It's hard to imagine Dr. Stephen Strange without the label of Sorcerer Supreme.
But as readers of New Avengers know, the character lost that title, searching the world for his replacement under the guidance of the Eye of Agamotto. While readers will surely find out more about this new Sorcerer Supreme, what happens next for the good doctor?
In Strange, a four-issue mini-series starting in October, writer Mark Waid will explore what's next for the character. The artist has not been announced for the mini-series (although Waid teased that the it will be a “Boom! Studios alumnist”), which was announced at Heroes Con on Friday.
Newarama talked to Waid about the series to find out more about the future of a demoted Dr. Strange.
Newsarama: You know, Brian Bendis once told me just about everybody pitches a Dr. Strange story at Marvel, and he's finally getting to do his. Was this mini-series something you pitched?
Mark Waid: Actually, this is something that [Marvel editor] Tom Brevoort came to me with. And you know, I never really gave a lot of thought to writing a Dr. Strange story before. I mean, I like the character, but I haven't been holding onto my secret Dr. Strange story for 10 years or whatever.
But Tom came to me, and we know now the new status quo, which is that he's no longer Sorcerer Supreme and he's been replaced. And we talked about it and decided there are two ways to play it. The way you would do it typically in a Marvel book is you catch up with Strange and he's angsty and distraught and overwrought about the drama of having all this taken away from him, which I agree gives you some good drama, but we thought it might be more interesting as a change of pace to play him as a guy who has already gone through that off-panel and then realizes, you know, there's an up side to no longer being the most responsible man in the cosmos.
There's some up side to look at this as a sabbatical as opposed to a firing. Not that he's goofy or that he's having fun with it, but he's more relaxed than he's ever been in his entire career. For the first time ever, it's somebody else's problem and he can focus on personal growth rather than professional growth.
NRAMA: Where does this mini-series take place?
MW: It's actually pretty mobile. He's not in his Greenwich Village mansion. He's going to be floating about, and he's going to very quickly encounter someone who will be very important in the next stage of Dr. Strange.
NRAMA: So what is the status of his magical powers? He's still got some, right?
MW: Yes and no. He doesn't have the magical powers we associate with him. He can't just toss around magical bolts. Nothing comes as naturally and easily to him as it used to. In that sense, it feels like a little bit of a come-down for him. He's no longer automatically connected to the mystical energies that whip around the Marvel Universe. He's no longer connected in that sense, so he has to work at it the same as he did when he first started.
NRAMA: Does he have a new role in the Marvel Universe?
MW: His role is very much what a lot of retired doctors or doctors on sabbatical see as their role, which is teaching. I mean, remember, the thing about Steven Strange is that he has been a student all his life. Long before Dr. Strange. He had to have studied all his life to get to the level of surgery mastery he was at when he had a downfall. And he's been studying ever since under the Ancient One, and then beyond that, when he became Sorcerer Supreme, he's always learning and pushing himself. So I think naturally he would see this as a chance to, instead of wallow in self-pity about what has been taken from him, that he would see this as a chance to perhaps teach other people -- maybe one, maybe more -- what he knows. In a sense, he's sort of a very young Ancient One.
NRAMA: Am I hearing clues here that he's going to be playing the role of Ancient One to the next Sorcerer Supreme?
MW: Maybe. I mean, it's possible. But there are certain caveats here. One is that he's far from "ancient." In fact, I think without changing anything about Doc and without gutting his personality, people are going to perceive him in this series to be a little younger and a little sexier than he normally is. But it's because he no longer has that gravitas around him all the time. You'll see flashes of that. You'll see flashes of the old Doc as the series progresses. The moments of suddenly being able to go from happy and relaxed to grim and serious in the blink of an eye. It will come as a surprise to some of the other people in the series, that he's that way. But I think that helps keep the readers on their toes and it helps keep the other characters on their toes as well.
NRAMA: Is that just because he's been that way for so long, carrying the title of Sorcerer Supreme, that he can't completely lose the air it gave him before?
MW: Yeah. That's some of it. The other part of it is that he seems to act as if he has gotten past any sort of anger or regret or depression over the fact that he has had everything taken away from him. He seems to have. But every once in awhile you may see that bubble up for a panel or two, just enough to remind you that it's still there and maybe he hasn't gotten rid of it so much as he's just packed it down. And I think that gives him a really interesting presence, because you never quite know from page to page what you're going to get from this Doc. We want him to be consistent with who he's been as a character, but we also want him to be surprising for the first time in a long time.
NRAMA: Dr. Strange seems like a fairly flat character.
MW: As a general rule, and I don't even mean this to be an insult, but as a general rule, if you read three Dr. Strange stories at random, you could probably write a pretty passable Dr. Strange. His personality doesn't have a lot of range to it. And that's not an insult. It's a testament to his consistency as a character. But one of the things Tom and I talked about was, well, let's see what happens now that Doc is in what is very unfamiliar territory. Wouldn't it be interesting if, for a change of pace, we saw him with a much broader range of emotions and a much broader range of expression?
NRAMA: Will we be hearing things from his point of view?
MW: I actually think it's more interesting to look at him from the outside. And we're still wrestling with it, but I'm not even completely sure that Doc is the point of view character in his own story.
NRAMA: Out of all the Marvel projects, Mark, that you could have pitched or pursued, why did this offer to explore Dr. Strange sound like something that you wanted to do more than anything else?
MW: That's a good question. Some of it is the right guy came to me. Tom Brevoort and Steve Wacker both know that if they come to me and ask me to mow their lawns, I'll probably do it. I think they're two of the best editors in comics and I trust them implicitly.
But beyond that, some of the appeal is that I see a lot of myself in Doc at this moment in his career. Here's a guy who has done a lot of stuff and is now in a position to teach, and through teaching, he has to sort of re-learn what he knows and re-examine his own craft. That's what I've been doing with Boom the last couple years. So that made this project appeal to me. It was an interesting way of putting on paper what I'm going through on a day-to-day basis, and then adding some magic to it.