Dan Harmon is known as a comedy creator on TV, but he’s also a big fan of high-concept science fiction. That’s hardly news to fans of Harmon’s Community and Rick & Morty, which often include weird, big-idea sci-fi concepts – in addition to all of the slapstick comedy and lowbrow hijinks those shows are known for. This approach has added an unexpected intellectual depth and heart to Harmon’s TV work, which (arguably) ranks among the funniest half-hours in the last decade of television comedy.
Now, Harmon has brought that expertise to another project: Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange. As had been previously reported, Harmon came aboard the project in an uncredited capacity to help punch up the movie’s screenplay late into the production. But while most had assumed the TV comedy veteran was onhand to help add levity to the potentially too-dense metaphysical and mystical themes of the film, that wasn’t the case.
EW has now revealed that Harmon helped crack some of those bigger, deeper sci-fi concepts featured as part of Doctor Strange’s narrative. According to Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige:
“He came in, he watched the movie. We are all big fans of his work, clearly. We at Marvel Studios are fans of Community, it’s where we found Joe and Anthony Russo, who came onboard to do Winter Soldier, and of course Civil War, and the upcoming [Avengers] films. So, we’re big fans of that. We’re also fans of his cartoon Rick & Morty, which is about, of course, humor, but I would argue that any given episode of that show has an unbelievably amazing sci-fi concept that could be its own movie. So, really, we just wanted him to watch the movie, and talk to us about it, and give us his opinions on the sci-fi concepts. That was as important to us as any humor that he could add to the movie. And he was very, very gracious in doing that.”
Created at first as a more general “master of the mystic arts” by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee in the 1960s, Doctor Strange quickly became a favorite place for writers to explore metaphysical themes at the intersection of theoretical-science and occult spiritualism. This eventually formed the foundations of what’s called the “Cosmic Side” of the Marvel Universe (both the comic book and cinematic versions).
The question of just how far “out there” Doctor Strange will take such themes has been an open question since the project was first announced. While previous MCU films have established that seemingly magical beings like the Norse “gods” of the Thor movies are more like interdimensional aliens whose powers only seem magical, Strange has promise to delve into explicitly supernatural territory. This facet of the mega-franchise is also currently being explored with Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4.