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Everybody's excited for Captain America: Civil War, but for me, the real fun is going to come in November 2016! The #MCU is adding a new hero to its roster, one already name-dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Here are four reasons to be excited for Doctor Strange!
1. A charismatic new superhero - with god-level powers!
The story's familiar to any comic book fan: Doctor Stephen Strange was one of the best neurosurgeons in the world, right up until the moment his wrists were damaged in an accident. The proud had been brought low, and Strange was left unable to carry out the kind of surgery he had always specialized in. His career was effectively ruined.
Desperate, Strange eventually found his way to the powerful sorcerer known as the Ancient One, and learned how to become the Master of the Mystic Arts. His origin story, finally told in Strange Tales #115, was given a modern update by J. Michael Straczynski and Samm Barnes in the 2004-2005 miniseries Strange.
It's pretty much impossible to overstate the importance of Doctor Strange to the broader #Marvel Comics Universe. He's the go-to person for any superhero in need of mystical help; he's teamed with everyone from the X-Men to the Avengers, and even led the Defenders. Whenever a writer puts together a story involving sorcery, they slip Doctor Strange in.
The latest ongoing series, launched in October, has subtly reinvented Doctor Strange yet again; Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo have incorporated some of the cockiness of a Tony Stark character, and - in just three issues - have added real depth to his world.
This is the character Marvel Studios is importing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This will be an origin story, with Stephen Strange introduced to the world of magic - perhaps even just taking the first steps on the journey to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme! Better still, with the tremendous acting ability of Benedict Cumberbatch as the good Doctor, they're sure to have a hit on their hands...
2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe goes magical!
When Marvel Studios kicked off their Cinematic Universe back in 2008, they were wary of overdosing viewers on the fantastical. For all that they incorporated Asgard in Thor, the sorcery of Asgard was originally hand-waved as simply science too advanced for us to understand. But gradually, that began to change; in the episode 'Yes Men,' Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduced Lorelei, and Lady Sif explicitly described her powers as sorcery.
Of course, that change was a subtle one; much more dramatic was Thor: The Dark World, which abandoned all pretense that the abilities of Thor, Odin, Loki, and Malekith were just advanced science. Magic was unlocked; but it was still restricted to Asgard. It's worth noting that, when Marvel introduced the Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron, magic was taken out of her repertoire; instead, she possessed the powers of telekinesis and telepathy. A notable contrast to the comics:
Doctor Strange changes that. We don't yet know what angle the Marvel Cinematic Universe will take on sorcery; can anyone learn it, or are there magical bloodlines? The comics themselves have been ambiguous about it, not least because some mystical artifacts seem to have given non-sorcerers powers beyond their ken. But imagine the potential for the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe; suddenly you have the potential for a change to the status quo every bit as major as the discovery of the Inhumans, or the Civil War. As an example, if the Accords are still in force, how can they be implemented in a world where anyone could have magic, or where magic users hide beneath a cloak of 'myth and make-believe'?
3. A new window into the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
If magic is real, then the Marvel Cinematic Universe opens the door to the history of magic - after all, it must always have been real! Over the decades, Marvel comics have happily dipped into almost every aspect of myth and legend, from Merlin and Camelot to the Salem Witch Trials. In the comics, there's essentially an alternate history of the world, one hidden in the plain sight of fairytales, where magic is real.
Part of this is that, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, artifacts can carry power. So Strange himself wields the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation (visible in the concept art). Such artifacts naturally have a history, an origin of their own.
The current Doctor Strange series has built upon this, showing us a library of books that feels like a homage to Terry Pratchett's Library in Unseen University. But imagine what this adds to the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe; anyone could stumble upon an artifact of power, and suddenly dark forces are unleashed. The addition of magic transforms the broader world just as much as, say, the discovery of the Inhumans did.
Having an origin story adds one crucial element to the movies that the comics have always struggled with: the film can show Strange learn his magic, and in so doing establish the 'rules' so we have a consistent force. It's a smart call.
4. An open door to a wider range of cast!
Although we're unlikely to see the mutant known as Magik in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - she's a Fox property - there are countless sorcerers and sorceresses in the Marvel Comics Universe. Marvel has seemed fascinated with both witchcraft and wizardry, and some of their concepts have been dark. Take, for example, Daimon Hellstrom - literally the Son of Satan!
Hellstrom has spent most of his life striving to do good, battling against his own dark heritage. I think he's unlikely to make the jump to the movies, as Marvel would be reluctant to introduce Hells - the American Christian crowd would go nuts. But you get the idea of just how wild and wacky the comics have gone with all this...
My personal favorite is Nico Minoru, and I admit I'm one of the crowd who desperately wants to see the Runaways comics make their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (whether as a movie or as a TV series, I don't really care). Nico, sometimes calling herself Sister Grimm, inherited the Staff of One. It's triggered by her blood, and it unleashes any spell she can imagine - once. She got something of a power-up in Avengers Arena and Avengers Undercover a couple of years ago, but has pretty much slipped out of the limelight since.
Of course, not all magic users are heroes; villains include the likes of Morgana Le Fey (yes, the Morgana from the legends of Camelot), and, of course, Doctor Doom (another Fox property). Given that the film is to introduce other dimensions, we're sure to have teasers to cosmic and powerful interdimensional beings such as Strange's arch-nemesis Dormammu. Dormammu's pretty much a cert for getting at least a name-check, as he worked with Baron Mordo to oppose the Ancient One, and that origin story is making it to the film.
So there you have it, True Believers - this is what Doctor Strange can add to the Marvel Cinematic Universe! It's sure to be a blast...