Dr. Strange has always had a very special place in my warm and loving heart. Sure, I'm proud of Spider-man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, Mighty Thor, and all the rest of the multi-muscled merrymakers in our little Marvel menagerie. I love them all. But good ol' Doc is different. Let me tell you why.
The one element that sets superhero characters apart from the average, normal, everyday type of functional good guy is the element of fantasy. Superheroes are different. Especially Marvel superheroes. You know what I mean. Our costumed cavorters aren't exactly the type of cutups you'll find lounging around in your neighborhood bowling alley -- or starring in an average TV cops and-robbers show. They're one of a kind. They're unique. They're different. That's why readers dig 'em. That's why I dig them. And that's why I dig Dr. Strange. Even in a wacky world of swingin' superheroes, you've got to admit our magician is different.
One of the differences I've always liked most about our sagacious sorcerer is the way he speaks. After all, how many guys do you know who can -- with a straight face -- make a casual allusions to the "Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth," or the "Shades of the Shadowy Seraphim," or even, if you will, the "Crimson Bands of Cytorrak"? As a matter of fact, since I'm unabashedly corny in my admitted affection for high-flown, flowery, pseudo-Shakespearean and quasi-biblical dialog, I've always gotten the biggest kick out of writing the valiant verbiage for Dr. Strange, Thor, and the Silver Surfer -- as well as Galactus, Odin, Dr. Doom, and Mephisto. You just can't have those kinda cats rapping away like you and I might do! But, it's Dr. Strange alone who has to recite his spooky spells and indecipherable incantation -- and I sure do love to write those nutty things.
And how about those pandemonious plots!
How can you not have a special spot in your heart for a fella who's as apt to visit the Dark Dimension -- or the Nightmare World -- or the realm of the Dread Dormammu, as he is to drop in the neighborhood supermarket for a bag of Fritos? I mean -- man, when you pick up a Dr. Strange to read, you know you're not gonna get "Dick and Jane went up the hill"!
Have you ever wondered why the mystic arts seem to hold such far-reaching fascination for the reading public? Why is it that the subject of magic and the shadowy realm of sorcery have captured and intrigued the minds of men since time immemorial? (Or even since time memorial, as well, if you insist on splitting hairs). I don't claim to have the ultimate and absolute answer, but I'll give you an option anyway -- especially since there's no way you can shut me up, and I love a captive audience.
It isn't the act of magic per se that turns people on. Uh uh. It's what that mystical feat represents. magic represents a regimen, a series of laws that go beyond the natural sciences as we know and understand them. In point of fact, magic represents the theory that he supernatural really exists -- and that's what this is all about.
Everyone wants to believe in the supernatural. Everyone wants to believe there's much more to the world than we can see, and feel, and taste. Everyone wants to believe that somewhere out there, beyond the reach of our own mortal knowledge, beyond the stretch and scope of our imagination, is another universe: a greater, vaster, far more wondrous universe -- a universe, or a utopia, or a heaven, call it what you will -- a dream, perhaps, that all of us share, a dream that may link us with some sort of immortality.
And so we turn to the lore of magic. There, we seek hints, and clues, and dimly glimpsed traces of the miraculous world that we so avidly wish for. For only there, in the wild, unfettered domain of all that is magical, might we one day find the secret of the supernatural -- the secret that man has sought since first he walked upon the good, green Earth and marveled at the mystery of the heavens.
Whew! I didn't mean to get so heavy, or to wax so flowery about the subject. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that we all realize there must be more to life that this. There must be more to the sum total of human existence that that which meets the eye. Okay, so how do we find it? One way is by trying to free our imagination, trying to grasp the concepts that have eluded us for ages. And how do we do it? Aha! You guessed it: by telling, and reading, and studying, and sharing the stories and legends that seek to open the doorways of our minds -- that seek to strip bare the secrets of the world of magic.
Of course, there's also something else. Reading stories of sorcery and the enchantment of other worlds is simply downright fun! Anyone with half an imagination is bound to get a kick out of tales that present characters and situations wilder and weirder than any we have ever known. Who among us can resist the lure of stories that feature mystery, fantasy, action, menace, and magic, all tied together tidily and threateningly by their incredible link to the world of the supernatural? Forget the philosophy, forget all my high-flown, windy theories, forget the sociological and psychological symbolism. Just remember the most important point of all -- everyone enjoys a juicy tale of mystery and magic -- and that's were Dr. Strange is at!
Incidentally, lots of people have asked where I dug up all the strange-sounding names with which our tales are so generously sprinkled. People have theorized that they bear the influence of ancient Druid writings, or that they come from research into the genealogy of Tibetan lamas, or that I just plain copied the hieroglyphics from Egyptian pyramids. Well, even though I really hate to destroy such glamorous and erudite theories, I must honestly admit that they aren't consciously based on anything. I just think 'em up. It's one of the things I get the biggest kick out of -- inventing nutty names.
Take Dormammu, for instance. My biggest problem was trying to decide whether it should have two R's or two m's. And then, after writing it both ways and deciding I preferred the double m, I was faced with the critical choice of whether the first m or the second m should be the one to be doubled. So, I wrote "Dormmamu". I looked at it. I pronounced it. I felt it wasn't right. Then I wrote "Dormammu". Wow! It's like the difference between night and day. Look at it. It speaks volumes. It doesn't just lie there -- it seems charged with energy! What's that you say? You can't see the difference? And you don't care one way or the other? Well then, would you like to discuss "Hoggoth"? Aw, forget it. We save that for later.
Y'know, one of the reasons I've always been fond of Baron Mordo -- as a villainous character, I mean -- is the fact that his power is so close to that which Dr. Strange possesses. When you have to spend a lot of time writing these stirring little sagas, it makes it really interesting to dream up traps and tricks and tantalizing little tests of strength and shrewdness for two antagonists who are very nearly evenly matched.
Another thing that makes mean ol' Mordo such a practically perfect villain is the fact that, unlike many of our other bombastic baddies, his baronship possesses not one single, solitary, worthwhile or redeeming trait that anyone can find. He's really one baaaad dude! He'd probably not only take candy from a baby but also sell it back to the poor kid at twice the price! In fact, Mordo's so totally rotten, he makes Dr. Doom seem like a compulsive altruist!
In case I never told you this before, Steve Ditko is one of the best plot men in the biz. When it comes to dreaming up story ideas, putting them together intricately, panel by panel, and utilizing the best of cinematic techniques, the guy's a whiz.
Somebody has to put in the words. Lamentable as it seems, they simply don't appear by magic. So, that's my job. After Steve did the hard part -- after he dreamed up the story and illustrated it in his own unique style -- I then got to do the fun part. I wrote all the squiggly little words: the dialog balloons and captions, the soliloquies and the snide remarks, and all the little sound effects that drove Steve bonkers 'cause they cluttered up his artwork! Yep, that's how we did it, and I hope you dig the daffy result. Or, as the world's greatest sorcerer might have so succinctly put it:
In the name of the All-Seeing,
In the name of the All-Sublime,
In the name of the All-Freeing,
We had to end this sometime!
Stan Lee is the co-creator of a huge number of Marvel's most enduringly popular super heroes and super villains. He joined Marvel as a teenager in 1940 and, except for a three-year stint writing training films and books for the army during World War II, has been head writer, editor-in-chief, art director and once-and-future publisher of Marvel ever since. He lives in Los Angeles where he super-vises the adaptation of Marvel characters into film, television and animation. In addition to launching various new comics projects, Lee continues to write the syndicated Spider-Man newspaper strip and, when fellow Marvelites twist his arm, he scripts an occasional super hero saga.
Steve Ditko studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City under Jerry Robinson and began professionally illustrating comic books in 1953. Much of his early work, beginning in the early 1950s, was for Charlton Comics (for whom he continued to work intermittently until the company's demise in 1986), producing science fiction, horror and mystery stories, as well as the first Captain Atom stories in 1960-61. Later in the decade, he would also begin drawing for Atlas Comics, the 1950s precursor of Marvel Comics.