Marvel Studios’ latest movie is out. Here’s my breakdown of what I could find in the movie that refers to other Marvel movies or comics. There was some great, obscure-ish stuff in there! Plenty of things for any fan of Dr. Strange to find and enjoy. So, this contains spoilers. I wouldn’t bother reading it until you’ve seen the movie.
Doctor Strange Himself
Dr. Strange was created by Steve Ditko (and scripted to some extent by Stan Lee) and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (1963). He was introduced as the “Master of Black Magic”. In fact, in early issues, he called on the power of the Dread Dormammu before that became one of his enemies. Intentional or not, in this movie The Ancient One draws on that power and it’s a key plot point. Dr. Strange’s origin of being an egotistical and supremely talented surgeon that is in a car accident that robs him of the use of his hands and sets him on his path to the East is right out of the comics.
The Ancient One
The Ancient One appears in that first issue with Dr. Strange and is his mentor for a long time. But in the comics the Ancient One is not a Celtic woman. He was a man who lived in Kamar-Taj, a village in the Himalayan mountains in what is now known as Tibet. But in real life, China does not recognize Tibet as an independent nation. Chances are, a movie with such an important character would not be distributed in China. This is me being cynical but I think the character was changed for purely financial reasons. In the movie, Kamar-Taj is just the name of the building where the Ancient One and other sorcerers live and train and it’s within Kathmandu, Nepal. In Marvel Premiere #9 (1973) The Ancient One dies and he and Strange have a heart to heart that somewhat mirrors their astral conversation in the movie.
Wong also appeared in Strange Tales #110, unnamed. He wasn’t named for quite a while and originally was more of a manservant to Dr. Strange. Eventually he was defined as Strange’s pupil and taught Strange martial arts. He is also responsible for guarding Dr. Strange’s body when he projects his astral form and his physical body is defenseless. The movie version is no manservant but a master sorcerer and the librarian at Kamar-Taj.
As in the movie, Mordo is a fellow pupil of Strange’s under the Ancient One. However, in his first appearance, in Strange Tales #111, he’s already becoming Strange’s first arch-enemy. His origin is explained in issue #115. In the comics, he’s a white guy from Transylvania who is secretly hoping to gain power and return his country to glory. He’s secretly trying to kill the Ancient One and frame Strange. In the movie, he’s more loyal but is devastated by a late reveal about the Ancient One’s source of power because he’s so rigid in his beliefs. The after-credits sequence hints that he will become an enemy of Strange.
Kaecilius in the movie is a powerful sorcerer and leader of a cult. In the comics, not so much. He was just a random follower of Mordo and wore more of a spandex suit than robes. He was a nobody. He first appeared in Strange Tales #130 (1965) and appeared about 11 more times but he didn’t even get named in his first few appearances.
Christine Palmer has never been a Doctor Strange character but she is a Marvel character. She appeared in Night Nurse #1 (1972) along with two other nurses in a romantic/drama comic. One of the other characters in that book was Linda Carter who later literally took the name Night Nurse and appeared in Doctor Strange: The Oath #1 (2006) by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. Kind of a weird change. Meanwhile, Marvel mashed up the other two characters in the book to create a version of Night Nurse played by Rosario Dawson across all the Marvel Netflix shows. In The Oath, Strange’s astral form helps direct Christine Palmer to operate on a mystical bullet wound. In the movie, it’s a mystical stabbing.
Also introduced in The Oath was Nicodemus West, a rival of Strange’s from when he was a surgeon. In the movie he’s just a regular surgeon that gets shown up by Strange over an incorrect diagnosis.
The one-handed master sorcerer in the movie was actually a student of the Ancient One in Strange Tales #111 (but he had both hands and was younger in the comics). Oh, and because it’s comics he was eventually revealed to be Wong’s father.
In the movie, the sorcerer defending the New York sanctum is Daniel Drumm. In the comics, Daniel is the twin brother of a different powerful magician, Brother Voodoo, a practitioner of… voodoo. But he died. His spirit can merge with his brother Jericho and enhance his abilities. At one point in the comics, Brother Voodoo becomes the Sorcerer Supreme. Both Jericho and Daniel first appeared in Strange Tales #169 (1973) by Roy Thomas, who later wrote a lot of Dr. Strange stories.
In the comics, Dr. Strange lives in a house in Greenwich Village at 177a Bleeker Street. You can only see it if you have need of Dr. Strange, though. It has a large window with the sigil of the magical Vishanti on it (to protect the home from magical invasion). This appears in the movie with the same symbol and address although the Vishanti symbol isn’t explained and it is only called a sanctum (there are three).
Dormammu first appeared in Strange Tales #126 as a flame headed demon and ruler of the Dark Dimension. It’s very much intact in the movie.
Astral Projection and Spells
This is one of Dr. Strange’s key powers – the ability to have his soul leave his physical body and fly around like a ghost. It was first used in Strange Tales #111. It works and looks pretty much like in the movie. He also frequently uses energy blasts and magical shields in the comics. In the movie he doesn’t really use energy blasts but he does summon a type of fire whip. He also can teleport but that’s not something he does regularly in the comics. He does visit other dimensions pretty regularly though.
Book of Cagliostro
The book that Kaecilius steals from is a book from the great Steve Engleheart/Frank Brunner run on Dr. Strange throughout the 70s. It first appeared in Marvel Premiere #12 (1973) and Mordo used it to travel back in time. Kaecilius uses it to contact Dormammu but the movie is all about time so it was probably an issue that the writers read.
Mordo has a magical item he calls the Staff of the Living Tribunal. There’s never been an object by that name in Marvel comics but the Living Tribunal is an entity that oversees all of the multiverse. Almost a god above gods. He first appeared in Strange Tales #157 (1967) in a Dr. Strange story by Stan Lee and Marie Severin.
Mordo also has what he calls the Vaulting Boots of Valtorr. That item doesn’t exist in the comics but Valtorr is one of the eight other-dimensional entities known as The Octessence, one of the sources Dr. Strange calls on to grant him his abilities.
Eye of Agamotto
The Eye of Agamotto is one of Dr. Strange’s signature accouterments. It first appeared in Strange Tales #128 (1965). The amulet is called the Eye of Agamotto but the “actual” eye is housed within the amulet. It projects an all-seeing light (dispelling illusions), grants a type of telepathy and can play back events. In the movie it can play back events because it houses the Time infinity stone. In the comics, the Time Gem was never something that Dr. Strange or any Earthly sorcerer possessed. But, as mentioned in the movie, Agamotto was an early Sorcerer Supreme long before the Ancient One.
Cloak of Levitation
Dr. Strange got his cape, which allows him to fly, in Strange Tales #127, a gift from the Ancient One. In the movie it seems to be sentient. There is a passing reference to that in The Oath story but that’s about it.
The Dark Dimension
The movie’s visuals are very loyal to creator Steve Ditko’s original, trippy art!
(Update: I originally thought this was referring to War Machine but the details point to Justin Hammer’s mistake we saw in Iron Man 2). Just before Dr. Strange’s fateful car crash, an assistant is listing potential surgical cases for him to take. One is described as a former Marine colonel with major spinal injuries from experimental armor. Strange rejects the case as too mundane, but they’re describing what happened to someone trying one of Justin Hammer’s prototype suits of armor in Iron Man 2. We see it spin around at the waist while Tony Stark is in front of congress.. This places the movie clearly shortly after that movie but just prior to Thor: Ragnarok. That means we can figure out that Strange’s mystical training took at least a year. Of course, it also makes it a bit odd that HYDRA had Dr. Strange on its watchlist of targets back during Captain America: Winter Soldier but I guess they just didn’t like talented, famous surgeons.
The song playing when Dr. Strange has his car accident is Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd. A band known for its trippy music. Founder Syd Barret was still the guitarist with the band for that song and he later succumbed to psychedelics and mental illness.
When Dr. Strange and Mordo are running from Kaecilius in the Mirror Dimension, Kaecilius folds Manhattan in on itself. You can clearly see Avengers Tower near the center of the event.
Wand of Watoomb
At the end of the movie, Wong grabs a weapon. It’s clearly the Wand of Watoomb, a powerful mystical artifact. It first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965) by Steve Ditko, featuring the first meeting of his most popular creations, Spidey and Strange.
Staff of One
Another sorcerer alongside Wong is holding the Staff of One, which is held by Nico Minoru, one of the teens in Runaways. Presumably this must be her mother, Tina Minoru. No one tell Wong, but she’s evil.
Axe of Angarruumus
During Dr. Strange’s fight against Kaecilius in the New York sanctum, he reaches for an axe but the Cloak of Levitation tugs him away from it. Potentially this could be referring to the Axe of Angarruumus, a weapon Dr. Strange obtains in Dr. Strange (vol. 4) #3 (2016). At one point the Ebony Blade was part of the set dressing but producer Kevin Feige said they pulled it. That’s the mystical sword of superhero Black Knight.
Crimson Bands of Cyttorak
One of Dr. Strange’s main spells in the comics is casting the crimson bands of Cyttorak. In the movie, Strange is battling Kaecilius in the New York sanctum and throws a type of binding armor onto Kaecilius. According to director Scott Derrickson, that’s the movies version of the bands of Cyttorak, a physical trap instead of an energy one.
Stan’s cameo this time has him on a bus reading Aldous Huxley’s essays on taking mescaline and hallucinating, The Doors of Perception. The imagery in the movie is based on fractals, a common psychedelic hallucination.
When Kaecilius and his followers are taken to the Dark Dimension, they become grey husks with one glowing eye. Presumably they have become Mindless Ones, the unknowable brutes that populate Dormammu’s realm.
In the mid-credits sequence, Dr. Strange has invited Thor to a brief meeting to ask why Loki is in New York with Thor. It’s a setup to Thor: Ragnarok revealing they are working together to find Odin and Dr. Strange offers to help because he doesn’t want Loki on Earth. In the comics, they met in a very different way but still early on in Dr. Strange’s run. In Strange Tales #123 (1964), Loki tricks Dr. Strange into thinking Thor is keeping him as an innocent prisoner and he needs Thor’s hammer to be freed. It’s a ruse to steal the hammer but Dr. Strange eventually sees through the ruse and even though he is no match for Loki, Loki flees when Thor comes along.