Thursday 20 June 2013

Strange Tales #115 - The origin of Dr Strange.

The origin of Dr Strange, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
William Hartnell was fifty five when he was first cast as Dr Who.

Lou Reed is seventy one.

This makes "crotchety old" William Hartnell young enough to be Lou Reed's son.

Such unlikely agenesses raises the question of how old is Aunt May?

If Peter Parker was sixteen when The Amazing Spider-Man was launched, shouldn't that make her somewhere in the region of thirty six? One can only marvel at the life she must've led, to have been in that sort of state before she was forty.

This in turn raises the question of just how old is the Ancient One?

Is he genuinely ancient or is he merely ancient in the sense that William Hartnell and Aunt May were?

Tragically, there're no answers to this question in the origin of Dr Strange.

But there is the answer to the question of how Strange got the mystic powers that so fail to define him.

The origin of Dr Strange
Stephen Strange is a self-centered surgeon who, thanks to his free living ways, has lost the digital sensitivity vital for surgery.

Taking this development with impressive aplomb, he decides to become a no-good drunken bum.

However, there is just one hope left for him. He goes to Himalaya, in the hope the legendary Ancient One can help him.

While there, Strange discovers the Ancient One's prodigy Baron Mordo's up to no good and agrees to become the Ancient One's apprentice in an attempt to foil him.

I first read this tale in Origins of Marvel Comics and, as with all early Dr Strange tales, was much taken with its ability to not outstay its welcome.

The origin of Dr Strange, Stephen Strange gets clamped
The thing can only be labelled a masterclass in compression. In just eight pages, we get to meet Dr Strange, discover his backstory , meet the Ancient One, meet Baron Mordo, discover Mordo's evil scheme and then see the good doctor become the Ancient One's sidekick. If Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had been let loose on the Lord of the Rings movies, the trilogy would've lasted about ten minutes and been all the better for it.

Thanks to some rather pleasing Steve Ditko art and the fact I've always wanted to be a master of the mystic arts, I'll give Dr Strange's origin tale eight Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth out of ten, which puts it slightly behind most 1960s' Marvel super-hero origins but comfortably ahead of most 1970s' Marvel super-hero origins.


Kid said...

Of interest is the fact that, in Doc Strange's first few tales, he was clearly oriental in appearance, not becoming caucasian until the origin story in ST #115.

However, in the origin of Strange's predecessor, Dr Droom (from which Strange's borrowed heavily), he starts off as a caucasian, but is transformed into an oriental in keeping with the source of his powers.

B Smith said...

Just how many hosts did ol' Hoggoth have anyway?

Unknown said...

Steve, I like the way your axe grinds. Compression made great comics great, and the lack of it today makes comics incomprehensible.

Steve W. said...

Thanks, John.

Boston Bill said...

I had this tale in 'Origins of Marvel Comics'. I assume that Doc was a heavy hitter since he was up there with Spidey and the FF. But no matter.

As a kid, I never noticed how SHORT this story was. The only thing I noticed was the lack of a front cover (Doc rarely got the front page).

Anonymous said...

By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!

Great origin story Steve! I read this many years ago; thanks for bringing it back!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Steve W. said...

You're welcome, Mike.