Friday

OMU: Doctor Strange -- Year Two

In the summer of 1964, Steve Ditko suddenly shifted gears in the Doctor Strange series running in Strange Tales. Instead of the stand-alone stories with which he and editor/scripter Stan Lee laid the groundwork for the characters, Doctor Strange launched into an extended story arc that ran for a year and a half, almost without interruption. In these issues they introduced the sorcerer’s first love interest, the distressed damsel from the Dark Dimension Clea, though she spent most of the time nameless, as well as his most powerful nemesis yet, the Dread Dormammu. In addition to spiffing up the doctor’s look with the introduction of the crimson Cloak of Levitation and a new enchanted amulet, Ditko surpassed himself with the psychedelic scenery of the various mystical dimensions the characters tumbled through. Unfortunately, the disintegrating relationship between the two creators would lead to Ditko’s departure, and the end of the golden age of Doctor Strange.

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 1963 – While studying in his meditation chamber, Doctor Strange senses that a powerful supernatural force is settling over New York City. He quickly traces the source of the spell to his nemesis, Baron Mordo. However, the magic is more potent than any Mordo has ever used before, and Strange must summon every last ounce of his strength to counter it. After a brutal mystical battle, Mordo is defeated, but Strange is gravely injured. He collapses, knocking over a ceremonial brazier, and lies on the floor in agony. Soon, he senses the presence of Thor passing over Greenwich Village, and manages to contact the thunder god telepathically. Thor swoops into the Sanctum Sanctorum just as Strange loses consciousness. Thanks to Thor’s timely arrival, Strange is rushed to the nearest hospital and undergoes emergency surgery under the skillful hands of Dr. Donald Blake. In the recovery room, hours later, a weakened Stephen Strange expresses his gratitude to Dr. Blake, and offers the services of his occult powers, should Blake ever have need of them. That very night, Blake returns and asks Strange to help him locate his missing walking stick, and Strange immediately agrees. His ectoplasmic astral form slips out of the hospital and scans the city until he finds the object in question being used as a fishing pole on one of the city docks. Blake rushes to the scene, and the ghostly Strange helps him wrest the cane from the vagrants using it. Later still, Doctor Strange is contacted telepathically by Thor himself, who tells the sorcerer he needs his help to save Blake’s nurse, Jane Foster, who has been kidnapped by Loki. Strange agrees to help, and from his hospital room he manages to locate Nurse Foster in an otherdimensional limbo and surround her with a mystical force field. Though weakened by his ordeal, Strange is able to maintain the field against Loki’s blistering attacks. Finally, Thor gains the upper hand and Loki is defeated. Doctor Strange returns to his bed for a much needed rest. Several days later, while he is still recovering, Strange takes a stroll through the city in his ectoplasmic form and encounters two high school students fighting on the sidewalk. Strange chastises the boys, and when one of them stumbles through his intangible form, they are so freaked out that they forget all about the fight.

Doctor Strange finds himself transported to the Ancient One’s temple in the Himalayas, where his aged teacher gives him a dire warning. The powerful mystical entity known as the Dread Dormammu seeks to leave his domain and conquer the earth’s plane of existence. Accepting the greatest challenge of his life, Doctor Strange journeys into the Dark Dimension for the first time, where he encounters the mammoth G’uranthic Guardian. Once past this ominous sentinel, Strange faces a succession of challengers, but none stop his progress toward Dormammu. However, just before he reaches his destination, Strange receives a furtive warning from a beautiful silver-haired girl, whose name is Clea. She tries to convince him that he’s heading for certain doom, but Strange will not be deterred. He enters Dormammu’s inner sanctum and confronts the demonic overlord, who challenges Strange to single combat. But first, Strange is led to a private area where he might reconsider his folly. While there, Clea appears again to show him the threat posed by the savage Mindless Ones, who are kept at bay only by Dormammu’s power. Should Dormammu fall, she warns, the Dark Dimension will be overrun by their unthinking violence. Realizing his dilemma, Doctor Strange is summoned into Dormammu’s presence, where he finds Clea held in bondage as punishment for her warnings. The battle is joined and Strange soon realizes he is hopelessly outmatched. However, distracted by the fight, Dormammu fails to maintain the mystic barrier and the Mindless Ones invade his domain. Dormammu immediately abandons the fight with his human challenger to face the more immediate menace. Realizing all who inhabit the Dark Dimension are threatened, Strange uses his enchanted amulet to increase Dormammu’s power until the Mindless Ones are once again contained. However, Dormammu is enraged that he now owes Strange a debt of gratitude and cannot destroy him without violating his own moral code. In payment of the debt, Strange extracts two promises from the fire-headed fiend: that he never invade the earth, and that no harm will come to the silver-haired girl who aided him. Dormammu agrees, but vows to avenge the indignity. Concerned for her safety, Strange considers taking Clea with him, but she decides to remain in her own world, despite the risks. Strange returns to the Ancient One’s retreat, where he finds his aged master looking healthier than he has ever seen him. The Ancient One reveals that his previous infirmity was the result of a spell once placed on him by Dormammu, which has now been broken. To celebrate his disciple’s victory, the Ancient One presents him with two gifts—a new enchanted amulet called the Eye of Agamotto and the wondrous Cloak of Levitation.

Returning to his Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange receives a visit from a frantic man who claims to have been a disciple of a sorcerer calling himself “the Demon.” The man abruptly vanishes, but Strange is able to trace him to the lair of the Demon, a.k.a. Demonicus, who proves to be an unexpectedly formidable opponent. However, both Agamotto’s amulet and the Cloak of Levitation provide a decisive advantage to Strange, and, after rescuing the former disciple, he places a temporary spell of forgetfulness over Demonicus’s mind, leaving him with a warning to renounce black magic lest they meet again.

Doctor Strange receives an invitation to appear on a late-night television talk show called The Twelfth Hour, to debate the existence of black magic with a panel of experts. However, knowing the secrets of true magic are beyond the comprehension of ordinary people, he declines, and is later hassled about it by a group of newspaper reporters. Shortly after the show is scheduled to begin, Strange receives a phone call from the station manager, who says the show’s host and two panelists vanished into thin air while debunking the superstitions surrounding an ancient Peruvian artifact called the “Screaming Idol,” which they had in the studio. Doctor Strange arrives at the studio to investigate, and witnesses the idol sucking a technician into another dimension. Contacting the Ancient One telepathically, Strange learns the history of the idol and the being it represents, the immortal Tiboro. Allowing the idol to sweep him into the otherdimensional realm as well, Strange confronts Tiboro, who claims to be the “spirit of decay,” conqueror of civilizations that have reached a crisis point. As the kidnapped men look on, Doctor Strange and Tiboro engage in mystic combat. Despite Tiboro’s skill, he is bested by Strange and forced to surrender. However, he vows to menace Earth again should its civilization decline further. Returning to the TV studio, Strange is disturbed to find the panelists, their minds changed by their experience, planning to do a show describing all they have seen. Deciding that it is too dangerous for such untutored minds to possess such knowledge of the other dimensions and magical combat, Doctor Strange casts a powerful spell, warping time back half an hour to the point of the studio blackout. Strange then slips out, taking the Screaming Idol with him. The show continues with the experts deriding claims of black magic as utter nonsense.

February 1963 – After spending a couple of weeks at the Himalayan retreat with the Ancient One, Doctor Strange is suddenly faced by a surprise attack by Baron Mordo and two of his minions. Strange reels under the force of their mystic blasts, and can only wonder what has increased Mordo’s power to such staggering levels. Taking his injured teacher in his arms, Strange manages to escape into the caverns behind the temple. Using the Cloak of Levitation, Strange tries to slip off through the mountain range, barely escaping Mordo’s ectoplasmic form. Then, leaving the comatose Ancient One in the care of Hamir the Hermit, Strange heads towards Hong Kong, hoping to lead Mordo away from the vulnerable master. Reaching the city, Strange at once contacts a man named Sen-Yu, the attorney who handles the Ancient One’s worldly financial affairs, where he finds sanctuary. The next morning, Sen-Yu provides Strange with a false passport, a nondescript business suit, and plenty of cash. Not wanting to endanger Sen-Yu by staying longer, Strange heads off into the busy streets. By evening, Strange is spotted by one of Mordo’s minions and his gang of thugs. However, he defeats them easily and slips off into the gathering dusk. After fighting off another gang of Mordo’s followers, Strange contacts Sen-Yu, and they meet at the bustling airport the next morning, where the faithful attorney provides Strange with a plane ticket to Los Angeles. He manages to elude Mordo’s innumerable henchmen, led by the villainous disciple named Kaecilius, as well as the spectral ectoplasmic wraiths that search the length and breadth of Hong Kong. Strange makes his flight at the last moment, throws the wraiths off the trail, and settles in for the long flight halfway round the world.

Arriving at his Sanctum Sanctorum during a late-night rainstorm, Doctor Strange finds Demonicus waiting for him inside. He only just manages to slip out again before being detected, and hatches a hastily improvised scheme. Returning to the Sanctum Sanctorum at dawn wearing an outlandish costume, Strange poses as an irate mage and issues a challenge. He annoys Demonicus enough that the villain lets down his guard, and Strange decks him with a punch to the jaw, buying him enough time to access the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto in his study. However, the Orb is booby-tapped, and Strange’s attempt to use it alerts Mordo to his presence. Moments later, Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo meet face to face in Strange’s own meditation chamber. The ensuing battle goes very badly for Strange, but he deduces that Mordo’s awesome might is derived from an outside source—and realizes that it must be none other than Dormammu himself. In a last ditch effort, Strange saves himself with a spell that casts him through countless dimensions until at last he comes to a stop in an unknown realm. While there, Doctor Strange gets caught up in political intrigue, as he must defeat the evil witch-queen Shazana in order to escape her magical domain. Destroying her mystic globe ends her rule and also provides the energy to transport Strange back to Earth.

March 1963 – Doctor Strange emerges into Earth’s dimension during another fierce thunderstorm. Knowing he’s given Baron Mordo the slip, Strange checks into a seedy hotel nearby, in order to have a safe place to leave his physical body while his ectoplasmic form pays a visit to the still-comatose Ancient One. Hamir reveals that, during periods of delirium, the Ancient One muttered the same word over and over: “Eternity.” Assuming it must be important, Strange searches through his teacher’s vast library, but finds nothing to solve the mystery. So intent is he on his search, however, that Strange is spotted by one of Mordo’s wraiths, and within seconds Mordo and his spectral army are on the attack. At the speed of thought, the ectoplasmic figures race around the globe, until, in a desperate gamble, Strange flashes into space and enters the burning core of the sun itself, a nuclear furnace in which even ectoplasm may be destroyed. Fearing Strange is trying to trick him, a suddenly hesitant Mordo abandons the chase. Strange returns to Hamir’s hidden cavern to bathe the Ancient One in the strengthening light of his amulet. Again, the aged sorcerer stirs and murmurs about finding Eternity. Strange is unable to penetrate his teacher’s psychic defenses, and so determines to seek out other occultists who may be able to discern the Ancient One’s meaning. Returning to his physical body, Strange sets off on his quest.

Doctor Strange makes his way to a lonely castle on the coast of England to pay a visit to an elderly occultist named Sir Anthony Baskerville. When Strange asks him about “Eternity,” Baskerville claims he can indeed help him and goes into his library to find a certain scroll. However, Baskerville’s treachery becomes evident when Kaecilius appears, controlled by Baron Mordo, and attacks Strange. However, Doctor Strange anticipated the attack and knocks Kaecilius unconscious, severing his link to Mordo. Strange places Baskerville in a trance and scans Kaecilius’s mind with the Eye of Agamotto, thus verifying his suspicion that Dormammu is the source of Mordo’s power. Then Strange determines that Baskerville actually knows nothing about Eternity. After once again throwing Mordo’s wraiths off the scent, Strange slips off into the fog.

Like a hunted fugitive, Doctor Strange travels the world’s dark alleys and back streets, visiting any who might have knowledge of Eternity, desperately staying one step ahead of Baron Mordo’s countless minions. At one stop, he visits a female clairvoyant whose life he saved many years before, but though willing, she is unable to help him. At another stop, he meets up with his friend Omar Karindu, who likewise can offer only momentary respite. Everywhere he goes, the story is the same.

April 1963 – Finally, in a hidden cave in a remote area of Asia, Doctor Strange meets up with the senile mage known as the Aged Genghis, who provides him with a mystic scroll that contains an ancient spell which opens a portal to another dimension. Undaunted, Strange leaps through it, finding himself in a terrifying realm of horrors. He comes upon a bound figure who begs for help, but as soon as Strange removes the captive’s blindfold, he discovers it is a diabolical trap. Suddenly the two switch places, to the point of wearing each other’s clothes, and so Strange finds himself ensnared. The demonic trickster then covers Strange’s face with a mystic substance that slowly begins to conform itself to his features, creating a new mask for the demon’s collection. Fortunately, Strange realizes he still can exert his mental control over his Cloak of Levitation, which wraps itself around its new wearer, forcing the demon to exchange places again. Though he is now free, Strange faces a horde of the demon’s previous victims, who are commanded by their captor to destroy him. Strange once again uses his powerful amulet, which transports the demon’s many victims back to their own times and places. The mystic light is then turned on the demon himself, causing him to recoil in intense pain. Determining such an irredeemably evil place does not deserve to exist, Doctor Strange unleashes the full power of the Eye of Agamotto, utterly destroying the pocket dimension forever. Strange emerges back in Earth’s dimension and takes his leave of the Aged Genghis.

May 1963 – Doctor Strange makes his way back to the hidden cave of Hamir the Hermit, where the Ancient One lies in his coma. Having come up empty-handed in his desperate search for the secret of Eternity, Strange decides he has no recourse but to try to pry the information from the Ancient One’s mind, despite the grave risks involved. After convincing Hamir of the dire necessity, Strange bathes the Ancient One in the light of his amulet and tries to pierce his teacher’s psychic defenses. Hour after grueling hour, Strange maintains his efforts until at last he reaches the Ancient One’s consciousness. From deep within his mind the Ancient One reveals the arcane secrets of Eternity to his student telepathically. Possessing the secret at last, Strange staggers to the door but collapses from total mental and physical exhaustion. Soon, Hamir returns to the cavern and revives him, and is relieved to see the peaceful expression that has come over the Ancient One’s face. Though weak, Strange leaves immediately on his mission, as the Cloak of Levitation carries him to a lonely mountain peak, high in the remotest part of the Himalayas. There he recites the spell as the Ancient One instructed, and to his astonishment, his amulet detaches itself and grows in size until it becomes a mystical doorway through which Strange can pass. Without hesitation, Doctor Strange steps through into a dazzling dimension of infinite proportions. A shimmering light leads the sorcerer on through the mind-boggling realm, and he walks for a time impossible to measure. At last he reaches his destination, where he witnesses a microcosmic universe unfold itself into the shape of a man. The uncanny being reveals itself as Eternity personified, and learns all it needs to of Doctor Strange through the mystic glow of revealment. Then, the inscrutable being returns to its previous form to ponder Strange’s unspoken request for the power to defeat Mordo and Dormammu. After a time, the being again assumes a humanoid silhouette and renders its decision. Eternity tells Strange he needs no additional power, for it is through wisdom that he shall triumph. Confused and disheartened, Strange soon finds himself back on the mountain peak, the memory of his experience fading from his conscious mind, leaving only the echo of Eternity’s words.

Returning to Hamir’s cave, Doctor Strange is shocked to find the Ancient One gone and Hamir in a mystic trance. The sinister wraiths reappear and escort Strange to Castle Mordo in Transylvania, where the Ancient One is now held prisoner. At last, Strange confronts his foes. Baron Mordo gloats as the demonic face of Dormammu hovers behind him. Finding that Strange can tell him nothing of Eternity, Dormammu declares the time for his revenge on Stephen Strange is at hand. Dormammu then revives the Ancient One from his coma so he can witness his disciple’s final defeat. Then Mordo, channeling Dormammu’s nearly limitless power, faces off with his hated rival. Though at a clear disadvantage in terms of raw power, Strange’s skill and cunning see him through. He goads Mordo into becoming careless, until finally Dormammu becomes disgusted with his underling and takes matters into his own hands. In a blinding flash, Doctor Strange, the Ancient One, and Baron Mordo find themselves transported to an empty, featureless dimension. Soon, a crowd of strange beings appears, the so-called Lords of the Netherworlds, come to witness Dormammu’s impending victory. Moments later, Dormammu himself arrives and challenges Doctor Strange to personal combat, using only the enchanted Pincers of Power as weapons. Strange accepts and the battle is joined. Though Dormammu’s strength and skill are far superior, he is unable to overcome his human opponent, and after a while Strange even gains the upper hand. However, he is suddenly struck from behind by a mystic bolt and knocked to the floor, stunned. As his head clears, Strange sees Dormammu banish Mordo to an infernal realm as punishment for his interference. Then, Strange insists that the fight continue. By feigning weakness, Strange lures Dormammu into becoming overconfident and reckless; then, with a sudden attack, he uses the element of surprise to overcome Dormammu and win the match. Dormammu is enraged, but Strange extracts from him a vow never to attack the Earth’s dimension, with all the Lords of the Netherworlds as witnesses. Dormammu angrily accepts the terms of his defeat and sends everyone home in another blinding flash. Doctor Strange and the Ancient One find themselves back in the Tibetan retreat at last. Hamir prepares a magnificent banquet to celebrate their triumph.

However, hours later, their joy is cut short as Dormammu contacts them from the Dark Dimension and forces Doctor Strange to watch as the helpless Clea is banished to an unknown dimension to meet an uncertain fate. As Dormammu gloats, Strange is enraged. Later, the Ancient One counsels him not to be baited into Dormammu’s trap, for a more immediate task is at hand. In the time Strange was on the run, the forces of black magic spread throughout the world and need to be checked before humanity suffers the consequences. And so, Strange finally returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum, completely exhausted. Unfortunately, before he can lay down for some much-needed sleep, his mystical senses detect a bomb hidden inside a ceremonial brazier. After grabbing the bomb, his Cloak of Levitation carries him high above the city, where the device explodes safely. But, Strange is knocked out by the shock waves from the mid-air blast. Sometime later, he regains consciousness to discover he has been taken prisoner and rendered completely helpless by his unknown assailants. His hands are locked into metal boxes so that he cannot gesture to cast a spell; his head is sealed in a tight-fitting metal mask that prevents him from saying an incantation, as well as blinding him and muffling his hearing; a mystical energy field holds him in place and blocks his ectoplasmic form from leaving his body; and both his enchanted amulet and mystic cloak are missing. Even his attempt to telepathically contact the Ancient One fails. Worst of all, Strange has no idea who has done this to him.

A while later, Doctor Strange senses an evil presence trying to probe his thoughts, and allowing contact to be established, he then overpowers his captor’s will and gains the upper hand. He discovers he again faces Mordo’s minion Demonicus and is able to force the villain to break the spell keeping him immobilized. However, before Strange can get his head and hands free, mystic energies surround Demonicus, breaking Strange’s control over him. Realizing Demonicus is not working alone, Strange tries to escape the dungeon-like building by separating his astral form enough to see where he is going and to fight off his captors’ henchmen. Making it to the roof, Strange takes a death-defying leap to an adjacent building, where he hides his physical form inside a water tower. Then, in his ectoplasmic form, Strange returns to the villains’ hideout to search for his amulet and cloak. He finds the Cloak of Levitation in the building next door and uses it to capture Mordo’s disciple Kaecilius, placing him under his mental control. Then, Strange returns to the water tower with his captive, hoping to free his physical form of its bonds, only to discover his enemies have somehow found his body and removed it. Although Kaecilius leads him to where his physical form is being held, Strange’s astral form is soon captured as well, by another of Mordo’s minions, a witch named Adria. However, Strange uses his mental control over the Eye of Agamotto to break free, and then, using both the mystic eye and the enchanted cloak as weapons, he soon defeats his adversaries. Finally, placing Adria under his mental control, Strange forces her to free his physical form of its bonds. Triumphant at last, Doctor Strange casts a spell over Mordo’s three minions to cause them to lose all their sorcerous knowledge. Strange returns home, thoroughly exhausted but determined that Clea must be either rescued or avenged.

Doctor Strange receives word from the Ancient One, who has been searching the netherworlds for Clea in his astral form, that he has discovered a promising lead. And so, Strange journeys into another dimension, where he comes into conflict with a powerful shape-changer called Tazza. After a fierce battle, Strange traps Tazza in shackles of mystical energy, only to learn that Tazza knows nothing about Clea. He realizes they were tricked into fighting by the cunning Dormammu. Strange forces Tazza to release the many victims imprisoned in his realm, and then returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum.

June 1963 – Doctor Strange attends the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four, which is held in the lower floors of the Baxter Building. An hour before the ceremony is to begin, Strange is on his way to wish the couple luck when they are suddenly attacked by the Red Ghost and his three Super-Apes. Entering the fray, Strange makes short work of the villains by flinging them into an alien dimension with the power of his enchanted amulet. The Thing announces that several of the team’s old villains are on the attack. As he, Mister Fantastic, and the Human Torch go to deal with the situation, Doctor Strange remains with the Invisible Girl and her blind bridesmaid, Alicia Masters, to offer them his protection. They are soon joined by the Scarlet Witch, and the four of them observe the incredible battle raging in the streets below. Finally, with the help of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Daredevil, the X-Men, and Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four defeat the horde of super-villains and the wedding goes ahead as planned, held in the building’s chapel. That night, Doctor Strange enjoys the lavish reception thrown in the Baxter Building’s grand ballroom. However, the next morning, he is disturbed to learn of a violent anti-mutant riot that swept the city, of which the party guests had been completely unaware.

Doctor Strange continues his efforts to check the spread of black magic that occurred during the months he was on the run from Mordo and Dormammu. Though grueling and often painstaking work, he goes about it with the diligence of a true Master of the Mystic Arts.

One night, when Doctor Strange is examining an ancient scroll in his study, the Sanctum Sanctorum is invaded by two muscular thugs, whom Strange quickly realizes are entranced. His effort to confuse them with multiple images of himself fails utterly, and the thugs beat him senseless. Regaining consciousness sometime later, Strange finds one of the statues in the room has mysteriously exploded. He then discovers that an artifact of tremendous power—one half of the mystic Wand of Watoomb—has been stolen. With the power of his enchanted amulet, Strange tracks the thugs back to their hideout, where he encounters their master, a sorcerer calling himself Xandu. At the height of their battle of spells, Strange is momentarily distracted when Spider-Man materializes in the room, in the midst of his own fight with the entranced thugs. Xandu wrests from Spider-Man’s hand the complete Wand of Watoomb, which gives him enough power to overcome Doctor Strange. Realizing he is outmatched, Strange decides to resort to stealth, escaping Xandu’s headquarters to return in his invisible ectoplasmic form. He aides Spider-Man in defeating the two thugs, and then returns in his physical form before Xandu can turn the Wand’s power on the web-slinger. Lacking the skill to counter the heroes’ two-pronged attack, Xandu is quickly defeated. Strange drains the Wand of Watoomb of all its mystical energies, then casts a spell to strip Xandu of his memory. Satisfied that the threat is ended, Doctor Strange compliments the slightly mystified Spider-Man and departs, carried aloft on his Cloak of Levitation.

July 1963 – Along with the Ancient One, Doctor Strange magically observes the final initiation of Michael Twoyoungmen as a shaman of the Sarcee Indian tribe in Canada, feeling a sense of kinship with the former medical doctor turned mystic mage.

August 1963 – Doctor Strange spends much of the month searching the unnumbered otherdimensional netherworlds for the banished Clea, without success. He returns to learn the earth nearly fell victim to the world-devourer Galactus in his absence, and was saved only by the heroic efforts of the Fantastic Four.

September 1963 – While gazing at the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto in his meditation chamber, Doctor Strange detects a new mystic menace in the city. His enchanted amulet leads him to the dwelling of a criminal adept at black magic, one who calls himself Mister Rasputin. The battle seems not to be going well for the villain, though Strange is weary from his tireless search for Clea. Therefore, he is caught by surprise when Mister Rasputin suddenly draws a pistol and shoots him in the chest. Bleeding profusely, Strange tumbles out the window and is carried out of harm’s way by his magic cloak. He levitates to the nearest hospital, where he is rushed to the emergency room and patched up. The hospital staff reports the shooting to the police, and, hours later, detectives question the groggy occult expert. He tells them of Mister Rasputin, who turns out to be an international fugitive from justice. However, hours later, a uniformed officer informs Strange that the police could find no sign of the villain at the address he had provided. Realizing the police underestimate the criminal’s power, Strange slips off in his astral form to search for Mister Rasputin himself, and finds he has invaded Strange’s own Sanctum Sanctorum. Summoning the Cloak of Levitation to aid his intangible ectoplasmic form, Strange battles the villain and overcomes him. The cloak carries the unconscious Rasputin back to Strange’s hospital room, where he discovers his opponent’s henchman holding a gun on his physical form. Fortunately, his enchanted amulet acted automatically to freeze the gunman with its mystic light. Reuniting with his physical body, Strange then casts a spell to cause Mister Rasputin to lose all his knowledge of sorcery, and also hypnotizes him so that he will confess all his past crimes as soon as the police arrive. After the criminals have been taken into custody, Strange settles into his hospital bed for a much-needed rest.

While still recovering from his gunshot wound, Doctor Strange is startled when his enchanted amulet suddenly grows into a mystical doorway again, from within which the sorcerer can hear the voice of Clea calling for help. Heedless of the crowd of gawking bystanders on the sidewalk, Strange leaps through the portal and finds himself once more in the void inhabited by Eternity. However, his blood runs cold to see Dormammu there as well, binding Eternity within a sphere of evil energy. Realizing he’s been drawn into a trap, Strange tries to draw Dormammu off. Suddenly, Eternity breaks free of Dormammu’s trap, and as Doctor Strange watches in astonishment, the sinister demon attacks the cosmic entity in a fit of madness. Their battle proves cataclysmic, and Strange can only watch as Dormammu appears to be annihilated. Eternity’s humanoid aspect disappears as the void erupts into cosmic chaos. Strange is buffeted helplessly through the mystic maelstrom until he is rescued by the Ancient One and transported to the safety of the Himalayan retreat. Strange is met there by a crowd of people who have been freed from Dormammu’s thrall by his apparent destruction. They are soon joined by all those Dormammu had banished to the netherworlds, including Baron Mordo and, at long last, Clea. Doctor Strange is delighted to see the beautiful silver-haired girl, who tells him her name for the first time. Then, the Ancient One announces that though he has been disintegrated, Dormammu’s evil lingers in the world, and he makes the demonic being’s former slaves pledge to assist Doctor Strange in eradicating it. They readily agree, and the Ancient One himself vows to keep Mordo imprisoned until the baron repents of his evil deeds. Strange and Clea say a fond farewell, and then the sorcerer rematerializes on the sidewalk in New York, moments after he left, to the amazement of the startled onlookers. Exhausted by the experience, Strange returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum.

October 1963 – Doctor Strange and the former slaves of Dormammu work throughout the month to rid the world of the demonic being’s contamination, and are largely successful.

November 1963 – Doctor Strange takes some time to rest after his recent labors and attends to some more mundane affairs. He continues his studies of the venerated Book of the Vishanti, which is housed in his Sanctum Sanctorum. Later, taking a break from reading, Strange gazes into the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto to make sure Baron Mordo remains in his mystic prison. Then, feeling stressed out by Mordo’s ravings, Strange conjures an image of the lovely Clea, with whom he has become infatuated. Fearing such amorous feelings would weaken his resolve, Strange focuses instead on trying to determine what exactly transpired when Dormammu attacked Eternity. Unfortunately, even the Orb of Agamotto is unable to probe the cataclysmic event. His reveries are interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Ancient One, who has teleported himself to Greenwich Village with a dire warning. The fury of Dormammu’s fiery demise shattered the barriers that had kept the wizard Kaluu imprisoned in the dimension of Raggadorr for half a millennium, and the evil sorcerer seeks vengeance upon the Ancient One, who was his companion during their youth in remote Kamar-Taj. The warning comes too late, however, as the Book of the Vishanti suddenly vanishes from its lectern. Having thus deprived his victims of their greatest defense, Kaluu attacks the Sanctum Sanctorum, sealing it within an impenetrable ectoplasmic force field. He then releases into the field the shrieking Demons of Denak. Realizing their only hope lies in retrieving the occult tome, the Ancient One divines that Kaluu has hurled it back into the distant era in which it was first written. Despite the grave risk, both master and disciple journey back through time, defeat the fearsome griffin which guards the book, and retrieve it. Then, while the weary Ancient One returns to his Himalayan retreat, Doctor Strange carries the Book of the Vishanti back to his Sanctum Sanctorum, where its power casts Kaluu’s spells back at him. Thus, the evil wizard is thrown into perpetual suspended animation and cast adrift in a nameless, otherdimensional limbo. The danger passed, Strange finds that Kaluu’s attack nearly wrecked the entire building, and only his magic powers can undo the damage.

Doctor Strange is shocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However, once he determines the crime is in no way supernatural, he knows he must leave it to the proper authorities. He has learned from the Ancient One’s own experiences that the mixture of sorcery and politics can only lead to tragedy.

December 1963 – Determining that the earth is relatively safe from mystic menaces for the time being, Doctor Strange takes a much-needed vacation.


Notes:

January 1963 – Doctor Strange and Thor meet in Journey Into Mystery #108, one of the rare times the Master of the Mystic Arts appears in a story illustrated by Jack Kirby. For whatever reason, Kirby tended to stay away from the characters Steve Ditko developed, although he drew a number of scenes featuring Doctor Strange for the covers of Strange Tales. The brawling high school students are, of course, Peter Parker and Flash Thompson, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. Strange first meets his arch-enemy Dormammu in Strange Tales #126 and following. Though it would be a full 20 issues before Clea is named, I refer to her as Clea throughout, since it is simpler than “the mysterious silver-haired girl from the Dark Dimension.” Likewise, Mordo’s minions Demonicus, Kaecilius, and Adria do not receive their distinctive names until Doctor Strange v.2 #56, but I use them here for clarity and convenience.

March 1963 – More of Sir Anthony Baskerville and his history with Baron Mordo is revealed in Doctor Strange v.2 #51. Strange’s encounter with Omar Karindu is mentioned in Defenders #42.

May 1963 – By this point, the relationship between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had seriously degenerated. The two men were not even on speaking terms anymore, Ditko dealing with Marvel mainly through their production manager Sol Brodsky. Ditko had been doing his own thing on the Doctor Strange strip for quite some time, and Stan finally passed the scripting chores on to subordinates, first Roy Thomas and then Denny O’Neil. Stan returned to the strip for a brief run after Ditko quit, but the series was about to go into an inevitable decline.

June 1963 – The chaotic wedding day of Reed Richards and Sue Storm was chronicled in Fantastic Four Annual #3. Doctor Strange makes a cameo appearance, but the Scarlet Witch remains behind the scenes until her presence is confirmed in Marvels #2 by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Though technically non-canonical, Marvels is unusually faithful to the Original Marvel Universe and deserves a special dispensation—as a resource, if nothing else. As shown in that series, the anti-mutant riot follows in the wake of the televised debate between Charles Xavier and Bolivar Trask seen in Uncanny X-Men #14. Perhaps S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, who was apparently working security for the reception, decided the heroic party guests deserved an evening off and did not inform them of the riot going on elsewhere in the city. Later in the month, Doctor Strange teams up with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2.

July 1963 – Doctor Strange makes another cameo appearance at the conclusion of the Shaman origin story presented in Alpha Flight #6.

August 1963 – The coming of Galactus is featured in Fantastic Four #4850.

September 1963 – Steve Ditko made sure to tie up all his dangling plotlines concerning Doctor Strange, Clea, Dormammu, and Baron Mordo in his final issue, presented in Strange Tales #146. He would not work for Marvel again for many years.

November 1963 – The Kaluu storyline was illustrated by Bill Everett, and scripted alternately by Stan Lee, Denny O’Neil, and Roy Thomas. These issues featured some cringe-inducing scenes of Doctor Strange foiling an armed robbery of his neighborhood drugstore, arguing with Wong about money, and considering becoming a stage magician working the nightclub circuit. After Ditko’s departure, it would be several years before Doctor Strange really hit his stride again. Also, the extended flashback revealing the origin of the Ancient One, detailed in Strange Tales #148, is peculiar for the strong homoerotic undertones in the relationship between the quiet, sensitive Ancient One and the warlike Kaluu.

December 1963 – This brings us up to Strange Tales #150. Although the stories often run together for dramatic effect, it is actually three months between Kaluu’s defeat and Doctor Strange’s encounter with Dormammu’s sister Umar. After the grueling year he’s just had, I figure even a Master of the Mystic Arts deserves a vacation!






Thursday

OMU: Doctor Strange -- Year One

Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts and, later, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, was created by artist Steve Ditko to run as a backup feature in Strange Tales, which, like many of Marvel’s titles, was being converted from a horror anthology into a superhero mag. Occult elements were not unusual in Ditko’s work, and fashioning a mystical superhero was a natural progression, given the trends in the industry at the time. Ditko’s genius is evident in the degree to which Doctor Strange is a departure from the previous generation of magician-heroes, a common fixture during the so-called Golden Age of the 1940s. Rather than wearing the top hat, tuxedo, and red-lined cape of the innumerable Mandrake rip-offs, Doctor Strange appeared in vaguely “Oriental” attire that made him seem all the more mysterious.

The character was developed over numerous issues by Ditko and scripter/editor Stan Lee, who came up with most of Dr. Strange’s memorable catchphrases, such as “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!” However, the driving force behind the strip, in the early days, was always Ditko, who often devised the plots with no input from Stan, which enabled Ditko to showcase his talent for dreaming up fantastic, nearly-abstract alien dimensions where the laws of physics did not apply.

Doctor Strange is also notable in that he is the only one of Marvel’s major heroes to have started his career before the Fantastic Four gained their powers. When we first meet him, in Strange Tales #110, he is already well-established, and we soon learn that he has an international reputation as an expert in the occult. His origin story, told five issues later, detailed the long and difficult road he traveled to achieve his mastery of magic. Peter Sanderson, in his retrospective series The Marvel Saga, published to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Marvel Universe, made it clear that Doctor Strange was already doing his thing in the months before the Fantastic Four’s fateful rocket flight.

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 conjure up... The True History of Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts!


1912 – Stephen Strange is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Eugene and Beverly Strange. They are a very well-to-do family.

1929 – The Strange family is fairly well insulated from the effects of the stock market crash. As the Great Depression begins, they remain wealthy and comfortable. The family members feel little sympathy for the less fortunate.

1930 – Stephen Strange graduates from high school and enters the University of Pennsylvania, intent on becoming a medical doctor.

1934 – Stephen graduates and enrolls in the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

1938 – Stephen earns his MD and begins an internship at a major hospital in New York City. He meets another intern named Robinson, and they form a professional friendship, though Stephen remains rather self-centered. In fact, Stephen soon realizes he finds it difficult to care about his patients at all. Then, Beverly Strange dies after a long illness.

1939 – His internship completed, Stephen enters a surgery program and is trained in neurosurgery, for which he demonstrates a great talent. His mentor is Dr. Kenneth W. Ward, a top neurosurgeon, part-time explorer, and collector of occult antiquities. Recognizing each other’s talents, they become close friends. Meanwhile, World War II begins in Europe.

1941 – The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into the war.

1943 – Stephen operates on a woman named Madeleine Revell, the victim of an automobile accident, and saves her life. Madeleine, a translator at the French consulate in New York, is at first intensely infatuated with the brilliant young surgeon, and they begin dating. In time, Stephen falls in love with her.

1944 – After a year-long romance, Stephen proposes marriage to Madeleine, but she declines, having realized that she does not want to spend her life with a man possessed of his greed, ambition, and cold-heartedness. Her stinging rejection causes Stephen to become even more arrogant than he was before.

1945 – World War II ends. Stephen completes his training and enters private practice. Eugene Strange dies of a heart attack, but Stephen is too busy to attend the funeral.

1946 – Stephen makes the acquaintance of another doctor, Darryl Berenson, and his beautiful blond wife, Patricia. Stephen contemplates pursuing having an affair with the woman, but never actually bothers. He also strikes up a friendship with a talented young surgeon named James Wynter, as they are both frequently invited to the same glamorous parties.

1947 – Stephen Strange has built a reputation as a top neurosurgeon, but then crashes his sports car and sustains nerve damage that ends his surgical career. An associate, Dr. Charles Benton, offers him a position as a consultant, but Stephen’s pride prevents him from working as anyone’s assistant, and so he spends much of his fortune seeking a cure for his condition.

1948 – His financial resources squandered, Stephen hits up Dr. Darryl Berenson for some money. Berenson is angered and gives his former friend the bum’s rush. Stephen lets fly with verbal abuse before he is forcibly removed from the clinic.

1949 – Stephen becomes a penniless drifter and drunken derelict. While hanging out on the waterfront, he learns of the supposedly miracle-working “Ancient One” in Tibet, and decides to find him in a last ditch effort for a cure. He sells the last of his possessions to book passage on a boat to India, from which he crosses into Tibet. Near the end of the year, the Red Chinese army invades eastern Tibet.

1950 – Stephen meets the Ancient One and his pupil, Baron Karl Mordo, in the Himalayas of northwest Tibet. Although the Ancient One claims to have no cure for Stephen’s damaged nerves, the traveler is forced to remain when a blizzard suddenly descends upon them. Left to his own devices, Stephen soon stumbles upon Mordo plotting to kill his teacher with sinister black magic. Learning first-hand that the power of such magic is very real, Stephen realizes the only way to save the old man is to learn enough spells of his own to overcome Mordo. When he entreats the Ancient One to take him on as a student, the wizened mage reveals he is aware of Mordo’s treachery already and counters the evil spells with the merest gesture, freeing Stephen from their effects. The experience leads Stephen Strange to have an epiphany, and he decides to start on a new path in life, devoting himself to the study of the mystic arts.

1951 – As Stephen begins his studies in the Ancient One’s remote retreat, the Chinese government forces Tibet to sign a treaty effectively annexing the country into the People’s Republic of China. Cut off from such affairs, Stephen soon gets to know the Ancient One’s devoted manservant, called Hamir the Hermit, who looks after both master and disciples alike. Soon, Stephen has his first encounter with the malevolent entity called Nightmare, who inhabits the Dream Dimension. It proves to be only the first of many such battles. Months later, Baron Mordo challenges the novice Stephen to a mystic duel, but is defeated. The humiliated Mordo is banished from the Ancient One’s temple, and he returns to his ancestral castle in Transylvania.

1958 – Stephen at last faces the final test of his studies: in the very heart of the Ancient One’s temple, he must cross a thin silver cable suspended over a mystic void, thus proving his mastery over both mind and body. Clearing his thoughts of all distractions, Stephen strides across the chasm and reaches the other side. Satisfied, the Ancient One says the time has come for him to return to the world. Thus, Doctor Strange journeys back to New York and establishes his Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village. Near the end of the year, Wong shows up at his door, saying he has been sent to be Stephen’s manservant, just as his father, Hamir, served the Ancient One.

1959 – Doctor Strange begins his new career as a Master of the Mystic Arts. He begins to build a reputation as an expert in the occult, occasionally helping the police with particularly mysterious cases, but more often aiding individuals who seek him out. Meanwhile, the Chinese government cracks down on a Tibetan uprising, killing nearly 90,000 Tibetans and forcing another 80,000 into exile. However, the Ancient One’s mountainous retreat remains untouched by worldly events, and Doctor Strange must accept that his powers can do little good in the arena of international politics. For the next three-and-a-half years, Doctor Strange develops his skills as a sorcerer and has adventures that remain shrouded in mystery. It is during this period that he first befriends the mystics Omar Karindu and Aleister Kane and makes an enemy of the minor sorcerer Cyrus Black.

November 1961 – Reading news reports of the super-powered team of adventurers calling themselves the “Fantastic Four,” Doctor Strange pays them a surreptitious visit in his ectoplasmic form. Determining that they are neither supernatural in origin nor a threat to the human race, he does not interfere.

December 1961 – Doctor Strange is annoyed to learn that an ingenious but criminally-insane scientist named Dr. Karel Stranczek has been dubbed “Dr. Strange” by the news media. The villain is apprehended by U.S. military paratroopers and sent to jail.

June 1962 – Doctor Strange is intrigued by the number of super-heroes who have recently come on the scene in the wake of the Fantastic Four’s debut, such as Ant-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Avenging Angel, and Spider-Man. However, he remains chiefly concerned with more mystical matters and does not involve himself in their exploits.

July 1962 – When Karel Stranczek, the criminal mastermind popularly known as “Dr. Strange,” breaks out of prison and wreaks international havoc, Stephen Strange is irritated. He decides to allow the armored hero Iron Man to deal with the situation, but when the villain escapes capture, the sorcerer loses his patience. He casts a spell that causes the madman to lose all memory of his criminal career, as well as his scientific genius. Doctor Strange is satisfied that Stranczek will never menace the world again, nor sully his good name.

September 1962 – Doctor Strange once again challenges Nightmare at the request of a sleepless man, who turns out to be a criminal plagued by guilt. Soon after, Strange must battle Baron Mordo for the life of the Ancient One when the villain places Hamir under his hypnotic control. After a pitched battle in their astral forms, Strange tricks Mordo into returning to his physical form, thus freeing Hamir from his sinister influence.

When Doctor Strange receives a desperate call for help from an old acquaintance, Sir Clive Bentley, the sorcerer travels to London, only to fall into a trap set by Baron Mordo. Strange is able to contact Sir Clive’s daughter, Victoria Bentley, who lives nearby. After freeing Strange, Victoria reveals that her father has actually been dead for ten years, and Strange realizes how easily he was tricked by Mordo. After a fierce mystical battle, Mordo is once again driven off in defeat. Victoria asks Strange to teach her the ways of magic, but he tells her she is not yet ready. He returns to New York alone.

The New York City police call upon Doctor Strange for help with a “sleeping sickness” case that has all their scientific experts baffled, leading them to suspect foul play. Strange’s investigation leads him to confront Nightmare again, on the latter’s home turf. Strange rescues the astral forms of those afflicted and barely escapes with his life.

October 1962 – Baron Mordo traps Doctor Strange, but he escapes in time to prevent the villain from attacking the Ancient One. Mordo is again defeated, but the Ancient One observes that their enemy seems to grow stronger with each battle.

Doctor Strange travels to Bavaria to defeat extradimensional invaders who have possessed the bodies of a number of villagers as a test before mounting a full-scale invasion. Strange escapes a panicky mob and drives the aliens back from whence they came. After he returns home, two crooks steal a mystic gem from the Sanctum Sanctorum, which transports them into the Purple Dimension, which is ruled by the cruel despot Aggamon. Strange rescues the thieves, defeats Aggamon in single combat, and escapes the Purple Dimension. Later, a neighborhood cop informs Strange that the two thieves have turned themselves in and renounced crime.

On Halloween night, Doctor Strange looks on as a live television broadcast is made from a “haunted house” on the outskirts of the city. The publicity stunt goes awry when the intrepid reporter, Allan Stevens, discovers that the house is really an extradimensional entity. Realizing that true supernatural forces are at work, Strange pushes through the crowd and enters the house. Soon, Stevens emerges in a state of shock, followed by Strange. The sorcerer produces a cloud of vapors from his cloak that enshrouds the House of Shadows, banishing it from this plane of reality. To the viewing audience, it appears that the occult expert has made a “haunted house” disappear in a spectacular magic trick.

November 1962 – Doctor Strange tries to lay low in the wake of his television appearance and the brief, unwelcome celebrity that follows it. He is relieved when the public soon loses interest. Strange then battles Baron Mordo in a wax museum when Mordo steals the sorcerer’s physical body, trapping him in his ectoplasmic form. With seconds to spare, Strange overcomes Mordo and regains his physical form, but refuses to finish Mordo off, even though he has the villain at his mercy.

Over the next couple of weeks, Doctor Strange is kept unusually busy battling the supernatural forces that menace mankind and doesn’t get enough sleep.

December 1962 – Having seen Doctor Strange on the Halloween broadcast, the Human Torch enlists the sorcerer’s aid to locate the Invisible Girl, who’s been kidnapped by the Sub-Mariner. Strange does so, and uses his magic to transport the Torch and the Thing to join Mister Fantastic, who has tracked Namor using his own means. Strange monitors the battle, and casts another teleportation spell to spare the Fantastic Four from the Sub-Mariner’s rage. Soon after, Doctor Strange must confront Nightmare again when he pushes himself to the point of exhaustion and falls asleep without establishing the proper defenses. However, Strange outsmarts his ancient adversary and escapes.

Doctor Strange must fight Loki, the Asgardian trickster, when the latter tries to trick him into stealing Thor’s enchanted hammer. Strange is nearly overwhelmed by his opponent’s superior power, but is spared when Loki senses Thor’s approach and flees in a panic. Thor passes by the Sanctum Sanctorum without stopping. Days later, Strange meets a time-displaced Cleopatra, who’s been victimized by an evil sorcerer named Zota. With the Ancient One’s assistance, Strange travels back in time to Egypt and defeats Zota, stripping him of his sorcerous powers. He then returns the entranced Cleopatra to her proper time, to meet her destiny.

Doctor Strange spends several days studying the spells of Oshtur, but his reading is interrupted by three minions of Baron Mordo, who invade the Sanctum Sanctorum and are easily dispatched. Then Mordo himself appears and announces that the Ancient One is his prisoner. In their ectoplasmic forms, Strange leads Mordo on a chase around the globe until he locates the Ancient One. After a grueling magical battle, Mordo is ignominiously defeated. Doctor Strange accompanies the Ancient One back to his isolated retreat before returning to his physical body.


Notes:

1912 – It takes a long time to become a Master of the Mystic Arts, and an even longer time to become a successful neurosurgeon. Since Stephen Strange did both, he cannot be a young man when we first meet him in Strange Tales #110, as evidenced by the white streaks in his hair. This date assumes he was around 50 years old at the beginning of the Original Marvel Universe.

1938 – Doctor Strange’s associate Robinson is seen in flashback in Doctor Strange v.2 #77. Since Strange appears to be working in an emergency room and says he’s been “at this for sixteen hours straight,” I assume it must be during his internship, before he became a neurosurgeon.

1939 – Kenneth Ward was introduced in Doctor Strange #183, in which Strange muses that Ward “helped sponsor my medical education.”

1943 – Mrs. Madeleine de St. Germaine was introduced in Doctor Strange v.2 #39, and her romance with Stephen Strange was shown in a flashback in the following issue. The story notes that she worked as a translator at the United Nations, but that august body did not exist prior to the end of World War II.

1945 – It was not unusual for talented medical students to be allowed to become doctors rather than soldiers during WWII. It’s a safe bet the self-centered and egotistical Stephen Strange would not have volunteered to join up. The fate of Stephen Strange’s parents was revealed in Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #45 (Sept. 1992). Although the issue is non-canonical (set in the Second Marvel Universe, which replaced the original one), I will occasionally accept minor pieces of biographical information such as this.

1946 – Darryl and Patricia Berenson were introduced in Doctor Strange v.2 #76. Although Strange’s desire to have an affair with Patricia is not explicitly stated, I wouldn’t put it past him at this point in his life. There’s no evidence he ever followed through on it. Doctor Strange ran into a middle-aged James Wynter in Giant-Size Defenders #4.

1947 – Doctor Strange’s origin story was first told in Strange Tales #115. The same events were shown in greater detail in Doctor Strange #169. Dr. Charles Benton was identified in the later issue.

1948 – In Doctor Strange v.2 #76, Strange says Darryl Berenson is “the last person who would want to have dealings with me ever again.” I presume he’s referring to some specific incident, and an encounter such as this would fill the bill.

1951-1958 – Doctor Strange’s final test is referred to in Doctor Strange v.2 #12. His origin story is later continued in issue #56.

1959 – Cyrus Black seeks revenge on Doctor Strange in Defenders #6. Details of their first encounter are provided in Doctor Strange v.2 #34. Omar Karindu is introduced in Defenders #42. Aleister Kane appears in Marvel Fanfare #52.

November 1961 – In Fantastic Four #27, Doctor Strange says he has been observing the Fantastic Four for many months. Since super-powered beings were a rarity at this point, he would feel duty-bound to check them out as soon as their existence became widely known.

December 1961 – The career of the villainous Dr. Strange is chronicled in Tales of Suspense #41, which came out a couple months before the debut of the Master of Black Magic in Strange Tales #110. His capture by the military was shown in a flashback set six months before the main story, which places it here. The villain’s real name is never revealed, so I fashioned this one for my own convenience. I assumed his name was similar enough to “Strange” to inspire the newspaper editors to call him that, and Stranczek, a Czech name, works perfectly. Karel I derived from his daughter’s name, Carla, figuring that such a megalomaniac would surely have named his offspring after himself, regardless of the sex. It is also, incidentally, the name of the Czech writer who coined the term “robot,” Karel ńĆapek.

July 1962 – Another Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe. I thought there must be a reason why the villainous Dr. Strange was never heard from again, since he got away scot free, and this idea amused me. I imagine Stranczek subsequently became a bus mechanic and eventually earned his daughter’s love.

September 1962 – Here is where we pick up Doctor Strange’s published adventures, in Strange Tales #110 and following. Sir Clive Bentley died in 1952, when Strange was at the Ancient One’s retreat, which is why he was unaware of his friend’s death.

December 1962 – Doctor Strange helps out the FF in Fantastic Four #27. The fact the Torch saw Strange on television on Halloween night is not mentioned in the story, but it is the sorcerer’s most public appearance in recent months, and it’s the kind of show a teenage boy like Johnny Storm is likely to have watched. Baron Mordo’s increasing power is derived from the dread Dormammu, as is revealed in subsequent issues. This takes us up to Strange Tales #125.


OMU Note: The final canonical appearance of Doctor Strange is in Namor #24.




Tuesday

Sex in the Original Marvel Universe

In Fantastic Four Annual #5 (1967), Mister Fantastic announced that his wife, the Invisible Girl, was pregnant, proving once and for all that the characters in the Marvel Universe did have sex. At that time, of course, comic book publishers were still under the draconian eye of the censorious Comics Code Authority, which forbade any depiction, or even mention, of sexual activity beyond innocuous kissing and hugging. Before the CCA relaxed its standards in 1971, mainstream publishers such as Marvel tended to avoid the issue altogether, although the stories’ subtext is often ripe with sex.

After 1971, sex began to creep into the stories in more obvious ways, beginning with the attempted rape of Cindy Jones in Sub-Mariner #48. Daredevil’s relationship with the Black Widow was clearly sexual from the very beginning, and was only moreso after they went to San Francisco and moved in together. When Misty Knight went undercover within Bushmaster’s criminal empire, in the pages of Iron Fist, it was clear having sex with the crimelord was part of the deal. Eventually, Doctor Strange’s disciple Clea was explicitly referred to as his lover. The love scene between Scott Summers and Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men #132 is a prime example. But the culmination was perhaps in Fantastic Four #254, when we actually saw a post-coital conversation between a half-dressed Mister Fantastic and a nude Invisible Girl, courtesy of the frequently oversexed John Byrne. The scene set up a later storyline dealing with pregnancy and miscarriage, leaving no doubt as to what had occurred. Within a few years we were treated to another storyline, introduced by Steve Englehart and John Buscema in Fantastic Four #306, which revealed that the second Ms. Marvel, Sharon Ventura, had actually been gang raped while held captive by a mad scientist and his degenerate henchmen. The trauma turned her into a man-hating psychopath, and even though the deed was never depicted, it was implied so strongly that there could be no mistaking the author’s intent. Modern-day comics are at times extremely graphic in their sexual content, as the Comics Code has largely been abandoned. See issues of Marvel’s Alias and Black Widow: Pale Little Spider for particularly egregious examples. However, sexual subtexts were often present even in the Silver Age stories of the 1960s.

Looking at the subtext of the published stories can be very suggestive, and even though they may not provide definitive evidence, the following observations are not any less valid. After all, it was often made clear that the comics we held in our hands were meant to be but a representation of what “actually” happened in the Marvel Universe. The conceit throughout the books was that these characters were not merely two-dimensional drawings, but lived in their own world as three-dimensional people, with lives that extended “behind the scenes.” In fact, the artifice of the comics themselves was occasionally played up. In Tales of Suspense #84, after some embarrassingly expository dialogue, Stan Lee added a footnote that read, “We know people don’t really talk this way... but we wanna bring any newcomer up to date!” Clearly, what appears on the page is not always meant to be taken as the gospel truth. So we may ask, what was “really” going on?

Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl

A favorite fan joke is speculating on whether Reed Richards can stretch ANY part of his body—nyuk, nyuk. Since he has been seen extending his fingers and neck as well as his arms and legs, it would seem likely that he can elongate his male organ as well. Also, especially early on, it was shown that whenever the Invisible Girl was startled or distracted sufficiently, she might “lose control” of her powers and become invisible without realizing it. We can assume, therefore, that in the throes of passion she might also fade from sight. The combination of these two factors presents a rather odd image indeed. Susan Storm was always presented as the ultimate “good girl,” and I think it is safe to assume she was saving herself for her wedding night, since it was made clear that she didn’t actually live in the Baxter Building until after she and Reed were married. Subsequently, Sue often complained that Reed didn’t “pay enough attention” to her when he was buried in research projects in his lab. There was a fair amount of friction in their relationship in the first few years after they became man and wife. It’s also important to remember that the couple was separated for quite some time, but eventually reconciled. We can assume, given the example from FF #254 above, that as their relationship improved, their sex life only got better and better.

Cyclops and Marvel Girl

When X-Men teammates Scott Summers and Jean Grey first had sex remains a bit hazy, though in the backup story in Classic X-Men #6, it is revealed that Jean was hoping for a night of passion on the pre-Christmas evening originally depicted in Uncanny X-Men #98, though it is unclear whether it was meant to imply she was about to lose her virginity. Clearly, their first time was at some point after X-Men #32, when the two teenage mutants first revealed their feelings for each other, and probably before Jean’s transformation into Phoenix in issue #101. Jean was always depicted as being rather virginal, so it may have been later rather than sooner, but it’s debatable. We should also remember that the X-Men turned out to be somewhat younger in the beginning than Stan Lee at first led us to believe. It most likely occurred at some point during the years X-Men was in reprints and the team was kept largely in the background, making only occasional guest-appearances in other titles. After Jean became Phoenix, she was much more hot-to-trot, and Scott seemed to have a hard time keeping up with her, as seen in Uncanny X-Men #132.

The Black Widow and Hawkeye

Sex was clearly the basis for the relationship between the sultry Soviet spy and the would-be hero, as Natasha even comments about how she has Hawkeye wrapped around her little finger when they plot against Iron Man in several issues of Tales of Suspense. In fact, the masked archer was so much under the spell of her feminine charms that he had to explicitly draw the line at treason against the United States. But even so, he went ahead with her plan to steal secrets from Stark Industries, a major contractor to the American military and intelligence agencies. After Natasha defected to the West, their relationship only became more strained. Eventually, they broke it off for good, but Hawkeye’s sexual jealousy led him into conflict with her new beau, Daredevil. One can hardly blame Hawkeye for having mixed feelings about his relationship with Natasha, who frequently played him for a fool, often ran hot and cold, and has gone on to dally with numerous other characters as well. For a detailed account of Natasha’s life, see my Black Widow chronology.

Iron Man

A seldom-discussed facet of Tony Stark’s character is that he suffered a period of enforced chastity lasting at least a couple of years, which must have been a bitter pill for this formerly high-living playboy. After the accident that led him to create the original Iron Man armor, he was forced to wear his metal chest plate 24 hours a day to keep his injured heart beating. Obviously, if he so much as danced with a woman, she was likely to rap on his chest with her knuckle—klang, klang—and say “what’s this?” Sex was totally out of the question, without risking his secret identity. In time, the brilliant inventor stripped down his life-support system to a form-fitting iron bodice that could be concealed under normal street clothes, but he still went to great lengths to hide his injury from even his closest friends. Salvation came in Tales of Suspense #84 when he was called to testify before a Congressional committee and collapsed into a coma. The doctor on the scene opened his shirt and discovered the metal chest plate, which was, however, clearly not the distinctive red and gold front of his Iron Man armor. Stark was hospitalized, and the secret of his injured heart was revealed to the world, but, with help of his right-hand man Happy Hogan, the fact that he was Iron Man remained undisclosed. After his recovery, Stark was shown, five issues later, making up for lost time by dating dozens of women. When he subsequently “disappeared,” an army of gorgeous girls descended on Stark Industries demanding to know what happened to him, as seen in Tales of Suspense #98. Each woman claimed Tony was her boyfriend, leading straight-laced S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell to muse that Stark’s promiscuous love life was “almost un-American.”

The Scarlet Witch and the Vision

One of the great unexplained mysteries of the Marvel Universe is why a beautiful, lively girl like the Scarlet Witch would choose to get married to an artificial man. If she found the Vision to be fascinating or exotic or even seductive, that would be one thing, but she actually married him. And he’s basically a glorified robot. His manner of speaking was variously described as “cold,” “emotionless,” even “sepulchral,” not the sort of thing that lights most girls’ fire. His eyes were shadowy pools of blackness that occasionally glistened with an eerie golden light, not exactly the stuff of romantic fantasies. He was stiff, formal, distant, plagued by doubts about the worth of his own existence, a being whose very brain patterns were copied from a real living man, Simon Williams. And despite all that, the Scarlet Witch married him, moved to the suburbs and tried to start a family. Why? What could have driven her to make such a bizarre choice of mate? I have some theories on the subject, but I’ll hold off until I present them in my Scarlet Witch Chronology, as they require some in-depth explanation.

Nick Fury and Val de La Fontaine

What is probably the first actual sex scene in a Marvel Universe comic was striking for many reasons, one being that it involved two middle-aged people. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, who had led the far-famed Howling Commandos during World War II, and his girlfriend, Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine, who sported a prominent white streak in her hair, got it on in a wordless, discreet, though very suggestive sequence by Jim Steranko, published in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 (July 1968). Though both were, of course, extremely physically fit, and Val had a penchant for slinking around their airborne headquarters in skimpy outfits, they were no hot-blooded youngsters, but a mature unmarried couple enjoying a moment of physical intimacy. Truly groundbreaking, and all the sexier for it. The scene was replayed for laughs, years later, in Uncanny X-Men Annual #7, with an homage to Steranko’s innovative layouts provided by Michael Golden. This time Nick and Val were clearly shown to be naked.


Stan Lee’s stories during the 1960s frequently featured unrequited romantic longings on the part of his main characters, such as Thor’s forbidden desire for the mortal nurse Jane Foster; the frustrated love-triangle between Daredevil, Karen Page, and Foggy Nelson; Spider-Man’s tortuous relationships preceding his finding true love with Gwen Stacy; the star-crossed love affair of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross; and of course the physically-impossible love between the Thing and Alicia Masters. The ubiquity of this conceit may have been in part due to Stan’s proclivities as a writer, and perhaps partly because it was pretty safe territory where the Comics Code was concerned. The only two happy couples among his major characters, Reed and Sue of the Fantastic Four and Hank and Jan of the Avengers, kept their sex lives hidden in the bedroom to such an extent that one might almost think they were celibate. But little Franklin Richards was living proof that this was not the case. And we readers were left to imagine what went on behind closed doors.