Writer Jason Aaron reflects back on his run with the Sorcerer Supreme!

We find ourselves at the end of an era, folks. Just as Stephen Strange once faced The Last Days of Magic, writer Jason Aaron finds himself fast approaching the final installment of his nearly two-year run on DOCTOR STRANGE with issue #20 coming May 17. No need to worry, though, because the MIGHTY THOR writer says he has more plans in store for the Sorcerer Supreme.

Jason worked some of his magic on us to deliver a few poignant thoughts on a comic that means a lot to him and the Marvel Universe. Prepare for things to get strange—well, stranger than usual anyway.

Marvel.com: You’ve been writing DOCTOR STRANGE for nearly two years. What has been your favorite part about writing for Stephen Strange? Put another way: What was been the most magical part?

Jason Aaron: I think to me, the most important part coming in was just making the book fun. DOCTOR STRANGE as a series is one that didn’t always catch on. We hadn’t had a solo DOCTOR STRANGE ongoing in a quite a while so the character is sometimes hard for people to connect with or relate to and his world maybe seems so different compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe and maybe a little impenetrable. So I wanted it to be welcoming to people who’d never read a STRANGE book before, but also at the same time, something that could be embraced by the longtime fans of the character and as part of that, I wanted to make it fun to hang out with Stephen Strange and embrace the fact that he is very different from the all the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe; I did want to give a weight to what Strange goes through and let you understand a little bit about what it’s like to be him and the price he has to pay to be the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s not like Cap throwing a shield or Thor throwing a hammer. There’s a real price to be paid every time Doctor Strange uses magic. Sometimes that’s a price that’s paid by other people, by the world at large, but most often that’s the price that’s paid by him. So I think we demonstrated that in a lot of different ways and just how difficult it is to be the Sorcerer Supreme. I like kind of that dichotomy and the fact that Doctor Strange seems to be having a good time, the guy even embraces the weirdest little corner of the Marvel Universe, but at the same time, you don’t really wanna be Doctor Strange. It’s not a fun gig.

Marvel.com: Which character, hero or villain, have you most identified with and why?

Jason Aaron: I think it was nice to add a character like Zelma [the librarian] to the mix, someone who came into Strange’s world with fresh eyes, someone who didn’t really even believe in magic before that and certainly didn’t embrace the weirdness in a way that Strange does so I liked seeing [the weirdness] through her eyes and seeing how that experience has changed her along the way, which we really drive that point home in the last issue, issue #20.

Marvel.com: Under your direction, Stephen went from the top of his game as a Sorcerer Supreme to seeing magic die off. Can you discuss the process of crafting this roller coaster-esque odyssey for such a unique character and the challenges therein?

Jason Aaron: I like the way of sort of establishing Strange and the beat he walks as Sorcerer Supreme and what it’s like to him. I like the idea of [villains] who really [burn] his world to the ground—I think from there we start to kind of rebuild it. [We put] a few more limits on his powers; Strange has become kind of a deus ex machina for a while in the Marvel [Universe] where he could always just sort of show up and wave his fingers and save the day so I wanted to get away from that and show it’s a lot harder for him to be who he is and to do what he does, show him really have to fight and struggle for it, sometimes literally. We wanted him to be able to mix it up a little bit more and not just stand around and shoot magical energy blasts, but have to pick up a weapon and jump into the fray more than we’re used to seeing.

Doctor Strange #20 cover

Marvel.com: Another theme in the comic is the existence of supernatural horrors just beyond the veil of human comprehension, which was brought to vivid life by Chris Bachalo’s artwork. Was the cosmic horror and weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft an influence at all?

Jason Aaron: Sure. I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft and love it. I think, again, that Doctor Strange is very different from all the other heroes in the Marvel Universe and that he’s the guy who walks a very different sort of beat and has to deal with threats that most of the other heroes may not even know exist. We wanted to drive that home and Chris has been a huge part of that. Right out of the gate in issue #1 we did the bit where we kind of see the world through Doctor Strange’s eyes; we call it “Strange Vision” where we see the normal world kind of go into black and white and we see all the things that only someone like Stephen Strange can see in pop and color. Chris is the perfect artist to do stuff like that. He really took it to another level on this. All along the way, once he was on board, he’s been filled with all sorts of crazy ideas with stuff to put in this book, visually, and has taken it to some really wild, imaginative places.

Marvel.com: What was it like writing this comic in the midst of big releases like the “Doctor Strange” movie that helped propel Stephen to a status of fame that he may not have enjoyed before?

Jason Aaron: Yeah, I think that’s really cool. Certainly anything that helps get more eyes on the comics, I’m always a fan of. I really enjoyed the movie, I really liked the tone of it and it felt like the movie and the comic were kind of pulling in the same direction in that regard. I’m really excited to see Strange pop up again in the [Marvel] Cinematic Universe.

Marvel.com: What hints and/or spoilers can you offer up about issue #20 before it drops in May?

Jason Aaron: I think it kind of sums up my run-up to this point. It’s the big issue; it’s drawn by the two artists who’ve handled most of it in the art so far: Chris Bachalo, the main artist, and then Kevin Nowlan who’s drawn a few bits here and there. So the two of them together, I think they’re the perfect pairing for this series. It’s a story that goes to a lot of different places, kind of focuses on Stephen and the core group of supporting characters around him and like I said, sums up my run so far and kind of sets things up for the new writer Dennis Hopeless to [take on] these same characters and take them forward into some new and different stories.

Marvel.com: And going off that, can you say anything on where Doctor Strange will go from here? Is he gonna be making any cameo appearances in MIGHTY THOR?

Jason Aaron: Maybe. You never know. I really enjoyed writing that team-up issue of STRANGE where we saw Doctor Strange and Thor teaming up so yeah, I don’t think I’m done writing Doctor Strange in some capacity.

Marvel.com: Is there anything in particular that you hope readers have taken away from your run on the title?

Jason Aaron: Just, you know, don’t ever touch Doctor Strange’s refrigerator…

Join Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, and Kevin Nowlan for DOCTOR STRANGE #20 on May 17!

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Robbie Thompson shares the more outlandish elements of Doctor Strange and company!

Fans of the bizarre have a lot to love when it comes to DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME. With so many top dog sorcerers running around, there’s bound to be all kinds of weirdness!

We’ll get to see more of that in the upcoming issue #6—due out March 8—where the sorcerers find themselves banished to a magical dimension, running for their lives. In fact, the book might just qualify as the craziest, strangest comic Marvel publishes.

We asked writer Robbie Thompson why he thinks that’s true…

People are Strange

“The strangest people in comics make this book! It’s a fact! I mean, I’d consider myself totally strange! And so is editor Nick Lowe, who came up with the idea for this book and built this team of maniacs! We’ve got Darren Shan and Allison Stock on editorial as well. These three lunatics always push the book into the most bizarre corners of the Marvel Universe and come up with crazy characters to fill out our cast.

“Joe Caramagna adds all kinds of strange and crazy lettering to each issue, bringing the characters’ voices to life and peppering each page with creepy sounds. Jordie Bellaire brings an absurd amount of strangeness with each page she colors, from throwback coloring to black light posters of yore, to making each monster and creature resonate with vibrant energy. Inker Alvaro Lopez contributes an incredible amount of strange detail and foreboding shadows to every panel, making each page ooze with awesome.”

Doctor Strange

“But I’d consider the Doctor Strange who draws this book, Javier Rodriguez, the strangest and best of all of us working on this comic. From his insane layouts, to his out-of-this-world creature design, Javier constantly makes this book the strangest comic on the stands. Each page he hands in seems more astonishing than the last; he has amazing skill as a storyteller and collaborator.”

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #6 cover by Javier Rodriguez

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #6 cover by Javier Rodriguez

Strange Days

“The plot and events of this story also make it the strangest book out there—I mean, we started by killing Merlin! Who does that? We travelled back in time and fought the terrifying monster that was The Forgotten, and then saw betrayal by that lunatic Sir Isaac Newton—yes that Sir Isaac Newton! We’ve really tried to make each issue more magical and ‘out there’ than the last and we’ve got even more strangeness coming up as the Sorcerers bring their insanity to the present day Marvel Universe and team up with the Avengers!”

Perfect Strangers

“I think the cast of this book also makes it incredibly strange. Everyone is a Sorcerer Supreme, but because Merlin plucked them form different timelines, they’ve either never met, or they meet at the wrong time. The Ancient One shows up as a teenager. Wiccan comes from a time when he replaced Strange. Nina remains a mystery. Kushala appears as a Ghost Rider we’ve never encountered. And yet, these strangers share a common bond: serving as the Sorcerer Supreme!”

Stranger Things

“This book has the strangest creatures in the Marvel Universe—The Forgotten, demons, all manner of tentacles—and we haven’t even unleashed issue #6 yet. I see #6 as pure, unbridled Javier Rodriguez madness and I can’t wait for people to see what he and the rest of the gang have cooked up in this issue!”

See for yourself in DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #6, coming March 8!

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Jason Aaron kicks off as writer of the good doctor by nearly destroying magic!

Something weird is going on in Manhattan. Sure, what else is new, right? Well, an all-new take on the Master of the Mystic Arts by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo counts as new and delightfully weird!

Launching in the wake of Secret Wars, DOCTOR STRANGE returned our pal Stephen to the Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village where people needing help with supernatural problems could seek him out. He also tackled problems as they popped up, like harmful creatures attaching themselves to unassuming humans. After a series of weirder-than-usual occurrences, including unforeseen incursions from other dimensions and a variety of spells losing their power, Strange uncovered the truth: a mysterious technology-based force aimed to eradicate magic across multiple dimensions.

Enter, the Empirikul, a group dedicated to tracking down and destroying magical energy wherever they find it. To them, magic represented a sin that needed to be wiped out in every dimension. Lead by The Imperator, the Empirikul—including the supernatural-sniffing Witchfinder Wolves—had already made their way to an unsuspecting Earth right under Stephen’s nose.

Doctor Strange (2015) #1

Doctor Strange (2015) #1

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To Strange and some of his fellow mages, much of this trouble resulted from the fact that the Sorcerer Supreme had not balanced the scales of magic. An older magician explained that he would drown a rabbit every time he saved a life to keep things even. Strange intended a mysterious ritual in the basement of his home to do exactly that, but Wong instead created the Secret Disciples of Strange to absorb just some of the punishment our hero took on while performing his duties, which take an unimaginable toll.

Aaron and Bachalo also introduced a new character into Strange’s life: a librarian from the Bronx named Zelma Stanton. She entered his life seeking help with an extra mouth growing out of her head, but agreed to return to organize the doctor’s ever-growing collection of mystical tomes.

Right now, the first eight issues of DOCTOR STRANGE can be read on Marvel Unlimited. #1-5, covered here, make up the first arc while the other three really dive into Strange’s battle with the Empirikul, which leaves magic in a much different place than the Sorcerer Supreme would like.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

These first five issues act as a lead-in to a much larger story called “The Last Days of Magic” that wove through DOCTOR STRANGE #6-10 as well as the DOCTOR STRANGE: LAST DAYS OF MAGIC one-shot. The ride continues in the main series by Aaron, Bachalo, and guest artists like Leonardo Romero and Kevin Nowlan. For even more magical adventures, check out the spinoff DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez featuring a team of mages from throughout time gathered to stop a threat called The Forgotten with secret ties to Merlin.

That’s it for The Spells of Doctor Strange, but keep an eye on Marvel Unlimited for new titles added each month as well as your local comic purveyor for new issues of DOCTOR STRANGE and DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME.

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The Defenders reunite with a new mystery for the Master of the Mystic Arts to dig into!

The original Defenders formed when Doctor Strange realized he needed some muscle in the form of Hulk and Namor to take on a threat. Since then, the founders—plus Silver Surfer who joined not long after—have infrequently called on one another for aid.

As the new DEFENDERS title debuted in 2012, writer Matt Fraction utilized The Hulk and the Fear Itself event to set Doctor Strange, Namor, Silver Surfer, Red She-Hulk, and Iron Fist on a mission to stop Nul, a threat even more dangerous than a berserk Jade Giant. But that proved just the opening salvo of a year long journey that not only threatened all life on Earth, but also explained what makes the planet such a special place filled with amazing heroes.

To tell the story, Fraction teamed up with artists Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, Victor Ibanez, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton and Mirco Pierfederici. After taking care of Nul, the Defenders discovered a strange, reality-altering device dubbed the Concordance Engine that fueled the rest of their adventures in the 12-issue series.

Defenders (2011) #1

Defenders (2011) #1

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Along the way, the group lost Namor for a time but picked up Black Cat, Scott “Ant Man” Lang, and an alternate dimension Nick Fury from the 60’s. Doctor Strange accidentally brought an old flame back to life, Iron Fist fought his fellow Immortal Weapon John Aman, and reality bent as they dug further into the truth behind the Engines.

As Silver Surfer discovered and John Aman later explained, a group of incredibly powerful beings seeded Earth with the potential to defend against those who seek to destroy worlds in search of the new, otherwise known as the Death Celestials. The engines actually bent physics and probability in the favor of the heroes who would fend off destruction at the hands of the Death Celestials.

Before long the truth came to light: in moving one of the Concordance Engines, the Defenders screwed up the whole plan, allowing the Death Celestials to more easily overtake the planet. To combat the problem, Doctor Strange used the Concordance Engine itself to travel back in time in his cosmic form to alter the day Hulk asked him for help in the first issue. Not only did Past Stephen make good on a previously bad choice, but Future Stephen saved the world by essentially erasing all their meddling.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

While still important to the overall story, DEFENDERS #4 acted as a Doctor Strange solo story. In the first issue he slept with a college student named Molly interested in the arcane and didn’t treat her too well afterwards. At the time he didn’t realize how lonely he had had been, but that changed when an old flame named Martha appeared out of nowhere. The problem? She was supposed to be dead. Stephen posited that he accidentally conjured her up not through magic but thanks to his proximity to the Concordance Engine.

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The Sorcerer Supreme and Doctor Doom face Mephisto for the soul of an innocent!

In 1989, Roger Stern and Mike Mignola created an epic, standalone tale called DOCTOR STRANGE & DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH AND TORMENT. The graphic novel kicked off with an appearance by old school Strange character The Aged Genghis concerned about Doom—Doctor Doom that is.

Aged Genghis remembered the time that Victor Von Doom came to his cave searching for guidance in the mystic arts. The mage sent him along to a group of remote monks who he soon overtook and used to create his iconic armor, including the mask which he put on his face before it had fully cooled.

Back in the present, Aged Genghis announced a magical competition of sorts to all of the world’s most prominent sorcerers, including Doctors Strange and Doom. The old one channeled Hoggoth, Oshtur, and Agamotto to create a shell around himself that the attendees tried to get through. The winner officially received the title of Sorcerer Supreme.

Strange and Doom remained at the end of the contest with Stephen winning and Doom avoiding the gods’ attacks. Aged Genghis then explained that, as the winner and Sorcerer Supreme, Strange owed runner-up Doom a boon. The despot knew exactly what that would be: help in saving his mother’s soul from the demon Mephisto.

Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989)

Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989)

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Before venturing to the location of their prize, the two headed to Latveria where Strange saw that the people seemed to love their ruler. He also learned that, many years ago, Cynthia Von Doom made a deal with a devil to help her Gypsy clan gain power in Latveria. She perished before seeing the fruits of her labor, but her son eventually picked up the idea and took power.

After Victor amassed a different kind of power, that of magical training and education with Strange in the role of professor, the duo traveled to Mephisto’s realm. Amidst strange visions that recounted some of Stephen’s own history, potential betrayal, and a mother’s rebuke, the pair still figured out a way to beat the devil at his own game, but not necessarily walk away with a pure victory.

Over the years, Doom continued to study the mystic arts himself, using them to battle the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and the forces of Hell to the point where Strange worried that the Latverian leader might actually be selected as the next Sorcerer Supreme when he gave up the responsibilities.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

The Aged Genghis first appeared way back in 1965’s STRANGE TALES #136. In that story by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Artie Simek, Stephen searched the globe looking for help with an Eternity problem. In turning to Aged Genghis he commented that the ancient mage had been driven mad by his long years of existence. As a counterpoint, Aged Genghis claimed to know everything and provided the Master of the Mystic Arts with a scroll that helped him on his journey. Far from a regular player, Aged Genghis only popped up a few times between this issue and TRIUMPH AND TORMENT, specifically in the second DOCTOR STRANGE volume.

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The former Sorcerer Supreme trains a new protégé!

After Doctor Strange gave up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and Brother Voodoo took over for a time, the Master of the Mystic Arts appeared in NEW AVENGERS and his own limited series simply titled STRANGE written by Mark Waid and drawn by Emma Rios in 2009.

As this story kicked off, Strange set up a situation where a young woman named Casey Kinmont would help him get to her grandfather, an incredibly rich man who owned a baseball team that sold its souls to the devil decades ago. After passing a few mystical skills on to the surprisingly adept Casey and actually taking part in the baseball game himself, Stephen saved the players and left without saying much else.

Intrigued by Strange’s comments about her being a natural in the ways of magic, Casey continued using her truth-revealing glasses and the vanishing spell he taught her on the fly while trying to dig up more information on the mysterious magic man.

Strange (2009) #1

Strange (2009) #1

  • Published: November 11, 2009
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: March 16, 2011
  • Rating: Rated T
  • Writer: Mark Waid
  • Penciller: Emma Rios
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It turned out that the vanishing spell itself sent the targets to a realm ruled by a very angry god called Baroshtok. Luckily, the mad deity retained some empathy and accepted that Casey had not known the ramifications of her actions.

While trying to transport away, Strange and Casey wound up in the middle of a confrontation between a pair of soul stealing demons, the nicer one named Laroximus and the reality-threatening one called Virilian. What manner of high-stakes competition might bring about this kind of veracity? Why the Bibb County, George Miss Buttermilk Pageant, of course. Casey attempted to ferret out which stage mom made a deal with that particular devil while Strange and Larry poked around Virilian’s realm to ascertain the true scope of his plans.

Without giving too much away, STRANGE ended with one character selling their soul, huge sacrifices, the return of an old enemy and a victory that saved the world, even if it proved to be a less than happy ending.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

Even though Doctor Strange pledged to save Casey at the end of this limited series, he hasn’t as of this writing. In fact, “Casey Kinmont” only appeared in one issue outside of STRANGE and it turned out to be a fake. A mystic named Adria tracked Stephen down in GIRL COMICS #2 and gave him some problems, especially noting that women like Casey, Clea, Night Nurse, and others tended to enter his life and leave worse for the wear. Ultimately, Stephen defeated this opponent, but her words seemed to ring with at least some truth.

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The Sorcerer Supreme attempts to solve a series of murders even as his hands continue to fail him!

In the late 90’s, some of the coolest comics around came out of the Marvel Knights line. Whether it be DAREDEVIL by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada or the PUNISHER run by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the imprint allowed creators a bit more edgy freedom. That came to light in the four issue limited series DOCTOR STRANGE: THE FLIGHT OF BONES. The 1999 title featured the talents of Dan Jolley, Tony Harris, and Paul Chadwick, as they challenged the Master of the Mystic Arts to figure out a series of murders while the use of his already-damaged hands began to deteriorate.

Those murders also connected to Topaz—the young mystic who first appeared in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #13 before palling around with Jack Russell for a while—who Strange eventually teamed up with. As it happened, the young woman found herself inadvertently wrapped up with a supposed Zen specialist by the name of Jonathan White who used his mutant abilities to grant individuals intense mystical abilities without all of that pesky training and education. If the added power to the inexperienced didn’t cause enough concern, the victims needed to return to White in a matter of hours before exploding.

Strange continued to investigate these deaths, but found himself confounded by the magic involved, which implied that another, larger entity remained at play. The next time Topaz saw White, he jammed a power-inducing charm into her chest. As he explained, she’d have to truly want to activate the power in order to receive it.

Doctor Strange: The Flight of Bones (1999) #1

Doctor Strange: The Flight of Bones (1999) #1

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That came into play not long after when Stephen tried laying siege to White’s operation. Things got even worse moments later when Dormammu revealed himself to be the true power behind the events. After an epic battle between the longtime foes, Strange stopped his enemy and also released the people of New York City from the mystic plague.

However, trouble persisted as White revealed that the charm actually rested very close to Topaz’s heart, making it more than difficult to remove safely. In order to save his companion, Strange used his powers to induce Dr. Wilmott to perform the surgery, helping him get past the insecurity at losing a patient mentioned back in the first issue.

As Strange watched Wilmott remove the charm as he himself could have done back in his surgeon days, the mage mused on whether or not his own adventures may have spurred on the nerve damage. “Perhaps this is what the Ancient One never told him,” the narrator wondered. “Perhaps neglect of Earth’s non-magical citizens is a neglect of his own duties. Perhaps this neglect could even begin to cause him adverse effects.”

Opening the Book of Vishanti

It might seem like Doctor Strange stayed out of the spotlight in the late 80’s and 90’s, but his talents and adventures actually took place in a third DOCTOR STRANGE series that ran for 90 issues. Over the years, Strange lost and regained the title of Sorcerer Supreme, crossed over with the other comics in the horror line dubbed Midnight Sons, formed the Secret Defenders and participated in events like Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade.

Next, no longer Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen takes on a young protégé in the pages of 2009’s STRANGE limited series by Mark Waid and Emma Rios.

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Stephen teams with the New Avengers to take back the title of Sorcerer Supreme!

Stephen Strange kicked around the Marvel Universe for about two years in the 2010’s without the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, having lost it thanks to events seen in WORLD WAR HULK and the initial volume of NEW AVENGERS. Doctor Voodoo held his own as a replacement for a time, but soon died battling Agamotto. In the pages of NEW AVENGERS #3134, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Carlos Pacheco, Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Deodato, and a band of others came together to re-christen the one-time surgeon as the most powerful mystic in all of reality.

Before getting to that point, though, we saw New Avengers liaison Victoria Hand seemingly kill Damon Hellstrom before attacking one-time Strange associate Jennifer Kale. This garnered the attention of both the F.B.I. and S.H.I.E.L.D. who showed up at Avengers Mansion looking for answers.

Those answers came from Strange who entered Hand’s mind to discover that Jericho Drumm’s brother Daniel had taken over her body to destroy other mystics. Far from done with the plan, he then proceeded to hop in and out of all the New Avengers in a battle royale that got far more complicated when the main Avengers squad showed up!

New Avengers (2010) #31

New Avengers (2010) #31

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To end the hero-on-hero violence, Strange challenged Drumm with a battle to the death. Controlling everyone from Red Hulk and Spider-Man to Captain Marvel and Luke Cage, Drumm did his best to destroy Strange, but the Master of the Mystic Arts held a card or two up his sleeves including some dark magic he used to destroy Daniel’s essence once and for all.

In the wake of the battle the not-so-dead Hellstrom appeared with the also not-as-dead-as-we-thought Ancient One. Impressed with Strange’s drive to continue defending the realms from mystic menaces even after it stopped being his duty, Stephen’s teacher offered him the chance to wield the Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation once more as the Sorcerer Supreme!

Opening the Book of Vishanti

The reason that Daniel came at Strange so hard in the final arc of this NEW AVENGERS volume can be seen as the series kicked off. In the first story by Bendis and Stuart Immonen, Jericho Drumm found himself assaulted by the Agamotto-possessed duo of Strange and Hellstrom. When attacked, he teleported the Eye to Luke Cage and the just starting out new New Avengers team. The demon took over Cage first, then Iron Fist, leading to an all-out demon invasion that only fully ended when Jericho sacrificed himself to stop the threat.

Next, Dan Jolley, Tony Harris and Paul Chadwick help Stephen deal with worsening hands and city-wide possession in DOCTOR STRANGE: FLIGHT OF BONES.

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One-time Defenders teammates face off as a righteously angry Jade Giant returns to Earth!

We’ve all had friends who think they know what’s best for us. In some cases, they try to tell us who to date; while in others they trick us into a rocket and send us off to space.

Unfortunately for The Hulk, his friends—namely Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange—don’t have very good luck when it comes to getting rockets to the right place. They planned on sending Bruce Banner to an uninhabited, peaceful planet where he could just relax his life away, but instead he wound up on Sakaar where he went from gladiator-slave to king over the course of the epic “Planet Hulk” story as seen in INCREDIBLE HULK #92105.

King Hulk even met a queen who truly loved him which made the accidental destruction of his kingdom thanks to a malfunction in the rocket all the more painful for the one dubbed “Worldbreaker.” Fueled by rage, he returned to Earth alongside his gladiatorial brethren, the Warbound, to seek revenge on his so-called friends in the pages of WORLD WAR HULK #15 by Greg Pak and John Romita Jr.

After making incredibly short work of Black Bolt—later revealed as a Skrull impostor—Hulk landed in Manhattan where he gave people time to leave before turning Madison Square Garden into his own gladiator arena and started taking out those on his hit list. Doctor Strange made several attempts to stop his one-time Defenders ally. As Strange pointed out to his fellow heroes, they needed to face this problem head on and not send it away so that Hulk could attack another planet, get stronger, and then return even angrier.

World War Hulk (2007) #1

World War Hulk (2007) #1

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With that in mind the Master of the Mystic Arts found a small opening in the Hulk’s mind when he conversed with Rick Jones and then forced his way in further when General Ross blasted the Green Goliath with 10 tons of adamantium shards. On the mental plane, Strange tried to appeal to his friend’s humanity, but that resulted in the gamma-irradiated gladiator crushing the mage’s hands worse than ever before.

Far from giving up, Doctor Strange traveled down a much darker path, taking on the demon Zom and facing Hulk on the physical plane. Zom-Strange made short work of the Warbound and then pounded on Hulk for a while until realizing his rampage put innocent people in danger. That gave Hulk a window to smash Strange’s face, sending him into unconsciousness first and then into the arena alongside Stark, Richards and Black Bolt where they fought one another to near-death.

At the end of the story, Hulk stood victorious over all of his former friends, including the seemingly all-powerful Sentry. The only thing that kept him from continuing his war came in an admission from one of his Warbound that they set off the explosion that killed Hulk’s kingdom.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

In WORLD WAR HULK #3, Thunderbolt Ross remembered a time when the President pardoned the Jade Giant and they dedicated an adamantium statue to him. That took place in INCREDIBLE HULK #278 and #279. In the latter issue, Strange spoke at the dedication explaining that “The savage Hulk side of his persona is completely erased.” The love fest didn’t last. 20 issues later, Nightmare provoked Hulk into another rampage with Doctor Strange the target. Though Strange stopped the behemoth, he inadvertently turned him even more savage before joining forces with an army of heroes to help out in INCREDIBLE HULK #300. The ensuing battle nearly destroyed New York City, but Strange stopped the madness by sending Hulk on a journey through dimensions.

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The Master of the Mystic Arts teams with the Avengers against Asgardian menaces!

Co-workers can be a real drag. Sometimes they eat your lunch out of the community refrigerator, sometimes they talk way too loud on the phone, and sometimes they unleash Asgardian demons with their dying breath. We’re not sure about those first two, but Doctor Stephen Strange’s one-time colleague Dr. Benton definitely did that last one in the pages of DOCTOR STRANGE #177 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan.

That kicked off a story running from DOCTOR STRANGE #178 into AVENGERS #61 that pitted the Master of the Mystic Arts against Surtur the Fire Demon and Ymir, the last Frost Giant. In an attempt to stop the gods from coming forth, Strange first recruited Dane Whitman, The Black Knight, to track down the Sons of Satannish in Tiboro’s dimension.

Since the Sons aided Benton before he discarded them, they held important information about his ultimate plans. Doctor Strange and Black Knight battled valiantly, keeping each other safe from Tiboro’s many attacks until eventually the realm ruler agreed to relinquish control of the Sons of Satannish into their custody.

Doctor Strange (1968) #178

Doctor Strange (1968) #178

  • Published: March 10, 1969
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: January 01, 2000
  • Rating: All Ages
  • Writer: Roy Thomas
  • Penciler: Gene Colan
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From there, the story continued in AVENGERS #61 by Thomas and John Buscema as Black Panther, Vision, and Hawkeye answered Strange’s call for help, discovering their seemingly comatose teammate Black Knight in the good doctor’s care. Strange performed a life-saving surgery on Whitman to bring him back to the land of the living. After some exposure to Hank Pym’s Rejuvenator, Black Knight joined his teammates in their race around the world to stop the invading evil.

Vision and Black Panther traveled by Quinjet to Wakanda where Ymir raged, while Strange stayed at Avengers Mansion and Black Knight and Hawkeye fought Surtur in the Arctic Circle. While his fellow heroes waged battle valiantly, Strange prepared a spell of his own with the Crystals of Conquest.

Just as the endeavor seemed most hopeless on all fronts, the Sorcerer Supreme used the Crystals to transport both behemoths onto the same field of battle mid-swing. Upon appearing in front of one another, they lacked time to stop their earth-shattering blows and negated one another’s presence with a massive “THROOOM” that sent them back to their respective realms.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

If you’re wondering where Doctor Strange’s new threads came from in this story, he needed to don them in DOCTOR STRANGE #177 in an effort to stop Asmodeus, who turned out to be none other than Dr. Benton. In the previous issue, the villain thought he stripped Stephen of his mystical objects and hurled him in a mystical dimension along with Clea. Thanks to a series of preparations before rushing into battle, Strange soon found himself re-powered, but had to don a disguise upon returning to his home dimension because Asmodeus had stolen his face to try and get the Book of Vishanti away from The Ancient One. Realizing the benefits of keeping his identity a secret, Stephen continued wearing this disguise for a period.

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