Marvel and Japan have a surprisingly strong history of collaboration. So when it was announced that there will be a Doctor Strange prequel manga in an upcoming issue of Shonen Jump, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It will however, still probably be very weird, and very interesting.
Titled “Doctor Strange: Episode 0”, the manga will take place before the events of the Doctor Strange film, but within the same continuity. The story will follow Strange back when he is still Dr. Stephen Strange and highlight his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon. However, the preview image announcing the news also includes an image of Strange in his full Doctor Strange sorcerer outfit, so presumably the manga will touch on his magical abilities and not just his medical ones. Although, the medical genre is a surprisingly popular one in Japanese manga, so maybe it will just be about his life-saving, surgical powers?
Japan has been creating licensed Marvel adaptations since around 2010, when Japanese animation studio Madhouse released an anime based on the MCU Iron Man. Madhouse followed that series with an anime based on Wolverine, X-Men, and Blade, as well as two anime films Iron Man: Rise of Technovore in 2013, and Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher in 2014.
Marvel returned the favor in 2014 when the company released a crossover comic between Marvel superheroes, and the characters of the popular Japanese manga series, Attack on Titan. The one-shot issue was written by Titan creator Hajime Isayama, and illustrated by comic artist Gerardo Sandoval. The crossover included heroes like Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy fighting the terrifying titans seen in the manga.
The Japanese manga industry doesn’t just stop at Marvel either. The country has published manga adaptations of various western properties, including a full manga adaptation of the popular BBC series, Sherlock, also starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Maybe the country’s manga industry only adapts stories that star the British actor?
“Doctor Strange: Episode 0” will be published in the issue 52 of Kodansha’s Shonen Jump and hit Japanese magazine shelves on November 22, 2017. Doctor Strange the film premieres in Japan January 27, 2017.