The Marvel Universe is home to more fantastic things than superheroes and supervillains; it’s also rife with magic and supernatural beings. When these eldritch and arcane forces become a threat to the people of Earth, it’s up to their top magic user, the Sorcerer Supreme, to step up and save the day. For years, the planet’s Sorcerer Supreme was Doctor Stephen Strange, but a recent string of mishaps and bad decisions caused him to lose the title to another.
However, that doesn’t mean that Doctor Strange’s involvement in the mystical realm of the Marvel Universe is finished. In the four issue mini-series, “Strange,” by writer Mark Waid and artist Emma Rios, the good doctor finds a new way to continue to protect the citizens of the Marvel U from the never ending forces of supernatural evil. CBR News spoke with Waid about his plans for the good doctor, who’s new comic kicks off on November 11th.
CBR News: What drew you to this series, Mark? Were you always a fan of Doctor Strange?
Mark Waid: Yep, ever since his early days as a Defender. I’ve always liked Stephen’s demeanor and have particularly enjoyed watching him change and grow over the years as he discovers new aspects of his job.
When readers first meet Stephen Strange in issue #1 of “Strange,” how is he adjusting to life now that he’s no longer the Sorcerer Supreme?
Better than you’d think, actually. We establish that, while he’s only been gone for a few months “our” time, he’s sort of been on a mystical “walkabout” that’s lasted a lot longer and has given him ample time to reflect on where he went wrong. So, when we first see him, he appears to be rather enjoying his newfound lack of responsibility. But as always with Stephen, you’re not getting the whole picture.
How would you describe Strange’s role in the Marvel Universe at this point? Has it changed much?
Tremendously. For the first time in his career, he can leave the heavy lifting to someone else (new Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Voodoo) and enjoy life and all its little pleasures that he’s not had time to partake of in recent years. But he’s still a teacher – and whether he likes it or not, he’ll be drawn back into that role.
We had heard that Stephen becomes a mentor figure in “Strange.” What can you tell us about the background and personality of his new apprentice?
Casey Kinmont is pretty much the last person you’d ever expect to pick up any sort of mystical mantle. She’s a college-age girl – and I say “girl” and not “woman” very much on purpose, as you’ll see – who’s inadvertently drawn into a life-threatening situation in issue one that upends her worldview. She’s sort of the anti-Clea – stubborn, hard to teach, argumentative – but I can promise you’ll be rooting for her before issue one is over, and long after.
How would you describe the initial dynamic between Stephen and Casey? Why does Stephen take her on as an apprentice, and why does she choose to study with him?
I can’t answer the last question without giving away too much of issue one – and, as you’ll see, Doc doesn’t so much take on a new apprentice as have one forced upon him by fate (and by an uncharacteristic error in judgment he makes in issue one).
What can you tell me about the plot and themes of “Strange?” Is this a mini-series with one over arching story that flows from one issue to the next? Or is it more of a series of interconnected stand alone stories that combine to explore the characters’ relationships?
A little of all of that. The first two issues are standalone adventures, but the third spills over into the climax of issue four as things get way, way out of hand. Still, the most important part of every issue is the character interaction. We can’t afford to waste the opportunity to enjoy seeing Stephen Strange as a relaxed, ordinary guy (with one new, very strong, very dark secret that’s percolating inside him and will eventually be revealed at a most inopportune time).
What kinds of obstacles and adversaries are you interested in throwing at Stephen and Casey? In your mind what type of foes make the best foils for Doctor Strange?
Clever ones; ones who require Doc to use his brains more than his mystical might – particularly since he doesn’t have much magic mojo left. In a sense, he’s been reduced to doing the Sorcerer Supreme equivalent of performing card tricks, and it’s wearing on his ego – but it also makes him far more vulnerable than he’s ever been before, because after all these years of creating mystic enemies, he suddenly has no real magic with which to defend himself. He’d better hope he can teach enough to Casey to keep them both alive.
What can you tell me about the supporting cast of “Strange?” Does the series mainly feature new supporting players, old favorites like Wong, or a mixture of both?
Wong and Clea and the rest are temporarily off the table as other writers are sorting out the magical foundation of the Marvel Universe, but we’ll meet some new supporting characters. My favorite of which is Larry, the Cranky Demon, modeled partly in a Steve Gerber mold and partly after [Marvel editor] Tom Brevoort.
How would you describe the tone of “Strange?” The initial vibe I’m getting from it is a magical/supernatural version of “Doctor Who.”
That’s a very good characterization. Both Tom Brevoort and I are huge fans of Russell T. Davies and his Doctor, and we like the echoes that TV series has with the earliest incarnations of the Dr. Strange series itself – small, human stories inside a grander context.
What’s it like working with artist Emma Rios? What do you feel she brings to this series as an artist?
So much. So much. First off, try to find any artist under the age of forty who even knows who Steve Ditko is. Emma’s a huge fan of Stephen and of his earliest adventures, and she’s a terrific storyteller. I had the pleasure of being introduced to her work on the BOOM! comics series “Hexed,” and when she was approached by Marvel, I couldn’t wait to work with her there. Her imagination is top-notch, and her skill is stunning.
If readers respond to Stephen and Casey’s adventures in “Strange” would you be interested in revisiting the characters? And if so do you have some ideas as to where you’d like to take them next?
Yes, and yes!
“Strange” isn’t your only current comic gig. You’re also part of the web-heads, the writing team on “Amazing Spider-Man,” and you’re the Editor in Chief of BOOM! Studios. Any BOOM! titles that you think might appeal to fans of your work on “Strange?”
Emma’s earlier work on “Hexed” has been collected into a hardcover, available now! And if you’re enjoying my Marvel work, I implore you to check out my series “Irredeemable” and “Incorruptible” – ask for ’em by name!