Brought to life in 1963 in Strange Tales #110 by Stan Lee and the incomparable (seriously, his art on this is amazing) Steve Ditko, Stephen Strange didn’t want to be a hero. While arguably his career choice of becoming a surgeon earmarked him for a certain brand of heroics, the saving lives part of his job was what meant the least to him. Strange’s main concern was how much money his patients spent on his services. However, a fateful car crash changed all that by destroying his hands. He followed any potential treatment he could find and eventually sought the Ancient One. The man refused to cure him, offering to train him in the mystic arts instead. It was this journey that led to Stephen Strange’s transformation from narcissist to champion.
As Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange has had his fair share of battles. From the prosaic to the truly inconceivable, the good doctor has seen it all and survived to tell the tales. The Sorcerer Supreme has vanquished all manner of villain and while some left more of an indelible mark than others, his list of enemies is vast.
Here are 15 Doctor Strange Villains That You Need To Know About.
Loki Laufeyson has created all manner of mischief throughout the Marvel Universe and he’s done it in many forms. Whether appearing as man, woman, or child, Thor’s brother has found a way to wreak havoc and he’s done it in style. Loki wields the power of a god, making him more than a match for the Sorcerer Supreme.
The two haven’t fought much in the comics, but they have crossed paths on more than one occasion. In Strange Tales #123 (1964), Loki even manipulated Doctor Strange into using his magic to bring Thor’s hammer to him. Strange discovers his duplicity before Loki can get his mitts on Mjolnir, but try as he might, he simply could not best the Trickster in battle. Thor wound up having to save the day.
The Son of Secrets has played villain to pretty much every hero he’s ever come in contact with and has spent the better part of his existence as the proverbial thorn in Thor’s side. He is unequivocally one of the most powerful beings in the universe, which makes him a worthy adversary for Doctor Strange. Beginning with Thor (2011), Loki has been memorably portrayed in the MCU by Tom Hiddleston.
Lilith made her first appearance in Ghost Rider #28. Although much about her remains unknown, what is known is that she is older than civilization itself and was possibly responsible for creating the first vampire. She has ruled over many realms and been worshipped as a god in all of them. The Mother of all Demons is susceptible to neither aging nor sickness and her extensive knowledge of the occult is matched by her magical proficiency. Not only can she summon her children from alternate dimensions, but she can also create new ones basically from the ether.
Lilith has faced off against Strange several times over the years. In Witches, a 2004 miniseries, Lilith takes advantage of the opening of a mystical tome, which sends ripples across the magical community. Aside from using her formidable magic, she beats Strange to a pulp! Lilith is also super strong. She should not be confused with Dracula’s daughter (who inexplicably has the same name), although interestingly, the book’s editorial team did just that. Witches is riddled with continuity errors based on the fact that the editors, and therefore Strange, couldn’t keep straight exactly which Lilith he was battling.
13 Nameless One
The Nameless One certainly looks the part of a hell-beast. Not only does he have two heads, but also two sets of wings as well. Thousands of years ago, the Nameless One ruled Earth, holding court over an archaic race of demons known as the Undying Ones. After returning to their own dimension, they never quite got over that whole wanting to take over Earth thing and attempted to invade.
The Nameless One made his first appearance in 1970 in Submariner #22, a tale in which Namor and Doctor Strange defeated him together. Despite their victory, Strange winds up trapped in the Nameless One’s dimension. The Hulk found a way to free him, though.
Strange, Hulk, Namor, and eventually the Silver Surfer would form the Defenders shortly thereafter. As a team, they faced the Nameless One more than once. Although he claims to be a more powerful sorcerer than Strange, the Nameless One's defeats at the Doctor’s hands have proven otherwise.
Xandu actually made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 in 1965. Initially, he sought to steal the Wand of Watoomb from Doctor Strange. He believed it could save his beloved Melinda, who was trapped between life and death. Spidey and Strange teamed up to take Xandu down. Although they defeated him, Strange still offered to help his enemy revive his true love. Strange made a valiant effort, but ultimately Melinda was beyond his help-- a fact that drove Xandu even further over the edge.
Xandu continued to seek vengeance on the Sorcerer Supreme, even going so far as using a magical artifact to control the Hulk, forcing him to attack. He never stopped trying to find a way to get back to Melinda and at one point attempted to combine the realms of life and death. Like most of his plans, this one was foiled, this time by the Secret Defenders.
The son of Mephisto (don’t worry, we’ll get to him), Blackheart made his first appearance in Daredevil #270. He is almost as powerful as his father, which makes him a pretty tough opponent to take down. Seriously, the guy was created from pure evil energy! Together, father and son have tormented many heroes, such as Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Inhumans. Eventually, the two had a falling out and when Blackheart’s attempts to convince various superheroes to go to war against his father failed, he kind of lost it.
One of Blackheart’s many incredible abilities is shapeshifting. He once even impersonated Doctor Strange himself. The Sorcerer Supreme has battled him on more than one occasion. He’s had to stop the Black King from literally spreading Hell on Earth. Strange has also had to send him back to where he came from multiple times, but due to his immortal status, Blackheart has a propensity for popping back up.
10 Morgan le Fay
The comic book roots of this half-faerie sister of the legendary Arthur date all the way back to 1955. She is considered one of the world’s most powerful sorceresses and has gone head-to-head with many Marvel heroes, most notably the Avengers. Her faerie blood enables her to tap into a seemingly bottomless well of magic. She hasn’t faced Doctor Strange too often, although he aided the Avengers in defeating her multiple times. He has also helped Black Knight (in whose comic she made her first appearance) repel monsters le Fay unleashed, one of the many times she attempted to overtake Earth.
One would think, considering her power set, that the two sorcerers would have shared considerable space in the comics. Although she has proven herself a formidable opponent, this is not the case. Interestingly though, she was the main villain in the 1978 Doctor Strange TV movie. Jessica Walters (now of Arrested Development and Archer fame) portrayed le Fay in the film.
The Prince of Darkness took a bite out of Doctor Strange in Tomb of Dracula #44. Unfortunately for Dracula, Strange had outsmarted him, astral projecting out of his body before the attack. So, while he thought that the Sorcerer Supreme would rise again as a member of the undead, Strange actually had three days outside of his body to come up with a way to save himself. This was the first time the two crossed paths, but it wouldn’t be the last.
In the pages of the “Montesi Formula”, Doctor Strange joins forces with Blade, among others, to rid the world of the plague of vampires forever. The story took place from Doctor Strange #58-62 and the plot revolved around the titular formula, which was meant to annihilate all vampires. It’s a classic Marvel team-up story and our heroes are victorious. However, Dracula may have been down, but the guy is pretty much never out and the character eventually returned.
Mother to the woman who would steal Stephen Strange’s heart and sister to his greatest enemy, Dormammu (we’ll get to him as well), Umar first showed up in Strange Tales #150 in 1966. For a time, she controlled the Dark Dimension and attempted to use her own daughter as a pawn to trap Doctor Strange. He not only rescued Clea, but also foiled Umar’s plot to murder the Ancient One.
Much like her brother, she greatly outmatches all of Earth’s sorcerers, including the Master of the Mystic Arts. In Strange Tales #156, Strange was only able to defeat her by summoning Zom, the one entity whose strength rivals her own (although that unleashed an entirely new problem). Umar is not only immortal and super strong, but her magical abilities seem to know no limits, especially when her power is combined with Dormammu’s. Luckily, for Earth’s sake, he is far too threatened by his sister’s immense power for them to team up very often.
Shuma-Gorath is the nearly indestructible ruler of the Old Ones, a cabal of inter-dimensional gods. This enables him to control a multitude of dimensions. Doctor Strange has fought Shuma-Gorath many times since the creature’s comic book debut in 1972. Aside from power of epic proportions and an evil resume that would intimidate Mephisto himself, Shuma-Gorath has proven to be not only one of Strange’s most impossible-to-defeat enemies, but also the perpetrator of some of the most personal crimes against the Sorcerer Supreme.
It was this monster’s attempt to reenter the Earthly realm through the mind of the Ancient One that forced Strange to murder his beloved teacher and friend. During another of their battles, Strange absorbed so much of Shuma-Gorath’s energy that he basically merged with the Creature of Chaos. To protect all that he held dear, Strange killed himself, thus killing Shuma-Gorath. Of course, because this is comics we’re talking about, both would return to fight another day.
First appearing in 1973, this sea-demon is also known as the Dreaming God. Dagoth had many followers in the city of Kalumesh. While the villagers were worshipping him however, Dagoth was worshipping Shuma-Gorath. Eventually Kalumesh sank to the bottom of the sea, leaving Dagoth trapped. Not to worry, though, because that dude can survive indefinitely underwater and eventually made his way back to the surface.
After being bested once by Doctor Strange, Dagoth escaped and entranced not only everyone in the town of Pennmallow, but also the Master of Mystic Arts himself! Luckily, Wong (Strange’s assistant) and Clea (Strange’s paramour) showed up in time to snap Strange out of it, before everyone was sacrificed to Shuma-Gorath. The Sorcerer Supreme was then able to banish Dagoth to another dimension. Although Dagoth only showed up in seven issues and was serving Shuma-Gorath, he still managed to put Doctor Strange in a trance, which is pretty impressive.
Much like Dagoth, Nightmare began his villain’s journey as a servant of Shuma-Gorath. However, rather than remain a mere servant, Nightmare escaped his master. He fled into the Dream Dimension and became its ruler. Nightmare is the first villain Doctor Strange was seen fighting, in Strange Tales #110. The villain was tormenting a man in his sleep, so Strange went into his dreams and encountered Nightmare astride his trusty steed, Dreamstalker.
Not only does he maintain control over the Dream Dimension, but Nightmare is also one of the Fear Lords. He actually feeds on fear and can take control of a person’s astral form, bringing them to his realm for as long as he chooses. While Doctor Strange has defeated him, he is impossible to completely destroy. Scott Derrickson (director of Doctor Strange) has recently stated that if he is lucky enough to helm a sequel, that Nightmare is the member of Doctor Strange’s rogues’ gallery that he is most interested in utilizing.
These guys are a recent addition to Doctor Strange’s pantheon of villains. They made their first appearance in 2015 in Doctor Strange vol 4 #1, written by the brilliant Jason Aaron and drawn by the amazing Chris Bachalo. The Empirikul come from a dimension where the authority worships Shuma-Gorath and science is outlawed. Their leader, known as the Imperator, plans to eradicate magic from all dimensions in an effort to “purify” them. He was orphaned as a child after the Blood Monks persecuted his parents for their illegal scientific practices and now blames magic for their deaths.
The Empirikul cut a swath across the dimensions, murdering every practitioner of magic they could find, eventually making it to the Sorcerer Supreme. The Imperator proves to be nearly impossible to defeat and Strange must call on several other wizards and seek out many magical artifacts to aid him in doing so. He must also enlist the help of the “Thing in the Cellar” (although it despised him), which was comprised of Doctor Strange’s magical burden. As the Ancient One once taught him, “Every punch comes with a cost” and the monster he created exists because of all the pain and misery that his use of magic has caused him over the years.
For all intents and purposes, Mephisto is the Devil. He has gone through a few origin stories since his introduction in Silver Surfer #3 in 1968 and has tortured just about every hero in the Marvel Universe, from Daredevil to Thor. Mephisto is all-powerful, especially within his own realm. He is super strong, with abilities ranging from shapeshifting to reality warping and everything in between. Notably, he was the one that erased Peter Parker's marriage to MJ in exchange for saving Aunt May.
Based on the Faustian character Mephistopheles, one of the demon's favorite pastimes is manipulating someone into a deal in which a person's soul is the bargaining chip. One of the souls that he captured actually belonged to Doctor Doom's mother. In one of the strangest (and coolest) team-ups ever, the two Doctors joined forces to free her soul in Roger Stern and Mike Mignola’s Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment. Strange was even once forced to strike a bargain with Mephisto in order to save the world. The fact that the Prince of Lies is literally unkillable makes it likely that they will meet again.
2 Baron Mordo
Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo is one of Stephen Strange’s earliest foes, appearing just one issue of Strange Tales later than the Doctor. Mordo is Strange’s mortal enemy, a dark reflection of himself (sort of the Faith to his Buffy, if you will). The two men were both brought up under the tutelage of the Ancient One, but while Strange was beginning his hero’s journey, Mordo cared only about accruing more power.
Mordo was also incredibly jealous of Strange, as he was meant to be the Ancient One’s true successor and even went so far as to set demons on him when Strange was merely a boy. Eventually, Mordo even sought to destroy his former master, a scheme that was thwarted by none other than Stephen Strange. This only served to stoke the fires of vengeance already burning inside the villain.
This dark wizard has implemented a plethora of plans to take down the Sorcerer Supreme over the years. He once sold his soul to both Satannish and Mephisto, knowing that the two would come to blows over claiming it. This was literally an Earth-shattering fight and it forced Strange to get in between two devils. This plot, like all his others, failed. Succumbing to cancer (as a result of his use of black magic) in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #87, Mordo actually renounced evil before his death. Of course, after his resurrection, he returned to his villainous ways. Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays Baron Mordo in the 2016 film.
Of the many enemies that Doctor Strange has had to battle, none can compare to the Dread Dormammu. Baron Mordo was actually one of his disciples, serving the Eater of Souls in his mad attempt gain more power. Dormammu has all the power of a god. He is capable of pretty much anything (name an ability and the guy’s probably got it) and Doctor Strange has struggled to not wind up seriously dead every single time that they have fought.
Surprisingly, Dormammu actually has a strong sense of honor. During one of his many fights with Doctor Strange, Mordo struck him from behind when he appeared to be triumphing over Dormammu. The Lord of Chaos banished Mordo for interfering, feeling as though he had violated some sort of battle etiquette! He’s not that honorable, though, considering that his main goal in life is to conquer as many dimensions as possible.
Whether Dormammu was working alone or through one of his devotees, he has been Doctor Strange’s most unconquerable foe since his first appearance in 1964 in Strange Tales #126. Although he was initially intended to be more of a background character, the curiosity of the fans led to Lee and Ditko turning him into a fully formed villain and, to this day, he remains one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe.
Doctor Strange is out in US theaters now.