by Nioclas Mac Gearailt
If you read The Arcade regularly, you probably know your Captain America from your Winter Soldier and your Thor from your… well, any other character. Marvel Studios has been making cinematic history in terms of gross income at the box office since 2012, but as the movie money machine rolls on, we’re seeing some less familiar characters come to the foreground.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a sleeper hit that had a talking tree and Ant Man was about Ant Man. Now, the next somewhat obscure character to get their big-screen debut is Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
We’ve been following the news of the Sorcerer Supreme’s upcoming flick, which you can see here, but if you’re the kind of person who needs a little in-print introduction before you see the movie, we’ve got you covered. Here’s five Doctor Strange comics to look over so you have something to chat about before the lights go down.
The Origin Of Doctor Strange (Strange Tales #115, 1963)
This is a classic. The classic, maybe. It might be a little retro-looking, but it did come out in 1963, so that’s to be expected. This is the origin as told by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He’s a Doctor, he’s selfish, gets in a car crash, breaks his hands, tries to fix said hands and ends up becoming a magic man with magic hands (kind of). If you read it, you’ll see what we mean. He doesn’t become ‘Sorcerer Supreme’ (as in, the most skilled magic practitioner in the universe) for a long time, but this is where the star is born.
The Eternity Saga (Strange Tales #130-146, 1965/66)
In this one, Doctor Strange is on the run from two bad guys called Dorammu and Baron Mordo who have teamed up to kill him. Dorammu is the Lord of the Realm of Darkness, and Baron Mordo is a powerful and treacherous disciple of The Ancient One, who mentored both of them. The Ancient One helps Doctor Strange on the quest to find a being called Eternity, which can aid in defeating the two mega-powerful bad dudes. It’s another classic, just read it.
The Oath (2006)
We’re not saying this is also a classic, that would be crazy. This is just a comic that fans and critics all acknowledge the quality of over a long standing period of time. Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin produced one of the best standalone stories for ‘getting’ Doctor Strange. It’s got a little of everything that makes the character special… and strange. The Doctor gets shot by a thief who steals a potion from him, and Doctor Strange intended to cure his friend Wongs’ cancer with that potion. This is a problem, but so is being shot, so Doctor Strange gets brought to hospital where he meets Night Nurse (another Marvel character), who joins him on his journey. It’s a whole thing.
To Have Loved and Lost (Dr Strange #55, 1982)
This is thought of as possibly the best single issue of Doctor Strange. After losing someone close to him, Doctor Strange goes into seclusion in his room and refuses to eat or speak about his grief. Dakimh the Mystic (go with it) appears to him and takes his astral projection on a Muppets Christmas Carol journey through a world where Doctor Strange never became Sorcerer Supreme. This includes a Shutter Island-style visit to an insane asylum, an encounter with The Ancient One, and an actual trip to Times Square where Doctor Strange meets fans of his latest movie (seriously). There’s a pretty solid twist in there that we won’t wreck, but the reputation of this issue is definitely well-earned.
Dr Strange and Dr Doom, Triumph and Torment (1989)
Finally, we have a classic good-guy-teams-up-with-bad-guy comic, and it’s drawn by Mike Mignola, of Hellboy fame! Doctor Doom has taken a break from trying to take over everything and murder the Fantastic Four. Why? His mother is stuck in hell. Yup. Mother. In hell. Doctor Strange has to help him. Doom and Strange had to compete for the title of Sorcerer Supreme, and Strange won over Doom, but in this story Strange shows why he deserves the title. Magic is a little more subtle and scary in this standalone, and shows the darker side of the usually fantastical character.
Doctor Strange opens in Irish Cinemas in October. Get reading!