Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s oldest superheroes, debuting in Strange Tales #110 less than two years after Marvel changed the comic book landscape by introducing relatable heroes with the release of Fantastic Four #1. Before he was the Master of the Mystic Arts, however, Stephen Strange was simply Dr. Strange, M.D., a gifted, if egotistical, surgeon who devoted his life to the healing arts. After a tragic auto accident took away the use of his hands and stripped him of the prestige and wealth he had acquired as one of New York’s finest surgeons, Strange desperately sought out any means to heal himself and recover what he had lost. His quest led him down a long and arduous path towards spiritual enlightenment, magic, and, eventually, the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, but he was never able to fully recover from his hand injury.
Like all great superheroes, Strange has experienced more than his fair share of tragedies and made plenty of mistakes along the way. He’s lost friends and loved ones and even his status as the Sorcerer Supreme on more than one occasion. Now, Strange appears to have come full circle, finally regaining the hand dexterity that made him a healer, while also retaining his mystical abilities. By combining healing with magic, Stephen has become Doctor Strange, Surgeon Supreme, and now uses his mystical abilities to identify the invisible ghosts and demons that cause sickness and disease along with his scalpel and computer-aided dissectors to cut away the malignant tumors.
Doctor Strange’s transformation didn’t happen overnight. His road to recovery and the melding of the two halves of his life into one fully realized Sorcerer-Surgeon Supreme was a long, circuitous, and painful process that all began with one very bad decision…
Dr. Strange And The Illuminati Exiled The Hulk From Earth
After the Kree-Skrull War brought to the Earth the threat of global extinction from alien forces, Dr. Strange joined Iron Man, Black Bolt, Mister Fantastic, Professor X, and Namor in the super-secret super-team known as the Illuminati. Together, the Illuminati hoped to solve problems that are far too great for any one of them – or their respective teams – to solve alone, including what to do about their impossibly strong, incredibly angry, and fatally destructive former teammate and colleague Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk.
Unable to remove the Hulk persona from Banner, and unwilling to end him outright, the Illuminati decided to exile the Hulk from Earth. They sent the Jade Giant through interstellar space to what was supposed to be a paradise planet where he could live out the rest of his days free of the stresses of life among the puny humans of Earth. Instead, his ship ended up on the battle planet Sakaar, where he was beaten, almost eaten, and forced to battle creatures even more powerful than himself in gladiator-style combat. The Hulk initially had no knowledge that Strange, his former teammate in the Defenders, was part of the conspiracy behind his exile, but he would soon find out.
The Hulk Crushed The Sorcerer Supreme’s Hands
The Hulk managed to find a certain level of happiness on Sakaar and even love in Caeira the Oldstrong, with whom he unknowingly sired a son. However, when the SHIELD shuttle that brought him to Sakaar exploded, it took the lives of millions of Sakaarans, including Caeira, filling the Hulk with rage like never before. Determined to punish those he felt responsible, the Hulk and his Warbound band of followers boarded a Stoneship and set course for Earth.
After a quick stop on the moon to take out Black Bolt, the Hulk and his Warbound descended upon New York City and quickly defeated the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and other heroes. Dr. Strange attempted to appeal to Bruce Banner by invading the Hulk’s mind and it seemed to work, at first, but it was merely a ruse. The Hulk snapped out of his trance, grabbed Strange, and crushed both of his hands, hindering his ability to cast spells.
Strange Imbibed The Essence Of The Evil Entity Zom
Desperate to stop the Hulk and crippled by the loss of his hands, Dr. Strange turned to dark magic to gain power. After imbibing from the amphora containing the essence of Zom – a gigantic demonic entity so powerful that it once took the combined might of Dormammu and Eternity to stop it – Strange grew to gigantic proportions and proceeded to beat down the Hulk with his mace hands.
Strange was unable to fully control his new Zom-imbued abilities, however, causing needless destruction and endangering the lives of the police, first responders, and pro-Hulk protestors gathered at the scene. Realizing that he was out of control, Strange hesitated for just a second, but it was all the time the “Worldbreaker” Hulk needed to knock the Zom-possessed Sorcerer Supreme unconscious. Outfitted with a Sakaaran obedience disc, Strange was sent to Madison Square Garden to battle alien monsters – and other heroes – for the amusement of the “Green King.”
He Lost The Mantle Of Sorcerer Supreme By Using Dark Magic
Despite his failure to control Zom and his inability to help the Hulk, Stephen continued to dabble in dark magic. When the Hood and his network of super-criminals attacked the New Avengers at their temporary headquarters, the Sanctum Sanctorum, Dr. Strange tapped into “darker forces” to stop them. His gambit worked and he stopped the villains, but he also nearly took out his teammates. Realizing that he had strayed too far off the path of righteousness, Stephen quit the New Avengers, gave up the Cloak of Levitation, Wand of Watoomb, and Eye of Agamotto, and vowed to renew himself in the use of light magic:
I have failed at my task as Sorcerer Supreme of this dimension. I – I don’t think I can help you anymore. I need to atone for what I have done. I need to relearn all that I have lost. And put back magics which I had no business using in the first place.
Feeling himself a failure, Strange went out in search of a new Sorcerer Supreme, approaching Jennifer Kale, Wiccan, and Hellstorm. The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto had yet another magic user in mind, disappearing, along with the Cloak, and reappearing on the new Sorcerer Supreme: Jericho Drumm, AKA Brother Voodoo.
He Became Sorcerer Supreme Again By Controlling Dark Magic
Even with his confidence and ability to control magic diminished, Strange continued to assist the New Avengers against the Serpent, Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers, and other threats. Meanwhile, Jericho Drumm, re-dubbed Doctor Voodoo, was forced into a confrontation with Agamotto, the Sorcerer Supreme during the Stone Age. Drumm managed to stop Agamotto by using the Eye talisman named for the ancient sorcerer, but lost his life in the process.
Jericho’s deceased twin brother, Daniel, still powerful in spirit form, blamed Stephen for his brother’s demise and vowed vengeance. Using his ability to possess the living, Daniel attacked Strange through the bodies of his teammates in the Avengers and the New Avengers. Stephen once again utilized black magic to stop Daniel, but was able to keep the dark forces he unleashed under control. The Ancient One appeared after the battle and commended Strange on his heroism and ability to maintain control and once again bestowed upon him the mantle and trappings of Sorcerer Supreme.
Strange Gave His Infinity Gem To Captain America And Then Wiped His Memories
Strange rejoined the Illuminati shortly after reclaiming the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme at the behest of the Black Panther. T’Challa had witnessed an “incursion” – an event in which parallel universes collide with each other where their respective Earths intersect. The resulting collision destroys both universes and the process continues until all universes in the “multiverse” are destroyed. This version of the Illuminati included Steve Rogers, who refused to allow the destruction of one Earth, even if it meant the salvation of an entire universe.
A compromise was reached whereby the bearers of the Infinity Gems would bring their gems together to call out for the missing Mind Gem, which was lost when Professor X passed. Dr. Strange provided the Time Gem from the Eye of Agamotto and all six of the Infinity Gems were placed within a newly assembled Infinity Gauntlet. Captain America wielded the Gauntlet and managed to avert the next incursion, but the strain caused the Gauntlet and five of the Infinity Gems to shatter, while the Time Gem simply disappeared.
The Illuminati, now without the power of the Infinity Gauntlet at their disposal, were forced to contemplate other ways to stop incursions, up to and including destroying parallel Earths in the process. To prevent Captain America from stopping them, Dr. Strange erased from Cap’s mind any memory of the Illuminati or his involvement with the group.
Ebony Maw Mind-Controlled Dr. Strange Into Summoning An Ancient Evil
When the Mad Titan Thanos once again set his sights on the Earth, he did so not to find an Infinity Gem, but to discover the location of his long-lost Inhuman son, Thane. Thanos sent his Cull Obsidian, AKA the Black Order, to Earth to target the members of the Illuminati in the hopes that one of them would know Thane’s location. Ebony Maw targeted Dr. Strange and was able to use his ability as a “whisperer” to take control of Stephen and use him to infiltrate the Avengers and the Illuminati.
When Proxima Midnight faced resistance from the Mighty Avengers in New York City, Ebony Maw forced Strange to call forth Shuma-Gorath, an ancient, powerful evil entity. Only the combined might of the Avengers, Spider-Hero (Blade, in disguise), Blue Marvel, Spectrum, and White Tiger was enough to stop Shuma-Gorath from turning all New Yorkers into tentacle-faced monsters. Strange was eventually freed from Ebony Maw’s mind control, but only after he discovered Thane’s location. Ebony Maw wiped Stephen’s memory of Thane and went to retrieve the newly empowered Inhuman himself, posing as an ally.
Stephen Sold His Soul For Godhood
With the Infinity Gauntlet destroyed and the Illuminati running out of ideas about how to save the Earth, Strange once again turned to black magic for answers. He began using the Blood Bible to cast dark spells and traveled to the Sinner’s Market in the mystic dimension known as the Lost Lands searching for power. His quest led him to the Resolute Throne, a featureless cube containing a giant throne upon which sat the statue of a winged woman. By sitting on the throne, one could gain a “degree of godhood” by bartering away one-fifth of one’s soul. Even attempting the transaction was costly: Two other Sorcerer Supremes who tried to barter with the Resolute Throne perished.
Strange, desperate to stop the incursions, offered to barter away all of his soul for absolute godhood:
I need more. I want to be able to move worlds and shake them to their foundations. I want enough power in my hands to tear planets from the heavens and place them in a new sky.
For a split second, Strange held “the power to create and destroy worlds,” but his godhood was quickly taken back from him. The Resolute Throne monks explained that Stephen was untrustworthy, as he had attempted to barter all of his soul when he did not own “the full measure of one.” Though Stephen failed to acquire more power, Ebony Maw’s hold on Stephen’s mind was severed and his memories were restored to him.
He Quit The Illuminati And Left Earth To Join The Black Priests
A schism formed in the Illuminati when Namor callously used a device to destroy an alternate Earth to stop an incursion. Namor was kicked out of the Illuminati and Dr. Strange quit to search for answers off-planet. Strange discovered a group of powerful alien beings called the Black Priests who participate in the Game of Worlds. The semi-sentient automatons had mastered a form of magic that allowed them to alter reality by reciting specific words, and they used it to destroy Earths during incursions.
Strange quickly mastered their abilities and became their leader. As “The Eye,” Stephen directed the Black Priests in attacking the Ivory Kings. Comprised of a group of all-powerful Beyonders, the Ivory Kings had tied the existence of each universe to its Molecule Man. After a battle against the Black Swans, a group of multiversal acolytes in service of Rabum Alal (secretly Dr. Doom), the Black Priests were destroyed and Strange was captured.
Dr. Strange Let Dr. Doom Destroy Thousands of Universes
Dr. Doom had discovered that the Molecule Man was the linchpin in the Ivory Kings’ plan to destroy the entire multiverse through the incursions that were forcing universes to collide. He also learned that the Ivory Kings were limited by the fact that they were linear beings and could not change their own timeline through time travel. This allowed Doom to travel back in time and create the persona of Rabam Alal and the Black Swans, who would one day oppose the Ivory Kings.
Setting aside past differences for the sake of the multiverse, Dr. Strange accompanied Doom and the Molecule Man of Earth-616 to confront the Beyonders. Harnessing the power of dozens of Molecule Men he had plucked from different universes and timelines and using “his” Molecule Man as a conduit, Doom was able to destroy the Beyonders. Strange looked on as their destruction stopped the incursions but instantly caused the collapse of thousands of universes and the demise of countless lifeforms. Only a dozen universes remained, many of them fractured.
Strange Became Sheriff Of Dr. Doom’s Battleworld Kingdom, Then Perished
The multiverse was finally destroyed during the last incursion, when Earth-616 (the “prime” Marvel universe) and Earth-1610 collided. Using what powers he had managed to retain after destroying the Ivory Kings (Beyonders), Dr. Doom gathered together the leftover fractured pieces of various universes and cobbled together a world he called Latverion, AKA Battleworld. On this new world, populated primarily by super-beings, symbiotes, zombies, Ultrons, and anti-matter monsters, Doom was revered as “God Emperor Doom,” supreme creator and ruler of the universe. Dr. Strange, the only one besides Doom and Molecule Man to remember the events before the final incursion, served Doom by enforcing his laws as “Sheriff of Agamotto,” with a whole legion of Thors from various universes (the Thor Corps) as his deputies.
Unknown even to Doom and Strange, however, two “life rafts” had also survived the final incursion. One was discovered by Strange five years after the creation of Battleworld (three years before the story) but kept hidden and sealed. The other, discovered by Minister Power and turned over to the Thor Corps, contained Thanos, the Cabal, an evil Reed Richards from a parallel universe, and the last survivor of Earth-1610, Miles Morales, who had hidden aboard the craft. After the Cabal wiped out a number of Thors, Strange opened the second lifeboat to find it contained survivors of Earth-616, including Reed Richards, Black Panther, Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Thor (Jane Foster), and Phoenix (Scott Summers).
Initially critical of Strange for going along with Doom’s rule for so many years, Reed and the others joined Strange in assisting the Thor Corps in a battle against Thanos and the Cabal. Doom was unconcerned about the outcome of the battle until he recognized Reed Richards as being the same one that he spent a lifetime battling on Earth-616. He stopped the fight and easily took out Phoenix, but Strange teleported the rest of them away before Doom could slay anyone else. For acting against him, and for accusing him of being afraid of Reed Richards, Doom ended Strange.
He Was Resurrected But His Powers Quickly Faded
After God Emperor Doom was defeated on Battleworld, Reed Richards used the limitless power of the Molecule Man and his own son’s imagination to recreate the multiverse. Stephen was resurrected and reinstated in the new Earth-616 as the Sorcerer Supreme once again. Instead of being one of the only people who remembered the previous reality, as he had been on Battleworld, Strange had no memory of the eight years he spent as Dr. Doom’s Sheriff of Agamotto.
Strange discovered and defeated strange interdimensional parasitic creatures called Mind Maggots that grew out of a young woman named Zelma Stanton. (Zelma eventually became the librarian of the Sanctum Sanctorum.) However, he had more difficulty than he should have and found that his ability to produce and control magic was waning. He discovered that the phenomenon was occurring all over the world, perpetrated by the Empirikul, an army of robots and creatures led by the Imperator. The Imperator’s parents were slain by magic-users when he was a baby and he devoted his life to “purifying” all dimensions of magic, succeeding in taking out countless powerful mages.
While the Imperator attacked the Sanctum Sanctorum, his horde of robots and beasts attacked magic-users around the globe. Strange absorbed all of the remaining magic on Earth, but was easily defeated by the Imperator.
Stephen Teamed Up With The Living Embodiment Of His Trauma To Restore Magic
Captured by the Imperator and about to be burned at the stake, Dr. Strange, Scarlet Witch, Illyana Rasputin, and other magic-users were teleported to safety by Monako (a character from the pre-Marvel days of comic books). The Imperator drained all of the magic out of living beings, but failed to drain it out of artifacts, including Monako’s magic wand. His wand spent, Monako was burned alive by the Imperator.
Strange and the other magic-users scoured the Earth for artifacts containing the last vestiges of magic. Meanwhile, Zelma Stanton ventured into the bowels of the Sanctum, where she discovered “The Thing in the Cellar,” AKA Mister Misery, a magical creature comprised of all of the pain and misery Strange had ever experienced from using magic. Released from the cellar, Mister Misery attacked the Imperator and his Empirikul, giving Strange and the other magic-users enough time to gather magical items and return to the Sanctum. Stephen took back all of the pain he poured into Mistery Misery and beat down the Imperator in an old-fashioned slugfest.
Strange freed Mistery Misery, but locked the Imperator in the basement of the Sanctum, making him the new Thing in the Cellar as penance for his pan-dimensional crimes. With the Empirikul defeated, magic began to return to the world.