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 disciples...as 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 feet...so the suffering, the darkness, in the world is necessary...as 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 me...you'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...live 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


  1. Great finale, JMD! It would have held a pretty unique place among fantasy films.

    Love the bit at the end!

    I can see the Daily Bugle headline now:

    "Dr. Strange: Menace or Peeping Tom?"


    1. That would have been the sequel, David: Stephen Strange appearing in showers all across the world, trying to stop an invasion from a watery dimension! (Come to think of it, I wrote an episode of the REAL GHOSTBUSTERS animated show kind of like that.)

  2. Ha! And I think I kinda sorta remember that episode. REAL GHOSTBUSTERS was cool and creepy like that--you never knew where evil was lurking.

    Cool bit of triva I learned a few weeks ago. Ernie Hudson, who played Winston in the movies, auditioned for the cartoon role but was told he didn't like Winston at all! Weird world, huh?


    1. That REAL GHOSTBUSTERS episode was my second television sale, David, and the first animated script I ever sold. And here's MY cool bit of trivia: The story editor on that show, the guy who bought that script, was a writer name J. Michael Straczynski. Wonder what ever happened to him...? : )

  3. Pretty cool that you both ended up with Spider-Man runs that are considered high points of the series.

    Makes you wonder what was in the water at the REAL GHOSTBUSTERS studio!:)

    And I know he's DC exclusive, but Ghostbusters just begs for a DeMatteis/Giffen one-shot!

    "One slime! One slime!"


    1. You're right, David: GHOSTBUSTERS would be right up our alley. But, yes, Keith is DC exclusive so that's out. That said, I'm delighted to be working with Keith again on LARFLEEZE. (Out in June!) This end today's shameless plug.

    2. Maybe you should give Dan Aykroyd a hand with that GB III script, hehe. On a related note, I've told it before, but in general I find the GB franchise pretty similar to JLI. The humor is similar or at least compatible, both are light on drama and dramatic realism, and both teams fight fantastic situations and use realism to a comic effect, specially with office situations, public relations and the way people actually joke and tease each other.

    3. I'd never thought about it before, Rafa, but you're right: there is a definite similarity in tone -- the mix of serious action-adventure with goofy, character-based humor -- in the two franchises. Fascinating!

      Trivia: The first animation script I ever sold was to the 80's series THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS!

  4. I did not know that, so thanks! Larfleeze sounds like Charlie Sheen's clubbing buddy. But I'm guessing it's a bit more...cosmic!


    1. Cosmic adventure with a healthy dollop of humor. Giffen and I have been looking for a project like this for some time now and it looks like we've found a place to indulge our Kosmic Kirby Love.

  5. I'll check it out! Is Giffen the artist, too?


    1. Keith's doing layouts and Scott Kolins is doing the finished art. Should be a very nice looking book!

  6. Sounds sweet! I'm in.


  7. Read the Dr. Strange film outline finale the other day, and I can certainly see how and why you have such an affinity for a character you've hardly touched in your professional career. You were able to weave in bits and pieces of your personal philosophies and attitudes seamlessly, and the overall positive demeanor displayed by Strange in the finale (which, of course, saves the day) is very representative of your personal overall positive attitude towards life in general. It's a wonderfully admirable trait that has manifested itself in pretty much anything of yours I've read, and comes thru in person as well. It's a sign of your skills as a writer that you can blend in all of that positiveness without having it come across all sappy and syrupy. I'd really enjoy seeing you have an earnest run with the character. The Defenders run, while very entertaining, was still in the jokester-mode of your Justice League...excellent and fun, but light reading. Into Shamballa is a fantastic piece (with beautiful paintings by Dan Green), but a single, self-contained story. I'd be very interested to see what a monthly run over a couple years with that character in a serious vein would conjure up from you.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Ken, and very glad you enjoyed the treatment.

      I actually wrote the DOCtOR STRANGE monthly for a short time in the 90's...but, a couple of issues in, I was informed that the book was canceled and that I had to wrap up several dangling plotlines. I did get to do one major storyline that featured the death of Baron Mordo (he got better!), but never really had a chance to sink my teeth into the character and his world.

      I'd love a chance to spend a little quality time with Strange now. That said, I'm having a great time with another supernatural character at the moment, PHANTOM STRANGER. I've been co-writing the book with Dan Didio (who has created a deep background mythos for PS), but I take over solo scripting with #9.

      But I wouldn't say no to a Doctor Strange offer!

      Hope all's well with you and yours!

  8. I'll have to look for Phantom Stranger, although personality-wise, I don't know how similar to Strange he is. Still, you're writing it, so it should be interesting to say the least.

    And all's well with the Fries Family, thanks...actually, the wife and I will be seeing you in Anaheim in less than 3 weeks! Looking forward to introducing her to you.

    Hope all goes well with you...try and get out from under all that snow back there, ok?

    1. Looking forward to seeing you (and your wife), Ken. I think WonderCon is going to be great.

  9. I patiently waited for the entirety to be presented, so now I will read it all in one sitting.
    (Otherwise, the waiting would have vexed me more than Mordo's Minions, the Demons of Denak, and the Cadaverous corpses in the Crypts of Kaa-U combined!

    Thank you!

  10. You're welcome. May the Vishanti smile upon you!