Strange Origins: Spider-Man's creators also responsible for Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange, Marvel's "Sorcerer Supreme," makes his way to theaters this weekend. The character's earliest appearances from the late 1960s have been reprinted in the "Doctor Strange Omnibus" that went on sale last month.
Doctor Strange has excellent parentage: The character and his worlds of magic and mysticism were created by the same men who put forth Spider-Man.
"Doctor Strange" was written by Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Hulk, and drawn by Steve Ditko, the co-creator of and Lee's collaborator on the "Amazing Spider-Man" comic.
The book reprints the Doctor Strange stories from "Strange Tales" Nos. 110, 111, and 114 through 146, as well as "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" No. 2.
Doctor Strange was Stephen Strange, a very successful, yet self-centered surgeon who lost his operating dexterity after an automobile accident.
He went to the Himalayas, seeking a whispered-about healer known as The Ancient One.
The Ancient One did not repair Strange's hands.
"I cannot help you," the Ancient One tells Doctor Strange in issue No. 110. "For your motives are still selfish. And yet, I seem to see a spark within you — a spark of decency, of goodness — which I might be able to fan into a flame!"
When the Ancient One's life is threatened by his pupil Baron Mordo, who had become a follower of the evil Dread Dormammu, Strange is forced to re-evaluate his selfishness.
He risks himself to save the Ancient One. His confrontation with evil had inspired him to change his ways, to stay with the Ancient One and be trained in the mystic arts as Earth's protector.
Lee was inspired by the radio show "Chandu the Magician," which he had listened to as a child. But Doctor Strange's adventures soon outstripped those of Chandu.
Doctor Strange's weird fantasy feature began as a backup feature to the Human Torch in Strange Tales No. 110.
Strange's extended encounter with the Dread Dormammu takes place through issue Nos. 126-146. Dormammu's physical form was humanoid in nature, but his head was a ball of fire.
This tale showcases some of the finest work of both Lee and Ditko.
Strange encountered villains and beings on a grand scale: Nightmare, the conceptual embodiment of terror in dreams; the Living Tribunal, a three-faced being that guarded reality against mystical imbalances; and Eternity, the embodiment of the universe.
Eternity was shown as a large humanoid form with a half-mask for a face, through whose body and cloak are visible stars and galaxies.
Ditko's bizarre and eerie depictions of alien dimensions and monsters fueled the book's cult success in the countercultural era of the late 1960s. Lee's quirky dialogue and Ditko's surreal artwork struck a chord with the underground with Doctor Strange.
Perhaps without knowing it, they had struck on a variation on the Marvel "alienated hero" mold that resonated with a different youth culture.
Though Doctor Strange never became the sales success that "Spider-Man" was, his stories remain important for exploring new realms both in the Marvel Universe and in mainstream comic stories. Tying in with the new film, additional Marvel Comics collections of "Doctor Strange" material also are being released. Digital editions of "Doctor Strange" comics are also available, many through the Marvel Unlimited app.
The hardcover, oversized edition of "The Doctor Strange Omnibus" retails for $75.