Welcome to Vanishing Point, a monthly column about the more outré continuity problems in the DC Universe, and my personal *non-canon* attempts to make sense out of them. This month's column is:
The (Many) Hands of Fate
[special thanks to http://members.xoom.com/doctorfate/ for much of this info]
When comics first came into prominence, several magic-based characters were created. Men like Sargon the Sorcerer, the Spectre, and Doctor Occult entertained the youth of the Golden Age issue after issue. But one name stood high above the rest the name of Doctor Fate.
The story of Fate begins, like many other heroes, at the dawn of time. The very accident which sundered the universe into positive and negative matter, two elemental forces were created, Order and Chaos. Beings of great power arose to serve them, and became known as the Lords of Order and Chaos.
For eons, they strove for dominance, both sides gaining small victories. A small blue world named Earth was an early victory for Chaos, so the Lords of Order sent one of their number from the world of Cilia to become Earth's guardian. Taking as human host a sorcerer in the service of the Egyptian Pharaoh, he became known as Nabu the Wise.
However, as time passed, his human form grew weak. He asked Pharaoh to build a temple in the valley of Ur so that the long rest could repair his damaged body. Millennia passed.
In 1940, archaeologist Sven Nelson, accompanied by his son Kent, found the temple. By mischance, young Kent triggered a system which awakened Nabu. Sven Nelson was slain by poisonous gases, but Kent survived.
After mystically aging the lad 20 years (and erasing his memories of his past), Nabu trained the boy to become his new host. In his very first exploit, he rescued Inza Cramer from Wotan, an evil wizard Nabu had battled in the distant past. They fell in love, and in short order, were wed.
Now, Nabu had always been a bit of a renegade, and he knew that Kent's full potential could only be released in mystical fusion with his wife, but this potential would remove Kent from his control. Instead, Nabu infused his essence into a golden helm, and used it to increase his control over the young sorcerer. However, perhaps due to his association with the mystery men of the JSA, Kent refused to submit, and began using a half-helm instead, accepting the loss of power his refusal engendered. (He did use the full helm on one occasion in order to find the missing Spectre, but in a subsequent battle, the helm was lost for many years.)
Over the next few decades, Kent and Inza lived together in peace, never aging thanks to Kent's magic and the aftereffects of a battle with Ian Karkull. Soon after recovering the helm (in a one of the periodic "teamups" of the JSA and JLA) Kent returned to active duty, battling the forces of Darkseid and helping found a new incarnation of the Justice League.
During this time, he continued to wear the full helm, allowing Nabu to increase his hold on him. Nabu saw that Kent was beginning to weaken, much as his former host had. The suicide of Inza Nelson gave him the opening he needed. He withdrew his power from Kent, allowing his body to age and die, and, after capturing the souls of Kent and Inza in the Amulet of Anubis, transformed his essence into a simulacrum of Kent's body, and approached a young boy named Eric Strauss.
For some reason, Eric alone became unable to handle the transformation into Fate as Kent had, so Nabu was forced to allow him to merge with his stepmother Linda, completing the fusion Nabu had denied Kent and Inza.
Eric and Linda were now independent of Nabu, although he remained as their mentor. When they fell in battle, their spirits possessed Eugene and Wendy DiBella, while Nabu incarnated as their unborn son. Kent and Inza found themselves reborn into human form in Kent's mystical tower in Salem, MA. Aware of the truth, they merged to become a new Doctor Fate, but a Lord of Chaos was able to interfere with the process, and soon only Inza could become Fate. The Chaos Lord possessed the now-vacant helm of Nabu.
For a short time, Inza unwittingly served Chaos, but she soon discovered her true potential, and breaking the barrier which prevented her merger with Kent, acheieved the true potential nabu had long denied them. Now their power came from all of the sentient beings of Earth.
In the chronal crisis now known as Zero Hour, this fusion was shattered. The mad entity Extant stripped them of their power, casting the helm into the void. Now at their true ages, too weak to become Fate by themselves, they returned at last to the temple of Nabu, where Kent had first found it a half-century earlier. There they found the helm, as well as the spirit of Nabu, who rather callously told them that other plans were being made.
Three months, seven days, and 16 hours later, the aged couple were found by one Jared Stevens, a graverobber and mercenary hired by his father-in-law to recover the artifacts of Order. He seized the helm, amulet, and cloak from the rather senile pair, and was immediately transported to Nabu's realm.
During this time, he entered an odd trance state, in which he believed he had been transported to Salem by Kent and Inza. And not only battled the forces of Chaos, but also Nabu himself, who appeared to become a lord of Chaos. (Still somewhat entranced, he temporarily left Nabu's realm to assist in the defeat of the archfiend Neron, but soon returned)
In the climax of his visions, he saw Kent and Inza finally enter into Heaven. In a flash of light, he returned to Earth, somewhat changed from the heroic garb of his visions. Once again, he sees the final fate (no pun intended) of the couple, as they transformed into beings of energy and vanish.
He attempts to leave, only to be confronted by Nabu and a Lord of Chaos, who battle for control of his body, which results in his becoming half-order and half-chaos. Soon afterwards, the Lords of both realms battle one last time for dominance. Jared, now calling himself merely Fate, becomes enmeshed in the conflict, which ends in yet another stalemate. Somewhat disgusted by the performance of their champion, the Lords cast him into a distant Limbo, where in his last known act, he gets himself thrown out of a bar by a being which no longer exists.
It's not likely that Nabu will not choose another host. Various alternate futures have shown him possessing one being or another, most notably in the realm known as "Earth-Kingdom", where he possessed a reconstituted helm, without deigning to take an organic form.
Should Chaos rise again, the Doctor will, once again, "be in" it's not merely a certainty it's Fate.
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1998 by Mario Di Giacomo.