Before Marvel announced the addition of Doctor Strange into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most people had no idea who Stephen Strange even was.
Although The Sorcerer Supreme may not be the most popular comic book character, he is definitely one of the most mystical – which works out perfectly as Marvel is finally introducing magical and supernatural elements into its upcoming movies.
A lot of the characters in Doctor Strange, including Stephen himself, will be brand new for general audiences. So, let’s take a deeper look back at the very first Sorcerer Supreme before the realm-bending mantle was handed over to Stephen Strange – The Ancient One.
The Ancient One first appeared in Marvel’s Strange Tales #110 in July of 1963.
In the comics, five centuries ago and man named Yao was a young farmer in the Himalayan village of Kamar-Taj. He often studied sorcery with a friend of his named Kaluu. When Kaluu started using his magical powers for doing harm, Yao stopped him and dedicated his life to fighting off evil sorcery and those who practice dark magic.
Kamar eventually became powerful enough to honor the title of Sorcerer Supreme of Earth’s dimension – The Ancient One. He knew that his eventual death was inevitable, so he began to look for someone to pass the mantle to.
Although he chose Baron Mordo as his first pupil, he instantly noticed his penchant for evil. Mordo sent his spirit image to hypnotize The Ancient One’s servant (a blood relative of Doctor Strange’s servant Wong) to poison his food and threatened him with death unless he revealed black magic secrets. Stephen Strange saved The Ancient One. It was this act that made Stephen Strange believe in magic.
A young surgeon named Stephen Strange first came to The Ancient One and asked for help fixing his hands after a horrible accident smashed them to pieces. Strange was taken on as The Ancient One’s first pupil (after the incident with Mordo) eventually becoming the new Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth dimension, after many grueling hours of intense training.
The Ancient One will forever be the most powerful sorcerer of the Earth’s dimension, with abilities like astral projection, mesmerism, illusion casting, and energy manipulation.
He still exists in the comics today, however to prevent an evil demon Shuma-Gorath from entering Earth through his mind, he asked Stephen Strange to shut down his brain. The Ancient One then died as a mortal, but became one with the universe, appearing as an astral projection.
As protector of Earth’s Dimension, The Ancient One had many dark magic enemies from other dimensions like Dormammu (ruler of the Dark Dimension), Baron Mordo (Sorcerer of Black Magic), and basically anyone who threatens to harm Earth.
In the Doctor Strange movie, actress Tilda Swinton is playing the ever so important role of The Ancient One. When news broke about her casting, she was met with intense backlash as some fans claimed her involvement white-washed the Doctor Strange character.
She addressed the controversy and stressed her involvement did no such thing, saying, “Anybody calling for more accurate representation of the diverse world we live in has got me standing right beside them.”
In a recent interview with ComicBook.com, Swinton explained, "The Ancient One as you know is the master, is the Sorcerer Supreme...Strange comes to learn how to heal himself, and The Ancient One has got the knowledge."
We will learn much more about Swinton's take on The Ancient One when Doctor Strange releases in theaters this Friday, November 4.
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Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; and Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019.