Marvel character Stephen Strange, aka Doctor Strange, is about to get his moment on the silver screen when a full length movie about the Sorcerer Supreme hits multiplexes this November. Starring British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, comic book lovers and Marvel fans alike are treating this upcoming release with some trepidation. While almost everyone is excited about the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, many people are wondering if a big screen adaptation of Doctor Strange can work, as the character has always been one of Marvel’s most inaccessible and, well, strangest superheroes. While it remains to be seen whether the Doctor Strange movie will pan out, here are 10 facts about the Sorcerer Supreme that at least prove he’s nothing if not interesting.
10. This Is Not Doctor Strange’s First Movie
Unless you are a die hard fan of the character, you likely don’t know that Doctor Strange has been the subject of a movie before. In September 1978, the CBS network aired a television movie about Doctor Strange. The 93-minute film was actually a pilot that CBS planned to use to launch a weekly one-hour TV series about the Sorcerer Supreme, starring Peter Hooten as the good doctor. Peter Hooten is a character actor who mostly had guest star roles in 1970s television programs such as The Waltons and The Mod Squad.
There were high hopes for Doctor Strange at CBS, as the network was eager to capitalize on the success of its Incredible Hulk television show at the time. However, ratings for the TV movie were poor and CBS was forced to scrap plans for a Doctor Strange series. Doctor Strange also starred in his own animated feature film in 2007 called Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme.
9. Doctor Strange’s First Comic Book Has Sold For $61,000
While not the most recognized or popular Marvel comic book character, Doctor Strange has nevertheless garnered a loyal following among his devoted fan base. So much so that the comic book that features his first appearance – Marvel Strange Tales #110 from July 1963 – has sold for $61,000 at auction. While that is small potatoes compared to the millions of dollars garnered for Action Comics #1, which features the first appearance of Superman, it is still a decent amount for a secondary comic book character.
Interestingly, other comic books featuring milestones in the development of Doctor Strange have also sold for good amounts of money, including the first appearance of Baron Mordo as a Doctor Strange villain, which sold for $9,800, and the origin tale of Doctor Strange, which has been sold for as much as $8,000.
8. Actor Joaquin Phoenix Was The First Choice To Portray Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch seems so well suited to play Doctor Strange that most people assume the celebrated British actor was the first and only choice to portray the Sorcerer Supreme on the big screen. Not so. The film’s producers actually wanted Joaquin Phoenix to play the character and spent three months actively negotiating with the actor and his agents to secure him the part. However, that deal fell through due to a money dispute. Producers then considered actors Johnny Depp and Jared Leto for the role. But when those actors turned it down, producers turned to Cumberbatch. Rumor has it that producers of the movie were initially concerned that Cumberbatch wasn’t a big enough star to lead a blockbuster movie such as Doctor Strange. We shall see come November.
7. Doctor Strange Has Never Been An Avenger
Despite efforts to integrate Doctor Strange into the Marvel cinematic universe – and rumors circulating that the character will appear in future Avengers films – the fact is that Doctor Strange has never been an Avenger. While it is true that Strange joined the team known as the “New Avengers” back in 2008, he has never been a member of the core Avengers team. He has fought alongside them on occasion, and he sided with them in the Avengers Vs. X-Men comic book storyline, but Doctor Strange has mostly worked alone in the Marvel universe. The exceptions being that the character was part of the “Illuminati,” a group of elite minds that included Mister Fantastic, Professor Xavier, and Iron Man, who work behind the scenes to protect humanity from major threats. The other exception is…
6. Doctor Strange Was A Founding Member Of The Defenders
While never an Avenger, Doctor Strange was a founding member of the Marvel comic book team The Defenders. Other founding members include The Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Launched in December 1971, The Defenders were basically a collection of individuals or outsiders who had no affiliation with any other superhero team. Stan Lee referred to The Defenders as a “non-team” that came together as needed.
Initially the Defenders were tasked with fighting off supernatural or mystical threats, which were always in Doctor Strange`s bailiwick. But over time, the team evolved to include many other characters such as Luke Cage and Beast. The team`s mandate broadened too and they would eventually take on any threat to Earth that emerged. Doctor Strange came in and out of the team over the years, but has always been regarded as a founding member.
5. The Character Was Originally Called Mr. Strange
Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee has revealed in interviews that the Sorcerer Supreme was originally called Mr. Strange. However, there were concerns at Marvel that that name was too similar to Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. For that reason, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who created the character back in 1963, decided at the very last minute to call him Doctor Strange. But even making the character a doctor turned out to be problematic, as there had previously been a villain called Dr. Strange who had appeared in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. To get around that issue, Lee and Ditko decided to spell out “Doctor” rather than abbreviate it so as to differentiate him from the villain. Stan Lee has said that all the internal kerfuffle inside Marvel over the character’s name drove him crazy.
4. The Inspiration For Doctor Strange Came From A 1930s Radio Program
Doctor Strange was created as a mystical character associated with black magic. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko wanted to bring a new element to Marvel comics and they found inspiration for Doctor Strange in the 1930s radio program Chandu the Magician, which Stan Lee and Steve Ditko remembered fondly from their youth. In the radio series, Chandu is a magician who has the power to teleport, astral project, mesmerize, and project illusions. Armed with these supernatural abilities, Chandu is tasked with conquering the evil that threatens mankind. There was even a Chandu movie produced in 1932 starring horror movie icon Bela Lugosi. Lee and Ditko said they based Doctor Strange’s power, abilities, and world on that of Chandu the Magician.
3. Doctor Strange’s Name And Appearance Are A Homage To Vincent Price
Although Doctor Strange might be based on Chandu the Magician, the character, as conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, pays homage to actor Vincent Price. A fixture in 1950s and 60s horror movies, Price often played mystical wizards and sorcerers on film. In fact, Stephen Strange’s middle name is even “Vincent.” Additionally, several comic book covers of Doctor Strange have been produced over the years showing the face of Price as the Sorcerer Supreme. If a Doctor Strange movie had been produced in the 1960s or 1970s, there is no doubt which actor would have been the first choice to play the Sorcerer Supreme – Vincent Price. Over the years, Stan Lee has said that they never even tried to hide the overt similarities between the two; they just became part of the comic book character’s identity.
2. A Doctor Strange Feature Film Has Been In Development Since 1986
You might assume that Marvel has rushed to make a Doctor Strange movie to capitalize on the success of its other films such as Iron Man and The Avengers, but there’s a lot more to it than that. A Doctor Strange movie has been in various stages of development since 1986. Scripts have turned over-and-over, and directors have come and gone from the project during the 30 year period. In 1992, director Wes Craven was set to helm a Doctor Strange movie. Later, in 2001, David Goyer who penned Batman Begins was on board to both write and direct. By 2008, Guillermo del Toro had been brought on as director. And by 2014, Scott Derrickson was settled on to direct the movie that will arrive this November. Apparently, the main issues with getting a movie off the ground over the years were special effects and arriving at a decent script.
1. Doctor Strange Is Associated With Drug Culture
While he may seem pretty straight-laced to most people, Doctor Strange is actually closely associated with drug culture. Steve Ditko, who drew the comic books in the early years, admits that he purposely created a trippy environment of swirling colors and cosmic images. In the 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about drugged out author Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, author Tom Wolf writes extensively about the stoners’ interest in Doctor Strange. And, in the non-fiction book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, published in 2012, author Sean Howe writes about how the writers and artists behind the Strange comics of the 1970s often dropped acid before working on the books. According to Howe, LSD has had a major effect on the content of Doctor Strange comics over the years.