Thursday, November 3, 2016

Master Of The Mystic Arts!


With the departure of Steve Ditko from Marvel and from his co-creation Doctor Strange, the good Doctor's adventures were turned over to a veteran of Marvel's earliest days, the creator of the Sub-Mariner, Bill Everett. Everett's take on Doc is more stylish in some ways than Ditko's but lacked sadly the wild sense of design which had defined Ditko's best stories. The story itself turns to look at the history of the Ancient One as the fall of Dormammu in the previous issue allowed the release of an old enemy of the Ancient One, a man named Kaluu. Kaluu was a rival to the Ancient One, a man who aspired to be a despot before being sent into other-dimensional exile by his rival. His return to Earth sees him want revenge and that all-powerful control he'd sought before. Doc is able to stave him off barely with spells from the Book of Vishanti.


But the of that threat only opens the door to the next, the lovely but deadly sister of Dormmamu named Umar. Umar escapes the prison her brother had consigned her to and seeks out the fate of her sibling and discovers the power of Dr.Strange and the Earth itself.


She makes plans and attacks the Earth and draws Strange himself into a battle for his life in the Dark Dimension, when he goes there to save Clea.


But to save Clea from Umar, the Ancient One sends her to another dimension, where presumably she will be safe for all time. Marie Severin steps in to take on the art chores and along with inker Herb Trimpe gives Doc a real energetic boost. Though like Everett before her, she is unable to tap into supreme weirdness of Ditko.


Doc learns that to stop Umar he must unleash the menace of Zom and he does just that and Umar runs away, her threat to Earth replaced by the threat of Zom himself. The Ancient One seems to sacrifice himself in the battle against Zom as they war at Stonehenge itself.


Doc is able to stop Zom but then learns that his actions have unleashed vast stores of magic powers across the Earth. This makes the Earth toxic to the health of the entire universe and The Living Tribunal appears and announces his decision to destroy Earth to end the threat.


But Doc offers to end the threat himself and is given a limited time to do just that. He finds that his old enemy Baron Mordo has returned and is at the center of this new threat which is destined to doom the Earth itself. The art is turned over to up and comer and Wally Wood assistant Dan Adkins. Adkins brings a stark realism to the pages though his penchant for swiping (taught to him by the master Wood) is evident on nearly every page.


Strange is able with all his skills to defeat Mordo one more time but then immediately learns that the menace of Nebulos is grave indeed. Trapped on the world of Nebulos Strange is witness to the battle between Nebulos and the Living Tribunal and the Tribunal's judgement against Earth is set aside when Nebulos is stripped of his awesome staff.


During all this a girl Doc once saved in his earliest days by the name of Victoria Bentley has been drawn into the battle and she has been sent to a strange world ruled by the self-described "Scientiest Supreme" Yandroth.


Doc and Yandroth battle ferociously and Doc has to stave off the hilariously rendered robot Voltorg. Proving to be just as easy to beat as you might suspect given his ridiculous design Strange has one more hurtle to cross to save Bentley when she and Yandroth are teleported away to new dimension.


The return of the Ancient One comes just in time for Doctor Strange to use his guidance to find Bentley in the Dimension of Dreams. There Doc must fight not only Yandroth, but also a giant lizard beast and some Vikings as well. But it all comes out in the wash as Doc saves Victoria (who loses her memory almost immediately) and is at long last ready for a rest. It's been a fast and furious excursion as Strange Tales comes to an end...sort of.


In addition to the artistic changes (and I need to add that even George Tuska did an issue in there) the writers change often enough also. Roy Thomas, Jim Lawrence, and Denny O'Neil all take a shot at filling Stan's shoes on this series.

More next time as Doctor Strange gets his own comic book at long last.

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8 comments:

  1. I havent read these since after the high of Ditko I knew they'd be disappointing

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    1. Sadly they are a letdown, but then they'd almost have to be.

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  2. What was missing almost as much as his art was Ditko's sense of story structure. While diverting and still unique compared to other contemporary comics, there was no coherent trajectory in the post-Ditko era; the series just lurched from one weird creature to the next.

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    1. Clearly they wanted to launch a menace as looming and potent as Dormammu, but it didn't work. They all felt like posers. Only Yandroth at the end seemed to fell like something else.

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  3. Post Ditko: I think the brief period where he wore the blue full-head mask amped up Doc’s visual appeal a bit (apologies for the spoiler Rip – no doubt you’re getting to this.) Made him look spookier & more mystical and less like a junior high school principle.

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    1. I touch on that in the next post. My favorite Doc.

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  4. It's interesting to note that during Ditko's reign on the good Doctor, there was never a full cover drawn by him. (Except for the cover to Ditko's last Dr. Strange, which was cobbled together from interior panels.) However, once he'd left the strip, Dr. Strange got his fair share of cover attention.

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    1. It is an odd thing, but merely the result of a change in editorial across the split-book line. SHIELD dominated after taking the Torch spot just like before. It did seem that Marvel almost wanted to hide Doc, but then they kept guest starring him in other books. Odd.

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