May 26, 2008

Marvel Tales #134 [1981]

This issue reprints the first Doctor Strange story, the classic 5-page "Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic" from STRANGE TALES #110 [1963]. The story has been a bit on my mind lately, with what Ditko has said about its origins in the recent THE AVENGING MIND.

I'm sure most people reading this are familiar with this oft-reprinted story. A man who is disturbed by mysterious dreams goes to Doctor Strange's Greenwich Village home to enlist the help of the fabled mystic. After a brief astral trip to Asia to consult his teacher, the Ancient One, Strange enters the man's dream, where he finds out the reason for his guilt, but also encounters his long-time foe Nightmare. With his physical body and astral form in danger, Strange calls on the Ancient One to help, which he does with the use of the mysterious eye contained in Doctor Strange's amulet.

This is a classic story, remarkable for how clearly it lays out the vision for the series in only five pages. While Doctor Strange's outfit and face would undergo some tweaking in the issues ahead, the main elements are all here. We also get the Greenwich home (with a few early hints of the design elements which would define it), the Ancient One and his mountainside home, the astral form and a great villain in Nightmare. And the hands, of course, we get some of the Ditko mystic hands.

As near as I can figure, this story (via its 1978 Pocket Books reprint) is probably the first place I laid eyes on Ditko's artwork, some 30 years ago. It's even fresher and more alive now than it was then.

Ditko plots, pencils and inks the 5-page story.


  1. This story does hold up well and one has to question why Lee didn't feel it was very good. Was it the theme? The central character? The non-traditional hero type? whatever the reasons it is apparent that Ditko put thought into the opening story and the themes would be developed in future chapters. What a unique and imaginative strip! I don't think enough has been written about Dr. Strange.

    Nick Caputo

  2. Yeah, Lee's downplaying of it does seem odd. Certainly among the early Marvel 1960s debuts, I'd rank this way ahead of Iron Man or Ant-Man, and at least on par with Thor and the Hulk. And all of those others had a lot more pages, and didn't really establish their central themes for a few months as clearly as Doctor Strange did in this story, much less by the time he was up to 25 pages.

    Ditko says some interesting things about the creative relationship on Doctor Strange in THE AVENGING MIND, which I hope he elaborates and expands upon in the future.



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