By Kevin Mahadeo
After years in the comic book industry writing countless characters, Mark Waid finally schedules a checkup with the Marvel Universe's most famous Doctor in STRANGE, a four-issue limited series catching up with the former Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen Strange.
"It's really interesting because I'm getting Doctor Strange at a place where I'm a little unfamiliar with him in terms of where he is right now," says Waid. "It's not the classic Doctor Strange. As readers of NEW AVENGERS know, he's been stripped of his Sorcerer Supreme title; he's been stripped of his magic. Basically, he is now just a guy doing the equivalent of card tricks. He still has a little bit of magic, but compared to what he used to do, these are just parlor tricks."
The show begins November 11 when the first issue of STRANGE travels from the mystic realm into comic shops. Along with helping the good Doctor pull a few coins out from behind some ears, Waid also starts the Gauntlet storyline in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with issue #612 on November 18. Waid's story reintroduces the classic Spidey villain Electro, long absent from the title.
Like any good illusionist, Waid showed a few of his cards before the real magic begins and talks about what fans can expect to see in STRANGE, shares his take on the Electro of the 21st century and calls the winner in the battle of technology and magic.
Marvel.com: Considering Doctor Strange's current position, how did you go about formulating the direction you wanted to take the character?
STRANGE #1 cover by Tomm Coker
Mark Waid: I sat down with editor Tom Brevoort and we talked about it and I realized with his magic taken away there are two ways you can go. You can go the traditional, but predictable, way of having him be angsty and upset and enraged and wallowing in misery about his loss, which, we could have done, but it felt like very familiar territory. But the way we elected to go, was taking him sort of on a walkabout, if you will. He's only been gone from our point of view for a few months Earth time, but thanks to what magic he had left, he was able to take a walkabout that took him a bit longer than that outside of the space-time continuum. Now that he's back, he's a little more well adjusted and for the first time in his adult career and adult life, he's enjoying relaxing. He's never been able to relax before. He was a surgeon before [becoming Sorcerer Supreme]. He was studying all the time. He was working all the time. As Doctor Strange he had to be hyper vigilant all the time. Now, for the first time ever, when stuff happens, he doesn't have to be the guy who jumps into the fray. So, he's enjoying this sabbatical and we're seeing Doc enjoy the little pieces of magic that are a part of everyone's life.
Marvel.com: You mention how you could have taken the story in an angsty direction, and interestingly, his origin is extremely so. Like you said, he was a great surgeon, but lost that and became the Sorcerer Supreme to get over his depression and misery.
Mark Waid: Yeah. That's true. He's spent all those years since meeting the Ancient One learning all this magic and rededicating his life to this goal and it was taken all away from him. What has he learned? Has anything really come out of it? He seems really smiley and good-humored and relaxed when we first meet him, but he's got his demons as a consequence of what happened and that will be explored in full as we go.
Marvel.com: How do you see the character of Doctor Strange?
Mark Waid: Here is a character, Stephen Strange, who must love learning. He must love being dedicated to something because, remember, this is a guy who reached the top of his field not once but twice in his life in two different careers. He is a student. He is an academic. He is a polymath. He is very much into learning. That's what I see as his chief characteristic. What that does for us dramatically is that, like I said, we've put him in a position where he spent all his life learning and he doesn't seem to have something to show for it for the first time ever because it seems to have all been taken away from him. So, is he really relaxed into this or is he masking a much greater anxiety and much greater terror in him?
Marvel.com: You mentioned that he has a lot of demons to face, probably both metaphorically and literally. Can you talk a little about that and the main conflict of the limited series?
STRANGE #2 cover by Tomm Coker
Mark Waid: A little bit. One of the problems he has is that over the years as Doctor Strange, he has clearly made a lot of enemies. A lot of very powerful enemies. He has tried the best he can since the powers have been taken away to keep that [information secret]. He doesn't really want it broadcast around the magic ether that Stephen Strange is powerless now because that just puts a target on his head. Unfortunately, some of that word has leaked out. While it isn't necessarily common knowledge, every new foe he comes up against in this series, he has to stand there defiantly and gesture and hope he can bluff them into believing he is the Doctor Strange of old. Unfortunately, some of them are well aware.
Marvel.com: It almost sounds like a workplace situation. Demons come up to each other and are like, "Did you hear about Stephen? I heard he got let go yesterday."
Mark Waid: Exactly. All these demons and magical entities are trading mental e-mails going, "Dude, did you hear?"
Marvel.com: Now, you're a big technology buff, but here you are working with magic. What's that like?
Mark Waid: It is hard, but the thing that makes it easy to wrap my head around is that at least magic has its rules. It has its regulations in terms of what it costs to make things happen and what the consequences of your actions are. So, there is some structure and that makes it easier to wrap my head around.
Marvel.com: The series also sees Doctor Strange taking on a student of his own. What can you say about her and their dynamic?
Mark Waid: It's a new girl that Stephen has stumbled across named Casey Kinmont, who it turns out is a bit of an adept. They don't necessarily even like each other. Then have a very contentious relationship. She's a very spoiled, very headstrong young girl who thinks nothing of arguing with Doctor Strange. Without giving too much away, Doc makes a mistake in the first issue and that mistake ends up inadvertently binding him to Casey for the rest of the series.
Marvel.com: Shifting gears a bit, I also wanted to hit on your upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN arc, which returns Electro to the title. What can you say about the update you're giving him?
Mark Waid: Without straining the pun too much, all these villains are being amped up to a certain degree. The take on Electro was, "What can we do to not only amp up his powers but also amp up his personality and really get a sense of who Max Dillon is and why he does what he does and why he is so content with being this B-level villain who never reaches the A-level?"
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #612 cover by Marko Djurdjevic
Marvel.com: What are your thoughts on his powers? I mean, who doesn't want to zap lightning out of their hands?
Mark Waid: He does have a very cool power. It's a very visual power. It's something that Spidey really can't defend himself against very well. Doc Ock can only reach so far. The Green Goblin can only throw his bombs so far. But Electro can hit you from a quarter of the city away. That strikes me as a very good, very powerful Spider-Man villain. That being said, I did a lot of research on cutting-edge battery and electrical power technology and what we're doing in terms of creating super-powered energy sources on a microbiological virus level. What can you do to use that 21st Century technology to spruce up Max Dillon's power and make him a lot more able to not only exude electricity, but control electricity throughout the city?
Marvel.com: So you still managed to get your tech fix with Spidey. That said, Mark Waid, magic versus technology: which wins?
Mark Waid: [Laughs] Frankly, I put my money on technology. Magic ultimately can't do anything technology can't eventually find a way to do.
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