How did Doctor Fate get his powers? ‘Black Adam’ character origin story, explained

DC reminds fans which Doctor came first
Image via New Line Cinema/DC Films

After years of Dwayne Johnson giving his all to get the champion of Kahndaq on the big screen, Black Adam is now finally out there in the world. And yet, ironically, the DC fandom seems to have decided en masse that The Rock’s eponymous anti-hero isn’t actually the best character in the movie. That honor, most agree, goes to Kent Nelson aka Doctor Fate, the elder statesman of the Justice Society of America, as played by Pierce Brosnan.

While Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) are newbies and team leader Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) is a bit of a hot-head, Doctor Fate is a font of wisdom throughout the film, being able to connect with the titular Teth-Adam in a deeper way than the other heroes. Not to mention the fact that he also looks super-cool and his mystical powers make for some epic action sequences.

After watching Fate add some much-needed gravitas to this otherwise competent if unspectacular spectacle — or perhaps even before checking Black Adam out this weekend — you might be wanting to know more about the comic book world’s original Sorcerer Supreme and how he first donned his gleaming headdress in the first place. If so, you’ve come to the right place.

What is Doctor Fate’s origins story?

Doctor Fate
Photo via Warner Bros

Yes, sorry, Marvel, but DC definitely won the race here. While Doctor Strange didn’t hit shelves until 1963, Doctor Fate first appeared on the page in 1940. Here’s how his origins story played out in his debut appearance, More Fun Comics #67.

The son of Swedish-American archaeologist Sven Nelson, Kent first encountered the Helmet of Fate when he was just a boy, during an excavation of a temple in Egypt’s Valley of Ur in 1920. Upon opening the tomb of Nabu the Wise, the Nelsons unwittingly release a deadly gas which kills Sven. Taking pity on the now-orphan child, Nabu — a hugely powerful cosmic entity that dwells within the helmet — teaches him in the ways of sorcery for the next 20 years before Kent returns to America in 1940 to begin his crime-fighting career as Doctor Fate.

Residing in the Tower of Fate in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife and fellow sorceress Inza Cramer, Kent is granted a host of powers when wearing the Helmet, including — but not limited to — flight, control over the elements, intangibility and, of course, the ability to foresee the future. In addition to the Helmet, he’s also gifted the Amulet of Anubis and the Cloak of Destiny by Nabu, who uses Fate to act as his agent for the Lords of Order against the Lords of Chaos and their evil forces.

Doctor Fate’s DCEU backstory is not specified in Black Adam, but he does note that he is 100 years old — having been given an elongated lifespan by Nabu — so it’s likely it largely matches with his comic book counterpart. We’d like to use that helmet ourselves to see if we’re in for more of Fate in the franchise’s future. Fingers crossed.