The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Dr. Stephen Strange
Master of the Mystic Arts
Doctor Stephen Strange, commonly known as "Doctor Strange," is known as the "Master of the Mystic Arts." The nature of the character makes him one of the most overtly "religious" characters in the Marvel Universe.
The previous religious affiliation of Doctor Strange (before he embarked on the path that led to him becoming a master of the occult, magic, mysticism, etc.) has not been revealed. The character's current religious affiliation is not easily definable in terms of contemporary organized religion, but can best be classified as general "occult." Stephen Strange routinely deals with "supernatural" phenomena, spirituality, and religious concepts, including demons, deities and on occasion the supreme being of the universe.
For Doctor Strange, the mystic arts are not merely a means to obtain power. Doctor Strange is sincerely spiritual. He sees his role as "Sorcerer Supreme" as a sacred calling and responsibility. He earnestly desires to serve humanity and protect the world (and often beyond) from evil forces.
Robert McKinney provided the following information in an email message on 24 June 2006:
Doctor Strange has actually met God. It happened in Marvel Premiere #14. He and his arch-enemy Baron Mordo followed a sorceror from the future named Sise-Neg back into the past. Along the way, they witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and saw Sise-Neg create a garden to protect the progenitors of mankind from demons. The further back Sise-Neg traveled in time, the more he became, until they reached the dawn of creation where Sise-Neg became... well, you get the idea.
On 31 May 2007, we received the following immensely helpful letter about the religious affiliation, experiences and beliefs of Doctor Strange:
I have info on DOCTOR STRANGE's knowledge of Gods and religion.
But first, a quick addendum to something that was sent to you earler:
While DOCTOR STRANGE has indeed seen many of the "higher orders" of creation, and, much like was written to you earlier that he met "god", it wasn't really GOD, but a sorcerer named SISE-NEG, whom, while traveling further backwards into time (in order to absorb mystic power to himself) went all the way back to the point that there was nothing.
Then, with the absorbed power and knowledge of all time, SISE-NEG realized that the universe NEEDED to exist and so, he moved FORWARD into time, releasing all his stored energies in a "big bang" of creation. Moving forward in time REVERSED what he did (and also reversed his name... SISE-NEG became GENISIS).
Now, besides all that (DOCTOR STRANGE had witnessed creation a few times, once by the entity named ETERNITY) but in all of that, he knows that the higher order of entities is as thus (and at the top IS the one GOD):
- Demigods and Immortals (HERCULES, THOR)
- Demons and otherworldly forces (DORMAMMU, NIGHTMARE)
- Cosmic powers (GALACTUS, EON)
- Entities and Abstracts (ETERNITY, INFINITY)
AT the top of the pile are:
- LORD CHAOS and MASTER ORDER (with their emmissary, the IN-BETWEENER)
- The LIVING TRIBUNAL who sits above them all.
And it has been stated BY the LIVING TRIBUNAL that even HE serves ONE who is above all. LIVING TRIBUNAL acts as a go-between for GOD and the rest of creation, making sure that all is right in the universe. (I think it was in an issue of SILVER SURFER or INFINITY GAUNTLET. If need be, I can pull the issue. It might take a little while. Let me know if you require it for "proof").
Anyway, there was one instance when DOCTOR STRANGE battled DRACULA. (TOMB of DRACULA # 44 and DOCTOR STRANGE # 14)
Despite his best efforts, STRANGE couldn't help the fact that DRACULA bit him and turned him into a pseudo Vampire.
Whilst battling with this duality, and DRACULA himself, DRACULA admonishes STRANGE saying that "...no matter WHAT type of vampire you might be - I am your LORD!" (meaning LORD of all Vampires).
When DOCTOR STRANGE hears the term "LORD" he understands whose power REALLY holds sway here, and so calls upon:
"In the name of the TETRAGRAMMATON, JEHOVAH! O Great UNMANIFEST, hear my plea!"
And thinks to himself; "THAT's who holds power here! I've called upon many Gods in my life! NEVER have I needed strength more than now!"
At that point they BOTH feel pain (because STRANGE has been turned into a vampire as well). STRANGE claims his SOUL screams in agony, but he has to hold on.
Then, DRACULA dissolves, seemingly destroyed (later we find that he turned HIMSELF to mist, for he knew that the holy power would surely destroy him).
STRANGE later stats that he could not perform such a feat again.
So, we know that DOCTOR STRANGE realizes that there IS a GOD and that his power is above all.
As for his religious inclinations...
His original religion isn't really ever mentioned.
After going to TIBET, he studied under the ANCIENT ONE (and must have had SOME introduction to religions of TIBET, although, he was studying mostly magic and sorcery.
And seeing as how he deals with many "entities", his religion is more along the lines of wide-spread "occult".
I hope this is helpful.
Infinity Crusade: Doctor Strange was one of 33 characters who were identified as the most religious superheroes in the Marvel Universe in Infinity Crusade (June 1993). In this issue, a powerful being who identified herself as "the Goddess" kidnapped the superheroes she had identified as being the most religious active superheroes at the time. The Goddess was a manifestation of the "benevolent" side of Adam Warlock, and she planned to use these heroes in her crusade to rid the galaxy of evil and usher in a new golden age of peace. After these 33 characters had been kidnapped by the Goddess, the remaining superheroes gathered to try to figure out what was going on. The Vision analyzed data about who had been taken and who had not, and explained his analysis (Infinity Crusade #1, page 32):
Now that the appropriate files have been examined I believe I have sufficient hard data to put forth that theory I mentioned earlier. I feel confident I know why these particular paranormals were abducted. All the missing share a common trait or experience... An event or attitude that might be categorized as religious. Many among the missing hold deeply felt moral stands or intense spiritual belief systems. Those who do not fit that profile have all had after-death experiences... My theory does not hold that these attitudes aided in the missing individual's abduction, only that these traits may have determined who would be taken.
From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/thingjew.htm; viewed 21 December 2005):
Over the years, the writers told readers all kinds of things about the habits and foibles of the characters. We knew about their taste in clothing, their troubles with relationships, their sense of humor. But we rarely discovered whether they followed any particular religion.
That seems odd in one way. Back in the dawn of the modern comic book, more than 90 percent of Americans self-identified with a particular religion, mostly some kind of Christianity. Why wouldn't reality-linked superheroes have a particular religion?
Explicitly Religious Comics Characters
[a list of 20 characters features 10 Jewish characters, 8 Christian characters, plus:]
- Dr. Stephen Strange is Master of the Mystic Arts.
- Thor is one of many Norse gods.
From: "What religion do superhero's belong to? [sic]" forum discussion started 18 July 2002 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=41332; viewed 21 May 2007):
07-18-2002, 01:02 PM
What religion do superhero's [sic] belong to?
I'd like to discuss what religious beliefs are favorite costumed hero's belong to. Everyone knows Daredevil is Catholic. But beyond that, what do we know of superhero's beliefs? I'm thinking of mostly the Marvel Universe, but you DC fans feel free to contribute as well...
07-18-2002, 01:30 PM
This is a discussion I've had several times with my friends, and usually I step out of it when it turns offensive. (Which with my friends, it always does!) Thing to remember though that until recently, like the past decade, religion and talks of such were verboten in most main stream comic books. Now that's changed...
I don't think Dr. Steven Strange fits into any religious category...
From: "The Corner" (letter column), published in National Review Online, 29 July 2002 (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/2002_07_28_corner-archive.asp#85293899; viewed 12 May 2006):
Posted 2:08 PM
Email box... filling with... comic geeknesssss... losing... consciousness. A few quick points... let's just stipulate that all superheroes with "occult" or cultish powers -- Dr. Strange, the Iron Fist... and even the Juggernaut... etc. are not pure secular humanists...
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
From: "X-Men religious affiliations" thread started 1 June 2002 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/78e6830d00083d2f/102a03cd2dab9fda; viewed 13 June 2006):
Date: 20 Oct 2004 21:55:56
Subject: Religious beliefs of Marvel characters?
Does anybody know the religious beliefs of various characters?
Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Date: 20 Oct 2004 23:02:28
From: The Black Guardian
All I know is the last one [Magneto]: Judaism. Most of the rest are probably various denominations of Christian. I'd say Strange is beyond most of the Earthly religions, or perhaps you could call him a pagan, since his work forces him to invoke non-Christian powers.
Date: 20 Oct 2004 23:16:20
From: Samy Merchi
Barring any actual solid evidence in the characters' own books, you could always fall back on the Infinity Crusade and see which sides the characters were on in that conflict. Anybody feel like whipping those issues out and checking these specific characters?
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:52:34
From: The Black Guardian
Anyway, here's the list of those who "faithfully served" the Goddess: Captain America, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, Jean Grey, Namorita, Silhouette, Spider-Man, Puck, Archangel, the Inhuman Crystal, Firelord, Hercules, Shaman, Talisman, Moondragon, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Silver Surfer, Sersi, the Living Lightning, Thor, the Invisible Woman, USAgent, Moon Knight, Wolfsbane, Doctor Strange, Wonder Man, Daredevil, the Black Knight, Windshear, Sasquatch, Storm, Gamora, Sleepwalker.
IIRC, even if you read the crossover, it's still pretty vague in what religions the heroes believed.
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:57:48
From: Samy Merchi
In many cases, it [Infinity Crusade] is the strongest canonical reference to many of the characters' religious stance. Some lucky ones have been dealt with at more depth in their own books (DD, Rahne, Storm et al.) but for many characters Infinity Crusade is the biggest canonical reference. If we want to go by canon rather than sheer postulation.
Date: 20 Oct 2004 18:21:53
re: "Dr. Strange"
Once worshipped the bottle, now a Vishanti Fundamentalist.
[This poster is writing humorously, as is evident from his descriptions for other characters, not shown here.]
Date: 21 Oct 2004 01:45:45
...I wonder if Stephen Strange, who CALLS the hosts 'Gods' and obviously believes in them, has a monotheistic view or a polytheistic view...
Date: 21 Oct 2004 08:13:54
From: Just Jak!
Yeah, but Strange knows the gods are there and has dealt with them, so I wouldn't consider that 'believing', but rather knowing.
Belief indicates faith which means that thinking something is true without evidence...
So nobody in the MU [Marvel Universe] 'believes' in Thor. Worships him, yes. Takes him as their god, yes. But belief dies in the face of evidence and is replaced by knowledge.
Date: 22 Oct 2004 18:21:53
From: Sean M. Connolly
You assume that faith and reason are contrary principles, not complementary ones.
Date: 29 Oct 2004 15:39:20
I don't think he's [Doctor Strange] calling out 'Gods' when he does his spells. I thought that they were... sort of like other-dimensional "universe" folks, like our Eternity?
Date: 21 Oct 2004 15:19:09
From: Paul O'Brien
re: Dr. Strange
Ah, magic again. I don't really see the high-grade magic guys having a religion as conventionally understood. If you asked Dr Strange whether God existed, you'd probably get the answer "Yes", followed by a lengthy and complex explanation of in quite what SENSE he existed, and how he fitted into the wider cosmology. (We know that the Judeo-Christian heaven and hell exist in the MU [Marvel Universe] - they've been depicted in HELLSTORM - but that doesn't necessarily establish that Christianity is any more true in the MU than Asgard-worship.)
Date: 24 Nov 2004 02:51:49
Dr. Strange has always believed in God, inspite of his dealings with mystical entities and Eternity. Actually, he learned about God specificaly from Eternity in Dr. Strange #13, second volume.
From: Chris Dodson
From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
Date: Sat, Jun 1 2002 9:38 pm
I'm looking for information on the religious beliefs of all the current X-Men for a story I'm submitting to Marvel...
Date: Fri, Jul 5 2002 1:33 pm
...Margali, Amanda Sefton and Magik appear to be linked to Marvel's ficticious demons etc. (which reminds me that Dr. Strange is also connected to an entirely ficticious pantheon, the Vishanti).
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
From: David Doty
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:45 pm
The GA [Golden Age] Plastic Man's origin always seemed to me to be a story of religious conversion, with the religion strangely blacked out. Criminal is fatally wounded, nursed back to health by monks whose goodness convinces him to change the course of his life? Sounds like a conversion experience to me.
From: Peter Henrikson
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 5:43 pm
Just happened to think of a couple more.
I think the Spectre would be pretty religious.
Some one mentioned Plastic Man's origin, So I think Dr. Strange might qualify as his back story is similar.
From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...
So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?
Has anyone thought of Raven and Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange. Clea (Strange's wife), Agatha Harkness (Wanda's tutor)? They are studying witchcraft and sorcery - a religion known as Wiccan.
From: "New Joe Fridays: Week 49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):
06-03-2007, 04:58 AM
You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot...
So, on to religion. What religions do we find represented in Marvel? A lot of them are "weird" ones associated with exotic fantasy. Several decades ago, comic book writers could be fairly sure that none of their readers would know or be Tibetan Buddhists, Kali devotees, Voodoo practitioners, or Gypsies, so they felt free to make up details out of whole cloth, or portray some religions as wicked. Today this is no longer possible. Recall the Hindu reaction to Krishna's appearance on "Xena: Warrior Princess" (as a villain)...
Mainstream religions were generally unmentioned before the 1990's... Then suddenly a number of characters were revealed as being of Roman Catholic background (Daredevil, Invisible Woman, Nightcrawler, Punisher), or occasionally Jewish (Thing, though he is predated by minor characters Doc Samson, Sabra, Kitty Pryde, and Justice)...
In these cases, religions were still mainly used as shorthand. A number of non-heroic examples would fit the description of "religious leader turns out to be an evil-doer" (e.g."God Loves, Man Kills", or the Six-Fingered Hand or the cult of Joshua from Defenders). These too are fairly obvious targets (Protestant evangelists, cult leaders) from the point of view of the pop culture. Some positive (but highly "orientalized") images of Asian religions come to us via Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Karma from the X-Men (remember the appearance of the yin/yang emblem from her origin?) and even Wolverine... Note the different treatment with Western religions, which are more "ordinary" and generally lack magic powers.
I suggest that if real religions are going to be invoked, then they had better be done right. That means whoever writes Bro. Voodoo ought to take the trouble to find out what voodoo actually consists of in the real world, and find some way to fit the superhero within that (allowing for supernatural flourishes, of course). If Dr. Strange goes to Tibet, then the writer had better know something about the real Tibet, e.g. that it is under Chinese control...
From: "Sacreligious amd anti-Christian Comic characters" forum discussion, started 28 February 2007 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000107545&start=0&tstart=15; viewed 19 July 2007):
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 12:49 PM
Any character that uses magic, sorcery
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 12:58 PM
Is this crap serious? This all depends on what faith you practice. It's conservative braindead and downright dangerous thinking like this that makes more and more people turn on the church...
Good Lord, (sigh)
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 11:20 PM
Comments on Mavericker's list:
...Dr. Strange - NON-Christian character. Probably an atheist before becoming a sorcerer/mystic...
"Any character that uses magic, sorcery."
The actual dictionary definition of sacreligious follows:
From the Oxford dictionary:
Adjective form of Sacrilege
Noun. Robbery or profanation of sacred building.
Outrage on consecrated person or thing.
Violation of what is sacred.
These are fictional characters!!!
Which of them have robbed or profaned a sacred building, committed an act of outrage on a consecrated person (well LOBO Probably) or violated what is sacred?
And if you think these characters are sacreligious, why don't you just avoid the books that use them?
Is Elfquest sacreligious because the elves have no organized religion?
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