What If... Dr. Strange Were a Disciple of Dormammu?

After too many issues trapped in 70s hell, the series returns to Marvel's more classic characters with a Dr. Strange story by Peter Gillis and Tom Sutton. It's not that I don't like Conan, Nova, Shang-Chi, Johnny Blaze or Jessica Drew, but their origins and pivotal moments are far less iconic than Marvel's first stars. And since this is a bimonthly comic, the series hadn't gone there for a YEAR, aside from the Nick Fury in space issue which had nothing to do with events in Nick's life. This marks a turning point for the series, which won't be headlined by a B-lister until Dazzler in issue #33 (and even there, she shares the bill with Iron Man). So good times ahead.

What If Vol.1 #18 (December 1979)
Based on: Strange Tales #110
The true history: Selfish surgeon Stephen Strange gets into a car accident that cripples his hands so he turns to boozing until he learns about magical healing in Tibet. After he thwarts Baron Mordo's attempt on the Ancient One's life ordered by Dormammu, the Ancient One takes Strange on as his pupil and allows him to fulfill his destiny as Sorcerer Supreme.
Turning point: What if Dormammu told Mordo to befriend Dr. Strange?
Story type: Phoenix Forced + Reset.
Watcher's mood: Hand contortionist.
Altered history: On Dormammu's orders, Mordo heals Strange's hands and sends him home still a selfish, callous man.
The Ancient One is denied his best pupil and he knows it, watching Dr. Strange's life unravel from afar. A deal with Dormammu's magics means all sorts of bad luck come to Strange, as he is slowly being manipulated into evil's arms. Soon, Mordo reappears and offers Strange the power and control he craves and teaches him black magic, which he takes to like a fish to water. The Ancient One, knowing a war must come, assembles a coven of obscure mystics from across the Marvel Universe.
Now, I recognize Dr. Druid because he was in the Avengers, and Agatha Harkness, Franklin Richards' governess in the first Fantastic Four comics I ever read, but who are the rest? Google, don't fail me now! Turhan Barim, Lord Phyffe, Rama Kaliph and Count Carezzi are all Dr. Strange foes turned allies, and Aged Genghis is a servent of the Vishanti. They all appeared in the Strange Tales days. Dr. Doom is the only one who refuses the Ancient One's invitation. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange outgrows Mordo and destroys him, and follows that up by freeing Dormammu's sister Umar the Unspeakable from captivity. They become lovers.
Of course, she just wants to use him for his power and then she'll take over. And vice-versa. Strange next attacks the Ancient One and his coven who are invoking the power of Eternity to defeat Strange. The spell goes wrong (oh, Dr. Druid, will you never learn?) and Dr. Strange is sent to face Eternity by himself. In our universe, Eternity judged Strange its champion and gave him power over the Eye of Agamotto. In this universe, not so much.
Dr. Strange takes the rejection badly and vows to destroy Eternity. The Ancient One summons the Vishanti for advice and they devise to give Strange the Eye of Agamotto. Since the Eye makes you see the truth, they hope it will turn him. He receives it and overconfident (he thinks he can overthrow Dormammu with it), he once attacks the Ancient One's coven. They fall, and he uses the Eye to face Eternity once more. But Dormammu's there and both forces shoot their power through him, using the Eye as a focus. Battered by the forces of both good and evil, order and chaos, he must make a decision.
RESET BUTTON! He chooses good, and the resulting explosion presumably banishes Dormammu. Strange is returned to the Ancient One to whom he appeals. He has seen the truth, and the truth is that his destiny is as the Ancient One's disciple. He indeed becomes Sorcerer Supreme, but is now someone who's tasted of both the black and the white arts. And like every villain-turned-hero, he must change his costume to reflect the change of allegiance:
I dunno, looks more evil than before to me.
Books canceled as a result: The Doc's origin may take a little longer to resolve, but since it kinda comes out the same, there's no reason to cancel any Dr. Strange comics.
These things happen: I can't remember any time in the last 50 years when Dr. Strange served Dormammu, so no.

Next week: What if Spider-Man had never become a crimefighter?
My guess: None of us would know a single thing about power and responsibility.


Austin Gorton said...

He needs the entire day to review his stock portfolio? That must be a huge portfolio...


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