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Playtime: Doctor Strangest

Alright, none of the "Playtime" remake threads have caught my interest so far (I think because they're all been really broad rather than focusing everyone's thinking on one specific character — "remake some DC character" rather than "remake Green Lantern"). So, I might as well start one myself.

There's a discussion going on right now in the WFH Dream Gig thread over the viability of Marvel's Doctor Strange as a character, with me arguing that he's a mess of incongruous elements and has been since day one, and @joshhechinger, @JasonFranks and @Owen_Jones disagreeing.

So how about we put our money where our mouths are and say what we would do if we were writing Doctor Strange?

And... go!

Comments

  • I always thought Strange would make an awesome horror character, someone the reader could relate to amidst madness. Someone who'd travel around and really experience some crazy shit, weirdness none of the capes or cowls could deal with. It was actually something I planned to pitch if I ever got more than a foot in the door at Marvel.

    But then Seifert created Witch Doctor, so fuck me.
  • @BrandonSeifert - you magnificently horrible bastard, I guess I know how my day off tomorrow will be spent, I have ideas.
  • Er, I think I've already said it a few time in the other thread, but--

    *Keep him in character. I know, I know, he's been a lot of different characters. Pick one and stick with it. That doesn't mean he's not allowed to grow and change, but he needs to be recognizably the same guy he was at the start. And I'm not talking about the moustache.

    *Rationalize the magic down to something a bit less... flamboyant. Magic isn't just about flying around shooting off fireballs; it should be difficult and subtle and... well, strange.

    *Give him interesting stories at the 'outer limits' to participate in. MAke sure it's wild and whacky. I don't want to read about him spell-bolting the Rhino, or, for that matter, Saving the World from Demons every month.

    *Stories should mean something. There should be some metaphor in play, and some kind of an intellectual/spiritual/emotional conundrum to be solved. The stories have to take you somewhere, not just slam the door on Dormammu again.
  • Honestly, I'd basically do what I think they're doing with the character now, but more so:

    - Make him part of an team book, or a supporting character. Not the Avengers, but him being Uncle Magic to a street level team would work.
    - Keep him away from the title of Sorceror Supreme.
    - Explore, either in a serious way or as a quirky Wes Andersonian failure (guess which one I'd be interested in), the idea that Strange is a man who needed enlightenment, thought he gained it, then found it did not survive contact with the larger MU.

    (Think about it: even the Defenders concept is Strange inviting fringe heroes over, as opposed to the fight showing up on his front door. I'm going back to the "monk with hair" description from the other thread: dude is largely sequestered and had controlled his interaction with the larger world until now.)

    Because here's the thing I've realized about Dr. Strange: the character has too much mileage being boring to fight against. The concept works great on paper, but clearly, the fact that he's Marvel's most pitched and least breakout revival character says that something's probably been broken from the start.

    So why not use that, make him a cross between Britta and Pierce from Community: kind of a buzzkill, kind of an embarassing dinosaur, but sympathetic through trying and only occasionally succeeding in maintaining his dignity in the face of being over-the-top shit on by a comic book universe.

    He can't lead a book like that, but he'd be a cornerstone in an ensemble.

    Meanwhile, have the actual Sorceror Supreme book be a new character and basically do the cool magic book all y'all are looking for. It would've worked with Brother Voodoo on paper, but that obviously went south for whatever reason.
  • edited August 2011
    You know how Warren would pull out some obscure character that no one knew anything about, and tell people to (re)invent them? That's Doctor Strange to me. :)
  • Doctor Strange
    By Justin Jordan, Age 33 and a Half

    Doctor Stephen Strange was an asshole. Great at his job, neurosurgeon, but an asshole nonetheless. Most surgeons, if they wrecked their car and, in a demonstration of the universe's well tune sense of irony, sustained brain damage that prevented them from ever performing surgery, would probably have tried something like teaching at a medical school or lecturing.

    But Strange was an asshole who couldn't accept that he could never do the thing he does again. He trie everything to repair the damage; brain surgery, stem cell therapy, illegal and untested medical techniques. He got more and more desperate until he ended up trying things like faith healers and psychic surgery. He didn't really expect any of that shit to work, and it never really did, but he was surprised to find out that some of it wasn't actually fake.

    The supernatural existed. Not only was magic real, Strange could do it. He didn't really want to do it, but the talent was there. He agreed to become the pupil of The Ancient one, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, under the stipulation that if he did the training, The Ancient One would fix his brain.

    Which might have worked out, had the Ancient One's former pupil Mordo not killed him after a year of training. Strange is able to defeat Mordo and, deserving or not, gets the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. In magic, he finds something that can replace the ego kick he got from medicine.

    But he's still an asshole. So he takes his story and turns it into a stage act. He becomes a magician and a mentalist, and frankly, he sucks at both of them but he has the advantage of being able to do actual magic.

    Of course, the magic he can do on Earth is limited. When he travels to other plane and dimensions, he can use the fireballs and lightning bolts as he sees fit. But if he uses too much of his magical power on Earth, he risks attracting the attention of things from outside reality. That is the price of magic for the Sorcerer Supreme: use too much, go too big, and you weaken the defenses reality has for keeping things at bay.

    The public at large views him as something of a buffoon, imagine Gary Busey crossed with Criss Angel, but his act allows him a nice lifestyle with money an women, and provides cover for his actual activites.

    He never bothers to actually hide what he's doing - Sorcerer Supreme is how he bills his act - but whenever pyrotechnics do occur in public, it's written off as a publicity stunt. And if what he does can't be explained, well, that's because he's really good at what he does.

    The act also provides him with people giving him tips about supernatural goings on, which he does investigate (because the Earth getting eating by demonic forces would be a blow to his ego) and sometimes fight. This can be something as simple as a poltergeist, or as big as a group of rogue architects building ...er....buildings design to cause a city to come to life and devour the inhabitants.

    Notes:

    The power thing lets me have my cake and eat it, too. If Strange travels to another plane he can do the pyrotechnics. On Earth, he is mostly limited to subtler magics. Basically, magic here results from the flow of unreality into our reality. This happens any way, so you can do magic if you know how.

    But if you try to pull too much in, you risk pulling the holes open a little more, and that makes it that much easier for the things outside to slip in and do their thing. So if Strange takes the approach of simply blowing monsters up with magic, he's just going to attract something worse.

    This is sort of an extrapolation of the original comics version, where he basically asks supernatural entities for power a lot of the time. He's doing more or less the same thing here, except that doing so makes it more likely said entities could come here, and since these are more Lovecraft style outer gods, this is a bad idea.

    He can do this stuff if he's desperate, but he tries to handle supernatural problems with a minimum of magic. He really shouldn't use magic as firepower on other planes, either, for the exact same reasons, but he's enough of a dick that he doesn't realize that.

    Liekwise, this lets me combine the camp aspects (although I don't know that I would use the wor camp) with more grounded stuff. He does glam it up for his stage show, and sometimes even fights evil dressed like that (easier to get people to believe that it's all some stunt) but it also gives me the option of having him dress like a relatively normal person when he's trying to investigate something.

    Obviously, this take on Dr. Strange doesn't really integrate with the Marvel Universe as it is - I'd consider this the Max take on things, which is appropriate, because I would want the supernatural to be scary and horrible - imagine if when people speak to Dormammu, he speaks back by lighting another person's head on fire. Along those lines.

    Strange would still have his place in New York full of occult junk. Most of it is just that, but some of it is real. It's all part of his image as the Sorcerer Supreme. The HQ is actually a fairly poorly done patch on reality, so the dimensions tend to change and Strange can tap somewhat more power than usual there, as well more easily shift to other planes and commune with spirits.

    Wong is here, too. He was the physical bodyguard of The Ancient One, managed the Ancient One's life in general; someone has to go buy the rice and fish. He provides the same services for Strange, who is not a great physical fighter, being a surgeon who has shakey hands.

    Wong basically serves as an all purpose roadie and manager, which he has adapted to with remarkable ease for someone who grew up in a remote mountain monestary. Hypercompetent at everything except magic, which is more or less the exact opposite of Strange, he's the Kato, basically.
  • edited August 2011
    This sounds like it would've been a way better Ultimate Dr. Strange than that dude who was kinda whiny in Ult. Spidey and then got his head popped in Ultimatum.
  • So. My turn.

    Not a medical take on magic. I'm doing that already, and I don't think, after four and a half decades, it makes sense to try and shoehorn it in to Strange, no matter what his origin tells you. So. Being a doctor was his first career, and something that comes up occasionally — but not often.

    Strange's War

    One day, Strange goes into his study to meditate and try to learn what he has to do to become Sorcerer Supreme again. When he comes out, only a few minutes have passed for earth — but for Strange, it's been 10, 20, 30 years spent in other dimensions. And he's very different, physically and mentally. He went in Strange, he came out stranger — and a stranger to his friends and colleagues. From the perspective of Wong and Strange's superhero friends, Strange has undergone a sudden, worrying shift in personality. To Strange, these people are old friends he hasn't had contact with in years, and he's not sure he's still got anything in common with them. And he's got a job to do. He is, after all, our Sorcerer Supreme.

    He moves out of his house in Greenwich Village (have you BEEN to the Village? It's been gentrified to Hell and breakfast since Strange's origin, and no longer makes sense as his home base), and moves out of NYC entirely. Along the way, he jettisons his old outfit, the mustache, the man-servant (Wong retires and gets married or something), and the camp and silliness. (All of this done so as, when the next writer on the book inevitably resets everything to the status quo, it'd take the minimum of fuss — I know how this stuff goes, after all.)

    Strange relocates to New Orleans, to a property he owns there — a haunted mansion, or something similarly atmospheric. (I'd establish New Orleans as the new epicenter of supernatural stuff on MU earth — what NYC is for superheroes, NOLA would be for the magic crowd. Hellstorm, Blade, Ghost Rider, all those kinds of folks would now be based there — as would their enemies.) This becomes his new base of operations in his ongoing mission — to protect Earth and our dimension itself from the magical and other-dimensional threats that nobody else can deal with.

    As far as Strange is concerned now, that's something he only ever dabbled in previously — as his time away showed him. Now, he's serious about it. This is war. Perpetual war. Strange's War.

    The keynote here is his name: Strange. This guy is fucking strange to be around. He's older than any other human, he's seen things that no normal human could withstand, and beat the crap out of them, and he's absolutely removed from the human condition. Who's the President of the U.S.? Strange couldn't tell you. What year is it? Why should he care? Strange has always been a character with no "normal" life — he doesn't have a secret identity, he doesn't have friends or lovers who aren't magical creatures, magicians or superhumans. He doesn't have normal hobbies or interests. He's just this weirdo who looks out for us all. These days he shows up, does weird shit you don't understand, talks to you in alien languages (because he forgot to turn his translation spell off), and vanishes without explanation when the fight is done. And he pressgangs his old allies into working for him without asking — because if he took the time to explain what was going on, they'd agree to come, but who has that kind of time?

    Basically, Benedict Cumberbatch on the BBC "Sherlock," turned up to 11 and with magic and monsters involved. The living room wallpaper's damaged by magic lightning rather than gunshots, and there still a severed head in his fridge — but now, you're sure you can hear its muffled voice when the fridge door is closed.

    As for supporting characters — maybe he's just got one at any given time, which changes in a Doctor Who companion mold. To start with, maybe Illyana Rasputin, Sorceress Supreme of Limbo, as his Dr. Watson? Or maybe he's got a motley bunch of magical characters living in his house a la Ellis' "Hellstorm."

    Paradoxically, his role means he's much less insular than he used to be, in terms of involvement with the greater MU. We've seen Strange fight Dormammu and Nightmare and D'Spayre and stuff plenty of times — but there's so much magic out there in the MU that he never has any contact with, and he should. Belasco and Limbo, the N'Garai, the Dire Wraiths, the Asgardians and Olympians and all the other gods. When something like Inferno or The Thanos Imperative goes down, if you don't see Strange leading the charge it's only because he's got far more important things to do in the places you can't see. At the end, when you're celebrating your victory, you suddenly notice him giving him an odd, condescending smile, as if you say "Oh, you only know the half of it."

    He's weird. He's a jerk. But he's our weird jerk.



  • The Strange Talent of Stephen Strange

    So this doctor gets crippled and needs to find a cure and turns to a mysterious book he orders out of a magazine.... oh wait, this has been done.....
  • edited August 2011
    OK, I read up over lunch on this "Doctor Strange" character y'all are talking about. It says here that he suffered nerve damage which affected his manual coordination, and he sought out medical and surgical corrections which failed to fully restore it. Gods on earth, I actually know someone like that! Someone I could use as a touchstone for my version's characterization.

    So basicly he's me, 15 years from now, after turning to the arcane arts in bitter desperation, growing the mustache he once swore he'd never grow, training tirelessly for years, and finding that with this mystical power comes mystical responsibility. From there it took just a slight alteration to my his appearance....

    image
  • @JasonAQuest Ha. :) And now that I think about it, I've got a former housemate who has pretty much the same thing going on. He'd sure make an interesting Dr. Strange.
  • edited August 2011
    Other than making his character more congruent as Jason (Franks) suggested, I'd go the other way and make him totally schizophrenic.

    He's a traveller in several worlds and dimensions, and all these realms travel within him, too.

    There's a Doctor Strange in each world, and he's all of them. That's where his magic comes from - some of these worlds are very far removed from ours, as the laws of nature go, and he has the skills from his other aspects. In the magical worlds, he's considered a wizard because he knows about biology and technology. Of course, most of the time he doesn't really know which world he's interacting with at the moment.

    He's a scholar of everything. He never leaves his house, he just stays in and reads, but his house is all over the world. It defies what we know about geography, but since geography is something that basically describes three of our infinite dimensions, this can be expected. Aspects of him appear wherever he's needed, but he still doesn't leave the house. Not really, anyway.

    Of course, being all reclusive and stuff, he's not extactly the social type. He can't be bothered with conversation, but his words matter. Even if he's really just muttering inconsistent bullshit.

    Not sure if this character would carry his own title, but he could be quite a recurring nuisance in other comics.
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