Comic Character Spotlight: Doctor Strange

Doctor Stephen Strange was created by Steve Ditko with Stan Lee and first made an appearance in July 1963’s “The Strange Tales” – a Marvel Comics anthology series that focused more on horror and the supernatural. As the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange is the one responsible for defending Earth against mystical beings that pose a threat.  Despite his debut occurring in the 110th issue of the series in July, Doctor Strange’s origin story was detailed months later in the 115th issue, released in December 1963. 

What is Doctor Strange’s origin story? Ironically, before he became the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange was a real doctor with a talent for surgical precision. Born in Philadelphia and raised in New York City, Stephen Strange obtained his doctorate from the medical school at Columbia University. Despite his notable intelligence, Stephen Strange was arrogant, as his success fueled his ego. He was also greedy, as he selectively cared for patients based on their ability to afford his pricey hospital bills.  

However, upon getting into a car crash, Stephen’s hands became severely damaged, and he lost the ability to carry out his routine surgeries. Desperate for a chance to be healed, he scoured the Earth for a chance at recovery. Finally, after hearing about a being with immense power, Stephen found the “Ancient One”, known as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.  

Initially, the Ancient One was displeased with Stephen and denied his request for help as a result of his overt egotistical nature. Although he sensed a kindness hidden underneath a harsh exterior, Stephen’s arrogance prevented him from agreeing to become a disciple for the Ancient One to learn about magic.  

One day, however, Stephen finally displayed selflessness, as he discovered one of the Ancient One’s disciples – Baron Mordo – conspiring to kill his master in order to seize his power as his own. An altercation with Mordo left Stephen blinded and enabled him to display the selfless act of giving up control and becoming the Ancient One’s disciple in order to aid the Sorcerer Supreme.  

The Ancient One, relieved to see more to Stephen than his egotistical side, accepted Stephen as his disciple. Afterwards, the Ancient One thoroughly trained Stephen in the mystic arts. Stephen encountered many foes as a disciple of the Ancient One, such as Nightmare and Dormammu from the Dark Dimension, who intended to conquer the earth. Finally, after proper training, Doctor Strange returned to his home in New York City and occupied the Sanctum Sanctorum with Wong, his assistant and sidekick.  

As Doctor Strange, he possesses a variety of mystical objects that aid in helping him to carry out his duties, such as the Cloak of Levitation that enables flight and the Eye of Agamotto, which is an amulet worn by Strange to nullify evil magic such as illusions and disguises.  

In the Comic Book series “Marvel Premiere” (1972), Strange assumes the title of Sorcerer Supreme following the death of his mentor, the Ancient One. Although Strange is often identified with the title of Sorcerer Supreme thereafter, he did temporarily lose the title in the 48th and 49th issues of “Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme” (1998) as a result of refusing to fight for the Vishanti — the mystical beings that fuel his spells. However, in the “Midnight Sons” series of Marvel supernatural comics, he sources alternate magical strength, such as chaos magic, famously known for being wielded by the Scarlet Witch. In the 80th issue of “Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme” (1995) Strange once again reclaims his title.  

Benedict Cumberbatch has consistently captured the essence of the character since his debut in the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange.” With continuous appearances in Marvel Cinematic Universe films, such as “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021), he has become a staple in the franchise.  

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Strange since his initial appearance in the Marvel movies. Naturally, I found it amusing that his character seemed to become more humane when he mastered the mystic arts compared to his robotic and unfeeling side as a surgeon. The next film, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022), will be released in May, and I know longtime fans of the MCU, myself included, are eager to see the franchise dive into the complex multi-reality plotline that has been teased for many years.