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Dr. Fate

DC Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Like many of DC Comics' most iconic characters, Doctor Fate was created during the Golden Age of comics way back in 1940, in More Fun Comics #55. He was somewhat unusual for the time in that his powers came from magic, not (largely misrepresented) science, and he wore a helmet that covered his entire face (for a time, at least). After a moderately successful four-year run, Doctor Fate and his alter ego, Dr. Kent Nelson, faded into obscurity until they were revived in the 1960s for the occasional guest appearance with the Justice Society of America in the pages of Justice League of America.

Doctor Fate arises when the Lord of Order known as Nabu bestows his sorcerous knowledge, as well as a magical helmet, amulet and mantle, to a human host in order to battle the forces of chaos. Once a human dons the garb of Doctor Fate, Nabu's personality assumes control of the human host. Doctor Fate, in his many incarnations, has long served in the Justice Society of America as one of its most powerful members.

For DC Universe Classics, the Four Horsemen created two variants of the good Doctor. The first is the subject of this review - the "classic" Fate, depicted in the bright Golden Age yellow and blue, which he also sported in his Super Powers incarnation. There's also a gold "Hector Hall" variant, which features a more detailed livery collar and gold paint on the collar and helmet, torso, and boots (though not the gloves or cape).

It's interesting that this bio offers no real name for Doctor Fate - not even Kent V. Nelson, the grandnephew of the original Kent Nelson. That suggests to me that DC editorial currently doesn't know who they want under the helmet.

Dr. Fate is composed primarily of the "male slender" body. Due to the characters' very simple design, there is minimal unique tooling: the new parts include the helmet, collar, shoulder crescents, and the rectangular wedge on the pelvis, as well as the spread-open right hand - a first for Mattel's DCU.

As always with the work of the Four Horsemen, the newly-sculpted parts look great. While the re-use of the same bodies over and over may be getting a bit dull, ["may be?" --ed.] that consistency is also part of the series' charm (though I understand the criticism of those who say many figures often look like good customs, and I think Fate is an example of that).

After red, yellow seems to be the color that most causes a figure to look toy-ish when it's molded in that color. Fortunately, Doctor Fate is molded mostly in blue, with yellow paint on the gloves and boots. The variant, with its gold, looks better, as long as you don't glance at the extremities: those are still yellow, and look quite out of place.

The standard version's "toyish" issue becomes a problem with the helmet. For some reason, it's molded in matte yellow plastic; upon close inspection, it almost resembles the look and feel of a rubber duck. Molding it in another color and then painting it glossy yellow, or simply molding it in glossy yellow and then painting the ears a matte flesh color, would have made more sense. Other than that, there's not much paint work to speak of. The ears and eyes look good.

Dr. Nelson has the standard DCU articulation: a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, swivels at the biceps, wrists, lower thighs and waist, and H-hinges at the hips for balljoint-like movement. It's also worth noting that Fate has a more pliable cape, rather than the rock-hard capes we've had in the last few waves series.

Doctor Fate comes with Giganta's right arm and one accessory for himself: a burst of magical energy, complete with the distinctive ankh hinting at the character's roots in Egyptian mythology. The ankh is made from rubbery, translucent yellow plastic, and slides on to the open fingers of his right hand. It's a nice tight fit, and it's even sculpted so that it looks as if the blast is coming out of his fingers. This is one of the coolest and best-executed accessories I've seen in DCU.

The arm is nearly nipple-high on Dr. Fate, and has the typical arm joints: hinge in the shoulder, swivel through the biceps, hinged elbow and swivel wrist. The paint is very pink, with darker shadows to bring out the look of the muscles, and a thick bronze bracelet hides the wrist joint.

The classic variant of Doctor Fate is one of the best examples so far of a DCU update to a Super Powers figure. It's also a nice figure in its own right, although due to minimal new tooling it's not a must-buy (aside from the Giganta part, of course) if you're not a fan of the character. However, the sharp colors and the lovely ankh-blast accessory net the good Doctor a recommendation. Best of luck ever finding either version, though.

-- 12/30/09

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