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REVIEW: MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES 9 DR. STRANGE
By Thomas Wheeler

Marvel Legends Series 9, technically known as the Galactus Series, started turning up in mid-March. This is the series of seven figures that comes with body segments to make an immense Galactus figure. I'll review him separately. Dr. Strange is the Marvel Universe's so-called Master of Mystic Arts. While my personal beliefs always make me leery around anything described as "mystic", there's no real-life connection to what Dr. Strange does. I doubt there's any cults of Wiccans or pagans out there doing battle with the likes of the dread Dormammu or whatever.

Stan Lee has admitted that when he was writing the character in the early days of Dr. Strange, he was just throwing together names and words that sounded cool. Dr. Stephen Strange was a brilliant surgeon, although he had a lot more in common with the medical industry of today in that he was pompous, arrogant, conceited, self-absorbed, and a lot more interested in money than he was in the welfare of his patients.

A traffic accident robbed him of his ability to perform surgery. Slight damage to his hands meant that he could no longer hold them quite steady enough to be the perfectionist that surgery (and his own ego) required. Strange became an aimless wanderer, eventually finding his way to a mysterious temple in Tibet, where he had heard rumors of an Ancient One who might be able to heal the damage to his hands.

The Ancient One was the Earth's protector against evil mystic forces, but as his name implied, he was getting a little up in years -- probably by a few centuries -- and his apprentice turned out to be a bad apple named Baron Mordo. Strange helped save the Ancient One, and in return, the old man offered to instruct Strange in the mystic arts. Strange, learning a measure of humility along his travels and adventures, accepted, and ultimately became Earth's so-called "Sorceror Supreme". Yeah, you want to give a guy who's had ego problems in the past a title with the word "supreme" in it...

Joking aside, Dr. Strange was one of the earliest creations of the Marvel Universe, right along with the likes of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, but he's always had a little trouble being ranked in that same high company. He's has his own book off and on over the decades, but his mysterious demeanor and the nature of his abilities has tended to keep him a bit on the "outside looking in" compared to either more earth-bound or sci-fi heroes. Even the team he helped to found, the Defenders, has tended to be looked upon for the most part as a very second-rate version of the Avengers. Could've been worse. At least he wasn't involved with the Champions...

Dr. Strange is the one you call when things not only go wrong, they go weird. Need help with an alien invasion, you call the Avengers. Need help when a massive cosmic being threatens to devour the planet (!), you call the Fantastic Four. Need help when evil mutants are on the rampage, you call the X-Men. Need help getting season tickets for the Canadian Football League, you call Alpha Flight. Need help when there's no rational explanation for what's gone wrong, you call Dr. Strange.

I've always looked upon him as a major character in the Marvel Universe whose history, as I said, runs back just as far as any other classic hero Marvel created in the early 60's, but the guy just can't seem to get that much respect. He's got a great visual appearance, and the weirdness of his stories allowed artists in the 1960's and 1970's to run free, if not amok, with all the bizarre dimensions and realms that Strange fought his stories in (and would probably be that much wilder with today's art and printing techniques if the guy had his own title these days), but I suspect that he's a difficult character to write for. He doesn't fit that well in a team environment.

He's not one that you can really use to make commentary on current world socio-political problems. And there's only so many times you can go up against one evil mystic force after another before it's going to get a little old. His most recent appearance, that I am aware of, was in the concluding pages of Avengers, where he helped contain the chaos created when the Scarlet Witch, a mutant whose power was not, in the end, truly mystic in nature, basically went insane. So I have to say that I was pleased when I learned Dr. Strange would be part of this assortment of Marvel Legends. He just missed out getting into the Famous Covers line several years ago. He and the Punisher were in the works when the plug was finally pulled.I still miss that line. The figure is excellent.

Dr. Strange has a fairly complex design. His face is somewhat angular, his hair mildly upswept, and his costume is not the usual form-fitting spandex of most superheroes. He wears a loose- fitting blue tunic with billowing sleeves, and an ornate light blue design in the middle of it. The sculptors for Toy Biz did a superb job designing this without diminishing the articulation of the figure in the least. Strange also has black leggings, which were probably the easiest parts of the picture to sculpt, weird leopard-patterned gloves, which I doubt were an easy paint application, and an absolutely huge cape that is the mantle of his title of Sorceror Supreme.

The cape is an interesting piece of work. It's fairly thick and heavy, and is actually multi-segmented. But it's been designed so that it wraps around the figure's shoulders somewhat and doesn't throw off the figure's balance. If the cape had been designed strictly to flow backwards, there's no way this figure would've been able to stand up. I'm also pleased to report that Toy Biz didn't do what they did with a Dr. Strange figure that was made part of a Spider-Man line quite a few years ago. They made the cape longer than the figure, and put a bendy- wire in the bottom of the cape, effectively turning the cape into a display base and making it look like Strange was levitating. A sort of cool idea that unfortunately looked just a bit silly in the long run.

The Marvel Legends Dr. Strange keeps his feet on the ground, thankfully. I continue to be impressed with both the sculpting and paintwork of these figures. Strange doesn't wear a mask, and while he has somewhat upswept eyebrows and a peculiar mustache, his face is actually very human. And the figure's head is in no way exaggerated, designed very well, and very neatly painted, especially the eyes, which I can imagine must be a difficult paint job on almost any action figure that has relatively human eyes.

Dr. Strange has 35 points of articulation, suitably impressive, and he comes with the right arm of the Galactus figure. With only two exceptions, none of the Marvel Legends figures in this series come with any accessories, which is understandable given the time and money no doubt put into both the figure you're buying AND the Galactus segment.

For those wondering, the complete assortment consists of Dr. Strange, Nightcrawler, 1st Appearance Hulk, War Machine, Bullseye, Professor X, and Deathlok. Basically, I recommend all of them from the standpoint of getting Galactus. But I also give an individual recommendation to Dr. Strange. He's a major character of the Marvel Universe with a cool overall look to him, and this is an excellent figure of him!