Doctor Strange recently survived the “Last Days of Magic,” an epic tale that threatened the very existence of magic in the pages of Doctor Strange. Written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Chris Bachalo, the “Last Days of Magic” story hinted at the vastness of the magical community both in population and longevity. A little bit more was brought to light in the recently released Doctor Strange Annual. This week Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme cracks all of it wide open, investigating the breadth of magic in the Marvel Universe while introducing readers to an assortment of magic users from a cross-section of history.
Comicosity was able to cast a few spells of our own to gain insight about Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme from series writer Robbie Thompson and artist Javier Rodriguez.
Doug Zawisza: Robbie, what is Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme all about?
Robbie Thompson: Our book is a magical Dirty Dozen, where a group of disparate characters have to unite against a common foe.
Due to the events of the “Last Days of Magic,” a powerful, mystical monster called The Forgotten is freed from its prison. It travels back in time and wreaks some serious havoc. Merlin (yes, that Merlin!) attempts to contain this foul beast, but quickly realizes he’s out-gunned. He hastily assembles a team of Sorcerers from various times to combat this ultimate evil.
DZ: Let’s do a quick rundown of the main players, and reacting to that, Javier, can you please tell us one word about each of the character designs:
Kushala – Intense
Nina – Huge
Isaac Newton – Murky
Merlin – Misty
The Mindful One – Cute
DZ: Can you discuss What went into the designs?
JR: I enjoyed so much coming up with the designs for the new characters. Each of them are peculiar, and I did some research to adjust their personalities to their background. So you can read them with a first look. You know, they are not wearing the typical colorful spandex but I like to think about the outfits on the same way, pure pop culture. So each one has their own color, shape, complements. It was so so fun, really. I dig doing character designs a lot and to see how other artist handle them.
DZ: What’s your biggest influence on the style for this book?
JR: I think that, even when you try to find a style, a “voice”, in any of the books you are getting involved, your style doesn’t vary so much.
In this case, because this is my first book with a team of super guys, I like back to reread my favorites from when I was child. And I think that they are still the best. [John] Byrne’s X-Men, Fantastic Four, [George] Perez’s Teen Titans, [Walt] Simonson’s Thor and of course Paul Smith X-Men and Doc Strange are huge influences. I have more, of course. I love Ditko and Kirby the most but for a group my inspirations are in the 80’s. Lot of good artists. Add to the mix some Hernandez Bros or [Jamie] Hewlett Tank Girl and voilà!
DZ: As a former colorist, do you find an affinity for color to (pardon the pun) shade how you design characters?
JR: I create my first base for the characters inspired on what Robbie provides me with. And as long as the story develops, so they do the characters, growing up and showing new traits and layers.
I could find a similarity on a technical step by step process. But that’s pretty generic.
I think my background doing comics with my own scripts and concepts is what really comes through with this current work.
JR: Well, Alvaro brings it all together. With Alvaro pages come to life. Also he is a very good artist on his own. He does lots of work, fixing anatomy mistakes, he keeps the continuity along the book. To me Alvaro is not the inker, it’s the guy that enhance my drawings. Adding the final touch.
DZ: Robbie, how does having an all-star creative crew, including colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer and writer Joe Caramagna affect your approach to writing?
RT: It makes my job much, much, easier. Jordie is an unbelievable talent. I’ve been a huge fan of her work from afar, and I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to collaborate with her on this story. I’ve had the very good fortune to work with Joe on Venom: Space Knight, and he was hands down the MVP of that book, without a doubt, one of the best letterers in the business.
My day job is working in television, so I love collaboration. Working on a story together. Editors Nick Lowe and Darren Shan built a dream team for this book (including themselves!) and I’m eternally grateful to them.
I had the good fortune to meet Javier in person last month. My wife and I were traveling in Spain, and we met Javier and his amazing wife and beautiful daughter. We spent the day talking and having tapas. Javier is brilliant, just brilliant, and we have so much in common. We had already started working together, but to me, getting to spend a day with him and wonderful family made the bond even stronger. I love trading emails with him and talking about the story and characters, and the same goes for everyone on this book.
In terms of approach to writing, working with these collaborators has definitely changed my style for the better. Early on, Nick sent me several of Jason Aaron’s Strange scripts and that really kick-started the change. I loved the way he laid their story out, it was clear he and artist Chris Bachalo had a shorthand and were in synch. I met Jason recently, at Disneyland of all places, and we chatted about Strange at Trader Sam’s Tiki Lounge, which is kind of Disney’s bar with no doors. Jason is such an amazing talent, easily one of the best writers in comics and he’s a great guy to boot. His scripts were a huge influence, and I really tried to emulate them stylistically as we started work on this book.
In past scripts, I think I’ve been too prescriptive, but this series has really freed me up. Basically, I just try to get out of the way. When you have an artist like Javier, an inker like Alvaro Lopez, a colorist like Jordie and a letterer like Joe — these are all extremely talented artists and storytellers! So, as I keep saying, I’m like Goose to their Mavericks in the volleyball scene from Top Gun — it’s my job to set them up, and then get the hell out of their way. I couldn’t ask for a better storytelling team and I’m lucky to be working with them.
RT: Supernatural is a bit closer in terms of genre. In terms of approach, it’s funny, they’re all totally different, but the same in two ways: they boil to down to character and collaboration. When I worked on Supernatural, it was about drilling down into the characters’ wants and needs and making it hard for them to get those — and it’s the same for Silk, Spidey or Strange. And then, for me, it’s about listening to the people I’m collaborating with — in TV, it’s a much larger group, but I think the principal is the same: I try my hardest to put out the best story I can, and then listen to the notes and ideas from the people I’m telling this story with and let the best idea win. There are so many moments and scenes in the first two issues that came out of emails from Javier, just spit-balling ideas back and forth. He has a great eye for detail and character.
DZ: Jason Aaron has given Stephen a little more humor and a bit of a self-deprecating outlook in his work on the main title. What’s the general tone of this title?
RT: We’re very much in-line with the flagship title. I love what Jason, Chris and the Strange crew have created in that book so much. I actually wrote Nick a fan letter after issue one, that I think planted a seed when he was cooking up Sorcerers. The only difference I would say tone-wise is that since this is a team book, there are more voices to explore, which has been a lot of fun to figure out.
DZ: The cast is from various times, which strikes me as a trope for science fiction more than mysticism. What era does the series take place in?
RT: We talked about that from the beginning — how could we make magical time travel different. You’ll see that visually in the first issue — Javier came up with such an amazing, trippy and unique double page spread to depict Strange and Merlin travelling through time, and Jordie’s colors for that spread are absolutely mind-blowing.
Era-wise, we start in the present day, with Strange still trying to get his mojo back, but we move pretty quickly back to Merlin’s time, which has made for a fun visual palette and helped keep our characters as fishes-out-of-water.
RT: “Last Days of Magic”. That jerk-store Empirikul really did a number on the Magical World in Strange’s time, and we’ll be feeling its effect throughout our book.
DZ: Can we anticipate the foes of these mystics, or is the threat all-new and all-different?
RT: We will be facing the all-new foe of The Forgotten, a truly nasty number, but since this is a team book, and a team built around characters that are used to flying solo, we’ll also be facing some internal threats as not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye.
DZ: Will all of the characters be appearing consistently issue-after-issue, like a true team, say a mystical Dirty Dozen, or will they rotate through?
RT: Dirty Dozen all the way — though, we will be focusing on one character per issue, starting with Yao, the Not-So-Ancient One, in the Doctor Strange Annual out now.
DZ: Will they sing rhythm for Stephen when he tackles Motown hits at the karaoke night at the bar with no doors?
RT: Ha! I highly doubt these solo artists would be anyone’s backup singer. But hopefully if they survive their encounter with The Forgotten, they can have a few drinks and harmonize at the bar with no doors.
DZ: What about Doctor Voodoo? What defines the Sorcerer Supremes who make the cut?
RT: Love Doctor Voodoo — hopefully we’ll see him in the pages of this book someday! What defines the Supremes who make the cut comes from the magic Merlin has used to recruit them all. Magic always comes at a price, and time travel magic is no different. He’s catching these people when they are at their weakest or most vulnerable. Merlin thought he was assembling an all-star team, but he wound up with wild cards.
DZ: What exercises did you perform to develop the personalities present in the book?
RT: Push-ups. And I went back to the classic Ditko/Lee Strange stories, and have been working through other iconic Strange tales. I haven’t written a team book, so I also went back and read some of the Byrne/Claremont X-Men and Byrne FF books to get a feel for that. And I chatted briefly with Mark Waid and picked his brain about teams and he gave me unbelievably helpful advice.
DZ: Finally, both of you guys, if you would, please finish this sentence: “Readers should pick up Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme because. . .”
RT: Readers should pick up Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme because. . .it’s a gorgeous, action packed thrill ride with characters pushed to their limits. Oh, and it will bring about world peace and internal happiness for all who own it.
JR: Readers should pick up Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme because. . . Robbie Thompson is one of the most talented guys in business right now, top it up with a beautiful crafted story, well constructed characters and a catchy plot that I think will be very enjoyable for new and old readers.
You won’t need any magical summoning spells to grab a copy of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. It hits stands on October 26, so be sure to pick it up to see what Robbie and Javier (and Alvaro, Jordie, and Joe) have in store for Stephen Strange and his colleagues.