Doctor Strange #10-13
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #10, Doctor Strange #11, Doctor Strange #12, Doctor Strange #13
Ok, just kidding. But after this point i do put a II designator next to all the characters appearing, since they are only copies of the originals.
Ok, just kidding about that, too. The truth is that while this story is referenced a lot by fans, especially as a way to rationalize sliding timescale type issues, the story doesn't really have any impact on the Marvel universe.
The plot, drawn out a bit tediously over 4 issues, is that Nightmare has captured Eternity, and causes him to approach Dr. Strange with a challenge. Strange is faced with various versions of himself over the years - surgeon...
...adept (actually, for this portion, Strange re-lives the role of adept with what turns out to be the real Ancient One)...
....and even some versions that didn't actually exist, including a guy in a Richard Nixon mask.
Ultimately, Strange manages to navigate all of those challenges but fails when Baron Mordo shows up and attacks Clea.
This is meant to be an important lesson. Eternity tells Strange:
You mastered yourself and your mystic arts, but you could not foresee every eventuality! The most careful preparations are useless against the malignant might of madness! Your world is in the grip of madness. It plays its games as if it cannot lose -- but it can!
With that, Eternity destroys the world.
Strange then goes to Nightmare's realm and confronts him.
This is the first time Strange has fought Nightmare since becoming Sorcerer Supreme, and he's able to defeat him pretty easily.
But convincing Eternity to fix the world is more difficult. Eternity rants a bit, calling himself Adam Qadmon and talking about how he has been guiding the evolution of life. As Andrew notes in the comments, this is really the first time that Eternity's role in the universe has been defined.
Strange pushes Eternity pretty hard about fixing Earth, and eventually Eternity gets violent, but the Ancient One shows up to intervene...
...and eventually Eternity reveals that his solution is to re-create, not fix, the Earth.
This arc is very much of a philosophical bent, and a bit above my paygrade. The examination of the various phases of Strange's life definitely go on too long and don't really result in any interesting insights into his character, and the final issue is very... head-trippy.
A theme of this arc is that mankind is opening up too many doorways to the unknown. When Eternity, under Nightmare's influence, first shows up to announce that he's going to destroy the world, he says that the problem is increased communication, which prevents man from being happy with what he has. The reference to the Tree of Knowledge ties it in to the biblical idea that man trades tranquility and contentment for knowledge.
I wonder what Eternity thinks of the Internet.
At the end of the arc, Eternity says that what empowered Nightmare was all of the doorways that were opened by the recent bought of "mind exploration", which i take to mean people taking LSD.
At the end of the arc, Strange is described to be "coming down".
Baron Mordo had been staying at Doctor Strange's house since the Sise-Neg incident drove him crazy. When Eternity was captured, Mordo escaped, still not of sound mind, and met up with the also addled Aged Genghis, but it all seems to be part of Eternity/Nightmare's machinations.
Clea, left on the bench again, is starting to have some doubts about her relationship with Strange. The resolution to this is a long time coming.
Rama Kaliph and Lord Phyffe, who showed up in the previous arc, are still staying at Dr. Strange's house, although they don't really do anything here. The other magicians they came with aren't shown; they've presumably left already.
If nothing else, you can enjoy Cosmic Colan.
In a text piece by Englehart that replaces the lettercol for issue #13, it's said that the Doctor Strange book is doing so well that it's going to a monthly status and getting a Giant-Size issue. The book will indeed go monthly... for six issues. There isn't actually a Giant-Size issue, but there will be an Annual in 1976 that possibly started as the Giant-Size issue they were referring to here; it's said that the Giant-Size issues were being re-thought. Although the annual is by a completely different creative team than anyone mentioned here.
It's also announced that Frank Brunner will be returning to the book, to alternate with Colan, but that doesn't happen.
Englehart also says that the "insider's official explanation" for why the previous Doctor Strange book was cancelled was because of Colan's panel layout ("You couldn't follow the story"). Englehart doesn't agree and says the real reason was that "in the late '60s, despite all the hue and cry over mind expansion, there just weren't enough spacy people reading comics to support a mystic -- while today they are. In fact, as I say, there are so many spacers around that this book is not just supported. This book is a certified hit.", and that those people "deserve consideration". I think that's why we're getting all the drug references.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Defenders #29-30.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAged Genghis, Ancient One, Azrael, Baron Mordo, Clea, Dr. Strange, Dreamstalker, Eternity, Nightmare, Rama Kaliph
The ending of this story makes no sense. If all Eternity did was speed up evolution to recreate Earth, then how is Clea still alive? She's not native to our Earth.
Posted by: Michael | May 4, 2013 6:58 PM
I'm surprised to learn that it turns out to be an illusion. I had never read this or #19, but i've often seen people reference #13 on message boards and such. I'll get to #19 soon enough and will probably revise the significance here down.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 4, 2013 7:11 PM
It was an editorially mandated retcon, I believe, though some subsequent Strange writers, such as Claremont, treated the original story as the true one.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 4, 2013 11:32 PM
Mike Friedrich has a letter in #11.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:58 PM
The excellent fanzine Omniverse #1(fall/77) suggested that what Eternity destroyed was actually a parallel earth he dreamed into existence while asleep, and the "recreation" was actually Eternity creating a divergent timeline where he never created the parallel earth to start with.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 9, 2014 2:50 PM
Colan's original rejected first page to #12 was printed in Comics Interview #98.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 11, 2015 9:50 PM
Curiously, Strange says that Nixon "resigned" months ago, when we all know that he actually committed suicide after bring exposed as the leader of the Secret Empire. I guess Strange follows events in the mundane world through conventional means like newspapers and TV, instead of getting the real story via his mystic powers.
Posted by: Andrew | March 6, 2016 4:19 PM
One other thing to consider for the significance of these issues -- and it's easy to miss because of the disorganized way the story is told -- is that prior to this Eternity was just one of a number of cosmic Marvel characters. It was at this point that Eternity was established as the living embodiment of the entire universe.
Posted by: Andrew | March 6, 2016 8:55 PM
Good call out, Andrew. I guess this story is actually pretty clear about defining Eternity, but i didn't pick up on the fact that we were getting new info because i already had this conception of him when i read the original Ditko issues. I've added a couple of notes in the entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 7, 2016 9:16 AM
Another bit of significance to this issue is that it's counted as the first appearance/mention of The-One-Above-All, the supreme being of the Marvel Multiverse (and possibly beyond) whom the Living Tribunal serves. Eternity's declaration that "God rules all realities" is taken to refer to the Tribunal's master, being that the Tribunal -- who has said he is the servant of an even higher power -- was assigned the role of judge in all the realities of the multiverse.
This was the Tribunal's declared role from the first story arc featuring him back in "Strange Tales" #157-158 from 1967, so it's a surprisingly logical progression of developments/world building, though by different authors, and probably without a deliberate attempt on Englehart's part at connecting the two. If it really wasn't by design, it's an awesome case of serendipity how it worked out.
Posted by: Glenn H. Morrow | October 24, 2016 2:49 AM
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