Strange Tales 117, 118, 119
Story: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
The next three issues of Strange Tales were pretty mediocre, especially compared to the previous two. It can be very hit or miss with the Silver Age. Sometimes there are these amazing and fresh ideas realized in those pages. Other months, you can tell they just needed to make sure that issue got out the door.
In Strange Tales 117, Baron Mordo is up to no good again. He creates a dark copy of Strange’s home, trapping him in a dark dimension as he enters. When he astral projects to fight Mordo, he finds himself in a second trap for that form as well. This is quite an elaborate plan, all just to go attack the Master. I’m starting to realize that all of these characters can move across the globe within just a few panels. I understand the whole projection method could be fast, but half the time they are in their physical bodies. Anyway, just as Mordo arrives to confront the Master, he ends up actually being Dr. Strange! How could this be! Well it turns out Mordo didn’t put a floor on that second trap, so Strange naturally sunk through the entire Earth.
Onto 118, the best of these, but not by much. Dr. Strange is scanning the Earth for other worldly threats, as a master of the black arts does. He discovers something sinister going on in the mountains of Bavaria and a panel later he arrives. Initially none of the small town people will talk to him, but he finds a blind old man who informs him that the villagers recently seem possessed by a dark power.
After scanning the minds of villagers, he discovers they are actually being controlled by alien beings. So he sets up a trap to lure one of these creatures to attempt to possess him. It works, and he is able to extract more information about these creatures and their base. As Strange moves across the village to locate the aliens, they retaliate by making the local townsfolk attack with standard small village torches and pitchforks. He is able to easily escape though and uncovers the base. Their leader takes some kind of defensive stone form and starts shooting a mental beam at his face. Dr. Strange counters with his own beam in what becomes the most epic staring contest I have ever seen drawn on page. He wins, I think because he has a wider arc on his beam.
Aliens seems to be a very standard trope in the Silver Age. They were frequently brought in as villains for other books like Fantastic Four, Thor, and X-Men. Even though these guys claim to be from another realm – they are green and have antennas.
Finally in Strange Tales 119, Dr. Strange encounters another green guy completely different from the previous issue. The issue opens up with Strange inspecting a cursed gem. Two unfortunate burglars decided to enter his house and he quickly removes them from the establishment via levitation.
Exhausted, he retires to his chambers. I believe this is actually the first issue where his trustworthy assistant Wong is called by his name. He will become a much more important character as the years go on. While asleep, those two burglars who are gluttons for punishment return. Having seen that shady gem while being thrown out, break in again and steal it. Of course when they inspect their stolen prize they are sucked inside of it. Dr. Strange can’t be having humans getting enslaved to other worlds on his watch, so he locates the gem and follows them inside – to the purple dimension!
And so he confronts the ruler of the purple dimension, Aggamon. I was suprised when I saw this character because it sounds like a villain who would be antagonizing Strange for decades, but I could not remember ever seeing him. After some research, he really is only limited to just six appearances across all of Marvel comics. You would think a ruler of an entire dimension would get more play. At any rate, Strange gets into another staring contest and wins. It is not as epic though because each combatant only has one beam.
And that is it for today. Next up Strange has some rematches with Baron Mordo and Nightmare.