Friday, August 26, 2011

How I'd Do It: Doctor Strange

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 design to cause a city to come to life and devour the inhabitants.


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.

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