Don’t look now, but there is a renewed emphasis on magic in Marvel Comics. Whereas science used to rule the day with a litany of inventors like Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym creating new technologies and innovations, masters of the mystic arts have seen a rise in their membership. Along with an increase in numbers, Marvel Comics has flipped the very idea behind magic and the way it’s handled by its users.
There is likely a very simple reason for this change in application, and it would appear we have the films based on the comics properties to thank for that. Marvel Studios first broached the subject of science vs. magic in 2011’s Thor, when the God of Thunder explained to Jane Foster how magic and science can be considered two sides of the same coin. “Your ancestors called it magic and you call it science. Well, I come from a place where they are one and the same thing.”
An advantage of having science mirror sorcery is that it allows audiences to better comprehend the latter. Many properties treat magic as a “get out of jail free card” that allows the hero of the story to overcome great odds by conjuring a spell out of thin air to defeat the villain. Hard and fast rules are rarely applied to the practice of studying and using magic. Contrast this with science, where a person has to use their brains for the purposes of creation. Using the mind in this regard is easier to accept compared to a character using “witchcraft.”
Of course, the scientific mascot in the MCU is Tony Stark, who kicked off Marvel’s dominance on the big screen with Iron Man. Thor and his Asgardian brothers and sisters consider magic an advanced form of science, with examples being energy manipulation, healing techniques, and their unique weapons. After more than ten films under its belt, Marvel Studios introduced a new dynamic to its shared universe with Doctor Strange in 2016. Dr. Stephen Strange’s journey to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme opened a world of possibilities for future films with the astral plane, teleportation, new dimensions, and time/space manipulation.
Not one to miss a golden opportunity, Marvel Comics quickly launched a Doctor Strange ongoing series ahead of its theatrical release, more than likely looking to piggyback on the film’s heavy marketing push. The star-studded creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo not only established a new set of rules for how Doctor Strange would deal with magic — with a price being paid for each spell cast — but also ushered in a wave of unexpected magicians with backgrounds in the sciences.
One of these individuals is a billionaire playboy philanthropist named Tony Stark, the Sorcerer Supreme of the far-flung future.
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