Thanks to this week’s Major Spoilers Podcast, I’ve been thinking about the character of Doctor Strange and how he fits into the traditional Marvel Universe.  Even with the wilder origins of Marvel, his whole “most powerful magician of all the hidden magicians of the world who can do pretty much anything” premise can be hard to work with, and many a story has done backflips to depower, limit or take him out of action entirely for the sake of suspension of disbelief.  Still, it’s more than possible to do an amazing, engaging Doctor Strange story, it’s just not usually a traditional superhero tale.  As such, his upcoming entrance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a little worrisome.  While Daredevil has proven you can do something other than bombastic big-screen super-dupers, the sudden appearance of arcane powers and hidden worlds has many opining that they need to do his powers in a more “grounded” sense (which is, kind of ironically, the same problem we’ve seen repeatedly in the comics) leading us to today’s hoary-hosted query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) really wants to see them embrace something weird and different and go whole-hog Ditko alternate dimensional madness, asking: Do you want the upcoming Doctor Strange flick to add actual magic to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or to continue Thor’s “advanced-technology-as-magic” aesthetic?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Alisha
    April 29, 2015 at 11:50 am — Reply

    Both. My stance on “magic” is that it is merely an advanced manipulation of existing energies within the universe/multiverse, something that could exist within the realm of science but we just haven’t gotten to it yet. Just look at all the leaps and bounds that science continues to make, all the discoveries that redefine what we “know” about ourselves and the limitations of our world.

    So while I do want to see “magic”, I want it to work in a way consistent with how they have built the MCU. As far as I’m concerned, “magic” and “advanced alien technology” are two parts of the same puzzle.

  2. Tazsul
    April 29, 2015 at 11:54 am — Reply

    I would argue that Thor uses a “advanced-technology-as-magic” aesthetic” that is Jane Foster’s perception of Asgardian magic. There is no tech behind anything Loki or Freya do on screen, beyond the Loki Pokey mind control stick. Loki doesn’t have a hologram generator and a comm unit in prison (Thor 2) he has magic. I think they definitely sweep it to the corners, but it’s there.
    Long story short: Bring on the magic. A tech based Doctor Strange seems hollow and pointless to me.

    • Tazsul
      April 29, 2015 at 12:02 pm — Reply

      Additional because I just heard Steven say it again on the podcast.
      Thor didn’t say the line about advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. That was Jane Foster. What Thor said that Magic is thier Science, not that thier magic is science. Important linguistic differences.

    • April 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm — Reply

      Yeah, theres no way around it, Loki uses magic in the movies all the time.

  3. April 29, 2015 at 11:58 am — Reply

    I think the best Dr. Strange stories are the ones that embraced his strange psychedelic battles and journeys into the many magical realms that border and battle our own world. I remember the de-aged John Lennon glasses wearing Strange from the late 90’s and it was a pretty awkward proposition, only matched by the even more bonkers young Tony Stark of the era. The best of his stories combined crazy mystical battles with his grounded relationships with Clea and Wong. MAKE MINE MAGIC MARVEL!

    Here’s a fun link for those interested in his many looks:

  4. April 29, 2015 at 1:24 pm — Reply

    What they said! It’s fine to call it magic. Over-explaining or over-identifying with tech dilutes the character far too much. If you don’t want magic in your universe, don’t use Doctor Strange. I too am especially fond of his adventures in other realms, and an implicit connection between his powers and extradimensional forces works fine for me.

    I think it’s also useful to look at another universe: Harry Potter. Magic has rules. Spells take preparation and sometimes need ingredients. Even Dumbledore couldn’t do anything he wanted whenever he wanted. A good writer can make any magical character powerful but not omnipotent without goofy limitations or sporadic de-powering.

    • Steve Cramer
      April 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm — Reply

      I’ll take straight-up magic too, and agree that evidence of practice, training, concentration, and calling on external power sources can help humanize the superdoing. But I wonder if some of the iconic incantations or sayings of Dr. Strange will sound silly on the big screen. “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!” etc.

    • Alisha
      April 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm — Reply

      A lot of RPG lore uses that as well, with magical spells often being meticulously prepared in advance, which is why most casters have a select few spells at the ready or having an item enchanted to help cast a specific spell instead of just having anything and everything done with a word or wave of a wand.

  5. April 29, 2015 at 2:25 pm — Reply

    I agree what people pretty much said here. Why remove all the mysticism and wonder from your world and explain it all as “advanced technology” which is very shoddy explanation in case of what Dr Strange or Asgardians do anyway? Dr Strange is not the right character to use if you’re not ready to introduce existence of actual, mystical magic with ancient spellbooks, angels, demons and rituals. Magic would always have to be risky and costly too, thats what Dr Strange could introduce very well and its sufficient to keep sorcerers from being omnipotent auto-win people.

  6. Harusakiemon
    April 30, 2015 at 3:04 am — Reply

    Just look at TV shows like “Constantine.” People appreciate magic and mystery. They don’t need a lot of explaining.

  7. Oldcomicfan
    April 30, 2015 at 8:08 am — Reply

    Interesting how you’re worried about Doctor Strange but not the White Witch appearing in the Marvel Universe. Back in the 70s, there was a pilot movie made for a Doctor Strange series which, if memory serves correct, was actually fairly authentic to the comic book and was also a decent movie for the day, a cut above most of the other dreck that was being spewed out as super hero TV fare back in the day. So a movie bringing Doc Strange into the Marvel U doesn’t worry me. What? You’re worried about magic not being realistic enough for a series of movies full of Norse Gods, people with radioactive powers, soldiers empowered by mystical Vita Rays, archers who never miss or run out of arrows unless it suits the plot, rich drunks in powered armor, men who can shrink to the size of ants, anthropomorphic ducks and raccoons and purple demigods who worship the embodiment of Death???

    • Tazsul
      April 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm — Reply

      Well when you say it like that, it all sounds a bit silly.

  8. Luis Dantas
    April 30, 2015 at 7:56 pm — Reply

    I’m disappointed they had freaking Odin saying they are not gods in the first place.

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