April 15, 2016

Doctor Strange Trailer (And Some Thoughts on The Comics)

By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, they actually did it. Here is the new Doctor Strange trailer.

Doctor Strange movie

Looks like fun, yeah? I’ll give you a few thoughts of my own; if you want a moment by moment Doctor Strange trailer breakdown check out this video at IGN.

(Note: Marvel/Comixology/Amazon is having a sale on Doctor Strange digital comics — 99 cents each. Check ’em out here.)

So. Doctor Strange. What’s his deal? He’s got magic powers, lots of nifty mystical items that he uses to protect Earth from inter-dimensional nasties, and… I don’t know, he’s cool. Not a traditional superhero like Iron Man, Spider-Man and the rest.

Splash page for the "Doctor Strange"...

Splash page for the “Doctor Strange” story in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). Art by Steve Ditko. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a personal note, the first “real” comic book I ever read was an issue of Doctor Strange. I’d been reading Richie Rich, Casper, Archie, that kind of stuff. One day my dad said, “It’s time for you to read some real comics,” and handed me a copy of Doctor Strange. My little boy mind was blown. The first thing I remember is how much smaller the lettering was. That was true for all “real” comics (read: Marvel and DC); Richie Rich, et al, were aimed at very young readers and had simpler dialogue and storylines… and larger lettering. The next thing I remember is the splash page. One big image, full of colorful details, with Doctor Strange himself looming large over it all. I think he was looking out of a window, but it’s possible he was sitting in a chair with stuff drawn around him. I’ve been looking for that issue for years and I think I’ve found it, although I can’t remember what number it is at the moment. I also don’t remember the story. But I do remember how I felt. It was basically my comic book Bar Mitzvah. No more little kid comics for me. Now I could read the good stuff.

And I did. I have a nice collection of books that I bought at the local candy store/newsstand, because you could buy comics there when I was a kid. (You still kind of can, it just isn’t as common.) I didn’t keep those comics in very good shape, which in some cases is a bummer — my Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Daredevils would be worth a few bucks, as would my copy of the original Wolverine mini-series (which you can get for less than six dollars via Comixology). But instead of bagging and boarding everything, I read the hell out of my comics, because they were awesome. (Those Daredevils in particular are probably my favorite comic books ever.)

Back to Doctor Strange. His book went in and out, and I didn’t buy it that often. It’s possible that the local candy store didn’t always have it in stock even when it was being published. In addition to not being a traditional superhero, I don’t think he was as popular as the big names. He did found one of my sneaky super teams, The Defenders. The original core group of Defenders was Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and The Incredible Hulk, quickly followed by The Silver Surfer. Basically a bunch of really powerful dudes who don’t play well with others, hence the term “non-team”. Later Defenders mainstays included such popular characters as Hellcat, Gargoyle, and Nighthawk. Also Valkyrie. Never heard of them? Join the club. (Marvel is doing a Netflix series called The Defenders, which I’m sure will be fun but doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with The Defenders’ comic books.) The Defenders hung out at Doctor Strange’s Greenwich Village mansion, known as The Sanctum Santorum, while constantly making a point of telling readers that they were NOT a super-team like The Avengers. I liked those comics a lot. Something about the idea of a group of semi-outcasts and/or angry people and/or loners teaming up only when it suited them really appealed to me.

I also always dug the good Doctor on his own. His job, Sorcerer Supreme, was to defend Earth from mystical threats. Sometimes he gets help from other Marvel heroes, but usually he doesn’t, because he’s the only one who can do what needs to be done. This led to some wonderfully trippy artwork, first by the legendary Steve Ditko (written by the even more legendary Stan Lee) and later by lots of other people.

The thing that made me the happiest in the trailer was seeing Doctor Strange’s Astral Form. (When Tilda Swinton punches him and it looks like a ghost pops out of his body.) It works like this: Doc leaves his body behind, defenseless, and his spirit floats around and does stuff. He can travel faster this way, but he can’t touch anyone and most people can’t see him. (One notable exception, if memory serves, is The Hulk. Because comic books. UPDATE: I just read some Doctor Strange comics from the 80s, and in those stories Doc can allow people to see his astral form if he wants them to. Again, because comic books.) It’s something that for various reasons I always found fascinating, so to see them do it in a live action movie had me making little nerdy noises.

So there you go. The Doctor Strange trailer. Looks like Marvel might get it right again, taking a character that isn’t well-known and putting said character into a big-budget blockbuster movie that doesn’t suck. Here’s hoping.

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