Following the departure of creative force Steve Ditko, the fortunes of Doctor Strange went into a slow decline, and his series was cancelled less than three and a half years later. The artists who followed Ditko, including Bill Everett, Marie Severin, and Dan Adkins, could not match the inventive quirkiness of the series’ early years. The comic developed a new visual appeal after being taken over by the art team of Gene Colan & Tom Palmer, but it was not enough to save the book. Part of the problem was certainly the constant tinkering with the premise by writer Roy Thomas, who finally derailed the book by trying to make Doctor Strange into a more standard superhero type. Suddenly, the occult expert with an international reputation began obsessing over having a “secret identity.” He was then transformed into a muscleman in a skin-tight blue costume and mask, and through the most contrived plot imaginable, was granted a retroactive secret identity as Dr. Stephen Sanders. The reason given was that he inadvertently blurted his name out to a crowd while dressed in his new costume—as though a bunch of New Yorkers wouldn’t assume “Doctor Strange” was just a “superhero name” like Doctor Spectrum or Doctor Fate. Curiously, his new costume made him bear a striking resemblance to the Golden Age Vision, though with a different color scheme. One wonders if it was an attempt by Roy Thomas to pretend to be working on one of his favorite characters of that bygone age. In any case, I believe these issues do not represent an accurate portrayal of what “actually” occurred in the Original Marvel Universe—especially since these elaborate changes were all brushed aside when Doctor Strange ultimately returned. Instead, I would say that Roy Thomas took certain liberties with what happened in order to boost the comic’s flagging sales. The true picture of the next twelve months in the character’s life emerges below.
Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.
We now continue… The True History of Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts!
January 1964 – Doctor Strange returns from an extended vacation to spend several quiet weeks of study and meditation in his Sanctum Sanctorum in New York’s Greenwich Village, attended by his faithful manservant Wong. He feels rested and refreshed, and ready to spend another year protecting the earth from all manner of mystic menaces.
February 1964 – One day, while alone in his meditation chamber, Doctor Strange suddenly senses a powerful aura of evil. Almost immediately, the Orb of Agamotto rises from its container and emits a shimmering luminescence that captures his gaze. Suddenly, Strange’s mind receives a mystic cry for help from Clea, and the moment his thoughts turn to rescue, he finds himself bodily transported into the Dark Dimension. After encountering numerous perils, Strange finds himself face-to-face with the new ruler of this domain, the unspeakable Umar, sister of Dormammu. Feigning benevolence, Umar explains that Clea has been captured by the rampaging Mindless Ones, and only Doctor Strange can rescue her. However, although the coldly beautiful sorceress at first tries to charm Strange, he is not fooled and evades her attempts to trap him. He then leaves her castle and battles the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, only to discover Clea is not among them. Certain that Umar is hatching some nefarious plot, Doctor Strange releases the Eye of Agamotto from his amulet in order to spy on her. In doing so, he soon learns of her plans for interdimensional conquest, as well as where she seems to have imprisoned Clea. Undaunted, Doctor Strange enters the hellish Dungeon of the Doomed to search for her, but finds instead the mysterious being called Veritas, the embodiment of truth incarnate. For its own inscrutable reasons, Veritas leads Strange back to the castle and helps the mystic mage overcome its defenses to confront Umar in her inner sanctum. When Strange tries to use Umar’s own mystic screen to locate Clea, the evil sorceress hurls a spell of death at the helpless girl. Doctor Strange races to overtake the spell and prevents it from striking Clea, causing it instead to be hurled back upon Umar, who is nevertheless merely stunned and weakened.
Strange presses his advantage, and, with the aid of his mentor, the Ancient One, he escapes Umar’s wrath and brings Clea to Earth for the first time, materializing in the Ancient One’s remote retreat in the Himalayas. However, the strain of her ordeal has proved too much for Clea and she has lapsed into unconsciousness. The Ancient One realizes that the only way to truly protect Clea from Umar’s revenge is to subject her to the dreaded Spell of Vanishment. To Doctor Strange’s sorrow, the spell is cast and Clea fades from sight. Distraught over the girl’s fate, the master of the mystic arts vows vengeance on Umar, but the Ancient One forcibly restrains him, revealing that Umar has followed him to Earth, where she has already begun to wreak havoc. In a desperate gamble, the Ancient One sends Doctor Strange into a timeless void to free the one being with the power to defeat Umar, the monstrous Zom, who has been imprisoned for many ages within a mystic amphora by the power of the being known as Eternity. Meanwhile, the Ancient One keeps Umar occupied and leads her to Stonehenge, where Doctor Strange soon arrives as well, with Zom in hot pursuit. Upon seeing Umar, whom he recognizes as Dormammu’s sister, Zom forgets about Doctor Strange and attacks her, seeking revenge for Dormammu’s role in his imprisonment. Realizing she is no match for Zom, Umar flees to the safety of the Dark Dimension.
Doctor Strange and the Ancient One find that, while their gambit was successful, they now must deal with Zom, who suddenly vows to destroy all life on Earth. As Zom attacks them, Doctor Strange can only watch in horror as the Ancient One sacrifices himself, allowing his body to be merged with one of the mystic stones. As he fades away, the aged sorcerer passes his magical powers on to Doctor Strange, greatly amplifying his mystic might. However, before he disappears completely, the Ancient One manages to draw his pupil’s attention to the whip-like lock of hair atop Zom’s head. Deducing that it is somehow the source of Zom’s power, Strange severs it, although in the process the Cloak of Levitation is nearly incinerated. Zom howls in anguish and rage as black energies coruscate around his body. Alarmed, Doctor Strange uses the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto and discovers a great awakening of evil suddenly spreading across the globe, unleashed by the severing of Zom’s forelock. The despairing Zom announces the inevitable coming of the Living Tribunal, and is suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness. The monster turns away from Doctor Strange, who tries and fails to revive his lost mentor.
Suddenly, Doctor Strange receives a telepathic call for help meant for the Ancient One, coming from the team of mutant adventurers known as the X-Men. Despite being in the middle of a crisis of his own, Strange senses their need is genuine and feels he cannot turn his back on them. Thus, his astral form slips away from Stonehenge and flashes across the ocean to the X-Men’s headquarters in Westchester County, New York. There, the intangible sorcerer learns that they are in the midst of a battle with an unstoppable villain called the Juggernaut, whose power is derived from the magical Cyttorak Ruby. Doctor Strange quickly outlines a plan to the young heroes, and, after teaching a certain spell to Cyclops and Marvel Girl, he teleports the two teammates to what remains of the ancient Temple of Cyttorak in Korea. Unable to remain any longer, Strange returns to his physical body in time to witness the sudden materialization of the bizarre three-faced being called the Living Tribunal.
After casually causing Zom to be consumed in mystic flames, the Living Tribunal announces that, because of Doctor Strange’s actions, the earth must be totally destroyed before the evil that has been unleashed can threaten the Worlds Beyond Worlds. The golden giant reveals to Doctor Strange that he has upset a delicate cosmic balance between good and evil, and the results could be catastrophic to all sentient life. At that very moment, as the Living Tribunal demonstrates through psychic visions, all across the globe, minor mages and mystics are gaining dangerous new powers and feeling the evil in their hearts subsuming all goodness. Despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation, Doctor Strange remains undaunted and tries to convince the Living Tribunal to give him a chance to correct this problem which he has unwittingly caused. Only when he demonstrates his magical prowess by restoring the charred remains of the Cloak of Levitation does the Living Tribunal grant a reprieve, causing a giant hourglass to materialize in the midst of Stonehenge, to mark the time allotted to Doctor Strange before the destruction of the planet.
Thus, Doctor Strange returns to New York City as fast as he is able, though he loses valuable time making the transatlantic journey. Once he reaches Greenwich Village, however, he is stunned to discover that his Sanctum Sanctorum has vanished, leaving only a deep hole in the ground surrounded by police barricades. He soon finds a terrified Wong hiding in a nearby alley, and the manservant reveals how Umar caused the entire building to disappear during her rampage through New York. With tremendous effort, the master magician is able to counter the spell, and the Sanctum finally rematerializes. Doctor Strange flies at once to his meditation chamber to consult the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto. The crystal globe reveals the chaos spreading around the world as black magic runs rampant. Gathering together his most sacred scrolls, Doctor Strange spends the entire night studying them, desperately searching for a solution. Finally, in the pre-dawn blackness, he casts a powerful spell that produces a radiant sphere of pulsating light, which he then follows around the world to a remote mountain range in Transylvania. There, in a hidden cavern, Doctor Strange discovers a huge assembly of corrupted mystics, all engaged in an obscene ritual. Too late to stop it, Strange can only watch in horror as a form materializes within a nimbus of energy—the form of Baron Mordo, now freed from his imprisonment in a nameless limbo.
Revealing himself, Doctor Strange tries to convince Mordo of the imminent threat to all life on earth, but his age-old nemesis merely orders his multitude of minions to kill him. Strange weathers their uncoordinated attacks until he is able to free their minds from the dominance of Mordo’s chief disciple, thus leaving them all confused and disoriented. Then he turns his attention back to Mordo, forcing the villain to listen as he explains the earth’s dire predicament. In a near panic, Mordo tries to escape the doomed planet by retreating to another dimension, but Strange prevents it, for only by working together can they save the earth. Immediately, Doctor Strange begins performing a spell of exorcism on Mordo’s followers, drawing out of them the raw essence of the evil power, which manifests itself as an incandescent flame. Since the malevolent force must be contained within a living form, Strange transfers it into Mordo’s body, and Mordo, feeling a surge of strength as the flame enters him, finally agrees to cooperate. They siphon off the fiendish energies from the multitude and channel all of it into Mordo, thereby increasing his own evil power a thousandfold. Reveling in his newfound might, Mordo strikes down Doctor Strange, then banishes him to the extradimensional World of a Million Perils.
For a time, Doctor Strange drifts in the mind-boggling chaos of the alien dimension, bereft of memory and sense of purpose. Gradually he tumbles downward, plagued by menacing monsters, until finally plunging into a vast ocean. Eventually, he finds himself washed up on a lonely shore, his mind slowly clearing. He then climbs up a rocky crag and surveys the uncanny landscape stretching out before him. He realizes he must find a way back to Earth quickly, before the sands of the Living Tribunal’s hourglass run out. Sensing a controlling intelligence behind the many dangers on this nightmare world, Doctor Strange decides his best course of action is to set off in search of it. Shortly, though, he is startled to hear a female voice screaming in the distance. Swooping to the rescue, the mystic mage is shocked to discover the hapless woman is none other than Victoria Bentley, whom he met a year and a half ago during another of Mordo’s schemes. However, after destroying the monster that threatens her, Doctor Strange learns that it was not Mordo who drew Victoria to this world, but a giant, semi-humanoid being calling himself Nebulos, Lord of the Planets Perilous. The bizarre Nebulos hands Doctor Strange his Staff of Polar Power, and as soon as he has grasped it, Strange finds himself transported back to Transylvania, just outside Castle Mordo. Finding Baron Mordo inside, Doctor Strange launches a furious attack, and, during the raging battle that ensues, realizes that the Staff of Polar Power is absorbing all the magic energy that Mordo hurls at his opponent. Frustrated, Baron Mordo unleashes the full fury of his newfound power, but it only leaves him vulnerable. Seizing his chance, Doctor Strange banishes Mordo to an endless void between dimensions.
Not wasting a moment, Doctor Strange uses the power within the staff to teleport himself back to Stonehenge. Unfortunately, the mystic hourglass is still there, with the last few grains of sand running out. Worried, Doctor Strange attempts to use the staff’s power to banish the hourglass from Earth, but is merely struck down by a shockwave that carries him back to Nebulos. When Doctor Strange demands to know the whereabouts of Victoria Bentley, Nebulos states that he has hidden her away to use as a hostage, to ensure that Strange surrenders the super-charged Staff of Polar Power to him. Suddenly, the Living Tribunal appears before them, announcing that Doctor Strange was indeed successful in saving the earth, though the evil power still exists, locked within the Staff of Polar Power, and must be eradicated. The Living Tribunal immediately attacks Nebulos, trying to wrest the staff from him, and Doctor Strange fears that if Nebulos is destroyed, he may never find Victoria. As the two titans battle, the World of a Million Perils itself begins to be torn apart. Thus, in a last act of desperation, Nebulos prepares to unleash all the evil power within the staff upon the cosmos. Realizing he has no choice, Doctor Strange swoops down and seizes the staff from Nebulos just as an avalanche of rock buries him. Alighting nearby, Strange surrenders the staff to the Living Tribunal, who is impressed by the mortal’s courage and determination. As a reward, the cosmic judge transports Doctor Strange to the alien world where Victoria Bentley is trapped.
Materializing on a bizarre jungle planet inhabited by giant creatures, Doctor Strange tracks Victoria to a high-tech fortress buried deep inside a series of caverns, where he learns she is being held prisoner by a man calling himself Yandroth, Scientist Supreme. A holographic projection of Yandroth informs Doctor Strange of his lascivious intentions toward Victoria and his plans for interplanetary conquest, challenging the magician to pit his sorcery against Yandroth’s mastery of science. Doctor Strange takes up the challenge and enters Yandroth’s vast laboratory complex. Despite Yandroth’s sophisticated technology, Strange is able to trick him and gain the upper hand, although he is distracted when Yandroth unleashes his giant robot, Voltorr. Doctor Strange easily confuses the robot’s sensors and it starts destroying Yandroth’s complex, so the villainous scientist decides to cut and run, managing to stay a few steps ahead of Doctor Strange as he grabs Victoria and heads for his teleportation chamber. Strange is once again held up by the rampaging robot, which he finally reduces to a heap of tangled wreckage. However, he arrives too late to prevent Yandroth’s escape. Adjusting the controls on the alien machine, Strange attempts to divert them to Earth and then follows after them, using Yandroth’s device himself.
Doctor Strange appears back on Earth, finding himself once more at Stonehenge. To his utter astonishment, he sees the figure of the Ancient One coalescing from the air and stones until his human form is restored. The Ancient One reveals that he allowed Zom to merge his physical being with the stones so that he could transfer his occult powers to Doctor Strange, giving him the extra strength he needed. When the cosmic balance was restored, the spell binding the Ancient One was shattered and he was able to reconstitute his corporeal form. Strange then fills his mentor in about Yandroth and Victoria Bentley, who they fear may have been stranded in some netherworld, never having reached their destination. In order to investigate the matter, Doctor Strange bids his Cloak of Levitation to carry them across the continent to the Himalayas, where they descend upon the Ancient One’s retreat. At once, they consult the sacred tomes stored in the Ancient One’s vaults, though the aged master grows faint with weariness. Together they recite an incantation that causes the image of Victoria to appear in the fire flaring up over a mystic brazier. Thus, they discover she is indeed floating in limbo, being drawn into the fearful Dream Dimension, which Yandroth has somehow conquered.
Unable to save Victoria from a distance, Doctor Strange physically enters the Dream Dimension. There he is plagued by prehistoric monsters and a party of marauding Vikings, as well as Yandroth and his deadly ray gun. Victoria and Yandroth eventually become separated, and Doctor Strange uses the Cloak of Levitation to capture the power-mad scientist, though he struggles fiercely. Meanwhile, the Vikings, who are on horseback, attempt to run down Victoria and capture her. Doctor Strange realizes he cannot subdue Yandroth and save Victoria, and must therefore make a fateful choice. As Yandroth unholsters his gun, Doctor Strange releases him from the cloak, sending him tumbling down into an infinite abyss. Strange acts quickly to banish the phantom Vikings, and then, with the assistance of the Ancient One, he returns both himself and Victoria to Earth, appearing together in the temple of the Ancient One. Strange realizes that Victoria’s mind, unable to cope with all she has seen, has suppressed the memory of it from her consciousness. Attended to by the faithful Hamir, all three of them take a much-needed rest.
March 1964 – Doctor Strange and Victoria Bentley remain at the Ancient One’s retreat for over a week, recuperating from their ordeal. During this time, Strange learns that Victoria had been one of the multitude of corrupted mystics that freed Mordo from his prison, for she had taken up the study of the occult on her own after their first meeting, when Strange had refused to take her on as his disciple. Thus, she had been infected by the black magic that swept the globe, and fell in with Mordo’s minions, although she had struggled against their mental domination. Following Mordo’s banishment, she had returned to England, whereupon she found herself whisked away by Nebulous. Feeling somewhat guilty, Doctor Strange tries to help her deal with the psychic scars left by her traumatic experiences. Finally, the Ancient One casts a spell that returns her to her home in England. Strange remains at the retreat, ruminating on the events that led him from being an arrogant surgeon to a master of the mystic arts. However, his reveries are interrupted by a desperate cry for help from his aged mentor. He races to the Ancient One’s bedchamber only to find him in a death-like sleep. Hamir arrives as well, and the two men try to divine what has befallen their master. Doctor Strange suspects the hand of his ancient enemy Nightmare, no doubt freed now that Yandroth has been defeated. Unable to waken the Ancient One, Doctor Strange attempts to have his astral form slip into his teacher’s mind, but at the crucial moment of vulnerability, he is attacked, transported back to the Dream Dimension, and imprisoned. Finally, Nightmare reveals himself, embittered that it was the hated Doctor Strange who defeated the usurper, and a battle of spells ensues. Once again, Doctor Strange overcomes Nightmare, who retreats, enabling Strange to break free. The Ancient One wakes from his slumber and reveals that he allowed himself to fall prey to Nightmare, knowing that Doctor Strange would triumph over their foe, and in the process overcome the doubts that had plagued him since the battle with Zom.
For a month, Doctor Strange is kept busy scouring the world to ensure that all the effects of the great awakening of evil have been put right, and deals with the many minor mystics whose ambition got the better of them. All the while, his thoughts dwell on Clea and her sad fate.
April 1964 – Doctor Strange returns home after a visit to the Ancient One’s retreat, determined to do whatever is necessary to seek out Clea and rescue her from the spell of everlasting vanishment. In his meditation chamber, Strange recites an incantation and thereby calls forth the spectral herald of the demon Satannish. The herald conjures up an image of the banished Clea, proving that she still lives, but refuses to divulge her location, saying he fears the wrath of “He Who Waits.” Ready to search to the ends of the cosmos if need be, Doctor Strange remembers the Ancient One’s admonishment that Clea could only be rescued if he acts in consort with another female, one with whom he shares a mystic rapport. Convinced that Victoria Bentley is the only suitable candidate, Strange uses the Orb of Agamotto to contact her at her family estate in England. He senses her willingness to speak with him, and, driven by a growing sense of urgency, casts a powerful spell to teleport her to his Sanctum Sanctorum. After he explains the circumstances, Victoria solemnly agrees to help, and so Doctor Strange immediately opens a mystic portal into a psychedelic universe called the Realm Unknown.
As they begin to traverse the incomprehensible landscape, the portal to Earth closes behind them. Suddenly, a glowing sphere appears and pulls the terrified Victoria inside it. Finding his spells useless against the mysterious sphere, Doctor Strange allows himself to be drawn inside as well. Within the sphere, the mage finds a vast universe, where he is drawn into mystic combat with a terrifying phantasm—an armored, skeletal warrior with flaming hands. As they battle, Strange feels himself growing weaker and weaker, until at last a menacing voice announces that the phantasm has served its purpose. The creature is consumed by its own aura, leaving nothing but ashes, and Doctor Strange realizes that both the glowing sphere and the sinister warrior somehow drained off much of his mystic might. Then, suddenly, the monstrous form of Dormammu appears, seemingly grown to gigantic proportions. Behind his demonic adversary, Strange sees both Victoria and Clea sealed inside transparent spheres of arcane energy. However, as Dormammu seizes Doctor Strange in his enormous hand, the mortal magician learns that it is he who has changed size, diminished by the draining of his magical energies. Although Strange manages to slip out of Dormammu’s grasp, he quickly finds himself encased within a chunk of crimson crystal. Dormammu then relates to his captive the story of how he escaped the cataclysm that followed his attack on Eternity, finding himself marooned in the Realm Unknown, which he soon conquered. Then, by a cruel twist of fate, Clea materialized in the selfsame realm under the spell of vanishment, thus inspiring Dormammu’s schemes for revenge. Now, the flame-headed fiend leaves his three helpless prisoners in the care of a grisly guardian and goes to invade Earth’s dimension with a horde of demonic Dykkors.
Once Dormammu has left the scene, Doctor Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to smash out of his crystal prison, and then turns it on the mace-wielding guardian. Deducing that the creature is animated by his own stolen power, Doctor Strange uses the Eye to draw the mystical energies back into himself, causing the guardian to crumble to dust. With his strength thus restored, Strange then frees Clea and Victoria from captivity. His joy at being reunited with Clea is short-lived, though, as Doctor Strange knows he must yet find a way to defeat Dormammu. But first, he casts a spell which transports the two women to the relative safety of Earth. Then, the master of the mystic arts hurries to the awesome Doorway to the Dimensions to confront Dormammu and his inhuman hordes. When Dormammu arrives, now accompanied by his sister Umar, Strange challenges him to single combat. Dormammu is at first disposed to let the Dykkors merely rend his human opponent limb from limb, but Umar goads him into the duel. Thus, Dormammu summons a mighty Maelstrom of Madness, which sweeps Doctor Strange into its swirling vortex. The sorcerer manages to cast a counter-spell which disperses the maelstrom, only to find himself beset by magic chains composed of living energy, which wrap around his body in order to crush him to death. In a desperate bid, he sends a telepathic message to the minds of Clea and Victoria on Earth, telling them to use the Orb of Agamotto to focus in on Umar, and thereby to plant a suggestion in her brain that if she frees Doctor Strange, he may thwart Dormammu’s plan to escape the Realm Unknown, thus leaving her as ruler of the Dark Dimension. The gambit is successful, and Umar shatters the mystic chains. Doctor Strange then races to the Doorway to the Dimensions, which Dormammu has already succeeded in prying open slightly. Seizing his chance, Strange hurls himself at his foe, knocking them both through the gateway. The two opponents appear high in the earth’s atmosphere, almost directly above the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the interdimensional gateway slams shut behind them, preventing any of the Dykkors from crossing the boundary. A furious battle ensues in the clouds, appearing to the people below to be a sudden electrical storm. Dormammu is shocked to find himself sorely weakened—in fact, he is no match for Doctor Strange, which, as the mortal magician reveals, is due to the oath Dormammu had sworn never to enter Earth’s dimension. Frustrated, Dormammu retreats to the Dark Dimension, vowing to reclaim his kingdom and wreak vengeance upon Doctor Strange.
Exhausted, Doctor Strange descends to his Sanctum Sanctorum, but is startled to find a stranger in his home, for which he is completely unprepared. It takes only a moment, however, to recognize the man as his former medical colleague, Dr. Charles Benton, whom he has not seen in fifteen years. Dr. Benton tries to convince Strange to give up his senseless devotion to the occult and to become a consultant to his medical practice, thereby being of service to humanity once again. His patience sorely tried, Strange excuses himself rather brusquely, and Benton storms out. The weary sorcerer is in no mood to appreciate the irony of Benton’s comments. He finds Clea and Victoria and assures them the danger is passed, though it is clear Clea cannot return to the Dark Dimension, and must remain in exile on Earth.
While Victoria lingers in the background, Strange determines that he must arrange for Clea to have a place to stay, and appropriate attire for her sojourn on Earth. He books a suite in a nearby luxury hotel until he can make more permanent arrangements. Later, as the couple walks through the moonlit streets of Greenwich Village, Clea finds it difficult to adjust to this strange new world, so different from the Dark Dimension. After a brief altercation with some yokels, Strange gets Clea settled into her well-appointed room. However, he receives a message from Wong, delivered by the hotel staff, that he has received a most urgent telegram. As he is leaving, Clea stops him and kisses him tenderly, claiming to have somehow learned of this earthly custom. Doctor Strange is disturbed by his reaction to this show of affection, and leaves without another word.
He returns to the Sanctum Sanctorum, where Victoria is waiting. The telegram turns out to be from a European mystic named Lord Nekron, who insists Strange meet him at his castle in England, and to wear his sorcerer’s garb. Intrigued, Doctor Strange arranges to accompany Victoria back to Great Britain. They make the transatlantic flight by conventional aircraft, leaving that very night. During the flight, Strange broods about his feelings for Clea, and hers for him. Once in England, Victoria insists on accompanying Doctor Strange to Lord Nekron’s estate, and he is too distracted to argue. They drive there in one of Victoria’s cars. When they finally arrive, Lord Nekron, himself in a sorcerer’s garb, invites them in to a banquet he has prepared. Doctor Strange’s suspicions are borne out when Victoria grows faint after drinking a glass of wine, of which Strange refused to partake. Brazenly, Lord Nekron reveals that he had made a pact with the demon Satannish precisely one year earlier, under the terms of which Nekron will receive eternal life and everlasting fame if he can find a mortal mystic willing to take his place as Satannish’s slave. Nekron then transports Doctor Strange to a pocket dimension of his own making, intent on tormenting Strange until he agrees to surrender himself to Satannish. However, Doctor Strange casts a subtle spell that speeds up the passage of time within Nekron’s domain so that his allotted hour passes too quickly. Satannish appears and claims the hapless Nekron as his own. Before disappearing back to his own realm, though, Satannish warns Doctor Strange that he has other followers on Earth, and tells the sorcerer to beware. Then, the demon dissolves the pocket dimension, and Strange finds himself back in the castle with Victoria. The pair returns to Victoria’s apartment in London, where they say their goodbyes. Then, Doctor Strange journeys home within a mystic sphere.
May 1964 – Doctor Strange procures an apartment in Greenwich Village for Clea to live in, and sees to other mundane matters necessary for her to take up residence in New York. He passes her off as a daughter of foreign royalty, and arranges to support her financially by his own means. But although Wong has purchased an entire wardrobe for her, Clea prefers to wear the outfit she had on when she arrived, as a reminder of home. In the weeks that follow, Strange helps Clea make the difficult adjustment to life in a dimension so alien in nature to what she has always known. In fact, he is so focused on Clea that he neglects to follow up on Satannish’s warning, or indeed, any other matters as well.
June–August 1964 – Doctor Strange and Clea spend the summer traveling the world, as he shows her the sights of her new home. Clea comes to feel more comfortable in this dimension, and finds her love for Stephen Strange deepening. For his part, Strange also grows increasingly fond of Clea, but has difficulty giving free rein to his emotions. Still, as they get to know each other better, he becomes more affectionate towards her, and his earlier infatuation slowly evolves into something more genuine. They spend some time in the Ancient One’s retreat as well, and she gets to meet the aged wizard properly. After speaking with Clea at length, the Ancient One gives them his blessing. Finally, the couple returns to New York to focus on exploring what the great city has to offer. However, Clea begins to notice that the longer she is away from her home dimension, the weaker her own mystic powers become.
September 1964 – Doctor Strange takes Clea to the impromptu wedding of Janet Van Dyne, the Avenger known as the Wasp, to a mysterious adventurer known only as Yellowjacket. Before the ceremony, which is being held at Avengers Mansion, Doctor Strange mingles with the other guests, many of whom he met last year at the Richards wedding. Present are Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Black Knight, Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Thing, the Human Torch, Crystal, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, the Angel, the Beast, and Iceman, as well as Nick Fury, public director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The reception immediately follows the brief exchange of vows. However, when a giant python erupts from the wedding cake and attacks the Wasp, the Avengers ask the guests to step outside while they investigate. Within half an hour, the police arrive to escort the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime off to prison. Though the mansion has been trashed, the party resumes, and the guests are startled to learn that Yellowjacket is none other than the Wasp’s old beau, Henry Pym. Clea is fascinated by such human rituals, and Strange finds he enjoys explaining them to her.
A week later, Doctor Strange takes Clea on a stroll through Central Park to enjoy a glorious autumn afternoon. As the novelty of Earth’s dimension has worn off, Clea finds she is having trouble adjusting to her new life, and when she impulsively levitates herself into the air, Strange must use his own magicks to bring her down to earth and cloud the memories of the startled onlookers. He then hails a cab to take Clea home, as the attempt to use her waning mystic powers has exhausted her. During the drive through town, Doctor Strange senses a dangerous spell being woven around the vehicle, and slips out in his astral form to investigate. Suddenly, the wraithlike sorcerer is beset by strange rings of negativistic, nihilistic force, though a simple spell disperses them. As he drops Clea off at her apartment, he reassures her about her fading powers, but then hurries back to his Sanctum Sanctorum to consult the Book of the Vishanti in hopes of discovering who was behind the attack.
After many hours of study, Doctor Strange concludes that the warning he received from Satannish months ago has been confirmed at last—the demon’s servants seek to destroy him. Suddenly realizing he has left Clea vulnerable by neglecting to erase the cab driver’s memory, Strange flies to her apartment building using the Cloak of Levitation. Unfortunately, he arrives too late; the hapless cabbie sits ensorceled and Clea is nowhere to be found. With the help of a magic spell, Doctor Strange learns from the cab driver that Clea was abducted by three men calling themselves the Sons of Satannish, and he soon catches up to them in a rain-slicked alley. Unfortunately, Clea is no longer among them, and the evil trio manages to trap Strange in a cube composed of ribbons of nihility. By the time he breaks free, his attackers have fled. Doctor Strange escapes a second trap as he returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum to once again consult the Book of the Vishanti. Then, after several more hours, Strange is surprised when Clea casually enters the room, claiming to have escaped her captors. Before she can explain further, Strange is distracted by a phone call from the persistent Dr. Charles Benton, still offering his former colleague a consulting job. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Strange sees Clea is about to attack him with a sword. With a mystic pass, he freezes her in her tracks, and then calls upon the Eye of Agamotto to discern his entranced lover’s orders. Sure enough, the mystic light reveals that a cult called the Sons of Satannish had sent her to kill him and take the Book of the Vishanti back to their hidden lair. Strange decides to let her leave with the book so that he may follow her to his enemies. However, as a precaution, the mage first invests most of his mystic might into the Cloak of Levitation and packs it into a non-descript parcel, then creates an illusory one around his shoulders. He then casts a similar spell upon his enchanted amulet, so that neither artifact will fall into the hands of the evil cult should their combined might overpower him. Additionally, he weaves a third spell around the Book of the Vishanti that will transport it to the safety of the Ancient One’s retreat after a suitable length of time.
Thus prepared, Doctor Strange follows Clea as she takes the book across town to a lonely cemetery, where she magically passes through the closed doors of a mausoleum. Before he can pursue her, Strange is distracted by a large tombstone bearing his name, clearly prepared for his imminent death. Undaunted, he allows his astral form to slip inside the mausoleum, where he finds only a staircase leading down to a series of catacombs. A simple spell compels his physical form to lumber slowly after him as he explores the subterranean passageways. Finally, Doctor Strange confronts the assembled Sons of Satannish, as well as their masked leader, who calls himself Asmodeus. The wraithlike sorcerer overcomes their first attack and quickly rejoins his physical form in order to be at his peak strength. Nevertheless, he proves no match for the cult’s diabolical Crystals of Conquest, and he and Clea soon find themselves at the villains’ mercy. As Strange predicted, Asmodeus confiscates the illusory cloak and amulet before exiling his two prisoners to a perilous alien dimension. Though seemingly helpless as they are beset by mind-boggling menaces, Doctor Strange reveals to Clea that he still possesses the true Amulet of Agamotto, and then uses its mystic eye to draw to him the real Cloak of Levitation. With his full mystic powers thus returned to him, Strange easily tames the dangers of this nightmarish realm. However, he discovers that his return to Earth has been blocked, for Asmodeus has mystically stolen his very face and form, doubtless to try to trick the Ancient One into surrendering the book to him. In order to circumvent this obstacle, Doctor Strange weaves a spell which transforms his body into a near-featureless blue humanoid, an imposing, muscular figure recognizable only by his crimson cloak and golden amulet. Wearing this new aspect, he and Clea are able to rematerialize in the cemetery, and then, as she returns to her apartment, Doctor Strange flies with all haste to his mentor’s retreat in far-off Tibet.
Upon arriving, the altered Doctor Strange sees that what he suspected has indeed come to pass. Asmodeus, wearing Doctor Strange’s normal aspect, has already gained possession of the book from the unsuspecting Ancient One and is searching out a particular incantation. A fearsome battle ensues, one which comes to a sudden, unexpected end when Asmodeus suffers a massive heart attack, his mortal body unable to cope with the strain of channeling so much mystical energy. He collapses to the floor and reverts to his true form, but before he dies he manages to utter the spell he risked so much to find—the dreaded Spell of Fire and Ice. Grimly, Doctor Strange unmasks his adversary, and is astonished to find he is none other than Dr. Charles Benton. The sorcerers have little time to ponder this turn of events, though, for the Ancient One reveals that the purpose of the Spell of Fire and Ice is to release upon the earth two Asgardian monsters: Ymir the Frost Giant and the fire demon Surtur, imprisoned ages ago by the omnipotent Odin. With but a single hour to prevent this catastrophe, Doctor Strange regains his true form as well and tries to mystically locate the rest of the Sons of Satannish, hoping that they may know how to reverse the spell. Unfortunately, he merely discovers that Asmodeus banished them all to the dismal dimension ruled by Tiboro, a malevolent entity whom Strange battled over a year and a half ago. Realizing that he will need the aid of another mystic to safely journey into Tiboro’s realm, and knowing neither the Ancient One nor Clea are up to the task, Doctor Strange sends out his astral form to once again contact Victoria Bentley in England.
He finds Victoria hosting a masquerade party at her family castle, and in attendance is the Britain-based Avenger called the Black Knight, whom Strange remembers seeing at the Pym wedding last week. He decides to enlist the sword-wielding hero’s help in the coming battle with Tiboro, and after breaking up the party, he explains the dire circumstances. Thus, once he has established a psychic link with Victoria, Doctor Strange and the Black Knight vanish into a blinding vortex of mystical energy. Within the vortex, Strange’s astral self merges with his physical form, and so the two heroes soon reach their destination. They confront Tiboro, who has made the wayward Sons of Satannish his prisoners. Armed with his enchanted Ebony Blade, the Black Knight proves to be an effective ally, and following Tiboro’s swift defeat, he and Doctor Strange liberate the cult members and take them back to Earth. Once there, Doctor Strange determines that most of them possess no mystical power of their own, and so he merely erases what little occult knowledge they have and lets them go. Soon, the only one left is Asmodeus’ former deputy, who calls himself Marduk. He readily agrees to help the heroes counter the Spell of Fire and Ice, saying they will need a certain artifact contained in the cult’s lair beneath the cemetery. Having lost much time already, the unlikely trio journeys there straightaway, the Black Knight carrying Marduk upon his winged horse while Doctor Strange flies behind them. But, having reached the deserted lair, Marduk proves his treachery when the artifact in question turns out to be one of the Crystals of Conquest, from which he fires a blast of eldritch energy that strikes down the Black Knight. Doctor Strange unleashes a mystic bolt that lays Marduk low, and the enraged sorcerer then intimidates the hapless cultist into explaining how the crystal might defeat the monstrous menaces from Asgard before they destroy the earth. After placing Marduk in a trance, Strange hastily sends his astral form to contact the Black Knight’s team members at Avengers Mansion.
In the team’s Fifth Avenue headquarters, Doctor Strange finds only Hawkeye, the Black Panther, and the Vision. Though a smaller contingent than he had hoped for, the sorcerer asks for their help, and, recognizing him from the wedding, the three heroes agree at once. While the Vision remains at the mansion, Hawkeye and the Black Panther follow the ectoplasmic Doctor Strange back to the cemetery in one of their Quinjets. There, they discover the comatose form of the Black Knight, and, after learning the cause of his condition, the three men carry him back to the medical facilities at Avengers Mansion. While the team’s high-tech rejuvenator device is effective up to a point, they discover the Knight needs a simple operation in order to survive. With no time to find another doctor, Strange realizes he must perform the operation himself, despite his nerve-damaged hands. Sweating profusely, the mighty magician struggles to control the tremors in his hand as he wields a simple scalpel. Though it proves to be a grueling challenge, Doctor Strange is ultimately successful, and the Black Knight makes a quick recovery. The Vision reports to the others that bizarre natural phenomena have been reported worldwide, such as volcanoes erupting through the ice in Antarctica and snow falling in the jungles of central Africa. Time has run out, and the Spell of Fire and Ice has done its work. And so, the Black Panther and the Vision jet to Africa to battle Ymir while Hawkeye and the Black Knight take on Surtur in Antarctica, all in order to give Doctor Strange time to gain mental control over the Crystal of Conquest so that he can use it to send the two monsters back from whence they came. Finally, the threat is thus ended, and so a weary Doctor Strange deals with the cultist called Marduk and then returns home.
Several days later, Doctor Strange is woken from a fitful afternoon nap by Wong, who reminds him that he has a date scheduled with Clea that evening. As he gets dressed, Strange broods on the dream he was having, in which he encountered Nightmare, his ancient foe, who taunted him with hints of a sinister plan that somehow involved the cosmic being known as Eternity. Fearing trouble to come, he opts to wear his sorcerer’s garb, merely disguising it with a simple spell. As he walks through Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange is startled by an unseasonable snowstorm, which turns out to be part of a mysterious global disruption in weather patterns. Sensing that the phenomenon is not sorcerous in nature, he decides to take the opportunity to introduce Clea to the winter wonderland that Times Square has suddenly become. An atmosphere of revelry has settled over the neighborhood as the jaded New Yorkers take the bizarre weather in stride. In the milling crowd, Strange bumps into newspaper journalist Tom Wolfe, a recent acquaintance. Clea decides she finds the snow enchanting. However, the festivities suddenly turn into sheer panic at the stroke of midnight, when gigantic dinosaurs suddenly materialize over the city, on the rooftops, and in the streets, bringing with them chaos and destruction. Sensing the hand of Nightmare in the disturbance, Doctor Strange casts off his illusory garments and uses his mystic powers both to attack the creatures and to protect the fleeing crowds. When an ad hoc army of warriors from various eras and cultures suddenly materializes, Strange makes another mystic pass to prevent them from joining the fray. One by one, Doctor Strange deals with the prehistoric menaces as the crowds flee in terror, until the danger is passed. However, his attention is suddenly drawn upwards as the image of Nightmare materializes in the sky, revealing to Doctor Strange alone that Eternity is his prisoner, which enables Nightmare to send time out of joint. He threatens to destroy the earth in this manner unless Doctor Strange meets him in a battle to the death. Strange agrees, but Nightmare forces him to wait one hour, hoping to gain a psychological advantage.
Grimly, Doctor Strange heads to Clea’s apartment, to which she returned when the dinosaurs appeared. He tries to shield her from the dire situation he faces, but she knows him too well to be fooled. Nevertheless, they make their way slowly back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, savoring what may be their last moments together. As they enter the dwelling, Wong, too, senses the imminent threat, but Strange refuses to divulge its nature. Then, locking himself in his study, the master of the mystic arts prepares for the coming battle. Suddenly, he feels himself beset by arcane energies which begin to pull him bodily into Nightmare’s domain. Quickly, the sorcerer conjures a psychic shell in his likeness to serve as a temporary tether to Earth’s dimension. Within moments, he finds himself physically within the Dream Dimension, facing the hordes of hellish creatures that Nightmare unleashes against him. Strange overcomes them easily, realizing that his enemy is merely toying with him. Finally, Doctor Strange goads Nightmare into showing himself, and as he does so, he reveals the bound form of Eternity behind him. The mortal magician then unleashes the Eye of Agamotto to cast its searing light upon Nightmare, but the demon has readied a counter-spell which turns the mystic eye back upon Doctor Strange, thus immobilizing him and causing his body to be wracked with pain.
While Nightmare gloats over his apparent triumph, Strange’s astral form slips free into an adjacent dimension—the Crimson Cosmos, in which the Juggernaut has been trapped since the sorcerer aided the X-Men against him seven months earlier. Quickly locating the marauding villain, Doctor Strange leads him into the Dream Dimension, promising him passage back to Earth. Predictably, the Juggernaut attacks Nightmare in order to reach Strange, whose physical form remains trapped by the mystic eye. His possession of the magical Crimson Bands of Cyttorak makes the Juggernaut a match even for Nightmare, and their battle gives Doctor Strange the opportunity he needs to get free. Then, creating an illusion of himself in front of Eternity, Strange tricks his brawling enemies into accidentally freeing the cosmic being from his bonds. Eternity mocks the evil pair’s foolish ambition before banishing them both to an unnamed limbo. Doctor Strange realizes that Eternity could have freed himself at any time, but allowed Nightmare to imprison him so that he might recuperate from his devastating battle with Dormammu. The mystic mage can only laugh, as Eternity dispatches him at once back to his Sanctum Sanctorum, where Clea and Wong are relieved to have him home safe.
Wong immediately presents Doctor Strange with a telegram that arrived during their tense vigil, while he and Clea watched what transpired in the Dream Dimension through the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto. The telegram is from Strange’s erstwhile medical associate, the famous neurosurgeon Kenneth W. Ward, asking Strange for assistance with an urgent yet unspecified matter. Although he has not seen Ward in over 15 years, Strange feels he cannot ignore a plea for help from his former mentor. Thus, the next night, Doctor Strange makes his way to Ward’s brownstone in Boston, Massachusetts. He is greeted by a butler and two burly bodyguards, and their odd manner makes him immediately suspicious. One of the bodyguards then escorts Strange into Ward’s darkened bedroom, where he is shocked to find the adventuresome Ward confined to a wheelchair, a frail shell of his former self. Ward mutters incoherently, and even though the sorcerer uses the invisible Eye of Agamotto, the elderly surgeon cannot even remember why he sent the telegram. The meeting is ended and the butler leads Strange to a guest room and locks him in. Convinced that his former friend has been victimized by evil forces, Doctor Strange drops the illusion disguising his sorcerer’s garb and uses the Cloak of Levitation to secretly return to Ward’s room through the window. Now unobserved, he is free to strip away the spell ensorceling Dr. Ward, and the man, a long-time collector of occult antiquities, relates his tale of a recent expedition to the Himalayas, where he unearthed the bizarre idol of the Nameless One. Ward brought the idol home, but, after translating the terrifying inscription on the object’s base, he realized he was out of his depth. Aware that his former friend had since become an occult expert, Ward sent Stephen Strange the urgent telegram. Before he can explain further, the three servants burst into the room, revealing their true forms as demons, saying that they seek the idol, which Ward has hidden somewhere. Sensing his foes’ weakness, Doctor Strange stalls them until he can rip down the heavy curtains over the window, allowing the morning sunlight to flood the room. The creatures begin to disintegrate in the light of day, but as they do, they warn Doctor Strange to beware the wrath of the Undying Ones. As Strange turns back to Kenneth Ward, he finds him dead, the strain of resisting the creatures’ spells having proven too much for his mortal body.
In the weeks that follow, Doctor Strange searches for the mysterious idol with no success—it is somehow shielded from all mystical detection. In the process, however, he learns all he can about the Undying Ones, a race of extradimensional demons who once held dominion over the earth while they themselves were ruled by a fearsome creature known only as the Nameless One. Eventually, these demons had withdrawn from the earth, and finally lost contact with our dimension completely a thousand years ago. However, it seemed they were now preparing to return, using the hidden idol as a gateway between the dimensions. In fact, the more Doctor Strange learns of the Undying Ones, the more his sense of urgency increases.
October 1964 – Doctor Strange determines that the idol must be hidden somewhere near Ward’s residence, but fears the demonic agents of the Undying Ones would surely be watching the property and would easily detect the presence of a sorcerer. Thus, he decides to enlist the aid of a powerful, non-magical ally. After considering his options, the mystic mage selects the enigmatic Sub-Mariner as the most suitable candidate. Strange locates Prince Namor in his undersea realm of Atlantis and contacts him telepathically, explaining the nature of the threat and instilling in him an irresistible urge to find the idol, guiding him first to Boston and then to Ward’s home. After battling one of the demons, Namor discovers a clue left by Ward, which leads him to a large statue standing in a nearby cemetery. Using his superhuman strength, the Sub-Mariner lifts the statue away and finds the idol half-buried in the dirt below it. Before Namor can reach the object, though, Doctor Strange reveals himself and snatches it. They re-enter Ward’s house, but, unfortunately, while Strange is further explaining the situation to Namor, a demon disguised as a house cat reaches the idol and opens the dimensional gateway. To the heroes’ horror, the gigantic Nameless One himself, a multi-winged, two-headed monster, leaps through. The Sub-Mariner attacks the demon king immediately, while Doctor Strange uses his spells to keep the amphibious Namor at his peak strength. But then, though the Sub-Mariner succeeds in driving the Nameless One back through the gateway, his own momentum carries him through as well. Without a second thought, Doctor Strange grabs the idol and follows them into the dimension of the Undying Ones.
On the other side of the dimensional gateway, the mortal magician comes face-to-face with the numberless hordes of the Undying Ones, who are ready to mount their invasion of the earth. Realizing the Sub-Mariner doesn’t stand a chance against such an army of demons, Doctor Strange sacrifices himself to save both Namor and the earth. With a bolt of mystic force, he drives Namor back through the gateway to safety, then seals the portal behind him. With the idol now in their own dimension, the Undying Ones’ link to Earth is broken. The demon horde descends upon Doctor Strange, and though he battles bravely, he soon falls under their sheer weight of numbers. Even after his inevitable defeat, the demons make sadistic sport with his battered body for quite some time. Utterly broken, Strange is at last dragged before the Nameless One, who rages at him about their invasion plans having been delayed, for if they miss the crucial conjunction of cosmic forces, they will have to wait another thousand years to try again. A glimmer of hope burns in Strange’s heart as he realizes all is not yet lost. And so, for what feels like an eternity, Doctor Strange is mercilessly tortured by the demons as they seek information on alternate routes to Earth, but he valiantly remains silent. In his indescribable suffering, he clings to the faint hope that if he can only withstand the torture until the critical time has passed, he will at least have bought the human race one more millennia of existence, though his agonizing death is assured.
The Nameless One keeps Doctor Strange trapped within a structure made of poles of ethereal force, which levitates over an infinite abyss, and from which there is no escape. Though he has revealed nothing to his inhuman tormentors, he knows they are pursuing other avenues to penetrate the dimensional boundary, and his pain-dulled mind teeters on the edge of ultimate despair. His heroism, his determination, his ideals have all been stripped away, and even his instinct for self-preservation has begun to falter. Every moment of his wretched existence is seared by immeasurable agony. Finally, through the blood-red haze, he sees an unexpected sight: the incredible Hulk has suddenly materialized atop the poles of ethereal force, along with a young blond earthwoman and a monstrous creature in black armor. The mysterious girl seems to have some knowledge of the structure that entraps him, and she climbs into it, willingly taking his place. Thus, Doctor Strange is suddenly expelled from the trap, held aloft by his Cloak of Levitation. Before the demons realize what’s happening, Doctor Strange frantically casts a spell that transports himself and the Hulk back to Earth.
They materialize on the street outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, and Doctor Strange realizes that the cosmic conjunction has passed and the Undying Ones’ plans are ruined. Then he sees that the Hulk has changed back to his human alter-ego, Bruce Banner. Knowing the Hulk played some part in his liberation, the weary Strange helps the semi-conscious Banner into the house. When they have both regained some of their strength, Strange provides Banner with fresh clothes to replace his tattered trousers. But Strange changes into a normal jacket and tie as well, and tells Banner that, since the Undying Ones have been locked out of Earth’s dimension for many human lifetimes, there is perhaps no more need for Doctor Strange, the master of the mystic arts. He decides instead to seek out a life as a normal man, perhaps working as a medical consultant. Then, as a grateful Banner takes his leave, Strange orders a bewildered Wong to board up the house and return to Tibet, for his services will no longer be required. Doctor Strange has been utterly traumatized by his recent experience, even though his conscious memory of it quickly fades, and he flees Greenwich Village as fast as he can. As evening falls over the city, he checks into a hotel, where the Ancient One soon contacts him. Strange rejects his aged mentor and angrily renounces his mystic heritage. Deeply saddened, but aware that his pupil’s decision is genuine, the Ancient One strips Stephen Strange of his magic powers.
Feeling completely hollow, Strange begins to build a new life for himself, as far from the occult as he can get. A few routine inquiries with former medical colleagues reveal that Dr. Charles Benton’s offer of a consultancy was indeed genuine, in the event he had been able to lure Strange away from the mystic arts. Now, following Benton’s death, his medical group is badly short-handed, and Strange is able to convince Benton’s partners to take him on. Though the discussions are difficult, Strange is able to use his former reputation, and, ironically, Benton’s own recommendation, to obtain a position as a medical consultant. Like a man possessed, he devotes his every waking hour to his new occupation. He avoids Greenwich Village like a plague and refuses to see the heartbroken Clea, nor will he even speak to her. Soon, New York’s medical community is abuzz with the inexplicable return of Dr. Stephen Strange.
November–December 1964 – Strange eventually finds a nice apartment several dozen blocks from his old neighborhood and checks out of the hotel in which he had been staying. He spends his money recklessly. He begins drinking and smoking again, and even resumes his former womanizing, trying to dull the nightmares that torment him each night. But everyone he meets senses that this is a man on a downward spiral. And despite his undeniable brilliance as a medical consultant, his colleagues shun him, disturbed by the haunted look in his eyes. Plagued by insomnia, Strange begins wandering the city streets at night like a ghost. For although he refuses to admit it to himself, the man who was once the great Stephen Strange feels nothing but misery to the deepest depths of his soul.
February 1964 – Doctor Strange resumes his battle against the forces of darkness in Strange Tales #151, most of which is given over to an extended recap of all that has come before. The action really gets started in the following issue. He lends a hand to Cyclops and Marvel Girl in Uncanny X-Men #33 before dealing with the fallout from his fight with Zom.
March 1964 – With issue #169, the book was re-titled Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts, and ceased to be a “split book.” Doctor Strange now occupied the full 20 pages, as favorable business conditions allowed Marvel to greatly increase the number of titles they published each month. The inaugural story was a detailed retelling of Doctor Strange’s origin by Roy Thomas & Dan Adkins. Confusingly, Strange Tales resumed publication over five years later, beginning with another #169. This new incarnation featured serials starring Brother Voodoo, the Golem, and Adam Warlock before settling into reprinting some of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange stories, until finally being cancelled again.
September 1964 – The wedding of the Wasp and Yellowjacket is featured in Avengers #60, in which Doctor Strange merely makes a cameo appearance. The sorcerer’s new look debuts in Doctor Strange #177. He joins forces with the Black Knight in the following issue, and the story then continues in Avengers #61. Curiously, the Avengers make no mention of Strange’s altered appearance. Later, Doctor Strange’s big date with Clea, during which he runs into noted author Tom Wolfe, is depicted in Doctor Strange #180. Although the original story claims it is New Year’s Eve, this is merely a topical reference. The snowstorm is actually part of the global weather chaos caused by the Sagittarian doomsday machine seen in Hulk #109. The mystery of the Undying Ones begins to unfold in Doctor Strange #183. However, the title was summarily cancelled at that point, and readers were left hanging.
October 1964 – The storyline was picked up three months later in Sub-Mariner #22, in which Doctor Strange makes the supreme sacrifice. The conclusion followed soon after in Hulk #126, at the end of which Doctor Strange suddenly quits, with no real explanation given. And so, bereft of an ongoing series, he went into character limbo for over a year and a half, until being resurrected to serve in the Defenders, as seen in Marvel Feature #1. What he did in the interval is touched on in a somewhat crude back-up story in that comic by Roy Thomas & Don Heck, though it remains largely an Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe. Incidentally, several threads from the Undying Ones saga are woven into the early issues of the Defenders series.
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