In his first appearances, the original Doctor Fate was not given an origin or secret identity. He mentions at a Justice Society meeting that he is not human, although this would later be completely contradicted.
Gardner Fox eventually established him as Kent Nelson, the son of archaeologist Sven Nelson. Exploring the Valley of Ur in Mesopotamia because his dad believed the Pyramids to have been built by extraterrestrials, Kent stumbles upon a statue of the great Nabu.
Nabu's release from imprisonment also releases poisonous gases that kill the boy's father. Explaining he is an immortal being from the planet Cilia, Nabu decides that for having killed the boy's father he will teach him the secrets of the universe. Raising him to adulthood, eventually he decides that Kent is well-prepared enough in his training and gives him an amulet, cloak and helmet to fight evil as Doctor Fate. He would eventually meet his long-time traveling companion Inza Cramer on his way through Alexandria while returning to America. Martin Pasko retconned this significantly, adding to the character that Nabu took over Kent's body whenever he became Doctor Fate and always had. This retelling also established that he was 12 years old at the time of his father's death, and Nabu had used magic to prevent him from experiencing pain or grief while he began his transformation into Fate.
Paul Levitz made even more significant alterations in a later story. He established that Nabu had intentionally sought out young Kent, and let the boy's father die as a means to gain an apprentice he could control. In addition to banishing his grief and implanting magical knowledge, he also enhanced him to prevent aging and this would also affect Inza. Nabu revealed himself to be one of the ancient Lords of Order, locked into a war for millennia with the Lords of Chaos. He had been Earth's greatest protector against chaos for five millennia until his physical body wore out, and he was forced to enter suspended animation powerless until he could find another suitable host body. He would then create and impart a helmet, medallion, and cloak as symbols of his power, turning Kent Nelson into Doctor Fate.
- More Fun Comics #67
- 1st Issue Special #9
- DC Special Series #10
- All-Star Squadron #47
- Doctor Fate #1
- Secret Origins (Volume 2) #24
- Doctor Fate (Volume 2) #38
Eric and Linda Strauss
Kent V. Nelson