If the only episodes of Hold 322 you’ve ever listened to are ones I wasn’t on, I have two questions for you: do you even know who I am? And why are you reading my blog? However, if you are a tried and true fan of the greatest comic book related podcast in the world, then you must know by now that when it comes to super-heroes, I have some favorites. This blog is about one of them who strangely enough I don’t talk about as much on the show as I do the last son of Krypton or our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This blog is about the one and only sorcerer supreme of the Marvel universe: Doctor Stephen Strange!
Now if you don’t know much about Doctor Strange, that’s a shame, but it’s understandable. He hasn’t had a solo title in a long time and is usually just a supporting character in various team books or an enigmatic guest star in more popular heroes’ books. If you’d like to brush up on the character you can of course go to your local comic shop or public library and search for old comics, do a quick Google search and read about him on Wikipedia or Marvel’s website, or you can check out the awesome direct to DVD animated feature, Doctor Strange, that does a fantastic job presenting the mystical doctor, his powers, and his history.
You may well be wondering, rather, if you are familiar with Doc Strange or not, why I felt compelled to write an entire blog about the character. I’ll tell you. It all has to do with the annoying (but hopefully also promising) shakeup that is Marvel Now. This far-reaching overhaul gimmick will bring us new and revamped titles, but in doing so, will also mean the end of already existing books, such as the most recent re-launch of The Defenders, which just released its twelfth and final issue last month. The Defenders will be replaced soon by an all female version of the team with the title changed slightly to The Fearless Defenders. I’m not as excited by this change as I once might have been. Normally I enjoy books featuring strong female characters. In my personal hold box I get the new Captain Marvel title featuring Carol Danvers as the captain, Batgirl written wonderfully by Gail Simone, and Worlds’ Finest featuring the adventures of Huntress and Power Girl, but all that said, I’m not excited for this all female Defenders. My top reason for not wanting to spend my coin of the Fearless Defenders is that no matter who else Marvel may place on the team, there won’t be Doctor Strange on the roster anymore… unless he has a mystical sex change and becomes Stephanie Strange.
Matt Fraction and the book’s editorial staff did some very interesting and entertaining things on the now finished run of the co-ed Defenders, such as having little notes on the bottom margins speaking directly to the reader—as well as bringing back the Kirby designed tubular “engines” from 1960’s Fantastic Four tales, but really I ultimately stuck with the entire twelve issue run for Doctor Strange. In fact, he saved the series for me. I liked the first issue, but the second wasn’t as good and the third was so disjointed and weak that I was ready to cut the book from my hold box if the forth issue had been no better. Well, that forth issue was not only better than the first three had been, it was by far the best of the entire run and it focused primarily on the sorcerer supreme himself. It almost felt like it was Stephen’s book, even though Daniel Rand (Iron Fist) made a nice contribution to the story in his brief cameo.
Defenders #4 centered on Doctor Strange accidently utilizing the “engine’s” mysterious powers by bringing his long gone wife, Martha, back to life with just a passing and unspoken wish. At first their reunion is passionate and happy but soon Stephen and his magically restored bride have to deal with the reality and ramifications of her unnatural return. Martha had died when they were young newlyweds, well before the now middle-aged Stephen had left his medical career for a life dedicated to the mysterious and dangerous world of the mystical arts. It became quickly evident to both Stephen and Martha that though they loved each other, the world had changed far too much since her passing, and they could no longer be together. As the issue concluded, Stephen was forced to confront what his life had become when he met up with Molly—a college student he had a one night affair with just prior to his wife’s resurrection—for coffee. Feeling guilty for how things had gone between them, Stephen offered Molly a rare and valuable book she had inquired about when they first met. This offer, as with much of Stephen’s interactions with other people in his life, did not go as he had hoped when Molly told him truthfully that she never wanted to see him or the book ever again; adding, quote, “I wish you knew, just for one second, how you make other people feel”.
Wow. I remember just how I felt when I read that scene last spring. I could relate to that moment just as much, if not even more so, as I relate to events in Peter Parker’s life. I’ve said on the show, more than once I believe, that I follow Spider-Man’s adventures more for Peter Parker and how much I relate to said character than I do for the action and web slinging, as much fun as they are. Well, I’ll confess to you now that as much as I like indentifying with Peter, I also find myself able to relate with Stephen Strange as well. What Molly said to him, in that scene at the diner, wasn’t much different than what some people have told me in my actual life. Like Stephen, I can be so inwardly focused and withdrawn that I fail to realize the effects my words or actions may have on others. After reading issue four of The Defenders, I found myself wishing for a Doctor Strange solo series. With the demise and retooling of the Defenders book, I find that desire has grown even greater.
I have a short list of writers I’d like to see helm the series: Matt Fraction, who wrote The Defenders, would be my first choice. Jonathan Hickman, who just finished his long and revitalizing run on The Fantastic Four, would be another great choice, especially if paired with artist Steve Epting who worked with Hickman on The Fantastic Four. My third choice to write a new Doctor Strange series would be novelist Jim Butcher, who is perhaps best known for his Dresden Files books, but who also wrote the Spider-Man novel The Darkest Hours, which featured Stephen Strange in a very well written and important supporting role.
That’s all from me today. Until my next blog, be sure to listen to Hold 322, follow me on twitter @Robert_A_Easton, and read comics, read comics, read comics.