Who's This? The oldest character in Who's Who.The facts:
Siegel and Shuster's first character for DC Comics, appearing very early in New Fun (which would become More Fun Comics) #6, wayyyyyyyy back in 1935. He was a ghost breaker type who investigated, well, the occult in that book until issue #32 (basically until his creators started focusing on Superman). As an interesting historical note, he wore a skin-tight costume and cape while in the astral plane in one story, beating Superman to the p.j.s. When he showed up in Who's Who and All-Star Squadron in the mid-80s, he had not been seen since 1938. Since then, he's appeared more, in large part thanks to Vertigo and proto-Vertigo as a member of the so-called Trenchcoat Brigade, though he only got one special to his name. He's mostly been seen hanging around supernatural crossover events like Reign in Hell and Day of Judgment, though there are notable guest-starring roles in The Book of Fate, JSA: Strange Adventures, Swamp Thing, and Batman/Superman.How you could have heard of him:
The New52 did make him show up in Justice League Dark, Constantine and others, as the keeper of the House of Secrets, but was killed off within a year. He was just glimpsed in the Lazarus Planet event.Example story:
More Fun Comics #29 (February 1938) "The Spectral Killer" by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
This frightening tale features Ed Murphy, convicted stranger, on the day of his execution by electrocution. And Dr. Occult is present when he's led to the execution chamber (but does not witness his death). I have to say that I didn't think this is how electric chairs worked:
Not sure why Occult was at the prison, some other case perhaps, but after it's all over, he's worried about Murphy's last words - a curse, that he would come back to this world after his death and kill all the spectators! And indeed, a few days later, they are all dead - strangled! Dr. Occult swears to thwart this spectral killer. But how?
He thinks and thinks, and sleeps on it, but it seems Murphy's ghost has moved on to the next best victims, the people who were out in the hall while he was taken to the fryer. Mystic symbol time!
And that's it? Didn't have to do any detective work. Didn't save any lives. And deus ex machinaed the ghost in a single page before he was done in.
It's a short one all right, but then, they all were. The nature of New Fun, reprinting a lot of newspaper comic strips along with some new material, meant Dr. Occult usually had a single page to himself, and his stories wrapped up in a couple pages. Late in his run, he gets a whopping FOUR pages, and it's still very cursory, because Shuster opts for big panels instead of condensed, claustrophobic layouts. Superheroes displaced him - More Fun would still make them occult; it was the home of Dr. Fate and the Spectre - and because his stories ended so early, he was largely forgotten even when occult detectives made a comeback. Comics starring Dr. Thirteen and the Phantom Stranger could have been his big revival. It wasn't until comics historian Roy Thomas dug him up 50 years after his debut that readers started getting interested. I still am. He's got a great name, for one thing. And all the stuff with Rose Psychic sharing his body now seems resonant in this post-gender world. Who knows, he might get another shot.Who's Next?
A radioactive skeleton.