Sunday, November 6, 2011

History of Dr. Fate Pt. 1

Being that that this is a blog about Dr. Fate for Dr. Fate fans (new and old) I thought I should include the character's history.  This is mostly taken from Wikipedia and DC's website.  This article will only mention the original Dr. Fate, Kent Nelson.  I will post more articles on the Dr. Fates that followed Nelson in the future.     

Kent Nelson/Nabu

Kent Nelson, the young son of American archaeologist Sven Nelson, accompanied his father on an expedition to the Valley of Ur in Mesopotamia in 1920. When Kent opened the tomb of the ancient wizard Nabu, a poison gas was released which ultimately resulted in Sven Nelson's death. Nabu, taking pity on the orphaned Kent, raised him and taught him the skills of a wizard, and then bestowed upon him a mystical helmet, amulet and cloak.
By 1940, Nelson returned to the United States and resided in an invisible tower in Salem, Massachusetts. From this sanctum he embarked on a career fighting crime and supernatural evil as the hero Doctor Fate. During the early part of this career he met, romanced, and married a woman named Inza Cramer.
In late 1940, Doctor Fate was among the founding members of the Justice Society of America. He remained active with the group through the middle of the decade, resigning in 1944, and going into retirement. When the team came out of retirement to work with the Justice League in the modern era, he returned as well, rejoining his old teammates.

In 1942, Kent switched to a half-helmet when he felt Nabu's personality take control of his body whenever he wore the Helm of Nabu. The change, while stripping him of most of his magical power, left Nelson in full control of his actions and still more than a normal human. During this time, Nelson acquired a medical license and became an intern at the Weatherby Free Clinic. Shortly thereafter, when a supervillain stole the Helm of Nabu, Nelson lost all access to the helm as both it and the thief were cast into an alternate dimension.
Even with the return of the JSA, Doctor Fate's activities were less than public. These included assisting fellow JSA member Hourman against Solomon Grundy and the Psycho-Pirate.

When the Justice Society reformed in the modern age of heroes, Doctor Fate was among the returning members, now using the Helm of Nabu again. Though he had become increasingly erratic and withdrawn from humanity, he was still committed to protecting Earth against supernatural menaces. Kent also became an archaeologist like his father. During this time Nelson also went through a period where, in order to become Doctor Fate, he had to fuse with his wife Inza.  Kent later became the sole wearer of the Helm and joined the re-formed Justice League. The magic Kent used to keep Inza and himself young soon failed. This resulted in the pair aging and passing away in a short span of time.  Kent was reanimated as a member of the Black Lantern Corps during The Blackest Night.

Publication history

More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940) introduced the first Doctor Fate. After a year with little background, his alter ego Kent Nelson and origins were shown in More Fun Comics #67 (May 1941). At this point, the character was shown to be an archaeologist's son who had discovered the tomb of an ancient wizard named Nabu.
 His love interest was known variably as "Inza Cramer", "Inza Sanders", and finally "Inza Carmer", which was amended to "Inza Cramer" in the  His enemies included (in order of first appearance) Wotan, Ian Karkull, Nergal, Mr. Who, The Clock, The Octopus, Mad Dog, and various mad scientists, mobsters, and thugs.

When the Justice Society of America (JSA) was being created for All Star Comics #3, 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 - Aug. 1944).

In More Fun Comics #72 (Oct. 1941), Doctor Fate's appearance was modified, exchanging the full helmet for a half-helmet so his lower face was exposed. The focus of the strip shifted away from magic to standard superhero action. By the end of 1942, the character had been changed into a medical doctor with fewer mystic elements in the strip. The character's popularity waned faster than many of his contemporaries', and the strip was cancelled before the end of World War II in 1944.

Doctor Fate was revived along with many other Justice Society members in the 1960s through the annual team-ups with the Justice League of America (JLA). These stories established that the two teams resided on parallel worlds. Unlike many of his JSA teammates, Doctor Fate did not have an analogue or counterpart among the Justice League.

Aside from the annual team up in Justice League of America, DC featured the original Doctor Fate in other stories through the 1960s and 1970s. These included a two-issue run with Hourman in Showcase #55-56, wherein it was revealed Kent Nelson and Inza Cramer had married since the end of the Golden Age; appearances with Superman in World's Finest Comics (#208, Dec. 1971) and DC Comics Presents (#23, July 1980); 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. With this story, Pasko added the concept that the spirit of Nabu resided in the helmet and took control of Nelson whenever the helmet was donned.

In the early 1980s, Roy Thomas incorporated the retcon that Nabu inhabited the helmet into his All-Star Squadorn series, set in late 1941, as an explanation for the changes in Doctor Fate's helmet and powers. (In a caption box on the final panel of All-Star Squadron #28's main story (Dec. 1983), Thomas indicated an explanation of how and why Nelson returned to the full helmet and possession by Nabu when the JSA reactivated in the 1960s was forthcoming, but it was never published).

This led to Kent and Inza, combining into one Doctor Fate, featuring in a series of back-up stories running from The Flash #305 (Feb. 1982) to #313 (Sept. 1982). Cary Bates wrote the initial story, with Pasko taking over as writer in issue #306, aided by Steve Gerber from #310 to #313. In 1985 DC collected these back-up stories, as well as a 1978 retelling of Dr. Fate's origin by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton & Michael Netzer (Nasser) originally published in Secret Origins of Super-Heroes (DC Special Series #10, 1978, in the indicia), the aforementioned Pasko/Simonson story from 1st Issue Special #9, and a 1940s Doctor Fate tale from More Fun #56, in a three-issue limited series titled The Immortal Doctor Fate.

                                                          Image courtesy of


  1. Great write-up! Just one possible correction.. if memory serves, I don't think Kent and Inza were merged into one being in those Flash back-up stories.

    Keep up the great work!

    The Irredeemable Shag