With the movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hitting theaters I figured it was time for a look at the early stories of that Master of the Mystic Arts.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #110 (July 1963)
Title: Doctor Strange, Master of Black Magic
Note: Dr. Strange was a backup feature to the Human Torch in his earliest appearances. He would eventually split Strange Tales equally with the Torch. Strange wouldn’t even be mentioned on the cover for a few issues at first.
Synopsis: A man suffering from intense nightmares hires the famed occultist Dr. Strange to help him. Strange mystically enters the man’s dreams where he sees that the man is being tormented by the dark entity called Nightmare. After an intense battle, our hero drives off Nightmare and saves his client’s life.
Note: This story does not feature Dr. Strange’s origin, and it makes it clear that he and Nightmare have fought each other at least once before.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #111 (August 1963)
Title: The Magic of Baron Mordo
Villain: Baron Mordo
Synopsis: From his castle in Transylvania, Baron Karl Mordo sends his astral form to Kamar-Taj, the home of the Ancient One near Tibet. Taking the Ancient One by surprise he is on the verge of killing him. Doctor Strange arrives just in time to save his and Mordo’s old teacher as they battle it out in their astral forms. Strange drives Baron Mordo back to his corporeal form and uses the Amulet of Agamotto to restore the Ancient One’s fading health.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #114 (November 1963)
Title: The Return of Baron Mordo
Villain: Baron Mordo
NOTE: After a two-issue absence, Doctor Strange returns to Strange Tales as a regular feature.
Synopsis: Baron Mordo assumes the form of Dr. Strange’s old friend Sir Clive Bentley and invites our hero to Bentley’s castle in England. Strange travels there, where the Baron springs his trap via mystic candles which imprison our hero. Baron Mordo wants to use Dr. Strange to kill Sir Clive’s daughter Victoria Bentley, a female mystic who will appear off and on in Dr. Strange stories over the years.
Strange outwits Mordo, saves Victoria and defeats the Baron in a mystic battle held in another dimension. The villain retreats to his Transylvania lair.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #115 (December 1963)
Title: The Origin of Doctor Strange
Villain: Baron Mordo
Synopsis: This tale is a flashback to the origin of Dr. Strange. Cocky, callous yet matchless surgeon Stephen Strange hotdogs his way through his career, caring only about his fees and his performance in the operating room and not at all about his patients. One day an auto accident damages the nerves in his hands, robbing him of his surgical abilities.
Dr. Strange’s pride and awful bedside manner prevent him from practicing normal medicine or teaching at med schools. He loses everything. Eventually the now destitute Stephen hears of the miraculous healing powers of the Ancient One at Kamar-Taj near Tibet.
Strange finds the energy to make his way there, but the Ancient One refuses to help Stephen because of his callous nature. The weather prompts Dr. Strange to stay at Kamar-Taj for the time being. He learns inner peace and warns the Ancient One about his pupil Baron Mordo’s plot to kill him.
The Baron is driven away and Dr. Strange replaces him as the Ancient One’s pupil, learning all the mystic arts.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #116 (January 1964)
Title: Return to the Nightmare World
Synopsis: From his realm in the Dream Dimension, Nightmare has devised a means of trapping dreaming people forever. Their bodies remain asleep back in the real world. As the rash of people who cannot be woken up reaches a higher and higher count the authorities call in Dr. Strange.
Stephen enters the Dream Dimension, where he frees all the trapped people, whose bodies then wake up in reality. Then, Dr. Strange proceeds to thwart Nightmare’s attempt to trap HIM in the Dream Dimension and escapes.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #117 (February 1964)
Title: The Terrible Traps of Baron Mordo
Villain: Baron Mordo
NOTE: Dr. Strange FINALLY gets mentioned on the cover of Strange Tales.
Synopsis: Baron Mordo at last completes work on a spell that strands Dr. Strange and his Sanctum Sanctorum in an alternate dimension. Suspecting his archenemy, Strange sends his astral form to Mordo’s Transylvania castle, where the villain snares our hero in a second trap.
Dr. Strange manages to escape the Baron’s trap and reaches the Ancient One’s home, where he prevents Mordo from killing their old teacher.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #118 (March 1964)
Title: The Possessed
Villains: The Possessors
NOTE: In a “senses-shattering” development, Dr. Strange finally faces a menace besides Baron Mordo or Nightmare.
Synopsis: Detecting malevolent supernatural activity, Dr. Strange travels to a village in the Bavarian Alps. He soon realizes all of the citizens have been possessed by hostile entities. Strange exorcises the alien presence from one of the villagers and learns the Possessors are interdimensional beings who want to conquer the Earth by gradually possessing Earthlings.
One of the Possessors then tries to possess Strange but is defeated. The leader of the possessing entities then uses the Mayor to lead the entire village against our hero. Stephen’s mystical powers let him overcome all the villagers without harming them. Next he defeats the leader of the Possessors and banishes all of them from the Earth, returning them to their home dimension.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #119 (April 1964)
Title: Beyond the Purple Veil
Synopsis: Dr. Strange has been studying a strange purple gem from beyond the Earth. One night two thieves manage to break into his Sanctum Sanctorum and steal it. (This was before Strange had erected his permanent mystic defense shields around his Greenwich Village mansion.) Because the thieves lack our hero’s magic powers the jewel transports them and itself back to its home – the Purple Dimension.
Dr. Strange soon realizes what happened and mystically follows the thieves to the Purple Dimension. Once there he meets that dimension’s tyrannical ruler Aggamon who shows him that the two thieves have joined his subjects in slaving away at mining the mystical purple jewels. Stephen defeats Aggamon, who is armed with energy-shooting purple gems. He also frees the thieves AND Aggamon’s subjects from slavery.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #120 (May 1964)
Title: The House of Shadows
Villain: The House of Shadows
Synopsis: A haunted house in New York called the House of Shadows by the media becomes the topic of a news program. A news crew enters the house to try debunking the reports of supernatural activity inside, only to fall victim to the house and lose contact with the outside world.
Dr. Strange is among the crowd of onlookers who saw this happen and he enters the House of Shadows himself. Using his mystic powers he saves the news crew and learns that the house in its entirety is a sinister entity from another dimension. Stephen defeats the entity and banishes it back to its home dimension, which demonstration of power causes the crowd to flee our hero in fear.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #121 (June 1964)
Title: Witchcraft in the Wax Museum
Villain: Baron Mordo
Synopsis: Dr. Strange travels by his astral form in reply to a plea for help. That plea turns out to have been a trap set by Baron Mordo and Strange must outfight mystical creatures sicced on him by his archenemy. Victorious, Stephen returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum only to see that Mordo stole his physical body while he was fighting the creatures on the astral plain.
Our hero learns that the Baron placed his body on display in a wax museum to taunt him, and surrounded it with a containment spell to prevent Dr. Strange from reentering his body. If a sorcerer is outside their physical form for too long, the body dies. Stephen defeats Baron Mordo in a battle of spells and returns to his body before it can perish.
FANTASTIC FOUR Vol 1 #27 (June 1964)
Title: The Search for the Sub-Mariner
Synopsis: When Sub-Mariner’s latest attempt to woo Sue Storm aka Invisible Girl away from Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) fails, Prince Namor crosses the line by kidnapping her. The infuriated Mr. Fantastic heads off alone to have it out with his romantic rival, leaving the Thing and the Human Torch behind. Ben and Johnny seek out Dr. Strange’s help to find Reed.
Strange does find the undersea site of Mr. Fantastic’s battle with Sub-Mariner while Sue watches. Stephen teleports the Thing and the Human Torch to Reed’s side to help him take on Subby and his Atlantean troops. At one point Invisible Girl is set free so Dr. Strange seizes on that moment to teleport the Fantastic Four members into the submarine that Reed piloted to reach Namor’s hideout. They return to the surface before Sub-Mariner knows what’s happening.
NOTE: Ironically, years later Dr. Strange and Sub-Mariner will become founding members of the Defenders, along with the Hulk. Strange will also be one of the guests at the wedding of Sue Storm and Reed Richards, where he and other heroes fight the army of supervillains sent by Dr. Doom to kill the Fantastic Four at the ceremony.
STRANGE TALES VOL 1 #122 (July 1964)
Title: The World Beyond
NOTE: Dr. Strange has finally joined the Human Torch in being depicted in the upper left-hand corner of the Strange Tales covers.
Synopsis: One night Dr. Strange falls asleep while reading his magick tomes without having cast a protection spell first. Nightmare takes advantage of that situation to attack Strange in the Dream Dimension, where he defeats him and binds him with mystic chains.
Stephen tricks Nightmare by invoking the villain’s worst enemy – the Gulgol, an interdimensional entity who is immune to Nightmare’s powers because it never needs to sleep. Strange escapes and returns to the world of the waking.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #123 (August 1964)
Title: The Challenge of Loki
Synopsis: Loki tricks Dr. Strange into casting a spell which separates Thor from his hammer long enough for Thor to transform back into his secret identity as the lame (as in handicapped) Dr. Donald Blake. (Back then sixty seconds without his hammer would cause that transformation.) Loki then plans to deal with the weak Dr. Blake.
Strange catches on and mystically returns the hammer to Thor before he turns into Blake, then battles Loki while Thor follows the mystic trail that Stephen created to lead the thunder god to his Sanctum Sanctorum and help him against Loki. In those days, Loki was much more powerful than Dr. Strange and has nearly beaten him when Thor arrives, prompting Loki to flee.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #124 (September 1964)
Title: The Lady From Nowhere
Villain: Zota of Pergamum
Synopsis: While exploring the dimensions in his astral form, Dr. Strange comes across a mysterious cloaked woman who is in a trance and was obviously cast between dimensions. He takes the unconscious woman’s body back to the Earth and his Sanctum Sanctorum. The Ancient One helps Strange locate the point from which the woman was exiled from Earth.
She was sent from ancient Egypt, and the Ancient One sends Stephen back there where he defeats the ancient Egyptian sorcerer called Zota. The cloaked woman is freed from Zota’s spell and turns out to be Cleopatra. Our hero is returned to his own time period.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #125 (October 1964)
Title: Mordo Must Not Catch Me
Villain: Baron Mordo
Synopsis: Dr. Strange learns that his archenemy Baron Mordo has captured the Ancient One and imprisoned him somewhere on Earth. Stephen and Mordo clash around the world as our hero struggles to find and free the Ancient One.
Baron Mordo has his evil disciples in the mystic arts pursue and attack Strange in various countries. At last, Stephen finds the Ancient One amid Aztec ruins. He battles Baron Mordo and defeats him once again, but the villain escapes. Dr. Strange frees the Ancient One and they return to their respective homes.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #126 (November 1964)
Title: The Domain of the Dread Dormammu
NOTE: This is the first personal appearance of Dormammu, but his name was used to conjure with in spells cast by Dr. Strange in several previous stories.
Synopsis: The Ancient One contacts Dr. Strange and warns him that Dormammu, the deity who rules the Dark Dimension, is threatening to cross over into Earth’s dimension and add it to his domain. As the Ancient One himself used to oppose Dormammu when he was younger, so must Dr. Strange now do.
Stephen enters the Dark Dimension, where Dormammu has mystical creatures like the G’uranthic Guardian and the Dwellers Below attack our hero. Strange survives all of the attacks, then Clea Orini, one of the humanoid inhabitants of the Dark Dimension who suffer under Dormammu’s tyranny, helps him find the villain’s throne room.
Strange confronts Dormammu and informs him that before he can invade Earth’s dimension, he must first defeat him.
NOTE: In the future, Clea will become Dr. Strange’s disciple and love interest. Clea is played by CHARLIZE THERON in Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #127 (December 1964)
Title: Duel with the Dread Dormammu
Synopsis: While waiting for the time that Dormammu has chosen for their personal duel, Dr. Strange gets shown around the Dark Dimension by Clea. She even shows him the mystic barrier which Dormammu’s powers keep up against the Mindless Ones. Those large, headless, unthinking monsters who fire arcane energies from their neck holes (really) would overrun and kill Clea and all the other inhabitants of the Dark Dimension if not for that barrier.
At length, Dr. Strange and Dormammu meet in mystic combat. As the battle goes on, Dormammu is forced to draw upon so much eldritch energy that the barrier against the Mindless Ones begins to weaken and they threaten to break through. Stephen helps Dormammu repair the barrier in exchange for that villain’s vow to never again try to invade Earth’s dimension. At story’s end, Strange returns to the Earth.
NOTE: Dormammu will make future attempts at side-stepping the vow he gave in this issue. The most well-known instance came during the Avengers/ Defenders War in 1973.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #128 (January 1965)
Title: The Demon’s Disciple
Synopsis: Dr. Strange runs afoul of a New York City practitioner of black magic called Demonicus. He winds up trapping Stephen in the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak.
Our hero escapes from those bands and battles Demonicus and the demon from which he draws his power. Dr. Strange emerges triumphant and bans the villain from ever again practicing black magic.
NOTE: Down the road, Baron Mordo will help the sorcerer throw off Strange’s spell and will make him his own disciple.
STRANGE TALES Vol 1 #129 (February 1965)
Title: Beware … Tiboro
Villain: Tiboro the Tyrant
Synopsis: Members of a television talk show panel on archeology display and discuss an occult statue of a being called Tiboro, the tyrant of the 6th dimension. Not realizing what they are tampering with, they get sucked into the 6th dimension.
Dr Strange is called in to investigate. He travels to the 6th dimension, where he encounters Tiboro who has been trapping people in his realm from every other dimension. Stephen battles Tiboro and wins in the end, making him free all of the innocent people that he had trapped in his 6th dimension kingdom.
SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL Vol 1 #2 (1965)
Title: The Wondrous Worlds of Doctor Strange
NOTE: This Spider-Man Annual featured one original story – this Dr. Strange item – and three reprints (reruns) of earlier Spider-Man tales.
Synopsis: An evil sorcerer named Xandu casts a spell that grants nearly Hulk-level strength to a pair of thuggish underlings. Next, he sends them to bust into Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum on Bleecker Street so they can steal the half of the Wand of Watoomb that is in Strange’s collection. (Xandu himself has the other half.)
While the two thugs are carrying out their assignment, Spider-Man happens along on his nightly patrol and joins Dr. Strange in fighting the villains. Our heroes lose this first round but Spider-Man attaches a Spider-Tracer to one of the goons as they escape with the wand-half and take it to their boss’s lair.
Xandu now makes the Wand of Watoomb whole again and plans to use it to conquer every dimension. Thanks to the Spider-Tracer and Dr. Strange’s mystic senses our heroes arrive at Xandu’s lair. In a battle across two dimensions, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange defeat and de-power the thugs, then take down Xandu. Strange then drains Xandu’s memory of how to use magic.
NOTE: Years later, Xandu’s memories return and he once again uses the Wand of Watoomb in a battle with Dr. Strange and Spider-Man.
*** IF YOU WANT MORE DOCTOR STRANGE READ MY LOOK AT HIM LEADING THE ORIGINAL DEFENDERS IN THEIR FIRST TWENTY STORIES IN THE 1970s. CLICK HERE.
FOR THE FIRST TWENTY AVENGERS STORIES FROM THE 1960s CLICK HERE.
FOR THE FIRST SEVERAL IRON FIST STORIES FROM THE 1970s CLICK HERE.
FOR THE EARLY GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY STORIES CLICK HERE.
FOR THE FIRST TWELVE SHANG-CHI STORIES CLICK HERE.