One of DC Comics’ quirkiest heroes, Doctor Fate, will finally get a live-action adaptation in the Black Adam movie, where he will be played by Pierce Brosnan as a member of the Justice Society. However, his story in the comics is quite old and has several dramatic revelations and turning points.
Doctor Fate is Kent Nelson, an archaeologist who gains mystical powers when discovering an ancient entity known as Nabu. He possesses the powerful Helmet of Fate and has the ability to see the fate of all humankind, good or bad.
In this list, you will discover more about his journey and all that surrounds the DC Comics’ dark hero.
First Appearance and Creators
Doctor Fate is the title used by several DC Comics heroes in several different stories. For this list, we are focusing on Kent Nelson, the best known of the heroes to wear this mantle. He first appeared in the pages of More Fun Comics #55, published in May 1940.
The character was created by Gardner Fox (the creator of the Flash and Justice League) and Howard Sherman. Initially, he was a mysterious hero who appeared in individual stories in the More Fun Comics anthology. At first, little was known about the character beyond his magical powers, as his personal history was not yet developed until More Fun Comics #67.
Kent Nelson was a highly regarded archaeologist, sharing a career with his father, the celebrated Sven Nelson. In the original DC stories, Kent and Sven traveled to Mesopotamia in 1920, where they discovered a pyramid built underground. There, they found the tomb of Nabu, an ancient immortal entity who had been in suspended animation for several years.
Kent freed Nabu, unaware that he was a powerful Lord of Order in a never-ending battle against the Lords of Order and Chaos. With his father’s death due to a poisonous gas released in the pyramid, Kent turned to Nabu as a mentor figure, following his ways and learning more and more about the magical arts.
The Helmet of Fate
To transform Kent into his champion, Nabu gave him powerful magic items: an indestructible helmet, a yellow cape, and a mystical amulet (the Helmet of Fate, the Cloak of Destiny, and the Amulet of Anubis).
And it was through these items that Kent assumed the persona of Doctor Fate. But before talking about him, it is essential to speak about Nabu’s role in all this and how his helmet is a crucial item.
Nabu came from a world older than Earth, called Cilia. He is a Lord of Order and ended up “landing” on our planet while still in Ancient Egypt, where he became an advisor to the Pharaohs. He is a powerful magician with much knowledge in occultism and magical arts – no wonder he is also known as Nabu the Wise.
However, in some DC Comics stories, it is said that Nabu’s helmet is far from a “safe” artifact, despite being an item crafted for noble purposes. In some story arcs, the helmet can corrupt the one who uses it, especially since Nabu himself is not a totally good, one-dimensional figure.
After gaining Nabu’s powers, Doctor Fate used them to fight crime in the United States. During this period, he met another important hero in his stories, the vengeful Spectre. They, along with other heroes, managed to thwart a meticulous plot to assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt.
At the president’s request, these heroes eventually formed the Justice Society of America, a group of hooded vigilantes who protected the country from powerful, threatening forces. Fate became a trademark of the group’s stories, as the overwhelming majority of his appearances took place there, either saving the Earth or traveling through the Multiverse.
Doctor Fate has always faced several villains over the years. He got some of these enemies as “a freebie” for being a member of the Justice Society. Also, he had several enemies of his own, many of them mystical villains who were always interested in the Nabu Helmet’s power.
Among the hero’s most famous enemies, we can mention:
- the magicians Wotan and Mordru;
- the Psycho-Pirate, a powerful psychic vampire;
- the insane scientist Ian Karkull, who developed occult knowledge and magic;
- the Egyptian god of death Anubis;
- the demon Blaze, who is Shazam’s daughter; and,
- the Anti-Fate, a psychiatrist who became a Lord of Chaos’ avatar.
Other Users of the Nabu’s Helmet
Despite being the most famous and beloved hero called Doctor Fate, archaeologist Kent Nelson is not the only one. Among the other most important users of the Helmet of Fate, we can mention:
- Eric Strauss and Linda Strauss: After the death of Kent Nelson, Nabu chose Eric and his stepmother Linda to become his avatars. To do this, he had the two of them merge into a single body. Eric was eventually killed on Apokolips, and Linda died shortly after that.
- Hector Hall: Once, Hector Hall was reborn as the biological son of two popular DC heroes, Hawk and Dove. He became the new Doctor Fate, gaining Nabu’s amulets and helmet, but was eventually killed when the Spectre decided to extinguish magic from the planet.
- Kent V. Nelson: Great-nephew of Kent Nelson, who became Doctor Fate before the DC Comics reboot.
- Khalid Ben-Hassin: Doctor Fate of the New 52. He is Kent Nelson’s grandson and is hired to discover the Tomb of Nabu. There, he becomes Doctor Fate, while his companion (Kendra Munoz-Saunders) becomes Hawkgirl.
- Khalid Nassour: Hailing from Earth-0, Khalid Nassour first appeared in 2015 in a solo Doctor Fate comic. A medical student, he is an American boy with Egyptian roots, who we later find out is a relative of Kent Nelson.
Powers and Abilities
A great master of the mystical arts in DC Comics, Doctor Fate, owes almost all of his powers to the fearsome Helmut of Fate. It was the helmet that helped him develop more of his magical abilities. He can conjure spells, practice divination, generate illusions, teleport, perform invocations of entities, and even revive dead allies.
Despite this, Kent Nelson is considerably weaker without his helmet since he cannot perform half of the spells. Yet, even when he is without his helmet, he can still use telekinesis (he can even use it to fly) and is practically invulnerable to physical attacks due to a deep bond with Nabu.
Outside of the comics, Doctor Fate has been given several versions over the years. In the gaming world, although he appears infrequently, he is a very popular mystical character. He has appeared in DC Universe Online, both as an NPC and as a playable character. He is also in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Lego DC Super-Villains.
However, the character is perhaps most famous for his participation in the DC Comics fighting game franchise. He appears in the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us, initially as a help card for the heroes during fights. He then appeared as a playable character in Injustice 2, where David Sobolov voices him.
In TV series
Over the years, Doctor Fate has become so popular that he has participated in several DC Comics series, both animated and live-action. He has been in the publisher’s animated universe, in series such as Justice League Unlimited. Besides, he has also appeared in Justice League Action, Young Justice, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
As far as live-action is concerned, we have already seen Kent Nelson portrayed in two different universes. He first appeared in The Adventures of Superboy, played by Brent Stait and Erica Carroll. Then the hero got another version in Stargirl, where he appeared briefly. The famous Nabu’s Helmet has also appeared in the Constantine series.
In the Movies
Although he has never starred in a solo project, Doctor Fate has made appearances in several DC Comics animated films. For example, Kent Nelson has already appeared briefly in the opening credits of Justice League: The New Frontier. Also, an original version of the hero, named Steel Maxum, is in Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay.
However, the character will soon make his first live-action foray into the DC Extended Universe. Kent Nelson has already been announced in Black Adam and will be played by Pierce Brosnan. In the film, he will be part of the Justice Society, along with other members such as Hawkman, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone.