Superhero Secrets: Doctor Strange

Such Strange Secrets

Dr. Strange:The mystic arts of black magic are older than the memory of man. In time to come, let us peer beyond the enchanted veil together.

Strange Tales #111

Doctor Strange’s secrets are dangerous. Spells that warp the very fabric of reality are written in his grimoires. He has idols and fetishes to ancient deities that can corrupt any unwary soul and transform them into monsters. Even his fellow Avengers don’t fully understand the limits of Doctor Strange’s power nor the evils he won’t discuss.

So what secrets does Doctor Strange hide like the man behind the curtain? Let’s find out. Quintus Secretorian Revealio!

#5 Shuma-Gorath

Shuma-Gorath:Before all was, I was. Before time was, I waited. I fed on the screaming souls of the universes. I drank the spoiled milk of dead stars. I am the emptiness outside of all understanding. I am Shuma-Gorath.

Mighty Avengers Vol. 2 #2

Doctor Strange has fought some of the deadliest creatures in the Marvel universe, including the master manipulator D’Spayre, elder god Chthon, and Dread Dormmamu, but there is one being that they all fear. Our first Doctor Strange secret is his ultimate foe: Shuma-Gorath.

Shuma-Gorath is one of the first beings to exist in the Marvel multiverse. He wields incalculable power and has conquered hundreds of universes. Shuma-Gorath is borderline omniscient, and anything that kills him will become a new incarnation of him. This overgrown octopus is in the running for the title of strongest thing in the Marvel Universe. 

A fragment of Shuma-Gorath tried to conquer Earth by possessing The Ancient One, Dr. Strange’s mentor. Strange reluctantly killed his master to prevent the monster from gaining a foothold. Strange later gathered every scrap of magic he could and killed the fragment of Shuma-Gorath before sacrificing his life so he wouldn’t become another incarnation. Strange was soon resurrected and Shuma-Gorath turned his attention elsewhere.

Unlike fellow ultimate foes Doomsday and Bane, Shuma-Gorath has rarely appeared in Doctor Strange’s stories. This allows him to maintain his reputation as an unstoppable monster instead of devolving into a run-of-the-mill villain. Trailers seemed to show Shuma-Gorath appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but Marvel shot down that idea. Instead, that villain is a similar-looking, but much weaker monster called Gargantos.

Fun Fact: Shuma-Gorath first debuted in Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. Through that franchise, he is linked to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and implied to be another form of the Outer God Yog-Sothoth.

#4 Sin City

Mephisto:So yes, Stephen Strange, let us play your little game. Your confidence does not surprise me in the least. But even you should remember what they say around these parts to those who feel lucky. How does it go again? Oh yes… the house always wins.”

Doctor Strange: Damnation

These Doctor Strange secrets have been so bombastic and grim. Let’s lighten the mood. Everyone grab a fiddle and play along!

The next secret makes Shuma-Gorath not seem all that hard
Cause Hell’s broke loose in Vegas and Mephisto deals the cards
And if Strange wins, many sinners will be brought back to life whole
But if he loses, the devil gets his soul!

During the event Secret Empire, HYDRA destroyed Las Vegas. Doctor Strange resurrected everyone with his magic. Unfortunately, the city had been consigned to Hell because of all the sin that occurred there. The demon Mephisto built a base called Hotel Inferno, which was transported to Earth by Strange’s spell.

Mephisto claimed ownership of all the souls and transformed The Avengers into Ghost Riders when they interfered. Doctor Strange challenged the demon to a game of blackjack for the souls, but was caught cheating and banished to another dimension.

A team called The Midnight Sons battled Mephisto’s forces while Doctor Strange used astral projection to return to the battlefield. Ironically, Ghost Rider’s death turned the tide because Mephisto had accidentally abandoned Hell’s throne for his scheme. Ghost Rider claimed the throne, robbing the demon of most of his power while freeing the souls and The Avengers. The combined teams and Doctor Strange were able to seal Mephisto away in his own hotel.

#3 The Montesi Formula

Dr. Strange:You have sought your destiny, monster, and now you will find it! No longer shall you or your kind befoul the Earth!
Count Dracula:You cannot use The Darkhold against me, Strange! The book will possess any who try to use it for good!
Dr. Strange:That is true… for any who would use it in an unsuspecting way! Even for a practiced sorcerer like myself, there is danger. But in this case, it is a danger worth taking!

Doctor Strange vs Dracula: The Montesi Formula

Have you ever wondered why vampires still exist in superhero universes? Blade, Elsa Bloodstone, and other slayers make a dent in their numbers, but what if one of the bigger heroes took a crack at eradicating them? Our number three Doctor Strange secret is the time he put Buffy the Vampire Slayer to shame.

Doctor Strange learned that a cult had found The Darkhold, a cursed book containing all known black magic. Even worse, the cult worked for Dracula, who planned to use its magic to become immune to all his weaknesses. Dr. Strange stole the book, but not before Dracula could complete his spell.

Dr. Strange was joined by Blade, vampire detective Hanibal King, and Frank Drake, the man who had inadvertently awakened Dracula. The quartet studied The Darkhold and discovered the Montesi Formula, a ritual that would destroy all vampires. Doctor Strange distracted Dracula while his allies prepared the ritual. Strange cast the incantation and slayed the Lord of all Vampires.

Unfortunately, the ritual was flawed. When the magic faded, every vampire that had been destroyed returned to unlife, no worse for the wear. Still, vampires were completely absent from Marvel Comics for about six years. It was a damn good attempt at ending those bloodsuckers.

#2 The Thing in the Cellar

Zelma: “I’ve found something we can use to fight the Empirikul! It was horrible. I barely got away. It was in the cellar and it-”
Wong: “You went into the cellar?!

Doctor Strange Vol. 4 #8

Finding Doctor Strange’s secrets isn’t hard. There are skeletons in every closet and bloodstained clothes in the wash. Every corner of the Sanctum Sanctorum hides evidence of the price he’s paid to save the world. But if you wish to find his greatest sin, seek out… The Thing in The Cellar.

Every spell Doctor Strange casts demands a cost. He bore the price for years, but it eventually became too much. With help from his assistant Wong, Doctor Strange created a magical copy of himself and reworked his spells to make the copy pay the price. Strange was horrified by his decision, but viewed it as a necessary evil.

Countless spells transformed the copy into a Lovecraftian blob of sludge covered in eyeballs and teeth with a skull for a face. It eventually became sentient and resented Strange for transferring all his suffering and pain onto it. The copy escaped the cellar and dubbed itself Mister Misery before setting out to make Strange suffer.

Mister Misery fought Strange in an attempted murder-suicide. Strange admitted to his wrongdoing and cast a spell to redistribute Mister Misery’s pain among everyone who Doctor Strange had ever saved, all of whom agreed to pay the price. Unfortunately, that only made Mister Misery empty, not happy, and it again swore vengeance on Strange.

#1 The Death of Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (Classic):I suspect I have been murdered. [takes stock] Wong. Excellent. And Mordo. What a surprise to see you here with my corpse. And your lickspittle Kaecilius too. Where is your mustache? You look like hell, old man.

Death of Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange has many allies and even more enemies. Some covet his power and position, others are simply tired of him getting in their way until one finally did him in. Our final Doctor Strange secret is his death and a simple question: Whodunnit?

Doctor Strange’s corpse was discovered in his home. His enemies and allies gathered to pay their respects, but were surprised when Doctor Strange appeared. Early in his career, Strange used magic to separate one week of his lifespan so his younger self could set his affairs in order when he died. The younger Strange is weaker, but recruited his allies to help solve his murder.

The young Strange and his allies fought magical incursions while searching for clues. They soon learned the attackers were actually refugees from another dimension, which was being attacked by monsters called The Three Mothers. Clues were discovered that implied the Mothers were partially responsible by using an agent because they could not arrive on Earth while Strange was alive.

The group learned that Strange had been killed by his old foe Kaecilius. The mad mage made contact with the Mothers when Strange banished him to another dimension. Doctor Strange defeated Kaecilius and barred the Mothers from Earth. With his murder avenged, Death personally claimed Stephen Strange.

This was not the end of Doctor Strange. Throughout the adventure, Strange mended bridges with his estranged wife Clea. To honor her lover, Clea took up the title of Sorcerer Supreme and the name Doctor Strange.

Didya Get All That?

Even magic can’t hide these Doctor Strange Secrets

Image: Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness. ©Disney. Editorial use only.

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