Strange Tales #115: "The Origin Of Doctor Strange!"

Strange Tales #115
 "The Origin Of Doctor Strange!"
 December, 1963

 Story: Stan Lee
 Art: Steve Ditko
 Lettering: Sam Rosen

 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!

 This story was reprinted in Marvel Premere #11 (October, 1973).

 Doc got his origin story five issues after the first installment of his feature.

 Don Blake proved himself worthy by finding the hammer of the Mighty Thor.

 As drawn by Steve Ditko, pre-accident Stephen Strange reminds me of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart.

 The docks drifter who overheard the two sailors bears a close resemblance to western actor Richard Boone.

 Before he became the Master of the Mystic Arts, he was the master of black magic.

 Both Mordo and the Ancient One call upon the power of Dormammu, although it was later revealed that the dread one was the old man's bitterest enemy.

 Mordo was not incensed at being discovered by the westerner.

 Max Dillon would have loved Mordo's use of ancient magic.

 I first read this story when it was reprinted in Origins of Marvel Comics and partially reprinted in Dynamite.

 Steve Chung
 "The Review Of Doctor Strange!"