Secret Origins #24: Blue Devil and Doctor Fate

Ryan Daly and guest Justin Barlow review the origin of Blue Devil from Secret Origins #24. Then, the Irredeemable Shag returns to promote every Doctor Fate story except for the origin in this issue.

Listen to Episode 24!

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Sample pages from Secret Origins #24, written by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin with art by Ty Templeton (Blue Devil), and Roy Thomas with art by Michael Bair and Bob Downs (Doctor Fate), and a cover by Keith Stan Wilson and Sam DeLaRosa.

#24cover #24page1 #24page4 #24page9 #24page10 #24Bpage3 #24Bpage6 #24Bpage9 #24Bpage18

Plus, samples of Doctor Fate appearances from More Fun Comics #56 by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, 1st Issue Special #9 by Martin Pasko and Walt Simonson, and Flash #306 and #308 by Pasko and Keith Giffen. Also, a house ad featuring Blue Devil and Firestorm, the cover to Blue Devil #4 by Paris Cullins and Showcase ’93 #3 by Brian Bolland.

MoreFun#56 1stSpec1 1stSpec2 1stSpec3 Flash306 Flash308 FunAd BD4 Showcase3

You can donate to help David Sopko’s family at:


Check out Justin’s Sympathy for the Devil Facebook Page:

David’s The Blue Devil Archive Facebook Page:

Justin and David’s Shout at the Devil Podcast:

Listen to Shag and Diabolu Frank talk Blue Devil on Fire and Water Podcast #113

Listen to Shag and Kyle Benning talk Doctor Fate on Fire and Water Podcast #129:

Additional music this episode: “Friend of the Devil” by The Grateful Dead; “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful; “Friend of the Devil” by Counting Crows.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

16 thoughts on “Secret Origins #24: Blue Devil and Doctor Fate

  1. This explains why my 90s sense was tingling! And so many DC fans have been telling me “Oh, you know the 90s stuff you look at wouldn’t all be so bad if you had more DC comics.” I guess they just have selective memory when it comes to Dr. Fate. I’m glad you and Rob went over that convoluted history so thoroughly, because it shows that as much as I like the guy’s look I’ll never care enough to sort through all that mess.

    Blue Devil sounds interesting, and like the sort of thing that might work for me. So that I may need to check out.

    You addressed the loss of a friend in a touching and respectful way. I never knew David, but I’ve seen the outpouring so it’s clearly a loss to those who did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good episode, though it can’t help but be melancholy at best, considering the circumstances.

    Re: the cover–why is Dr Fate trapping Blue Devil?? Or is he trying to free him?

    Anyone have an idea why these two were paired up? Was is just a blue and gold thing?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very nice tribute to David by both you and Shagg, Ryan. I didn’t know David beyond a few correspondences to Super Mates, but he was obviously a thoughtful fan, and by all accounts just a good guy. We need more of those in the world, not less. We have a tribute to him in our show this week as well, so I do think the response from our little podcasting community says a lot about the guy’s character.

    I regret not buying Blue Devil when it was on the stands. I think by that point I was sticking my nose in the air regarding “funny” comics. From everything I know, I know, I would have enjoyed it. Between Justin and Shagg, I think I’m going to have to pick up that Showcase Presents volume when it finally hits. I loved Ty Templeton’s art on this Secret Origin, and even as a kid I picked up on the presence of Calvin from Waterson’s strip. I did make me wonder if these characters had been regulars in the Blue Devil comic, though. Seems odd that Waid was the guy who “ruined” Blue Devil for Justin, considering this story, his first editing work for DC captured the flavor of the original series.

    Shagg crammed 10 years of Dr. Fate podcasting into one episode, but I didn’t mind, cuz I love me some CAL-ASSIC (say it like Rob) Dr. Fate. I did indeed bemoan the fact DC refuses to give us the REAL Dr. Fate in any meaningful mini or ongoing. It’s been so long Kent Nelson was Fate, THAT would be a “NEW” thing for DC to try.

    I always wondered why Thomas tapped Fate for another origin, since he and McFarlane had just done it a few years prior in All-Star Squadron. The addition of Nabu’s tampering with the “formula” of man and woman melding into Fate seems to be a flimsy reason to regurgitate this all again. I like MIcheal Bair’s stuff, but it’s a little TOO ornate, and distracting. The eye wanders and passes over some nice illustration, just because the layouts are too busy. Inza was indeed hot, but inappropriately so. Bair seemed to draw her in mid-climax for not good reason, several times throughout.

    I prefer that 70s Secret Origin to this one, with the nice Michael Nasser/Netzer inks over Staton. Good stuff!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s heartbreaking to learn of the loss of a husband, father and friend, but heartwarming to hear the outpourings of love and respect for David. I wish I’d met him; condolences to everyone whose lives he touched, especially his wife and children.

    I really enjoyed hearing you and Justin talk Blue Devil. I was there from the start, so followed his story as it unveiled. Hearing there was a dark revamp in the works, I’m now glad the book was cancelled and that Dan wasn’t ruined (for a little while) until Underworld Pooped.

    I never liked Dan’s original costume much, the shorts were just terrible, and that facial hair (demon muttonchops?) was a tad Klingon, and the shade of blue was kinda wishy washy, but I like his original look a million times more than the ornate horned demon guy. I think Shadowpact had my favourite style, the tee shirt and jeans seem what a practical guy would wear.

    Blue Devil Annual #1 (Summer Fun!) was one of DC’s best of the Eighties, and they had some wonderful extra-length books, such as pretty much every Anniversary issue.

    This is my favourite Shagg podcast appearance ever, he was so knowledgable in running thorough the Doctors Fate and somehow managed to resist terrible Nabu/Naboo references. Heck, he was almost engaging. The scary thing was, every one of Shagg’s opinions was dead on, with the nearest to Wrong being his failure to praise the Bill Loebs run, with Inza filling the helmet, to the skies. I’d tell you more, but why bother, I’ve gone through it all at
    Seriously, give a few issues of this run a try.

    And for further interesting reading, on something Shagg touched on briefly, try Colin Smith on Dr Fate’s shifting powers, look, costume … every darned thing in his early years. It’s a meaty read:

    Anyway, ankhs for the memories…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very moving words there, Ryan. People touch our lives in person, via impulses across cables, in words recorded in multitudes of methods; in the present and from ages past. My sympathies to David’s friends and family and to you, for your loss.

    I missed out of Blue Devil, when It was on the stands. By that point, I was delving into more “sophisticated” things. It’s ironic that I often lament (well, whine and gripe) that current comics are rarely just “fun”. This is the kind of stuff I enjoy and wish we had more of. Must be karma.

    This was a great little story, with a nice touch by having Cain tell the tale; plus, given the timing, that must be one of the very early Calvin & Hobbes homages (his first book had just come out about 6 months before this, which helped boost the character’s profile and circulation). It also makes me want to pull out by House of Mystery stuff and read some of that.

    Dr Fate is a character I’ve enjoyed more with the JSA, or in the hands of Walt Simonson. I’ve said before, magic characters don’t do much for me; but, Fate always got points for the costume (mostly the helmet). This doesn’t change my opinion of magical characters much; but, man is it all over the place with mythology! I’m not a fan of the whole Lords of Order and Chaos thing (from this period of DC, anyway). I preferred that stuff in the hands of Michael Moorcock. This is a pretty “busy” story; and, I didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters. This wouldn’t have done much to get me to read a Dr Fate story, compared to First Issue Special, or the World’s Finest team up between Superman and Dr Fate, or the JLA/JSA stories or All-Star Comics (the revived series). The Justice League cartoon did him well, though (after a nice appearance in Superman TAS).

    I’m glad said something about Mt Dew. I was going to guess 18 quadruple espressos. Remember Shag, speed kills!

    Nice memory of David there, Shag. It paints a picture of a really nice guy who seemed to attract people. The world needs more people like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ps, Calvin and Hobbes celebrated the 30th anniversary of its debut. Man I feel old! I was in college and first saw it when someone on my dorm floor started posting it on their door, from one of the Chicago papers. I bought the first book collection at the college’s retail bookstore. Up to that point, Bloom County had been the big strip for campus readers; but Calvin quickly kicked Opus to the side. Hobbes and Bill the Cat sat quietly and shook their head at the sight of it. Well, Bill said “Ack!”


  6. Thanks for this great episode and great tribute to David. Like many, my interactions were only on social media. But he was a friend and fellow comic enthusiast in this little club. He will be missed.

    The only early Blue Devil stuff I had included the 2 Crisis crossovers and the Firestorm crossover. Those were the years where Anj was discovering Watchmen, American Flagg, and Swamp Thing. I was veering towards ‘mature’ comics and so I left the sillier, brighter stuff behind. It is only with the wisdom of age that I realize that I missed out on a lot of good stuff. Like Justin, I enjoyed Shadowpact. (Anything with Nightshade!)

    I have much more history with Dr. Fate. Back in the day, there wasn’t much Fate to read. I saw him in the yearly JLA/JSA crossovers. I saw the First Issue special in the JSA digest. I got the Brave and Bold and DCCP issues. He seemed mysterious and cool and that costume design is perfect. Since then, I got the Baxter miniseries and drank in Giffen’s art from back then. I got the Archive. I got the more recent JSA titles. What I missed was the title from the 90s. I see books now and then in the $1 box. Guess I need to pick it up.

    As for this story, I thought like many Golden Age origins, it felt a bit heavy including some early adventures instead of just concentrating on the origin. I thought Michael Bair’s art was beautiful. And in my head I thought the ‘rectangularness’ of the art was evocative of Golden Age books where page layouts were pretty simple.

    Still, of all of it, the First Issue Special stands out. That is a perfect book.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If you’re only going to read one Blue Devil story, it should be the Summer Fun Annual #1. This can be said of any character in it as well: if you’re only going to read one Creeper story, Man-Bat story, Phantom Stranger story, Black Orchid story, or Demon story, read that. It’s probably the single most underrated comic of our lifetimes.

    Dr. Fate….well, it’s a common fallacy to assume that the existence of a problem implies the existence of a solution. There are insoluble problems, and a problem that has been attacked by talent people for nearly a century is likely to be one of them. Making Dr. Fate interesting is one of those problems. Just based on that, it’s time to give up on this character. But there’s a more compelling reason to do so, and that is the lords of order and lords of chaos. These are a plague on DC comics, a piece of infectuous narrative poison that destroys the readability of any story or character they come into contact with. And Dr. Fate is patient zero. (In a better parallel universe, Dr. Fate was replaced by Etrigan in this issue…)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your words about David were very touching, Ryan. I am just a guy who likes to follow a few of the blogs in this growing community so I never knew David but I think we corresponded in the comments on posts in the Marvel Unlimited Facebook group a few times. I could tell he and I shared some tastes in comics, for sure. It’s obvious from Shag’s story that he’s left a huge hole in the lives of those who knew him.

    So I checked Amazon and that Showcase for Blue Devil has no release date set. I fear it’s not happening. Anyone know anything about this?

    As for Blue Devil himself I’m like a few other commenters here: sadly, at that time the series was out I was too into the more “serious” fare on the stands, having just had my mind blown by Miller and Moore. Funny to think how much I wanted to immerse myself in more mature books as a pre teen and young teen. As Anj says, with age I’ve realized how wonderful that fun stuff was and I see it out any chance I get now. So I really want to read the original Blue Devil series now. Problem Isi never see the back issues anywhere.

    I really enjoy the Templeton art in this issue. But I agree that Paris Cullens is the definitive Blue Devil artist. I can still see the house ads for that series in my head. Lord why didn’t I collect it then?!? Oh right, youthful hubris.

    I haven’t listened to the full Doctor Fate portion yet so I’ll reserve comments for later. That said, I love the character so I’m excited to hear you and Shag discuss him, Ryan.


    1. Amazon is notorious for putting release dates up for things that did not come from the studio/publisher. They use it as a placeholder to build pre-orders, then try to use that to negotiate with studios and publishers (they had had listings for the Batman tv series, long before any agreement was made between Fox and WB). I recommend going to the source for confirmed dates, rather than relying on anything posted on their listings. Sometimes it is accurate, often it isn’t. Chances are, DC included it in a list of upcoming releases, probably with a TBD notation, or a tentative date and either never provided a follow-up, or had to pull it from the schedule. It could be a technical issue with reproducing the book, though the advance orders they got may have convinced them otherwise. Then again, DC seems to be bipolar, these days. They may have decided to release it one week, then changed their minds the next.


      1. I know, I work in publishing. Amazon does what Amazon wants. We publishers have very little we can do against them. Sigh.

        I tried searching online for the Showcase Presents volume but that’s one of the only places I found a listing. I’ll give it another shot later, but I doubt this is actually coming out early next year…or ever. I might have to hunt online for the back issues. Is the entire 30+ issue series worth reading? Just curious, if any of you have opinions on that.


  9. We’re hard on him, but I love Shagg’s enthusiasm, as much for the characters here as for fellow Legion Super-Blogger David Sopko. He will be missed. 😦

    Blue Devil I first met in the try-out issue inserted into Fury of Firestorm #24. I did not then follow him to the series, but would buy random issues of it whenever I found them at flea markets and such. I think it’s written for the me of today much more than the teen me of the 80s. I like Blue Devil in principle the same way people say they like Dr. Fate, but have never really read good stories with him from after his series. Maybe I should read Shadowpact?

    Dr. Fate is the character that made me buy All-Star Squadron and stick with it. It was the “secret origin” issue – Chris underlines another one of those strange Secret Origins mysteries, why would Thomas do another of these so soon?! – which makes one of my favorite Dr. Fate iterations the half-helmet character that couldn’t throw spells around and didn’t talk to Nabu; he was afraid of the mental take-over, and this allowed us to know and care for Kent himself.

    The Super Powers action figure soon entered my collection. I still have him and he’s my very favorite, always has been.

    My other favorite Dr. Fate is the Eric & Linda Strauss series, which I discovered and loved in college. I have a complete set, including the Inza issues which weren’t the same, but I still like the visual of a female Dr. Fate. Not enough Petey the Demon obviously.

    You can’t sell me on a JMS B&B story, because they were all freaking boring to me. JMS is sooooo ponderous and cheesy, and he tends to disregard everything we know about any given character (ergo: convoluted use of ironic Fate), he’s Bob Haney if Bob Haney was boring.


  10. I was well into my pursuit of reading comics before I learned the origin of Dr. Fate, and I think it’s up there among the all-time worst for a character of note. It’s like, Black Condor’s origin is a hot mess, but at least it’s so audacious and insane that it’s fun. This one starts at the creepiest elements of Captain Marvel’s origin and gets more problematic from there. It’s bad enough that the compressed timeline in comics often results in either perpetual children like Franklin Richards, or the disconcerting legions of insta-adult offspring (is Cable the only example of that sorta kinda working?) Here, for no reason at all, Kent Nelson is an early adolescent made partially culpable in patricide before approximately doubling his age in a matter of days through an abnormal magical process that doubles down on the reader alienation already caused by his being a) a magic user with ill-defined but enormous power who b) runs around in a nigh-featureless inhuman helmet which c) takes control of his body, so that the actual “hero” is an inanimate object/abstract metaphysical concept from another dimension. As if that wasn’t bad enough, let’s also make this quasi-child Stockholm Syndrome Nabu-proxy mystical meat puppet one of the very few long underwear types to enter into an early and very long term marriage with a full grown woman. Does Kent ever call Inza “mommy” and cry in a fetal position next to her, and who could blame him if he did? Exploring the certain emotional/developmental issues Kent Nelson would face would have made him distinctive and could have offered a different example of heroism, but instead he’s just another cypher in long johns. Wotan is the most seemingly normal, well-adjusted being in this story, so can we chalk it up to unreliable narration?

    It’s always weird to me when guys known primarily as inkers switch to pencils and are then inked by someone else. It’s even more odd when the inker’s inker isn’t an inker’s inker, if you know what I mean, and I’ve never even heard of Bob Downs. His lines are too thin, so that even when they survive the printing process, they look brittle. Michael Bair has his quirks as a pencil artist, but I know he could have done a better job on this assignment on his own, and it still looks so much better than most of Thomas’ Golden Age secondary strips that this issue has to be in contention among the best drawn Secret Origins issues overall.

    Cool look, letdown stories, yadda yadda. Here’s where I start to break loose from the pack: I liked the first Jared Stevens series better than anything with Kent Nelson. I tried Fate as part of Zero Month and it didn’t do much for me, but I went back to it at some point around the Giffen/Wagner relaunch and discovered it had become a good book. It tried to approach mysticism from a ’90s perspective, mixing elements of Clive Barker with Chromium Age anti-heroics and bits of X-Files, all filtered through the quirky perspective of Len Kaminsky. I especially liked the presence of Alan Scott, harping on the legacy of his fallen friend and criticizing this pretender to the repurposed helm. It all fell apart when Giffen turned Stevens into another one if his crotchety garbageman characters in Book of Fate, and that guy deserved to be stabbed with his own blade to launch JSA, but it wasn’t always so. I also liked Fate because, as you guys mentioned, a lot of Dr. Fate comics come across as warmed over Dr. Strange, with Inza doubling as Clea, and cross-company conceptual incest is one of the banes of my existence. They tried to do EXTREME Stephen Strange, and it didn’t take, but Jared Stevens could play in those fields, so that Marvel and DC could have their own separate flavors of mystic guy. Even Shag’s beloved First Issue Special sounds a lot like Walt Simonson trying to do Steve Ditko.

    The other thing is, I don’t want to read any non-iconic Dr. Fate stories, and as Shag says, there aren’t really any other kind. Every DC series about Dr. Fate isn’t about Dr. Fate, but about A Dr. Fate, or fixing Dr. Fate, or just writing around this Dr. Fate guy so he doesn’t get in the way of the stories you’re using his banner to tell. Dr. Fate isn’t an icon. He wasn’t the hit DC predicted, so he got replaced on More Fun covers and the formula of his stories was tinkered with even in the Golden Age. He was never a 1960s counterculture icon on blacklight posters. Englehart & Brunner didn’t have a classic, oft-reprinted run on Dr. Fate in the ’70s. He hasn’t had multiple series with 5 year+ runs and he can’t tout influential stories and he’s not the guy everyone in his universe goes to with their magical woes and in an age where every mid-range super-hero has a movie in the works, he’s the guy they kill on Smallville to build up a c-lister like Martian Manhunter. The Defenders is of so little value to Marvel that they’ll give that title to a streaming-only subscriber-based TV network for their low rent street level super-heroes, but at least in the comics Dr. Strange was one of the “big 4” of what was once Marvel’s other super team. Dr. Fate isn’t even a “big 4” JSAer. He isn’t as favorably regarded as Power Girl or Mr. Terrific. He’s no Wildcat, even.

    The great thing about Dr. Fate is that his name is Dr. Fate and he looks cool and he’s firmly entrenched in the lore of the DC Universe via the Justice Society. He’s both a blank check and mostly a blank slate. Someone with a commercial vision could turn him into a big deal, but I firmly believe the most important step is to throw everything else out and start from scratch.

    For me, it all came full circle through Super Powers. I had the action figure because he was nifty and in the discount bin, but once I owned it, I didn’t know what to do with him. I have no lasting memories of actually playing with my Dr. Fate before it was stolen or traded away (I don’t even remember which.) I got more use out of my Fisher-Price Adventure People. However, more years ago than I care to remember, Shag invited me to take part in the Super Powers 25th anniversary blog crossover. I read a scan of his mini-comic, and finally “got” Dr. Fate.

    He’s a magical Arthurian crusader. He’s the Siegel & Shuster Superman, but instead of rocketing from a doomed planet, he raided the artifacts of an extinct culture. Where Dr. Strange owes more to Merlin, Dr. Fate is the Green Knight. He’s a super-hero first; a dragon-slayer who happens to use spells in place of raw physical force. Strange is a scholar who pores over forbidden ancient tomes and navigates pan-dimensional political squabbles. Dr. Fate is a latter day noble who is told by The Lords of Order to burn Sanctum Sanatoriums to the ground, library and all, then shove an Ankh-shaped energy bolt down the throat of an agent of chaos. Dr. Fate shouldn’t be about arcanum and headtrips. He should be the Golden Age Spawn. Nathaniel Wayne should be judging whether he’s guilty of 1940s Whiz-Banginess. He’s the morally unambiguous, non-terrifying but still intimidating, rescues the maidens and kicks the supernaturally evil asses version of The Spectre.

    Also, no more white guy. That’s the great thing about a dude in a full-headed helmet with no skin showing and no well known alter ego. Hell, Dr. Fate is even gender fluid, though I personally prefer the costume design on a male figure. Make him Egyptian or otherwise North African descent, get some racial diversity in the mix, and then you’ll have an icon.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As I’m sure I stated elsewhere but will reiterate, I bought Blue Devil second hand from a flea market in the mid-80s, and he was a favorite in my early years of collecting comics. Every version not by Mishkin & Cohn can pretty much go to Hell, as far as I’m concerned.

    Ty Templeton had the bad luck to be situated between the Kevin Maguire and Adam Hughes runs on JLI, plus he favored funny/light in times when everyone was skewing grimdark, so I never gravitated to him in spite of occasionally stumbling upon inspired work. I’d never bothered to read this Secret Origin before, and it turned out to have the best art I’ve ever seen from the guy. In fact, though I haven’t looked at the original series in a while, I’d say Templeton at least rivals if not betters the Cullins/Martin art team. He’s delightfully adept with the humor and overall tone of the strip, including the heroic action beats. It was a pleasure flipping through his pages.

    That said, I chafed a bit when you guys offered methods to “fix” Blue Devil, who I protest was never broken in concept. My problem, and I suspect this was an issue for others, is that Cohn & Mishkin ran out of steam sometime in the second year and couldn’t get the serio-comic balance right anymore. The last half of the series simply wasn’t as good, and aside from the art, they don’t bring anything new to this revisited origin, either.

    As I recall, Bruce Campbell was the best looking guy Sam Raimi knew, and was willing to become a de facto stuntman for a physically grueling series of low-to-modest budget horror comedies. Tom Savini worked on the same kinds of movies, occasionally taking on small parts, and did his own stunts as well. But Savini is of course known mainly for his pioneering work in latex/practical effects, while Dan is a whiz with animatronics as well, so Savini + Campbell + Stan Winston = Dan Cassidy. On the set of a movie not unlike Army of Darkness, some key actors accidentally release an actual demon, and this Jack of All Trades industry type gets trapped in the form of a “hero monster” he was playing. Coupled with the later reveal/theory that the same magic had left Dan a “weirdness magnet” that literally attracted the strange and supernatural regardless of his best intentions, and you’ve got a fine formula for a reluctant everyman hero compelled to action. Blue Devil should mix Abbott & Costello with Temple of Doom and a bit of Billy Wilder for the Hollywood satire. Also, I think the DC universe should visit Dan, but Blue Devil should stay out of the DC universe on his own safe little island of whimsical adventure.

    Things went off the rails even before Underworld Unleashed though, as Gerard Jones had Blue Devil join Justice League America as a conniving Booster Gold type seeking to revitalize his acting career, even though Dan wasn’t even an actor or fame seeker and had more in common with Kilowog than the Wayne Tarrant he was being portrayed as. Then Dan became a tragic gloomypus and cannon fodder and DC’s Hellboy stand-in before Frankenstein took that position. Too much Ron Perlman, not enough Savini/Campbell. He’s a reasonably game guy who just wants to work on his effects projects, sleep with a pretty b-list actress, pal around with his boss’ nephew, and drink a cold one at the end of the day. He might have been okay with joining the JLI to pay the bills, but ideally, he’d just be a very unusual looking FX guy working on genre films in pre-production, because the insurance won’t cover him on a live set. He doesn’t belong on a proper super team, and especially not on a “spooky” one like the Shadowpact.

    Before I forget, the little blond haired kid reminds me a lot of the youngest child from the TV show “the middle.” I can see the Calvin & Hobbes reference, but aside from a few select strips never much cared for that one, preferring Bloom County. The cover was okay, and I assume Fate is persecuting the dude who looks like Slushee Satan in a Marvel style confused clash of heroes.

    Hey, Spiral Zone! I had one or two of those figures and a story on cassette. There’s an interesting property to revive for film. Maybe Tonka could sell out to the upcoming Hasbroverse? Pit them against the Joes & M.A.S.K…


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