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365 Reasons to Love Comics #87

Doctor Week: Day Four! It’s the one you’ve all been waiting for, trust me. The greatest doctor in all of comics is making a house call today.


87. Doctor Strange

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Neilalien, this one’s for you. (And everyone should follow the link to Neil’s site. Everything you ever wanted to know about Dr. Strange is available there– the man is the #1 Strange fan. And it’s also a fun blog. Check it out.)

Dr. Strange is the creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and is the character through which Ditko did the greatest work of his career. No one else has been able to capture the feel of Ditko’s figurework, psychedelic landscapes, swirly, glowing mystical energy bolts, or any other of the Strange tropes. Many have done good work on Dr. Strange. None have topped Ditko. Such a thing seems impossible. I was going to save Strange for a potential Ditko Week, but there’s still plenty of material for such a thing if I desire. Rest assured, though, Dr. Strange is his best work.

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Dr. Strange is former surgeon Stephen Strange, born in Philadelphia, like myself. (Apparently he was born in 1930, which is probably no longer canon but would actually be quite cool were this still so. His powers make him ageless anyway.) One day, he got into a car accident, and suffered nerve damage in his hands, forever losing his ability to operate. Strange, being an arrogant bastard, was absolutely crushed and humbled by this occurence, and sought purpose in his life. He heard tell of an Ancient One in Tibet who could possibly cure him, so he made the difficult journey there and became the old man’s apprentice in the mystic arts. The rest is history, and now he’s sorceror supreme, complete with cloak of levitation, eye of Agamotto, crimson bands of Cytorrak, astral projection, and all the other cool powers and perks that come with the job.

I love Strange; he’s probably one of my top three Marvel characters. If Vincent Price was a sorceror, he’d be Doctor Strange. Well, okay, he was a sorceror, and he went by the name Vincent van Ghoul in 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, but it was the same thing, dammit. Also, he may be the best sorceror in all of reality and beyond, but, as Chris Sims tells us, he ain’t afraid to beat the crap out of you with his bare hands, either. There’s the Strange I love.

Look at the talent that’s worked on Dr. Strange; there’s Ditko, obviously, but you can’t forget artists like the underrated Frank Brunner, the moody, spooky Gene Colan, or the late, great Marshall Rogers. And, of course, writers like Steve Englehart and Roger Stern are considered to be some of the best to hit the title.

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And, geez, Strange’s supporting cast! You’ve got the awesome Wong, who is twice as cool as Kato; hippie girlfriend from another dimension, Clea; heck, I even like that green minotaur dude from that one Strange Tales run whose name I always forget. And his villains! Baron Mordo, Nightmare, Eternity, Umar, and the Dread Dormammu! Strange also has one of the greatest headquarters in comics, the Sanctum Sanctorium, with the best window you’ve ever seen.

He’s gone through multiple series. Originally, he appeared in Strange Tales, before graduating to his own title, which then reverted to Strange Tales again. After that, he was in Marvel Premiere, and then multiple volumes of his own book. In the 90’s, he went through a horribly grim-and-gritty masked phase, a youthful Lennon phase, and something I can only describe as an oddly prescient “90’s Doctor Who” phase before the book was canned.

Since then, he hasn’t had any ongoing series, though he has had a few mini’s and a ton of guest appearances. The most recent mini, The Oath, was a terrific tale by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. It features Strange as both a medical doctor *and* sorceror supreme, makes Wong cool, and gives a huge role to Night Nurse. Awesome. I also liked Peter Milligan’s Dead Girl mini-series, which was a Dr. Strange mini in disguise. The portrayal was both funny and poignant. JMS did a revamp, but, uh… let’s all forget that ever happened.

Story continues below

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He’s also, of course, been a stalwart member of the Defenders from the beginning. The original, the Secret ones, and everything before, between, or since, really. He even encountered the short-lived New Defenders a lot. Now, he’s a member of the New Avengers.

Dr. Strange has faired… okay, I guess… in other media. The most obscurely infamous of all is the 70’s TV movie, starring Peter Hooten (who looked like he fell out of a Welcome Back, Kotter lookalike contest), with the baddie Morgana le Fay played by Jessica Walter, a.k.a. Lucille Bluth of Arrested Development. Strange has also guested in a bunch of cartoons and will get his own straight-to-DVD animated movie later this year.

If there was to be a new Dr. Strange ongoing, I’d love to write it. Of course, if I wasn’t available at the time, I suppose they could settle for Peter Milligan. The man loves weird ideas and the theme of identity, so I think he’d do well; I mean, I really liked his Strange in the Dead Girl mini, and wouldn’t mind more of the same. For art, I’d reunite him with his Shade the Changing Man (another Ditko creation) collaborator, Chris Bachalo. I think Bachalo would do justice to the twisting, creepy and (pardon me) strange Ditko-y environments Strange finds himself in. His inky, chaotic style would be great.

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So, there you go. Dr. Strange, the greatest doctor in comics. Former medical genius, now master of the mystic arts, saving the universe from frightening and bizarre menaces that it doesn’t even know about. Only one man is unafraid to travel the dimensions and combat the unknown evil that lies within the darkness, and that’s Stephen motherbleepin’ Strange. He’s at the forefront of his genre, in terms of the comics world, and he’s supremely underrated and unloved. C’mon, people! Bring the love!

Did I cover enough? I may have started gushing, there. For some other cool Strange stuff, there’s Neilalien, of course, as well as ditko.comics.org. You can Google around for some other neat stuff. Interesting bits of interwebness include the Dr. Strange Custom Covers Project and a look at Ditko’s Strange on the Marvel Masterworks site.


Rintrah. From Blake.

Since you brought him up, not me, any chance of seeing The Doctor in here?

Spot on with that creative team choice. The Dead Girl series was spot on. He was goofy yet cool, a little aloof but also totally in control. And yeah, especially with his panel layouts… Bachalo would be excellent.

I think Dr. Strange is one of those characters that is cool in spite of most of the work he has been in. I think there was such a strong ground work layed by Ditko (and Lee, who gave him a personality beyond the guy that always wins with relative ease).

I thought it was Doctor Doom.

I was never that into Dr Strange–so bring on Dr Forklift!

(While all you Dr Strange fans enjoy the above of course…)

Dr. Strange is indeed several shades of awesome.

(Fingers crossed for Dr. Bong.)

My favorite Marvel Masterworks volume is the first Dr. Strange volume. It features Ditko at his absolute peak of creativity.

The runs by Thomas-Colan, Englehart-Brunner, and Stern-Marshall Rogers/Paul Smith are also wonderful.

“The greatest doctor in all of comics is making a house call today.”

Sorry, **today**? Because this is NOT Doctor Doom.

Strange, that. So to speak.

And trust me — every single lurker agrees, Cronin included.

ugh. That was really a masked Dr.? I’m so glad I skipped that whole Midnight Sons crap.

As for a Dr. Strange artist, how about Charles Vess? I think he does swirly mysticism perfectly.

I’d love to see Milligan take another crack at Doc Strange. His portrayal in the Dead Girl mini was amazing.

Finally!!! It’s about time some Marvel came back in the mix, I swear every time I check this thing it’s some obscure DC stuff. Good stuff…

Really, T? For a while there, I thought I was being Marvel-heavy. I still think I lean too much on the Big Two and need to cover more indie stuff and the like, but I’m not as well-versed in that area.

Maybe it’s just been the days I’ve checked, but for some reason I always stumble on DC days. Since I didn’t read much DC growing up, I usually don’t recognize the characters, although I do get a good education on concepts I wish I knew about like Ch’p the Green Lantern and the Joe Simon creations for DC like the Billionaire Boys and Brother Geek. I just was glad I recognized a character for once.

The Mad Monkey

March 29, 2007 at 1:43 am

There must be a spot in there, somewhere, for Doctor Bong.
I mean…c’mon…it’s Doctor Bong!!!
If you can put in that pimpin’est pimp of all pimps, I Ching…you can put in Doctor Bong.

I can’t help it…I just like sayin’ that name…

looks like the three six five is finally back on track! doctor week, melikey – doom, octopus, fate richards and the doubtless obscure ones which will also come up :D

my fav doc strange is 1602 doc strange where he takes uatu’s cryptic advice and saves the universe in the process

I was a big fan of P Craig Russell’s “What is it That Disturbs You, Stephen?” one-shot from a few years back. It was a remake of an annual he had done several years before. Totally gorgeous thing.

There was a beautiful DeMatteis OGN from the 80’s and painted by Dan Green. Very striking thing. “Into Shamballah” was the name, I think.

Strange is WAY cooler than Doom.

Oh, and I liked the JMS mini better than the Oath.


March 29, 2007 at 7:51 am


(While, I also await with baited breath the arrival of DR. BONG, Strange is the shiznit)

It IS indeed still in canon that Strange was born in 1930 (he doesn’t age as we do, due to his defeating/accepting death in one of his trials to become Sorcerer Supreme). While he CAN die in battle, age isn’t supposed to be a factor – at least not NORMAL aging.
Cool, right?

However, you got a little of his publishing timeline a bit off though.

No biggie, but allow me to be of help (and then flesh it out a bit):

– Started in Strange Tales (1st series) # 110
– This lasted until issue # 168

– Received his OWN series
(the 1st issue was numbered # 169 – due to Marvel’s publishing restrictions at the time)
– This lasted until issue # 183

– The series was canceled in mid storyline, so the tale was continued in SUB-MARINER # 22 (where Strange sacrifices himself to save the universe) and then in HULK # 126 (wherein Strange is rescued and gives up Sorcery).

– He returns to power in Marvel Feature # 1 (also premiering the DEFENDERS – which spun out of the meeting/teaming in those Namor/Hulk issues).
– DEFENDERS continues in Feature (and then their own series)

– Strange gets another crack at the limelight in MARVEL PREMIERE # 3 – 14

– Graduates to a NEW # 1 in his own title (Master of the Mystic Arts) which then lasts for 81 issues (with ONE annual & ONE Giant Size issue).

– This segues directly to the 2nd Strange tales series (which he shared with Cloak & Dagger). # 1 – 19

– That flowed directly to Strange’s 3rd official series (Sorcerer Supreme) which lasted # 1 – 90 (with 3 more annuals – oddly enough started with Annual # 2)

– A mini series (Flight of Bones # 1-4) in 1998

– 2 staring graphic novels: “Into SHAMBALLA” (1986) & “Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom: TRIUMPH & TORMENT (1990)

– Of course, MANY one-shots, reprint mini-series, reprint stories in Strange Tales – long after he had left the 1st time around & whatnot occurring all around his history as well.

– Oh yeah… several BOOKS too.
These include the Novel, ‘NIGHTMARE’ & ‘Through 6 Dimensions’ (a “choose your adventure” style book), as well as guest starring in others’ books (too many to list here).

– Not to mention the remainder of DEFENDERS, Secret Defenders, Busiek/Larson’s DEFENDERS series, The ORDER mini, Giffen/DeMatteis’ DEFENDERS mini, THOR : VIKINGS mini (with a slightly different take on Strange), DEAD GIRL (aka Dr. Strange’s secret mini), JMS’ “matrix homage” STRANGE mini, Vaughan’s THE OATH mini & starring roles in 1602, EARTH/PLANET/UNIVERSE X and other major projects, and assorted special editions, one-shots & portfolio series’…

… and just TOO much to list!

Sorry if I got carried away here…
Doctor Strange IS teh shit!


I don’t know what is scarier and more depressing – Dr. Strange with a Image-esque mask and a grim-and-gritty demeanor, or the fact that the comic you linked to was “Part 15″ of a storyline (yikes…)

The Kirbydotter

March 29, 2007 at 11:39 am

Doctor Starnge is also one of my Top 3 Marvel character.

Aside from the original Ditko run, my favorite Doctor Strange run was written by Roger Stern with a succession of great artists, the late Marshall Rogers, Paul Smith, Steve Leiahola, Carl Potts and I think there was even a Michael Golden issue (and a Kevin Knowlan?) in there somewhere

The Englehart/Brunner short run was fun and introduced another interesting Strange villain: Silver Dagger.

I am sorry to say that I was never was a fan of Colan’s Doctor Strange. I like his mystery suff better than super-hero work (to me Doctor Stange is very much a super-hero and not a mystery or horror character like Werewolf by Night and other Bronze Age characters).

The Roy Thomas (which I usually not a fan of) and Butch Guice Dr. Strange run of the early 90’s (?) was surprisingly good to read.

The Dr.Strange/Dr. Doom graphic novel was great and I wish Mignola would do more. A Mignola Defender series would be awesome!

Ahh, yes, I’d forgotten about Thor: Vikings. I quite enjoyed that Strange. “Strange? Downright peculiar, I’d say.”

I don’t really consider Dr. Strange a superhero, though. He works in a distinctly non-superhero-y genre; he just happens to exist in a superhero universe. Thor is much the same way. So are the Fantastic Four. And the X-Men. It’s easy to consider them to be non-superhero.

I haven’t read that P. Craig Russell one-shot; I’ll have to hunt it down sometime. I was going to suggest him as another possible artist for Dr. Strange; his style would be perfect, and he did a beautiful splash page in the Ultimate Marvel Team Up Super Special, or whatever that thing was called.

Two surprising omissions from what is a comprehensive assessment, I thought…

The first is that the masked Dr. Strange was, in fact, a one of the very first retoolings of the character from the 1960s!


The second is that the ‘Lennon’ looking version is actually the version that looks like DC’s revamp of Kid Eternity to the point where I’m surprised DC didn’t consider suing.


March 30, 2007 at 8:12 am

And of course Neil Gaiman totally ripped off the idea of a master of the dreamworld with pale skin and black Spikey hair from a very early issue of Dr Strange’s Strange Tales days.

I’m referring of course to ‘Nightmare’ who is th spittin image of Dream of the Endless.

Except he seems more motivated to get himself out of bed in the morning, what with his being a badass and all.

Was that the first apearance of Nightnmare? He’s appeared in a lot of comics since….

Doctor Strange has always worked best for me as a guest star. In his own title, the stories are usually too “weird for weird’s sake” for me, and in The Defenders, he is my least favorite kind of superhero.

I like him best on the street level of the Marvel Universe; the man in the strange house in the village where Daredevil or Spidey might drop in for some mystic advice.

And hell yeah the Sanctum Sanctorum is the coolest HQ ever!!! When I get rich, I’m going to have a skylight just like that. And a manservant.


March 30, 2007 at 12:03 pm

For “StephenSanders”,

Nightmare appeared along with DOC’s 1st appearance:
Strange Tales # 110


I don’t know if the “doctor who” look is the Mark Buckingham coat look (http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=57532&zoom=2) but I dug that. A nice update, taking him out of the spandex, but being reflective of the original.

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