Kent Nelson
Doctor Fate.jpg
Kent Nelson as Doctor Fate
art by Alex Ross
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceMore Fun Comics #55 (May 1940)
Created byGardner Fox (writer)
Howard Sherman (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoKent Nelson
Team affiliationsAll-Star Squadron
Justice Society of America
Lords of Order
Justice League Dark
Justice League
Justice League International
Sentinels of Magic
PartnershipsNabu (mentor)
Khalid Nassour (apprentice)
Doctor Fate (Inza Nelson)
  • Peak human conditioning
  • Mastery of magic
  • Immortality
  • Limited invulnerability
  • Proficiency in Jujutsu
  • Skilled physician & archaeologist
  • Access to mystical artifacts such as the Helmet of Fate, Amulet of Anubis, and Cloak of Destiny that grants him additional magical powers and bolsters his sorcerous powers.

Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940) as the initial Doctor Fate originally introduced during the Golden Age of Comic Books and is the most commonly portrayed incarnation of the superhero legacy.

In the DC Universe, Kent Nelson and his father discovered a tomb that held the ancient being known as Nabu, one of the fictional Lords of Order and a Mesopotamian deity. When Kent's mind was influenced by Nabu to release him from his mystic stasis, the gas that filled the tomb killed his father. Feeling pity for the boy, he would take the young Kent Nelson as his apprentice, using his vast magical powers to age him to adulthood and groomed him into the ways of sorcery to become Doctor Fate, one of the agents for the Lords of Order. Standing out as a mystic superhero, Nelson was a member of several superhero groups over the years, including the All-Star Squadron and the Justice Society of America. Over time, Nelson struggled with both his mentor's spirit supplanting his own will and his increasingly strained relationship with his wife, Inza Cramer, due to the conflict between the Lords of Chaos and Order and its toll on himself and their social life. Nelson would find himself succeeded by numerous characters such as Hector Hall, Jared Stevens, and his grand-nephew, Kent V. Nelson.

In more recent continuities and stories, Nelson retains much of his origins, connections to both the All Star Squadron and Justice Society of America, and some of his earlier adventures. However, Nabu would eventually imprison him in the Tower of Fate, using him to manifest onto the physical plane due to no longer being able to have a physical body. He eventually regains control of his own body in a magical conflict and eventually lost the Helmet of Fate. Nelson would find that his great nephew, Khalid Nassour, was chosen by the Egyptian Gods (allies of Nabu) to become the next Doctor Fate. The two would act concurrently as Doctor Fate, the younger man serving as Nelson's apprentice to be trained as his eventual successor, and the both would serve as reoccurring characters of the Justice League Dark as advisors due to a lack of real wizards on the team on Wonder Woman's incarnation of the team.

Kent Nelson as Doctor Fate has appeared in various DC-related media, such as the television series Smallville, in which he was portrayed by Brent Stait, and the upcoming DC Extended Universe film Black Adam, in which he will be portrayed by Pierce Brosnan.[1]

Publication history

Kent Nelson as Doctor Fate debuted in his own self-titled six page strip in More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940) during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The character was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman, who produced the first three years of monthly Doctor Fate stories.[2] After a year with no background, his alter ego and origins were shown in More Fun Comics #67 (May 1941).[3]

His love interest Inza was known variably throughout the Golden Age as Inza Cramer,[4] Inza Sanders,[5][6] and Inza Carmer,[7][8][9][10] which was amended to Inza Cramer in the Silver Age.[11]

When the Justice Society of America was created for All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940), Doctor Fate was one of the characters National Comics used for the joint venture with All-American Publications. He made his last appearance in the book in issue #21 (Summer 1944), virtually simultaneously with the end of his own strip in More Fun Comics #98 (July–August 1944).

Aside from the annual JSA/JLA team-ups in Justice League of America that began in 1963, Doctor Fate appeared in other stories through the 1960s and 1970s, including a two-issue run with Hourman in Showcase #55–56, two appearances with Superman in World's Finest Comics (#201, Mar. 1971 and #208, Dec. 1971); an appearance with Batman in The Brave and the Bold (#156, Nov. 1979); and a solo story in 1st Issue Special #9 (Dec. 1975), written by Martin Pasko and drawn by Walt Simonson.

Doctor Fate and the rest of The Justice Society returned to All-Star Comics in 1976 with #58 for a two-year run ending with issue #74 and Adventure Comics #461-462 in 1978, and Adventure Comics #466 related the untold tale of the Justice Society's 1951 disbanding. Doctor Fate's origin was retold in DC Special Series #10, and Doctor Fate again teamed up with Superman in DC Comics Presents #23 (July 1980), and featured in a series of back-up stories running in The Flash from #306 (Feb. 1982) to #313 (Sept. 1982) written by Martin Pasko (aided by Steve Gerber from #310 to #313) and drawn by Keith Giffen.[12]

Beginning in 1981, DC's All-Star Squadron elaborated upon the adventures of many World War II-era heroes, including Doctor Fate and the JSA. The series ran for 67 issues and three annuals, concluding in 1987. Doctor Fate made occasional modern-day appearances in Infinity, Inc. in 1984, the same year which witnessed the 22nd and final annual Justice Society/Justice League team-up.[13] Doctor Fate also made a guest appearance in a 3-issue 1985 crossover in the pages of Infinity, Inc. #19-20 and Justice League #244. Doctor Fate then appeared in the four-part special America vs. the Justice Society (1985) which finalized the story of the Justice Society, featuring an elaboration of the events of Adventure Comics #466 and a recap of the Justice Society's annual team-ups with the Justice League.

In 1985, DC collected the Doctor Fate back-up stories from The Flash, a retelling of Doctor Fate's origin by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Michael Nasser originally published in Secret Origins of Super-Heroes (Jan. 1978) (DC Special Series #10 in the indicia), the Pasko/Simonson Doctor Fate story from 1st Issue Special #9, and a Doctor Fate tale from More Fun Comics #56 (June 1940), in a three-issue limited series titled The Immortal Doctor Fate.

Doctor Fate appeared in several issues of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which Doctor Fate briefly joined the Justice League.[14]

A Doctor Fate limited series was released soon afterwards, which changed the character's secret identity.[15] DC began a Doctor Fate ongoing series by J.M. DeMatteis and Shawn McManus in winter of 1988.[16] William Messner-Loebs became the series’ writer with issue #25.[17] The later issues of the series saw Kent's wife Inza take over as the new Doctor Fate. The series ended with issue #41.[18] Following Zero Hour, DC killed off both Kent and Inza and replaced them with a new character, Jared Stevens.

In 1999, the revival of the Justice Society in JSA allowed the character to be reworked again.[19][20] In addition to appearing in JSA, DC published a self-titled, five-issue limited series in 2003.[21] The character was killed in the Day of Vengeance limited series in 2005 as part of the lead in to the 2005 company-wide event story, Infinite Crisis.[22]

The Kent Nelson version of Doctor Fate was featured in the Dark Nights: Metal event.

Fictional character summary

Cover to More Fun Comics #61 (Nov. 1940), showing Kent Nelson as Doctor Fate. Cover art by Howard Sherman.
Cover to More Fun Comics #61 (Nov. 1940), showing Kent Nelson as Doctor Fate. Cover art by Howard Sherman.

In 1920, archaeologist Sven Nelson and his son Kent go on an expedition to the Valley of Ur. While exploring a temple discovered by his father, Kent opens the tomb of Nabu the Wise and revives him from suspended animation, accidentally releasing a poisonous gas which kills Sven. Nabu takes pity on Kent and teaches him the skills of a sorcerer over the next twenty years before giving him a mystical helmet, amulet, and cloak. In 1940, Kent meets Inza Cramer and Wotan in Alexandria, Egypt on his way back to America.[23] After arriving back in the United States, Kent begins a career fighting crime and supernatural evil as the sorcerer and superhero Doctor Fate and sets up a base in a tower in Salem, Massachusetts.[23][24]

Kent helps co-found the Justice Society of America in 1940.[25]

Kent switches to a half helmet in 1941 due to Nabu occasionally possessing him through the helmet.[26][27] Kent becomes a physician in 1942.[28] Kent later enlists in the U.S. Army and serves as a Paratrooper during World War II.[29] He resigns from the JSA in 1944 and becomes an archaeologist.[30][31]

Kent returns to crimefighting when the Justice Society reforms, again using the original helmet.[32] Sometime later, Kent co-founds a new Justice League.[33] During the Zero Hour crisis, Kent and Inza merge into Doctor Fate.[34] However, Extant uses his time-based powers to undo the magic that had kept the JSA young, which rapidly ages their bodies by several decades. The artifacts of Fate are also teleported back to Egypt, rendering Kent and Inza powerless.[35] Realizing their time is short, the now elderly couple hunt down the smuggler Jared Stevens, who had recovered the helmet, cloak and amulet. Before they can transform into Doctor Fate once more, Kent and Inza are killed when their remaining life force is drained away by demons working for the villain Kingdom. Their souls then depart into the afterlife, leaving Jared to become the new Fate.[36]

During the Blackest Night event, Kent is briefly resurrected as a member of the Black Lantern Corps.[37]

In DC Rebirth, Kent becomes Doctor Fate again when he meets his grandnephew Khalid Nassour, the current Doctor Fate. With two Helmets of Nabu, they both become Doctor Fate and fight Egyptian monsters and deities for a short period of time.[38]

Nabu later appears to Ted Kord, warning him that the Blue Beetle's scarab is magical and not science. He uses Kent's body to appear as Doctor Fate while Kent is trapped in the Tower of Fate. Kent later takes control and helps fight the enemy with Jaime Reyes and Ted Kord.[citation needed]

During the Dark Nights: Metal event, Doctor Fate assists the Justice League in defeating the Dark Nights. He forms a search team with Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl to find Nth Metal in the Rock of Eternity, where he is supposedly killed by Black Adam.[citation needed]

In the Doomsday Clock limited series, Lois Lane is mailed a flash drive which contains newsreel footage of the Justice Society, including Doctor Fate.[39] He was later seen with the Justice Society when Doctor Manhattan undoes the experiment that erased the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes.[40]

Sometime prior to the start of Justice League Dark, Nabu has taken control of the Helmet of Fate and assumes Kent Nelson's appearance as Doctor Fate.[41]

In the pages of Dark Nights: Death Metal, Doctor Fate was with Green Lantern, Flash, and Wildcat when they were shown to be guarding the Valhalla Cemetery.[42]

Skills, abilities, and resources

Considered one of the most powerful magic practitioners of the Modern Age in the DC Universe, Kent Nelson is a powerful sorcerer whose abilities combined with specific magical artifacts provided by his mentor, Nabu, makes him nearly unstoppable in battle and nearly unmatched in spellcasting. Out of all the incarnations of Doctor Fate, Kent Nelson is considered the most powerful.[43][44][45] Kent Nelson also possess other super-powers, including immortality and being nearly invulnerable due to alterations made to his body from Nabu.[43] In addition to this, Nabu's tutelage and alterations to his body raised his body to its mental and physical peak and granted him all the arcane lore and magical knowledge possessed by Nabu.[46] While primarily an archeologist,[43] Nelson is also a proficient physician in some continuities[3] and a skilled practitioner of jujutsu.

As Doctor Fate, Nelson has access to powerful talismans associated with its bearers: most powerful of them is the Helmet of Fate, acting as a repository of godly level power and containing the spirit of the Lord of Order, Nabu, the Helm of Fate (sometimes called the Helm of Thoth) bolsters his magical abilities and bestows to him typical powers given to its bearers: flight, healing, control over the natural elements (wind, fire, earth, air) and lightning, and intangibility.[47] Bearers of the helm also are bestowed the Amulet of Anubis, a magical artifact that houses a pocket dimension, can allow for communication of the dead, and increases the power of Doctor Fate's sorcery. He also is granted the Cloak of Destiny, a magical clock granting the user superhuman strength, limited invulnerability, and is considered fireproof.

Unlike other incarnations of Doctor Fate, Nelson's skills and connection to Nabu's talismans (Artifacts of Fate) is intimate enough to draw power from a distance, granting him the ability to manifest a powerful facsimile of the Helm of Fate, Cloak of Destiny, and Amulet of Anubis and use their powers without having the Helm of Fate on his persons physically.[48]

Other versions


After Mister Mind "eats" aspects of the fifty-two realities that make up the Multiverse, one of them, designated Earth-2, takes on visual aspects similar to the pre-Crisis Earth-Two, such as the Justice Society of America being this world's premier superteam.[49]

This version of Doctor Fate (based upon the Kent Nelson version of the character) along with the Spectre, suspects something is awry with Power Girl's mysterious reappearance.[50]


In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Kent Nelson works as a fortune teller in Haley's Circus. Kent tells his co-worker, trapeze artist Boston Brand, of his vision of Dick Grayson's death.[51] The circus is then attacked by Amazons who are looking to steal the helmet. Kent is impaled and killed by an Amazon before the circus workers escape with the help of Resistance member Vertigo.[52] With Boston's help, Dick escapes the Amazons' slaughter of the other circus workers and meets up with the Resistance, using the helmet as the new Doctor Fate.[53]


An alternate version of Doctor Fate, known as Doc Fate, is shown to exist on the pulp fiction-influenced world of Earth-20.[54][55] Doc Fate is an African-American gunslinger and occultist named Kent Nelson who is based in a windowless Manhattan skyscraper. Doc Fate forms and leads a team of adventurers known as the Society of Super-Heroes, which includes the Immortal Man, the Mighty Atom, the Blackhawks and the Green Lantern Abin Sur.[56]

In other media

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Live action

Brent Stait as Doctor Fate on Smallville.
Brent Stait as Doctor Fate on Smallville.



Video games

Lego games


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