Monday, 26 November 2012


DOCTOR STRANGE, Master of the Mystic Arts is aptly
named - much better than DOCTOR DROOM, the 'prototype' who
preceded him, despite their incredibly similar origins. Strange by
name, strange by nature - and also strange in logic if his third
adventure in STRANGE TALES #114 is anything to go by.
Here's the plot: The good ol' mystic master receives a telephone
call from SIR CLIVE BENTLEY, asking him to come and see him
at once. Faster than QUICKSILVER can dash to the loo, Strange is
suddenly seen stepping out of a British taxi cab (presumably having
grabbed the fastest 'plane to England) and paying off the driver.
However, turns out it wasn't Bentley, but BARON MORDO in
disguise who had summoned Strange - who has now stepped into a
trap. Here we see what appears to be yet another of those infamous
discrepancies between what the artist - in this case STEVE
DITKO - drew and STAN LEE scripted.
It looks to me that Strange is trapped between a pair of mystical
candles, the incense of which paralyzes him. When the candles have
burned out, Strange's life will also end. However, Stan's dialogue
seems to indicate that ol' Stephen's predicament is caused by only
one candle. Just as well it wasn't four candles, or we could've
found ourselves right in the middle of the classic sketch by
Anyway, the good Doc, by the power of his mind, summons
the nearby VICTORIA BENTLEY (Sir Clive's daughter), to
come and extinguish the candle(s), thereby prematurely ending
the spell which would have killed him. (They had to burn out
in their own time, apparently, for the spell to be effective.)
Evil Baron Mordo returns to gloat over Strange's death, and -
upon discovering him still alive - mentally saps his will, making
him his slave. But hold on there; the real Doctor Strange then turns
up, and reveals that Mordo had only enslaved his mental projecto-
image, as he has just stepped off the 'plane from America. Only his
ethereal self could have arrived so quickly, explains Strange.
Here's where it all seems to break down. At first, it appears that
Strange's 'mental projecto-image' is something entirely different to
his metaphysical spirit which can float through walls, and is ghostly
in appearance. (We'll assume that Strange can make himself visible to
whoever he wishes, but I'm unsure whether the 'rules' have ever been
established. Wasn't the HULK supposed to be the only one who could
see him?) However, he also refers to it as his 'ethereal self, which
suggests here that the two are the same.
Now I'm confused. Why would Strange's ethereal self need a
taxi to get to the castle? (He could've simply used his mystical
powers to take him where he was needed.) Where does the money
for the fare come from? And how does his 'actual' body function
independently when his mind is elsewhere? If his mind was in
his metaphysical self when Mordo enslaved it, how could he
switch it over to his actual body upon arrival?
The impression given is that both forms have independent
thought, which we know from later tales isn't the case. Also, why
doesn't his ethereal self  (also called ectoplasmic in subsequent
stories) look, er - 'ethereal' - as opposed to a solid manifestation?
It has to be said that the conclusion seems rushed and is rather
unsatisfying, depending, as it does, on the reader ignoring more
holes than a vat of Swiss cheese.

As the denouement of the story depends on the reader thinking that
Strange is there in his physical form, these apparent discrepancies are
maybe nothing more than deliberate misdirection, which -  with a little
mental exercise - can be reconciled to some degree, no? Perhaps, but
the reader shouldn't have to work that hard; the best plots are always
those which nicely tie up the loose ends, not leave more straggly
bits than a plateful of spaghetti.
H'mm, cheese, spaghetti - all this talk of food has made
me hungry. I'm off to raid the fridge.

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