Bring back the ‘stache! – Doctor Strange #178
There have been many ill-advised costume changes in the history of comics. They usually tend to be the New Coke of graphic storytelling. Disasters.
For an oh-so brief moment in the Silver Age, Doctor Strange had himself a new set of duds. And a mask. The storytelling reason for this change was so that he could conceal his identity. I’d suggest some manner of spell might work and would also be right up his alley, but okay, a mask might do in a pinch. A big part of the good doctor’s appeal, though, such as it is, is his look. And that look includes a glorious moustache. And that moustache cannot be seen through a mask.
I think you understand the problem here.
The change didn’t last long, so I guess we can’t complain.
Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer handled the respective scripting, pencilling and inking chores on this one. In “…With One Beside Me,” Strange has to travel to another dimension (what else is new?) to recruit some foot soldiers to aid him in battle against Surtur and Ymir the Frost Giant.
He needs another mystic to help him, so he zaps over to the British Isles to recruit fellow spellcaster Victoria Bentley to his cause. He finds her ogling the Black Night’s sword at a fancy soiree:
Yes, she’s admiring his long ebon sword, which is dangling betwixt his legs. This calls to mind all manner of humorous phrases, though I’ll refrain from writing them down. But why not let Burgess Meredith uncork a few, even if they aren’t all that germane?:
Strange gets a two for one bargain — while Victoria stays behind to anchor him in his home dimension, the Black Knight accompanies him to the realm of the evil Tiboro.
Huge two-page splashes weren’t all that common back in the Silver Age, but this one, which marks the opening of battle between the two heroes and this issue’s big bad, shows Colan at his fluid best:
After some back and forth, the Knight uses that attention-getting sword of his to finish off Tiboro:
His mission accomplished, Strange moves on to the next stage of his quest and the next issue as well.
Costume misadventures aside, this issue had its moments, but reading it got me to thinking about Doctor Strange and the other Ditko Marvel co-creation, Spider-Man. When going through Doctor Strange comics I’m always struck by how they’ve never really lived up to Ditko’s original work on the character. Spider-Man doesn’t have that problem, at least for this reader. I love Colan, and his work is cool as always in this issue, but I found myself wondering how Ditko would have depicted Tiboro’s realm, and Colan’s version was lacking in that imagined comparison.
Perhaps John Romita’s biggest contribution to Spider-Man was making it kosher for other artists to draw Spidey in the future. His art was different from Ditko’s, and he made Peter Parker more robust and less the nerdy teenager that he had been. But his contribution was on par with (and maybe surpassed) Ditko’s, and he started bopping four hundred foot home runs and breaking the backboard and throwing bombs downfield — pick your sports comparison — as soon as he came on board. I think Doctor Strange may have suffered a bit in the post-Ditko issues. The work was creditable, but it wasn’t up to those hallucinogenic backgrounds of Ditko’s that transformed every panel (it seemed) into an acid trip. And Doctor Strange has never crawled back out of the lower rung of the Marvel Universe.
I’m sure there are folks out there, and perhaps you, dear reader, who’d disagree with me. And I’m not sure that I buy all this myself. It’s more an impression than a carefully thought out theory, but that’s what this issue kindled in my addled synapses.
I think we can all agree, however, that Strange needs the ‘stache. Do you think he and Tony Stark ever catch the other giving loving looks to their thickly haired upper lip? Or that they take a quiet moment to compare notes on trimming techniques? They have to, right?