JSA Legacies: No. 7 – The Sandman


The Sandman 1 – pulp version

The Sandman was yet another Gardner Fox creation, this time with artist Bert Christman, though the art was rapidly taken over by Craig Flessel, who is much more associated with the character’s early days. He debuted in Adventure 40 as financier and socialite Wesley Dodd (after four issues, Dodds) who, for no contemporaneously related reason, went out at night to fight crime.
To do so, Dodds adopted a heavily-pulp magazine aspect: dark green business suit, orange fedora, purple cape, blue and yellow gas mask: the man was clearly colourblind, but he was firmly in the pulp magazine tradition, down to his gas gun that put crooks to sleep.
The Sandman was chosen to represent Detective Comics in All-Star, as a founder member of the Justice Society, and appeared in issues 3-21, before being dropped to accommodate the shrinking page size. Like his fellow evictee, Doctor Fate, Sandman appeared only in the opening and closing chapters of All-Star 20, but was returned to action in issue 21, where his figure is clearly pasted in over the original star of his solo slot, presumably the Atom.
Dodds was initially assisted by his girlfriend, Dian Belmont, daughter of the DA and the only person who shared his secret identity. Despite his be-suited persona, the Sandman was all running, leaping, line-swinging and punch-throwing in proper superhero style, and within eighteen months his suit was replaced by a set of standard superhero skintights, in yellow with purple hood and eye-mask, trunks, gauntlets and boots. This redesign, which initially included a purple cape, is usually credited to the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, but was actually done by Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris
Simon and Kirby took the series over three months later, on leaving Timely Comics in a dispute over royalties, and applied their brand of vivid action to The Sandman. Out went Dian Belmont, the purple cape and the gas gun, in came teenage sidekick Sandy, the Golden Boy (aka Dodds’ ward, Sandy Hawkins) and a sub-theme that the Sandman and Sandy gave crooks bad dreams. Needless to say, no contemporary explanation was given for these changes. The new costume and approach made its way into All-Star with issue 10.

Sandman’s solo series in Adventure which granted him cover status until the advet of Starman, continued until issue 102, when he was cancelled.
The Sandman did not reappear in the Silver Age until the fourth JLA/JSA team-up, in 1966. Like Doctor Fate, he returned in his original costume, with no contemporary explanation, although instead of carrying the gas-gun, he wielded a new Sand-Gun, and carried heaps of sand in his pockets. When necessary, he would scatter a handful of sand at the foe and use the strange energies of the Sand-Gun to convert them into unbreakable glass, or concrete, or… unbreakable glass, or concrete…
To a young reader who knew nothing of any prior versions of the Sandman this was exceedingly worrying  It was, however, the year of the Batman TV show…
The Sandman would make occasional appearances in team-ups – he was a favourite of Len Wein, who used him in all three of his team-ups – and played a part in All-Star Squadron, but the only stories of any real significance were those that centred upon filling the gaps already mentioned. These were carried out haphazardly, with no attention to their chronology
Dodds’ origin was told last, by Roy Thomas in Secret Origins 7: Dodds got wind of an attack to be made upon the King and Queen of England by the Crimson Avenger, a gas-gun wielding figure, on their visit to the New York World’s Fair. Dodds dressed up in his gas mask to pursue the Avenger, only to discover that the man was a) a hero not a villain b) his cousin, newspaper owner Lee Travis and c) pursuing the real villain, the Phantom of the Fair. Between them, Dodds and Travis brought the Phantom in, and the Avenger handed Dodds his gas gun as he was about to go into superhero tights himself without it.
Dodds’ original change of costume was related by Thomas, in All-Star Squadron 18, in which Thomas also accounted for the uncanny similarity between Sandman’s second costume and that of the Tarantula, an obscure superhero known only to a handful of fans, whose one claim to fame was that someone had called him Spider-Man twenty years before the Marvel character was created.
So: writer Jonathan Law, doing a book on costumed mystery men, interviews Dian Belmost, companion of the Sandman. She shows him a yellow and purple costume she’s trying to get Sandman to wear, and makes a present of it to Law, who uses it to become the Tarantula. Tarantula follows up a report of Nazi sabotage at the docks only to witness Sandman being shot down. However, this is Dian who, with Dodds out of town, had put on his costume in the hope that the mere sight of Sandman might scare the Nazis off. Dodds then arrives in Dian’s costume, wallops the tar out of the Nazis and decides to adopt the yellow-and-purple outfit in tribute to his dead girlfriend. Sandy Hawkins, we later learn, is Dian’s orphaned nephew.
Thomas was also responsible for attributing Sandman’s retirement from the JSA to an early heart attack which, in the Eighties, has him near incapacitated after a stroke.
But the earliest retcon was the last chronological missing link, and that was related by Len Wein as early as 1974, in the only one issue JLA/JSA team up. The two teams find themselves defending York City against a raging silicon-based monster, causing havoc, but, it appears, absorbing the vibrations preceding a massive earthquake: the monster is Sandy.
Dodds relates a guilty secret that he’s nursed for decades: he had developed a new crime-fighting weapon, the Silicoid Gun, which back-fired. The explosion changed Sandy into a silicon based monster with world-dominating intentions, but Dodds put Sandy to sleep and has kept him sedated ever since, trying secretly to restore him, too ashamed to seek help. The irony is that Sandy’s megalomania was only a temporary side-effect and he has been no danger – but has been too sedated to communicate this.
There was a follow-up story that had Sandy restored to human form, years later but that was it.
All of this has related to the Sandman 1, but a second, different Sandman was created, briefly, in the Seventies.

The Sandman 2

The Sandman 2 was the last, belated collaboration between Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who had gone their separate ways in the Fifties, but who were both at National in 1974. Their idea was originally intended as a one-off, but was extended by other hands into a six issue series, cancelled with one issue unpublished. This Sandman was a colourful character, wearing a caped costume similar in design to that of Sandman 1, with red substituting for purple. He occupied the Dream Dome from where he issued to protect humanity from nightmares and unpleasant dreams. In this, he was assisted by the monstrous, and somewhat silly, Brute and Glob, and usually involved the young boy Jed Walker. He could venture into real life, but only for one hour every week. It was an amiable curiosity that, like so many series in that period of National’s history, went nowhere. In this instance, the main complaint was that the series was too juvenile.
Roy Thomas, needless to say, picked him up as an Earth-2 related character, including him in Wonder Woman 300 and defining him as Dr Garrett Sandford who, after saving an important but unnamed man’s life, had been projected into the Dream Dome. In direct contrast to the juvenile nature of Sandman 2’s series, this appearance had uncomfortably sexual undertones,with it being strongly implied that Sandford was trying to slip into Diana’s more intimate dreams.
This Sandman’s next appearance was in Thomas’s Infinity Inc 49, haunting Lyta (The Fury) Trevor. Lyta was then six months pregnant by Hector Hall, Hawkman’s son and a former hero under the name of The Silver Scarab. Hector had been revealed to be under a curse, to be used as a weapon against his parents, but had died resisting. Now, he had returned, as the Sandman 3.

Apparently, Sandford had cracked, due to loneliness and isolation, and killed himself. So Brute and Glob had seized Hall’s soul and melded it to Sandford’s body, to replace him. The outcome was that Lyta, overjoyed that Hector still lived, returned with him to live in the Dream Dome, reunited.
Such was the status at Crisis on Infinite Earths. Afterwards, Sandman 1, mystically rejuvenated, went to limbo with the Justice Society. He would return in the open-ended Justice Society of America series, although he was struck down by a stroke in the opening pages. Nevertheless, he was there for the JSA’s last battle, the defeat by Extant, where all that remained of his rejuvenations were stripped away.
I’ve leaped ahead somewhat, just to tie up this thread for the moment. But, post-Crisis, DC came up with its most famous Sandman of all, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, technically Sandman 4 although, as we will now see, the thread of continuity between the various Sandman characters, stretched by Sandman 2/3, was cast entirely aside by the introduction of, not a new character, nor a new costume, but an entire mythology.
Gaiman’s Sandman series featured a character that never once called himself Sandman, nor was addressed as such. He was instead Dream, Morpheus, Oneiros, the Shaper: Dream of the Endless, of an order of seven siblings who were set to rule seven realms of experience that jointly comprised all that humanity existed within: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium, who was once Delight and who may yet change again.

Dream, of the Endless – ‘Sandman 4’

Dream could not have been furthered removed from the spheres established about Sandman. The series was a mammoth success: by the time of its final issue, when the series ended because Gaiman had completed the story he’d begun in 1988, it was DC’s top seller. It’s a big enough subject that it would swamp everything else in this article.
Naturally, Gaiman was savvy enough to incorporate both the previous Sandman traditions within his narrative. Wesley Dodds’s fussy origin is swept smooth: Dream, imprisoned for most of the 20th Century, has a fragment of himself caught in Dodds, who is tormented by dreams until he starts going out at night with his gas mask. Brute and Glob become rebellious servants of Dream, who have created the Dream Dome out of the dreamscape of young Jed, intent on carving out a dream realm of their own. Dream sends Hall on to his long-overdue death (although his spirit is later reincarnated as Doctor Fate 5, as we’ve seen). Lyta, still six-months pregnant after two years, is told that her baby, gestated for so long in dreams, belongs to Dream.
The baby is named Daniel, and his kidnapping later by Puck and Loki initiates the course of events that lead ultimately to Dream’s ‘death’ and his reincarnation – Sandman 5? – is in a form built upon Daniel Hall.
Before that point, we had had the unique sight of the original spinning off in a spin-off series. Sandman was so popular that a proposal was accepted from writer/artist Matt Wagner to revive Wesley Dodds in a series called Sandman Mystery Theatre, published under DC’s mature readers brand, Vertigo.
As such, Mystery Theatre does not strictly exist in the continuity of the DC Universe,although its power and effect was such that all subsequent canon stories have been produced in its shadow.
Sandman Mystery Theatre performed four act (issue) stories, drawn by artists who specialised in a period feel, with Guy Davis drawing two such stories every year. Wagner, and his writing collaborator Steven T. Seigle, reset the original Sandman in the late Thirties, adopting a very realistic pulp noir stance to new and retold stories from Wesley Dodds’s history, as Dodds pursues crimes spurred on by his racking dreams.
Mystery Theatre, which would run for 70 issues, was a fascinating series, narrated in alternating arcs by Dodds and Dian Belmont. It tackled serious social subjects, like racism, oppression, child abuse and abortion.. Dodds, redrawn as short, slightly plump, wearing glasses, used a trench cot and a World War 1 gasmask rather than the flamboyant pulp costume of his comics past. It was a fascinating series, over half of which has so far been collected into Graphic Novels, but it died, deliberately in mid-story, on the eve of war, through lack of sales. Even Dodds’ change into yellow and purple skintights has been re-explained in the psychological terms of Mystery Theatre.

Sandman Mystery Theatre – Sandman 1 re-defined

The Daniel Hall/Sandman 5 has been little seen since the end of Gaiman’s series, and there was indeed a reluctance initially to use the name, DC having taken the unexpected step of ceding some degree of ownership to Gaiman. But you can’t keep Sandman out of the JSA.
James Robinson included an adventure between his new Starman and the aged but still mentally active Wesley Dodds, which prompted Dodds and his lifelong companion, Dian Belmont (who has no longer been shot in 1942) to retire to the far east of Dodds’ childhood. There, as told in JSA Secret Files 1, Dian died of natural causes and Dodds, who had learned of the impending birth of the new Doctor Fate via a prophetic dream, sent the news back to America but stayed to confront the Dark Lord and to go to his death willingly and peacefully. This sparked the JSA revival, but Dodds’ own mantle was passed to Sanderson (Sandy) Hawkins, who took it up as Sand, but was Sandman 6 by any count.

Sand (aka Sandman 6) – phase 1

Though Dodds’s prophetic dreams were supposed to be passed on to Sand, these were never explored, Instead, the focus was on Sand’s powers, as a silicon based creature despite his human appearance, to pass through glass and concrete, and sense and manipulate geological fault lines. Hawkins funded the new JSA at the outset and was its first Chairman, but after the first two years,  a clash over leadership with the resurrected Hawkman 1, resulted in an election that brought in the new Mister Terrific as Chair. Later, Hawkins disappeared, eventually turning up in Sandman 2/3’s costume in a new Dream Dome, manipulated by Brute and Glob: that phase lasted less than two issues.
Come the post Infinite Crisis Justice Society of America, Sand was once again Sandman, in an up-dated version of Dodds original business suit. This reclamation of the name was a result of former Publisher Paul Levitz stepping down to make way for a management that did not have the personal relationships he’d built up over many years with writers and artists who, at the time, DC had regarded as creative partners. Instead, Managing Editor Dan DiDio seized upon the chance to reinstate the heavily editorial driven approach that now dominates, which has seen many characters whose individual courses had taken them far afield being dragged back into the DC Universe.

Sandman (aka Sandman 6) phase 2

The prime example is the recent, highly controversial Before Watchmen series of comics, but the reinstatement of the Sandman name was one of the first steps, Not that DC ever got to any real grips with Sandy Hawkins as an updated original Sandman.
There is an anomaly to mention. In 2004, DC published a five issue Sandman Mystery Theatre mini-series, set in contemporary times, and featuring cameraman/journalist Kieron Marshall crossing Dodds’ tracks in the Middle East, and temporarily taking up his gas mask and gun, but this Sandman, which ought fairly to be recorded as Sandman 7, exists at a tangent to every other tradition, and may easily be ignored.
The New 52 removed all of this. Instead, we have Commander Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen paramilitary force, about which I wish to know nothing. Neil Gaiman has agreed to write the story that preceded his Sandman 1, which is eagerly awaited, and no-one gives a damn about where it fits in to any continuity except that of Gaiman’s series. We should all be so lucky.

JSA Legacies: No. 5 – Doctor Fate


Doctor Fate 1, by Alex Ross

In contrast to the previous subjects in this series, Doctor Fate’s history is much more simple. Even though DC’s Master of Magics is, courtesy of the New 52, into his seventh incarnation, more than even Green Lantern, those characters have progressed linearly, with only the briefest of overlap as the Helm of Nabu is passed on to its next wearer.
Doctor Fate was created by Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman for More Fun Comics 55, published, in contrast to the other heroes so far, by Detective Comics. He was not the first magician in comics, but instead of lounge suits, or turbans to indicate his mystic character, Fate wore a full-face golden helm, with gold cloak, epaulettes, high-waisted trunks and boots, over an azure long-sleeved top and leggings.
The good Doctor was not, at first, given a secret identity. He was Doctor Fate and that is what he was: a mysterious figure composed of magics, gothic and Lovecraftian in adventure and voice – the latter emphasised by Sherman’s eccentric lettering – until Detective abruptly had him take off his helmet at the end of More Fun 66, revealing to his companion, red-haired debutate Inza Cramer, that he is a man named Kent Nelson.
Nelson’s origin proved to be somewhat disturbing. Aged 12, Kent had accompanied his father Sven Nelson on an archaeological dig that uncovered a lost pyramid in Egypt. After their superstitious bearers had fled, the Nelsons entered the pyramid alone. Kent opened a sarcophagus, releasing a poison gas that killed his father. The sarcophagus contained a mummy, which gave its name as Nabu, from the planet Cilia, who had come to Earth in ancient times. Nabu placed Kent in suspended animation, raised him to adulthood, taught him great magical powers and sent him out into the world to fight evil as Doctor Fate. Creepy or what?
And it was not long before DC further softened Fate’s spooky series. For no given reason – save that Detective Comics, having a former peddler of soft porn and an associate of several mobsters for an owner, wanted to avoid any attention from the bodies already accusing comics of being unsuitable for children – Fate abruptly put aside his helm for a half-face version exposing his nose and mouth, dropped the magic except for flight and invulnerability, and starting talking like a good ol’ red-blooded American boy instead.
Doctor Fate, though owned by Detective Comics, was a founder member of the Justice Society, published in All-American’s All-Star. He appeared in issues 3-12 and 14-21 before being dropped from the line-up with no ‘onstage’ explanation. The Doctor lost his place as a consequence of war-time paper rationing, forcing All-Star to cut its page-length and the JSA line-up. Doctor Fate, and his fellow victim, Sandman, were supposed to bow out in issue 20, in which they only appeared in the opening and closing chapters, but they were inexplicably revived the following issue, to the extent that they appear to have been inserted into a story already drawn.
All this did was to postpone the inevitable three months, and to make Fate’s final All-Star appearance almost simultaneous with his last appearance in More Fun 98. Only three other JSA members in the Forties would make fewer appearances.

The half-helm Doctor Fate

It was almost twenty years before Nelson returned. Doctor Fate did not appear in either of the Justice Society cameos in The Flash 129 and 137, these being based on later All-Star issues, so his return came in Justice League of America 21 where, for no apparent reason, he chairs the first new Justice Society meeting, even though once-permanent Chairman Hawkman is present.
Unlike Hawkman or Atom, Schwartz and Fox brought Doctor Fate back in his original helm and with his magics intact, although he spoke the same bland dialogue as everyone else. If anyone was concerned at all these seemingly random changes, they would have to wait twenty years for the explanations.
As we’ve seen already, Doctor Fate was a minor character in the Forties. But, from his return in 1963, the Master Mage grew in strength, becoming one of the more popular JSA members when it came to the annual team-ups and in years to come, when DC made their first attempt to remove the JSA from the Universe, the only Forties member to be retained.
This came about somewhat slowly at first. After the new Atom, Schwartz had announced an end to the creation of new adaptations. Instead, he started on a short-lived programme of reviving the original Golden Age heroes themselves, testing for a market for old glories. The first beneficiary of this was Doctor Fate, teamed with Hourman for two memorable, if commercially unavailing, issues of Showcase, drawn by Murphy Anderson. The pairing was eccentric – a man of magic and a man of science – but the stories were fun, and the second unveiled the new Psycho-Pirate, who now literally manipulated emotions.
Apart from that, Fate would appear in the annual team-ups. After Fox left Justice League of America, writers such as Denny O’Neill and Len Wein would start to develop Fate’s speech towards the mystic and melodramatic again. But it would not be until 1975, in First Issue Special 9, written by Martin Pasko, and drawn by Walt Simonson, that Fate would be simply, yet radically redefined. It is probably the most significant story in the Doctor’s whole career.
It was Fate’s first ever full-length story and whilst Simonson brought his signature visual flair to the issue, marrying Fate’s exercise of his powers to the Egyptian Ankh, a link that would remain forever, Pasko deftly reconstructed the Doctor as two separate entities: Doctor Fate as the intangible entity within the Helm (later specified as Nabu himself) and Kent Nelson as his frequently unknowing human host. All portrayals of Doctor Fate since have derived from this story.
Pasko also introduced another element that would be of growing significance, and that was Inza Nelson’s discomfort with the life forced on her: decades spent alone, friendless, in a windowless magical tower in Salem, kept young by Fate’s magic but, by that very token, unable to come to terms with the continual disappearance of her husband and the abiding fear that he may never return.
For the moment, the redefined Doctor Fate continued in the revived All-Star, and in the subsequent JSA Origin, coming almost forty years after their début. Fate was a prominent part of this series.
After the JSA’s continuation run in Adventure was cancelled, the emphasis in All-Star Squadron took matters back to the early Forties. Roy Thomas used this period to cram in as many retcons as he possibly could, as we saw with The Atom 1, and this extended to Doctor Fate. The good Doctor was, in 1942, confirmed in his half-helm phase (which Thomas preferred), but a later story provided a simple explanation which made good use of Pasko’s story: Nelson simply put the Helm of Nabu aside the first time he found something in the Helm trying to take him over.
Thomas couldn’t resist returning to this theme later, when Nelson was forced to return to his old helm, and the powers it represented, to battle the sorceror Kulak: during the battle, the helm was wrenched from his head and donned by Kulak, only for the latter’s third eye to reflect upon himself and send him tumbling through an infinity of dimensions.
A footnote promised a story that would detail how Nelson recovered the Helm of Nabu just before Justice League of America 21: no such story ever appeared.
Finally, in America vs. the Justice Society, Thomas also explained away Doctor Fate’s resignation from the JSA as being a consequence of Nelson’s growing conviction that he could do more for the War Effort by (magically) retraining in medicine and becoming a military doctor.
By this time, Crisis on Infinite Earths was in preparation for its 1985 publication. Before that, there was one final, and significant, Doctor Fate series to contemplate. This appeared as a back-up in The Flash 305-312, two four part stories, one written by Pasko, the other by Steve Gerber, both drawn by Keith Giffen in the ultra-polished style that had made his name on Legion of Superheroes.
Both returned to the theme of Inza’s inability to accept the life she led. She found herself the object of fascination of a certain Museum Director, to the extent that, at the very point Fate was battling for his life and desperate for the anchor and escape that Inza provided his host, she was enthusiastically kissing the guy. Fate’s enemy sought to have Nelson doubt his love, and refuse Doctor Fate, a plan that came close to fruition, and to causing Inza’s death. But a furious Nelson saved Inza’s life by drawing her into the transformation into Fate with him, giving her for the first time insight into what it meant to be Fate. It seemed strange that this moment should be left dangling, but it was not forgotten. The mysterious Museum Director, on the other hand, was.
As I’ve already indicated, after the Crisis the Justice Society were shoveled into a limbo they were not supposed to return from, saving only two of its junior, 1970’s members (which, sadly, did not include the original Huntress, but the Crisis had painted DC into too many corners there). Doctor Fate too was preserved.
At first, it seemed that Doctor Fate would simply be folded into the new DC Universe. His first appearance, unlikely as it seemed, was in Super-Friends 2, a limited series focused on selling toys, which may or may not have been in continuity, and whose major distinction was art by Jack Kirby. Indeed, the series was partly created to enable Kirby to redesign all his Fourth World characters of the early Seventies – Darkseid et al – and thus qualify him to receive royalties on all their future appearances, a generous gesture by DC in a different age from now.
And, in the pages of Legends, Doctor Fate would help found the newest Justice League, and feature prominently in its first half-dozen issues. All these appearances, it should be noted, were of Doctor Fate, and not Kent Nelson. And, after forty-eight years, they were a farewell to Fate’s oldest and longest identity.
It was not the first time it had been done since the heyday of Julius Schwartz: in the run-up to Crisis, Roy Thomas alone had three times come up with new figures to take old names, as we will see. Now it was the turn of writer J M DeMatteis with Keith Giffen (using his drastically different angular new style) to introduce the new and unexpected Doctor Fate in a four-issue mini-series.
It fed from that last back-up story in The Flash. When Kent and Inza had merged, they had become aware that they had always, from the very beginning, been intended to form Doctor Fate together, but that Nabu had excluded Inza so that he could control Fate’s powers. Distraught at the waste of forty years of her life, Inza committed suicide. Kent, devastated, rejected all of Nabu’s spells, growing old overnight. He had agreed to assist Nabu in finding the new Doctor Fate, after which he would be released to die and join Inza.
We were then introduced to an extremely odd couple, Eric and Linda Strauss, related by marriage. Eric was the 10-year old son of a prominent mobster, and Linda was the guy’s 29-year old second wife and Eric’s stepmother. The two had a strange affinity, that rather disturbed Linda (as it should!), but the upshot was that these two were to be the new Fate. Eric was accelerated into manhood, his father died and the two were free to freely (and creepily) associate, both in real life and as Doctor Fate 2.
The mini-series was followed by an ongoing series, written by De Matteis but drawn in a very bucolic fashion by Shawn MacManus. In keeping with the times, dominated by the interpretation of the JLI as a situation comedy, much of the new Doctor Fate was played for laughs, in among the superheroics, with the Strauss’s stumbling in their new role(s). Kent had died, but his aged body lived on, occupied by Nabu as the pair’s advisor, whilst a dog-like demon from Hell named Petey became the pair’s ‘pet’ and their gangling, clumsy lawyer neighbour Jack C. Small got very curious about them.

Doctor Fate 2 – the Linda Strauss half

But De Matteis had a serious story in mind, which played out over the first 24 issues of the series. As early as issue 5, Eric fell ill (with a cold) and was unable to merge, leaving Linda to become a decidedly female Doctor Fate alone. This was featured in Fate’s second and final Justice League adventure, to much confusion and sly glances from the increasingly juvenile male members (sic). But the situation suddenly developed tragic dimensions: Linda-Fate was drawn to Darkseid’s realm of Apokalips, the still sickly Eric transformed into a male Doctor Fate to come to her assistance but, in getting Linda-Fate away, Eric-Fate was killed.
And without Eric, Linda could not handle the full energies of Fate alone. It became a race against time to find a new Doctor Fate, before his uncontrolled energies were unloosed. In the meantime, De Matteis – who was always prone to the glutinously spiritual – had introduced a treacly sweet little girl with cuddly parents who were going to die early, but she’s going to become a new messiah and need parents to guide her until then: to round his story off, Eric and Linda were reincarnated into those parents to protect the horribly smiley little creature, and Petey and Jack ventured into Fate’s Amulet of Anubis, where they found the spirits of… Kent and Inza Nelson, and son.
The Nelsons had not died after all. Nabu had housed their spirits in the amulet where they could enjoy a full, normal life, including children, the life that Fate had denied them, but which they were now being called upon to leave. Though Inza in particular fought against acceptance, at last the Nelsons agreed to return, and become Doctor Fate once more.
Bill Messner-Loebs took over Doctor Fate with issue 25 and immediately threw a new spanner in the works. Rehoused in rejuvenated bodies, and merging the Salem tower into a New York brownstone in a run-down area, the Nelsons set out to resume as Doctor Fate 1. Unfortunately, Kent didn’t make it through the transformation, leaving Inza to perform alone as Doctor Fate 3.

Doctor Fate 3 – Inza Nelson

Loebs’s series reflected his socialist leanings, a background that encouraged Inza to explore her own, female instincts towards the use of power, which was more proactive, more devoted to improving people’s lives and much less directed at thumping people magically.
Kent, at first happy to cede a role he’d never really enjoyed, grew concerned about Inza’s handling of the role, which in turn led to words and a temporary separation. As things grew more complicated, Kent constructed a version of his second period costume: half helm, blue and gold top and jeans, with minor magics to assist him, to aid Inza and to draw out the Chaos Lord who had created this situation by blocking Kent from the merger and feeding Inza Chaos-derived magics. In keeping with Chaos’s lack of rationality, this had all been done out of nothing but fun and malice.
Loebs’s run lasted a further 16 issues, including a couple of fill-ins. When he moved on, there was no-one with any clear vision of what they wanted to do with Fate and so, though the series was still selling above the cancellation level, DC decided to end it rather than start a half-hearted new phase that would quickly decline.
The Justice Society were back by this time, though their short-lived series had come and gone without the Doctor. It was rumoured that it had been cancelled politically, as bad for DC’s image. Whether this was true or not, the JSA’s next appearance was in Zero Hour where their ranks were decimated and the team finally disbanded. Doctor Fate was at that fateful fight, in male form at the last, but The Extant used his powers to split Fate into Kent and Inza, and age them to a point where they were too frail to undertake the transformation.
The next Doctor Fate did not actually use the title, simply calling himself Fate (The Doctor is Out). Jared Stevens was a smuggler and mercenary hired by the Nelsons to retrieve Doctor Fate’s accoutrements – the helm, cloak and amulet – from Egypt. When he delivered them, the Nelsons were attacked and killed by demons. Stevens tried to defend himself with the amulet, which exploded, scarring his right side: he wound up with a red ankh tattoo over his eye, the rags of the cloak wrapped around his arm, and with a dagger and ankh-shaped throwing knives instead of the helm.

(Doctor) Fate 4 – Jared Stevens

It was all part of DC’s new ‘Dark Side’ strand, part of the ongoing, increasing trend (I cannot say progress) towards ever more adult situations and stories, adult here being taken in its limited definition as more bloody and violent. As (Doctor) Fate 4, Stevens was now an Agent of Balance, not of Order, but basically he was a demon-hunter with the kind of knife that featured in the Hollywood film Jagged Edge, which was what counted. He lasted five years and two series: 22 issues of Fate and 12 issues of The Book of Fate for which he was retconned into a grave-robber who had the powers of Fate forced onto him by an incredibly aged and all-but-mad Kent and Inza, looking to dump their lifelong burden onto someone else’s shoulders. Neither series was particularly likeable and by the end of The Book of Fate, Stevens was formally abandoned by every occult force that mattered. It was an ideal set-up for the next stage.
James Robinson’s extremely successful Starman series, which had also come out of Zero Hour, had fueled demand for the return of the JSA, and this time DC were willing to accede. Robinson’s concept for the new JSA series involved a considerable modification of the team. It would still include the few surviving originals, but it would develop into a family, with first, second and third generations of heroes, welcoming, assisting and training new legacies.
Robinson and his writing partner David Goyer built the JSA’s return about the funeral of the original Sandman, and the off-stage and off-handed murder of Jared Stevens by The Dark Lord, a figure who was disposing of magically powered characters, intent on seizing those of Doctor Fate, who was due to be reborn. The ad hoc JSA protected the newly-borns who, it was prophesied, included the next Fate and succeeded in enabling the chosen one to be immediately accelerated to manhood and to take on Fate’s role: Doctor Fate 5.

Doctor Fate 5 – Hector Hall

When the new Doctor Fate removed his helm, he was immediately recognised as the former Infinity Inc. member the Silver Scarab, aka Hector Hall, son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Doctor Fate 5 was actually Hector’s third identity, having spent some time as Sandman 3 (as we will see). His costume revived the azure and gold look, with the resolutely Egyptian addition of a ceremonial gold collar.
Doctor Fate 5 did have his own five issue mini-series at one point, but the Hall version spent most of his time in and with the JSA. This version of Fate was racked by Hall’s insecurity and doubts. He obsessively searched for his lost wife, Hyppolita (The Fury) Trevor, which blinded him to an assault by the Dark Lord, who had been revealed as Mordru, the Legion’s sorcerous foe a thousand years hence. This led to him being put through an Intervention inside his amulet, by Nabu and all the previous Fates: the Nelsons, the Strausses and Stevens, plus Kid Eternity, who was thrown in for reasons too complex to go into now.
It was only a temporary success, and Nabu once more took control of Doctor Fate before Hall, again, fought his way back, collecting Lyta en route, but completely ignoring her story as played out over many issues of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
This on-going emphasis on Hall’s inadequacies did nothing to establish him or Doctor Fate as a vivid character again, and it came as no surprise that Hector Hall was, in the end, swept away very easily. In Day of Vengeance, one of the forerunners to Infinite Crisis, The Spectre (as we will see) went wild and tried to destroy all magics. Hall and Lyta were imprisoned in a dimension inside the helm of Nabu, where they froze to death in snowy mountains, their spirits at the last being taken by the new Dream (of the Sandman mythos), who was based upon their son Daniel Hall (later, again, later).
For the remainder of the struggle against the Spectre, Nabu himself incarnated the Helm, cloak and amulet, until, by cornering the Spectre into killing him, he forced a resolution to the crisis in magic.
But the helm needed a new master, to enable a Doctor Fate 6. After passing through various hands, it came to its new host, homeless and severely depressed psychologist, Dr Kent V. Nelson, a distant grandnephew of Kent Nelson himself. The younger Nelson was introduced in a mini-series written by Steve Gerber, but sadly Gerber died before completing its final instalment. Four other writers wrote separate four page endings, and the younger Nelson, in the traditional costume, but without the gold trunks, went on to join the latest incarnation of the JSA.

Doctor Fate 6 – Kent V. Nelson

How this latest Fate would have developed remains unknown, as the New 52 threw out all this old continuity, none of which has now ever happened. A brand new Doctor Fate is in the process of emerging, in Earth-2: Doctor Fate 7 is Egyptian and so far is only known as Khalid. All I can say is that that seems to be a very unsatisfactory end to a long career.