Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko and Terry Szenics
Cover Price: 12¢
Release Date: July 1963
Like a lot of first appearances, Dr. Strange debuted in an anthology book, this one being Strange Tales. The cover is devoted to the Human Torch and Dr. Strange is just thrown at the reader “Quietly and without fanfare.” I guess he didn’t need it since we all know that he went on to become one of Marvel’s big characters, but how was this first appearance? Let’s find out…
The issue opens with a man who is suffering from nightmares. Hey, everybody has had nightmares, but this guy wants to do something about it…or rather, he wants Dr. Strange to do all the work. He agrees to help the man…by entering his dreams! This was a pretty damn good opening. Steve Ditko’s art is dark and moody and while this isn’t an origin story, it certainly is interesting from the get-go.
We get a peek at Strange’s powers as he visits his Master using his astral form, but there really is no reason for it besides that. Yea, his Master talks about dark times and trouble brewing, but by the looks of the guy, he probably only says that sort of thing whenever he gets a chance.
Later that night, he enters the man’s nightmare and while he battles Nightmare (“an ancient foe”), the man wakes up and decides to kill Strange. You see, the guy is having nightmares because he is a piece of crap and deserves them!
Up until this point, Dr. Strange’s amulet has been mentioned at least three times and we see why. He reaches out to his Master and through the unblinking eye of the neckless, the bad man is frozen in place and Strange escapes the nightmare. It all ends with the man confessing that the nightmare was caused by the pain and suffering he caused by robbing his former business partner.
Playing off like a twisted nightmare version The Night Before Christmas, this was a really good, if quick, introduction to Dr. Strange. I said it already, but Steve Ditko’s art really plays well here. I am not a horror comic fan, but this story would have made me a fan of Dr. Strange back in 1963 for sure!
While not an origin of the character, this short story really does the job of getting you excited about Doctor Strange. Everything you need is here…great Ditko art, the occult and a few of Dr. Strange’s powers are on display and are cool as hell. If you haven’t read this yet, take a couple of minutes and do so, it’s really good.