(REVISED: 9 July 2018)
The verdict is in..."Doctor Strange" is a HIT!! I took my wife and daughter to see the film in 3D, and it was a revelation. To me, this was one of the best of all the Marvel films so far, on par with my favorites: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and Black Panther. It was quite an experience; the acting had great depth, and I wasn't constantly barraged with a string of endless humorous quips which distracted me from the deep, and well-written story.
But who is Doctor Strange? Created by the brilliant Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Doctor Strange made his first appearance in "Strange Tales" #110 in 1963. Doctor Strange really showcased Ditko's creative genius, with his busy panels and imaginative, psychedelic style:
In this example, you can see what I was talking about. Note the "Ditko Sparkles." Similar to the "Kirby Krackle," the "Ditko Sparkles" could be considered one of Ditko's signature moves. The first time I ever saw it was in the pages of Space Adventures in the flight-wake of Ditko's powerhouse superhero, Captain Atom.
Unfortunately, I sold this Strange Tales #110, like an idiot, for one-third of its value a few years ago - yes, it still stings - but I do have these:
These are my copies of "Doctor Strange" #169, which actually can be considered "Doctor Strange" vol 1, #1 since it is the first issue of his first solo title and ongoing series. It was published in 1968, several years after Doctor Strange's debut in ST #110, and well after Steve Ditko had moved on from Marvel. It would have been great to have Mr. Ditko pencil the first issue that kicked off his creation's very first solo title. While Doctor Strange's origin was initially given in ST #115, Doctor Strange #169 extended and deepened that origin to explosively start Doctor Strange's solo title. Just as in the film, Doctor Stephen Strange is a beyond brilliant, but self-absorbed, neurosurgeon who nearly destroys his hands in a terrible car accident. After bankrupting himself on treatments to restore his hands and return to the great surgeon he once was, he overhears two sailors, newly returned from Singapore, speak about someone called "The Ancient One," a mysterious, and possibly fictitious figure, who has the power to cure any ailment or injury. After a difficult quest to find the Ancient One, Dr. Strange finally finds him...And he also finds that The Ancient One's disciple, Mordo, is actually plotting to work in league with the mighty mystical monster, Dormammu, to destroy The Ancient One. After trying to save The Ancient One, Strange realizes that there are far greater battles to be fought against the powers of darkness, and he asks to be The Ancient One's new disciple, starting himself down the path that leads to his assuming the mantle of...The Sorcerer Supreme! This is an exceptional retelling of Strange's origin written by Roy Thomas, and penciled by Dan Adkins. The origin is given as a flashback, while Strange is resting in The Ancient One's retreat in the Himalayas.
You can read this treasure online here. You're welcome. :-)
Even though I may have lost my first, best Doctor Strange key issue, I still have a few others that you might find to be pretty cool - ALL with those amazing Ditko pencils! Check it:
I have a well-read copy of "Strange Tales" #123, published in 1964! This comic features the first appearance of The Beetle, and the first battle between Doctor Strange and Loki!
Here is my lovely copy of "Doctor Strange" vol 2, #1 published in 1974 with a stunning cover by Frank Brunner. This comic features the first appearance of Agamotto's Dimension, and Doctor Strange's enemy, Silver Dagger.
I have been a fan of Doctor Strange for a very long time, and I was sure glad to see him make his first appearance on the big screen! Here are a few more Strange goodies from my collection:
I have two Doctor Strange action figures. The first is the Marvel Select version from 2015. The second is from Toy Biz's 2005 Galactus Series - I think this one looks more Ditko-esque. You can see them unboxed, and elaborated upon here:
(The 2005 version can be found at 2 mins and 53 secs into the video. The 2015 version can be found at 5 mins and 40 secs into the video.)
On to the fun facts!!
FUN FACT 1 - Marvel made a deal in 1968 that allowed them to print more titles, so Doctor Strange got his own title, continuing the numbering from "Strange Tales" which ceased production. However, "Strange Tales" would be revived in the 1970s, also starting with #169, featuring the first appearance of Jericho Drumm / Brother Voodoo / Doctor Voodoo, who would also become Earth's Sorcerer Supreme one day.
FUN FACT 2 - In Loki's first battle with Doctor Strange in ST #123, Loki proved more skilled at magic and nearly killed Strange. If Loki had not feared Thor's arrival, Strange would have been a dead man.
FUN FACT 3 - 2016's "Doctor Strange" movie is not Doctor Strange's first live-action appearance. In 1978, CBS produced a movie that was so bad, it was REALLY good. Doctor Strange was a psychiatrist, rather than a neurosurgeon. I have it in my movie collection:
FUN FACT 4 - The Latin term, "sanctum sanctorum" is a translation of the biblical "Holy of Holies" which points to the most sacred place in ancient Israel's Tabernacle. In Marvel Comics, it refers to Doctor Strange's dwelling located on a supernatural nexus, making it a place of super-concentrated spiritual energies. It is located at 177A Bleeker Street in NYC's Greenwich Village neighborhood. The address is based on an apartment where Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich were once roommates.
FUN FACT 5 - In the film, "Doctor Strange," there are three sanctums: one in New York, one in London, and one in Hong Kong. Together they form a mystical shield to defend Earth against interdimensional threats...Which begs the question: Who is protecting everything south of The Equator, or doesn't it merit protecting? One would also think that a sanctum would be in places like India, Egypt or somewhere in the Middle East, where the most ancient civilizations sprang up, which is probably where the most ancient, powerful magic would be. Hong Kong? It looks like Marvel and DC are really doing their best to expand into Chinese markets.
CONFUSING FACT - "Doctor Strange" stars the lovely Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer. In the comics, Christine Palmer IS NOT a doctor, she is a nurse. In fact, she was one of the three protagonists of the comic series, Night Nurse. Inversely, Claire Temple, portrayed by the sultry Rosario Dawson, IS a doctor in Marvel Comics, but she has been featured in "Marvel's Daredevil" and "Marvel's Luke Cage" as a nurse. Marvel weirdness.
FUN FACT 6: In "Doctor Strange" #169, Doctor Strange is seen smoking for the first and only time.
FUN FACT 7: Dan Adkins, the artist on "Doctor Strange" #169 apprenticed under the great, tragic Wally Wood. Adkins is primarily known as comics' greatest swipe-artist, which is a shame because he was actually a magnificent artist. Who taught Adkins to swipe? Why...Wally Wood did! Wally Wood once wrote a note to himself that read, "Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut and paste-up."
FUN FACT 8: Steve Ditko sometimes created similar characters for different companies (and all of them were lots of fun). For Charlton, he helped create the mythology for Dr. Graves, a very interesting character similar in some ways to Doctor Strange. Dr. Graves was so awesome, that he soon got his own title that ran for over seventy issues and won the prestigious Alley Award in 1967 for Best Fantasy / Science-Fiction / Supernatural title. And yes, I do have Dr. Graves' first appearance and the first issue of his series in my collection. Didja even have to ask? He also created The Question, which is very similar to his character, Mr. A, and He created The Destructor for ATLAS-SEABOARD, who in some ways is reminiscent of Spider-Man.
FUN FACT 9: Linda Carter, also known as Night Nurse, healer to the super-heroes, was once romantically linked to Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange is one of Ditko's most iconic, most-loved creations. It showcased his wild imagination, and trippy, psychedelic-inspired pencils. Ditko's creative genius will live on forever in mystical, magical, mythical adventures of Doctor Strange!!
Thanks for reading!
IN LOVING MEMORY OF STEVE DITKO (1927-2018)