Sorcerer Supreme. It sounds like something you’d order from Pizza Hut at 3am when you’re off ya guts. But it’s actually the formal title of Marvel’s Magician turned Super Hero. Let’s learn more.

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Created by Steve Ditko, Dr Stephen Vincent Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in July 1963. For such an esoteric character his origin was relatively simple: Genius yet arrogant Surgeon (you know the type) receives career ending nerve damage to his hands in a car crash. When conventional medical means prove fruitless, he turns to mystical guidance for help. He then decides to stick with the mystical route, and becomes a Kickass Magician. He was then tasked with protecting the Earth from all kinds of Inter-Dimensional nasties.

Strange was a vastly different Hero to Marvel’s usual stable, and his mind bending adventures thrilled the fuzzy freaks of the 1960s. College kids at the time, whose minds had been freshly finger-fucked from Psychedelic drugs and Eastern Mysticism, gobbled this shit up. Imagine licking a whole sheet of Acid and getting hit in the face with this:

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While most Superheros were getting in punch ups on the streets of New York, Dr Strange was often battling to save reality itself, fighting his way through the very fabric of Space and Time itself to keep us safe. This meant racking up a pretty colourful rogue’s gallery of Demons itching to fuck the Doc’s shit up:

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Doctor Strange would use an arsenal of mystical weapons and spells to combat his enemies, often sprouting insane gibberish like a Hobo on bath salts. It’s no wonder the drug-fiends loved reading this stuff:

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Dr Strange would appear in a number of Comic Book series and graphic novels over the decades to follow, getting involved in such outrageous antics as fighting a Rogue Magician inside the heart of the sun itself, playing Baseball against a team of Demons, and travelling to Hell to help Doctor Doom save his mother’s soul. Oh, and one time his head fucking exploded.

But his strangest moment? Getting sued by Christian singer Amy Grant when her likeness was used without permission in 1990 “giving the appearance that she was associating with witchcraft.”

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This Mystical Mind-Shag of a comic book series is just begging for it’s adventures to be immortalized on film. For a good chunk of Marvel properties, tradition dictates that they should have some cheap and nasty TV film at some point in the late 1970s, and Doctor Strange was certainly no exception. Bask in the VHS cover glory of this 1978 epic:

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I have never seen this film, but fuck do I need to. It looks like an Italian Porno. Stan Lee went on record as saying this was his favourite film of that period to work on. Yeah I bet, you dirty old rascal!

Work on another Doctor Strange film wouldn’t start again until 1986, when Bob Gale (co-writer of Back to the Future) wrote a script. Then followed two decades of development hell, as a further five scripts were written and the property bounced between half a dozen film companies before finally landing at it’s rightful home at Marvel Studios.

Horror film director Scott Derrickson was chosen to direct the film in June 2014, an apt choice considering Wes Craven was attached to the project back in the early 90s. Benedict Cumberbatch was the fist choice of both the Film makers and the fans – but was unavailable due to other commitments, and so a shortlist of leading men was created . Discussion were had with Ryan Gosling (great actor, but poor choice for Strange) and Joaquin Phoenix. Negotiations fell through with Phoenix, which upset fans who thought he was perfect for the role – and I concur, check out this fan made photoshop:

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But that disappointment was short lived, as the Studio decided to postpone the film to accommodate Cumberbatch’s schedule, and their original choice for Strange was locked in. Doctor Strange started filming in Nepal in November 2015 and concluded in New York in April 2016. It was released late October.

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Doctor Strange (2016) gets a bit bogged down in the whole ‘origin story’ bit, a common malady for those inaugural films in new franchises. It also has it’s fair share of what I like to call “20 buck chuckles” – that corny sense of humour you’ll force yourself to laugh at if you’ve taken the time and money to watch the film at a cinema…but would sit stone faced through if you caught it at home on netflix (which is weird, as Dan ‘Community’ Harmon was brought on board to jazz up the humour, and he’s usually on point).

Those gripes out of the way, Doctor Strange is still a wildly entertaining film thanks to the excellent performances and mind-fuck set pieces. The trailers make it look like it’s basically a cross between Inception and Harry Potter, but it actually takes the principles set down in those films and ramps them up to 11. Fights combining martial arts and magic roll over bending realities, across continents, and pretty much chew aggressively on the nipples of the space time continuum itself. My workmate saw the film in 3D, and reckons his brain got pregnant when he watched Strange’s Astral Projection get punched out of his body and ripped across other dimensions.

Audiences are gelling to the film, leaving it top of the Box Office for two straight weeks now, and raking in half a billion worldwide. Critics are also getting on board the Mystical train earning Doctor Strange a highly respectable 90% on Rotten tomatoes.

What’s next for Doctor Strange? Well he’s going to show up on in Thor 3 next year for starters, and he’s definitely locked in for the Avengers Infinity War films.

But the best fun is going to come along in the next Doctor Strange films themselves. Now that the pesky first origin film is out of the way, Director Scott Derrickson promises the next film(s) are going to ramp up the crazy like a sorcerous Motherfucker. Nightmare was supposed to be the big bad in this first film, but dropped by the studio when the whole story was deemed to be a little too esoteric. Now that an audience has been established for this Magical Tomfoolery, expect him in the second film.

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Personally, I can’t wait for Shuma Gorath to turn up in this series:

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Good times, people. Good times.

 

 

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