Doctor Strange is now in theaters, and it’s a movie chock-full of surprises. Between a living cape, time travel, and a dizzying array of mind-blowing visuals that perfectly capture the Steve Ditko artwork that made the character famous, it’s a film that stands out from Marvel’s pack in more ways than one. For comic fans, though, perhaps the most exciting revelation in the film was the surprisingly substantial role played by Dormammu, Stephen Strange’s greatest enemy.
Though many were inclined to believe that the film would tease Dormammu’s existence in some form or fashion, few expected that, in just his first movie, Doctor Strange would find himself in a one-on-one conflict against this ancient figure, also known as The Dread One, The Great Enigma, The Lord of Chaos, and The Eater of Souls. Still, there’s no doubt that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Dormammu; since the beginning of Doctor Strange’s early days as a sorcerer, keeping the Dread Dormammu at bay has been a full time job.
So before Dormammu comes back to merge our dimension with his, it’s time to go to the Ancient One’s library and study up. Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About Dormammu.
15. The Name Was Invented Before the Character
Dormammu is such an iconic name, isn’t it? Though Steve Ditko was the one who originally came up with the concept for the character, and his otherworldly artwork was one of the biggest things that propelled it to fame, one of the most memorable things about the early Doctor Strange comics were Stan Lee’s crazy names for spells, dimensions, and more. The cosmology of Doctor Strange brought Marvel Comics to places it had never gone before, as the character went through a dazzling multitude of realities containing such figures as the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, Agamotto, and Shuma-Gorath.
Like many other characters, Dormammu was first introduced not in person, but by name and nomenclature, with Strange and others repeatedly referring to a figure known as the Dread One, the Lord of Chaos, and so on. Today, of course, we call this world building; it’s the storytelling tool that allows George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones universe to have such a developed history, and why the original Star Wars movies — with their references to events we didn’t know about, and hadn’t seen — felt more real than the prequels.
Anyway, a dilemma occurred when fans got curious about who this “Dormammu” guy was. According to Stan Lee, when he made up the name Dormammu, he had no idea who or what a Dormammu should be, until Steve Ditko came to him with a drawing of the Dread One’s distinctive appearance. From there, the pieces all fell together.
14. He’s Had a Couple of Redesigns
Considering he’s more of a malicious deity than a true physical being, Dormammu has had a few different designs throughout his comic book history. As the all-powerful tyrant god of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu can make himself look however he wants to look, so design updates can simply be attributed to him changing it up from time to time.
The one thing that’s been fairly consistent is the rather unique way that his actual face is masked behind some kind of energy, with only a lined shadow of it poking through. In the original designs, Ditko intended this energy to actually be smoke, and Dormammu’s face was barely visible within it. Later artists have usually depicted the smoke as flames, and over the years, have tended to draw Dormammu in an increasingly Satanic fashion, sometimes even with horns.
The movie made the interesting choice to go in a different direction, moving away from more Christian devil-inspired depictions of the character, and instead going back to a more surrealistic, alien take. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems that Dormammu is a clearly non-physical being of swirling, moving energy, only taking humanoid form in order to communicate with Strange. His face, which seems to be composed of infinite folds, pays tribute to the classic Ditko look with the vertical lines.
13. He is Fueled by the Worship of His Followers
That said, Dormammu being composed of mystical energy is nothing new — it’s actually a rather key facet of the character. Dormammu isn’t just a magic user like Doctor Strange; this dude is made of magic, so to him, using magic is like us mere mortals flexing a finger. This means he’s invincible, eternal, indestructible, and capable of wielding forces that eclipse the powers of even mighty sorcerers like the Ancient One.
But the energy that Dormammu’s consciousness is formed from doesn’t come from protein, water, or carbohydrates. Rather, Dormammu actually feeds off of the worship and subservience of the countless civilizations that serve beneath him, begging for his mercy (good luck with that). This is a big factor in his motivation to merge other universes into the Dark Dimension, as the more followers he has, the greater his power. This means that his greatest weaknesses are actually surprisingly human: despite how all-powerful he is, he always wants more, and he’s impatient about getting it.
12. He Wasn’t Born in the Dark Dimension
Despite his totalitarian dominance over the Dark Dimension, a rule that has lasted for untold millennia, Dormammu actually hails from something called the Faltine Dimension, a place swimming with extradimensional beings called — you guessed it — the Faltine. These omnipresent, omnipotent beings are composed purely of energy, and reject all physical matter. Dormammu and his sister, Umar, were an exception to this: unlike the others, they craved and hoarded physical matter to themselves. This led to them becoming the most powerful beings in the Faltine dimension, and using this power to murder their father.
These two unspeakable sins caused the siblings to be violently exiled from the Faltine Dimension, and they eventually found solace in the Dark Dimension, where they assumed physical form. After taking over, Dormammu returned to his original Faltine energy form, also merging with the Dark Dimension’s magic to become more powerful than ever before. Umar, on the other hand, retained her new humanoid form.
11. He’s now the Evil God of the Dark Dimension
At this point, the Dark Dimension has belonged to Dormammu for so long that it’s hard to imagine what it might be like without him. But before Dormammu and Umar took it over, the Dark Dimension was the home of the Mhuruuks, a race of humanoid magic users, as well as a harmonious society composed of multiple species that had been at peace for a period that, on Earth, would constitute many thousands of years. This all changed when Dormammu led the Dark Dimension’s ruler, Olnar, to the dimension of the so-called “Mindless Ones,” whose rampage through the Dark Dimension left Olnar and millions of other Dark Dimension inhabitants dead. After using this distraction to murder most of the Mhuruuks, and then “heroically” stopping the invasion, Dormammu was hailed as the new ruler. Oops.
What makes the Dark Dimension unique? Well, aside from the sheer prevalence of magic within the dimension, it is also home to a vast collection of natural warps to pocket dimensions within the dimension, further amplified by Dormammu’s whole gig of merging other dimensions into it in order to expand his rule. So instead of worrying about potholes in the road, the Dark Dimension’s inhabits have to worry about tripping into a pocket universe if they aren’t looking out carefully enough. Crazy place.
10. He Has a Super Powerful Family
Dormammu is not the only Faltine that Doctor Strange has come into contact with, though he is unique when it comes to his insane power level. His aforementioned sister, Umar the Unrelenting, has played a major role in many storylines as well, being the one figure with such a close connection to Dormammu’s past (though since she maintains a corporeal human form, which looks pretty much like a human female, you’d never guess that she’s Dormammu’s sister). Umar has often come into conflict with Dr. Strange, usually as Dormammu’s subordinate.
Perhaps Dormammu’s most significant relative, though, is his niece Clea — Umar’s daughter, and eventually, Stephen Strange’s wife. The birth of Clea made it impossible for Umar to return to her Faltinian form, and in later years, she abandoned Clea, who until much later on would have no knowledge of her familial link to The Dread One (who’s basically the worst case scenario, long lost uncle-wise). Clea goes on to become Doctor Strange’s disciple, becoming almost as powerful a sorcerer as he, then his lover, and eventually, she and Strange exchange vows. Needless to say, Dormammu isn’t happy about this development.
9. He Controls a Creepy Race Called the Mindless Ones
One of Dormammu’s greatest instruments of attack is his enslavement of a race of rocky, humanoid, faceless golems called the Mindless Ones, who possess no will of their own, and are slaves to whatever master is guiding them. When enough of them are gathered together, the Mindless Ones can destroy entire civilizations. After using them to overthrow the former king of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu and Umar imprison them once again.
However, Dormammu has seen fit to utilize the horrifying combined power of the Mindless Ones on several occasions, leading to his additional title as “Master of the Mindless Ones.” At one point, Dormammu unleashes them on Times Square in New York City. This is actually a ploy to make a handful of superheroes, including Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, combine their energies in an attempt to send the Mindless Ones back — which instead causes Dormammu to materialize on the Earth dimension. Luckily for the planet, this effort is foiled.
8. After Being Forced to Spare Earth, He REALLY Hates Doctor Strange
The eternal battle between Doctor Strange and Dormammu is unique among comic book rivalries for the sheer contrast in scale. Sorcerer or not, Doctor Strange is still just a man, and Dormammu is, when it comes down to it, a god. This means that in a sheer physical battle, Strange would have no chance against the Dread One, so he is forced to rely on his wits in order to defend the Earth from this unfathomable threat.
As in the movie, where Strange’s first encounter with Dormammu is only won by him trapping the Lord of Chaos into a time loop and forcing him to bargain with him, the comic book Dormammu was also forced to spare the Earth after an unexpected encounter with Strange. Much like their big screen encounter, Strange is no match for Dormammu, and Dormammu’s overconfidence proves to be his undoing. When drawing upon the energies of the Dark Dimension, he accidentally weakens the forcefield that prevents the Mindless Ones from invading and killing his subjects. When Strange is able to reseal the forcefield with the Eye of Agamotto, Dormammu is in his debt, and Strange makes him vow to never enter the Earth dimension again. Dormammu’s word here is mystically sealed and unbreakable, but nonetheless, this embarrassing defeat by a mere human infuriates him to no end, and his hatred for Strange has only grown over time.
7. He’s Employed a Lot of Tricks to Get Around His Unfortunate “Bargain”
Though Dormammu hungered for the Earth dimension before, the bargain forced upon him by Doctor Strange only makes him more obsessed with our little blue planet. It would seem that a mystical vow would be the end of Dormammu’s attempts to overtake Earth, since he technically can’t break it. But magic is a tricky thing, and the Lord of Chaos has tried many tactics to circumvent this deal.
Since Strange made Dormammu vow to never physically “enter” the Earth realm again, his first attempt to break through this is by bestowing enormous power upon Baron Mordo, so that the Sorcerer Supreme’s greatest rival will murder Strange. Since then, he’s tried to forge alliances with other powerful beings in the Earth dimension, always trying to either kill Strange or take over the Earthly dimension. At one point, he almost succeeds in merging his universe with the Marvel Universe, since amalgamating the two would not be physically “entering” the Earth dimension.
One of his more memorable ploys was his plot to get into Doctor Strange’s mind and possess the sorcerer himself, thereby not technically entering the dimension, but still exerting his rule. This domination scheme was foiled by Clea and Strange himself, whose mind had been transferred into the body of a rodent.
6. He Caused the Great Fire of London
Even before Doctor Strange came along and banned him from the Earth dimension, Dormammu’s interference in our world was not exactly a recent development. Over the centuries of humankind’s existence, the only thing that has ever prevented Dormammu from overtaking the world has been the heroic intervention of the various Sorcerer Supremes throughout history, who have still only been able to do little more than stall Dormammu before his next return. He always comes back, in one way or another, and all that the sorcerers can do is collect their resources and get ready for the next invasion.
One of Dormammu’s most horrific attacks on Earth resulted in the infamous Great Fire of London in 1666. The widespread devastation and suffering caused by this incident was fuel for Dormammu’s powers on Earth, and he used this in combination with the inherent power in Stonehenge to link the world to his Dark Dimension. He was stopped by the Ancient One, who would go on to become Dormammu’s foremost enemy until Stephen Strange came around.
5. He Also Created Jack the Ripper
However, Dormammu’s influence on Earth’s events — and on pop culture, for that matter — didn’t end there. A little over 200 years later, in 1888, the Dread One was responsible for creating Jack the Ripper. Yes, that Jack the Ripper.
Needless to say, Marvel’s version of Jack the Ripper is a bit more mystical than most depictions. Jack the Ripper is actually a parasite from the Dark Dimension, which Dormammu embedded inside the mind of a sociopathic London man named Tom Malverne. Though Malverne was unhinged to begin with, the influence of the Dark Dimension’s parasite drove him completely off the cliff of sanity. With the parasite egging him on, Malverne was convinced to commit shocking murders of at least five local prostitutes, setting the newspaper headlines ablaze with stories of “Jack the Ripper.” No one ever discovered Malverne’s true identity. Though the dark dimensional parasite departed from Malverne’s body upon the man’s death, it later went on to possess other human beings, mimicking its former crimes.
4. He’s Interacted with All of Marvel’s Most Cosmic Characters
But don’t be fooled: Dormammu doesn’t spend all of his time sitting around coming up with ways to interfere in Earth’s history. Dormammu is a cosmic being who plans events for billions of years in advance, and has been involved in the activities of countless dimensions, worlds, and parallel universes. In the Marvel Universe, there are a handful of deity-like characters who possess unimaginable power over the known multiverse, and Dormammu is seriously high up there in terms of influence and rank.
He’s played a cosmic chess game with Odin, with the balance of order and chaos at stake, and the game came to a draw. He captured Gaea, the eternal most familiar to us as “Mother Earth,” until she was freed by the combined forces of Strange and Clea. He’s tried to overthrow the Celestials, interacted with Zeus, and created demons that many have believed to be the personification of Satan.
3. He’s The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Most Powerful Villain To Date
Most of the Marvel villains so far have been somewhat smaller in scale, but we’ve seen at least a few massively powerful bad guys menace the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ultron wanted to exterminate humanity. Thor‘s brother Loki came this close to taking over the world. And it’s lucky that the Guardians of the Galaxy were able to even survive their encounter with Ronan the Accuser, much less defeat him.
But Dormammu’s power exists on another scale entirely, and he (seemingly) doesn’t need any Infinity Stones to amplify his natural abilities. Whereas these other villains are able to conquer a world, or maybe a collection of worlds at most, Dormammu is capable of exerting his influence on a multi-universal scale. He is composed entirely of the Dark Dimension’s energy, and thus molds that entire universe to his desires. This means he can do absolutely anything he can think of, as the movie demonstrates by showing the myriad of ways that he kills Doctor Strange, over and over.
When it comes to Dormammu’s scale, it’s hard to find a Marvel villain with greater power. Soon enough, however, the one exception to that statement will be Thanos. While Thanos on his own doesn’t quite compare to Dormammu’s power levels, he will soon be holding all of the Infinity Stones at once, including the Time Stone that Strange wielded so successfully against the Dread One. Just wait for Avengers: Infinity War; it’s going to be a doozy.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch Played Him In The Movie
Since Dormammu’s role was kept under wraps until the movie finally premiered, there was no big casting announcement. When Mads Mikkelsen signed on, many believed that he may be playing Dormammu, but that ended up not being the case. So now that we do know that Dormammu has a speaking role in the movie, it leaves a question: who is that playing him?
As it turns out, Dormammu is played by Doctor Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch. This was an idea proposed by Cumberbatch, actually, who had experience doing motion capture as the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit movies. Director Scott Derrickson loved the idea: since it wouldn’t really make sense for an extradimensional energy being like Dormammu to actually possess a face or body, the idea behind this is that when Strange comes into the Dark Dimension, Dormammu actually models himself after the sorcerer in order to communicate with him. Derrickson also thought that this fit well with how the character was written, as a “ultra-inflated version of Strange … ego run amok.”
1. He’ll Definitely Be Coming Back
That bargain at the end of Doctor Strange may seem to have taken Dormammu out for the count, seeing as he vowed not to come back to Earth in order to be released from Strange’s infinite time loop. But, as stated previously, the comic book Dormammu was defeated by a similar compromise, and he found a workaround. Whenever Doctor Strange 2 comes around (and it will) sometime after Infinity War, it’s highly likely that the cinematic Dormammu won’t be far behind.
But how will he come back? We probably won’t know for some time, but that post-credits scene at the end implies that the main villain of Doctor Strange 2 will probably be Mordo, who has now decided that there are “too many sorcerers,” believing that all this magic breaks the balance of nature. Mordo, who is already turning into one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, doesn’t seem like someone inclined to team up with Dormammu, at least in the way his comic book counterpart did: their goals don’t line up.
However, there is the possibility that Dormammu could potentially use Mordo, without the latter even knowing. If Dormammu is as consumed with hatred as his comic book counterpart, and if Mordo is busy trying to murder Strange, Dormammu could be working behind the scenes, using Strange’s murder as a workaround to get back into our dimension. It’s also possible that Dormammu might come back bigger and more dangerous than before, perhaps as a new post-Thanos big bad in Marvel’s Phase Four. It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: we’re going to see that purple face again, one way or another.
What else do fans need to know about Dormammu? Do you think he’ll be the villain of Doctor Strange 2, or will he have an even bigger role to play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Sound off in the comments.
Doctor Strange is in theaters now.