By Deejay Dayton
May 31, 2015 - 3:35
Kent's father dies from poison gas, and so Nabu raises the child, training him in his arcane knowledge and abilities. Was Nabu responsible for the father's death? It is not stated that way in this story, but it certainly seems to be the case, even indirectly, and later stories would lay the blame more strongly on him.
Nabu gives Kent Nelson the garb of Dr. Fate. At this point, there is no indication of Nabu taking residence in the helmet, that was a much later development.
The last few pages of the story return to the present, as Inza attends a society party at which a man is threatened by shadowy beings. She calls on Fate, who traces the shadows to the underworld, and takes Inza along because...the party was getting dull, maybe? There they face off against Nergal, a lord of the underworld who gets cowed by Fate pretty quickly. All he has to do is threaten Nergal and he backs down.
Still, the origin story is good, the best Dr. Fate story to date. Sadly, it was also pretty much the highpoint of the series. Within a few months the character would begin to lose his various powers and attributes.
More Fun 71 contains the last "full helmet" Dr. Fate story, although the half-helmet debuts on the cover of that issue. It sees the Earth stop rotating, leaving half in baking sunlight and half in darkness. Inza is travelling in New Mexico at the time, and begs Fate to help out the people there. He uses his magic to create globes that will induce rain, which also has the effect of making the Earth rotate again. Because. It just does.
Dr. Fate's story in More Fun 72 officially changes the helmet, and slightly alters his never-well-defined powers. We also get to meet Inza's family, who are farmers. That surprises me, because Inza has, up to now, been shown as a well-off member of urban society. Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman also give Fate a ring he can use to view people, and the crystal ball makes an appearance again. Now that he has half a helmet, he also appears far more often as Kent Nelson.
He goes after some forgers, who have been taking advantage of the simple farm folks, including Inza's grandparents. The forgers trap him and gas him, and it works. Because he no longer has his full helmet.
He recovers and captures the bad guys, beating them into submission. He explains to Inza that his body is partly composed of molecular energy. I'm no science whiz, but isn't everyones? But the half-helmet leaves his breathing vulnerable.
There is never any mention of the other helmet, what happened to it, or why he is now wearing this one. As with the Ring of Life, the explanation would wait until All-Star Squadron.
Wotan returns in the following issue as Dr. Fate brings Inza across the River Styx and through the gates (of heaven?) to make sure Wotan is really dead.
In the afterworld, Fate and Inza see that Wotan is still alive, and living in a classy art deco house, which he has turned into a laboratory. Wotan seems as comfortable with science as he is with magic, as he has invented a device with which he intends to blow up the world.
The story fizzles out a bit in the end, as Dr Fate simply uses his powers to render the machine inoperable, and then punches Wotan into submission. He does imprison him in a creepy underground cell, which is sort of neat. Still, Wotan does return later in the run, teaming up with another of Fate's enemies.
Mayoor is not shy about letting Dr. Fate know what he is up to, sending him a message in his tower. Dr. Fate defeated and imprisoned Mayoor long ago, and by implication this occurred during the heyday of the Mayan empire, around the 1400s. Again, later continuity would demand that this was Nabu, rather than Dr. Fate, who was Mayoor's opponent.
Mayoor entices one of the other people on the expedition into working with him against Fate, but the doctor is forgiving about that. Not so when it comes to Mayoor, who he incinerates. It's a shame that Dr. Fate is so murderous with his enemies, as this one could easily have made a return.
Dr. Fate tracks Karkull down, and the scientist tries to kill Fate with an energy ray, but only succeeds at briefly rendering him unconscious.
Karkull uses the shadow machine on himself, but Fate destroys the device, leaving Karkull trapped in shadow form. The story comes to an end this way, with Karkull bemoaning his situation, but the narrative in the final box informs the reader that, in fact, the story will continue in the following issue.
In fact, More Fun 70 not only brings back Ian Karkull, but teams him up with Wotan. Villain team-ups were extremely rare in the 40s, so there was much to be excited about, although the story itself is a bit of a let-down.
An arctic explorer, and friend of Inza, relates experiencing unusual winds on his last trip north, so Fate monitors his next trip using his crystal ball.
It turns out Wotan and Ian Karkull have a base of operations up there. Wotan had mentally contacted Karkull, who freed him, and in return Wotan gave Karkull's shadow form the power to touch and handle things. Sadly, Wotan's skin seems to have had all the green leached out of it during his imprisonment.
They kidnap Inza, but Fate does not let that stop him at all, and takes the two of them down fairly easily. They both appear to die in flames at the end of the story, though of course neither really did. Even so, this marks the final Golden Age appearances for both of the villains. Both were next seen in the 80s, in All-Star Squadron.All of these stories happen before Dr. Fate's decrease in powers and helmet size. With his drop is powers, he was given some new, recurring villains.
Mr. Who debuts in More Fun 73, another mad scientist, but with enough character to be fun. And a "Z" solution that allows him to grow to giant size.
I enjoy the page of Fate fighting with the giant spider, Mr. Who heading out to commit a crime, and leave the hero to die. Dr. Fate is able to emit energy to free himself, but fights the spider bare-handed.
Mr. Who returns in the following issue as well. We learn that Solution "Z" is even more potent than thought, as it enabled Mr. Who to grow gills and survive being underwater. He returns to the city, and goes after the mayor. Solution "Z" also allows Mr. Who to shape change, and he tales the mayor's place.
Once again it is Dr. Fate's need to breathe that causes him problems, while bullets are no threat. Fate does expose Mr. Who's impersonation of the mayor before being taken down.
The story concludes with Fate capturing Mr. Who, but the narration at the end implies that Mr. Who will escape prison anyway, and be back next issue. In reality, it took him a few issues to return. The prison was a bit better than the narrator thought.
Mr. Who returns in More Fun 79 and breaks into a millionaire's home, and the formula allows him to take on the man's identity, as it did with the mayor many issues ago. Kent and Inza are friends with the impersonated man, of course.
Mr. Who's own formula gives him away, making him grow large when Dr. Fate approaches him while he is in disguise. The last we see of Mr. Who, he is in prison. Mr. Who's appearance in the pages of All-Star Squadron take place shortly after this story, and before his final appearance in the 40s.
More Fun 91 marks the final outing of this villain. Mr. Who invents a shrinking formula, and forces it on Dr. Fate, who then gets stuck in a bird cage. Mr. Who uses it as well, to evade capture when their robbery goes awry.
Another new villain, the Clock, whose face resembles a dial, debuts in More Fun 81. The Clock is passing off one of his men as a violin instructor, to gain access and knowledge of society people. He comes into contact with Kent and Inza at a party, but Kent shows off some honed observation and deduction skills in exposing the man.
At one point, the Clock manages to capture Fate and has him tossed down a well. Fate has to rely on ingenuity to survive - but in earlier days he simply would have flown out. Even after he got the half-helmet, he was still flying around in stories. Now, even that is gone.
The Clock does make one more appearance, in More Fun 92.
The only other villain that Dr. Fate faced who is worthy of note is the Lucky One, who appeared in More Fun 82.
He runs really large and elaborate cons, convincing people he has great luck. As usual, Kent and Inza learn of him through society friends, and Dr. Fate goes into action. Aside from that, this story has much better visuals than any story in while. Still no magic from Fate, but that was far in the past now. The villain does not appear again, but certainly seems to be cut of the same cloth as later JLA villain Amos Fortune.