Comic Art Friday: Doctor, Doctor, give me the news…

…I’ve got a bad case of loving you.

Doctor Fate and Doctor Doom, pencils and inks by comics artist Joe Bennett

Or, at the very least, I’ve got a bad case of loving this Common Elements artwork by Brazilian superstar Joe Bennett (Captain America and the Falcon, 52, Teen Titans), featuring a dynamic duo of metal-masked doctors — specifically, Doctor Fate (he’s the one in danger of being devoured by the creature that resembles the graboids from Tremors) and Doctor Doom (he’s the one towering over Fate’s plight with nefarious glee). You can click the image above for an expanded view.

Although Doctor Fate isn’t that familiar a name outside the universe of comics cognoscenti, he’s one of the oldest superheroes still going, having made his debut way back in May 1940’s More Fun Comics #55. The good Doctor was also one of the founding members of comics’ original superhero team, the Justice Society of America. He’s never been a major headliner, but he has certainly proven himself a durable character. Or, to be more precise, characters — given that several different entities (including at least two women, a disembodied spirit, and a chimpanzee) have donned Doctor Fate’s golden helmet over the course of 70 years.

For me, the one true Doctor Fate is the original — Kent Nelson, who was raised from boyhood by an ancient Egyptian sorcerer named Nabu, and schooled in the magical arts. Kent eventually becomes a physician who uses the arcane powers vested in his helmet (as well as his cloak and amulet) to battle evil. Much like his JSA contemporary, The Spectre, Doctor Fate wielded seemingly limitless supernatural might, which in turn gave him an aloof, antisocial air. These qualities made him seem perhaps less vulnerable and interesting than other heroes (and likely contributed to his lackluster popularity).

Doctor Doom, by contrast, has never had a popularity problem, having been the most prominent supervillain in Marvel Comics continuity since his debut in Fantastic Four #5 (July 1962). Pretty much every Marvel hero who’s been around for any length of time has tangled with Doom at least once, which is the only reason the megalomanical ruler of Latveria has never realized his dream of global domination.

Victor von Doom — and with a name like that, how could the poor guy not turn evil? — came to America as a young man, and was a college associate of Reed Richards (later Mr. Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four). Horribly scarred in a failed scientific experiment, Doom outfits himself with a mask and armor, setting out on a path of vengeance against those he blames for his plight — which includes just about every human being on the planet, but specifically Richards. If Reed Richards is the smartest person on Earth, Victor von Doom is a close Number Two, so the battle of wits between the two has been fought to a virtual draw for nearly five decades.

The match-up of these two Doctors illustrates (no pun intended) the kind of magic that happens more often than not in my Common Elements commissions. I provided Joe Bennett no instruction or direction about this artwork other than the two characters to be featured. The powerfully dramatic scenario you see here sprang entirely from the creativity of the artist, and came as a total — albeit pleasant — surprise to me when the piece was completed.

Which is why I choose, generally speaking, not to describe to an artist what I want drawn. Inevitably, the artist’s idea will be better than anything I’d have come up with. That’s why they’re artists, and I’m just a guy who admires and collects their work.

Next week: Our annual Best of Comic Art Friday, in which we’ll take a fond look back at my favorite acquisitions of the past 12 months.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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