One of the most popular characters in the history of Marvel Comics also has one of the worst luck with keeping a monthly book on the shelves. Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts, has been defending the human race from threats posed by the dark forces of beyond since his first appearance in 1963. The brainchild of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (also responsible for a certain wall crawling misfit named Spider-Man), the character operated in the realm of the supernatural rather than the every day real world where the rest of the superheroes planted fists on chins 24/7.
Pairing the character in Strange Tales first with the Human Torch and later with Nick Fury, Dr Strange finally graduated into his own book in 1968. An oddball character, Strange is a former surgeon who was so egocentric he prided himself on his immense skill with the scalpel, refusing to operate on anyone who could not afford his services (can you imagine!?). After a tragic car accident took the use of his once golden hands from him, he took to the streets, destitute and hopeless. Only after hearing of the fabled Ancient One, did Strange find hope. Trained by the Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen Strange eventually learned to use his hands in weaving spells rather than making incisions. His operating table was the realm eternal and his patient all of humanity. He was now Dr Strange.
You’d think with such a blockbuster origin story and two of the finest creators in the business that the character would be a natural success in the comics world. However, he has been beset with several cancellations in his paper-based career. Recently writer J Michael Straczynski attempted to revive the character but had little luck. Lost scriptwriter and creator of Y: The Last Man, Brian K Vaughn also launched a mini-series… again with limited success.
Brian Michael Bendis took the hero into the fold of the New Avengers (as he has done with so many creations without a home from Hawkeye to Luke Cage and even Spider-Woman) and kept him alive and relevant while Marvel prepared to once again bring back the good doctor.
This October, Mark Waid will bring his writing skills to the former Sorcerer Supreme (more on that later) in another mini-series that will hopefully break the curse that has plagued the magician for so long.
“The appeal of Doctor Strange, to me, is that he’s one of the few longtime characters who’s always learning, always striving to better himself in ways that we can actually witness,” the writer explains. “He never rests on his philosophy or dwells for long in the status quo.”
The series will address the character’s fall from grace, but it’s a shift in focus that apparently will not be all bad news.
“To his stunned surprise, he doesn’t miss it,” Waid reveals of Strange’s disposition towards his new lot. “He figured he would, he assumed he would, but the Doc we’re meeting up with is one who’s looking upon this as more of a sabbatical than a punishment and is rather enjoying, for the first time in his adult life, not having to shoulder the weight of responsibility every waking moment. Before he started learning the Mystic Arts, Stephen Strange must have had other hobbies, other interests, and now he’s able to reconnect with them with a joi de vivre that’s overwhelmingly new to him.
“Doc’s been a tough sell as a solo player, but we’re hopeful that the story we’re going to be telling in this new STRANGE project will interest some new fans while giving Doc’s core supporters something they’ll like,” editor Tom Brevoort articulates. “The goal in this case is what the goal always is with our characters: to bring greater attention to them, and to bring them to greater prominence and popularity.”
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