UPDATE 8/31/2015: With Benedict Cumberbatch now officially cast as Stephen Strange, the guessing game about who will match wits with the “Sherlock” star is heating up. “Hannibal’s” Mads Mikkelson has been named as a frontrunner for the villainous counterpart to the master of the mystic arts, though the character remains unnamed. CBR is betting it’s one of the evil doers listed below.
This story was originally published November 4, 2014:
By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, Marvel Studios has made the “Doctor Strange” film official! Though fans are still waiting to see if Benedict Cumberbatch will indeed be donning the Cloak of Levitation for the 2016 release, they now know the film’s arrival is imminent, and so their focus shifts to a very important question: What villain will Marvel and director Scott Derrickson pick as a worthy adversary for Stephen Strange?
Since the character’s introduction in “Strange Tales” #110 (July 1963), the good Doctor has faced his fair share of restless spirits, other-dimensional despots, cosmic horrors and corrupt human wizards. Many of these villains have been one-off characters, but a select group has become an integral part of Strange’s world. The mystical hero’s rogues gallery may not be as famous as Batman’s or Spider-Man’s, but it is a rich and diverse group of evildoers, monsters and mortals, many of which could be fascinating if adapted to the big screen. Journey with us, now, through the Sanctum Santorum’s gallery of evil in search of the villain or villains that we feel would make worthy adversaries for the good doctor in his film debut.
First appearance: “Strange Tales” #126 (November 1964) — Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
The name of Dormammu was evoked by Doctor Strange before the flame headed despot physically appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics. Originally one of those words like Cytorrak, Watoomb or Hoggoth that Strange would evoke when casting his spells, there must have been something about the way the word sounded to Ditko and Lee because before too long, Dormammu appeared in all his terrible glory and kicked off the first great Doctor Strange adventure. So many aspects of the Doctor Strange mythos are tied into Dormammu, a film version of the Dread One could be to the world of Marvel magic what Thanos is to Marvel cosmic, an omnipresent threat of unimaginable power. Dormammu is one of Ditko’s greatest visual triumphs, an almost blank faced, flame headed terror that speaks of otherworldliness. If a hero is to be measured by the villains he faces, then Dormammu and his legions of Mindless Ones are what truly make Doctor Strange the Sorcerer Supreme.
First appearance “Strange Tales” #111 (August 1963) — Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Doctor Strange’s dark reflection, his greatest foil, his arch rival, Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo has always stood as a warning to what would happen if Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, gave into the darkest instincts of humanity. Mordo was the Ancient One’s first student, a man who could have been as great a hero as Strange himself. But Mordo’s power corrupted and turned him into a jealous bundle of dark, magical rage, forging him into a constant threat to Strange since the character’s debut. The rivalry between Strange and Mordo is a classic conflict of two sides of the same coin, two students vying for their master’s approval. Mordo is Strange’s most personal foe and would make the perfect on screen adversary for the neophyte Doctor.
First appearance “Strange Tales” #150 (November 1966) — Created by Roy Thomas and Bill Everett
Like her brother Dormammu, Umar is a powerful magical being who ruled the Dark Dimension for a time. She also happens to be one of Strange’s most enduring foes, and is a large enough threat that she’s gone toe-to-toe with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in her time. Many a great Doctor Strange story has centered on this brilliant servant of evil, so it would only be fitting if their rivalry would extend to the world of film as well.
First appearance “Doctor Strange” #174 (November 1968) — Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan
Before Thor faced Loki, he faced the Destroyer. Before the Guardians of the Galaxy could face the greater threats of the universe, they cut their teeth on Ronan the Accuser. These aren’t the biggest or the baddest foes of the Marvel Universe, but once these new heroes were done with their first foes, audiences were ready to see them take on the real dangers of the Marvel U. Satannish is not Doctor Strange’s greatest foe, but he certainly poses enough of a challenge to establish the Doctor as a force for good. With his two-faced, nightmarish form, Satannish, one of the great Gene Colan’s most insane and unforgettable designs, would be a great first foe for Doc to tackle while audiences are eased into Strange’s surreal world, and man, would he look awesome in IMAX.
First appearance “Marvel Premiere” #5 (November 1972) — Created by Robert E. Howard, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
In any “Doctor Strange” film, there has to be some old school pulpy cosmic horror, right? Well, how about a creature created by the father of Conan himself, Robert E. Howard? The tentacled cosmic nether being known as Shuma Gorath was first mentioned by Howard in a “Kull” story, and was eventually brought into the world of comics by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. In Marvel lore, Shuma Gorath was summoned to Earth by evil sorcerer Nicholas Scratch and has been Marvel’s go to beastie when it comes to pulp-fueled cosmic terror ever since. It would be awesome to see a creation of Howard’s join the ranks of Marvel films, and Shuma Gorath could give the “Doctor Strange” movie a sense of the classical, a monster that goes back to the character’s pulp horror roots.
First appearance “Strange Tales” #110 (July 1963) — Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
When written well, Marvel’s Nightmare is Freddy Krueger combined with DC Comics’ Morpheus the Sandman. He rules the realm of night terrors and feeds on the sanity of the waking world, but unlike DC’s Lord of Dreams, there is no benevolence in this conceptual dream being. Other than Mordo, Nightmare was the first recurring villain Strange ever fought, an other-dimensional being that the film could utilize to show the length and breadth of Strange’s world. The concept of Nightmare is huge enough to establish that Strange is reality’s only defense against things that literally go bump in the night.
First appearance: “Journey into Mystery” #85 (October 1962) — Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby; First fought Doctor Strange in “Strange Tales” #123 (August, 1964) by Stan Lee and Carl Burgos
Want to weigh the deck in favor of “Doctor Strange” making a big box office splash? Then have the Sorcerer Supreme take on Marvel’s most popular villain. Fans are constantly demanding more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Derrickson’s film would be an appropriate spot for the God of Mischief to return. What better way to establish Doctor Strange as the champion of order than have him go against the god of chaos? Loki’s presence established the Avengers, so why not have one of the most powerful magical beings in the universe, and one of the most popular, go up against the latest heroic addition to Marvel’s film pantheon, while also expanding the post-“Dark World” storyline before “Thor: Ragnarok” arrives?
First appearance “Tomb of Dracula” #1 (April 1972) — Created by Bram Stoker, Gerry Conway and Gene Colan; First fought Doctor Strange in “Tomb of Dracula” #44 By Steve Englehart and Gene Colan
Before “Doctor Strange,” the supernatural and the undead would have been a little out of place in the types of stories Marvel was telling on-screen, but that’s just not the case anymore. In the comics, Dracula has a rich history with the good Doctor, having crossed paths a number of times. Like any good monstrous legend, Dracula returns from the grave time and again, and the inclusion of the king of monsters could potentially lead to any number of creatures finding their way to the big screen, from Baron Blood making his presence felt in a “Captain America” film or the arrival of Blade, the Vampire Hunter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Morgan Le Fay
First appearance “Black Knight” #1 (May 1955) First modern appearance: “Spider-Woman” #2 — Created by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely
Speaking of recognition factor, let’s consider Morgan Le Fay. The greatest villain of Arthurian myth has been bedeviling the Marvel Universe for a very long time, including a faceoff with Doctor Strange in a battle of the magics of yesteryear versus the modern day Master of the Mystic Arts. Putting Morgan Le Fay into the “Doctor Strange” film could allow Marvel to open up some genre gateways into the realms of Sword and Sorcery and fantasy in the same way “Thor” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” acted as a springboard into the world of modern sci-fi.
Lilith, Mother of All Demons
First appearance: “Ghost Rider” #28 (August 1992) — Created by Howard Mackie and Andy Kubert
Lilith, the arch-nemesis of the Midnight Sons in the 1990s, is Marvel’s answer to Grendel’s Mother from “Beowulf,” a matriarch of demons and monsters sworn to bring down the world of the living. Lilith has a fantastic look and vile purpose — a hatred of all things that dwell in the light — and could be perfect in a film directed by horror master Scott Derrickson. If Marvel wants to go the more supernatural horror route, Lilith is the woman who could provide Stephen Strange with a truly monstrous adversary and, once again, offer the perfect way to reintroduce Blade to audiences.
First appearance: “Silver Surfer” #3 (December 1968) — Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema
What better villain to introduce the world to Doctor Strange than the devil incarnate himself? Mephisto has been Marvel’s most malevolent adversary since he first tried to taint the soul of the Silver Surfer? He and Strange have had many classic clashes over the years, and the tempter of men even played a pivotal role in “Infinity Gauntlet,” serving as one of Thanos’ toadies. With “Infinity War” coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, wouldn’t one of the key players of the comic book version of that classic tale be the perfect villain for Doctor Strange?
First appearance: “Doctor Strange” #1 (June 1974) — Created by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
The Silver Dagger used to be an ordained Cardinal of the Catholic Church until he became obsessed with destroying anything he deemed unholy, including practitioners of the mystic arts. Imagine Cotton Mather combined with Frederic Wertham, a man who feels it is his duty to protect the innocent by slaying anything magical or monstrous. This obsessed warrior of light tainted by hatred and misguided holiness could make for a powerful adversary for our big screen Doctor. A man on a wrong-minded quest to destroy the only hero capable of holding true unholy darkness at bay, Silver Dagger fits the mold of a classic misguided Marvel foe.
First appearance: “The Hood” #1 (July 2002) — Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Kyle Hotz
Another grounded yet supernatural villain, the Hood was once a small time criminal, before he came into possession of a mystic cloak that granted him vast supernatural powers. With his newfound might, Parker Robbins became a powerful underworld figure — and a very real threat to the heroes of the Marvel Universe. A very complex and multifaceted villain, the Hood is a man of a skewed morality who uses the mystic and forbidden to line his pockets. Pitting Strange against the Hood in mystic game of cops and robbers could give the coming film a very unexpected vibe. And building to the fact that he is a major player in the criminal underworld, the Hood could further be used by Marvel in its more street based Netflix projects. He might be a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to supernatural baddies, but there’s no reason the Hood couldn’t be a compelling figure to test the mettle of Doctor Strange.
First appearance: “Marvel Spotlight” # 5 (Aug 1972) — Created by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog
Marvel loves to backdoor characters into their super hero universe, and while Zarathos might be a minor demon in the underworld when compared to Mephisto or Satannish, he caused a major impact on Earth when he possessed stuntman Johnny Blaze. Zarathos could be a perfect adversary for Strange to cut his teeth against before the newly-created Master of the Mystic Arts moves onto his better known villains, and his appearance on Earth could foreshadow the second coming of another of Marvel’s more offbeat heroes: Ghost Rider.
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