For Every Action There's Reaction in Marvel's Doctor Strange

by Vince Brusio

Jason Aaron is one of those writers who likes to play with everything in the toychest. If you’re an avid reader of comics, you know he’s played with a lot of toys, and he doesn’t seem to be getting bored anytime soon. Take for example Doctor Strange #1 (AUG150741). With a movie coming out soon, Jason thought it was the right time to show how the sorcerer supreme had some new tricks up his sleeve. And in this PREVIEWS Exclusive interview, he elaborated what was going on backstage before the main event.

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PREVIEWSworld: You’re keeping busy these days with Thor and Star Wars, and you have the gritty violence thing going on with Southern Bastards, but now you have Doctor Strange on tap, and we’re a little curious about what your attraction is to this particular character.

Jason Aaron: Well it’s actually a job that I’ve pursued for a while; this new volume has been in the works for quite a bit. So I knew back when I wrote Doctor Strange in Original Sin that everything was going to be heading towards this. I don’t know what it was that initially attracted me to it; I think I’m always more attracted to the more offbeat characters in the Marvel Universe. I wrote for Ghost Rider for a long time and had a lot of fun with that. This is another character in that vein, and this is a good time to be doing Doctor Strange. It’s different now then if I was doing a Doctor Strange book ten years ago. We know about the movie coming out so Doctor Strange will be a much more high profile character then he’s ever been before. I look at this book to hopefully be the magical version of what Marvel’s done with Guardians of the Galaxy and how that series became the linchpin for the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. I want Doctor Strange to be the magic corner of the Marvel Universe.

PREVIEWSworld: That’s how you see Doctor Strange now, fitting in with all of the new changes that are happening over at Marvel? Do you see Strange being lined up to become more of an A-List character?

Jason Aaron: I think certainly he’s more high profile than ever because of the movie on the immediate horizon —  and he’s been in the Avengers for a long time — but it’s been years since he’s had his own solo series. We’re coming right out of the gate with a huge story that will redefine who Strange is, what he does, and how he does it that will cement his place within the larger framework of the Marvel Universe. He’s the Sorcerer Supreme; it’s as simple as that. He’s the guy that walks point for all of us against any sort of threats that emerge from the mystical shadows; he’s the guy who’s there to deal with it. Right out of the gate we’re going to give you a brand new enemy that’s going to test his skills and take him to the limit.

PREVIEWSworld: When and how did you go about pitching the series idea to Marvel?

Jason Aaron: At some point I just called Axel Alonso and said that I really want to do Doctor Strange. I’ve always been a big fan of a lot of the Marvel writers from the 70’s like Steve Gerber and Steve Englehart, Englehart especially with Doctor Strange. I just saw that as a cool character and the character that I wanted to tackle next. I’ve done a lot of X-Men stuff, I’m still doing a lot of the Thor stuff, but I saw Doctor Strange as the next challenge. Coming into this, I’m kind of doing what I did on Thor; we want to come out of the gate with a huge story and set up a huge new enemy. I think this is a series that it doesn’t matter if you’ve read any Doctor Strange before; you can pick this up and get everything you need to know. That said if you’re a long-time Doctor Strange fan, we’re not throwing out all the cool toys and all the cool supporting characters that Strange has built up over the years. We’ll be using a big amount of that stuff in hopefully new and exciting ways.

PREVIEWSworld: If you could give somebody an idea about what potential themes you might want to try to explore in this series, what might you throw out there as something for people to chew on?

Jason Aaron: I think whenever Marvel would talk about how to do Doctor Strange, how to get him right, and how to do magic in the general Marvel Universe, we would talk about what the rules would be for magic, and how to establish these rules for magic. I was never very interested in writing any sort of rules. If you write too many rules you start to take the magic out of magic; it needs to stay mysterious and mystical. We do have one rule in the book: everything Strange does has a cost to it. You can’t just show up to be the magical deus ex machina, wave your hands around to cast a spell, save the day, and not pay a price because of that. Doctor Strange’s job is different than most other superheroes. When he uses his powers it’s not like Cap throwing his shield or Spider-Man shooting his webs. There are repercussions when you tamper with magical forces. There’s a price that Steven Strange has to pay himself, or a price that is paid somehow by the world to balance the scales. Either way this is something that the Sorcerer Supreme has to be aware of whenever he goes into action.

PREVIEWSworld: Outside of what has been done before — especially including Englehart as you mentioned he was a big influence — have there been any other resources that you may have consulted, or research that used to help give you a foundation for what’s coming down the road?

Jason Aaron: When I was writing Thor I wasn’t really interested in mining more from Norse mythology, just because so much of that has been done already. With Strange, I’m a weird guy, so I already know some stuff when it comes to magic. I’m not interested in doing a book about different theories of magic; this is very much a Marvel Universe superhero book. I certainly have read plenty of Doctor Strange comics, going back to the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko stories. I think Ditko is really important to what set Doctor Strange apart and what should still set him apart.

I want this to be a book that wears its “Ditko” on its sleeve; clearly it owes a lot to him in terms of the weirdness and the strangeness he brought to that book. I think Chris Bachalo is the perfect modern day version of that, he can walk down those very strange paths. He’s a guy who can do Shade the Changing Man, but he’s also someone who can walk within the superhero world and bridge those two gaps.

PREVIEWSworld: How’s the chemistry with you and Chris? Has it worked well enough that’s afforded you a couple of issues in the can?

Jason Aaron: Chris and I worked together before; we did Wolverine and the X-Men for a while so we’ve been wanting to work together again as we had a blast on that. I think with that we were building the biggest, craziest, weirdest version of the X-Men school that we could. With this we’re getting to take all that up a notch; it’s certainly a weirder, stranger, and crazier book. We’re coming right out of the gate with our first issue. We get to see Strange on the different beats he walks as a Sorcerer Supreme; we see him walking through strange otherworldly landscapes, and we see him walking down crowded streets in New York City.

When Doctor Strange walks down a street he doesn’t see things quite the same way that we see them, so we’ll get to follow him on several different paths. I work in something closer to the Marvel style with Chris, so I leave a lot of the panel breakdowns to him so you get back these wacked out and crazy Chris Bachalo layouts that I would never have the guts or knowhow to write.

He and I have a good relationship, and he’s coming into this super-excited, having never really drawn Doctor Strange before. I think he sees this as a good call back to some of that weird Vertigo stuff he did like Shade the Changing Man but also doing a big Marvel Universe superhero story. He’s the perfect guy, he’s the only guy we’ve ever talked about doing this and this has been in the works for a while. He’s always been the guy pinned to draw this and thankfully we were able to make it work.

PREVIEWSworld: If you could have a last word on the book, what would you like to throw out to the crowd?

Jason Aaron: This feels like the next step for me as a creator, a summation of a lot of stuff I’ve been doing from Ghost Rider to Wolverine and Thor and I’m going forward in a big way. I’m super thrilled to be doing this, and especially thrilled to be doing this with Chris. Like when I took over Thor, I have big grand plans and I expect to be around for the foreseeable future. 

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