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?
84. Dr. Occult
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:
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.
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.