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Marvel Comics Reading Recommendations

11 Doctor Strange Stories You Should Read

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Created by the Amazing Spider-Man team of Steve Ditko and Stan LeeDoctor Strange made his humble beginnings in the pages of 1963’s Strange Tales #110. Unlike other Marvel heroes, he didn’t burst onto the page with a flurry of science fiction and your standard superheroic fare. Instead, Doctor Stephen Strange operates in the world of magic, fantasy, supernatural, and the occult. With these as the basis, he has saved the world countless times from threats from otherworldly dimensions as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.

With almost 60 years of publishing history, you might be wondering which comic book tales are worth your time. Well, wonder no more. How To Love Comics has compiled a list of the 11 best Doctor Strange stories you should read. This includes a superb selection of classics and fan favourites spanning the character’s publication history.

Happy reading!

Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic! opening page from Strange Tales #110 by Steve Ditko. First appearance.
“Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!” opening page from Strange Tales #110 by Steve Ditko.

Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!

Written by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.

The story that brought Doctor Strange to the world. In a modest five pages, we’re introduced to the “Master of Black Magic” as he helps a man who has nightmares that haunt him every night. Strange enters the man’s 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 of Strange’s abilities and Steve Ditko’s vivid imagination. It also introduces many staples to Doctor Strange lore – such as astral projection, the Amulet of Agamotto, and the villain Nightmare. Overall, it’s a brief, but enjoyable, taste of the kinds of stories readers can expect in the future.

Single Issues: Strange Tales #110
Trade Paperback: ‘Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1’ or ‘Marvel Firsts: The 1960s’ or ‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1 – The World Beyond’ or ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master of the Mystic Arts’ or ‘Ditko Is… Strange!’
Buy: Kindle/Amazon | eBay

"The Origin of Dr. Strange" opening page from Strange Tales #115 by Steve Ditko.
“The Origin of Dr. Strange” opening page from Strange Tales #115 by Steve Ditko.

The Origin of Dr. Strange

Written by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.

As Stan Lee’s bombastic editor note indicated, 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).

This 10-page tale will be familiar to you if you’ve seen the first Doctor Strange movie. It establishes all of the origin beats that have been retold and built upon with subsequent tellings. This includes his life before magic all the way up until he becomes a practitioner of the mystic arts is here, albeit in a very brief format.

Overall, it’s a great read for those curious by how Doctor Strange’s origin was first envisioned.

Single Issues: Strange Tales #115
Trade Paperback: ‘Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1’ or ‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1 – The World Beyond’ or ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master of the Mystic Arts’ or ‘Ditko Is… Strange!’
Buy: Kindle/Amazon | eBay

Doctor Strange: Season One cover by Julian Totino Tedesco.
Doctor Strange: Season One cover by Julian Totino Tedesco.

Season One

Written by Greg Pak. Art by Emma Ríos.

Marvel used to have a line of graphic novels known as “Season One”, which focused on retelling a hero’s origin through a modern lens. Overall, the line was hit and miss. Many of the characters involved have had their origins retold and expanded upon over 60 years. As a result, there weren’t many new wrinkles to add. However, the one that did shine out amongst the rest was Doctor Strange: Season One.

Why? While the original telling of the origin is a classic, it feels too brief at 10 pages. Doctor Strange: Season One is by far the best retelling. It takes all of the essential beats and uses them as a starting point. As a result, these events are more fleshed out and unfold organically, with characters developing alongside them in a way that doesn’t feel rushed.

Even if you’re not interested in revisiting Doctor Strange’s origin, it’s worth it for Emma Rios’ (Pretty Deadly) art alone. Her flowing linework is an excellent fit for the fantastical elements while also rendering expressive characters and detailed environments.

Graphic Novel: Doctor Strange: Season One
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Strange Tales #146 cover by Steve Ditko.
Strange Tales #146 cover by Steve Ditko.

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 two if the creators had a larger story to tell. So when The Eternity Saga sprawled over a whopping 17 parts(!) you know it’s a big deal.

Strange’s two greatest villains, Baron Mordo and the dreaded Dormammu, team up for their own selfish reasons to rid the world of The Ancient One and Doctor Strange. The result is an international and inter-dimensional manhunt that tests Strange to his limits – with and without magic. Over time it becomes more metaphysical when it evolves into a quest to find Eternity – an omnipotent being of time and reality.

Steve Ditko delivers some of his best work, full of abstract and surreal imagery that oozes with imagination. When Doctor Strange enters another dimension, it’s the comic book equivalent of Pablo Picasso’s Cubism period and M.C Escher’s Relativity.

Single Issues: Strange Tales #130-146
Trade Paperback: ‘Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1-2’ or ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master of the Mystic Arts’ or ‘Ditko Is… Strange!’
Buy: Kindle/Amazon | eBay

Marvel Premiere #14 cover by Frank Brunner, Glynis Wein and George Roussos.
Marvel Premiere #14 cover by Frank Brunner, Glynis Wein and George Roussos.

Time Doom

Written by Steve Englehart. Art by Frank Brunner.

Out of all the stories featured in this list, Time Doom is the one with the most intriguing story outside of the comic page. However, before I tell you all about that, I should probably tell you about the comic itself.

Doctor Strange travels back to 18th century France to stop Bardon Mordo from changing the course of history. However, the pair quickly encounter Sise-Neg, a time-travelling sorcerer from the far-flung future who wants to acquire all the magic there ever was to become God.

Time Doom is a visual feast, with Frank Brunner taking the abstract elements established by Steve Ditko and adding his own inspirations on top of them. The result is a comic that’s one part psychedelic, one part high fantasy, and another prog rock.

When this was published in 1973, Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee saw the event of a character essentially becoming God to recreate the universe as a controversial move that would upset religious readers. To avoid publishing a retraction, writer Steve Englehart faked a fan letter from a priest, who claimed they were thrilled by the story and had no issue with it.

Single Issues: Marvel Premiere #12-14
Trade Paperback: ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality’ or ‘Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 5’
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

Doctor Strange: Into the Dark Dimension TPB cover.
Doctor Strange: Into the Dark Dimension TPB cover.

Into The Dark Dimension

Written by Roger Stern. Art by Paul Smith, Brett Blevins, and Terry Austin.

Structurally, Into the Dark Dimension is a story arc stacked with ideas. While it begins as a series of individual stories, a much larger plot bubbles away in the background before surfacing in the latter half.

The first half has plenty to enjoy, including a Black Knight team up, cruise holidays, Paul Smith’s signature pensive stares, and Doctor Strange working with the pentagon. The core plot in the second half revolves around a rebellion in the Dark Dimension. In this phase, Strange helps Clea and a group of rebels overthrow the otherworldly dictator Umar.

Into the Dark Dimension also has some of the best depictions of Clea. She often plays the role of the love interest or “the girl”, but here she’s the competent rebellion leader who takes the lead and is not dependent on Doctor Strange.

Another highlight is Doctor Strange #70, an interlude issue that could’ve easily been its own item on this list. In it, Strange teaches an interdimensional warlord the true devastating nature of a stolen nuclear warhead. It has some great comedy through Strange’s interactions with a Pentagon general. However, the cautionary tale is what drives it home, with artist Brett Blevins showing the impact of a detonation with a powerful four-page sequence. It’s the best issue in a great saga.

Single Issues: Doctor Strange (1974 series) #68-73
Trade Paperback: ‘Doctor Strange: Into the Dark Dimension’ or ‘Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 10’
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Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment cover by Mike Mignola.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment cover by Mike Mignola.

Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment

Written by Roger Stern. Art by Mike Mignola.

Through the process of a mystical tournament to decide who should be Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange is forced to aid Doctor Doom on a personal mission. This will see the pair travel to hell and back (literally and figuratively) to attempt to reclaim Doom’s soul from the demon Mephisto. Throughout this journey, Strange is morally conflicted by Doom’s methods and pride but begins to see the unseen layers of emotional pain hidden away.

Triumph and Torment is equally a Doctor Doom story, which explores more of his backstory and motivations in ways that readers haven’t seen him before. As a result, readers get a metaphorical look behind the mask and discover a sympathetic side of one of Marvel’s biggest super-villains.

As always, Mike Mignola’s high contrast style works well in the hellscape setting and is an excellent example of his work before creating Hellboy.

Single Issues: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (original graphic novel)
Trade Paperback: ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Triumph and Torment’ or ‘Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment’ (This collect the original graphic novel and other stories too.)
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? cover by P. Craig Russell.
What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? cover by P. Craig Russell.

What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen?

Written by Marc Andreyko. Art by P. Craig Russell.

It all starts with a cryptic question: “what is it that disturbs you, Stephen?” This sends Doctor Strange on a paranoid journey through dimensions to discover who left him this message and why.

The second half has a fairy tale quality to it. Once our hero finds out who sent him the message, he’s drawn into a family drama. However, unlike your regular dramas, this one involved evil sisters, trapped lovers, and fantasy cities.

The highlight of the story is P. Craig Russell’s art. Based in traditional fantasy art, it has a flowing dream-like quality that draws you into its world. He also likes to play around with the page, with one great example where a panel cracks open like an egg, with Doctor Strange spilling out. Overall, it’s a very beautiful comic.

Single Issues: Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen?
Trade Paperback: ‘Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Afterlife’ or ‘Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen?’
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

BONUS PICK: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? is a loose remake of Doctor Strange Annual #1 from 1976. It’s worth checking out if you’re interested in comparing the similarities and differences.

Doctor Strange: The Oath TPB cover by Marcos Martin.
Doctor Strange: The Oath TPB cover by Marcos Martin.

The Oath

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 excellent 2007 miniseries. In it, Strange’s assistant, Wong, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. With medical science failing to find a cure, Doctor Strange turns to a magical solution. However, through his search, he discovers something that could change the world.

While The Oath explores Stephen and Wong’s friendship, much of it links back to Strange’s time as a medical doctor. Vaughan joins the dots through the Hippocratic Oath, which sees Strange attempt to do anything he can to save Wong. However, in this process, his moral compass will be tested.

Single Issues: Doctor Strange: The Oath #1-5
Trade Paperback: Doctor Strange: The Oath
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

Doctor Strange (2015 series) #1 cover by Chris Bachalo.
Doctor Strange (2015 series) #1 cover by Chris Bachalo.

The Way of the Weird/The Last Days of Magic

Written by Jason Aaron. Art by Chris Bachalo and Kevin Nolan.

Magic is dying throughout the universe! This is all thanks to a technological for, The Imperator, who has sworn to rid magic from all dimensions. Through this conflict, the story explores the cost of practising magic and Stephen Strange’s arrogance in the matter. Unfortunately, this comes to bite him in the butt at the least opportune time.

The Way of the Weird/The Last Days of Magic is not only an epic tale but also had a lasting impact. It rewrote the Marvel Universe’s rules of magic, which are felt in future stories of the magical persuasion.

On the visual side, Chris Bachalo uses his signature style to show the weirdness of Doctor Strange’s world, showering the page with odd details. This gives the world a lived-in feel while also playing up the humour in the script.

Single Issues: Doctor Strange (2015 series) #1-11
Trade Paperbacks: ‘Doctor Strange Volume 1: The Way of the Weird’ and ‘Doctor Strange Volume 2: The Last Days of Magic’ or ‘Doctor Strange by Aaron & Bachalo Omnibus’
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

The Death of Doctor Strange #1 cover by Kaare Andrews.
The Death of Doctor Strange #1 cover by Kaare Andrews.

The Death of Doctor Strange

Written by Jed MacKay. Art by Lee Garbett.

Doctor Strange has been murdered! Now it’s up to an echo of his younger self to discover the murderer. At the same time, there’s an inter-dimensional threat making its way to Earth that’s spooking the toughest of magical warlords. It’s not a great time to be dead, Stephen!

What separates this story from others is its execution. While it has a big magical threat, it’s a murder mystery at its core. With the help of Wong and Clea, the younger Doctor Strange needs to gather the clues, rule out suspects, and find the culprit.

Single Issues: The Death of Doctor Strange #1-5
Trade Paperback: The Death of Doctor Strange
Buy: Amazon/Kindle | eBay

BONUS PICK: Want to know what happens next? Writer Jed MacKay followed up The Death of Doctor Strange with a series called Strange in early 2022.

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