Doctor Fate was originally created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman during the Golden Age of comics in 1940, first appearing in More Fun Comics #55. This introduced him as a mysterious sorcerer with no given background residing in the Tower of Fate and emerging to fight evil, establishing his love interest Inza Cramer and his first battle against long-time enemy Wotan. The character would also appear as a member of the original Justice Society of America. After his first year of publication he was finally given a secret identity and origin story, his name given as Kent Nelson. Several months later the feature began taking a different direction, changing his classic helmet to reveal the bottom half of his face and focusing more on standard superhero action stories than magic and other fantastic elements. Doctor Fate began to wane in popularity after this change and his regular appearances in both series' were canceled before the end of World War II.
During the Silver Age of comics DC began publishing newer versions of older characters, eventually having them form a team named the Justice League of America. To explain the differences they introduced the Multiverse, and it was said that the League's stories took place on Earth-One while the Society's stories took place on Earth-Two. Doctor Fate made his next appearance wearing his signature helmet again in the crossover Crisis on Earth-One where both teams met for the first time. A two-part team-up with Hourman in Showcase revealed that Kent and Inza had married during the years he hadn't been heard from. Martin Pasko would later write a story introducing the idea that Nabu resided in the helmet and took control of Nelson whenever he channeled the Doctor Fate persona, which would later become a central part of the mythos.