Thursday, March 28, 2013


Getting ready to head out to WonderCon, but, before I go, I want to share an interview I did with Jimmy Dunn and his wife, Theresa, for the Golden Age podcast.  Click here and give it a listen if you're so inclined.

I'll check back in with a WonderCon report next week!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


WonderCon is just a couple of weeks away and I'm very much looking forward to heading out to Anaheim for what promises to be a fantastic three days.  If you're going to be there, stop by my table in Artist's Alley, say hello—and please bring any books you'd like to have signed.  I'm doing four panels over the course of the weekend—including a Spotlight Panel where I'll be interviewed by my son, Cody. (Now that should be interesting!)  If you'd like to complete programming schedule, click here and prepare to be mind-boggled.

My schedule is below.  The Artist's Alley times may shift a bit, but those panels are locked in.  Hope to see you there.  (Update:  I'll be sharing my table with my old friend Len Wein—so bring your stacks of Weinworks along with you, too.)  

Friday, March 29
Panel:  Iconic Characters: Keeping True to Origins While Inventing New Stories
Room 300AB
This panel will include Frank Cho, J.M. DeMatteis, Jim Lee, Doug Mahnke, Ann Nocenti and Dan Slott. Moderated by Mark Waid.

IDW Signing Booth 709 5:00—6:00
Saturday, March 30
Panel:  That 70’s Panel
Room 203
This panel will include Brent Anderson, J.M. DeMatteis, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. Moderated by Mark Evanier.
Artist’s Alley Table AA-024 3:00—6:30
Sunday, March 31
Artist’s Alley Table AA-024 10:00—11:00

Panel:  Spotlight on J.M. DeMatteis
Room 208

Panel:  DC Entertainment All Access 
Room 300 AB

Artist’s Alley Table AA-024 3:00—4:30

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Last year I was interviewed—along with Denny O'Neil, Matthew Dow Smith and other folks—for a short documentary on the comic book industry called Out of Print.  The film was created by Joseph Ciano, Rich Ford, Ryan Resko, Amy West and the SUNY New Paltz Media Department.  Here it is in its entirety.  Enjoy!

And, as an added bonus, here's a short outtake that focuses on my work with Keith Giffen, Kevin Maguire, Andy Helfer and Company on the Justice League titles.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Here, as promised, is the concluding section of my Doctor Strange movie treatment.  (You can read Part One here and Part Two here.)  Enjoy!


CUT TO:  an Air India jet, bound for the United States.  Onboard, Stephen, Clea, and Wong. Stephen to Wong:  "You knew what you were getting me into all along, didn't you?" Clea:  "He's been with the Master for many years. Hamir's his father..." Stephen:  "A man like that...fathered a rascal like this?" Wong smiles:  "A sinner's as good as a saint if he gets the job done, right?"

CUT TO:  New York. Stephen, Clea, and Wong (and all their luggage) standing on a side street in the West Village, outside the mysterious old house Stephen was drawn to on the way to work. "Welcome home," Stephen, Clea says. "Home? This place?" "Has been waiting many years for you." She turns and hands him the keys. "A gift from The Ancient One -- " "But you have to pay the property taxes," grins Wong -- as the three of them enter. It's totally furnished: all antiques. Strange and wonderful artifacts. Stephen breathes deep. Even the air -- musty as it is -- feels right. He knows that he really is home. He sits in an antique chair. Sighs. Closes his eyes. Clea drops The Book of the Vishanti in his lap -- all 2,000 pages of it. "Read," she says. "What?" "Read the book...and then we get to work." "All of it?" he says. "All of it." He hefts it in his hand, sighs. "I feel like I'm in medical school again." "You're in a tougher school than that," she says, kneeling beside him. "The world is on the verge of a great leap, Stephen. A new beginning. But, the closer we come, the closer the Ancient One's work comes to completion, the more the darkness is going to rise up to try and stop it. Your job is to hold that darkness at bay, until the Ancient One's work is done...and he transforms that darkness into light." "Why me?" Stephen asks. "Why am I so special?" "Who says you're special?" Wong replies. "Maybe there's nobody else stupid enough to take the job..." And, off that, we...

CUT TO:  Baron Mordo -- at a huge rally in Madison Square Garden. Before ten thousand people he predicts the coming devastation. Implores the thousands there -- and the thousands more listening on radio, watching on television -- to come to him. To follow his path. "I tell you now, unless you take my words to heart, there will be ruin, suffering, utter devastation unlike anything the world has ever seen." He predicts a great disaster for New York in sixty days.  Then, we see, sitting on the stage behind him, Victoria: eyes blank, a dead smile on her face, moving like an automaton -- she applauds Mordo's speech.

CUT TO:  The basement of The Mordo Institute -- where we find Mordo, Victoria, and a group of robed Mordo begins work on the spell that, in thirty days, will raise the waves...crack the earth...and sink Manhattan. Mordo promises that he and his followers -- safe within a spell of Mystic Protection -- will survive the sinking...further proof to the world that he's God's spokesman...and then they'll move on to the next city, the next country, the next disaster...until the whole world falls in line...until all people kneel before him and, "for their own good," he rules their hearts and minds and leads them into the Golden Age.

CUT TO:  The following weeks. Mordo (with his demons and 
disciples) continues working on the spell, preparing for the great disaster. He also continues to have huge rallies -- and we find out that he's using the psychic energies of the masses to fuel his own occult powers.

CUT TO:  Stephen -- as he continues his training with the help of Clea (a stern taskmaster) and Wong. Stephen studies The Book of the Vishanti, struggling to comprehend the meditations and spells therein. He begins to master the powers of his Cloak of Levitation (not that he doesn't occasionally find himself falling flat on his butt. "Thank heaven we're practicing in the house," Clea says. "Can you imagine if you'd taken that fall from ten stories up?"). He undergoes a painful ritual to absorb the golden Eye of Agamotto into his body (it rests, hidden, in the "third eye" space on Stephen's forehead) and learns to tap into its well of intuitive wisdom. The work is long, hard, frustrating; Clea pushes him to his limits and beyond. Several times Stephen almost dips into the bottle again...but he doesn't.  He finds the strength to resist his old patterns. (And, although he'd never admit it, the very fact that he's known such suffering in his life has given him the strength to endure. Had he had an easy childhood, a pain-free life, he would never have been ready for this Great Work that's expected of him.) 

As they work, Clea tells Stephen about Mordo...about his plans. (Stephen tries to contact Victoria...but he can never get through to her. She's living, he finds out, at Mordo's Institute.) "I never trusted him," Stephen says. "He's evil..." Clea says no, not evil. "Just...dark. Just as your suffering in this life brought you to the Ancient One's the suffering, the darkness, in the world is necessary as labor pains are to the birth of a child.  Yes, we have to stop Mordo and all he stands for...but don't hate him. He has his role to play in this drama as much as we do. The only way you can truly oppose an enemy, Stephen, is through love..." Stephen can't really fathom this thinking -- any more than he can really forgive his father for the abuses of childhood.

CUT TO:  Two A.M. Stephen, exhausted from a night's training, is about to hit the bed, when the phone rings. It's Victoria, begging him for help. "Come to the Mordo Institute. Stephen...I need you!" Clea says no, you can't. It's a trap. Mordo knows...and he wants you to confront him before you're ready..." But Stephen can't wait. Although his life with Victoria now seems like something that happened lifetimes ago, he has to go. Even if it is a trap:  he has to. He puts on his cloak of levitation; concentrates; gestures:  the  window opens. Slams shut again. He tries the spell once more. It stays open...

...and Dr. Strange sails up into the night sky...out over Manhattan. And the little boy inside Stephen can't help but grin. Like Peter Pan he loops and sails over the city. But this is still new to him. Several times he almost flies smack into skyscrapers. And once he gets so relaxed that he loses his concentration, falls...and only stops himself several inches above street level (much to the amazement of a couple passing by).

CUT TO:  The Mordo Institute. Silent. Lightless. Dr. Strange alights on the front lawn (well, actually, he hits pretty hard. It's going to take him a while to get this landing business down). Around him, the shadows move. Rise up. Become a horde of demon-things. At first, they overwhelm Strange...he panics; can't remember the right spells...but he concentrates; conjures a mystic shield. Hurls bolts of enformed light. Light that melts the shadow-demons. Strange looks down at his hands...still crackling with mystic energy. "Did I do that?" Then he concentrates again:  the Eye of Agamotto appears on his forehead, wide...unblinking. Like a homing beacon it guides Strange into the Institute. Weaving a spell, he bypasses the alarm systems; gains entrance. He can feel Mordo's power, his astral energies...and those energies lead Strange down, into that sub-basement...

...where he finds Mordo, surrounded by disciples and demons, working on the spell. Victoria is there, too, bound up in a prison of swirling, shimmering light. Mordo, casually, invites Strange in. Strange is cautious. "Nothing to be afraid of; I haven't invited you here to kill you...I asked you here to join me." Mordo explains that he knew, from the Ancient One's predictions, that Stephen was the Chosen One; the disciple picked to carry on the Ancient One's great work. At the time, Mordo was jealous; enraged. He was the one who sent the demon to attack the young Stephen Strange. But, after the Ancient One died, Mordo's interest in Stephen was different:  "I knew the time would come when his disciples would find you...and I didn't want you to follow the same fool's trail I had. You're a man of great potential, Stephen. Great power. Join me. Together we can lead the world to better days."

"Set Victoria free," Strange says, "and then we'll talk."

Mordo shrugs -- gestures -- and the prison-of-light vanishes. Victoria falls to the ground. Stephen rushes to her side; but she looks up at him:  dead-eyed.  "Oh, I forgot to mention," Mordo says, reaching into the folds of his cloak, pulling out one of those glowing gems, "that I've taken the liberty of putting her...essence into this little gem. Call it a bargaining device. I want you with me."

Dr. Strange makes a move to grab the gem; Mordo gestures, zaps him with a spell:  Strange is hurled across the room. "And if you're not with're against me." He softens. "Please, Stephen, I don't really want to do this." And he seems to mean it. He really feels that, with Strange's power added to his, they'll be assured of leading the world to this so-called Golden Age. "I think," says Strange, "that the world is in better hands than yours. It doesn't need us to guide it." "Oh, but it does! It does!" says Mordo. "God, if He was ever there, is long gone. For years I believed that our only hope was that old fool in India...but he failed in the end, too. The world needs men who can wield power...and in this age, the powers of darkness seem to be the only game in town. But think: if we can bend that power. Use it to serve the greater good..." 

As Mordo talks, Strange is remembering his training; recalling a specific spell in the Book of Vishanti. Very slowly, he raises his hand, twists his fingers in just the right way, mutters an ancient incantation...

...and a bolt of crimson light bursts from his hands, shattering the gem in Mordo's hand and hurling Victoria's essence back into her body. Victoria rushes to Strange's side ("Stephen? What's happened to you?" "Self-improvement program." "It really worked.") Mordo's astonished; hurls a devastating spell at Strange -- who throws up a mystic shield; repells it. There follows an incredible mystic battle that ends in a stalemate (Strange may be new at this, but once he gets rolling he finds that -- despite the occasional whopping mistake -- he's a natural)...

...until Mordo pulls yets another gem out from his cloak: an image begins to form in the gem. A face. The face of George Strange. Stephen's father's soul is trapped inside. "I always believe in planning ahead," says Mordo -- who had one of his agents in America capture the soul before it could move on to the afterlife. Mordo throws a protective aura around the gem...floats it up over their heads. Strange tries to get at the gem...but none of his spells can penetrate.

"Give it up," says Mordo. "Our power is too evenly matched; neither one of us could win a battle of force. But if you insist on resisting me -- I'll destroy the gem...and his soul. His essence will be scattered, without rest, without peace, for all eternity." Strange, angry, hurls a spell at Mordo; instantly,we HEAR a horrifying WAIL from the soul-gem. Somehow, the attack on Mordo is being chanelled at George Strange. "Keep it up, Strange...and the destruction of your father's soul will be on your head." Strange backs down...and Mordo begins the incantation that will complete his spell; that will bring on the earthquakes and tidal waves. That will sink Manhattan. We HEAR rumblings in the earth; SEE those demons capering in the earth's core. CUT TO the Atlantic...where a sudden storm descends -- demons whirling in the winds -- whipping up the waves. CUT BACK to the Institute. Strange-to-Victoria:  "I've got to do something. I can't let this happen..." And he stares up at the gem with his father's helpless image in it. "...because of him. He's caused enough pain. Enough suffering. Let him be damned for all eternity, I don't care!" Victoria: "Stephen, you can't mean that." "I do." He raises his arms to hurl a spell at Mordo -- but Strange can't do it. Despite all the pain, struggle, suffering...he still loves his father. And he can't see him destroyed. Mordo can only laugh.

The rumblings increase...the earthquake's beginning. At sea, the storm reaches fever-pitch; the waves begin their rise. Strange and Victoria watch helplessly as the incantations reach their peak. Destruction is moments away. Then, the Eye comes to life again on Strange's forehead. He looks up at his father's face; sees the pain and love reflected there. Stephen smiles gently:
he knows!

We see a pinprick of light pulsing above Strange's heart. Then the light spreads out from his chest...broader, brighter. Mordo sees this...he seems suddenly uncertain; this is something he's never encountered before. He gestures toward the soul-gem...but not fast enough. Strange's light pours out in waves, surrounding Mordo. The Baron doesn't seem to be in pain: just trapped in a swirling cocoon of light; unable to get out. "What are you doing?" he roars. "More than you would do: I'm giving you a second chance," Strange says.

And we see Mordo begin to...devolve:  man to animal to reptile to bird to fish to vegetable to stone to gas to...nothing.

And the Spell of Destruction is cut off; the waves recede; the rumblings stop. The demons vanish. The gems on the shelves wink out, one-by-one.

"What did you do?" Victoria asks. "Mordo was right, we were too equally matched in power. But I remembered something a...friend told me. About a
higher power; the only power Mordo could never comprehend." "What?" "Love." He gestures; brings down the gem with his father's soul. "The love I still feel for him. The love I always will. And I transformed that love into a spell that...devolved Mordo, sent him back to the beginning of the evolutionary cycle. He'll evolve upwards again. And, with the Ancient One's grace, he'll learn from the mistakes of this lifetime...and be free." 

Strange gestures -- and the soul-gem cracks like an egg: George Strange's soul hovers there. Father and son face each other -- silent, unmoving. Then George reaches out a ghostly hand, strokes Stephen's face. Stephen, crying, reaches back; holds flesh against spirit...and then George Strange's soul rises up, up, up -- transforms into a fiery ball of white light... slowly fades...

...and is gone.

Dr. Strange allows the remaining disciples to leave; they were, he feels, just following the dictates of their broken hearts. They will, he hopes, learn from their mistakes. They should be given a chance to begin again. "We should all have that chance," Strange says to Victoria, "don't you think?" They follow the others out of the building; then Strange takes Victoria in his arms; flies up...into the sunrise.  "And us?" Victoria says. "Do we get to begin again?" No answer from Strange. So much has changed. Only time will tell.

DISSOLVE TO:  India. Several months later. The Tomb of the Ancient One. Stephen Strange (a pack on his back) stands with Clea, Hamir, and Wong outside the Tomb. "I've enjoyed these past months, Hamir," Stephen says. "I needed to absorb all I've been through...and prepare for all that's to come." Hamir:  "You have a great destiny ahead of you, Stephen." "Yes, and that's why I have to go home. God, knows I'm probably behind in my mortgage payments already." "You're going to need someone to help you take care of that house, y'know," says Wong. "What with you going off saving the world all the time..." "Think you could handle New York on a full-time basis, Wong?" "Well, it's dirty...there's too much crime...the streets are full of homeless people...there are hustlers on every corner. What's to handle? It's just like Bombay." "And you?" Stephen says to Clea; "do you go back now, to that...other world?" "Are you kidding? You got lucky with Mordo. You've still got a lot to learn, Stephen -- and I'm the one to teach it to you..." As for Hamir, he says it's his duty to take care of this abandoned old encampment and keep it ready for the day when the people of the world flood here to kneel at the Ancient One's Tomb (and Stephen remembers -- and WE SEE -- his dream: the crowds gathered around the glowing Tomb); when the New Age of peace and true brotherhood dawns." "Sounds a little lonely," Strange says, as they walk down the hill. Hamir stops, turns to face the Tomb behind him. "I'm never alone," he says; "for the Master is always with me..."

With that, Stephen says, hey -- "Why do we have to bother with twenty hours on an airplane? I want to try out that teleportation spell I've been working on..." Clea says, "Oh, no...those things are tricky. You're not ready yet." "I'm telling you, I can do it. Just watch -- " Clea protests, Wong makes it clear that he doesn't want to be teleported anywhere, but Stephen gestures, and the three of them vanish in a blaze of light, leaving Hamir standing there alone. He looks up at the Tomb:  "I hope you  know what you're doing..."  Then he bows to the Tomb and continues on his way down the hill. CAMERA PANS back up the hill -- where we see The Ancient One standing there, radiant, smiling. And, off that, we...

CUT TO:  New York. AERIAL SHOT of the five boroughs, NIGHT.
We ZOOM QUICKLY DOWN, DOWN, DOWN to a private house in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. CUT INSIDE. The bathroom. The shower's running. We HEAR a MAN HUMMING. Suddenly, there's a FLASH OF LIGHT behind the shower curtain. The humming abruptly stops. "Excuse me," says a familiar voice, "could you tell me if this is..." But the man screams, leaps out of the shower, out of the room, out of the house. We see Stephen, Clea, and Wong standing in the shower, sopping wet. Stephen: "...New York...?" Clea-to-Stephen, shaking her head:  "You've really got to work on your aim." And, off that, we...



Doctor Strange ©copyright 2013 Marvel Entertainment

Monday, March 4, 2013


Here, as promised, is Part Two of the Doctor Strange treatment I wrote for Marvel Comics, back in the early 90's.  (You can read the first part here.)  I'll post the concluding segment later in the week.


CUT TO:  Stephen's hospital room. Night. A pretty young NURSE -- who introduces herself as CLEA -- comes in to check on him...and he notices, on her uniform, a small pin.  On it: the same picture of the Ancient One he's been seeing. "Who is that?" he demands, excited and agitated. And she sits down on the edge of the bed, tells Stephen of the Ancient One:  a great, rarely-seen sage from the East...said to be the Master of Masters, the One awaited by so many for so many years. A man of wisdom, a healer of souls, a maker of miracles. "My hand," Stephen says; "could he heal my hand?" "He heals hearts," the nurse says. "But could he -- ?” Stephen insists.  "I don't think there's anything he can't do..." "Where do I find him?" "India," she says; "but no one knows for sure exactly where." Suddenly, Stephen wants to know, with all his heart, everything there is to know about this man. But the nurse gets up and leaves.  "Wait!" Stephen calls. He rushes out into the hall after her. She's not there. "Nurse! Nurse!" he calls. Another nurse comes up:  "What's wrong, Dr. Strange?" "That nurse who was just in here -- " But it seems there was no nurse in there, and they don't have any nurse fitting that description. Stephen looks down at his good hand, realizes he's holding something:  it's the pin this "imaginary" nurse was wearing. "I will help you," Stephen says under his breath. And, off that, we...

CUT TO:  Kennedy Airport. Air India. As a plane takes off for Bombay...with Stephen on it. And, in another part of the airport, we find Victoria, in the Swiss Air terminal...along with others from her group -- and a healthy media contingent. Passengers are disembarking -- and, among them, surrounded by his close disciples, is the one they've been waiting for: BARON MORDO -- a great bear of a man, with a great bear of a laugh. He looks to be about sixty...but glowing with health and energy. He handles the press with ease -- a charming, self-promoter...yet with enough sincerity and charisma to seem genuine. For all his hucksterism, Mordo seems to truly care about the state the world is in...and he promises better days. A Golden Age. "And how is this Golden Age going to come about?" asks a reporter. "That's for me to know," says Mordo with a puckish glint in his eye, "and you to find out."

CUT TO:  India. We follow Stephen -- the Ancient One pin on his lapel -- on his search for the mysterious Master. Through the back-alleys of Bombay. It's there he meets a smiling half-Chinese/half-Indian hustler named WONG -- who'll do anything for a rupee. Wong claims to know the whereabouts of the Ancient One. He takes Stephen by plane to the smaller city of car from Pune to the village of Ahmednagar. (And, through it all, Stephen's still drinking like a fish; in fact, his drinking is getting worse.) From Ahmednagar, they take a rickshaw out to a desolate spot --a dozen ramshackle buildings on acres and acres of dusty clay. "The Ancient One," says Wong, hand out: "And, by the way, you still owe me a thousand rupees." "For taking me here?" Stephen jumps out of the rickshaw. "There's nothing here! Didn't you ever see Lost Horizon? This is supposed to be paradise! Shangri-la!" "You wanted the Ancient One," says Wong. "Here you are." Stephen -- who's feverish, suffering sunstroke, ravaged by the excessive drinking -- comes close to thrashing Wong -- but a VOICE behind Stephen says:  "This man has not lied to you. You are in the right place."

Stephen turns to find a smiling, gap-toothed old Indian man, HAMIR -- who informs him that this is indeed the home of the Ancient One. Once, this place bustled with life, activity. "Once, thousands upon thousand came here to bow at his feet..." "Once?" "But that was years ago. Before the Master dropped his body." "Dropped his body? You mean, he's dead?" Stephen turns to Wong: "He's dead?  And you knew it? And you didn't tell me?" He goes at Wong again -- but the jet-lag, the sunstroke, the pains and pressures of all he's been through, get the better of him. He collapses.

CUT TO:  New York's Upper West Side.  The Mordo Institute for
World Reclamation -- where we find BARON MORDO addressing a packed room of his followers --as well as members of the press. He gives a discourse -- in his flamboyant style -- on the evolution of we emerge from the Creation point, move up through the world of forms: gas to stone to fish to reptile to mammal to human. How, in the human form, consciousness is complete...and begins a journey of involution to know itself, ultimately, as God. Mordo claims that we are reaching the point of an evolutionary leap, when humankind as a whole will come to know its own divinity. And, when it does, there will be a Golden Age unlike any this world has ever known. "I have come," Mordo says, "to guide humanity into this Golden Age." A reporter says that many world religions predict such an age -- but say that it will be presaged by a time of planetery suffering, of great disasters.  Mordo laughs:  "And no doubt it will be that way -- but not for the followers of Mordo. For those who follow me, who surrender themselves to me, it will be easy. I can lead any man, any woman, toward Godhood...if they will let me. If they choose instead the path of suffering...well, then, that is their choice."

Mordo then dismisses the reporters and most of the group; remains with a few, Victoria among them. "It's so good to finally meet you after all these years of corresponding," she says. "And how is your friend the doctor?" Mordo asks.  "Still troubled? Still unable to accept me?" She gives him a brief summary of what Stephen's been through; where he is now. "India?" says Mordo.  He throws back his head and roars with laughter. "The fool!  All he'll find there is dust and lies. He would fare far better if he came to me." Then, Mordo grows gentle; strokes Victoria's face:  "And he time. He will."

CUT TO:  Stephen Strange's dream:  on a hill, there's a small building...a temple or shrine...and, spreading out from that building, crowds of people. People of every race and color, from all across the globe. And, from the shrine, a light is emanating. Brighter and brighter till the SCREEN SOLARIZES and we...

CUT TO:  Stephen, awakening on a cot in the Ancient One's encampment. Hamir gently, lovingly, holds Stephen's head, wipes his sweaty face, feeds him tea. "Homeopathic remedy," Hamir says. "Drink." "I feel like hell," Stephen croaks. "With good reason. Three good reasons:  dyssentery. Jaundice. Sunstroke. You're going to be here for a while." They talk about the days when the Ancient One was living, when this encampment was swarming with life and activity. "Free schools. Free hospitals. Thousands coming for his darshan. Then, the Ancient One simply...dissolved it all. Just a scaffolding for his inner work, he said. The work of liberating mankind." Strange is angry, bitter, nasty, mocking. "And I came here looking for miracles." Hamir stands:  "If you've come seeking miracles, there are many so-called gurus who will provide them. That was not my Master's way." And he leaves. "Wait -- " Stephen calls...but he drops his head back, falls into a sweaty sleep again.

CUT TO:  New York. Baron Mordo and Victoria (he's taken quite a shine to her) are having dinner at a very posh restaurant. He tells her that she has a mind and heart that understands him, that understands what he wants for the world. "The day of redemption and rebirth must come," he says. "It must -- and it will... We cannot go on this way -- " Victoria's quite smitten with him; believes that if anyone can change the world, Mordo can. "Your books...your theories... they resonate with the power of Truth..." He rises, takes her hand:  "Come," he says; "there is something I would share with you..."

DISSOLVE TO:  Mordo's Center. He takes Victoria down a hidden elevator to a sub-basement -- and there we see the same scene we saw in Switzerland: the incense...the masks...and those high shelves, filled with gems that buzz and swirl with all manner of spectral life. "What...what are they?" Vicky asks. "My guarantee that the New Age will indeed come." And Mordo walks across the room where a few unpacked boxes are...removes a large painting of The Ancient One --

-- and tells Victoria his story (which we see unfolding as he tells it). Mordo claims that he is nearly a hundred and twenty years old. As a young man -- rich, privileged, titled -- he realized early on that this life, as we were leading it, was a waste. That humankind was on the path to destruction. That there had to be a Greater Truth behind this world of lies...and he set out to find it. He traveled the world, met many self-proclaimed holy men, but none held any answers of worth. Then, after years of search, he found One who embodied the very Truth he sought:  The Ancient One...who accepted Mordo as his disciple. "A being of such selflessness, such towering strength, such pure love -- that words can never capture it...never capture him." It was the Ancient One who taught him of evolution and involution, of the Divine Plan...who promised that, one day, he would work the miracle that would transform the world. But the day never dawned...and the Ancient One died. And Mordo felt cheated:  he gave his life to this man, surrendered his very soul because he believed in the Ancient One's prediction of global transformation... "...and then the old fool died!" he shrieks, tearing the painting to shreds. Mordo decided that the Golden Age must come, and if the Ancient One couldn't do it, then he would. And if the forces of light were useless -- as they clearly were, because he knew no greater source of light than the Ancient One -- than he, Mordo, would turn to the forces of darkness.

He studied the dark arts (which the Ancient One always warned against); made pacts with the demonic entities that inhabit the lower astral planes. "They are mine to rule and bend. Do you see the beauty of it, Victoria? I will use the darkness to bring the world to the light..." Victoria's convinced that the Baron is out of his mind. She tries to run. The Baron gestures -- and, one by one, the gems light up, brighter and brighter and brighter. And, one by one, demonic entities, similar to the one that attacked young Stephen Strange in our opening, emerge. Victoria screams.

"Don't be afraid of them," Mordo says. "They serve me -- and would never harm one of my own." Mordo goes on to explain that he's going to make his predictions of world disaster come true -- with the help of his demonic servants. Floods. Earthquakes. All manner of natural disasters will rock the world. Millions upon millions will die. And it will all start with something very special that he has in mind: the sinking of Manhattan island. Once the world sees that Mordo's predictions are correct...they'll flock to him. And he'll give them the spiritual leadership they need. He alone will lead the human race into a Golden Age. Victoria bolts from the room; runs. The demons pursue her. They're all over the house. Finally, she makes it outside, runs through Central Park...and there, standing smack in front of her, is Mordo. "Victoria," he says, sadly, "I thought you would understand." He smiles, then opens his mouth...and half a dozen demons fly out directly at Victoria and we...

HARD CUT TO:  India. A MONTAGE as -- over several weeks -- HAMIR and a few of the other remaining disciples work to bring Stephen slowly back toward health. (Throughout all this, we see Stephen surreptitiously drinking from a liquor-stash in his pack.) One day -- with halting steps -- Stephen climbs the hill outside the encampment...and is shocked to find, at the summit, a Tomb -- the same Tomb from his dream: The Tomb of the Ancient One. He stands under the awning, looks in the doorway -- where a few local believers bow their heads on the marble slab that covers the Ancient One's body. At the head of the slab is a large, garlanded painting of the Ancient One (the same one Mordo had) -- which seems to stare...lovingly? Mockingly? Stephen. Day after day Stephen climbs the hill...but refuses to enter the Tomb. Stands outside the doorway, lost to a thousand thoughts.

CUT TO:  Dead of night: Stephen awakens in a sweat. Reaches into his pack for a drink...but he's finished it all off. He panics. More than anything else in the world, he wants a drink. He begins to run through the camp searching for liquor. He's a madman; some of the others try to stop him, calm him, but they can't. "Let him go," says Hamir -- as Stephen runs out of the encampment...makes his way up the hill. He reaches the Ancient One's Tomb:  it's empty. Unguarded. He rushes in, screams to the painting that smiles serenly at him:  "You! It's all your fault, damn you! It's all your fault!" And he starts to cry. Drops to his knees. Pounds on the marble slab. Then...

...lowers his head. "Help me," he whimpers. "Please...if you're real...if you are what they say you me..."

"All you ever had to do," says a voice, "was ask." Stephen turns -- and there, standing in the doorway of the Tomb, is a figure,  bathed in moonlight.  The Ancient One! Stephen rises, stunned. "How can this be?" "How can it
not?" says The Ancient One...

...who takes the numb, bewildered Stephen by the arm, leads him down the hill, a hill that seems somehow...transformed. It's as if everything around Stephen is alive, somehow. As if the ground itself is moving, charged with energy. The colors around him are suddenly richer, far more radiant than any color he's ever seen.

The encampment, when they reach it, is totally different. Light, life, activity. Brightly lit as if for some Hindu holiday. Hundreds of people buzzing about. Everything, everyone. radiating that same quality of energy, brilliance, power. Stephen just looks around, mouth hanging open: "How...?" The Ancient One leads him to a Great Hall (a cobwebbed, ramshackle place normally; tonight it looks as if it was just built!)...shoos out a group of disciples...then sits Stephen down. "You're dead," Stephen says. The Ancient One smiles, puckishly. "Yes...and no. I dropped my body... finished that part of my work. But to be attached to that form is to totally misunderstand me." Stephen reaches out, touches the Ancient One. Gets a shock. "My subtle body. All of this," he says, gesturing to the encampment around them, "part of the subtle world, existing, side by side with what you know, on another plane of existence entirely. Reality, Stephen, is not that small thing you take it to be."

A WOMAN enters -- and Stephen recognizes her as the nurse from the hospital: CLEA. "Some of us," she explains, "work both on the inner planes and the earth planes. Whatever the Master wishes." "I've lost my mind." "No," says the smiling Ancient One, "but with a little work...perhaps I can help you do that..." He laughs. Clea laughs. And, not really knowing why, Stephen laughs -- and it's the first real, honest laugh that's come out of him in many, many months.  They walk out onto the porch of the Great Hall. "Come," says the Ancient One, taking Stephen's hand in his; taking Clea's hand, too. And the three of them rise over the encampment -- and into a night sky suddenly filled with a thousand bursting colors, a thousand beautiful sounds.

Stephen's delighted:  "This is just like..." "When you were a boy. When we first met." (And, suddenly, he remembers the night with the demon, when the Ancient One saved him.)  "Then, all of it's true? I didn't just imagine it." "All that you lived through, Stephen...all the pain you've endured...had to be. For, without it, you never would have come to me. So don't curse those who brought you pain...thank them. For they were the bearers of hidden blessings." Stephen's not quite ready to hear this, he almost snaps back at the Ancient One, but the sheer wonder of this flight overwhelms him.

The Ancient One goes on to explain that Stephen was marked since birth. "You are mine...chosen, lifetimes ago, to do my work in the world. But every soul needs to be trained...and all that you've endured has been the first part of that training." They return earthward. "Now, you shall begin the next part..." "What training? What do you mean? What is it you want me to do?" The Ancient One gestures..."You have been a doctor of the body; now you shall be a doctor of the spirit..." The landscape around them grows brighter and brighter, the screen SOLARIZES and we...

HARD CUT TO:  The Stephen lifts his head. "A 
dream," he says. "Just a crazy dream." But, as he rises, he notices something there beside him:  a sandalwood box. He carries it outside, sits on the ground, opens the box. Inside? A book:  The Book Of The Vishanti. An ancient, thick, leather-bound work. Then? A cape that, when Stephen removes it from the box, seems to expand. Seems as alive as the landscape in that "subtle world." He wraps the cape around billows out, lifts him up into the air, spins him around. He laughs. Then, concentrates:  to his delight, he's able to will himself groundward again. Also in the box: a golden disc. When Stephen touches it...we see a golden eye form at the center of the disc. "The Eye of Agamotto," says a voice. Stephen looks up -- and Clea is there. "In that eye is the wisdom you've gained -- and forgotten -- down through ten thousand lifetimes." "Real," says Stephen, "all of it...real." "Come," says Clea, taking Stephen's hand, "we've got our work cut out for us."

CUT TO:  Morning. Stephen and Clea in a jeep, Wong at the wheel, as they pull away from the Ancient One's encampment. Hamir stands, head bowed, fingers steepled, as they go.

Doctor Strange ©copyright 2013 Marvel Entertainment.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


In the early 90's—I'd guess 1991 or '92, but I can't swear to it—I was approached by Marvel's then-editor-in-chief, the lovely and talented Tom DeFalco, about writing a treatment for a Doctor Strange movie.  Those were the days when Marvel's attempts at translating their universe to the big screen...well, let's just say they weren't exactly working; so someone up the food chain had the idea to let a few of people who actually wrote the comics have a crack at adapting the characters.   I believe Tom came to me because a) I'd had experience writing for television and b) he knew I loved Doctor Strange—who remains one of my all-time favorite characters.  (If I'm not mistaken, the great Roy Thomas was asked to write a treatment for Doc, as well.)  I wrote the story—and had a wonderful time doing it—cashed the check, and, as you all know, my treatment was then developed into a screenplay that became the basis for a big budget epic that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.

Okay, the treatment was filed away and forgotten.

Well, not totally forgotten.  I was recently going through my file cabinets—stuffed with old work that was either done in the pre-digital age or not saved in digital form—and came across my original copy.  Given that Marvel is now prepping a Doc Strange feature film, I thought this would be a good time to share the treatment with you.

Looking back, I'm amazed at the liberties I took with Doc's story.  As best I recall, I was trying to retain the essence of Stephen Strange's journey while presenting his origin in a way that a broad audience could appreciate.  What follows is presented exactly as I wrote it—I resisted the mighty urge to go in and rewrite my younger self (with the exception of some very minor formatting and punctuation fixes)—more than twenty years ago.  I make no claims to greatness for it, but I think it's an interesting interpretation of the Doctor Strange saga and I hope you enjoy it.

This is Part One.  Parts Two and Three will be along next week.  (And let's not forget that Doctor Strange is ©copyright 2013 Marvel Entertainment.) 


written by 
J.M. DeMatteis


on a BOY'S FACE:  wide with wonder. CAMERA PULLS BACK to 
reveal STEPHEN STRANGE, nine years old, flying over a suburban Long Island neighborhood at night. By the look of the houses and cars, it's the mid-1960's. Stephen is doing loops, dive-bombs, sailing, ghost-like, through walls:  all in all having the time of his life. But beneath this, at first almost inaudible, but picking up in volume, we HEAR a MAN'S VOICE, shouting; HEAR the sound of leather striking flesh. As the SOUNDS reach their HEIGHT, we see Stephen tremble; see tears stream down his face. But then the SOUNDS STOP, replaced by the SOUND of FOOTSTEPS, receding. Then, Stephen begins to sail backwards, as if he's being carried off, like a leaf in a hurricane, against his will. Back, back, back he goes -- till he comes down through the roof of a house in a poorer part of town. Enters a boy's bedroom; and there, on the bed, is a body:  his body. Curled up in a fetal ball. Bruised; tears streaking the cheeks. That seems perfectly natural to Stephen. 

What doesn't seem natural is the DEMONIC ENTITY, sweeping around his bed, trying to get into that body. Time and again it circles the room, then swoops down like a bat, hitting against the base of the body's neck. Each time it seems to get a little further in; a few more tries and it will surely succeed.

Stephen floats there, panicked. He doesn't know what to do.

Then -- there's a SWIRL OF LIGHT that grows and takes the form of a MAN:  a face that could be any of a dozen nationalities; that could be forty years old...or four-hundred. Eyes of wisdom, compassion, love. "Don't worry," the old man says; "I will help you." Stephen can barely croak the words, "Who are you?" "I," says the old man, "am the Ancient One." "Ancient One?" Stephen says -- and as soon as he says that name, the demonic entity explodes in a shower of light and sparks.

And Stephen finds himself in bed, in his body, shooting bolt upright.

HARD CUT TO:  Today. New York Citv. The West Village. Morning. STEPHEN STRANGE, late thirties, shoots bolt upright in bed. Sweating. Disoriented. Hung over. The woman beside him, his girlfriend, VICTORIA BENTLEY, stirs. Asks if he's all right. "Just a dream," he says. "No...a memory." But the dream's already fading. "Hell, I don't know what it is." The CLOCK RADIO ALARM by the side of tbe bed KICKS IN. And, as Stephen and Victoria prepare for their day, we learn that Victoria's a journalist, originally from England, working for a Rolling Stone-like magazine. Stephen is a doctor...a surgeon... working at the N.Y.U. hospital; highly respected. But there's a suggestion -- from Vicky -- that Stephen's star may be on the wane; he blows this off:  "Nothing to worry about."

They exit their brownstone; Stephen asks if they can swing dinner tonight. Vicky says no, she's got that meeting.  "Your New Age loonies are taking up more and more of your time." "They're not loonies. Besides...the Baron's coming soon...we've got to get ready." "Wouldn't want to disappoint the Baron," says Stephen. "You could come, you know." "Not for me, Vick. I don't believe is karma and reincarnation. I don't believe in magic or mysticism or your Cosmic Santa Claus." "Seems like lately," Vicky says, "the only thing you do believe in is what you find at the bottom of a bottle." Stephen has no answer as Vicky hops into the cab...and he walks off toward work. Along the way, he stops by a little side-street. Finds himself drawn down it, to an extraordinary house at the end of the street. Dark, mysterious...yet somehow enchanting. He stares at the house -- it seems abandoned; then, like a man coming out of a dream, he turns and walks off. CAMERA HOLDS on a sign:  For Sale...A-l Realty.

CUT TO: Switzerland. High in the snow-covered mountains, we find a huge castle...something out of another time. Then, MOVING INSIDE the castle, we find a vaulted library...but, on the shelves, instead of books, there are great gems...and, within each gem, swirling...shapes. Incense is thick in the air. Bizarre ritual masks from a dozen Far East cultures dot the walls. In the middle of the room, a SHADOWY FIGURE sits at a desk, head bowed...perhaps in prayer? There's a statue on the desk -- a sandalwood sculpture -- of an old man; the same old man who appeared to young Stephen Strange in our opening:  The Ancient One. A WOMAN appears at the door:  "It's time," she says. "Yes," says the shadowed figure -- as he reaches out, grabs the sandalwood sculpture...and snaps it in two.  "Yes, it is."

CUT TO:  N.Y.U. hospital...where Stephen's day begins with a 
chewing out from DR. STAN DITKO, the Head of Surgery. There are accusations about absenteeism, lateness, missed rounds. Strange is in total denial. "I'm fine, Stan. Just a few problems I'm trying to work out." "Stephen, you're my friend, you need help. I want you to -- " "I don't need anything except maybe a little time off. I've been doing my job, Stan. I'm still the best damn cutter this hospital's got. Have I ever once...once... botched a surgery?" "Once," says Dr. Ditko, "is all it takes. I'm keeping a very close eye on you, Steve." Ditko leaves. Stephen punches the wall. Hard. A NURSE walking by says, "Not a smart thing t'do, Doc. You make your living with those hands." And, off that, we...

CUT TO:  That evening. Stephen in a West Village restaurant, sitting at the bar, nursing a screwdriver. Half-drunk, having a talk with a nineteen year old PUNK GIRL. "You ever fly?" he asks. "Uh-uh," she says; "airplanes scare the shit out of me." "No, I don't mean that. It's a funny thing...I hadn't really thought about it for years, but when I was a kid..." "What?" He shrugs. "Forget it. S'crazy." The girl gives him a come-on, he takes her up on it...but as he's getting ready to go, he looks in the mirror across the bar...and sees an old man standing behind him:  the old man from our opening. THE ANCIENT ONE. Stephen turns around: no one there. Looks back at the mirror:   no one there.  Strange declines the girl's offer; staggers out of the bar.

CUT TO:  Victoria at her meeting:  it's a group of people who follow a spiritual leader named BARON MORDO. A man, they believe, of enormous wisdom, who has studied with the Hidden Masters, brought all the Great Spiritual Teachings together in a new form for the New Age. Mordo, who has never been to the United States (he lives, in seclusion, in Switzerland), will be arriving in New York in a few weeks...and his American followers treat it like the Second Coming.

CUT TO: Stephen, on his way home. He passes a large poster with a drawing of someone who could be the Ancient One...with the words “Let me help you” beneath the picture. Stephen turns, looks back, but, as with the man in the mirror, there's nothing there: just an ad for a rock show at The Bottom Line.

CUT TO:  Stephen staggering into his apartment. The PHONE'S RINGING. He snatches it up.  It's his MOTHER. She's upset because he hasn't been to the hospital to see his father, who's had a stroke, maybe dying. (As they talk, Victoria comes in.)  Stephen says look, Mother -- "I've been consulting with Dr. Cahn. She's very good. He's in capable hands." "He's been asking for you."  For an instant, Stephen seems about to lose it: "Tell him," he snarls; but then he catches himself. "Tell him...I'll come when I can. Good night, Mother." And he slams the phone down. "Why won't you see him?" Victoria asks. "I have nothing to say to him." "My God, the man's dying, you're not going for conversation!" And Strange explodes:  "Let him die!" he roars. "Let the bastard die and rot in hell!" Again, he slams his fist against the wall. This time he hurts it...not badly. "Keep it up, Stephen. Keep it up. You're doing one helluva job of destroying yourself." "And it's my business if I do, isn't it?" "Not when you're destroying what we have along with it." And she goes into the bedroom, slams the door.

He collapses in a chair in the living room, picks up a magazine, begins mindlessly thumbing through it. He stops when he comes across a full page ad -- the same as the poster he passed on the way home. The picture of the Ancient One -- and the words “Let me help you.” He stares at it, turns the page, turns back...and finds a cigarette ad. If he wasn't so drunk, perhaps he'd ponder this longer...but, as it is, Stephen just nods out; begins to dream:  

Again we see the nine year old Stephen flying out above the rooftops in his old neighborhood. But this time, the flying is INTERCUT with what's going on back in Little Stephen's bedroom; as a great SHADOWY FIGURE stands over the bed, screaming, whipping the hell out of Stephen with a belt. As we continue to INTERCUT, we spend more and more time with the beating, less with the flying...until we STAY in the bedroom, as the shadowy figure -- now clearly revealed as Stephen's father, GEORGE -- brings the belt down again and again and again and we...

CUT TO: Three A.M. Stephen awakens in the chair, up out of the nightmare. Staggers to the bathroom. Vomits. Staggers out. And Victoria's there. He looks at her, can't say anything. Just cries. And she takes him in her arms and holds him there.

DISSOLVE TO: Later. They're in bed. Stephen talks to Vicky, for the first time, about his childhood. About his father. "'Sweet man,' you'd think if you met him. And he was...sometimes. I can remember those moments. A child learns to treasure them. When Daddy's loving. Kind. When he cares." (We SEE Stephen's memories:  the innocent, loving days with Dad.) But Daddy drank. And the more he drank, the more angry, the more abusive he became. (We see George on a drunken rampage through Stephen's childhood apartment; tossing over furniture, while his mother, LENA, stands, helplessly watching.) His father would beat him, regularly. (We see Little Stephen under the belt again.) His mother, the classic co-dependent, couldn't do anything to stop it.  She was trapped in her own terror. "How horrible," Victoria says. "Not really," Stephen says with a...strange smile.  "You see, after a while, I wasn't there for the beatings." "What do you mean?" "You're gonna think I'm crazy." "I'm the one who believes in the Cosmic Santa Claus, remember?"

And so he tells her that when his father would beat him, he'd just...leave his body. Fly out of the house. Soar through the neighborhood. (These memories have come back as a result of the dreams...but he doesn't remember the incident with the Ancient One and the demon.) "Once I even flew out to Brooklyn...did a tour of Coney Island... (we see this:  Little Stephen sweeping, soaring around the ferris wheel) ...God, I must sound like a lunatic." "No, no," says an excited Vicky. "You were in your astral body. It happens sometimes with abused children. The horror of their situation actually forces them out of their physical forms. Baron Mordo's written extensively about -- " But Mordo's name pushes the wrong button in Stephen. "Mordo's an ass," he says, walking into the living room, fixing himself a drink (he's always had an inborn resistance to Mordo; a dislike and distrust...despite the fact that he's never so much as read a word of his books). "And so am I. A psychiatrist would say I couldn't stand the pain so I drifted off into some psychotic fantasy..." She doesn't push it. "The point is," says Stephen; "that I did everything I could to get away from him. Moved out when I was sixteen. Worked like an animal to get myself through med school. I made a man out of myself -- not some twisted...thing like he was. A man.  And now -- "  "Now," says Victoria, "you're becoming the very thing you worked so hard to get away from." Stephen stands there, holding the drink, and we...

DISSOLVE TO:  a Long Island Hospital. The next morning. Inside, we find Stephen, looking like hell, standing over the bed of his father. George has sunk into a coma...unblinking, unmoving. Stephen stares at the old man:  a thousand conflicting emotions pass across his face. Then, a VOICE calls from behind him:  his mother, Lena. "We're going to lose him," Lena says, breaking down. "We're going to lose Daddy." "It'll be the best thing that ever happened in your life." Mom, Queen of Denial, slaps Stephen. "He was a good
father!" Stephen, walking away:  "You go on believing that."

CUT TO:  The next day:  Stephen, in the operating room at N.Y.U, in the middle of a delicate operation. He asks the nurse for an instrument, turns -- and it's the Ancient One standing there: "Let me help you," he says. Stephen freezes, blinks -- but the old man's still there. "What is it?" Stephen says; "what do you want from me?" "Doctor," says the nurse (the Ancient One, of course, is gone); "I just want to hand you this scalpel..." Stephen's disoriented, confused; asks another doctor to take over. Turns...

...and there's Doctor Ditko at the door, looking in through the glass.

Stephen walks out to face him: "Stan, I don't want to hear it. I'm just feeling a little under the weather today."  Stan:  "Stephen, I -- " "I know what you're going to say:  I have a drinking problem. But I don't. Sure, sometimes -- " "Stephen -- " "Look, Stan, if you'll just give me a little time, I'll show you that  -- " But Stan takes Stephen by the shoulders:  "Stephen, your mother called. It's your father.  He died."

CUT TO:  a rainy day in a Long Island cemetery. We see George Strange's coffin being lowered into the ground.  Various friends and relatives are there. Stephen's mother is in tears. But Stephen isn't there. OVER THIS we HEAR the phone conversation between Stephen and his mother, as Lena begs him to come -- "Please, he was your father...he loved you. How can you be so heartless?" But Stephen refuses.  "Put him in the ground and forget him. Let him rot. Let him burn in Hell." "Stephen!" He hangs up.

CUT TO: Stephen, drunk again -- but this time he's really  over the edge. Staggers into the apartment, comes on to Victoria...who's disgusted with him, rejects his advances. Rejects him:  "This is it, Stephen. Either you get yourself some help -- or you get the hell out!" He flips -- begins turning the place inside out, knocking over furniture, screaming. We INTERCUT with those MEMORY-SHOTS of George, rampaging through Stephen's childhood apartment, while Lena looks helplessly on. Victoria can't take it. "Never mind. You stay and destroy yourself!" And she's gone. Now Stephen's really lost it. In his rage and pain and confusion, he roars -- and puts his hand through a window. Horrified by what he's done, he drops to his knees. We go CLOSE on his bloody hand, sliced down to the bone, and then...

CUT TO:  The Long Island cemetery. A FIGURE stands over George Strange's grave, BACK TO THE CAMERA. We HEAR a slight HUM, see a sudden FLASH OF LIGHT around the figure, then...

CUT TO:  N.Y.U. hospital. Stephen's in bed, after micro-surgery. Hand wrapped tighter than a mummy's. Dr. Ditko is there and the prognosis is good:  Stephen won't regain full use of the hand, there'll be stiffness in the fingers...but, considering how deep it was cut -- "That's good news? Stan -- I'm ruined! My hands are my life!" Ditko tries to bolster Stephen by telling him that his knowledge of surgery is what makes him so valuable. There's alot he can do with that knowledge without being in the operating room. But Stephen won't hear it. Tells Ditko to get out.

Alone, a broken man, he lays in bed, dead-eyed, staring at the ceiling.