KNOWN RELATIVES: Inza Cramer Nelson (wife, deceased), Sven Nelson (father, deceased),
Celestine Babcock (mother, deceased), unnamed grandparents, Aaron Babcock (uncle, decease)
GROUP AFFILIATIONS: Justice Society of America, All-Star Squadron, Justice League
FIRST APPEARANCE: More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940)
Nabu the Wise
NAME + ALIASES: None
KNOWN RELATIVES: Not applicable
GROUP AFFILIATIONS: Lords of Order
FIRST APPEARANCE: More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940)
Doctor Fate III
NAME + ALIASES: Inza Cramer Nelson
KNOWN RELATIVES: Kent Nelson (Doctor Fate, husband), Inza Fox (uncertain)
GROUP AFFILIATIONS: Unofficial member of the JSA
FIRST APPEARANCE: As Inza: More Fun Comics #55 (Apr. 1940)
As Doctor Fate: Doctor Fate #25 (Feb. 1991)
Doctor Fate is one of the DC universe's leading mystic heroes and most popular, perennial supporting characters. He has starred in several of his own solo series, but more often as a powerful costar and longtime member of the Justice Society of America. Although his Golden Age incarnation lasted only four years, he was reintroduced in Justice League of America #21 (Aug. 1963). Dr. Fate was one of the most frequent participants in the annual JLA/JSA team-ups, and had a few 1970s solo adventures.
In his earliest appearances, Doctor Fate had no origin or human identity; in All-Star Comic #3 (Winter 1940), he told the JSA that he was a creation of "the elder gods." The origin story was told in More Fun Comics #67 (May 1941), over a year after his first appearance, revealing that his real name was Kent Nelson. Paul Levitz and Joe Staton expanded that tale in DC Special #10 (Apr. 1978), adding many details, such as the true nature of Kent Nelson's mentor, Nabu, as a Lord of Order.
A few years later, Roy Thomas expanded the mythos, providing an explanation in All-Star Squadron #23 (July 1983) for Fate's change to wearing a half-helmet, and his reduced powers during his later Golden Age adventures (beginning with More Fun Comics #72, Oct. 1941). His origin was retold in All-Star Squadron #47 (July 1985). The recap added some human depth and also wove in the events of Fate's first appearance from More Fun #55 (May 1940).
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths reordered the DC universe, the history of DC's Golden Age was upended. Doctor Fate was relaunched in 1987. The character joined the new Justice League and starred in his first solo miniseries, by League creators J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. The series reimagined Fate and revived a mostly-ignored element from the Levitz/Staton origin — that rather than studying with Nabu for years, Kent had been magically aged to adulthood. Roy Thomas then combined all those elements into another recap in Secret Origins vol. 2 #24 (Mar. 1988).
Over the years, much has also been added to the earlier history of Nabu in ancient Egypt, linking Fate's power to ancient gods not only from Egypt, but from pre-colonial Mexico and other parts of Mesopotamia. Beginning in the mid-1970s, most stories indicated that when Kent Nelson donned the Helm of Fate, his personality and will were subsumed by Nabu. (This was first established in 1st Issue Special #9, Dec. 1975.) Through the 1987 miniseries, references to the power of "Fate" are usually synonymous with "Nabu."
Ancient Times: Nabu the Wise
The Lords of Order were the earliest sentient beings in the universe, and settled on the planet Cilia. These immortals pledged an eternal war on their equals and opposites, the Lords of Chaos. The Lords of Chaos chose to colonize Earth, an untamed where they could spread their influence on mankind. In response, the Lords of Order chose one of their own to live in exile on Earth as its guardian. This Lord of Order arrived in ancient Egypt, took the form of man and called himself Nabu the Wise. He became a servant of the pharaohs and helped battled the Lords of Chaos.
For millions of years neither could gain an advantage, until 3500 BCE, when an outspoken Lord of
Order called Nabu challenged the Lords of Order. Nabu was punished and banished to Earth to live as a man. Nabu's supernatural abilities enabled him to take the guise of an Egyptian mage and become an aide to the pharaohs
of Egypt. (JSA
Nabu became the keeper of several powerful talismans. In the 26th century
BCE, he created the Scarab of Kha-ef-re with the help
of a time traveler from the 20th century. This was an attempt to overthrow
Vandal Savage, who was at that time the pharaoh called Khafre. (Regardless,
the Scarab was lost for 4,500 years before being rediscovered in the
20th century by archaeologist Dan Garrett, who became the first Blue
Beetle.) (Time Masters #6)
Nabu's most powerful talisman, the Amulet of Anubis was
created a few centuries later (c. 2025 BCE), but the circumstances are
not certain. According to the devious creatures called Flaw & Child,
Nabu commissioned the Amulet
of Anubis from the Cutter of the magical Gemworld. The Cutter claimed that the god Anubis pretended it was his own. (JSA #42) In the
Egyptian city of Bubastis, the mad priest Khalis slayed
his followers in the name of the god Anubis (a Lord of Chaos), who then granted Khalis
the Amulet of Anubis as a reward for his service. Nabu defeated Khalis and mummified him alive as punishment for
his crimes. Nabu claimed the Amulet and used it to increase his godly power
on Earth. (1st Issue Special
Who Update '88 #2) Whatever its origin,
this Amulet then became a sort of home to the Lords of Order.
During the reign of pharaoh Ramses (c. 1260 BCE), Nabu became a royal
adviser and court magician. He was humbled in battle with
the Spectre when the pharaoh ordered all Hebrew children under the age of five drowned in the Nile. The "Wrath of God" (the hostless Spectre) was sent to kill the pharaoh. Nabu stumbled onto this scene and his magicks were useless against the Spectre, which passed through Nabu and caused him extreme pain.
The two met again about ten years later, when the Spectre was sent to kill all the first born children of Egypt. Nabu was warned by the Phantom Stranger and fashioned a new artifact to help focus his power—the Helm of Nabu. Still, Nabu's power was inferior because the Spectre's master was also the creator of the Lords of Order and Chaos. (The Spectre vol. 3 #14)
Nabu was witness when a Thanagarian starship crashed in Egypt. From it Nabu recovered a
portion of the anti-gravity metal that powered the ship, called "Nth
metal" by the dying pilot. With his ally, Teth-Adam, he used
a portion of the Nth metal to forge a war gauntlet called
the Claw of Horus, which they foretold would be instrumental
in a battle thousands of years in the future. (JSA #22) NOTE: Nth metal comes from the Hawkman mythos. In the Golden Age it was actually called "Ninth Metal," and it was used in Hawkman's wings in order to achieve flight. In pre-Crisis history Nabu existed on Earth-Two and the Thanagarian Hawkman existed on Earth-One, so there may have been no connection in that continuity.
After many centuries,
Nabu's mortal form became too weak. He placed
himself in suspended animation inside a ziggurat in the Valley of Ur to await
a suitable disciple. The tomb lay undiscovered until the early 20th century, when it was uncovered
by archaeologist Sven Nelson and his 12-year-old son, Kent. (DC Special #10)
NOTE: Nabu also appeared in a tale from Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 #19 (1991). This story is no longer a part of any continuity. In it, the Legionnaire Ultra Boy was transported from the 30th century to circa 2006 BCE. Nabu sensed his arrival and monitored Ultra Boy for months, saving him from a Lord of Chaos and eventually helping him return to the future. Nabu appeared wearing his helmet.
The Golden Age
Nabu consoles young Kent Nelson. From More Fun Comics #67 (1941); art by Howard Sherman.
Nearly five millennia later, in 1928, a young boy named Kent Nelson was born to Celestine Babcock Nelson, a spiritualist, and Sven Nelson,
an archaeologist. Kent's mother came from a family with mystical inclinations. His uncle, Aaron could communicate with spirits, and passed some of this knowledge on to Celestine. As... fate would have it, Celestine's brother Aaron would one day draw Doctor Fate to 1910 and Kent would meet his mother and uncle. (Doctor Fate vol. 2 #32) The story of Kent's mother was otherwise untold.
In 1940 Kent and his father went on an archaeological dig to the Valley of Ur, in Mesopotamia. There they entered temple of Nabu the Wise and stumbled upon an ancient
sarcophagus containing the sorcerer's dormant form. When young Kent chose to pull a nearby lever, a poisonous gas swept through the temple and killed Sven
Nelson—but left Kent unharmed. (More Fun Comics
#67, DC Special #10, All-Star Squadron #47)
In compensation, Nabu offered to teach the boy his magicks but Kent refused. Nabu wiped the memory of Sven's death from the boy's mind and within a week, Nabu
had transformed the twelve-year-old into an adult man and a powerful mystic. Nabu's last wish was for Kent to unleash his
power on his master, but Kent could not kill Nabu. Nabu restored the memory of his father's death, and Kent was enraged so that he destroyed Nabu's mortal form. In this instant, Kent learned Nabu's true nature: the mage was actually an energy being, a Lord of Order. Nabu's final gifts were a golden Helmet and the Amulet of Anubis. When Kent wore the Helmet, he was
joined with Nabu to become Doctor Fate. (DC Special #10, Secret Origins vol. 2 #24)
During Kent's first adventure as Doctor Fate, he fought the
evil sorcerer Wotan and rescued Inza Cramer from his evil clutches. (More Fun Comics #55–56, All-Star Squadron #47, Secret Origins vol. 2 #24) Kent fell in love with Inza and they soon married. (Decades later, Kent would learn that the full power of Doctor Fate was manifested only when a man and woman were joined as Fate, but Nabu prevented this
process so that he could control Kent). Doctor Fate created a tower in Salem,
Massachusetts as his base of operations.
Early in his career, Doctor Fate met the Spectre,
the wrath of God. Together they destroyed a military gateway to a netherworld
of demons. (Spectre
vol. 3 Annual #1) When America entered World War II, Doctor Fate
and many other mystery men help defeat an assassination attempt of President
Roosevelt's life. At Roosevelt's request, they formed the Justice
Society of America in 1941. (All-Star Comics
Shortly after this, Kent realized that Nabu was at times taking complete control of him. He discontinued wearing the Helm and replaced it with a half-helmet. His powers were greatly curtailed but he still had the
ability of flight, invulnerability and super-strength. He donned
the Helmet one last time in order to find the missing Spectre. The Spectre was engaged in a titanic
battle with Kulak, and Fate lost the Helmet of Nabu for years, somewhere in this netherverse. (All-Star Squadron #23, 27-30) NOTE: Doctor Fate's half-helmet first appeared
in More Fun #72 (Oct. 1941). In the 1940s, no explanation was made for the change, and the character gradually shifted away from magic toward a more standard super-hero archetype.
One of Doctor Fate's primary foes, Ian Karkull,
was responsible for the extended longevity of many JSA members. On 28 June
1941, Doctor Fate destroyed Karkull, releasing
a burst of "temporal
showered everyone present (Atom, Doctor Fate, Flash,
Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hourman, Johnny Thunder, Sandman, Spectre, Starman
and non-members Hawkgirl and Joan Williams). (All-Star
Squadron Annual #3)
Doctor Fate was active in the Justice Society and its wartime incarnation,
the All-Star Squadron through the early 1940s. His participation waned
after the war, and by February 1945, Kent had recovered
the Helm of Nabu. He later
decided to give up his career as a physician and follow in his father's footsteps
as an archaeologist. (Showcase #55, Flash vol. 1 #306)
For a detailed history of Doctor Fate's Golden Age career, read the Comics Archives!
When a new generation of heroes began to surface, the Justice Society came out of retirement and teamed with this new Justice League; Kent rejoined them as Doctor Fate. (Justice League of America #21-22, 37-38, 1963) Doctor Fate participated in nearly all the regular JLA/JSA team-ups. He also teamed with Hourman,(Showcase #55) the new Flash, (Flash vol. 1 #170) and Superman. (World's Finest #208)
When the undead mummy of Khalis—the original owner of the Amulet of Anubis—awoke and tried to take back his prize, the god Anubis was angered and Fate ... (1st Issue Special #9)
The Justice Society was also rejuvenated by the addition of some new junior members. Fate participated regularly and was thought to be brain dead from a battle with Vulcan. (All-Star Comics #61, 1976) Fate was resurrected by the presence of a Lord of Chaos called Zanadu, whom Fate promptly defeated. (#63) He remained an active member during this time (#64-74)
After decades of isolation inside the Tower of Fate, Inza Nelson began to resent Nabu's control over her husband. Kent would answer Nabu's calls but had little control over Fate's activities. He would usually return from an adventure with only fragments of memories. Her jealousy was seized upon by the Lord of Chaos called Malferrazae, who turned her into a weapon against Nabu. The Lord took the guise of the Aztec deity Totec and is attempting to bring about the apocalyptic end of the Fifth Sun (era) of mankind, aided by a monstrous creature formed from the jealousy of Inza Nelson. (The Flash vol. 1 #306–309)
A mysterious power draws Dr. Fate to an Iowa cornfield, where he battles Vandaemeon, a Lord of Chaos in league with Ynar, a renegade Lord of Order. Meanwhile, Inza flirts with Vernon Copeland, director of the Boston Museum of Natural History. (#310–312)
To defeat the alliance of the renegade Lords of Chaos and Order Vandaemeon and Ynar, Fate forced Inza Nelson to merge with him, creating a more powerful version of Fate comprised of Kent, Inza, and Nabu. (#313) NOTES: This storyline reveals that Inza Nelson has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and was the basis for the post-Crisis assertion that Kent and Inza were supposed to merge to form Doctor Fate, but that Nabu had prevented it. This backup feature was reprinted in The Immortal Dr. Fate #2–3 (1985).
After the great Crisis, the Justice Society were drawn into the endless battle of Ragnarok, in a dimension called Limbo. Doctor Fate was one of the few JSA members to remain on Earth. (Last Days of the JSA) He became a co-founder of a new Justice League, calling heroes to battle Darkseid's influence on Earth. (Legends
#6) His time with the new League was
brief; his last JLA
case was against the Gray Man. (Justice League Int'l, vol. 1 #7)
Then began the
Kali Yuga, a cosmic apocalypse which was prophesied to bring about the end of the age of man. Chaos would
engulf everything and usher in a new Golden Age. The strain of the Kali Yuga
weakened Nabu and as a result, both Kent and Inza aged rapidly. Inza lost her sanity and committed suicide. Kent was devastated and wished to join her in death but Nabu would not allow him to die until a new host could be found for Fate. Kent reluctantly helped Nabu find Eric Strauss but he broke Nabu's hold over the mantle of Fate. This allowed Eric and his stepmother, Linda Strauss, to become
the new Doctor Fate without Nabu. Nabu allowed Kent to die, but for a time, Nabu continued to use Nelson's dead
body as a host. (Dr. Fate vol. 1 #1-4)
Doctor Fate II
Eric and Linda Strauss took over as Doctor Fate II, aided by Nabu (in the body of Kent Nelson).
In 1940, Inza Cramer was a student of Columbia University when she visited Egypt.
There she was captured by Wotan, but rescued by Doctor Fate. They were quick to fall in love, and after
World War II, they married and she took up residence in the Tower of Fate in Salem. Over time, Inza became jealous of Doctor
Fate because she would lose her husband to that persona for indeterminate amounts of time. (Flash vol. 1
Inza committed suicide from the strain caused by the Kali Yuga, and Nabu captured her spirit and placed it inside the Amulet of Anubis. She was soon joined by her husband, and they lived what they believed to be the afterlife. The return of the Anti-Fate and the death of Kent's successors (Eric and Linda Strauss) prompted Nabu to resurrect the Nelsons. (Doctor Fate vol. 2 #20)
Kent and Inza returned to Earth in new, youthful bodies and learned that the Lords of Order had originally intended for Fate to be formed from one man and one woman. In Nabu's absence, another Lord of Order called Shat-Ru came to Earth intent on destroying Doctor Fate. Together, Kent and Inza deflected his power, and Shat-Ru's essence became trapped in the former body of Kent Nelson (in which Nabu had also resided). The Tower of Fate was mystically linked to a property in the slums of New York (originally owned by Kent's father). (#25)
The next time the Nelsons tried to merge, it was unknowingly interrupted by a Lord of Chaos and Doctor Fate (III) was formed by Inza alone. Inza later discovered the reason was because a Lord of Chaos called ??, had empowered her instead. () Inza made her identity as Doctor Fate public and became a hero in their neighborhood. She considered everyday problems as important as super-heroic menaces, and created ?? spheres which could be used by people to summon her aid.
Kent returned to teaching. He was quite critical of Inza's approach to Fate, but admitted that she took to it much more naturally than he ever did. Kent no longer used the Helm and Amulet, but he did become Doctor Fate on his own again by conjuring basic spells that he'd learned over the years. (#27, ) When Inza realized that her powers were coming from ??, she discovered that Fate's power could be created by channeling all the souls on Earth. Thus Kent and herself could merge to become the one true Doctor Fate, without a Lord of Order or Chaos. ()
Zero Hour: Fate
During the Crisis in Time called Zero Hour, Extant destroyed the remaining Justice Society members. The villain stripped Kent and Inza of their power which made them revert to their correct age and reversing the effects of Ian Karkull's power. (Zero Hour #3) They were unable to become Doctor Fate again, so they chose Jared Stevens, a grave-robbing adventurer searching for Nabu's talismans. When Stevens found the Temple of Nabu, Kent and Inza Nelson took him to a Lord of Order. Stevens was transformed into a new kind of Fate, now wielding a cloak, knife, and throwing ankhs. Kent and Inza left their mortal forms and disappeared. (Book of Fate #??)
During the last series of Fate, Nabu tried to regain the power that he gave to Jared Stevens, in his attempt to regain his former glory, Nabu became more like a Lord of Chaos. Banished from the plane of man again, Nabu was on trial by the Lords of Chaos and Order. Their verdict was that Nabu acted chaotically and was transformed into a Lord of Chaos and was given one final task, to find a replacement for the Lords of Order. Unfortunately, Kent Nelson denied the task of becoming a Lord of Order and Nabu cursed Kent and Inza to walk the earth as uneasy spirits, never finding eternal peace. However the Spectre allowed the Nelsons into heaven where they now await their return to earth. What happened to Nabu after this event is unclear.
Although he was immaterial, Kent Nelson played an important role in the birth of the next Doctor Fate IV. Nelson discovered that Hector Hall's (son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl) consciousness was trapped within the Dreaming and rescued him with help from the Scarab. The two of them found a child suitable for Hall's reincarnation. They knew Doctor Fate would be needed because they sensed the coming of Mordru the Dark Lord. Hector became the new Doctor Fate (IV) and with help from the newly formed JSA, defeated Mordru. Hector joined the Justice Society and received guidance from Kent and Inza Nelson, whose spirits once again resided in the universe of the Amulet of Anubis. (JSA Secret Files & Origins #1, JSA #1-4)
The fifth Doctor Fate was Kent V. Nelson, a young relative of Kent Nelson. Since the Lords of Order and Chaos had been destroyed by the Spectre, (Day of Vengeance #??) Nabu and the Nelsons were divorced from the power of Fate. Instead, the Helm of Nabu was flung across the universe where it gained power and knowledge from its epic journey. (Day of Vengeance #??, Helmet of Fate)
In the 2022 feature film, Black Adam, Dr. Fate is a member of the Justice Society. He is played by Pierce Brosnan.
This assembly of the Justice Society is an ad hoc team specifically brought together to engage and subdue Black Adam, who is reawakened in the nation of Kandaq after 5,000 years of imprisonment.
Kent is said to possess god-level powers from his helmet, which is from another planet and millions of years old. The Justice Society’s leader is Hawkman, with whom Dr. Fate has worked before. Dr. Fate dies in the battle with the demon, Sabbac.
Other members of the Justice Society in Black Adam include Cyclone, Atom Smasher and Hawkman.
In the DC/Marvel Amalgam universe cross-over (1996),
Doctor Strangefate was Charles Xavier, JLA member.
Doctor Fate's powers were largely derived from the Helm of Nabu. Originally, the helmet served as a focus through which the wearer could exercise Nabu's vast mystical knowledge and power; for thousands of years, the helmet was Nabu's only means of directly interacting with the earthly plane. Nabu could decide whether to allow a particular wearer to access the power independently, possess the wearer's body to take complete control of their actions, or mystically attack any wearer he deemed unworthy (as happened to Glorious Godfrey in Legends #6). Any humanoid being could potentially use the Helm of Nabu in a limited way as long as Nabu permitted it (as Martian Manhunter did in Justice League Annual #1), but exploiting the helmet's full power required a specially prepared host like Kent Nelson.
With Nabu in full control of an appropriate host body, Doctor Fate was one of the DC Universe's most formidable sorcerers. He was capable of casting powerful spells with a wide range of effects, although he was limited in the number of spells he could maintain simultaneously. During the confrontation with the Shadow Creature that menaced Heaven, Fate killed Abnegazar, one of the Demons Three, with a single mystic blast. (Swamp Thing #50) Doctor Fate could also travel between dimensions, erect magical shields, detect and locate mystical opponents, change his size, or travel through time.
Nabu trained his hosts in a variety of mystic arts, giving his host bodies superhuman strength, the ability to levitate themselves and fly, a measure of telekinesis, and near-invulnerability to many forms of physical or magical assault, even without the helmet. Nabu also retarded his hosts' aging. However, Doctor Fate's host body remained the weakest link, and Fate would be immediately disabled if the host were killed, seriously injured, or separated from the helmet. The limitations of the host may have been a consequence of Nabu's flaunting of the Lords of Orders' original intention that Fate have both male and female hosts who would combine into one being: with one brief exception in the '70s (The Flash #313), Nabu resisted allowing that merger because it limited his control. (Dr. Fate vol. 1 #4)
Doctor Fate's powers were amplified by the Amulet of Anubis. The origins and exact nature of the amulet were originally obscure, but it appeared to increase Nabu's ability to channel his (almost limitless) power through his host. Doctor Fate could still cast spells without the amulet, albeit with reduced effectiveness; conversely, the amulet had no apparent effect unless worn with the helmet.
In 1942, Kent Nelson briefly abandoned the Helm of Nabu, alarmed that Nabu was frequently taking complete possession of his body. (All-Star Squadron Annual #3) Nelson created a similar half-helmet that covered only the top of his head and face. With this half-helmet, Doctor Fate's ability to cast spells was greatly limited, although he could still fly, was incredibly strong, and was invulnerable to anything short of an artillery shell. (He was still vulnerable to gas, asphyxiation, or drowning, since he did need to breathe.) He was also trained in hand-to-hand combat and had some knowledge of jujitsu. (All-Star Comics #10)
The Helm of Fate was lost for a time during a battle with the Spectre (All-Star Squadron #29), but Nelson regained it before the end of the war (Wonder Woman #242) and accepted his role as Nabu's host. By the '70s, Nabu completely possessed Nelson every time he donned the helmet, to the point that Nelson had little if any memory of his activities as Dr. Fate. The sole compensation was that Nabu kept both Kent and Inza youthful for more than 40 years.
As Doctor Fate, Inza Nelson had a similar scope of powers, casting spells that ranged from resurrecting the dead to turning a whole room full of politicians into frogs. Whether she was as powerful as Fate was while Nabu was in control is unclear; direct comparisons are difficult because of her inexperience and the fact that she tended to use her powers in less violent or destructive ways than Nabu would have. When she (or Linda Strauss) became Fate independently, the Helm of Nabu took on a more feminine appearance. Unlike her husband's previous incarnation, Inza retained no superhuman powers without the helmet. During the same period, Kent was able to cast certain spells without the helmet, although he was not as powerful as he had been before his resurrection.
When Kent and Inza were able to join together to form Doctor Fate, they drew their power from every sentient soul on Earth rather than from Nabu. In that form, they were at least theoretically more powerful than Kent had been with Nabu in control.