by Bevan Thomas
The next installment in the Name Game, where I take the name of some DC or Marvel comics character, and construct a totally new entity from it (for either Universe-D or Universe-M, respectively), with the final result illustrated by some talented artist I know.
Today, we have Dr. Occult, who in the regular DC universe is a paranormal investigator, but who I have given a somewhat darker modus operandi.
Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: Formerly Morgan Edge
Occupation: Alchemist, sorcerer, physician
Group Affiliation: Agent of Shade
They say that somewhere in the Carpathian mountains is an ancient university known as the Black Academy. There demons give you the best possible education in the arts of sorcery and witchcraft. Tuition is easily affordable. All that it costs is your soul.
The man who would become Dr. Occult graduated from there with a doctorate in occult philosophy, majoring in alchemy and minoring in necromancy. He then got a job in a Boston hospital, posing as a surgeon named Morgan Edge. He used his occult talents to heal the wounded, all the time pursuing his own private studies. Like all true alchemists, “Mr. Edge” sought immortality, and for him there was extra motivation. The moment he died, his old tutor, the demon Abin Sur, would collect his soul.
Eventually, the hospital discovered what exactly their prized surgeon was doing with corpses after hours and “Edge” ended-up in prison. After languishing in a prison cell for three months, the alchemist woke up one morning to find someone standing in the cell with him: a tall man in a black suit and shades who introduced himself as “Mr. Jones.”
Mr. Jones offered the prisoner a deal. He would get the man out of prison and supply him with the resources and scope to pursue his experiments and in return, Edge would work for him. The alchemist agreed, not just because of what was being offered, but also because Abin Sur seemed to be afraid of the nondescript Mr. Jones, and that was intriguing.
Over the years, Edge, or rather “Dr. Occult” has become inseparable to Shade, and he is probably the individual relied upon most heavily by Mr. Jones, nicknamed the “Joker.” Not only does Dr. Occult use his abilities to heal wounded operatives, but he also maintains such pivotal resources as The Head and Deadman, and has provided many new innovations such as the solomon grundies and the hourmen. Besides if something magical needs to be analyzed, Mr. Jones knows to go to the good doctor.
Despite all these side projects, Dr. Occult has never been distracted from his most important goal, that of escaping the fate that awaits him in Hell. He is fascinated with what he’s learned of Atlantean science and especially of the Immortal Man, who once was their greatest magus. Dr. Occult wants dearly to trap Kal-El’s spirit in a bottle and steal that entity’s secrets of immortality. He is also fascinated by the stories of the Sun Emperor, and would love to know how Solaris achieved his godhood.
In all this, Abin Sur remains at Dr. Occult’s side. Usually no one else can see the demon, sometimes Dr. Occult can’t even see him himself, but he knows Abin Sur’s there, and he knows how much the monster hungers for him.
Recently, Dr. Occult’s dreams have been haunted by a huge blue monster, like a dragon with a demonic countenance. The demon has identified itself as Tomar-Re, duke of wrath, commonly known as the Blue Devil. It is an ancient enemy of Abin Sur, their wars in Hell are legend, and Tomar-Re wishes to offer Dr. Occult a deal. If the Doctor helps the Blue Devil get revenge on Abin Sur, then the Blue Devil will free Dr. Occult from his contract and his soul from Hell. The Doctor is tempted, but has learned the folly of trusting demons and so is very cautious. Besides, he is already in Abin Sur’s power, and would not like to think of what that particular demon would do to him if he discovered Dr. Occult was consorting with an old adversary.
Graduating from the Black Academy in alchemy and necromancy has put a lot of power at Dr. Occult’s fingertips. Much of his magic involves the preparation of elixirs and transmutative chemicals compounds. He is especially adept at various alterations of biological matter: the regeneration of tissue to allow people to recover from numerous wounds and diseases, the transmutation of flesh for changing the appearance and properties of individuals (such as growing wings or vastly increasing size and strength), even the alteration of brains to affect personalities and memories. Most dramatically is Dr. Occult’s creation of various “homunculi,” artificial lifeforms he grows in bottles and vats. Dr. Occult can also use his alchemy to change inanimate objects, such as turning fire to water or lead into gold, but he considers these to be minor parlour tricks compared to his power over the flesh.
As a necromancer, Dr. Occult can control human souls and cadavers. He perform rituals to summon the spirits of the dead, to make them answer his questions or predict the future, and also to possess people or haunt locations as ghosts. Dr. Occult can even impart dead bodies with the barest shard of life, creating zombies, the “walking dead.” Though often not the best in battle because of their inability to devise tactics, they do make tireless and obedient slaves, which are superb for menial tasks. Many of Shade’s janitors are zombies.
Dr. Occult knows various other magic rituals as well, including levitation, mind reading, and the rites to summon demons. However, he generally avoids magic that directly channels demonic forces these days. Because of Abin Sur, Dr. Occult is leery of getting involved with other infernal beings, though a pact with the Blue Devil is certainly tempting.
The frequent exposure to necromantic energy and alchemical works has not been kind to Dr. Occult. His skin has taken on a pallid hue, like that of a corpse and his flesh is slowly rotting away, leaving only bone. His right arm is now nothing more than a skeleton, but strangely enough can still be moved and manipulated like it were still covered in flesh. Though the arm has had no ill effects save its disquieting appearance, Dr. Occult is terrified of what will happen when the rots reaches his heart or his brain.
Because of Dr. Occult’s constant conversations with Abin Sur, Blue Devil, and other beings that regular people cannot see, many operatives of Shade seriously doubt the good doctor’s sanity and even the Joker is unsure.
Dr. Occult carries an invisible cheshire gun in an invisible holster and several vials of useful elixir in a satchel. He also regularly carries a couple of flint knives, a book of some of his most useful spells, and a small skull that he claims is his familiar.
Dr. Occult is a master of homunculi, alchemically-grown artificial beings, and thanks to the resources of Shade, he has invented highly advanced ones.
The most common Shade homunculus is a “solomon grundy.” This being can be grown to look think, and act like any kind of persona imaginable, and can even be used to perfectly impersonate a particular individual (serving as a “doppelganger”). The solomon gets its name by the fact that it only lasts for a week, just like in the poem (“Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday… died on Saturday, buried on Sunday. This is the end of Solomon Grundy”), after which the homunculus devolves into a green ichor that then dissolves into air. However, as a new solomon can be created with all the memories of the previous one, a singular identity can be maintained just as long as Shade agents switch over to a new solomon every week. Solomons are regularly used for infiltration, replacing people Shade wants replaced, and also spying in innocuous roles, often functioning as sleeper agents, totally unaware that they are part of Shade until their hidden programming is activated. Many other solomons serve as “men in black,” showing-up at paranormal events to deal with the situation and cover-up that it took place.
When exposed to a particular chemical, solomons will undergo a transformation into “hourmen.” These beings grow in size, becoming incredibly strong and fast, almost unstoppable in combat. However, their energy is used-up so quickly that hourmen do not live longer than a single hour, dissolving into their green ichor once that time is up. All Shade agents working with solomons will carry a few doses of the chemical to transform their charges into hourmen if necessary.
Supermen (and superwomen) are solomons who have been granted greater superhuman powers and are quite expensive to produce. The most prominent of these are Team Titans, Shade’s private superhero team. None of Team Titans knows they are solomons.
In a pinch, three or more solomons can be combined together to form a single entity known as a “ultraman.” These is a raging giant with numerous hands, arms, etc. It is utterly deadly in combat, especially if the solomons include some supermen. However, as ultramen are difficult to control and uses up a lot of solomons, so is only rarely performed.
Most feared of the homunculi are hunger dogs, which are savage humanoids that look like “wolfmen” and possess great strength, regenerative abilities, enhances senses, and a taste for human flesh. They serve as hunters and guards in extreme circumstances.