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365 Reasons to Love Comics #84

Let me throw a dart at my “Wall o’ Theme.” This week’s theme is… doctors!

Up first: DC Comics’ very first superhero, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Ahh, but it pre-dates Action Comics #1! Can any scholars out there in blogoland guess who I’m talking about?

3/25/07

84. Dr. Occult

Dr Occult 1.jpg

Doctor Occult is the best role Humphrey Bogart never played. He’s an old-timey private investigator who works in the realm of the supernatural. Some would call him the poor man’s Phantom Stranger, but Occult’s been around longer, first appearing in 1935 in New Fun Comics #6. And, yes, he was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, those two crazy kids who would debut their most famous creation, Superman, three years later in Action Comics.

Occult ‘s appearance is very similar to Bogart-as-Sam-Spade in the Maltese Falcon, what with the trenchcoat and hat. But Bogie copied it off of Occult, as that iconic film came out a few years after Occult appeared. Siegel and Shuster’s series was a supernatural noir for a bit, though they did throw in a stretch where Occult put on a cape and flew around with superpowers as a prototype for Superman, and the first caped superhero. (There was also a bit where they published his adventures in a different comic under the name Dr. Mystic, but it was clearly the same guy.) Here are some pages from that series. Click to enlarge:

Doctor Occult 4.jpgDr Occult 7.jpg

Doctor Occult 5.jpg

Anyway, I think Dr. Occult (and even his assistant, Rose Psychic) is pretty cool, and he seems to have had more appearances than I thought he did. After his run in New/More Fun, he dropped off the map, but popped up in All Star Squadron years and years later. Post-Crisis, he’s appeared in Books of Magic, gotten his own Vertigo Visions one-shot, and appeared in a Trenchcoat Brigade mini along with John Constantine, Phantom Stranger, and Mister E.

Dr Occult 6.jpgDr Occult 3.jpg

If you’d like to read about Occult’s history, you can check Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics or the Doctor Occult Biography or Toonopedia. You can also read about his numerous mystical powers at those links. I’m not really a fan of regurgitating detail unless I’ve got something cool or funny to say about it. These sources have already written about it far better than you’d get from me. I will note that I really like that little disc he carries around and how it focuses his mental powers… or maybe it just redirects the light. Heh.

I think Dr. Occult can carve a unique niche in the DC Universe and should totally be used more often. Phantom Stranger or Hellblazer will always be more popular, but only Occult is a supernatural detective. Magical crime fiction! Sounds good to me. Why isn’t this guy showing up in Tales of the Unexpected or Shadowpact or anywhere else? Let’s get some two-fisted private dick tales of a trenchcoated sorceror that hits the streets solving mysteries too strange for the normal guys. Sounds good to me.

What do you think? And who would you like to see featured in Doctor Week? Place your bets requests now.

31 Comments

Doc Occult also showed up, prominently, in the All-Star event that (I think) launched the last volume of JSA.

Let’s see Doctor 13, of course!

Doctor Strange is a gimme. He would be for me, anyway; he did in fact ignite my love for a lot of comics, and comics TALENT. He was the actual REASON I found a lot of books.

I rather like the guys that really ARE doctors. You figure Victor Von Doom’s smart enough to qualify for a couple of doctorates, but he got kicked out of school, right? So on top of everything else, the bastard even lied on his resume. He’s villainous in everything he does! But he’s got plenty of company — there are dozens of guysa that call themselves Doctor that I bet are dropouts like Von Doom. You should have a Lying Doctor day.

I guessed, and I was right!

Dr Occult’s most recent appearence with in the Day of Vengence tie-in with Infinite Crisis, and the pages of Infinite Crisis himself ( he was at Stonehenge I believe).

Of course Dr 13 must make an appearence.

Doctors we need to see this week-

Bong
Octopus
Strange

Crime Doctor! Barely used, but put into BTAS continuity!

I’ve always thought Dr. Midnite was a great character, especially in later years when his medical knowledge was used more than his superheroics. He was a blind superhero decades before Daredevil!

BTW, Bill, I love this feature and check in every day. Usually I’m lurking, but I want you to know I’m here and appreciate you!

I feel obliged to point out that the trenchcoat, fedora look for a detective pre-dates this by a bit, so it wasn’t exactly stolen for the movie. (Especially since the book Maltese Falcon came out in the 20′s.) But that’s just me the irritating historical stickler talking, pay me no mind.

However, it is a look and an archetype that is ALWAYS cool, and tho I’d never heard of him before, Dr. Occult sounds freakin’ awesome.

Doom owns a country.
Guy should be able to force the universities to give him a doctorate.
Or heck, hold stanford hostage for a degree in everything.

Just to back up what Elijah said re: earlier versions of the trenchcoated fedora-wearing hero, he’s quite right to mention that Hammett’s book appeared in the 20′s. Not only that, but the book was adapted for film, not once, but twice in the 20′s – albeit, the films were pretty crappy. Bogie’s portrayal was actually the third hollywood film incarnation of Sam Spade.

Geek wankery aside, I loves me some Dr. Occult, and I love this column! Lots of fun! Keep it up.

Also, I second the call to see Dr. Bong this week. The greatest villain to face the duck trapped in a world he never made!

Philip Trostler

March 25, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Just wanted to say that I love this feature and have followed it since the beginning of the year. The theme weeks have been great and seeing that “Doctors” is the one for this week is very exciting. This could easily go on indefinitely or at least a 365 reasons year 2.

After skipping Driq, I’m thinking your Doctor week NEEDS to include the original Dr Mid-Nite.

If I were doing this I would also include Dr. Forklift, the Cyborg Centaur from a 70′s Plasticman comic–one of all time favorite comic book villains.

And I guess Doc Ock would put in an appearance…

I actually first encountered Dr. Occult VERY early in my comic book reading, through his appearance in Action Comics right after the Reign of the Supermen ended. It was he who explained to Superman all the circumstances that had allowed him to come back to life.

Not one mention of the fact that Dr. Occult looks EXACTLY like Dick Tracy? At least in the first picture of the post.

One more vote for the Crime Doctor, though. As a DC neophyte, his appearance in BoP had me intrigued. Has he always had those glasses?

Dr. Maureen Vonnegut

If Dr. Bong does get profiled, don’t forget about his two-issue stint on Deadpool, where he tries to figure out what makes Wade Wilson crazy. Well…crazier.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 26, 2007 at 1:40 am

“If Dr. Bong does get profiled, don’t forget about his two-issue stint on Deadpool, where he tries to figure out what makes Wade Wilson crazy. Well…crazier.”

Dr. Bong – possibly the only villain to kidnap a woman, force her to marry him, and then have her nag him for marital duties (and then have it turn out he’s so good she doesn’t mind being there!)
Thinking about that just makes me want a whole week about Beverly.
Easily the greatest female side kick ever created.

Andrew Collins

March 26, 2007 at 2:34 am

I gotta vote for Dr. Fate. My favorite “Doctor” character and one with a reaaally long history in comics that would make for a good write-up.

Funny coincidence, just a few hours ago I was playing a game of Hit or Miss, which is a scattergories type of game where you make a list of things based on a clue and get points by comparing lists with everyone else. The clue was “Doctor ___.” It was a good one for me – Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, Doctor Who… Didn’t think of Doctor Mid-Nite, though(hey, I only had about thirty seconds).

Pedro Bouça

March 26, 2007 at 4:36 am

I would like to see Dr. Midnite, Dr. Thirteen and, of course, comics top villian (IMHO) Dr. Doom!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Dr. Fate
Dr. Mid-nite
Dr. Thirteen

And the Doctor Occult one-shot above was done by the same guys who did ‘Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children’, one of those weird-but-good series DC published in the late 80s that was ahead of its time. If they’d done that just two years later, I think it could have really taken off. The comic where Satan explains how he wound up in Hell was just excellent.

Dr. Mid-nite (though I prefer the new one)

Doc Brass.

Doc Strange (Nedor & America’s Best)

Dr. Fu Manchu

Dr. Graves (Charlton)

The Kirbydotter

March 26, 2007 at 3:59 pm

My votes for favorite doctors go to (no particular order):
Doctor Doom (Is there a better villain in the house? I think not!)
Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock man! Nuff said!)
Doctor Strange (Ditko’s best work)
Doctor Midnite (the original)
Doctor Robot (from Bernie Mireault)
Doctor Stearn (Mr.Monster!)
Doctor Solar (Gold Key’s first original hero!)

BUT, seeing as you like to promote some of the weirdest ideas in the business, for sure, you are going to go for Doctor Bong (from Howard the Duck), Doctor Strangefate (Amalgam), Doctor Weird (by Starlin), Doc Savage?, Doctor Giggles?… and maybe even:
Doctor Anthony King, Hollywood Love Doctor! (look it up!)

If Bill Cosby can get an honorary Ph.D, why couldn’t a guy who built a time machine?

Occult was cool. Don’t I remember that he shared his body/time with Rose?

How’d this list get to 30 entries with no mention of Doctor Manhattan?

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