The Many Depowerings of Dr. Strange
So, it’s official, Earth 616 has a new Sorcerer Supreme: Brother Voodoo, perhaps best known for… being Brother Voodoo. It makes you feel bad for Strange, who has now lost every job he’s had since college. It’s hard not to imagine him sitting around that giant Bleeker Street brownstone of his, wearing his sweats of levitation, eating the Triscuits of Agamatto and just getting in the way of Wong’s vacuuming.
But as the first issue of his new miniseries, simply titled “Strange,” hits the stands today, we’d like to note that at least it’s not the first time this has happened. In fact, Strange has had to stop being Sorcerer Supreme a bunch of times – which really makes you question the “supreme” part of the title.
The real-world reasons for Strange’s repeated loss of his powers is pretty obvious: it’s hard to write an ongoing series about a character that can pretty much do anything. Heck, you might as well try to have God as your main character. So, of course writers are going to take Strange down a peg from time to time to help further the plot. There’s a reason he’s the number one Deus Ex Machina of the Marvel Universe…Strange’s first depowering, back in 1976, was entirely voluntary. Yep, he decided that for some reason, he’d rather stop facing the nameless horrors of the Dark Dimension and go back to the AMA. So, the Ancient One stripped him of a bunch of his power and he lost his title.
But, like so many things in Strange’s life, it all ended with an attack from Baron Mordo that persuaded him to get off his duff (a medical term) and get back in the saving-the-universe game. And of course, the Ancient One gave him his job back, too.
Back in 1993, Strange lost his job again for not wanting to get into a war, specifically The War of the Seven Spheres, which was to be a huge battle royal between the universe’s great magical forces that would last 5,000 years. Strange didn’t want to get involved (that is a lot of datebooks to cross off, after all), so when the magical powers considered drafting him, he recited the “Emancipation Incantation” – which basically said screw you to every giant magical source he’s used (Raggadorr, Ikonn, Watoomb and most importantly, his main source of power, The Vishanti.)
Of, course he couldn’t continue being Sorcerer Supreme without all that power, and the title ended up going to Salomé, a former Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth dimension who’d been banished for wanting to be worshiped as a Goddess. Also, she’s pretty much a gargoyle.
Eventually Salomé fought Strange for the title, which Strange lost, retreating into an alternate dimension to strengthen his powers for the rematch. He also created two versions magical constructs of himself to help him while he trained: Strange, a masked version that went around collecting magical artifacts and Vincent Stevens, a magical businessman who developed “Technomagik.” Yep, a magical businessman. Unfortunately, Strange would have to fight both constructs after they rebelled, destroying Stevens and banishing Strange to the Dark Dimension.
Eventually Strange defeated Salomé and also gave in and left the dimension to fight for the Vishanti for a couple millennia, and eventually came back aged one year. Yep, Strange is a couple thousand years old… not that it gets much mention in his books. When he later gets back in the good graces of the magical powers, it’s back to the old grind of being Sorcerer Supreme.
It’s easy to forget that Strange wasn’t always Sorcerer Supreme – in fact, he didn’t get the title until the Ancient One snuffed it in 1973 (way back in “Marvel Premiere” #8). So, he had ten years before getting that job, and in my opinion, those years include some of his best stories. Here’s hoping that we get some good stories out of this again, less-powered Strange.