Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dr. Strange Top 10 List: #10 - Strange Tales 115

    As promised, here's the start of my "Top 10" list for the Doctor Strange issues scripted by Stan Lee and drawn (and presumably plotted) by Steve Ditko. 

   The two worked together on some 35 issues (though a few of the final ones featured other scripters, including Roy Thomas and Dennis O'Neil) - not including Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, which featured an incredible team-up with the Doc and the webslinger.

   This list is especially difficult because of the fact that so many of the best stories were continued - but we'll stick to individual issues here. So let's start the countdown at the bottom:

#10 - Strange Tales 115 - “The Origin of Dr. Strange”

   One of the odd things about Doctor Strange's origin is that it took four issues to get around to it.

   He first appeared in issue #110 of Strange Tales (sharing space with the Human Torch and Nick Fury over the years), then in #111 and #114. Apparently then it occurred to Stan and Steve to give us an origin story for the mysterious hero.

   And in the 8-page gem they gave him a really odd origin. 

   The pre-Master of the Mystic Arts was a brilliant surgeon, but he was also conceited and heartless. A terrible car accident leaves his nerves damaged - he's no longer able to operate. 

   He spends all his money searching for a cure, and finally goes in search of the Ancient One, a mystic who might be able to offer a cure.

   What Strange finds instead is a different world of powers and abilities he'd never dreamed of. 

   He accidentally sees Baron Mordo, a student of the Ancient One's, planning an attack on his master - but Mordo casts a spell the prevents Strange from warning the aged mystic.

   Instead, Strange asks the Ancient One to teach him - and that begins his reformation, as he dedicates himself to standing against the forces of evil.

   It's a lot to squeeze into a mere 8 pages, but Ditko manages to brew up some amazing atmospheric environments - and fantastic characters - in such a small space.

   The story's not perfect - there are some big ol' holes in there to be covered (thankfully the film did a fine job of fixing the shortcomings of the original story) - but it's a powerful piece and a great start for the series.

   The origin was a bit late, but well worth it. 

Grade: A


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