Marvel Premiere #11: "Homecoming!"

Marvel Premiere #11
 October, 1973

 Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: Author/Artist
 John Costanza & Sam Rosen: Letterers
 Stan Goldberg: Colorist
 Introduction & Conclusion by Steve Englehart & Frank Brunner
 Roy Thomas: Editor

 He hears the wind whistling on the Himalayan Peaks. Even while others enjoy the mid-summer heat, the white winter lurks here forever.. and few would dare challenge it. Now -- an azure and scarlet mote strides through the swirling snow. He is a man of noble bearing who is about to end his grim odyssey. The magician has found his temple. It has been a long journey, but the Master of the Mystic Arts has returned to where it all began -- for the last time! He has reached the Ancient One's home!

 He could have used his magic to protect himself from the snowstorm -- but he needed to feel mother nature and life -- even at its most unpleasant. Hamir greets the young master and learns that the Ancient One will never return. In order to save the universe from Shuma-Gorath, Doctor Strange destroyed his teacher's ego -- the one from which the dread one drew his strength! In so doing, the barrier between man and nature was broken, allowing the Ancient One to be reborn... as one with the universe! He yet lives -- but he is beyond them now! Doctor Strange must assume the responsibility of assuming the mantle of Sorceror Supreme! The news makes Hamir's head spin! It will take him a moment to absorb this information! To the hermit, it seems but mere weeks since the Ancient One first encountered him...

 Where did Doctor Strange come from? How did he receive his powers? Who is Doctor Strange?

 India is the land of enchantment and in a solemnly silent chamber, a tired figure's long
 month's of searching is at an end! Is the old man before him the one he seeks? Is he
 the Ancient One? He is the Ancient One, the one whose magical healing power this man of
 the western world desperately needs! The Ancient One only heals those who deserve it and
 his magic must never be wasted upon the undeserving! This mysterious traveler must prove
 his worthiness! He has come too far and waited too long... and soon finds himself in
 mid-air by a mystic gesture from the Ancient One! None may commit an act violence upon
 his person! As the traveler is held in mid-air, the Ancient One probes his mind... to
 learn more about him! In the past, he was Stephen Strange... the famous American
 surgeon! He was successful, proud, and haughty! Strange also didn't care much for his
 fellow men... When a patient's operation is successful and he wishes to thank the doctor,
 the surgeon just wants him to pay his bill! All that interested him was money...

 To Stephen Strange, the troubles of others meant nothing, and would not be interested in
 charity work unless he were paid! Some time later, there is an automobile accident, on
 an isolated road, and the injured victim is... Stephen Strange! Although his life was
 spared, he had received a terrible blow... The nerves to his hands have been severely
 damaged and the surgeon will never be able to perform an operation again! Although
 others tried to help him, he was too bitter and filled with self-pity! He went into
 seclusion and spent his days brooding! He had lost track of time and became a drifter!
 One day, he overheard two sailors talking about the Ancient One who could cure anything
 with his magic power!

 He had heard the name of the Ancient One mentioned in hushed tones! Could there be some
 truth to this legend? There have been men with healing powers throughout history... and
 what if he were such a man? He had sought out the Ancient One for his healing power, but
 for his own selfish reasons! Yet, the Ancient One senses a spark of decency within
 him... which he might be able to fan into a flame! If he were to remain here and study
 with the Ancient One... perhaps he would find the cure he seeks! Stephen Strange figures
 that the old man is nothing but a fraud! Stephen Strange is unimpressed with the parlor
 tricks and is determined to leave! He then notices the snow that wasn't there before!
 He could never make it down the pass now! For a moment, he wonders if the Ancient One
 had something to do with the snow, and dismisses the notion! The Ancient One's pupil,
 Mordo, shows him to his chamber! The pupil seems to be a creepy character and all he
 does is spend time reciting dirges from various scrolls! As he goes to ask the Ancient
 One how long it takes for the snow to melt, he sees a strange vapor swirling around him!
 The old man is under attack by the vapors of Valtorr!! An unseen enemy has used black
 magic to conjure them and only by black magic may they be dispelled!

 The Ancient One summons the powers of the Vishanti! He calls upon the Dread Dormammu and
 the all-seeing Agamotto to command the forces of darknesss to begome! If the western man
 had not seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn't have believed it! The Ancient One finds
 it difficult to explain it to a non-believer, but he must always be on his guard against
 the forces of evil! Although he is no longer a surgeon, he is still a doctor, and can
 see the old man needs rest! The Ancient One must remain... until he finds his successor
 to continue the battle against the dark forces from arriving on Earth! If he were to
 remain any longer, Stephen Strange would end up becoming a believer! He must get away
 before he becomes part of this madness!! The snow is almost gone! He is about to leave
 when he sees what Mordo is up to! The pupil is offering Dormammu some incense and asks
 that the dread one's power descend upon his enemy! The western man recognizes the doll
 engulfed by vapor... a replica of the Ancient One and the one who is trying to kill him
 is his own pupil... Mordo!

 Since he is too weak to stop him, Mordo tells him how he has learned much more than the
 Ancient One suspects, and once he is gone, he will become the sole master of black magic!
 When the western man threatens to tell the Ancient One about his pupil's treachery,
 Mordo casts a spell upon him... one which will prevent him from revealing his secret! A
 greenish vapor forms and comes towards him! It forms into an iron clamp around his mouth
 and he-he cannot speak! Peering into a mirror, Stephen Strange sees that it isn't really
 there, but he is unable to speak! This is proof of the existence of magic! Although he
 cannot speak, he can still move, and is halted in his tracks by Mordo! The westerner is
 helpless against the ancient magics! A final spell will prevent others from seeing the
 iron clamp or mystic fetters that surround his wrists! But Stephen Strange can feel them
 and knows they are there!

 Once Mordo has left, the western man figures it was just the power of suggestion and is
 determined not to let this stop him! He will go to the Ancient One and... OWWWW!!! His
 feet are now trapped by bolts of pure force! Mordo does possess the power of black magic
 and Stephen Strange can only wonder how he will be able to warn the Ancient One! The
 pupil and his mentor are speaking now... and the Ancient One does not seem to suspect a
 thing! Mordo has shown much progress in his studies and has mastered several of the
 mystic arts! He is very eager to follow in his teacher's footsteps! When Stephen
 Strange tries to warn him, Mordo's spells stop him from speaking, and the pupil suggests
 the westerner be returned home, for there is no place for him here! This time, Stephen
 Strange broods upon his helplessness and understands the evil of Mordo's sorcery!

 He is only subject to Mordo's spell if he tries to warn the Ancient One and is able to
 speak about other matters... so there is still hope! If he were to learn the secrets of
 black magic, then he could battle Mordo on his own terms! He expresses his wishes to
 accept the Ancient One's offer to become a student and learn the mystic arts! The old
 man senses the real Stephen Strange has finally been reached and he accepts him as his
 disciple! His first act is to release him from Mordo's spell! The westerner is now able
 to speak and act as he had before! Mordo could not keep any secrets from his master!
 Although his pupil is evil, the Ancient One prefers to keep him here where he can watch
 over him! One day, when the Ancient One is gone, it will be up to the westerner to
 battle Mordo... to the finish! Stephen Strange has been tested and has passed his
 baptism of fire! There is a difficult path ahead of him, filled with many dangers, and
 he wishes to continue! And so it began, with the days becoming weeks, then months, and
 years, as Doctor Strange studied the mystic arts! He changed and his own life gained
 deeper meaning... as he prepared himself for the battles ahead, those which could only be
 fought as Doctor Strange, the master of black magic!

 Never one to admit defeat, Baron Mordo launches another audacious attack upon Doctor
 Strange and the Ancient One!

 Using a simple spell, Baron Mordo has created a miniature replica of Doctor Strange's
 home! When he repeats the spell slowly... a mystical mist covers the miniature model!
 At Baron Mordo's next command, this enchanted mist drifts out of the window... and into
 the night sky! The mist settles over the home of Doctor Strange! It penetrates every
 brick, every stone and wood and mortar, until it becomes part of the structure itself!
 It is done! The trap is set and Doctor Strange's home is under Baron Mordo's spell!
 Some time later, the tall stately figure of Doctor Strange walks through the streets of
 New York City... He is lost in thought and has no suspicion of what is awaiting him!
 Mordo watches his arch-enemy's every move with sinister glee... By entering his home, the
 master of black magic has just doomed himself!

 As the door shuts behind him... and the lights go on within the Sanctum Sanctorum... the
 entire structure wavers and faded from sight... How easy it was for Mordo to imprison
 Doctor Strange and as the building reappears again... it is alone in an unknown
 dimension! Within the Sanctum Sanctorum, the master of black magic finds himself
 weightless and helpless! He is not exactly helpless, for he still possesses his mystic
 amulet! Since the spell is too strong to be broken by his physical form, Doctor Strange
 uses his amulet to utilize his ethereal form! His enchanted amulet guides him to the
 source of this sudden occurance!

 The astral form of Doctor Strange spots Baron Mordo and seeks to find a clue to the type
 of magical spell used to trap his physical body in the dark dimension! An ethereal
 cylinder drops from above, and imprisons his spirit form! This enchanted cylinder is
 escape-proof and Baron Mordo sees for himself how his traps have succeeded! Mordo's goal
 is the Ancient One, who has been their master, and with Doctor Strange out of the way, he
 is now without protection! Mordo's magical spell is too strong for the amulet to set him
 free! Doctor Strange will not give up and he is determined to find a way out of this

 As the astral form of Doctor Strange strives to come up with a solution, Baron Mordo is
 halfway around the world, and is standing before the great doors which lead to the
 Ancient One's retreat! The former pupil has returned to beg his mentor's forgiveness!
 When he claims to have learned the folly of evil and has come to make amends for his past
 misdeeds, he is admitted entry! Now that he is inside, the rest shall be very easy! As
 he approaches his former teacher, Mordo begs to be taught how to be good like Doctor
 Strange! When the Ancient One bids him to approach, the Baron feigns the desire to be
 taught how to use the magic powers for the benefit of mankind, and gets closer!

 Mordo is close enough and has no need for further pretense! The old fool is surely
 doomed and to his surprise, the Ancient One stands unharmed by the magical spell! The
 image of the Ancient One wavers and Doctor Strange stands in his place! Baron Mordo's
 traps were not good enough! Realizing he could not break through the prison, his
 ethereal body was not stopped by the ground itself! It was a simple matter for the
 astral form of Doctor Strange to sink beneath the floor... to pass through the cellar
 itself... and down into the Earth's core...

 The further down he went... the weaker the magical spell became... until he finally
 emerged on the other side of the world, free of Mordo's trap! Doctor Strange was able to
 reach the Ancient One first! After explaining the danger, the master of black magic is
 given a ring that will enable him to do everything he would do in his physical form... so
 that he may battle Baron Mordo! The Ancient One is weary but permits his disciple to
 transform himself into his own image, and battle Mordo in his stead! Now that he knows
 what happened, Mordo is prepared to defeat him! He calls upon the shadowy shapes and
 dread powers of Dormammu to come to his aid! Doctor Strange calls upon his enchanted
 ring to shield himself from whatever Mordo hurls at him! "By the power of the
 Vishanti... in the name of the All-Seeing Ancient One... he summons all the forces of
 good... and focuses their power upon Mordo through the facets of this enchanted

 Baron Mordo finds the brightness appalling and no matter where he turns, the enchanted
 light bathes him in its brilliant glow! The power of good have banished Mordo and now,
 Doctor Strange gathers the Baron's sinister spells... and hurls them back to him, before
 he can conjure up further defenses! Mordo is taken by surprise... he is struck by the
 sheer force and fury of various magical spells he had sought to use on Doctor Strange...
 he is cast out of the Ancient One's home, in utter defeat! At that very moment, his
 spells are broken... and the Sanctum Sanctorum reappears in its proper place, and the
 master of black magic regains his physical form! In Tibet, the Ancient One ascends his
 dais, and settles upon the soft cushions of his seat... Every time Baron Mordo attacks,
 he grows stronger and more dangerous! The master of black magic tells his master not to
 fear! No matter how awesome Mordo's power becomes, he will devote his own life to
 defeating him! And so he has... so he has.

 Hamir did well to remind the young master of these things. He did swear to oppose evil and has been well trained for such a duty. Hamir senses his loss that has slowed him and understands because he too is deeply grieved. The world continues to spin and tears will never halt its progress. The world does not know what they do, that none can fill the throne of the Ancient One! he hermit knows that the young master will forge his own destiny -- and his own place as the Master of the Mystic Arts. He goes now to his own Sanctum Sanctorum, where he will conjure the Ancient One's personal effects to come to him -- so that he may face the challenges ahead with all of its knowledge and power readily available to him! The temple is to be closed -- forever! Hamir thinks to himself that the master chose wisely when he selected Stephen Strange as his disciple! He also wonders... although he himself is called the hermit... which of them is now truly more alone?

 I've enjoyed Steve Englehart's work on Captain America, Detective Comics, and Doctor Strange.

 I first saw the art of Frank Brunner when it was reprinted in a Doctor Strange Marvel Treasury Edition.

 The names of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are synonymous with their creation of Doctor Strange.

 "The Origin Of Doctor Strange" and "The Many Traps Of Baron Mordo!" from Strange Tales #115 and #117 by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Sam Rosen are reprinted in this issue.

 As someone who was born prior to the end of the Silver Age, it was always a treat to come across these stories in reprint form, and catch up on the character's personal history.

 He has been the master of black magic, the Master of the Mystic Arts, and with the death of his mentor, Doctor Strange became the Sorcerer Supreme.

 Steve Chung
 "Homecoming Review!"