Keys to the Multiverse: Essential Doctor Strange Comics

Posted on 4/20/2022

These comic books are a good primer before you see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

Before “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is released in theaters in May, there are almost 60 years of comic book history to get caught up on. Since you can’t spend all of your time and money digging through the back issues, the experts at Certified Guaranty Company® (CGC®) have done it for you, compiling this list of potentially key issues related to the upcoming movie.

SPOILER ALERT: We haven’t seen the movie yet, but we have seen trailers and photos and lots of rumors. We’ll be discussing them all below to let you know what to look out for in the comics. If you don’t want to know about the movie... stop reading now!

Still here? Well then, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, let’s go!

Strange Tales #110 graded CGC 4.5
offered by Heritage Auctions in May 2022
Click image to enlarge

Doctor Strange was created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and first published in Strange Tales #110 by Marvel Comics. In the comic, Dr. Stephen Strange is a gifted and arrogant surgeon who lost the use of his hands after a terrible car accident and learns magic and mysticism from The Ancient One. He becomes the Sorcerer Supreme to protect our world from dark forces, and his adventures often take place in twisted alternate realities.

Prior to being portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of Dr. Strange also appeared in a 1978 TV movie played by Peter Hooten and in numerous animated films and series.

There’s a lot going on in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and we could dissect elements going back more than 20 years. But without getting too deep into the weeds, you could quickly and easily get up to speed by watching “Doctor Strange” (2016, film), “WandaVision” (2021, TV series), “Loki” (2021, TV series), “What If?” (2021, TV series) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021, film).

“Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness” directly follows the events of those films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The first three phases of the MCU — 23 films beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 and continuing through “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in 2019 — are collectively known as “The Infinity Saga” and centered heavily on Tony Stark and technology. There seem to be more supernatural elements in the MCU's future, and Dr. Strange may replace Tony as the new glue that holds everything together.

If you’d like a deeper understanding of the characters, their history and possible insight into things to come in the MCU, you should check out these Dr. Strange key issues.

Strange Tales #110 (1963)

Strange Tales #110 features the first appearance of Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong and the Ancient One. All three characters have appeared in the MCU films, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange), Benedict Wong (Wong) and Tilda Swinton (the Ancient One).

Strange Tales #111 (1963)

Strange Tales #111 includes the first appearance of Baron Mordo, who appeared in the MCU as Karl Mordo played by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. In the comics, he is a gifted magician and adversary to Dr. Strange. In the films, he helped train Dr. Stephen Strange in the ways of magic but became estranged by Stephen’s use of dark magic.

Strange Tales #115 (1963)

The first appearance of Dr. Strange’s Eye of Agamotto is in Strange Tales #115. In the MCU films, the Eye of Agamotto is actually the Time Infinity Stone and Dr. Strange uses it to manipulate time. The stones were all destroyed at the end of “Avengers: Endgame” and it’s unclear yet if Dr. Strange has a new stone in “Multiverse of Madness.”

Strange Tales #126 (1964)

Strange Tales #126 features the first appearance of Dormammu and Clea. Dormammu was the villain of the first Dr. Strange movie, but Clea has yet to arrive on film. Recently in the comics, Clea has assumed the role of the Sorcerer Supreme after the death of Dr. Strange. Could the films be preparing to introduce her to the MCU?

X-Men #4 (1964)

X-Men #4 features the first appearance of the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). In the comics, she is the daughter of the evil mutant Magneto and began as a villain. In the film, she is played by Elizabeth Olsen, and she was originally a villain working with Ultron before defecting to join the Avengers.

X-Men #4 graded CGC 6.5
offered by Heritage Auctions in May 2022
Click image to enlarge

Avengers #57 (1968)

The first appearance of Vision, an android created by Ultron who defected to join the Avengers, is in Avengers #57. In the comics, he and Wanda fell in love, married, and had a family. Similar events followed in the MCU, and his death at the hands of Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War” drove Wanda to imprison an entire community with her magic in the Disney+ TV series, “WandaVision.”

Avengers #57 graded CGC 9.8
Realized $26,400 in November 2020
Click image to enlarge

Sub-Mariner #13 (1963)

The first appearance of Gargantos is in Sub-Mariner #13. We aren’t really sure yet whether we’re going to get Gargantos or Shuma-Gorath (or some new combination of the two) in this film. The character in the upcoming film is named Gargantos but also shares some similarities to Shuma-Gorath.

Fantastic Four #94 (1970)

Fantastic Four #94 features the first appearance of Agatha Harkness. Originally a mentor to Wanda in the comics, the MCU Agatha debuted in the Disney+ series “WandaVision” as a rival to Wanda’s magic who shows her the path to dark magic. Fans expect we might see her again, played by Kathryn Hahn, in the upcoming Dr. Strange sequel.

Marvel Feature #1 (1971)

Defender Strange, so-named because he leads a team known as The Defenders, first appears in Marvel Feature #1. In the upcoming movie, there is a variant of Dr. Strange that fans theorize is the same “Defender Strange” that we saw previously in the Disney+ animated TV series, “What If … ?”

Marvel Spotlight #4 (1972)

Marvel Spotlight #4 includes the first appearance of the Darkhold, a spellbook of dark Chaos Magic that we saw Agatha and Wanda using in the Disney+ TV series, “WandaVision.” The series ended as Wanda has the book and is using it to search for her missing children, and it’s believed that dark Chaos Magic will be the source of conflict in “Multiverse of Madness” along with an evil Scarlet Witch.

Marvel Premiere #10 (1973)

Shuma-Gorath first appears in Marvel Premiere #10. Some theories suggest the creature appearing in the film is actually Shuma-Gorath and not Gargantos as mentioned earlier, but only was renamed because of similarities to another character appearing in Conan the Barbarian. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and find out.

The Vision & Scarlet Witch #12 (1986)

The Vision & Scarlet Witch #12 features the first appearance of Wanda and Vision’s children, Tommy (Speed) and Billy (Wiccan). The children appeared in the Disney+ TV series, “WandaVision” and their disappearance led to Wanda using the dark magic of the Darkhold to find her missing family. Fans believe that magic might be what unleashes madness throughout the multiverse.

Doctor Strange #81 (1987)

The first full appearance of Rintrah (with an earlier cameo in issue #80) is in Doctor Strange #81. Little is known yet about Rintrah’s role in the upcoming movie, but he has been spotted in trailers, and he is part of the Marvel Legends Multiverse of Madness toy line.

West Coast Avengers #45 (1989)

The first appearance of the White Vision is in West Coast Avengers #45. The character appeared on screen in the Disney+ TV series, “WandaVision” and could possibly return in this film.

West Coast Avengers #55 (1990)

West Coast Avengers #55 includes the first appearance of an evil Scarlet Witch, similar to the one we could see in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

New Avengers #7 (2007)

New Avengers #7 featured the first appearance of the Marvel Illuminati, which fans spotted in the trailer for the new movie. In the comics, The Illuminati is a secret organization comprised of several of the world's most powerful heroes who worked together to mold and shape the status of the superhuman world and the world around it. In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” it appears the Illuminati are keepers of the multiverse, with members including Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) from the 2000 X-Men film. It’s rumored that Reed Richards might also debut in this film as part of the MCU Illuminati.

New Avengers #7 graded CGC 9.8
Realized $264 in a Heritage Auctions sale in July 2021
Click image to enlarge

Vengeance #1 (2011)

Vengeance #1 features the first appearance of America Chavez, with the power of super-strength, flight and the ability to open star-shaped portals to other dimensions. In the film, America Chavez will be played by actress Xochitl Gomez.

Vengeance #1 graded CGC 9.4
Realized $480 in a Heritage Auctions sale in February 2022
Click image to enlarge

You can find these key issues and more, at your local comic book shop!

You can find these key issues and more, at your local comic book shop!

Tickets for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” are on sale, and the movie opens in theaters on May 6, 2022.

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