Thursday, October 02, 2008

Doctor Strange is Always Changing Size

I'm probably a bit older than a lot of you out there. And I'm very grateful for that. I also had a lifeline to the culture of the 50s and 60s through my aunts and uncles, and spent much too much time alone when I was a kid. And having a touch of puer aeternus I've been able to experience five decades of youth culture, even if it was often second hand.

Of course, the touchstone of my life has always been Marvel Comics, in particular that of the Silver Age. I spend a lot of time reading my uncles' comics, but they were mostly DC fans. I loved the occult-oriented DC titles like House of Mystery, The Witching Hour and The Phantom Stranger, but I always felt like I was being suffocated when I read Silver Age DC superhero comics. There were only a few Marvel titles in that old crate in my grandmother's back room, but they were the equivalent of scripture to me.

Since my uncles seemed to dig the weird stuff, there were a couple of issues of Doctor Strange amongst all of the deadly-dull Flash and Aquaman comics. They were enough to get me hooked on the character for life. And believe it or not, I watched the Doctor Strange TV movie on the night it aired and loved every minute of it.

One thing younger people may not appreciate is that outside of Batman reruns, the Hulk soap opera and the dreadful Super Friends cartoons, getting a superhero fix outside of comics was tough going. A major part of the problem is that the technology simply did not exist to pull off a decent live action superhero yarn, and 70s animation was so cheap and inept even the dreary Hulk and Spider-Man prime time shows were more convincing. Since I'm basically still living mentally in the 70s, I'm continually stunned at how completely comic books have taken over Hollywood. Thanks, of course, to CGI.

But since I still keenly remember those dry spells, I'm usually able to get at least one good viewing out of any superhero or comic-related movie (except Batman and Robin, gods help us). Now, I may blow any cred I may have, but I even enjoyed the Shadow movie with Alec Baldwin and the Phantom movie with Billy Zane and the Rocketeer movie with Billy Campbell. I did avoid Tank Girl though. Well, not really, I did watch a little of it on cable one night. Much to my eternal regret.

Doctor Strange was a major influence on the psychedelic movement, and is still trippier and move visionary than most of what followed in its wake. And yet, it was created by a couple of stone-sober, middle-aged nerds (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) who'd been doing nothing but battling deadlines since their teenage years. And it was also Jack Kirby's visionary work with Stan Lee that also provided a powerful impetus for the younger artists of the hippie movement, particularly those in the underground movement.

By the same token, the only member of Pink Floyd that got into acid was Syd Barrett and look what happened to him. We've also lost the woefully underappreciated Rick Wright out of Floyd, so here's a dose of prime time Psych paying tribute to the good doctor.

Here's David Gilmour paying tribute with Wright's classic "Remember a Day." Watch both videos and ponder the unforgiving hand of that old devil Time.


  1. We're probably close to the same age. I want to thank you for posting that Dr. Strange clip. My mother was working the night it aired, and my older sister and her husband were watching me, and they chased me off to bed about 9:15, about 15 minutes past my bedtime. Over the years I've looked for it to air on cable, but I haven't seen it until now. I have seen all the others, the Spiderman, Hulk, and the Captain America where he rode a motorcycle with the wings painted on a mototrcycle helmut rather than sticking out of his head. I remember reading a comic book from that era where a reader complained the t.v specials had only a passing resemblence to the comics, and Stan Lee's reply that he was going to Hollywood to work on a way to get Marvel superhero movies on the big screen in such a way that they would stay true to the comics,which is what he did. D.C. is now trying to catch up.

    I remember twisting our antenna to try to get the station in that aired the Batman reruns, and my mother yelling at me "What the hell are you doing Eddie?" LOL Needless to say I was not successful.

    I watched the Super Friends every saturday. Yes the animation and the stories were crude, but at a time before the first Star Wars movie came out, I didn't know any better.

    Today, we are spoiled when it comes to comic book movies. If a movie comes out that doesn't stay true to the original character, we throw hissy fits and complain. IF the first Hulk movie, with it's special effects and computer animation were released in the seventies instead of this decade, it would have been a blockbuster and probably would have taken in Star Wars like numbers.

    Thank you for taking me back to a time I had forgotten.

  2. Hi Chris, I recently listened to your interview on Occult of Personality. Just wanted to mention that I appreciated your insight, and comments regarding Jung and Campbell, and the darkness of these explorations. I look forward to your new postings.

  3. I'm liking this Dr.Strange resurgence; Steve Dikto was featured some months back on a BBC4 show, and the clips of Dr. Strange reminded me of having found it someplace, in some comic I can't quite remember, long ago.

    The "I never did acid" thing fascinates me when it comes from folks that produce incredibly psychedelic things. I'm of the opinion that either they are fibbing (like most of the anti-drugs politicians, but usually for different reasons), or have been used in MK-ULTRA type programs and been fed it unknowingly - they are famous after all! and that stuff (what gets to be famous, what doesn't) is all controlled.

    As for Sid though - didn't he get locked in a cupboard during a trip and mistreated, and that was why he had such a bad time from it. That's what I heard, and it was the other band members that did it!
    Maybe it was 'the usual' - one gets dropped or sacrificed and what happened to them then becomes the basis of what the rest of the artistic output is all about, by the remaining members.
    All the more famous of the albums all seem to be about what lay behind Sid quitting/ leaving, eg -

    "and if the band you're in starts playing different tunes,
    I'll see you on the dark side of the Moon",

    cause didn't he actually see through what all the performing etc all came from and what orchestrated it. It is about the Moon and what's going on in space, cf. that slightly fake 'Kubrick, Nixon and the Man in the Moon' docu-show.
    Do you even have to see that to think 'maybe they should have just called it VALIS?'.

  4. Hey guys, finally a way to search google on stargate + atlantis without the series popping up, prepare to enter a stargate to the year 2001:

    it interesting to see how different the results where in back in 2k1

  5. Chris-
    I'm 44. I remember the period you speak of well. I've taken to calling it " The Lean Years". Ya know, when the only sci-fi on TV was the 'Six Million Dollar Man, and 'Wonder Woman' among a very few others, and a couple of good cartoons ( Star Trek on Saturday morning comes to mind) But back then we were thankful for every morsel we got, weren't we? Ha!

  6. I always liked Dr. Strange. I, too, am probably around your age Chris, if not a wee bit older. I do remember the 60's well and growing up in Japan on an Air Force Base sitting around with my friends reading comics was about the coolest thing we had that kept us in touch with whatever culture we had as American kids stuck with our parents in another country and latching on to the little things that kept us feeling normal in a not-so-normal childhood in a mind blowingly disturbing moment in our history [don't attempt that kind of sentence unless you have the cahonees]. Then there was Dr. Strange...
    He was so off kilter to the rest of the super-hero set at Marvel. Bizarre enough to be cool in a way we couldn't quite figure in any terms available to us at that time. When he would trip off into other dimensions, we kind of went along with him for the ride.
    What was it with these Marvel character's that were flawed and somehow available at the same time? Dr. Strange, like a lot of our dads(remember: we were military brats), let his career take a nose dive because of excessive drinking and that much, we got. But unlike our dads, Strange decided he would trade up his bottle for magic instead and defend us against the unseen and occult forces which threatened to booger us sideways beneath the surface of our shared, Leave-It-To-Beaver reality. So, as our dads were fighting the 'Red Menace' of Communism in the Far(ther) East, armed with really big bombs and liquor, we discovered our older brothers pot stash and sat in our own magic circles pinching change and digging through trash cans outside of enlisted men's barracks looking for disguarded comics hoping to somehow find the next issue of Dr. Strange. And that, is pretty much the story of the Sixties, kids.