Master of the Mystic Arts Edition--With his grand return in The New Avengers and The Defenders, I was thinking about Doc and his place in the Marvel Universe during the Silver Age so....

  • How publicly known was Doctor Strange? In his first appearances in Strange Tales, ordinary people with extraordinary problems are able to contact him for help. Yet later on his role as Sorcerer Supreme is supposed to be a secret. Are there mystic "fans" out there who know about him? How reclusive was he?
  • When did the heroes realize there was a sorcerer on Bleeker Street? He popped up briefly in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, teamed with Spidey in AS Annual #2 and aided the Fantastic Four in their title, #33 (?). But how much interaction did Doc have with the early MU?
  • More importantly, when did he first meet the Incredible Hulk? They had Marvel's greatest and weirdest Bronze Age friendships.
  • How crippled were his hands? I know he couldn't do surgery anymore but he kept doing those hand gestures! Much later, it was shown that he used sorcery to mask how scarred his hands were. Perhaps that was part of Wong's duties: to help the Doctor do the everyday tasks he was no longer capable of doing.
  • Was Doctor Strange superhuman? I know it was supposed to be all training and discipline but could mystic aptitude be a super-power? Was he that one person who had the greatest potential to succeed the Ancient One? Could anyone have been the Sorcerer Supreme with the right studying like, say, Peter Parker or Reed Richards?
  • What was the Ancient One doing during World War II? In the comics, the Nazis were searching for mystical artifacts. Were any Golden Age heroes ret-connedly linked to the Ancient One?
  • Both now and then, the relevant question was why wasn't Doctor Strange part of the Avengers? Tony didn't want another guy with a mustache around? He didn't like the commute? He was offended that the Scarlet Witch wasn't really a witch? They wanted to give him a super-hero name? There had to be a reason, beyond that Ditko drew him!

So by the Vishanti and the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, Let there be answers!

 

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I'd say early-on, people were aware that Doc had an office and specialized in cases outside the norm. I suppose you might compare him to a psychic who had an office.  You know they're there, but how many believe it's legit, or just some kind of fraud?

FF #27 ("The Search For Sub-Mariner") was one of my favorite guest-appearances back then. If memory serves, Johnny had heard of Doc, and wrote a message in the sky for Doc to contact him.  Surprise, Doc shows up at their HQ-- in ectoplasmic form.  "How can you reach out to somethin'-- and touch nothin'? I must be losin' my grip-- or maybe it's my marbles."  At the end, of course, it's Doc who transports the team out of Namor's base and into their submarine. Nice way of doing a crossover, yet keeping the science and sorcery for the most part separate.

I'd say Doc first met Hulk in that very loose 3-parter that ran from Doc's final issue to an issue of SUB-MARINER and concluded in an issue of HULK (I could easily look up the numbers, but why bother?).  Sometime later Roy & Sal did a 2-parter which teamed Namor, Hulk & the Surfer.  It was a dry run for THE DEFENDERS, but Stan didn't want anyone using the Surfer regularly, so, Doc "filled in".  Which made more sense to me. You need at least one person who's intelligent and level-headed in there.

"Much later, it was shown that he used sorcery to mask how scarred his hands were."

I don't remember ever seeing that... (There's a point beyond which I just tend to ignore stories if they're "later" enough.)

"What was the Ancient One doing during World War II?"

No idea, but I did see him turn up in a WESTERN (by Englehart & Rogers).

"why wasn't Doctor Strange part of the Avengers?"

Most people who joined The Avengers went after the job. Why would Doc? He had his own focus and preferred staying out of the spotlight. There are things best left unknown to most mortals.

I can see Doc not wanting to be an Avenger. After all he had an entire dimension to protect.

It's been ages since I read Fantastic Four #27. Did Doc interact with Namor then?

A couple of more queries:

  • Does anyone know why Doc debuted in Strange Tales #110-111 then not reappear until #114? That's not enough time to gage popularity and he wasn't even mentioned on the cover until #117, not shown until #118 and didn't share the corner box until #122.
  • ST#123 (Au'64) featured Loki. Was that before or after Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1?

Apparently, Steve Ditko created DR. STRANGE entirely on his on, "on spec", and brought it to Stan. Had Stan decided not to run it, it's very likely Doc would have debuted at Charlton instead. I suspect Stan wasn't too confident in Ditko creating a series from scratch. No idea why he skipped 2 issues.  Further, some years back, on careful study of the art, which slowly evolved on the feature, I came to the conclusion that the origin story (run 4th) was actually created after around 8 other episodes had been created (but only 3 published).  Stan liked "origin" stories, no doubt insisted on it. (Hey, look at NICK FURY #4-- the book that caused Steranko to QUIT the series.) Doc resembles Vincent Price in the early episodes (no doubt an influence of THE RAVEN, which came out the same year). But beginning with the origin, Doc begins to resemble Ronald Colman, the star of LOST HORIZON, from which several elements of Doc's origin were borrowed. (As it turns out, some of the SAME elements also appeared in the origin of MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN-- but I've yet to determine which came first, the movie or the newspaper comic.) Because there is virtually no reference to Doc's origin in the rest of the Ditko run, and because Ditko got CREDIT for plotting the series, it's my belief that the origin may be the ONLY episode Stan had any input in. It's the ONLY Ditko episode which involves Doc being a "flawed" character, something Stan seemed obsessed with in FF, HULK, SPIDER-MAN, THOR, IRON MAN...  Ditko had no use for that sort of thing, so Doc's "flawed" side was never mentioned again until long after Ditko departed. In his case, it was obviously something involved in his origin, which he got over and past and grew out of over all the years he studied to become "Master of the Mystic Arts".

Incidentally, I'd also like to go on record as feeling that of the 4 writers who wrote dialogue during Ditko's run, Stan was BY A MILE the best. It's a toss-up whose dialogue was more (ahem) "awkward and stilted"-- not to mention long-winded-- Roy Thomas or Denny O'Neil.  However, Don Rico, based on his sole episode, may well have been quoting Ditko, as his episode reads ALMOST EXACTLY like stories Ditko wrote dialogue for himself in fanzines. I can only speculate he filled in as a favor, but didn't stick around, since he may well have thought, "What kind of a job is THIS?"

I found it interesting that the feature was originally title "Doctor Strange--Master of Black Magic", probably to make it more mysterious but ultimately too sinister.

The first two episodes lay out almost the entire Doc mythos: The Greenwich Village mansion, Wong, his astral self, the Ancient One (called the Master), Nightmare, the amulet, Baron Mordo.

Was Strange Tales #114 inked by someone else? It's looks odd in places, particularly Victoria Winters Bentley. And now I'm wondering if Miss Bentley was intended to be Doc's love interest?

I think Mandrake's origin's goes back to the latter 40s. I'm pretty sure there's a flashback sequence about his and Derek's time in the College of Magic in the first Derek story from 1948-49. I've not seen an earlier reference to it but I haven't read ever earlier story. Falk did introduce new elements from time to time into his strips, so this could be when it was introduced. Lists of Mandrake stories can be found here, by the way.

 

The Miracle Man from Fantastic Four #3 is basically an evil Mandrake the Magician.

I think you've answered your own question... Ditko drew Dr. Strange and his world was almost totally apart.

The enchantment allows only those who are truely in need of Dr. Strange to actually see and find the address (on Bleeker street?)   According to legend, the address was actually one that several artist/comic creator types shared in the 70s.

In a similar vein, if you go to London and look for 221 B Baker Street, you won't find it in the correct location...but you WILL find a shop labled 221 B Baker Street in the same block...and it is a Sherlock Holmes gift shop. (The museum is upstairs!)

No, as I recall, in FF #27, Doc had no direct contact with Namor... but when scorned, as Namor was about to go nuclear... Doc wisked the FF outta there...  No, I don't think Namor ever realized that the good doctor was there or practicing.  And just imagine, after that denouncement, it was only six issues later in issue FF #33, when the FF fight "side by side with the Submariner" at the request of a new character, Lady Dorma!  Talk about a turn-around in attitude!

PS: FF #27 was the first of Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four series that Chic Stone inked...  It was the start of a year where the subplot of Reed and Sue's romance and marriage really kicked into high gear... and set the stage for Joe Sinnott's long run of domestic bliss in the Richard's household...

Magician series were staple genre of Golden Age comics, fairly obviously due to the influence of Mandrake (who was originally depicted as if he had real magic powers). They vary; some simply fought crooks, others had fantastic adventures. Magician series of the latter kind were more fantastic than early superhero features usually were, including Superman's. (Compare the same creators' Dr Occult. I might add that the Spectre, although a ghost hero, had the great powers of a magician hero.) Very many of the things Dr. Strange could do, including his ability to release his spirit form, were anticipated by Golden Age magicians (Mr Mystic from the Spirit sections could release his spirit form). But somehow the Marvel series took this kind of story to the next level - many Golden Age magician features aren't very interesting - and made everything seem fresh and new.

 

My recollection is Droom's origin has points in common with Strange's, but I don't think he came across as very much like Strange in the other story of his from the period I've seen. My dim recollection is in that one he had superior knowledge but didn't perform magical stunts.

Dr. Strange had a great, interesting origin story, which was characteristic of the differences between Silver-Age Marvel and DC character origins. Often the circumstances which gave Marvel characters their powers also molded them into heroes in the process (Doc Strange, Spider-Man, Iron Man, off the top of my head). At DC, characters gained powers, but fought crime only because it seemed the appropriate thing to do once you had super-powers (Flash, Green Lantern, Atom).

Regarding Philip's questions, in other early Strange stories Strange answers requests for help. In the Strange story in #114 he's rung up by Mordo posing as Bentley. Strange has a thought balloon indicating he knows Bentley, but that may have been thrown in when the story was dialogued. In #116's, the second Nightmare story, he's asked for help by the police and medical authorities. In #119's, the Purple Dimension one, some burglars break into his place but don't know anything about him. In #120's, the one with the haunted house, he's represented as a famous but mysterious figure not taken seriously by everyone. In other early Strange stories his adventures arise out of his interaction with the world of magicians, separately from what's going on in normal society, or from his monitoring of the world for magical threats.

 

Some of the other early Dr. Strange stories, including the Bentley one, were inked by George Roussos (=George Bell).

 

In Marvel Team-Up #51 Strange has to perform a magical operation, but it's difficult for him because his fingers sometimes tremble slightly. In Defenders he was involved the operation that restored Nighthawk's brain to his skull, but I think it was actually performed by Dr Tania Belinksy, the second Red Guardian.

 

In one of the stories from the Roger Stern/Marshall Rogers era Strange went back through time and fought Nazi magicians. I can't remember if the Ancient One turned up. There have been stories depicting the younger Aged Genghis.

 

Incidentally, the Dr. Strange name may have been Lee's. It was used for a villain in the third Iron Man story (in Tales of Suspense #41). The haunted house story from Strange Tales #120 is very much like the kind of thing Marvel was doing in its "astonishing stories" titles prior to the introduction of the Silver Age superhero features.

The Doctor Strange/Sub-Mariner/Incredible Hulk story that Henry mentioned was included in the first volume of Essential Defenders. (The GCD's page on the volume has story synopses.) That was the last issue of that volume of Doctor Strange, so what the other titles were doing was winding up its final storyline.

 

According to www.dcindexes.com Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 came out the same month as Strange Tales #124 (#2 came out the same month as Strange Tales #138). The Loki story appeared in Strange Tales #123.

The first commentator on a post here suggests Strange disappeared for those two issues early on because of Ditko's workload. As he alludes, it was around that point that Amazing Spider-Man went monthly.

 

I want to add that I think Henry's right about Strange's being modelled after Vincent Price first and later Ronald Colman. I can really see it.

FF #27 was George Roussos' last issue. I've often compared it to AVENGERS #4, in both cases, Jack Kirby was so inspired, nearly every panel was worthy of being a pin-up. And both were BUTCHERED by being inked by someone whose style was a total mis-match for Kirby-- and, were rush-jobs done over weekends at half-price (as Roussos himself described in a late interview).  Chic Stone took over with FF #28.

There's an interesting sort-of crossover between STRANGE TALES #123 (Aug'64) "The Challenge Of Loki" and its sequel in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #108 (Sep'64) "At the Mercy of Loki, Prince of Evil!"  You really notice stuff like this is you read all the books on a month-by-month chronological basis.

In the late 70's, there were both DR. STRANGE and MANDRAKE tv-movies. The DS film got so much wrong, it's mind-boggling. When I saw the MANDRAKE film, it seemed even worse. The most obvious "wrong" was having Lothar in a tux and Mandrake wearing a shirt with the top buttons open, as if he'd just come back from a disco. Also, the origin seemed swiped from DS's, in fact was closer to Doc's origin than the DS movie had been.

But then I read a reprint of the MANDRAKE origin... and was astonished to learn that, that part of the tv-movie had been DEAD-ON accurate!  Mandrake, like Ronald Colman in LOST HORIZON, was in an airplane that crashed in the Himalayas, and he was taken to a remote, isolated monastery where he spent most of his life learning REAL SUPERNATURAL MAGIC.  Here's the twisted thing.  I grew up reading MANDRAKE in the papers. It seemed what he did was some form of mass-hypnotism which baddies believed was magic, but which he passed off as just being part of his stage act. HE WAS LYING.  In truth, what he used, which was so powerful there's no way it could have been mere "hypnotism" was REAL magic in the form of mass hypnotism. So, yes, he was hypnotising people-- but there was genuine supernatural power behind it.

Presumably, Mandrake could also work other forms of real magic-- it just seems "hypnotism" was his favorite, and possibly used less "power" than more physical forms of magic might require.  (That's my own theory.) This way, most people think he's "just" a stage magician, and don't realize what he's doing is a lot more. (And this was EXACTLY how he was portrayed in the 1978 movie.)

Someone else online once pointed out Vincent Price. I knew Doc looked different at first, but couldn't nail it down. Once I heard price, I realized how obvious it was, especially as THE RAVEN probably came out just before Ditko came up with the character.  The first time I saw that movie, it immediately hit me that the magic duel at the end looked like it came right out of a Ditko comic.

More than once, Stan mistakenly said Doc looked like David Niven. There is a resemblance (in some panels Ditko drew, he looks more like Niven than Colman). But, if you see the movie THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, both Colman and Niven are in it together-- and the difference in their personalities is really striking. Watching that film it's clear Doc was NOT based on Niven, but Colman.  I've seen some photos of Colman when he was young, and he's so skinny early-on, he's an absolute dead-ringer for Doc! Colman became a real favorite of mine thanks to seeing varous films of his on TCM over the last 10 years.

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