As Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, Stephen Strange has sworn to defend innocents against the forces of darkness, but long ago Dr. Strange, the surgeon, first swore allegiance to another oath. Beginning this October in the pages of "Dr. Strange: The Oath," a five issue mini-series from Marvel Comics, writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin thrust the good doctor into the middle of an adventure where he finds himself torn by conflicting allegiances. CBR News spoke with Vaughan about the series.
"The Oath" was born out Vaughan and Martin's desire to work together. "Marcos Martin is one of my favorite artists of all time, and he and I had been looking for something to collaborate on," Vaughan told CBR News. "Rather than spinning our wheels on one of Marvel's biggest guns, we wanted to take a character who maybe wasn't firing on all cylinders, and see if we could pump some new life into him. Strange was the first name at the top of both of our lists."
Strange was at the top of Vaughan's list, but it wasn't because he was a fan of the character, at least not before the project began. "I've actually never been a big Strange fan," Vaughan said. "I was mostly familiar with the character from his guest appearances in other books, when he would show up like a mystical deus ex machina to save the Fantastic Four or whatever, but Marcos encouraged me to revisit some of the character's classic solo paranormal investigations, and I really fell in love with Doc's origin.
"I adore Ditko's design and the trippy visuals that go with it, but over the years, I think we've focused too much on the 'Strange,' and not enough on the 'Doctor,'" Vaughan continued. "It's such a classic Stan Lee touch to make the Sorcerer Supreme a man with a background in science and logic. My favorite panel from Doc's origin involves the arrogant Stephen looking down at his trembling hands right after he crashes his sports car, knowing that he'll never again be able to perform surgery. How brilliantly tragic that this guy can cast any spell imaginable, but he's reminded of his own flaws every time he picks up a drink, and hears the ice cubes rattling inside the glass."
It's the "Doctor" aspect of Stephen Strange that Vaughan and Martin will focus on in "Oath." "Strange can call upon Hoggoth or Watoom all he wants, but his first allegiance is still to Hippocrates, and an oath he first swore as a young med student: 'Do no harm,' Vaughan explained. "So, Marcos and I are going to be introducing a new threat to Stephen's life that will really challenge that belief."
The new threat that Vaughan and Marcos are introducing could prove to be extremely lethal to Strange and cause his investigation to quickly become personal. "As of page three, he's slowly bleeding to death," Vaughan said. "So his emotional state ain't too hot, I'd imagine."
It's this brutal attack on the Sorcerer Supreme that launches the series. "Doctor Stephen Strange embarks on the most important paranormal investigation of his career, as he sets out to solve an attempted murder... his own!" Vaughan explained. "And with his most trusted friend also at death's door, Strange turns to an unexpected corner of the Marvel Universe to recruit a new ally in an adventure that will take the Sorcerer Supreme from the underworld of New York City to the deadliest dimensions on the outskirts of reality."
Strange's new ally will be a familiar face to some Marvel readers. "We're stealing someone from the pages of Bendis' 'Daredevil,' a character who will be the Watson to Strange's paranormal Sherlock Holmes," Vaughan stated. "Here's a hint: If Strange is a superhero who really just wants to be a surgeon, she's a surgeon who really just wants to be a superhero. Hm..."
Dr. Strange and his new ally's investigation will take them to some bizarre locales, but the bulk of the story takes place in a Marvel Universe location that is both fresh and familiar. "We'll definitely do a little dimension hopping, but Marcos and I both wanted to tell a Strange story that was a little more grounded in reality," Vaughan said. "So expect to see a lot of New York City, though as you've never seen it before."
In 'The Oath," readers can also expect Dr. Strange to do battle with a host of foes that they've never seen before. Vaughan revealed that in the series the Master of the Mystic Arts would encounter both old foes and established Marvel villains, but the focus would be primarily on new fiends.
A few Marvel heroes will make surprise appearances, but Doc will primarily be battling the new fiends who debut in "The Oath" by himself. "There are some fun Marvel Universe cameos in our opening 'waiting room' scene, but that's about it," Vaughan said "Strange is the star of this show."
Those readers who may not be that familiar with the good Doctor's history have nothing to fear - Vaughan has made sure that "The Oath" is entirely new reader friendly. "If you don't know Doctor Strange at all, you'll absolutely be able to enjoy our story," Vaughan stated. "Hell, if you've never even read a Marvel comic before, you'll still be able to follow every panel."
Vaughan and Marcos aren't trying to reinvent Dr. Strange's life in "The Oath." They're simply just trying to remind readers how weird, fantastic and fun The Sorcerer Supreme's life can be. "Though we'll never be able to accomplish anything half as good, Marcos and I definitely looked to Miller and Mazzucchelli's 'Born Again' for inspiration.
That book didn't recreate Daredevil, as much as it reminded readers what had always made the character so cool," Vaughan explained. "We're definitely aiming to do the same thing with Strange. I'd rather let our story define what we think the good doctor's role should be than explain it to you here, but I hope it's something other writers will want to run with."
After "The Oath," Vaughan will be content to let other writers run with the newly redefined Dr. Stephen Strange. "I love the character and I've had an amazing time writing the mini, but truthfully, at this stage of my career, I'd like to take some time to create more all-new characters and start working on more creator-owned books," Vaughan stated. "But I obviously owe a great deal to Marvel, so it's a real honor if I can help add even a little polish to one of their best characters before I retreat into my own strange world."
For Vaughan, the best part of polishing up Dr. Strange was the chance to collaborate with artist Marcos Martin. "I just want to reiterate how great it's been to get to work with Marcos Martin," he said. "He's a fantastic guy, and it's been a thrill to watch his work evolve in books like 'Batgirl: Year One' and the way-too-overlooked 'Breech.' I mentioned Mazzucchelli earlier, and while Marcos' work is very different from David's, I think Marcos has a similar mastery of acting, pacing and setting. Some readers dismiss all art that isn't photorealistic as being 'cartoony,' but that totally misses the point of everything that makes our medium great. Marcos' drawings breathe with the kind of life you can only find in comics. With a single line, he says more than most artists can say with a hundred."