Strange Tales #111: "Face-To-Face With The Magic Of Baron Mordo!"

Strange Tales #111
"Face-To-Face With The Magic Of Baron Mordo!"
August, 1963

Script: Stan Lee; Steve Ditko (co-plot)
Art: Steve Ditko
Lettering: Terry Szenics

Men speak the name of Dr. Strange in whispers! But there is another -- whose very name is more dreaded! In this story of the occult, you are about to meet the Master of Black Magic's arch-foe, Baron Mordo when Dr. Strange comes "Face-To-Face With The Magic Of Baron Mordo!" In a hidden European castle, Baron Mordo stands alone, and broods... Only one man know more about black magic than he does! The man who taught him years ago -- the Master! The time has come for Baron Mordo to seize those secrets from him! For it is he who must become the most powerful magician of all! Once the Master has been conquered, then he never need fear the wrath of Dr. Strange, for he will be the stronger! The time has come for him to enter a trance once more...

The astral form of Baron Mordo travels thousands of miles away to the Master's study in Tibet... where he is too deep in thought to sense Mordo's presence! The astral form finds the Master's servant preparing his food! Hamir is helpless to resist Mordo's mental commands and must obey his orders! A powerful potion is placed in the Master's food, and minutes later... the Master is betrayed! Baron Mordo's potion has weakened him, so that his powers can not be used against his former pupil! Mordo demands that the Master reveal his most closely guarded secrets regarding black magic -- or else the potion will continue to weaken him until -- The Master remains defiant, even as the astral form of Baron Mordo moves closer to gloat!

But somewhere in North America, there is another who is as mighty as Mordo -- Dr. Strange, the Master of Black Magic! He has just completed his latest black magic experiment and attempts to contact the Master about the results. Since there is no response from the enchanted amulet, it means that the Master is in terrible danger! The Master of Black Magic enters a trance state and his astral form heads for Tibet with the speed of thought! Dr. Strange arrives to confront Baron Mordo, who threatens to crush him! He had tried to warn the Master for years about Mordo, but the Baron shall never triumph over him! Without the Master's aid, Baron Mordo is confident he is Strange's superior, and will make him pay with his life! As they both pass through a wall, Mordo is asked what changed him, and the Baron replies it is better to rule over mankind than to aid them! Dr. Strange realizes this is why the secrets of black magic have been closely guarded throughout the ages! In the wrong hands, they would spell the end of the world! Once Strange's astral form has been conquered, his physical form will perish! This will not be so, as long as the Master of Black Magic has a breath within him!

As the two astral forms continue their battle, the aged form of the Master manages to mutter one syllable over and over again... "Am... amm..." Dr. Strange realizes he can use his amulet to transmit pure energy to save the Master! He concentrates -- the very power of his own thoughts flow through the all-seeing eye... and the magic eye opens, as the energy goes forth. The Master is bathed in its life-giving glow! As the strength returns to his brain and his limbs, the Master of Black Magic grows weak! In saving the Master's life, it appears to Baron Mordo that Strange has forfeited his own life! The Master of Black Magic uses the last of his remaining energy in one desperate move, catching the astral form of Baron Mordo unawares, and hurling him away! Although Mordo believes he has won, Dr. Strange begs to disgree... His enchanted amulet can trace the Baron's physical form to wherever it may be, and prevent him from returning to it ever again! Mordo is convinced he is the stronger -- and will reach his mortal form before Strange can reach it!

The astral forms of Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo travel across the world, unseen by human eyes. Baron Mordo reaches his mortal form mere seconds before his weakened arch-foe! Mordo has won and is in control of his physical form! Since his mortal form is stronger than his astral form, the Master of Black Magic cannot hope to escape him now! Dr. Strange does not want to escape and it is he who has won! His enchanted amulet did not have the means to lead him to the castle, but Mordo, in his panic, did! With his return to his physical form, his hypnotic control over the Master's servant has ended! Even now, the servant is helping to restore the Master to full strength, and the power of Dr. Strange's amulet will hold Baron Mordo still until he can depart in safety! This is but a temporary victory because Mordo will not rest until he has destroyed both him and the Master! Back in Tibet, the Master considers that only one of his students has fulfilled his promise -- while the other remains a threat for as long as he lives! Dr. Strange can sense the death awaiting one of them when next they meet! The mystic arts of black magic are older than mankind's memory and Dr. Strange is determined to peer behind its enchanted veil!

This story was reprinted in Marvel Collectors Item Classics #4 (August, 1966).

I first read this story when it was reprinted in the 1975 Dr. Strange Treasury Edition.

We know instinctively that Baron Mordo is a bad guy because he is using a cigarette lighter, could stand to lose some weight, and he could also use a trip to the local barber for a haircut.

The Master would later be referred to as the Ancient One.

This is the first appearance of faithful Hamir, the Master's servant.

Spirit image would later be referred to as astral form.

For some reason, Dr. Strange's lean appearance in this story reminds me of Don Adams' Maxwell Smart, and I believe that Steve Ditko did draw "Get Smart" for Dell.

The Master of Black Magic would later become the Master of the Mystic Arts and his enchanted amulet would later be replaced by the Amulet of Agamotto.

Steve Chung
"Face-To-Face With The Review Of Baron Mordo!"