Way back in my early teens, my great-grandmother used to walk everywhere with me. A mile or so from their home was a dim newsagent where she would reload with Player’s Navy Cut cigarettes to cater to her (doctor recommended) one-a-day habit. That shop stocked a lot of odd and only vaguely interesting things for a young lad, but one afternoon, as she chatted at the counter, I saw a huge comic:
It was priced at 50p, and a quick trot to the counter elicited an “are you sure?” comment, followed by a purchase in my favour. It got a crease in the cover from being stuffed in my coat pocket, but I didn’t care. It was big and bright and the stories just leapt into my mind. Then I encountered the centrepiece:
Safe to say, it blew my tiny mind to bits and reassembled it in a way that never returned to the way it had been before. (That centrepiece was done by Frank Brunner, but Doctor Strange was drawn by Steve Ditko, whose art in Doctor Strange is one of the cornerstones of my fantasy imagination, alongside the otherworldly fantasy of Andre Norton and the gritty fiction of Mick Farren. It is so fundamental to what I create that, like Norton and Farren, I can only see the melded influences in hindsight.)
Over the years, comics and I had an on-again, off-again thing. With the rise of graphic novels (a.k.a. trade paperbacks) which collected issues of comics and presented them without the wealth of crappy advertisements, I became more of a devotee of the comic format. Of course, access to comics requires money, and there was another stumbling block. That’s a sad tale recounted, in part, elsewhere on this blog, so we can move on with naught but a note that sometimes I had lots of comics, and sometimes I had vanishingly few, having sold most of ’em off.
New comic stars rose and fell, only some remained. But no matter what, my holdings of Doctor Strange increased steadily and quietly, tucked away on diverse shelves and in storage boxes, never really registering as a collection.
Just over a decade into the twenty-first century and things weren’t going terribly well. I turned to writing and it suited me. But it also changed the way I considered stories in all forms of media. Books, comics and films I had cherished for ages became tawdry. A half-dozen books I had sold off had to be re-acquired. A couple of films I had rubbished, likewise. Conversely and handily, a lot of stuff could be sold off at a time when I really needed the money.
Then, one afternoon as I unpacked in the little apartment I had ended up in, I came across the back of a huge comic:
My first Doctor Strange was still with me. It still had that crease, despite being stored flat for decades. I read it and properly rediscovered my sorcerer supreme – and the love of his life, Clea. Curious, I started rummaging about. As I was mid-process of putting stuff back on shelves, everything was out, either loose or in boxes.
A couple of hours later I had a stack – a real, nearly foot-high stack – of Doctor Strange (and a tidier apartment). After that, the part of me that loves complete stories drove me to research what exactly I had. Of course, from there it was but a step to list what I didn’t have. It wasn’t a simple step, as Stephen Strange has been around for six decades and appeared in many comics and reprints. Plus, I had discovered that I had no interest in his guest appearances, team roles or re-imaginings of his origins et al. I wanted pure, or only slightly diluted, Doctor Strange.
From then on, I kept an eye open for Doctor Strange works and picked up those I could afford. The stack steadily grew, until a news item caught my eye: Doctor Strange was about to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Which would make filling the empty slots in my collection expensive. If the film did well, the task would become prohibitively expensive, even for the lesser condition stuff I was accumulating. This necessitated a change of plan and pace, which, by and large, has been surprisingly effective.
I also found the need to assemble a sequenced reading list, which is when I thought of doing a blog post, as it might be of use to interested readers. Note that I used the cheapest way to get the tales, so there are many collections that do not specify which comics they include (If you need to know, consult the Wikipedia entry for Doctor Strange, it lists what is in the various collected editions).
- Essential Doctor Strange volume 1
- Essential Doctor Strange volume 2
- Essential Doctor Strange volume 3
- Essential Doctor Strange volume 4
- Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts #57
- Doctor Strange Vs. Dracula: The Montesi Formula GN
- Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts #63 thru #67
- Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes #33 GN
- Doctor Strange: Don’t Pay the Ferryman GN
- Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa GN
- Doctor Strange: Strange Tales GN
- Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #1 thru #53
- Doctor Strange Annual #3
- Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #54 thru #66
- Doctor Strange Annual #4
- Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #67 thru #90
- Doctor Strange: What is it that Disturbs You, Stephen? GN
- Doctor Strange: Flight of Bones #1 thru #4
- Strange: The Doctor is Out! GN
- Doctor Strange Volume 1: The Way of the Weird GN
– due for publication in May 2016
I’ll continue to refine/maintain this listing as I catch up with the backlog of acquisition and reading.
Stephen Strange has come a long way from Strange Tales #110 in 1963. But I don’t think that 2016 is going to cause him any trouble.
Do go and see the film. If it keeps the promises of it’s concept art and intent, it will be spectacular, and may well be something far beyond the usual cinematic superhero fare – and that can only be a good thing.
Art from Marvel Treasury Edition #6: Doctor Strange is by Frank Brunner and Steve Ditko.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange; photos from Entertainment Weekly.
Used without permission.
Copyright remains with the original holders.