Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Characters I Like -- Fate

I started seriously collecting comic books in the early 90s. I mean, I was aware of them in the 80s as a kid, and I watched "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" and played with my Super Powers toys. But around the end of 1991 into the beginning of 1992, this tween got himself into the comic book habit hard.
This does explain a lot of things about me, including why certain characters still hold a special place for me despite their, shall we say, questionable origins? Maybe I'm the weird one, but I like Doomsday and Bane, thankyouverymuch. So this entry is a tribute to another such character who I enjoy despite all eveidence (and potentially, good taste) to the contrary.


Yes, I thought about making a Halloween costume as Fate.  No, I did not actually do it.

The 90s were a strange time. With Image first hitting the scene, mega macho mystery men with giant arsenals and super-sexed vamps with impossible anatomy were all the rage. Marvel bought into this whole hog (witness: Thor With A Gun), and eventually DC got into the act, as well, revamping and updating their roster of characters to make them hipper, younger, and (ostensibly) edgier. One such revamp was Jared Stevens, AKA Fate.

Introduced during "Zero Hour," an event which as a DC neophyte made absolutely no sense but remained extremely awesome nonetheless, Fate wasn't your usual mumbo-jumbo spewing mystic. No, a former mercenary (ever notice that comic book universes are teeming with mercenaries?), he got down and dirty with demons and monsters, and had the foresight to melt down the Helmet of Nabu and turn it into a giant, golden blade and some ankh-shaped throwing daggers. He was very "kewl" and "gnarly" and all other sorts of words like that. And for someone like me, who was so naive in the ways of DC, reading about a new character -- one whom I had the first appearance of, and knew everything about -- was very appealing to my 14 year old self.

Fate battles Grimoire, evil computer, FATE #6

The result was a series which was pretty much straight action with a magical twist to it. It might seem bone-headed in retrospect, to take a character like Dr. Fate and morph him into a Big Knife weilding mercenary with a mullet and ink. But at the time, it was my favorite DC title. It was different, at least to a 14 year old, from all of the seemingly anonymous Image or mutant books out there, and with Jared being a newbie and outsider, it allowed the reader to gain insight as well. I always thought a team-up of the classic, spell casting Dr. Fate with the gruff, harsh Fate would make for interesting reading.

Fate in his later series.

"Fate" was not a very successful title, and certainly never mentioned in the same breath as it's fellow "ZH" title "Starman." In the end, Fate was given two shots at solo stardom before fading away, eventually getting himself killed in the first issue of the relaunched "JSA." After that, he would pop up from time to time inside Fate's amulet with the other former weilders. But for a while, there was a time when the main magical character in the DCU didn't just wave his hands at you and spout gibberish.

No, there was a time when he would mess you up.

This is Fate, and he is a character I like.


Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Adama (All: "hi Adama") and I like Fate too!

Diabolu Frank said...

Look here-- I've been collecting comics for so long I don't know when I started. Could be as early as '79, or as late as '83, though I lean toward 1980/81. I was well-aware of Kent Nelson & co. long before Zero Hour.

That said, I liked Jared Stevens better, and Zero Hour still didn't make any sense to me. I remembeer reading interviews promoting Zero Hour where Dan Jurgens explained what he planned to do, but what got on the page was dreck. Meanwhile, though I don't know that he should have been called Fate, Stevens was a pretty interesting guy. I recently reread my run of Guy Gardner: Warrior, a character similar to Stevens. "Fate" held up, though I didn't read the title much until after it folded. "Warrior" made me retroactively embarrassed by my former self of 1995.

The concept of a fairly visceral and straightforward man of action being placed in the important role of metaphysical Mr. In-Between was swell, as was his supporting cast. Len Kaminsky should have gotten more and better work in his day. Meanwhile, "Book of Fate" showed us an unusually misguided Keith Giffen during his very difficult transition to solo scripting. The only aspect of the first serious he maintained was the great dynamic between Stevens and Alan Scott, and even then he ret-conned Sentinel's grudging respect for the guy back into total contempt. That nonsense with Amethyst was also a poor substitute for the Inclave, which was sorta/kinda followed-up with the Sentinels of Magic and Shadowpact.

Point being, even a curmudgeon like myself can look past the surface inanities to see Jared Stevens was a good character in his first series. I also see the as-yet unrealized potential in Bane and Doomsday, but that's another blog...