Spider-Man is famous for having one of the very best rogues galleries in all of comics, but what is interesting is that at the same time that he was creating all of those amazing villains in the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” with Stan Lee, Steve Ditko was also doing the same in the pages of “Strange Tales” with Doctor Strange‘s rogues gallery. Ditko helped to create a great initial group of villains in his initial run on the character and later writers have done a fine job expanding Ditko’s original work with new villains. In fact, on the current “Doctor Strange” series, Jason Aaron just introduced an awesome new threat to Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.
Aaron’s achievement is particularly notable considering that there tends to be a very specific “type” of villain that Strange typically fights (mostly demons and other magicians), so making a villain stand out when you’re working with a limited type is quite impressive and something that the following characters managed to pull off. Here, then, are the 15 greatest Doctor Strange villains.
Very few Marvel villains have had their own successful ongoing comic book series, but that’s just what happened with Dracula, Marvel’s version of Bram Stoker’s famous vampire villain. “The Tomb of Dracula” was a critical darling for many years, particularly the run by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. That series introduced Blade the Vampire Hunter as one of a recurring group of heroes who tried to kill Dracula.
Where those heroes failed, though, is where Doctor Strange succeeded in a famous storyline from “Doctor Strange” #59-62, where Strange teamed up with Blade and his friends (including good vampire Hannibal King) to finally end the threat of vampirism in the Marvel Universe once and for all. To do so, Strange sought out and discovered the Darkhold, an evil book of spells placed on earth by the evil Elder God, Chton. Strange wanted to enact the Montesi Formula, a spell that would kill all vampires on Earth. Dracula naturally did not want it, so he and Strange had a vicious battle on the astral plane, but Strange was ultimately victorious and succeeded in destroying all vampires on Earth (save King, who Strange managed to save based on the loophole that King had never feasted on human flesh). Until they were all brought back years later, of course.
Xandu is an interesting villain, in that he has not faced off against Doctor Strange all that often, but each time he has fought Strange, it was during a team-up between Strange and Spider-Man, making Xandu’s appearances stand out more than other infrequent Strange villains. In fact, Xandu’s first appearance brought about the very first meeting between Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, which occurred in “Amazing Spider-Man Annual” #2 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. In that issue, Xandu is trying to get a hold of a complete Wand of Watoomb, a super-powerful magical weapon.
After Strange and Spider-Man defeated him, Xandu popped up again in “Marvel Team-Up” #21, where we learned that he was motivated by an attempt to bring his seemingly dead girlfriend back to life. Strange tried to help her, but it was too late. However, she was actually caught up in a whole interdimensional scenario that led to a Doctor Strange/Spider-Man graphic novel and a team-up with the Scarlet Witch in the pages of “Secret Defenders” that left Melinda alive and the queen of a dark dimension and Xandu almost fully insane. Xandu was put out of his misery when he was killed by the Punisher alongside a bunch of other villains at a wake for the villain, Stilt-Man.
13. The Hood
Parker Robbins was a small-time “hood” when he came across a demonic hood of invisibility and a pair of boots that allow him to levitate. He begins to use these items to improve his crimes from petty to grand larceny, but he also runs afoul of the police, the FBI and some other super-villains. He appeared to be on the road to redemption, especially when he worked alongside some Marvel heroes in the mini-series, “Beyond!”, but then he backslid, deciding that someone needed to organize super-criminals into a gang and since he had gang experience, he figured it might as well be him.
However, even as he rose among the ranks of important criminals (even getting a spot at the table of the Cabal, the super-villain answer to the superhero “Illuminati”), his powers were still pretty basic, so he began to work with the dreaded Dormammu to increase his power. This was at a time when Doctor Strange had lost the title of Sorcerer Supreme, so Hood tried to get that title for himself, leading him into a number of conflicts with the weakened Strange.
The leader of the Empirikul is known only as the Imperator, and he has a classic “Superman”-esque origin. He grew up in a dimension where the people there all worshipped the demon Shuma-Gorath. His parents, though, secretly practiced science instead of magic. This made them outcasts and eventually led to them being hunted down for their beliefs. They built a spaceship to get them out of their dimension, but before they could all escape, they were captured and killed. They were able to get their son into the ship, though, and allowed him to escape.
Inspired by a need for vengeance (although I imagine he sees it more as a drive for justice), the Imperator formed the Empirikul, a group dedicated to wiping out magic of all forms across the Multiverse. They succeeded in many dimensions before coming to Earth, where they razed Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, destroying most of his magical artifacts, before a weakened Doctor Strange, working with a being who he had trapped in his cellar years ago, took down the Imperator.
The Dweller-in-the-Darkness was a powerful being who both caused fear in other while also feeding off it to power himself. He is over 10,000 years old and comes from an older universe. When he showed up in this one, he instantly began causing trouble in ancient Atlantis. Ultimately, Agamatto (the same fellow who gave Doctor Strange the Eye of Agamatto) managed to trap him in another dimension where the Dweller would be stuck motionless for centuries.
While trapped, the Dweller still had enough power from the fear of the world to create an agent who would do fear-based work on Earth for him, named D’Spayre. Over time, the Dweller grew more and more powerful until he was able to break free of his restraints. He became obsessed with Doctor Strange when he saw how well Strange was at overcoming fear. They had a notable encounter where the Dweller demoralized Strange enough that the Dweller was content, as that’s all he really wanted, was to make sure that Strange knew fear again. The Dweller tends to be more of a behind-the-scenes villain, which is a shame since his visual is so cool-looking. Tentacles galore!
The aforementioned creation of the Dweller-in-the-Darkness, D’Spayre, was one of those classic Marvel comics characters that would show up every once in a while to bother pretty much every superhero that there was, as his shtick was making people feel so bad that they would try to kill themselves, which in turn would make him more powerful (thus helping to power the Dweller-in-the-Darkness), was pretty universal. D’Spayre has fought Spider-Man, Cyclops, Hulk, Nightcrawler, Cloak and Dagger, Phoenix and more! John Byrne’s snazzy costume design for the character certainly helps.
D’Spayre has tangled with Doctor Strange a few times over the years, but their most significant encounter was when D’Spayre manipulated the so-called “Fear Lords,” including Nightmare and D’Spayre’s own creator, the Dweller-in-the Darkness, into creating the “Great Fear” on Earth. The Fear Lords figured that this would be good for them, but D’Spayre knew that it would be too much for the people of Earth to handle, so that they would immediately go from feeling fear only despair, thus making him the strongest of all the Fear Lords! He then almost made Doctor Strange kill himself, before Strange turned to an almost superhuman resolve to win.
In the final arc of Doctor Strange’s second ongoing series, writer Peter Gillis and artist Chris Warner came up with a unique concept. We know that Doctor Strange is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, but what about other planets? In “Doctor Strange” #79 we met the Sorcerer Supreme of the planet Gevaltu, a very bad guy named Urthona. Urthona sent warriors to Earth to incapicitate Strange before Urthona made his move on the planet. Strange was badly hurt and Urthona’s men then stormed the Sanctum Sanctorum, where they captured Wong and the magician Topaz, who Urthona had a connection to (likely how he learned of Earth) by bartering for a piece of her soul from Mephisto. They also captured all of Strange’s magical artifacts.
Urthona’s plans were to use Strange’s magical artifacts to help him become the Sorcerer Supreme of the whole universe. He believed that Strange’s morality was just forestalling the progression of this universe into a Dark Dimension of its own. Working with a magical being named Rintrah as his proxy, Strange defeated Urthona by destroying all of his magical artifacts, with the destruction of the Darkhold being particularly destructive (luckily, it turned out that Agamatto had saved all of Strange’s magical artifacts from being destroyed and Strange got them back in his next ongoing series).
8. Silver Dagger
The man who became known as Silver Dagger was once a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. He became an expert in various apocalyptic sects and soon came across some spells from the Darkhold that were reprinted in another dark book of spells. These spells drove him insane and he soon became convinced that all things magic were “sinful” and needed to be killed. He trained himself to the point where he was in peak physical condition and armed himself with a, well, you know, silver dagger. He killed a number of demons before breaking into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum and fatally stabbing Doctor Strange!
Luckily, Doctor Strange was then able to defeat Death itself and return to life, at which point Silver Dagger became trapped in the dimension of the All-Seeing Agamatto. This caused a number of problems over the years, as Silver Dagger would occasionally usurp the Eye of Agamatto for his own nefarious purposes. He is now free of Agamatto’s dimension and actually has replaced his left eye (which Agamatto took from him at one point) with the original Eye of Agamatto (the lesser precursor of the Eye that Doctor Strange uses).
Shuma-Gorath came from its home dimension to Earth a million years ago, where it feasted on the primitive beings on Earth. The time-traveling sorcerer Sise-Neg eventually banned Shuma-Gorath from Earth, but the demon slowly worked its way back during the time of Ancient Atlantis. Around this time, a new god known as Crom successfully defeated Shuma-Gorath once again. However, he only trapped Shuma-Gorath, and a hundred years later, Conan and some other adventurers had to deal with the demon once more. Ultimately, Shuma-Gorath was banished to its home dimension.
Many years later, Shuma-Gorath came up with a devious way of returning to Earth – it came through the body of the Ancient One itself! It bonded with the Ancient One’s ego, forcing Doctor Strange to make the painful decision of destroying the Ancient One’s ego in order to kill Shuma-Gorath. This succeeded in defeating Shuma-Gorath, but also killed the Ancient One, who then became “one with the universe.” However, years later, when Strange seemingly destroyed his magical artifacts to stop Urthona, that freed Shuma-Gorath. This time, it was Strange’s own ego that merged with Shuma-Gorath, so Strange was barely able to destroy it while still keeping his own self alive.
Satannish is one of those villains, like the Dweller-in-the-Darkness, who does his best work from behind the scenes. When Doctor Strange first ran afoul of the demon, it was through his subordinates, the Sons of Satannish. They gained so much power from selling their souls that they were a difficult group for Strange to defeat. Satannish himself, though, is an even stronger foe. He is essentially on par with Mephisto in terms of power. Again, though, he rarely fights Strange directly, choosing instead to empower other magicians to face Strange.
Satannish is so willing to hand out power that even Strange has, in times of extreme stress, called upon Satannish’s power himself! The demon has been willing to comply, as he likes the idea of corrupting people. Satannish has also played a major role as a villain against Doctor Strange’s team, the Defenders, as Satannish was the father of team member, Daimon Hellstrom. Strange once also got caught up in a battle between Satannish and Mephisto. Generally, though, Satannish is content to continue to work behind the scenes to mess with pretty much everyone. This makes him one of Strange’s more consistent villains, albeit not one of his most dangerous (due to him rarely actually fighting Strange directly).
One of the most famous demons in the entire Marvel Universe, Mephisto surprisingly has not faced off against Doctor Strange as much as you might expect. One of the few notable storylines in the pages of “Doctor Strange” involving Mephisto was a storyline that did not even involve Mephisto fighting Doctor Strange, but instead battling against his fellow demon, Satannish!
However, one of Doctor Strange’s most famous stories of all-time directly involved Mephisto. The classic graphic novel by Roger Stern, Mike Mignola and Mark Badger, “Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment,” saw Strange teaming up with none other than Victor Von Doom to finally save the soul of Doom’s mother, lost years ago to Mephisto. Mephisto is obviously a great foe for Strange, as he is pretty much the idea of demonic evil. The story also wonderfully contrasted Doom and Strange, whose origins are shockingly similar (both were injured and then traveled to Tibet to learn magic).
Umar, like her twin brother, the dread Dormammu, came from the Faltine dimension, a dimension where everyone consists of energy. Dormammu and Umar, however, were mutants of some sort, and they disgraced themselves by desiring to be corporeal. They drained the energy of their own father to create physical bodies. They were banished from the Faltine dimension and ended up in the Dark Dimension, which they quickly conquered. Dormammu decided to return to a body consisting of mostly energy, while Umar decided to remain in her human form.
However, that turned out to be a bit of her undoing, as she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Clea. That was a problem because once she gave birth, Umar was trapped in human form. This made her much less powerful than her brother, who then banished her. She had to work behind the scenes, manipulating events to take down her brother – including helping Doctor Strange defeat Dormammu. Over the years, Umar and Dormammu have gone back and forth as the leaders of the Dark Dimension (with Clea getting a frequent turn, as well). Recently, Dormammu actually killed his sister, but she was resurrected in the pages of the “Incredible Hulks.”
Surprisingly enough, the demon known as Nightmare actually made his debut in the very same issue where Doctor Strange first showed up, “Strange Tales” #110. In that early story, though, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were still doing Doctor Strange as more of a traditional horror story, so Nightmare was hidden in shadows (since the story was more about the man who came to Strange for help upon realizing that he was being haunted). A few issues later, though, as the book became more of a traditional (albeit magical) superhero story, Strange returned to Nightmare’s dimension to take on the demon.
Nightmare is a fear demon, who feeds off the fear caused by people’s nightmares in their dreams. However, Nightmare is one of the rare Doctor Strange villains who is fine if he does not fight with the Sorcerer Supreme, so he tends to be one of the less threatening villains, as Nightmare’s need to feed off of humanity’s scary dreams, means he has no motive to kill his victims. That isn’t to say that Nightmare is not a bad guy or a dangerous enemy, because he is, but at least his battles with Strange are less of a life-and-death scenario compared to some of the other villains on the list.
2. Baron Mordo
Now we’ve reached the “Big Two” Doctor Strange villains. It’s difficult to choose which of these two is Strange’s top villain, because they’re both excellent villains. The case for the evil magician Baron Mordo is that the connection between he and Doctor Strange is ingrained in Strange’s origin. When Stephen Strange came to the Ancient One for help with his injured hands, Baron Mordo was there as the Ancient One’s number one pupil. However, Mordo was evil and was planning on killing the Ancient One and taking over. When Strange found out, Mordo used magic to silence him. Strange then had to learn magic to stop Mordo, thus leading him to become the master of mystic arts we know so well.
The case against Mordo is that once Strange passed him in skills, Mordo became a bit difficult to take seriously as a major threat. In the years since, whenever Mordo became a major threat to Strange, it was not because of his own abilities but because he was working with a more powerful being. At one point it was Satannish, but most commonly, it was the dreaded Dormammu, which is why we’re going to say that Strange’s number one villain is…
The first time that we heard Dormammu’s name in the pages of “Strange Tales” was when Doctor Strange was calling upon him for power. However, when Strange finally met Dormammu and realized just how dreaded the dread Dormammu was, he soon stopped using the black magic derived from calling him.
Dormammu, like his twin sister Umar, was a member of a dimension of energy beings who split from their people because they wanted to have physical form. Banished to the Dark Dimension, they soon took it over and Dormammu returned to his Faltine heritage by embracing the flame of regency around his head. It’s an amazing visual by Steve Ditko. Dormammu’s niece happens to be the love of Doctor Strange’s life, Clea, so that is an interesting twist to his adversarial relationship with Strange.
Dormammu is one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe, and, like other demons, he can cause even more damage while working from behind the scenes, like when he empowered the Hood to try to get him to become the Sorcerer Supreme. As an ancient being, Dormammu is very patient, which makes him such a particularly dangerous foe – the guy is super-powerful and he’s willing to wait a long time for a nefarious plan to hatch! That’s an awfully scary combination for a villain, which is a big part of what makes him Doctor Strange’s number one foe.
Who is your favorite Doctor Strange villain? Let us know in the comments section!
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