This is "Just Like the Time Before," a feature where I examine instances from comic book history where comic book creators did early versions of later, notable comic book characters and plot ideas. Essentially, the "test runs" for later, more famous characters and stories.
Today, we look at how Doctor Strange followed in the same path as Doctor Droom.
The other day, I wrote about the fairly racist character of Doctor Droom, who Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko introduced in 1961's Amazing Adventures #1, which debuted a few months before Fantastic Four #1.
The story opens with Anthony Droom heading off to visit an ancient lama who needs medical help. He finds himself forced to undergo a sort of trial before he can actually even get to see the lama to treat him. However, being a noble sort, he will do whatever he can to get to his would-be patient...
Having successfully proven himself, Droom is awarded special magical powers, but the magical powers require him to be transformed into an Asian man (in all of the sketchy caricature depiction of an Asian man that a 1961 comic book entailed) and, of course, gain a mustache...
The character only lasted five appearances (with Kirby giving the character up after four issues) before being dropped all together as Amazing Adventures transitioned into Amazing Adult Fantasy, a series specifically designed by Stan Lee as giving Steve Ditko's unique Twilight Zone-esque short stories their own spotlight series (as typically Ditko's stories would take a back seat to Jack Kirby's more show-stopping monster stories that would be featured on the cover of comics). Lee promoted these stories as the stories that "respected your intelligence," which sure seems like a sort of shot at the OTHER Marvel Comics of the time, right?
That series eventually turned into Amazing Fantasy which launched Spider-Man by Ditko and Lee.
Soon after that, Steve Ditko came up with a new magician character for Strange Tales #110. What I love about the introduction of Doctor Strange is that Stan Lee was very open about how he did not really have ANYthing to do with the creation of the character. Lee told The Comic Reader in 1963, "Well, we have a new character in the works for Strange Tales, just a 5-page filler named Dr. Strange. Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him. 'Twas Steve's idea. I figured we'd give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much. Little sidelight: Originally, we decided to call him Mr. Strange, but thought the 'Mr.' was a bit too similar to Mr. Fantastic -- Now, however, I remember we had a villain called Dr. Strange just recently in one of our mags. I hope it won't be too confusing!"
The "filler" story proved popular and Doctor Strange got his own series. Stan Lee later incorrectly recalled, "... I always liked [Doctor Droom], but I forgot about him. It was a one-shot thing. And one day while we were trying to think of some new heroes, I thought I'd like to bring back a magician. And I gave him the name Doctor Strange ..."
While that's not true, it seems apparent that Lee DID decide to influence Ditko in essentially adopting Doctor Droom's origin (with a twist)!