Strange Tales #160: "If This Planet You Would Save!"

Strange Tales #160
"If This Planet You Would Save!"
September, 1967

Editor: STAN LEE
Letterer: AL KURZROK

The Master of the Mystic Arts finds himself surrounded by those who would
serve Baron Mordo, and Doctor Strange must remove the occult powers from
these servants before the Living Tribunal casts judgment on this hapless

The Baron has been freed from his imprisonment and is now eager to make
his foe pay for his foolishness.  The Doctor is confident that he remains
Mordo's superior, especially now since his aged mentor has bequeathed his
power to his pupil.  Learning that the Ancient One's might is no longer
his for the taking, the Baron prepares to obliterate his foe.  Although
Doctor Strange wishes to set aside their differences to battle a common
threat, Mordo will have none of it, and unleashed a mystic bolt against
him.  The spell is shattered with a sweep of the Doctor's cloak, but
there are other spells for the Baron to use.

The Master of the Mystic Arts conjures up the Sands of Death hourglass
left by the Living Tribunal at Stonehenge, and each grain of sand
represents the few remaining moments left for the planet.  Mordo will not
look at such a sight and attempts to shatter the image.  He is determined
to have his revenge on his foe, but the Amulet of Agamotto is brought
into play.  Before it can be utilized, the Baron calls forth his servants
to attack Doctor Strange.

The enslaved minions of Mordo attack the Master of the Mystic Arts, who
uses the Flames of the Faltine as his defense.  Before they can link
their minds for a combined attack, Doctor Strange lashes out in defense
of the planet Earth.  The Doctor continues his assault until he reaches
the one he seeks.  While the Baron cries out for his foe's death, the
Master of the Mystic Arts has found the one who enabled Mordo to escape.
Both men soon tumble backwards into the maze of tunnels within the

With their disappearance,  the Baron finds that he must enslave the
throng one mind at a time.  Within the maze, the Doctor probes the mind
of Mordo's lieutenant, and removes the power from him.  Soon, this
onetime servant is once again a wine merchant.  With this done, the
Master of the Mystic Arts heads back for the great chamber, where the
Baron seeks to reinforce his will, but there is one woman who seeks to
resist his will.  Seeing that Doctor Strange has returned, Mordo prepares
to meet his enemy.

The time has come for the Master of the Mystic Arts to use his power to
penetrate his foe's anger and show him what is at stake.  As the crowd
draws back, the Doctor wrenches the Baron's astral form from his physical
form, and sends Mordo screaming backwards through time itself.

The Baron learns that with the defeat of Zom, Doctor Strange has caused
the release of dark occult energies upon the world itself. With such a
threat, the Living Tribunal has appeared, and unless the Doctor can undo
what he had inadvertently wrought, the planet will be reduced to cosmic
ash.  When his astral form is reunited with his body, Mordo trembles, and
tries to ignore Strange's words.  Before he can flee to safety, the Baron
find himself frozen in place by a single spell.  If he will not aid
Doctor Strange, Mordo will share his fate.

As the Baron struggles to free himself, the Master of the Mystic Arts
recites the spell of exorcism from a slave, and removes the evil energy
from his body.  Since the energy is too dangerous to be free for long,
the Doctor seeks to contain it within a human form... Mordo's.

The Baron finds himself the new receptacle for this savage occult energy.
He feels new strength flowing through him and a new power pulsing
through ever fiber of his very being.  (Holy Viagra, Batman!)  Now, only
he and Doctor Strange can deal with the task at hand.  Mordo agrees to
assist him in performing the exorcism of transferral with the other
subjects.  Among those assembled is Victoria Bentley, who listens as the
others seek to retain their mystical powers.  Together, the Baron and the
Doctor recite the words of transferral, with the All-Seeing Eye of
Agamotto guiding Strange in placing the energy within Mordo.

The Baron reels as he receives the occult force from the assembled
throng.  Mordo has become the living incarnation of the power itself.
For his first act, Baron Mordo plans to unleash it upon his longtime foe,
and catches Doctor Strange off-guard.  With the Master of the Mystic Arts
at his feet, Mordo plans to consign the Doctor's astral form to the world
of a million perils, and crush all of infinity in his wake.

A story by the mysterious Raymond Marais, a writer whose Tales To
Astonish work I reviewed some time ago.

The art team of Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe gives the Master of the
Mystic Arts a most formidable appearance.  Worthy successors to the works
of Steve Ditko and Bill Everett.

For me, the Marvel letterers of the Silver Age and Bronze Age have the
most distinctive surnames ever.  The likes of Simek, Kurzrok, and
Orzechowski makes me wonder if Doc ever called on them during one of his

Baron Mordo is a wild character, while Doctor Strange remains the model
of cool collectiveness.

Like sands through the hourglass of Death, these are the days of our

If there had been a live-action Doctor Strange TV series in the Silver
Age, I would have liked to have seen Guy Williams as the Master of the
Mystic Arts, while Sebastian Cabot would play the role of Baron Mordo.

The Baron isn't beyond using superior numbers against his lone foe,
especially if that opponent is winning in a fair fight.

While Baron Mordo acts, it is Doctor Strange who reacts when he is set

Since Mordo's power is in a form of a chain, the Doctor is able to divine
its weakest link.

It's a day of wine and roses for the Baron's former merchant, whose
dreams of conquest have been trampled like grapes.

With Clea nowhere to be seen, it's Victoria Bentley's turn to be

Between the visual aspects of the art by Severin and Trimpe, plus the
dialogue by Marais, the character of Doctor Strange truly shines in his
battle to save the Earth from the Living Tribunal.

We learn in this story that the Living Tribunal is the guardian of the
multiverse itself.

I first saw the character of the Living Tribunal in the Doctor Strange
Marvel Treasury Edition from 1975.

Upon seeing the likes of the Tribunal and the monstrous Zom in the
tabloid-sized edition, I was hooked, and wanted to learn more about them.

If the sight of such beings were able to cause pause for the Master of
the Mystic Arts, you can imagine my reaction as a mere lad of six.

While Doctor Strange seeks to save the entire planet, Baron Mordo
believes in saving his own skin.

Although he needed an ally in order to stave off the judgment of the
Living Tribunal, Doc made a bad call in choosing Mordo.

Steve Chung
"If This Review You Would Save!"