"In my younger and more vulnerable years," when I was actively seeking to build my comic book collection (as opposed to merely maintain it), I used to say that I collected in two directions at once. By that I meant that I not only collected from the present forward, but from the present back. By the time I got to college, I built my collection in three directions, including from the beginning forward. (NOTE: I included Marvel Tales and Marvel's Greatest Comics as collecting "from the beginning.") My "Doctor Strange" collection was all over the place due to multiple stops and starts.
After sharing Strange Tales, first with the Human Torch, then Nick Fury, Doctor Strange spun off into his own solo title. When that was cancelled, he returned, after a period of three years, to his own ongoing solo feature in Marvel Premiere, which eventually spun off into a second eponymous solo series. My collection at the time comprised various issues of all these series and, by the time I left college, I was just beginning to focus on his first solo series starting with issue #169. That issue is a good jumping on point, expanding as it does, on his origin story from Strange Tales #115. That's where I'm going to begin this discussion, but first I'd like to take a look at the issues I'll be skipping over.
For one thing, I'll be skipping the entire Lee/Ditko run. Blasphemy, I know, but I have a couple of reasons for doing so. First, I've already read and discussed it so many times I'm eager to get on to something else. the second reason will become obvious as I go along. But there's good news! the entire Lee/Ditko run is now available in a single MONSTER-SIZE volume. There has never been a better format in which to appreciate this classic run, not even Marvel Masterworks. Speaking of which, volume two comprises the last six Ditko issues, followed by runs by Bill Everett, Marie Severin and Dan Adkins. Stan Lee left with Strange Tales #157, and by Doctor Strange #169, Roy Thomas had joined Dan Adkins.
And that brings us up to Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange Vol. 3
The Stern & Rogers run on Dr, Strange is a classic. Great writing and great art, with some humor as well as heart-wrenching moments, and bringing greater depth to the Master of the Mystic Arts as a flawed and vulnerable human being, despite his great powers and magical wisdom.
#54-57 + Marvel Fanfare #6:
Marshall Rogers was asked to stay for another six issues, but there were a number of independent projects he wished to pursue at the time (such as Coyote, Scorpio Rose and Detectives. Inc., I'm guessing). Editor al Milgrom lined up Michael Golden to do the next little run of issues, and Roger Stern delivered two plots to give him a head start. Nevertheless, despite the lead, Golden was unable to meet the deadline for #54. An inventory story, by J.M. DeMatteis and Brent Anderson was run instead, but it was only 17 pages so Stern wrote a five-page framing sequence which was given to a newcomer named Paul Smith to draw. Also, the inventory story featured Clea so the framing sequence made sure it was set in the near past.
by the time Golden finished was now #55, it was clear he was not going to become the new regular artist, so the second script was given to Paul Smith, who was named to become Golden's replacement, but he ended up drawing only #56 (at this time). Smith had expressed a desire to draw the whole mystical world of the Marvel Universe, so Roger Stern wrote just such a plot for #57. Then Smith was offered the opportunity to become regular artist on the X-Men, and that put the kibosh on his Doctor Strange gig.
Just as #47 was written with Frank Miller in mind but ended up being drawn by Gene Colan; just as #48 was written for Colan but drawn by Marshall Rogers; just as #56 was written for Michael Golden but drawn by Paul Smith; so too was #57 written for Smith but drawn by Kevin Nowlan. Word had gotten around that Clea was no longer Dr. Strange's disciple, and tons of applicants flooded the sanctum. This was Nowlan's first work for Marvel, and when he broke down the action it came to 27 pages! He called Stern in a panic, but Stern calmed him down and began to trim some of the characters Smith had wanted to draw, specifically: Agatha Harkness, Dr. Druid, Dame Ruth Efford, Brother Voodoo and Jennifer Hale. #57 was my "first" Doctor Strange after my three-year "hiatus" of collecting three titles via subscription, but #56 would have been a much better "jumping on point."
The volume concludes with a story from Marvel Fanfare #6, written by Stern and drawn by Charles Vess, another very "Ditko-esque" artist when it comes to other-worldly vistas. It also includes a Marvel Press poster by Kevin Nowlan, a six-plate portfolio by Michael Golden, several pages from the "Marvel Handbook" and several other features as well. If you are going to have only one MMW Doctor Strange in your collection, volume nine is the one to have. It would be just by virtue of the fact that it contains the entire Stern/Rogers run, but when you consider it has other stories illustrated by Michael Golden, Charles Vess, Paul Smith, Brent Anderson and Kevin Nowlan... not to mention Gene Colan... I'm sure you'll agree this volume is nigh indispensable.
This is the last volume of MMW Doctor Strange until at least October; volumes have been solicited through September, and v10 is not among them. I have some ideas for what else might be added to this discussion in the meantime but, for the time being, I'm going to concentrate on other discussions for a while.
Roger Stern dedicated this volume to artist of this and previous volumes who are no longer with us: Marshall rogers, Gene Colan, Marie Severin and, last but not least, Steve Ditko.
Just as #47 was written with Frank Miller in mind but ended up being drawn by Gene Colan; just as #48 was written for Colan but drawn by Marshall Rogers; just as #56 was written for Michael Golden but drawn by Paul Smith; so too was #57 written for Smith but drawn by Kevin Nowlan.
Do we know if (at this time) some of the artists were working from full scripts and some just from plot outlines? I know that when Stan began the working-from-plots style some of the artists weren't able to do it.
"Do we know if some of the artists were working from full scripts and some just from plot outlines?"
I infer from Roger Stern's descriptions of the process that he and his artists were working "Marvel Style." In the Nowlan case, in particular, he says, "I can still recall answering the phone one evening, and hearing an apologetic Kevin Nowlan at the other end of the line. After introducing himself, he explained that in breaking down the story, he figured that he would need something along the order of 27 pages to fit everything in. I immediately grabbed my copy of the plot and started walking Kevin through it, pruning scenes as we went. 'We can lose the scene with Agatha Harkness... cur the interlude with Doctor Druid and dame Ruth Efford, and the one with Brother Voodoo. And we can drop Jennifer Kale's scene's, too... now, what do you have?'
"There was a pause at the other end of the line. and then I heard Kevin say, 'That's... 22 pages.'
"'Great! I knew we could do it!' I then did my best to reassure Kevin, telling him to just relax and have fun with my story."
He then goes on to describe what fun he had scripting the pages Nowlan delivered. If Stern had been working full script, Nowlan wouldn't have had to break down the action in the first place, nor would Stern have had to script it later. Because that issue's story deals with word getting around the magic community that Dr. Strange is in need of a disciple, I could see where those cameos could fit in, but they would have been superfluous and cutting them probably made for a tighter story.