Monday, September 2, 2013


Today, here in America, is LABOR DAY.
A day created to give hard-working people an official day off.

Yet, not only are real flesh and blood people hard-working, but also those of the 4-color variety.

None more so than Dr. Strange's loyal "man-servant", Wong.

Due to our living in a more "Politically Correct" (P.C.) age, that nomenclature is sometimes dropped and, depending on the writer, they're no longer "master" and "servant" but friends and colleagues. If handled well, either type of relationship is great! 

Writers who understand the nuances between their complex relationship embrace the more age-old traditional relationship between the mystic and his aide, and keep the master/manservant angle close to the surface. "Doctor Strange: Flight of Bones" author, Dan Jolley had Wong as a tech-savvy, aide-de-camp. "Doctor Strange: The Oath" author Brian K. Vaughan had Wong as a bodyguard and acolyte. Brian Bendis had Wong as much of Strange's protege' and student as his servant. Current Avengers scribe Jonathan Hickman, while edging Wong more towards servant status has at the same time made these two men seem closer than ever before.

Other writers, like Greg Pak, who chafe at the idea of Wong being subservient and servile, write against what they perceive as wrong, often turning Wong into an almost totally different character.

However, to anyone who is concerned about the "Master/Servant" aspect of the Strange/Wong relationship, I like to direct them to a GREAT sequence from an old issue of Doctor Strange's book (Master of the Mystic Arts # 15).

Written by Steve Englehart, the scene has Wong grocery shopping in Chinatown, and some other Asians give him grief for being a servant to a rich, white Doctor.

Wong tells them that service to a wise man is an honorable calling. Especially in his native land, which is the tradition that he is upholding, and that if they have any problem with that, it is THEIR problem to get over, not his.

This is the same thought that modern naysayers of the Doctor Strange / Wong relationship should keep in mind. 

click to embiggen -or- right-click to a new tab or window to read
Steve Englehaert (writer), Gene Colan (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks)

It's not as though Doctor Strange abuses Wong, or takes advantage of their relationship. Stephen often tells Wong to take time off, and Strange is so often secluded in meditation or away in other dimensions, that much of Wong's time is his own.

After a sequence of many issues in the mid 1990's, when David Quinn, Warren Ellis and  J.M. Dematteis each strove to make Wong an independent man who hated Dr. Strange for perceived slights and neglect (Wong's fiance' Imei having been turned into a demon, then dying and Wong being upset that Doc did nothing to stop it), there was a long, slow healing process wherein Wong would not call Strange "master" - only "Stephen". Strange also, in turn, sought to treat his longtime caretaker as more of a friend and equal.

As with all things in comics, that trend has seemingly passed.
Enough time has gone by (nearly 20 YEARS real time), so it shouldn't be seen as a quick return to status quo.

Some of Doc's most recent writers understand the workings of their relationship, and the most recent caretakers of his tales have had Strange and Wong in a closer relationship than ever before.

Still, the life path of someone who chooses a life of servitude has nothing about which to feel ashamed.

On that line of thought, here is a snippet of my old review for Greg Pak's Doctor Strange; Season One original graphic novel, wherein Pak, who - quite rightly - takes issue with the poor portrayal of Asians in comics that he unfortunately allowed that view to cloud the Strange/Wong dynamic and nearly rewrote Wong as the star of the book.

"However, that probably doesn’t fit into the cultural mores where an honorable servitude to those who serve “the gods” might be one’s fate (be it destined or a self-sought calling). There is nothing wrong with being of service to others – just as long as you are treated in a respectful and humane fashion by those you serve. Wong stands alongside a grand tradition of helpmates to “crime-fighters”, such as Batman’s Alfred and The Avengers’ Jarvis. Oft of late, Wong has been much akin to Green Hornet’s Kato (whom everyone knows is far cooler than the Hornet anyway). Wong can also be seen as a monk serving a high-priest, such as the Dali Lama, with a total submission of self in the path to his service of another, greater personage. There is no shame in such a path. Indeed, it is of high honor.
Perhaps, it is time for many vanguards of Politically Correctness to rethink some of their knee-jerk reactions to perceived wrongs, and look at the whole of the portrayal. Wong as a manservant is un-PC? Get over it. He need not be turned into some kung-fu/mystic/bad-ass. Wong as man-servant (and sometimes protector) to the Sorcerer Supreme of the entire dimension is a job that is more important, and with more responsibility than that of the President of any country. Sometimes the greatest among us are given the lowliest tasks. That they do not see it as making them any lesser than the rest, continues to make them greater than us all."

So, whatever your profession, be it chosen or something which you find yourself - there is no shame or fault in honest work, no matter how unglamorous. As long as you are treated fairly, and not regularly turned into a newt... take pride in what you do.
And enjoy your day off!

If anyone has interest in reading more of that review, it can be found [HERE]/

A previous LABOR DAY tribute to Wong can be found [HERE].


Anonymous said...

Well said! I liked the reference of the old sequence -Wong itself makes it clear.

[Totally off-topic: are you following the New Avengers series? (The one with the Illuminati on them).]

~P~ said...

Thanks for the compliment, Anon.

OF COURSE I'm reading New Avengers!

It's not totally off-topic, as I did mention Hickman's portrayal of the Doc/Wong relationship in the post. I was going to include a scan from N.A. # 4 (with that great interaction between Doc and Wong) but then thought that would necessitate inclusion of many other similar scenes from published history.

And that would lead to madness.
(well, MY madness, but readers might enjoy it. [the scans, hopefully not my madness])

Thanks for the comment, and for reading my nonsense.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

that page totally reminds me of Kane (the late David Carradine) would from that old TV series Kung Fu.

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