Dr. Occult

+ Rose Psychic

Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

NAME + ALIASES:
Dr. Richard Occult

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Rose Psychic (adoptive sister)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS: All-Star Squadron, Sentinels of Magic

FIRST APPEARANCE: New Fun Comics #6 (Oct. 1935)

History

Dr. Occult was the first super-hero created for a comic book. Many assert that Superman holds this title, which is not technically true since Dr. Occult was both super-powered and he wore a colorful super-hero costume (though it was only for one adventure). Both characters were created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and many features of Doc's strip were andecedents to Superman. While the creators struggled for years to find an outlet for their Übermensch concept (their first stab dates all the way back to 1933), features like "Dr. Occult" functioned 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 indiscernable 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 would require more resources, and National shut down "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" was a concept from the early 20th century literature and films.

In the original Golden Age tales, Dr. Occult usually did not always 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 with richer details 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.

Secret Origins

Doc and Rose are saved from evil Koth by their mentor, Zator. From Secret Origins v.2 #17 (1987); art by Howard Simpson, and Bob Lewis.
Dr. Occult produces his "mystic symbol" to save his partner, Rose Psychic, from the Vampire Master. From New Fun Comics #6 (1935); art by Joe Shuster.
Rose jumps into the fray. From More Fun #7 (1936); art by Joe Shuster.
While Doc is held captive, Mrs. Amsters (not Rose) lunges at the Vampire Master. From More Fun Comics #8 (1936); art by Joe Shuster.
Doc brandishes his mystic symbol (which looks quite different from its first appearance). From More Fun Comics #11 (1936); art by Joe Shuster.
This looks familiar; Doc is given a special costume for his battle with Koth. From More Fun Comics #14 (1936); art by Joe Shuster.

Their story began Dec. 31, 1999 in the American Midwest. There a secret coven conducted 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 he slaughtered the initiates.

This was watched from far away by another group called the Seven. Their emissary, Zator, spirited away the children to the other side of the world. Zator pleaded for the Seven to look after the children, one boy and one 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 named Dr. Occult. The girl became Rose Psychic and they were ordered to leave the citadel and battle evil. Note: Rose's role in the Golden Age tales was minimal. She was written casually

It was the 1920s and they found their way back to America, where Rose asked Doc to choose a proper name. He chose "Richard" and enrolled in college to earn the "Dr." part of his name. He studied science, Rose the humanities. In 1935, he set up shop as a "Ghost Detective" with Rose (now Rose Psychic) as his silent partner. (Secret Origins v.2 #17)

The first Dr. Occult adventure was a four-part (and four-pages total) 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 helped to laid a trap for the villain using his partner, Rose Psychic as bait. When the monster entered, he produced his "mystic symbol" (which looks like a sand dollar) — but it had no effect! (New Fun Comics #6) Note: The symbol changed in appearance, but modern appearances 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 armed with an "ancient mystic symbol" 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 he'd previously helped. (#13) Note: Dr. Occult's mystic "symbol" was originally weilded like (and resembled) some sort of small cross. In post-Crisis appearances, the artifact was retooled into a black-and-red circular object with seven segments.

Swiped!

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 parts of the 'Koth and the Seven' story appeared in More Fun Comics #14–17 — but the first chapter was printed by a different publisher!

 
Two chapters of the "Koth" story, from different publishers. Left: "Dr. Mystic" meets his old friend, Zator; from The Comics Magazine #1 (May 1936). Right: Dr. Occult dons a cape to fight Koth, and using a special belt, he also flies into the air! From More Fun Comics #16 (1937).

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.

In Comics Magazine #1, the character's name was changed to "Dr. Mystic" and it appeared only that once. Cook and Mahon also retitled other 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 supernatual 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)

Back at the citadel of the ancient magicians called "the Seven," Dr. Occult was given a special sword and outfitted in battle gear: a cape and tights. Koth's prize was a magic belt, so Doc was sent to Egypt after the same. Occult donned the belt, whose power sendt him into the air. With another touch, the belt turned their adversary 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. (More Fun Comics #14-16)

The Seven swoop in, in ghostly form to form a protective circle around Dr. Occult and Zator. Their minds drive off Koth. After in their hidden realm, the master describes Koth as an inhuman creature with a terrible hatred for the world of man. He plans to wipe out the human race and they must secure the power of a belt that lies in a closely guarded Egyptian tomb. It is a "superhuman task." He's given a special uniform of blue shorts, red cape, and the protective symbol of the Seven (a vaguely triangular flaming icon) mon his bare chest. Also a sword then goes with Zator to Egypt. Ghosts flee from the symbol. 14

Dr. Occult and Zator are promptly attacked. When Occult jumps into battle, his sword fights nearly of its own volition. Koth says to slay him would bee too merciful, why not derive entertainment from the battle? He changes his tune when he learns of the powerful belt they seek. Dr. Occult obtains the belt. 15

When Doc met Koth's forces, he effortlessly swept them all away using the power of the belt. Doc returned to his regular clothing before saying goodbye to Zator and the others. (More Fun Comics #17, Secret Origins v.2 #17)

From More Fun Comics #19 (1937); art by Joe Shuster.
This episode, featuring a vampiric "bat-man," was reprinted in black-and-white in an ashcan titled Double Action Comics #2 (Jan. 1940, originally from More Fun Comics #28, 1938); art by Joe Shuster.
From More Fun Comics #31 (1938); art by Joe Shuster.

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) When Occult looked into the mausoleum of Nita Crane, he found it empty, and his call to Rose went dead. By the time she arrived on the scene, Dr. Occult was declared dead. (#21) Rose declared her love for Doc as he was laid to rest. That night, robbers exhumed him for the Lord of Life, who then brought him back to life. Doc discovered that Nita had also been revived (#22) and they were forced to commit crimes for their master. Dr. Occult 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 scrips. 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). 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's new editors, Vin Sullivan and Whitney Ellsworth. The policeman travelled with Occult via the supernatural plane on the hunt for a snake-god. (#27)

Other villains included a bald, vengeful scientist used 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 the panels stretched to artificially large lengths 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 became a hit. Some of the strips continued after they moved on.

  1. "Doctor Occult," New Fun/More Fun Comics #6–32 (Oct. 1935–June 1938)
  2. "Henri Duval," New Fun Comics #6–10 (Oct. 1935–May 1936); a "Three Musketeers-style period adventure
  3. "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.
  4. "Radio Squad," More Fun Comics #11–70 (July 1936–Aug. 1941); the strip continued through #87 (Jan. 1943)
  5. "Calling All Cars," More Fun Comics #11–17 (July 1936–Jan. 1937)
  6. "Bart Regan, Spy," Detective Comics #1–55 (Mar. 1937–Sept. 1941); the series continued on through #77 (July 1943)
  7. "Slam Bradly," Detective Comics #1–55 (Mar. 1937–Sept. 1941). A hard boiled detective whose series lasted past the super-hero era. The series continued on through Detective Comics #152 (Oct. 1949).
  8. "Superman," Action Comics #1 (June 1938). Siegel's last byline was Action Comics #105 (Feb. 1947); Shuster's Action #88 (Sept. 1945)

Post-Golden Age

Doc sacrifices part of this soul to defeat the Stalker, and Rose shows up to fix him. From All-Star Comics v.2 #2 (1999); art by William Rosado, John Dell and Ray Kryssing.
Wait, Doc was in the Justice Society? From JSA: Strange Adventures #6 (2004); art by Barry Kitson and Gary Erskine.

Dr. Occult made no further appearances until 1985, when Roy Thomas began a revival of Golden Age DC properties. Many of those stories took place around 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)

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 was able to regain possession of his mystic symbol, he helped the heroes and accompanied them back to the States. (All-Star Squadron #49) Note: This was Dr. Occult's first modern appearance and in it, he recalls his fights with Koth, and vampire battles. His mystic symbol is retooled into a red-and-black disc.

At a war bond dance, Doc danced with the Phantom Lady. This was just ast 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)

allied with his mystical brethren when they came to confront Sargon the Sorceror about his ambitions for power (Swamp Thing v.2 #148)

The JSA Returns

In 1999, to celebrate bringing the Justice Society back to regular publication, DC created the "JSA Returns," a multi-part event, set in the time of World War II. Dr. Occult was a key player among the All-Stars in this tale. Writer James Robinson cleverly used the story to explain how Dr. Occult had come to be "merged" with Rose Psychic as well (as had been revealed in 1991's The Books of Magic #3)

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 other working magicians with him: Zatara, Dr. Fate, Sargon, the Spectre, Tor and Merlin. The latter two of these perished when, during the rite, 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. He gathered the entire All-Star Squadron and engineered the final plan. 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) Whatever Rose's method, after this Dr. Occult became an entity composed of both his and Rose's souls. Only one of them could be manifest at any given time.

Dr. Occult was drawn — literally — into the wartime story of JSA: Strange Adventures 8-issue limited series (2004), but he never had a speaking part. It was suggested that he was a JSA member, but given the many continuity hiccups in this series, his involvement should be considered apocryphal.

The Silver Age of Super-Heroes

JLA: Year One #12 1998

Decades later, Doc witnessed the great Crisis 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, Zataraand Sargon did not survive the ordeal. (Swamp Thing v.2 #49-51)

Post-Crisis

Just what is Doctor Occult? From The Books of Magic #3 (1991); art by Charles Vess.

As DC's Vertigo imprint gained momentum, its magicians were well-suited for tales in this new, more experimental realm. In 1990, Neil Gaiman reestablished some 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.

Doctor Occult joined a group of four magicians gathered together by the Phantom Stranger 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, it was 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. She explained how she employed wisdom gained in her own early trials, during her time among the Seven, when she learned the charms and names of magic. They even traveled to the Dreaming and met its lord, Morpheus. (#3)

Dr. Occult visits Superman just after his return from the dead, and Lois Lane, they met during Superman's first year, a tale never told. Superman says mentions of him appear in the Planet back to 1935. He makes them relive his death explaining how the sun was infusing him but not fast enough. In the in-between state his spirit was prey to demons, protected by the spirit of his recently decease father. Occult explains that all these things happening together are the only reason he was able to come back to life, and it could never be repeated. (Action Comics #692)

Active in adventuring. Merged with partner Rose Psychic sometime during World War II. There are two differing accounts of this merge. In All-Star Comics v.2 #2, Rose stepped in to share her body and soul with the injured Dr. Occult. And in Superman v.2 Annual #7, it was Rose who died at the hands of the demon Thahn. "The Seven" then saved her somehow.

1994 (Vertigo Visions: Doctor Occult#1)

Post-Zero Hour

Sandman v.2 #71 1995

Superman v.2 Annual #7 1995

(1999)... (Trenchcoat Brigade )

Fate #5 1994 Book of Fate #6, 9, 10–12late 90s

The Sentinels of Magic

The group of mystics who began calling themselves the Sentinels first came together over the Spectre's search for a new host. It began when the Demon, Etrigan, tricked the Spectre into merging with the angel, Asmodel. Together, they subdued Neron and unleashed hell on Earth. It was Dr. Occult who began gathering an army of mystics to stop him as the Sentinels of Magic. (Day of Judgment #1)

1999(Day of Judgment 5) Day of Judgment Secret Files #1

DCU Villains Secret Files #1 1999

Golden Age Secret Files #1 2001

JSA: Our Worlds at War #1 2001

Martian Manhunter v.2 #28 2001

Names of Magic #1 2001

JLA #40, 68 2000 2002

JLA: Incarnations #7 2002Orkus, leader of the Appellaxian race, displaces Gaea and possess the Earth itself. With the help of the Sentinels of Magic, the JLA open a doorway to the alien's dimension. There they meet Arjax, a rebel who helps them overthrow Orkus. JLA: Incarnations #7 (Feb. 2002)

JSA #49–51 2003

Day of Vengeance #1, 4 Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special #1 2005

Kid Devil's origin: He was sent to live with his aunt Marla, a Hollywood producer. He was on the set of the Blue Devil movie when Daniel Cassidy was transformed. He then made his own suit and spear but never gained the Devil's approval. Eddie's parents retired and left him with Marla. He met the second Robin and helped Young Justice near their end. Marla was killed in a helicopter accident then Cassidy was killed by the Mist. Eddie was rejected by the Everyman project and was approached by a stranger who offered him a candle. He sought Zatara's advice, who said the candle was a demon stick. Eddie lit the candle which took them to Neron. Neron says he'll give him his heart's desire if he can agree that his trust in Blue Devil could never be broken. If that happens, Eddie must become Neron's protégé on his 20th birthday. Eddie agrees, then Neron tells him that Blue Devil was responsible for Marla's death; he refused to believe it. After that, Zatara helped him join the Titans and they fought Kid Crusader. Kid Devil gains entry to the Oblivion Bar to see Blue Devil (who's not there). The Shadowpact send him to find Faust. Faust helps him find Cassidy, who is after Rath. Finally Eddie finds Danny and confronts him and he doesn't deny it. He loses his trust and accepts his fate, but keeps the secret. Teen Titans v.3 #42

1995 Underworld Unleashed #3

Underworld Unleashed: Abyss — Hell's Sentinel #1

2001, 4-issue limited series (JLA: Black Baptism)

2008 (Reign in Hell)

Notes

Lord Dynamo offers his considerable scientific and cultural gifts free to humankind — in exchange for Green Lantern's power ring and Starman's cosmic rod. Johnny Thunder begins and internship at Amazing Stories magazine. He relates his origin to Jack. NOTES: A portrait of the JSA oddly shows Doctor Occult as a member. JSA: Strange Adventures #2 (Nov. 2004)

+ Powers

....

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

Pre-Crisis:

  • All-Star Squadron #49, 50, 53, 54, 57, 59, 60
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths #11, 12
  • New Book of Comics #2 (Spring 1938)

Post-Crisis:

  • 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

Post-Zero Hour:

  • Book of Fate #6, 9, 10–12
  • Day of Judgment Secret Files #1
  • Day of Vengeance #1, 4
  • Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special #1
  • DCU Villains Secret Files #1
  • Fate #5
  • Golden Age Secret Files #1
  • JLA #40, 68
  • JLA: Incarnations #7
  • JLA: Year One #12
  • JSA #49–51
  • JSA: Our Worlds at War #1
  • JSA: Strange Adventures #2 (2004)
  • 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

» SERIES:

  • New Fun/More Fun Comics #7–32 (Oct. 1935–June 1938)
  • 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): Adventure Comics v.2 #1, All-American Comics v.2 #1, All-Star Comics v.2 #1, National Comics v.2 #1–2, Sensation Comics v.2 #1, Smash Comics v. #1, Star-Spangled Comics v.2 #1, Thrilling Comics v.2 #1
  • JLA: Black Baptism, 4-issue limited series (2001)
  • JSA: Strange Adventures 8-issue limited series (2004)
  • Reign in Hell, 8-issue limited series (2008)

» SEE ALSO: