Wednesday morning the new Dr. Strange trailer was released to much fanfare. Die-hard Marvel fans made weird references about astral projection and igni signs. Non-comic book people generally thought the movie looked cool.
So Dr. Strange isn’t exactly well-known to outsiders of Marvel. I, personally, had never heard of the guy until Benedict Cumberbatch was cast to play him. I was still reading comics from Image and Dark Horse. The Marvel universe seemed way too big for me.
Which seems a bit like a common problem. New comic readers take a look at all the stuff out there and instead of saying, “Oh! Look at all this stuff!” It’s more of a, “Jesus, I have so much to catch up on.”
So for those looking to jump into the Multiverse before November, here is a quick crash-course in Dr. Strange.
Dr. Strange was originally a handful of pages drawn by Steve Ditko, who is kind of important over at Marvel, who then showed them to Stan Lee, whom we all know as the guy who cameos in the movies. Over time, the character grew to be on the peripheral of the Avengers, but was never really in the ‘lime-light’ of heroes, a bit on the same level as Moon Knight. Not unimportant, but not really well-known.
That’s kind of why a Dr. Strange movie was a surprise, especially one with an origin story.
A Tl;Dr of Dr. Strange:
Arrogant surgeon breaks his hands, loses all his money trying to fix them, and in a last ditch effort goes to the Himalayas where some weird monks are practicing magic. Dr. Strange trains with Tilda Swinton, gets magic powers, and uses them to fight the forces of evil across all the dimensions. (There was an animated movie released in 2007 which had the origin story if you want a more in-depth look. It’s a real throw-back to the Super-Sundays of cartoon Spiderman and Ironman).
As for comics, I called around to the local comic shops and I think I’ve narrowed it down to three big compilations that people who know Dr. Strange can recommend to people who don’t know Dr. Strange.
The Essential Doctor Strange
By Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
This is the very beginning. Right after Ditko had shown Lee what he had drawn, Dr. Strange got his own Strange Tales series that swept college campuses. (1960s, psychedelic landscapes, college kids, makes sense). Volume one collects all the old school comics with the campy images and corny dialogue and puts them into a black and white “phone book” of history. I’ve also heard that it’s a really great art study for the style changes of Ditko, which more technical fans would probably enjoy.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
By Stern, Mignola, and Badger
Dat mustache tho.
This one does not include the origin story, but on a canon-level it’s very prevalent. This is definitely one of the most popular Dr. Strange compilations, and anyone who knows the origin story and wants to get into more Dr. Strange, this should definitely be on the list. What’s happening? Well, Doctor Doom’s mom is trapped in Hell and he’s cashing in the IOU Doctor Strange owes him. This means that yes, it’s Doom and Strange against the Devil, which sounds like the most prog-rock band of all time.
Doctor Strange: Rebooted
By Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo
This is the most recent reboot of the saga that is Strange. Jason Aaron is the same guy who writes Southern Bastards, and remember Thor: Goddess of Thunder? That was this guy. The origin story is quickly given a run-down, like two pages, and then Strange goes off and does his thing around New York. The quirky and self-aware writing (“They didn’t have a name. Just, ‘the Great Slaughter’.” “Oh no, not another one of those.”) complements the organic and cartoonish art of Bachalo, making it the most non-typical of the compilations. I’ve never fully jumped on the bandwagon that is Marvel from Image, so this Doctor Strange is a nice middle-ground that lets me keep up with the Sorcerer Supreme without surrendering to complete camp.