Strange Tales 136: "What Lurks Beneath The Mask?"

Strange Tales #136
"What Lurks Beneath The Mask?"
September, 1965

Edited And Written By Mystical, Magical STAN LEE
Plotted And Illustrated By Weird, Wondrous STEVE DITKO
Lettered And Bordered By Loveable, Laughable ARTIE SIMEK
Reviewed And Revised By Adorable, Affable STEVE CHUNG

Doctor Strange, Master of The Mystic Arts is searching for the secret
behind Eternity.

In the dark dimension of the Dread Dormammu, the girl who had aided Dr.
Strange against the Mindless ones worries that her actions will soon be
discovered by her world's ruler.  No sooner does she complete this
thought, that she finds herself caught in a mystical snare.  The Dread
One tells his prisoner that she will remain so and watch when the Master
of The Mystic Arts meets his eventual defeat.  Dormammu turns towards a
magic screen and demands to know why Baron Mordo has failed to defeat Dr.
Strange.  Mordo knows about Strange's search for the secret of Eternity,
and this causes the Dread One to order his servant to stop him.  The
Baron had never heard of Eternity, but he learns from his master that
such knowledge is not for the likes of him.

The disciples of Mordo are scanning the mystic globe for traces of Doctor
Strange's spells.  Mordo concentrates and orders his followers around the
world to alert him for any sign of his foe.  Half a world away, Doctor
Strange is using his cloak of levitation to reach a window, and not have
to use any spells.  He meets with a woman whose life he had saved in the
past.  When asked what she knows about Eternity, the woman admits that
she's heard whispers, but nothing more.  After thanking her for her time,
Doctor Strange continues on his search.  Two of Mordo's minions are on
the street below, but do not see the figure floating behind them.  The
days and nights pass, with Stephen Strange no closer to finding the
secret of Eternity, and with Mordo's spies close behind.

Knowing that he cannot give up, Doctor Strange consults with Abu Ben
Hakim, and asks to meet with Rama Kaliph.  The man is in the next
chamber, but he has been placed under a spell of silence by Baron Mordo.
Once Mordo is defeated, Rama Kaliph will be released from the spell.  It
is at a cave in the Far East where Stephen Strange meets with the aged
Genghis.  The years have not been kind to the elderly man and Strange
watches his own words with great care.  When asked about Eternity, the
Genghis claims that he is the only one who knows about the secret.

The Ancient One had tried to remove the secret from his mind, but the
aged Genghis still remembers it.  When asked about its meaning, the older
man stumbles for a moment, then recalls that he has a scroll.  The
ancient faded parchment reads only one word -- Eternity.  Now clad in the
raiment of the mystic arts, Doctor Strange prepares to recite the spell
within a ruined, abandoned temple.  An entrance appears before him, and
on the other side of the world, Mordo sees the mystic spell appear on the
globe.  Despite his speed, the Baron arrives too late, and watches as the
entrance closes behind Strange.  Mordo consults with Dormammu, who asks
to see the scroll which was left behind.

The Dread One recognizes the spell as being one which leads the user to
eternal doom.  Should Doctor Strange escape from his impending doom,
Mordo is to find him once more.  The Master of the Mystic Arts finds
himself in a evil place, then wonders if he should have studied the
scroll more carefully.  He sees columns of masks before him. Each one
lifelike in their appearance.  A shackled and blindfolded figure on a
plaque draws his attention.  When asked who had done this to him, the
prisoner speaks of a demon, then wonders if this is yet another trick.
Doctor Strange obliges him by removing his mask and showing him his face.

The Master of the Mystic Arts is caught in the demon's gaze and is now
the one to become its latest prisoner.  They have now exchanged places,
with Doctor Strange now shackled onto the plaque.  The demon tells him
that the spell can only be broken if he stares into the demon's eyes once
more.  Before he can do that, a mystic mold begins to cover his face.
Doctor Strange is now unable to utter a spell or use his hands. His
astral form is unable to leave his body.  In mere minutes, his mask will
be completed, and then added to the demon's occult collection.  (Holy
CGC, Batman!)

Only his mind is still free and able to use his cloak of levitation.  The
cloak attacks its new wearer, wrapping itself around him, and binding the
demon.  It knows that the only way to free itself is by freeing its
latest victim.  Doctor Strange's mask is removed, but the demon is
confident that he can still defeat him.

Staring into the demon's eyes, Doctor Strange demands his release.  The
Master of the Mystic Arts is once again in his own raiment, but the demon
summons his victims to the attack.  As long as he is in possession of
their masks, the demon can control them.  Not wanting to harm the
innocent, Doctor Strange uses the All-Seeing Eye of Agomotto to free them
from their captivity.  The demon is the next one to be bathed in the
all-seeing light, and is unable to bear it.

This had been the reason why the Ancient One had sought to remove the
knowledge of this evil place from the mind of the aged Genghis.  Under
the All-Seeing Eye of Agomotto, the masks are destroyed, and the place
vanishes into nothingness.  The demon is no longer a threat to an
unsuspecting world.  Back in the Orient, Doctor Strange learns that his
mentor has been calling for him.  He tells the loyal retainer that his
search has not been a success so far.  He has learned that the Dread One
has been behind Mordo's search for him, and can delay no longer.  The
Master of The Mystic Arts must learn the secret of Eternity from
unconscious mind of the Ancient One himself.  When the retainer asks if
Doctor Strange will truly attempt such a feat, Stephen Strange knows that
he must -- if they are to survive.

A classic splash page by Stan, Steve, and Artie.  From the "This Series
Voted Most Likely To Succeed" (By Stan Lee and Baron Mordo) to the title
blurb from Artful Artie Simek, and the demon in Doctor Strange's clothes.

Dormammu demonstrates that he is a sore loser and will use any loophole
to have his revenge on the mortal mystic who had bested him before.  When
the Dread One loses face, you know that someone's gonna burn for it.

I wonder if Dormammu or Ditko foresaw the coming of the plasma flat
screen television. Love that mystical-looking frame which hangs in

I recommend "What If Doctor Strange Had Been A Disciple of Dormammu?"
from What If #18 (December, 1979).  This story features Rama Kaliph and
the aged Genghis among others.  The creative team was Peter B. Gillis,
Tom Sutton, Bruce Patterson, Glynis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski.

Looking at the Genghis, I see it must have been a long time between
shaves, and I don't want to think about his last wardrobe change.

Doctor Strange would have been another intriguing addition to the Marvel
Super-Heroes cartoon line-up, but I wonder how the public would have
taken it.

Dormammu appeared on the 1970's Spider-Woman cartoon, but looked
different from his comic book incarnation.

The Dread One and Baron Mordo appeared on the 1990's Fox Spider-Man

Although Nick Fury is the lead feature in Strange Tales, Doctor Strange
knows a few things about cloak and dagger work.  (Holy Bill Mantlo,

As with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., I feel like I've gotten more
out of ten to twelve pages than from books with thirty-two pages

Strange Tales with the espionage action of S.H.I.E.L.D. and sorcery of
the Master of the Mystic Arts proved to be quite a lineup for readers
during Marvel's Silver Age.

Steve Chung
"What Lurks Beneath The Review?"