Kent V. Nelson is Doctor Fate, a powerful sorcerer and psychologist who wields the Helmet of Fate in the fight against evil. His grand-uncle is the original Fate, Kent Nelson. He is a member of the Justice Society of America.
Day of Vengeance
Nelson's predecessor as Doctor Fate was Hector Hall, who died in service alongside his wife as their souls entered the Dreaming realm. The powerful sorcerer Nabu still controlled the helmet, amulet and cloak until he was killed by the rampaging Spectre during Infinite Crisis. This signaled the ending of the Ninth Age of Magic, and began the more chaotic Tenth Age of Magic. Captain Marvel threw the helmet into space, assuming that they would let fate determine who would next wear the mantle. It would pass through the hands of Detective Chimp, Black Alice, Ibis the Invincible, Sargon the Sorcerer and Zauriel on its voyage.
Fate had been good to psychiatrist Dr Kent V. Nelson. He had a lovely wife and daughter, a well-heeled practice, recognition in the community, and taught an annual seminar at the university. This made Kent's affair with a university student reckless in the extreme. To compound the situation, he left the evidence lying around; when his wife found out, she left him, taking their daughter with her. Kent slid into depression, barely able to care about his patients any more. He pretended he was listening, faked giving them his attention, but even that began to pall eventually. Ultimately, it was this lack of attention which led to his final downfall.
One of Kent's patients, a man who claimed he was being tormented by an unearthly creature, had a psychotic episode, driving his car along the Las Vegas Strip, running people down. Thirteen died, and many more were injured. Kent, aware he'd failed the man, used his family gift, the ability to see into others' minds, to find out what had driven him to it. What Kent saw shook him so badly, he shut the memory out, trying desperately to forget it. Kent was blamed for the deaths, standing by and doing nothing when his patient went off his meds.
He was sued by the victims' families for negligence and wrongful claims - and by his patient's family for malpractice. He lost his house and his job. His wife divorced him, and his lover left him. Several months later, Kent had ended up a derelict on the streets, taking part in bumfight videos for money. After being left in a dumpster to "sleep off" his second fight, he fumbled around for something he could use to cover himself against the storm overhead. He found the Helmet of Fate, which had landed in the dumpster after traveling through the realms of existence. Thinking only of how he could use it to cover his head, Kent put it on - only to find the Helmet taking him on a mental tour of its recent past, from the end of the Day of Vengeance onwards, after Captain Marvel had hurled it into space. Then, much against Kent's will, it took him on a tour of his own recent past.
Nelson learns spells gradually and uses the helmet for gambling. He meets a woman named Maddy, who runs an occult bookstore, where he goes into an intense inter-dimensional meditation exploring the pains of his psyche. After this incident, Kent uses the magic in the real world to fly. Later, as he starts sinking into self-pity and depression after forgetting both his daughter's birthday and the magic word for flying, he falls into a large, nearby fountain and nearly drowns until he is saved by an intrepid young comic artist named Inza. The potential reunion between reincarnated lovers is tragically cut short when Inza is completely liquefied, as a result of Negal's magic. After the death of Inza, Kent V. Nelson seems all but certain to retreat further into alcoholism.
After learning that the helmet's origins go back to World War II, and also the past history of the first Doctor Fate, Nelson gave the helmet to Maddy. He was immediately captured by Negal. On her first attempt at using the helmet, Maddy is also brought to despair by Negal's sidekick, Ymp, and brought to him alongside the captured Nelson and the remains of Inza.
Maddy was inspired by Kent's efforts to overcome his self-absorption to distract Negal with an image of Inza's character Killhead. This gives enough time for an elf with a gun to shoot Negal. The elf then departs, as a quacking voice invites him to share a beer with the "big guy", "Thunny", "Megs" and "Bev" before the big guy has to "head upstairs". Nelson and Inza recover, and Maddy gives him back the helmet. As they return to Vegas, Nelson says that whatever happened, it took all three of them, and that the helmet still has a lot to teach them.
Nelson sees his life flashing before his eyes, as Negal gloats that he will now destroy Dr. Fate forever. Nelson seizes on the happy moments in his life, and claims that killing him never achieved anything, and he should know. He tells Negal that Dr. Fate is an ideal, and has returned before. Since Nelson is no longer consumed by self-pity, Negal (lord of the self-despised) is powerless and returns them all to where he left them, claiming that he will return. With Inza back in her apartment and Maddy back at the bookshop, Nelson returns to the casino, reflecting that every journey must end, through chance or fate.
The Fifty-Minute Hour
Maddy tried to wake Nelson, but cannot. In his dream, Nelson has a conversation with one of his patients, Mr. Mardillo, who is drawn to resemble Steve Gerber, and the scene takes the form of a text piece, a common occurrence in Gerber's work. Mordillo explains fate is the hand you are dealt, but destiny is the way you play it. Negal hates fate because, as a demon, he has no way of changing his destiny. Mardillo points out that Nelson seems resigned to the same thing, and talks him through his problems. As in the previous story, Nelson's newfound hope gives him power against Negal and, although he acknowledges his depression will return, for the moment he is able to use the helmet to free himself and the others, briefly gaining the original Dr. Fate's costume while doing so. Back in Vegas, he is astonished to find a note from Mardillo in his pocket, but is unable to read the handwriting.
This Diminished Life
Maddy was "tripping" on the power in the helmet and unable to use it effectively. Upon seeing Kent awaken, she gives him the helmet. Finding Inza is now a living statue, he asks her if she wants to live and, when she says yes, points out to Negal that she still has hope, and is therefore beating him. Using his psychiatric skills, he diagnoses Negal's obsession with causing and feeding on misery as indicating an addictive personality with narcissistic tendencies. Acknowledging his own faults, he adds that he was still good at his job, and offers to help Negal. The final panel shows Kent flying across Vegas, with Inza and Maddy in tow, reflecting on how well Negal's therapy is going and that he may be falling in love with Inza.
Reign in Hell
Kent V. Nelson has made sporadic appearances in Hell, in the finale he helps a group of magic-using heroes escape from Hell.
During a massive attack on the Justice Society by over a dozen villains, Flash sought out Fate's aid. Kent, still not having full control over his abilities, was able to bluff long enough for the Justice Society to regroup. Kent returned with the group to their Brownstone. They quickly discovered Mister Terrific suffering from life-threatening injuries. Kent was instrumental in Terrific's survival. He then helped the Society in the brawl to capture most of the villains. Shortly after this incident, the Society broke up into two teams. Most of the younger members joined the JSA All-Stars but Kent remained with the elder group. The reorganized Justice Society next came under attack when Mordru possessed Kent's body. Mordru was quickly discovered and left his body. Finally utilizing more of his abilities, Kent helped the team recover and route Mordru.
- Magic: In all of his incarnations, Doctor Fate is an accomplished sorcerer, and at his most potent able to match most other wizards in the DC Universe.
- Thought Sharing: Kent has a family gift, a talent that runs in his family. He can share in someone's thoughts by looking directly into their eyes.
- Psychiatry: Kent is a qualified psychiatrist, with a particular facility for listening to people. He is easily able to read people's personalities and understand the motivation behind their actions. Allowing him to predict their actions, making him amazingly tactical when fighting enemies.
- Power Limitation: Separation from the Helmet of Fate removes much of his powers and abilities.
- Loud sounds: Loud noises impair Kent's ability to 'hear' what the Helmet tells him, making it difficult for him to cast spells.
- Helmet of Fate The helmet that Doctor Fate wears is the focus of the Doctor Fate identity. It originally housed Nabu's spirit and allowed him to possess the current host, it later only allowed him to advise the host instead. The helmet is what provides the link to Nabu and by not wearing it, as Kent Nelson did at one time, Doctor Fate loses much of its power and knowledge. Putting on the helmet usually results in its wearer being clad in the other clothes of Doctor Fate, unless the one with the actual claim to the helmet wants to prevent it. On several occasions, villains seeking the power of Doctor Fate have stolen the helmet, in which case the result has typically been that the thief goes insane when he or she puts the helmet on.
- Steve Gerber created the new Doctor Fate as his attempt to revitalize the character. His work was originally intended to be part of a Doctor Fate (Volume 4) series with artist Paul Gulacy, but health-related problems forced him to rework it into the mini-series Countdown to Mystery with Justiniano. Sadly he died of pulmonary fibrosis before the story could be completed, and multiple conclusions were written in Countdown to Mystery #8 as a tribute by Adam Beechen, Gail Simone, Mark Evanier and Mark Waid. The planned solo Doctor Fate book did not materialize; the next volume of the book came only years later and featured a different character.
- 67 Appearances of Kent V. Nelson (New Earth)
- 45 Images featuring Kent V. Nelson (New Earth)
- 2 Quotations by or about Kent V. Nelson (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Kent V. Nelson (New Earth)
- JSA #80
- Infinite Crisis Special: Day of Vengeance #1
- Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp #1
- Helmet of Fate: Black Alice #1
- Helmet of Fate: Ibis the Invincible #1
- Helmet of Fate: Sargon the Sorcerer #1
- Helmet of Fate: Zauriel #1
- Countdown to Mystery #1
- Countdown to Mystery #2
- Countdown to Mystery #3
- Countdown to Mystery #4
- Countdown to Mystery #5
- Countdown to Mystery #6
- Countdown to Mystery #7
- Justice Society of America (Volume 3) #30
- Justice Society of America (Volume 3) #33
- Justice Society of America (Volume 3) #34 - Justice Society of America (Volume 3) #35
- Reign in Hell #5
- Reign in Hell #6
- Reign in Hell #8
- Reign in Hell #4
- Reign in Hell #7
- Steve Gerber interview
- Steve Gerber passes away
- Mark Evanier's blog, "Quick Corrections", posted at 2008-Aug-03.
Justice Society of America member