It probably says more than anyone but a psychiatrist wants to know about me that the first comics I collected were Doc Strange and Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think it was the grey-streaked hair that got me.* Just kidding. One was the sort of wild action and characters that I didn’t realize were missing from the new fiction books I could find (I’d read all of the Horseclans novels, and Fredrick Forsyth, and as many of the Lensmen books as were still in the public library.) The other was just flat out flippin bizarre, in a cool, neat way. Especially since I could only find random individual Doc Strange comics at the comic shop, so trying to put together a plot arc was . . . challenging. But those were the comics I imprinted on.
Doc Strange was probably the one Marvel Comics super-hero I had not crossed paths with via afternoon cartoons or the Saturday morning shows. OK, the X-men (1970s and 80s), but Sib started reading those and I followed along. Doc Strange was mine. Sib thought Doc was too weird for words and seriously not cool. The tights! The cape that followed him around like a dog. The totally bizarre incantations and dimensions that made LSD trips seem logical and grounded (which apparently was the point). To me, Doc Strange was the perfect nerd super hero.
I played with words. Words had power. Doc Strange used words and willpower to fly, to weave spells, to have a paid-for brownstone in the Village (even as a teenager, I knew that any superhero who made enough to pay NYC utilities and property taxes had to be beyond cool), and to save the world, most of the time. And he screwed up, sometimes just looking like a fool, sometimes with hard-core consequences (the Vampiric Verses story line). Superman was neat, Batman was silly (1960s TV Batman), the Justice League was pretty cool, Thor had moments, Spiderman was OK, but Doc Strange was so out there and different that I started buying the ones I could find, and that I could afford.
To my mind’s ear, Doc Strange had a mellow somewhat baritone to low tenor voice, and no accent to speak of, unless he was doing a serious invocation, when he sounded more bass-ish.
I lost track of Doc when I went to college. Sci-fi had replaced fantasy and I drifted away from comics, in part because things had gotten so outlandish, in part because of $$. And Doc Strange dropped off the radar. I found one graphic novel release when I was in grad school and enjoyed it, and caught a whiff of rumors of a return.
And then along came the Marvel revival, movie version. And the re-release of the original Strange Tales stories, in all their bizarre glory. And the first movie trailer. Um, Benedict Cumberbach does NOT sound like Doc to my ear, but I’ll probably adjust. I’m trying to decide if I can see it in the theater. Some of the bits in the trailer look vertigo inducing, and if they do that on my phone and laptop screens, I shudder to think what it will be like in the theater. (I know, close my eyes until the swirling stops. Thank you, Captain Obvious.)
I wasn’t happy to see the changes made for the movie. Yes, yes, I know, mustn’t irk the Chinese by saying anything nice about Tibet, must have more women and minorities, ja, ja. I’m still not thrilled with Nick Fury not being Sgt. Fury. So I’ve got mixed feelings about the film. I’m trying to be open minded, and I probably will go see it in theater, in part to shock my students.
But if they screw up the Eye of Agamoto, I’m putting a hex on them.
*I also had a bit of a crush on Wolverine for a while. It’s gotta be the hair.