Doctor Strange: Dormammu & the Dark Dimension Explained

Doctor Strange - Dormammu

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Doctor Strange

With Doctor Strange now in theaters, fans are getting a taste of Marvel’s newest superhero (read our review). Suffice to say, Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a bit different than Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) or Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in many ways. Doctor Strange promises to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the brink of perception, and then shatter it entirely. From this point on, fans can throw out everything they thought they knew about the MCU.

The Sorcerer Supreme brings with him the Multiverse, a strange and wondrous place with untold dimensions, pocket realities, and alternate realms. Of course, not all of these aspects are enriching and illuminating. The full scope of the Marvel Universe consists of a broad spectrum of worlds, some positive with new friends to discover, others neutral, and - naturally - some disturbing places filled with dark entities hell-bent on universal domination like Dormammu and his Dark Dimension.

Whether you're looking for a refresher course in Dormammu and the Dark Dimension before seeing Doctor Strange, or are trying to figure out just what exactly they are after seeing the movie, we're here to help.

Doctor Strange Needs a Proper Nemesis

Dormammu and the Dark Dimension Explained

After Steve Ditko's character took off in the pages of Strange Tales #110 in 1963, Ditko and Stan Lee knew the doc needed a proper adversary – one that would task Stephen Vincent Strange to the very limits of his mystical abilities. Sure, Baron Karl Mordo was a fantastic mortal foil, but in all his dealings with the good doctor, Mordo never really amounted to more than a pain in the butt.

Come 1964, Marvel gave Mordo a little backup. Starting in Strange Tales #126, Lee and Ditko introduced the dread lord Dormammu, ruler of the “Dark Dimension.” Previously, Mordo had made reference his service to the tyrannical entity after his attempt to defeat the Ancient One by weakening him (or her). But now the fiery fiend had a face, as well as an agenda of conquest.

Throughout the years, the smoky tyrant and Stephen Strange have grappled back and forth, with the dark ruler even being banned from Earth by Strange at one point. Dormammu has also teamed up with Loki, interrupted Scarlet Witch’s wedding to The Vision, and has tussled with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Magik (of the X-Men), Spider-Man, and the Illuminati (who may join the MCU in future) among others.

Over time, Dormammu’s goal has remained roughly the same: to become one of the most powerful beings in the universe, and on a slightly smaller scale, add our world to his growing collection of pocket realms and parallel universes. To be honest, when you live in a place called the Dark Dimension, a little beachfront realty probably sounds heavenly.

The Dark Dimension Gets Some Legs

Dormammu in Marvel Comics

Although originally just another Hades-like realm, over the years various Marvel creators fleshed out the “Dark Dimension” and it’s place in the Marvel Multiverse. Originally, the pocket universe was ruled by Olnar and his fellow sorcerers known as the Mhuruuks. However, after being banished from his home Faltine realm (at least as of 1993’s “Heart of Darkness” story arc), Dormammu tricked Olnar into subjugating other pocket dimension, including the domain of the Mindless Ones. Overrunning the dark domain, the nigh-indestructible zombie-like horde killed most of its prior residents, including Olnar.

Since assuming power, Dormy (as no-one affectionately calls him) has used the realm as his base of operations. From there, he schemes with other evil colleagues (like Satannish), messes with Celestials, and transports the Mindless Ones from behind their wall – one he magically created to fence them out of his dimension – and into other worlds to enact his nefarious deeds. Of course, the dread lord isn’t the only Faltine in the Dark Dimension, even though he’s usually the one with a flaming head.

The hellish place is also home to Dormammu’s sister Umar. After helping her brother usurp power, Umar eventually bred with the son of Olnar, Orini. Their daughter would become the powerful sorcerer Clea, who, in a truly ‘it’s complicated’ turn of events wound up studying with and marrying her uncles’ mortal enemy Doctor Strange. From time to time, both Umar and Clea have ruled the Dark Dimension, but for the most part, the Master of the Mindless Ones claims ultimate dominion and wears the “Flames of Regency,” although he hasn't rocked his fiery 'do in the movie thus far.

The Dark Lord Meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Doctor Strange Benedict Cumberbatch artwork

While Dormammu and Dark Dimension weren’t really alluded to during early interviews and promotional material, although heavily speculated on, it turns out the eerie realm plays a rather important role in the film. Certainly, there have been some a few alterations to the character, such as his missing crown of flames and body, but the overall concept is still the same. Even in his purple, less-hellish but equally frightening 'void' format, his introduction ought to have major and lasting ramifications for the MCU, much like the release of Doctor Strange will itself.

The Sorcerer Supreme may have managed to dam the tides of darkness, this time – by eliciting a sworn oath from Dormammu – we all know how reliable black-magical multiverse overlords are when it comes to promises. With such a major tease during the film, the dread lord will undoubtedly be back (hopefully portrayed in mo-cap once again by Benedict Cumberbatch – for the sake of duality). Whether  by the hands of Baron Mordo or through the sticky wicket of the Infinity Gauntlet, what with its peculiar way of turning the normally solid walls of reality into a kaleidoscope.

At this point, though, the arch-fiend and his realm are relatively unexplored. A brief glimpses into his terrifying world hasn't revealed a sibling or a daughter, much less any major plans beyond swiping the good old Earth. Fans will likely have to wait until Doctor Strange 2 to find out how close the Sorcerer Supreme's main baddie brushes up against his source material.

Next: Scott Derrickson Discusses Doctor Strange’s Comic Book Influences

Key Release Dates
  • Doctor Strange (2016) release date: Nov 04, 2016
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
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