Roger’s Comic Ramblings: Marvel’s Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality

Roger Ash

Roger Ash


by Roger Ash

Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality

Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality


Marvel is publishing a number of Doctor Strange books in anticipation of the upcoming movie. One of those, Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality, collects some of my favorite stories of the good Doctor. These stories have been collected before but if you’ve never read them, they are worth checking out. And if you have read these stories, this makes for a nice, new collection.

Doctor Strange #180

Doctor Strange #180


This volume is a time of change for Doctor Strange. The first stories come from the end of his series in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, beginning with a fun tale featuring Nightmare and Eternity by Roy Thomas with art by the incomparable team of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. At this time, Doc sported a mask to give him a more superheroic look. This was never a look that worked for me. I’m not sure how to explain it other than it just didn’t look right. The final issue of the series is the first part of a tale that crosses into Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner and would lead to the creation of The Defenders.

Marvel Premiere #3

Marvel Premiere #3


A bit later, Marvel decided to give Doc another shot at being a solo star in the pages of Marvel Premiere. Issue #3 by Stan Lee and Barry Windsor-Smith is fun, but neither of them stayed around very long. Lee is gone after this issue and Windsor-Smith is only around for one more issue. This was a recurring problem in these early adventures as it took a while before an ongoing creative team settled in.

Marvel Premiere #6

Marvel Premiere #6


Issue #4 began a storyline from Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin featuring Strange battling monsters inspired by the work of Robert E. Howard. The story would conclude in issue #10 with Gardner F. Fox taking over as writer with issue #5. This pulp-style adventure is enjoyable enough, but it tends to wander and Fox’s writing never captured the mystic side of Doctor Strange for me. Add to that the fact that each of the issues he wrote was drawn by a different artist, so there wasn’t any continuity in the look of the book. On the plus side, you do get art from Frank Brunner, P. Craig Russell, Jim Starlin, and others.

This all changed with issue #9 as Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner take over as the regular creative team and Doctor Strange really takes off. First, they finish off the monster storyline taking it to a more mystical, and personal, level with Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One, dying in the process. However, dying isn’t really the correct word in this case, but you’ll need to read the story to understand why.

Marvel Premiere #13

Marvel Premiere #13


Marvel Premiere #11-14 features Strange up against a scheming Baron Mordo, though issue #11 is mostly comprised of reprints of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko stories featuring early appearances of Mordo. The otherworldly Clea is also reintroduced into the series as Doctor Strange’s disciple and eventually, lover. Strange has to travel to the past to stop Mordo in his attempts to get the power of a sorcerer named Cagliostro, who is later found to actually be named Sise-Neg. This is an epic of Biblical proportions (literally) and extremely cosmic and mind-blowing.

Doctor Strange #4

Doctor Strange #4


Englehart and Brunner’s work on the series proved popular enough that Doctor Strange was given his own series again. The final story in this collection comes from Doctor Strange #1-5 as he battles the villainous Silver Dagger. Silver Dagger breaks into Strange’s home, stabs him in the back, and kidnaps Clea. To save himself, Strange’s astral form enters the Orb of Agamotto. He finds that healing himself and escaping from the Orb will be more of a challenge than he realized as he is trapped in an Alice In Wonderland type of reality complete with a caterpillar and a mad tea party featuring The Defenders! While this is going on, Silver Dagger is trying to recruit Clea to his cause – destroying magic users! It is only after facing Death and thereby becoming Sorcerer Supreme that Doctor Strange is able to escape and, together with Clea, defeat Silver Dagger.

Unfortunately, this was the last Doctor Strange work Englehart and Brunner would do together. Brunner would still provide some covers, but he would not draw another Doctor Strange story for many years. What they did together still stands as one of the high water marks of Doctor Strange. How much do I like these stories? A number of years back, I commissioned Brunner to revisit Strange’s meeting with the caterpillar from the Silver Dagger story.

A commission by Frank Brunner from the collection of Roger Ash

A commission by Frank Brunner from the collection of Roger Ash


These stories show Doctor Strange at his mystic and cosmic best. Englehat and Brunner’s collaboration was hitting on all cylinders to create some incredible stories. If you’ve never read them before, see why they’ve stood the test of time. If you have read these stories, you know the wonders that await you within these pages. Don’t miss it!

Purchase

Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database

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