Friends, once again the Super-Blog Team Up signal can be seen in the skies over the city! Calling us comic fans together to celebrate those characters we hold dear to our hearts. With this go around we will be discussing some of the team ups that have brought together the most powerful and sometimes most unlikely of allies.
For my entry of this edition of the Super-Blog Team Up we will be taking a look at not only one of my favorite Doctor Doom stories but one of my favorite Dr. Strange tales as well. All wrapped up in a wonderful graphic novel entitled Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment.
Arrogant. Driven. Unceasing. All powerful.
Those four words do not merely apply to Marvel Comics’ well known monarch of Latveria. Who acts as a frequent foe to Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four. Those traits apply in addition to it’s most recognizable Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange. Who just so happens to be one of my favorite Marvel Comic characters.
Both characters have a backstory detailing personal loss, one crafted in no small part to their own actions. In the case of Doom I refer to his ‘disfigurement’ because he refused to listen to the warning of Reed Richards. Each characters destructive behavior leads them to become something far more greater, for good and bad, than what they originally could have imagined.
Now before I get into the origin of Dr. Strange I feel I should share how I first became introduced to the character. Unlike with the man formerly known as Victor Von Doom, I didn’t stumble upon an old issue featuring his exploits. It was actually thanks to the 1978 CBS TV movie!
Though I recall enjoying it at the time I really started to become interested in Dr. Strange and Doctor Doom, thanks to the 1981 animated series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I can vividly remember watching “7 Little Superheroes”. Where we get a glimpse of the larger Marvel Universe with the inclusion of Captain America, Namor, Shanna the She-Devil, and of course Dr. Strange.
How about a little backstory on the good Doctor?
For those that might not know…Dr. Stephen Strange was a man of science, a brilliant neurosurgeon who found very little comfort in life except for the sounds of praise at his abilities to save lives and to be paid quite handsomely for those talents.
While speeding late one night, Stephen loses control of his car and almost loses his life in the crash. While his fellow Doctors were able to save him from dying they could do nothing to completely save his hands, upon waking from the accident Stephen is forced to accept the fact his career as surgeon is at an end. Still he has not yet reached rock bottom as his pride refuses to allow him to take on a role as a teacher or consultant, believing that somewhere out in the world is someone who can restore the damaged nerves of his hands, and so he expends his vast fortune in the search of a cure, a search that will lead him all over the world but as his options and finances dwindle he finds comfort in the numbing escape of alcohol.
It is then he learns of a rumor, a person known only as the Ancient One who resides in Tibet and who might very well be able to cure Stephen. Selling his last belongings and finding passage to the East, the former surgeon stumbles upon the Tibetan monastery of the Ancient One and finds something far more important than a cure to damaged hands, he discovers his true destiny…to become a master of the mystic arts to earn the mantle of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme and defend the Universe from the myriad threats of the great beyond such as the Dreaded Dormammu, Dracula, fellow spell-slinger Baron Mordo, Shuma-Gorath, Nightmare, and of course Mephisto, the main foe of Triumph and Torment.
What is Triumph and Torment about?
In the beginning of Triumph and Torment we are introduced to an ancient sorcerer by the name of the Aged Genghis, and we learn it is time to summon forth the Earth’s greatest magic users in an attempt to answer a challenge. One that we later learn is to determine who will be name Sorcerer Supreme, so this story also lets us see how Dr. Strange earned that title.
Before the Aged Genghis mystically sends out his summons, he briefly thinks back onto a meeting with a young Victor Von Doom. The young man has traveled to become an apprentice to the master to further his knowledge in the dark arts, after failing to heed Reed Richards advice. The older man though is quick to dismiss his request as he refuses to take on pupils…and Victor’s reaction is less than civil.
This story by the way follows what Jack Kirby once said about Doom, that his egotism was so grandiose that in his eyes he is horridly disfigured when in truth he sports merely a small scar. An uncompromising view that leads Victor to a secret order where he eventually becomes their master and with their aid he constructs and dons his first suit of armor. Which includes his famous face plate which is just fresh out of the forge, demonstrating his incredible will at withstanding pain that would fell “a lesser man”.
So after this brief flashback we begin the story proper with the Aged Genghis sending out his mental summons to meet at a forgotten jungle temple. Only those practitioners who are skilled enough are able to hear his call, which of course includes Dr. Strange. Arriving at the temple, Dr. Strange is mostly looked on in awe by those who have assembled but the same cannot be said for Dr. Doom appearance in the group. One of them even challenges his right to be in attendance, pointing out that he has always has relied on science with his gadgets and technological might. Doom removes his gauntlets and powers down his personal force field, swearing to not use his defensive and offensive tech but only his magical abilities in the challenge ahead, making a point as well to his accuser that he wouldn’t be in attendance if he hadn’t heard the mystical summons in the first place.
The challenge turns out to be one issued by three of the powerful entities that Doctor Strange has been known to call on to help power his spells. Oshtur, Hoggoth, and Agamotto of the Vishanti. They present a puzzle to the magic users, they encompass the Aged Genghis. In what looks very much like an outgrowth of…well…Kryptonite crystals actually. The one that can free him will receive the lofty title of Sorcerer Supreme.
Some of the magic users begin slinging spells at the prison only to find their spells reflected back on them, overwhelming their defenses and those of their allies. Those that are overcome become a kind of a sleepwalker, doing their best to ensorcell their fellow magic users. Only two stand tall in this attack, Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom, the latter using his technology to aid in his defense by studying the stances and techniques of his fellow spellcasters, and by allowing his armor to do some of the work so he can concentrate on the puzzle at hand.
It comes down to just Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom. Since there can be only one victor it won’t surprise you that Doom is first to react by trying to mystically imprison his fellow magic user. Strange is a little more deft at spellcasting naturally. Negating the attack and turning it back on Doom. While the Monarch of Latveria is imprisoned, Dr. Strange uses his astral projection with the aid of his Eye of Agamotto to get a closer look at the crystals surrounding the Aged Genghis and is shocked when he realizes how simple the puzzle turns out to be…by merely asking that the elder sorcerer come out of the prison instead of relying on the ‘brute’ aspects of his craft like his fellow magic users, Dr. Strange has proven to the Vishanti that he is worthy of being the Sorcerer Supreme.
Dr. Strange learns that he has earned the right of a mystical boon, but being humble he declines the offer…except for that isn’t what part of being the Sorcerer Supreme means. You see upon taking the mantle HE must grant a boon to any that were not brought low by the test, which means he must grant a wish of Dr. Doom. Now Dr. Strange is less than thrilled by this turn of events but is surprised when Doom doesn’t ask for some world conquering ability but aid in rescuing his Mother’s soul from the depths of Hades.
Agreeing to accompany Doom, Dr. Strange is shocked when they arrive in Latveria how beloved the Monarch truly is. Unlike the rest of the World he isn’t feared but cheered with even a child presenting him a bouquet of flowers to celebrate his return. Strange questions whether or not this has been put on for his benefit but for the citizens of Latveria, Doom has in fact done a great deal of good. A booming economy, peace, though as we’ve seen in earlier comics that all comes about due to the unswerving loyalty to Doom and woe be to those who try to usurp his control.
Dr. Strange learns of Doom’s backstory while staying at Castle Doom, of how his Mother, Cynthia Von Doom, who was a spellcaster herself agreed to a deal with Mephisto in what she thought was the promise of power to keep her people safe and protect them from the harassment of an evil Baron of Latveria. In truth she was given such power but with no ability to control the destructive magic, so when she unleashed her spell at some of the Baron’s guards she ended up killing everyone in the neighboring village but not before she was mortally wounded by one of the dying soldiers. Dying in her husband’s arms she begs that he keep their soon shielded from the demonic magic she had unleashed, or as I take it, from learning the Dark Arts. This would be easier for Werner Von Doom if the trunk that contained her personal belongings and spell books didn’t keep magically appearing after being seemingly destroyed. So it would seem that Doom’s destiny (No doubt thanks to Mephisto) was always setting him on the path to confront the Lord of Lies.
Dr. Strange spends three fortnights at Castle Doom doing something very surprising…teaching Doom to strengthen his magical prowess.
To be fair as you can see in that above panel that while he is doing this to help Doom he also needs to teach him so that his own life will be in less danger when they enter the realms of Hades to challenge Mephisto in battle to secure Cynthia’s soul. I also really like that Dr. Doom is quite glad that Strange is keeping such a close eye on him…considering that they are traveling to the Lord of Lies’ realm, it makes quite a lot of sense.
The duo finally are ready to descend into the depths of Hades where they are immediately set upon by the ever changing landscape and forces of Mephisto.
After a brief encounter with the Lord of Lies, the two are separated by a sandstorm that results in Dr. Strange having to relive his earlier days as a shallow and vapid person while Doom finds himself being challenged by Mephisto, not in a magical battle but in an attempt to not succumb to the deal that the Demon offers. At first Mephisto offers him the gift of world conquest, something that offends Doom in fact as he Monarch is secure in his own abilities to secure that victory…but when the Lord of Lies offers up the true prize, Cynthia Von Doom’s soul, how can he be expected to resist, not when his Mother’s salvation is so close at hand.
So a deal is struck between Doom and Mephisto, in exchange for the Sorcerer Supreme, who has thwarted the Demon many times in his past adventures, Doom will not only free Cynthia’s soul but she will be given back her mortal form as well. Doom aids in the capture of Dr. Strange who has just freed himself from the nightmarish representation of his earlier life and in a surprising turn Mephisto honors his agreement and Cynthia Von Doom is freed.
But her reaction to the how she was freed by her Son is not what Doom could have expected.
Cynthia Von Doom decides to willingly stay in Hades, Mephisto transforming her to stone, and while Doom falls to his knees in grief and disbelief the Lord of Lies gloats of how he has now gained the souls of all three for eternity.
But this is Doom we are talking about, friends. It would seem he has a little something up his sleeve…or in this case…Dr. Strange’s cape.
Doom being wise planted a device that would shatter the holding spell of Mephisto that kept Dr. Strange immobile and with the Sorcerer Supreme now freed it is time for them to join forces in a battle against the Demon!
This is Mephisto we are talking about and as much as I love Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom both they are are out of their league, big time.
Dr. Strange is able to call forth a shield to protect them from the opening salvo of Mephisto’s wrath but he is giving his all to defend himself as well as Doom and his Mother’s now stone form. Doom comes up with a plan and asks Strange to trust him, dropping the shield for a mere second as the Monarch fires a bullet made of anti-matter into Mephisto. Doom is shocked to find that his genius technology has failed to slay the Lord of Lies and as Mephisto appears again he swallows them whole. Now it’s time for Strange to come to their aid and this time asking Doom to trust him he opens the shield once again, calling upon Oshtur’s might to strike the form of Cynthia Von Doom, shattering her and destroying her completely…but freeing her soul in the process. A soul that had been redeemed when she refused to accompany her Son, to take part in his bargain with Mephisto. So when the light of Heaven summons her forth, the Demon is in anguish at the touch of the light and in rage banishes his attackers back to the mortal world.
Dr. Strange finds Dr. Doom to be more than chilly with him at their return but more shocking is that Doom has set out to do what he had always planned to do. He willingly sacrificed his personal happiness, in this case the love of his Mother, secure in the knowledge that she was forever freed and in peace and that he also still had possession of his own soul. Doom had bested the Demon at his own brand of sport!
I’ve left out quite a bit of detail in this brief synopsis of Triumph and Torment as to not ruin everything for you if you decide to seek out the graphic novel for yourself. Which you really should because it’s smartly written by the likes of Roger Stern (Spider-Man) with artwork by Mike Mignola (Hellboy).
Now that you have learned what I believe to be one of the greatest Team-Ups in comics, make sure to go and visit my fellow Super-Blog Team Up writers:
The SuperHero Satellite takes a look at the Team-Up of Superman and He-man.
The Longbox Graveyard focuses on Thing vs Thing.
Superior Spider-Talk features Spider-Man and…the Razorback?!
The Daily Rios takes a look at the Teen Titans and DNA Agents crossover.
The Middle Spaces looks at Spider-Man and Daredevil.
The Fantastiverse talks about the crossover that had Superman and Spider-Man teaming up.
Mystery V-Log tackles the Avengers.
In My Not So Humble Opinion looks at Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane.
The Unspoken Decade discusses the pairing of the Punisher and Archie.
Flodos Page has the team up of the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter.
Between the Pages takes a look at…Bruce Wayne and Loise Lane?
BronzeAge Babies looks at some of the most famous of enemies (FF/Doom, Cap/Red Skull, etc.)
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