For years, Stephen Strange has served as Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, the being charged with protecting our planet from all manner of supernatural and mystical threats. Soon, though, the doctor will officially be out and a new Sorcerer Supreme will have begun his tenure: Loki.
But what does that mean for Strange, and how and why did the Asgardian God of Lies come to be Earth's premier mystical defender? Those questions will begin to be addressed this November when the new Doctor Strange creative team of writer Donny Cates, artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta and colorist Jordie Bellaire take over the Marvel Comics series and kick off the title's Marvel Legacy arc with issue #381.
CBR spoke with Cates about his take on Doctor Strange and the public face Loki will present for his actions. We also dive into the role Strange's former apprentice Zelma Stanton will play, and the coming twist that will shake the Marvel Universe to its very core.
CBR: What's your take on Stephen Strange? Which aspects of his character are you initially interested in exploring?
Donny Cates: That's an interesting question because the aspects we're exploring in this first arc are going to be a little bit different than where we've seen Stephen Strange in the past. Stephen is a wildly humble guy nowadays. He didn't start that way, obviously. He's not really interested in fortune or glory. He's more about honoring the ideals of the teachings he's gone through, and he's trying to do his best at a job that's kind of chosen him.
At the same time, he can be quite a colorful guy in that he can sometimes play this role of the ethereal, mysterious sorcerer who comes in, gives ill portents, and speaks in confounding sentences and knows more than he ever tells. That's always been the kind of thing I really loved about Stephen; how he interacts with a lot of the other heroes in the Marvel world. People will be scared of some new colossal, cosmic threat and Stephen will walk in and be like, “Aww, that's adorable.” [Laughs]
That kind of haunts the personality he has, because for the longest time he was the only person equipped to stand in the doorway against the scary things at night. So he has this burden that's a lot heavier than the other Marvel heroes’ in a lot of ways. He handles it with a lot of grace and professionalism. He's a doctor.
I always loved it when that personality trait of his carried over into his caped job. I liked the doctor mentality of, "These are the facts, this is what we need to do to solve the problem." He maintains his good bedside manner as much as he possibly can, even when things get ugly. But when this new arc opens up, we'll find Stephen in a place both physically and spiritually that he hasn't been at in a long while.
This new arc with Loki shares a lot of DNA with the origin of Stephen as the Sorcerer Supreme in the first place. This is a story about Stephen laid low and having everything taken away from him, and the spiritual and physical journey he has to go on to reclaim those things. It's also about getting him to a place psychologically where he can wrap his head around what's happened to him and start to chart a new path to get back what he's lost.
When you lay all those pieces out, it's just the origin of Doctor Strange. His profession is taken away from him and he goes on this journey to get those things back. So it's really been interesting. It's almost like Stephen Strange's midlife crisis in a whole lot of ways. [Laughs]
So when you pick up with him, he's kind of tormented and haunted?
I can't say a whole lot about where he's at, but yeah, he's certainly not thrilled about the circumstances by which this new arc opens up. [Laughs] As you can probably imagine, he's not in a great place. It's not great to have your job taken away from you... especially by the God of Lies.