Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Stephen Strange is more than just a magician. He’s perhaps one of the most powerful characters in the entire Marvel Continuity.
This brings the real risk that this insane power could completely ruin the current dynamic of characters. This needs to be managed very carefully by Marvel Studios, or he could turn the entire film universe into one gigantic joke.
Grab some popcorn kids, cause I’m about to show you why all your favorite characters could get bodied by the Sorcerer Supreme! But don’t worry! We’ll also show how that’s a bad thing!
Dr. Strange’s Was a BEAST In the Comics
Marvel’s Stephen Strange from the Earth 616 universe was a talented neurosurgeon, who was also a little full of himself. But after a car crash crippled his hands, he travels to Tibet in search of a solution after modern medicine failed him.
Once he arrives in Kamar-Taj, he trains under the Ancient One, heals his hands, and eventually becomes a “Master of the Mystic Arts”. He then comes back to New York, accompanied by Wong, purchasing the building that would become the Sanctum Sanctorum.
He would defend the Earth from mystic threats in secret until being manipulated by Loki to attack Thor, and later coming into contact with Spiderman. Eventually, he would find himself fighting alongside the superhero community, like the Fantastic Four, X-men, and Avengers. But he never joined a team until loosely forming the “Defenders” with Prince Namor, The Hulk, and Silver Surfer.
We could go on forever about his comic adventures! Does anyone remember when he joined the Illuminati? Resurrected his brother Victor as a vampire? Joins “The Midnight Sons”, etc. But the important things to note from his comic book outings are his incredible abilities and remarkable feats.
Dr. Strange has an INSANE amount of spells and abilities he can just pull out of his ass at any time.
Doctor Strange can use limited time spells WITHOUT THE TIME STONE.
As well as weaponized telepathy! So he scrambles your mind and can tell you that you suck to your brain!
He can transmute matter! He could turn blood into ice at a moment’s notice! Or he could seal your mouth shut!
He can duplicate himself, perform teleportation, astral projects, and control other people’s souls!
He’s escaped hell, stolen all of the magic on earth, survived being eaten alive, and defeated Galactus (yes, the planet eater) WITH ONE SPELL!
One of the most powerful versions of Strange is “Black Priest Strange”. The Black Priests are a league of powerful beings that have symbols engraved on their bodies. These symbols allow them to alter reality in their own unique ways.
Dr. Strange joins them at one point, putting all the etchings on his body, allowing him to use ALL these powers at will. If he says something, it will happen. It’s like being able to write fiction into reality, but with some confusing symbols instead of cursive.
The man is IMMORTAL. And that’s not a joke! Just like the Ancient One before him, once he takes up the label of Sorcerer Supreme, he tackles Death head-on. After he “accepts” death, no longer fearing it, he ceases to age and becomes immune to most diseases!
This doesn’t mean he can’t take damage or be killed in the traditional sense. A side effect of this is the ability to sense when death is near! Basically a “Spider-sense” for when Dr. Strange needs to take stuff seriously or he’ll be a goner.
So we know that the man not only has an unbelievable amount of power, which just continues to scale in later storylines.
But strip back the magic and what have you got? An expert martial artist and strategist who’s skilled in medical fields.
That’s a pretty OP character if you ask me!
The Major Difference Between Comic and MCU Dr. Strange
The MCU counterpart of Dr. Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is thrown into the sorcery world more than he was in the comics. We see him being dropped into an already established Sanctum Sanctorum.
The powers showcased on screen seem more like energy projection and illusion than the many overpowered abilities showcased on-page.
His most powerful stunts appeared during the battle against Thanos on Titan. We saw a variety of energy weapons/projectiles and even clone magic to match Infinity-Gauntlet wielding Thanos.
He goes toe to toe with the purple giant! But comic fans might ask why more logical solutions (using his comic abilities) aren’t used to grab the mega-chin’s main weapon: The Infinity Stones!
What the Russo Brothers are doing here is balancing the power dynamic. So of course Dr. Strange shouldn’t be as powerful as we’ve seen him in other mediums! Otherwise, it would just get incredibly boring!
Admittedly that wasn’t the case during the character’s animated outing on streaming platforms.
If you’ve been watching the “What If” series coming out on Disney+, you might have seen episode 5: “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”.
Here we see an alternate version of Stephen lose the love of his life and go to extreme lengths to change the timeline. He goes back in time, absorbing the power of countless magical beings to become powerful enough to make the change. He destroys the universe in his pursuit of the past.
No Way Home shows Stephan performing a spell that is pretty early in his history with Spiderman during the comic runs. He tries to erase the identity of Spiderman in everyone’s minds, causing a major rift that potentially causes a break in the multiverse.
While we already know that Strange was bound to do something “multiversal” in his upcoming movie “The Multiverse of Madness”, it’s a little worrying seeing him wield such power. Here’s why.
Why Dr. Strange Can’t Be Like His Comic Book Counterpart
The reason the MCU works is because of how grounded it is. If you wanted a true-to-the-source translation from the inked page to the big screen, I’m sorry to tell you nerds: That ain’t going to happen.
While Disney is capitalizing off of your pre-existing love of the source material, it’s not just for you. It’s for the wider audience! Some of you might love flaunting that you were a fan before it came to cinemas, and that’s exactly the point! The MCU is a diluted version of Marvel because it has to be!
Stan Lee put those little boxes in his comic strips when referencing past issues for a reason you know! They can be hard to follow! And can get very outlandish.
Realistically, if you put comic Stephen Strange, into the MCU, the last few battles would’ve been relatively simple with some proper planning. I mean, if Strange can halt time without the Time Stone, it makes this all-powerful gem look pretty meaningless beyond major time travel.
Even if you strip back even his most canon-breaking abilities, his comic self has access to countless magical items. His cloak practically acts as a utility belt of crazy powerful deus ex machinas!
Once you get to a point where all the characters are practically gods, where do you go? It can get boring very fast.
Dr. Strange isn’t the only character to suffer from nerfing in the MCU either! Tony Stark never reached his “Superior Iron Man” suit (arguably because he never encountered symbiotes). Vision was nowhere near his ultimate form when he was battling in Civil War with his Superman-Esque powers.
Thor and the Asgardians have perhaps encountered the most changes out of any of the Avengers cast. Marvel even made fun of Hulk and Thor’s absence from Civil War in the “Team Thor” trailers!
But Marvel needs to tread very carefully with how they show this power and threat development. Once the universe ending bad guys keep showing up, where do you go?
It’s the same issue that you have with other popular universes and series. The DC universe or anime-like DragonBall Super have all suffered from breaking the ceiling too many times. Where do you stop after you’ve broken the ceiling so many times with threats to the universe? Which is the solution isn’t power stacking, it’s looking at the conflict from new angles.
Dr. Strange Needs to Be Nerfed, or the MCU will fail
So what’s the solution? Taking elements from the comics, but handling the scales of power very carefully. Otherwise, it’ll get to the point where MCU characters are battling Knull (basically Marvel’s God of Darkness) and it won’t have much weight.
I like to compare the “power stacking” issue we see in superhero shows with the fourth season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
It’s a popular anime series that was slowly suffering the same issue. From Season 1 to Season 3, villains had reached the “threat to the world” level. Both had insanely powerful villains, with Season 2’s Pillar Men and Season 3’s Vampiric Dio who had a stand/power that could stop time.
However, Season 4, being one of the most highly rated amongst the animated series, brought the story down to a more grounded level. Instead of traveling across the world, it was all set in the small town of Morioh. The stakes were mostly on a local level rather than international.
The villain, Kira, was a powerful stand user who simply wanted to be left alone to fulfill his disturbing and murderous desires. He had no plans for world domination. Almost all the “monster of the week” episodes featured interesting power concepts rather than something which seemed unbeatable.
Marvel needs to take its time with this new phase and make sure that the characters never seem overprepared for a particular threat. Because otherwise casual fans of the MCU will begin to ask the questions of “why is this a problem when Dr. Strange could just freeze time, send this dude to the dark dimension, and be done with it!”
I’d hope that Dr. Strange’s powers are limited to what we’ve seen in Endgame. His more powerful abilities (i.e. Comic powers) should require magical items to perform them. In doing that, it won’t seem like Dr. Strange has an unfair advantage.
But we’ll just have to wait and see how future Marvel films tackle the bigger threats set to appear.