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Art by Eduardo Barreto
|First appearance||New Fun Comics #6 (October 1935)|
|Created by||Jerry Siegel (writer)
Joe Shuster (artist)
|Alter ego||Richard Occult|
|Team affiliations||Justice Society of America
Sentinels of Magic
The Trenchcoat Brigade
|Notable aliases||Doctor Mystic|
Doctor Richard Occult is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Superman's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Doctor Occult, also known as the Ghost Detective, is a private investigator and user of magic who specializes in cases involving the supernatural. Doctor Occult is the earliest character created by DC Comics still currently used in the DC Universe.
The character first appeared in New Fun Comics #6 in 1935 as one of the first depicted superheroes published by DC and in comic books in particular. He was depicted as a supernatural detective, whose detecting style was very much in the style of Sam Spade, only with supernatural abilities.
He also appeared in Centaur Publications' The Comics Magazine #1 under the name "Dr. Mystic". This was the same character because his story, "The Koth and the Seven", began in The Comics Magazine and continued in DC's More Fun Comics #14–17 (issues also designated as vol. 2, #2–5). In this story, he travels to a mystic realm where he flies and wears a cape, making him the first caped comic book superhero. This story also introduced the Seven, a group of mystics who would later be retconned into having raised Richard Occult and Rose Psychic. Doctor Occult made his last original appearance in More Fun Comics #32 in 1938.
Fictional character biography
Doctor Occult is resurrected nearly fifty years later in All-Star Squadron, a title set during World War II but written in 1985. His given origin was that on New Year's Eve, 1899, Occult and Rose Psychic had been rescued by a shadowy group called "The Seven" from ritual murder at the hands of a Satanic cult. The two were later trained in the use of occult magics themselves. Thirty-six years later, Doctor Occult opened up his own detective agency, specializing in crimes of a mystical nature, and during World War II he joined the All-Star Squadron. At some point, he and Rose become fused into one being. Doctor Occult has used sorcery to halt or greatly slow the aging process, so that he appears in modern comics to still be a man in his late thirties or early forties, even though he was born at the end of the 19th century.
Unlike some of the other Golden Age characters Roy Thomas resurrected in that book, this did not lead to a renaissance for the character, possibly because he joined around the time the book was being affected by the Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which he played a significant role. In his current look, Doctor Occult wears a trenchcoat and fedora and wields a magic multi-faceted disc, the Symbol of Seven, as his primary magic weapon.
In 1991, Neil Gaiman brought the character back into the spotlight, when he featured him in the miniseries The Books of Magic. In the third issue he acts as Tim Hunter's guide to otherworlds. When visiting Faerie, he transforms into Rose. Tim learns many important things from Dr. Occult, while nearly being trapped in the realm of the fae. This is all to guide Timothy on the role to his becoming the most powerful magician of the current era. The other guides on this mission are Mister E, the Phantom Stranger, and John Constantine, who nicknames the group the Trenchcoat Brigade. The four would return later at a summons from Timothy, who having lost everything at that point, needs a new direction in life.
Later stories would continue the idea of Occult and Rose Psychic being one. There were two origin stories given, by DC, to explain how they became one person. The first was in Superman Annual #7, this was a "year one" story to explain how Superman and Dr. Occult met. In the story Dr. Occult explained that Rose had been severely injured battling a creature named Thahn. Occult leads Superman, and the reader, to believe that Rose had been killed. So Superman is very shocked to later come in contact with Rose alive, and wonders where Occult is. When the story concludes Superman and Occult defeat Thahn but Superman did not see the two switch back, although the reader does. It is then revealed that the Seven who trained them saved Rose by allowing them to "time-share". Later, in the miniseries The Justice Society Returns, a new version explained that Doctor Occult was killed in battle with an otherworldly entity, and Rose bonded their souls together to restore him.
Sentinels of Magic
He/She plays a vital role in the Day of Judgement incident, helping to protect Earth from a full demonic invasion. Hell itself has emptied of demons and Earth was in danger from Asmodel, a fallen angel who had stolen the power of the Spectre. Battling on ravaged city streets, Occult works with other heroes, such as Katana, Batman, Phantom Stranger and Ragman but he specifically tries to protect Madame Xanadu. She had stolen some of Asmodel's power, weakening him considerably, and was hiding it behind a forcefield.
He would later be affected by the Spectre again. Confused and hostless, the Spectre destroys the "Rock of Eternity" scattering fragments all over Gotham City. Several dozen mystically attuned heroes, including Doctor Occult, Phantom Stranger, Detective Chimp and Rex the Wonder Dog work together to free Gotham City from its demonic influence. Occult is briefly possessed by one of the semi-sentient "Seven Sins of Man", which had been imprisoned in the Rock for some time. Soon, Gotham, and Occult are both cleared of demonic influence.
In the limited series JLA: Black Baptism (May–August 2001), Doctor Occult assists the JLA in battling a group of demons who stylize themselves after American mafia/gangsters. Partly motivated by revenge, they go after the Sentinels of Magic and other entities who have assisted in the "Day of Judgement" incident. Occult is forced to go on the run, hiding as Rose in a magical hangout, 'the Scrap Bar'. He is attacked by three of the Diablos, who take the opportunity to try to kill the other magicians. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern rescue him and subdue the demons. He soon helps heal Superman, who had been injured by a magical "worm-bullet".
Doctor Occult later becomes a JSA reservist.
Reign in Hell
Doctor Occult is the main character in the backup story in the Reign in Hell mini-series where he enters Hell in order to find Rose Psychic. Rose had been lost in a mysterious demon attack. Doctor Occult conjures up Yellow Peri, as an expendable spirit guide for the realms of Hell. Despite this, he rescues her from a demonic attack that causes her to lose both legs from the knees down. Occult and Peri find Rose serving the Purgatory-based forces that are attempting to conquer hell.
In a desperate gamble to stop Blaze and Satanus from conquering Purgatory, Rose enters Hell by her own will, condemning herself to eternal damnation. Despite Yellow Peri's contrary advice, Doctor Occult trusts her with the Unspoken Principum, a mysterious and universal truth that every condemned soul knows, but s/he can never communicate by any means. The Unspoken Principium is later revealed as, "You may leave when you want", even if actually no condemned soul left Hell by his/her own will in the DCU, including Rose.
The New 52
In the New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Doctor Occult appeared in the final pages of Justice League Dark #12, where he is revealed to be the keeper of the House of Secrets. Nick Necro, whose identity is not revealed until the next issue, knocks on Doctor Occult's door. When Doctor Occult answers the door, he recognizes his visitor just before he is attacked and murdered by Necro.
Powers and abilities
Doctor Occult has the powers of astral projection, hypnosis, illusion creating, and telekinesis. He wields a powerful talisman called the Mystic Symbol of the Seven. It grants him the powers of clairvoyance, fighting exorcism, deflection, and force field projection.
In other media
- Doctor Occult appears in DC Universe Online.
- Doctor Occult appears in issue #9 of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic series. Batman teams up with him, Doctor Fate, Sargon the Sorcerer, and Zatanna in order to defeat the Void.
- Wallace, Dan (2008). "Doctor Occult". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 105. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017.
- Wolk, Douglas. "75 Years of the First Comic Book Superhero (It's Not Who You Think)". Time. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
- Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special (March 2006)
- Reign in Hell #2 (October 2008)
- Reign in Hell #3–5 (November 2008 – January 2009)
- Justice League Dark #12
- Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (35th ed.)