Script: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
Letters: Sam Rosen
I love a good origin story, don’t you? Origin stories are the solid foundation upon which the rest is built. This is where we meet the principle players, and become acquainted with the most rudimentary elements of the new mythos. Sometimes origin stories are so popular, we keep hearing them over and over. Only rarely does that annoy me (I’m looking at you, 2013 Spider-Man reboot…). Most of the time, I love to hear those good old stories, no matter how often they’re repeated.
In the back of Strange Tales #115, we at last have an origin story for Dr. Strange, after we’ve already seen him in three adventures. On the splash, Stan acknowledges the oversight, adding, “Never let it be said that we don’t try to correct our nutty mistakes!” I wonder…was this truly a mistake, or were the decision-makers in the Marvel bullpen simply taking time to gauge how popular this new character might become?
Marvel Comics began as stories for little boys. By this time, however, the audience is maturing, though not through the passage of time–after all, it’s only been two years since the Fantastic Four ushered in Marvel’s Silver Age. Instead, older readers are attracted to Marvel because the characters and stories appeal to a more mature audience. With the advent of Dr. Strange, we have a completely new type of “superhero,” unlike any we’ve seen before—one that would prove immensely popular with college kids.
What? College kids reading comics? Surely, you jest! No, not at all.
It’s this quality that has caused Marvel Comics to endure to this day, spawning a multi-media entertainment empire worth billions of dollars. But remember, it all started with some simple stories and pictures, on newsprint, selling for twelve cents a copy.
Dr. Strange was given a TV treatment in the 1970’s, but so far, no one has tackled him on the big screen. I hope that won’t be an oversight for long. I hope someone in charge will eventually get it into their heads to correct this nutty mistake! And when they do, I hope we are treated to this mythic, poetic, almost surreal gem of an origin story:
Dr. Stephen Strange is a famous surgeon with no real concern for his patients. He is “proud, haughty,” consumed by his own success, and only cares about money.
One fateful day, the nerves in his hands are severely damaged in an auto accident, and he receives the devastating news that he will never again be able to operate.
Despondent, he drops out of society, insisting, “I must be the best…the greatest!!!! Or else…nothing!”
Depressed and drifting, Strange hears some sailors talking about the Ancient One, who possesses miraculous healing powers. Now at last, with a glimmer of hope, Strange makes the long journey to India.
The Ancient One refuses to cure Strange instantly, because his motives are selfish. Instead, he offers to tutor the despondent doctor in the mystic arts. Strange says, “Thanks but no thanks.” The Ancient One doesn’t give up that easily. He conjures a blizzard which forces Strange to remain with him, and with his other pupil, the creepy Mordo.
One day Strange sees the evil vapors of Valtorr attacking the Ancient One, and discovers that Mordo is summoning the evil powers of Dormammu, in an attempt to usurp the Ancient One and secure absolute power for himself.
When Strange threatens to reveal this treachery to the Ancient One, Mordo makes several magical attempts to stop him, but the unintended result of Mordo’s spells is that Strange finally becomes a believer in Magic! Now having a clear sense of the bigger picture, Strange decides to stay and be taught by the Ancient One, so that someday he may be able to beat Mordo at his own game.
Immediately upon releasing Strange from Mordo’s spells, the Master admits that he has known all along that Mordo is trying to defeat him. Wise beyond his years, the Ancient One reveals his strategy concerning Mordo: “Although he is evil, I prefer to keep Mordo HERE where I can control him.” As the saying goes: Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.
Dr. Strange remains with the Ancient One, and with Mordo, perfecting his skills in the long-dead mystic arts. Soon, he will be ready for further adventures with Marvelous Magic!
I only know a little Marvel history, but this much has made an impression on me: Dr. Strange is like no other Marvel character we’ve met so far. He’s much more mature and cerebral than even Tony Stark. He’s not a god, like Thor, and unlike Hulk, Ant-Man and the Fantastic Four, his powers don’t spring from science. Spider-Man and the X-Men get their powers from genetics and nature, but Dr. Strange is the first of our superheroes to dip into the well of the SUPERnatural.
The dark air of the classic battle of Good vs. Evil hangs about him like a shroud. Bank robbers and thugs will not be the concern of Dr. Strange. For one such as he, even beings from other galaxies are too mundane! Dr. Strange will fight evil at its core, in the dark and mystical world of the paranormal.
Hold on to your hats! This title is about to go where no other Marvel comic has gone before!
This time, we documented some strange changes in Strange Tales. Next, we’ll check in with a hero who undertakes modifications that will have his enemies seeing red! Who is it? If you can’t stand the Suspense, come along with me next time I travel through the Marvelous Zone!
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