Created by the Amazing Spider-Man team of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Doctor Strange made his humble beginnings in the back pages of Strange Tales in 1963. Unlike other Marvel heroes he didn’t burst onto the page with a flurry of science fiction, but instead something far more mystic and occult – magic. With magic and the supernatural being the crux of his stories he has saved the world countless times from mystic threats from this world and other dimensions.
With Doctor Strange hitting the big screen later this week, you might be curious as to what Doctor Strange comic book stories you should read. To feed that curiosity I’ve put together this list of 8 Doctor Strange stories you should read. The result is a collection of stories that range from some of his earliest up until his current adventures with many more sprinkled in between.
Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!
Words by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.
This is the story that brought Doctor Strange to the world! In a humble five pages we’re introduced to the “Master of Black Magic” as he helps a man who is having nightmares which haunt him every night. Strange enters his dreams to find the cause and defeats the being responsible. But is Doctor Strange’s patient all that he says to be?
While it is not as surreal as subsequent stories we get a good taste at Strange’s abilities and the vivid imagination of Steve Ditko. Along with entering a man’s dream we see Doctor Strange use astral projection as well as operate the Amulet of Agamotto – both regularly abilities during this time. It’s a enjoyable taste for the kinds of mystic and surreal stories that are yet to come.
Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic! is told in Strange Tales #110 and is collected in Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1 as well as Marvel Firsts: The 1960s. It can also be read digitally.
The Origin of Dr. Strange
Words by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.
As Stan Lee’s bombastic editor note indicates, it took Marvel three stories before they would reveal Doctor Strange’s origin. But what an origin story it is! (I’m starting to sound like Stan).
Stephen Strange was a talented surgeon, but downright selfish. He wouldn’t help anyone unless they could foot the bill. That’s until one night when he crashes his car, injuring his hands to the point in which he can no longer do surgery. Wandering aimlessly, he treks to Tibet to look for The Ancient One, a practitioner of magic which could potentially repair his hands. It’s his experiences at the destination of this trek which will change Strange’s life and set him down the path of the mystic arts.
If you’re looking for a story which inspired the film, or simply interested in reading more into Doctor Strange’s origin then you’ll want to read this 10-page tale.
The Origin of Dr. Strange is told in Strange Tales #115 and is collected in Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1. It can also be read digitally.
Written by Greg Pak. Art by Emma Ríos.
A few years ago Marvel did a string of graphic novels which gave modern retellings of their heroes. Overall, the line was hit and miss. Many of the characters involved had has their origins told and fleshed out extensively over the past 50 years so there was little new to explore. But the one that did shine out amongst them all was Doctor Strange: Season One.
Why? Strange’s origin has always been explored in short bursts and usually the same elements are retreaded each time. Season One uses that as a starting point and then tells the story of his training to become a master of the mystic arts. Ir’s a globe-trotting journey of mostly unexplored territory which shows the development of his skills and character to uncover the man he is today.
Doctor Strange: Season One is available in trade paperback and digitally.
The Eternity Saga
Words by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Dennis O’Neil. Art by Steve Ditko.
Back in the 1960’s comic book stories were usually told within one issue, maybe if the creators had a larger story to tell. So when the Eternity Saga came out at a whopping 17 parts(!) you know it’s a big deal. That’s because it is a series of connecting stories told on a massive scale. Strange’s two greatest villains, Baron Mordo and the dreaded Dorammu, team-up for their own selfish reasons to rid the world of The Ancient One and Doctor Strange. The results is an international and inter-dimensional manhunt which tests Strange to his limits – with and without magic. It will also have him quest to find Eternity, an omnipotent being which represents time and reality.
This saga also includes some of Steve Ditko’s best art, full of abstract and surreal imagery and oozes with imagination. When Strange entered another dimension it was like the comic book equivalent to a cross between Salvador Dali and Picasso.
The Eternity Saga is told in Strange Tales #130-146 and is collected in Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1. It can also be read digitally.
Written by Steve Englehart. Art by Frank Brunner.
Out of all the stories in this list, this is the one that has the most interesting story out of the pages of the comic, but before I tell you about that I should probably tell you about the comic itself.
Doctor Strange travels back to 18th Century France in order to stop Baron Mordo from changing the course of history. While Mordo was easily defeated the pair encounter another threat in the form of a sorcerer from the far-flung future known as Sise-Neg. Sise’s intention is to travel back to start of all creation and change it in his own vision, but when he witnesses creation itself he sees the error of his ways and decides to return to his own time.
At the time, Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee saw the event of Doctor Strange present at the start of all creation as controversial and would upset religious readers. As a result, he was going to publish a public apology for the story. That’s until the creative team decided to write a fake letter to the publisher from a preacher who was fine with the story, hence stopping the apology from taking place.
Time Doom is told in Marvel Premiere #13-14 and is collected in Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
Written by Roger Stern. Art by Mike Mignola.
Through the process of elimination of a mystic tournament, Doctor Strange is forced to aid Doctor Doom on a mission of his choosing. Although this see them travel to hell and back (literally) to reclaim the soul of Doom’s mother from the demon Mephisto. Through this journey Strange will see Doom in a new light and as a far more complex character than he thought.
While this is a Doctor Strange story, it’s equally a Doctor Doom story, which explores his motivations and back story in a way that has never been done before. Stern and Mignola did a great job at allowing the reading to feel empathetic for one of the biggest super-villains in the Marvel Universe.
Hellboy fans will get an extra kick out of this story as it includes some early, but still fantastic, examples of Mignola’s art pre-Hellboy.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment is available in trade paperback and digitally.
Written by Brian K Vaughan. Art by Marcos Martin.
Before Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin teamed up to form Panel Syndicate they collaborated on this quality Doctor Strange miniseries in 2007. In it, Strange’s assistant, Wong, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Strange has vowed to find a cure for it. But while looking for a cure he discovers something even bigger. It’s so big that others will want to obtain this cure for reasons far less noble. While the villains have magical ties, they are much more grounded than we are used to, but the stakes are still staggeringly high. As a result, The Oath is my personal favourite on this list.
Deep down, The Oath is a story about Strange and Wong’s relationship and his Hippocratic Oath to do anything possible for him. These themes are helped reinforced through the inclusion of Night Nurse, who acts as his moral compass while on his quest.
Doctor Strange: The Oath is available in a single trade paperback and digitally.
The Way of the Weird/The Last Days of Magic
Written by Jason Aaron. Art by Chris Bachalo and Kevin Nolan.
While he has appeared in various teams, miniseries and the like there was an almost 20 year drought where Strange didn’t have his own ongoing comic book. Well, that’s until late 2015 when the current series his started. These two picks form the first two stories of the current Doctor Strange series and are really one big story.
Magic has been slowly dying throughout the universe thanks to an inter-dimensional visit of The Imperator – a technological foe who has swore to rid magic from all dimensions. As well as being a big story it also explores the cost of using magic. Stephen Strange’s arrogance and gifts have finally caught up with him and he finally paying the cost for using magic for so long. It’s through this ordeal that he learns that he cannot simply take, but must also give.
Throw in some humour and Chris Bachalo’s signature style to show of the weirdness of Doctor Strange’s world and this story lives up to it’s name. It’s also a great place to start reading of you want to read the current adventures of this magical character.
The Way of the Weird/The Last Days of Magic runs through Doctor Strange (2015-Present) #1-11 and are collected in Doctor Strange Volume 1: The Way of the Weird and Doctor Strange Volume 2: The Last Days of Magic. It can also be read digitally.