Posted on

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie (Peter Hooten)

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange in 1978.

Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true.

Peter Hooten starred as Dr. Strange, looking more than a little like Gabe Kaplan in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Also, Hooten’s costume was more than a little goofy looking, at one point sporting a giant star and at another showing ancient Egyptian iconography, but it was the 1970s, so what could you expect? Just don’t get me started on that faux silky cape.

Originally appearing on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, the TV movie served as a pilot for a show which never appeared. Keep in mind this was during the height of fame for The Incredible Hulk show and The Amazing Spider-Man TV series, with two Captain America made-for-TV movies coming in 1979, so there were high expectations for Dr. Strange.

Unfortunately, despite Stan Lee acting as a consultant, the Dr. Strange pilot did not get picked up for a regular television series.

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Would you trust a man dressed like this to perform magic?

The plot for the show was rather complicated and rambling, sometimes making little sense, but again, this was the ’70s. To keep it short, the evil enchantress Morgan LeFey (played by Jessica Walters) seeks to gain ultimate power by slaying the Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, or his apprentice. LeFey possesses one Clea Lake into making an attempt on Lindmer’s life, but the sorcerer pulls through. Meanwhile, Clea is put under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange investigates Clea’s case and eventually stumbles upon the fact that he is the apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme though his memory has been wiped in order to protect him. The plot is more complex than that, much more, but I would prefer not to give anything away in case you, the reader, manages to find a copy of this TV movie on VHS or DVD, or maybe you can find it online somewhere.

I will warn, however, that you won’t find a lot of magical goings-on in the show. Much of the screen time is filled with Dr. Strange actually performing his tasks as a doctor within a hospital, though here and there a little odd magic makes an appearance.

Despite the goofiness, the TV version of Dr. Strange does have a certain campy charm to it. It’s filled with the expected 1970s overacting and dramatic moments loaded with gangly music, but that in itself can be quite charming, at least from a nostalgic point of view if not from an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good point of view. Whatever your own opinion, this TV movie does still have its own small following to this day.

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie

And by the way, yes, the show was known as Dr. Strange, not Doctor Strange. Stay Nerdy!

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV movie
Posted on

Blast from the Past: Marvel Comics Pocket Books

ALL books
They’re looking a little rough around the edges, but I’ve had these Marvel Comics Pocket Books nearly 40 years.

FFLong before Civil Wars, Spider-Man clones, Infinity Gauntlets, Secret Wars and movie franchises, Marvel Comics drew in readers with what today would be considered relatively simple story telling, but story telling that packed a punch. Most issues of a comic book told a story that could stand on its own instead of branching out across multiple issues or even into other titles. The colors were bright, the good guys were easy to tell from the bad guys, and quite often a super hero’s private life was just as interesting as his or her time battling dastardly villains. All this and more in less than 30 pages, and only super special editions ever cost more than 50 cents.

However, one hurdle comics faced was drawing in new readers. In the 1960s and ’70s and to some extent the early 1980s, Marvel’s collection of super beings hadn’t quite reached beyond the scope of comics fans and into the wider, broader culture. This would change when super heroes began to appear more and more on television and in movies, and later in the ’80s when material deemed more adult or mature began to appear in comics pages, but early readers often had to pick up a title without knowing much about the title character.

Nowadays pretty much everyone knows Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider, and that Captain America received his powers from the Super Soldier Formula during World War II. Most people are aware of the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Thank you, Hollywood. But that was not always the case.

Marvel tries something new

spideyTo help ease readers into popular titles, in 1975 Marvel began to release paperback-sized editions which retold some of the earliest tales of many of its super heroes. Teaming up with Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Marvel released 10 such collections, the last one coming out in 1980. Each was sized roughly 4 ¼ inches by 7 inches, consisted of 132 pages or more, featured bright colors, and held six or seven issues from a comic book.

The first Pocket Book from Marvel was for Spider-Man, even then the best-known of all Marvel’s characters. All in all there would be three Spider-Man Pocket Books, following the young Peter Parker from his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 and then in issues 1 through 20 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Here could be found Spidey’s origin story as well as his first encounters with the likes of such infamous characters as Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, the Chameleon, the Green Goblin, the Scorpion, and the Vulture.

spiedy womanFollowing the success of that first Spider-Man Pocket Book, Marvel followed up with two collections for The Hulk, one for Captain America, one for the Fantastic Four, two for Doctor Strange, and one for Spider-Woman. Like the Spidey books, these told the earliest stories of these characters, showing how they gained their powers and their earliest foes.

My collection of Pocket Books from Marvel

Unfortunately, I only ever owned eight of these books, which I still have to this day. I was not yet a teenager when they were available at stores, and I never managed to find the second Doctor Strange book or the Spider-Woman book. Four of the books I was lucky enough to find in a boxed set, but the other four I picked up individually.

Over the years there have been other paperback-sized books from Marvel, including early tales in the Star Wars universe, but those first ones hold a special place in my heart and have become something of collectors’ items. The eight Pocket Books I owned provided backgrounds for characters which were already familiar to me, and allowed me to learn about characters I barely knew, such as Doctor Strange.

hulk1The earliest tales of a super hero, or any serialized character, can be quite important, letting the reader know about not only the hero’s past, but about his or her attitudes, their character, even their powers. I’m glad I had those early tales, for they brought to life for me the likes of The Thing, Bucky, Baron Mordo and many other Marvel characters, good and bad.

Plus, these were great stories that didn’t take a lot of time to read and didn’t cost a bunch of money. If you’ve never read the earliest stories of some of Marvel’s best known heroes, I suggest you look them up. I think it will be worth your time and effort.

Maybe you’ll even run across some of these old Pocket Books.

But until then, Stay Nerdy!

doc strange