By now, you may have heard that Pierce Brosnan, best known for playing James Bond in the mid-‘90s to early 2000s, has been cast to play Doctor Fate in Black Adam. Unless you are well-versed in comic book lore, you might not have heard of this character before, but assume he is, perhaps, some DC version of Doctor Strange. Well, as it turns out, you would not too far off as he is actually one of many DC magic users throughout the publisher’s history.
So, what sort of fate and fascinating abilities should we expect from Pierce Brosnan’s role in Black Adam? On that note, what other characters from the comics have we seen (or should expect to see) in DC movies or on DC TV shows who can do the same sorts of things that Doctor Fate can? Some of the greatest (or even gravest) demonstrations of mystic arts seen in the DC Universe have been the work of the following seven characters, starting with the man of the magic hour.
Former archaeologist Kent Nelson became a founding member of the Justice Society of America as Doctor Fate (or simply “Fate”), whose powers were then defined as more scientific. The more current interpretation cites his helmet as the main source of his mystical abilities, including clairvoyance, bringing people back from the dead, and some others he has even managed to learn on his own. Several people would go on to hold the Doctor Fate title, such as the son of Hawkman - Aldis Hodge’s Black Adam character - but he is an incarnation who could be saved for other upcoming superhero movies down the road.
Speaking of archaeology, 2016’s Suicide Squad depicted June Moone (Cara Delevingne) as such an explorer, but in her 1966 origin story from DC’s Strange Adventures, she is a freelance artist who attended a costume party in a castle where she was bound with a magical spirit known as Enchantress. Not to be confused with the villainous Asgardian goddess otherwise known as Amora from the Marvel Universe, Enchantress is, supposedly, the Number One caster of spells in the world, but can only project energy, fly, and perform various other abilities when Moone releases her from inside - kind of like how Billy Batson becomes Shazam. Enchantress living within June Moone has been a constant of the character, unlike her commitment to sticking with crimefighting or spreading villainy.
A recent incarnation of this DC character (whom Macon Blair played on the cancelled Swamp Thing series) that I would really like to see portrayed onscreen is actually the reincarnation of Judas Iscariot, cursed to redeem himself after betraying Jesus Christ. Yet, a future depiction of the Phantom Stranger will more likely resemble his original conception from 1952: an anonymous, noir-style detective with nearly unparalleled magic skills, but cursed to always appear unfamiliar to any living person. If not in his own horror movie adaptation or TV show, maybe he might cameo on the new Justice League Dark series for HBO Max.
Undoubtedly going to appear in said HBO Max series is one of the founding of members of Justice League Dark, Zatanna Zatara, who is feared and famous for being one of Earth’s most powerful sorcerers and one of the few who uses her powers to both protect and entertain as a stage magician on the side. As a Homo Magi, Zatanna is naturally gifted with magical abilities such as shapeshifting, reality alteration, phasing into a phantom form, and manipulation of various elements such as light, water, or fire. She has studied occultism intensely and has attempted to learn a few extra spells on her own the traditional way, but without much difficulty.
Both a fellow founding Justice League Dark member and love interest (sometimes) of Zatanna is John Constantine, who also has genius-level experience in occultism and is an extremely talented magician. While he is not a Homo-Magi like his on-and-off flame, the Liverpudlian detective (who debuted in DC’s Hellbalzer comic) has been practicing mystic arts since his teens, made easier with the demon blood that once ran through his veins, which also allowed him to withstand magical attacks that would prove fatal to an average human. Constantine, once played by Keanu Reeves but more recently (and accurately) by Welsh actor Matt Ryan, is powerful enough to stop time, create bolts of lightning, and even used a deception spell to convince Darkseid that he was dead.
Raven could essentially be considered the “goth” member of the Teen Titans by her dark clothing and equally dark personality, but her even darker origin story justifies it. She was conceived when her occultist human mother was raped by the powerful demon lord known as Trigon, who has attempted to use his own daughter as a vessel through which he can crossover into Earth - so she has all of that to deal with. On the bright side, Raven’s Azarathian physiology has allowed her to possess demonic powers such as astral projection, absorption and manipulation of other people’s emotions, and teleportation between different dimensions.
Our list certainly has its fair share of truly powerful beings, but none yet with a legacy that dates back centuries before the establishment of DC Comics. Such is the case for Circe, who was originally a figure of Greek mythology best known for her capture of Odysseus in Homer’s epic Odyssey poem before writer by Robert Kanigher and illustrator by Harry G. Peter reimagined her as a recurring Wonder Woman villain in 1949. Being an immortal demigoddess, her levels of power as a sorceress are stronger than most, allowing her to control minds, control realities, or transform any person or object into a creature of her choosing, to name a few.
It is quite a challenge to create a comic book character of such immense and, sometimes even unlimited, supernatural abilities and still find a way to make them complex, unique, and somewhat relatable to human audiences. I would say that the above seven sorcerers and magicians are a good indication that it is possible to ground someone so larger than life to that level. Based on how you see yourself in them, or even just by what you wish you were capable of, who is your favorite magical being in the DC universe?
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.