First Published: January 2002
Contents: Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110 (July 1963) to #111 (August 1963) and #114 (November 1963) to #168 (May 1968)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Bill Everett, Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, Herb Trimpe, and Jim Lawrence
Key First Appearances: Dr. Stephen Strange, Ancient One, Wong, Nightmare, Baron Mordo, Victoria Bentley, Clea, Dormammu, G’uranthic Guardian, Mindless Ones, Eternity, Kaluu, Umar, Living Tribunal, Yandroth
Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2
Overview: Doctor Stephen Strange was a brilliant surgeon, whose skills in the operating room were only surpassed by his greed and ego. After a horrendous car accident, Strange finds that the nerve damage he suffered no longer give him the motor skills to perform surgeries. Strange burns through his fortune, traveling the world looking for a cure. One name keeps coming up in his search – that of the Ancient One. Tracking him down, the Ancient One is unable to heal Strange’s body, but does offer to train him in the ways of the mystic arts. Strange stops the Ancient One’s assistant, Baron Mordo, from stealing the power from his master, and he realizes that maybe he has a new calling in life. So begins the adventures of Doctor Strange, master of the mystic arts.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko place the building blocks that will dominate Marvel’s mystical world. Besides Baron Mordo, Doctor Strange battles a cadre of mystical beings intent on defeating Strange so that they could take over the earth, such as Nightmare and Dormammu. With his faithful servant Wong, and the romantic interests of Victoria Bentley, a normal human with passing skills in magic, and Clea, a sorceress from another dimension, Doctor Strange is prepared to defend Earth from any threat, magical or otherwise.
What makes this Essential?: Doctor Strange has been one of the mainstays of Marvel Comics from the earliest days. Lee and Ditko were more than creators; they were architects, building the framework that would become the Marvel Universe. Any work by Ditko in this era is worthy of being collected as an Essential. Like many stories from this era, the plot points may not stand up, but they are still worth a read.
Footnotes: Doctor Strange was just one of the tenants in Strange Tales during the 1960s. Initially, Doctor Strange shared the book with the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. In 1965, the Human Torch feature was replaced by Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If you like this volume, try: Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko. Nearly any comic book fan could tell you that Steve Ditko was the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. A comic aficionado could tell you that Ditko left Marvel Comics in 1966, and split time between Charlton and DC Comics, with memorable creations like The Question, the Creeper, and Shade the Changing Man. It would take a die-hard Ditko fan, or a reading of this Visionaries volume, to know that Ditko returned to Marvel in the 1980s, with runs on The Incredible Hulk and ROM, and co-creating modern characters like Speedball and Squirrel Girl. For years, Ditko has declined interview requests, preferring to let his work speak for itself. Consider this a brilliant interview reviewing the many highlights of Ditko’s many years at Marvel Comics.