Strange Tales #147-156 (Dr. Strange)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #147, Strange Tales #148, Strange Tales #149, Strange Tales #150, Strange Tales #151 Strange Tales #152, Strange Tales #153, Strange Tales #154, Strange Tales #155, Strange Tales #156
After what reads a little too much like an introduction issue (this may be where Stan Lee's credit is coming from) where we meet Dr. Strange, learn about his powers, have a little fight with Baron Mordo, and moon over Clea, the Ancient One appears to warn about Kaluu. Kaluu is so terrifyingly powerful that the Ancient One seems to think fighting him is pointless, and Dr. Strange defies him both broadly and in tactics in this story. The Ancient One was once his partner...
...but he realized that Kaluu was evil and helped banish him. However, during Dormammu's battle with Eternity, the barriers that kept Kaluu banished were destroyed and now he's free to run amok again.
He starts by seeking vengeance on the Ancient One and steals the Book of Vishanti, which he can't use (its spells can not be used to cause harm) but not having the book makes Strange and the Ancient One particularly helpless. They defeat Kaluu by going back in time and grabbing the Book before Kaluu took it.
However, as soon as they defeat Kaluu, Umar shows up. Umar is Dormammu's sister, and while she hates her brother, she is offended that he would be defeated by a human.
To lure Strange in the Dark Dimension, she kidnaps Clea (no indication of any relationship between Umar and Clea at this point), and Clea seems sort of resigned to her fate as human plot point: "Once again I am helplessly buffeted by a power I cannot fathom...". Strange winds up imprisoned by Umar, but in the cell with him is a being called Veritas.
And actually, he is not only known as Veritas, because he will later by called Sayge in his Nova and New Warrior appearances where he associates with the Sphinx. For now, though, Veritas remains silent but opens his cloak, which transports Dr. Strange back to confront Umar.
Veritas has accompanied Strange to the battle with Umar.
And Veritas shows Umar her true form.
Strange uses the delay to try to rescue Clea. But Umar casts a spell of death at Clea. Strange is able to rush to Clea and block the spell. Strange and Clea then try to fly the Dark Dimension, pursued by Umar's spells, and they only manage to get back to Earth thanks to the aid of the Ancient One. But that doesn't bring Clea out of Umar's reach. To save Clea, the Ancient One casts the Spell of Vanishment, sending her to the "eternal unknown".
To defeat Umar, Dr. Strange releases a creature known as Zom, who will turn out to be an even greater threat.
Dr. Strange acts like a bit of a jerk to Wong in this story. Strange is running low on funds and Wong keeps asking him how to pay the bills.
Eventually Strange gets frustrated and summons a ton of money.
This is the first time we've met Wong, i think, or at least that he's referenced by name.
There is a level of sexism in a lot of early Marvel comics. While some of it is obvious (the treatment of the Invisible Girl and the Wasp, for example), there's also a really weird thing where women are always referred to as "females" (especially as a noun). I'm not sure why it rubs me the wrong way but it seems to be a way to make them seem like another species. I dunno, maybe it's nothing. And of course, since Umar is a female, "though the power of Umar is beyond all measure, still am I a female--! Thus, I shall crush the accursed human as only a woman can -- with the matchless weapons of cunning -- and overwhelming guile!"
Steve Ditko is gone at this point but there are still some really cool visuals, first by Bill Everett.
The demon who grabs Strange when he enters the Dark Dimension is really neat, for example.
And the art has some more realism to it. Nonetheless the epic doesn't really hold up when compared to the earlier Dormammu epic (#130-144).
Starting with #153 these stories are illustrated by Marie Severin - this seems to be my first issues with her art and may be her earliest work at Marvel as a penciler (she had been working with Sol Brodsky in production).
Severin is one of the few female artists that have worked for Marvel; it's interesting to see a female artist so early and also disappointing that so few followed after her.
I like her art; it is nicely detailed and has tight lines, but also has a kind of antiquated Prince Valiant feel to it (in a good way).
It recalls Ditko but also looks more modern. It would be nice to see fully colored instead of on glorious black & white newsprint (luckily, my scans are colored, but the quality isn't all that great).
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story continues directly in Strange Tales #157 (the next entry on this website). It's just such a huge continuous run i've decided to break it up. Dr. Strange shows up in X-Men #33 during Strange Tales #157-158, so i've placed this huge arc according to the placement of that issue, since Strange doesn't have any other appointments in the Marvel Universe during this period.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Dr. Strange vol. 1
Inbound References (9): show
Marie Severin is the sister of John Severin, and was the colorist for EC Comics.
Bill Everett used some stat panels of Ditko art in his later Dr. Strange issues, which the higher-ups did not care for.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 3, 2011 5:12 PM
Per Denny O'Neil in Alter Ego #123: He wrote the 2nd half of the Dr. Strange story in #147 and Stan did the first.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 8, 2014 5:59 PM
Ha, Dr. Strange had money trouble even back then. It makes Stan Lee meets Dr. Strange all the more hilarious.
Posted by: Silverbird | June 18, 2014 10:16 PM
Wait, Denny O'Neil was doing comics as far back as the 60s? Whoa.
Posted by: david banes | June 18, 2014 10:18 PM
While Umar has some strengths of a character, it seems wrong to both give Dormammu a sister, and if he had one that she look like a normal human. We know that the Dark Dimension has some human like beings, but it was not clear under Ditko that Dormammu is part of their race any more than he was one of the Mindless Ones. I think it really brought down his awe and majesty. If Umar was merely Dormammu's "lover" or high priestess or some other strong emotional connection, it would have been better for Dormammu.
Posted by: Chris | August 11, 2016 1:11 AM
I prefer to call Umar a "woman magician" over "female magician." Use of the word "woman" as an adjective is technically incorrect, but it's becoming more and more prevalent in common usage.
"Female" is a word I normally associate with animals and livestock. English is tricky and a lot of the gender-biases are built right into the grammar, common usage rules, and yes even societal rules and assumptions.
One would not normally call Strange a "male magician" but that's partly because "one" might assume that, since all or most magicians are men, it might also follow that the adjective-less term "magician" would suffice. That's a societal assumption which is hard to avoid.
On the other hand, one would likely never use the term "man magician," but I still prefer to say "woman magician" over "female magician" as my best recourse, while using an imperfect language, and while remaining open to a better suggestion.
Posted by: James Holt | September 24, 2016 1:17 PM
The Kaluu was story was somewhat weak IMHO but Everett's art was good. The Umar story was somewhat better written but I thought Marie's pencils were not as good as Everett's. The one thing I like about Marie is some later stories is that she draws very expressive faces and even caricatures some Marvel Bullpen members in some stories. Veritas is an interesting character.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 11, 2016 7:30 PM
For what it's worth, "The origin of the Ancient One!" in issue 148 is the first time the Ancient One's home is named as Kamar-Taj.
Posted by: Andrew | May 12, 2017 8:08 PM
In the next-issue blurb at the end of #149, Umar is called "Kara". I'm guessing somebody later told Stan that Kara was Supergirl's real first name.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 4, 2018 6:42 PM
I think Marie Severin had some deadline problems with #155. At the top of page 4 the first panel has some sketchy backgrounds, and Stan's caption reads "...that we can only depict the BAREST DETAILS thru the use of mere mortal illustration..."
Stan Lee actually scripts #151 through #156.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 5, 2018 8:14 PM
Thanks Mark. Updated my clarifying comments on the credits.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 5, 2018 8:42 PM
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