Spider-Man: “What about your fears?”
Doctor Strange: “I am Sorcerer Supreme! Every soul on this planet, in this dimension, is under my protection. I cannot allow myself the luxury of fear!” – Ultimate Spider-Man
The Avengers are battling a demonic invasion. No matter how hard they fight, the Avengers are losing ground. One of the demons leaps at Captain America, only to be struck by a bolt of light. A new combatant has entered the battle. The demons scream, recognizing their ancient foe. As eldritch energy swirls around him, Doctor Strange descends to dispatch the demons.
When demons, monsters, and dimensional conquerors are attacking, who ya gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters; they’d be slaughtered in an instant. Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme, humanity’s only line of defense against mystical threats.
But who is Doctor Strange? Where did he learn magic? And how did he become Sorcerer Supreme? Let’s find out. Backstorious Startus!
Surgeon Supreme: Doctor Strange’s Backstory
“I’ve sworn many oaths in my day, to every being from Hoggoth to Watoomb… but the first oath I swore was The Hippocratic. I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and judgment and will do so at any cost.” – Doctor Strange: The Oath
Doctor Strange debuted in 1963 in Marvel’s anthology series “Strange Tales”*. He was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He was inspired by stories of black magic and the radio serial “Chandu the Magician”.
Dr. Stephen Strange was a brilliant but arrogant surgeon. He was badly wounded in a car crash and his hands were all but ruined. Unable to perform surgery, Stephen searched desperately for a way to heal his hands. He eventually got a lead on a so-called miracle worker in Tibet. This miracle worker was The Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme (played by Tilda Swinton in the 2016 movie, Doctor Strange).
The Ancient One refused to help Stephen, deeming him too selfish. Stephen soon discovered that the Ancient One’s student, Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), was plotting to assassinate his master. Stephen tried to stop Mordo, but was easily defeated. The Ancient One then appeared, exiled Mordo, and revealed to Strange that he knew about Mordo’s betrayal before. The Ancient One healed Stephen’s hands and offered to teach him magic. Doctor Strange accepted and began his tutelage in sorcery.
Triumph and Torment: Doctor Strange’s history
“You caught me unawares, Nightmare, but I am no child. I am Master of the Mystic Arts!” – Ultimate Spider-Man
His training complete, Doctor Strange returned to New York** to protect the world from mystical threats. He was accompanied by the Ancient One’s servant, Wong (played by Benedict Wong, really). While the two of them occasionally fought supervillains, they usually battled mystical threats. These included Baron Mordo, Nightmare the Lord of Dreams, D’spayre the embodiment of despair, and his archfoe, Dread Dormammu.
During a battle with Dormammu, Doctor Strange was trapped in the Dark Dimension, Dormammu’s world. Strange found himself without allies except for a mysterious sorceress named Clea. Strange and Clea led an insurrection against Dormammu, who was revealed to be Clea’s uncle. They defeated Dormammu and were soon married. Dormammu eventually regained control of the Dark Dimension, forcing Clea to once more lead a rebellion. Doctor Strange was unable to assist her this time as he was needed back on Earth.
Doctor Strange’s Powers and Characterization
“By the Hoary $%!-ing hosts!” – Doctor Strange: The Oath
Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme, not some conjurer of cheap tricks. He is capable of using illusions, astral projection, various protective spells, dark magic, chaos magic… It would be quicker to list things he can’t do. He possesses various magical artifacts, most notably the Eye of Agamotto and the Book of the Vishanti. The Eye of Agamotto allows Dr Strange to see through disguises and weakens evil. The Book of the Vishanti is a grimoire that contains most white magic. It is the counterpart to the malevolent Darkhold, a book filled with dark magic. Together they make the Oreo Spellbook.
Doctor Strange has also allied himself with numerous higher beings. He has an understanding with Death that prohibits him from dying of natural causes although he can die in other ways. He frequently calls upon beings like Cyttorak*** and the Vishanti (a group of three beings; Agamotto, Oshtur, and Hoggoth) to grant him more power for his spells.
Stephen Strange was an arrogant man before his accident and learned humility while training with the Ancient One. He often serves as a mediator and mentor when dealing with other superheroes.
The Actors Who Played Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange debuted in a 1978 TV movie, where he was played by Peter Hooten. He appeared in Spider-Man: the Animated Series where he was voiced by John Vernon. He has appeared multiple times in Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Avengers Assemble, voiced by Jack Coleman. In the direct-to-DVD movie Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme he was voiced by Bryce Johnson
For decades there was talk of making a live-action Doctor Strange movie. It always got shot down because of usage rights issues or profit questions. There was an attempt to make a Doctor Strange movie in the 90’s, but the rights expired. The studio altered the story enough to avoid a lawsuit and released the film as Doctor Mordrid.
A live-action major studio release was delayed until 2016’s Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, and Tilda Swinton.
Didya Get All That?
A magician you definitely won’t see at a birthday party.
* No relation to Strange himself.
** Because almost every superhero lives in New York. What, is there a friggin Hellmouth under it? Oh wait, this is Marvel, there probably is.
*** The being that gave the Juggernaut his super strength.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.