Doctor Stephen Strange is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by Steve Ditko with Stan Lee, the character appeared in Strange Tales #110. Doctor Strange serves as the Sorcerer Supreme, the primary protector of Earth against mystical and magical threats. Dr. Strange’s creation took place during the Silver Age of Comic Books to bring a different kind of character and themes of mysticism to Marvel Comics.
The character begins as a highly talented but egotistical surgeon who loses the ability to operate after a car crash severely damages his hands beyond repair. Searching the globe for healing, he encounters the Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme. Strange becomes his student and learns to be a master of both the mystical and the martial arts. He acquires an assortment of mystical objects, including the powerful Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation, and takes up residence in a mansion referred to as the Sanctum Sanctorum, located in 177A Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, New York City. Strange assumes the title of Sorcerer Supreme and, with his friend and valet Wong, defends the world from mystical threats.
The character was first portrayed in live-action by Peter Hooten in the 1978 television film Dr. Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Doctor Strange (2016), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Cumberbatch also voices an alternate universe version in the Disney+ animated series What If…? (2021) and will reprise his role in the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).
Artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee have described the character as having been originally the idea of Ditko, who wrote in 2008, “On my own, I brought in to Lee a five-page, penciled story with a page/panel script of my idea of a new, different kind of character for variety in Marvel Comics. My character wound up being named Dr. Strange because he would appear in Strange Tales.” In a 1963 letter to Jerry Bails, Lee called the character Ditko’s idea, saying:
Well, we have a new character in the works for Strange Tales (just a 5-page filler named Dr. Strange). Steve Ditko is going to draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing extraordinary, but perhaps we can make something of him– ’twas Steve’s idea, and I figured we’d give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much. Little sidelight: Originally decided to call him Mr. Strange, but thought the “Mr.” bit too similar to Mr. Fantastic — now, however, I remember we had a villain named Dr. Strange just recently in one of our mags hope it won’t be too confusing!
Fictional character biography
Stephen Strange, M.D., Ph.D., is an egotistical but brilliant doctor. Strange was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New York City. After high school, he joined New York College as a pre-med student, entered medical school at Columbia University, and completed his residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where his success made him arrogant.
Despite his reputation for handling the most complicated surgical procedures, he is self-centered and greedy and treats patients who can afford to pay his extravagant fees. Then, one night, while speeding in his car, a terrible accident shatters the bones in his hands, leading to extensive nerve damage. He soon finds that his fingers tremble uncontrollably, rendering him unable to perform surgery. Too vain to accept a teaching job, Strange desperately searches for a way to fix his hands and subsequently wastes all of his money on expensive but unsuccessful treatments.
Broke and ostracized by his colleagues, Strange becomes a drifter. He happens to overhear two sailors in a bar discussing a hermit called the Ancient One (the Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme) in the Himalayas, who can heal any ailment. Despite not personally believing in magic, Strange uses the last of his money to track down the ancient mystic. The Ancient One refuses to help Strange due to his arrogance but senses a good side that he attempts to bring to the surface. He fails, but Strange then commits a heroic act when he discovers the Ancient One’s disciple, Baron Mordo, trying to kill his mentor and usurp his power. After a confrontation with Mordo leads to him being shackled with restraining spells preventing him from attacking Mordo or warning the Ancient One, Strange desperately and selflessly accepts the Ancient One’s offer to become his apprentice to have some hope of helping the older man. The Ancient One, pleased at Strange’s sincere change of heart, accepts Strange as his new student and promptly frees him from the restraining spells while explaining he was aware of Mordo’s treachery all along. However, strange soon becomes Mordo’s most enduring enemy, as the Ancient One trains the doctor in the mystic arts. After completing his training, Strange returns to New York City and takes up residence within the Sanctum Sanctorum, a townhouse located in Greenwich Village, accompanied by his assistant Wong.
As the Ancient One’s disciple, Strange encounters the entity Nightmare,] and other mystical foes before meeting Dormammu, a warlord from an alternate dimension called the “Dark Dimension” who wishes to conquer Earth. A nameless girl aids strange, later called Clea, who is eventually revealed to be Dormammu’s niece. When Strange helps a weakened Dormammu drive off the rampaging Mindless Ones and return them to their prison, he is allowed to leave the Dark Dimension unchallenged.
In The Unbelievable Gwenpool #3, Strange encounters Gwendolyn Poole, who explains herself to be from a reality where all Marvel characters are fictional characters in comic books. As Strange helps her locate her home reality to create a fake background for her in the Marvel Universe so that she can get a Social Security number, driver’s license, and other essential documents, he discovers that Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast to play him in Gwen’s universe, remarking that he “could see that.”
Powers and abilities
Powers and skills
Doctor Strange is a practicing magician who draws his powers from mystical entities such as Agamotto, Cyttorak, Ikonn, Oshtur, Raggadorr, and Watoomb, who lend their energies for spells. Strange also wield mystical artifacts, including the Cloak of Levitation which enables him to fly; the Eye of Agamotto, an amulet whose light is used to negate evil magic; the Book of the Vishanti, a grimoire that contains the vast knowledge of white magic; and the Orb of Agamotto, a crystal ball which is used for clairvoyance.
Strange is trained in several martial arts disciplines, including judo, and has shown proficiency with numerous magically conjured weapons, including swords and axes. In addition, strange was a skilled neurosurgeon before nerve damage impaired his hands.
Doctor Strange is described as “the mightiest magician in the cosmos” and “more powerful by far than any of your fellow humanoids” by Eternity, the sentience of the Marvel Universe. He holds the title of Sorcerer Supreme, beginning with the 1973 storyline in which the Ancient One dies, and retains the title after that, except during an interruption from 1992 to 1995. He relinquishes the title once again in a 2009 storyline but reclaims it in a 2012 story when he proves himself willing to protect the world even without the title.
Artifacts and technology
Book of the Vishanti
The Book of the Vishanti is portrayed as being written by unknown authors, is closely associated with Doctor Strange, and is the most significant known source of white magical knowledge on Earth. The Book of the Vishanti contains spells of defensive magic and is indestructible. Its counterpart, the Darkhold, contains all the knowledge of black magic in the Marvel Universe and is likewise unbeatable. It is possible to destroy single pages of either book, but the balancing spell in the other book is destroyed to maintain a mystical balance. A collective of the three powerful magical beings – Agamotto, Oshtur, and Hoggoth, known as the Vishanti – must allow the spell to be destroyed.
Even though the book is a tome of benevolent magic, the spells can still be dangerous when misused. This is proven when a young, inexperienced Strange tried to use the Book of the Vishanti to resurrect his dead brother Victor, but the spell, known as the Vampiric Verses, caused Victor to become the vampire Baron Blood years later.
Apart from spells and mystical knowledge, the book also contains information about persons and events. However, it is unknown how the book can contain up-to-date and recent information even though it was written thousands of years ago.
The book’s first known owner was the Atlantean sorcerer Varnae from around 18,500 BC. The next known owner was the Babylonian god Marduk Kurios. Marduk set a griffin to guard the book. However, the sorcerer known as the Ancient One traveled back in time to c. 4000 BC, defeated the Griffin, and returned to the 20th century. The Ancient One would remain the book’s owner, despite a brief loss when the dark wizard Kaluu returned the book to the Griffin until he deemed his student, Doctor Strange, worthy of taking it.
Doctor Strange keeps the book in his townhouse library in New York City’s Greenwich Village. He briefly lost the book when he destroyed his home to prevent the alien wizard Urthona from taking his magical artifacts, but the book was saved by Agamotto, who transported it to his realm and returned it to Strange sometime later.
Cloak of Levitation
The Cloak of Levitation is depicted as a potent mystical cloak worn by Doctor Strange. The item has been referred to as a “relic” in the live-action movie Doctor Strange (2016). The primary purpose of the cloak is to give its wearer the ability to levitate and fly.
There were two distinctly different cloaks worn by Doctor Strange bequeathed to him by his mentor, the Ancient One: a billowing, full-length blue cloak that had minor abilities and spells woven into it, and the later, red cloak that Strange is usually seen wearing. The first appearance of the first (blue) cloak was in Strange Tales #114 (November 1963). The first appearance of the second (red) cloak was in Strange Tales #127 (December 1964). The Cloak of Levitation is seen in many battles where it often plays a very significant role. Unfortunately, while it is highly durable, there are a few occasions when it is damaged. Its repair requires that Strange engage an ally, Enitharmon the Weaver.
Eye of Agamotto
Agamotto, a powerful mystic being and one of Doctor Strange’s three Vishanti, has used the Eye during his time as Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth dimension. The Eye’s origins are currently unknown, but there are theories of how it came into existence. Some believe that Agamotto discovered it among the seas and stars, which had drifted for ages. Others claim that it was created by Agamotto himself, which makes sense when the Eye’s powers are compared to “the All-Seeing.”
It is said that the Eye of Agamotto draws on Agamotto’s own mystical ability to span distances and dispel disguises and illusions. Agamotto is presumably aware of every time the Eye is used and may even record those events for later viewing.
Rintrah, a disciple of Doctor Strange, can call on many of the effects of the Eye by using the ‘Amulet Of Agamotto.’
In the New Avengers Annual #2 (2008), though Strange has at first retained both the Eye and the cloak, the Hood, on Dormammu’s commands, has targeted Strange to eliminate him and seize the Eye of Agamotto. Strange, having evoked Zom’s power tells him that he is not ready to use it because of his tainted soul and demonic connection.
Strange shows it to the New Avengers, describing the Eye as “one of the most powerful mystic conduits on this physical plane.” Strange and the New Avengers now battle against the forces of the Dark Dimension as Strange searches the planet for new potential candidates. The Eye is presented to the new Sorcerer Supreme, Brother Voodoo, in New Avengers #53, who bears it as he fights against Dormammu. Strange had lost the Eye because of his corrupted connection to Zom.
Later, Doctor Doom arrives to challenge Brother Voodoo’s ‘claim’ to the Eye. Doom claims the object must belong to him for the protection of others but abandons the Eye after using it to see his future, informing Brother Voodoo that he will gain nothing from it.
When Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom are possessed by an unknown demonic entity, they attempt to claim the Eye from Doctor Voodoo, causing it to teleport to Avengers Mansion. Luke Cage touches the object and mutates in a monstrous version of himself, the entity that has possessed him subsequently ‘jumping’ into Iron Fist, who then teleports away with the Eye, triggering a rift in the sky that Strange states mean the end of everything. As the Avengers battle the demons back on Earth, Iron Fist finds himself in a white void where he encounters the Ancient One, who claims that he is responsible for the current invasion due to his anger at Strange’s recent ‘failures.’ When Iron Fist returns to Earth—now dressed in a new costume—-, he claims that the Ancient One has told him that Strange stole the Eye from the Ancient One rather than being given it by his master, challenging Strange to admit the truth. Noting that such a claim contradicts everything the Ancient One taught him about the Eye, Strange realizes that the entity they are facing is not his master, with a casual comment by Spider-Man prompting the sorcerers to realize that the enemy they face is Agamotto himself, trying to reclaim his Eye after the apparent ‘death’ of the Vishanti. Although the group attempt to defeat Agamotto by empowering Wolverine to serve as their ‘avatar,’ Doctor Voodoo is finally forced to sacrifice himself to contain their foe, apparently destroying himself and the Eye at the same time. The Eye was later returned To Strange at the end of the new avengers.
Orb of Agamotto Aside from the Eye of Agamotto, the Orb of Agamotto is the other occult object that Doctor Strange owns. It is a powerful scrying crystal ball powered by the Agamotto entity to detect the use of magic anywhere globally, providing Strange with a location and visual. It can also monitor the shields that protect the planets created by the three sanctums. If Agamotto is inside the Orb, it becomes Strange’s ultimate source of knowledge.
The Orb of Agamotto rests in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in a room called the Chamber of Shadows. It usually is inside a display case with three curved legs. When summoned, the glass covering rises, and the ball levitates. While powerful, the Orb has been blocked by mighty mystic forces (such as Umar) who do not want their exact location known. Nevertheless, on at least one occasion, it has been used to open a dimensional portal to the realm of Agamotto. In addition, the Orb is briefly shown in Odin’s Trophy Room in Asgard in the film Thor.
In other media
- Dr. Strange appeared in the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends animated series episode “7 Little Superheroes”, voiced by John Stephenson.
- Doctor Strange makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in the 1990s X-Men animated series episode “The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 3)”.
- Doctor Strange appears in a self-titled episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, voiced by John Vernon.
- Doctor Strange appeared in The Incredible Hulk animated series episode “Mind Over Anti-Matter,” voiced by Maurice LaMarche.
- Doctor Strange appears in The Super Hero Squad Show animated series, voiced by Roger Rose. He first appears in the episode “Enter: Dormammu!” when an Infinity Fractal gets stuck inside the Eye of Agamotto, causing him to act irrationally until the Super Hero Squad cures him. In later episodes, he is seen taking in the squad for a night at the Sanctum Sanctorum, fighting the Enchantress, and aiding Chthon in recovering his dimension from Doctor Doom.
- Doctor Strange appears in the Disney XD Marvel animated shows Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Avengers Assemble, voiced initially by Jack Coleman and later by Liam O’Brien.
- Doctor Strange appeared in the anime series Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, voiced by Yasunori Masutani in Japanese.
- Doctor Strange appears in the animated special Lego Marvel Super Heroes – Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda, voiced again by Liam O’Brien.
- Doctor Strange appeared in the anime series Marvel Future Avengers episodes “Out of Time” and “The Final Fateful Battle,” voiced again by Yasunori Masutani in Japanese and Liam O’Brien in English.
- Doctor Strange appears in the 2017 Spider-Man animated series episode “Amazing Friends,” voiced again by Liam O’Brien.
- Dr. Stephen Strange appeared in the 1978 live-action television film Dr. Strange, portrayed by Peter Hooten. This version was a psychiatry resident rather than an experienced neurosurgeon.
- The 1992 film Doctor Mordrid began development as a Doctor Strange adaptation, but the studio’s license expired before production began. The project was rewritten to change the main character’s name and slightly alter his origin. Additionally, the main character was initially called “Doctor Mortalis,” and Jack Kirby worked on the early concept art.
- Doctor Strange appears in the direct-to-DVD animated film Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme, voiced by Bryce Johnson. Following a car crash that damaged his hands, he travels to Tibet to heal them. Training with the Ancient One and his pupils, Strange faces the emergence of Dormammu.
- Doctor Strange makes a non-speaking cameo in the 2010 animated film Planet Hulk.
- Doctor Strange appears in the 2016 animated film Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell, voiced again by Liam O’Brien.