Just another day in the office for the Sorcerer Supreme.
"I have been accused of being unrelenting. Merciless. Perhaps I am. For I have looked into that heart of darkness. I know the chill of evil. I have clearly seen that, no matter what, sometimes the night cannot be kept at bay. So I carefully choose my battles. I fight those I can win. And make sure the ones I can't win are worth dying for."
Doctor Stephen Strange is Master of the Mystic Arts and the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, which means that he's in charge of protecting it (mostly from powerful supernatural menaces). Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July, 1963), created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He has been appearing ever since, featured as a star of his own series, in team books, and as a frequent guest star in other people's titles. His story has been adapted into a live-action Made-for-TV Movie and an animated DVD movie. A film adaptation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been all but announced, as well.In the comics, Dr. Stephen Strange was a famous surgeon who lost his operating skills after his hands were injured in a car crash. Obsessed with finding a cure, Strange sought a "miracle worker" in Tibet: the Ancient One, who is actually the current Sorcerer Supreme. After passing a subtle test of worthiness, Strange was accepted as the Ancient One's student — in place of his former one, Baron Mordo, who would become Strange's enemy. Dr. Strange returned to New York with the new mission of using his magical powers to secretly protect people from supernatural evil; Wong, a Tibetan servant, accompanied him upon his return. After the Ancient One's death, Strange gained the title of Sorcerer Supreme. Amongst Strange's most famous adventures were preventing the evil Dormammu from conquering Earth and falling in love with Dormammu's niece Clea (who eventually came to Earth to live with him as his apprentice — and lover).Despite having his series canceled years ago, Strange is still a recurring character in the Marvel Comics universe. He has starred in many Defenders stories and has guest-starred in many other comics, usually to help out other heroes against magical menaces. He is a long-time ally of The Avengers and has had an on-and-off membership in the New Avengers (currently 'off' — officially. Unofficially, still very much 'on'). In 2011 he was involved in the Fear Itself storyline with several of his old Defenders teammates — this reunion prefigured a revival of the Defenders title in late 2011 to deal with the threat of Nul, Breaker of Worlds, one of the entities empowering the Serpent's "Worthy." He stood with the Avengers in Avengers Vs X-Men. He also has a role behind the scenes as one of the "Illuminati" — a secret group of high-powered figures who try to deal with problems without the rest of the Marvel Universe becoming aware of it.In 2011 he joined the roster of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, to the delight of many. In 2012 he became part of the roster of heroes in the FacebookMarvel Avengers Alliance game.In 2009 he stepped down from the office of Sorcerer Supreme, feeling that he had become compromised after resorting to Dark Magic to save himself and the New Avengers. The office passed to Brother Voodoo, who died three years later, leaving Strange to face the wrath of Jericho's brother Daniel. He regained his title in November, 2012, after defeating Daniel and showing that he could handle dark magic to protect his friends without letting it control him.A character sheet is now under construction.He should not be confused with Dr. Strangelove, or Professor Hugo Strange, the Batman villain. (Stephen's popularity, in fact, seems to have been a driver for Hugo being largely sidelined by DC for decades; Batman: Arkham City is the first time Hugo's gotten major attention in a long, long time.)
Doctor Strange contains examples of:
Acid Trip Dimension: Many of the dimensions Strange travels through as part of his duties, but especially the Dark Dimension.
The Ageless: He is immortal ever since he and Death came to an understanding. Though he can still die, Death now may only come "from without," and not from within.
The Alcoholic: In some depictions he was prone to alcohol abuse as a surgeon, either during or just after the car accident that ruined his hands.
Alliterative Name: Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme (and Master of the Mystic Arts).
Pretty much any item and demon he calls upon will be alliterative. This was taken to its most ridiculous extremes in the "Eighth Day" crossover, in which a number of people were empowered by the Octessence, eight principalities typically invoked by Dr. Strange. All of them were empowered by alliterative items, such as the "Blinding Brazier of Balthakk". Not surprising when you consider who his original writer was.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: His Sanctum Sanctorum has been jeopardized, destroyed, erased from existence, etc. almost too often to count. He always repairs the damage and moves back in.
Almighty Idiot: In one arc, Strange destroyed a primordial entity of Chaos by assuming its power, killing it -— and then killing himself. This led to him briefly becoming an all-powerful transcendent being with no ego or identity. Ironically, it was one of Strange's old enemies who dragged him back into the "illusion" of self.
Back from the Dead: In the comics, Strange has been resurrected at least once. This is later referenced when Rick Jones consults the Doc on bringing Marlo Chandler back to life. Concerned for Rick's sanity, Strange tries to talk sense into him. Rick counters with "Who in this room has been dead before?" Wong, Strange, and Rick himself all raise their hands.
Badass Longcoat: In "War of the Gems" he reconfigured the Cloak of Levitation into a red coat. He wore a trenchcoat or duster in New Avengers. His look in the new Defenders title includes a tight jacket with a cutaway or tail, retaining the 'cool billow' aspect of this trope.
Big Bad Duumvirate: When Baron Mordo first teams up with Dormammu, this is what he thinks has happened...
Demoted to Dragon: ...but as Dormammu constantly reminds him, this is what actually happens. Mordo resists the idea at first, but eventually gives in, calling Dormammu master and trying to keep favor with him.
Bound and Gagged: He cannot use magic if his hands and voice are restrained. (Granted, getting him into this condition will not be easy...)
Boxing Lessons for Superman: He took up the study of the martial arts as well as the mystic, realizing he needed to know how to defend himself physically.
Can't Stay Normal: He has tried at least once to walk away from magic and become an ordinary doctor. It never sticks.
The Chessmaster: At times he cannot fight the enemy directly, so he recruits heroes and sends them to deal with the threat. In particularly jerkish moments, he neither asks their permission first nor thanks them afterward, but he'll usually apologize and explain if called on it.
Clothes Make the Legend: The red cloak, blue tunic with a demon symbol, black leggings, and yellow sash and gloves carry over into almost all depictions of Strange. Alternate universe characters shown to have assumed the role of Sorcerer Supreme (e.g. Clea, Wiccan) often wear the same ensemble.
Collector of the Strange/Superhero Trophy Shelf: Over his career he has amassed a number of mystical artifacts, including several trophies that imprison old enemies. When he was forced to destroy his collection to prevent Urthona from using it, it loosed so much evil that he had to devote his complete attention to bottling it up again.
Comes Great Responsibility: He does have a manservant, a nice house, and no qualms about magicking up money, but this is mostly because his duties are so all-encompassing that he doesn't have time to worry about the mundane.
Cosmopolitan Council: The Illuminati (which in Marvel is a secret hero group, to which Strange belongs). It is composed of high-ranking representatives from the various power factions in the Marvel universe (mutants, science, magic) instead of representatives of nations.
Dark Messiah: Kaluu, an old rival of the Ancient One, becomes this during the "black magic" Strange Tales story of the 80's, telling Strange that if he wants to save the world from an invasion of demons he's got to be willing to do anything, such as ignoring individual lives in danger, or even be willing to sacrifice the occasional innocent if that's what it takes to give him enough power. Once the world is saved, however, he helps Stephen's other allies bring him back to the light, and explicitly admits that while Earth might need someone like him, it's probably for the best if Strange stays with white magic from now on.
Deadpan Snarker: Many of Strange's best writers, like Roy Thomas, portray him as this, especially when involved with more traditional superheroics. More than once he's implied that, after all the time battling monsters that want to devour the universe or corrupt the souls of humanity, he finds battling bank-robbing supervillains relaxing and finds it a happy side-effect of his time with teams like the Defenders.
Deflector Shields: Dr. Strange is protected by a mystical shield that can withstand attacks from beings like Galactus, Dormammu and Shuma Gorath. Depending on the Writer, it either functions automatically or he has to summon it. He can also call up the "Shields of the Seraphim" for added protection.
Strange was basically this for most of the 2000s. J. Michael Straczynski was supposed to write a regular Dr. Strange book, but for whatever reason the book never materialized, so Straczynski compensated by making Strange a supporting character in the Spider-Man book instead, suddenly being Spider-Man's closest superhero ally over Peter's more long-standing friendships, like with Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. It got to the point where Spider-Man fans groaned whenever Spidey came across some sort of mystical phenomena, knowing full well that he was going to make yet another trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum for help.
De-power: Zigzagged. His most powerful spells draw on the energy of divine beings, so he can't technically lose those unless he also loses the favor of that deity. On the other hand, Astral Projection, Psychic Powers, the ability to manipulate the magical energy of the universe, and the ability to steal another's magic through sheer force of will have been implied to be his own personal powers. He relied heavily on artifacts like the Eye of Agamotto to help him use those abilities effectively, so his loss of the Eye and the special patronage of the Vishanti would count as a functional de-powering.
Dream Land: The realm of Strange's enemy, Nightmare.
Dr. Jerk: Strange's backstory. Before he became a sorcerer, he was one of the most skilled surgeons in the world and had the clout to charge his own exorbitant fees, turn away patients who couldn't afford to pay, and walk out on colleagues.
The animated movie gives him a literal dead little sister to give him a Freudian Excuse.
Dysfunctional Family/Tangled Family Tree: Clea is the daughter of Umar and thus the niece of Dormammu. For a while, Clea and Dr. Strange were considered common-law husband and wife, thus making two of Strange's greatest enemies some of his in-laws. And then Baron Mordo became Umar's consort.
Evil Is Not a Toy: During World War Hulk, Strange allowed himself to be possessed by the demonic entity Zom. A later storyline revealed that he had continued to borrow from Zom to bolster his fading magics. Both times the power used him far more than he used it.
Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Fortunately averted: it's a hallmark of evildoers in his world that they never cooperate without coercion or some ulterior motive. This is a weakness Strange can exploit, and often does.
Fight Dracula: They've met several times, and fought throughout an entire arc when Strange wiped out every single vampire in the entire Marvel universe with a Chekhov's Gun from Dracula Lives. This was due to The Comics Code banning vampires from comics for a few years. When the ban was lifted, the vamps came back.
Find the Cure: He has been called upon to find magical cures for ailments which are beyond modern medicine.
Functional Magic: As Master of the Mystic Arts, he uses or has used everything on the list except Magic Music (possibly because he's never been shown to be musical; more likely because it wouldn't translate well into the medium of comic books).
Genre Throwback: It's been observed that many Strange stories resemble less Marvel superheroics, and more of the horror stuff they were doing in the 50s.
Godzilla Threshold: Strange has to pull out these options quite a bit. In one memorable multi-part storyline from the late 60's, he went through a whole chain of these; to defeat Dormammu's sister, Umar, he had to free the awesomely powerful demon Zom; to defeat Zom, he had to yank out some of its hair, which spread evil magic all over the world and also summoned the Living Tribunal, who threatened to destroy Earth unless Strange could remove all the evil magic he had unleashed; to gather together all the evil magic, he had to give it all to Baron Mordo, giving him a tremendous power-up; to defeat the empowered Mordo, he had to use an Artifact of Doom given to him by the Obviously Evil entity Nebulos, which gave all the evil power to it instead. Finally, he aided the Living Tribunal in defeating Nebulos, and the Tribunal then declared Earth was safe, ending the chain.
He invoked Zom again (technically a fragment of Zom's essence) in World War Hulk as a last-minute desperation move. It didn't work, and the fallout led him to give up the position of Sorcerer Supreme for a while.
In The Oath, upon learning that due to an extensive cover up, the man who shot him will never be able to be convicted in a court of law, Strange banishes him to another dimension, flat out telling his allies that he has neither the time or the patience to worry about due process.
In New Avengers, he invokes a spell which destroys the spirit of Daniel Drumm. (Granted, he more than had it coming).
Guile Hero: By necessity against unspeakably powerful entities. He could never hope to take them by force, so he has to use his wits, be creative, and exploit any weaknesses they might have.
Hurting Hero: At times. Part of his early characterization was the pathos that someone can command that much power and still have problems he can't solve, especially with his loved ones.
The Illuminati: He is a member of a group by that name with Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor Xavier, and others. Zigzags the trope, since they are all heroes but they have done some morally questionable acts in the name of saving the world. Strange appears to consider his involvement with them a necessary evil.
Indy Ploy: When written well, this is his signature ability — the creativity to evaluate the situation in an instant and turn it around with the right spell, use of his artifacts, or words.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Clea left Strange when she became aware of Morgana Blessing, a woman who had loved Stephen in every single one of her past lives. It was a bitter irony that Stephen had little to no interest in Morgana at all, except as a friend, and both then and now considers Clea the only one for him.
It's Not You, It's My Enemies: He tried to beg out of New Avengers membership because Daniel Drumm had sworn vengeance on him. Luke Cage reminded him that this sort of thing happens routinely to superheroes.
Logical Weakness: He's limited by his physicality: he uses his hands and voice to cast nearly all of his spells, and he can get tired, hungry, or distracted like anyone else.
Magical Gesture: Spell-casting for Strange involves special hand positions. He often uses the mano cornuta or "horns" gesture made by folding the two inner fingers down. Currently provides the page image.
Magical Incantation: Usually, but not always, required for him to work magic. More complicated spells seem to require longer incantations, which often rhyme.
Merlin and Nimue: Clea, Strange's best disciple, was also the woman he loved most; at one point they were considered common-law husband and wife. In Earth X, she betrayed and killed him before the story began, putting the final touch on the traditional depiction of this relationship.
Mighty Whitey: It takes Strange only a short time (an indeterminate handful of years) to surpass all The Ancient One's other students. Some writers retcon him into the Chosen One and claim the master was aware of his potential long before he actually came to Tibet. Mordo, the master's second-best student, was also Caucasian, hailing from somewhere in Transylvania.
Mind Rape/Go Mad from the Revelation: The Eye of Agamotto, used as a weapon, will forcibly show someone the truth, with devastating results. Strange used it to subdue the rampaging Scarlet Witch during her breakdown. He has also used the Images of Ikkon to send Galactus into a Heroic BSOD (by reawakening his conscience).
My Greatest Failure: He blames himself for certain events which went down on his watch (particularly House of M and its aftermath), believing that the Sorcerer Supreme has that office to prevent exactly that sort of thing.
My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Strange is one of the standard indicators that something big is going down in the Marvel universe. He may not do anything about it, but he'll know.
Mysterious Waif: Clea at first. Afterward she became more of a strange girl (in more ways than one).
Mythology: Strange comes with his own assembly of arcane deities and supernatural entities from whom he draws power.
Neutral No Longer: His backstory. The clear and obvious existence of evil magic is what convinced him that 1) Magic is real, and 2) Good people need to learn magic too, so they can fight back.
Stuart Immonen's version in New Avengers looked a lot like Tom Selleck.
No Ending: A huge complaint about the Strange mini-series; it seems to end right at what you'd think would actually be the halfway point of the story. Who wants to take bets that Casey is just going to be forgotten and will be a little soul flame for the rest of her life, poor girl.
No Pronunciation Guide: As a result, the pronunciation of names such as 'Agamotto,' 'Hoggoth,' and 'Clea' varies widely from adaptation to adaptation.
Occult Detective: Strange occasionally takes on this role. More than one plot has centered around him investigating supernatural problems brought to him by clients.
As one advertisment once said, "if he has to make a house call, you're already in trouble."
Oh Crap: Says those words exactly while getting unexpectedly sucked into another dimension. The rulers of the dimension seem to find this amusing.
"Oh...crap," Stephen? Such a mundane utterance from the Sorcerer Supreme! I'd expected "By Cyttorak's Crimson Bands!" or "Vipers of Valtor!" or—what is your other favorite?—ah, yes "Shades of the Seraphim!" But..."Oh...crap"? Most unimaginative.
Oh My Gods!: He has a lot of occult deities to call upon, particularly the "hoary hosts of Hoggoth."
Older than They Look: According to the Marvel: The Lost Generation limited series, Strange's origin story predates the Fantastic Four's by decades; in other words, he has not been subject to Comic Book Time, and his origin actually did happen in the 60's, or likely even earlier. Thanks to his magic, he looks much younger than he is.
Oracular Head: Strange's animate head in the miniseries Marvel 1602, taking advantage of a cannot-speak-of-this-while-alive loophole.
Out of Time, Out of Mind: Strange spent 5000 years in another dimension and returned after four months of 'real' time, having aged only a year.
Papa Wolf: Don't mess with his friends or anyone under his protection. Just... don't.
Pimped Out Cape: One of the most famous examples, though it's the high collar with its two winglike projections which is really his icon.
Play-Along Prisoner: A fellow sorcerer supposedly traps Strange in a magical energy prison. Strange stays "trapped" just long enough to listen to the villain's Motive Rant before easily walking through the bars.
Nicodemus: You...you could break out all along?
Strange: (smashes Nicodemus' face into a mirror) Excellent observation, you obscenely rank amateur.
Plucky Girl: Casey, from the 2009 mini-series, and Night Nurse from The Oath.
Post-Victory Collapse: Extreme magical exertion is hard on him, and the effort required to win a battle can bring on anything from momentary dizziness to coma.
Progressively Prettier: He started as a somewhat gaunt older man with slanted eyes, progressed into a conventionally-handsome Western man, transformed into something that was almost Bishounen, and eventually settled as an ordinary-looking (but still more attractive than average) man in his mid-forties.
Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Strange's longer spells must rhyme - and in the early years, they all scanned to the first few lines of "Battle Hymn of the Republic".
Psychic Powers: Telepathy, telekinesis, others. Dr. Strange once bested Moondragon while she was in possession of the Mind Gem.
Pure Magic Being: Dormammu and the other Faltine, though his sister Umar is mode-locked into a physical shape.
Put on a Bus: Oh, so many of his supporting cast. Clea, Rintrah, Casey...
Reality Warper: At full power, and with great effort, he can do this. But he's more often seen keeping an eye on the fabric of reality to make sure no one's messing with it, as part of his duties as Sorcerer Supreme/Master of the Mystic Arts.
Role Called: Strange Tales was eventually renamed Doctor Strange.
Sacrificial Planet: Subverted in a Story Arc from the 1970s, wherein the villain Nightmare manages to destroy the Earth at the beginning and the story is about trying to bring it back, or at least get Earth recreated anew.
Secret Identity: Averted and played with. Doctor Stephen Strange is a well-known local character in Greenwich Village, often appearing in his trademark costume, but he takes pains that the public know nothing of his struggles and think of him as a harmless New Age kook who apparently makes a living as a guru.
Played straight during the brief period when he had a different appearance as "Doctor Strange" and a civilian identity known as "Stephen Sanders."
Secret Keeper: As a member of the Illuminati. For a time they were the secret custodians of the Infinity Gems (he had the Soul Gem). Then he was summoned by Black Panther to be party to his secrets — incursions, the Great Destroyer, and the very real possibility that he'll have to destroy alternate-universe Earths if he wants his own to live.
Secret Test of Character: When Strange sought the help of the Ancient One to heal his hands, the latter sensed his selfish motives and refused, though he proposed that Strange become his student and find the cure within himself. Strange called him a fraud and would have left right then if not for a sudden blizzard. While confined to the building, Strange discovered one of the other students, Mordo, plotting to kill the master. When he tried to warn the Ancient One, Mordo cast a spell on Strange that rendered him unable to speak of this. Strange then decided to become the Ancient One's student, thinking that by learning magic, he would be able to stop Mordo. The Ancient One then revealed he knew about Mordo's plans all along and accepted Strange as his apprentice, now knowing he was capable of acting selflessly.
Subverted in the same story, as the Ancient One made the offer a second time (and Strange accepted) once he knew all the facts.
Shoot the Dog: There is nothing he wouldn't do to protect the Earth and those he loves. Case in point...
He murdered the Ancient One to prevent Shuma-Gorath from entering their world.
He destroyed his home and all of his treasured artifacts to prevent Urthona from using them. And then was forced to go on a canine shooting spree under the instruction of Kaluu, culminating in his own suicide after defeating Shuma-Gorath again.
Hickman's New Avengers looks like it's going to be nothing but this, starting with Strange erasing Captain America's memories to get him out of the group and open the possibility of darker solutions to their current problem.
After Infinity Strange decided to take more drastic measures at New Avengers' problem and seems to be consulting with demons or something even worse.
One of these, fired from the Walther P-38 which Hitler used to commit suicide, managed to get through Strange's mystical defenses and nearly killed him.
Skunk Stripe: A streak of white hair at each temple. Originally a sign of age, but increasingly they seem to indicate that he commands arcane power.
Sliding Time Scale: One of the few characters in the Marvel Universe who is immune. As Sorcerer Supreme, he has eternal youth and is locked in his forties, although he's chronologically twice that age.
Stealth Pun: For a time, Strange took on Rintrah, a green minotaur-like being, as his apprentice. A greenhorn.
Superhero Sobriquets: Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the Mystic Arts. Clea was sometimes called the Mystic Maiden. Luke Cage attempted to saddle him with "the Magic Avenger" when he officially joined the New Avengers.
The Adjectival Superhero: For some reason this one applies to his rogues' gallery: The Dread Dormammu, the Unspeakable (or Unrelenting) Umar...
Supernormal Bindings: Uses the "Crimson Bands of Cyttorak" spell to tie up superpowered evildoers, and the Hulk when he's rampaging..
Third Eye: The Eye of Agamotto. By itself it sends out a beam of light that reveals the true nature of something; when Strange looks through it, it mystically attaches to his forehead.
Time Master: Dr. Strange can stop and reverse time at will.
Time Travel: An older feat, Dr. Strange traveled back in time to witness the birth of the Earth.
To the Pain: A lot of his enemies enjoy describing the horrible things they're going to do to him. Some of them are foolish enough to do it before he's even securely in their grasp, giving him enough time to plot a way to escape.
We Help the Helpless: Even heroes have to eat, and so sometimes the good Doctor will investigate cases for hire (Depending on the Writer — sometimes he simply conjures up money whenever he needs it, so we assume he does this pro bono... or perhaps for light entertainment).
Who You Gonna Call?: If you're a New York superhero and you're facing the supernatural, you'll be so glad that Stephen Strange hangs his shingle in Greenwich Village.
Withholding the Cure: The major plot of Doctor Strange: The Oath involves Timely Pharmaceuticals interfering with Doc's efforts to save Wong's life because the magical elixir he's retrieved can cure all diseases — and put them out of business. Worse; it's implied this isn't the first time they've done something like this.