The Dharma of Doctor Strange: The Shifting Representations of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism within a Comic Book Serial
Issue: Vol 18 No. 3 (2015)
Journal: Implicit Religion
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
In 1963, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a mystical comic book superhero named Doctor Strange. In the last fifty years, the character has appeared in hundreds of monthly serials, guest cameos, and graphic novels. In this article, I argue that the sequential panels of art, along with the narratives plotting Doctor Strange’s adventures, provide three different (but interrelated) histories of late twentieth-/early twenty-first century America. First, they document a visual history of a distinctly American pop-fascination with the “Orient,” and with Tibet in particular. Second, over the course of a half-century the comic serial maps the Americanization of quasi-occult and quasi-Buddhist practices. Third, the transformation of Doctor Strange, as an individual with hopes, fears, and an evolving worldview, provides insight into the implied but seldom expressed religiosity of generations of Buddhist studies scholars.
Author: Joel Gruber
5BY5 TV. “5BY5: After Dark with Dan Benjamin,” http://5by5.tv/afterdark/391, last accessed on November 5, 2013.
Ash, Mel. 2011. The Zen of Recovery. Los Angeles, CA: Premier Digital Publishing.
Bendis, Brian Michael, et al. 2013. New Avengers: Volume 5 (Contains #31-34). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2012. New Avengers: Volume 4 (#24-30). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———.2012. New Avengers: Volume 3 (#17-23). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2011. New Avengers: Volume 2 (#7-13). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2011. New Avengers: Volume 1 (#1-6). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Benton, Mike. 1991. Superhero Comics of the Silver Age: The Illustrated History. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company.
Bryne Robotics. “Dr. Strange on the John Bryne Forum,” 2013.http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=24461&PN=0&TP=2, last accessed December 2.
Comics Alliance. “Matt Fraction on ‘Defenders’: The Grand Unified Theory of the Marvel Universe [Interview],” http://comicsalliance.com/matt-fraction-defenders-interview/, last accessed November 3, 2013.
Cooke, Jon B. TwoMorrows.com. “Of Doctors and Ducks: Interview with Artist Frank Brunner on His Marvel Days,” ed., Jon B. Cooke http://twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/06 brunner.html, last accessed October 22, 2013.
Cronin, Brian. Comic Book Resources. “The Greatest Doctor Strange Stories Ever Told!”doctor-strange-stories-ever-told/, last accessed November 3, 2013.
Curtis, Finbarr. 2010. Ann Taves’s Religious Experience Reconsidered Is a Sign of a Global Apocalypse That Will Kill Us All. Religion 40(4): 288–292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.religion.2010.09.003
Daniels, Les. 1991. Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics. New York: H. N.Abrams.
DeMatteis, J.M. and Dan Green. 1986. Into Shamballa. New York: Marvel Comics Group.
Englehart, Steve, Gene Colan, et al. 2013. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 6 (Doctor Strange #10-22, Marvel Annual #1, Tomb of Dracula #44). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Englehart, Steve, Frank Brunner, and Gene Colan, et al. 2011. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 5 (Marvel Premiere #9-14, Doctor Strange #1-9). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Fraction, Matt, Terry Dodson, et al. 2012. Defenders: Volume 1 (Contains #1-6). New York, NY: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2013. Defenders: Volume 2 (Contains #7-12). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Iwamura, Jane. 2011. Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738601.001.0001
Knowles, Christopher. 2007. Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books.
Kripal, Jeffrey, J. 2011. Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2010. Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Lachman, Gary. 2012. Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality. New York: Penguin.
Lee, Stan and Steve Ditko et al. 2013. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 2 (Contains Strange Tales #142–168). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2013. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 1 (Contains Strange Tales #110, 111, 114–141). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Lewis, David A. and Christine Hoff Kraemer, eds. 2010. Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels. New York: Continuum International Publishing.
McLaughlin, Jeff. ed. 2007. Stan Lee: Conversations. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Morrison, Grant. 2012. Supergods. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Neilalien, Neilalien.com: A Doctor Strange Fansite. “Very Underwhelming Bendis Interview for Doctor Strange Fans re: His Future Plans for Doc Strange, Illuminati, Avengers.” http://www.neilalien.com/doc/archive/2010/10/, last accessed Nov 5, 2013.
O’Donnell, Dick. 1998. “It’s Magic.” In The Comic-Book Book, edited by Don Thompson. New York: Krause Publishing.
P-Tor. Sanctum Santctorum Comix Collection and Doctor Strange Website. “New Avengers v2 #31, End Times: Part 1: A Review.” http://www.sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/search/label/Bendis, last accessed December 20, 2013.
Richards, David. Comic Book Resources. “Bendis Assembles Avengers, Illuminati, and More,” http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=28599, last accessed on November 5 2013.
Royal, Derek Parker. 2007. Introduction: Multi-ethnic Engagements with Graphic Narrative. MELUS 32(3): 7–22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/melus/32.3.7
Steiner, Rudolf. 1922. An Outline of Occult Science. New York: AnthroSophic Press.
Straczynski. J., Samm Barnes, Brandon Peterson, et al. 2005. Strange: Beginnings and Endings: Volume 1 (Contains #1-6). New York: Marvel Comics.
Thomas, Roy, Gene Colan, et al. 2009. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 4 (Contains Doctor Strange #180-183, Sub Mariner #22, Incredible Hulk #126, Marvel Feature #1, Marvel Premiere #3–8). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
———. 2007. Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange: Volume 3 (Contains Doctor Strange #169–179, Avengers #61). New York: Marvel Worldwide.
Wolfe, Tom. 1968. The Electric Kool-aid Acid Text. New York: Picador.
Wolk, Douglas. 2007. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press.
Wright, Bradford W. 2003. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.