Dr. Strange: Marvel's Master of the Mystic Arts

Dr. Strange: Marvel's Master of the Mystic Arts

With the movie coming out November 4th 2016 (at least in the USA where this is being written) I thought I’d write about the good doctor and give some background on him.

Dr. Stephen Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in a split book with The Human Torch. Comics were much different to today’s where you would never see a split book scenario. In 1963, when Strange debuted, he was created by Steve Ditko not Stan Lee as some might assume. Ditko also created Spider-Man but that’s for another article.

Based off of a long running radio series Chandu the Magician (1932-1950) Strange was extremely popular with college students because of the Psychedelic experiences and Eastern Mysticism involved in the stories. You had high level professors breaking down early books because they involved Egyptian myths, Sumerian Gods, and Jungian archetypes. This is clearly not the writing for children. No character had been written like this before. Strange was at the head of culture changes everywhere. Amazing how something not real still has relevancy in real life situations. Different worlds that looked like Dali paintings, surroundings that were downright chilling to look at and the most abstract painter couldn’t imagine was thought up and drawn by Steve Ditko.

Steven Strange was the first Marvel character to break boundaries and take Marvel where it had never gone…to a limitless world where anything can happen. Some of the best storytelling came from Lee and Ditko on Dr. Strange. Marvel need to make sure the movie portrays this aspect. It’s so important for viewers to understand what Strange meant. Marvel doesn’t miss on movies often so I hold out huge hope for this.

So how did Dr. Strange become what he is now? So glad you asked. Steven Strange is a brilliant but very egotistical doctor who only cares about the wealth from his career. It’s only after a car accident that shatters the bones in his hands beyond repair causing massive trembling that his attitude changes. Too proud to take a teaching job, he desperately searches for ways to fix his hands, consulting any means necessary. After running out of money he becomes homeless and practices shady procedures in seedy places for cash. Completely desperate Strange finds a hermit called the Ancient One (actually the Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme) in the Himalayas (played in the movie by Tilda Swinton). The Ancient One refuses to help Strange at first because of his selfishness and arrogance but senses that Strange has a good side to him.

That goodness comes out when Strange discovers an attempt on the life of The Ancient one from one of his disciples, Baron Mordo. Mordo is a long time student of The Ancient One and after realizing many years before he wouldn’t succeed in being the Ancient One and that Strange would he plots to kill the Ancient One. When Strange was just a boy, Mordo plants the arrogance in him and tries to keep him from going about the path that was seen by the Ancient One. Ancient One knows that even as a boy Strange is special and will eventually seek him out and succeed himself. Knowing of the plan Mordo had all these years back, The Ancient One still trains Mordo and keeps him close to him in hope that he’ll change.

When realizing the plan comes full tilt when Strange visits him as a broken man many years later The Ancient One offers an internship that’s turned down in arrogance. Mordo pounces on this and plots to kill the Ancient one. He puts a restraining spell on Strange preventing him from attacking. In desperation Strange accepts The Ancient One’s terms and then is freed by said. It turns out it was a test by The Ancient One who knew of Mordo’s plan all along and in helping the old man Strange is now free to learn the mystic arts. Once done with his training Dr. Strange returns to New York (where he used to practice medicine) where he headquarters at Sanctum Sanctorum.
Dr. Stephen Strange is a practicing magician, one of the mightiest in the cosmos, has held the title of Sorcerer Supreme since 1973 (the death of The Ancient One). He draws his powers from mystical entities such as Agamatto, Cyttorak, Ikonn, Raggadorr and Watoomb. All these entities get their power from spells. He wields mystical artifacts like the Cloak of Levitation (flight), the Eye of Agamotto (amulet whose light is used to negate evil magic), maybe the most important the Book of the Vishanti (book which contains white magic) and the Orb of Agamotto (used for clairvoyance). On top of all this power he has mastered several martial arts and weaponry.

Two last topics I want to talk about are the Book of Vishanti and the Orb of Agamotto because of their importance. The Book written by unknown authors, is the greatest known source of magic on Earth. It contains spells to destroy anything and protect anything. It’s counterpart is the Dark hold, which contains all dark magic in the Marvel universe. A very dangerous book, it took Strange years to master. As mysterious as the book is it’s Strange’s most powerful weapon. Dr. Strange keeps the book in his library, as only those who are worthy can keep the book company. The Orb of Agamotto is a powerful crystal ball owned by Dr. Strange. It can detect anyone, anywhere including magic. It’s located in a room in Strange’s Sanctum called the Chamber of Shadows. It can be used to open dimensional portals (Agamotto being one) and very rarely be blocked by powerful beings. The Orb actually had an appearance in the first Thor movie (let me know if you see it or remember!!!).

This is a great article to read before you see the movie. You’ll have a background before you start and hopefully will never be confused with Batman’s Hugo Strange!