By the Hoary Hosts of Hogwarts! It's an exciting time for all fans of the mystics arts, with Meddly Mick Thrunglesnatch's Dr Strange taking the global box office by storm.
And that can only mean one thing.
That it's time for me to cynically cash-in and try to raise my page-view numbers by looking at the sorcerous surgeon's first ever appearance.
That appearance was, of course, within the pages of Strange Tales #110, and such was Marvel's faith in the character that he didn't even get to feature on the cover.
Was our hero daunted by this omission?
Of course he wasn't. He was too busy wondering when the Ancient One was finally going to die, and concentrating on the dark forces that surround us.
What can it mean?
He doesn't know but he knows of a man who might.
That man is Dr Strange who obliges by promising to enter his dreams that night to get to the heart of the problem.
No sooner has he done so and discovered the chained figure represents victims of the man's ruthless business practices, than Strange encounters a much bigger problem - his, "Ancient foe," Nightmare has appeared and now refuses to let him leave.
As Strange and Nightmare face-off, the nameless man wakes from his slumbers and decides to shoot Strange while he's still in a trance, in order to prevent him revealing what he knows.
Fortunately, thanks to his psychic link to Strange, the Ancient One opens the Eye of Agamotto, the would-be killer is thwarted and Strange escapes back to the land of the waking, all ready to give the man a good lecture and, no doubt, escort him to the nearest police station.
I'm not totally sure how Strange manages to get past Nightmare and back to the land of the waking. He basically just seems to fly past Nightmare who stands there while he does so. This does give the impression that he's not exactly the greatest threat in the universe.
Another oddity is there's a sequence in which Strange's astral self flies all the way from New York to Tibet, only to be told, when he gets there, to go straight back to New York. Well, that wasn't a wasted journey then.
The other thing that strikes me is that both Strange and the Ancient One spend the whole story with their eyes closed. There is literally not one panel where they have them open. I would assume this is Steve Ditko's attempt to make them look Asian, except I can't believe Ditko really believed that people from Asia never open their eyes. How did he think they avoid walking into things?
Therefore, I shall be kind and assume that it's simply intended as a trait that he decided people of a mystical bent possess. It is interesting though that the strip started out with two central characters who were Asian and, by the time the film was released, they'd both managed to turn non-Asian. I do worry that Wong might be next.
Anyway, it's all nicely moody and atmospheric and gives us a pleasing introduction to a smattering of Strange's powers and his mentor but I refuse to believe there was a single person who read this tale at the time and concluded that one day it would be the subject of a multi-million dollar movie. Why, for that to be the case, they'd have to have been almost as psychic as Strange himself.
PS. A great big Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to the first person who can guess which early 1990s chart hit was lodged in my brain while I was reading the sequence in which Nightmare is refusing to let Strange get back to his own world.
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