The Origins of Doctor Strange

Version 1.33. Last updated: 21 March 2017.
This document is researched and maintained by Neilalien.
Enjoy it. Please don't take it and call it your own work.
I used the text format of the excellent Unofficial Chronology Of The Marvel Universe [GeoCities original link RIP] [ReoCities archive] [OoCities archive].
Modern Dr. Strange origin revamp-reboots such as J. Michael Straczynski's Strange mini-series (2005), or Doctor Strange: Season One (2012) are not included here.
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Thrilling Comics debuts in February 1940 featuring "complete Dr. Strange action adventures". The character, Professor Thomas Hugo Strange, is unrelated to both Marvel's future Dr. Strange, and the DC Comics Batman villain Professor Hugo Strange who debuts with an identical profession and first name in the exact same month in Detective Comics #36 (February 1940).

[Source: Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Doc Strange]
[Grand Comics Database: Thrilling Comics cover gallery]
[Wikipedia: Hugo Strange]

In the Charlton comic book Out Of This World #7, dated February 1958, Steve Ditko writes and draws a story titled "Through The Walls", about a man with a "spirit self." It is an obvious precursor to Doctor Strange's astral form.

[Source: Blake Bell's Ditko Looked Up website (link RIP)]
["Through The Walls" pages posted at Ditko Comics]

The Overstreet Guide labels Strange Tales #79, dated December 1960, as a Dr. Strange prototype issue. From Alter Ego #31 (December 2003):

[I]n the Ditko-drawn story "The Ghost of Grismore Castle!" (6 pp.)... practical joker Otis Norton bets his pal Victor won't spend the night in a supposedly haunted castle. Otis is confident he will win the bet, as he has booby-trapped the castle with phony spooks. However, once Victor has fled, Otis learns to his regret that the castle really is haunted! In the last panel, we see the vindicated Victor (who does bear a marked resemblance to Stephen Strange) vanishing from sight. He, too, was a ghost!

[Source: Alter Ego #31]

Dr. Anthony Druid journeys to a Himalayan lamasery, where the mystic powers of his Briton ancestors are awakened by a supposedly dying Lama. He becomes the super-hero Doctor Druid. In reality, this is an elaborate plan by the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, The Ancient One.

[A Dr. Strange prototype character called Dr. Droom appeared in Amazing Adventures #1-6 in 1961, a few months before Fantastic Four #1. This character is arguably the first Marvel Age super-hero. These stories were reprinted in 1971 as Dr. Druid's first appearance in Weird Wonder Tales #19-22. The character's name was changed because of its similarity to Dr. Doom. Avengers Spotlight #37 basically brought what had happened in real life into the Marvel Universe, and revealed that Dr. Druid was a pre-Dr. Strange test run by the Ancient One. This is explained in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #34, both in the book's story and on the letters page.]

The Overstreet Guide labels Strange Tales #92, dated January 1962, as an Ancient One prototype issue. From Alter Ego #31 (December 2003):

[I]n Don Heck's "Somewhere Sits a Lama" (5 pp.)... this unnamed lama sits unmoving in a secret room in an Asian monastery, and is the sole bearer of the secret of eternal life... at least, until he can find someone to take his place!

[Source: Alter Ego #31]

The Overstreet Guide labels Journey Into Mystery #78, dated March 1962, as a Dr. Strange prototype issue. From Alter Ego #31 (December 2003):

In the Jack Kirby cover story "The Sorcerer" (6 pp.), a strange young man named Aaron walks out of the Nevada desert and into the life of Lucy Scott and her father. Soon, three other strange characters appear, saying they are sorcerers and have come to return Aaron to their ranks! When Aaron refuses, a battle of magic ensues, which ends in a deadlock. Aaron is allowed to remain, but is stripped of his supernatural powers.

[Source: Alter Ego #31]

The Overstreet Guide labels Tales of Suspense #32, dated August 1962, as a Dr. Strange prototype issue. From Alter Ego #31 (December 2003):

"Sazzik, the Sorcerer" (6 pp.), with art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers, is another supposed Dr. Strange prototype. Boris Grumm, an unscrupulous producer of sleazy television shows, plans to base a program on an evil 15th-century sorcerer named Sazzik. In the process, he summons forth the sorcerer, much to his regret.

[Source: Alter Ego #31]

A few real-time months before Doctor Strange's first appearance in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963- on newsstands April 1963), Iron Man fights a villain named Doctor Strange in Tales of Suspense #41 (May 1963- on newsstands February 1963) (Carlo Strange; "The Stronghold of Dr. Strange!"). The two characters are unrelated. (Stan Lee must have realized that he had too great a name to waste on an Iron Man villain?)

[Source: rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe Usenet Newsgroup (Google Groups)]
[Grand Comics Database: Tales of Suspense #41 cover; issue info]
[Marvel Universe Appendix: Doctor Strange (not Stephen Strange, Iron Man foe)]

Stephen Vincent Strange is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[Source: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe]

Stephen Strange grows up on a farm in Nebraska.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #45, #85]

Stephen Strange was born while his parents were vacationing in Philadelphia.

[Stephen Strange (Earth-616) Marvel Wikia] [The wikia entry reconciles what was once a Philadelphia/Nebraska contradiction.]

The Ancient One asks his chief disciple Baron Mordo for his eventual help in training the Chosen One, the person who will succeed him as Sorcerer Supreme. In other words, the Ancient One has not chosen Mordo to succeed him as Sorcerer Supreme. Mordo is filled with jealous rage. He seeks out this "Chosen One" and finds him- Stephen Strange, an 8-year old boy growing up on a Nebraska farm. Mordo plants a psychic construct shaped from the essence of his loathing inside the boy. The construct opens the boy's psyche to tormenting demons- Mordo hopes the haunting will change Strange's destiny. The Ancient One eventually discovers the situation and intervenes, halting the demonic assault, and forgiving a deceitful Mordo. But it was too late- Stephen Strange will now live a life with darkness hovering on the periphery of his consciousness- darkness he will escape through an empty life of materialism and booze. The Mordo construct blocks all memories of the childhood haunting, and the Ancient One's rescue.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #85]

(This added-later layer, in my opinion, weakens the original origin, by making Strange a destined/created "chosen one" instead of an "everyman" who freely chooses to take on a great responsibility and redeem himself. There is something that I do like about this item: in true epic fashion, Mordo ends up facilitating the creation of his nemesis Dr. Strange, not his destruction. -Neilalien)

On Strange's 19th birthday, his sister Donna drowns at a swimming hole.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #45]

Kaluu says, "Strange never felt this [Nebraska] was his world-- he left it for medical school in the city as soon as he could."

[Strange Tales Vol. 2 #16]

While Strange is an intern, his mother dies.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #45]

Stephen Strange becomes the greatest neurosurgeon in the world- but extremely arrogant, and focused on money and fame.

[Strange Tales #115, Doctor Strange #169]

When Strange's father dies, he's too self-absorbed to even care, never mind fly home to Nebraska. After the burial a couple days later, his brother Vic travels to New York and confronts him. After an altercation, Vic storms out, runs into the street, and he is hit by a car and killed. Strange freezes Vic's corpse, hoping to somehow bring him back to life someday through medical science.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #45]

One night, Strange is speeding to a party at the estate of Mrs. Van Heusen in his new sports car on a treacherous road after a rain. She is one of the wealthiest women in the state, she needs a minor operation, and she has lots of rich friends who might also need a doctor. Strange loses control of the car on the slick road, and it goes over a ledge. He survives the accident.

[Doctor Strange #169]

Stephen Strange attempts suicide to end his lifetime of pain- the ultimate result of Mordo's haunting from his youth. He aims his car into a tree- but he survives.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #85]

(This is the retcon. The car accident was definitely not a suicide attempt, not even a subconscious one, in the original origin. Stephen Strange did not, not even subconsciously, hate his shallow life- he wallowed in it. A suicide attempt, in my opinion, greatly decreases the power of his original origin. (1) His life is much worse after the failed attempt. Why not just try suicide again? Why hang on trying to get his hands healed? (2) If he really was so miserable and unhappy with his life, it reduces the power of his "evil" life, and thus weakens the power of his choices and redemption later on. (3) The story works better dramatically that Strange should "hit bottom" when he concludes that the Ancient One is a fraud but he's stuck in the Himalayas, not a moment earlier. -Neilalien.)

As a result of the car accident, the nerves in Strange's hands are severely damaged. He still has normal use of them, but is hopelessly unable to hold a scalpel steady. Due to excessive pride, Strange refuses to be a consultant or another surgeon's assistant, and gives up practicing medicine. He spends all his wealth on expensive operations to repair the damage, to no avail. Strange becomes a bum.

In a sleazy dockside bar, Strange overhears two sailors just in from Singapore talking about a man called the Ancient One who can cure anything. Pawning his final possessions, Strange gets a one-way airplane ticket to the Far East. He wanders the Himalayas looking for the Ancient One's temple, which he finds just as a snowstorm bears down.

The Ancient One easily sees Strange for the selfish asshat he is and refuses to cure him, but offers to let Strange stay and study with him, so that he may find the cure within himself. After a quick confrontation, Strange is convinced that the Ancient One is a fraud, much to his frustration. But the snowstorm forces Strange to stay at the temple. The Ancient One introduces Strange to his disciple Baron Mordo, a menacing figure.

Later, Strange stumbles upon Mordo making evil offerings to Dormammu and mystically attacking a small replica of the Ancient One. Strange attempts to go warn the Ancient One- but Mordo discovers the snooping Strange and subdues him. Mordo casts a spell upon Strange- a mystical, invisible iron clamp appears over Strange's mouth. Strange continues to the Ancient One's room, where he is successfully fighting off the attack. Because of Mordo's mouth-clamp spell, Strange is unable to speak of the treachery he's witnessed. However, Strange is capable of saying other things- and now as a total believer in magic, Strange asks to stay after all and become the Ancient One's disciple. The Ancient One ends Mordo's attack, casts Mordo out, and releases the iron-clamped-mouth spell. The Ancient One says that he knew of Mordo's treachery all along and was simply keeping his enemy close; he exults that he has at last reached the real Dr. Strange.

[Composite of Strange Tales #115 and Doctor Strange #169]

Doctor Strange studies with the Ancient One for seven years.

[Doctor Strange #56]

During Doctor Strange's period of study with the Ancient One (but presumably before receiving the Cloak of Levitation, or even the Amulet of Agamotto, since they are not shown), he helps The Black Fox and Pixie, from the "lost generation" of superheroes pre-dating the Fantastic Four, defeat the vampiric Nocturne at Castle Diablo and prevent Diablo's release from imprisonment.

[Marvel: The Lost Generation #8]

The Ancient One determines that it is time for Doctor Strange to leave the monastery. The Ancient One gives Doc the Orb of Agamotto. The first thing Doc ever sees in the Orb is a run-down house on Bleecker Street in New York City.

[Doctor Strange #56; this "Bleecker Street house as first Orb vision" is also related in the Doctor Strange Sorcerer Supreme Ashcan]

Doctor Strange moves to New York City, into a spooky run-down house on Bleecker Street. The site has a past of Native American ritual, pagan cults and mysterious fires. Doc fixes up the building.

[Doctor Strange #56]

The address is 177A Bleecker Street.

[Strange Tales #182]

Six months after Doc moves to Manhattan, Wong appears at his door. He is there to be the man-servant for the eventual Sorcerer Supreme, as his father and his father's fathers have been.

[Doctor Strange #56]

Upon the death of the Ancient One, Dr. Strange assumes the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.

[Marvel Premiere #10, 12]

Family follow-up:
Early in his magical career, still inexperienced and unwise, Dr. Strange will attempt to resurrect Vic using spells from the Book of Vishanti. Doc screws up, and the spells instead resurrect Vic as a vampire. Vic eventually becomes the new Baron Blood. He becomes a vigilante for a time, fighting street crime, supernatural creatures, and other vampires, only feeding on criminals and Morgana Blessing, but eventually the bloodlust becomes too much. After nearly killing an innocent man, Vic stakes himself and commits suicide.

[Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #45, #56; Annual #2]