Who is Dr. Strange?
What are his superpowers?
Dr. Stephen Strange has no superhuman abilities. He is as physically fit as a normal Human his age should be.
Doctor Stephen Strange was once a famed physician who surgical skills led to considerable fame and prestige. However, his ego matched his surgical skills and he was considered haughty and unbearable in polite company.
As such is fate, Strange has a terrible automobile accident losing his fine motor control which costs him his surgical career. Desperate, he bankrupts himself looking for cures for the palsy that now afflicts him.
In desperation, he hears of the Ancient One who is reputed to have abilities capable of curing even his injuries and he journeys to Tibet for the cure. Instead he finds the Ancient One is uninterested in curing him and instead wants to train him for a higher calling as a user of magic.
Strange would learn from the Ancient One how to see the universe as a place of immense power and with the right training, mindset and beliefs the ability to use that magic to defend the Earth against predatory enemies.
After a struggle with another student, Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo, Strange learns to use magic in the form of spells, incantations and objects of power such as the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto as his primary tools against dark forces which attempt to invade our realm harvesting souls or other sources of magic to add to their power bases.
The Eye of Agamotto is one of Strange’s most powerful artifacts allowing him to augment his mental powers, penetrate illusions, reveal truths, see into other dimensions, dispel mind control and a host of other abilities.
Strange has a base of operations in New York City where he keeps other tools such as the Orb of Agamotto and other artifacts he may have captured from beings who have attempted to take over the Earth and stores them there. His house functions as both stronghold and information resource for the Doctor when he isn’t engaged in his duties as the Sorcerer Supreme. The Orb of Agamotto acts as a scrying tool for sites of magical interest to the Doctor and as a means of teleportation between locations and other dimensions as well.
Depending on the period, Strange may have an assistant or apprentice who works or lives with him. His most famed assistant was Wong, descended from a family of monks who acted as caretaker of both the home and Sorcerer Supreme when he was around. He helped the Doctor on his cases occasionally and kept the Doctor fit through the training of martial arts. Wong was first mentioned in the comic Strange Tales #110 and first appeared in Strange Tales #147. In the 2006 miniseries Dr. Strange: the Oath, it was revealed that Wong stems from a family of monks living in Kamar-Taj. He has a cousin currently in training in the occult and has talked to him about one day replacing Wong as a servant to Dr. Strange.
The Doctor’s most famous apprentice was Clea, a woman from the Dark Dimension who sought to learn magic from Strange to help overthrow the rulers of the Dark Dimension. Clea was born the daughter of Prince Orini, legitimate heir to the rule of the Dark Dimension, and Umar, sister to the then-current ruler Dormammu. Clea and Strange had a relationship which lasted for some time until she returned to the Dark Dimension to take back the throne.
Clea is the Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension, possessing vast magical powers. She has exhibited such abilities as forming and throwing magical bolts of energy, conjuring objects and energies, teleporting, telekinesis, controlling others’ minds, and casting illusions. Presumably, she is capable of replicating any spell performed by her former mentor, Doctor Strange. As she is descended from the Faltine race of beings, it is suggested that can generate her own mystical energy like Umar and Dormammu and draw upon it to fuel her magic. She also possesses greater strength and body density than that of a normal Earth human. Her age is indeterminate, having lived for centuries but having the form and demeanor of a twenty year-old woman, and the rate at which she ages is unknown.
During Stephen Strange’s time as the Sorcerer Supreme he has lost and regained his title, often along with much of his magical ability. These power losses were usually precipitated by a threat whose power eclipsed his own, or when Strange attempted to master a magic beyond his ken, even as Sorcerer Supreme. During those times he would be forced to utilized forbidden or alien magics until such time as he forged new relationships from which to barter his powers from such as the Vishanti. The Vishanti are a trio of magical entities of vast magical power who loan their abilities to the Sorcerer Supreme to suppress more dangerous forces such as the Octessence or the Falatine.
The Vishanti first appeared in Strange Tales #115. Little is known about the Vishanti’s origins. All three are ancient and very powerful; Agamotto has claimed to be older than the Earth itself (although Oshtur, who was born many years after the creation of Earth, mothered Agamotto; even then Oshtur may have time-travelled to a pre-Earth moment to give birth to Agamotto, or mothering him in any of the Limbo-like realities where time does not work as on Earth) and “hoary” Hoggoth might be even older. The Vishanti, especially Agamotto, have protected the Earth’s dimension for billions of years.
While lacking superhuman physical characteristics, the source of his magical powers are instead a manipulation of natural and supernatural energies which exist in the Universe. With the training of the Ancient One, who was the previous Sorcerer Supreme, he has learned to attune himself, to find, understand and manipulate these natural energies for numerous fantastic feats and abilities. The manipulation of these existing energies are called magic.
As an aside, the use of magic in the Marvel Universe could be considered a scientific-like discipline since most magic users perform their abilities confident of the expected results taking place. By definition, if I can do a thing, expect a result and get it, technically I am engaging in scientific endeavor. Being able to replicate results are the basis for scientific theory.
In the Marvel Universe, the ability to alter reality at a limited scale is the very definition of magic whether you use mental powers or advanced technology. Thus it will be no stretch for what the Asgardians are capable of doing using their magical technology (a technology so advanced it appears to be magic to those without the ability to discern how its done) and what Doctor Strange is doing, tapping into the primal energy of the Universe to get an expected result.
Magical energy manipulations in the Marvel Universe are divided into three different types: personal energies, universal energies and extra-dimensional energies. All magic power is built on common ground, that of reshaping existing power, found in either yourself, your universe, or summoned from other dimensions, to form that which you desire.
Despite Strange’s apparent lack of superhuman ability, his connection to powerful forces in the Marvel Universe has given him the opportunity to see and understand the very underlying fabric of reality itself.
Doctor Strange has met the personification of the Universe, Eternity, battled against beings who would destroy all of reality and even battled the Hulk in hand to hand combat using forbidden magic.
In his own way, Doctor Strange is one of the most formidable beings in the Marvel Universe, however understated he likes to keep his power levels. His secret lies in his understanding that all is not as it appears and having powerful godlike beings who were there, near the beginning of all there was, on speed-dial doesn’t hurt.
Mechanics of Magic in the Marvel Universe
The mechanics of how magic does what it does is still not clearly defined (not a surprise). It is implied that there are some sentients who have an affinity to altering, temporarily or permanently, the physical laws of the universe by sheer will power itself.
The magic in the Marvel Universe come from three primary sources:
- the tapping of one’s personal spiritual energy or soul force
- tapping the energy hidden in your universe or nearby realms of power
- power borrowed, stolen or loaned from near-divine, divine or infernal beings
Marvel has hinted that the true source of all magic comes from the energy of the sun being filtered or manipulated via mystical forces and this is why the forces of good are often associated with the power of light. It is what gives the sorcerers and shamans of this world their advantage that ultimately darker forces are forced to yield to the nature of the Sun.
Personal Energies are those derived from the life force of the Sorcerer. Continual use of such energy would rapidly deplete a normal Human, consuming his life energy and if prolonged, even kill him.
- Sorcerers learn, through meditation techniques and trained willpower, how to activate these latent human abilities and use them for their own needs without seriously depleting their life forces.
- Personal energies can only be used to power abilities developed through mental studies and are thus mainly limited (and represented) as Mental Powers.
- Examples include (but are not limited to) Hypnotism, Mind Control, Astral Projection, and Telepathy.
Sorcerers can tap into the Universal Energies of their home dimension and draw forth magical energy for their spells. This can be a tiring task and is often done using an object or focus to ease the cost of energy and wear and tear on the sorcerer.
- Objects such as the Orb of Agamotto, the Cloak of Levitation, orbs, staffs or wands. Universal energies are typically used for energy projection, teleportation, conjurations, dimensional-traveling, illusion-casting, energy shields and so forth.
- Basically, any spell cast that requires no verbal entreaty of a divine or infernal entity and is not utilizing personal energy (examples: Shields of Seraphim, Bolts of Bedevilment, etc.)
Evocation — Tapping power from the Gods
Other-dimensional energies are those bestowed upon a sorcerer from an other-dimensional entity. These beings have power which dwarf anything a mortal sorcerer could ever create or summon on their own. In most cases, they are loaning only the tiniest fragment of their ability to the sorcerer to use as best they are able.
- These beings do not usually live in the same dimension as the sorcerer and will offer to trade spells, magic or power in exchange for worship, sacrifice, or an opportunity to later invade their dimension.
- These Entities must be entreated by the sorcerer using ritual spells and possibly sacrifices or promises. Once entreated, an Entity then bestows the power to work the spell upon the sorcerer and the spell is completed.
- Spells like these include the Flames of the Faltine, the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, the Winds of Watoomb or the Roving Rings of Raggador.
- The most famous of such entities are the Vishanti and the Octessence. Cosmic beings abound in the Marvel Universe and Doctor Strange’s patrons, the Vishanti are counted among the most powerful in all of reality. Others include the Falatine, including the Dread Dormammu and his sister, Umar, the prisoner in the Crimson Cosmos, Cytorrak and the evil that is Mephisto are also powers who have shared with mortals for their own gains.
There are many other practitioners of magic who may have different means or subsets of magical ability such as Baron Mordo, Doctor Doom, Doctor Voodoo, Clea and many others. Some will limit themselves to particular subsets such as alchemy, voodoo, or witchcraft. This limitation may be based on opportunity or exposure to a particular realm of magical training.
- As to any particular dimensional realm or entity indicating that THEY are the Source of magic, there is some truth to the statement, but not quite the way they make it sound.
- They may be A source of magic, but rarely are they THE only source (example: The Dark Dimension, realm of Dormammu). The only time that might be true is if they are inhabiting a realm they created themselves.
- This might make them quite powerful there since they would be limiting the ability of other magic to work there, thus you don’t make a visit to the Crimson Cosmos and expect to defeat Cytorrak there. He runs that place and the only magic he allows to work there will be his. You better pack a lunch if you plan on fighting and winning against him while you’re there.
A final Note:
- Since Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is releasing a movie soon starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, none, some or all of this information may be rendered invalid.
- As such, this information is, until otherwise noted, related primarily to Dr. Stephen Strange as he has appeared in his comic depictions.
Reference: The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Since they insist on constant entertainment and can’t subscribe to cable, Thaddeus writes a variety of forms of speculative fiction to appease their hunger for new entertainment.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies:Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short(2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (UK, 2012), and Possibilities (2012).