When I write up Secret Origins columns, most of the time, I showcase a character I have some sort of already established affinity for. This week, in an attempt to diversify, I decided to tackle a character who, while I knew their origin, I kind of wrote off as "just ok". But then I read an issue I got in the quarter bin that was not only a great introduction tot he character, but showed how cool he could be! I'm just going to get into it. Enjoy the Secret Origin of the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange!
As our story opens, A video crew has arrived at Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. It seems Strange has agreed to give a television interview as a favor to his friend Morgana Blessing. They're greeted by Wong, Dr. Strange's manservant, and Sara Wolfe, his business manager and secretary. Quick introductions abound, and we're told the interview will start as soon as the good Doctor makes his presence known. Let's just say Mrs. Strange's son Stephen knows how to make an entrance.
More pleasantries are exchanged, as Stephen explains he dressed in his Sunday best, as he felt it'd play better for a TV audience than a more casual outfit. We're introduced to the crew from Independent Video, the cameraman, sound man, and Sylvia who doesn't say what her job is. Dr. Strange is trying his best to make everyone feel at home, seeing as how odd he might look to an outsider. He has Wong fetch some tea, Strange sits down and removes his cloak and:
Indeed, let's begin. First off, Morgana asks Strange if he's always been into the occult. With a bit of a knowing smile on his face, Stephen starts to explain how, in his younger days, he was only interested in his own bottom line. Back in Flashback land, we see a younger Stephen Strange, as one of the foremost surgeons in the world. He got to be a cocky and arrogant s.o.b. only offering his superior skills to the people who could pay him the most. One fateful night, Strange is driving home when the unthinkable happens!
After the accident, Strange is relatively unscathed, aside from slight nerve damage in his hands, which prevents him from holding a scalpel as steady as a surgeon would need to. At first you'd think he might be ok with that. His great renown could still rake him in the beacoup bucks as a consultant. Ah, but "Stephen Strange assists nobody!". Not too appealing of a character yet, is he? Just wait. After exhausting his fortune trying to find a cure, Stephen is at the end of his rope, when he overhears a couple of sailors talking about a Mystic in Tibet than is said to be able to cure anything. Grasping at straws, Strange sells the last of his possessions, and treks across the Himalayas for months until he finds the mountain retreat of the Ancient One!
Within moments of arriving, the Ancient One probes Strange's mind and it seems it's a bit of a two-way street. The Ancient One learns all about Strange, and Stephen finds that not even the Ancient One can cure his nerve damage. Still, Strange is invited to stay at the retreat, it being winter and all, finding his way back would be near impossible anyway. Then Strange meets he who will become one of his most persistent enemies, Baron Mordo. Mordo was the Ancient One's disciple in the mystic arts. Things progress, as things are wont to do, until one day where Strange discovers Mordo trying to murder the Ancient One with magic! Mordo discovers Strange and puts a verbal whammy on him to prevent him from warning the wizened old man. Strange was still allowed to talk about other things, so as to avoid suspicion. The result of this is the moment that will change Strange's life forever.
Once these fateful words are spoken, we're threaten to a mystic montage, which seems to be the standard for origins of this type. Strange gets training in the mystic arts, as well as the physical. Years pass, and in addition to getting his distinguished gray temples look, he is finally challenged to a battle by Mordo. Strange proves himself Mordo's better, and the Baron is banished. Both combatants know they'll face each other again (and they do). Strange trains for seven more years, and the Ancient One has news for him. It's time to leave...
The Ancient One explains that everyone must find their own path when it comes to combating evil. He presents the Doctor with the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto and a look into a crystal ball-like device. It shows him a rather dilapidated brownstone, showing Dr. Strange the next phase of his new life. Cut to said brownstone, located in New York's Greenwich Village. It seems this particular property has a history of weird occurrences, which is advantageous for the doc in two ways. It's now a mystical hotbed of activity, and it is priced to sell! After a few modifications, including the iconic round rooftop window, Dr. Strange is ready to hang up his mystic shingle. Before he can start though, there is quite the persistent knocking at the door. Yes, that's right, this week you get two Secret Origins in one! Behold the Secret Origin of Wong!
And so, Dr. Strange became a practicing sorcerer. We cut back to the present, where Wong and Sara are surprised that Strange would be so absolutely forthcoming. Morgana goes on to ask Dr. Strange what exactly can he do. As he motions for his cloak to float over and drape itself on his shoulder, Strange explains that magic is really a study of different forces and how to direct them. His brand of magic cannot create something from nothing, you see. Morgana practically plotzes, gushing that Strange's adventures must be impressive indeed. Strange gives a quick recap of his many campaigns, the people he encounters, both friend and foe. He pauses, talking about his one time love, Clea. He says he mourned for quite a while when she went back to her home dimension. Going as far to say if the so-called video people had chosen to attack him then, they may well have prevailed. Everyone does a double-take at that remark, but Dr. Strange is nobody's fool.
Strange easily dissolves the video crew's mystic disguises, revealing Demonicus, Adria, and Kaecilius, all former disciples of Baron Mordo. The pro and antagonists have a bit of a back and forth about when Strange knew they weren't who they seem, but eventually, the tumultuous trio prepare to attack! All three villains attack at once and they are met with this:
Met with such ease, the bad guys decide to split up, so they can regroup later. Strange lets them run, as he comforts Morgana, knowing that it wasn't her fault. She is concerned for him, because what if they escape? Strange, his jaw stern assume her "There is no escape." The mystic marauders make their way through the sanctum, finding it more stymieing than even the most elaborate hedge maze. Strange is obviously toying with his prey here, and he leads them all into the same area, and if you thought the last image was badass, hold onto your pants for this one:
Yes, they now face Dr. Strange in his astral form, no longer a physical being, but still able to dish out with the zappy zaps. The battle rages, with each side relating past stories with handy footnotes (I miss those in modern comics). During the course of the battle, it's mention that the astral form is more vulnerable to attack, so the battle may still be won by evil! Strange thinks to himself that he needs to cut out the frivolity and end this before he indeed becomes overconfident. Before he can cast the crimson bands of cyttorak or whatever, Adria finds a mystic bauble that may yet turn the tide of battle. Unfortunately for her, it does, in Dr. Strange's favor. She incants a turn of phrase and she and her companions find themselves trapped inside said bauble. As they dissipate, they beg Strange to save them, but alas, he cannot, as he describes exactly what this marble looking this is...
The day is won, so Stephen rejoins the mind to the body, and rejoins his compatriots. He assures everyone that he is fine, while Morgana continues to apologize profusely. Stephen assures her there is no need, and we learn that when Clea did leave, she said Strange's place was with Morgana, and while he cannot find it within himself to love, he does want to start over as friends with her. The two stand, uncertain of what the future holds, but hopeful. That's a story for another day, though.
So, what'd you think? Since I've read this, whenever they try to revive the character, I give it a shot, because of this story. I hope now you will too! See you next week!