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  1. #31
    Ex-Cheeks Reptisaurus!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    The first page alone includes many cool Ditko effects. Half the page is the splash cover for the story. It begins in the second half. An electric panel border is used to show both sides of a phone conversation. We get a good view of Dr. Strange through the zany window. A half-face effect is used to show Clive Bentley is really Baron Mordo!
    I LOVE that last one. I hate to make extreme pronouncements, but the Ditko Doctor Strange is riiight up there on the "Best Art in an American Comic Ever" list.

    My favorite panel... When he's walking in the castle and the camera is set up on the second floor, but still showing Doctor Strange coming in through the front door. Vertigonous and creepy.
    [*] The Master is called the Ancient One by Baron Mordo and the narrator.
    Side-note: I like the aging but wise parent/child relationship between Doctor Strange and the Ancient One, and Strange feels he has to protect his teacher, even though the A.O. is, technically, a more powerful mage.
    MarkAndrew at Comics Should Be Good
    All my life, my Great Dream has been to grow a triangular head - Roy Thomas

  2. #32
    Senior Member MDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reptisaurus! View Post
    I hate to make extreme pronouncements, but the Ditko Doctor Strange is riiight up there on the "Best Art in an American Comic Ever" list.
    That's OK--in this case, you're absolutely correct.
    "It's just lines on paper, folks!"

  3. #33
    CotM Member Rob Allen's Avatar
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    Two quick points:

    1. Doc is referred to as "Master of Black Magic" on the cover of Journey into Mystery #108, which I posted in another thread recently about Doc's early guest appearances.

    2. Stan Lee wrote in a letter to Jerry Bails in 1962 that Dr. Strange was all Ditko's idea. I've read, and I don't recall where, that Steve originally called him "Mr. Strange" because he was pitching the character as a backup strip in Strange Tales, and Stan upgraded the character to "Dr. Strange". I've also read speculation that Steve drew several five-page stories first, which Stan dialogued, and then when fan reaction was positive to the first two, Stan wrote the origin and rushed it into the next issue, and then ran the other Ditko stories in the next few issues. I just checked the GCD, and it says of the origin, "Judging by the evolution of the artwork, it appears this was at least the ninth episode drawn!"
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    Rob Allen

  4. #34
    *blink* Chris N's Avatar
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    Strange Tales #116, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "Return to the Nightmare World!"
    January, 1964

    Grade: B

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Nightmare has acquired a mystic object which will allow him to attack eart, and trap humansin his dimension. The police seek out Dr. Strange for aid in the spread of a strange sleeping sickness. Dr. Strange investigates and deduces there is a supernatural force at work. Dr. Strange recites a dangerous spell from the Book of Vishanti, and calls upon the aid of many powers to open a portal and protected path to the realm of Nightmare. With the aid of his amulet, he reaches Nightmare and the captive humans. He then uses an Indian rope trick to free the hostages, but accidentally steps from the path and finds himself trapped by Nightmare. Nightmare sends his spinybeast after Strange, but the power of Dr. Strange's amulet defeats it and helps him escape. Nightmare vows there will be a next time.

    Review: Nightmare is an excellent villain. We get a better view of him this time, but he still remains largely shrouded in shadow, to good effect. I wonder how much of Gaiman's Sandman is inspired by Dr. Strange. Nightmare bears some resemblance to Morpheus (admittedly, Nightmare also bears some resemblance to Neil Gaiman); there is the whole concept of the nightmare dimension people go to when dreaming; and of course there is the strange plague where people fall asleep and don't wake up, a plot device in the first issue of Sandman.

    This issue is what best matches my impression of Ditko-era Dr. Strange. A journey though imagination filled with zany art and strong colors. Every panel a display of hallucinogenic creativity.

    Plotwise, I still have concerns. The four panels spent explaining that Dr. Strange is the master of mystic arts, and the Indian rope trick is a mystic art, and so he can do the Indian rope trick fall flat for me. And the amulet is far too frequently a deus ex machina, solving all problems. Not sure which path to take? The amulet will light the way. Facing a villain and a beast? Use the amulet. That said, I like the chess-like pace of the story, and that the battle is one of wills and guile, each seeking to outsmart the other.

    All in all a solid story with brilliant art. Clocking in at 8 pages. Which the editorial blurb at the beginning describes as a full-length feature.

    Notes:
    • We get a better view of Dr. Strange's still unnamed manservant.
    • Dr. Strange reads from the Book of Vishanti. Vishanti had previously been invoked by the Ancient One.
    • Dr. Strange invokes the same powers as the Ancient One: "the Dread Dormammu", "the all-seeing Agamotto", as well as the more vaguely defined "powers that dwell in the darkness".
    • Dr. Strange invokes the "Hosts of Hoggoth" to summon "the mist of Hoggoth", a portal to other dimensions.
    formerly coke & comics

    Sleepwalker is Sandman done right. ~Tadhg

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #111, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "Face-to-face with the magic of Baron Mordo"
    August, 1963

    Grade: B

    Format:hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: The Master's other former student, Baron Mordo, decides to kill him. Using his astral form, Mordo hypnotizes the Master's servant into poisoning his drink. When Dr. Strange loses contact, with the Master sends his astral form to investigate, there to do astral battle with Baron Mordo.

    Plot spoiler: Dr. Strange uses the all-seeing eye of his amulet to restore the Master's health, then tricks Mordo's spirit to returning to his body, freeing the Master's servant of Mordo's spell, and making Mordo vulnerable to Strange's amulet.

    Review: I consider Steve Ditko one of the greatest artists in comics, and his sense of design and wonder is beautifully on display here. Some of his early work has a stiffness to it, but it will soon evolve. Nonetheless, reading early Ditko feels like watching a genius learning the potential of the medium.

    This story is again short, and again without much fanfare (no mention on the cover and the third story in the issue again), but a lot is accomplished in a short page count. Baron Mordo is well-established as a villain, and we begin to get a better sense of the mechanics of the astral form. The difference between the astral form and the body was a key plot point to the climax of both stories so far. In particular, both exploited the idea the the body was helpless while the spirit was away. Dr. Strange was nearly shot in the previous issue, and this issue Dr. Strange exploited Baron Mordo's fear of his helpless body to win the day.

    There's probably even a theme I could draw from this, about the importance of taking care of both the body and the spirit. My high school's philosophy was to educate the whole person, "body, mind, and spirit."



    Notes:
    • Clearer view of distinctive window design. We also see the design on the Master's residence.
    • Master's home established as in Tibet. Previously, we just knew it was "somewhere in Asia".
    • "The Master" seems to be what he is called, as that is how Strange, Mordo, and the narrator all refer to him.
    • The eye of the amulet is referred to as the all-seeing eye.
    Ok adding to Chris's review as I play catch up after a busy weekend.

    Story: 9/10
    Art: 9/10
    Overall Impression: 9/10

    Commentary: Unlike some of the others who commented, Mordo is one of my favorite villains for Doc. He is the flip side of the coin to Stephen, the yin to Stephen's yang. There but for grace goes Stephen essentially. At this point we haven't learned how Stephen became a master of black magic, how the arrogant surgeon became ascetic mystic, but Mordo represents what would have been Stephen's path had he not had the spiritual epiphany we see in the origin story. We do learn that both Mordo and Stephen were former students of the Master and the Master had hoped both would follow the path of good. We also learn that Mordo already considers Stephen his arch foe, and their rivalry/antagonism is already well established at this point.

    The one aspect I did not like in this story is that their confrontation was essentially ghostly fisticuffs. Two astral bodies confronting one another are reduced to duking it out when confronting each other. Just seems there could have been a more mystical/magical way top present that confrontation, but then again, despite its mystic trappings, it is still a super-hero yarn at this point, and take son some of the tropes of that genre. Still, so much is packed into a mere 5 pages, and Ditko's art is so rich and layered with storytelling elements, it is easy to ignore this aspect of it and just get sucked into the tale being told.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #114, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The return of the omnipotent Baron Mordo!"
    November, 1963

    Grade: B-

    Format:hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Baron Mordo lures Dr. Strange into a trap by posing as Lord Bentley and beckoning Strange to London. The Ancient One volunteers to help his student mentally, but Dr. Strange notes he must learn to face such challenges on his own. Dr. Strange sends out a telepathic call for help, answered by Victoria Bentley, who notes of Dr. Strange, "Your eyes... so cold, so dark! I feel as though I know you... as though our fates are intertwined!" Dr. Strange realizes she must have a dormant talent for sorcery. Dr. Strange learns Lord Bentley is dead and realizes Mordo must have been impersonating him. Baron Mordo interrupts them before Victoria can leave and entrances the doctor in his spell.

    It turns out Mordo had not entranced the Doctor, but his mental projection, which he had sent in his stead. The real Dr. Strange just arrived and attacks Mordo with the power of his amulet. Dr. Strange and Mordo have an astral battle, with Dr. Strange the victor. Victoria asks Dr. Strange to tutor her in the mystic arts, but Strange declines, preferring to wait until the threat of Mordo is ended.

    Review: Dr. Strange returns after a 2-issue absence, still not warranting a spot on the cover. The editor's note points out that they waited for letters to come in to see if Dr. Strange should be continued. The enthusiastic response meant "Dr. Strange, Master of Black Magic" will now be a regular feature.

    The first page alone includes many cool Ditko effects. Half the page is the splash cover for the story. It begins in the second half. An electric panel border is used to show both sides of a phone conversation. We get a good view of Dr. Strange through the zany window. A half-face effect is used to show Clive Bentley is really Baron Mordo!

    Reptisaurus' point about the darkness of the comic is well taken. The doctor is frequently silhouetted, and shadows fill most every panel.

    The visuals of this story are greatly appreciated, particularly the image of Dr. Strange's battle with Mordo, where they merely seem to be staring at each other in the physical world, but a great astral battle is taking place in another plane.

    However, I have plot concerns. The big reveal as far as I can tell is that Dr. Strange had never been there. "Only [my mental projection] could have traveled to England so fast... my real self just arrived by jet plane." In which case it's not clear what the threat was. Had Mordo trapped Dr. Strange's projection in the vapors? This seems different than his astral form, where he goes into a trance. As he was clearly able to make his way here at the same time his mental projection was doing things. Given that he was on his way anyway, why did he need Victoria to free his mental projection (given that it needed freeing at all). And did his mental projection really arrive in England that quickly? It seemed Dr. Strange, traveling by plane, was not all that far behind.


    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange still referred to as "Master of Black Magic" in the title
    • The Master is called the Ancient One by Baron Mordo and the narrator.
    • Dr. Strange notes he studied the mystic arts.
    • Introduces Victoria Bentley
    • Dr. Strange starts wearing a cloak.
    adding my 2 cents to Chris again...

    Story: 7/10
    Art: 8/10
    Overall Impression: 8/10

    Commentary: Of all the early Doc Strange tales, this is by far my least favorite. There are so many unanswered and troubling questions-why does Mordo need to take the physical form of Clive Bentley to impersonate him over the phone? All the questions concerning the mental double and its differences from an astral from that Chris brought up-how does Mordo know Victoria has sorcerous potential when Doc only found out when she was able to hear and respond to his mental summons? If Doc knew Clive Bentley well enough to answer a summons in the middle of the night for aid because he was an old friend, and has been dead for 10 years does that mean Doc has been active as a sorcerer for at least 10 + years, or was their association of a different type? If of a different type what kind of help is Clive seeking in the middle of the night to a man across the Atlantic that just can't wait? The problem for me is all these questions arise from the script, they are not inherent in the art or the story as told through images, and since, as others have pointed out, Stan was scripting over the art and visual story devised by Ditko, the fault seems to fall in his lap.

    As for the Ditko art, the first page as Chris mentions, is excellent, but the remaining 4 pages are a bit uneven. There are just so many panels with blank backgrounds that this particular story feels a bit empty when compared to the other Ditko efforts of the time. I noted how much was packed into the 5 page stories in 110 and 111, that this one felt almost barren by comparison. There are certainly some dynamic panels and layouts in this story, but they are more the exception not the rule in this story, which is atypical for Ditko's work on Strange.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #115, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The origin of Dr. Strange"
    December, 1963

    Grade: B+

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: We learn the origin of Dr. Strange. A gifted but arrogant surgeon loses his ability to operate in a car accident. Desperate, he seeks out a famed healer in India. The Ancient One refuses to heal him because of his selfish motives, but offers to take him on as a pupil because of a spark of decency within him. Dr. Strange refuses, but a blizzard strands him in the Ancient One's abode. There, Strange learns Mordo, student of the Ancient One, has plotted to kill him. Mordo casts a spell preventing Strange from warning the Ancient One. Strange realizes that he can't warn the Ancient One, but he can agree to stay and be trained to battle Mordo. The Ancient One knew of Mordo's treachery all along and is pleased Strange has proven a worthy disciple. And so it begins...

    Review: The issue begins with an apology from the editor for not yet giving Dr. Strange an origin. Reflecting on all the other Marvel superheroes so far, I guess the first issue as an origin issue is typical. But Dr. Strange leaped in with the action, then told us how we got there a little later. A format that works well, I think. Worked for Batman.

    Clocking in at 8 pages, this is the longest Dr. Strange story yet. Though he is still not graced with a mention on the cover.

    Some excellent character work by Ditko. Favorite panels include the image of Dr. Strange lighting a cigarette arrogantly, saying "Be sure he pays his bill." and the very famous panel of a derelict Stephen Strange smoking a cigarette and thinking about the Ancient One.

    All in all, a good origin for a classic character.

    Notes:
    • The Ancient One's home was in India when Dr. Strange sought him out.
    • The Ancient One invokes "the powers of the Vishanti", "the dread Dormammu", and the "All-Seeing Agamotto".
    • It isn't obvious Agamotto is related to the amulet, but both Agamotto and the eye of the amulet have been described as "all-seeing".
    • Baron Mordo also calls upon Dormammu.
    Once again tag-teaming on top of Chris's review...

    Story: 10/10
    Art: 10/10
    Overall Impression: 10/10

    Commentary: Confession time, I generally dislike origin stories as I find they tend to be on the boring side. I want to read stories of the character in action more than I want to read how the character came to be-the opening paragraph blurb at the top of the splash page in 70's Marvels was generally enough for me. That said, there are a few origin stories I adore, and Doc's is one of those. For me, his path to sorcery defines how he responds to the threats and wonders he encounters and is as much about Strange in action as any of the three previous tales. It's one of the few times I actually hope the movie adapts the origin story as I think those 8 pages can form the spine of an incredible screenplay.

    Again we see Mordo as the Yin to Stephen's Yang as their motivations are the antithesis of each other's. We see the now clearly named Ancient One testing Stephen throughout the process, clearly able to deal with Mordo's threat, but wanting to see how Stephen handles the pressure and the heat of the refiner's fire.

    Other notes:
    -we clearly see the unique window design in the Ancient One's cave sanctuary as the decor of the opening out which those in the sanctum can look out.

    As for the spells, we are getting our first taste of the wondrous weirdness of the Marvel mystical universe with the names of Dormammu, Agamotto and Valtorr here. Even though the origin is a step back in the story line, it does feel like Steve and Stan are kicking it into high gear with this story. Once again the storytelling is dense and packed both in the art and the script, and we get more out of these 8 pages than most 20 page comics deliver these days.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #116, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "Return to the Nightmare World!"
    January, 1964

    Grade: B

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Nightmare has acquired a mystic object which will allow him to attack eart, and trap humansin his dimension. The police seek out Dr. Strange for aid in the spread of a strange sleeping sickness. Dr. Strange investigates and deduces there is a supernatural force at work. Dr. Strange recites a dangerous spell from the Book of Vishanti, and calls upon the aid of many powers to open a portal and protected path to the realm of Nightmare. With the aid of his amulet, he reaches Nightmare and the captive humans. He then uses an Indian rope trick to free the hostages, but accidentally steps from the path and finds himself trapped by Nightmare. Nightmare sends his spinybeast after Strange, but the power of Dr. Strange's amulet defeats it and helps him escape. Nightmare vows there will be a next time.

    Review: Nightmare is an excellent villain. We get a better view of him this time, but he still remains largely shrouded in shadow, to good effect. I wonder how much of Gaiman's Sandman is inspired by Dr. Strange. Nightmare bears some resemblance to Morpheus (admittedly, Nightmare also bears some resemblance to Neil Gaiman); there is the whole concept of the nightmare dimension people go to when dreaming; and of course there is the strange plague where people fall asleep and don't wake up, a plot device in the first issue of Sandman.

    This issue is what best matches my impression of Ditko-era Dr. Strange. A journey though imagination filled with zany art and strong colors. Every panel a display of hallucinogenic creativity.

    Plotwise, I still have concerns. The four panels spent explaining that Dr. Strange is the master of mystic arts, and the Indian rope trick is a mystic art, and so he can do the Indian rope trick fall flat for me. And the amulet is far too frequently a deus ex machina, solving all problems. Not sure which path to take? The amulet will light the way. Facing a villain and a beast? Use the amulet. That said, I like the chess-like pace of the story, and that the battle is one of wills and guile, each seeking to outsmart the other.

    All in all a solid story with brilliant art. Clocking in at 8 pages. Which the editorial blurb at the beginning describes as a full-length feature.

    Notes:
    • We get a better view of Dr. Strange's still unnamed manservant.
    • Dr. Strange reads from the Book of Vishanti. Vishanti had previously been invoked by the Ancient One.
    • Dr. Strange invokes the same powers as the Ancient One: "the Dread Dormammu", "the all-seeing Agamotto", as well as the more vaguely defined "powers that dwell in the darkness".
    • Dr. Strange invokes the "Hosts of Hoggoth" to summon "the mist of Hoggoth", a portal to other dimensions.
    Ok catching up with Chris and once again tag teaming on his review.

    Format note: For the foreseeable future I will be reading these Strange Tales from Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1, so they will be in b&w, losing some of the psychedelic nature of the strip from the lack of coloring.

    Story: 8/10
    Art: 10/10
    Overall Impression: 9/10

    Some additional continuity notes-Doc mentions his copy of the book of the Vishanti is the only know copy of the book, and its pages are faded and worn, makingit difficult to read.

    -He also notes it contains every known counter-spell in the mystic arts.

    -Nightmare has captured the humans ethereal form, not their physical form. How this differs from an astral form is not explained.

    -As well as possibly influencing Neil Gaiman, I wonder if this distinction between astral and ethereal forms influenced Gary Gygax and the other early innovators of D&D who differentiated between the Astral Plane and the Ethereal Plane.

    Comments: While the story is fun, it is predictable in places. Once Doc mentions he is safe as long as he stays on the path, you know he will have to step off it at some point for there to be a combat with Nightmare. While there are no established rules for magic at this point, it does seem like Stan and/or Steve is trying to set up some kind of framework, though the extent of it is point-counter-point or tit for tat. There are spells-so there must be a book of counter-spells (the Book of the Vishanti). Nightmare can call upon illusions in his shadowy realm-Doc can counter by summoning light form his amulet-for every action there is an opposite, so to speak. The greatest danger Doc faces in this tale is not Nightmare, but himself-can he cast the faded spell from the Book of the Vishanti correctly-can he find a way to stay on the path-if and when he fails it is because of his shortcomings, not the actions of the enemy-Nightmare is helpless against Doc in the Dream Dimension-Nightmare's own realm-until Doc makes the mistake of stepping on the platform. Doc's path is to perfect himself-a journey started when he went in search of the Ancient One. The foes he faces are simply tests of his worthiness in that journey-they are not external threats per se (even though they take that form) but internal ones-has Doc mastered himself well enough to face the challenge. Mordo as I said is the ying to Doc's yang-overcoming Mordo is a measure of how far he has mastered his own inner demons of greed and arrogance, of which Mordo is the reflection. Nightmare again is a test of Doc's ability to see the true path he must follow despite the difficulties, and a reminder of what can happen should he stray from it.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  9. #39

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    I will be joining this conversation sometime next week. I just ordered the last three issues I needed to have a complete run of Dr. Strange from Strange Tales #133 through Strange Tales vol. 2 #19. I also ordered the Masterworks vol. 1 to cover the early stories I don't have yet. So once I get that stuff, I will be blasting off on the Dr. Strange rocket as well.
    At last, Boy Comics finally gets its own website!

  10. #40
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    Strange Tales #117, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The many traps of Baron Mordo!"
    February, 1964

    Grade: B-

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Mordo places Dr. Strange's house under a spell. When Strange arrives home, the entire mansion is transported to a strange dimension. His amulet leads his astral form to Mordo, but Mordo creates an ethereal prison for Strange's spirit. With Dr. Strange subdued, Baron Mordo is free to attack the Ancient One.

    But... Dr. Strange escapes Mordo's cylinder by going downward within it and emerging on the other side of the world! He makes his way to the Ancient One, who gives him a ring which will let him battle Mordo. Strange disguises himself as the Ancient One and awaits Mordo's attack.

    Review: When I think of Steve Ditko, I think of creativity and imagination. Almost every new issue of Spider-Man introduced classic villain to the rogues gallery. However, we're 6 issues in, and Dr. Strange has fought Nightmare twice and Baron Mordo four times. It is time to mix it up. I'm over him.

    That said, this issue mostly worked well. The strange dimensions on display. And I really liked Strange's solution to his dilemma.

    The final battle with Mordo is uninteresting, however. It is reminiscent of the issues where Strange defeated Mordo by merely calling on his amulet. They at least don't return to that well and have him use this new ring to save the day.

    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange gets his first cover recognition! A text box informing us he will be in the issue and the title of his story. (The title includes Mordo's name, and so is also Mordo's first cover mention)
    • We get our first good view of Dr. Strange's house from the outside.
    • Dr. Strange refers to his astral form as his "ethereal self" and his "spirit form".
    formerly coke & comics

    Sleepwalker is Sandman done right. ~Tadhg

  11. #41
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    I'll be out of town a few days, so will sneak in one more review tonight, so I don't fall too far behind schedule.
    formerly coke & comics

    Sleepwalker is Sandman done right. ~Tadhg

  12. #42
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    Strange Tales #118, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The possessed!"
    March, 1964

    Grade: B

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Other-dimensional aliens possess some people in an idyllic Bavarian village. Dr. Strange investigates and traps one of the aliens. Using the possessed mayor, the aliens try to turn the townspeople against Dr. Strange, but he repels them back. He fights a battle of wills with the leader of the aliens, and triumphs.

    Review: The opening splash page serves as a cover and let us know Dr. Strange will come across a town of aliens in disguise. Using the half-person effect he used to demonstrate Mordo's disguise, we can see that either aliens are in disguise as humans, or (more likely, given the title) some humans have been possessed by aliens.

    The opening narration is pretty cool. The first sentence is "Silence!" Shocks you right into paying attention.

    Generally a good story, one that fits in well with other Lee/Ditko fantasy/scifi stories. Lots of cool art on display, visualizing Dr. Strange's mental powers. Dr. Strange generally being depicted as badass. Plus some of the better Dr. Strange dialogue yet. "There is no power greater than that which I possess... For mine is the power of imagination... the gossamer thread of which dreams are woven!"

    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange makes his first cover appearance, though only a small picture of him squeezed at the bottom of the Human Torch cover.
    • Dr. Strange uses an earthly scanner to detect where supernatural evil is at work.
    formerly coke & comics

    Sleepwalker is Sandman done right. ~Tadhg

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #117, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The many traps of Baron Mordo!"
    February, 1964

    Grade: B-

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Mordo places Dr. Strange's house under a spell. When Strange arrives home, the entire mansion is transported to a strange dimension. His amulet leads his astral form to Mordo, but Mordo creates an ethereal prison for Strange's spirit. With Dr. Strange subdued, Baron Mordo is free to attack the Ancient One.

    But... Dr. Strange escapes Mordo's cylinder by going downward within it and emerging on the other side of the world! He makes his way to the Ancient One, who gives him a ring which will let him battle Mordo. Strange disguises himself as the Ancient One and awaits Mordo's attack.

    Review: When I think of Steve Ditko, I think of creativity and imagination. Almost every new issue of Spider-Man introduced classic villain to the rogues gallery. However, we're 6 issues in, and Dr. Strange has fought Nightmare twice and Baron Mordo four times. It is time to mix it up. I'm over him.

    That said, this issue mostly worked well. The strange dimensions on display. And I really liked Strange's solution to his dilemma.

    The final battle with Mordo is uninteresting, however. It is reminiscent of the issues where Strange defeated Mordo by merely calling on his amulet. They at least don't return to that well and have him use this new ring to save the day.

    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange gets his first cover recognition! A text box informing us he will be in the issue and the title of his story. (The title includes Mordo's name, and so is also Mordo's first cover mention)
    • We get our first good view of Dr. Strange's house from the outside.
    • Dr. Strange refers to his astral form as his "ethereal self" and his "spirit form".
    Tag teaming on Chris's review once again...

    Story: 7/10
    Art: 9/10
    Overall Impression: 8/10

    Commentary:While reading this issue it struck me how often Ditko uses the rigid 9 panel grid layout for Doc's stories. Aside from splashes, just about every page is set up with the 9 panel grid, but some have minor variations, usually only in one row of panels though. The only exception is the story in #116 featuring Nightmare which features many larger panels as established by the splash and then the 6 panel page that follows. When I think of the 9 panel grid, I always think of Gibbons and his Watchmen work, but I am thinking maybe Gibbons was surely influenced by those who came before, and Ditko quite possibly among them. It is a way to pack a page with visual information and to fit a lot of story in a limited number of pages (something that is absent with modern comics, both in the decompressed stories we get and the widescreen action film approach to page layout). Nealry half the Doctor Strange pages Ditko has done so far have the 9 panel grid layout, and over 3/4 of the none splash pages have that basic set up with minor variations of either 2 or 4 panels in one row of the grid-again the only exception being 116 which mostly takes place ion Nightmare's dream realm.

    There's a part of me that is wondering if that isn't intentional, a subtle storytelling technique on Ditko's part-the mundane world is rigid and constrictive, but the mystical realms are wider, more open, and less predictable. If not intentional, it would be a very interesting layout technique for a modern artist to take in telling stories of a mystical protagonist, varying the layout style based on whether the action was set in the mundane world or a mystical realm, altering how things look when normal and when magic is in play. It is reminiscent to me of the filmmaking technique of using certain musical cues to indicat ethe presence of certain characters or themes in a film.

    We get our first real good look at Strange's Greenwich Village mansion, and we see Mordo use a very common magical theme/technique when dealing with it-like affects like known as sympathetic magic-the most common occurrence of such in pop culture is the idea of the voodoo doll/fetish. Crafting the fetish of the magic to use as a focus of his magic enabling him to affect Strange's mansion as a whole is a textbook example of this. We see this idea used quite often in modern fantasy and magical works (Jim Butcher's Dresden Files features the main character constructing a scale model of Chicago in his basement so he can work spells that have effects throughout the city for example). Sir James Frazier examines this type of folk belief and magic quite thoroughly in the Golden Bough, and it is a fairly widespread belief in cultures that have magical components to their folklore/belief system.

    I thought it was a nice touch to have Doc mention that this time the amulet can't save him, when it has been the plot device used to get out of almost every jam so far. Instead we get another artifact to do so, the ubiquitous magic ring this time, but alas, it wasn't the amulet.

    We also have Doc's spirit form being called his ethereal form this time (As opposed to his astral form) and I speculated whether Stan and Steve were trying to establish a distinct difference between the two, but after this issue I think it is more a factor of Stan's faulty overworked memory and the speed at which he was producing the massive volume of scripts in the early days of Marvel that led to these issue to issue variations rather than a concentrated creative effort or intentional distinction between the two.

    My last comment-I find it oddly appropriate that the ring uses the brightness of light to defeat Mordo's magic, as in many ways I see Mordo as the dark shadow version of Strange himself as I have mentioned before.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  14. #44
    Welcome to Bleeker Street MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris N View Post
    Strange Tales #118, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "The possessed!"
    March, 1964

    Grade: B

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Other-dimensional aliens possess some people in an idyllic Bavarian village. Dr. Strange investigates and traps one of the aliens. Using the possessed mayor, the aliens try to turn the townspeople against Dr. Strange, but he repels them back. He fights a battle of wills with the leader of the aliens, and triumphs.

    Review: The opening splash page serves as a cover and let us know Dr. Strange will come across a town of aliens in disguise. Using the half-person effect he used to demonstrate Mordo's disguise, we can see that either aliens are in disguise as humans, or (more likely, given the title) some humans have been possessed by aliens.

    The opening narration is pretty cool. The first sentence is "Silence!" Shocks you right into paying attention.

    Generally a good story, one that fits in well with other Lee/Ditko fantasy/scifi stories. Lots of cool art on display, visualizing Dr. Strange's mental powers. Dr. Strange generally being depicted as badass. Plus some of the better Dr. Strange dialogue yet. "There is no power greater than that which I possess... For mine is the power of imagination... the gossamer thread of which dreams are woven!"

    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange makes his first cover appearance, though only a small picture of him squeezed at the bottom of the Human Torch cover.
    • Dr. Strange uses an earthly scanner to detect where supernatural evil is at work.
    Once again adding on to what has come before...

    Story: 7/10
    Art: 8/10
    Overall Impression: 7/10

    Commentary: Ok, for me this had the feel of a fill in even though done by the regular creative team. The best analogy I can come up with is from the X-Files, you have a run of "mythology" episodes that build the larger story then you get a basic monster of the week episode that does little to add to the larger tapestry even though it is a solid story in and of itself. That's what this issue felt like to me. Didn't add much to the overall tapestry of Strange's story but was a decent one and done type of story.

    We get more of Doc's ethereal rather than astral spirit form, and Doc using the sympathetic magic I mentioned last tie on a grand scale with his earth sensor.

    The opening panel refers to Doc as the Master of the Mystic Arts, and I don't remember that particular turn of phrase being used before in a Doc story, so that may be its first usage, and it becomes part and parcel of the language of Doc's mythos as time goes on.

    Just as I talk about Ditko and the 9 panel grid, he goes off board with the panel layouts in this issue. However in some ways the art in this one felt rushed, so I wonder if the fewer larger panels was a time cutting technique this time around to meet a tight deadline.

    Still enjoyable, but not one of my favorite early Doc stories.

    -M
    A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    -Umberto Eco

  15. #45
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    Strange Tales #119, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
    "Beyond the purple veil!"
    April, 1964

    Grade: B+

    Format: hardcover Marvel Masterworks

    Brief synopsis: Two burglars attempt to rob Dr. Strange and are easily foiled, but undeterred. The next night, they manage to steal a strange gem. The gem was really a bridge to the purple dimension, and the crooks end up trapped there. Dr. Strange is pledged to help all humans, so pursues. There he confronts Aggamon, to whom all on the world are slaves mining for gems. Strange agrees to take the place of the captive criminals.

    But he did not agree to remain a captive! His amulet contends with Aggamon's jeweled demolisher beam.

    Review: Perhaps in contrast to MRP, I prefer these one-off stories more than I do another battle with Mordo.

    And MRP's observation about the 9 panel grid was a good one, but made just in time for it to be broken. This issue uses the 6-panel format, with minor variation.

    I thought this was a good issue for any number of reasons. The story gets to questions of morality about criminals. The men are bad people who stole a jewel and deserve their fate. But Strange will help them anyway, even be willing to sacrifice himself to save them. In the end, the men turn themselves in and seek to reform. A good lesson about how good deeds spread forward.

    Also, the final battle with Aggamon is interesting. It is depicted in three parallel panels, with narration letting us know hours are passing. The two beams of light meet in the center of each panel, and their glow continually diminishes. An easy and common thing to do is just to at some point declare Dr. Strange the winner. Instead, Strange notes that Aggamon was stronger, and would have won had the battle continued. However, it was in fact a mystical game of chicken. And Aggamon blinked first, fearing for his life.

    Notes:
    • Dr. Strange mentioned on cover in caption box.
    • Dr. Strange's servant is named Wong.
    • Dr. Strange again calls upon Dormammu, Hoggoth, and Vishanti.
    • Introduces Aggamon, and the dimension beyond the purple veil.
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