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Title: Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic
Release Date:July 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Lettering: Terry Szenics
Hero: Dr. Strange, The Ancient One
Villain: Nightmare

Strange Tales #110 heralds the first appearance of Dr. Strange. Dr. Strange would become a popular character, although he was never quite able to carry his own title for long. In fact, his first appearance was as a back-up story in a magazine that actually featured The Human Torch, (fighting Paste Pot Pete, no less). I don't know whether Stan Lee was thinking of introducing a new, different type of character, or whether the five page script was just thrown together as filler.

Whether the character was intended for something bigger, the first appearance of Dr. Strange was different from his later adventures. Dr. Strange is there, as is the Ancient One, and one of his perennial enemies, Nightmare. However, the entire feel of the story is different than what would be common in Dr. Strange's adventures later, and indeed of most Marvel comics of the 1960s. Those familiar with the very earliest Marvel comics of the 1960s know that often Marvel did not publish superheros as such; instead focusing on stories that were more of science fiction. Thus, the Fantastic Four were started as a team of adventures, and only later received costumes. Dr. Strange, as well, in his first adventure, does not appear as a Super Hero: his dramatic cloak of levitation was not present, and his movements are not the dramatic movement of a superhero. He appears, in many ways, to be a noir detective, with a supernatural angle. The story is also very densely written, and the panels are not deployed in the usual Marvel style, instead consisting of a 3*3 grid. The first story then, had a low visual impact, and was instead densely plotted, with the fantasy elements relatively understated.

The story shows an interesting possibility in the development of Dr. Strange, and Marvel Comics in general. Although the story's briefness and sketchiness could merely be an accident of being written under pressure as a brief filler, it is still worth wondering if Marvel could have kept Dr. Strange as a realistic, noir-detective with fantasy elements, instead of a full fledged cosmic explorer. Although it might have meant missing out on such great moments as his first dramatic meeting with Eternity, it might also have meant that Marvel would have come across the formula for John Constantine 20 years early.