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The Man in Black Called Fate (Sucks) – Thrill-O-Rama #1

March 20, 2012

I recall years ago reading an article about the old Harvey character of Fate and his eponymous title. It was in Comic Buyer’s Guide or some similar publication — can’t remember which one exactly. Anyway, it was a laudatory summation, one that praised the shadow-shrouded gent, and it was even suggested that he’d be ideally suited for a modern (re)interpretation from Neil Gaiman or a Gaimany substitute. I can’t remember what the basis was for that. But it was in there.

I filed away those positive words, and it was only a few weeks ago that I stumbled across this first issue of the inaptly titled Thrill-O-Rama, which rehashed the sporadically appearing 1940s and 1950s character for a 1960s audience. That earlier praise had me going in thinking that I’d be getting some watered down Wolfman/Colan Tomb of Dracula excellence. (I expected this for no other reason than Fate and Dracula have similar sartorial predilections and Tomb of Dracula was pretty darn good. I am stupid.)

I was WAY OFF.

Don’t get me wrong. Fate could be a cool character in a limited, well-crafted dose. But as he is, he’s pretty bad. Fate and his lame cohorts as shown in this comic — the Weaver and Cupid and Venus — formed a kind of reality TV cast before reality TV, fighting and arguing in a most undereducated manner. When I say “Reality TV,” I mean the current trend of reality TV that’s centered around an offbeat business, since Fate, at the behest of the Weaver, tampers and manipulates people’s lives — which is their family(or whatever)-owned enterprise. Think the American Chopper idiots. Hardcore Pawn. What have you. Though really the dumb reality dynamic could draw from the entire genre. Weaver and Fate Plus 8.

Witness this bickering panel from the first page (Bob Powell art, Otto Binder(“?” according to the GCD) script):

Fate, Venus and Cupid (the Joe Simon cover — and THE TITLE OF THE STORY ITSELF — advertises Hate Cupids, but all we get is one of the regular brand) in this mercifully short story play games with the destiny of a poor, hapless Greek sculptor. Entangled in the court of Saladin, it’s decreed that if he strikes a statue wrong and shatters it, he and his daughter will be condemned to death. If he strikes it right and it remains intact, their lives will be spared. SEEMS FAIR. Of course, this sap has no idea that juvenile morons can arbitrarily steer him to his doom, or that his existence is cause for much levity among these vaguely defined deities. What makes it all the more insulting, it’s an occasion to break out phrases like “dirty pool” and “THASS RIGHT, HONEY CHILE!” I am not exaggerating:

I’m glad to report that, despite Fate’s best efforts to send this poor mortal bastard to his death, a stray slap on an ass spares his life:

And he lives to chisel another day.

There is no way to adequately quantify what a douche-chill these five pages are. You wince when you read them. “Honey chile.” Yeesh.

In fairness, this isn’t the only context in which we see the Man in Black. Fate works much better as a presenter of short “What if?” vignettes — think Alfred Hitchcock and/or Rod Serling:

If the book just kept Fate to this, a Night Gallery without the paintings, he’d work. As the star of his own show, with a supporting cast akin to feeble-minded Kardashians, he’s a dismal, wretched failure. Despite his FANTASTIC clothes. And despite whatever that years old article was yammering on about. THASS RIGHT, HONEY CHILE.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    March 23, 2012 10:33 am

    Any cover promising the “man in black” that doesn’t have Johnny Cash inside deserves to be burned in a ring of fire.

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