Born to the mind of Steve Ditko in the early 1960’s, Doctor Strange is a window to an era’s fascination with Eastern spirituality and intensely psychedelic experiences. Through his mystical ties, Doctor Strange’s adventures have helped reveal the origins, evolution and dynamics of the Marvel universe. While he’s rarely achieved long-term main stream stability among the A-list of Marvel’s characters, Doctor Strange and his inter-dimensional adventures have provided some incredible moments in the comics and now he’s headed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Doctor Stephen Strange has a successful career as a brilliant surgeon. His life represents the epitome of American greed; egotistical and self-serving, Strange was not well-liked, though he was highly respected in his field. A car accident costs him his most valuable resource, the use of his hands, and sends him on a downward spiral. Broken and at the brink, he finds his way to the doorstep of the Ancient One, a Himalayan mystic, who eventually tutors Strange in the mystic arts. The journey from who Strange was to the man he becomes highlights his shortcomings but builds him up as a new man, one worthy of becoming the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Fans will note that, in many ways, Strange’s story parallels that of Tony Stark: an arrogant man sent on an incredible journey and faced with demons. However, Starks demons are of his own making and Strange’s demons are actual demons and while Stark seeks redemption on his journey, Strange’s journey sees him reborn.
Upon becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange took up residence in the Sanctum Sanctorum, a nexus of supernatural energies in Greenwich Village. Operating from here as his base, Strange began defending the Earth with the help of his loyal companion Wong and his collection of mystical artifacts. Of these, the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation appear most prominently as they are a part of Doctor Strange’s traditional comic costume. While much of Strange’s comic book history centers on conflict with various other magic users and inter-dimensional beings, he was a founding member of Marvel’s most famous non-team: The Defenders. Allying originally with Namor, the Hulk and the Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange helped protect the Earth from supernatural threats too big for any one of the heroes.
Through the 1990’s and 2000’s, Strange slowly grew to become a key player in many of Marvel’s main events (though he was on the sidelines for Civil War) and was eventually revealed to have been a member of Marvel’s Illuminati, a group of heroes that had been (retroactively) manipulating events behind the scenes for decades. Most recently he took on a major role during Jonathan Hickman‘s run on The Avengers and New Avengers which culminated (or is still culminating, depending on when you read this) in Secret Wars. While Strange has often played a supporting role, it’s clear Marvel has been priming him to step into the spotlight with his move to the forefront over the past few years and now with a solo series, written by Jason Aaron.
On November 4th, 2016, Doctor Strange will enter the MCU. A longtime pet project of MCU head honcho Kevin Feige, Doctor Strange has been worked on for years, most recently by director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil) and writer C. Robert Cargill. In much the same way that Doctor Strange opened the Marvel comics universe to the supernatural, it is expected his that this version, brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch, will do the same for the film universe.
While little is known about the plot of the upcoming Doctor Strange film, it seems clear from what we know that we will see the origins and heroic journey of Stephen Strange and that time travel may well be involved. It’s also clear that Strange’s home base, the Sanctum Sanctorum, will make an appearance in the film and that both the Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto will adorn the doctor in all their gaudy glory.
While he’s certainly been a supporting character in much of his comic history, it seems that this version of Doctor Strange may be working towards being a major player in the MCU. We know that Marvel Studios worked hard to pin down Benedict Cumberbatch in the role and, it would seem, are banking on his high quality nerd fandom from Sherlock to follow him to the big screen. Kevin Feige told Badass Digest (now Birth.Movies.Death) that this Strange will be a “man of science” transitioning to a “man of faith” who will certainly want some answers to how the mystical energies he controls work. I think the audience is going to want that too and Feige hinted that quantum physics may be the gateway through which that understanding comes.
We got our first glimpse of this in the third act of Ant-Man when Scott Lang ventured into the Quantum Realm, a place Feige referred to as one of potentially many “places that are so out there, they are almost mind-bendingly hard to fathom.” This is certainly the way comic readers think of Doctor Strange and, from all we’ve heard and seen, we can expect to see Stephen Strange end up in some of those mind-bending places.
Whatever the plot of this origin story is, it’s clear that Strange will come out of it headed to a team-up with current and former Avengers in time for the 2-part Avengers: Infinity War. Strange played a key part in Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet and I’d expect he’ll be integral to the success of the mission of the MCU heroes to take down Thanos. In a recent Q&A, the Russo brothers discussed the future of some of the new additions to the Avengers and said,
“Some New Avengers in phase 4 are going to become prominent and then maybe some Avengers might not be around anymore.”
It’s hard to imagine that, if the first film is successful, Marvel Studios wouldn’t want to keep Cumberbatch around and fill out a trilogy, making him one of the key players as they launch Phase 4 in 2020. Feige has been bringing this project along slowly for a long time. It seems critical that Strange is a success, allowing the character to be the new centerpiece of the MCU going into Phase 4. Marvel Studios’ have relied on the Iron Man films as their go to since the studios’ genesis; perhaps Strange, a character who, as we pointed out, parallels Stark, can help replace him should the studio not move forward with more Iron Man films.
While there is a wealth of stories to be explored, if they chose to pursue a sequel to Doctor Strange, his interaction with some of Marvel’s other heroes have historically produced some interesting arcs. Given Marvel Studios’ struggle with Universal to produce a solo Hulk film, a Doctor Strange/Hulk team-up in which they take on some otherworldly threat could certainly be fun. It will be interesting to see how deep Marvel Studios chooses to build the world of Stephen Strange by keeping his films focused solely on growing his supporting cast, or if they continue the current trend of adding other heroes into sequels and growing the collective narrative.
In our next Meet and Greet, we will focus on one of those characters from Strange’s world, Baron Mordo, one of Strange’s potential allies in the upcoming film, who is destined to become his nemesis.
Sources: Badass Digest, CB and Screen Rant.