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Doctor Strange

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Doctor Strange as featured in Witches #1 (August 2004). Art by Mike Deodato.
Alter ego = Dr. Stephen Strange
Publisher = Marvel Comics
Debut = Strange Tales #110 (July 1963)
Creators = Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
Alliances = New Avengers
The Order
Aliases = Stephen Sanders
Powers = Mastery of magic and extended life span;
Genius-level intellect;
Skilled neurosurgeon and martial artist

Doctor Stephen Strange is a fictional Character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was co-created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963).

Debuting in the Silver Age of comics, the character has featured in several self-titled series and Marvel-endorsed products including arcade and video games; animated television series; a direct-to-DVD film; and merchandise such as trading cards.


Publication history


The character debuted in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963), a "split book" shared with fellow Marvel character the Human Torch until issue #134 (July 1965), and then super spy Nick Fury until issue #168 (May 1968). Strange appeared in issues #111 and #114 before the character's eight-page origin story appeared in #115 (December 1963).

Ditko drew the feature through Strange Tales #146 (July 1966), and during this period he and Lee introduced many of Strange's allies, such as his eventual lover Clea, who debuted (although not initially named) in Strange Tales #126 (November 1964), and enemies, such as Nightmare, in issue #110, and the flame-headed Dormammu, in #126 (November 1964). "Doctor Strange" stories showcased surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly head-trippy visuals that helped make the feature a favorite of college students. "People who read 'Doctor Strange' thought people at Marvel must be heads [e.g., drug users]," recalled then-associate editor and former Doctor Strange writer Roy Thomas in 1971, "because they had had similar experiences high on mushrooms. But... I don't use hallucinogens, nor do I think any artists do."

Eventually, as co-plotter and later sole plotter, in the "Marvel Method", Ditko would take Strange into ever-more-abstract realms. In an epic 17-issue story arc in Strange Tales #130-146 (July 1965 – July 1966), Ditko introduced the cosmic character Eternity, who personified the universe and was depicted as a silhouette whose outlines are filled with the cosmos. As historian Bradford W. Wright describes,

"Steve Ditko contributed some of his most surrealistic work to the comic book and gave it a disorienting, hallucinogenic quality. Dr. Strange's adventures take place in bizarre worlds and twisting dimensions that resembled Salvador Dali paintings. ...Inspired by the pulp-fiction magicians of Stan Lee's childhood as well as by contemporary Beat culture. Dr. Strange remarkably predicted the youth counterculture's fascination with Eastern mysticism and psychedelia. Never among Marvel's more popular or accessible characters, Dr. Strange still found a niche among an audience seeking a challenging alternative to more conventional superhero fare.

From the beginning, stories revealed that Doctor Strange used magical artifacts to augment his power, such as the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agamotto, the Book of the Vishanti, and the Orb of Agamotto. From the first story, Strange's residence, the Sanctum Sanctorum, was a part of the character's mythos. The trademark circular window divided by three sweeping lines on the front of the residence (actually the protective Seal of the Vishanti) appeared in many Doctor Strange stories. Strange's personal servant, Wong, guarded the residence in his absence.

Splash page for the "Doctor Strange" story in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). Art by Steve Ditko.

In keeping with Lee's emphasis on continuity, Strange was also quickly established as part of the Marvel Universe, and guest starred in The Fantastic Four #27 (June 1964), encountered the Norse god Loki, foster brother of Thor, in Strange Tales #123 (August 1964), and guest-starred with Ditko's other major Marvel co-creation in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965).

The series continued with Lee dialoging Ditko's plots through Strange Tales #142, followed by Roy Thomas (two issues) and Denny O'Neil (two issues). Ditko's last issue was Strange Tales #146, with Golden Age artist/writer Bill Everett succeeding Ditko as artist until issue #152, followed by Marie Severin through #160 and Dan Adkins through #168, the final issue before the "Nick Fury" feature moved to its own title and Strange Tales was renamed Doctor Strange.

Lee returned to write the character in Strange Tales #151-157; followed by Thomas (#158-159); and two writers who did virtually no other Marvel work, Raymond Marais (#160-161) and Jim Lawrence (#162-166). The post-Ditko Strange Tales stories introduced another cosmic entity, the Living Tribunal, in issue #157 (June 1967) and the evil Umar, sister of Dormammu, in #150 (November 1966). The title, however, was flagging, with Strange encountering such one-off foes such as Nebulos and Voltorg in Strange Tales #162 and #166, respectively.

The now 20-page Doctor Strange solo series ran 15 issues, #169-183 (June 1968 – November 1969), continuing the numbering of Strange Tales. Thomas wrote the run of new stories (Strange Tales #179 being a reprint), joined after the first three issues by the art team of penciler Gene Colan and inker Tom Palmer through the end. Thomas and Colan attempted to boost sales by revamping Strange and making the character closer to being a superhero. Given a form-fitting blue costume, a full-head mask and a secret identity as Dr. Stephen Sanders, the character teamed with the superheroes the Black Knight and Spider-Man, and battled the X-Men foe Juggernaut. The changes were unsuccessful and the title was canceled with issue #183 (November 1969). The cancellation was abrupt (there was a "Next issue" blurb in the last issue), and outstanding storylines were resolved in Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970) and The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #126 (April 1970).

Thomas recalled in 2000 that he eloped in July 1968 to marry his first wife, Jean, and returned to work a day late from a weekend comic book convention to find that Marvel production manager Sol Brodsky had assigned Doctor Strange to writer Archie Goodwin, newly ensconced at Marvel and writing Iron Man. Thomas convinced Brodsky to allow him to continue writing the title. "I got very possessive about Doctor Strange," Thomas recalled. "It wasn't a huge seller, but [by the time it was canceled] we were selling the low 40 percent range of more than 400,000 print run, so it was actually selling a couple hundred thousand copies [but] at the time you needed to sell even more."

A character called Doctor Strange had already appeared in an Iron Man story, "The Stronghold of Doctor Strange". Here he was a villain with a mastery of technology, who after breaking out of prison by hypnotizing Iron Man, tried to take over the world by threatening the world with his S-bombs, although it is shown he truly loved his daughter Carla, and wanted to give the world to her. After being defeated by Iron Man he escapes.

1970s – 1990s

Strange next appeared in the first three issues of the showcase title Marvel Feature, appearing in both the main storyline detailing the formation of superhero "non-team" the Defenders, and the related back-up story. The character was showcased in the title Marvel Premiere, with one story-arc marking the debut of another of Strange's recurring foes, the entity Shuma-Gorath. To stop Shuma-Gorath entering reality, Strange was forced to shut down the Ancient One's mind, which caused his physical death. The Ancient One, however, assured Strange this was a necessary sacrifice and his soul merged with the cosmic entity Eternity. Strange then assumed the title of Sorcerer Supreme.

The character's adventures continued in a second ongoing series, Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts, which ran for 81 issues (June 1974 – February 1987). During this period Strange also met allies Topaz and Rintrah. Following the title's cancellation, the character's adventures continued in a second volume of Strange Tales, which was again published in the "split book" format, and shared with street heroes Cloak and Dagger. The title ran for nineteen issues.

Strange then appeared in another self-titled series, Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme. The initial creative team was writer Peter B. Gillis and artists Richard Case and Randy Emberlin, with storylines often written as multi-issue arcs. Strange was written as being on the defensive from the first issue, battling a host of supernatural foes including Dormammu, demons Mephisto and Satannish, and encounters with the Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, Baron Blood, and Morbius the Living Vampire.

Strange temporarily lost the title of "Sorcerer Supreme" when he refused to fight a war on behalf of the Vishanti, the mystical entities that empower Strange's spells. Despite this and other setbacks, Strange was triumphant and eventually regained the title many issues later. The series ran for 90 issues (November 1988 – June 1996).

Strange appeared — together with original regulars the Human Torch and the Thing — in the one-shot publication called Strange Tales vol. 3, #1 (November 1994).

The character was also featured in several limited series, the first being Doctor Strange: The Flight of Bones, with a series of spontaneous combustions by criminals instigated by old foe Dormammu. Strange was the catalyst for the creation of a trio of witches in the self-titled Witches mini-series and also appeared in the self-titled Strange mini-series, written by J. Michael Straczynski and Samm Barnes, with artwork by Brandon Peterson. The series reimagined the character's origin, allies and enemies in a contemporary setting. A third limited series, Doctor Strange: The Oath, written by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Marcos Martin, focused on Strange's duty as Sorcerer Supreme and the nature of his powers.

Doctor Strange has also appeared in four graphic novels over the years.

The character has remained a constant in the Marvel Universe over the decades, appearing on a regular basis in three volumes of the title Defenders, Secret Defenders, and a limited series focused on the Defenders titled The Order. Strange appeared in several stories of the superhero "team-up" titled aptly named Marvel Team-Up and other one-off stories in the titles Marvel Two-in-One, Marvel Fanfare, and the alternate universe title What If?. He also appeared, either in person or behind the scenes, with the titular trio of vampire slayers in Nightstalkers.

Doctor Strange #177 (February 1969), the debut of Strange's short-lived new look. Cover art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.


Strange appears as a supporting character in pivotal stories in 2000s. In New Avengers #7 (July 2005), writer Brian Michael Bendis retconned Marvel history and established that during the Kree-Skrull War, several metahumans, including Strange, formed a secret council called the Illuminati to deal with future threats to Earth.

Strange played a pivotal role at the conclusion of the House of M miniseries, as courtesy of his magic several of the mutant X-Men were able to retain their powers when reality was rewritten. The "Civil War" storyline — involving the introduction of the Superhuman Registration Act and a split in the superhero community — found Strange opposed to mandatory registration. He leaves the Illuminati and goes into seclusion in the Arctic until the issue is resolved.

The New Avengers: Illuminati miniseries revealed that Strange and the Illuminati took proactive steps to avoid global threats by finding and isolating the Infinity Gems, with Strange taking possession of the Soul Gem (a condition being that the individuals hide the Gems and never reveal their location to other members). When Strange returns from the Arctic he secretly shelters the New Avengers, formed after the events of the Civil War, in his residence and assists on several missions. Strange suffered a setback when his hands were broken during the events of the "World War Hulk" storyline, and he resorted to the use of dark magic to try to stop the Hulk, although he is captured by him.

Strange's use of dark magic became addictive, as he used it again to repel an attack on his residence by the crime syndicate of the villain the Hood (who was in turn backed by Strange's foe Dormammu). After some reflection, Strange sought out a successor Sorcerer Supreme, and considered several magic-users such as Wiccan, the Scarlet Witch, Magik, and Doctor Doom, while Dormammu attacked Earth in a bid to seize Strange's power. The Avengers aided Strange against Dormammu's minions, while the Eye of Agamotto chose Brother Voodoo as Strange's successor.


When Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom are possessed by an unspecified demonic entity, they attempt to claim the Eye from Doctor Voodoo, causing it to teleport to Avengers Mansion. Luke Cage touches the object and mutates into a monstrous version of himself, the entity that has possessed him subsequently "jumping" into Iron Fist, who then teleports away with the Eye, triggering a rift in the sky that Strange states means the end of everything. As the Avengers battle the demons back on Earth, Iron Fist finds himself in a white void where he encounters the Ancient One, who claims that he is responsible for the current invasion due to his anger at Strange's recent "failures". When Iron Fist returns to Earth — now dressed in a new costume — he claims that the Ancient One has told him that Strange stole the Eye from the Ancient One rather than being given it by his master, challenging Strange to admit the truth. Noting that such a claim contradicts everything the Ancient One taught him about the Eye, Strange realises that the entity they are facing is not his master, with a casual comment by Spider-Man prompting the sorcerors to realise that the enemy they face is Agamotto himself, trying to reclaim his Eye after the apparent "death" of the Vishanti. Although the group attempts to defeat Agamotto by empowering Wolverine to serve as their "avatar", Doctor Voodoo is finally forced to sacrifice himself to contain their foe, apparently destroying himself and the Eye at the same time.

In the aftermath of this, feeling guilty over his perceived failures, Strange decides to part company with the team, but they refuse to let him leave and unanimously vote that he should remain a New Avenger. To that end, Strange rejoins the New Avengers and summons Wong to Avengers Mansion to act as their new housekeeper.

During the Chaos War, Strange contacts the Hulk and his allies to warn them that Hell is coming to Earth, Hell's "champion" being the recently-deceased Abomination as the strongest soul in Hell, searching for Marlo Chandler as her previous experience with the now-banished Death means that she still contains a small fragment of Death; if the Abomination finds her, that fragment can be used to kill everyone currently merely immobilized in the burning New York. However, before the Hulks can begin searching for Marlo, Strange is re-possessed by Zom. Amatsu-Mikaboshi uses his powers to fully reawaken the part of Zom still within Doctor Strange, who then fights the Hulks alongside a resurrected Abomination. While Hulk was fighting his father Brian Banner, a resurrected Hiroim tried to exorcise Zom from Doctor Strange but failed. Marlo eventually activated the Death fragment within herself, which removes Zom from Doctor Strange.

Fictional character biography

Doctor Strange was originally Dr. Stephen Strange, a world-renowned but selfish neurosurgeon who only cared about making money. Then a car accident damaged his hands, preventing him from practicing surgery. Depressed and scouring the world for a cure to his condition, Strange locates a hermit called the Ancient One in the Himalayas. The Ancient One refuses to help Strange because of his selfishness, but does sense a good side to Strange which he attempts to bring to the surface. He fails, but Strange's goodness ignites when he discovers the Ancient One's disciple, Baron Mordo, is attempting to kill him. After Strange selflessly attempts to thwart the Ancient One's traitorous disciple, Baron Mordo (who would become one of Strange's most enduring antagonists), he is taught the mystic arts.

As the Ancient One's disciple, Strange encounters the entity Nightmare, and a number of odd mystical foes, before battling his eventual arch-foe: Dormammu, a warlord from an alternate dimension called the "Dark Dimension". Strange is also aided by a nameless girl, later called Clea, who is eventually revealed to be Dormammu's niece. When Strange helps a weakened Dormammu drive off the rampaging beasts the Mindless Ones and return them to their prison, he is allowed to leave unchallenged.

Powers and abilities

Doctor Strange is a master magician, and was the holder of the title of "Sorcerer Supreme" of the cosmos for many years. Eternity, the sentience of the Marvel Universe, has described Strange as "more powerful by far than any of your fellow humanoids," narration has described him as "the mightiest magician in the cosmos," and the Stranger considers him on a level with cosmic entities.

Doctor Strange can use magic to achieve virtually any effect he desires, such as telepathy, energy blasts, teleportation, astral projection, the creation of materials (such as food and water), creating planet-wide protective shields, restoring himself from bodily destruction, or resurrecting the dead.

When casting a spell, the character is often written to be invoking the name of a mystical entity, such as one of the Vishanti (Hoggoth, Oshtur, and Agamotto) or the group the Octessence. These entities usually lend their power to a particular effect, such as the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, that Strange can use to entrap foes.

Strange is capable of stopping and reversing time on a planetary scale, sealing black holes, restoring universes, absorbing power enough to unconsciously destroy any surrounding galaxies, growing to the size of and merging with universal concepts, and helped to channel the mass of the entire Marvel Universe. Among other things, he has defeated the In-Betweener, and the Beyonder stated that Strange had him at a disadvantage when in a previously disoriented state.

Strange was also schooled in the use of dark magic by one-time foe Kaluu, using it to temporarily destroy the entity Shuma-Gorath. The use of this magic, however, was both addictive and corruptive and Kaluu had to purge the magic from Strange before it could take full effect.

Since passing the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme and the Eye of Agamotto to Doctor Voodoo, Strange's magic is not as powerful as it once was. However, he is still a considerably formidable sorcerer regardless.

Other versions

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 (called "Carl Strange"). Making his sole appearance as an early Iron Man foe, in the Tales of Suspense story, "The Stronghold of Dr. Strange", the character gained mental powers in a freak lightning strike.

The character has starred in several alternate universe titles. In the limited series Marvel 1602, Sir Stephen Strange is both the court physician and magician to Queen Elizabeth I. The title Spider-Man 2099 introduces a female version of Strange who shares her body with a demon. In the limited series Marvel Zombies, Strange is infected with a zombie virus along with many other heroes, and reappears in the third installment in the series, Marvel Zombies 3. After being zombified, Strange is only capable of casting two spells.

In the alternate future universe of the Marvel imprint MC2, Doctor Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, the title being passed to "Doc Magnus". Doctor Strange uses his remaining power to reform the superhero team the Defenders, and to fight the Norse god of mischief, Loki.

The Ultimate Marvel title Ultimate Marvel Team-Up introduced a version of the character called "Stephen Strange, Jr.", the son of the original Doctor Strange. The character was eventually killed in battle by the Ultimate version of Dormammu during the Ultimatum storyline.

In other media

Collected editions

Various Doctor Strange stories have been collected into separate volumes.

Essential Marvel black-and-white trade paperbacks:

  • Doctor Strange Vol. 1 (1963–1968), collects Strange Tales #110-111, 114-168; December 2001, ISBN 0-7851-2316-4
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 2 (1968–1974), collects Doctor Strange #169-178, 180-183; The Avengers #61; Sub-Mariner #22; The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #126; Marvel Feature #1; Marvel Premiere #3-10, 12-14; December 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1668-0
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 3 (1974–1978), collects Doctor Strange vol. 2, #1-29, Annual #1; The Tomb of Dracula #44-45; December 2007, ISBN 978-0785127338
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 4 (1978–1981), collects Doctor Strange vol. 2, #30-56; Chamber of Chills #4; Man-Thing #4; June 2009, ISBN 978-0785130628

Full-color hardcover Marvel Masterworks volumes:

  • Doctor Strange Vol. 1, collects Strange Tales #110-111, 114-141; September 2003, ISBN 0-7851-1180-8
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 2, collects Strange Tales #142-168; September 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1737-7
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 3, collects Doctor Strange #169-179; The Avengers #61; March 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2410-1
  • Doctor Strange Vol. 4, collects Doctor Strange #180-183; Sub-Mariner #22; The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #126; Marvel Feature #1; Marvel Premiere #3-8; January 2010, ISBN 978-0-7851-3495-4

Full-color trade paperbacks:

  • Doctor Strange: A Separate Reality, collects Marvel Premiere #9-10, 12-14; Doctor Strange vol. 2, #1-2, 4-5; June 2002, ISBN 0-7851-0836-X
  • Doctor Strange: The Oath, collects Doctor Strange: The Oath #1-5; May 2007, ISBN 978-0-7851-2211-1


External links