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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.