This book, part of Marvel’s Epic Collection, contains reprints of the earliest Doctor Strange comics. The book contains the tales published between July 1963 and July 1966.
So without sounding too nerdy, I have to say that I really love Doctor Strange. I find the material fascinating: parallel universes, astral projection, mysticism, these are all things that are near and dear to me. But the real beauty of the early Doctor Strange is the artwork. Steve Ditko’s psychedelic representations of other realms and interdimensional struggles are nothing short of mind-blowing. It should come as no surprise that Pink Floyd included an image of Doctor Strange on the cover of their second album, “A Saucerful of Secrets.”
In one of the tales, Doctor Strange is ensnared in a mind-trap. The text, representing Strange’s thoughts, and the accompanying illustrations, capture the sensation of becoming overwhelmed as a result of an hallucinatory experience.
It has encircled me again! But this is a new mental weapon – – with a different power! It is the most dangerous one of all – – for it feeds the brain hallucinations! I cannot tell what is real, or what is imaginary! Unless I can shatter this web of wonderment, all is lost! My mission will be forgotten – – I will be doomed to a life of aimless imagery!
Next year, Marvel is supposed to release the second Doctor Strange film. It is amazing that a comic created nearly 60 years ago can still feel relevant today, and can still inspire generations. I for one am looking forward to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” currently scheduled to hit the theaters on March 25, 2022.
So I really wanted to hate this, especially since it pulls in a slew of other characters from the Marvel Universe, something I don’t particularly care for. But the fact is, it was quite good, and the villain, Mephisto (clearly a graphic rendering of Mephistopheles), is diabolical in a most refined manner.
So the basic premise of this arc is that Doctor Strange “resurrects” Las Vegas, which appears to have been destroyed at some point after I had stopped reading Doctor Strange because the quality plummeted, in my opinion. Anyway, one of the negative ramifications of resurrecting the city is that he inadvertently brought Mephisto out of Hell and he now has dominion over the City of Sin. Having been to Vegas for the first time recently, the idea of the city being ruled by a demon is not too much of a stretch for me. But I digress.
The most intriguing aspect of this issue is Mephisto’s commentaries on the nature of sin, and humanity’s tendency to embrace the darker side of the human experience.
Sin!! It doesn’t take much, you understand. It’s your natural condition, after all — has been since the apple and the garden… if you believe that sort of thing. I’m still on the fence myself. Point is, you just love to do what you’re told not to do, and I’m not blaming you — Heavens no! I understand you, admire you, accept who you really are, what you really want. You want to rip each other apart. You want to see some blood.
Of course, this is a pretty bleak assessment of humanity, but it’s not without justification. There are a lot of people who fall into Mephisto’s view, but there are also many who do not. And that is what Doctor Strange is betting on, that there is at least as much good in the world as there is evil, if not more. I for one share the view. We are bombarded with news and hype focusing on the negative, feeding off our fears, but really, there is so much good happening, we just don’t hear about it as much.
What started as a really interesting arc has completely plummeted into stupidity. I’m glad there is only one issue left; otherwise I would drop it at this point. The folks are Marvel need to learn that you do not make a story interesting by throwing more and more into it; a story is interesting when there is cohesion, thoughtful crafting of the language, and evocative imagery. To just toss in a bunch of other characters, such as Howard the Duck casting magical spells, and think you are going to appeal to a wider audience is kind of pathetic.
If resorting to inclusion of the tired Avengers wasn’t bad enough, the writers also rely on the hackneyed trope of the “word of God” actually being a text created by an alien being. Please! Erich Von Daniken wrote Chariots of the Gods? back in 1968. What’s next—mystical text as computer code?
If you read my blog regularly, you know I try to find something positive or inspirational in whatever I read. I was unable to do so here. I actually feel like I wasted the 15 minutes it took me to read this installment.
This is a pretty cool issue. It’s a “choose your own adventure” story where you make decisions and then turn to a particular page based upon the choice you make. I remember reading books like this when I was younger and how much I loved them. Not meaning to brag, but I made it successfully through on my first attempt. I some different choices on subsequent readings and the other ones sent me back to the beginning.
Some people view reading as a passive activity, but not me. As a reader, I engage myself in the text, place myself in the story, and imagine how I would respond in the various scenarios. And I think that is what is so cool about a choose-your-own-adventure book—it teaches young readers how to be active readers while igniting their imaginations. It also teaches a valuable lesson, that our choices have consequences. The decisions we make as we journey through life affect the outcomes. So choose wisely.
This is the last issue, closing out the Scarlet Witch arc. I loved this series, but I have to say, it ended with a fizzle. It felt like they just ran out of steam and came up with a way to end it quick, setting up Wanda’s return to the Avengers. In a way, I suppose it is a good thing, though. It is certainly better than dragging the series out when it has passed its prime, as often happens with comics. The good news is, this will free up some time and money to explore new graphic tales. I’ll have to keep an eye out. Any suggestions?
This installment focuses on Sir Isaac Newton and his quest to learn the secret Word of God, and by doing so, harness the power to create and destroy through the use of words.
The problem with power is that it is addictive, it corrupts, and many people feel that it is the key to provide them with what they lack. This is certainly the case with Newton, who believes that by acquiring the power contained in the Word of God, he will become free and ultimately godlike.
And when I used those words, I realized, the only true prison I’ve endured was the one of my own making. Fear that I had no choice. That I could not change destiny. But no. I am free. Truly free. Free to leave my mark on the world. Free to be what I was meant to become all along… God.
Reading this, I was forced to remember the prisons I had built for myself over the years: fear, anger, resentment, self-loathing. It took me a long time to free myself from these prisons, because the most difficult bonds to free yourself from are the self-imposed ones. I am grateful that I was shown a more positive path to freeing myself, one that did not lure me into the temptation of power and money. Love, trust, faith, acceptance—these were the keys that freed me from my cell. I think that what Newton fails to realize in this story is that power is yet another prison, just like his fear was. But I suspect he will discover this in a subsequent installment.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day.
This issue was a little on the silly side, but honestly, that is exactly what I needed. I’ve been reading enough gloom and doom on the news and social media, I just wanted something whimsical, and this was perfect.
In this installment, the good doctor is trapped in a version of Hell ruled by Satana, Satan’s daughter. She explains to him that Hell is now the cool place that everyone wants to go, so they can hang out with dead rock stars and such.
… The damnation business is booming. I mean, it practically sells itself, am I right? Where do you really want to go when you die? To church for all eternity? Or to party with all your favorite dead rock stars and writers and overdosed actresses? Upstairs, they’ve got halos and harps and kumbaya. Here we’ve got beer halls, juke joints, all-night diners, and a Woodstock that never ends. You tell me which side you think is winning.
Satana thinks that a cool superhero like Doctor Strange would be the perfect addition to her attractions in Hell. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek nod to the current popularity that Marvel comics and superheroes are enjoying.
The one thing that really made me chuckle out loud was the location of the Gates to Hell—Newark Airport! Anyone who has ever had to make a connecting flight at Newark knows that this is the perfect metaphor for the Gates of Hell.
“Once you give up trying to understand, you can start becoming comfortable with not knowing. And then your mind will be open to greater possibilities.”
Last night I went to see the new Doctor Strange film, which I highly recommend. Not surprisingly, I was inspired to read this new issue I picked up. The story ties in well with the film, exploring some of the challenges Stephen faced while attempting to master astral projection. But what makes this issue really special is the inclusion of two original installments from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: “The Origin of Doctor Strange” from Strange Tales #115 and “Doctor Strange Master of Black Magic!” from Strange Tales #110. These reprints are beautifully rendered and provide an insight into the artistic beginnings of this enduring and inspiring body of work.
I’m glad to see a renewed interest in Doctor Strange. Please comment and let me know if you are an old or new Doctor Strange fan, if you have seen the movie yet, and if you think it lives up to the graphic tales.
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