Sunday, February 24, 2013



The "Sancty"*


These “SANCTY’S” are to be awarded to the BEST (and WORST) of what 02012 had to offer for the devoted, die-hard, discriminating (and/or desperate, as the case usually is,) Doctor Strange / "6-Dimensions" fan!

Since the Mayan “end-of-the-world” didn’t occur (stupid Mayans – I gave them 2 chances too [HERE] & [HERE] - and we even had a near-miss with an asteroid - as discussed [HERE]), it is still my pleasure (& obligation) to take a look back at (and pass judgment upon) what 2012 had to offer.

And so, let’s get on with the Awards…



2012 was an interesting year for Doctor Strange. It was a year of tremendous ups and downs, highs and lows, nears and fars… well… uh… sorry, that made no sense, but really, Strange was able to be an AVENGER (well… a “street-level” “NEW” Avenger) and help defeat the tremendous threat of Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin?!? He’s more of a mook than The HOOD! How is THAT an achievement? Spider-Man beats Osborn on weekends between laundry cycles…ugh…), get the DEFENDERS back together (although, by the end it really made no difference since the whole thing “never happened”), got to help out during the titanic clash between the Avengers VS the X-Men (well… he didn’t really do MUCH at all), helped RED HULK (well… astrally stalked RED SHE-HULK is more accurate), screwed with the new female GHOST RIDER, and helped beat up on the daughter of the RED SKULL in “FEAR ITSELF” - all while still hamstrung by a loss of power – before eventually, by year’s-end regaining his full power and title! (Just don’t get me started on how a “loss of power” should be nigh-impossible since in his case his power is knowledge - *sigh*. IF you DO want to read my thoughts on that, feel free to check that out in an old post [HERE]. But do it later. After the awards. Unlike real awards shows, WE don’t have professional “sitters” to fill your seat while you’re gone. And we’d miss you.)

As always happens, there were some appearances that by nature of their being better (ideally) or just not as bad as the rest (sadly, sometimes this is the case) rose to the top of the heap and cast a favorable spotlight on Doctor Strange and the rest (and in some cases from surprising sources).

Here are a few of the top contenders:

The Runner ups:

While ostensibly a tie-in to the “Ends of the Earth” story arc, it’s merely a story that highlights one of that arc’s big figures (Silver Sable) despite it being set “a few years back”. It also features Doctor Strange in a very good showing! At the start we find that Strange had a Princess (Lenka of Symkaria), who is bestowed with high-mystic-potential (she’s the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter [yes, like a Biblical prophecy, Sinbad the Sailor, or Iron Maiden]) to be raised in secret, but now that she is 21, her father (who doesn’t believe the mystic mumbo jumbo) traded her to Doctor Doom as a peace offering between Symkaria & Latveria. (So, right off the bat, we have writer(s) Ty Templeton & Dan Slott who know that Strange has been at this magic stuff for longer than the “Marvel sliding time-scale’s” 10-year standard. Awesome.)
Strange hired Silver Sable (for a metric ton of cash) to sneak the princess out of her country before the wedding to Doom (since Doom would do nasty things to her [no not THAT!, get your minds outta the gutter] in order to steal her mystic energies or whatnot).
Doctor Strange instructs that for the mystic energies to be safe, the princess must marry someone she loves, so, Sable wants to pay Spider-Man to be the new husband (since the princess has seemingly had a crush on him for the past 6 years), but Doom is not about to lose what “is his”. Of course, it turns out that she doesn’t really love Spidey, she just thought he’d stand a better chance against Dr. Doom than her real love; Marek (a pastry boy in her father’s castle).
What makes this appearance a good appearance by Dr. Strange is that, in addition to the proper timetable for his being an active sorcerer, he is also shown using many different and varied spells (not all with the appropriate deities/names of power however; the “Pentagram of Farallah” I can give a pass to, but the “Obscuring mists of Valtorr” is wrong. Vapors of Valtorr is correct, but I’m splitting hairs). Even the artwork by Matt Clark has Strange using more than just the standard “I love you/Devil’s horns” finger positions.
Strange then reveals that actual LOVE is imperative in this “special marriage” because it must be consummated – physically (y’know… that stuff you thought Dr. Doom was going to do to her. Yowza!). So, Strange is totally pimping love and looking every inch the part in his classic duds and porn ‘stash.
Despite Doom’s mopping the floor with them, the battle between Doom and the heroes is only stopped when Doom realizes that the newly married royal couple have… um… coupled.
The downside to Strange’s appearance is that Dr. Doom easily nullifies Strange in battle with a concussive blast.

You can read a little “review”/sample of this issue [HERE]

While the whole of this DEFENDERS volume was not met with much approval (by me, or in fact, many other readers - as the sales figures will attest) at least one issue made a somewhat favorable impression. Almost totally a Doctor Strange solo issue, this was the tale of an old love lost, a new love found & casually cast away, the old love returning (from the dead) and the new love helping the old love from a dire threat – all with Doctor Strange in the middle.
I’m poking a little fun at it, sure. However, this issue (even with its many flaws and failings by writer Matt Fraction) is a good one. Doctor Strange is shown to be (mostly) effective and in control. Also shown is a darker side to Strange that is both interesting and worrisome. At the end of it all, while Matt Fraction did try to put some good stuff into it, the issue had too many plot holes to be the winner of this category, but still the artwork of Michael Lark helped to ensure its place as a finalist.

My review of the issue can be found [HERE].

- DEFENDERS # 11 -
With the end of the world imminent, and the heroes making a last stand against the Death Celestial, Doctor Strange takes a moment from it all to check on the well-being of his loyal manservant/aide/student/friend; Wong.
Sadly, his friend is dead, and what transpires, while a short scene is a touching one, as Doctor Strange mourns his deceased friend. It is a heartfelt scene of love and respect, expressed fealty and admitted failings, from one man to another. Matt Fraction wrote it, but it is the simple, yet expressive art by Mirco Pierfederici which sells the emotional scene. Unfortunately, a scant 2 (and a half) pages, this was too little, too late to make this issue a winner (or to save the series as a whole).

In a scene penned by series writer Cullen Bunn and drawn by Paul Pelletier, while mystically binding his former student; Wildpride, Doctor Strange, after having been betrayed by Damien Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), is then given aide by a turncoat from the villain’s side (Crossbones), with the posited suggestion to “…kick that Hellstrom fella’s teeth in”. Strange’s reply? “That can be arranged!”
Sadly, it was one line.

However, as much of a minor “F#@% YEAH!” moment as it was last issue, THIS is the issue where Doctor Strange finally steps up. While studying the many mystic parchments which Crossbones gave to him last issue, Strange not only finds the answer to HOW to defeat the menace at hand, but he does so while at the same time managing the effects of a fear-spell that has every other hero (and many villains) whimpering like little babies. Then, Strange helps save the day by resurrecting Valkyrie in order to empower a summoning spell and allow her to defeat Sin who is in an “ultimate form”.
This issue could almost have won writer Cullen Bunn the award, except it didn’t remove the taint of Strange’s poor performance in earlier issues (as we’ll discuss later).

- AVENGERS vs X-MEN # 11 –
While the majority of the series had Strange relegated to the sidelines (or worse – as you’ll read in the next category), this issue had Doctor Strange finally doing something that showed his might. Shortly prior to absorbing the full power of the Phoenix-Force into himself, Cyclops is a nigh-unbeatable opponent. And he would have been, if not for Dr. Strange casting a holding spell over him while Professor X invaded Cyclops’ mind, causing Cyclops’ energies and attentions to be drawn away from the physical battle. Written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Olivier Coipel, you don’t know it’s Strange until the reveal, and even then it’s only one page. The cool factor is immediately nullified when Cyclops quickly breaks free and we never see Dr. Strange again (while guys like Hawkeye are still standing). Thus, this is one entry that doesn’t rise from the ashes.

- HULK # 50 -
Red Hulk seeks out Dr. Strange for help regarding the spirit forms that the gamma-irradiated “Thunderbolt” Ross has been seeing as of late. While in the guise of helping out the former General, Strange instead uses the journey through Ross’ memories to gain personal information on the Red SHE-HULK (his erstwhile teammate in the DEFENDERS and more importantly… RED HULK’s daughter). Totally a manipulative-bastard move. Nice!
Still, Strange does come through for Red Hulk in the end, helping to defeat a swarm of ghosts that threaten the crimson crusher (and even helps out for the next few issues).
Writer Jeff Parker also shows why he is one of the few Marvel writers who really groks Doc, as he shows that Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is filled with spirits – each one bound to a mystic item. Parker also scores points for tying in with events from recent story arc in VENOM title as well as reminding readers that there’s a mystic doorway located in the attic of Avengers Mansion which leads to Doc’s Sanctum.  Artist Carlo Pagulayan gives a great showing, treating the reader with the right amount of spectral ambiance and mystic might.

To give proper respect to Jeff Parker, this entry makes the list purely on the power of ONE PANEL! Tossing out a call-back to a 20+ year-old graphic novel is wonderful enough. Using it as a touch-point of reference in your modern story is LOVE! Parker calls back to the end of the DOCTOR STRANGE / DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH & TORMENT original graphic novel (by Roger Stern, Mike Mignola & Marc Badger) and made me smile with deep appreciation (and utter a well-deserved; “F#@% YEAH!”).

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 20 -
Brian Bendis has Doc cast a massive tidal wave illusion spell and teleports the team out of the ass-kicking which they were receiving all after getting to call the eternal command of – “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!” All impressively drawn by Mike Deodato. Not a bad day. Just not enough for more than a nod.

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 31 - 34 -
After years of abuse and poor understanding of the ways of magic, Brian Bendis decided to call it a day with his Avengers writing and knew that he probably should put his toys back to the way he found them. Thus, Doctor Strange was bestowed, once again, with the title of Sorcerer Supreme. The story made little sense. The dangling plot points are too many to list. The artwork for the final issue - a grab bag of indie comic artists and Mike Deodato (who looks like he put work into the first few pages and then just crammed the rest as quick as he could and butchered Doc’s cool new costume in the process) - is a mish mash that made the $3.99-an–issue price tag hurt all that much more. But, in the end, Strange is Supreme and for that, it gets nominated. What helped it hold the position is that in the end, Dr. Strange is shown reasoning out the mystery and using knowledge to defeat a horrific foe.
My reviews of the issues #31-[HERE], #32-[HERE], #33-[HERE], #34-[HERE]



While cast in a purely supporting role, Doctor Strange is the sole hero (save for Davis’ personal creations; the ClanDestine) who helps carry the story from one annual to the next. A 3-part story (although each issue can be read as a stand-alone if desired) which sees a threat to (and by) ClanDestine travel back and forth through time, all while wreaking havoc in “modern” NYC and drawing the separate attentions of the titular heroes of the three annuals – and Dr. Strange. If any failing can be put to this project it would be that while Strange is purely the only one who, from start to finish, seems on top of the entire situation, when the end came about, Strange was left almost wholly unused; the wrap-up was all Wolverine’s.

Still, even when standing around, Alan Davis’ Doctor Strange is better than 99% of anyone else’s, and is always a treat to see and to read.

Davis writes Doctor Strange the way he truly should be – the purest and most distilled version of the character: mysterious, patient, powerful, curious and most of all; learned. Every utterance from Davis’ version of the good Doctor is pure gold.

While not a bad point, the tale takes place at some time in the not-too-distant past, as Doctor Strange is still wearing his old Ditko-designed vestments (Blue tunic, black leggings, Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto). Still, while I would have been interested in seeing how Davis would interpret Strange’s Cloak-less Black & Red garb, there is no professional comic artist alive today who can do better with the classic full-regalia version of Doctor Stephen Strange than Alan Davis.

This is available in individual issues and/or the “Alan Davis’: ‘Marvel Tales’.” TPB.



Maybe I’m getting more tolerant in my old age (or perhaps, the legion of appearances which heaped poor treatment upon Doctor Strange over the years has numbed me to examples of same) but whatever the reason, I don’t seem to recall as many atrociously horrible appearances as in years’ prior. Oh, don’t misunderstand… there are still some bile-inducing transgressions, to be sure. It’s just that I can’t remember there being all that many. (Feel free to leave a comment to point out any ones I’ve left off the list. Really. That’s where the fun is.) Still, know that just because it isn’t listed here, doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. These are just the ones that made the cut.

The Runner ups:

While Doctor Strange makes a dramatic entrance into the story in the company of the Avengers, and while he does in fact shortly thereafter detect not only the coming of the mystic/demonic enemy but also the source from whence it originates, he soon falls back into “less-than-useful” status because he rushes away from the battle in his astral form – which is unable to stop the device which is creating the problem. Luckily, Valkyrie happens by at that moment and he directs her to smash the construct. That isn’t all that bad, but his next step is to track Valkyrie (who is on the run from both heroes and villains alike) via a metal sliver from her sword; not realizing that as a rookie mistake, since if he can do so, so can the foes which they are all combating. Then when those foes blow up the hiding place they are all in, Doc only erects a mystic shield around himself, letting Captain America get wounded and Valkyrie’s dwarven friend die. Writer Cullen Bunn not really helping the cause here.

- AVENGERS ANNUAL # 1 (2012) -
Yet two MORE issues where Brian Bendis needed to take Doc off the playing field, so that the trumped-up villains can have their “win” Thus, Doctor Strange is written to be knocked out (or passed out from exertion) - again. Bendis didn’t invent the “bonk to the head” method of taking out an otherwise too-powerful hero who would otherwise singlehandedly take care of the threat at hand, (as I’m sure silver-age Green Lantern writers first cooked up that gem), but he’s made it a valued addition in his toolbox of “character weakening” plot devices.

- X-FACTOR # 232, 233 -
In another reality, Doctor Strange is not only DEAD (killed by Dormammu), but even in astral form – is shown to be incompetent - the death of Madrox & the universe-shifting of his reality’s Dormammu to our own reality being the result. I expect better treatment from Peter David, who usually writes a pretty decent Doctor Strange.

- NEW AVENGERS # 31 - 34 -
Wait! But wasn’t this 4-issue arc also nominated for the “Best of” category? Yes. Yes it was. But it also garners a “Worst of” nod for many of the same reasons (just the flip-side to them). No matter how he tries to spin it, Bendis MUST have had more planned for the resolution of this “Who is Sorcerer Supreme / Agamotto is eeeevil” series of arcs, but once again never gets it to the printed page.
First of all, the mystery behind Agamotto’s need for the Eye was never truly addressed. Statements were made with no evidence to back them up. Characters were introduced (like who was the “Ancient One” speaking to in the first arc back in issues # 1-6) were never made manifest. Dr. Voodoo “kills” Agamotto and the Eye was supposedly destroyed – but at the end of THIS arc… it’s back and in perfect working order (which it probably shouldn’t if Agamotto is truly dead). There are many more plot holes that can be pointed to, but even ignoring those, these issues were slap-dash, rushed BS, and made Doctor Strange into a bit of an idiot.
Dr. Strange fears that a spirit-force who can go anywhere and be anyone is a potential threat? Sure, let’s all go to the Astral Plane to talk – a spirit form won’t possibly show up there to kill you. DUH! Strange spends much of the arc on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. (which actually had some cool moments) for the death of two agents (with the useless addition of a SHIELD L.M.D. purely for a “gotcha” moment) until he decides to return for the big show-down at the end – which for all intents and purposes is just so that Bendis can put all the toys back in the box. But did you ever have a friend (or a sibling) play with your stuff, break one of them, and then try to just kinda put it back as close to how (s)he found them as possible to hide the fact that it’s no longer “as good as new”? Well, that’s how Bendis handled Doctor Strange. He’s back in the toybox, but still a little bit broken.

- AVENGERS vs X-MEN # 2 & 3 -
Let me see if I got this straight… Doctor Strange, who has been in mystic combat against all kinds of foes (demons, entities, gods…) in an array of unbelievable other-dimensional locales (all manner of dimensions, i.e; Dark, and/or beyond the Veil; i.e; Purple, and/or  deep in various aspects of Hell; too many to list) for DECADES… is no match for Illyana “Magik” Rasputin; the tweenage little sister of Colossus? Yes, she’s the Lord of Limbo. Yes, she’s more powerful in her home dimension than an outsider would be. Yes, the plot needed Doc out of the way. But all that means nothing in the fact that Strange has been beating much more powerful, much more seasoned (by millennia) foes than she whist IN THEIR REALMS.
Oh sure… that was the “old” Sorcerer Supreme level Dr. Strange. He’s “weaker” now. You’re telling me that just because he has less magic to toss around he is now going to be able to be “taken unawares” and was “taken out of his element”? I’ve news for you – Dr. Strange, when he was still fairly NEW to the Mystic Arts (and only a “Master” of same) was still able to mop the ever-shifting floor with more powerful foes than she.
“Out of his element”? There is NO SUCH THING for Doctor Strange. He’s been nearly everywhere and seen nearly everything in creation (INCLUDING the CREATION of the UNIVERSE! (more than once!).
The worst part of it all…? That it all happened OFF-PANEL, so the reader can’t even be given a justification for the outcome of the battle. No evidence of a battle, of wily psychological torture or illusion-spell trickery – no - only an unconscious Doctor Strange brought back in defeat (with the added insult of his being used as a reverse-Trojan-horse; being mystically disguised as Illyana by her, so that the X-Men could make their escape).

Here's the guilty party:
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction.
Script: Ed Brubaker.
Artists: John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna, Laura Martin

This didn't win alone as THE WORST appearance but for two reasons:

1) The very fact that it WASN'T shown on the page allows for Dr. Strange to be granted some small benefit of doubt that he put up a terrific batle and maybe only lost by the slimmest of margins due to some unfortunate turn in the battle.

2) While only one issue (one issue sent them off to fight, but it wasn't until the next issue that we saw the outcome of the unseen battle), it is but a blip in a much larger example of poor treatment.

Which is why, in this category, I have no choice but to declare an Unbreakable TIE!

The "Winner(s)":

- AVENGERS vs X-MEN # 0-12 (maxi-series) -


*“WINNER” # 2*
- AVENGERS vs X-MEN # 0-12 (maxi-series) -

The Reasons:

For an entire 12-issue (no, wait… 13-issue, since there was an issue “0”, and I didn’t even count the few “Infinite” animatic issues) mega-hyped, company-wide, future-changing “event” as this project was, with nearly every Marvel character either falling between the two camps of either being an “Avenger” or an “X-Man” (and many being BOTH), with every opportunity to shine a spotlight on numerous characters whose popularity might enjoy the boost, to once again snub Doctor Strange (who did so very little in this series, most of the time being shown as a background character, but when he does actually get the spotlight, is immediately burned by it) is a slap in the face.
Obviously, the very fact that nearly every character was in this series, that would, of course by the very fact of sheer numbers, make it difficult to make every one of them shine in the limelight, but that is no excuse to the poor treatment of not only a “founding” character, but also one whom positive exposure would help ensure a better turn-out for the announced-in-advance-of-this-series upcoming feature film… well… I’m just saying.

Add to the insult that nearly nowhere in either this main series or the various spin-off’s (AvX, etc…) or even the tie-in issues of main series that he would normally appear (New Avengers) does Doctor Strange either appear or have his presence felt. Except, of course, when he does show up and is made into a useless failure. He should just receive billing as an “extra” – “Guy in the background who kinda looks like Reed Richards and/or Tony Stark, but who doesn’t really do anything”.

Even taking into account the horrible showing that Doctor Strange is given in his off-panel “battle” with Illyana, it still isn’t as bad as the fact that when Iron-Man (of all people) accepts that the answer to the problem is a mystic one – that the heroes tapped to take care of this aspect of the equation is not the “Master of the Mystic Arts” but the Scarlet Witch (ok, sure… she did technically set into motion all that started all of this) and Iron Fist (a martial artist with ties to a mystical realm). Doctor Strange was not a factor at all.

The final affront: cost. Added together (not counting the innumerable variant covers or any of the spin-off titles or cross-over issues) the monetary cover-price cost of this dissing was: $51.87.
(Sure, I get a 40% discount on my new comics, but that’s still $31.12)

Truthfully, if I want to read a comic about how the return of the Phoenix Force might be a world-ending threat and thus the X-Men have to battle a straight-up super-team over this turn of events, I would prefer to re-read the X-MEN/TEEN TITANS crossover, 1-shot special (from back in the 1980’s) an INFINITE amount more… and Dr. Strange wasn’t even IN that!

Once again, here’s the party responsible for the AvX P.o.S.: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction.


*WINNER # 1*
- DOCTOR STRANGE: SEASON ONE (hardcover original graphic novel) -

The Reasons:

I know that this choice will be met with some disagreement from others, as I’m sure that there were those who liked it. I, myself, had nothing but high-hopes for this project. In fact, everything writer Greg Pak said that it would be filled me with an eager anticipation. Still, I was wary. Too often such projects are not what they set out to be and end up being lackluster. However, my wariness was somewhat allayed by the fact that Marvel was producing a Doctor Strange ORIGINAL hardcover graphic novel (the likes of which have not been seen from Marvel since the 1980’s).
Sadly, this book is the worst of 2012 for all the same reasons that Mark Waid’s “STRANGE” v2 mini-series was worst of 2009, or BENDIS’ work was worst in 2010 & 2011 (and J.M.S’s “STRANGE” v1 would have been the worst of its year if I had these awards back then) – everyone wants to “fix” or “improve” a character that needs no fixing, needs no improving and is perfect if written correctly. A character created in nearly perfect and complete form by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee 50 years ago, whom the modern writers in question (in this case Greg Pak) just don’t really seem to understand. I know Pak’s heart was in the right place, and while he’s done some decent work with the character in the past (although, not all of it was good – much of it made it onto “worst” lists in years prior), still it is obvious that Greg Pak had only good intentions with this project. Sadly, of “good intentions” is exactly what the path to hell is supposedly comprised. Hell’s path and a “worst” Doctor Strange appearance of 2012.
The artwork by Emma Rios didn’t help matters much. While looking at her full-size original b/w artwork online did indeed make me change my opinion of her contribution (it may have been the fault of the colorist or just that Emma’s art didn’t translate well into being printed at a reduced size), it still doesn’t negate the fact that much of the book was visually incomprehensible.
It was touted as being all “in-canon”, yet with all the mistakes, poor characterizations, wrong-minded choices and absolute fan-fic level changes to the origin and nature of the main characters relationship and history, it is best (like JMS’ “STRANGE” v1) to be merely left as an alternate-universe bit of “What If”.

The full reasoning of why this “wins” as one of THE worst of 2012 are many and varied, far too much to go into here.

To get the full answer you’d have to read my review of the volume [HERE].


BEST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (hero):

The Runner ups:

- HOWARD the DUCK in: MARVEL ZOMBIES: DESTROY! (5-issue mini series) -
Howard the Duck as a zombie-hunting, Howling Commando-y, Agent of “A.R.M.O.R”, leading a team of Golden-Age heroes (and Dum-Dum Dugan) to fight rampaging zombies. What more do you need? OK, how about that the zombies are nazi’s and Howard was hand-picked for this job by the President of the United States. With the blood, guts and body-count, think “Inglorious Basterds” but with a Duck. Give thanks to writers Frank Marraffino & Peter David and artists Mirco Pierfederici and Al Barrionuevo with Rick Magyar. “Waauughh!”

- Howard the Duck & MAN-THING in: WOLVERINE & The X-MEN # 17 -
As if an issue, written by Jason Aaron with art by Michael Allred that stars Doop isn’t good enough for you, while showing the average “days in the life of” your not-so-average hovering, green mutant/alien/booger/thingee, a few interactions of the “6-dimensions” variety did indeed crop up. First, Doop teams up with Howard to Duck, whilst they are “trapped in a cave in Dimension ZZZ, surrounded by bloodthirsty hoards of robo-barbarians, with nothing between (us) but a broken sword, a rubber chicken with nails in it, and a gun that shoots bees”. That’s right. Awesome!
Later, after a lot more weirdness, Man-Thing shows up with a pair of fishing rods and a bait-&-tackle box. One can almost hear the whistling theme to the “Andy Griffith Show”. Too bad they were each only in the issue for a scant few panels.

Satana totally pwns Doctor Doom; casting the monarch of Latveria’s spirit into Hell. Jeff Parker kicked all kinds of ass on this title!

- CLEA in: DARK AVENGERS # 184 -
Not seen since 2002’s “DEFENDERS v2 / the ORDER”, (unless you count the one-panel sex-scene from Bendis’ New Avengers: Illuminati # 3 in 2007,) here Jeff Parker provides an appearance by CLEA! (and as seen in Jan 2013’s issue #185… a Clea who is hot and kinky. – which is how all mystic, other-dimensional princesses should be.) But, in issue #184 there isn’t much else to vote for except that she is present… and nasty (albeit a version from a possible alternate future?).

Not only did Jeff Parker give us a dark and nasty version of CLEA, but he also gives us DARK STRANGE! (ok, that’s just MY term for him. DARKTOR STRANGE? Whatevs. It’s an alt-future DOCTOR STRANGE! – which is why this isn’t listed in the “Best Dr. Strange Appearance” category.) Either way, it’s an as-of-yet unexplained alternate iteration of Strange (writer Jeff Parker has stated that it is not an alternate earth, so it’s probably a possible future of OUR 616 Earth. And in it, Doc is one of a small number of warlords who rule NY – the last civilized zone on the planet. He’s ruthless and manipulative and more interesting than he’s been in the 616 in a long, long while.)

Dr. Druid is shown in flashback as being something of an audio technophile. Somehow I find it amusing to think that behind his stoic demeanor and mystic nature, Anthony Druid was a master of quadraphonic sound. An example of writer Matt Fraction just trying to be “kewl” and ignoring all previous characterization, but in this case – it’s sadly amusing.

With all it has going against it, (ie: hair-brained plot-points, tiresome chest-thumping fights, the “Dr. Doom did it” easy-out, slow-assed shipping schedule, etc…) I can not help but include this series (again) for a “BEST of” nomination purely based on the visuals – beautiful artwork by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales – and the beautiful Scarlet Witch (Yes. I love her. Wanna fight about it?)!

- LOKI in: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (the year’s worth of issues) -
“Wait…” I can hear you stammering. “Loki is NOT a hero!” Well, that may be true of the Loki of old, but this new, young, repentant Loki set in motion machinations that enabled him to save Asgard, Earth and the rest of the 9 Worlds, all the while either evading detection (keeping his do-goodery a secret) or taking the full blame should something have gone awry. Kieron Gillen sets the God of Mischief onto the path of right!

- DAIMON HELLSTROM in: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (the “Terrorism Myth” arc) -
Published during the confusing time when the Son of Satan was behaving as both a hero and a villain (depending on what title you were reading), Daimon really steps up to the plate here to assist Loki (another switch-hitter) to defeat the machinations of the Fear Lords. Sure, he does the hero thing in full hellfire and brimstone, but as Leah (Hela’s hand-maiden) says in the story; “Everyone loves a bad boy.” Us too! Thanks again to Kieron Gillen.

Jeff Parker’s ode to his love of Man-Thing (wait… that didn’t come out right) continues with a few issues of T-BOLTS (before and after the name swap to DarkAvengers) by allowing for the long dormant Man-Thing (aka: Vogornus Koth) to rise from his pod and be granted the ability to think, reason and… speak. But not just any ability of speech, but a “universal language” termed “X’ZELZI’OHR”, which grants the ability to be understood in anyone’s native tongue, dialect or use of slang.
As if that wasn’t special enough (despite my feelings against a non-empathic, cognitive and communicative, Man-Thing), there is a quiet scene in issue #177 between Man-Thing and Ghost wherein a bittersweet exchange occurs as Manny reveals the inherent problems now that he can think. Thanks to Manny emulating Ghost’s proper speech-patterns, the conversation is more fully felt. Add in the emotive artwork of Kev Walker & Frank Martin (who are THE Man-Thing artists for my taste) and the scene becomes one which you both; feel badly for intruding upon and yet hate to leave.
Bravo, gentlemen – all!

But, alas… a few good scenes here and there can’t hope to compete against the inevitable winner in this category, wherein the entirety of the series was devoted to shining a positive light on the lead character.

The Winner:

- VALKYRIE in: FEAR ITSELF: The FEARLESS (mini-series) –
Despite having to battle not only against the villainy of Sin; the new Red Skull, and the power of the Hammers of the Fear God, Valkyrie also had to contend against nearly every hero in order to do so. Still, she never wavered from her task, even though the end-game would certainly entail her death. Cullen Bunn delivered a gripping tale of the Asgardian maiden’s rise to prominence.


WORST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (hero):

The Runner Ups:

- NICK FURY in: BATTLE SCARS (mini-series) –
Nick Fury is a (way-older-than) middle-aged white guy who fought in WWII, smokes cigars, uses cool spy-gear and has his finger on the pulse of every bit of everything in the world and has been rocking the Marvel Universe since his creation in 1963. Nick Fury JR, is a 20-something black guy who was force-fed to the comic readers by the fact that Marvel had a Samuel L. Jackson “Nick Fury” over in the “Ultimate” universe, that was then utilized to get Samuel L. Jackson to play the “616” Nick Fury in the Marvel movie franchises, and so now has to be the Nick Fury of the “616” comic universe as well, despite the ridiculousness of his origin story (wherein he is the illegitimate son of the white Nick Fury and was captured by a foe who thought that by plucking out Jr’s eye he would be able to be more like dear-old-dad – sheesh, it’s so preposterous…which is why I’m continuing this ridiculous run-on-sentence because if I stop to use a period I might take the opportunity to shoot myself in the head…) so the people who saw the movies can get their USDA daily-allowance of Samuel L. Jackson without having to read the not-so “Ultimate” comics to do so. Ugh!

Morbius is back, but totally treated like a punk. Issue # 699.1 helped a little to fix it, but too little too late. We’ll see how his solo series helps him next year. I expected better from Dan Slott.

- BLACK KNIGHT & MI-13 in: GAMBIT # 5-7 –
MI-13 – Black Knight’s UK team, reduced from Paul Cornell’s magickal greatness to a minor plot point by James Asmus. Black Knight only seen in a few panels in the final issue. Nothing to progress their canon.

The "Winner":

What? They weren’t even IN the issues, you say? Well, THAT WHY this “wins” as worst. They SHOULD HAVE BEEN; by the very nature of the story and the arc that led to it. Brian Bendis’ obvious rush to end the series left no opportunity for Brother Voodoo or Agamotto to have their stories told.


BEST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (villain):

The Runner Ups:

The Son of Satan enters the story in the company of the Avengers, ostensibly as Doctor Strange’s “number 1”, but during the heat of a pitched battle against a demonic hoarde, Daimon performs a complete heel-turn and switches sides, which proves that he’s indeed the heir to the title; “the Prince of Lies”. Cullen Bunn has a nice grip on his dark side.

Truthfully, the Wraiths don’t do much but perform some generic black magic, but the fact that they DO appear, and thus carry forth the ROM: SPACEKNIGHT canon is a nice thing.

- DANIEL DRUMM (Brother Voodoo) in: NEW AVENGERS v2 #31-34 -
While it wasn’t a well-constructed story, and the rationale for Daniel losing his shit seemed weak at best, even I can’t deny that the overall effect of Daniel’s decent into badness (which started in earnest in the late, lamented DOCTOR VOODOO (mini) series was engaging. Being relegated to 2nd banana (and invisible, dead banana at that) and then having the lead banana (your brother) seemingly set up to die… yeah.. that just might do it. Drumm doesn’t win (the story’s battle or this award), because Brian Bendis just couldn’t seem to remember how Drumm’s power of possession actually worked. A guy who can take over only one person at a time, even if the time required to body-hop is a fraction of a second, is STILL going to be unable to control a whole team (no, sorry, TWO teams) of Avengers – or hope to defeat Doctor Strange.

- LOKI in: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (year’s worth of issues) -
“Now wait one minute here…” I can hear you screaming. “You already nominated Loki as a hero!” Well, that may be true, but whether he be a new, young, repentant Loki, who may have set in motion machinations that enabled him to save Asgard, Earth and the rest of the 9 Worlds, all the while either evading detection (keeping his do-goodery a secret) or taking the full blame should something have gone awry, this IS still Loki we’re talking about here, and even his good deeds are done for the basest of intent. Like Satana, above, Loki is a complex character and can not be defined by simple black/white labels. He IS a villain. But his villainy required him to BE THE HERO. Still… that doesn’t negate the fact that his heroism was predicated on his VILLAINY. Kieron Gillen brings the God of Mischief back to more familiar winding ways from his long journey down the golden path!

- THORI in: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY # 632 (and more) -
How is this not awesome? A cute, little, hell-hound puppy who curses constantly and wants to eat everyone. “Death!Death!Death!” OK, this isn’t a real “villains” nomination, but, c’mon… it should be. Give the dog a bone. Thanks to Kieron Gillen for the laughs.
HEY! This mongrel just pissed fire onto my boot! Awwww… but he’s just so cute. I can’t stay mad at him. Who’s an adorable little monster? You are! Yes, you are!

The Winner:

- NIGHTMARE in : JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (the “Terrorism Myth” arc)-
FINALLY! Someone has turned Nightmare into a capable and frightening foe.
For perhaps one of possibly three instances since he was first introduced in Strange Tales # 110 (with Doctor Strange), Nightmare is transformed from a 1-dimensional boogie-man that we all can defeat by simply waking up, into a serious threat. By dredging up all the residual fear left over from the God of Fear’s battle (the ‘Fear Itself’ “event”) from within the minds of catatonic children, Nightmare forges a crown to make himself the King of Fear! While his reign doesn’t last long at all, it was still an intriguing premise. Kieron Gillen is certainly taking up permanent residence on this award’s list, isn’t he? Well, that’s no nightmare.


WORST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (villain):

The Runner Ups:

- DANIEL DRUMM (Brother Voodoo) in: NEW AVENGERS v2 # 31-34 -
Daniel Drumm is here for exactly the SAME reasons why he was in the BEST of category. Now, if I could only award this to Bendis himself… he’d win for sure.

Not a good appearance at all, because he was beaten like a chump. But the fact that it is an appearance by HYBRID (and thus keeping the mythos of ROM alive) keeps it from being the worst.

- BLACKHEART in: VENOM #  13, 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4, 14 -
While I know this was an arc entitled “CIRCLE OF FOUR” the numbering alone should win for “Worst Villain”! Anyway… BLACKHEART…
Yes, we get it…you want your daddy’s approval (and his domain). Wah! You’ve already proven yourself a few times to be able to do JUST as much as dear old Dad (Mephisto), who, let’s face it, has NEVER really pulled off a major win either. So, move on and do what every maladjusted kid does. Move out and never talk to the old guy again, but use the looming figure of your father as an excuse why your life isn’t panning out like you planned. Oh, and make sure to develop a harmful habit (gorging yourself on souls works fine. They’re as fattening as Malomars).
But seriously, once again, we get the trope of a villain who manages to set himself up for defeat – again (and again). Well… guess what Blackheart? You even lost this award. Waah!

The "Winner" :

Really? The old; “set himself up for failure” shtick? Ugh. Add that to the fact that the story pinned the Scarlet Witch’s going nutty and killing Avengers on being controlled by Victor here, as well as the only seriousness to his villainy being the death of the Z-list daughter (Stephanie “Stature” Lang) of a D-list hero (Scott “Ant-Man” Lang), and would be a blessing for writer Alan Heinberg if this were all retconned to be the work of a Doombot.


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related (overall) TITLE:
(I should probably start an award for best STORY ARC, seeing as how some of these were predicated on single 4,5 or 6 issue arcs, but… nah…)

The Runner Ups:

- GHOST RIDER v? (Seriously, what volume is this by now? 6?, 7?, 8?... I’ve lost count)
An interesting new take on Ghost Rider wherein it is a woman (but really the idea isn’t new at all since during the 1990’s GR series it was shown that GR was SUPPOSED to be a woman). Written by Rob Williams with art by Lee Garbett, Emanuela Lupcchino and others. Toss in some good appearances in issues # 8,9  of Doctor Strange and Johnny Blaze helps put it on this list. (Even if Doc’s appearance consists of him getting shot in the foot by Blaze’s hellfire shotgun.)

Issues #13, 13.1-13.4, 14 – the “Circle of Four” arc. Occult mayhem of the highest order! Devils! Demons! Literal HELL ON EARTH! Mephisto! Blackheart! Ghost Rider! Red-Hulk! X-23! Venom! Son of Satan! DOCTOR STRANGE! Rick Remender! Rob Williams! Jeff Parker! And a host of awesome artists!
Also # 23-25 (“Monsters of Evil” arc) – More devilish dealings with the now heel-turned Daimon Hellstrom who tries to take control of the demon trapped inside of Flash Thompson and the Venom Symbiote!
Who knew I would EVER buy issues of a VENOM title?!? That alone makes this an impressive enough feat to be on the list.
All very good stuff, but not enough to win.

Written by the late, great Steve Gerber (over 30 years ago!) and beautifully painted by Kevin Nowlan (started shortly after it was written), originally this was intended as an Original Graphic Novel (and a sequel to the “Song Cry of the Living Dead-Man” story from the first volume of Man-Thing) to be entitled; “Screenplay of the Living Dead-Man”, it was now dissected and turned into a three issue mini. Sadly, after waiting 30 years for this story (as Marvel would occasionally, over the many years, hint at its inevitable, eventual release) it failed to live up the built-up expectations. Still, it was enjoyable, and gladdening to see a body of work - so long in the making - finally see the light of day.

While writer Jeff Parker has been nominated (and even won) some “Best of” categories in year’s past for his work with Doctor Strange and Man-Thing, sadly this year he’s not a winner, because for most of the year Man-Thing lay in stasis, gestating in a pea-pod, and then when he did emerge was greatly altered (intelligent, universally tongued). Interesting, good for maybe an arc, but then Jeff should’ve returned Manny to his empathic state (although, I’d imagine that he’s not done with Man-Thing yet). Satana was fabulous – as always, under Parker’s pen. Still, as great as Parker is, and the alternating art teams of Declan Shalvey and Kev Walker, with colors by Frank Martin which always delight, all this was not enough for the win.

As explained in the category for BEST “6-Dimensions” Appearance, this series was a treat. With the love-note portrayal of Valkyrie, the devilish, heel-turn plot twist of Daimon Hellstrom, the victorious, mystic mastery of Doctor Strange and the malevolent machinations of the Dire Wraiths and the D.O.A…. along with artwork by Paul Pelletier and Mark Bagley, Cullen Bunn’s separate mini-series totally outshone the core ‘Fear Itself’’ “event”. Still, with all that going for it, it couldn’t help but come in second to the winner…

The Winner:

For the second year in a row!
With every issue, I couldn’t help but think to myself (and sometimes scream to the heavens, in vain hope that Asgard might hear); “Oh, if only Kieron Gillen were writing “Journey Into Mystery… with Doctor Strange!” Oh sure, I could cut out little heads of Doctor Strange and his cast and paste them all over the heads of Loki, Leah, Daimon Hellstrom and the like to pretend this delightful work was being done for the benefit of my favorite character, but alas… that wouldn’t make it so.
It would have to be enough that even without using Marvel’s resident Master of the Mystic Arts, Kieron Gillen had effectively used many of Doc’s foes (the Fear Lords; Nightmare, Dweller in the Darkness, D’Spayre, Nox, Hellstrom, and others) as well as classic mystic foes like Surtur and Hela to perfection. This he did, all while adding to the mystic worlds with clever new creations. The end result being to cast a spell over me with issue after issue of fabulous fantasy and high-adventure as Gillen, and a series of artists, lured me down a winding path of intrigue and subterfuge, schemes and riddles… truly… a Journey Into Mystery.


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related (overall) TITLE:

The Runner ups:

Oh, where to begin? A series of issues with only a scant few good points here and there, (ie: Captain Nemo is Namor’s real father, Doctor Strange taking weird hallucinogenic drugs, the furthering of the mystery behind Jack Kirby’s ‘golden frog’,) but was mostly Matt Fraction’s failed attempts at being “kewl” (ie: Silver Surfer has a “head-expanding” experience with the drugs, New York’s “hidden” train station, a weak and out of context tie-in to one panel from an old issue of ‘Strange Tales’, and those got-annoying-fast meta-commentaries at the bottom of the page), and all the while with a series of not-quite-right-for-the-title artists, the final 10-issues released in 2012 were the slow death of something that knows it’s dying but continues to slog through the marshes until it collapses. The overall concept had some valuable points, but was never fully developed until the end, and even then was tweaked from one issue to the next. Finally, the entire thing had to be wrapped up quickly, and Fraction always had the easy and obvious “out” – to retcon it all out of continuity via a time-slide. I won’t even get into how that interferes with the continuity of the titles wherein the Defenders crossed over (New Mutants, Hulk). It’s over now. Let it rest in peace.

If you have any interest, feel free to read my review of the final issue (# 12) [HERE].

Of course, don't forget the preview and first four issues of which I reviewed quite thoroughly as well (which are viable here as issues # 3 and 4 were published in 2012):

[Marvel Point One prelude – HERE] [Issue # 1 preview – HERE]
[Overview of Matt Fraction's direction for the title - HERE]
[# 1 HERE] [#2 HERE] [#3 HERE] [#4 HERE]) 

The way that Brian Bendis avoided having this title be the worst of the year was to pretty much avoid writing Doctor Strange, which for the majority of the year, is exactly what happened. Doc was in the title, but was knocked-out several times, a figure in the background at other times, and only sparingly did anything at all (to mixed results). The final wrap-up to the “Sorcerer Supreme” storyline was a 50/50 split of bad (too many plot-holes, nonsensical story events, out-of-character writing, ignoring of any continuity [including his own], poor artwork, no satisfying wrap-up) and good (Doc used his brain and a little book research to defeat the foe, was bestowed once again with mantle of “Sorcerer Supreme”), so… I’ll let it go without making too much of a fuss.
However, if you WANT a fuss, read my reviews of the issues.

My reviews of the issues #31-[HERE], #32-[HERE], #33-[HERE], #34-[HERE]

Seriously, 30 years in the making! And it really should have been better.

This series is nominated for “Worst” by the fact that it was a stupidly ridiculous plot by Alan Heinberg wherein Wanda’s past freak-out (Avengers Disassembled & House of M) was a by-product of mind-manipulation by Dr. Doom – oh, and she was to MARRY him as well. It also gets a bad grade because of the shipping schedule (every other month, except when it took 3 months for some). However that gets a pass as it was still beautifully drawn by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales, and they obviously needed the time to do so. But still, the fact that only the final 2 issues shipped in 2012 allow it to sidestep the dubious honor of the win.

While a mere nominee in this category, this was the “winner” of the “Worst of” category for “Doctor Strange appearance, so anything you need to know about why it is also here was written up there. But to give a brief summation:
If I want to read a comic about how the return of the Phoenix Force might be a world-ending threat and thus the X-Men have to battle a straight-up super-team over this turn of events, I would prefer to re-read the X-MEN/TEEN TITANS crossover, 1-shot special (from back in the 1980’s) an INFINITE amount more… and Dr. Strange wasn’t even IN that!

Once again, here’s the party responsible for the AvX P.o.S.: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction.

This avoids being the “winner” of the “Worst of” title because Doc wasn’t really IN much of it, unlike the project that garnered the prize (unfortunately)...

The "Winner":

While not a “title” in the traditional sense of a multi-issue series (ongoing or mini), it is still a title in the fact that it is a high-profile project that will be used to introduce the character to potential multitudes of theoretically non-comic-history-savvy readers. It is for that reason that this is given extra consideration for its inclusion on the list. To quote some very wise words; “With great power, comes great responsibility”, and the power to indoctrinate new readers to the wondrous worlds of Doctor Strange is a great power indeed, thus the responsibility to produce a timeless classic is ever stronger.
What was produced is a character-twisting piece of professional fan-fic (certainly, an argument can be made that all paid fiction writing is “professional fan-fic”, but you need to understand that this reads like internet fan-fic, or an issue of “WHAT IF? at best) that dates the character to modern times (as opposed to the classic and timeless Ditko/Lee original), and props up - to ridiculous proportions - a secondary character (Wong) as well as shoe-horning in one of the writer’s personal pet creations (Sofia Di Cosimo [of Il Museo Della Mitologia Antica, Rome – which she states every time she says her name]) – to perhaps get a bigger slice of the pie if this is used as a movie treatment?).
For more reasoning, I hope you read the entry where this “won” as “Worst Doctor Strange Appearance”.

Also, for the full review of the book, feel free to read my in-depth review [HERE].



The Winner:

- HOWARD the DUCK in : Ultimate Spider-Man TV episode: “Awesome” -
Used as a cheap cut-away gag, Howard is held in a force bubble with other items (i.e; Ultimate Nullifier, Cosmic Cube) in Dr. Curt Connor’s lab. Howard turns to Spidey and warns him that he is a “Master of Quack Fu”. A weird little appearance. Not great, but c’mon!’s Howard the freakin’ Duck! After his late, lamented film (which, I personally love), did ANYONE ever think Howard would be seen on-screen ever again?



The "Winner":

- “Ultimate” Dr. Strange in: Ultimate Spider-Man TV episode: “Run Pig Run” -
Used as a cut-away gag, “Ultimate” Doc is shown magically dressing “Spider-HAM” in a tutu. It is a blessedly short cameo appearance, with no lines spoken, so it is just a…”strange” visual.
So, WHY is this the “Worst” appearance?
What part about “magically dressing ‘Spider-HAM’ in a tutu” did you not understand?


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related SWAG:

The Runner Ups:

- AVENGERS: ‘Battle for Earth’ video game -
There’s a thrill to having your favorite character come to “life”, and an even greater thrill to be able to control their actions in a video game. Better yet, in this game, due to the nature of the gaming systems utilized, it is your very bodily movements which are the catalyst for bringing your character to life! To have Doctor Strange as a part of this game – especially so soon after the box-office blockbuster Avengers movie, and thus the benefit of exposure to the multitudes of movie-going gamers – is a wonderful thing!

- DORMAMMU & TRISH Minimates 2 pack -
C’MON! It’s a DORMAMMU Minimate! From the Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom mini-mate series.

- DORMAMMU “Squinkie” -
Yes, it’s a stupid blob of rubber, but C’MON! DORMAMMU!

- DEFENDERS "HeroClix" –
(Galactic Guardians expansion set) – DEFENDERS! Not only a new Doctor Strange sculpt, but an Astral Form Doc as well, and the rest of the classic Defenders; Namor, Surfer, Hulk, and an insanely out-of-scale, giant-sized Dormammu.

- DR. STRANGE ‘Marvel Universe’ 3.75” figure ("Defenders" variant repaint) -
Like the previous iterations of this figure (from 2011) comes a repaint of one of the most critically acclaimed figures in the Marvel Universe line. Since it IS the same exact mold, it is equally praised for its attention to detail in both sculpt and paint application, as well as the many points of articulation. The only difference being that this one has the blue-on-blue color scheme (blue tights instead of black, and lighter blue colored tunic) utilized during Doc’s tenure on the Defenders in the 1970’s. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the blue-on-blue look, as it made Doc look less of a sorcerer and more like the tooth-fairy.
I’d much rather see a M.U. figure (and a LEGENDS figure too, for that matter) of Doctor Strange’s most recent Red & Black garb. Anyway, as cool as this figure is, we’ve seen it (twice) already.

- DOCTOR STRANGE  Disney PVC Figurine -
Perhaps one of the nicest figurines that has ever been produced of Doctor Strange (and by far better than his 1990's Marvel PVC figurine) is this one from Disney. At about 3 inches in height, Doc sits in the lotus position, arms by his side in a meditative pose (but still rockin' the "I love you/Horns"). The downside(s)?: He comes in a boxed set (an insanely large, horizontally arranged clear-acetate package - alongside the others in this "Marvel Universe" set; HULK, IRON FIST, SPIDER-WOMAN, LUKE CAGE, DAREDEVIL & MS. MARVEL (it's really a "New Avengers" set in all but name - and Hulk). The other downside is that Doc sits atop a pinkish purple cloud... as if he ate some bad cabbage that Wong prepared. Still, if this figure was sold solo, it could have had a really decent shot at the top slot.

I was able to score several pieces of official Marvel apparel in 2012 (although I still haven’t blogged about all of them – awaiting a more ‘fitting’ opportunity to do so. Oh, garment humor that is “tailor-made to fit”… (groan).

Hardcovers and Trade PaperBacks of many of the arcs that came out this year. (The turn-around rate from “floppy” individual issues to TPB/HC treatment is almost immediately following the final issue of the arc. Within a month or two – bam! Bound and on the shelf.) “Tradewaiting” has become a viable option for readers… but the dual-edge of that blade is that for completeist/collector-monkeys like myself… it’s just another copy of the story that I have to buy (and if it’s in HC as well as TPB – and oftentimes with variant covers… ugh… I’m going broke. Hmmmm…do they still buy blood?).

- Avengers: WCA – LOST in SPACE-TIME HC -
An example of a collected edition, but one of an older tale, “Lost in Space-Time” is an awesome bunch of time travel coolness that sews together some other old time-travel tales and makes a pretty tapestry of weirdness. The West Coast Avengers go back in time and interact with other heroes (FF & Dr. Strange) who are on their own semi-interlocking adventures. Madcap mayhem in the Mighty Marvel Manner. An often overlooked gem!
CollectingWEST COAST AVENGERS (1985) # 17-24, FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) $ 19 and DOCTOR STRANGE (1974) # 53.

Let me just get this out of the way immediately; this book is truly a “GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING”! There! I made the obligatory joke. But seriously, this thing is a monster! 1192 pages, reprinting nearly all of Manny’s appearances, up to about 1982:
 However, it is odd that it doesn’t include Marvel Two-in-One # 1 – a classic issue! There are a few other strange omissions, but I guess they couldn’t put everything in this one volume. I mean, it’s so big as it is… it truly IS a … “GIANT SIZE MAN-THING”. (sorry)

As large as it is, and as awesome as it is, the omissions of a few key issues, and the price point of $125.00 (cover price – although, no one actually pays full retail for books anymore, do they?) AND the fact that it was also published with a VARIANT cover are what keeps this from the top slot, when there is something very cool for a lot less…

The Winner:

- DOCTOR STRANGE – Dark Horse Classic Character Statue # 5 -
As if bringing to life Steve Ditko’s classic illustration (from the first page of Doctor Strange’s very first appearance in Strange Tales # 110) this 6 inch statue is a 3-dimensional tribute not only to the character, but also to the man who created him as well. Paint applications near-perfectly reproduce Ditko’s inked lines over the figure – which is sculpted in the simple, syroco style. The statuette comes in a collector’s tin which reprints the artwork from whence this sculpt originates, as well as a pin-back button of the good Doctor’s face. Limited to a production run of 750 pieces, at a retail price of $49.99, this figure (and others in the series) sold out very quickly. You better believe I got mine.


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related SWAG:

The Runner Ups:

Yes, this was nominated as a “best” but it’s a “Squinkie”! A tiny neon-colored rubber snot-ball! Why does this even exist?

Bonkazonks? What the heck is a Bonkazonk? Seemingly, a mushroom/missile shaped projectile you shoot at other ridiculous objects. Sort of like real-world “angry birds”. But still… who’s coming up with this shit?
And why no Doctor Strange on any of these? Dormammu is cool, but without Doc, he’s a “bic” lighter with delusions of grandeur. Why is no one making Doctor Strange tiny plastic doo-dads?

Well, I asked for a Doctor Strange tiny plastic doo-dad and I got one. Beware of what you wish for...
For the unaware, Nog’Nz are - as the name suggests – pretty much just heads; the “noggins” of characters, but deformed, with limbs implied as mere offshoots from the main blob. Some have “bodies” but the head is a good 2/3 of the “figure”. And did I mention they are UGLYyyyyy? And intentionally so. They’re simply misshapen and malformed rubber blobuals that bear a vague resemblance to various characters. For the sheer ridiculousness and unnecessary nature of these things, this would win as the “worst”…but… it ventures so far into the “stupid-zone” that it actually circles back into “cool-sville”.

- AVENGERS: ‘Battle for Earth’ video game -
Yes, this was also nominated for the “best of” award, but it didn’t win for a few very important and basic reasons:
It was only made for two gaming platforms: Xbox360 (with the Kinect Add-on REQUIRED) and the Wii-U.
Seriously? WHY on earth would you limit the amount of people who can buy your game? Well… I didn’t get one. And I WANT it, dammit. But I don’t have either platform, so… screw me, I guess.

- Bowen Designs - Doctor Strange 'Faux Bronze' limited edition statue -
I’m a fan of Bowen statues, although, many of their recent output just seem to be repetitive, blasé-looking D-list characters, and a lot of repaints.
Well, as any artist knows, sometimes you just have to try to “replay your hits”, and in this instance, that means re-release older sculpts but with a “Faux Bronze” finish. The market has become so niche that many of these items are survey-tested on message board forums to see if they would attract a viable amount of buyers before production would take place. Then, a purchase page is put online and if enough orders are placed, the item will be produced.
This item did not garner enough orders to enter production and thus died on the vine.

My problem with it was that the whole “faux bronze” treatment is just a veneer that darkens the color palette of the original statue to a more “reflective metallic” but still in color – and NOT at all BRONZE (faux, or otherwise). A bronze statue isn’t painted! Its color is BRONZE. So this seemed stupid to me. But when I inquired as to why they weren’t “bronze” I was told that the bronze look doesn’t sell, but the “metallic” “faux bronze” does fairly well. Dumb. This was an item that I was seriously considering not getting for my collection. Especially at the price of $225.00 (+ $$hipping) – all for a flawed design. I kept trying to decide if I would order one – begrudgingly (with the option to cancel before the deadline), but luckily for me, it never made it that far. If they ever make one that is actually colored bronze… I’m on board! Otherwise… no.

However, since that item was never made it can’t “win” the top slot. That, “honor” once again goes to…

The "Winner":

For the 2nd year in a row.
I am SO tired of there being variant covers for every comic, paperback, hardcover… everything! I might be able to deal with a variant cover for a new number one issue, or maybe even an anniversary special. However, these days, every single comic seems to have multiple variant covers, not to mention the fact that many titles have “double-shipping” schedules, wherein they publish every two weeks (so, twice a month) with some of these initial issues garnering multiple variants – all of different level of rarity – thus making it nigh impossible for the die-hard fan to collect their favorite funnybooks without either going broke or insane (or both).
Personally, to prevent myself from going either route, I only try to get variants that actually feature Doctor Strange or Man-Thing on the cover. If they might be in the issue, but not in the cover, then I don’t have any interest. I feel self-loathing and shame when I do buy variants. Sure, some are kinda cool, but they’re so unnecessary.  However, to alleviate some of my stresses, when I do hunt for variants, I typically wait about a year (give or take some months) unless or until I can find one for sale at a reasonable price when sellers are practically begging to give them away.
1-in-25 variants, 1-in-50, 1-in-100, 1-in-150, 1-in-200… and other strange permutations of variant to regular order ratio that retailers must jump through to obtain the variant edition…just seems to be a repeat of what helped cause the implosion and near death-knell of comics in the 1990s. Luckily, there haven’t been (m)any holo-foil covers or anything, but if the bullshit with these variants doesn’t stop soon… that dark future may arise.
What used to be relegated to just the first issue or two – and even then, maybe a few variants of each – has escalated so that (Marvel especially) make multiple variants for each issue in the opening storyline. Since most story arcs are 5 or 6 issues, that’s 5 or 6 sets of variants (with often as many as 4 or more variants per issue)!
What’s worse, and HAS been happening is the frightening trend of doing a bazillion (slight hyperbole) covers for the same issue! All publishers now seem guilty of that; DC recently had 51 “Flags of the USA” variants for an issue of JLA. IMAGE had what…? hundred variants for issue 100 of “Walking Dead”? And then they exclaim from the rooftops how well their comic has sold! Well, sure… but you’ve sold a million copies, but you’ve not sold them to a million people. Merely cannibalized your existing readers and pushed them one step closer to not being able to afford your product – or care if they ever buy it again.
 Y’know what, comics industry? If you want to pump up the sales figures for your series, don’t artificially inflate the numbers by making retailers order hundreds of copies to get “rare” variants so that collectors might buy multiple copies of the same issue. No. How about just making your actual product better and worth reading? If you do, perhaps you’ll attract more readers and sales will rise naturally, organically, and most of all; ethically.


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related HOMAGE:

The Runner Ups:

- JEFFERSON TWILIGHT & the ALCHEMIST in: The Venture Bros – Halloween Episode-
Jefferson Twilight: Blackula Hunter & the Alchemist are based on Marvel’s “Blade: the Vampire Hunter” and “Dr. Druid” (maybe?). These two occult heroes are two-thirds of the “Midnight Sons” homage-team of “The Order of the Triad” alongside the Venture-verse homage to Doctor Strange; Doctor Orpheus. But while we’ll talk about Orpheus in a moment, we can focus on how much we love these two other guys. A vampire hunter who stalks ONLY “Blackula’s” and a homosexual monk who knows the alchemic secret to turn words to pure humor are fantastic, as always in the Halloween episode of the Venture Bros cartoon.

The Winner:

- DOCTOR ORPHEUS in: The Venture Bros – Halloween Episode -
Doctor Orpheus; Necromancer is the spot-on lampoon of Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts. While not the pure focus of the episode, he stepped up as the secondary lead who puts the mystic kibosh on a zombie invasion and moralizes on the meaning of Halloween and Christmas. The fact that I can only hear Dr. O’s voice when I read my Doctor Strange comics is testament enough to this characters powers of homag-ic!


No poorly done homage that I could find or think of this year.
Can you recall any?



The Runner Ups:

- Doctor Strange as a $2000 Question on Jeopardy
On an episode (do game shows have "episodes"?) of the famed JEOPARDY show, "Who is DOCTOR STRANGE?" was the "question" to the highest incremental prices question in the "MARVEL-ous" category.
The "answer" was: "His surgical career was cut short after an accident, so now he's 'Master of the Mystic Arts'."
To have Doc as a question on one of the highest viewed game shows is pretty cool indeed.

- Doctor Orpheus in: Venture Bros. 2012 Halloween special
Not quite a real Doctor Strange appearance, but I still have to give a nod to Orpheus, especially when he pulls out some serious mystic mumbo-jumbo.

- DOCTOR STRANGE in : Ultimate Spider-Man TV show -
Episode s01-e13; “STRANGE”. Original Airdate: July, 8th. 2012
Written by the “Man of Action” team and James Felder.
When NIGHTMARE casts a spell on the world, causing everyone to sleep, so that he may feed off of their dream-induced fear, Iron Fist takes Spider-Man to see the one man who can help; Doctor Strange. Together, they combat the Lord of the Dream Dimension in his own realm. Not great. Doc is made to look more like his “Ultimate” comics counterpart, and while in civilian clothes, looks excellent (despite the eyeliner), but in his sorcerer’s garb looks like an over-the-top, Criss Angel “Mindfreak” rip-off). The Sanctum Sanctorum is sufficiently filled with weirdness and mystic ambiance, and the dream dimension is adequately Ditko-esque. Strange however proves to be no match for the powered-up Nightmare (well… it IS Spidey’s show), because Doc spends his time conjuring chains and swords to use in battle instead of utilizing straight-up spells. However, the way in which Doc is defeated, (since Nighty preys upon fears, and Doc’s seems to be that he’s a powerless charlatan,) goes totally against any logic for the character. Despite a poor performance for the majority of the episode, Doctor Strange (voiced by Jack Coleman) nonetheless does appear on a nationally syndicated animated series seen by millions, thus getting some name recognition out there.

The Winner:

- NIGHTMARE in : Ultimate Spider-Man TV show -
Episode s01-e13; “STRANGE”. Original Airdate: July, 8th. 2012
While Doc put in an appearance of mixed merit, Nightmare went all out in a balls-to-the-wall extravaganza of magical display and mystic onslaught. Utilizing every trick in the book of dreams, Nightmare casts illusions, alters (un)reality, traps the heroes in pocket dimensions of their worst Nightmares (some more serious than others), and outmaneuvers the magically-based heroes (Strange & Iron Fist) at their own game. He even had an army of…”dreamons” (no… not “dream on’s”… dream demons)! The name “Dreamons” itself was cool enough for me to give a thumb’s up. The only downside(s) to Nightmare’s appearance is that, well… his whole shtick (which is the same in every appearance in comics, books, and now TV) is to try to get everyone to fall asleep so he can live off their fear “forever”. But the problem with that logic is, if everyone is always asleep, then their will be NO forever, because there won’t be a new generation (since sleeping people don’t usually procreate). So his plan is short-term at best. Also, even though voiced by the legendary Mark Hamill, the production company ran his voice through a harmonizer to make it ridiculously low-pitched. Nightmare’s skinny and pale appearance just doesn’t mix with the deep, lustrous “Barry White” tones and so I suffered cognitive dissonance for the entire episode. Still, it was an excellent appearance Nightmare despite his 2-dimensional character. And I’m sure that is his own Nightmare as well.



Runner Up:

- Doctor Strange as a $2000 Question on Jeopardy
Yes, this was listed in the BEST heading, but sadly, not only did NONE of the contestants know the answer, Alex Trebek seemed almost embarrassed to have brought it up in the first place. You could almost see him thinking; "That's it, no more comic book questions! This is a high-brow show!"
 - Doctor Strange in : TOYOTA Yaris; It’s A Car “Incredible Drive” commercial -
A four part commercial for the 2012 Toyota Yaris (although only 2 parts aired in 2012, the previous 2 airing 2011) featured Marvel Super Heroes (or at least their Marvel Legends Action Figure equivalent) in a stop-motion “comedy” by the online team that produces the “What The---?” series of animated shorts (which can only loosely be likened to ‘Robot Chicken’).
Hulk, Doctor Strange and the Punisher take part in a road trip to Cleveland and “hilarity” ensues.
While it should be freakin’ awesome for there to be Doctor Strange featured in a national advertising campaign, and one that isn’t utterly terrible (there are a few funny points to each episode), but the fact that Doc is portrayed as a whining, irritatingly high-pitched-voiced, annoyance made me feel that it might be better to not have him involved at all, rather than be so poorly represented.
Sometimes, a Doctor Strange fan just can’t win for losing.

If this ad campaign were actually seen on anything else but limited internet spots, it would "win" as worst, because the audience reached would have been larger, and the damage done more pronounced. Still, a potentially wide audience did see the actual "winner"...

The "Winner":

- DOCTOR STRANGE in: Ultimate Spider-Man TV show -
Even though I nominated his appearance for a “Best of” award, it was only because of the media exposure and the fact that when out of costume, in the Sanctum Sanctorum, Strange was acceptable to this old fan. Unfortunately, he got into his (slightly altered, but not so as to be distracting or detracting) costume and let his hair down (literally) to show himself (and the mindset of the production) to be all shallow surface chic – trying too desperately to be young and hip (or "funny" - as with the case of his zapping a tutu onto Spider-Pig). I understand that the “Ultimate” cartoon has mostly young versions of the Marvel heroes, but not all of them as thus. Thus, there’s no reason for Doc not to be portrayed as an adult – wise, experienced, and over 40 (heck… over 20-something). No thank you. Since this was a TV show, I’ll cut to commercial…”That’s right folks! Only buy the REAL 100% guaranteed Doctor Strange! Accept no substitutes or knock-off’s!”


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related NEWS:

The Runner Up:

- A DR. STRANGE movie -
Yeah, yeah… the rumor mill keeps churning out the movie speculation. Even though it has been “officially” put on the phase-3 list of productions, I’m still filled with trepidation about it all.

The Winner:

- Brian Bendis leaving the Avengers / New Avengers titles -
Yes. This was the winner LAST year as well, but I gotta tell you… this bit of news is THAT GOOD! So long BMB… you won’t be missed. (Now if only he’ll leave the magic corner of Marvel alone.)


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related NEWS:

- A DR. STRANGE movie -
Yes. This won LAST year as well.
Yeah, it’s good news and bad news all rolled into one. My reasoning is; the script was worked up by a writing team that has had a lot of negative buzz, having been involved with lackluster projects in recent past.
Also, the suggested casting choices that are being tossed around; Patrick Dempsey, Jonny Depp, Liam Neeson are all totally wrong for the part. Sadly, that’s pretty much all that Hollywood has to offer, unless the director either makes an inspired choice or goes with an…*ahem* unknown actor *aHEM*… to fill the role. *AHEM!!!*
And worst yet (for dweebs like me) is that if a film IS made.. the hunt for ALL the merchandise will put me into the poor house (or an insane asylum) for sure.
At this point it’s all wait-and-see, as the film won’t begin until next year.

"Definitely NOT the Winner":

- Joe Kubert, Marc Swayze & Tony DeZuniga pass away -
Just thinking of the loss of such a great talent, fills me with sadness. While I was never the biggest Joe Kubert fan, there’s no way to NOT be awestruck by his work – especially as he continued to produce high-quality art (by-passing many “young guns”) to his dying day.
Mark Swayze was a golden age writer/artist and co-creator of some of the Captain Marvel family for Fawcett Publications back in the 1940’s; Mary Marvel most famously. His artwork was clean and beautiful, a real pleasure to see.
Marc also penned a column for Roy Thomas’ “Alter Ego” magazine (entitled; “We Didn’t Know It Was A Golden Age”) wherein he described the industry and his experiences therein during those times.
Tony DeZuniga was a fabulous illustrator (one of the Philipino influx of the late 1960's/early 1970's). His intricate artwork was the stuff where you could pore over every panel forever to see every detail. Not only the co-creator of Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, but also of import to this blog, DeZuniga also illustrated an issue of Doctor Strange (# 31) and Man-Thing (# 15) and even the Black Knight miniseries of the 1990's.
They will be missed.



- MAN-THING and monster characters are on the upswing!
Marvel’s magic and monster corner has been getting a lot of attention the past year or so. This should get another boost in 2013 (especially is DC’s full-on magic-corner publications are met with positive sales numbers).

Seriously, now that Bendis is off of the Avengers and Doctor Strange’s back, Jonathan Hickman has proposed some fan-freaking-tastic plans in the works for Doc and the Illuminati (New Avengers)! I’ve always loved the concept of the Illuminati (I’ll have to give Bendis that credit where it is due) even though it always suffered in execution (due to Bendis’ lack of proper vision). Jonathan Hickman is the one writer at Marvel now (Marvel NOW!) who has the depth to see that “team”  for what it is, and to have them work some very dark dealings in dire straits. *Squee!*

- The Sanctum Sanctorum Comix blog will see another year!(?) -
I know I’ve tossed this up with a question mark the past few years, and each year it gets harder to keep it a reality. I WANT to keep going. I have a ton of stuff to get to. I just lack the time (and quite often, the energy) to do it. I hope this won’t be the last year. Wish me luck!


Well, that's it for this year!
Thanks for stopping by.
Any thoughts, criticisms, agreeing and/or differing opinions?
Discuss them in the comments section.

* Award image at top of the post is a re-tooled image from Strange Tales v1 # 117, by Steve Ditko.