So when is Marvel going to admit Doctor Strange isn’t white?

09.09.16

If you had told me two years ago that Doctor Stephen Strange was going to be at the center of controversies about ethnicity, I would”ve wondered if you were on whatever the original Doctor Strange artists totally weren”t on when they drew things like this:


Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

But then it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would play the Sorcerer Supreme and a (not so) odd thing happened. The Internet rose up* and said “Another rich, white, male, super genius superhero? Isn”t this just Tony Stark with magic? Also, why did I think Stephen Strange was PoC?” Okay, maybe it was just me asking those questions. After all, Doctor Strange was created during the 1960s hippie fascination with all things ‘exotic” aka ‘not European”. Of course, that”s forgetting comics have long history of sticking white savior characters just about everywhere. But when your pop culture imprint of what the good doctor should look like is influenced by covers like the ones below, it”s easy to see the confusion.

*The Internet would rise up again when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One.


Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Yet despite my request that Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) be cast as the Sorcerer Supreme going ignored by Marvel”s film division, it looks like someone on the comics side is on my wavelength. Now if they could just admit it.

When Marvel blew up their universe for All-New, All-Different Marvel last year, Doctor Strange got a new creative team. Writer Jason Aaron (Star Wars, Thor) and artist Chris Bachalo (Death: The High Cost of Living, Uncanny X-Men) were brought on board. Marvel editor Nick Lowe explained the new angle on Doctor Strange to EW at the time thusly:

“[U]sually, when you pick up a Doctor Strange book, he”s going to another dimension to fight something. And like I said, we really wanted to ground this one. [T]his Doctor Strange makes house calls […] he embraces the weird…and when something really weird happens to you and no doctor can do anything, the police can”t help you and you don”t know who to turn to, you call Doctor Strange.”

For his part, Jason Aaron talked in the same interview about the parallels between writing Thor, in which Jane Foster inherits the powers of Thor”s hammer, and Doctor Strange.

“[Thor] a new story, it”s a new take on the character, but it”s something that still, in my mind, speaks to what”s at the core of a character”s long running mythology. But I think Doctor Strange is the same way. And Doctor Strange is even a little more wide open, in that we haven”t had an ongoing solo Doctor Strange book for quite awhile. Just pile up the total number of solo Doctor Strange stories and it”s not the same sort of pile that you get with Spider-Man or Thor or Captain America. But I like that we”re getting to kind of rebuild Doctor Strange from the ground up.”

Could rebuilding Stephen Strange include race-bending his character? Chris Bachalo”s art would say yes. In Doctor Strange #1, Stephen could just be a guy with a tan and terrible taste in facial hair…


Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

…but by the time he”s chewing gum and fighting Lovecraftian demons in the ‘Blood in the Aether” Doctor Strange #12 arc this October, the Sorcerer Supreme has finished his transformation into the love child of Pedro Pascal and Oscar Isaac.


Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Gun to my head, there is no way I”d label this Stephen Strange as white. Which is awesome! White dudes do not have the monopoly on being world famous surgeons who lost their skills in a freak accident and turned to ancient magic to find purpose again. The only weird part? There seems to be no official confirmation that Marvel has race-bent the character. Normally this kind of thing gets fanfare. Look at the roll-out for Miles Morales, Sam Wilson, and Jane Foster. Yet despite requests from HitFix for comment on Stephen Strange”s ethnicity, Marvel has remained oddly silent.

Come on guys, just admit it! Despite attempts by some of the cover artists to the contrary, Stephen Strange is a Person of Color.

[Edit: An earlier version had the wrong decade of Doctor Strange's origin due to fat fingers]

Around The Web