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 Pune...by 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 consciousness...how 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 will...in 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 tools...my allies...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?...at 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 are...help 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 up...fly...out 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 Tomb...as 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 him...it 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.
Doctor Strange ©copyright 2013 Marvel Entertainment.
This great -- thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
A pleasure, Steven. Very glad you enjoyed it. Nice to have this piece out of mothballs after so many years. Should have the final part up by Wednesday.Delete
Great stuff so far, JMD--look forward to the third act!ReplyDelete
Thanks, David. Hope it all pays off!Delete
Really enjoying this, the mix of the classic material we're familiar with infused with your own spins on things. Trying to read this from the perspective of the average person who will have zero familiarity with the character, and it seems to still work quite well. The in-jokes will be lost obviously (Stan Ditko...reminded me of the judge named J. Kirby in the Stan Lee episode of Big Bang Theory), and my automatically filling in backstory due to recognizing character names makes it a little difficult to see it from the point-of-view of your typical theatergoer. At the same time, those elements are enhancing my ability to really enjoy this, and I'm looking forward to the remainder!ReplyDelete
Hey, Ken—great to hear from you. Happy you're enjoying this idiosyncratic take on Doctor Strange. Hope you enjoyed Part Three...and that all's well with you and yours!Delete