These words will be dominating cinemas this week and will be as significant as The Matrix’s “I know kung fu” in due time. I am of course referring to Benedict Cumberbatch aka Dr Stephen Vincent Strange’s closing words in the Doctor Strange trailer.
After numerous movies about self-made heroes and mutants, Doctor Strange brings a different dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as in the mystical route. While the general public loves watching magic shows, following a magician’s comic-book adventures is entirely different – which is why the character has always been something of a cult favourite rather than an A-list hero. Whether or not you’ve read any of Strange’s five volumes of comics, his origin is nevertheless legendary and worth recapping.
Stephen Strange was a brilliant but egotistical surgeon before a car accident destroyed his hands – and career. His search for a cure eventually leads him to Tibet and the Ancient One. Initially a non-believer in the mystical, the sight of the Ancient One in action convinces Strange of his new calling, and he eventually becomes the Ancient One’s best student en route to becoming the Marvel Universe’s Sorcerer Supreme!
On paper, the title seems like a big deal, with its bearer becoming “functionally” immortal and immune to diseases. However, there’s a catch: the Sorcerers Supreme cannot use magic to protect themselves, and can be killed by sufficient physical trauma. This week, we take a look at the other Sorcerers (and Sorceresses) Supreme who once ruled the Marvel Universe’s mystical plane. Who knows, more than one might pop up as an Easter egg in the movie!
First appearance: Strange Tales #115 (1963)
The first Sorcerer Supreme and the originator of Dr Strange’s trusty Eye of Agamotto! Being this realm’s first mystical guardian, his legacy lives on via various artefacts such as the Orb of Agamotto (the man sure knows how to trademark his stuff), the Book Of The Vishanti and the Moebius Stone.
First appearance: Adventure Into Fear #15 (1973)
This Atlantean mermaid was the first Sorceress Supreme! Unlike Agamotto’s legacies, her major milestone, unfortunately, was being killed for prophesising Atlantis’ destruction!
First appearance: Marvel Comics Presents #146 (1994)
Being on Earth since the 13th century BC, this former member of the Blood and the Fallen also has a strong claim to being the first female and Earth-bound Sorceress Supreme. Her claim towards the inaugural mystical mantle is amplified by the fact that she has defeated Dr Strange and even caused him severe harm. He had to sacrifice his magic to “clone” beings known as Strange and Dr Vincent Stephens to fend off her threat!
First appearance: Marvel Tarot #1
Like Zhered-Na, Ayesha hails from the age of Atlantis and her biggest claim to fame is being part of Ororo Munroe’s (the X-Men’s Storm) bloodline.
First appearance (as Merlyn): Captain Britain #1 (1976)
There is still debate as to whether this is Merlin from the Arthurian legends, the Merlyn of Otherworld (the Omniversal Guardian), or the Mad Merlin aka the Maha Yogi. Whoever he may be, he is a habitual liar, so his actual contribution to the Marvel Universe’s mystic history remains unknown.
First appearance: X-Men: Hellfire Club #1 (2000)
Another Sorcerer Supreme with mutant affiliations, Hiram is the ancestor of the Hellfire Club’s most notorious Black King, Sebastian Shaw. During the 17th century, Hiram’s focus was on persecuting witches at Salem, crossing paths with Abigail Harkness – an ancestor of Agatha Harkness, better known as Franklin Richards’ one-time nanny.
First appearance: Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (1980)
Another person with mutant links, Margali adopted Nightcrawler – but that’s not her only claim to fame, as she also possesses the unique ability of being able to summon the Eye Of Agamotto away from Dr Strange, which she did during their first confrontation.
First appearance: Strange Tales #110 (1963)
The original comic-book version is an Asian male, who discovered magic via his friend, a fellow farmer(!). His initial plan was to transform his village into a utopia but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility! He eventually spent the next few centuries roaming Earth while accumulating knowledge, experience and mystical artefacts.
After earning the Sorcerer Supreme accolade, the Ancient One took on a few apprentices, namely Mister Jip, Doctor Druid, Baron Mordo and his best prodigy, Dr Strange!
First appearance: Strange Tales #169 (1973)
Prior to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, Brother Voodoo was the main ingredient of Fred Hembeck’s satire. His biggest breakthrough came during the Dark Reign event, where the Eye of Agamotto deemed him the worthiest successor to Dr Strange from 30 candidates. This elevated him from Brother Voodoo to Doctor Voodoo, aka the Sorcerer Supreme! However, his newfound fame was short-lived, as he sacrificed himself to save Earth from the combined might of Agamotto and the Eye.
Sorcerers Supreme from other dimensions
So far the earlier mentioned names have been pretty boring, which aptly sums up how (un)glamorous this role can get. While Earth’s Mystical Plane Guardians lack the razzmatazz to qualify, the candidates from other dimensions are definitely cooler – Clea and Illyana Rasputin (Magik).
Technically both of them would have qualified to be Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, but they chose to make it big elsewhere, such as the Dark Dimension (Clea wrested leadership of that realm from Strange’s greatest nemesis, the Dread Dormammu) and Limbo (Magik claimed it from her ex-master, Belasco).
If you are up for some amalgamation action, there’s also Doctor Strangefate – a hybrid of Dr Strange and DC’s Doctor Fate from the Amalgam Comics mash-up line. He offers the best of both comics universes, and a whole lot of confusion.
The top magic users of the Marvel Multiverse will also get their turn in the spotlight soon, in a new title called Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme which is due out this week.