Hi gang! Glad you all found your way back to my humble post. This week it’s time for another RETRO REVIEW. So, a couple of weeks ago I was rummaging around in the Marvel Comics annex of the great comic book vault and unearthed my copy of Marvel Premiere # 3, featuring Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts! I’ve always loved the good doctor, even though his comics have been a bit of a hit or a miss over the years. When his comics are good, they are really good, even great, and when they aren’t great, well, they are still are enjoyable. This particular comic book is cover dated July 1972, and it is the first issue of the revived Doctor Strange series, that eventually led back to his own solo comic book series.
The cover artwork is penciled by Barry Smith (soon to be Barry Windsor-Smith) and it is inked by Frank Giacoia. It features one of those great black borders that Marvel used during the seventies. Tough to keep in mint condition, but really made the covers pop! It also features a great title on the cover; “This World Gone Mad!”. Take a look:
As you can see, Smith drew a very nice compilation cover, showing various scenes within the comic we held in our hands in 1972. Unfortunately, the title of the story was changed to; “While the World Spins Mad!”. Not bad, but not quite as good as “This World Gone Mad!”, or at least in my humble opinion. The story plot was actually provided by Barry Smith, with the dialogue completed by Stan Lee. Smith provides the interior penciling, but the inks are done by Dan Adkins.
The story begins with a very nice splash page with Dr. Strange astride the world. The story itself begins on page two, with the good Doctor walking the streets of New York City in deep contemplation, concerned with a presence of danger, a nameless evil. In fact, he is so distracted that he is almost struck head-on by a passing truck, and he has to use his mystic abilities to stop the truck inches from himself before being hit, possibly fatally.
He enters his Sanctum and settles into a trance which enables him to release his ectoplasmic form, which he uses to seek out a meeting with his mentor and teacher, the Ancient One. The Ancient One warns Strange an evil one, whose “power is his secret and his secret is his power!”.
As Dr. Strange seeks to return to his corporal body, he finds that he is trapped in his ectoplasmic form! Strange battles for a couple of pages to return to his body and he finally succeeds, only to find that his body is already inhabited. They battle over the next three pages and basically Dr. Strange battles himself. This sequence is brilliantly drawn by Smith and worth the price of admission alone.
After the battle has been won, Strange regains his body, but finds himself not on Earth. He wanders around trying to find out where he is. During his travels he encounters a tree with his own face and the world seems to try to convince Strange that he is mad, i.e., not sane. Using the Eye of Agamotto, he uncovers the fact that this is all a dream, a nightmare, and that at the beginning of the story he was actually hit by the truck and has dreamed/imagined all of this. Once he realizes this, he knows who his enemy is and who he has been battling with all along!
If you haven’t already guessed it, than I’ll tell you … Dr. Strange’s enemy has actually been Nightmare, the whole story! Next the reader gets to watch Dr. Strange battle Nightmare for Strange’s sanity. Strange eventually defeats Nightmare, only to have it revealed that there is yet another enemy that had been controlling Nightmare!
Quite an exciting beginning to a new Dr. Strange story line and comic book series. Sorry to say that Barry Smith’s tenure would only last one additional issue, but in that very next issue, we get introduced to his eventual replacement, as Frank Brunner inked Smith’s last Dr. Strange story, in Marvel Premiere # 4. And after a few fill in issues penciled by others, not quite a talented, Brunner assumed the penciling duties and had a great, but also to short run, on Dr. Strange, teaming up with writer, Steve Englehart.
If you don’t have any of these issues in your collection, do yourself a favor and rectify that mistake, starting right here. Thanks, as always, for stopping by, and be sure to come back next week for a new Fabulous Find and again in two weeks for another RETRO REVIEW.
be seeing you …