Monday, May 28, 2012

FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH FOR DOCTOR STRANGE!
DEATH #4: “DOCTOR STRANGE HAS 'MAGIC POWERS'.”

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As detailed in the prelude to this series [HERE], I listed 5 fatal errors that modern Marvel has crossed in their portrayal (a betrayal?) of Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts.
Previously, I shed a light on the erroneous memes:
Error # 1: Dr. Strange is the "Chosen One" [HERE].
Error # 2: Dr. Strange is/was an Alcoholic. [HERE].
Error # 3: Dr. Strange is a Contemporary Man. [HERE].
Now, I delve into the fourth of these fatal missteps:
ERROR # 4: 
“DOCTOR STRANGE HAS ‘MAGIC POWERS’.”


Doctor Strange has (or had) one of the greatest, purest, most apropos origins (and abilities) ever to grace any fictional character.
That is, until someone decided to screw it up (multiple times and in ever worsening ways).
PART IV : BALANCE OF POWERS
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As a sorcerer, Doctor Strange has NO powers. As such, he can not be “de-powered” (in the traditional sense). He has only knowledge. And knowledge is something that can not be taken away. It can be lost. It can be forgotten. But what once learned can never be un-learned.

Unfortunately, this doesn't negate the fact that many writers seem to think that Doctor Strange has POWERS which can be taken away, lost, stolen or absorbed. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times; *

 Doctor Strange does NOT have POWERS! He has KNOWLEDGE! 

And that knowledge allows for him to know how to manipulate the mystical energies of the universe.

The very notion of “magic powers” would have the underlying truth that “powers” are inherently a part of the wielder. That means, they are – if not congenital and born-in, then they are at least – embodied.
Spider-Man wasn’t BORN with spider-powers, but they have become a part of his genetic make-up and as such, are embodied. They are a PART of him. The same goes for mutants. It can also be true for anyone for whom a power was once from an outer source (like a power-ring) but thru extensive usage have been absorbed.
Magic, while not necessarily exempt from this potential, does not typically work in this way.

Just the other day, I was re-watching the 1963 Roger Corman “adaptation” of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. In it, three rival sorcerers (“magicians”) cast various spells against one another in a sort of mystical combat.

One, a minor magician (Dr. Bedlo as played by Peter Lorre), required the use of various magical tools in order to work his magic.
The other two (Vincent Price as Dr. Craven and Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus), however, needed only to make gestures in the air.

While the objective of the evil magician (Scarabus) was to learn the mystery of – and then steal away – the secrets of the good magician’s (Craven) prestidigitation, it seemed that even they required knowledge in order to perform such feats. One aspect of the story was how Dr. Craven had no knowledge of how to transform Dr. Bedlo back into a human, from the raven form into which he had been changed. A recipe for a potion was required, which luckily Bedlo could dictate.

Knowledge is required, but manual manipulation of mystical forces is possible once learned.

While this isn’t totally germane to this discussion, there have been numerous sources that believe that this film quickly became an inspiration for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in their depiction of Dr. Strange and his magical abilities. (Seriously, check out the scene where Dr. Craven casts mystic shields to block magically created daggers, and their similarity to the “shields of the seraphim” become readily obvious.)

To my dismay, this "Magic powers" meme is one that has been touched upon in the course of Doctor Strange's published career more than once, so maybe I can't fault current writers, like Brian Bendis, for adding to the mess.

Many times we have seen villains (be they mortals, madmen or malevolent mystics) attempt in (and at times somehow partially succeed with) stealing or draining away Doctor Strange’s “magic powers”.
Some sought to funnel his abilities into their own bodies, others with the use of some power-dampener or outside artifact made claim that Strange’s “powers” would no longer work.

All of these are erroneous, as Strange’s abilities might be able to be blocked (either by counter-spells, or spells of negation which would pre-empt Strange’s ability to cast his own magic) or hampered (a gag and some manner of binding to his hands and wrists would help to prevent much – but not all - of Strange’s arsenal), but his magic can not be stolen – at least not without the draining of his mind.
For it is within the mind – the brain – of a Sorcerer that the true power resides. That power is knowledge!

Years of study, discipline, meditation and technique were required for Strange to perform any serious level of magic. Some spells might be fairly simple, merely requiring the memorization and rote repetition of a phrase to make happen, but most others - that place him at the level of “Master of the Mystic Arts” - would need to require much more.

In the realms of magic there are usually three types of “magic user” with varying levels of ability. This does not include beings who are comprised of magic: faeries, genies, djinns and the like, as they are typically not magic users, per se, but are magical entities in and of themselves. The three types of “magic user” are:
Possessors of Magical Items, Magically-Enhanced Persons, and Magic Wielders.

- POSSESSORS of MAGIC ITEMS – basically use the energies or spells woven into a specific item. Their powers are localized within the item itself (or the item is a conduit to an outer source) and not a part of the user. This type of magic CAN be stolen, simply by taking the item in question.
Typically with the exception of rare cases, most magic items are sought, found and used by “Magic Wielders”, since it typically requires knowledge OF the item for the person to seek it out. However, accidents happen and sometimes an innocent person may find a magic item. This usually ends poorly for the finder as they are unprepared for the ramifications of that possession.

- MAGICALLY ENHANCED – Means that the person is operating via a permanent (or temporary) spell or enchantment that enables a person to utilize whatever energies bequeathed them by the original spell-caster.
Juggernaut is one such Magically Enhanced individual, as his powers stem from the spell placed upon a Crimson Gem by the entity Cytorrak. Once touched, the spell transferred the power from the Gem (and ostensibly, Cytorrak) to Juggernaut. Such power can typically only be negated by the original spell caster.

- MAGIC WIELDERS – These are persons, such as Doctor Strange, who can utilize magical energies from the three main sources of magic (which I will now detail).

As can be found in many resources (some officially published by Marvel) there are (traditionally) only THREE sources for magical power for MAGIC WIELDERS in the Marvel Universe:
PERSONAL energies, UNIVERSAL energies and EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL energies.
Each source of energy yields a slightly different form of magic, although it is easy to achieve the same result using different sources. Most magic-wielding characters have more than one source that they have learned to tap into.


- PERSONAL ENERGIES – These come from the personal energies and reserves of an individual’s body/mind/soul.
This energy fuels any power or spell that affects the caster himself or a willing subject; trances, astral form, thought projections, physical alterations, and so forth can all use personal energy.
Such magics require but a thought from the wielder to utilize, but can bear a physical strain as the tapping of such powers can weaken the user – eventually even to the point of death. However, via proper training and meditation a sorcerer can more efficiently utilize these energies with little loss of strength. 

- UNIVERSAL ENERGIES – These are gained by tapping this universe’s ambient magical energy and channeling it for the desired effects.
It is used for spells and powers affecting the world outside the sorcerer, and as such may require gestures to harness and direct.
Teleportation, eldritch bolts, illusions, and so on tap the energy fields of the universe, using the magician as a focus, and like Personal Energies, the utilization of these can be physically demanding upon the wielder.


- EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL ENERGIES – These are used by tapping beings or objects of power dwelling in mystical dimensions, tangential to our own. This form of energy is the least wearing upon the user. These energies are usually reserved for powerful spells, groups of spells, or to plead for things that the being or aspect called upon would and/or could provide. The dimensional energies are usually gained by the recitation of spells, either ritualized ones found in various mystical texts or by original spells invoking extra-dimensional assistance, possibly requiring sacrifices or promises and are those bestowed upon a sorcerer from an other-dimensional Entity. These Entities must be entreated by the sorcerer properly and usually with respect, as an entity could, at best, refuse to imbue the magician with the requested power, or, at worst, could simply destroy the upstart. If calling upon an extradimensional being it is important to remember that the magic-wielder makes himself known to the being he is calling, and often to other magic-wielding beings powerful enough to monitor the use of dimensional energy.
Some of the magical entities sorcerers can call upon include, but are not limited to, the following: Agamotto, Oshtur, Hoggoth, the Vishanti (which is Agamotto, Oshtur and Hoggoth united), the Faltine, the Seraphim, Dormammu, Watoomb, Cyttorak, Raggadorr, Valtorr, and Ikonn.
Basically, when you see Doctor Strange saying, “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth” (or something like that) he is entreating an entity to empower his spell (or is calling upon an entity’s standard response; such as the “Crimson Bands of Cytorrak” or “Mists of Morpheus” or “Images of Ikonn”) and is thus using Extra-Dimensional Energies.


Doctor Strange, due to his years of study and practice, has learned how to manipulate and control these various types of energies. His studies and journeys to other realms and dimensions has also taught him the proper methods and respectful protocols of requesting usage of greater (Extra-Dimensional) energies from the higher powers of any number of the nigh-eternal extra-dimensional entities, should the energies Strange requires be such as might exist beyond the natural ebb and flow of Personal or Universal resources.

Certainly, he is able to wield those fundamental mystic forces that exist and swirl in and around us all often to more than amazing results, but there are often times that more power is required to achieve a desired task and only an entity can provide it. Thus, sometimes Dr. Strange must supplicate himself to powers higher than he is for much of his mystic might.

Thus Marvel is limited in the manner by which they can reduce the “powers” of Doctor Strange.
For Strange the only simple way of reducing his power is to take away his talismans and items of power, since these have been acknowledged to add to his magical stores of energy.
Such power CAN be taken away – as was the case when the Eye of Agamotto was seemingly destroyed (I say seemingly, because I don’t believe it’s really gone forever. For more on the saga of Agamotto and his Eye(s) check out this EPIC post [HERE]).


Along with the Eye of Agamotto, Marvel also has taken away much of the rest of his items of power, such as the Book of the Vishanti (a veritable encyclopedia of magical knowledge and spells) as well as most of the other items he had long maintained within his Sanctum Sanctorum.
This was done by stating that Stephen Strange was no longer worthy of being the “Sorcerer Supreme”, the highest ranking magic-user in the Marvel Universe.
By taking away Strange’s mantle of ‘Sorcerer Supreme’ and robbing him of all the various articles of power that he possessed, modern Marvel seeks to weaken Strange (or at least make him a less “omega”-level powerhouse). This is really the only acceptable manner in which to drop his overall abilities, since he still possesses the knowledge of much of his spells, as well as his ability to commune with those nigh-infinite cosmic/otherdimensional entities that supplement his stores of power.

But, it would seem that Marvel has sought to remove those beings as well, as the fabled Vishanti – long the highest of beings in the mystical hierarchy of powers-that-be of Marvel magic – have been reported destroyed (also discussed in the EPIC post linked to above, but linked to for convenience [HERE]).

However, there should still be many other extra-dimensional entities to whom Strange could entreat for assistance. Nothing to the contrary has been officially stated in any form within canonical reference, but still, Strange doesn’t venture forth to seek out these entities.
This is despite the continued calling of their names in some of his spells. Brian Bendis has consistently even had Strange call upon the Vishanti (either as a whole or their individual entities) to empower spells that he has cast. This is even AFTER Bendis has stated that the Vishanti are no more. If that were the case, the spells should die stillborn, since there would be no one from whom that power would be granted. (Yup. I talk about this as well in that EPIC post [HERE]).

This is all seemingly being attributed to the 5,000 year long "War of the Seven Spheres" (which Dr. Strange was a participant) with its effects now being felt. (I discuss ALL this as well in that aforementioned EPIC post [HERE]. Seriously, after you read this, go check it out!)


Other writers, like Jeff Parker in the pages of Thunderbolts and Hulk, have gone above and beyond to play by Marvel’s new rules, without falling back on the tropes of calling upon the same old entities.
I detail my love for Parker’s treatment of Strange in another post [HERE].

After years of power growth and loss, and complaints by Editorial bigwigs that Dr. Strange is too powerful and his magic is too limitless; with the two-fold strike against Dr. Strange of losing his talismans and his gods, Marvel has finally managed to reduce him to a level that they believe is more manageable.
Not that I believe they are truly correct in their assumptions of same – my reasoning for which I will discuss at length in the next post.

His abilities stem from his being a learned man who knows how to manipulate the eldritch forces of the dimensions and have them do his bidding, while sometimes assisted by some mystic artifacts that may possess some innate powers themselves. While, as has happened recently wherein some of the entities which Strange entreats for mystical energies may be denied him, as long as Strange has an inquiring mind and the knowledge of how magic works, he will ever be its Master. That is one of the most important constants of his character.

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·        I have written other posts over the years about this very subject matter. If you have any interest, greater depth on this (or at least different angles of this) discussion can be found at a few of those source posts:

“Who Is Dr. Strange?” [HERE]


“Knowledge Is Power That Can Not Be Denied” [HERE]


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Return with us for another installment of this series as we examime...

ERROR # 5: “DOCTOR STRANGE; NO LONGER 'SORCERER SUPREME' IS NOW AN INEPT MAGE.” 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH FOR DOCTOR STRANGE!
DEATH #3: “STEPHEN STRANGE is a CONTEMORARY MAN.”


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As detailed in the prelude to this series [HERE], I listed 5 fatal errors that modern Marvel has crossed in their portrayal (a betrayal?) of Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts.

Previously, I shed a light on the erroneous memes:
Error # 1: Dr. Strange is the "Chosen One" [HERE].
Error # 2: Dr. Strange is/was an Alcoholic. [HERE].
Now, I delve into the third of these fatal missteps:
ERROR # 3: 
“STEPHEN STRANGE IS A CONTEMPORARY MAN.”


Doctor Strange has (or had) one of the greatest, purest, most apropos origins ever to grace any fictional character. It was poetic. It was karmic. It was darkly ironic. Yet, it showed how someone could truly rise above themselves and become something far greater.
That is, until someone decided to screw it up (multiple times and in ever worsening ways).
PART III : A MAN OUT OF TIME
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One of the problems with fictional literature whose creation spans continual decades is that time needs to be elastic. Malleable. Liquid. To prevent the characters from aging in real-time, fictional worlds rely upon the ability to stretch and truncate time-spans between stories, so that the characters within stay in their own Status Quo. Like a fly caught in amber, these artificial entities can be permitted to stay outside of time, and as such, remain preserved for untold ages to come.

Thus does the Marvel Universe utilize their famed “10-year sliding time-scale”.

That means that no matter what year you are reading a new issue of a comic NOW, it has only been 10 Years since the Fantastic Four first gained their powers. The usage of the Fantastic Four is important as they have been accepted as being the “first” superheroes of the “Modern” age (on Marvel Earth). That is not to say that there weren’t heroes BEFORE them; the heroes of World War II (Captain America and the Invaders are always set as originating within that 1940’s timeframe) and a few others in the span between 1940’s and the arrival of the FF. But, as time goes by, more and more years are placed between the end of the BIG WAR and the start of the “Modern” age (with Fantastic Four # 1). When Fantastic Four # 1 hit the stands in 1961 it had only been about 15 years since the end of the war. But now, with the sliding time-scale in effect, if it is 2012 now, then the FF gained their powers in 2002 and it has been about 60 years – 4X the original span! - since the end of WWII.

To fill that gap of time, Marvel has created numerous heroes to fill the void left within. Every so often, a new ret-con will be offered to help explain how Marvel Earth was, in fact not without superheroes for decades. Writer Roger Stern and fellow like-minded conspirator; John Byrne, took it upon themselves (coincidentally enough, about a decade ago) to create a maxi-series (‘The Lost Generation’) featuring the “First Wave”, a team of heroes that spanned the time-frame between Captain America’s being frozen on ice and the rocket trip which gave 4 adventurers cosmic-ray-spawned powers.
More recently, Brian Bendis and Howard Chaykin introduced the 1950’s version of the Avengers. Marvel has just announced the revelation that Wolverine, Magneto and Sabretooth were the “First X-Men”, existing as a team while Charles Xavier was still young and not yet involved in mutant affairs.

And what does this all have to do with Doctor Strange? Simple. Even with that sliding scale in place, it is accepted within the editorial halls at Marvel that there are a few characters who stand outside of it – unaffected by it – existing in spite of it. Those characters are your long-lived, immortal or in some way mysterious ones; ‘Gods’ like Thor and Hercules, long-lived medical experiments like Captain America and Nick Fury, the slowly-aging like Wolverine – and those mystically standing outside of time’s normal flow; like Doctor Strange.

In that aforementioned “Lost Generation” maxi-series, Roger Stern had Doctor Strange be an already-practicing sorcerer.
Strange was shown to have been active during that time-frame, even teaming-up with some of the members of that team on several occasions throughout the decades.

Long before the Fantastic Four - heck, before Reed Richards and Ben Grimm ever left college, Stephen Strange had already been a world-class physician, wrecked his hands, ruined his career, journeyed off to Tibet in search of a wise-man to heal his wounds and eventually became a master of the mystic arts.

The 1989 epic, original graphic novel; ‘Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom : Triumph & Torment’ also shows Strange to have finished his years of mystic studies and begin his journey back to America even as a young, newly scarred, Victor Von Doom wandered the mountains of Asia in search of his destiny.
(This is not to say that Doctor Strange was even the oldest of the “regular” non-powered characters, as the now-deceased Dr. Druid was transformed via a similar origin years earlier than Strange. It was later revealed that Druid was a “test-run” by the Ancient One whilst awaiting the arrival of “the chosen one”; Stephen Strange.) *
*Hopefully, you didn’t miss the first entry of this blog-post series wherein I railed against the “chosen one” meme. It can be found [HERE].

It is important for writers to remember, Doctor Strange is a man out of time. As his official Marvel biography has him born in 1930, Doctor Strange (like Captain America and Namor, the Sub-Mariner before him,) is truly alone – standing outside of time – with nearly no one from his former life either active – or alive.  Yet, sadly, in the comics, there have been too many “associates”, colleagues and other people who knew / worked with Stephen Strange before his accident. This should be highly unlikely and has rarely been handled properly.

However, because of either, short memories, or writers’ not fully grasping (or most likely not even knowing of) Strange’s true longevity, more often than not, some person(s) from Stephen Strange’s past have made appearances in his modern stories.
Of course, in the earlier stories, the ones penned in the 1960’s, it was still a short enough time between Strange’s apparent birth to the then present-day, so it would not be out of the question for former associates to be found cropping up. That would have to change as the years passed and greater spans of time came between then and “the now”.
Still, the dilemma of Strange’s “official” birth year as being 1930 also presents itself as a problem when looking at the stories that were written in the 1960’s. The problem is: If Strange were born in 1930, then why is he, at the age of merely 30-something, a white-templed mystic, who had studied for years in Tibet, after all the years of medical school and practice?
 The answer is: Lee and Ditko obviously thought he was born much earlier.
Even in Strange’s earliest appearances, it is written that his name, half-believed as myth, half as legend, is “spoken in whispers”. Such a mysterious background would take years to cultivate.

But, for modern chronology, Strange’s accident is now supposed to take place in 1963 (the year of his first published appearance).
Since there was obviously no need for the “10-year sliding scale”, the time-stamp of Doc being born in 1930 only makes sense from the modern era. However, the 1963 accident date, which makes Strange 33 years old at the time, works well enough, it unfortunately truncates Strange’s history and throws a wrench into the wheel of time, since as we discussed just a few paragraphs earlier, the “Lost Generation” stories show Strange as being active as a sorcerer earlier than that.

In one of his earlier forays into Doc’s mythos, Roger Stern makes sure that we know that he believes Strange to be of an earlier pedigree. In Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 56. While seen in flashback, the clothing that is worn by both Strange and the real-estate agent who sells him the Sanctum bears a dated look – to those worn in the 1940’s.
The same scene is expanded in the much more recent; Doctor Strange – From the Marvel Vault # 1, and again, Stern makes sure that the artist draws the clothing as of the 1940’s era.

(Several years ago, I composed a time-line that posited Strange’s birth year as 1900. Obviously, it isn’t official, but it does help to keep a better time-frame for his life and activities. For the edification of anyone who might wish to peruse it, I will add it to the end of this post as a postscript.)

These are characters for whom a “modern” appearance should be highly improbable, if not totally impossible. Most, but not all, are former colleagues; other doctors, with whom Stephen Strange associated.

List of characters:

• DOCTOR BENTON - Doctor (Doctor Strange: Master of Black Magic – # 169 & 175-178)
Benton was a former doctor who worked with Strange prior to Stephen’s accident, and via some unknown barter with Satannish became Asmodeus, leader of the Sons of Satannish. As mentioned above, Benton was written into the mythos while Strange’s history was still of a fairly normal time span.  However, with the sliding 10-year scale in effect, other explanations are required to justify the appearance. Easily, as a powerful sorcerer and mystic, he may have gained some similar slow-aging magic as did Strange, so this one can get a pass (IF some dialogue is ignored).

KENNETH WARD – Philanthropist and explorer (Doctor Strange: Master of Black Magic - 183)
Kenneth Ward was an old friend of Stephen Strange, and although it was never revealed how they met, it was stated that Ward sponsored Stephen’s medical education. That would place Ward as being one of the oldest friends in Stephen’s life. When, many years after Strange became a Master of the Mystic Arts, Ward was made to contact Dr. Strange in order to help battle against the menace of the Undying Ones.
Ward, like Benton above is a by-product of Roy Thomas’ early attempts at expanding and expounding upon Strange’s past. A past that was still a more “recent” vintage than what it has become today.
So, unless it was the Ward family who sponsored Strange’s education, and Kenneth was merely seeking him out as a former beneficiary recipient from an old family trust, or Kenneth was in some way a youthful prodigy at the time of their first meeting, there should be no reasonable explanation for Ward to have still been alive. I can’t even give a nod to the mystic idol of the Undying Ones, which Ward unearthed on one of his expeditions as being a source for magical longevity, since Ward himself stated that he only had it for a matter of days.
Of course, at the time he said this, he was being tortured and under the sway of demons, so perhaps he had lost track of the many years that had passed – as a demon’s prisoner. But, that still doesn’t account for the fact that Strange himself makes no mention of it being more than a matter of years since he has seen Ward. “A seeming lifetime” he states, but not a literal one.

• DOCTOR JAMES WYNTER – Doctor (Giant Size Defenders # 4)
Dr. Wynter was a former colleague and contemporary of Stephen’s during his surgical years. A normal mortal man. With the 10-year sliding scale now in effect, there is no way for him to still be vibrant of heath and skills. Still, this is without accounting for the fact that the story was written in the 1970’s when Strange’s former associates could still reasonably be expected to be active.

• MADELEINE de St. GERMAINE (appearances in Dr Strange v2 # 39, 40, 41 & Man-Thing v2 # 4)
A former love of Stephen’s from his earliest years as a medical resident, Madeleine would need to be portrayed as an older woman, and luckily she is. Perhaps she was not shown to be as aged as she should probably have been, but perhaps she merely looked younger than she truly was. Certainly, it is not polite to ask a woman her true age.
Levity aside, Madeleine has shown to possess latent mystic abilities, so perhaps some manner of magical longevity can be the answer. (See my loves list of Doc’s loves [HERE])


• DOCTOR DARRYL BERENSON - Doctor (Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts – # 76)
Dr. Berenson, like Dr. Wynter was an associate of Strange during the latter’s surgical years, and was also a normal, mortal man. Written and drawn as a middle-aged gentleman, only the fact that he was written into being during the mid-1980’s can possibly excuse his existence.

• DOCTOR ROBINSON – Surgeon (Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts – # 77)
Doctor Robinson’s history is much like that of Berenson and Wynter. A mortal physician. Unfortunately, rendered as looking only early-middle-aged, he appears to young to truly be a former associate. But due to the timeframe, he is the last of those for whom a “modern” appearance would then have been acceptable.

• RANDOM GUY from early in issue (Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts – # 80)
When the comatose form of Stephen Strange is wheeled into the ER, a random guy running alongside the gurney (a doctor?, a reporter?) recognizes him and recounts a truncated version of Doc’s origin (“… a rich Surgeon, went nuts and became a guru or something. He lost a million dollar practice in a car accident and then went to Tibet.”)
This guy only knows of Strange in passing, and as such, could just have possibly read up on Strange’s history as a matter of trivia. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem shocked to see such an elderly man (Strange) looking so well (his gaping chest wound notwithstanding).


MARJORIE BRINK - Librarian (Marvel Comics Presents  - # 61 – later seen in Wolverine; Best There Is # 1-12)
A former lover of Stephen’s while in medical school. But, she IS supposedly immortal, so…ok.
(see my loves list of Doc’s loves [HERE])


• AMANDA PAYNE – Single Mother (Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme – # 86)
Supposedly a younger sibling of a former childhood friend of Stephen Strange. She would later turn into a contemporary romance (see my loves list of Doc’s loves [HERE])
This entry is perhaps one of the most troubling and worse instances on the list.
First of all, in Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme: #84,  JM DeMatteis gives the year 1953 for Stephen to be a kid. By doing so, he is trying to make his story’s timeline make sense, but it tosses earlier history out the window. This is all because of the 10-year sliding timescale, with which DeMatteis forgot that Strange need not conform.

In # 86 – Amanda says she and her ex-husband bought Doc’s childhood home from his Dad a few years ago. But Doc’s dad died when Strange was a Doctor (as told in Sorcerer Supreme # 11) – All Wrong!
(In an instance of absolute ignorance to previous canon, writer (otherwise beloved by this blogger) J.M. DeMatteis had conceived of a storyline wherein Stephen’s father was alive (or had recently died) which was to have tied into this arc. This is besides the fact that Strange’s father dying while Stephen was still a greedy Doctor had already been established. Luckily, the planned appearance of the elder Strange was rewritten, and did not come to pass – but not before the cover for that issue was commissioned – showing Strange holding the unmoving form of his father.)

The issue ALSO mentions an “old man Cazakoff” – who was seemingly old when Strange was a boy - who is still alive – “barely”.
It would seem that DeMatteis truly did not get the memo of Strange’s longevity – since he had so many people from Stephen’s young life still among the living.)

• DOCTOR RICHARD YOUNG – PSYCHIATRIST   (X-StatiX Presents: Dead Girl # 1)
Dr. Young is yet another former associate of Strange’s. Dr. Young’s apparent age is in keeping with his name, and as such, is in error.


DOCTOR JONAS HILT – Medical Researcher (Doctor Strange; The Oath # 2)
 Dr. Hilt was a friend of Stephen Strange since Med School, and while he remained a loyal friend all throughout Strange’s life, Jonas, however, was shown having significantly aged! He is elderly when we see him, present day, in the story (but unfortunately, shot dead).


• DOCTOR NICODEMUS WEST – Former Surgeon turned Mystic turned Pharmaceutical Executive (Doctor Strange; The Oath # 2)
Dr. West was the surgeon that first operated on Stephen Strange’s hands after Strange’s car wreck.
But, West, while searching for Strange also found the Ancient One and became a disciple, so he must have learned similar slow-aging magic.



There have been instances where writers have been able to cast knowledge of Strange among Doctors and laymen without resorting to having them ever know him in the past.



DOCTOR SUSAN MONTGOMERY – Ship’s Doctor (Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 58)
Dr. Montgomery is enamored to learn that Stephen IS the same “Dr. Strange” she heard about so much in med school, but she states that he doesn’t look as if he could truly be that old.

DOCTOR KEITH WILMOTT- NeuroSurgeon (Dr. Strange; Flight of Bones # 1)
Dr Wilmott recalls another Doctor named Strange from “years ago”. So, could be in his memory or a memory of general knowledge of Strange’s history. Either way, Strange eases that memory from out of Wilmott’s mind, to ensure his anonymity.


Good writers utilize Strange’s history to better accentuate his history and the fact that he has been Earth’s protector for decades. Even if merely to show that he has been around for longer than most “contemporary” heroes.

While not a prime example, in “The Oath” # 2, Strange tells Night Nurse; “I was roaming the streets of New York City when Spider-Man was still in diapers.”
Spider-Man makes for a poor example because (since due to the sliding scale Peter Parker is a mere 20-something years old) being a city-dweller while Peter Parker was a baby doesn’t truly exemplify Strange’s lifespan.

In Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme: # 72, writer David Quinn has Strange exclaim to an insolent child; “I was Manhattan’s highest paying surgeon when your father was chasing baseballs.”


One way to introduce someone from Strange’s past is to bring them back from the dead. That exhumation is precisely what Matt Fraction performed, albeit by mystic means, in the pages of DEFENDERS v4 # 4.
• MARTHA (last name: Unknown)
Martha was Stephen’s grad-student advisor, when he was a mere Med student. They fell in love, dated and then parted, as she left him for another man. She married, had children, eventually developed ovarian cancer – and died. However, while meditating in front of an arcane mechanism called the Concordance Engine, Doctor Strange’s lonely mind drifted and his desires activated the Concordance Engine which brought Martha back to life – as she was when Stephen Strange knew her as a young adult.
While she grew old and died, Strange went on as his mystically youthful self. Thus when she is resurrected, young again – as she had been – it was the perfect way to revive an old lost love.
(I won’t now go into how the choice of creating a new love out of whole-cloth was a poor decision since there were already previously existing ones to fit the bill. I’ll just point to a blog-post where I did all that – the review of that issue [HERE])

Another way to accurately showcase Strange’s longevity is via an alternate timeline – one where the events of that timeline proceed linearly. Such being the case of the 1998 FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL.
In the story, Doctor Strange, Thor, Wolverine and The Thing are all long-lived near-immortals due to their own unique power sets (mystic, godling, perpetual healer, and no-longer-quite-human).

For more on that story and on the subject as a whole, I discussed Doctor Strange’s immortality in that blog post, and as such have only summarized here, and will direct you there to read that post at your leisure. It can be found [HERE].


Doctor Strange should be as mysterious and timeless
 as the spells he casts... 
...and that is the perfect seque to the next installment of 
" THE 5 FINGERS OF DEATH FOR DOCTOR STRANGE" series.
Come back again for the next entry soon.

---

Now, for anyone who cares… I’ll present my personal theorem for Doctor Strange’s timeline wherein I stipulate that his birth year is 1900. Enjoy the nerdity,

 ---

I have found that it makes a little more sense and works much better overall if Doctor Strange were to have been born in 1900 (as opposed to Marvel’s officially-stated 1930).
Here’s how:
1900 – Stephen Strange born to Eugene & Beverly Strange, while the family was away from their Nebraska home and vacationing in Philadelphia, PA.
1917 - Stephen enters college at 17 years old

1921 - Add 4 years to complete undergraduate studies - that brings him to age 21

1925 – then, 4 years in Medical School – at the end of which now age of 25

1926 - 1 year internship – age 26

1927-1932 - Specialized training as a neurosurgeon, which typically takes about six years. He would therefore have entered private practice at about age 32.

1932-1937 – Now a practicing surgeon for ...let's say... 5 years (long enough to have a stellar rise of fame and ability) - leads us to about his driving off the road into a tree at 37.

1937-1939 - Physical therapy for a year (less perhaps) to regain movement and dexterity in shattered hands within the 2 or so years searching for cures and "second" opinions from doctors all around the world. He’s now washed up at 39.

1940 - The decline to derelict vagrant isn't a quick one either.
It would take at least a couple of years to exhaust his wealth in order for him to sink that low, but I’ll attribute that some of that time passed while he was still searching for cures.
40 years old now.

The rumor of "...The Ancient One.." is heard while he’s on the docks, at age 40.

1940 - How long does it take for the "slow boat to China" to arrive?... a few months?
Add some more weeks (possibly months) for hitchhiking and mountain-climbing to find the hidden (and possibly non-existent) temple of the (is he real or isn't he?) "mythical" ANCIENT ONE (you can't imagine his temple is on the tourist map, and the locals probably are wary to point the way (even if they know it) to a foreigner. (Although it is in canon that Strange was able to get a young guide to bring him to the base of the mountain where the lamasery is – as seen in Strange Tales v2 # 5, so perhaps the trip took less time than it might have otherwise.)

So Stephen Strange is probably just about 40-41 when he enters the Ancient One's presence.
This would account for his near-obsessed, raving manner when he feels he's being given the run-around by the aged mystic.

He has lost SO much time! He practically states it in the dialogue.

Anyway, he wandered the temple for weeks-to-months waiting for the snow to melt even before he finally asked to be taught the ways of magic.
So he's CERTAINLY 41 by the time he takes up his lesson books...er...scrolls.

1941-1947 - His teachings lasted about 7 years (a mystical number) which put him at age 47 when he returns to the Western World and buys the house that would be his Sanctum Sanctorum (and thus also missed all of America's involvement in WWII).

1950’s – Strange travels the world meeting other mystics and participating in other adventures (such as with the “First Wave’s” ‘ Black Fox’) and building a mysterious reputation.

1960-something – Wong arrives at the Sanctum.

Anyway, that's why I've always thought of his birth year as being about 1900.
It really gives an accurate timeline with his life's events and the years that they were supposed to have happened.
i.e ; doctoring in the 1930's, becoming a sorcerer in the 40's, getting a reputation for same in the 1950's (so that by the time of the 1960's his is a name mentioned only in whisper).
There ARE other little hints here and there...but they are small and minor. Like DOC's 2nd series, # 56 and Strange’s Marvel Vault issue. Both he and his real estate agent are wearing the styles of the 1940's.
In that issue of "Marvel Vault", Stern has Strange state actual length of years (7 years having passed in his studying with the Ancient One, and once back in the USA, he states it has been 10 years since he tasted beef - ostensibly the time from first departing to search for the Ancient One until his return). 

Wong shows up in the '60's.
In DS:MotMA # 56, the scene where Wong first arrives shows passers-by wearing hippie styles.


So that's how I (after long deliberation and logical thought) have figured it to be.

-          Bear in mind that I make Strange go through his schooling in the typical length of time that is traditionally accepted. Being a driven academic, he may have completed his various terms at high school / college / med school at an accelerated rate. If so, you can certainly shave off a few years here and there.
You could also add a year or two here or there to certain sequences of life events. It still works out quite well.



I hope this proves helpful... and not seen as a "waste of... time."

---

Return with us again as next we examine...

 ERROR # 4: “DOCTOR STRANGE HAS ‘MAGIC POWERS’.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH FOR DOCTOR STRANGE!
DEATH #2: “STEPHEN STRANGE is an ALCOHOLIC.”

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As detailed in the prelude to this series [HERE], I listed 5 fatal errors that modern Marvel has crossed in their portrayal (a betrayal?) of Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts.

Last time, I shed a light on Error # 1; the erroneous meme that Dr. Strange is the "Chosen One" [HERE].

Now, I delve into the second of these fatal missteps:

ERROR # 2: 
“STEPHEN STRANGE IS/WAS AN ALCOHOLIC.”


Doctor Strange has (or had) one of the greatest, purest, most apropos origins ever to grace any fictional character. It was poetic. It was karmic. It was darkly ironic. Yet, it showed how someone could truly rise above themselves and become something far greater.
That is, until someone decided to screw it up (multiple times and in ever worsening ways).

PART II : THE SPIRIT IN THE GLASS / THE DEMON DRINK

---


Master of the Mystic Arts.

Sorcerer Supreme.

Lofty titles, giving forth the perception of someone who is as at one with himself as he must be with the universe. 
Learned.
In control.
Basically, raised to a higher level than you or I.

So it was, in a possible attempt to bring him down to earth, was added a character flaw into the history and personality of Stephen Strange.

I speak not of the arrogance and/or greed with which he conducted his life while as one of the world’s foremost (neuro)surgeons. No. I am referring to the added suffering and implied “weakness” ascribed to him, as of succumbing to alcoholism.

In his origin story, it was never stated that Strange was an alcoholic, either before or after the accident that caused the end of his surgical career.
Even though many people seem to think of it being as such, and accept it as “fact”, none of his earliest origin retellings mention alcohol.

And yet, many fans seem to think that Dr. Strange can never be shown with an alcoholic beverage for fear of his “falling off the wagon” – as evidenced by the comments of my New Year’s post, which showed Doc with a toasting glass in hand. (as seen [HERE])


According to popular interpretation, Strange supposedly succumbed to the booze when he was down and out, after his accident that cost him his career. But much like the revelation of his "official" specialty being neurosurgery, his weakness for hootch was something slowly tacked on later to his mythos by later writers.

Re-read the early origin stories and retellings. NOWHERE is it said that Doc was a problem drinker.
In fact, they scarcely mention drink AT ALL.
He is just drawn looking like a derelict - unshaven and disheveled.

The "booze" meme was all slowly added many years later, and even then, (with the possible exception of one writer) never to the point where he was an alcoholic.

To set the record straight, I waded through all of the various volumes, mini-series and one-shots of the good doctor in order to seek the truth - as it has always bugged me that people seem to think Strange is a candidate for A.A. (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with belonging to an Anonymous group - if you need to.)

Starting from his origin tale, as told by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, in the classic ‘STRANGE TALES’ # 115, Doctor Stephen Strange was not shown to be a drinker, either socially or as an alcoholic, neither before nor after his career-ending accident.
He was drawn, pitch-perfect by Ditko as a derelict.


der·e·lict/ˈderəˌlikt/

Adjective:
In a very poor condition as a result of disuse and neglect.
Noun:
A person without a home, job, or property.
Synonyms:
abandoned - forlorn - desolate - forsaken – deserted


It should be that if you looked up the word in the dictionary, that head-shot by Ditko would be all that was needed on the page.

Strange’s next origin recap wouldn’t come until the first issue of his solo volume (the “numbered-as-such-for-reasons-too-long-to-go-into-now”; ‘DOCTOR STRANGE’ # 169) . Here though, shortly after his accident, Strange is shown as having a drink in his hand – only to throw the glass against the wall in anger and desperation. 
And later, while down at the docks, Strange is now written to be in a sea-side bar. It is uncertain whether Roy Thomas wrote that into the plot or artist Dan Adkins just draw the setting (as comics in those days were done “Marvel Style”), and Thomas simply noted it in his script.
Still, even there, Strange isn’t portrayed as an alcoholic, as when in the Ancient One’s lamasery for weeks on end, Strange isn’t shown as having any withdrawal symptoms. No. He was merely shown as had having a drink at home, and then at a sleezy bar when down on his luck. Perfectly acceptable events in keeping with the tenor of the tale (and the era in which it was told – as is the fact that Stephen Strange is also shown with a cigarette in many scenes – both during his time as a surgeon as well as his time as a sorcerer).

In fact, it is in this issue that the positive add-on of Dr. Strange having been a neuro-surgeon is first mentioned. Before this issue, he was merely “a surgeon”, but here the true irony of his accident and nerve-damaged hands comes to full bloom. For as the world’s greatest NEUROSURGEON the only Doctor who could possibly have saved the use of his hands would have been he – himself.

However, as far as alcohol is concerned, most of Doc’s origin stories make no mention:
-          Strange Tales # 115
-          Doctor Strange # 169 (a single drink to drown his sorrows is all that is shown)
-          Doctor Strange;  Master of the Mystic Arts  # 56
-          Doctor Strange / Doctor Doom:  Triumph & Torment.
-          Doctor Strange – From the Marvel Vault # 1 – in an illusory un-reality, he is offered a drink; an expensive single malt scotch – “my old favorite”, but no mention of addiction. Just a temptation of material pleasure.


When first we see the meme of Strange as a drunkard, it is under the watch of esteemed Strange-scribe; Steve Englehart: Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 10.

In Englehart’s earliest examples (Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 10 and 11) we are given a number of great panels of a drunken Strange (as well as on the cover of # 11).

Englehart has Strange’s alcoholic past as a minor touchstone while dealing with several scenes of Stephen Strange experiencing mystical “flashbacks” and encounters with his former/past selves. Englehart uses it as a means to show Strange having overcome such a crippling compulsion, not as a weakness unto itself.

But once the genie is let out of the bottle, so to speak, it proved difficult to contain when in later writer’s hands.
Some instances of later mentions of alcohol (if not alcoholism) include:

-          Doctor Strange : Into Shamballa  (1986) – (J. M. DeMatteis’s otherwise awesome OGN has one line about how desperation led to alcohol, but seemingly in keeping with a "normal" decent into self-abuse from self-pity, not full-blown alcoholism.)

-          Doctor Strange : Master of the Mystic Arts # 74 – (Peter Gillis has the BEYONDER relive Doc's life, in an attempt to learn about the path of achieving enlightenment. Part of that life's journey shows Doc was a drunkard in a bar.)

-          Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme: # 9 (Roy Thomas has it that in Morganna Blessing’s tell-all unauthorized Biography of Strange, Doc is mentioned as turning to alcohol after his career-ending accident.)

-          Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme: #84 (J.M. DeMatteis shows Strange eyeing a bottle of vodka – which he “heroically” smashes, lest he succumb to temptation [all to the derision of an embittered Wong]).

-          Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme: # 85 (JM DeMatteis states Strange was an alcoholic – BEFORE the crash! DeMatties has Stephen a drunk as a teen, and all during his surgery years. In fact, it is posited that Doc CAUSED crash – as he INTENTIONALLY tried to kill himself due to Mordo’s tampering/demons torturing him, which was WHY he drank. UGH! --- This issue also notes how Strange was selected as a child to be the "Chosen One" - which was WHY Mordo lashes out at him. - for more on the error of the "Chosen One" meme, see part 1 of this series [HERE])

-          Uncanny Origins # 12 (1997) - (Len Wein has booze introduced due to mental abuse from father. Alcohol during surgeon years, but oddly NOT shown to be a factor during derelict years.)

-          Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange  (2010) – (Ted McKeever’s story has Doc wandering around drunk.)

-          Howard the Duck  magazine # 09 (1980) - (Bill Mantlo shows that Howard’s home world [“Duckworld”] has a “Ducktor Strange” drinking “sorcerous sauce” as a drunken mystic.)

The Meme is also repeated In other media:

The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City -  By Peter Sanderson
Doctor Strange's history, ... He lost his fortune and even became an alcoholic derelict, until he left New York…”

It was also mentioned in William Rostler’s novel; NIGHTMARE (which merely touches upon scenes from Master of the Mystic Arts # 10-11).


That’s not to say that it hasn’t been shown, or at least alluded to, in other comics over the years, but it seems to be a meme that some writers properly ignore. Others mention in passing or in varying degrees of seriousness, while still others portray Strange as a booze-soaked wash-out – constantly under pressure from his past temptations.

It is my hope that it can be placed within the proper context:
It is perfectly correct to portray Strange as a social drinker during his years as a surgeon.
It is also perfectly correct to show that in the course of his downward-spiral after his car accident, that Strange would drink his woes away – due to an overinflated sense of self-pity.

Most recently, Stephen Strange was shown, bottle in hand, in DEFENDERS v4 # 4, in a flash-back showing his romance – and break-up – with a former love. The loss of whom, led him to a bout of sadness and a single panel of woe-besotted drinking.
(A review of the issue can be found [HERE])

I took no umbrage at that scene or its depiction of Strange with bottle up-ended, as it is a common (if illogical) course of action after a broken heart.

One might ask; why I really care about this portrayal of Doctor Strange having had a drinking problem?
Well, truthfully, it doesn’t bother me as such – people develop such bad habits (or succumb to the disease of alcoholism - if genetically predisposed) all the time. It doesn’t make them “bad people” outside of the fact that it will hurt them and possibly cause the harm of those around them.
No, I don’t mind it being a part of Doctor Strange’s history, IF it had a center – IF it had a consistent narrative usage and flow.

Englehart introduced the meme as a means to show, after his accident and ascension to higher calling, what Strange rose above.

DeMatteis blew it up out of proportion to show, before Strange's career even started, how it tore Stephen down.

With the introduction of the “drunken bum” aspect being started by Steve Englehart, and then retconned to the Nth degree by J.M. DeMatteis, I find it bitterly ironic that two of the greatest scribes for Doctor Strange were also responsible for bringing out the worst in him.
If the drinking started socially during Strange’s meteoric rise, and got the best of him after his crash and near-destruction, then the logical (and acceptable) path would be for him to rise above the desire when he attains a loftier calling, a higher sense of reality and self.

While I know that real-life sufferers of alcoholism have to deal with the impulses and desires to climb back into the bottle, if it is to portray a heroic means and ideal of rising above such temptations, then having Doc as a former alcoholic would be acceptable.
However, it isn’t a necessary plot point to his life. It wasn’t a factor in his earliest origin retellings and it isn’t needed.

It is my hope that it can be totally eradicated from canon.
Like the "Chosen One" revealed-memories, the easiest way would be to show that the memory blocks that were mystically implanted by Mordo (to prevent Strange from remembering the teen-age alcoholism and demonic visitations) were, in fact memory IMPLANTS, and that none of that was real.

With the advent of a film on the horizon as well as a new, “Season One” oversized, origin re-visitation hardcover written by Grek Pak and illustrated by Emma Rios, I hope and pray that these projects won’t toss those particular stones into his waters.

Again, I’m not against Strange’s hitting the bottle – especially after he exhausted his fortune and hopes in the search for a cure to his nerve damage. But if the film and hardcover volume avoid the useless alcoholism – especially the whole unnecessary teen-age drinking scene that DeMatteis tacked on - well… I’ll drink to that. 

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Come back next time when we examine...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH FOR DOCTOR STRANGE!
DEATH #1: “STEPHEN STRANGE is the ‘CHOSEN ONE’.”


---

As detailed in my last entry, the prelude to this series [HERE], I listed 5 fatal errors that modern Marvel has crossed in their portrayal (a betrayal?) of Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts.

Here I shall delve into the first of these fatal missteps:
ERROR # 1: 
“STEPHEN STRANGE IS THE ‘CHOSEN ONE’.”

Doctor Strange has (or had) one of the greatest, purest, most apropos origins ever to grace any fictional character. It was poetic. It was karmic. It was darkly ironic. Yet, it showed how someone could truly rise above themselves and become something far greater.
That is, until someone decided to screw it up (multiple times and in ever worsening ways).

In the classic STRANGE TALES # 115 Steve Ditko (plot, art) and Stan Lee (script) wove a tale of redemption, of self-discovery, and of the rising and advancing of the spirit.

PART I : NO ONE LIKES THE 'GOLDEN CHILD'.

---

Doctor Stephen Strange was a greedy, arrogant and selfish doctor – a surgeon – who was the very best in his field. The classic "God complex" writ large. His exorbitant fees made that perfectly clear. Yet, with all his skills to be able to save lives, in his eyes, if a patient could not afford him, they may as well not afford to live. It was simply not his concern.
It wasn’t until his own injury, suffered as a result of a car crash, wherein his nerve-endings in his hands were damaged, that he first seems to understand their pain.

Here is a point where later writers actually introduced a GOOD addition to the mythos. A few years into his publication history, for the first issue of his then self-titled series, Roy Thomas penned a new, more expanded and expounded-upon origin story and gave Strange a specialty; Neurosurgery. Strange’s being a Neurosurgeon, as opposed to a generic surgeon, adds bitter irony to his suffering nerve damage from his car accident. It put forth the twist that perhaps the only surgeon great enough to have helped heal his hands would have been himself.

But, I digress. The Lee/Ditko origin continues with Stephen descending into a state of denial and self-pity. He spends his fortune searching for cures and seeking out anyone who may be able to restore his hands – and himself - to their former level of greatness.
It is at this low ebb that he hears of the ‘Ancient One’; a mystic “healer” who can cure any illness or injury. With nothing more to lose, Strange sets out for the Himalayan monastery of the Ancient One to demand a cure.

After an arduous journey, Strange arrives at the Tibetan lamasery and promptly makes his demands of the aged mystic meditating within. However, the aged guru sees that Strange’s motives are selfish and is thus unworthy of a cure. But, perhaps if Stephen were to stay and study with him, Strange might find, within his own self, the cure that he did seek.
If not for a sudden blizzard, which seemed to manifest as if by magic, Strange would have left right then and there – and his journey to self-discovery and ascension to greater heights would have died stillborn.

Forced to stay within the hidden retreat, Stephen Strange slowly discovers that magic and the unseen forces are real indeed, and in the wrong hands, are an ever-present danger to the world.

The Ancient One’s disciple; Mordo, while an adept pupil, reveals himself to be a force for evil. Finding that it is the only way to prevent Mordo from harming the Ancient One – and then the world at large Strange humbles himself, requesting to study at the feet of the aged Master – in the hopes to be able to combat Mordo directly.
It is revealed that the Ancient One had long known of Mordo’s treachery, and merely kept him nearby so as to prevent his dark taint from spreading out to the world. But, this new, noble Stephen Strange is precisely what the Ancient mystic was hoping to find as his proper, suitable pupil.
With this dedication to a cause other than himself, Stephen Strange has begun the path of redemption and advancement of his spirit.

Sure, I fleshed it out a bit, but the classic origin is perfect:
-
 A selfish, arrogant man is brought low by his own hubris. Yet by forgoing his own pain and suffering, in order to help others, sets himself upon the path of saving the world – and himself.

So, it always comes as a tragic misstep whenever a writer tacks on the heroism-killing aspect of Strange being a “chosen one”, a mystical adept who is destined to become the pupil of the Ancient One and eventual Sorcerer Supreme.
It just destroys every aspect of redemption and the triumphant heroic arc of the character and replaces it with fate – so there’s no need for any of us to strive to emulate that selfsame advancement of our spirit because you’re either born special – or you’re not.

As I wrote in my examination of Matt Fraction’s contributions to the mythos [HERE]:

---
“I am talking about the “chosen one” dilemma. Not to get into the theological debate of Calvinism vs Catholicism vs Lutheranism vs Unitarianism, but If things “happen for a reason” or more to the point; if things happen to a predestined plan of some cosmic googum, then there may not exist hope that the possibility of greatness could be bestowed upon an average Joe (or Jane) of the 99% of us, but instead, the golden apple is held out of reach, except only for the select few. The 1%.

There have been a few instances of writers branding Doctor Strange as a “chosen one”, that he was predestined to become the Sorcerer that he would become and that the Ancient One even protected him as a child, to ensure his continuing along the path. This ruins the “road to redemption” aspect of Strange’s origin, that it was only through great loss, soul-searching and acceptance of a greater power than he that he was able to ascend to greater heights. Personal growth.
There have even been similar attempts to introduce the same “chosen one” status to heroes like Spider-Man – the ultimate example (aside from Batman) of an origin that any child can imagine as being possible for them.
Such secret puppetry with invisible strings connected to an all-powerful hand diminishes the specialness of the heroic ideal. Despite the tag-line, Captain Universe may NOT be the hero who could be you or me. Perhaps the uni-force doesn’t come to anyone that needs it, but only those whom the cosmic machine has pre-selected. Truly Deux ex Machina.
A hero may or may not truly have free will to act heroically, but instead is merely performing a part, prewritten for them, like a play where they are unknowing performers.”
---

As you can see, the “Chosen One” aspect presents problems to any character – unless a lineage is being followed, or a bestowing of powers/artifacts/knowledge is at the heart of the equation.

As alluded to in my self-quote above, there was a time, in the DOCTOR STRANGE: SORCERER SUPREME series – issue # 85, near the end of the run – where J.M. DeMatteis introduces the retcon of DOC's origin wherein he is PREDESTINED to be the successor to the ANCIENT ONE, and MORDO (himself already the pupil of the Ancient One) is greatly angered at that fact.

This teeters on the brink of religious emulation, since it mirrors, to some extent, the Catholic dogma that the pre-destined selection of Mary, as perfect vessel for God – and in turn, Jesus as the human-born Son of God – to thus be placed ABOVE the angels (who were heretofore the highest of God’s creations), and to whom even the angelic hosts would need supplicate themselves, would cause Satan/Lucifer, angered by this, to rebel against heaven and become the ultimate evil: the “devil”.

According to DeMatties’ story, it was this pre-selection of the Ancient One’s successor that drove Mordo (back) to the path of evil.

Because of this, MORDO places a spell on the then pre-teenage STEPHEN STRANGE to have nightmares and develop an alcoholic lifestyle so as to facilitate in his destruction. *
*Don’t worry, we’ll tackle the erroneous meme of Strange being an alcoholic in the next segment.


This “golden child” angle of approaching Doctor Strange’s origin is something that was first introduced, of all places, in the 1978 TV Pilot Movie (which you can view, in its entirety [HERE] and read my insanely detailed review of [HERE].
In the film, not only was it suggested that Stephen was the inheritor of a great ability to command the hidden forces of magic, but that the evil agents of the dark side had attempted to slay him before he could come of age (but only managed to kill his parents instead).

A few other - non-canon – stories, such as 2004’s “STRANGE” mini, have also tried to introduce this added wrinkle, but thankfully, none have stuck or carried over into the Marvel Universe proper.

Sadly, the same can not be said for Marvel’s “Official Handbook” (both the online and print versions). Therein, they accept and mention the “Chosen One” ret-con as being a part of Strange’s history.

While earlier writers always stayed close to the Lee/Ditko origin, most writers after DeMatteis’ story have safely ignored (t)his additional twist. It is my hope that it can be totally eradicated from canon.
The easiest way would be to show that the memory blocks that were mystically implanted by Mordo (to prevent Strange from remembering the teen-age alcoholism and demonic visitations) were, in fact memory IMPLANTS, and that none of that was real.


Life is a series of choices. And those choices help to form who and what we are. Even if our choices don’t manifest in the ways that we intend, how we then deal with the ramifications and alterations of our lives by those initial choices become new choices in and of themselves and add to our total being.

Predestination: To have those choices made for us before we ever came to be – to have someone other than ourselves determine the course (or even the reality) of our very existence – to be fated - is a fate of the worst kind.

Heroism (or villainy) is ours for the choosing –
-  if we are but given the chance to do so.


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Come back NEXT installment as we examine: