By the end of this year, Doctor Strange will likely be one of Marvel’s top characters. Not only does he have a film arriving in theaters, the good Doctor also has a second ongoing series, Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme, launching in October courtesy of writer Robbie Thompson and artist Javier Rodriguez.
Newsarama spoke to Thompson about building a team of Sorcerers Supreme for Marvel, including how numerous characters can occupy that title at once, how his experience as a writer on Supernatural plays into crafting the series, and which classic Strange ally gets a surprising twist in Sorcerers Supreme.
Newsarama: Robbie, Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme marks the first time Strange has anchored two ongoing series. What led to launching a team book with him at the helm?
Robbie Thompson: It starts with the success of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s book. They’ve done an amazing job carving out a wonderful, unique and scary corner of the Marvel Universe. Editor Nick Lowe had an idea for a fun way to tell a parallel Strange story, and I was lucky to throw my hat in to pitch on the book. As soon as Nick told me what he and the crew were looking with this book, I was hooked right away and was desperate to work on this with them.
Nrama: Aside from Doctor Strange, who are the Sorcerers Supreme, and how does Strange recruit them?
Thompson: The group is assembled through time travel, and it’s actually the legendary Merlin who gets the ball rolling. There’s an enormous threat that’s wreaking havoc in his time, and it’s going to take a team of Supremes to take this creature down. But, in keeping with the main book, time travel magic comes with a price - Merlin is finding his recruits at not-so-ideal moments in time. Like Strange, for example, who is one of the most powerful Supremes, but has just taken an absolute beat down in “The Last Days of Magic.”
Merlin’s first recruit, which we will see in a short story in the Doctor Strange Annual, is none other than the Ancient One. Or as we’ve been calling him, the Not-So-Ancient One. He’s a teenager - which will blow Strange’s mind. He’s never seen this side of his beloved mentor. Then we have Sir Isaac Newton, and his minion, a slightly evolved Mindless One called the Mindful One. Newton is the wild card on the team - he has his own interests in mind at all times, and probably belongs more in some kind of jail than he does on a team. We’ve also got Wiccan, from the future, who’s trying to fix the problem at hand as fast as he can so he can get back to his family. Wiccan is another shock for Strange, since it means Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme in the future. Is Strange alive? Retired? Will Wiccan tell him and change the past or future?
Next up is Nina, who is a Brazilian Sorcerer from the 50s. She’s straight out of a film noir, very badass and mysterious and she shares a history with Merlin that we’ll unpack in the series. And then there’s Kushala, a Native American Sorcerer, whose power is tied to a certain part of Marvel lore. She’s haunted by some of her actions as a Supreme, and views this adventure as a shot at redemption.
Nrama: Does Doctor Strange now have to share his traditional title, or is there a way these characters can all be the “Sorcerer Supreme?”
Thompson: When Nick and I first talked about this as a “team book”, we started riffing on the idea that in this group, everyone is used to being the title holder, and part of that means they are not used to playing with others, or having to defer to anyone. That dynamic has been a lot of fun to explore. So, in a sense, they’re all Supremes and they all believe they are the Supreme, which makes for fun conflict within the group.
Nrama: You were a writer on Supernatural and wrote some pretty high profile episodes. How does your experience on that show translate to writing a magical superhero?
Thompson: I loved writing for Supernatural! That show taught me so many things, but the number one thing was that it all boils down to characters - that show has thrived because of its amazing characters, starting with Sam and Dean, and then growing through characters like Castiel, Crowley and so on. This book is more of an ensemble than that show, but that core value remains true: it’s all about the characters and finding ways to make them grounded and relatable. Fortunately, as it was on Supernatural, I’m working with an amazing crew of editors and artists, and we’re having a blast building this team from the ground up, and populating it with unique and magical characters that may, or may not, survive this journey they begin in issue one.
Nrama: Speaking of artists, you're working with Javier Rodriguez on Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme. He's a fan favorite with a very distinct style. What makes him the perfect fit to draw a team of magical adventurers?
Thompson: Javier’s an absolute rock star and a genius, and his unique style, both in design and layout make him the perfect fit for this book. We’ve gotten to know each other through e-mails - we’re a world apart, but we couldn’t be more on the same page for this book. His character and story ideas have been dynamite, and with each page he surprises and delights. There’s a two-page spread in the first issue which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Javier’s working with Inker Alvaro Lopez and they are perfect collaborators, playing off each other’s work in really exciting and vibrant ways. Nick and Darren also brought on Jordie Bellaire for colors and her work has been phenomenal - I just saw a cover she colored this morning and it’s stunning. I really can’t wait for people to see this book!
Nrama: Some of Strange’s classic villains are returning over in his solo title. What kind of threats will the Sorcerers Supreme face?
Thompson: The team is brought together to deal with a new entity called the Forgotten. It’s an un-killable magical menace that has been locked away for a very long time, but the events of “The Last Days of Magic” caused it to be freed. Once free, it travelled back to Merlin’s time. Merlin saw pretty quickly that this thing was extremely powerful, tied to some dark magic, and that he wouldn’t be able to defeat it by himself. He’s gonna need all the Supremes he can find to even have a shot at this thing! We’ll find out over the course of the first arc, that the Forgotten has a personal tie to someone on the team and that will put the whole group in danger.
Nrama: How closely will Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme tie to Strange’s solo title? Are you planning ahead alongside Jason Aaron?
Thompson: We’ve been working on the book for a while now, and we’re spinning directly out of the main book. Nick and Associate Editor Darren Shan are doing an awesome job making sure we line things up right to satisfy readers of both books.
Nrama: Will we see any classic Doctor Strange allies join the team such as Clea? She’s a particular fan favorite who was a Sorcerer Supreme in an alternate timeline.
Thompson: Oh, man, I love Clea! I’m not sure I can spoil anything, so I’ll say that we do already have one classic Strange ally on the team in the Ancient One, but hopefully in time we will see more.
Nrama: Alternate realities are a big theme in the current Doctor Strange mythos. Will Sorcerers Supreme explore that idea?
Thompson: In time, yes, but right from the jump, their biggest obstacle will be trying to find a way to destroy the Forgotten, but we will definitely be playing with alternate realities and different dimensions over time - it’s a great way to explore magical possibilities and also a great way to push the art in the book to be unique and distinct. I’d love to see what’s going on in the Dark Dimension and other realities, but that will come when and if the team survives their first encounter with the Forgotten, or doesn’t kill each other in the process!
Nrama: With his film hitting theaters just after the release of Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme, Strange is sure to be a hot button character for Marvel. What can fans expect from this team book?
Thompson: Magic. I really can’t say enough good things about what Jason and Chris and the Strange crew have built with the main book. It’s got heart, stakes and scares. The have constructed an unbelievably rich and fun sandbox and we’re looking to have as much fun as possible in that sandbox, adding in a team aspect and some time-traveling shenanigans to the mix. These are complicated characters, with rich backstories that we’ll explore over the course of the series.