So far, Marvel Studios has given us a number of different lenses through which to view their cinematic universe: the technology of Iron Man, the gods of Asgard in Thor and the classic American patriot in Captain America. They took us a step further into something different with Guardians of the Galaxy, bridging their story into space and expanding their universe into the cosmos. Next month, Marvel Studios is adding magic into their cinematic universe, which is one more step outside of what we're used to, with the new feature film adventure Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange was created in the pages of Strange Tales No. 110 in 1963 by Steve Ditko, and written in those early days by Stan Lee. Steven Strange was an arrogant neurosurgeon who lost the finer uses of his hands in an automobile accident and ended up training to become the Sorcerer Supreme. His comic books were constantly filled with his spiritual and magical battles with the beings of the underworld and other realms that wished to harm ours. The only thing keeping them at bay was the will and mastery of Doctor Strange and his allies. From the safety of his Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange leaves his body vulnerable in order to travel by projection into the astral plane and fight demons and threats in that dimension, keeping the world we all know and see safe.
He's one of my favorite characters in the Marvel mythos, even though he's not as popular as, say, Captain America or Iron Man. He was the leader of a team called The Defenders, which consisted of him, Namor the Sub-Mariner, The Hulk and Silver Surfer. Given his title as Sorcerer Supreme, in the comics he naturally acted as a magical consultant for the other super-teams of the Marvel universe, including the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. He was also friends with many heroes, including Spider-Man. In an early encounter, Loki even tricked him into fighting Thor, before he pierced the veil of Loki's deception and teamed up with Thor to defeat the trickster god.
Seeing how entrenched he's been in the Marvel Comics Universe for the last 60 years, it's exciting to think that we'll see him on screen. In the film, he's being played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Can you imagine Tom Hiddleston as Loki trying to manipulate Cumberbatch into attacking Chris Hemsworth's Thor? Or seeing him trade stories with Tom Holland's Spider-Man or barbs with Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man?
This thrills me to no end. But then again, I've been reading about the adventures of Doctor Strange for as long as I can remember. For those of you who might be new to the character, I have some comic recommendations for you. Then, perhaps, you'll be as excited as I am.
I'd start with Doctor Strange: Season One, written by Greg Pak and illustrated by Emma Rios. This is a modern retelling of the good doctor's origin, and will give you an idea of what you're in for with this upcoming origin film.
Then, I'd recommend Doctor Strange: The Oath, a limited graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin. It's a great primer for the sort of weirdness you can expect, along with a thrilling mystery that unfolds in the comic's pages.
If you're still excited about the Sorcerer Supreme after these, I'd dive into Doctor Strange Volume 1: The Way of the Weird. Written by Jason Aaron and drawn by the highly stylized Chris Bachalo, this will start you off on the Doctor's current run of comics.
Together, these three volumes take the surrealism Steve Ditko and Stan Lee originally brought to the character into the modern world. But, if you find you love Strange as much as I do, don't hesitate to jump into the old mysticism of the original books. There are always great stories to be found there. Read all of these before the movie and you'll be hoping, just as I am, that Cumberbatch will utter Strange's classic catchphrase.
"By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" indeed.