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Dr. Strange In Animation - A Retrospective

Discussion in 'The Marvel Animation Forum' started by Stu, Aug 15, 2007.

  1. Stu

    Stu Marvel Animation Age Webmaster
    Staff Member Administrator

    Apr 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
    This was supposed to go up yesterday, but I was a little busy grabbing the DTV! The images appear courtesy of Marvel Animation Age. Relish the retrospective!


    Quirky. Look it up in the dictionary and it will most likely tell you something along the lines of a peculiar occurrence or unusual person, situation or event. Talk about it in a comic book and the first thing that would enter my mind would be one person – Steve Ditko. Creating such characters as The Question, The Creeper and The Blue Beetle for DC, Ditko is best known for his work at Marvel as the co-creator of Spider-Man, with him being the one responsible for Spider-Man’s spectacular costume and he remains universally unmatched when it comes to creating unique, original villains.

    Spider-Man was one of the more down to Earth comic books back in the day, with just as much emphasis being placed on his normal, everyday life as it was with him fighting whatever brilliant villain Ditko and writer Stan ‘The Man’ Lee could dream up this month. This goes to make the duo’s second most famous creation all the more stranger, if you’ll pardon the pun because Dr. Strange is really out there. He’s never really hit the mainstream that much and has struggled to carry his own title on and off throughout the decades since his creation which has resulted in him appearing as a guest star in books a lot, rather than be the leading man.

    The same can be said for his animation career. He never appeared in any of the 1960’s show and given how dry Marvel’s animation well was in the 70’s he never appeared there either. Strange, like many Marvel characters, began his cartoon career in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends in one of the corniest but still brilliant half hours of television of animation you’ll ever seen.


    Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends refused to let things like logic, utter cheese and verisimilitude get in the way of having a great show. The best example of this is Seven Little Superheroes. The episode sees the Spider-Friends meeting Dr. Strange, Shanna The She Devil, Namor and Captain America in The Chameleon’s mansion as he tricks them and one by one, defeats them until only Spider-Man remains (never question who the true star of the show is here, folks). The episode is best known for The Chameleon’s fine love of poetry and the infamous defeat of Namor. The shape shifter deceived the Prince of Atlantis by filling a swimming pool filled with alcohol! This moment will forever be remembered as one of the highlights of the 80’s!

    He (and most of the other guest stars) don’t really get up to that much in the episode. I actually think his costume translated pretty well onto the small screen and the casting was pretty good. Nothing especially memorable here though.

    Dr. Strange would again team up with Spidey in Spidey’s next show, in the third season premiere in an episode simply entitled “Dr. Strange”. This is more like an episode of Dr. Strange with Spider-Man guest starring – it’s defiantly one of the more ‘out there’ episodes which is a common complaint amongst fans, many of whom asked just what Dr. Strange is doing on a Spider-Man cartoon.

    The episode in question sees Spider-Man searching for the missing Mary Jane who has been brainwashed into joining Baron Mordo’s cult, who in turn, are trying to steal The Wand Of Watoomb so they can use it’s power to free the dread Dormammu. His sidekick Wong also appears in the episode. The episode isn’t bad, it just doesn’t feel like a Spider-Man story.


    We do learn the characters origin in the episode – it’s pretty much taken straight from the comic. A gifted surgeon, Steven Strange was involved in a car accident which damaged the nerves in his hands, meaning he could no longer perform the delicate operations required from his chosen profession. Seeking a miracle cure, he travelled to Asia and pleaded with a mysterious man called The Ancient One for help. Later accepting his offer to learn magic, Steven became Dr. Strange, Master Of The Mystic Arts.

    To this day, no one has bothered to explain exactly what the Mystic Arts are.

    It seems Dr Strange can pretty much do anything – which makes for a pretty dull lead character, which is probably why he struggles to maintain his own comic and will probably never star in his own animated show, unless he has a ridiculously popular movie made. People have similar problems with Superman but Strange especially suffers because his rouges gallery isn’t that impressive and he doesn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast – he also has no human alter ego so there’s no real conflict or hook to the character – he is The Sorcerer Supreme, be all, end all. Perhaps he, like Namor and The Silver Surfer, simply work better as guest stars.

    Strange would turn up on TV one last time in The Incredible Hulk and She Hulk. The horrendous dip in quality in season two is well documented in various other areas of this site/message board but eh, here’s another one to add to the list. What started as a somewhat fascinating look at Bruce Banner seeking a cure for the beast within and trying to maintain something of a romance with Betty Ross while her Father Thunderbolt Ross attempted to rid the world of The Hulk. Oh, and it had lots and lots of guest stars and the majority of them whooped ass. Many people consider The Ghost Rider team up to be the best but I’ve always been partial to the Iron Man episode myself. One thing pretty much everyone agrees with though – The Dr. Strange team up is the worst.


    The episode is actually one of the better efforts of the second season but still falls short and She Hulk is naturally to blame. They did attempt to show the inner torment between green and grey Hulk but it’s lost in a sea of stupid She Hulk one liners. Dr Strange takes third place to She Hulk and Banner’s conflict and thus doesn’t really do much. The design is slightly weirder than the Spider-Man model but is coloured better – I much prefer this one in all honesty. He was also recast - Maurice LaMarche now played the part and did a stellar job, but … it’s Brain from Animainiacs. He doesn’t do anything different with it and every time he spoke all I could think of is

    “It’s Pinky and The Brain! It’s Pinky and The Brain! One is a genius the other’s insane! They’re laboratory mice, something something spice! They’re Pinky, they’re Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain!”

    Good theme. Shame I can’t remember all the words.

    Which brings us to now – Dr. Strange will star in his own TV. Does the character have the chops to fill his own DTV? The creative team developing the feature believe he does – both Greg Johnson and Frank Paur have stated that Dr. Strange looks to be the strongest of the four features so far and the preview did kick ass.

    I admit that Dr. Strange has never really interested me as a character. Perhaps this DTV will change my mind.
  2. dmxx116

    dmxx116 Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2007
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    Man i like the Spider-man Design better then The Hulk. And great job stu.
  3. Caswin

    Caswin Active Member

    Apr 12, 2004
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    Sounds like The Magician. "Magic force, reveal the power within...!"
    He's a lot of people. He does a lot of voice work - I've always placed him on the Jim Cummings, Jeff Bennett tier, just under Frank Welker (who basically has the top tier to himself).
    In case you're interested, "Their genes have been spliced!".

    And may your amulet never tickle!
  4. Hypestyle

    Hypestyle Active Member

    Nov 21, 2001
    Likes Received:
    hmm.... oddly enough, the trippy quasi-psychedelic milieu portrayed in the Ditko-era books would have been great to animate in the 60's/early 70's, while Ralph Bakshi was doing his moody take on Spider-Man..

    The Seven Little Superheroes episode really downplayed Doc's powers; if I were aiming for a no-prize, I'd say that the Chameleon spiked the drinks he served his guests, and had some kind of psychic-energy dampener nearby as well..

    also, I'd have to buy the Defenders of the Earth boxed set and watch the eps again to confirm, but the animated portrayal of Mandrake in that 80's show seemed to swipe a few tricks from the good doctor (though of course, Mandrake himself goes back to 1934..); and it made me a little jealous that Marvel's own Defenders (Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor, Hulk, various others) didn't get a show..

    ..The 90's Spidey show guest-appearances were his best portrayals so far (the late John Vernon's voice-- great!), and I was glad they gave Wong something to do besides serve tea (yay, George Takei!)..
  5. Arsenal

    Arsenal Magneto was right

    Jan 27, 2005
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    Dr. Strange also had a couple animated cameos. He appeared but never spoke in X-Men: TAS and FF: TAS.

    I agree with Stu's assessment that Strange is a character that is hamstrung by his lack of limitations:

    Dr. Strange encounters an evil, ancient macguffin. The two feud. Strange remembers some esoteric spell and--bam, God out of the machine--the problem's fixed.

    I do not think Dr. Strange would stil be a character we discussed if it were not for Ditko's incredible visuals. Do I think Strange is a hopeless character? Far from it, but I will not be interested in him until some finite limitations are placed on his abilities. Quite frankly this is the gripe I have with most magical characters, even ones who have personalities I enjoy like Zatanna or Captain Marvel. (Actually, Marvel's a bad example because he has, at least, one obvious weakness.)

    As Stu said, Dr. Strange works well as a guest character. You have Spidey, FF or the Avengers fighting something magic. Call in Dr. Strange for a consultation. But, otherwise, the guy is too powerful to just have hanging around.

    Like Namor or Aquaman work well undersea (but nowhere else), and Nick Fury is great for goverment intrigues (but worthless in superhero smash-ups), Dr. Strange is a one-trick pony. Don't get me wrong, it's a heck of a trick; but a quality Dr. Strange DTV is all I really needed from the guy.

    Oh, and since we did mention "7 Little Superheroes..."


  6. Chris Wood

    Chris Wood Desslar

    Jun 11, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Those last two costume designs are AWFUL! Looks like he got some old clothes out of his grandmother's closet. And what's up with his huge right hand in the 2nd picture?
  7. Aizen

    Aizen Former 5th Squad Captain.

    Aug 16, 2007
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    The 1st costume is the best.
  8. JLU Dude

    JLU Dude Active Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Nice retrospective on the good mystical Doctor, Stu. I haven't seen the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode, but I did see the other two. I have to agree that Maurice LaMarche was good as the Doctor (The Best, IMHO), episode aside (Though the man's known for impersonation of Orson Welles, I got a kind of Vincent Price vibe from him as Strange).

    Again, good work.:)
  9. The New Titans

    The New Titans Man of Marvel Marching Society

    Apr 26, 2006
    Likes Received:
    "By the Bands of Bicycle Remains; Make my Left Hand massive!"
  10. Probably a mind trick? Maybe the eye of Aggamotto to make people believe he's got big hands;) or just a perspective then ran haywire? :D

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