Like every entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is laden with easter eggs and references to decades of comic book lore. With this being the first appearance of the character in the MCU, these tiny hints and bits of previously unseen history mean a great deal when it comes to this ever-expanding film universe. And with the magical side of Marvel having never been put on screen like this before, what can be uncovered here means a great deal for future films in the franchise. For more on the film, read the Doctor Strange Spoiler-Free Review.
So take a look and see which of these hidden gems you managed to notice and, as always …
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Dr. Stephen Strange was created by Steve Ditko and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in July 1963, where he was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Ditko. Strange has consistently appeared in various anthology series, his own comic book series, team books such as The Defender and The Avengers, and more over the years. In Marvel Comics, Doctor Strange is The Sorcerer Supreme, mystical protector of Earth and frequent collaborator with The Avengers. His origins and powers are very similar to what is seen in the film.
In Doctor Strange, Christine Palmer is a doctor who has a history with Stephen Strange. In the comics, she is an obscure character in the 1970s comic book Night Nurse. Yes, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) in the Netflix Marvel television shows is also Night Nurse, but there have been several different characters who have taken on the identity over the years. At this moment, Temple is far more like the comic book character, but who knows what will happen with these two characters in the future. While the Claire Temple version of Night Nurse has a romance with Strange in the comics, it’s Palmer who has that distinction here.
Like the comics, Karl Mordo is an apprentice of The Ancient One who grows disillusioned with her teachings. However, Mordo is an out and out villain from the very start in the comic books, where he attempts to kill The Ancient One, aspires to be The Sorcerer Supreme, and is the archnemesis of Doctor Strange. Mordo is not pure evil here and is even a hero for most of the film’s runtime before turning on The Ancient one’s teachings. His attack on Jonathan Pangborn in the film’s second credits scene shows a dark path for Mordo and hints at the character being an antagonist in a future film.
The Ancient One
The Ancient One is a powerful sorcerer in both film and comics, teaching students the mystical arts as The Sorcerer Supreme. However, The Ancient One in the comics is a Himalayan man, whereas the movie version is a Celtic woman, which led to some white-washing controversy upon reveal. Both the movie and comic see The Ancient One take in Strange to train him in magic when Strange comes to heal his hands, only to lead him down a selfless path. While Strange is made The Sorceror Supreme upon The Ancient One’s death in the comics, he does not take on the title by the time of the film’s end.
Like the movie, Kaecilius is a villainous sorcerer in the comics. However, the comic version is a disciple of the evil Mordo, who trains him in magic and uses him to do his dirty deeds and fight for him at times. Kaecilius is a very minor character in Marvel Comics, only appearing in a dozen or so comics in the span of 50 years. He is far more powerful in the film and is trained by The Ancient One rather than Mordo, who fights against him.
Dormammu and The Dark Dimension
The Dread One himself, Dormammu, raises his lined head at the climax of Doctor Strange to confront the hero in his world of The Dark Dimension. While Dormammu (mocapped by Cumberbatch to make him more like a dark reflection of Strange) lacks the signature flaming head of his comic book counterpart, his lined face is a direct reference, while also making him less out-and-out Satanic. The darkly vibrant Dark Dimension is also directly inspired by the art of Steve Ditko, the artist who co-created Strange with writer Stan Lee and who drew many of his initial stories. In addition, the moment when Kaecilius and his fellow sorcerers are pulled into The Dark Dimension see them beginning to transform into something else. Their glowing red eye looks awfully similar to The Mindless Ones, hulking beasts that serve Dormammu and cause rampant destruction when unleashed.
After he has been critically stabbed, Strange retreats to see Christine and receives life-saving surgery. As he’s being operated on, Strange leaves his body to fight with another sorcerer on the Astral Plane and also give advice to Christine while she operates. This is very similar to the opening scene in Brian K. Vaughan’s miniseries Doctor Strange: The Oath, where Strange consults with Night Nurse as she operates on his gunshot wound. Director Scott Derrickson has confirmed this to be the inspiration and the scene itself was the first conceived by him as proof of concept for the movie.
With so much action going on and audiences being shown all manner of powers within Doctor Strange, there are a whole host of weapons pulled from the comics that make an appearance in the film. These include:
- The Cloak of Levitation – Strange’s signature cloak, which is sentient and allows the doctor to fly. Here, it’s given an extra dose of personality, but is an absolute must in the film
- Staff of the Living Tribunal – Not a preestablished weapon, but Mordo’s weapon name drops a well known all-powerful mystical being and protector of the universe, The Living Tribunal. Could he appear in future films?
- The Wand of Watoomb – We see Wong pick up this weapon near the film’s climax. While it isn’t shown in action during the movie, it can channel mystical energies in the comics.
- Crimson Bands of Cyttorak – This is used to bind Kaecilius during his first fight with Strange (aka Mr. Doctor). In the film, it’s a magical set of binding metal bands, but is a spell of entrapment in the comics.
- The Staff of One – Briefly seen in the film (it’s the object that Strange has no idea how to use), the Staff can cast incredibly powerful spells through blood magic and is used by Nico Minoru, a member of The Runaway, a group of young superpower boys and girls, who were recently announced to be receiving their own Hulu show.
The Time Stone
Special mention must be made concerning The Eye of Agamotto. Not just because it is a signature item used by Strange for years of comics and plays a significant role in the climax of the film, but because it is mentioned as an Infinity Stone by Wong. This means that it is the fifth of six stones to be revealed in the MCU and will play a significant role in the upcoming Infinity War, which will see the tyrant Thanos attempting to collect all of them for his Infinity Gauntlet in order to rule the world. Clearly, The Eye of Agamotto is the Time Stone due to its temporal control. We will have to wait and see what becomes of it.
Early on, Strange listens to “Interstellar Overdrive” by Pink Floyd. So what’s the connection? Doctor Strange is on the cover of the Pink Floyd album A Saucerful of Secrets, making this a reference within a reference. Defying the logic of time and space is appropriate for Doctor Strange.
The Ancient One refers to the universe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe being only one of many and even uses the term “multiverse” when referring to the idea. While we are shown such parallel dimensions as the Mirror Universe and the Dark Dimension, there even more, as it is shown that Dormammu has been consuming other dimensions as well. This means that parallel world could exist with different versions of heroes and history. The comic book world of Marvel Comics is most often referred to as Earth-1610 and logically, this could coexist with the MCU. Which means that it is possible for these characters to cross over someday, even if that is extremely unlikely.
As always, Stan Lee, acclaimed writer and creator of countless Marvel characters including Doctor Strange, makes a cameo. In Doctor Strange, it’s a brief moment where Lee is seen on a passing bus during a fight, where he is reading Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, which chronicled the author’s experience while on mescaline and is also the inspiration for the name of the band The Doors. The connections here seem obvious.
A rival to Dr. Stephen Strange during the hero’s time as a surgeon and disregarded by him as not being nearly as skilled as he, Dr. West was originally introduced in Brian K. Vaughan’s Doctor Strange: The Oath. There, he was also a rival surgeon who performed the operation on Dr. Strange’s hands. Eventually, Dr. West sought out mystical powers like Strange, only to cut his training short and take a very different path. Does that mean the character will follow a similar trajectory in future films? Maybe, or maybe Marvel wanted to just keep the references coming.
Just before his life-altering car crash, Strange is on a voice conference with a colleague, who is offering him potential cases. One such case is that of a soldier who has suffered major spinal damage while wearing an experimental armor. It could be that this is James Rhodes, aka War Machine, who was crippled in a battle during Captain America: Civil War, which happens before this movie. While it’s not confirmed by anyone, this seems to be too similar to be coincidence. Then again, it could be one of the soldier harmed during the tests shown way back in Iron Man 2.
When Kaecilius and his fellow sorcerors invade the New York Sanctum to destroy it, they promptly kill the master who is in charge of protecting it. That master so happens to be Daniel Drumm, a preexisting Marvel character and twin brother of Jericho Drumm, aka the supernatural hero Brother Voodoo. In the comics, Daniel dies as well, and his ghost comes into conflict with Jericho. Daniel’s inclusion here implies the existence of Jericho and the potential future arrival of Brother Voodoo into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Thor and Loki
The first of Doctor Strange’s two credits scenes shows Strange conferring with Thor, who is on Earth and in contact with his brother Loki while searching for his missing father Odin. Their meeting seems to imply that Doctor Strange will play a role in 2017’s Thor: Ragnorok, which will see Thor travelling the universe. Recent set photos have also shown Anthony Hopkins’ Odin dressed as a homeless man on Earth, hinting at where the character has been while missing.