Monday, 26 November 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

DOCTOR STRANGE, Master of the Mystic Arts is aptly
named - better by far than DOCTOR DROOM, the 'prototype'
who preceded him, despite their very similar origins.  Strange by
name, strange by nature - and also in logic if his third story in
STRANGE TALES #114 is anything to go by.

So here's the plot:  The mystic master receives a telephone
call from Sir CLIVE BENTLEY, asking him to come at once.
Faster than QUICKSILVER can run to the loo, Strange is next
seen stepping out of a British taxi (presumably having grabbed
the fastest 'plane to England) and paying off the driver.

However, turns out it wasn't Bentley, but rather BARON
MORDO in disguise who'd summoned Strange - who has now
stepped into a trap.  Here we see what seems to be yet another
infamous discrepancy between what artist STEVE DITKO
drew, and what writer STAN LEE scripted.

It looks to me that Strange is trapped between a pair of
mystic candles, the incense of which paralyzes him.  When the
candles have burned out, Strange's life will also end.  However,
Stan's scripting seems to indicate that Strange's predicament is
caused by but a single candle.  It's just as well it wasn't four
candles, or we could've found ourselves in the middle of
the classic sketch by the TWO RONNIES.

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.)

Mordo returns to gloat over Strange's death, and - on dis-
covering him still alive - mentally saps his will, making him his
slave.  But then the real Strange turns up, and reveals Mordo
had only enslaved his mental projecto-image, as he's just
stepped off the 'plane from America.  Only his ethereal
self could've arrived so quickly, explains Strange.

But here's where it all breaks 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 he can make
himself visible to whoever he wishes, but I'm unsure if the 'rules'
were ever established.  Wasn't The HULK supposed to be the
only one who can see him?)  However, he also refers to it as
his 'ethereal self', suggesting 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 mystic
powers to take him where he was needed.)  Where does the dosh
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 just isn't so.  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 readers think-
ing Strange is there in physical form, these apparent discrep-
ancies are maybe nothing more than deliberate misdirection,
which - with a little mental exercise - can be reconciled to some
degree, no?  Perhaps, but readers shouldn't have to work that
hard;  the best plots are always those which tie up 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.

No comments: