+ Rose Psychic
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
NAME + ALIASES:
Dr. Richard Occult
GROUP AFFILIATIONS: All-Star Squadron, Justice Society Reserves, Sentinels of Magic, The "Trenchcoat Brigade"
FIRST APPEARANCE: New Fun Comics #6 (Oct. 1935)
NAME + ALIASES:
GROUP AFFILIATIONS: Justice Society Reserves, Sentinels of Magic, The "Trenchcoat Brigade"
FIRST APPEARANCE: New Fun Comics #6 (Oct. 1935)
Dr. Occult was the first super-hero created for a comic book. The character evolved within its short publishing run, but he was at times externally-powered, innately super-powered, and clad in a colorful super-hero costume (though only for one adventure). Both Dr. Occult and Superman were created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and many features of Doc's strip were antecedents to Superman. While the creators struggled for years to find an outlet for their Übermensch concept (their first stab dates to 1933), features like "Dr. Occult" functioned somewhat like a laboratory where they could hone their storytelling skills.
The character debuted in New Fun Comics #6 (Oct. 1935), which was the last issue under that title before it became More Fun Comics, and the feature bore the byline "Leger and Reuths," a pseudo-anagram of their names. This decision might have been because the same magazine contained other works credited under their real names.
"Dr. Occult" presaged "Superman" in small ways. Joe Shuster's masculine heroes were generally indiscernible from one another; Dr. Occult's handsome face is a dead-ringer for Clark Kent's. And in More Fun #14–17, Occult temporarily sported shorts, a cape, and triangular chest insignia! When Siegel and Shuster finally got their break, Superman's first appearance was published in the same month as Dr. Occult's last (both cover dated June 1938). Their big break in Action Comics demanded more of their resources, and National canceled "Dr. Occult."
The earliest features were single-paged and serialized. "Doc" Occult was an investigator of the weird, billed as a "Mystic Detective," or more frequently "the Ghost Detective." The "ghost breaker" is a concept from the early 20th century literature and films.
In the original Golden Age tales, Dr. Occult did not necessarily exhibit inherent super-powers. He was "sworn to combat supernatural evil in this world," and was aided by his "mystic symbol" — which looked rather like a sand dollar. He battled villains with supernatural powers such as vampires and werewolves.
The character went without an origin story until 1987, when Roy Thomas and E. Nelson Bridwell embellished Dr. Occult's early adventures in Secret Origins v.2 #17 (Aug. 1987). This story affirmed that Occult did possess innate super-powers, which he learned from his Oriental masters, the Seven. Dr. Occult was reintroduced just prior to this origin story, in All-Star Squadron #49 (Sept. 1985) and Crisis on Infinite Earths #11 (Feb. 1986). Since that time, he has become a favorite magical guest star across the DC Universe.
The first issues of New Fun were large: 10" x 15". The title was renamed More Fun with issue #7, which shrunk to 10" x 12". With issue #9, it settled into its final size of 8" x 10". The two-page installments in More Fun Comics #10–12 (May–Aug. 1936) were printed only in black-and-white, and that from #13 (Sept. 1936) was duotone colored in blue and red.
On New Year's Eve 1899, in the American Midwest, a secret coven arramged a ritual to manifest Satan by offering the souls of two infants. At midnight, an evil spirit called Koth appeared instead; he craved the souls of the tainted, not the innocent, and slaughtered the initiates instead.
This was seen afar by a group of mystics called the Seven. Their emissary, Zator, spirited the children away to the other side of the world. Zator pleaded for the Seven to show compassion for the boy and girl, and foster their mystic potential. They were given the names Doc and Rose and their powers came to include astral travel, becoming immaterial, mind control and illusion casting. The boy was more adept and was eventually given the mystic "symbol" of the Seven (a round talisman), and the name Dr. Occult. The girl became Rose Psychic and they were ordered to leave the citadel and battle evil. Note: Rose appeared only sporadically in the Golden Age tales, and was portrayed as a mildly affectionate associate.
It was the 1920s and they found their way back to America, where Rose asked Doc to choose a proper name. He went with "Richard" and enrolled in college to earn a real doctorate degree. He studied science, Rose the humanities, and in 1935, he set up shop as a "Ghost Detective" with Rose as his silent partner. (Secret Origins v.2 #17) Note: This name echoes the name of Richard F. Outcault, creator of one of the first newspaper comic strips, "The Yellow Kid."
The first Dr. Occult adventure was a four-part (and four-page) drama in which he and Rose found Mr. and Mrs. Amster in the grip of the insidious Vampire Master. After saving Mr. Amster, Dr. Occult laid a trap for the villain using Rose as bait. When the monster entered, he produced his "mystic symbol" — but it had no effect! (New Fun Comics #6) Note: The symbol changed in appearance, but modern stories base its depiction off the look of this first appearance.
Rose tried shooting the Vampire Master with silver bullets to no effect and he disappeared in a bright flash. The Master overran the city with his minions (More Fun #7) and possessed Mrs. Amster, who tried to stab her husband. She led them to the lair of the green-skinned vampire, who was tending to his scientific equipment. (More Fun #8)
The villain was bent on world domination and had created an invention that could both create and destroy life. It was Mrs. Amster who turned the tables on him by freeing Doc. Instead of capture, the Vampire Master chose to destroy his lab; everybody escaped as he went down in flames. (More Fun Comics #9)
His next adversary was the weird Methuselah, a killer who strung his victims up by the hands and muttered "strange incantations." (#10)
After Doc's butler, Jenkins, turned away a desperate stranger, the man reappeared as a werewolf! Doc rushed outside and brought the beast under his spell. (#11) He accompanied the man back to his home at Mrs. Daniels' boarding house, (#12) where the woman was revealed as the master werewolf. She nearly transformed Doc as well but he was saved by the man who'd led them there. (#13)
The most notable "Dr. Occult" story is interesting not only for its subject matter, but also the behind-the-scenes publishing drama. The final four chapters of the 'Koth and the Seven' story appeared in More Fun Comics #14–17 — but the first chapter was printed by a different publisher!
The first chapter in Siegel and Shuster's "Koth" story was printed in The Comics Magazine #1 (May 1936), by Comics Magazine Company. The path of this errant chapter can be traced by following the departure of two National employees, William H. Cook (managing editor) and John F. Mahon (business manager). More Fun #8 (Feb. 1936) was the last to credit them, after which they founded Comics Magazine Company.
In an interview with Jim Amash in Alter Ego #88, Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson (son of National's publisher Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson) asserted that the pages were stolen: "I think they were just pinched. I think those issues, they just sort-of said, 'Here's some stuff we can use,' and they changed the name and used it." Perhaps Cook and Mahon considered the pages as "payment" from Wheeler-Nicholson, in lieu of their paychecks.
For Comics Magazine #1, the character's name was changed to "Dr. Mystic" and appeared only once. (Cook and Mahon also retitled other purloined pages, including Siegel and Shuster's "Federal Men.") Regardless of the switch, the final story reads seamlessly.
When a towering figure in a mask and cape appeared over the city, Doc called upon his own supernatural abilities and grew in size to match it. After a brief struggle, he realized that the man was Zator, his old friend. Their benefactors were under attack, so the pair made themselves immaterial and traveled for India through an ethereal plane. En route they were beset by ghostlike creatures and the evil Koth. (The Comics Magazine #1)
The Seven swooped in to form a protective circle around Occult and Zator. Together their minds drove off Koth. Back in their hidden realm, the Master described Koth as an inhuman creature with a terrible hatred for the world of man. He planned to wipe out the human race using the power of a belt. Retrieving the belt from a closely guarded Egyptian tomb would be a "superhuman task," so Doc was given a special uniform of blue shorts, red cape, sword, and the protective insignia (a vaguely triangular flaming icon) on his bare chest. (#14)
When Dr. Occult jumped into battle, his sword fought seemingly of its own volition. Koth did not consider them a threat, but changed his tune when Occult obtained the powerful mystic belt. (#15) One touch of the belt sent him flying into the air! A second touch turned Koth to stone. Back among the shadowy Seven, the old men explained that eons ago Koth was the only survivor of a space expedition that crashed to Earth. He sought to prepare for a new invasion. (#16) Doc and Zator finished off the remainder of Koth's forces, using the power of the belt to effortlessly sweep them all away. Doc returned to wearing his everyday clothing before saying goodbye to Zator and the others. (More Fun Comics #17, Secret Origins v.2 #17)
When Doc met up again with Rose Psychic, they found themselves vexed by the machinations of the mad scientist called the Lord of Life. (#19-20) After Occult looked into the death of a friend, he fell silent on the phone. Rose rushed to him, only to arrive as he was declared dead! (#21) She declared her love for him as he was laid to rest. That night, grave robbers exhumed him for the Lord of Life, who then rejuvenated him. (#22) Doc and others like him were forced to commit crimes for their master, but he soon fomented a rebellion and all the Lord's victims were cured with an antidote. (#23)
Jerry Siegel wasn't afraid to be self-referential in his scripts. In one curious adventure, Doc faced an adversary named "Henri Duval" — this is the same name as Siegel and Shuster's 17th century character, whose strip had ended in New Fun Comics #10 (May 1936). Here, Duval was an artist with the power to paint into reality. He took revenge on his critics. (#24) And in Doc's later cases, he worked with Sgt. Vin Ellsworth, a character named for National Periodicals' new editors, Vin Sullivan and Whitney Ellsworth. The policeman once traveled with Occult via the supernatural plane on the hunt for a snake-god. (#27)
Other villains included a bald, vengeful scientist with the power of transmutation (#25); a "bat-man" who raised the dead with his vampiric powers (#28); spiritualist Madam Zora, whom he saved from possession by an ectoplasmic evil (#30); and a mobster/zombie master who was crushed by the ceiling above when Dr. Occult used a "dangerous and little-used power." (#31)
When the feature expanded to four pages, sometimes Joe Shuster would expand his panels to abnormally large sizes in order to accommodate the sparse copy.
In his last published Golden Age case, Dr. Occult built a new invention that enabled him locate criminals by tracking malignant thought waves. (#32)
Siegel and Shuster Comicography (1935–38)
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster produced a number of features for DC before Superman arrived. Some of the strips continued after they moved on.
- "Doctor Occult," New Fun/More Fun Comics #6–32 (Oct. 1935–June 1938) .
- "Henri Duval," New Fun Comics #6–10 (Oct. 1935–May 1936); a "Three Musketeers-style period adventure.
- "The Federal Men starring Steve Carson," New Comics #2–11 (Jan. 1936–Dec. 1936); New Adventure Comics #12–31 (Jan. 1937–Oct. 1938); Adventure Comics #32–70 (Nov. 1938–Jan. 1942). The tale in #65 was the last to bear Siegel's signature.
- "Radio Squad," More Fun Comics #11–70 (July 1936–Aug. 1941). The strip continued through #87 (Jan. 1943).
- "Calling All Cars," More Fun Comics #11–17 (July 1936–Jan. 1937).
- "Bart Regan, Spy," Detective Comics #1–55 (Mar. 1937–Sept. 1941); the series continued on through #77 (July 1943).
- "Slam Bradly," Detective Comics #1–55 (Mar. 1937–Sept. 1941). A hard boiled detective whose series lasted past the super-hero era, through Detective #152 (Oct. 1949).
- "Superman," Action Comics #1 (June 1938). Siegel's last byline was Action Comics #105 (Feb. 1947); Shuster's Action #88 (Sept. 1945).
Channeling the Golden Age
Dr. Occult made no further appearances until 1985, when Roy Thomas began to revive DC's Golden Age properties. Many of those stories were set in the 1940s.
One of the earliest meetings between 20th century magicians was in 1939, when Dr. Occult confronted Zatara and attempted to persuade him to join a new alliance of magical heroes. (Golden Age Secret Files #1) Their group later confronted Sargon the Sorcerer about his ambitions for power. (Swamp Thing v.2 #148)
Just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt formed the All-Star Squadron, calling upon any and all costumed adventurers to serve the United States war effort. (All-Star Squadron #1) In April of 1942, the All-Stars were on the trail of the evil wizard, Wotan, who had managed to imprison Dr. Occult in the South of England. When Doc regained possession of his mystic symbol, he helped the heroes and returned with them back to the States. (#49) Note: This was Dr. Occult's first modern appearance and in it, he recalls his fights with Koth, and vampires. His mystic symbol was restyled into a black-and-red disc.
At a war bond dance, Doc danced with the Phantom Lady. This was just as the great "Crisis in Time" was beginning, and his symbol reacted when the strange Harbinger arrived from the future. (#50)
He aided the Squadron on several more occasions, finally meeting the legendary Superman during their conflict with Mister Mind's Monster Society of Evil. (#53) He was instrumental in locating the missing Justice Society members by combining his power with that of Dr. Fate. (#57, 59)
Becoming "Soul Mates" with Rose Psychic
Modern representations of Dr. Occult paint him as a shared soul. Both Doc and Rose Psychic possess a single body, or presence, on Earth; only one of them could be manifest at any given time. This post-Crisis revelation was made in 1991's The Books of Magic #3, by Neil Gaiman. There are two competing explanations for how this came to be.
In a case many years hence, Dr. Occult explained to Superman, how he had come to be bonded with his love. Occult told Superman how Rose had been kidnapped by the agents of a demon called Thahn. Her body was mortally injured, and the Seven wove a spell that bound her soul to Doc's — now literally "soul mates." (Superman v.2 Annual #7)
Then in 1999's "JSA Returns" event, Dr. Occult was a key player among the All-Stars. In early 1945, Hourman stumbled upon a cell of Nazi mystics who attempted to summon Koth using Dr. Occult as their conduit. Hourman brought all of the day's magicians with him: Zatara, Dr. Fate, Sargon, the Spectre, Tor and Merlin. The latter two heroes perished during the rite, when they were consumed by hellish energies of a "soulless one." It was not Doc's foe, Koth, but a being called the Stalker. This villain imprisoned the other heroes, leaving Hourman and Dr. Occult to call in the entire Justice Society for help. After an unsuccessful battle in Washington, D.C., the Stalker created seven disciples and sent them across the globe. As usual, the JSA split up to tackle them. (All-Star Comics v.2 #1)
After each team had defeated its disciple, Dr. Occult transported them back for their last stand against Stalker. With the entire All-Star Squadron, he tapped the power of his mystic brethren and moved his soul into their soulless foe. It created a weakness that allowed the others to bring the Stalker down with force. The trauma damaged Doc's own soul; to save him, Rose Psychic appeared and escorted him to safety. Her plan was vague but she told them, "He shall have another [soul]. Even if it means I have to share mine with him." (All-Star Comics v.2 #2)
Dr. Occult was also drawn — literally — into the wartime story of JSA: Strange Adventures 8-issue limited series (2004), but he had no speaking part. Images suggested that he was a JSA member, but given the many continuity hiccups in this series, his presence should be considered apocryphal.
The Silver Age of Super-Heroes
Dr. Occult went unseen after the incident with the Stalker. He reappeared decades later when a new wave of super-heroes stepped up to battle a legion of invading aliens. These heroes eventually formed the Justice League of America. (JLA: Year One #12)
Doc witnessed the great Crisis (hinted at during the 1940s) in its manifested horror. He joined with the world's other mystics to channel their powers and draw the Anti-Monitor's Shadow Demons away from the planet. (Crisis on Infinite Earths #12)
Around this same time, he anticipated a similar distress call and helped several magicians to send power to the Swamp Thing to battle the hordes of hell. His old contemporaries, Zatara and Sargon did not survive the ordeal. (Swamp Thing v.2 #49-51)
As DC's Vertigo imprint gained momentum, DC's magicians were well-suited for tales in new, more experimental titles. In 1990, Neil Gaiman established the ground rules for magic in the DC Universe, in a four-part series called The Books of Magic. The story introduced a new twist in the nature of Dr. Occult: both Doc and Rose now shared a single body (and soul).
The Phantom Stranger gathered Dr. Occult, John Constantine and Mister E to mentor a promising young mage called Timothy Hunter. (Books of Magic v.1 #1) It was Doc's task to escort Tim through the Land of Summer's Twilight, where they met the faerie queen, Titania. When the two of them embarked on the journey, Tim was accompanied by the good Doctor, but once past the first gate, he found Rose Psychic by his side. She told Tim, "We share certain purposes in common. He is himself, as I am me." Each time they passed another doorway, Doc and Rose would switch. Rose saved Timothy from the notorious Baba Yaga, employing wisdom she had gained in her own early trials. During her time among the Seven she learned the charms and names of magic. They even traveled to the Dreaming and met its lord, Morpheus. (#3)
When the great Superman suffered a death and rebirth, Dr. Occult appeared to him and his wife, Lois Lane, and forced them to relive their recent traumas. His aim was to emphasize the fact that many unique circumstances enabled Superman's resurrection — and there could be no hope for such a miracle again. (Action Comics #692)
He maintained a private investigator's office and was called to look into a victim of sexual abuse. This woman had fallen prey to Occult's arch nemesis, the chaos demon Koth. Koth used that contact as an opening to tempt Rose Psychic away from their shared persona. Rose was tempted by desire, because she and Doc had long since abstained from — and were incapable of realizing — physical pleasures. When he found her, a brief kiss in the ethereal realms reunified their souls. (Vertigo Visions: Dr. Occult#1)
The Sentinels of Magic
Dr. Occult became a recurring guest star in the DC Universe when its magical heroes began to congregate more frequently in groups.
He reunited with his brethren with the "Trenchcoat Brigade" (a name coined by John Constantine during their mission with Tim Hunter) to settle a matter involving Mister E and a demon called M'Nagalah. Rose answered Constantine's call, and followed them to another realm where they each dreamt of their own inner demons. (Trenchcoat Brigade #1) Dr. Occult recalled his time with the Seven; as a boy he was taught to be detached from worldly things, and reprimanded if he fell prey to mundane desires. In the dream he was able to embrace Rose, but also forced to accept that he sacrificed the chance to touch his beloved in the flesh. (#3)
The most formal group of supernatural heroes was formed when the Spectre lost his host body. (The Spectre v.3 #62) The demon Etrigan tricked the Spectre into merging with the fallen angel called Asmodel and together they unleashed hell on Earth. Zatanna approached Dr. Occult first, then assembled the Sentinels of Magic, with Deadman, Faust, Madam Xanadu, the Phantom Stranger, Ragman, and Raven. They stood when even the Justice League could do no more. (Day of Judgment #1)
After Hal Jordan became the host of the Spectre, (#5) the others came together to deal with the Spear of Destiny. During their meeting, Zatanna was overtaken by the evil Wizard. He used the Spear to strike Dr. Occult — splitting he and Rose apart once more. (Day of Judgment Secret Files #1) No further mention was made of this change.
Doc also became a member of the Justice Society reserves. He joined a large number of heroes from the Golden Age and so-called "legacy heroes" in the concerted effort to expel Imperiex from Earth. (JSA: Our Worlds at War #1) He answered their call to help when the sorcerer Mordru unleashed darkness on the world. (JSA #49–51)
The Infinite Crisis brought major changes to the DC Universe. Its multiverse was restored, giving creators a playground of 52 Earths — and carte blanche to alter continuity again. In this Crisis, the Spectre became untethered once again. The Spirit of Vengeance succeeded in eradicating the universe of all its magical cornerstones, which ushered in the so-called "Tenth Age of Magic." Everything supernatural was up in the air in this new order. Dr. Occult was on-hand for the struggle to contain him, but it was a new grouping of mystics called the Shadowpact who carried the day. (Day of Vengeance #1, Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special #1)
Changes to Dr. Occult's history were made evident in a related series, 2008's Reign in Hell by Keith Giffen. Hell's rulers went to war and Earth's mystics were drawn into the fray. In post-Infinite Crisis continuity, it was revealed that Rose was killed decades ago by some evil thing. Dr. Occult accepted her final fate, until a visit from the ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dibny. They sparked the kernel of hope that the chaos in Hell could open the door for Rose's return. His symbol was now called the "Orb of the Seven," and he claimed that Zatara gave him the nickname of "Doctor." (Reign in Hell #1)
Doc conscripted the aid of a being called the Yellow Peri to be his guide to Hell's Labyrinth. (#2) But when they found Rose, she had no desire to return with them. She had resigned herself to Hell, and was now inspired by messages of hope coming from the revolutionary, Lord Satanus. (#5) She helped Doc begin his journey back, (#7) and Dr. Occult combined his power with Nightshade's to help the Shadowpact and others escape back home. (#8)
The New 52
In 2010, DC rebooted it's universe completely and again, all past continuities were subject to revision. When Dr. Occult reappeared, his past was acknowledged; he recalled his earlier days with the likes of Zatara and Sargon, and their deaths at the seance. (Swamp Thing v.2 #49) In the New 52 universe, he resided within the supernatural House of Secrets when he was visited by Nick Necro. This one-time mentor to Zatanna and John Constantine overwhelmed Occult, killing him and leaving the Symbol of the Seven lying at his side. (Justice League Dark #12)
Dr. Occult demonstrates a variety of magical and supernatural abilities that stem from his studies with the Eastern magicians called the Seven. While studying with them, he gained some innate magical abilities, derived from the application of spells. He has demonstrated a wide variety of abilities, chief among them being astral and spacial travel. He can become immaterial, control the mind, and cast illusions (which might, in fact, be the true nature of some of his demonstrations).
Upon finishing his studies he was awarded the Symbol of the Seven, which presumably granted him a portion of his masters' powers. Sometimes Dr. Occult would produce the Symbol when casting a spell, but he seemed equally adept without it.
As a master magician, he is often called upon to focus, channel, and amplify the power of other mystic practitioners.
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- All-Star Squadron #49, 50, 53, 54, 57, 59, 60
- Crisis on Infinite Earths #11, 12
- New Book of Comics #2 (Spring 1938)
- Action Comics #692 (1993)
- Secret Origins v.2 #17 (1986)
- Swamp Thing v.2 #49, 50 (1986), 148, 149 (cameos, 1994)
- Young All-Stars #3, 9, Annual #1
- Book of Fate #6, 9–12
- Day of Judgment Secret Files #1
- Day of Vengeance #1
- Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special #1
- DCU Villains Secret Files #1
- Fate #5
- Golden Age Secret Files #1
- JLA #40, 68
- JLA: Black Baptism #1, 3, 4 (2001)
- JLA: Incarnations #7
- JLA: Year One #12
- JSA #49–51
- JSA: Our Worlds at War #1
- Martian Manhunter v.2 #28
- Names of Magic #1
- Sandman v.2 #71
- Superman v.1 #683 (cameo)
- Superman v.2 Annual #7
- Teen Titans v.3 #42
- Underworld Unleashed #3
- Underworld Unleashed: Abyss — Hell's Sentinel #1
- New Fun/More Fun Comics #7–32 (Oct. 1935–June 1938)
- The Books of Magic v.1, 4-issue limited series (1990)
- Vertigo Visions: Doctor Occult #1 (1994)
- Trenchcoat Brigade, 4-issue limited series (1999)
- Day of Judgment, 5-issue limited series (1999)
- JSA Returns event (1999): All-Star Comics v.2 #1–2, plus seven one-shot tie-ins
- JSA: Strange Adventures 8-issue limited series (2004)
- Reign in Hell, 8-issue limited series (2008)
» SEE ALSO:
- Sentinels of Magic
- Wooley's History of the Comic Book 1899–1936: The Origin of the Superhero. Charles Wooley, 1986.