Doctor Strange’s body has been weird for more than fifty years.
In comics, Doctor Strange debuted in 1963. In Marvel Universe continuity he’s been fighting evil the same amount of time, predating the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. Doctor Strange moves through a incredibly weird world, so it's no surprise his body is a little freaky too.
In a sense, Stephen Strange’s entire history revolves around his body. As a genius neurosurgeon, he defined himself by hands that worked medical magic. His hands were so gifted they “do not touch a Band-Aid for anything but cash.” When a car crash left his hands unable to wield a scalpel, Strange saw himself as worthles - nothing mattered but restoring his body. That search led him to the Ancient One, to redemption as a human being, and to mastering a far greater magic. Instead of healing patients for cash, he heals the world, for free.
Unsurprisingly, all those years of stories mean the facts about Stephen’s body aren’t just weird, they’re wildly inconsistent. In hand-to-hand combat is he a Gandalf-class mage, or just a capable amateur? His creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, weren’t always consistent. Their successors are all over the map. But hey, that just means more oddball trivia and details for us comics nerds to debate, retcon and rationalize.
Doctor Strange’s body can’t bounce bullets off its chest or heal as fast as Wolverine, but it’s still pretty remarkable. Here’s the proof.
Here are 20 Weird Facts About Doctor Strange's Body.
20 His body is older than the Earth itself
No, Doctor Strange’s body isn’t billions of years old. Neither is Earth in the Marvel Universe — it’s been around less than a century. And no, we’re not crazy.
In a mind-bending Bronze Age story arc, Eternity — the embodiment of the universe — decrees the Earth’s time is up. Strange sets out to save the world. He fails. Earth is destroyed.
It turns out this is all a scheme by Stephen’s foe Nightmare, but the destruction is still real. After Stephen frees Eternity from Nightmare’s grasp, Eternity says he can’t undo what’s already happened.
Instead he recreates Earth exactly as it was before the end, right down to people’s memories. Only Doctor Strange’s body carries over from the original Earth, and only he knows the world ended.
19 To be become sorcerer supreme, his life had to end
Seeing the Earth end was only one of the shocks the Bronze Age held for Doctor Strange. In an earlier story, the Ancient One lost his life, passing his powers on to Dr. Strange, Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme. He didn’t tell Stephen about the challenges that lay ahead.
The first of Stephen's trials began when the anti-magical fanatic Silver Dagger stabbed him in the back.
The Orb of Agamotto sucked Stephen’s soul inside as his life drained.
In the course of the journey back out, Strange confronted the avatar of the end of life, but survived.
When Dr. Strange returned to his physical form, the Ancient One revealed he had once undergone the same passage through the orb. By triumphing over termination, Stephen had freed himself of physical fears that might impede his magical growth. He was truly Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.
18 He lost his left eye and Dormammu moved into his eye socket
For a couple of years in the late 1980s, Doctor Strange’s body was missing an eye.
In a major war against demons, Stephen reluctantly took up the practice of black magic. It wasn’t a natural tool for him, which led to him losing his left eye in battle. He covered the socket with an eyepatch until Agamotto transplanted Silver Dagger’s eye into the socket.
Before the transplant, an earlier story revealed something else lurked behind the patch — the dread Dormammu.
Doctor Strange had destroyed Dormammu in a previous encounter - really destroyed, not like all the other times! The remnants of the dread one’s life force later slipped behind the eye patch until they grew strong enough to take over Stephen’s body.
Spoiler: he didn’t get to keep it.
17 His body is a living weapon
Stephen Strange has always been more about brain than raw power. Part of what makes the Lee/Ditko run memorable is that Strange wins by out-thinking his opponents, not out-zapping them. He can pack a punch when he needs to though, physically as well as magically.
In Strange Tales #130 and 131, Mordo sets an entire cult hunting down his archfoe. When they attack him from behind, before he can cast a spell, they get an unpleasant shock: Stephen’s mystical training includes the martial arts. They go down hard.
Defenders #9 proved Strange is more than just competent. He’s able to hold his own with Mantis, who ranks with the very best Marvel martial artists. Later writers just ignored this and showed Stephen as more a gifted amateur than a master.
16 He needs poisonous food to survive
Don’t swipe Stephen Strange’s food from the fridge. You won’t survive.
When Jason Aaron took over writing Doctor Strange in 2015, he wanted Stephen to suffer. Aaron thought Strange’s power made him close to a deus ex machina. To counter that Aaron established Stephen pays a terrible price to protect the mortal world. One price is eating meals that “taste like leprosy.”
Constantly drawing on magic, it turns out, has altered Stephen’s body.
Once he could chow down on a hot dog; now he can only eat alien slop.
It would end the life of a normal human — and someday it will finish Stephen’s too. But it’s the price he has to pay to save lives, so he pays it willingly.
15 Going to sleep puts his life in danger
Stephen Strange’s life isn’t easy. Even sleep can be lethal if he doesn’t take precautions.
In Strange Tales #122 Stephen wraps up several sleepless days by collapsing at his desk. When he wakes up, a mysterious robed figure confronts and defeats him. None of Doctor Strange’s wizardly powers work. Finally he realizes why: he’s dreaming, and Nightmare is writing the script. In his exhaustion, Stephen forgot to utter the incantation that protects from this sort of thing. Although Nightmare is all-powerful in dreams, Stephen still manages to outwit him and return to the waking world.
Being unable to sleep safely is a high price to pay. Strange pays it so that everyone else can sleep and keep their souls safe.
14 Magic keeps his body from aging
Stephen Strange isn't as ancient as the Ancient One, but he’s way more ancient than he looks.
The MU has a sliding time scale where the current heroic age began ten to fifteen years ago, rather than back in the 1960s. The Lost Generation limited series, however, established Strange has been around as long in the MU as he’s been appearing in comics. His relatively youthful looks are just a side-effect of mastering magic.
Passing through the Orb of Agamotto stopped his aging completely.
The Ancient One told him that he could easily live as long as his mentor had — 600 years — or surpass that, if he played his cards right.
Since then, Stephen’s lost the rank of Sorcerer Supreme over and over again, but it doesn’t seem to have affected his aging any.
13 He lost most of powers when the Hulk broke his hands
Sorcerer Supreme — no more! That’s become the go-to cliche for writers who want to shake up Doctor Strange. It’s hard to see how much of a shake it gives when it’s happened so many times, though.
Perhaps the most famous depowering came when the Hulk broke Strange's hands as part of the epic World War Hulk arc. Rather than face the Hulk head on, Stephen projected his astral self into the Hulk’s mind to reason things out with Bruce Banner. Just as Strange thinks he’s saved us all, Banner reverts to Hulk, who crushes Stephen’s astral hands - which shatters his real hands as a result.
The inability to make the necessary ritual gestures cost Stephen most of his magical power. He could no longer be Sorcerer Supreme.
12 He has an eye in the middle of his forehead
“An eye such as no mortal has ever beheld” is how Stan Lee described the as-yet unnamed Eye of Agamotto in Strange’s first story. Unlike the MCU version, it’s magical, rather than an Infinity Stone. It’s Stephen’s most powerful tool, functioning as anything from a mind probe to a tracking ray to a magical phaser.
Sometimes the eye jumps out of the amulet and sits in Stephen’s forehead.
While this has a certain symbolism — the “third eye” of mysticism and parapsychology — it doesn’t seem to make the Eye any more powerful or effective. It definitely looks weird - Ditko loved making Doctor Strange look truly strange.
Like Stephen’s Supreme status, he’s lost the Eye several times over the years, including the start of his newest series.
11 His body spends a lot of time lying around helpless
In the early stories of Doctor Strange, he did most of his fighting while he was outside his body, astrally projecting.
Doctor Strange was influenced by the 1960s' fascination with Eastern mysticism. Astral projection was part of that. It’s a formidable power for Stephen to wield. When he’s out of his body he can pass through solid objects and fly at the speed of thought, while still possessing his magic.
Once again, there’s a price. When Stephen leaves his body, it passes out. Can’t move. Becomes vulnerable to possession. Strange can ward his body with spells, but even so, it will die in 24 hours if his spirit doesn’t return. In one story, Mordo distract Strange long enough to steal his body, confident he can hide it until life expires.
As usual, Mordo was optimistic.
10 He passed up the chance to merge his body with the entire universe
When the Ancient One perished fighting the demon-god Shuma-Gorath, Doctor Strange thought he’d lost his mentor forever. Nope: the Ancient One’s spirit had moved on to be one with the physical universe. In Doctor Strange #19 Stephen turned down the option to do the same.
Reeling after a harrowing battle, Stephen learned that it was a test. He’d proven he was ready to ascend and join his mentor. The entire universe would become his body.
Strange, however, liked being human. He refused.
Even when the Ancient One told him he’d lose his Sorcerer Supreme status, Stephen stood firm.
It turned out this was a ploy by the sinister Xander to nullify Doctor Strange as a threat. It was the first time Stephen lost his Supreme status. It wouldn’t be the last.
9 Stephen’s magical power draws on his body, not just his spirit
The nature of Doctor Strange’s powers seems to change as often as the writers.
It’s training and knowledge. It’s a gift bestowed on him by the Ancient One. It’s spells Doctor Strange cast. It’s pacts: he can invoke the powers of Cyttorak, Hoggoth, or the Vishanti, but they expect him to do their dirty work in return.
One thing that’s been consistent is that magic drains him physically. It’s physically exhausting, and occasionally physically painful. In one Bronze Age story, the Hulk smashes against the walls of a magical prison Strange created. It’s completely impregnable, but the blows cause Strange such agony he passes out and the prison vanishes.
8 He can be stopped by a bullet
By 1966, Dr. Strange had lost a lot of energy. Ditko and Lee had stopped talking to each other. Denny O’Neil took over scripting but that didn’t help much. Still, while O’Neil’s Mr. Rasputin wasn’t up to the level of Baron Mordo as a foe, he turned out to have much more sense. Realizing he couldn’t beat Dr. Strange’s power, he settled for shooting him.
A descendant of the Russian schemer Rasputin, Mr. R. had no real interest in magic except as a tool for power. He was just as happy using science, or a gun. When he discovered he only wounded Dr. Strange, he sensibly sent a hit man to finish the job for him.
It’s an unusually sensible approach. Mr. Rasputin showed the same sense after his defeat — a later story revealed he’d become an insurance adjuster.
7 He's never cured the injury to his hands
Some characters are defined by their physical limitations. Doctor Strange rarely thinks about his.
When he asked the Ancient One for a cure, he conformed to disability cliches — nothing matters more than having a normal body. After he turned from medicine to magic, the Ancient One could have cured his injured hands, making him able to perform complex surgery again, but Stephen didn’t even ask.
For some viewers, that made the Doctor Strange movie a breath of fresh air. While Stephen's initially obsessed with his disadvantages, by the end of the film he doesn't let his damaged hands define him.
6 He may have been Asian-American in his first appearance
Does Stephen Strange’s face in his debut look Asian to you?
Some comics readers are convinced Doctor Strange started out Asian-American. An earlier Lee/Ditko story had an Asian mage protagonist so perhaps both times they were milking stereotypes of Eastern mysticism.
Then, when it became obvious they had a hit, Ditko began drawing Strange as unambiguously a white guy.
The counter-argument is that it was just a quirk of Ditko’s style. Mordo has a similar face to Strange in the early stories and he’s European.
Was the character whitewashed long before the movie whitened the Ancient One? It seems unlikely we’ll ever get a definite answer from Strange’s creators at this point.
5 His substance issues
In his origin, Stephen Strange hits rock bottom after his accident. Ditko appropriately draws him as someone who’s stopped caring, who might well be drinking his troubles away. Later writers ran with the idea Strange had a drinking problem, even predating his accident.
Doctor Strange #11 emphasizes Stephen’s past as a “discarded derelict.” Other, later stories did the same, but not consistently. Then writer J.M. DeMatteis portrayed Stephen as a having a drinking problem since his teens. Not Stephen's fault though: Mordo was already trying to destroy him, which drove Stephen to drink. The car crash that wrecked his hands was an attempt at taking his own life to finally stop Mordo’s torments.
All of Stephen’s problems are Mordo’s fault. He doesn’t need the redemption arc that’s foundational to the character. Fortunately subsequent writers ignored this take.
4 Many villains have possessed his body
Having your body possessed is an occupational hazard for the Sorcerer Supreme.
It’s not easy, of course. One early story shows the bad guy try to possess Stephen while he’s astrally projecting, but he can’t break through Stephen’s wards. Nevertheless, a variety of villains have done it. A minor demon dropped inside Stephen to cloud his judgment just a enough that he made disastrous bad calls during his battle with Xander and his masters.
After the Hulk crippled his hands, Stephen let a portion of the monstrous demon Zom enter into him so that he’d have the power to defeat the Hulk.
It took two years to get Zom exorcised. That inner corruption further disqualified Stephen from remaining Sorcerer Supreme
3 He created magical clones of his body to fight for him
A 1990s story arc introduced Salome, a former Sorceress Supreme who returns and usurps the title from Doctor Strange. As an ally of the demon Zarathos, she hardly seems a good fit for the job. The real point was to set up a new status quo: Stephen is apparently now shady businessman Vincent Stevens. The magical action is in the hands of a masked mage named Strange, who uses force rather than brains.
It turns out that, after Salome drove Strange out of our dimension, he created the two doppelgangers as his agents. When the duo developed their own agenda, Stephen destroyed Stevens and sent Strange to Dormammu’s Dark Dimension. He also beat Salome, eventually.
Given the testing Stephen went through as Sorcerer Supreme, it’s surprising to learn the powers that be weren’t always so picky.
2 He was a vampire
Doctor Strange vs Dracula probably sounded like a great Bronze Age crossover, but it was fatally flawed.
Obviously Dracula couldn’t destroy Doctor Strange. But as Drac had his own series, Tomb of Dracula, Doctor Strange couldn’t stake him. The battle had to be rigged so both parties could walk away alive, so to speak.
For all Dracula’s power and cunning, is he really a match for the guy who beat Dormammu and Nightmare?
Midway through the crossover, Dracula bites Doctor Strange.
Stephen’s spirit escapes his body, but then watches the body rise as a vampire before finally setting things right.
The inconclusive part? The story ends with Stephen thinking he’s destroyed Dracula. In reality, the king of vampires just hypnotized Stephen to make him go away.
As clashes of titans go, we’ve seen better.
1 Magic causes him so much pain that he created a monster to absorb it
Horrible diet was the least of the problems Jason Aarons inflicted on the Sorcerer Supreme. There was also pain - lots of pain.
Aarons’ idea was that working magic is unnatural, and so creates agony in Stephen’s body. Therefore, the only way he can function is by exorcising the pain. He put it in the Sanctum’s cellar and let it grow into an angry monster. Obviously, that tactic didn’t end well.
This is even harder to swallow than Stephen’s leprosy-flavored meals. It doesn’t fit his history, or any other MU magician. As one fan of Doctor Strange said, it’s much easier to enjoy Aarons if his version is the only one you know.
Did we miss any weird details about Doctor Strange's body? Let us know in the comments!
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