Do You Have an Origin Story?
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“I’ve decided that Doctor Strange is my favourite Marvel character. Would you like me to present my argument?”
Yes, those are the random text messages I send to my friends.
And now, since you opened this article, I shall present the abbreviated explanation to you.
Previously, I’ve been a Black Widow fan. Possibly because she was the only female member of the cinematic Marvel universe for the first half-decade of the franchise, not that there weren’t tons of other female characters to work in. (PS — for anyone who wants to fight me with canon, both Janet “The Wasp” Van Dyne and Scarlet Witch technically should have been included before Black Widow, if we are pulling directly from the origin story of The Avengers. #TheMoreYouKnow)
Anyway, I’ve been a Black Widow fan for a while, through to about 2016.
Because that is when the movie for Doctor Strange came out.
I was familiar with his character, given my familiarity (as previously referenced) with the original comics.
But something about the 2016 movie really cemented it for me.
Yes, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange — and let’s be honest, even though he doesn’t use it in the movie, we all know I’m a sucker for a tall lanky Brit with a molasses-dripping accent.
For me, the fascination with Doctor Strange is more than that.
Though they don’t touch on it much in the movies to date (I’m guessing that most of the world hasn’t read up for hours on end in the comics and narratives of the origin stories for these characters), Black Widow has superpowers that no one realizes.
Similar to Captain America (though not cryogenically frozen), Black Widow has been biotechnologically enhanced. Meaning that though they have no natural superpowers (they aren’t Norse gods or magically-endowed mutants or exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive materials), they have been pumped up full of serums and toxins that heighten their innate skills.
There are lots of characters in The Avengers (all the iterations and membership rosters) that have these superpowers, when you consider spider bites and zillionaire-bankrolled-magnetic-supersuits.
You don’t generally become a superhero without having some super-human skill or ability.
Enter Doctor Stephen Strange.
Sure, he starts with some more-than-the-average human talents, paired with an eidetic (photographic) memory and stupid amounts of surgeon wealth.
After his accident, he exhausts all that money and his steady mastery of medical acumen, so he has nothing.
Which is what brings him to Kamar-Taj in the Himalayas, to be healed by The Ancient One.
He doesn’t know exactly how this will happen, because he has attempted to use every ounce of his money, knowledge, experience, and connections to heal himself. Nothing works.
It is in Kamar-Taj that he discovers that there is nothing that can be healed from his accident. He will always be injured — broken — damaged.
But in Kamar-Taj, no knowledge is forbidden.
And if Doctor Stephen Strange has any superhuman skill, it is his voracious appetite for learning and ability to execute on what he now knows.
He eventually becomes a master of the magical world that he has learned about, with a few mystical items that have either pledged their allegiance or of which he has also mastered, including one of the Big Bang’s Infinity Stones.
So…getting back to my original point (after I’ve given you a super TL;DR breakdown of Doctor Strange’s timeline): this is why he is my favorite Marvel character.
He wasn’t bestowed with any superpowers or genetically enhanced — he had to master them all.
While he still has flaws, he is the least swayed Marvel character, devoted to the mystic arts that gave him a life and purpose again.
Similar to The Hulk, Doctor Strange is one of the more self-aware, as he came into his superhero skills because he was already damaged.
The Hulk’s secret is that he’s able to transform because he’s always angry, and Strange’s secret is that he will always be injured.
Unless he chooses to focus all of his mastery of the mystic arts on himself.
Yet through the hero’s journey that his origin story follows, he has mastered not only the world to which he ventured but his own world to which he has returned (going right back to “the scene of the crime,” protector of The Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City).
Doctor Strange is not only one of the most self-actualized of the Marvel characters, but also his skills are superpowers that are actually attainable to anyone who would be open and curious enough to master them.
Plus, he’s really strange.
And let’s be real, a really strange character is always going to be one of my favourites.
In any universe.