When you have to be the Sorcerer Supreme for an entire planet, you have to be able to hang in there with some very powerful bad guys. That is why Doctor Stephen Strange, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, is one of the most powerful beings on the entire planet. Most of his powers come from his mastery of the mystical arts, so you could argue that this list could be summed up as "#1-15: Really good at magic", but the important thing with Doctor Strange is what his magical abilities allow him to do.
Strange's mastery of magic has given him a number of distinctive powers that he uses in his everyday defense of the world from evil creatures and mystical demons. Some of them are from go-to spells, some of them are from his magical artifacts that he carries and some of them are just ingrained into his body. Here, then, we count down his most powerful super powers and other abilities that Doctor Strange has gained over the years.
15 Martial Arts
When you're as powerful as Doctor Strange is, his "natural" skills tend to be overlooked a bit, which is a shame, as they really do play a major role in his success as a superhero. For instance, Strange is a brilliant strategist, which obviously affects his ability to masterfully protect Earth from otherworldly forces. Strange's skills as a surgeon are what brought him to become a superhero in the first place (as he damaged the nerves in his hands, requiring him to look for a magical cure).
One of his natural skills that comes in handy a lot is his training in martial arts. There are times when magical artifacts and weapons might fail you, so it is important to know that you can defend yourself using hand-to-hand combat. Strange was even able to slow down a possessed Wolverine once with his fighting skills (which were taught to him by both the Ancient One and Wong).
It just goes to show how impressive Doctor Strange's abilities are that the ability to fly is so low on the list. "Oh, you can fly? Big deal. Who can't?" In the case of Doctor Strange, his flying ability has a particularly utilitarian function. Strange likely could fly on his own if he wanted to, but doing so would require concentration that would most likely be better used on more important spells. Therefore, one of Doctor Strange's most important magical items is his Cloak of Levitation that takes care of all his flying needs for him (Strange also has mental control of his Cloak, so he can make it do other things, like block attacks from bad guys). Over the years, Strange has also worn a Trenchcoat of Levitation.
One of the coolest things about Strange flying is that, as per the name of his cloak, what he really does is levitate instead of fly, so you get lots of classic shots of Strange over the year just hanging out while floating in the middle of a room.
13 Protective Shields
Another one of Strange's less exotic powers, but an important one, is his shields. His most common shield spell is invoking the "Shields of the Seraphim" to create a magical energy shield, but Strange has formed a number of other shields over the years. One of his common shield spells is an unnamed one where he creates a bubble around himself when he is in outer space or in other places where he might have problems breathing.
Strange's unnamed shields are so second-nature to him that he barely needs to concentrate on maintaining them when they are not under direct attacks, which is helpful for the same reason why it helps to have a cloak to help him fly - he doesn't need to spend much time on them while he is trying to work out other spells. When he is under attack, though, that's when he needs the more specific and more powerful spells like the aforementioned "Shields of the Seraphim."
12 Astral Projection
One of Doctor Strange's more unusual abilities is also one of his most useful and frequently used, which is the ability to astral project. Astral projection is when Strange sends, in effect, his own spirit out of his physical body into the spiritual world, known as the Astral Plane.
His Astral form cannot be seen or heard by everyday humans, so Strange is basically a ghost while in Astral form. This obviously comes in handy when he wants to do some investigating during a case. However, while he does not have a physical form, he can still perform magic while in his Astral form. Luckily for Strange, his powerful Eye of Agamotto also works while in Astral form.
One danger for Strange is that his physical body is left undefended while he is in Astral form, so it is a good thing that Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum is hard to break into.
Doctor Strange often uses illusions during battle. These illusions often come in two distinct forms. The slightly more common illusion is when Strange simply creates fake Images to people. This can come in handy during fights when he will create images of multiple versions of himself to confuse his opponents as to which Strange is the real one. It is also used in everyday life, so Strange can walk amongst normal people while wearing his outlandish outfit (this is also how he disguises his Sanctum Sanctorum in the middle of New York City).
The other type of illusion is when Strange uses the Images of Ikonn, which can make people see their greatest fear. Strange once used this to make the mighty Galactus scream!
One of the weird things about Iconn is that he is one of the few magical beings that Strange invokes that has actively fought against Strange in the past, and yet Strange is still willing to use him for illusions.
10 Wind Projection
One of the more interesting magical beings that Doctor Strange invokes to gain power is Watoomb. Watoomb is interesting because he is one of the most powerful magical beings out there, and yet Doctor Strange most frequently invokes him "merely" to form great forces of wind. This really seems to be a case where Stan Lee just got confused over what the spell involving Watoomb was. After all, Lee invented all of these fake names and you figure he was bound to confuse a couple. So just like how the Vapors of Valtorr became the Vipers of Valtorr, it seems likely that after referencing the Wand of Watoomb a number of times, that Lee just accidentally started calling it the Winds of Watoomb.
Interestingly, when the Winds of Watoomb were first invoked by Strange, they didn't even create winds, but rather perform other magical properties, like banishing false appearances. Eventually, though, it became the way that Strange can create gale force winds whenever he needs them.
9 Flame Projection
One of Doctor Strange's strongest offensive attacks is when he projects fire from his hands. He does this most commonly by invoking the Flames of the Faltine. The Faltine are a race of magical beings who number the Dread Dormammu among their numbers. As they are basically energy beings (Dormammu being a major exception), they judge each other in how powerful each other's energy is, which is why they are especially happy to see their power sent off to aid a powerful mage like Doctor Strange. In fact, the Flames of the Faltine are used by many other magical beings, including the cosmic judge known as the Living Tribunal!
Like the Winds of Watoomb, originally the Flames of the Faltine served other magical purposes besides expressly being projection of actual flames. It was after using the spell for a number of issues that it became Strange's go-to spell for when he wanted to essentially become a magical flamethrower.
8 Magical Energy Blasts
When it came to the depiction of magic, most Marvel artists had a bit of a difficult time actually distilling the idea of a magician doing magic with the visual medium that is comic books. After all, very often a spell would just be words and then something would happen. How do you draw that in a fashion that makes it clear that the magical hero is doing an action? Comic books, especially superhero comic books, is a medium that often works in artistic shorthand and thus, there is always a need for a quick version of how to depict Doctor Strange in action and thus was the bolt of magic created.
Doctor Strange uses bolts of magic frequently - so frequently that while there have been a few of these bolts that have received names over the years, the vast majority of them go nameless, as Strange sending blasts of energy from his hands against bad guys is just a simple way of depicting that Strange was doing something active. This was the same thing that was developed in the pages of "Avengers" with the Scarlet Witch, whose "hex" power was so difficult to depict in an action-like fashion that she developed "hex bolts" that she would use to blast bad guys.
7 Crimson Bands of Cyttorak
Outside of the Dread Dormammu (and, to a certain extent, the Hoary Hoggoth), the most famous magical being that Doctor Strange invokes is likely Cyttorak, not because of his use in issues of "Doctor Strange", but because one of Cyttorak's crimson gems became the power sources for the popular "X-Men" villain, the Juggernaut. Over the years, Cyttorak has played a major role as Juggernaut's powers have fluctuated (and, for a time, was even replaced as Cyttorak's champion by the X-Man known as Colossus), so of all the magical beings that Strange continues to invoke (he stopped invoking Dormammu when they became arch-nemeses), the most has been written about Cyttorak.
Cyttorak is such a powerful being that he is able to send a lot of power Strange's way, which is spotlighted in the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. Like a lot of these other spells, when Strange first began to call upon the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, they served a number of functions, like conjuring up an amulet, banishing a bad guy or showing visions of the past. Like the Flames of Faltine and the Winds of Watoomb, though, the Crimson Bands eventually became a specific type of spell - giant crimson energy forms that Strange would use to trap other bad guys. They are very powerful restraints, even against other magical beings.
As mentioned earlier, while Doctor Strange typically uses the Cloak of Levitation to fly, he has the ability to make himself fly if need be, and that is expressed in his telekinetic abilities. The ability to move objects with ones mind is one of the most basic skills that a magician like Strange learns, and a result it can be easy to lose track of just how powerful such an ability is. It has become such second nature to Strange that when it comes to moving small objects, it does not even take any concentration (similarly to how some of his minor shields don't require any real thought).
However, Strange's telekinetic abilities have a limit to how much he can move and even lifting his own body can be taxing during a pitched battle (hence the need to rely on the Cloak of Levitation), so Strange relies on a variety of spells to move larger objects. In fact, the aforementioned Crimson Bands of Cyttorak are useful in not just clasping bad guys, but clasping them and then lifting them. The Hand of Hoggoth is also a popular spell for Strange to use when he wants to lift large objects.
Hypnotism is an interesting skill when it comes to Doctor Strange, as it highlights the split between what Strange can achieve on his own and what he can achieve with magical devices. Just by studying with the Ancient One, Strange is one of the world's most powerful hypnotists, as he can easily put a normal person under his sway (these abilities can often be used therapeutically or to help an ally remember a lost detail for the purposes of a case).
However, there is a natural limit to how easily even a skilled hypnotist can put a person under, so luckily Strange has access to things like the Eye of Agamatto. The Eye is a powerful hypnotic tool and Strange can use it to quickly put multiple people under his spell and make them do pretty much anything he wants to, including forget that they ever met him (although Strange sometimes needs to use spells of forgetfulness still).
Telepathy is one of the first magical abilities that we ever saw Doctor Strange pull off, as when he met his first client all the way back in "Strange Tales" #110, he knew what the man was there for as soon as he entered Strange's home. Indeed, in Strange's origin story in "Strange Tales" #115, the Ancient One first contacted Stephen Strange through telepathy. Thus, communicating directly with one's mind has always been a go-to skill of Doctor Strange (this is especially important when he astral projects, as he no longer has a physical body to talk with).
That's just basic stuff, though, and telepathy can be much more powerful of a tool than that. Over the years, there has been a number of times when Strange has had to reach out to touch the minds of multiple people at once - sometimes even sending his mental waves out throughout time itself! In addition, Strange occasionally finds himself in psychic battles with villains, like the one depicted here between himself and Umar, the sister of the Dread Dormammu. Strange surprised her by actually winning their psychic one-on-one (although it took a lot of energy out of him). Just like how the Eye of Agamatto enhances Strange's hypnotism, so, too, does it enhance his telepathic powers.
One of the most powerful abilities that Doctor Strange seemingly pulls off without any great difficulty is teleportation. In the early issues of "Strange Tales", the ability to teleport was a significant one, something that was only pulled off through extraordinary uses of power, like using the Purple Gem (an inter-dimensional gateway). Over time, though, Doctor Strange was able to do it more and more on his own. Only in his own dimension, of course, as he would still need outside help if he wanted to access other dimensions.
When Doctor Strange joins superhero teams, he often ends up using his teleportation skills to help the team in question travel. He would do so for the Defenders often, but it was when he became a member of the rogue superhero team known as the New Avengers (a group of heroes who declined to register with the government following "Civil War") that he became pretty much their go-to mode of transportation, as they did not have a Quinjet like a traditional Avengers team. So Doctor Strange basically just teleported them everywhere they went. It takes a lot of power to be able to do that on a regular basis.
2 Time Travel
The ability to travel through time is, as you would expect, one of the most impressive things that anyone can achieve, and it is one of the skills that has taken Doctor Strange the longest time to master. He first traveled through time in the early days of "Strange Tales" with the help of his mentor, the Ancient One (who was then Earth's Sorcerer Supreme). Strange could not do such a journey on his own.
Later on, with the help of the Book of Cagliostro, Strange was able to move through time (and effect the past). He met Benjamin Franklin during this time and eventually even traveled to the Big Bang itself! Once the Book of Cagliostro was in his possession, time travel became more of a standard part of Doctor Strange's power set. The fact that he can easily travel throughout history is a staggering statement about just how powerful Strange is now (he once traveled to 2940 B.C. like it was a trip to the park). Strange's time travel abilities appear to be a major factor in the new "Doctor Strange" film.
Perhaps Doctor Strange's most amazing power came to him during Steve Englehart's famed run on the title. Strange had been tasked with going through the same trials that the Ancient One went through when he became the Sorcerer Supreme, as with the Ancient One dead, Strange had to step up and go from becoming a Master of the Mystic Arts to being the Sorcerer Supreme. In "Doctor Strange" #4, Strange took on one of his most difficult tasks ever - dying!
Yes, Doctor Strange had to actually die and come into conflict with Death herself for him to finally achieve the feat of no longer fearing death. Once a mystic loses the ability to fear death, then he or she ceases to age. Doctor Strange can still die, of course, but it can only come from a battle wound. Otherwise, he no longer ages and can live for 600 years (the age of the Ancient One) or more. Luckily, he was a younger man than the Ancient One when he passed this particular test, so he locked in a pretty good age for the rest of his life.
What do you think is Doctor Strange's coolest power? Let us know in the comments section!