Since his debut in 1963′s Strange Tales #110 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, this surgeon-turned-sorcerer has been to strange worlds and new dimensions that look like an acid-fueled road trip that would make Hunter S. Thompson blush. Although created by the same team that created the ginormously popular Spider-Man, Dr. Strange has never been as popular as his spiritual brother; more the cooky uncle you only see every other Christmas. In comics, he’s had his own series from time to time but has largely been relegated to guest starring roles or as part of a team book like New Avengers or Defenders.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With the right mix of story, creators and timing, a Doctor Strange series could flourish on comic shelves even in today’s age. Ertzwhile readers of iFanboy and this Wednesday column might recall that back in October 2011 I did a “Remake & Reboot: A Doctor Strange Comic Series” putting Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo in the creative roles, but after reading and writing two things in the past month I have an even better idea: Doctor Strange MAX.
In an interview last week on CBR, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso talked about the current state of the MAX line and Marvel’s formula for this imprint.
“There are plenty of characters in Marvel’s catalog that are due for a MAX treatment,”explains Alonso,” and you’ll be seeing more in the next couple of years. Our formula for MAX is creators + character + concept. We need to feel we’ve got the right juice, the right creative pedigree to create a decently-performing periodical that turns into a wonderfully-performing collection. Garth is one of those writers who brings a healthy fanbase to even the most obscure character, and his name moves trades.”
Last month I wrote my own piece looking at the MAX line and positing a few course corrections, and it dovetails exactly into what Alonso is talking about — and would fit nicely inside a Doctor Strange MAX book. Here’s how it would work.
Doctor Strange is a broken man, literally. After a smug life as a successful neurosurgeon is taken from him, he’s humbled by the path he takes to regain the use of his hands and instead finds a second career as Sorcerer Supreme. Often portrayed as noble and chivalrous, imagine if Strange still had a bit of that old Stephen Strange in him, mixed with her current status as Sorcerer Supreme. In effect he could be a Sherlock Holmes kind of figure, a quirky man who is at odds with society but is drawn to it as a conduit to use his rare abilities to make a life for people the way he never could. The formula is played out in television in shows like House, Mentalist and the excellent BBC series Sherlock, so imagine that here.
And as far as the worlds around him, Strange could be a unsuspecting tour guide to the strangeness of the worlds around ours — and even our own world and the supernatural creatures that bleed through it. What if he’s forced to revisit his life as a surgeon and the way people thought of him ten for a case? What if a doppelganger of Stephen Strange returns to practice medicine, leading the real Dr. Strange to investigate?
The Writer – Warren Ellis: Although Warren Ellis is on hiatus from doing work for Marvel, he has a strong track record when it comes to reviving and re-invisioning a book. His “Extremis” arc relaunched Iron Man for the modern age and gave Matt Fraction and the movie-people a how-to guide in terms of tone and temper for Tony Stark, and his startling turn on Thunderbolts remade that team from being a low-selling cult book to a strong seller and the impetus for Dark Reign. Ellis wrote three issues of Doctor Strange back in 1995, but he’s a far different writer — and with the loose restrictions of the MAX line — would give you far different results. And like Alonso said above, Ellis — like Ennis — has a healthy fanbase that would show up to support this book.
The Artist – Darick Robertson: Robertson is one of the most over-looked artists working in comics today, and he’s currently tearing it up with Garth Ennis on The Boys and prepping for the new Image series Happy with Grant Morrison. Robertson has found much success in creator-owned work with the aforementioned The Boys and the promise of it with Happy, but the thing that makes him go from good to perfect for Doctor Strange MAX is his memorable run with Warren Ellis on the DC/Vertigo series Transmetropolitan. Much in the same way Ennis & Steve Dillon went from Preacher to Punisher, Ellis & Robertson could do the same. Robertson’s work on The Boys and Transmetropolitan gave every character big or small a personality, and in the sometimes obtuse and disjointed magical realms Doctor Strange visits that’d be an important piece to solve this puzzle.