Doctor Strange is, inherently, an incredibly weird comic character. It’s in his name! Over the years the master of the mystic arts has gone on some truly bizarre adventures, both with brain-bending locations and mind-blowing scenarios. Here’s some of the weirdest from the good Doctor’s long, strange trip.
Although they’re allies in the upcoming movie, Baron Mordo has been one of Strange’s oldest foes, battling him many times over the years—especially in the character’s earliest stories in the pages of Strange Tales. After being thoroughly smacked about by Strange multiple times, Mordo finally teamed up with Strange’s other longtime foe, the demonic Dormammu, to beat the sorcerer once and for all in Strange Tales #132. The three-issue arc culminates in issue #134, in an epic battle between the spirit forms of Strange and Mordo that takes place on and inside the heart of the sun itself, surrounded by atoms.
Steve Ditko is the undisputed master of coming up with outlandish backdrops for Doctor Strange’s trippiest duels, but this is definitely one of the strangest (and coolest) he ever did.
Almost every superhero has had a time in their career where they’ve found themselves stripped of their powers. When Strange found his sorcerus abilities diminished for dabbling in forbidden magics for the 2010 storyline The Doctor Is Out, he decided to try and find new magical apprentices he could teach to do continue helping safeguard the Earth.
Strange meets one such apprentice, Casey Kinmont, at a baseball game, only to discover that the entire opposing team at said game is actually made up of demons in disguise under the control of Tul’uth, a demon of games and chance. Without his powers, Strange decides the only way to win is to play himself (with a little magical help from Casey when Tul’uth tries to play dirty). Who would’ve thought that renowned surgeon and master of the mystic arts Stephen Strange was also a dab hand on the diamond?
In the earliest days of his self-titled comic, Doctor Strange wasn’t really a popular character, so in an attempt to invigorate audiences in the late ‘60s, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan decided to update Strange with a costume that was a bit more traditionally superheroic... and one that looks absolutely awful.
The maligned wardrobe update would last just seven issues, but the story reason behind its origin is definitely a loopy one. When Strange and his apprentice/sometimes lover Clea get exiled into an alternate dimension by a demon named Asmodeus, Strange guesses that curse that traps him in the dimension only affects his current appearance—sure! To free himself and Clea, he uses his powers to put on a new costume, breaking the spell and returning them to the real universe. It’s basically the magical equivalent of a fake nose and mustache, but it actually works.
Doctor Strange has always been kind of an asshole—he was extremely arrogant even before he became a sorcerer—but this has got to be one of his most shocking dick moves. In Strange Tales #129, the sorcerer declines an appearance on a TV news show to discuss the existence of magic, instead allowing the hosts to muck about with a powerful artifact that, live on TV, sucks them into the dimension of an evil tyrant named Tiboro.
It’s only then that Strange decides to get involved, so he promptly follows the reporters to Tiboro’s dimension, beats the evil being, and then decides to wipe the minds of the hosts to forget everything that just happened to them. Next time, Strange, just say yes to the interview.
As one of Marvel’s most popular heroes, Spidey has teamed up practically everyone in Marvel’s roster at one point or another, but this encounter between him and Strange in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 from 1965 stands out. After catching some criminals on top of Strange’s sanctum sanctorum (trying to steal an artifact from the sorcerer), Spidey finds himself exiled into a classically Ditko-esque (he penciled the issue) nightmare reality, full of strange planets, horrifying orbs, and the disembodied limbs of people from other dimensions floating around. It’s weird as hell, but Spider-Man is strangely cool with it, and eventually teams up with Strange (in his astral form) to battle the evil sorcerer Xandu and free himself from exile. For Spider-Man it’s one of the weirdest things to have happened to him in his early years as a hero, for Doctor Strange, it’s every day of the week.
Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner’s run on Doctor Strange in Marvel Premiere in the ‘70s is considered one of the most inventive periods of the character’s career, but this epic, time-hopping storyline is probably the peak of their imaginations. In it, Strange and Baron Mordo try to defeat a mage from the 31st century called Sise-neg. Sise-neg (‘Genesis’ backwards, one of many biblical references in the arc) attempts to become all powerful by absorbing magical powers from across time and space, eventually being chased by Mordo and Strange to the origin of the universe itself. Thing is, Strange and Mordo fail—Sise-neg actually becomes god and is responsible, through time-travel shenanigans, for actually creating the entire Marvel universe.
By the way, Englehart and Brunner got around the controversy of portraying an entity that is possibly the Judeo-Christian God as possibly a time-travelling evil wizard by writing a fake letter praising the storyline from a priest to send to Marvel, which they ran in the issue unaware—saving Englehart and Brunner from issuing a retraction. That’s just as weird as the actual story!
Not every bizarre trip Strange went on was to another dimenson. Sometimes, his own magical relics became the settings for his adventures. Another Englehart/Brunner tale, 1974's Doctor Strange: The Silver Dagger sees an assassin named, you guessed it, the Silver Dagger, attempt to take out Strange, Wong, and Clea. After doing such dastardly things as making a rabbit grow into a giant monster, Silver Dagger wounds Strange and traps him inside the Orb of Agamotto, one of the many powerful relics within Strange’s sanctum.
Inside, Strange hallucinates the appearance of a bunch of Marvel heroes and even Death itself—as you do—and eventually finds a giant caterpillar, smoking a hookah and doing a really bad hippie impression. Not content to spend the rest of his days talking to a caterpillar on drugs, Strange works his way out of the orb and eventually traps Silver Dagger in there with the caterpillar instead. Far out, doc.
This might not be weird in the magical sense, but one of the most infamous moments in the universally decried Ultimatum storyline is definitely weird... and not in a good way. Set in Marvel’s alternative “Ultimate Universe,” this incarnation of Doctor Strange wasn’t exactly the unparalleled sorcerer he is in the main comics, so when he went up against archnemesis Dormammu, the ancient evil simply wraps Strange up in his cape and pulls a little too hard. Certainly a mindblowing moment for Stephen Strange, but not in the usual sense.