The Ditko Doctor Strange Story That Wasn't a Doctor Strange Story

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Today, we look at a Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves story that looked a lot like it was a Doctor Strange issue done with Graves instead of Strange!

In the 1960s, one of Charlton's niches on the comic book market was that they were probably the number one source of Comics Code approved horror stories. Marvel had quickly dropped horror stories in favor of superhero stories (due to the restrictions that they were dealing with with their distributor, as they were limited in the amount of titles that they could publish, so they had to make an "either or" choice between superheroes and their other genres) and while DC continued with their horror titles, they did not get much attention until Joe Orlando was brought in to revitalize their flailing horror line in the late 1960s after Warren Publishing's black and white horror titles blew up in 1966-1967.

Anyhow, 1966's Ghostly Tales #55 had a short story by writer/artist Ernie Bache that introduced Doctor Graves, a ghost hunter...

The character obviously struck a nerve somewhere at Charlton, so Graves was then given his own title, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves...

Steve Ditko had recently come over from Marvel Comics full-time and for the next few years, Ditko would contribute a bunch of stories to The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, helping to make it one of the best horror titles of the era (It won the Alley Award for Best Horror title in 1967).

Graves was a typical host character of the era. You know, a guy who would introduce unrelated stories to give the book a feel as though all of these stories were somehow connected despite clearly not being connected. Here's the opening story of the first issue...

At least that is how things NORMALLY went in the series. For the 12th issue, young Steve Skeates had a long story in mind and it required him to use Doctor Graves as a character in the story (there is an interesting story about the origins of this tale that I will probably address in a Comic Book Legends Revealed someday. Keep your eyes peeled for that!). Steve Ditko was assigned the story and thus, completely unintentionally on the part of Skeates and Ditko (Skeates because he didn't know Ditko was going to draw it and Ditko because he didn't have any involvement in the script for the story), the finished tale basically looks like a Doctor Strange story!

The issue opens with Graves sensing a great evil coming to Earth and then the dude flat out goes into his astral form!! This is straight out of the Doctor Strange playbook...

He encounters the great evil being and he attempts to slow him down. This fight also looks like it came directly from a Doctor Strange comic book. Check out the classic Ditko hand movements!

The problem is that the evil being knows that it cannot conquer Earth because of Graves being there. Instead, it decides to just DESTROY the planet (oops, you sort of screwed up there, Graves)...

Things look pretty bad, right? How can Graves get out of this one?

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