Doctor Strange: A Primer

Ross Staff Image

Doctor Strange has been on Marvel’s docket since 2005, back when the world-building juggernaut first announced it was going to turn its books into movies. The film, premiering domestically today, is tracking to open somewhere between $55 million and $75 million, with it likely beating Marvel’s previous non-sequel origin film, Ant-Man (which I absolutely loved).

Created by comics legend Steve Ditko in 1963, Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange (played in the film by Benedict Cumberbatch, a man with the most British-y name ever) is a brilliant, albeit cocky, neurosurgeon. When a terrible car accident ruins his hands and renders him unable to perform the complexities of surgery, he scourers the globe, searching for a way to heal his hands. In his travels, he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and becomes a student of the mystic arts, eventually garnering the moniker of Sorcerer Supreme, the Earth’s only protector against magically mystical threats.

If you can’t get out to see the film this weekend, here are a few items to get Strange with in the meantime.

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Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (DVD)

This is a good introduction to Doctor Strange’s world. It’s a pretty standard origin story with a reality-threatening villain appearing at the end. While it does feel rushed at times (with a run time of only 95 minutes), I’d wager that the live-action film is going to hit a lot of the same beats as this animated feature so if you don’t feel like dropping a lot of money at the theater, check this out (and you don’t have to worry about sneaking in snacks!). Plus, casting voice-acting legend Kevin Michael Richardson as Mordo was a stroke of terrifying genius. If you like it, feel free to check out our other titles from Marvel Animation.

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Doctor Strange: The Oath

While we have several different Doctor Strange titles in our catalog, you could pick this one up knowing nothing about the character and still enjoy it. Strange’s backstory is sprinkled throughout, but it never takes front seat to the main plot of the novel—a magical cure for all diseases has been discovered and a pharmaceutical company wants it destroyed because if it’s able to be duplicated, it’ll be the end of prescription medication forever. Is it a bit cheesy? Sure, but using it to frame the more fantastical aspects of the story makes it easy to digest. It’s worth checking out for Marcos Martin’s brilliant artwork alone. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige even called The Oath a “great updating of [the Doctor Strange] character”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the story elements of this excellent graphic novel are included in a Doctor Strange sequel, if we get one.

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

All right, this one might seem a bit incongruous with the rest, but stay with me. In this classic, author Tom Wolfe directly mentions the character of Doctor Strange in reference to Ken Kesey, a man who was, in a certain way, a sorcerer supreme of LSD. Wolfe says that while Kesey traveled the country in his Magic Bus, he was “absorbed in the plunging purple Steve Ditko shadows of Dr. [sic] Strange.” The whole LSD thing seems to have not been lost by the film’s marketing department. The posters are delightfully trippy and the film itself borrows some of Ditko’s visuals, as well as sharing some the visuals with Dark City and Inception. Check this book out if you still think comics are just for kids.

Additionally, you can check out the previous films starring the good doctor himself, or you can check out director Scott Derrickson’s previous credits. His are mostly horror movies, so if you’re still in a Halloween mode, you’re in luck.

Doctor Strange is in theaters now.

Absorb yourself in the Steve Ditko shadows of Doctor Strange

Click here to browse Doctor Strange titles

Ross works as a Clerk at the Mt. Washington branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He loves reading books and watching movies and will often ramble about the two here. The only kind of magic he believes in is the magic of cinema.