Update 6/3/14: News has just hit that Marvel has hired Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil) to direct Doctor Strange. In honor of this cool news, we're rerunning our guide to the character for those unfamiliar with one of Marvel's weirder superheroes.
With Marvel entertaining pitches for Doctor Strange from a variety of writers and directors, it's only a matter of time before the unofficial news becomes official. We'll have a Doctor Strange movie likely joining Marvel's big-screen gang for Phase Three (which all leads up to Avengers 3). Studio head Kevin Feige is a huge fan of the Sorcerer Supreme, so fans of the occult character can rest easy knowing that the man who is in charge of these things wants to see a great Doctor Strange film as much as they do.
Most don’t think of Doctor Strange right away as one of Marvel’s most well-known characters, but he’s actually had some major appearances outside of the realm of comic books, including a 1978 TV movie, an animated feature, and appearances in Capcom’s popular Marvel Vs. Capcom video game series (along with his arch-enemies Shuma-Gorath and Dormammu). Still, much of Strange’s history, supporting cast, and nemeses aren’t even well known to a lot of comic book fans. Unlike Spider-Man or Iron Man, Strange hasn’t had a continuing comic series from the time of his inception in 1963. In fact, he doesn’t even have his own monthly series right now. Every few years the character finds himself in the spotlight, but often without the sales support to keep a series afloat.
Regardless, there’s still a lot of storytelling potential here, and just like our guide to the Guardians of the Galaxy, we’re happy to give you a crash course in the occult comic book world of Doctor Stephen Strange. These specific characters may or may not end up in the final film, but they’re certainly the most likely candidates for Strange’s first big-screen outing. Some fans think, because of his connection to the Defenders, that the upcoming Netflix miniseries might be the perfect place for his introduction, while at the same time bridging the shows to the movies.
Dr. Stephen Strange
Yes, the title character is an actual doctor! He’s an arrogant neurosurgeon whose hands are crippled by a car accident at the peak of his professional career. Seeking cure-alls from around the world to repair his hands, he eventually finds himself in Tibet, under the tutelage of the Ancient One and takes to the mystic arts as if it’s his lifelong calling. Here, he supplants the Ancient One’s favored student, Mordo, to become the Sorcerer Supreme, the world’s safeguard against interdimensional and metaphysical threats.
With his new title, Dr. Strange takes up residence in New York’s Sanctum Sanctorum, a Greenwich brownstone that rests on a geographical supernatural hotspot. He uses a deep knowledge of arcane spells, powerful artifacts (the Eye of Amagotto which typically serves as the clasp around Strange’s Cloak of Levitation can be seen for a moment in the first Thor movie), and martial arts to battle otherworldly foes.
The Ancient One
Upon first meeting, the Ancient One is troubled by Strange’s arrogance and refuses to train him. Though rejected, Strange alerts the Ancient One when he discovers Mordo’s plans to kill the old mystic, and that event causes the Ancient One to reconsider Strange’s potential as a student.
Wong is sent by the Ancient One to accompany Strange to America after his stint in Tibet. He’s Strange’s confidant and butler and assists Strange when he leaves his physical body behind to travel the unseen Astral Planes. He also cares for the Sanctum Sanctorum when Strange is out being a superhero.
Mordo’s a self-serving Transylvanian noble who isn’t afraid to use dark magick to achieve his goals. After being exiled from the Ancient One’s school for attempting to kill his master (and thus losing the opportunity to become Sorcerer Supreme), he spends much of his time plotting revenge against Dr. Strange.
This interdimensional refugee seeks the help of Dr. Strange against her uncle, the demonic overlord Dormmamu. Leaving behind her home in the Dark Dimension, she eventual trains under Strange to become a sorceress in her own right. Over the years, they eventually become lovers and marry, but Clea eventually returned to the Dark Dimension with what she’d learned to defend that realm against evil.
If the Dark Dimension is analogous to Hell, then Dormammu is its Satan. It’s Dormammu who inspired Mordo to attempt to assassinate the Ancient One, and it’s often Dormammu who’s pulling the strings whenever anything spectacularly evil is happening in Dr. Strange’s world. The character is unrelentingly powerful, and has expanded his scope far beyond the world of Dr. Strange into allegiances with gods like Loki and confrontations with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Avengers, Spider-Man and the most recently the X-Men.
The minotaur-like being known as Rintrah has proved to be one of Strange’s most reliable allies. His natural predisposition for the mystic arts make him a natural student under the care of Stephen Strange.
Clea is acknowledged as Dr. Strange’s one true love, but he’s also had “normal” relationships with women from his own dimension as well, namely occult author Morgana Blessing. There’s a slim chance that someone like Blessing might show up in a film as the romantic interest instead of Clea, simply because she’s one of Strange’s more earthbound supporting characters.
Clearly inspired by the “Old Ones’ of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology, with his name ripped off from a mention in a Robert E. Howard story, Shuma-Gorath in the Marvel Universe is an ancient lord of chaos, more powerful than Dormammu himself, who feeds on the death of all living things. Not really a “bad guy” as much as he is a cosmic force of nature, he appears infrequently in comics, and is always thwarted by Strange at great cost.
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