Marvel Premiere #10, 1973 “Finally, Shuma-Gorath!”

You know something, writing about Dr. Strange, and actually comics in general is one of the most edifying things I can think of to share. Why is that, some of you may ask? Well, explaining it isn’t easy, but I’ll try. You see, the vast array of subject matter, the varying intensity of the stories, the mind-blowing artwork, and just the overall satisfaction of reading these great stories and then sharing them with those who might never have read them or even thought about reading them, is quite a thrill. Over the years, people have had differing opinions on comic books (speaking of those who have never read them). Most seem to think they’re for adolescents or weirdos, and just never give them a fair shake. That is nothing short of foolish, and I would guarantee that anyone that considers themselves a fan of fiction (even though most stories draw parallels to everyday events from history), would be impressed by the more complex works of the industries greats.

OK, mild diatribe over. Let us now forge our way into the past, and see the death of one of the Marvel Universe’s great characters. If you go back and read the wondrous stories of the early years, and origin of Dr. Strange, by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, you’ll see just how much of an influence the Ancient One was on Strange. When you understand that, you’ll know how difficult it was for Strange to kill his mentor. Possessed by Shuma-Gorath, the vile creature that intends on killing Dr. Strange, and invading the universe that he and the Ancient One protect!

In only their second issue together, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner show us that they mix incredibly well as a creative team. Their styles seem to be a match made in heaven. Englehart at this point had already written some great stories as only the third person to write the Avengers title (after Lee and Roy Thomas). He proved that he was more than worthy of taking the reigns of any book and either continuing the greatness or amplifying it. It’s true that these issues (as with a majority of the Bronze Age) are very trippy, and if you don’t appreciate that kind of material, you might not find these stories to your liking. With that said, these two creators (along with the Crusty Bunkers inking, John Costanza lettering, and Roy Thomas, editor) do their best to present a story that is chocked full of action, drama, and of course, magic!

 

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Doctor Strange: Season One (HC)

To close out 2014, and my month-long look at Dr. Strange, I thought it would be cool to throw another more recent read out there. As I’ve said before, I’ll try anything Dr. Strange, just because he’s my favorite character, and he’s a good one. So, when I heard Marvel was coming out with all  new material that they were going to release as graphic novels, I had to grab a couple of them! I own the Avengers: Endless Wartime book, but I was really impressed by the Doctor Strange: Season One hardcover that came out in 2012. It’s basically a retelling of the Doc’s origin, but a few slight twists. All the big guns are here; Baron Mordo, Dormammu, The Ancient One, and more!

The story is written by none other than Greg Pak, and if you want to read anything of his definitely check this out, plus “The Incredible Hercules” ongoing from 2008-2010, and a title from Aspen Comics called “Dead Man’s Run.” I’m not sure if the latter was finished (it took quite a while between issues to come out), but it was super cool! Not to be outdone, is an artist that I think it going to be huge sooner than later, (she’s already awesome in my book), Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly)! I first saw her work on a Doctor Strange mini-series from 2010. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I became a fan instantly. Another creator that must be mentioned is Jordie Bellaire. To say that she is one of the top colorists in comics is an understatement, for sure. Just look t the colors in this story, and you will be amazed! Happy New Year!

 

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Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault #1, 2011 “This Old House”

Contrary to the opinions of some, there a few decent comics books that were published after the 1980’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bronze and Silver Age as a whole, much more than anything that’s come after, but there are some diamonds in  the rough, you just have to find them! Case in point, this 2011 offering from Marvel that features a story that Roger Stern wrote many years before, but it was never published. In this story, we see just how the old Doc took up residence on Bleeker street in NYC! At one time the house was considered haunted, and that’s why no one would live there. It just so happens that the Doc has just returned from doing some traveling, and learned a few tricks of his own!

The story from Roger Stern (plot aid from Joe Edkin) is a great one, and really seems like one that you would’ve read back in the Bronze Age. Artists Neil Vokes (pencils) and Jay Geldhof (inks), give us a spectacular job rendering the Doc, and all the demons inside the house! Not to be outdone is colorist, Lee Loughridge, who adds some eerie tones when needed, but also some bright tones that pop very nicely in the more brightly lit panels. A few really good black & white flashback scenes are the icing on the cake! Throw in an awesome cover by Mario Alberti, and you’ve got a gem that must be sought out by any fan of the Sorcerer Supreme! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

 

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