Though Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange is a little too familiar as a superhero origin story, the film dazzles with breathtaking visuals as the character explores alternate dimensions and the multiverse, far-out concepts that once belonged exclusively within the pages of a comic book.
If one seeks to learn the ways of the Ancient One before or after seeing the movie, here’s a list of key Doctor Strange comics that should do the trick.
5. Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughn
Years before Brian K. Vaughn obliterated the competition in the epic Saga with Fiona Staples, Vaughn penned the five-issue Doctor Strange: The Oath. Titled after the Hippocratic Oath Strange committed to during his surgical career, Strange fights against all odds to cure his beloved friend Wong of a terminal brain tumor. Science can’t cure Wong, but magic can. Unfortunately, Strange is mugged and shot by a street-level thief named Brigand, who stole a potion Strange had only just acquired that can cure Wong.
Though not an origin story, The Oath taps into Strange’s past life as a doctor, as well as the accident that set him on his path to become a mystic to challenge his present conflict. At once a funny action-adventure (with typical visuals expected of a Strange comic) and a compelling character piece, The Oath is an exciting follow-up for new fans who have just gotten to know Strange and his motivations, as well as his buddy Wong.
4. Strange Tales #115, “The Origin of Doctor Strange” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
When it comes to origin tales, you can do no wrong with the creators. After Doctor Strange’s first appearances in the original Strange Tales comic, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave fans his definitive origin in issue #115 published in December 1963, establishing hallmarks that have stayed with the character since. Although it’s a little hard to find in print, it’s easily obtainable online through Comixology.
3. Doctor Strange: Season One by Greg Pak
In Marvel’s short-lived line Season One, Greg Pak and Emma Rios retell Stephen Strange’s beginnings in a modern setting in Doctor Strange: Season One, incorporating Baron Mordo, Wong, and even Dormammu. Of all of Doctor Strange’s comics, Season One wields definitive influence on the new movie.
2. Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment by Roger Stern
First published in 1989 and recollected in 2013, Roger Stern and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola pair Doctor Strange with an unlikely ally, the villainous Doctor Doom, in a mission to hell where Doom hopes to rescue the soul of his mother. Although more of a Doctor Doom comic than one of the Sorcerer Supreme, no one can pass up Doctor Strange illustrated by the guy who gave the world Hellboy and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.
1. Strange Tales #130-#144, “The Eternity Saga” by Steve Ditko
A hefty 17-issue epic released when comics were still pulps kids bought at the grocery store, “The Eternity Saga” is often considered one of the first graphic novels in which Doctor Strange embarks on a Wizard of Oz-like journey, but with more punching and quite a lot of dimensional traveling.
Outmatched by allied enemies, Baron Mordo and Dormammu, Doctor Strange seeks out the one known as “Eternity” — the very embodiment of the cosmic universe — to learn how to vanquish his foes. “The Eternity Saga” isn’t just a direct visual influencer on the new film, it’s also one of the best Doctor Strange stories ever told. And with Eternity back in the Marvel Universe in a new series, Ultimates 2, anyone hoping to expand their Marvel knowledge should seek out “The Eternity Saga,” collected in a 2014 hardcover, Doctor Strange: A Nameless Land, a Timeless Time.
Marvel’s Doctor Strange will be released November 4.