Thursday, 4 December 2014

Dr. Strange In Blue Face

I was always puzzled by that brief period ( Issues #177 to #183 ) when Dr. Strange took to wearing a blue mask, and couldn't figure out what it was all about. Sure, there was some nonsense in the story to explain it:

But I still couldn't make head nor tail of why it'd happened. And the subsequent stories didn't seem to make a vast amount of sense either. For instance, once back in our reality, there was no reason for him to continue wearing a mask.
The general consensus is that it was a last desperate attempt to grab sales, as #183 was Doc's last issue for a while, before he came back with The Defenders. Others have theorized an attempt to 'cosmic up' the good Doctor's look, more in line with The Surfer or Deadman. Some people even think it was Roy Thomas' sneaky way to do a comic about the Golden Age Vision:

Regardless, it was undoubtedly a great visual, and I remember those tales as a short, trippy interlude of randomness, but it did feel like you were suddenly reading about a totally different character. The thing about Doc is that, despite his world being one of the more out-there ones that a superhero could live in, he's actually quite a down to earth, pleasant, well-mannered guy ( I mean, he was always letting the other Defenders crash at the Sanctum Sanctorum ), and a big part of that was that you could always see the face of this middle aged, cultured man.
Blue Face Doc, by comparison, was weird and distant and puzzling, and you couldn't figure him out. In fact, I don't think I realized at the time he was wearing a mask, but assumed he'd just cast a spell on his face, which was even more confusing.
But unlike, it seems, a lot of fans, I do have a lot of affection for this period of the Sorcerer Supreme, just because I remember as a kid going: 'That looks really cool...but why?'
Here's one of my favourite Blue Face Doc issues. There are many reasons to love this episode, like: Clea's reaction to seeing snow for the first time, and the rather creepy suggestion that Doc has set her up in a love pad like some sugar daddy. Then there's an incredibly shoehorned in cameo from Tom Wolfe ( who referenced Strange in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test ), Doc doing something as mundane as having a snooze ( in sorcerous pyjamas ), Dinosaurs on New Years Eve, and the joint appearance of Nightmare and Eternity, two of his best villains. None of it makes a lick of sense though...


  1. So it was actually a mask!?

    I was similarly puzzled by the late 60s Dr Strange comics, but loved them anyway. Mainly thanks to the stupendous artwork of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. First encountered it in the Strange reprints from the old UK Avengers weekly - beautiful at the larger size in black and white.

    Thanks for reminding me.


  2. I totally agree about the UK Avengers reprints. I cannot part with many of them due to the awesomeness of the quality, far better that the Essential books. When I started seriously collecting high grades back in the mid 90's Doc Strange 180 was one of my priorities. Finding an unstamped cents with a clean white cover was a...Nightmare and took an Eternity! (sorry!)