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Comic Book / Doctor Strange

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Just another day at 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.
Dr. Stephen Strange, Shadows and Light vol. 1 #2

Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange is Master of the Mystic Arts and the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, which means that he is 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, an animated DVD movie and is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character being first introduced in his first feature film adaptation.

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, and would return for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in 2017. In 2012 he became part of the roster of heroes in the Facebook Marvel: 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.

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 was the unofficial inspiration for the lead character in Doctor Mordrid, who was made into a Captain Ersatz to avoid legal issues. The good doctor joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Doctor Strange (2016) as part of Phase 3, on October 5th, 2016, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Please note that this page covers the Doctor Strange comics only, for tropes pertaining to all Doctor Strange media, and a list of comic storylines and other works in the franchise, see the franchise page.

Doctor Strange contains examples of:

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    In General 
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Most other dimensions (especially the Dark Dimension) visited by the good doctor are usually depicted as bizarre landscapes filled with weird shapes. Steve Ditko was famous for his depictions of these, and every other artist on the book has tried his hand at it.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, resident of the Sanctum Sanctorum (and Master of the Mystic Arts).
    • Pretty much any item and entity 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 Doctor 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.
    • During the Sixties, Doctor Strange would spout alliteratives, usually in place of expletives, or as his personal version of "verily, I say unto thee." One of Doc Strange's favorites is "by the hoary hosts of Horgoth!", though he has many others as the Master of Mysticism.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With:
    • Inverted intentionally by Shuma-Gorath, who invades dimensions in whatever form will terrify the inhabitants most. On Earth, he appears as a single glaring eyeball surrounded by tentacles.
    • Played straight with the Vishanti, who take vaguely human or animal visages to avoid terrifying their worshipers.
  • Aliens Speaking English: So many dimensional overlords like Dormammu speak english for some reason, some times it’s explained other times it's not.
  • 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.
  • Angelic Abomination: Afterlife is an angel who is turned into a downright Gigeresque monstrosity by the pain he endures in the Realm Between. It’s a temporary condition, but notable nonetheless.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: In one story arc, Strange is menaced by the cosmically powerful sorceress Umar. He finds and releases an artificial Eldritch Abomination called Zom which is the one thing that scares her. Needless to say this quickly backfires (if Strange couldn't handle Umar, he has no chance of containing something bigger than her), and he has to find a bigger fish yet, going through a Chain of Deals which ends with the Living Tribunal, the single biggest fish in the entire Marvel Multiverse (apart from an unseen, vaguely-defined "One-Above-All"). The Tribunal himself was defeated in the leadup to Infinity. It seems this was done by the mysterious 'Rabum Alal' — Sumerian (yes, really) for "Great Destroyer" — as Black Swan, kind of his herald in a sense, calls him. And now, as of Secret Wars (2015), the Living Tribunal is dead at the hands of the Beyonders.
  • Artifact of Hope: The Book of Vishanti is supposedly the greatest grimoire of White Magic spells one could possibly procure. It was dictated by the Vishanti — a trio of gods that give Doctor Strange his magical power — and written by many other great sorcerers across history.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Ancient One, Strange's mentor, became one with the universe after his death, though he was still available for an occasional consultation.
  • 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.
  • Battle Butler: Wong. Not only does he act as Strange's bodyguard, he is Strange's martial arts sifu (master), and keeps Strange's own Kung-Fu Wizard skills sharp.
    Thug: Now give us everything you've got!
    Wong: I offer nothing less.
    [cue beatdown]
  • Canon Discontinuity: Much of the latter parts of Strange's second series seems to have gone by the wayside, including the existence of his extended family, his bloody feud with Wong, Mordo's redemption and subsequent death, and the thousands-year-long War of the Seven Spheres.
  • Create Your Own Villain: In order to pay the price for using his magic without straight-up killing himself, Doctor Strange and Wong created an entity that would absorb all of the pain he would suffer otherwise. That entity ended up becoming Mr. Misery, an Eldritch Abomination that has never known anything but pain and suffering, so when it gets loose...
  • 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.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Most of the good doctor's enemies would fit in one, or have them told either in flash backs or in Story Boarding The Apocalypse.
  • 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.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: Sadly averted with Umar. In fact, having originally been an energy being from a realm with no matter, whose attraction to having a physical body in a material world was portrayed much like a fetish, the experience of actually physically giving birth drove her temporarily insane and still inhibits her from returning to her original form.
  • Demoted to Extra: After the loss of his own title series, Strange was basically demoted for most of the 2000s. J. Michael Straczynski was supposed to write a regular Doctor 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Clea is the daughter of Umar and thus the niece of Dormammu. For a while, Clea and Doctor 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.
  • Epunymous Title: Doctor Strange debuted in the Strange Tales comic series.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Demon lords, dimensional overlords, witched, fairies, zombies, Eldritch abominations, gods pretty much the whole package.
  • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: Clea loves Strange and generally gets on fine with other humans. Her family, on the other hand, are ... several orders of magnitude beyond "annoying".
  • 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:
    • 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.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He'll attempt to Save the Villain on occasion, but if someone has nothing but bad intentions and/or is threatening the world or someone he loves, he will show no mercy.
    • In New Avengers, he invokes a spell which destroys the spirit of Daniel Drumm. (Granted, he more than had it coming.)
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Doctor Strange vs Korvac, in Giant-Size Defenders #3. When his spells failed, Doc just decided use his fists.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Potentially, it seems. Other than the rumors of healing that brought Strange to the Ancient One's doorstep, the ability of magic to heal is almost never addressed. Perhaps to show an in-universe reason why not, as of the Doctor Strange (Vol. 5) #19, Stephen has healed his hands — but what it took was a Deal with the Devil with an Eldritch Abomination named Channok, Keeper of Forbidden Spells. Channok had a tome called "The Book of Even Odds" with the spell "Uthurvan's Invocation" a spell no one tried for a millennia. With good reason, it could cure Strange's condition or it could permanently remove his powers and make the Earth dimension vulnerable without a Sorcerer Supreme. It worked, but in an agonizing way. The spell vaporized Stephen's hands and bit by bit rebuilt them until he had brand-new hands.
  • 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.
  • Keeping the Handicap: In some versions, Strange never healed his hands though he had an opportunity to do so. Presumably this symbolized that he overcame his egotism, and also because he didn't need them healed to do his magic.
  • The Kindnapper: Silver Dagger, of the Well-Intentioned Extremist variety. He 'rescued' Clea from Strange once and was perplexed at her 'ingratitude.'
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: One demon that was laying in wait for Stephen passed the time by listening to the Synchronicity album by The Police.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: To escape assault from the magic-hating Empirikul, Dormammu sold out Shuma-Gorath, whom the Empirikul REALLY hated since it was his cult that murdered his family. When he confronted Strange after the Empirikul's defeat, Strange teleported him right into the tentacles of the injured, but still deadly and VERY ANGRY Shuma-Gorath.
  • Legacy Character:
    • In the Ultimate Universe, Strange had a son with Clea, who was also "Doctor Strange" (until his death in "Ultimatum") despite never having earned a doctorate.
    • Doc Magus, implied to be Stephen's son, also takes on the title in Marvel Comics 2.
    • The title of "Sorcerer Supreme" is a sort of legacy position, but it is usually passed from master to disciple, not through blood relatives.
  • Multiple-Choice Chosen: When Doctor Strange loses the right to be the Sorcerer Supreme due to his actions during World War Hulk (long story), he knows that there are several possible candidates to be the next Sorceror Supreme (he even shows the Avengers their images). The Eye of Agamotto has vanished and will go to the candidate, and Strange must find and train him or her.
  • 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.
  • Oracular Head: Strange's animated head in the miniseries Marvel 1602, taking advantage of a cannot-speak-of-this-while-alive loophole.
  • Order Magic: The Book of the Vishanti contains the greatest, largest, and oldest collection of order/light spells on Earth, if not the entire universe. Written by Earth’s original God of Order, her demigod son, and a Benevolent Abomination or Order who takes the form of a giant Tiger. The spells are primarily defensive, and the book is recognized as the opposite of the Darkhold. This makes sense because the author of the Darkhold is the evil God of Chaos brother of the previously mentioned God of Order.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Nicodemus 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: could break out all along?
    Strange: (smashes Nicodemus' face into a mirror) Excellent observation, you obscenely rank amateur.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: D'Spayre once caught Doctor Strange in one so painful that he nearly took his own life. Break Them by Talking is another of D'Spayre's favorite weapons. He's so good at it that, again, he came within seconds of convincing Strange to kill himself. Yes, he's nearly done it twice.
  • 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.
  • The Shangri-La: Kamar-Taj, where Strange learned the mystic arts, is a hidden land in the Himalayas.
  • Spell Book: The Book of the Vishanti.
  • Stealth Pun: For a time, Strange took on Rintrah, a green minotaur-like being, as his apprentice. A greenhorn.
  • Superhero Sobriquets:
    • Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the Mystic Arts. Luke Cage attempted to saddle him with "the Magic Avenger" when he officially joined the New Avengers. Oh, and to the "savage" Hulk, he will always be "Dumb Magician."
    • Clea was sometimes called the Mystic Maiden.
    • For some reason Doctor Strange's rogues' gallery tend to villain versions of The Adjectival Superhero: The Dread Dormammu, the Unspeakable (or Unrelenting) Umar...
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Much of Doctor Strange's library; especially the Darkhold.
  • Too Clever by Half: D'Spayre's main flaw. He is extraordinarily good at convincing even superheroes that life is pointless and suicide is the best option; but he'll almost always overplay his hand and say or do something that backfires and helps the heroes find the light again.

    Doctor Strange (Vol. 2) 
  • Alice Allusion: In Doctor Strange (Vol. 2) #1, Agamotto appears to Strange as a giant caterpillar on an equally-large mushroom, smoking a hookah. Justified, since Agamotto assumes A Form You Are Comfortable With out of Strange's memories of Alice in Wonderland.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Justified in issue #63 when Strange and his friend Sara Wolfe meet Akira Nitobe, a master of "kiai-jitsu", or manipulating "ki" energy via the voice. Initially Strange is skeptical, which amuses Sara:
    Sara Wolfe: You, of all people, being skeptical of paranormal powers?
    Doctor Strange: Ah, but of all people I know how many pretenders and how few true practitioners of "paranormal arts" there are.

    Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme 
  • Fate of the Frankensteins: Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #37 reviews the entire history of the Frankensteins in the Marvel universe, including clarifying a few facts left unclear by earlier stories.
  • Out of Time, Out of Mind: During the War of the Seven Spheres, Strange spent 5000 years in another dimension and returned after four months of "real" time, having aged only a year.

    Doctor Strange: The Oath 

    Doctor Strange (Vol. 4) 
  • A Master Makes Their Own Tools: After the Last Days of Magic event, Doctor Strange was looking for ways to reignite magic on Earth, and restore his own sorcerous strength. His quest led him to the rescue of a dwarf blacksmith, who questioned why all the artifacts of power he used were named for other people. This led to Strange leveling up by taking an apprenticeship under the dwarf to forge his own mystical artifacts, getting an entirely new look in the process as well as a Cool Sword that could cut rifts in space to cross interstellar distances.
  • Anti-Magic: In Vol. 4, the technology of the Empirikul, a religiously fanatical Anti-Magical Faction with a reach spanning numerous realities, is somehow able to erase magic wherever they invade.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The 2015 series has the Empirikul, an alien inquisition that views magic as a "corruption" and have some way of counteracting it. They've already killed several of Strange's counterparts in other dimensions, and are coming for him next. They accomplish this through the use of Anti-Magic technology which leaves the realities they 'purge' grey and sterile.
  • Cast from Lifespan: The 2015 Jason Aaron run has the Sorcerer Supreme teach a lesson that a normal punch inevitably takes a toll on the one who threw it, and so does casting a spell. In the present, the story shows Stephen dealing with a destroyed digestive tract from all the spellcasting, and Wong has to prepare food that looks like rejects from a tentacle hentai story (and doesn't taste any better) because it's all that his system will accept.
  • Fantastic Diet Requirement: It's revealed in Jason Aaron's run that his usual meals are made up of horribly disgusting indescribable stuff that barely qualifies as food. Unlike most examples, he utterly hates it, but his body has warped so much from a combination of his spell casting and all the dimensions he's been through that it's all he can eat. All the same,on several occasions before and after Aaron's run, he is shown eating normally. Like most of the events from Aaron's run, it has been later ignored.
  • Horror Hunger: In the Aaron run, Doctor Strange's biology is so changed by otherdimensional energies, that normal food can't sustain him and it all tastes like ash now. Instead he needs to eat the cooked body parts from Eldritch Abomination, dead souls and alien animals. They taste horrible but provide him with the energy to cast his spells. This will be the fate of any sorcerer over a long period of time. Note that nobody has paid attention to that since Aaron left the book.
  • Magic Versus Science: The entire premise of Jason Aaron's "Last Days of Magic" arc, where Strange and Earth's other magic-users come under siege from the Empirikul, an army led by the Imperator that worships science and seeks to purge out all magic in the universe.

    Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme 
  • The Bus Came Back: The 2016 comic brings back notable figures from Marvel history:
    • Chondu the Mystic, who appeared in 1960 as a criminal magician, has now reformed and runs a bar for mages.
    • Monako Prince of Magic, who appeared in 1940 in Timely Comics (preceding Marvel), appears as a veteran magician.
    • Casey Kinmont, who had briefly appeared as a sidekick to Doctor Strange in 2010, returns for another brief appearance.
    • Doctor Druid, Strange’s acquaintance, is set for a return in 2020.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer's Supreme deals with a conflict involving an obscenely powerful artifact known as the Word of God that turns out to be highly advanced, extradimensional alien technology that looks and behaves exactly like a spellbook.
  • Continuity Snarl: Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme mini raised several questions about the Ancient One's tenure as Sorcerer Supreme thanks to introducing former Sorcerers Supreme that overlap the time period he was said to have held the role in previous stories.

    Doctor Strange (Vol. 5) 
  • The Blacksmith: After journeying to outer space and learning alien magic, including dwarven runework, Doctor Strange has his own forge to make new weapons and artifacts.
  • Post-Modern Magik: In the 2018 series Strange meets the alien Pkzkrfmknna, Kanna for short, who is an arcanologist, a student of magic. Her knowledge is deep enough that she can replicate magical spells with completely scientific substitutes and regularly uses a "wrench wand" for mechanical repairs.
  • Wizards from Outer Space: What the Mark Waid run in 2018 was about. Iron Man convinced Stephen to look at other planets as a source of other magic and resources, Stephen takes this to heart and travels throughout the galaxy instead of his usual travels to other dimensions. Prior to that, Stephen has encountered wizards from alien planets that are within the Earth's dimension, including the Dire Wraiths.

    Strange (Vol. 3) 

    Doctor Strange (Vol. 6) 

Alternative Title(s): Dr Strange, Doctor Strange Strange Tales