Monday, May 18, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Silver Surfer #18 and Strange Tales #110-111, #114-117

Doctor Strange - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
This week, I leave the Silver Surfer and move on to Doctor Strange.  This shift involves a step back in time a few years, the Surfer ending in 1970, Strange launching in 1963.  In some ways, it is disappointing to retreat from the '70s, an era in which Marvel busted through the boundaries of what a superhero comic could be.  With Strange Tales, we're back to the villain-of-the week model.

However, Doctor Strange is definitely different.  His origin story of redemption is nothing new, nor is the basic good vs. evil moral landscape upon which his adventures are set.  But there's a darkness to the character that separates him from others at this point in comic history, perhaps closer to the radio drama heroes of an earlier era.  He also romps through wild, mystical dreamscapes in favor of the more realistic New York streets where we encounter Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.  Plus, there's the artwork...

Dr. Strange, more than Spidey, was Steve Ditko's baby.  Ditko, a straight-laced conservative who probably never went near an illicit drug in his life, was a psychedelic artist before the word went mainstream.  His art for Dr. Strange, while perhaps not an influence, was certainly a harbinger of what was to come, leading me to wonder if perhaps the art world was heading in this direction even without the counter-cultural forces with which it's associated.

I will readily admit, I am out of my depths on this topic.  But it is intriguing and I'll be hanging out with Strange for a few weeks, plenty of time for me to learn more.  I promise to share the highlights.

My Recent Reads

Silver Surfer #18
Originally published September 1, 1970
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby (back to close out the series)
  • The Surfer meets the Inhumans!  It would seem there have been significant developments since the last time I encountered this band.  There are now two factions to keep track of: the royal family who live with Black Bolt in the Great Refuge and the Outsiders who roam in exile with Maximus.  The Surfer meets both.
  • The encounter doesn't go well.  The issue, and the series, end with a message of rage and despair.
  • So ends an excellent first solo series for an outstanding character.  Although there were many guest appearances and a couple of one-shots, the Silver Surfer didn't get his next solo series until 1987.

Strange Tales #110
July 1, 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
  • The lead stories at this point in the Strange Tales run star the Human Torch (artist: Dick Ayers).  However, the reason for my interest is the secondary tale.  In #110, Doctor Strange is introduced!
Ancient One - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • Also introduced is The Master, to be referred to in later stories as The Ancient One.   He is Strange's guru.
Nightmare (Marvel Comics) - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • We get a new villain, too: Nightmare.

Strange Tales #111
August 1, 1963
Asbestos Man - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • This month's Human Torch story (artist: Ayers) is worthy of note for the introduction of a new villain: Asbestos Man.
Karl Mordo (Earth-101) | Marvel Fanon | Fandom
via Marvel Fanon
  • We meet Dr. Strange's arch-nemesis: Baron Mordo. 

Strange Tales #114
November 1, 1963
  • New character: Victoria Bently, an ally with mystical power potential

Strange Tales #115
December 1, 1963
  • The Doctor Strange origin story

Strange Tales #116
January 1, 1964
  • Human Torch story (artist: Ayers) 
    • Villain: The Puppet Master
Phillip Masters (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
    • Cameos by the rest of the FF, particularly Thing who brawls with Torch
    • Alicia Masters also features.  It turns out she's the Puppet Master's step-daughter!
  • Dr. Strange story
    • Villain: Nightmare

Strange Tales #117
February 1, 1964

Leopold Stryke (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
  • Human Torch villain: The Eel (artist: Ayers)
  • Dr. Strange villain: Baron Mordo


  1. Dr. Strange is a character I've always felt was full of may more potential than they ever used him for. There was little to no actual magic in the comics, at least in the 80s. It mostly revolved around his use of artifacts and one or two "spells" that were standbys. It was pretty standard super hero stuff. In the 90s, it looked like they were finally going to go in a more mystical direction, but I think that fell apart when Marvel went under. That was around the time I quit reading comics, too, so I'm not sure what happened with that.

    I think Marvel also missed out an a great opportunity with the Surfer. His series as it was when it relaunched in the 80s would have been perfect as a late 70s comic, post-Star Wars. Visiting new alien worlds would have fit that zeitgeist perfectly.

    1. The movie was one of my favorites of the MCU. Mind you, they brought in a higher grade of acting talent for that one with Cumberbatch and Swinton.

    2. Oh, the movie was great, but the movie didn't have a chance to get bogged down in the idea that Strange can't do much more than the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

  2. Doctor Strange is an interesting character.

    1. Yeah... Cumberbatch certainly makes him so. Jury's still out for me. He's different and I like different. But I fell hard for the Silver Surfer. This is less satisfying.

      Probing into the artwork definitely has legs, though.