Everything You Need to Know About Doctor Stephen Strange

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange

Credit: Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) may have been a latecomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but going into Marvel’s Phase 4, Stephen Strange is going to be the focus of the new direction of the MCU.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

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The Infinity Saga has ended and now Marvel boss Kevin Feige is taking the MCU to a whole new level by introducing the Marvel Multiverse. Marvel fans have gotten a taste of the new multiverse and how it will work in the Disney+ original series WandaVision and Loki.

And, Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021) will be bringing in characters from alternate timelines like Sony’s Spider-Man 2 (2004) Alfred Molina who played Dr. Otto Octavious AKA Doctor Octopus (“Doc Ock”) in Sam Raimi’s Tobey Maguire led film.

But it is all leading up to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on March 25, 2022. So here are the answers to every question you have about Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

Backstory for Doctor Stephen Strange in the MCU

Doctor Stephen Strange is introduced in Doctor Strange (2016) and in his origin movie, Marvel fans are given a quick rundown of the Doctor Strange backstory from the comics. Stephen Strange begins his story as a talented but arrogant neurosurgeon.

He severely injures his hands in a car crash, leaving him unable to operate and leaving him desperate for a solution to go back to his life before the accident. His girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) tries to stay by him, but he seeks out more and more experimental procedures to fix his hands and ends up pushing her away.

rachel mcadams as christine palmer (left) and benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange (right)
Credit: Marvel Studios

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He ends up in Kamar-Taj, the home and training grounds to the Masters of the Mystic Arts. There under the guidance of Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Wong (Benedict Wong), and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), he learns to use magic.

After the death of the Ancient One, Dr. Strange takes on Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and defeats Dormammu using one of the Infinity Stones – the Time Stone hidden in the Eye of Agamotto. He pops up again in Thor: Ragnarok (2018) when he detects that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have returned to earth to find Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

He finally interacts with the rest of the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) to try to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin). He gazes into the future and looks at 14,600,005 different timelines to find the one way that the Avengers will win in Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange wielding the time stone
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Where does Doctor Strange fit into the Marvel timeline?

The first Doctor Strange movie is one that messes with the Marvel timeline a bit. Stephen Strange was originally teased in Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014). Winter Soldier takes place in the year 2014 but the events of Doctor Strange, where he gets his powers are set in 2016.

There are wide shots of New York City in Doctor Strange, which include the Avengers Tower. The tower was built after the events of The Avengers (2012). And we know that the Ancient One is still the Sorcerer Supreme during the Battle of New York from the Time Heist in Avengers: Endgame.

(left) Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and (right) Tilda Swinton asthe Ancient One in the astral plane
Credit: Marvel Studios

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One complaint about how Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange fits in the MCU timeline is that it does not make sense for him to have his accident, lose all his money and learn magic in less than a year. Some Marvel fans have taken to saying Doctor Strange ends in 2016 but it actually begins in 2014.

However, this is not possible since the call that Stephen Strange rejects at the beginning of the Marvel is to perform surgery on James Rhodes aka Rhodey aka War Machine (Don Cheadle). Rhodey was injured in Captain America: Civil War (2016) when he was hit by Vision (Paul Bettany).

This leaves the 2014 Easter egg retconned to be that Stephen Strange had the potential for magic even when he was a neurosurgeon.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

What makes Doctor Strange so strange?

Beyond his abilities as a doctor, Stephen Strange is extraordinarily talented in the mystic arts. Whether or not is more powerful than Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) will have to be determined in The Multiverse of Madness.

Considering he was able to become a Master of the Mystic Arts faster than other characters we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he is particularly adept at learning new information. The Ancient One describes him as the best of the sorcerers.

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Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One
Credit: Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange got his name in 1963 when Steve Ditko created him as a filler character for a series call Strange Tales. Strange Tales is anthology series that did not originally have an ongoing plot and Doctor Strange was only intended to last for five pages.

Stan Lee once wrote a letter to a Jerry Bails describing the magician’s first appearance in Strange Tales #110 as:

The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him […] we had to rush the first one too much. Little sidelight: Originally decided to call him Mr. Strange, but thought the “Mr.” bit too similar to Mr. Fantastic.

But clearly Doctor Strange continued on in Strange Tales and eventually the series was even renamed Doctor Strange in 1968.

Doctor Strange Concept Art
Credit: Marvel

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Why is Doctor Strange so popular?

The first Marvel movie to introduce magic was praised for its use of special effects include the mind-bending Mirror realm seen in one Doctor Strange poster. And even though some fans want the MCU to move past single-character origin movies the tale of an arrogant man getting humbled is timeless.

Stephen Strange first rose to popularity for Marvel Comics in the 1970s when Steve Ditko’s psychedelic art style broke new grounds. It was so unlike anything else that was around at the time. It was even revolutionary to make the hero of the story a bit of a jerk.

The bizarre story gave rise to some of the most unique villains in Marvel Comics such as Nightmare, Mephisto, Chthon, and Shuma-Gorath, who is rumored to be the villain in the Doctor Strange sequel.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange wield eldritch magic circles
Credit: Marvel Studios

What Doctor Stephen Strange can do in the MCU multiverse?

So far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has only touched on some of the powers that he has in the comics. For the most part, the form of magic that Doctor Strange uses in the MCU is Eldritch Magic Manipulation. Traditionally, in Marvel Comics he learned this magic from the Book of the Vishanti.

He uses Eldritch magic to wield Tao Mandalas, those magical circles that glow from his hands as well as the Eldritch Whips. He also has access to magical items like the Eye of Agamotto, the Cloak of Levitation, and his Sling Ring.

doctor strange sling ring
Credit: Marvel Studios

He uses the Sling Ring to create portals both to other places in the material world as well as for interdimensional travel. He uses this enter the Mirror Dimension to fight Kaecilius and the Dark Dimension to trick Dormammu.

In Thor: Ragnarok he has mastered the ability to teleport around the Sanctum Sanctorum without the Sling Ring. He is also able to conjure items, like the beer that Thor drinks. He uses this ability again to summon the Time Stone on Titan from where he had hidden it from Thanos.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

What is Doctor Strange’s superpower?

One of the other powers that Strange has is astral projection. He uses this study magical texts while resting. And the ancient one sends his astral form the Mandelibus Dimension to open his mind to magic.

In his debut film, Doctor Strange does not cast many spells but he uses quite a few in Infinity War. These include a Wind Spell to clear the street of debris during the fight with Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) as well as a binding spell to prevent Thanos’s agent from getting the Time Stone.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange getting the eye of agamotto
Credit: Marvel Studios

While he was in possession of the Time Stone, he was also about to affect the flow of time, including creating a time-loop and parachronal cognition – the ability to see into the future. But since the stone has been destroyed that power may be lost to him. Though a toy leak for No Way Home shows that he still has the Eye of Agamotto and it is rumored that his attempt to study the Time Stone is what will open the multiverse

He also uses a Binding Spell against Thanos during the Battle of Titan as well as a duplication spell. He also breaks out a new transmutation spell to turn his duplicates into butterflies. Beyond his magical abilities, Stephen Strange also has a photographic memory, which he used to excel in medical school.

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rachel mcadams as christine palmer (left) and benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange (right) in scrubs
Credit: Marvel Studios

Where did Doctor Strange go to medical school?

Doctor Strange was inspired to become a doctor after his sister, Donna Strange, drowned after getting a cramp while swimming. He went straight from high school to medical school at Columbia University. From there he graduated with both an M.D. and a Ph.D. at the same time.

From there he had a five-year residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. It was his success as a neurosurgeon that led to his signature arrogance.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange studying astal projection
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In what ways does Doctor Strange affect the MCU multiverse?

Plot Rumors have been circling ever since the title was announced. While the plot has been kept secret by Marvel boss Kevin Feige, one synopsis did leak online and described the film as:

After the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, Dr. Stephen Strange continues his research on the Time Stone. But an old friend turned enemy seeks to destroy every sorcerer on Earth, messing with Strange’s plan and also causing him to unleash an unspeakable evil.

It has also been the first scary MCU film by Director Scott Derrickson. Other movie news has confirmed Doctor Strange will appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is rumored to be Marvel Studio’s take on the Spider-verse and bring in even more characters from the multiverse.

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America Chavez aka Miss America
Credit: Marvel Comics

And, we also know that the film will introduce Young Avenger America Chavez who will be coming from a different universe. In the comics, this is called the Utopian Parallel. Her power to create portals between realities will be a central plot point in Doctor Strange 2.

benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange and robert downing jr as tony stark akairon man
Credit: Marvel Studios

Key interactions between Doctor Strange and other MCU superheroes

Doctor Strange has had limited interactions on screen with the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. His origin movie kept him in his own little corner of the Marvel Universe. He did meet Thor and Loki in his short appearance in Ragnarok.

But in Infinity War, he meets Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downing Jr.), Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) before blasting off to space and meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Going forward into Phase 4, Doctor Strange will be taking over Tony Stark’s mentorship role with Peter Parker. So we are sure to see him move out of his little corner of the MCU to replace his awesome facial hair bro. Especially considering he may have murdered Tony.

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wandavision's finale
Credit – WallPaperCave – Caveman

How powerful is Doctor Strange in the comics compared to other MCU superheroes?

The debate for the Strongest Avenger has been raging for years. When it comes to the MCU Doctor Strange does not top the list. But when it comes to Marvel comics it is a different ballgame.

In Thor #14, it was revealed that Doctor Strange is even more powerful than Odin. He used the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to overpower Donald Blake, a previous host of Thor who possessed the Odin-Force.

In Fantastic Four #243, he even took down Galactus, the devourer of worlds by using the Penance store, which he copied from Ghost Rider. He used the power to drive him mad by reliving all the pain he had caused.

doctor strange comic book powers
Credit: Marvel Comics

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What is the difference in the powers of Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch?

What everyone really wants to know is who would win in a fight between Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch. They are two of the most powerful magic users in the Marvel universe. Marvel Studios almost gave us this fight in WandaVision but Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo was ultimately cut.

Doctor Strange and Wanda fought each other more than once in the comics. One of the most famous Scarlet Witch interactions with Doctor Strange is during Avengers: Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis. Wanda killed many Avengers, including Vision, which she lost control of her power but the Sorcerer Supreme was able to defeat her.

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elizabeth olsen as wanda maximoff aka scarlet witchwandavision finale spells
Credit: Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange’s Eldritch magic is distinctly different than Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic. Wanda can manipulate probabilities on a level that Stephen Strange cannot. They have not gone up against each other yet in the MCU but the battle is coming.

And, Wanda is only getting more powerful now that she has been studying the Darkhold. She may return to the Marvel Universe with more of her comic book powers. She has already unlocked her reality-warping ability so along with being a Nexus Being her power over life and death could be seen soon.

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doctor strange and clea comic romance
Credit: Marvel Comics

Who is Doctor Strange’s love interest?

So far in the MCU, Doctor Strange has only had one love interest – Christine Palmer. Christine is a fellow doctor but she had little to do in Doctor Strange. She is returning for Multiverse of Madness along with Clea.

Clea is another of Doctor Strange’s doomed relationships. She is the Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension and has many of the same abilities as Doctor Strange, who was once her mentor. Clea is the daughter of Umar — Dormammu’s sister.

This could mean Doctor Strange will be the center of a love triangle in his second solo Marvel movie. Or they could save his love story with Clea for a future film.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange cloak
Credit: Marvel Studios

The primary role of Doctor Strange in the MCU

As it currently stands, Doctor Strange serves as the Sorcerer Supreme, the primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats. He maintains a list of dangerous individuals, which included Loki.

He also guards the three Sanctum Sanctorum in the MCU, which include the New York Sanctum, the London Sanctum, and the Hong Kong Sanctum. The three sanctums create a protective magical barrier around the Earth.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

When did Doctor Strange first appear in the MCU?

He was first teased in Captain America; The Winter Soldier, when Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) mentions him on his list of powerful individuals. But he did not first appear until 2016 with Doctor Strange.

Since then, he has also appeared in Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. His next appearance will be in Spider-Man: No Way Home. He is becoming a central part of the MCU as it moves past the Infinity Saga.

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benedict wong as wong
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Who is the most important person to Doctor Strange in the MCU?

While his love interest is Christine Palmer, Doctor Strange has spent most of his time since his solo film with a fellow master of the mystic arts, Wong. Wong was instrumental in teaching Stephen Strange how to use magic.

Wong has quickly become a fan-favorite character, with his love Hunka-Hulka Burning Fudge ice cream. He is even popping up in the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings to fight Hulk villain the Abomination.

Other than Wong and Palmer, Strange does not have very many close friends. He will most likely form a bond with Peter Parker, but he is very much a lone wolf. There are not many characters that are important to Doctor Strange.

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benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

How does Doctor Strange’s character affect the future of the MCU?

Doctor Strange’s importance is now growing with the death of Tony Stark. In addition to his appearance in No Way Home to help unravel whatever chaos is coming. It also looks like he will be giving Peter Parker a magical upgrade if Funko toy releases are to be believed.

The MCU is headed into stranger worlds, hinted at by the new director. The introduction of the multiverse seems to be leading the Avengers to Secret Wars.

And, it all begins with Doctor Strange.

Are you all caught up and reach for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let us know in the comments.

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