Marvel studios has taken b-list characters like Thor and Iron Man, and propelled them into a-list status. With this successful track record, I’m looking forward to what other characters they will bring to the forefront. For phase 3 (movies between Avengers 2 and 3), one such character to receive the superstar treatment is Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange.
Created by Steve Ditko (creator of Spider-Man) and Stan Lee (though in truth, the former had more to do with the creation than latter), Dr. Strange debuted in Strange Tales #110 in 1963. Like many characters at the time, Strange split the book with another popular character, Nick Fury. This pairing lasted until issue #168 where Fury received his own title, and Strange Tales was renamed to Doctor Strange. Ditko drew and plotted the book with Lee scripting through issue #142. From there many worked on the book; Bill Everett, Marie Severin, and even legendary Denny O’Neil. With issue #169, creative duties were handed over to Roy Thomas (writer) and amazing artist Gene Colan. With issue #177, they attempted to boost sales by changing Strange’s appearance with a new costume, and even a secret identity. The book was abruptly cancelled with issue #183.
Strange had two more ongoing series; Doctor Strange (’74 – ’87) ran for 81 issues. A year later, another series starring the good doctor, Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme, ran for 90 issues from ’88 – ’96. This was the last time the character starred in the title roll.
Doctor Stephen Strange was a world renowned neurosurgeon, but was self-centered and greedy. A car accident damaged his hands beyond the ability for any technology to repair. He spent is fortune looking for a cure. His travels eventually took him to the Ancient One in the Himalayas. Sensing the good in Strange after he selflessly saved the Ancient One from Baron Mordo, a former student and eventual antagonist, the Ancient One teaches Strange the mystic arts.
Strange eventually becomes the Sorcerer Supreme, protector of Earth against magical threats, and keeper of many mystical artifacts. Residing in the Sanctum Santorum, which is located in New York, mostly. He is assisted by his caretaker, Wong. Strange uses magical artifacts to assist him in his duties; the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agamotto, and the Book of Vishanti. Seriously, it’s not a Doctor Strange story unless those last two are mentioned. Along with Baron Mordo, Strange battles many mystical foes, chiefly the Dark Dimension warlord known as Dormammu. The other main staple Strange character is his true love, Clea, niece of Dormammu.
As Ditko wrote him, Strange was a very psychedelic character, dealing with many other word entities, dimensions, and concepts. Mostly influenced by then foreign concepts of Eastern mysticism in the 60’s, historian Bradford Wright said “Ditko contributed… disorienting, hallucinogenic quality.” Far out. The problem with magical characters is their power range. Strange seems to be capable of whatever the story demands. Including making everyone forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Magic!
Since the cancellation of the Sorcerer Supreme, Strange hasn’t been able to support his own title since. Mostly known as a member of the Defenders, and part of Brian Michael Bendis’s New Avengers run (’10 – ’13), Strange was typically seen in random 4-6 issues mini-series. While they ranged in degrees of quality, one stands head and shoulders above the rest; Doctor Strange: The Oath. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin, this book is the best example of the character. Get this. Now. Author of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) George R. R. Martin has expressed interest in penning a tale for the character, but wants an iron clad contract stating his story can’t be changed or retconned in any way, ever. I don’t think the man knows how comics work.
Strange has had a few appearances in other media (Spider-Man 1994 cartoon, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 games), but his most notable was in a direct-to-DVD, Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme. The movie recounted his origin wonderfully along with his first battle against Dormammu. This is an amazing feature that can easily be seen on Netflix.
Though he’s been mostly a b – c-list character, I’m still excited to see Doctor Strange on the big screen. Origin movie, here we come!
Pick up The Oath yet? Why not? Okay, how awesome is it? Comment below!
“By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!”