Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As a child back in the '70s, I couldn't get enough Doctor Strange. Steve Ditko's psychedelic dimensions, along with the restrained majesty of the doctor himself, enwrapped me in imaginary worlds that my child-mind had never even considered before. My life since then has been a series of attempts, through various means, to kick my perception of reality into other, more interesting realms, whether through writing, roleplaying, or (earlier in life) psychoactive substances. I gave up the drugs and alcohol a long, long time ago, but I admit to hanging upside down to get a different view of a place, or spinning around in circles until I'm dizzy, then watching the sky as my senses try to catch up again, to real-time. Yes, even now.
So I was hoping for the same thing, the same sense-reeling sweet confusion that had so effectively introduced me to meta-realities as a youth. But I forgot that when I entered the fray of understanding, in the early to mid-70s, Doctor Strange had been around for ten years already. The story, the character, and the comic had already evolved for ten years from the earliest works.
And those early stories really, really sucked.
It's only about halfway through this volume that Stan Lee does anything of substance, and even then it's a hackneyed, derivative work based on pulp sorcery fantasies of earlier decades, but without the nuance and panache of, say, Clark Ashton Smith or Jack Vance. That said, though the story is awful, the visuals, while restrained, at first, by the very nature of their setting, become something spectacular once we are introduced to the bizarre dimensions of Strange's enemies: Nightmare, Tiboro and The Dread Dormammu. Then we see what I remember: Alternate realities that have little to do with our own, which became a hallmark of subsequent appearances of Doctor Strange.
Now I think I need to read the later volumes and leave the origin story to the movies. I sincerely hope they can do a better job in that medium. I have high hopes!
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