue it. It is just one of those things with me. This was the first time I had seen the magazine edition and had to pick it up. I was only six dollars and in my experience, that is a decent price for a Super Special magazine. 

The story is a very faithful adaptation of the movie. Fun fact, the movie was released as a joint venture between Paramount and Disney. At the time it was the first Disney movie that contained a nude scene. This magazine contains the complete story as well as a great behind the scenes article about the making of the movie and some wicked production shots. I was very pleased to be able to add this to my collection.

Wrap Up

For the better part of my life, I have been able to travel both across this country and around the world. I am quite fortunate for having been able to do that. I’ve seen lots of amazing things and had wonderful adventures. All those journeys have been special, but some more than others if I was able to find a local comic shop. 

I want to close with a picture of a collection of polyhedral dice. In the last few years, whenever I visit a new comic shop I buy a twenty-sided die to mark the occasion. This picture is just some of the dice I’ve purchased. The one in the front came from Graham Crackers Comic Loop. 

dice

 

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Kwik-y-Comics All Star Comics 61

allstarcover

It has been quite some time since I have written anything for this blog. I find that between reading the comics I buy, managing and cataloging my collection, and enjoying my other hobbies I find it difficult to devote time to writing. This time out I thought I would do something a little different and do a short piece, just to get back into the groove of things. This time I’ll be looking at All-Star Comics #61 from July 1976.

allstarsplash

Creators:
Writer / Editor – Gerry Conway
Illustrations – Keith Giffen & Wally Wood
Colorist – Carl Gafford
Cover Artist – Ernie Chan

When I came across this in the cheapo bins I was super excited. I’m a huge fan of the Justice Society having grown up with the All-Star Squadron. For me, they are one of the greatest teams in all of comics. There is a great diversity of characters on the team that can really lead to some interesting interactions. In good writer’s hands, characters like the brash and strong-willed Wildcat and the Mystical Dr. Fate can have some wild adventures. Throw in a blind scientist like Dr. Midnight or Superman’s cousin Powergirl and well then, you’ve really got something.

Ever since Mark Waid’s “A Midsummer’s Nightmare” and Grant Morrison’s JLA brought DCs heavy hitters back together on one team I have felt as if we are living in the era of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Waid’s, Morrison’s, and many others take on the Justice League have given us great stories over the last 22 years but I often find myself looking for more from DC and those yearnings usually take the form of the characters from the JSA. Give me Dr. Fate, The Star-Spangled Kid, and Starman and I’m a happy guy.

Hellfire and Holocaust

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The story in this issue picks up from the previous issue with Green Lantern and Dr. Fate fighting the villain Vulcan. We get a nice recap on the opening splash where we are told that Vulcan was formerly NASA astronaut Christopher Pike who was turned into Vulcan during a recent mission where he was orbiting the sun. (Christopher Pike? Vulcan? I guess Gerry Conway is a big Star Trek fan). There is quite a bit of destruction as Green Lantern and Fate engage with Vulcan. Green Lantern tries to protect the city while Fate takes on the villain directly. The building that they are fighting on collapses and Fate is buried in the rubble while Vulcan blasts away to safety.

Elsewhere the other members of the JSA are standing around bickering while their headquarters burns. The damage is a result of their battle with Vulcan from the previous issue. The Flash’s wife, Joan, shows up and tells him that she worries about him going back into action since he’s retired and asks him to come home. He does. Power Girl, Wildcat, and the Star-Spangled Kid argue about Kid’s use of the cosmic rod. At this point, I have no idea where Starman is.

powergirl

Eventually, Green Lantern summons the JSA’ers to have them rejoin the fight against Vulcan. As the firemen douse the flames that have engulfed their former HQ the team is getting ready to leave when Powergirl flies off on her own without telling everyone else what’s up. Come to find out she heard over the police scanners about a UFO crashing in another part of the city. When she arrives at the site she is greeted by an alien that looks like a large frog in green battle armor.

When Wildcat and Doctor Midnight finally meet up with Green Lantern they find him trying to remove the rubble of the destroyed building that Dr. Fate is buried under. The problem is that there is so much wood in the debris that GL is having trouble completing the rescue due to his rings weakness with wood. With the help of Doctor Midnight’s goggles, the heroes are able to locate Dr. Fate and quickly dig him out.

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Power Girl and the frog alien continue to trade blows when the alien starts to send her psychic messages. He’s trying to tell her that he is there for Vulcan. Speaking of Vulcan, we rejoin him while he is fighting with the Star-Spangled Kid and Hawkman. Power Girl shows up with her alien buddy and tries to explain to Hawkman and the Star-Spangled Kid that the alien is there is help Vulcan. It turns out the frog-like alien is the one who rescued Christopher Pike and transformed him into Vulcan in order to save him from crashing in the sun while he was orbiting the star.

There was a problem with how the alien saved Pike and he accidentally left this doll set to evil. He has come to Earth to correct that mistake. Vulcan reacts poorly to this news and kills the alien. Just as he is about to turn on the members of the JSA Powergirl tells the Star-Spangled kid that the problem with Vulcan is that he is super sensitive to sunlight. The same exact type of energy that powers the cosmic rod flag boy is carrying. Star-Spangled Kid fires a blast from the cosmic rod at Vulcan destroying him.

endpage

I enjoyed the heck out of this comic and it really pushed a lot of buttons for me. First of all, I really dig anything that is related to the United States Bicentennial and right there on the cover, DC is saluting the country’s 200 birthday. According to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, this issue was released in April of 1976 with a cover date of August. This is also the 17th issue in the series of July and August comics to be featured with the Bicentennial banner. At the time DC was running a promotion where readers could send in 25 different cover headings and they would receive a Superman belt buckle. At this time comics were still widely thought of disposable instead of as collectibles so getting kids to cut up their comics was not quite as crazy as it sounds.

Mike’s Amazing Comics also credits Keith Giffin as the artist and Wally Wood as the inker on this issue. I always think of it as being a bonus prize when I pull a comic out of the dollar bins that Wally Wood worked on. According to Keith Giffin’s Wikipedia page, his first published work was released in January of 1976, so this comic was most likely one of the earliest things he worked on. Wood’s inking really makes the art tight and clean and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t help out the young artist with some of the rough parts.  

Another aspect of this issue that I really enjoyed was the dynamic between the members of the JSA. The younger members, Power Girl and the Star-Spangled Kid, seem to want to exercise their abilities more while the older guard, Wildcat and the Doctor Midnight, are trying to keep them in check. This conflict made me want to read more issues to see how they get along going forward.

Finally, the story is not just the typical heroes beating up on the villain. Green Lantern and the rest of the team are genuinely concerned about the city and the people around them. When they are fighting Vulcan at the beginning of the story Green Lantern is shown several times saving the crowds around them from debris from the buildings getting destroyed. Heck, the team’s headquarters is burning down due to the fight with Vulcan in issue 60. It was really great to see the heroes dealing with the consequences of their actions.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved these characters. This is the first issue from the 1970s era of All-Star comics that I’ve ever read and it did not disappoint. I’ll close this piece out with the ad for the Superman belt buckle promo. If you’ve got 25 issues from this list maybe you could send the covers to Dan Didio and see if he’s got any of those belt buckles laying around.

beltbuckle

 

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