Tuesday, December 31, 2013

- Just What The DOCTOR Ordered.


Many people may have been wondering why my blogging has been sparse over the past few months. Well, I could say that it has something to do with a new schedule at work that leaves me tired and lacking time, but while true, in part, that's not really the whole truth.

The truth is... I've been feeling out of sorts for many months. Tired. Worn out. Despondent.

Life, at times, has simply got me down.

Add to that, the fact that I've simply been losing my interest in Doctor Strange, in whom this blog is mostly dedicated. A character who had carried my interest and fascination for much of my life, and had carried me aloft whenever I've felt down in the doldrums. But, a character whose own publisher has been systematically destroying over the past 20 years or more.

Thus, with little interest in the very raison d'etre for this blog, and having lost that, also losing a valuable therapeutic tool, I was simply finding it a chore.

With symptoms like that; losing my desire to or even care about blogging, and also, due to the loss of interest in other aspects of life, lie dangerously close to having a hard time time really caring about much at all.

I don't like thinking that way, as I've always sought to live the life of a good man, no matter what else may occur (as I have detailed in an introspective post [HERE]).

But, as such, to help make me feel more like my old self, I have been seeing
The Doctor.





Those are familiar words. They carry weight, gravitas, and a sense of comfort and hope; exactly what is desired when addressed by a Doctor.

However, those words are not spoken by any traditional physician. For those alive and even moderately possessing a nerd pulse, they are the "immortal" words of "THE" DOCTOR.

"DOCTOR... WHO?", you might ask.

For the past 50 years, since November 1963, DOCTOR WHO (a nigh-immortal "Time Lord", with the ability to regenerate a new body when dying, who ventures across time and space in his TARDIS spacecraft,) has graced the world (via the UK) with his reassuring presence - be it on television, novels, audio plays, DVDs, and yes... even comics.


Those 4 words immediately fill you with hope and tell you that you are in good hands. Four words that state that wonderful things are about to befall you. Weird happenings, and high adventure are soon to be yours in the deepest recesses of time and space.
And oh yeah... RUN! Because STRANGE things are right around the corner - and they aren't always friendly.

And yet, there was also another DOCTOR who was comforting us while confronting the bizarre dangers across space time and other dimensions. And he came first. Cover dated JULY 1963 (which in comicbook dating terms means it was on the magazine racks at least 2 or 3 months earlier), DOCTOR STRANGE (a former greedy and arrogant surgeon, whose hands were rendered incapable of performing delicate surgical ability, and when searching for a cure, found instead an aged Tibetan mystic who taught Strange the ways of magic, after the young man showed a deeper, caring nature) was first featured as a back-up story in STRANGE TALES # 110 (as celebrated [HERE]).

For the past 50 years, he also graced the world with his mysterious presence - in comics, novels, audio dramas, DVD's, and yes... even television.

Open wide and say, "AH!"

While I started reading comics around the time I was ten years of age, in 1977 (as discussed at length in this defining post [HERE]), I didn't discover DOCTOR STRANGE until 1980. But when I did, I was immediately hooked! Even though comic distribution was a spotty and haphazard affair in those days before "comic book shoppes" were the norm, and stationery store spinner racks were the only delivery system available, I still managed to score my fix. My "prescription" as it were.

Cover art by Michael Golden

It would be only 2 or three years later that I would first be introduced to "The Doctor", as local PBS stations (in my case; WLIW 21 in New York) began to broadcast DOCTOR WHO here in the USA. These would be the TOM BAKER 4th DOCTOR episodes, with some of PETER DAVIDSON's 5th DOCTOR mixed in. I was immediately hooked on Tom Baker's mad, mirthful and menacing incarnation, but Davidson's "beige-on-beige" look and style did nothing to maintain my enthusiasm. I tried to show my interest even then, by pledging monies to the station, earmarked for more episodes of this wonderful new show (and received a black plastic mug with the "DOCTOR WHO" logo emblazoned in silver ink upon it). This was besides the point, since, the episodes would soon stop being shown on those few Public Broadcasting Stations, and it would retreat across the Atlantic ocean, back to Britain, like a fog on the waters.

Soon the desire to see more would be like unto only the faintest of smoke on the waters of my memory. I KNEW I wanted to see more of Baker's 4th Doctor, but, knowing he would be replaced by Davidson, and that his episodes were finite, and impossible to view... the desire retreated to the further recess of my mind. (Of course, I had NO idea at the time that Baker was "The Doctor" for seven years! That would have been a nice cache upon which to stumble. But alas... time and tide.)

But still... I loved Baker's performance and his iconic, yet insanely long scarf, and desired one of my own. So much so, that I had, over the years purchased several overly long scarves (but sadly, not as long or colorful as his), if for no other reason, as a subconscious reminder of my love for the little I had seen.

Tom Baker (#4)

All the while, I was fully immersed in the comicbook world of Doctor Strange, and amassing what is arguably the (or one of the top 2 or three) collections of Doctor Strange comics, merchandise and eclectica the world has ever seen. Such was my love and mania for the character.

Yet, even when I first saw that Marvel was producing DOCTOR WHO stories (first in Marvel Preview and then in his own magazine), they weren't accessible in my usual haunts (although, I still vividly remember a 4th Doctor story entitled "Spider-God" written by Steve Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons). And thus, once again, Doctor Who would slip out of my grasp.

Years would pass. I would continue to be fascinated by the myriad worlds, the above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals workings of the mind of the "Master of the Mystic Arts", and the reproach with which he would admonish himself whenever he thought that he was "above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals". From his redemption-quest origin, steeped in dark magics and mystery, to his ability to be gentle and caring one moment and filled with righteous fury in the next heartbeat... DOCTOR STRANGE checked all my required boxes for fan admiration.

Art by Dan Adkins

But, over the years the weight, the gravitas, the things that made Doctor Strange GREAT were being lost. Lost or deliberately taken away by editorial fiat or writers who simply didn't know either what to do with him, or even understand him at all.

Notwithstanding the occasional bright gem, Doctor Strange has been left to tarnish since the early 1990's.

I won't go into specifics. Any reader who has experienced Doctor Strange stories at nearly any point from 1963 thru 1990 knows what I am speaking of, when I say that anywhere from 1990 onward, the quality of stories and artwork for the good Doctor was hit-or-miss. Mostly miss.

But, like any fan, we hold on to the memories of the good stories and we wait. We wait for the next writer or artist to bring back some of what made the character great. We don't necessarily want or need a retread of old works. No. Bring in new concepts, new story angles, new foes and friends and realms and dangers. Increase his abilities and decrease his abilities, as long as it's done intelligently in a way that makes sense to the story. Fine. Do it. Just do it WELL!

But, like any fan. We wait... and we wait... and we wait for it to be good again.
Sometimes it happens! Like lightning, the spark of electricity is alive in the work. It is inspired. It is all new, but with enough of the old for the character to peek out from behind years of dust and misuse. We are hopeful... and we are then disappointed as the next steward fails to fulfill his trust.

Thus it has been an arduous task for even one such as I, to continue to feel any connection, interest or even care what happens to the character, as it seems that his publisher surely doesn't.

(or an 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th)

Back in 1996, Doctor Strange was undergoing a hiatus. His "Sorcerer Supreme" titled comicbook having just been canceled, after a nearly unbroken run of 33 years of published works (Strange Tales # 110 in 1963 to the end of his 1st solo title in 1969 was only separated from his return in Marvel Premier #3 by a 4 year absence, and from thence forward, to his own "Master of the Mystic Arts" title, straight into a planned "Strange Tales v2" revamp and then directly into the "Sorcerer Supreme" masthead, was another 24 years of uninterrupted publication of his own starring [or co-starring] titles). That was after years of already poor treatment, as the Sorcerer Supreme comicbook simply wasn't all that good and was filled with lackluster periods which lasted years, interspersed with a few high points throughout, but sadly not enough to save its sales.

However, in 1996, emerging from a 7 year hiatus of its own, DOCTOR WHO returned to television (which, for many viewers in the USA was a 12 year absence) with a made-for-TV film, featuring a new, 8th DOCTOR.

Paul McGann (#8)

Certainly, it wasn't great. The story had holes. The acting was overly melodramatic (mostly by the scenery-chewing villains). But... it was DOCTOR WHO. And he was back!

I felt that old interest for the show and the character being rekindled. However, poor ratings in the USA meant that no production companies would back a return to the series (despite it doing extremely well in the UK). And so, once again, I found myself without a Doctor. (I was totally unaware that the 8th Doctor, as performed by PAUL McGANN would continue in audioplays from that point onward.)

However, as time went on, and up through present-day, Doctor Strange was/is still without a title of his own (a scant few mini-series here and there). My fandom being held together by my love of what was, as well as the few good guest appearances he would make over the years, and the quest for the collectibles. Anything to stem the ennui that was taking over in regards to my interest in the character. Even beginning a new blog - this blog - would help to keep my interest fresh.

But then, gradually... the real world wears you down. Day-to-day life drains the color from your cheeks, the strength from your stride.

You need to see a Doctor.

And then you hear it. Those four words. Four words that help you to know that help is at hand:


It was into 2008 that I found, once again via a PBS station, that DOCTOR WHO had returned!
2005 had seen a return of what is known as "NuWHO", a renewed continuation (not a reboot) of the character, and CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON became the first face of the Doctor for many new fans, and the newest face for one renewed WHOvian - me.

While I loved Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, and felt an immediate liking to Paul McGann's 8th Doctor, this new 9th Doctor was a whole new twist! No need to retread the old, as new concepts and looks are welcome! Especially when dealing with a character who, as a Time Lord, with the ability to regenerate multiple times into a new body with a new face, is essentially immortal.

And so, I watched every episode of the 9th Doctor and wanted to see more!

Christopher Eccleston ("9")

But more would be denied me for a while, as the PBS station had only paid to broadcast that one season (or "series" as they would now be labeled).

I would watch, whenever possible, those same 9th Doctor episodes each time they would air over the next few years, knowing that there were new episodes - just beyond my grasp.

To my great pleasure, over the past few months, via the internet and Netflix, I have totally caught up with DAVID TENNANT's 10th Doctor, MATT SMITH's 11th and even delighted at the return (and regeneration scene) of the 8th as he transformed into an unknown incarnation, played by JOHN HURT.

Matt Smith ("11"), David Tennant ("10"), John Hurt ("War", but the real #9)

In the time since my current job started to abuse me even more than usual, and real life seems to refuse to get any better than it has been over the past several years, I had little sustaining energy from my love for Doctor Strange, but my renewed interest in Doctor Who was helping immeasurably. A "shot in the arm", so to speak.

I've even gone back and after sampling some episodes of the other early Doctors and am watching all the episodes from the very beginning! I'm already halfway through the 1st DOCTOR's tenure. I have so much more with which to look forward.

The 12 Doctors

My First Doctor KNOWS Me.

But now... floating above the drek of the usual poor treatment of DOCTOR STRANGE, we have writer Jonathan Hickman take on Doctor Strange in Hickman's incarnation of the Illuminati, the super-secret, big-decision-makers of the Marvel Universe, as seen in the pages of NEW AVENGERS. And while his treatment of Doctor Strange has been hit-or-miss, it is more accurately... remiss. He seemed to be deliberately holding Strange in reserve, in the darkened corner, with only the occasional glimpse of the greatness that what once was peeking out from behind the shadows.

Still, that has been enough for me to feel my interest renewed. My hope kindled.

And what is the sound of that hope?
As I said earlier, it is the sound of four words:


Words - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Steve Epting

Certainly, there have been other bright spots, but those are ironic and oxymoronic, since the brighter the indicator of great things to come, the darker the Doctor's path.

However, as we all know, it is when the Doctor strides down the darkest pathways that his magic and might shines the brightest.

Could it be that Hickman knows that whatever The DOCTOR (WHO) can do, with his all-purpose Sonic Screwdriver, then DOCTOR STRANGE with the Eye of Agamotto can do it better?
Certainly, that would hopefully be the case.

For while "The DOCTOR" can roam all across space and time, in his TARDIS ship, however haphazardly he does so, saving worlds along the way, DOCTOR STRANGE needs no external drive to step from one world, one time, one dimension to the next, and save untold worlds in one fell swoop.

Both live lives where things are "bigger on the inside" (The Doctor's TARDIS, and Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum merely two such indicators of the depths within these two men).

Still, as is the case with both of these DOCTORS... the brightness of heroism is forever the other side of the darkness wherein he walks.

No matter what good they do, each of these men are forced to bear the weight of ensuring others live in the light - despite each victory tinging these men with darkness. They live bearing their sadness in order to bring hope to others.

New Avengers v3 # 12/13
Writer - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Mike Deodato


So here I am. New Year's Eve. The dark night before a bright new year.
And here I am, typing in the darkness, with the hope that this act, this promise to continue my own administrations, is in essence a way to say in my own mind, "DOCTOR... HEAL THYSELF!"

For it is with this, act, and the hope that it fills within me, to strive to not let the darkness or drudgery of life wear me down. I have done great things in the past. I will do great things again, be it now or in the future.
Time is never run out when you have hope that things will get better.
And so, I stay hopeful.

Hope is the one thing that can help anyone do heroic things.

And every life made better by my hopeful and helpful actions is a great thing as well.
So to that purpose, though I strive to do the work of the light, while I stride in the dark, I shall not let life turn me grey.

And hope is what I feel that the adventures of my long-time fan-favorite characters will once again obtain a level of greatness.

But that's not even where I hang all my hopes.

For while I do have a "real" life, and many other interests and goals aside from those detailed in this blog, even taking the pleasure to do something as silly as enjoy a TV show, read a comic, write a blog post or share my enthusiasm with others... all those little things, and the other day-to-day activities we all undertake, as long as they are undertaken with joy and hope, help to make everything seem worthwhile.

To that extent, I am renewed in my enjoyment for making plans for new projects, personal and professional.
I am rejuvenated in my desire to work on this blog.

I am prescribing a new regimen for myself; STAY HOPEFUL!

For it only takes four words to remind myself of that goal, four words that remind me that I am the administrator of that change...




Gary Martin, Jr. said...

Hang in there & HaPpY NeW YeAr ~P~. You've shared so much incredible stuff, only found here and in a style all your own, I've considered you a valuable part of my internet "life" for a while and look forward to more.

Jason Shayer said...

Take care of yourself and hang in there. Hope you have a great 2014!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, mr. ~P~! I agree with Gary Martin, Jr. here - your posts are always a friendly place to go, both instructive and fun to read. Cheer up, and may this 2014 be a great year for you... and also for The Doctor! [The latter, though, perhaps is a little bold to hope; but hey, hope is the last thing we should lose... ;) ]

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

the opening monologue in this posting was just what I needed to lift my spirits today. oh yea it feels so good to be alive when you're the 99%

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year

Came by to give you a note too: Dr Strange pops up in his original blue/red/orange in the Thunderbolts annual. That's a shorter lived costume than his masked version (or Wonder woman's pants for that matter).

Here's to the planned Doctor Strange 2016 movie, cheers.

Dale Bagwell said...

Wow. Hell of a post there Ptor. Mr. Morbid here, and like you, I too have being currently undergoing a renewed interest in Dr. Who. Like you also, Tom Baker was the first Doctor I was exposed to some 20 years after he started the role on, of course, a PBS station as well. I left where I lived in Florida before his run ended, but damn was I an instant fan. I kinda dabbled, and had my ear to the ground(internet) in regards to current Dr. Who stuff, so I figured when I found the 1st season of the nuWho on dvd for cheap, I'd buy it and the 2nd part of Season 7. I loved both so much I recently purchased part one of season 7 and The Day of The Doctor dvd. Highly recommend that.

Hang in there man. I'm nowhere near the Dr.Strange fan you are, but I sympthaze with you losing your interest considering what Marvel's done. But hang in there anyways.

Richard Guion said...

I enjoyed this post and your honesty. I love Dr. Strange, too, ever since I first read his adventures in a Marvel Tales reprint with the Dikto stuff. I imagine when people read Steve Englehart's take on Doctor Strange it was looked upon as heretical, but I loved that version, too, as well as Roger Stern's take. I do indeed despair we will never see a great Doctor Strange story by anyone who really, truly gets the character the way I would prefer.

That recent Thunderbolts appearance was an abomination.

Funny, too, I find myself much more excited about Doctor Who and looking forward to the Peter Capaldi version in 2014.

Mario Di Giacomo said...

It amuses me to note that there have been two homages to the Gallifreyan Doctor in Marvel.

The first was a little-known character named Professor Gamble, who was a bit goofy.

The other, complete with long-scarf and bigger-on-the-inside pockets, was Hank Pym, during his "Scientific Adventurer" phase.

your humble booze-monkey said...

I completely understand your 'Strange' malaise and am similarly hopeful that Hickman will do him some justice. I know where he (Hickman) is coming from with his having Strange (SPOILER) open the Black Bible, but the emotional context is missing.
Only old school Strange fans know the crippling doubt that fills the man, and without that knowledge Strange just seems hollow.

But - forgetting all that - we do have a movie to look forward to. I would love to hear your ideas on casting and story.

My greatest thanks for your hard work

Anonymous said...

Meant to get to this sooner but love the post. It is inspirational to those of us who are also Dr. Strange deprived. I definitely liked the Ninth Doctor best of the NuWho and I think it's because he did have to make _the_ big decision. We (used to) see Strange doing the same in his guardianship of our astral plane. Having the rest of the Illuminati help out is probably a nice little break for him. He's dealt with other earths before, and somewhere in there he still has to deal with other dimensions invading. He finds Thanos' son with ease compared to others, hopefully a sign that his more pathetic days of not being able to detect skrulls are over. New shorthand: I am the Doctor. Plays to the modern crowd and easier than Sorcerer Supreme and Master of Mystic Arts, which I'm sure he'll still say in full when fighting the appropriate enemy. But I digress...

I was sad to see fewer posts but could understand, especially since you said you'd be cutting down this year. I hope Marvel gives us new good material to be all bouncy about.

The King of Thessaly said...

This is just an amazing post. I've read it several times since you put it up... Just- perfect.
I was also introduced to The Doctor via PBS way back in the day... Saw the Fox movie when it aired... and then I kind of forgot all about it. Until my brothers started taping some show for me they were picking up in Detroit from a station in Canada. -Some show they remembered me going on about back in the day: "Doctor something?" Re-hooked ever since.
My first exposure to that OTHER Doctor you like so much... well, that was from an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends!

~P~ said...

I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who replied to this post, either with kind comments or words of shared experience.

Every once in a while, I break away from traditional blogging and reveal some of my true self that resides behind the monitor-screen.

It's nice to know that this is appreciated and welcomed.

Cowboy Yogi said...

I've been reading bits and pieces of your blog for a few weeks and love it. This post is fantastic, I may have to give Doctor Who another shot. Hopefully that which drags you down is being held at bay. If you are looking for some clarity and love things of a mystic bent, might I suggest yoga?

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