The DC Universe features a host of intriguing supernatural characters, such as Etrigan The Demon and Zatanna. It could be argued that the most powerful supernatural hero is Doctor Fate, due to his abilities and responsibility as a Lord of Order. Multiple characters have taken on the identity, but the most well-known is Kent Nelson. Inhabited by an ancient entity called Nabu, Nelson carries a heavy burden. As a founding member of the Justice Society of America, Doctor Fate is an integral character in the DC Universe.
The character is linked closely with Ancient Egypt, acting as an agent of balance. In 1920, archeologist Sven Nelson took his son Kent on an expedition to the Valley of Ur. During the exploration of a tomb, Kent revived Nabu the Wise from suspended animation. Nabu belonged to a race of alien titans known as the Lords of Order, who lived on the planet Cilia. Nabu had come to Earth and made a name for himself as an adviser to the pharaohs of Egypt.
Nabu’s release triggered a poisonous gas attack that killed Nelson’s father. Originally, Nelson thought it was his fault, but Nabu orchestrated the event so he could possess a new body. For twenty years, Nabu taught Nelson how to be a sorcerer, eventually giving him a helmet, amulet and cloak. Nelson took on the identity of Doctor Fate, fighting crime and protecting the Earth from supernatural threats.
In 1940, Nelson met the love of his life Inza Cramer in Alexandria. They returned to the US and Nelson became a physician, believing he could save lives in his civilian identity. Doctor Fate went on to co-found the Justice Society of America with other heroes of the ‘40s. By this time, Nabu had started to take full control over Nelson through the helmet. To remedy this, Nelson created a half helm that allowed him to retain control at the expense of limited powers.
In the modern day, Doctor Fate co-founded a version of the Justice League and returned to using a full helmet. The struggle between Nelson and Nabu became a key motif. Nabu was a pragmatist that believed order needed to be kept by any means necessary. He opposed the Lords of Chaos, seeing their work manifest through the discord that humanity brought upon itself. Nelson saw humanity as flawed but still believed in the good of people.
Doctor Fate possesses vast magical abilities that have allowed him to cast various spells. His magic includes astral projection, dimensional travel, chronokinesis, healing, magnetic manipulation, resurrection, telepathy etc. While wearing the Helmet of Fate, Nelson is taken over by Nabu, becoming emotionless. When casting spells, Fate’s magic takes the shape of Egyptian hieroglyphs, e.g. an ankh.
Doctor Fate could be considered DC’s Sorcerer Supreme, though the character was invented before Doctor Strange. He appeared in 1940, while Strange was introduced in 1963. Doctor Fate’s magic makes him a formidable superhero and definitely one that’s worth reading about.