GALAXY GUIDE #23: ‘Strange’ Encounters

With “Doctor Strange” now confirmed to be a part of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, discussion will inevitably turn to how the Master of the Mystic Arts might be interpreted when translated from his comic book roots to another medium.

But this isn’t Stephen Strange’s first time at the rodeo.

This week in Galaxy Guide, we’re going to take a look at Doctor Strange’s history in film and television, and examine some of the more notable examples for possible clues as to how the good doctor might appear in the MCU.

The Sorcerer Supreme has in fact had a live-action portrayal before; this came in 1978 in the form of the “Dr. Strange” made-for-TV movie, starring Peter Hooten (perhaps best known for his role in the original “Inglorious Bastards”) as the titular magician. The film was created as a pilot for a potential TV series, one that never materialized. Stan Lee served as a consultant, and the film did incorporate some elements from the comics, such as Strange’s servant Wong, and his love interest Clea, but also changes many significant elements, making Strange a psychiatrist rather than a surgeon, doing away with the concept of the Ancient One as Strange’s mentor, and bringing in Morgan Le Fay as his major villain. Le Fay does exist in the Marvel Universe, but she has tended to be a foe of heroes such as Spider-Woman and the Avengers rather than Doctor Strange. Another major difference is in costuming; gone is Steve Ditko’s elegant design in favor of a look involving lots of gold chains that is probably best left in the ’70s.

More recently, Marvel released “Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme,” a 2007 direct-to-DVD animated film that updated Doctor Strange for a new generation. Voiced by Bryce Johnson, this Doctor Strange stays true to his roots, as an arrogant surgeon who is taught humility when a horrific accident ruins his hands. In addition to featuring Wong and the Ancient One, the film incorporates authentic Doctor Strange villains, bringing in Baron Mordo as his competitor for the title of Sorcerer Supreme, and the fiendish Dormammu, an entity from a dark dimension who seeks to conquer our own.

As for the big-screen version of “Doctor Strange”, when it finally does arrive, it will be the completion of a journey that dates as far back as 1986, when “Back To The Future” writer (and sometime comic book scripter) Bob Gale was attached to the project. At various points along the way, horror movie master Wes Craven, “Batman” and “Blade” screenwriter David Goyer, “Hellboy” director Guillermo Del Toro, and “Sandman” scribe Neil Gaiman were all rumored to have worked on some iteration of a “Doctor Strange” feature film. And in 2011, Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey sought to parlay his medical acting experience into the role of Doctor Strange, though there’s no way of knowing whether he is still under consideration.

Still, the launch of the MCU’s Phase Three is more than two years away, and a lot can happen in that time. The answers as to who may play Doctor Strange and how closely that incarnation will hew to the comics are, at this stage, as ethereal as the very mystic arts Strange has mastered.

Our weekly Galaxy Guide takes you through the cosmic side of comic book movies, from “Guardians of the Galaxy” to infinity and beyond. Tell us what you think in the comments section or on Twitter!

Previous Galaxy Guides:
» A Look at Lady Sif
» Alien Encounters
» A Galaxy Not So Far Away
» Five Future Guardians
» Five Villains For Josh Trank’s ’Fantastic Four’ Reboot
» Lost In Space: Five Heroes To Have Along For The Ride
» Reading Into Rom
» Exploring Malekith’s Kurse
» Blasting Off with Nova
» Iron Man Goes to Space
» Bendis And McNiven Go Galactic
» Thanos’ Greatest Schemes
» Who is Rocket Raccoon?
» Who is Groot?
» Who is Gamora?
» Who is Drax the Destroyer?
» Who is Star-Lord?
» Plotting a Course for “Guardians”
» Gunning for the “Guardians”
» Surfing Across Universes
» Who Should Direct The “Guardians” Movie?
» Who Are The Guardians Of The Galaxy?