Friday, November 28, 2008

Wolves at the Door and Ghosts in the Attic

* Part IV in this series: here*
* Part III in this series: here*
* Part II in this series: here*
* Part I in this series: here*


What do you do?
There are howling calls and raking claws at your front door.
Peering out from behind the curtains, you hazard a look outside to find DEMONIC HORDES and BEASTS of all shapes and size. Frothing at the mouth, their nostrils flaring, with tongues tasting the air for your FEAR. Determined. Hell-bent. To. Get. IN!

No fairy-tale "big bad wolf" these. Their "huffs and puffs" CAN blow your house in!

You quickly turn to find shelter inside. SOMEwhere. When you suddenly spy a spectral display of phantom origins, accompanied by an unholy stench - "is that... brimstone?!?".
As you turn to follow the unearthly ghoul, it vanishes - dissolving into the wall where the faces in all of your hung photos alter their collective visage, becoming portraits of souls in torment!
Suddenly all your worldly possessions leap forth from their resting places to become a barrage of bric-a-brac. Domestic shrapnel exploding off the walls, hurled at you from some unseen hand.
Your safety inside is as much in question as your chances outside.

Enemies without, enemies within.

What DO you do?

If you're Dr. Stephen Strange, you throw wide the doors, turn off all the lights, stand fast in the center of the room and combat your foes as they come.

For no mere mortal, he. This is Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts - and Sorcerer Supreme. And the home he defends is not just his own four walls, but the unseen walls that separate our realm from theirs.
These combatants have chosen to try to invade the Earth, and their doorway is through the Sanctum Sanctorum.

This is what occurred (more often than not) within the stories that we shall review in today's installment, wherein we continue our in-depth look at the many rises and falls of the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange.


The first such tale of home invasion took that attack to the next level.
In a sequence within the pages of
Doctor Strange : Master of the Mystic Arts # 79, 80 & 81...

The empath; Topaz, who was living in the Sanctum while trying to deal with the loss of half of her soul, heard a voice coming from the walls, from beyond our ken, calling to her - offering to grant her desire - if but she would reach out for it.

That contact made between the two worlds, the alien sorcerer; Urthona, while keeping Dr. Strange busy with a demonic invader that he sent forth, cast a mighty spell that tore the Sanctum Sanctorum from it's foundations - from it's very bonds with this Earth, and pulled it - as a whole - into the beyond!

Having had his mortal form grievously injured in a battle joined against a monstrous foeman, Strange had to co-opt the body of his love-interest; Morganna Blessing and as such, was unable to thwart the wholesale usurpation of his mystic stronghold. Instead, merely being forced to watch as it was torn from this sphere and sent skyrocketing into the firmament.

Doctor Strange : Master of the Mystic Arts # 79
(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

However, the theft of the Sanctum was not nearly enough to satisfy Urthona's craving for it's power. Now standing on alien terrain, it was about to be subject to the vicious slings and arrows (or more accurately, bludgeons and battering rams) of other-dimensional warriors. Laying siege to it's walls, and searching it's depths, seizing all that lay within; spell-books and servants alike, the marauding hoards spared nothing in their wake until the Sanctum was a smoldering husk, and all that lay within was now within their possession.

Enemies at the gate!
Scenes from Doctor Strange : Master of the Mystic Arts # 80

(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

Wong and Topaz held prisoner, Wong "temporarily" killed (he was later resurrected by Topaz), and the entire cosmos threatened by a power-mad mystic warlord, Strange (now in the body of his newfound ally; Rintrah - himself a minor mystic) took the battle directly to Urthona and was forced to DESTROY all of the objects and talismans of power that once were under his protection, lest they be used by the dark sorcerer.

Finder's keepers - looser's to torch it all!
Doctor Strange : Master of the Mystic Arts # 81

(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

(Actually, they were only believed to be destroyed. While they WERE removed from the mortal plane, and as such, their binding spells broken; the artifacts and talismans were all rescued by Agamotto himself, and much later, bestowed again to Dr. Strange in; "Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme" # 7.)

As shown in issues # 1 and 2 of STRANGE TALES v2, after the dust had settled, and Urthona fled the battle, Doctor Strange and his friends returned to Earth, casting a spell that returned the Sanctum as well.
However, it was not what it once was. Broken, burned, cracked and charred, it was a derelict house - more fit for demolition than as a home or haven.

This house is not a home.
Scenes from Strange Tales vol 2 # 1

(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

And yet, that wasn't the end of the tormentors that would seek to cause more ruination. Having destroyed his totems, all the ancient seals that once bound ancient evils were broken, and the dark forces conspired to renew their attacks.

A house divided.
Scenes from Strange Tales vol 2 # 2

(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

This, plus a personal life now in tatters, Strange wove a powerful spell - one that would affect everyone on Earth, so that it would be perceived that he was now dead (died in a battle that never happened - with the Beyonder) so that he may move more freely about the world - seeking to return the ancient darkness to their places of imprisonment. To more ably perform that feat, his spell completely rebuilt the Sanctum Sanctorum and altered it's appearance and purpose to that of the "Stephen Strange Memorial Metaphysical Institute".

No forwarding address.
Scenes from Strange Tales vol 2 # 3

(Peter Gillis - writer / Chris Warner - artist)

However, those secondary "Strange Tales" are for another day.


There were other "home invasions" over the years, once including the Dread Dormammu taking over the body of Doctor Strange and casting Strange's astral spirit form out of the Sanctum, which the dread-one then lay claim to (and all who dwelt within it). However, since the Lord of the Dark Dimension was cast out without any undue stress upon the Sanctum - it isn't a factor for this blog entry.

A while later, however, after a long storyline involving the Lilith; the mother of demons - her "Lilin" , and their tearing into this worlds fabric of reality, a task in which Strange and his newly formed "Midnight Sons" were unable to prevent, the forces of evil penetrated the very walls of the Sanctum and infiltrated everywhere within. This loosed other evil entities as well, such as the former Sorceress Supreme; Salome' who also weakened Strange's mystic abilities and as such - he and the Sanctum, were doomed.

Taking it upon himself, once again, to remove a powerful element lest his foes take possession of it, this time, he hastened the COMPLETE devastation of the Sanctum Sanctorum, razing it to the ground.
(The entire issue of Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 60 is just scenes of the place getting torn apart by the demonic Lilin.)

Strange brings down the house.
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 60

(David Quinn - writer / Mel Rubi - artist)

This took place in Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 60 & 61 - the effects of which was also seen in many other issues in the Marvel books of that time.
(A few among them are: Secret Defenders # 11, Marvel Comics Presents # 146, Spectacular Spider-Man # 207 & 208.)

It was ALSO seen in at least ONE title from DC Comics as well!
Green Lantern v3 # 57 !

Take a close look. As Kyle Raynor (the "new" Green Lantern) looks to take up his new residence on Bleecker Street; in New York's Greenwich Village, who is it that helps him find his way?
None other than WONG.
And take a closer look at the rubble in that abandoned plot of land. A portion of a sigil-window can be seen.

Green Lantern takes a trip on the WONG side of town.
Green Lantern v3 # 57
Ron Marz (Script), Darryl Banks (Pencils), Romeo Tanghal (Inks)

Magic that was felt across a cross-company divide? Now THAT is some powerful mojo!


Once the old Sanctum was gone, and the usurpers were left with no spoils, Doctor Strange created a new "sanctum", a new base of power (as well as a new form of magick as well - the chaotic "Gaian Aura" which he channeled and focused through new items of power, within a new mystic engine): The "FORGE".
Deep underground, beneath Trinity Church, Stephen made his new home.

However, it was even more prone to reshaping itself than his last home, so that no two areas looked quite the same.

Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 64
(David Quinn - writer / Mel Rubi - artist)

In dire need of a storage facility.
Scenes from Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 72 & 73

(David Quinn - writer / Peter Gross - artist)

The main "Inner Sanctum", however, had features much akin to those of Gothic Cathedrals, like St. Vitus' in Prague.

It's so hard to properly heat these large living spaces.
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 72

(David Quinn - writer / Peter Gross - artist)

Salome' performs a little B&R on Strange's new crib.
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 74

(David Quinn - writer / Steve Yeowell - artist)

The "Inner Sanctum" of St. Vitus' Cathedral in Prague

This would serve him as his hidden base, even while he would take on another NEW seat of power!


"THE TEMPO" building was one that Stephen came to own via... complicated means (another long story, best told another time).

Designed by Salgood Sam, it was a modern-day seat of power for the modern-day powerful - as Strange was now the head of an international corporation (I told you. It's com-pli-ca-ted).

A towering spire, it was infiltrated several times and destroyed at least TWO (or three) times.
The first instance was during pitched battle between the Doctor and his two "Strangers"; "Vincent Stephens" and the entity known only as "Strange", mystical dopplegangers he created to do his earthly work while he created the "Forge".

At the end of the battle, the berzerker, "Strange", lays a destructive blast deep into the heart of the Tempo Building...

Don't bother calling the cops. They don't interfere with Domestic squabbles
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 74
(David Quinn - writer / Steve Yeowell - artist)

That seemed to weaken the structural integrity of the building enough, so that when Doctor Strange suffered a power disruption (caused by his mystic armor being breached)... well... that was pretty much all that was required to total the top floors of the tower.

"Strange" brings it - up inside the Doctor's hizouse.
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 74
(David Quinn - writer / Steve Yeowell - artist)

As destructive as that was, the building was rebuilt.

However, it was wrecked AGAIN!

What eventually dismantled it was completely unrelated to Strange... just a little something like a battle between the Incredible HULK and the Mighty THOR!

Some flying debris toppled nearby buildings that, in turn, caused structural fatigue to the Tempo (2nd panel on the page).

Collateral damage!
Incredible Hulk v2 # 440
(Peter David - writer / Angel Medina - art)

Although, the damage shown in that Hulk issue was far worse looking than what was shown in Doc's own title.

Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 88
(J.M. DeMatteis - writer / Mark Buckingham - artist)

Still, he fixed it all with a wave of his hand and placed the building up for sale.

Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 88
(J.M. DeMatteis - writer / Mark Buckingham - artist)

Oddly enough, the very next issue an otherworldly entity, calling itself "Afterlife" infiltrated Doctor Strage's body, and once cast out of it, proceeded to demolish the interior of the newly "magically renovated" Tempo yet again! After which, even Doctor Strange says; "screw it" (a loose paraphrasing) and decides NOT to fix it up again. Instead leaving it for the bulldozer to handle.

Doc say's "screw it!"
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 89

(J.M. DeMatteis - writer / Mark Buckingham - artist)

However, that was not before he had taken on yet ANOTHER Sanctum Sanctorum!


Having "nearly depleted" his Gaian magic during the War of the Seven Spheres" (yes. I WILL get into THAT at another time), Stephen had returned to Earth - all the while, the TEMPO was in full operation, with WONG at the helm, and the first order of business for the good Doctor was to take another house.

With his old Sanctum still leveled and it's lot an abandoned ruin (see Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 77), Strange purchases (in record time) a new house on Bleecker Street, (not too far from his original location) and sets it up into his new Sanctum Sanctorum (in issue # 80).

Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 80
(Warren Ellis - writer / Mark Buckingham - artist)

The new edifice would have unique features, much like his previous Sanctum.
However, what this one would have that the other did not was a private study that was made out of living flesh.

Not quite pleather, not quite naugahyde.
Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 81

(Warren Ellis(plot); Todd DeZago(script), Mark Buckingham(pencils))

This building is never fully explored, although we do get to see a little of it in the last few issues of the "Sorcerer Supreme" series.

It vanishes soon thereafter, as it is dropped by editorial edict (or new creator ignorance - or indifference).


There was a plot-line (Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 78) wherein the Bleecker St. property was to be made into an "asylum' for kids who were not able to be properly served by "normal" educational systems (while similar to the "Metaphysical Institute", this would be a school - similar to Xavier's, but for magical kids).

The property was donated to the city's "E.S.U." - along with a $10 MILLION grant!
Ground was broken, but nothing ever happened with that tale, as the plot was dropped.

All's fair in love, war and real-estate.
Scenes from Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Supreme # 78

(David Quinn(plot); Evan Skolnick(script) (Script),
Marie Severin(breakdowns) (Pencils), Peter Gross(finishes)


However, a little while later (Uncanny X-men # 329 - Feb 1996) the old Sanctum is brought back, (mysteriously) rebuilt - no explanation given. However, you will notice that the study in which Strange gazes into his scrying pool seems to be made of the living-flesh much like his other Sanctum. One would imagine that he liked it so much he incorporated it into his newly rebuild Sanctum Sanctorum (either that or artist Joe Maduriera just drew the old-style Sanctum exterior for reasons unknown).

Looking forward to the past.
Uncanny X-Men # 329

(Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb - writers / Joe Maduriera - artist)


That brings us to the modern age... and the next stage of the rise, fall, rise and fall...
of the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Series Continues - here in:
- Part VI -
Draw the Curtains and Turn Off the Lights


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying reading through the archives of your blog. You have some nice pieces on Doctor Strange, Doctor Who, and Rom Spaceknight. What did you think of David Quinn's work on Doctor Strange? I liked it a great deal, and I wrote about it on my own blog...

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