Doctor Fate is a comic book superhero and wizard in the DC Comics universe, and a member of the Justice Society of America. He was created by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, and first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (1940).
Kent Nelson was raised by an ancient Egyptian wizard named Nabu, and appeared in 1940 as the heroic Doctor Fate in More Fun Comics #55. Among Golden Age superheroes, Fate was unusual for wearing a helm which covered his entire face.
Fate became a charter member of the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940) and remained a member for several years, departing the group following #23.
In 1941, Fate traded in his full helmet for a half-helmet, leaving his mouth exposed. Fate's popularity waned faster than many of his contemporaries, and he disappeared from the scene before the 1940s were out.
Fate was revived along with the rest of the JSA in the 1960s through the annual team-ups with the Justice League of America, who were established as residing on a parallel world from the JSA. Unlike many of his JSA cohorts, Fate did not have a corresponding JLA analogue, making him distinct in that regard (perhaps because the Silver Age revivals took a more science fictional bent, with which Fate was not essentially compatible), and perhaps boosting his long-term popularity especially considering he is the closest counterpart the company has to Marvel Comics' Doctor Strange.
Fate also teamed with Hourman in two issues of The Brave and the Bold, #55-56.
Fate was a regular member of the JSA during the All-Star Comics revival of the 1970s, as well as appearing in First Issue Special #9 (1975), in which he was drawn by Walt Simonson.
In the 1980s following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Fate briefly joined the Justice League and was the star of a 4-issue miniseries by J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, in which Nelson finally died of old age and Fate's mantle was taken up by a pair of humans who would merge into one being to become Fate (similar in this regard to Firestorm). Nelson's body was reanimated by Nabu (who was revealed to be a "lord of order") to help train the pair in their new role. The three starred in a Doctor Fate series by Dematteis and Shawn McManus.
After two years, the series and character shifted such that Nelson's wife Inza inherited the Fate mantle and starred in a year's worth of stories in which she tried to change the world for the better using her powers.
After this, DC decided to retire the classic characters, and Doctor Fate was replaced by a character named Fate, a mercenary whose weapons were the transformed helm and amulet of Doctor Fate. He starred in his own series, Fate, but it was soon cancelled.
In the late 1990s, the Fate character was retired in the new JSA series, and Doctor Fate returned in the person of Hector Hall, the former Silver Scarab, and the son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Like his father, Hall had himself been reincarnated, and assumed the mantle of Dr. Fate after a battle with the wizard Mordru, who craved Dr. Fate's power. In addition to appearing in JSA, this new Doctor Fate starred in a 5-issue miniseries in 2003.
The Golden Age Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson)
Kent Nelson was the son of an American archaeologist in the 1920s. While on an expedition to Egypt, Nelson's father opened the tomb of the wizard Nabu, and was killed for the violation. However, Nabu took pity on the orphaned Nelson and raised him himself, teaching him the skills of a wizard and bestowing upon him a mystical helm and amulet.
By 1940, Nelson had returned to the United States and housed himself in an invisible tower in Salem, Massachusetts, and embarked on a career fighting crime and supernatural evil as the hero named Doctor Fate.
Fate was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, though he left the group around 1945. As Kent Nelson, he romanced and eventually married a redheaded woman named Inza. His powers as Fate kept the two of them young through the 1980s. In 1942, he stopped wearing his full-head helm and switched to a half-helm which left his mouth and chin exposed.
It was later established through a retcon in First Issue Special #9 (1975) that the full helmet contained the personality of Nabu, who partially replaced Nelson's own personality when he donned the helm. Switching to the half-helmet left Nelson in charge, but also stripped him of much of his sorcerous might, leaving him merely strong, tough, and able to fly, essentially a second-rate Superman. Another retcon, in All-Star Squadron #27, revealed that Fate switched to the half-helm because a supervillain stole Nabu's helm and both helm and villain were cast into an alternate dimension.
Fate presumably retired - or simply disappeared from public life - in the late 1940s and was inactive through the 1950s along with most other Golden Age superheroes.
When the Justice Society reactivated in the 1960s, Fate was a member - again wearing Nabu's helmet, though how it was recovered has not been revealed. Little is known of Fate's adventures during this period save for the JSA's annual gatherings with the Justice League of America from the parallel world of Earth-1 (the JSA being on Earth-2), and a pair of adventures he shared with fellow JSA member Hourman facing the monstrous Solomon Grundy and the villainous Psycho-Pirate.
The Strausses, Inza Nelson, and Fate
Fate was also a member of the JSA in the 1970s, though he had become increasingly erratic and withdrawn from humanity, though still committed to protecting Earth against supernatural menaces. In the 1980s, Fate briefly joined the Justice League, but Nabu's magic was failing to keep Kent and Inza Nelson young, and the pair finally died. Nabu bound together a pair of humans, Eric and Linda Strauss, into a new Doctor Fate, the pair merging into one being to become the hero, but otherwise living their own lives. With Nabu animating Kent Nelson's old body, the three were active for a couple of years, until Eric was killed by Darkseid and Linda, without him, abandoned the identity.
It turned out that the Nelsons' souls had been residing in Fate's amulet. They were resurrected in new, young bodies, but this time it was Inza who had Fate's powers. As a female Doctor Fate, she spent a couple of years striving to improve the lot of humanity, later aided by Kent once he was able to regain his Superman-esque powers of earlier years. Through means unrevealed, the pair later began merging as the male Doctor Fate again.
It was this Fate who faced the supervillain Extant in the Zero Hour crisis, scattering Fate's helm, amulet and cloak, and greatly aging the Nelsons, who returned to Salem.
The artifacts were discovered by Jared Stevens, who transformed the helm into smaller weapons and began a career as a balance between chaos and order as Fate. During his one encounter with the Nelsons, the latter pair were killed by minions of a villain, and their souls returned to Fate's amulet.
The Modern Age Doctor Fate (Hector Hall)
Hector Hall as Doctor Fate
Stevens' career only lasted a few years, and in the late 1990s he was finally killed by agents of the wizard Mordru, who wanted Fate's equipment for his own uses. Nabu had arranged, however, for Hector Hall (the former Silver Scarab and son of the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl) to be reincarnated as the new Doctor Fate, and with the aid of the reformed Justice Society, this came to pass, and Hall took up the mantle.
Hall has operated as Doctor Fate from Salem since then, with Nabu - again inhabiting the helm, but no longer controlling Fate - advising him. The Nelsons' souls still reside within the amulet, and they are occasionally able to contact the outside world (including Kent once having encountered the 1990s Starman). Hall's identity is known to a clever few who have figured it out, and in his secret identity he socializes with some of the inhabitants of Salem, being on the whole more gregarious than his predecessors.
The parents of Hector's current body are the late Hank Hall (no relation) and Dawn Granger, better known as the super-heroes Hawk and Dove. Since they were empowered by the Lords of Chaos and Order respectively, the new Doctor Fate is, like Stevens, an agent of balance.
Most recently, Nabu has made an attempt to take control of Doctor Fate, and he has been trapped in the amulet by the Nelsons. At the same time, Hector's wife Lyta (a.k.a. Fury) was revealed to have been imprisoned by Nabu to manipulate Hector. They are now reunited.
Notable is that Hector is the father of Daniel, the current Dream of the Endless.
Powers and abilities
Doctor Fate possesses a wide variety of powers. In general, he can fly, is resistant to damage, and has greater-than-human strength. He is susceptible to toxins in the air, however.
At his most potent, Fate is an accomplished sorcerer, able to match most other wizards in the DC Universe, but not as powerful as true extra-human beings such as The Spectre. Fate has been observed throwing bolts of mysical energy, crafting solid objects out of energy a la Green Lantern, and transforming objects into other kinds of matter. The full limits of his magical skills are unknown.
Over time, Doctor Fate has evolved to be somewhat similar to Marvel Comics' Doctor Strange, in that both possess amulets which can emit beams of light, and both live in mysterious abodes filled with mystical books and objects. Fate is considerably more withdrawn from humanity in both demeanor and locale than is the Manhattan-based Strange.
Doctor Fate has guest appeared in animated form on Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and became a member of the Justice League in Justice League Unlimited. The Doctor Fate in those series is the Kent Nelson version. In Superman: The Animated Series he was voiced by George Del Hoyo. In his return appearances in the Justice League series, he is now voiced by Oded Fehr.