Doctor Strange Best Comics (1961-1971)
Updated: May 30, 2021
Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters because he deals with threats of the supernatural and metaphysical, threats beyond our comprehension. I didn't grow up on superhero stories, but fantasy tales like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and I always loved to see the magic. So when I saw Doctor Strange back in 2016, I loved it because it took the same Marvel formula and transported it to a new corner of sorcery. And when I started reading Marvel comics, Doctor Strange did not disappoint when he debuted. Stephen Strange starts out as an arrogant doctor but after a terrible accident, loses his career and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, leading to him becoming one of the more powerful Marvel superheroes around. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko went all out in this comic, creating tons of weird concepts, characters, locations, and objects. The artwork by Ditko is stunning, taking the readers to these crazy new worlds and dimensions. And Lee just went bananas, coming up with things like the Wand of Watoomb, or the Dread Dormammu, or the famous line 'Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth,' all because he wanted to. And it all worked to make this comic one of the most mind-trippingly crazy superhero magazine around. After doing a bunch of single stories, they then did a 17-issue long epic, that proved to be their grand finale. Unfortunately, after that the stories suffered. Roy Thomas took over for a little bit but he couldn't quite capture the same magic and the comic was eventually cancelled. Still, there were plenty of fantastic stories that were presented before and many more in the years after. Here are a few of the best Doctor Strange comics from his first decade:
7. Strange Tales Vol 1. 159-163: The Evil That Men Do
Doctor Strange is on a mission. After promising a powerful entity to remove an unleashed evil on Earth, he must now hunt down and destroy that evil. But his old enemy, Baron Mordo, has found it first and is gathering it into himself to increase his power. Starting out with a battle with a cult before traveling through dimensions to a duel between two omnipotent beings, this story has a lot going for it and manages to hit the mark. It's suprising it's as good as it is considering it had three different writers throughout.
6. Strange Tales Vol 1. 115: The Origin of Doctor Strange
The tale of how Stephen Strange changed from the best medical surgeon around to the powerful Sorcerer Supreme. After losing the use of his hands, he does anything he can to repair them, finding what he thinks are answers in a place called Kamar-Taj. What he finds instead is a school of sorcery led by the Ancient One. And from there, he becomes Doctor Strange. The film took most of its inspiration from this comic and it is an essential read for fans of the character. The writing falters at times but the story still stands as one of the greats.
5. Doctor Strange Vol 1. 175-177: The Cult and the Curse
While most Doctor Strange stories stayed in the supernatural and fantasy, this was it's first foray into horror and it was a success. The Sons of Satannish, worshippers of the ancient demon, target Doctor Strange and seek to steal his power. And Strange learns the only way to beat them...is to let them win. Roy Thomas didn't have a lot of great stories but here is a glimpse of what could have been, since the comic was cancelled soon after this. Still, the story is a lot of fun as Strange contends with the cliche of satanic rituals and sacrifice as he battles the cult.
4. Strange Tales Vol 1. 110: Master of the Black Magics
The first story for Doctor Strange, introducing readers to him and his crazy world. This story is only five pages long and yet still stands as one of the best with its gothic artwork and mystic tone as Strange investigates the dreams tormenting a troubled man and finds himself battling one of his greatest foes, Nightmare. This story set the precendent for Marvel's supernatural tales and Stan Lee knocked it out of the park.
3. Strange Tales Vol 1. 158: The Sands of Death
Some great stories have epic battles and duels to the death. This one doesn't and is so much better for it. When Doctor Strange unknowingly unleashes a great evil on the Earth, the omnipotent being the Living Tribunal arrives to destroy the Earth so that the evil will not spread across the multiverse. Strange must now try and convince this entity to give him time to fix his mistake. First off, the design of the Living Tribunal is just awesome. Secondly, the whole conversation delves into the philosophical and moral debate of sacrificing the few to save the many, one that made it a gripping read. Roy Thomas didn't have many great Doctor Strange stories, but he did a fantastic job with this one.
2. Strange Tales Vol 1. 126-127: The Dread Dormammu
Now this story has an epic duel to the death. Dormammu, one of the most feared and dreaded being across the multiverse, has set his sights on Earth. Dormammu's design is extremely cool, a flaming skull that Ghost Rider later copied. So Doctor Strange goes to confront him, traveling into the Dark Dimension, a trippy and mindbending world that Ditko must have had a blast making (and that Scott Derrickson brought beautifully to life in the 2016 film). Once there, he challenges Dormammu for the safety of Earth and the two duel, clashing in an epic standoff. From this point on, Dormammu was forever Doctor Strange's archnemesis.
1. Strange Tales Vol 1. 130-146: The Eternity Saga
This is the definitive Doctor Strange story, an epic saga stretching across 17 issues of non-stop suspense, action, thrills, and magic. Starting out with Dormammu channeling his power into other Doctor Strange nemesis Baron Mordo, making the enemy sorcerer the most powerful sorcerer of all, the story just goes all out from there, with Strange getting lost in dimensions, battling rogue sorcerers, and delving into the mind of the Ancient One all the while searching for the mysterious Eternity. There's also not one but two epic clashes between Strange and Dormammu, both great in their own way. The first is one without magic, just brute force, and the other is pure power, ending in a panel that can't be described in words. Sure, the story does lose its edge at times, but it quickly finds it again and then ups the ante. It cannot be emphasized enough, this story is not just one the best Doctor Strange comic of this time, but one of the best Marvel stories and a definitive read for any fan. One can only hope they make a movie out of this epic one day.
And that's Doctor Strange. Not many great stories (mostly because the Eternity Saga encompassed a bunch), but he had plenty more to come. Next: X-Men.