Doctor Fate is a DC Comics character. Originally created in 1940 by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, he's one of the icons of The Golden Age of Comic Books and a founding member of the Justice Society of America. Like fellow member Hawkman, he also has one of the screwiest backgrounds in the DC canon.
Fate is arguably the most powerful magic-wielding hero in the DC canon (discounting reality-warping demi-gods like the Spectre or power-leechers like Black Alice), and the direct counterpart to Marvel's Doctor Strange, who he predates by several decades. Dr. Fate's powers (ill-defined as they are at times) are largely derived from two objects: the Helmet of Nabu and the Amulet of Anubis. In addition, most of the users were also naturally adept at magic enough to be Flying Bricks with low-level telepathy/telekinesis.
There have been many incarnations over the years:
- Kent Nelson, the original, who first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 and lasted into the 1980s.
- Linda and Eric Strauss, mother and son, whose run as the character included a Doctor Fate title (1988-1992).
- Inza Nelson, Kent's wife, who took over the role in 1991.
- Jared Stevens, who took the name "Fate" in a Fate title (1994-1996) and a The Book of Fate title (1997-1998).
- Hector Hall, son of the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who took up the mantle in the pages of JSA.
- Kent V. Nelson, the newest Doctor Fate.
He's one of the few non-A-list DC characters to have appeared in four recent[when?] animated adaptations: Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Brave And The Bold, and Young Justice. Additionally, he has appeared in Smallville.
- Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Anubis' artifact not only works as a magical power booster, but also a Soul Jar for previous wielders (and on occasion a prison for a Big Bad).
- Badass Cape: Comes with the powers.
- Bigger on the Inside: Fate's Tower, in addition to having some Escher-like Alien Geometries.
- Clingy MacGuffin: Despite being thrown into the depths of space by Captain Marvel, the Helmet of Fate eventually returned to Earth. Even when its selected host, Kent V. Nelson, tries to pawn it, the helm always makes its way back to him.
- In the Young Justice cartoon, Nabu basically is Fate, with his vessel mostly watching from the inside. As the team learns, it's not easy to convince Nabu to let go once you've accepted the helmet.
- Converse with the Unconscious: Hector Hall in trying to find his wife's soul and reunite it with her illusion-disguised, comatose body.
- Cool Helmet
- Eldritch Abomination: Quite often what he's contacted about handling, a specific example being his Justice League appearance.
- Empathic Weapon: Originally, Nabu would take full possession of Kent Nelson whenever he wore the helm. Later, after losing all of his agents, Nabu himself enchanted the artifacts to act against chaos as a disembodied Helmet and Cape.
- Esoteric Motifs: Fate's power symbol is the Ankh.
- Evil Sorcerer: Fate's most common foes are Evil Sorcerers, especially his archenemy Wotan.
- Fusion Dance: Linda and Eric Strauss, as well as Kent Nelson and his wife Inza for a time.
- The Hat Makes the Man: At various points in his history, Doc's helmet functioned by having him be possessed by Nabu.
- Hermetic Magic: More often than not, Dr. Fate has practiced this type of spell-casting, if not the writer's own hodge-podge of "rules" for his magic.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Played straight in that, being an Agent of Order, there are seemingly rules and limitations to Fate's powers. He's been shown memorizing particular incantations, setting up complicated ritual magic and also researching particular foes.
- Magic and Powers: A good deal of what's on that list.
- Mask of Power: It got its own mini-series!
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: This is how most superheroes were depicted in The Golden Age of Comic Books, and Dr. Fate (along with Superman and the Spectre) was a notable example. Fate would eventually fall prey to Power Creep, Power Seep depending on the size and focus of the story.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Jared Stevens, a grave robber, stole the helmet, melted it down into a knife, and was simply known as Fate. Can you say GRIMDARK?
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Subverted by Kent Nelson, in that he did obtain a medical license and enter an internship at one point in his life. Played straight with the rest, although magic healing powers are part of the gig.
- Order Versus Chaos: An early-Bronze Age Retcon marks Fate as an agent for the Lords of Order, while his nemesis, Mordru, is an actual Lord of Chaos.
- Hector Hall, however, was explicitly an Agent of Balance, not an Agent of Order. At least two Lords of Chaos (Mordru and another in a miniseries) found out the hard way that fighting him like he was an Agent of Order was severely underestimating his capabilities.
- Samaritan Syndrome: While Kent Nelson believed he should only use his powers after becoming aware of evil threats, Inza ardently believed in proactively fighting crime and disorder.
- Token Evil Teammate: The Young Justice toon version of Nabu is alarmingly close to this. After what happened with Zatanna and Zatara, Captain Marvel firmly believes he doesn't even belong on the League.
- Upgrade Artifact: For anyone who is able to wear the Helmet of Fate. Anyone. Even Detective Chimp.