Skip to main content

Once the Marvel Cinematic Universe got rolling, many fans figured Doctor Strange would get his movie sooner or later. What many of them didn’t realize was just how important he would become to the franchise. 

His 2016 movie came relatively late in the run, making him one of the last major characters to be introduced. However, rather like the Ant-Man movies, Doctor Strange became a bigger success than many expected. What’s more, the character played a central role in the action leading up to the battle with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. However, Doctor Strange could also become a risky crutch for the MCU. 

How was Doctor Strange created? 

Benedict Cumberbatch attends the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards 2019.
Benedict Cumberbatch | Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the team that created Spider-Man, also created Doctor Strange at about the same time in 1963. He first appeared in a comic series titled, appropriately enough, Strange Tales, in July of that year.

Lee and Ditko conjured him up to “bring a different kind of character and themes of mysticism to Marvel Comics.” He got his own magazine in 1968, around the peak of hippie and drug culture. 

Readers sometimes assume Doctor Strange must have sprung from that culture. “People who read Doctor Strange thought people at Marvel must be heads [i.e., drug users],” said former Doctor Strange writer Roy Thomas in 1971, “because they had had similar experiences high on mushrooms. But I don’t use hallucinogens, nor do I think any artists do.”

It’s probably fair to say, however, that the hippie culture boosted the character’s popularity, as his trippy stories and imagery became prevalent through the 70s. He wasn’t an A-list character on the order of Spider-Man or Captain America, but he was popular enough that he got a TV movie in 1978. 

How did Stephen Strange become key to the MCU?

Doctor Strange’s movie came out in November of 2016, striking some people as the MCU’s version of Inception, with its mind-melting visuals. The movie and this version of the character, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, faced some criticism for being a little too similar to Iron Man in that Stephen Strange was basically the mystical version of Tony Stark. Both men were egotists who had their lives changed by life-threatening injuries and even afterward, were incorrigible smart-alecks. They even looked a little alike. 

Doctor Strange came right on the heels of Captain America: Civil War, so Strange was well-positioned to play a role in the threat of Thanos. Playing off the notion that Stark and Strange were two sides of the same coin. Avengers: Infinity War pitted the characters in the battle of the withering put-down. 

More critically, however, the movie made the magical powers of Doctor Strange a key to Thanos’ ultimate defeat. It was even Strange who realized that the Avengers had a 1 in 14 million chance of defeating Thanos — and Strange spoke the sequel’s title, saying: “We’re in the Endgame now.” Once Thanos’ snap was undone, Doctor Strange’s magic brought back all the heroes the snap had dusted. 

What will be Doctor Strange’s role going forward? 

Doctor Strange’s rise took fans on Reddit by surprise. One noted: “His presence has been so prominent and well-done that I only just noticed that his actual solo films are five years apart.” 

Doctor Strange’s next solo movie will be Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and it is slated to be released on May of 2021. In addition to furthering the concept of multiverses, which the MCU first mentioned in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the movie will continue a storyline set up in the MCU Disney+ TV series WandaVision, which sounds, well, strange in its own right. 

We just hope that Doctor Strange doesn’t become a kind of magical crutch that Marvel will lean on when the writers paint themselves into a corner: “Oh no! We’ve created a situation we can’t get out of and now (insert beloved character here) is dead! No worries, though. Doctor Strange’s voodoo will undo it!”

Otherwise, suspension of disbelief will be hanging by a thin thread.