Doctor Strange is a fictional character, a comic book sorcerer and superhero in the Marvel Universe. Created by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Steve Ditko, he first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). Additionally, the name had been used for Doctor Strange two months earlier.
Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, responsible for defending it from mystic threats. He is a master of the mystic arts, using his abilities to battle evil magicians and other supernatural villains. He is also often consulted by other superheroes on supernatural matters.
After debuting in Strange Tales #110 and returning in the next issue, the nine to 10-page feature "Dr. Strange" skipped two issues and then returned permanently with #114 (Nov. 1963). Steve Ditko's surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly head-trippy visuals helped make the feature a favorite of 1960s college students, according to accounts. Ditko, as co-plotter and later sole plotter, in the "Marvel Method", would eventually take Strange into ever-more-abstract realms that nonetheless remained well-grounded thanks to Stan Lee's reliably humanistic, adventure/soap opera dialog. Doctor Strange shared the "split book" Strange Tales with solo adventures of Fantastic Four member the Human Torch (whose feature had begun in issue #101), and, beginning with #135, with its replacement feature, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.
During Ditko's run on the feature, many enduring elements were introduced. His mentor the Ancient One and enemy Nightmare both debuted along with Strange in issue #110, and his nemesis Baron Mordo debuted in #111. An even more powerful adversary, the Dread Dormammu, was introduced in #126. In issue #138, with what historians consider one of modern comics' great moments, Doctor Strange first encountered Ditko's grand and enduring conception of Eternity, the personification of the universe, depicted as a majestic silhouette whose outlines are filled with the cosmos. It was a groundbreaking creation at a time before such cosmic conceits were commonplace.
While Lee and Ditko themselves interacted less and less as each went their different creative ways, Ditko took his final bow on the feature in issue #146 (July 1966) with the culmination of Strange's long-running conflict with Dormammu, in which Dormammu takes on Eternity single-handed.
"Doctor Strange" continued to the end of the book's run, when the "Fury" feature was spun off into its own title and Strange Tales was renamed Doctor Strange with issue #169 (June 1968). Note: This is the title as given in the book's postal indicia; Dr. Strange's various series, confusingly, have changed their cover-logo titles much more so than most series. See the Bibliography for details.
Doctor Strange's first namesake comic book, written by Roy Thomas with art by penciler Gene Colan, lasted only until issue #183 (Nov. 1969), by which point Strange had been given, separately, both a new secret/civilian identity as "Dr. Stephen Sanders" and, previously, making that possible, a full-face cowl in an effort to more resemble a Marvel superhero and help low sales. These changes were unsuccessful and the series was subsequently abandoned. The cancellation was abrupt (there was a "Next Issue" blurb in the last edition), and loose ends were tied up in Sub-Mariner #22 (Feb. 1970) and The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970).
Strange's next appearance was a backup solo tale in the showcase title Marvel Feature #1 (Dec. 1971) This story not only tied into the issue's lead feature, the creation of the loosely affiliated antihero team the Defenders, but also led into a new ongoing feature for the sorcerer in Marvel Premiere #3-14 (July 1972 - March 1974). This series continued into a solo book generally titled as Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts, which ran 81 issues (June 1974 - Feb. 1987). An acclaimed early arc by writer Steve Englehart and penciller/co-plotter Frank Brunner, featured the death of Strange's mentor, the Ancient One, followed by a storyline in which Strange witnessed the Creation, or re-creation, of the universe. Reflecting that era's trend toward "cosmic" characters and stories — a trend ironically begun in the Lee-Ditko '60s stories — this turn away from more traditionally occult, supernatural stories helped propel for 15 years under various teams.
Following this solo title's cancellation, the character continued uninterrupted in Strange Tales vol. 2, #1-19 (April 1987 - Oct. 1988), appearing in 11-page stories in this "split book" he shared predominantly with the feature "Cloak and Dagger". (The final issue's co-feature was "The Thing and Mayhem", although the other pair's logo still appeared on the cover.) This in turn was followed directly by Strange's third solo title, generally listed as Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme, which lasted 90 issues (Nov. 1988 - June 1996) Writer Peter B. Gillis and artists Richard Case & Randy Emberlin were the creative team for the last few issues of the second self-titled comic, the entire Strange Tales run, and the first few issues of this new solo comic). Doctor Strange also appeared in various miniseries and two graphic novels, and had major recurring roles both in the 1970s feature and later comic book The Defenders and the 1990s comic book Nightstalkers.
Fictional character biography
Stephen Vincent Strange was born on November 18, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Eugene and Beverly Strange. A few months later, the Stranges move to a farm in Nebraska where Stephen is brought up alongside his brother Victor (who later became the second Baron Blood) and sister April.
In adulthood, Stephen becomes an accomplished, but arrogant, surgeon until he suffers subtle, though profound, neurological damage in an automobile accident in 1963. His hands in particular are no longer able to make the precise, fine movements necessary for surgery, although their overall mobility remains. Unable to continue his profession and too proud to accept subordinate medical assignments, he becomes unemployed and destitute. He is reduced to being a derelict, performing shady medical procedures for little money. Learning of a hermit called the Ancient One who might possibly cure him, the desperate Strange ventures to the man's isolated Himalayan abode and asks him for aid. The Ancient One instead offers to take Strange on as an apprentice in the mystic arts. Strange refuses, but cannot leave immediately due to a sudden blizzard.
While staying for the duration of the storm, Strange witnesses the Ancient One's apprentice, Baron Mordo, secretly attack the teacher with mystically summoned skeletons, which the old man easily dispels. Strange, his skepticism eroding, confronts Mordo about the treachery but Mordo responds with restraining spells that keep Strange from warning the Ancient One or attacking Mordo physically. Amazed by these displays of magic, alarmed by Mordo, but frustrated by the mystic restraints, Strange undergoes a change of heart. Deciding that the only way to stop Mordo is to learn magic himself in order to challenge Mordo on his terms, Strange accepts the Ancient One's offer. Pleased by Strange's acceptance for unselfish reasons, the Ancient One removes the mystic restraints, explaining that he is well aware of Mordo's treachery but prefers to keep Mordo close by in order to control and possibly change him. Strange studies magic under the Ancient One for seven years and returns to the United States in the 1970s.
Silver Age Strange
Based in his Sanctum Sanctorum mansion in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood, Strange uses his new abilities to fight such mystic enemies as recurring nemesis Mordo; the flame-headed other-dimensional ruler Dormammu (and his sister Umar), with whom he clashes often; and Strange's first recorded foe upon returning to America, Nightmare. He also gains a valuable ally in Wong, a loyal servant who is part of a line trained to serve the current Sorcerer Supreme.
Doctor Strange encounters such cosmic beings as the Living Tribunal, and the personification of the universe itself, Eternity, as well as numerous superheroes and even, at one Times Square New Year's celebration, longtime family friend and author Tom Wolfe (who allowed his likeness to be used in Doctor Strange #180, May 1969). On one journey to Dormammu's realm, Strange meets and eventually falls in love with Clea, the tyrant's human-appearing niece.
When the demon Asmodeus briefly impersonates him, Strange dons a superheroic-looking full-face cowl and a "secret identity" as Dr. Stephen Sanders from #177 through the final issue, #183 (Feb.-Nov. 1969).
Doctor Strange as deus ex machina
In the Marvel canon, there are no clearly defined limits of what Dr. Strange can or cannot do. The stories themselves contradict one another: Dr. Strange is shown easily altering memories, or having complete mastery over time by either stopping it all together and rewinding it or traveling into the past in one story, then stating that his magic cannot do so in another instance. In some appearances he can stand against something as powerful as the Infinity Gauntlet, and in others he appears defenseless against simple physical attack by another person.
Some writers have ignored canonical evidence that Dr. Strange has enchantments that shield his body from physical harm, and that he virtually does not age and can not die unless under his own terms (having made a deal with the omnipotent being Eternity which grants Stephen life as long as he wishes it so), with his predecessor as Sorcerer Supreme, the Ancient One, having lived several centuries.
Dr. Strange is often used as a deus ex machina to stop, prevent or undo many world-altering events that occur in other characters' comic books. Prominent examples include:
- In Uncanny X-Men #190-191 (Feb.-March 1985), the wizard Kulan Gath magically transformed New York City into an approximation of his own ancient time. Everyone, save for Strange and a handful of others, forgot who they were and assumed roles appropriate to such a reality. Strange was held prisoner by Kulan Gath, his flesh warped to prevent him speaking aloud or making mystical gestures. Despite numerous characters dying, the spell was eventually broken and reality was restored by Dr. Strange and Magik.
- In Micronauts #35 (Nov. 1981), Dr. Strange was instrumental in helping the Micronauts defeat ancient demons from Earth's past. As he kept the demons at bay, Commander Arcturus Rann rushed the Keys to the Enigma Force to the tomb of Prince Wayfinder, the creator of the Microverse. After opening the Tomb, Strange and Rann encountered the Sword in the Star, who merged them into a single entity, Captain Universe, in order to save the rapidly deteriorating Space Wall between Earth and the Microverse.
- In the Infinity Gauntlet six issue limited series, Dr. Strange recruited the heroes to stop Thanos, was one of the few heroes to survive Thanos' destruction of his opposition, and was responsible for rescuing the few survivors in the final battle against Thanos and Nebula. Strange was one of the few people to remember that these events had occurred, the others being the Infinity Watch, the Silver Surfer and Thor, Strange and the latter two having witnessed Warlock's soul during the crisis and Warlock being unable to erase such knowledge.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy #31-33, Dr. Strange aided the titular, time-traveling team against an alien Badoon named L'Matto that had been granted the Uni-Power, transforming him into Captain Universe. A duel between the Badoon and the Guardian Charlie-27, which was appearing to be in L'Matto's favor, was turned in Charlie's favor with the intervention of Strange and fellow Guardians Vance Astro and Aleta Ogord, the latter of whom had just become the new Starhawk. With Dr. Strange's help, Aleta defeated the Captain Universe-empowered L'Matto and then exorcised the Uni-Power from L'Matto's body; the Badoon was left with his people to recover, while Strange returned to his studies, the Guardians returned to their home in the 31st century, and the Uni-Power headed off to find a new host.
- In House of M #7-8 (Nov.-Dec. 2005), Dr. Strange and Emma Frost prevented the Scarlet Witch from imposing her will on the entire world. Driven insane by her powers, the Witch reverted to the alternate reality she had created but stripped the majority of the world's mutants of their powers. Only a few who were shielded by Dr. Strange's spell and Frost's psychic powers retained their memories of the House of M reality and of what had transpired.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man #500, Dr. Strange appeared during an invasion by Dormammu and the Mindless Ones on New York City. Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four inadvertently released Dormammu from his "prison" by making a gun to send the Mindless Ones back to their dimension. Doctor Strange appeared in time to fight Dormammu and, with the help of Spider-Man, Cyclops and other heroes, Dormammu and the Mindless Ones were sent back to their dimension. As a result of the dimensional tampering, Baron Mordo was resurrected and after the battle he kidnapped Strange; what happened between this event and Strange's reappearance in the Marvel Universe is thus far unrevealed.
Major supporting characters, villains, and allies
- Baron Mordo — A dark sorcerer and frequent threat.
- Dormammu — A fallen Faltinian being. When outcast, he chose to take a form of pure mystical energy to maintain most of his Faltine essence. He took over the Dark Dimension from the Mindless Ones and consistently tries to expand into other dimensions through conquest. Dormammu is a being of immense power and one of Strange's most frequent foes, perhaps even rightfully called his archenemy.
- Umar — A fallen Faltine. Sister of Dormammu, she chose to take a lesser and more conventionally human physical form in order to experiment with physical pleasures. She is the mother of Clea.
- Nightmare — Ruler of the dream dimension, father of Dreamqueen and inspiration for Gaiman's The Sandman. Though he is a threat to Strange and to humanity, his existence is necessary, since without Nightmare, humanity would go insane. Appeared in Doctor Strange's debut story in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963).
- Shuma-Gorath — A vastly powerful extra-dimensional being of chaos magic and the ruler of thousands of realms which ruled the Earth ages ago. Unable to be destroyed, its essence is taken on by its supplanter. Shuma-Gorath crossing over into our dimension would be disastrous, and Doctor Strange has been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop it.
- Death — The personification of Death in Earth's dimension. It was in Doctor Strange's fight against Death that he proved himself worthy to be Sorcerer Supreme. Death has claimed that when Stephen finally fails in his duty she will take him; however, it is more likely that he will become one with Eternity, as have the Sorcerers Supreme before him.
- Satannish — One of the demon rulers of the dead. Strange's duties have occasionally led to conflict with this being.
- Mephisto — One of the demon rulers of the dead, originally introduced as a Silver Surfer foe, but who has since become a major entity in story arcs here and in Daredevil, Ghost Rider and other Marvel series. Strange's duties have occasionally led to conflict with this being.
Supporting characters and allies
- Wong - manservant and closest friend
- The Ancient One - mentor
- Clea - Otherdimensional wife (separated)
- The Living Tribunal
- Rintrah - former apprentice
- The Vishanti
- Night Nurse -Lover
- Victoria Bentley
- Spider-man - Superhero friend
- Pixie –New X-man Possible Apprentice
- 1602: Set in the Marvel 1602 universe. Sir Stephen Strange, both the court physician of Queen Elizabeth I and a magician, senses that there are unnatural forces at work. He is the replacement in the 1602 universe for John Dee and is married to a version of Clea. Here, he cannot use his 'Astral Projection' (which he refers to as a magic mirror) as well as the modern one could, lacking modern materials, and is often physically drained after it is finished, and lacks memory of what he saw in astral form. Eventually, when Elizabeth is dead, he allows himself to be executed for witchcraft and treason, having gone under a vow of silence "while he lived."
- 2099: Set in the Marvel 2099 universe. The Sorceress Supreme of Earth is a young woman who calls herself "Strange". She secretly shares her body with a monstrous demon. She is very inexperienced in her powers and uses them recklessly. In one incident, she causes the death of her brother. Her main opponent is Garokk who wishes to use her past torments and inexperience to gain the title of Sorcerer Supreme for himself.
- Amalgam Comics: Set in the Amalgam Comics universe. Dr. Strange was combined with Charles Xavier and Doctor Fate into Dr. Strangefate. As the only character aware of the nature of the Amalgam Universe, he was the chief opponent of Access, who was attempting to separate the DC and Marvel Universes. Originally numbered as Earth-962.
- Bullet Points: In the mini-series Bullet Points, Dr. Strange chooses to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., rather than seek out the Ancient One, in exchange for them restoring his hands. Later he is seen possessing claws similar to Wolverine's.
- Duckworld: Set in Howard the Duck's home-world and home dimension. This version of Doctor Strange is Ducktor Strange, an anthropomorphic Duck. In this reality, he is still a Sorcerer (the "Mallard of the Mystic Arts"), but is also a drunken derelict, who seems to live in alleys drinking "sorcerous sauce" (alcohol). He has appeared in Howard the Duck (magazine) # 6, wherein he sends Howard and Beverly back to Earth, and in She-Hulk vol. 4 (a.k.a. "She-Hulk 2") # 20, wherein he helps Stu the Intern return to Earth (since Stu's extensive knowledge of Marvel Comics continuity reminded him that he could find the Ducktor and how he could be returned by the Mystic Mallard).
- Earth-A/Earth-721: In She-Hulk v. 2 #21, a non-powered counterpart of Dr. Strange from Earth-A comes to Earth-616 (aka Earth-B) and impersonates the 616 Dr. Strange. The impostor is revealed when he can't think of a rhyme for the word "Cyttorak".
- Earth X': Set in the Earth X universe. Dr. Strange's astral form is murdered by Clea (this Earth's Sorceress Supreme) under the behest of Loki. His astral form aids Captain Marvel in his journey through Death's Realm as one of the few inhabiting heroes aware of his death.
- Exiles: An alternate Dr. Strange helped the Exiles briefly. This character was not a mystic, but instead was still a practicing physician who specialized in superhumans. This version of Doctor Strange was killed by an alternate version of Deadpool.
- Fantastic Four: The End: In this series, Dr. Strange is now the Ancient One and had a daughter with Clea who is the new Dr. Strange.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: In the alternate future of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange assumed the title of the Ancient One (previously held by his mentor) and took on a disciple of his own, a Lem named Krugarr. Strange/the Ancient One was eventually killed by Dormammu, who was defeated by the combined efforts of Krugarr, his disciple Talon and the Guardians.
- Marvel Zombies: Set in the Marvel Zombies universe. Dr. Strange is one of the last heroes in the alternate "zombie world" to be transformed into a zombie. He was last seen in living form as part of Nick Fury's resistance to defeat the zombified Marvel superheroes in the spinoff Dead Days before he and the rest of the surviving superheroes are later overwhelmed by the zombie Fantastic Four and turned. In Marvel Zombies Vs. The Army Of Darkness #5, he participates in the multi-zombie attack on Doctor Doom's castle, in an effort to capture and devour the unaffected Latverian citizens inside. In Ultimate Fantastic Four #22, while part of a multi-zombie chase of Ultimate Reed Richards, he vanishes under a rain of cars launched by Magneto.
- MC2: Set in the MC2 universe. Dr. Strange is retired and the title of Sorcerer Supreme has been passed to the younger Doc Magus.
- Mutant X: Set in the Mutant X universe. Dr. Strange was the Man-Thing. The title of Sorcerer Supreme had been taken by Baron Mordo.
- Spider-Ham: Set in the Larval universe. The funny animal version of Doctor Strange is Croctor Strange an anthropomorphic Crocodile. Numbered Earth-8311.
- Ultimate Doctor Strange: Set in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. First appearing in flashbacks, Dr. Strange married his former student, Clea, and the two of them had a child, Stephen, Jr. He later vanished, and Clea decided to raise Stephen, Jr. away from magic.
As a college student, Stephen Jr. was approached by Wong, who told him about his father and took him on as a student. He supports himself as a new-age guru to the rich, powerful and famous, and is seen as celebrity, appearing on television and talk shows. He is known to the public as "Dr. Strange," although he does not hold a medical degree or doctorate. He has bemoaned his lack of knowledge in things mystical and usually, just barely saves the day with one last desperate, untried spell. Starting in Ultimate Spider-Man #107, this Doctor Strange is a member of Daredevil's team fighting against the Kingpin, the Ultimate Knights.
The title of "Sorcerer Supreme" was only self-proclaimed by the elder Strange as reported in the comics during a TV news broadcast.
- What If?...: Dr. Strange also exists in several ''What If?...'' multiverse.
- In issue #18 (vol. 1), he becomes a disciple of Dormammu.
- In issue #40 (vol. 1), he does not become master of the mystic arts.
Previous Doctor Strange
Two months before the debut of the sorcerer-hero Doctor Strange, Stan Lee (editor and story-plotter), Robert Bernstein (scripter, under the pseudonym "R. Berns") and Jack Kirby (artist) introduced a criminal scientist and Ph.D. with the same surname. He was later identified with the full name Carl Strange. This Dr. Strange was one of Iron Man's earliest antagonists in the story "The Stronghold of Dr. Strange" in Tales of Suspense #41 (May 1963). After gaining mental powers in a freak lightning strike, this Dr. Strange established a force field-protected island base staffed with corrupt scientists and mercenaries. He attempted world domination but was thwarted by Iron Man and his own estranged daughter, Carla.
This Silver Age story was reprinted in Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #4 (Aug. 1966), the hardcover collection Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man from Tales of Suspense Nos. 39-50, and Essential Iron Man Volume 1.
Note: The series' subtitles and the varying use of "Doctor" and "Dr.", is per both each series' indicia and their varying cover logos.
Series and miniseries
- Strange Tales #110-111 & 114-168 (July-Aug. 1963 & Nov. 1963 - May 1968)
- Doctor Strange vol. 1, #169-183 (June 1968 - Nov. 1969)
- Doctor Strange, also known as Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts #169-175; Dr. Strange #176-181; and Dr. Strange: Master of Black Magic #182-183
- Marvel Premiere #3-14 (July 1973 - March 1974)
- Doctor Strange vol. 2, #1-81 (June 1974 - Feb. 1987)
- Dr. Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts #1; Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts #2-50; and Doctor Strange #51-81 (Note: #30, 34, 36-37, 40, 42-46, 48 missing subtitle)
- Strange Tales #182-188 (Nov 1975 - Nov 1976; reprints only)
- Dr. Strange Annual #1 (1976)
- Doctor Strange Classics #1-4 (March-June 1984; reprints only)
- Strange Tales vol. 2, #1-19 (April 1987 - Oct. 1988)
- Doctor Strange vol. 3, #1-90 (Nov. 1988 - June 1996)
- Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #1-4, and Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #5-90 (Note: Following issue #4, subtitle appears only sporadically)
- Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme Annual #2-3 & Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme Annual #4 (1992-1994)
- Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme Special (1992)
- Secret Defenders (1993 series) #1-25 (March 1993 - March 1995)
- Doctor Strange: The Flight of Bones #1-4 (Feb.- May 1999)
- Witches #1-4 (Aug.-Nov. 2004)
- Strange #1-6 (Nov. 2004 - July 2005)
- X-Statix Presents Deadgirl #1-#5 — (Dec. 2005 - April 2006)
- Doctor Strange: The Oath #1-#5 — (Oct. 2006 - March 2007)
One-shots and graphic novels
- Giant-Size Dr. Strange #1 (1975; reprints only)
- Doctor Strange Special Edition #1, also known as Dr. Strange/Silver Dagger Special Edition #1 (March 1983)
- Marvel Graphic Novel #23: Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa (1986 graphic novel)
- Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989 graphic novel)
- Doctor Strange & Ghost Rider Special #1 (April 1991; reprints only)
- Spider-Man / Dr. Strange: The Way To Dusty Death (no number; 1992)
- Dr. Strange vs. Dracula #1 (March 1994; reprints only)
- Dr. Strange: What is It that Disturbs You, Stephen? (no number; Oct. 1997)
- Custom: Lions Gate Dr. Strange #0 (prologue to the animated feature as well as 4-page story by the "The Oath" team; came with the animated "Iron Man" DVD; Jan. 2007)
- Biographical dates are taken from Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Marvel Knights, except for Strange's birth month, November, taken from the cover of Doctor Strange Vol. 1, #176 (Jan. 1969).
- Strange Tales Vol. 1 #115
- The Grand Comics Database
- Youngquist, Jeff, & Grünwald, Jennifer, eds., Marvel Legacy: The 1960s Handbook (Marvel Publishing, 2006), p. 18 (unnumbered)
- Dr. Strange TV Movie