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The Marvel Universe will get a little bit more magical and a little weirder this fall—and not in the shield or hammer way. In tandem with All-New All-Different Marvel, as many as 60 new #1 titles will be released, and among them is the return of the Sorcerer Supreme himself: Doctor Strange.
The brand new series, written by Jason Aaron (Thor, Weirdworld) with art by Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, Incredible Hulk), will not only serve as a reinvention of the classic character but will also explore him in a deeper way than ever before. “This is a Doctor Strange who is going to get hurt real bad, real quick. And who is also going to make you feel things,” Marvel editor Nick Lowe explained to EW. “And not just think things, but feel things… hopefully a little bit of both.”
We spoke exclusively with Aaron and Lowe about what kinds of surprises readers can expect from this new run, the experience of putting this series together, and more.
EW: Let’s talk a little bit about what makes this Doctor Strange series different.
JASON AARON: We wanted a Doctor Strange who was always having to work for what he gets, and to show that when he shows up and uses his powers, it’s not like Captain America throwing his shield or Thor throwing his hammer. Strange has to worry about repercussions that those other heroes don’t have to worry about, because he’s a Sorcerer Supreme. We’re talking about the forces of magic. So whatever he does has repressions. Any of this stuff with magic, there’s always a cost to it. I think that’s kind of the only rule of magic we ever really talk about—everything he does, there’s a price to it. So he always has to kind of balance those skills and worry, “if I save the day here, what repercussions will that have for me, or elsewhere in the world? We liked him having to deal with that, and liked him being able to get his hands a little dirty, rather than just having him stand around, waving his hands and saving the day.
NICK LOWE: And if I had to say something about what makes this series different…in preparing to work on this and edit this, I went back and re-read a lot of Doctor Strange stuff. A lot of it. And a lot of Doctor Strange stories, they’re trippy and cool, but they live a lot in the head. And I think what this series does is it lives more in the heart and in the gut. And this is a Doctor Strange who is much more relatable, and way funnier. He’s not Bart Simpson cracking jokes left and right…although that’s a good idea, Jason. We should use that! [laughs] But he definitely has a sense of humor and is not just there to be a straight man for other heroes to crack jokes.
AARON: Speaking to the humor of it, I think we talked about coming into this…on the one hand, this is a Doctor Strange who loves his job. He’s a Sorcerer Supreme; he kind of walks the path not many other characters in the Marvel Universe walk. And certainly out of all of those people who deal with magic, he’s the guy sitting at the top of the pyramid. So I like that part of it. I like that he has a different beat than most of the other heroes, and he loves that. He loves the weirdness of it. He’s a weird guy. We talk about the fact that his house is maybe the last truly weird place left in New York City and the Marvel Universe. When you go inside, you never know what you’re going to find when you open any door. You certainly want to stay out of the refrigerator [laughs.] I like that it’s kind of a celebration of the strange and the weird, and he loves that. But at the same time, what he’s doing take a toll on him. And you can’t walk this path, you can’t be the Sorcerer Supreme without paying that price. Whether that’s a physical price or a mental one—you know, some day this job is going to kill you, or drive you insane, or worse. I like that balance of he’s having fun, but also this job is taking a toll on him.
LOWE: And the other cool thing is usually, when you pick up a Doctor Strange book, he’s going to another dimension to fight something. And like I said, we really wanted to ground this one. And so for this one, this Doctor Strange makes house calls. And like Jason was saying, he embraces the weird…and when something really weird happens to you and no doctor can do anything, the police can’t help you and you don’t know who to turn to, you call Doctor Strange. You find him, and it’s a constant thing—your cousin once knew somebody that said, “if you go to Doctor Strange, if it’s weird enough, he will help you.” Like that sort of thing.
The character has such a long and storied history with Marvel, and this is a chance for you to put your own spin on it. Was that knowledge—the fact that you’re taking this classic character and re-inventing it, so to speak—at all challenging for you?
AARON: In my mind, that’s what I’ve been doing with everything I’ve done, whether it’s Wolverine or Thor, or whatever. In Thor right now, we’re still in the midst of telling the story of a brand new Thor, a woman who comes along who picks up Thor’s hammer. So that’s sort of the same thing, where it’s a new story, it’s a new take on the character, but it’s something that still, in my mind, speaks to what’s at the core of a character’s long running mythology. But I think Doctor Strange is the same way. And Doctor Strange is even a little more wide open, in that we haven’t had an ongoing solo Doctor Strange book for quite awhile. Just pile up the total number of solo Doctor Strange stories and it’s not the same sort of pile that you get with Spider-Man or Thor or Captain America, or some of the other bigger characters. But I like that we’re getting to kind of rebuild Doctor Strange from the ground up. I think what we’re doing speaks to what made Doctor Strange cool and unique in the Marvel Universe. Even back in the 1960s when he first appeared, he was kind of the first guy who dealt with the occult and the mystical in Marvel. So I like that it sets him off from the other heroes we know. Really, the story that begins in Doctor Strange #1 is just the beginning—the beginning of one big arc that will really redefine who Doctor Strange is and what his status quo is going forward.
Will Stephen Strange still hold the moniker of Sorcerer Supreme?
AARON: Yes. Again, that’s one of the things that sets him apart. Even within Marvel, he’s not the only character who deals with magic and even right out of the gate, in #1, we see some of those other characters and we kind of set up that Strange has a peer group, and they get together to have some beers and talk shop. But within that group, it’s very clear that he’s the guy at the top. The mystical challenges that our universe faces are ultimately his responsibility. Yes, he’s still that guy, but that said… we’ll see other Sorcerer Supremes over the course of this story.
Any chance we’ll be seeing classic villains or new threats pop up in this series?
LOWE: Oh yeah. Right out of the gate, you see a big old ax. You often don’t see him with weapons and that’s one of the things that Jason wants to do — and that Chris Bachalo just knocked out of the park in the first cover, and he’s kicking butt on in the pages. We’re introducing all these new weapons for Doctor Strange, and all kinds of cool stuff. And the way that Chris has interpreted the cloak of levitation, and a lot of the stuff is really cool. But Jason also has a lot of awesome ideas about villains, and we’re going to be hitting that right out of the gate, coming up with some new villains.
AARON: In terms of the weapons, it kind of goes back to what I was talking about in making him more active, more of a hands-on kind of hero. So we’re not turning him into Captain America or Thor where he has one weapon he carries around at all times. But certainly, we don’t want him to just be the guy who stands there and shoots blasts of magic energy out of his hands. We want him to be able to dive into different kinds of fights. So we’ll see him use his power and use a lot of different weapons in very different ways. And yeah, Chris is having a blast with that, the way he draws, a very active superhero version of Doctor Strange. This first issue is really just the beginning of a huge new story in that it centers on a big new villain, and that’s a threat we kind of learn about as we go along and kind of fill in the pieces as we go. There’s this mysterious new threat out there that’s building and building and building, and will ultimately change what we know about Doctor Strange. It’s not about tearing everything down that he’s been before and throwing that out. This is just sort of him taking another step, adding another piece to his arsenal, so to speak. And just seeing him be able to dive into situations, and get his hands dirty in a way you haven’t seen him do before.
And I’m assuming that like most of the books debuting in All-New All-Different Marvel, you have most of the story planned out already.
AARON: Yeah. This is a story we’ve been talking about for quite awhile, I think.
LOWE: Jason doesn’t do a lot of short runs on things. He’s a long-range thinker. I mean the very first document that he turned pretty much spelled out, I would say, like, 16 issues, and then we really go big. And I was like, what? We’re gonna get bigger? It’s just crazy stuff. But yeah, I think people are gonna really dig this. And I think we have some big things that we’re building towards. And I’d say look at what Jason is doing on Thor, look at what he did on Wolverine, and the X-Men Wolverine before that. This is the kind of scope that Jason works in, and especially with someone like Chris by his side, I think readers are really in for a treat. To me, it’s the most interesting take on Doctor Strange in over a decade.
AARON: I certainly wanted to aim big. Coming into this, we talk about Doctor Strange being the linchpin book for this very unique corner of the Marvel Universe. If you look at what Guardians Of The Galaxy has become and how that has opened the door to space and the cosmic side of the universe, that’s what we want this to be for the magic. So what we’re doing, this first big arc, is really our opening statement on who Doctor Strange is—what does magic mean in the Marvel Universe, and where do we go from here?
LOWE: It’s no surprise that there’s a Doctor Strange movie on the horizon. And just like we did for Guardians, we want to makes sure that we revitalize this character in publishing as well, and just like we did on Guardians, we want to put our top talent there to really show people who this character is and what he’s capable of, to reinvigorate comic fans and get them excited to see him on the big screen, too. And boy, do they have some great stuff planned for that movie.
AARON: I think you can pick up this book whether you’ve ever read a Doctor Strange comic before or not. And if you have, I think of a lot of kind of touchstones of the Doctor Strange stories that we’ve seen over the year are gong to be here. Chris and I have both been very excited to make Strange’s house the weirdest possible place in the Marvel Universe, the weirdest place we’ve ever seen, so that’s a big part of the book. Wong, who is Doctor Strange’s longtime assistant, will be part of the book. So it’ll be a mix of stuff we’ve seen from the past, and some new characters, and like I said, a big new threat.
Tell me one thing that you want your readers to know about this series that you’re particularly proud of.
LOWE: I know one thing we can’t talk about enough is Chris Bachalo, who is doing the art. When Jason and I first started talking about this—a couple years ago at this point—we wanted to hit this just right. And we kind of waited for him a little bit because he was working on a lot of X-Men stuff at the time in the middle of a lot of runs he was connected to, but we know that for Doctor Strange you need an artist who has the imagination and the storytelling chops to really turn you upside down and shake you a little bit. And Chris does that so well. And he’s just the perfect artist. And he’s barely ever drawn Doctor Strange as well, which is really exciting. And everything that he’s bringing to the table, just for the story he tells…if you look at any story he tells, he always takes you on a journey. He takes such command of the pacing of the book, and that is so important for a character like Doctor Strange who always is exploring and trailblazing into strange and dangerous places. I feel like we were stupidly lucky Chris was even interested and we could go to him for this, because it is just gonna send this book up into the stratosphere.
AARON: Chris is able to cut loose on this, because this is really a book that veers between worlds. In this first issue we see Strange, otherworldly landscapes, and we see him walking through New York City. So Chris is getting to cut loose in terms of other dimensional monsters and bizarre environments and also just in the way that Doctor Strange sees the world.