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Monday, April 14, 2014

The DOCTOR is in - STRANGE is truther than fiction

The year is 1963.

At Marvel Comics, 
the "Marvel Age" of comics was in it's infancy.

Stan Lee, aided ably by Jack Kirby and to a lesser degree Steve Ditko, had picked up the superhero ball more recently owned by DC and ran with it. Spurred by publisher Martin Goodman, Lee had remolded the "super-team" model offered by National's Justice League Of America and with Kirby developed the Fantastic Four in late 1961, complete with an updated version of one of Marvel's most popular Golden Age characters, the Human Torch.

Soon after, in 1962, Marvel brought forth Hank Pym (the Ant-Man), followed by the Hulk, then Spider-Man, and Thor. 1963 saw the creativity continue, first with Iron Man, then Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos. By this time Stan Lee had taken the FF's Human Torch and given the character even more exposure by having him star in Strange Tales. Lee hoped to revitalize the monster anthology, whose sales were waning, and he counted on the revamped Carl Burgos character to boost comic sales as it had in previous decades.

Unfortunately, artist Kirby was already taking on the lion's share of the art chores for Marvel, and drawing a full-length Torch comic wasn't a possibility. Also, the once popular monster tales weren't a good match for the new super-hero themed Strange Tales. It seemed the time was right for another new character.

Lee tapped Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko for the new character, a magician.
Did I say a magician? Nay, not just a mere magician, a sorceror supreme! Stan Lee based his new character Dr. Strange (er, no relation to Golden Age hero Doc on magician heroes from the radio and pulps of his youth, primarily on Chandu The Magician, whose radio exploits were heard by Lee growing up.

Steve Ditko was the perfect choice to draw the new adventures. 
His already slightly odd figures and landscapes took on a whole new aspect of, well, strange. 
It wouldn't be long before Dr. Strange became the comic book hero of choice on college campuses throughout the country, as young minds perused the pages with heightened interest, searching out hidden meanings and mind-expanding truths in the eastern mysticism laden panels. In an ironic twist, it seems that the Mighty Marvel Revolution coincided with the Drug Revolution, and it turns out that Dr. Strange became a favorite of hippies and stoners as the decade progressed, and the psychedelic style of artwork put Dr. Strange and Strange Tales among those at the forefront of the movement.

So, starting with Strange Tales # 110, 1963, the Human Torch had a new co-star. 
Dr. Strange was introduced fully formed, and it wasn't until issue #115 that Marvel presented an origin story.
Here are both of those early stories.










  1. The Ditko run on Doc Strange is in my top-five all time comic book series. I was 1st introduced via the kangaroo pocket-books from the late 70's and still have the battered copy that tweaked my 3rd Grader imagination far beyond the drug abuse realities of my Adult future.

    1. I think Ditko basically set the standard for "other worldly dimensions" with his run on Dr. Strange!
      Thanks for your comment, Mr. L-cuss!