Superhero Spotlight – Doctor Fate

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have gotten relatively acquainted with Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of that world. In the following year, Warner Brothers will release the Dwayne Johnson-led Black Adam, and audiences will meet Doctor Fate (played by Pierce Brosnan). Since the 1940s, Doctor Fate has been the chief magic-user of the DCU, mentoring and working with characters like Zatanna and John Constantine. Fate’s history is a complicated one, centered around a magic helmet that has been worn by several different people. Doctor Fate first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940). It started as a six-page strip in an anthology of superheroes, pulp stories, and funny talking animals. He was created by the prolific creative mind Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman who didn’t really have a background or even secret identity. The character was just Doctor Fate.

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Superhero Spotlight – Doom Patrol

At first glance, Doom Patrol may appear to be an attempt by DC Comics to create an X-Men knock-off. Doom Patrol first appeared in the pages of My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963). This was an adventure anthology that evolved over time from pulp stories to science fiction to finally becoming the home of Doom Patrol. Over at Marvel, the X-Men debuted in the pages of their own title in September 1963. Now that doesn’t mean the X-Men are a rip-off of Doom Patrol either. Due to the writing and production schedules, both ideas were already in the works before either company was aware of the other. It’s just one of those strange coincidences.

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Superhero Spotlight – Martian Manhunter

Well, I just endured the Snyder Cut of Justice League on HBOMax. I watched it in four one-hour chunks, referring to it as my series of vaccinations to my wife. Next week, I’ll be reviewing it on my podcast’s inaugural episode, so make sure to listen to that. Meanwhile, one thing I did like was that it introduced the Martian Manhunter into the DC Films. He’s been a mainstay in the DC Universe since his inclusion in the inaugural roster of the Justice League of America in 1960. However, Martian Manhunter has never been a superstar and didn’t appear outside of the comics books until 1997.

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Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (John Stewart)

Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (John Stewart)

In 1971, it was clear things needed to change in the comics industry. Frankly, they had needed to change for decades, but things move at a snail’s pace with most American institutions. One of the most significant changes made at the end of 1971 was the introduction of DC Comics’ first black superhero with John Stewart. He was the newest Green Lantern, temporarily replacing the book’s main character Hal Jordan for a short bit. Stewart would become an integral figure in the Green Lantern title as well as the DC Universe.

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Superhero Spotlight – Hawkman

One of D.C. Comics’ most notoriously confusing characters since the 1990s has been Hawkman. He wasn’t always this way, but some decisions during the Silver Age and the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths convoluted his history to the point editorial banned him from use in the late 1990s. Hawkman recently ended a run written by Robert Venditti that delved headfirst into his backstory, trying to iron out the wrinkles. More on that when I review the series next week. For now, let’s look at Hawkman’s evolution over the years and how he became such a confusing character.

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Superhero Spotlight – Green Arrow

We’ve looked at some characters with wildly convoluted histories, but Green Arrow remains one of the most simple concepts out of DC. Much like Batman and Superman, Green Arrow’s origins have remained relatively unchanged since the Silver Age, just updated with the times as they go. Wealthy playboy Oliver Queen has always been the Green Arrow (save for one brief instant) from his Golden Age origins to the present day. Despite his roots being kept stable, he has been changed mainly to distance himself from Batman, who he certainly came to resemble in those early years.

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Superhero Spotlight – Adam Strange

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In 1957, superheroes were not the dominant subgenre of comic books. You had horror titles, humor books, and lots of science fiction. The editorial director of DC Comics, Irwin Donenfeld, called his editors Jack Schiff & Julius Schwartz together and wanted pitches for science fiction protagonists. Schwartz’s idea was a play on Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic Jon Carter of Mars character. This would be an Earthman struck by a beam of strange energy that transported him to a distant alien world. Because he was the first human on this planet, Schwartz named him Adam. The protagonists debuted in the pages of Showcase #17; the series was a tryout book for new characters before given them their own titles.

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Superhero Spotlight – The Atom

Ray Palmer was not the first hero named The Atom. However, unlike his Silver Age colleagues, The Flash (Barry Allen) or Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Palmer has little to nothing in common with his Golden Age counterpart. While the original Atom (Al Pratt) was the cliché 98-pound weakling who trained to become a two-fisted powerhouse, this 1960s reinvention was focused on his name’s scientific aspects.

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Superhero Spotlight – Animal Man

Animal Man existed in the DC Universe for twenty-three years before he became a character of considerable note at the hands of writer Grant Morrison. This post-Crisis transmutation created a platform to do a metaphysical examination of what it is like to be a fictional character observed by a nonfiction world. It highlighted the struggles of a working-class superhero with a family. Issues surrounding the environment and animal rights were brought up and discussed at length. Ultimately, Animal Man became a character who still resonates through the DCU today, but he certainly didn’t start that way.

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Superhero Spotlight – Black Canary

Black Canary is the name used by two different women in the DC Universe, a mother & daughter, the partial inspiration for the Silk Spectre in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. She was one of DC Comics’ earliest super-heroines introduced post-World War II. In the New 52 reboot, elements of both mother & daughter were combined into a single version. Black Canary has been part of the Golden Age Justice Society, the Justice League, partnered with Green Arrow and been part of the all-female Birds of Prey. Four different actresses have portrayed her in film & television thus far with some markedly different interpretations. Let’s learn more about Black Canary.

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