Doctor Strange #1-2,4-5
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #1, Doctor Strange #2, Doctor Strange #4, Doctor Strange #5
This story features the Silver Dagger, who is a mystical assassin apparently in the employ of the Catholic Church.
The Dagger's first act is to cause a bunny rabbit created by Clea to grow uncontrollably.
Then, after taking out Clea and Wong, he attempts to kill Dr. Strange but instead Strange finds himself trapped in the Orb of Agamotto, where he encounters a psychedelic world based in part on Alice In Wonderland.
He meets a number of illusionary Marvel heroes, including most of the Defenders, Spider-Man (presumably due to the Ditko relationship), Nick Fury (because they shared a book?), and the Black Panther (not sure why he's included). There's also a guy that Spider-man refers to as "the captain". He wears a red jumpsuit with a chest symbol of a clock with wings. I don't know who he's supposed to be (update: see Mark's comment below).
Strange has an encounter with Death that causes him to display an ankh on his forehead. After this event, whenever Dr. Strange's life is in immediate peril, the ankh will appear, so this is a significant event.
Strange eventually works his way out of the Orb, and winds up trapping the Silver Dagger in the Orb instead.
While Strange was in the Orb, the Silver Dagger abuses Clea, trying to save her soul from the perils of witchcraft. Clea seems to have lost some of her power; she's depicted as fairly defenseless in these issues.
Looking back over all the Englehart/Brunner issues, the stories are a big mess. The art is sloppy and the stories are equally muddy. They reach for big ideas but very quickly reach a sensory overload where each big idea attempts to trump the idea before it and it gets tedious. Brunner's individual panels are nice to look at...
...but his loose murky style wears on you after a while. Still, it's a break from a lot of the drek that was being published at this time; at least it was aspiring to be something more.
In Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, this period is described as one where Englehart and Brunner, along with Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, and Alan Weiss would take LSD and wander New York while coming up with crazy stories. The caterpillar included here was based on a viewing of Disney's Alice In Wonderland while under the influence. Marvel would get letters accompanied with bags of weed that said things like "I like to smoke a bowl, put on ELO or ELP or Pink Floyd and read the latest issue of Doctor Strange." Howe wryly concludes, "Those weren't printed."
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The illusion of the Sub-Mariner that Dr. Strange encounters is wearing his black suit with the yellow wings. Dr. Strange #3 was a reprint issue which is why it isn't included here. The MCP has placed this between Defenders #14-15 and after Dr. Strange's appearance in Marvel Team-Up #21.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Dr. Strange: A Separate Reality TPB
Inbound References (13): show
The "Captain" is actually Captain Midnight, a 1940s radio/comics superhero published by Fawcett.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 10, 2011 3:21 AM
In Dr. Strange #5 the Marvel Value Stamp shows Dormammu. However, his outfit is colored in such a way that he looks like a guy in pants and unbuttoned shirt with his head on fire.
"A Separate Reality" is a reference to the book of the same name by Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda's series of books supposedly describe his experiences with hallucinogenic drugs and actual magic with a Mexican Yaqui Indian from the mid-1960s onwards and were rather popular(Captain America #160 contains an oblique reference to them). It wasn't until much later that the timeline of events in the books was examined, and that with other investigation, indicated that Castaneda pretty much made it all up. Back then though, a lot of people thought it was real(including George Lucas).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 16, 2011 1:26 PM
A sort-of epilogue to #5 happens in Gold Key's Dark Shadows #34.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 22, 2012 12:07 AM
Englehart was big Castaneda fan; in Avengers #137, the Beast says he read Castaneda's books to cope with his transformation into Furry Hank.
Posted by: Dan Spector | February 3, 2013 3:04 AM
Ant-Man is also seated at the table. Or rather, on the table.
Posted by: David A. Zuckerman | April 29, 2013 3:09 PM
Hawkeye calls somebody a "pantywaisht" who has just dropped under the table. This guy is Green Lantern if you look closely at the hand where you see the ring.
Posted by: Jonttu E. | March 16, 2014 12:15 PM
A lot of great things were supposedly written while on drugs. This is not one of them. The best issue of this story was the reprint (which you obviously don't mention). There are some interesting ideas, but overall, I agree, it's a rambling mess. I enjoyed the art more then you did, but these comics suffer from a common problem of weird panel and balloon layouts (I thought Orzechowski was better than that) that almost dare you to follow the story.
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | March 12, 2015 9:07 AM
Martin O'Hearn points out that a few months later the Silver Dagger, the caterpillar and Clea made in-joke cameo appearances in Gold Key's DARK SHADOWS #31. His post is at http://martinohearn.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/doctor-strange-dark-shadows-crossover.html .
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 21, 2015 12:44 AM
I'd say that Silver Dagger is rather as a fanatic self-appointed God agent. He was an ex-cardinal who started to hunt magicians (who considered pagans) with their own magic (giving him an intrinsic contradiction), after learning as much as possible from them (so he also betrays them in a sort of "the ends justify the means" attitude). But he's not an agent from the church: the College of Cardinals on the contrary despised him up to choosing Paul VI as Pope instead of him, even if the predecessor, Pope John XXIII, suggested the opposite.
Posted by: JTI88 | October 17, 2016 1:33 PM
I loved these issues. Inventive, weird, and full of pretentious nonsense, as a good Dr Strange story should be.
Does this count as an "evil rabbit meme" appearance?
Posted by: Andrew | December 22, 2016 11:58 AM
The Comics Journal once referred to Frank Brunner as a "swipe artist", something that confused me for a long time. After looking at Dynamite's hardcover Vampirella reprints though, I finally found out what they meant--on that page with Clea chained up, her profile is a direct swipe from an Esteban Maroto panel.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 2, 2017 3:45 PM
"The "Captain" is actually Captain Midnight, a 1940s radio/comics superhero published by Fawcett."
Interesting - Doctor Strange Epic Collection has the original art for this scene and in that he is Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell). I wonder why they removed him and replaced him with Captain Midnight of all people?
Posted by: Garuda | October 29, 2017 10:09 AM
Garuda, that is a fascinating tidbit. The switch makes sense, though, as Dr Strange #2 has a August 1974 cover date, and Captain Marvel #34, in which Mar-Vell is exposed to the gas that will eventually kill him, has a September 1974 date. Both books were bi-monthly, so they basically came out simultaneously. At the time, killing Mar-Vell off was seriously being considered -- as it turned out, his sales were improving, so his death was postponed several years -- and he might be dead by the time this book came out. Not really a continuity error since these are doppelgangers, but possibly disrespectful and not worth the hassle. At any rate, Captain Midnight is a much cooler Easter egg.
Posted by: Andrew | October 30, 2017 7:13 AM
I looked up that Dark Shadows crossover that Mark Drummond mentioned above. Pretty cool! I found a page with a summary and scans:
Posted by: cullen | May 8, 2018 12:02 AM
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