Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about Jared Stevens, the man called Fate.
After it was decided that the majority of the Justice Society of America were to be killed or retired after the events of 1994′s Zero Hour, the writers and editors at DC Comics had to decide who would replace them. During Zero Month, the month directly after Zero Hour ended, the Jack Knight version of Starman debuted to fill his father’s shoes. Also that month, Jared Stevens was presented as the man who would fill the gap left by Doctor Fate.
Jared was a black market artifact dealer. He would plunder ancient tombs and ruins for materials wanted by selfish men. Basically, he was a Raiders of the Lost Ark villain. While on a mission to track down the artifacts of Doctor Fate which were lost after the events of Zero Hour, Jared ran into the Kent and Inza Nelson. They had barely survived their run-in with Extant. Their bodies had been stripped of the magic that had kept them young. Looking like little more than walking skeletons, Kent and Inza teleported themselves and Jared to Doctor Fate’s old tower in Salem.
However, the three weren’t alone in the tower. A group of demons followed them and a battle broke out in the tower. During the melee, Kent and Inza were killed. In a desperate attempt at self-defense, Jared picked up Doctor Fate’s ancient amulet to use as a bludgeoning weapon. The demon he was fighting grabbed his hand and crushed it, destroying Jared’s right hand and releasing the powers contained in the amulet directly into Jared. This releasing of power set off an explosion that also destroyed Doctor Fate’s tower.
When Jared woke up, he found an ankh symbol over his eye. He also found that the Helmet of Fate he’d been carting around had been changed into a knife. His right arm was burned and disfigured. By wrapping the tattered remains of Doctor Fate’s cape around the arm allowed it to be a fully functional appendage. With Doctor Fate’s amulet powers now existing inside of him, Jared discovered that he was the balance in the world between the forces of Order and Chaos. He was now known simply as Fate.
Jared’s wardrobe was an artifact of its day. The mid-1990s was a time when useless pouches, leather jackets, and random bits of armor were all the rage. Jared fell into these cliches with arms wide open.
Though initially he wasn’t comfortable with his new role, Jared came to think that he was the best man for the job. When a collection of the various magical beings in the DCU came to Jared soon after he became Fate, Jared had to decide if he would give up his new role to someone who actively wanted the power or if he alone would keep everything in check. Having a streak of defiance in him, Jared decided that he didn’t need anyone telling him what to do.
Among the collection of magic users who came to check Jared out was Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern. After losing his ring during Zero Hour, Alan learned that the green power he possessed came from within himself, not from the external ring. He was actually powered by magic. Because of this revelation, he dropped the name Green Lantern and took the name Sentinel, though I suspect this had more to do with an editorial mandate that Kyle Rayner was to be DC’s only Green Lantern than some wonderful revelation on Alan’s part.
In any case, Alan was enraged at Jared. He thought that Jared had killed Kent and Inza in order to get Fate’s powers. It was only after several adventures together that Alan decided that Jared may have put his plundering past behind him and embraced his new role.
One of those adventures that Alan and Jared shared was a battle against the villain Nekron, one of the most powerful beings that the various Green Lanterns have ever faced. For those who remember their recent DC history, Nekron was actually the being behind the massive Blackest Night storyline from a few years ago.
Somehow, Jared and Alan were able to overcome him all by themselves.
While Jared’s new internal powers were what he seemed to use the most, the blade he wore also came in handy a number of times. Jared could mentally command the knife to fly back to his hand in case the two were ever parted. It was also sharp and mystical enough to deeply wound all manner of supernatural creatures including the demon Etrigan.
Also in Jared’s arsenal was a handful of small daggers shaped like ankhs. These too could be controlled mentally by Jared.
As his adventures continued, Jared found that his damaged arm began acting stranger and stranger. Whenever the strips of Doctor Fate’s cape was removed from his arm, a strange tentacle-like flesh began to grow. It had a mind of its own and was more of a headache for Jared than an ally.
It became apparent that his arm was now a force of Chaos. As Jared was attempting to keep a balance between Order and Chaos in the universe, it seemed fitting that an artifact of Order, like Doctor Fate’s old cape, was keeping a being of Chaos, Jared’s new arm, in check. It seemed to fit what Jared was all about.
This balance was all spelled out when Nabu returned to Jared’s life. When he’d first become Fate, Jared had been approached by Nabu to see if he would study under the Lord of Order as the previous Doctors Fate had done. Jared refused, just as he had the conclave of magicians. When Nabu came back to once again attempt to gain control over Jared, he was defeated. Jared took the time to spell out his new role in the universe.
Shortly after this battle was resolved, Fate was cancelled. However, that wasn’t the end of Jared. Less than a year after Fate ended, a new solo series for Jared was launched. This time titled The Book of Fate, this series featured a whole new origin for the three year old character. Under the guidance of a new editor and writer, it was deemed that details concerning Jared’s turning into Fate needed to be changed. Towards that end, Kent and Inza Nelson were retconned back to life long enough to personally grant Jared the powers of Fate before dying again.
This was a terrible choice from DC’s powers that be. Why Kent looked or acted like he did in this issue was never explained. It was a weird retcon that added nothing and was never mentioned again.
The Book of Fate immediately set about repeating many of the themes and plot points that the previous series had already resolved. The first major storyline involved Jared attempting to stop a war between Order and Chaos that was being fought on Earth. Again, Jared made it clear that he was working for a balance between the two opposing forces.
A few issues later, it seemed clear that now the entirety of the original Fate series had been swept away without any explanation. Suddenly, magical character from whom Jared had previously eked an ounce of respect were showing back up in his life acting as though they had no idea who he was. Alan Scott again wanted Jared to give up his role of Fate and Doctor Occult appeared to have never before met Jared, which flew in the face of Fate’s previous series.
Even more egregious of a sin was the fact that The Book of Fate was boring. During an issue which featured the climax of a battle between Jared and the Four Horsemen on the Apocalypse, Jared spent half of the issue hiding in the bathroom.
The Book of Fate was put out of its misery two issues later. It only survived twelve issues.
In 1999, the Justice Society got a new lease on life when JSA began being published. There, the remaining Golden Age heroes teamed up with the various legacy characters who were using the names of their old teammates. In the comic’s first issue, Jared appeared before the gathered JSA to warn them about an enemy coming for them. Sadly, this warning came too late to do himself any good, as Mordru had already used Jared’s own knife to kill him.
Strangely enough, this wasn’t Jared’s last living appearance in the DCU. That came the following month when he randomly showed up in the pages of a miniseries detailing the adventures of the various Charlton Comics characters to which DC owned the publishing rights. These included the Question, Nightshade, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and others. Obviously, this story took place before Jared died but it was still jarring to see Jared alive and kicking just a month after his death.
Jared’s death allowed Hector Hall to become Doctor Fate. He held that title for years until he also passed away. But, all of that is a story told elsewhere.
Though Jared held the title of Fate for five years, he was barely mentioned after he died. Perhaps it was his wardrobe, perhaps it was his snotty attitude, or perhaps it was just such a massive change from Doctor Fate to Fate that fans never gave Jared a real shot at becoming a permanent character. It didn’t help that neither of his solo series were that good. He was a blip in the history of the DCU. But sometimes, it’s necessary to recall the missteps of continuity along with the highlights.
Jeff Reid has been reading a lot of Doctor Fate related comics lately. He’s looking forward to reading something else soon. He usually talks about what he’s reading on Twitter.