The Sorcerer Supreme protects the Marvel Universe from all manner of mystical threats, which means the holder of the title does not get such luxuries as a vacation, sick days, or time to rest and recuperate from injuries they received in the line of duty.
Doctor Stephen Strange understands this, but after a battle with the Empirikul, an army of fanatical inter-dimensional marauders out to destroy all things arcane and mystical changed the nature of magic in the Marvel Universe, he’s probably wishing he could call out sick and recuperate — just for a little while.
Unfortunately for him, writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo are releasing an army of Strange’s archenemies, all of whom are gunning for him in his weakened state. With October’s “Doctor Strange” #12 kicking off a new arc titled “Blood in the Aether,” CBR News spoke with Aaron about writing Strange’s classic rogues, the new faces hoping to join their ranks, and how his protagonist is holding up in the aftermath of “The Last Days of Magic.”
CBR News: “Last Days of Magic” ended with the defeat of the Empirikul, but that doesn’t mean things are back to normal for magic and the Earth dimension.
Jason Aaron: Yeah, the Empirikul really pulled the rug out from under Strange, and destroyed the very rules of magic. We saw at the end of the arc that even though the Empirikul was defeated, everything didn’t go back to the way it was. There was no magical reset button.
Coming out of this arc we have a very different sort of Sorcerer Supreme. It’s pretty much Strange having to relearn the way he does things. He can’t just wave his fingers and save the day anymore. The old rules don’t apply, so we’ll see a very different sort of status quo for Strange.
The whole idea from the get go was to make Strange have to fight for everything he gets. Things have come easy to him for so long. He’s been sort of a Deus Ex Machina in too many stories, so I wanted to show the price he has to pay to do the job he does — and that price just went up. The game has really changed for him. Chris and I both wanted to see a character who was going to be a little more hands on too. I think you can see that reflected in the way that Chris has changed the look of Strange, and we’ll be tweaking that again after this arc.
We didn’t want a guy who could shoot bolts of energy, wave his fingers from a distance, and win the fight. We wanted him to have to get in there and mix it up a little more.
Can you talk anymore about Stephen’s current physical and mental state?
That’s really the focus of issue #11 with art by Kevin Nowlan and
Leonardo Romero, which is about of the aftermath of “The Last Days of Magic” arc, and a preview of what’s to come. It’s kind of a dark mirror image of “Doctor Strange” #1 in that it’s a slice of life of what’s it like to be Doctor Strange, now.
Coming out of that, we’ve got a big new arc that starts in issue #12 where we’ll see that just when Strange is at his lowest, emerging from this huge battle, and just when he’s starting to figure out who he is now and what it means to be Sorcerer Supreme, that’s when all of his old enemies show up, led by Baron Mordo. It’s me and Chris trying to do new takes on Strange’s rogues gallery, while also adding a couple of new characters to the mix.
From the Marvel NOW! teaser, it looks like one of those new characters is an old favorite of mine from “West Coast Avengers.” Is that Master Pandemonium?
[Laughs] Yep. I’m always looking to get Master Pandemonium in. I used him in “Ghost Rider,” and he even popped up in “Wolverine & the X-Men” at one point. I have a big soft spot for that character. He’s definitely going to be part of this, and part of the rogues gallery. There will be a lot of other characters, too. Some of them you see on that teaser, some you don’t.
What’s it like getting a chance to write classic foes like Baron Mordo? What do you enjoy most about that character?
The challenge really has been to figure out who Mordo is and what we can do differently with him than what we’ve seen before. The tone of the book kind of goes back and forth between dark and serious and fun and whimsical at times. Mordo is not a very whimsical guy, though. I think the book is going to go to some of its darkest places yet when we introduce him. He’s the first villain we’ll see Strange tangle with right out of the gate in issue #12.
I’m excited to see what Chris will do with some of the classic Doctor Strange villains. Did he get to do some redesign work with those characters?
Yeah, I think you’ll see him tweaking pretty much all of them. In the first two issues, you’ll see his takes and tweaks on Mordo and Nightmare.
How does the action in this new arc unfold? Will it be as simple as Strange’s foes decide to target him? Or is there a deeper mystery going on?
The arc is called “Blood in the Aether.” It’s pretty much [that] Strange is wounded in a very serious way and his old villains get word of that. They’re coming after him, one after the other, and Strange will have to run a gauntlet of all his biggest bad guys.
Will Strange be taking on these foes all by himself?
We’ll certainly see members of his supporting cast in the book, but this is pretty much Strange on his own. Most of the magical characters are off dealing with their own situations. They’re all having to figure out the new laws of magic. This arc is Strange, sequestered, and having to sink or swim on his own.
Stephen Strange’s world will soon expand with the launch of “Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme” by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez. I understand both your book and the new title will stand on their own, but there will be some connective tissue for readers of both.
Absolutely. The new book is spinning out of some of the stuff we do in “Doctor Strange.” There will even be some connection to other stuff I’ve done. Robbie’s book, though, is going off in its own direction. I’m excited to see the cool cast that he’s put together for that book.
I actually met Robbie for the first time last week at Disneyland. We talked a bit about Doctor Strange over Tiki drinks at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki bar, which seemed very appropriate.