Friday

OMU: Doctor Strange -- Year Four

Following the cancellation of his original series, Marvel’s resident sorcerer Doctor Strange was eventually retrieved from character limbo to serve in a new team-book, The Defenders. It was a lucky escape, as he was not included in the initial conception of the series, and was only drafted as a last-minute replacement. Plans fell through to feature the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner alongside the Silver Surfer when, so the story goes, Stan Lee decided he felt a little too proprietary towards the Surfer and didn’t want the character used on a regular basis by other writers. It was decided that Doctor Strange would make a suitable replacement, and so his “retirement” would have to be undone. Although the comics seem to suggest that Doctor Strange was back in business immediately, plugging the stories into my OMU timeline reveals that it actually took many months before he was truly ready for action again. His retirement and return make up an extended ordeal from which Stephen Strange emerged stronger than ever before, finally ready to take the next step in his mystic career.

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 1965 – Dr. Stephen Strange continues his recently-revived career as a surgical consultant for a Manhattan-based medical group, though his new life is rapidly unraveling. He has retreated into the persona of a hard-drinking, chain-smoking womanizer and has already alienated most of his colleagues. Haunted by horrific nightmares, Strange suffers from acute insomnia, which drives him to leave his high-rise apartment block each night to wander the city’s streets. Late one evening, his aimless rambles take him into Greenwich Village, a neighborhood he usually avoids. Before he realizes it, he finds himself once more on Bleecker Street, standing in the shadow of his former Sanctum Sanctorum. To his surprise, the house is not boarded up, nor does it show any sign of being abandoned. He begins to fear that something happened to Wong that prevented his manservant from carrying out his last instructions. Trying the door, Strange finds it is not even locked, and with trepidation he enters the dimly-illumined foyer. After taking a few steps down one of the corridors, he stumbles upon Wong, who immediately takes his former master to be an impostor. Strange is perplexed, and his confusion only grows when Wong calls out for “Doctor Strange” and an imposing figure emerges from the shadows, wearing the Amulet of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation and disguised in the blue humanoid shape that Strange himself had briefly worn the previous autumn.

Before he can even doubt himself, Strange is attacked by the blue Doctor Strange, and he quickly realizes his foe is trying to kill him without Wong realizing it. However, bereft of any mystical powers, the doctor is easily captured. Utterly helpless, he is unable to resist as a spell renders him insensate. Desperate and in sheer mortal terror, Strange’s subconscious mind reaches out into the void until he once more feels the calm, reassuring presence of his aged mentor, the Ancient One. The Sorcerer Supreme offers to lend Strange his own mystic might to save himself and defeat the impostor, but warns him that to do so, he must accept his true destiny. Choosing life over a living death, Stephen Strange suddenly feels his body charged with magical energies, enabling him to shatter the spell that binds him. Sensing this, the impostor rushes back into the chamber and renews his assault, but is quickly vanquished by Strange’s superior power. Dr. Strange then removes his fallen foe’s blue facemask and discovers he is none other than Baron Mordo. Wong is shocked to learn that he had been duped into serving his master’s greatest enemy for the past few months, but Strange reassures him. Unfortunately, Mordo then recovers enough to escape in a puff of red smoke.

Realizing that the path of the mystic arts is not so easily turned away from, Dr. Strange resigns his position as a medical consultant, settles his accounts, and takes up residence once again in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Under the direction of the Ancient One, he begins a lengthy period of meditation, fasting, and prayer to purge himself of the poisons in his soul. He undergoes a new consecration, followed by days of dedication, as he sets out to reclaim the magical powers he had renounced.

February 1965 – At midnight one night, Doctor Strange receives a psychic summons that draws his astral form to a nearby hospital, where he is astonished to find his former foe Yandroth, the so-called “Scientist Supreme,” whom he had defeated one year ago. However, Yandroth is now an elderly man lying on his deathbed. Yandroth tells Strange of the many decades that have passed for him since their last meeting in the Dream Dimension, and gloats that he has constructed a doomsday machine dubbed the Omegatron, which will destroy the earth once he has died. He then lapses into a coma, and though Strange immediately alerts the attending physicians, Yandroth dies on the operating table.

Learning that Yandroth had been living at Point Promontory, Maine, Doctor Strange returns to his physical form and lets the Cloak of Levitation carry him to New England. En route, however, Strange begins to doubt his ability to deal with such a crisis so soon after returning to sorcery, and so he summons his one-time ally Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and convinces the headstrong monarch of the sea to help him destroy the Omegatron. Namor suggests they also enlist the aid of the Silver Surfer and the Hulk, with whom he recently teamed up to avert a major catastrophe. Though the Silver Surfer proves unavailable, Doctor Strange is able to find the Hulk and easily goads him into following along. The sorcerer is surprised by the Hulk’s ability to see his astral form, which should have been invisible, but has no time for idle curiosity. The unlikely trio soon finds Yandroth’s installation disguised as a lighthouse on Maine’s rocky coast. While Namor and the Hulk batter away at the building’s defenses, Doctor Strange’s astral form is able to penetrate the chamber containing the Omegatron. The computer is possessed of artificial intelligence, and it brags to Strange that it will use the kinetic energy of his friends’ blows to power its doomsday weapon. Strange fails to warn the Hulk and Namor off, for they dismiss him as merely a ploy of the Omegatron’s defensive systems, and so the mage resorts to casting illusions about them to make the pair attack each other. The Omegatron then begins its final ten-second countdown to detonate all the world’s nuclear arsenals. Seeing no other option, Doctor Strange frantically casts a spell that slows down the flow of time in the Omegatron’s immediate vicinity. He knows this is only a stop-gap measure, but it will afford him the opportunity to study the situation further and devise a means of overcoming the peculiar mix of science and sorcery that Yandroth used to create the Omegatron. Outside, Doctor Strange explains to his associates what has happened, and they decide to go their separate ways. However, feeling safer amongst such powerful allies, Strange suddenly proposes they form a permanent team, suggesting they might call themselves “the Defenders.” But neither the Hulk nor the Sub-Mariner is interested, and so they depart, leaving Doctor Strange on his own. Before returning to New York, the disappointed mage casts a spell of illusion to once again disguise Yandroth’s installation as an ordinary lighthouse.

March 1965 – Doctor Strange becomes so engrossed in regaining his mastery over the mystic forces of Agamotto, Hoggoth, and Oshtur that he neglects the problem of the Omegatron until it completely slips his mind. He is further distracted when he finally contacts Clea again, only to be rebuffed. She is still furious over having been abandoned by him and shut out of his life when he needed her most. Though glad that he has come to his senses at last, Clea is not yet ready to forgive him. She reminds him that she has gotten by all these months on her own, and has managed to assimilate somewhat into Earth culture since her long exile from her home dimension has caused all her own mystic powers to fade. Strange is sick at heart, but acknowledges that his behavior toward her was inexcusable. He agrees to give her whatever time she needs to reassess their relationship, and then returns to the Sanctum Sanctorum to bury himself in his studies.

April–September 1965 – For the next six months, Doctor Strange retrains himself in the mystic arts while also finally facing the psychological fallout from his ordeal as a prisoner of the demonic Undying Ones. With the help of the Ancient One, he is at last able to confront his fears and to remember the experience without reliving it. As his mastery of arcane forces returns, his thoughts dwell often on the fate of the mysterious girl who took his place within the poles of ethereal force. He knows that he should attempt to rescue her, but simply cannot deal with the prospect of returning to the Nameless One’s realm. Since she materialized alongside the Hulk, Strange tracks down Bruce Banner to learn more about her, but all Banner can manage to remember is that she was called Barbara. During the summer, Strange realizes that he can no longer lead the life of the reclusive loner as he did previously, for he recognizes his need for the comforts of basic human relationships. As such, he strikes up a casual friendship with one of his neighbors, an American Indian woman named Sara Wolfe. Furthermore, Clea agrees to meet occasionally for dinner, and they begin to slowly rebuild the intimacy they have lost.

October 1965 – Doctor Strange receives a mystic cry for help from the aged master of a hidden temple in Vietnam, who has been brought to New York by his followers after they come to believe he was killed in an American mortar attack. In truth, the venerable mystic had entered a death-like trance to escape the shelling, and now needs help to awaken before his followers exact their revenge on the American soldier they believe is responsible for the tragedy. Determining that Spider-Man has already involved himself and is attempting to rescue the soldier, one Eugene “Flash” Thompson, Doctor Strange draws the web-slinger to his Sanctum Sanctorum to propose an alliance. Upon arriving at the building where Thompson is being held prisoner, Spider-Man brawls with the cult’s strongman, giving Doctor Strange the time he needs to weave the spell to awaken the aged master. The situation thus resolved, Strange bids farewell to Spider-Man and returns home.

A few days later, Doctor Strange receives a visit from a young man named Jim Wilson, a friend of the Hulk, who has come for help regarding his suspicions about a new hit children’s television show called The Astro-Nuts. The program features a large furry creature called Xemnu, who seems to have an eerie hypnotic power over young people. Jim’s concerns only serve to reinforce Strange’s own misgivings about Xemnu and his meteoric rise to fame. Therefore, Doctor Strange mystically disguises himself as the Hulk while he and Jim pay a visit to the show’s executive producers, ex-astronauts Calvin Beame and Richmond Wagner. A deal is struck for the Hulk to do a guest-spot on a special live broadcast in four weeks when Xemnu is supposed to return to his “magic planet.” Afterwards, Jim and Doctor Strange agree to meet again in one month’s time.

On the day before Halloween, Doctor Strange sees a vision in the Orb of Agamotto of the dread Dormammu crossing the dimensions to conquer the earth. Afraid that he is not yet ready to face such a powerful adversary, Strange immediately considers summoning the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner to his side once more. However, he then falls victim to a false image of the Ancient One’s astral form, which leads his own ectoplasmic self high into the sky above the Sanctum Sanctorum. As the illusion dissolves, Strange realizes his physical body is being kidnapped. A spell prevents his spirit from re-entering his flesh, and when Wong tries to stop the kidnappers, he is savagely beaten. Doctor Strange then follows as his body is loaded into a station wagon and driven north into Vermont. By dawn, they arrive at their destination, a cabin at the foot of Bald Mountain near the town of Rutland. Learning that the kidnappers plan to wait until dusk before using the body in an evil ritual of black magic, Doctor Strange flashes back to New York where his astral form takes refuge within Wong’s body in a bid to survive the prolonged separation. Acting on their own, Wong and Clea manage to recruit the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner for a rescue mission, and the quartet tracks the kidnappers to Rutland, which is holding its annual Halloween parade. Despite the best efforts of the Hulk and Namor, the cult begins its obscene rite, offering Stephen Strange’s body as a vessel for Dormammu’s essence, since the lord of the Dark Dimension is unable to physically enter Earth’s plane of existence. However, at the crucial moment, Doctor Strange’s astral form emerges from Wong’s body and enters his own, allowing the sorcerer to confront Dormammu in the dimensional gateway. Knowing the open portal to Earth’s dimension saps Dormammu of his strength, Doctor Strange unleashes a mystic attack. The force of their battle rocks the mountain, causing an avalanche in which many of the cult members die. Namor and the Hulk shield Clea and Wong from harm until Dormammu decides to retreat, allowing Strange to emerge from the gateway and levitate his friends to safety. Thoroughly exhausted but triumphant, Doctor Strange leads Clea and Wong back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, while the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner go their own separate ways.

November 1965 – At the appointed time, Doctor Strange meets up with Jim Wilson to continue their investigation into the mysterious Xemnu. The sorcerer again disguises himself as the Hulk while he and Jim travel to Cape Kennedy for the live broadcast of the Astro-Nuts “Farewell Xemnu” special. During the broadcast, Xemnu issues an irresistible psychic summons to all children in the audience to come to him and board his spaceship, causing Doctor Strange to drop his disguise and attack. Mystically probing his foe’s mind, Strange learns that Xemnu is a real alien who had tried unsuccessfully to conquer the earth five years before, and managed to return by possessing Richmond Wagner’s body during a spacewalk. He now intends to kidnap as many Earth children as possible to repopulate his devastated home planet. However, Xemnu’s plans are ruined when the Sub-Mariner appears, having been summoned by Doctor Strange, and destroys the rocket on the launch pad before any of the children can get aboard. Then, the Hulk arrives unexpectedly and attacks Xemnu as well, smashing the alien until his body discorporates into a gaseous form. Believing the menace of Xemnu to be ended, Doctor Strange is about to renew his proposal for forming a permanent team when the military personnel on hand train their weapons on the Hulk, causing both the jade giant and the Sub-Mariner to exit in disgust. Disappointed again, Doctor Strange ensures the children have been released from the alien mind control, then bids Jim Wilson farewell and returns home.

However, only a few days later, the Hulk seeks out Doctor Strange to help the Sub-Mariner, who has been injured. The sorcerer follows the green goliath to a wooded area in New Jersey, where they find Namor unconscious and trapped inside a mystical force field. Suddenly, a grotesque cloaked figure appears and identifies himself as Necrodamus, servant of the Undying Ones. The mere mention of the name causes Strange to break out in a cold sweat. Necrodamus reveals his plan to take revenge on the trio for having ruined the Nameless One’s plan to invade Earth’s dimension last year. In one hour, the ugly little wizard proclaims, he will offer Namor as a sacrifice to his demonic masters and receive a powerful new body in return. As Necrodamus teleports away, Doctor Strange struggles to resist the sense of panic welling up in his breast. Hoping to forestall Necrodamus’ return, he attempts to weave a spell to slow down the flow of time, but, unable to properly focus his thoughts, he fails. Strange then realizes he must spend the remainder of the hour meditating, trying to master the fear that threatens to consume him. As Strange turns his thoughts inward, the Hulk continues to vent his rage on the force field surrounding their fallen friend, but to no avail.

Doctor Strange awakens from his trance nearly an hour later, having managed to calm and focus himself. As a protective measure, he tries to encase the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner within the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, but he acts too late. Namor is magically drawn through the ground into the network of caverns below. Strange’s anxiety builds as he leads the Hulk into a nearby cave and down into the bowels of the earth. When a monstrous demon leaps from the shadows, Strange is caught off guard, but the Hulk smashes the creature with little trouble. Soon they find the subterranean chamber where Necrodamus has set up his sacrificial altar, and Strange feels his knees grow weak as the awful visage of the Nameless One forms amidst the smoke of the incense torches. The stench of evil permeates the cavern as Necrodamus grows and changes into a muscular powerhouse, ready to slay the Sub-Mariner with his eldritch blade. His heart pounding like a trip hammer, Strange finds himself unable to cast any effective spells, and so he sends the Hulk to battle Necrodamus directly. Quickly realizing even the Hulk may be overmatched, Strange manages to work a simple spell that fills Namor’s force-field prison with water, thereby granting him the strength to break free. As Namor joins the fray, the Hulk collapses, having been injured by Necrodamus’ enchanted sword, and suddenly changes back into Bruce Banner. Then, seeing that Necrodamus has overwhelmed the Sub-Mariner and is bringing his blade down to complete the sacrificial rite, Doctor Strange pushes through the terror clouding his mind and seizes the wizard’s arm. Banner also lends a hand, and they succeed in delaying their foe just long enough for the mystic conjunction of stars to pass. Necrodamus suddenly and painfully reverts to his former wizened body, then hastily teleports away in defeat. Doctor Strange watches the Nameless One’s vaporous image disperse as well. Namor then mentions that he had been attacked earlier not by Necrodamus himself but by his servant—none other than the Silver Surfer. Concerned, Doctor Strange insists they must all work together to find the Surfer, wherever he may be—and unwilling to take no for an answer, declares the Defenders to be officially formed.

After two weeks of searching the globe, Doctor Strange’s astral form is with the Sub-Mariner when they encounter the Silver Surfer along the coast of Antarctica. Enraged, Namor fights with the Surfer, who disavows any knowledge of the recent sneak attack in New Jersey and then angrily departs for his “private valley” to be alone. Sensing a clue in the Surfer’s words, Strange bids Namor to rendezvous with him at his Sanctum Sanctorum. When Namor arrives, they consult the diary of the late Kenneth W. Ward. Doctor Strange suspects the valley the Surfer spoke of may be the same Himalayan valley where Ward had discovered the statue of the Nameless One. And so, they enlist the Hulk’s aid once again and journey to the Himalayas to investigate. Upon arriving in the remote snow-bound valley, the trio discovers a group of “Abominable Snowmen.” The Hulk fights with them until the Silver Surfer appears and calls him off, claiming the ape-men are harmless. However, the creatures suddenly transform themselves into a cadre of Warrior Wizards, led by a warlock called Calizuma. As they launch their attack on the startled quartet, Calizuma claims they have been manipulating the Silver Surfer for many months. But the Warrior Wizards prove to be no match for the combined might of the Defenders and are soundly defeated. Before leaving the valley, Doctor Strange offers to help the Silver Surfer escape his exile on Earth, explaining that it should be possible to circumvent Galactus’ barrier by traveling through another dimension. Excited at the prospect of freedom, the Silver Surfer agrees to give it a try. The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner both volunteer to come along. Strange weaves his spell and the four of them disappear in a nimbus of light.

A moment later, Doctor Strange is horrified to discover that they have been diverted into the hellish realm of the Undying Ones. Rather than succumb to terror, however, Strange realizes the time has come to face his greatest fear, and either conquer it or die. They soon come to the poles of ethereal force and find the girl, Barbara, still trapped within. The Silver Surfer lends his power cosmic to Doctor Strange’s mystic energies to destroy her prison. Plagued by guilt, Strange offers Barbara a lame excuse for not attempting a rescue earlier. But as the Defenders flee, they are suddenly caught within a whirling maelstrom. They escape from the vortex only to be confronted with a chilling sight: the women they love—Clea, Jarella, Shalla Bal, and Dorma—trapped within the poles of ethereal force. However, Namor, knowing Dorma is dead, sees through the illusion and realizes Barbara has betrayed them. Sure enough, the Nameless One then appears, revealing that Barbara had, after many months of imprisonment, agreed to merge with her demonic captor. Their “rescue” of her had been merely another illusion. Outraged, the Defenders press their attack. As the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner batter at the Nameless One’s massive frame, Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer work together to entrap its foot within the poles of ethereal force. These distractions give Strange the chance to forcibly separate Barbara from her demonic mate. Unfortunately, the process destroys Barbara’s mind. Taking her along, the Defenders make good their escape and shift back into Earth’s dimension.

Rather than being somewhere beyond Galactus’ barrier, as they expected, the Defenders find themselves instead standing outside Garrett Castle in England. Bitterly disappointed, the Silver Surfer flies off in sorrow. The Hulk is furious that Barbara has gone mad and, cradling her in his arms, leaps over the wall into the castle grounds. Doctor Strange, his self-confidence crumbling, abdicates his role as team leader, leaving it up to Prince Namor to decide what they should do next. As a practical matter, Namor decides they need to follow the Hulk to make sure he does not harm Barbara accidentally. However, despite making a thorough search of the castle, the pair is unable to find any trace of them. Finally, in the cellar they discover a large smoldering brazier which suddenly flares up, its mystic flames transporting them to yet another dimension. Doctor Strange and the Sub-Mariner are confronted by the Asgardian warrior known as the Executioner, a legion of armored knights, and a wizard called Fragon, who reveals that they have entered the realm of Queen Casiolena. Quickly overcome, the heroes are thrown into a dungeon, where they join Bruce Banner and the mindless Barbara. Strange is then surprised to hear the familiar voice of the Black Knight coming from the cell across the corridor, and finds his erstwhile ally imprisoned alongside the villainous Enchantress. The Britain-based Avenger explains how the Enchantress had recruited him—using an ensorcelling kiss—to free the Executioner from Casiolena’s clutches, an undertaking that utterly failed. However, Doctor Strange is unable to prevent the Enchantress from using her magic to transform Barbara into a superhuman warrior called the Valkyrie to free them. After the Valkyrie smashes down the cell doors, Strange assists the Enchantress in defeating Fragon while the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, the Black Knight, and the Valkyrie rout Casiolena’s forces and take down the Executioner. Casiolena then appears, ready to smite them all with her sorcery, but before Doctor Strange can react, the Valkyrie and the Enchantress knock her out. When the Black Knight objects to the reconciliation between the Executioner and the Enchantress, the goddess turns her pawn into a stone statue with a magical kiss. After the two Asgardians depart, Doctor Strange finds he is unable to reverse the Black Knight’s transformation. Thus, the Defenders take the statue with them as they traverse the dimensional barrier back to Garrett Castle. Doctor Strange then casts a spell to seal the castle behind an invisible, impenetrable barrier, and decides to take his friend’s petrified form back to the Sanctum Sanctorum to work on a cure. Valkyrie claims both the Ebony Blade and the Black Knight’s winged horse, Aragorn, and declares herself a member of the Defenders, over the others’ objections. She then accompanies Doctor Strange back to New York.

Though he feels a bit put out, Doctor Strange allows the Valkyrie to stay at the Sanctum Sanctorum until she can figure out what to do with herself. Bereft of any memories or clear sense of identity, the Valkyrie is hesitant to strike out on her own. Discreetly, Strange also investigates the possibility of undoing Barbara’s transformation, but is unable to find the answer. However, he is gladdened when Clea begins spending more and more time with him at the Sanctum Sanctorum, oblivious to the fact that she is motivated primarily by jealousy. Though the Valkyrie is beautiful, Strange is not in the least attracted to her, and devotes most of his time to the Black Knight’s grim fate. Towards the end of the month, the Sub-Mariner pays him a visit to check on his progress and watches as Strange fails again to break the Enchantress’ spell.

December 1965 – After several awkward weeks, Doctor Strange encourages the Valkyrie to move on and decide what to do with her life. He convinces her that she should begin by building friendships with the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner, and gives her two mystic crystals that will lead her to them. Aware of Clea’s negative attitude toward her, the Valkyrie takes the crystals and flies off on Aragorn. Once she has departed, Strange and Clea are finally able to openly discuss their feelings for each other, and to address the issues in their relationship that have kept them apart. They come to a new understanding, and for the first time in over a year, Doctor Strange feels his life is back on track.

Later, the Valkyrie returns with the Sub-Mariner to report to Doctor Strange on their encounter with the Omegatron, which nearly destroyed the world after Strange had inadvertently weakened the time-slowing spell he had cast back in February. Strange curses himself for a novice, but is relieved that, along with the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner’s cousin Namorita, they had managed to destroy the doomsday device in the nick of time. However, while the Valkyrie and Namor are telling their tale, the Sanctum Sanctorum is suddenly sealed within a mystic barrier. The house is then attacked by Cyrus Black, a minor sorcerer Strange had encountered several years ago, and his army of underlings. After the force field is shattered by the approach of the Silver Surfer, the Defenders easily rout Black and his thugs. Unfortunately, the villains manage to escape when some stray bolts of bedevilment threaten to crumble the Black Knight’s petrified form. After introductions are made, the Silver Surfer invites the Valkyrie to accompany him on a tour of the planet. Namor invites himself along and they depart, leaving Doctor Strange to his studies.

Doctor Strange is consulting the Orb of Agamotto when his friends return about a week later to tell him of their travels. Suddenly, they are beset by a succession of monstrous demons that appear out of nowhere and vanish into nothingness as soon as they are defeated. The instigator of these attacks is revealed when Cyrus Black materializes among them, now possessing an idealized form. As Black unleashes powerful magics, Doctor Strange is bewildered by his inability to fight back. However, when Namor realizes how unreal the situation is, the spell is suddenly broken. Cyrus Black fades into nothingness, and the Sanctum Sanctorum returns to normal. Doctor Strange theorizes that reality had somehow been altered by Black’s unconscious mind, and when Namor convinced the wizard his dream was not real, the spell could no longer be maintained. After dinner, the Silver Surfer and the Sub-Mariner depart, but Strange reluctantly agrees to allow the Valkyrie to continue staying with him until she can sort out some of the mysteries of her existence. Now more secure in their relationship, Clea feels less threatened by the Valkyrie, and the previous tension in the house does not return. Doctor Strange at last feels ready to face whatever challenges the new year may bring.


Notes:

January 1965 – Stephen Strange presents a classic case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the extradimensional demons known as the Undying Ones. The results would prove to be far-reaching and life-changing. He returns from self-imposed retirement in the back-up story included in Marvel Feature #1.

February 1965 – The Defenders face their first crisis as a team in the main story in Marvel Feature #1. Namor, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer had worked together the previous December to prevent a dangerous new weather-controlling machine from being activated, as seen in Sub-Mariner #34–35.

MarchSeptember 1965 – The Ancient One indicated it would not be easy or quick for Stephen Strange to regain complete command of his occult powers, and his lengthy retraining period represents another Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe. While Strange would soon overcome his PTSD, it would be a long time before he exhibited the cool confidence seen in his earliest stories. When Sara Wolfe is introduced in Doctor Strange v.2 #38, she is described as “an old, dear friend.” As that story falls several years later on my OMU timeline, this seems like the ideal placement for their first meeting.

October 1965 – Doctor Strange teams up with Spider-Man once again in Amazing Spider-Man #109. Chronological analysis reveals that the first part of the story in Marvel Feature #3 actually occurs before the Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade story shown in the previous issue. Doctor Strange is likely unaware of all the other weirdness going on in Rutland on that particular night.

November 1965 – The Defenders’ battle with Xemnu, seen in Marvel Feature #3, is followed almost immediately by the events depicted in Defenders #1–4. Although Doctor Strange notes that they had been searching for the Silver Surfer for two months, this is merely a topical reference to the two months that had elapsed since the previous issue was published. During this period, Steve Englehart often wrote his stories as though they occurred in real-time. The Sub-Mariner watches Doctor Strange try to cure the Black Knight in a flashback seen in Avengers #117.

December 1965 – The Valkyrie moves in with Doctor Strange in Defenders #5 and would actually live there for quite a while. Cyrus Black’s attempts at getting revenge on Strange bring us up to Defenders #6.






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