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What You Need to Know about Doctor Strange

Updated on June 5, 2016
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Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.

Master of the Dark Arts, Doctor Strange
Master of the Dark Arts, Doctor Strange

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He’s the Guy You Call for Mystical Stuff in the Marvel Universe

In the Marvel Universe, when things go bump in the night, when your house is infested with demons, and when the Dark Dimension threatens to overcome Earth, the guy you call is Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth.

Followers of DC know they have an overabundance of magicians working on the side of angels; Marvel has only a handful. The “go to” guy is Doctor Strange. He’s the vanguard to defending this dimension against all mystical attacks. When you have problems with an unknown science threat, you call the Fantastic Four. When you have an alien invasion or problems with a team of super-powered bad guys, you call the Avengers. When you get arrested and need a good lawyer to get you out, you call Daredevil.

But when Cthulhu comes knocking at your door, you better call Doctor Strange.

Unlike most of the heroes in the Marvel Universe, Stephen Strange is one of those characters that does his best work alone. Considering that most of his opponents are the vastly powerful abstract evil beings, he needs to be ever vigilant against their threats. The reality of his character is that he is a man who is constantly on the edge and lives a life of a man who has to expect a demonic incursion to happen anytime, anyplace, to anyone. Also, considering that one of his worst enemies is the personification of nightmares, he’s on the alert even when he’s asleep.

This doesn’t help him with his social skills.

Doctor Strange has been a mainstay in the MU since the silver age of comics. When Marvel did its big push back in the sixties, Doctor Strange was at the forefront sharing a title with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, in Strange Tales. He is the product of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee.

Unlike other characters that use the “Doctor” prefix in their name, Stephen Strange is an actual medical doctor – not a Phd in black magic. That means if you find yourself breaking your arm in the middle of an exorcism, not only with Doctor Strange get rid of the demonic presence in your soul, but he’ll help set your arm in a plaster cast.

The Origin Story of Doctor Strange

What you have to know about Doctor Stephen Strange is that he started his time in the Marvel Universe as one of the most obnoxious conceited asses known to man. He was the best brain surgeon in the country. If you had a problem with a brain tumor and you needed the best man for the job, Stephen Strange would work on your problem as soon as your check cleared. He was the best man to see for a consult as soon as you paid is fee. He was the best and he knew it. The problem with being the best is that your ego will make you one of the most arrogant and repugnant men alive.

It’s been said that life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans. While driving home one night, Doctor Strange got into a terrible car crash. He survived but at the cost of some slight nerve damage in his hands. Most people would call this a blessing, but Strange could not. The tremors from the nerve damage in his hands made it impossible for him to hold a scalpel with the dexterity he needed for the delicate work of brain surgery. Other doctors who knew of his talent offered him a job as their assistant, but Strange’s ego would not allow him to be second to anyone.

Strange lost his money, home, and reputation, and became a derelict. One day he overheard a conversation of an amazing miracle worker in Tibet named the Ancient One who could cure people of the worst afflictions. Having nothing to lose, he made his way to the Ancient One.

The Ancient One was a powerful sorcerer who could see into Strange’s soul. He said he could help him but because his motivations were entirely selfish, he would not. He did see a spark of decency within him. The Ancient One said that he could fan that spark into a flame if he’d stay and study with him for a time. Strange refused, thinking that the old man was nothing more than a charlatan. Before Strange could leave the Ancient One, he saw that a snow storm had blocked the exit to the temple, forcing him to stay for a prolonged period.

The Ancient One had one protégé, Baron Mordo. Mordo was evil and power hungry for the Ancient One’s mantle. Strange saw an attack on the Ancient One and, as a doctor, offered his assistance to him and suggested he rest. The Ancient One refused his help because Strange was an outsider. Next, Strange saw Mordo attack the Ancient One through the use of a poppet. He threatened Mordo with exposure. Mordo simply used a spell to keep Strange from verbally or physically telling the Ancient One of his treachery. When Strange attempted to warn the Ancient One of Mordo, he found he could not. As the spell kept him from specifically warning the Ancient One about Mordo, Strange sincerely offered to become his disciple instead.

The Ancient One for the first time saw that Strange was working from a selfless stance and removed the spell that Mordo placed on him. The Ancient One explained that there was no spell that Mordo could perform that he could not see, instead, as he saw Mordo was evil, it was best to keep him where he could be watched.

Strange spent years with the Ancient One and using his natural intelligence, learned all he could. Eventually he became a master of the black arts.

Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko | Source

Who created Doctor Strange?

The same partnership that brought everyone Spider-man, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, came up with the good doctor. And what you really need to know is that while there’s some confusion that the real creators of Spider-man are with fifty percent of the credit going to Stan Lee and fifty going to Ditko, there is little argument when it comes to Doctor Strange – it’s about a 90/10 split with Ditko getting the lion’s share.

Ironically, this successful character wasn’t grabbed by Lee probably because he saw no immediate value in it. He let Ditko have all of the credit to the five page filler within Strange Tales. Ditko actually named the character Strange to go with the “Strange” in “Strange Tales”. Lee actually wanted to call the character Mr. Strange but then reflected on it as it might confuse people with Mister Fantastic.

Using the Marvel Method, Lee would give Ditko a synopsis of what the story should do and Lee would fill in the dialogue later. The Marvel Method allowed artists to creatively illustrate the plot and also allowed overburdened writers like Lee to produce more after the artists had creatively set up the scenes and character layout.

Steve Ditko was known for making weird and other worldly art with surrealistic scenes that were instantly attractive to the psychedelic culture. Much of the artwork resembled the landscapes inspired by Salvador Dali. Lee used strange sounding words that sounded mystical, but used nothing even remotely close to real occult magic. As was Lee’s practice, he would make strange sounds and then attach those phonetic sounding words to either monsters or to the weird otherworldly things – like Doctor Strange’s spell work when he began to script Ditko’s artwork.

Doctor Strange's Powers

Type
Power
Personal powers
Mesmerism, Astral Projection, Thought Casting
Powers gained by accessing the universe's energy
Teleportation, Illusion Casting, Energy Projection
Powers gained by extradimensional energy
Spell casting
The powers of most of the magicians within the Marvel Universe

Doctor Strange’s Powers and Extradimensional Resources

Doctor Strange’s powers, like his mentor, the Ancient One, Clea, and his nemesis, Baron Mordo, can be separated in three categories: his personal powers in soul/mind/body (mesmerism, astral projection, and spell casting), powers gained from tapping the universe’s energies and using those (teleportation, illusions, and energy manipulation), and powers gained by using extra dimensional energy by invoking entities or objects of power from mystical dimensions.

The power he uses the most is his astral projection. It’s where he can separate his spirit self from his physical body and travel while retaining his human consciousness. While he’s in this form his power is limited to his mental powers and his physical body remains vulnerable. He has become adept at this and can remain in his astral form for approximately 24 hours.

Strange can also project his mind to contact anyone on Earth. He can reach approximately a dozen people at once. This power is an alternative to astral projection and is identical to telepathy. In addition to this he also has the power to mesmerize people and control them. He rarely uses this power for ethical reasons.

His secondary power of using the universe's energies allows him to hurl magical energy bolts, cast spells, or erect energy shields. He also uses this energy to produce small objects like money or food. He can also use this energy to transform one thing into another so long as he wills it.

Another thing Strange can do with this energy is transport himself by teleportation from one place to another. He usually does not use this power through his personal energy stores as it is physically taxing and will exhaust him. What he will usually do is transport to another dimension and move through there (where the laws of time and space are not the same) and open another doorway to his destination.

Very often, Strange will invoke other dimensional stores of energy or use the energy from a powerful host object. Some of the other dimensional and mystical hosts are (but are not limited to): The Flames of Faltine, The Shades of Seraphim, The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, and the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

Flames of Faltine on the Dormammu's head
Flames of Faltine on the Dormammu's head

The Flames of Faltine – Faltine is a dimension of pure magic. Everyone who lives there is a being of magic and it has spawned beings like The Dread Dormammu, Umar (his sister), and Clea (Doctor Strange’s love interest and the Dormammu’s niece). It is also known and “The Dark Dimension” and it is ruled by the Dormammu (a being of immense power). The Faltine’s purest form is one of flames and when one rises to royalty they wear the “Flames of Faltine”. The flames are immensely strong and a powerful source of magic.

The Shades of Seraphim – The Seraphim (in the Marvel Universe) are powerful blue skinned extradimensional magical beings. When Doctor Strange invokes the “Shades of Seraphim” he’s using that dimensional energy primarily as a shield. It’s good against bullets, spells, and physical projectiles. It can also be used to imprison an enemy. Doctor Strange uses this energy primarily for protection. The Shades can also be used to reinforce another spell to give it that extra bit of a boost. Whenever Doctor Strange evokes the “skill of Seraphim” and the “speed of Seraphim” it makes him to be quicker and more physically agile.

The Hoary Hosts of HoggothHoggoth is a very power mystical being. He appears as an elderly blue skinned man. When Doctor Strange invokes the forces of Hoggoth, he is using the energy primarily for banishing, sleep, or navigation through Nightmare’s realm. Sometimes when Hoggoth appears he’ll look like a tiger. He is one third of the group called “The Vishanti”.


The Hulk is trapped within the crimson bands of Cyttorak
The Hulk is trapped within the crimson bands of Cyttorak

The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak – Cyttorak is an extradimensional mystical demon lord of immense power. Fans of the X-men should know about Cyttorak because Professor Xavier’s brother, Cain Marko, found the “Crimson Gem of Cyttorak” and just touching it made him in to the unstoppable Juggernaught. When Doctor Strange uses the “Crimson Bands of Cyttorak” he’s channeling a force that will bind something in a force that can’t be broken. Doctor Strange uses these frequently to immobilize the Hulk whenever he gets out of control at one of the gatherings of The Defenders.

Oshtur – Oshtur is an elder goddess of incredible power. She has many names and has used the alias of Ishtar, Ostara, The Lady of the Skies, and the Goddess of the Easter Star. She is the mother of Agamotto and one third of the Vishanti. She is responsible for creating the Book of Vishanti and when she manifests within this dimension she is seen as a green or golden woman. She is part of the element of air and is a host for intelligence and reason.

Agamotto – Agamotto was the Earth’s first Sorcerer Supreme and son of the goddess Oshtur and was raised by her and Hoggoth. He is one third of the Vishanti and when he manifests in reality looks like an insect or a caterpillar. He is responsible for the creation of “The Eye of Agamotto” and “The Orb of Agamotto”. He was the first sorcerer to defend the Earth against the threat of the Dread Dormammu. When Doctor Strange invokes Agamotto (without of his amulet or orb), he uses these powers for intelligence and to find out the truth of a matter.

The Book of Vishanti
The Book of Vishanti
The Darkhold
The Darkhold

The Vishanti – Hoggoth, Agamotto, and Oshtur combined are the three forces that make the Vishanti. Spells of the Vishanti were collected and stored in the Book of Vishanti, the primary source of white magic within the Marvel Universe (the primary source of dark or black magic of the Marvel Universe resides within the Darkhold – the MU’s equivalent of the Necronomicon). Doctor Strange is responsible for guarding the Book of Vishanti. The power of the group, much like true symmetry, is greater than the sum of its parts and has been magnified to be one of the ultimate sources for good.

The Darkhold – Also known as “The Book of Sins”. The Darkhold is a book that holds a collection of dark magic spells rarely used by Doctor Strange. It is primarily a book of evil. It was created by the demon, Chthon, as a touchstone to the Earth dimension and used to corrupt any magician foolish enough or not powerful enough to use it. Doctor Strange has rarely used this book and magicians who do risk losing their eternal soul. He used it once to rid the world of all vampires as it contained the feared “Montesi Formula” – named after the monk who discovered it. Along with being much of the source of horror in the Marvel Universe, it’s been known to create vampires, a curse for werewolves (with a continuing contamination throughout the person’s bloodline), and a controlling force for the undead. Its origins can be traced to the Hyborian age of Thulsa Doom, King Kull, Red Sonja, and Morgan Le Fey.

The Eye of Agamotto
The Eye of Agamotto

Doctor Strange’s Primary Tools

The manipulation of magic and extradimensional forces can get tiring if you don’t have the right tools to do the craft. Doctor Strange, aside from being a master of the mystic arts, has a few tools to make his job a little easier.

The Eye of Agamotto – Doctor Strange wears The Eye of Agamotto as an amulet around his neck. The amulet is a worn with a large golden chain that holds a circular piece surrounded by several smaller circles. When not in use, it looks like a closed eyelid. When Doctor Strange needs it, it will open and show him the truth of any situation. When used on a person it will reveal the true nature of that person through its “all revealing light”. It can be used to penetrate disguises (mystical or otherwise) and it can play back recent events for Doctor Strange to see. Along with its all revealing light, it can be used to create a doorway to other dimensions and it has been used as a conduit to magical energies. Unlike most of the other physical objects, the amulet travels with Doctor Strange even when he’s in his astral form. Sometimes when Doctor Strange uses the eye it will place itself over his mystical third eye on his forehead.

Doctor Strange has been wearing the red one since 1963
Doctor Strange has been wearing the red one since 1963

The Cloak of Levitation – Whenever Doctor Strange has to go anywhere within the physical universe, he can be seen flying. To offset the incredibly taxing and tiring task of flying through mystical means, he wears his Cloak of Levitation. With it, he can fly without using his personal energies to do so. The cloak is traditionally seen as red with intricate gold trim on the sides with a high collar around the neck. His original cloak was blue and was replaced by the more powerful red one.

The Orb of Agamotto
The Orb of Agamotto

The Orb of Agamotto – The Orb of Agamotto does not leave Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Chiefly, its used to scry. Through it, Doctor Strange can see all of the mystical dangers that threaten Earth. It is also used as a gateway to access Agamotto’s home dimension. It is kept well-concealed through spells and secrecy.

The Wand of Watoomb – Now a trinket and powerless, the wand used to be an object of immense power that allowed a mediocre magician to become a master simply by holding it. Doctor Strange used his amulet to absorb its energies and render it harmless.

Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village
Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village

Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum

Every hero needs a place to hang his hat and Doctor Strange is no different. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York, Doctor Strange’s three story townhouse, at 177A Bleeker Street, is his mystical headquarters in the United States.

The building houses some of the most powerful mystical artifacts within the Earth dimension, including the Book of Vishanti and the Darkhold. Unlike almost all buildings and structures, the brownstone is bigger on the inside than on the outside. In addition to that, the rooms, halls, and corridors are all subject to change at any time. Due to a combination of the site (a focal point of mystical energies within the land as it was built on an old New York “Potter’s Field”) and the objects held within it, the house has many mystical properties. Innocent passersby will attest to it being haunted. That is not the case. The house is, in fact, alive.

Along with it being the home of Doctor Stephen Strange, it is also the headquarters of The Defenders and the New Avengers. When the Doctor has guests within the house, they are confined the first floor, near the library for their own safety.

The house has its share of mystical wards to not only keep demonic entities from coming in, but to also keep some of the more dangerous entities from going out. It is warded with the seal of the Vishanti as a window at the top of the roof and is heated with a furnace that contains some of the Flames of Faltine.

Doctor Strange’s Allies

Being the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth requires that you not do everything alone. In his battle against mystical and Earthly threats, Doctor Strange has gathered some staunch allies within the Marvel Universe. Leave alone the fact that eventually everyone comes to see the Doctor every now and then when they find they’re in a mystical situation that is beyond them.

The Ancient One – The Ancient One was Doctor Strange’s master when he was first learning the mystical arts. He was the one who persuaded Stephen Strange to pick up the mantle of sorcerer instead of leading a life of self-interest. The Ancient One was Strange’s mentor and father figure. Doctor Strange was forced to kill the Ancient One as a necessary step to keep the Shuma Gorath from coming into Earth’s dimension. When Strange destroyed the Ancient One’s ego and center for self-perception, it freed his soul for him to become one with the universe.

Clea and Wong
Clea and Wong

Wong – There is so much to do when you’re out protecting the Earth from magical threats. Who keeps the house clean? Wong does. Wong is Doctor Strange’s manservant. He is part of a long line of mystic priests that have served the Ancient One and the Sorcerer Supreme. Wong is an expert at martial arts and had a good foundation in the mystic arts as Doctor Strange’s disciple.

Clea – Clea is the daughter of Umar the Unrelenting in the Dark Dimension ruled by the Dormammu. She is Doctor Strange’s disciple and lover. She has since gone back to the Dark Dimension to be its Sorcerer Supreme. She often has been overthrown by her uncle and mother. She remains as his on again, off again love interest.

The original Defenders
The original Defenders

The Defenders – This group is not a team; it is a non-team. The original Defenders consisted of Doctor Strange, Prince Namor (The Submariner), The Hulk, and The Silver Surfer. These heroes that operate on the fringe of society and have their own personal agendas gather every so often when the need is great. The home base for this non-team is Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Other members of the Defenders have been Nighthawk, The Valkyrie, Hellcat, The Son of Satan, and The Gargoyle. The roster has been variable and there is no permanent membership other than the founding non-members. That said, Doctor Strange has found himself fighting alongside the Submariner and the Hulk quite often.

The New Avengers – The Avengers Roster changed drastically as a result of Marvel’s Civil War. One group of heroes calling themselves the Avengers was led by Tony Stark and another group led by Captain America was the New Avengers. The New Avengers disagreed with the way the government required heroes and mutants to register with the government. These Avengers kept themselves hidden and worked alongside Doctor Strange. While they were hiding out they used Doctor Strange’s townhouse as a home base as the mystical wards hid them from Stark’s group of Avengers. They were also the resistance group when Norman Osborne was running H.A.M.M.E.R. (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s replacement organization).

The Illuminati
The Illuminati

The Illuminati – These are the heroes in charge. This team consisting of Reed Richards (Fantastic Four), Namor (the antiheroes), Tony Stark (The Avengers), Black Bolt (The Inhumans), Doctor Strange (Mystical threats), and Professor X (Mutant community) get together to discuss what happens after major events. It formed shortly after the Kree-Skrull War and exists to work in secret to handle things too large for the “regular hero community”.

Brother Voodoo – Jericho Drumm aka Brother Voodoo was tapped to replace Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme along with thirty other candidates that Agamotto selected. Brother Voodoo possesses mystical skill born of voodoo. He can also summon his dead brother Daniel Drumm from within his body to double his strength. While he was Sorcerer Supreme, he gained the amulet and the Cloak of Levitation.

Doctor Strange’s Enemies

When a man sets out on the hero’s journey, he makes some enemies along the way. Doctor Strange has a few heavy hitting enemies and does his best to keep most of them at bay or away from our dimension. The ironic part is that while Strange is powerful, the way he defeats many of these villains is with his intelligence and strategy – not raw power.

Here are a few of his enemies:

Baron Mordo (with the Dormammu behind him)
Baron Mordo (with the Dormammu behind him)

Baron Mordo – I mention Mordo first because he was his first real enemy and inspiration to actually acquire powers. When someone can be that much of a jerk to get you to study the mystical arts and set you on that road, he has to be mentioned. Mordo was the Ancient One’s first disciple. From the first issue he wanted power and to rule the Earth’s dimension as its Sorcerer Supreme. Mordo is an accomplished magician but his power has been dwarfed by Strange’s over the years.

The Dread Dormammu – He is the ruler of the Dark Dimension. His power is incredibly immense and it has taken a collective body of sorcerers to keep him at bay in his dimension. The Dormammu’s power is so vast that dark magicians use his name to invoke more power within their spells. He wears the flames of regency which keep his face obscured in flame and increase his powers exponentially. When Doctor Strange first faced the Dormammu, he was completely unmatched. It was only through Doctor Strange helping him ward off the Mindless Ones within his own dimension that put him in Strange’s debt. So long has the Dormammu saw himself in debted to Strange he would not invade Earth. This has infuriated him ever since and he has sworn to end Strange.

Nightmare
Nightmare

Umar the Unrelenting – Umar is the twin sister of the Dormammu and mother to Clea. She helped her brother conquer the Dark Dimension. In do that and battling the mindless ones she relinquished a good deal of her power and was unable to defeat her brother for the throne. Nevertheless, she is a powerful opponent and a dangerous enemy.

Nightmare – In the Marvel Universe when you have a bad dream, it’s this guy’s fault. He monitors humanity’s collective dream state and feeds off of the dreamer’s unconscious energy. He is supreme in his nightmare dimension and can trap astral form foolish enough to enter. Nightmare was the first enemy seen in Doctor Strange’s storyline.

The Shuma Gorath
The Shuma Gorath
The Living Tribunal
The Living Tribunal

The Shuma Gorath – This horrific entity is one of the Old Ones in the Marvel Universe and was said to rule over a hundred dimensions. It is said to be as powerful as the trio of the Vashanti and each hold the other in check for power.

The Living Tribunal – This being has incalculable power and is as old as the multiverse itself. Its function is to safeguard the multiverse from any kind of imbalance that might occur and to keep any one universe from becoming more powerful than any other. The Living Tribunal has three heads. The front face, which is open, speaks of equity. The fully hooded face speaks of necessity. The semi-hooded face speaks of revenge. All three voices must agree before the Tribunal can act.

Satannish the Supreme – This demon was created by the Dormammu. In the Marvel Universe when you make a deal with the Devil, you’re either doing business with this guy or Mephisto. Mephisto is the more powerful.

Mephisto – He rules his own dimension called Hell. He rules over the souls of the damned and lives to make people suffer. Not a primary enemy of Doctor Strange, but certainly someone he has to watch. Mephisto deals in pure evil and lives to make things suffer.

Buy Doctor Strange on Amazon

Essential Doctor Strange Volume 1 TPB by Stan Lee (March 11,2002)
Essential Doctor Strange Volume 1 TPB by Stan Lee (March 11,2002)

This is where it all started with Ditko's art and Lee's dialogue. See the origin of the Marvel Universe's Sorcerer Supreme.

 

Final Words

The Marvel Universe has a magical dimension to it. There are heroes, anti-heroes, and villains that either work with or have been created by its mystical realm. Some of the supernatural heroes have been the Ghost Rider, the Son of Satan, Doctor Druid, Brother Voodoo, and Magik, but there really aren’t that many. The villains far outnumber the heroes, especially when you consider how many bad guys summon demons or make a pact with a devil like Mephisto or Satannish.

More than anything else, we know that Doctor Strange has his hands full.

We also have to remember that Doctor Strange didn’t start his career as a nice guy. He was a conceited ass who couldn’t give a damn about a patient unless they had the money to pay him. The road he took to become a hero was long and painful. And even with all of his good deeds, I’m sure that as he’s spent thousands of hours expecting the worst to come out of nowhere with little to no warning he become less than sociable.

This is a man who has great power and great responsibility with his charge being everyone and everything in this dimension. Half the time, he’s really out powered. The other half the time he has to figure out what insane, illogical, phenomena is going on and try to make some sense out of it before everyone dies.

He has very few mystical allies and all of his friends don’t have a clue on how to help him. The best they can do is get out of the way and let him work. Because this doctor, regardless of where it is, has to make house calls.

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© 2016 Christopher Peruzzi

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