Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

DS#74 Script: Gillis
DS#74 Art: Badger
FF#285 Written and Penciled by: John Byrne

Today's super hero boasts what is arguably the single greatest character-name in all of comicbook history.

This is because, in the English language at any rate, it's tough to construct any sentence containing the words 'Doctor' and 'Strange' together that can be taken all that seriously in isolation.

In this issue, for example, we get to enjoy:

Beyonder: "I have to see Dr. Strange!"

Beyonder: "Doctor Strange where are you?"

Beyonder: "Teach me enlightenment, Dr. Strange!"

Beyonder: "Dr. Strange! No!"

Beyonder: "This doesn't make sense! Dr. Strange!"

Beyonder: "Dr. Strange? Dr. Strange?"

Beyonder: "Dr. Strange?"

(oh this is too easy...)

Dr. Strange: "The feeling of it was utterly strange..."

Y'see? You've gone and devalued the meaning of the original word now. Still, as I've attempted to demonstrate above, if Dr. Stephen Strange had been born with a less spectacular surname, like maybe Smith, then the world today might be a somewhat less joyous place.

I guess I should acknowledge here that there are plenty of people in the real world whose surname is also Strange, and a few of them have probably attained doctorates. That's a whole 'nother, far more respectable, context. Unless they spend all their time gliding around in a giant red cape and an Elvis haircut, in which case I think they're even more brilliant.

Anyhow, to the plot.

Trying to claw his way out of his depression, and his beer, a drunken Beyonder seeks spiritual guidance from someone calling himself Doctor Strange. Drunk or no, he'll certainly believe he is by the end of this issue.

The Doctor of Strange sends him on a trippy journey through his own conversion to Strangeness years ago. The Beyonder observes the young Strange back when he was the one seeking solace in a bottle, and witnesses the events that led to his turning his life around. Though the Beyonder can see, hear and even interact with the lead players, he cannot touch them.

There's some great dialogue at the end when the Doc tries to sum up 'enlightenment':

Beyonder: "That's it? More pain is the answer to happiness? How can that be?"

Dr. Strange: "Not pain, my friend from beyond -- dedication! The willingness to take on pain for the sake of others, and the world!"

He goes on to add that you need to know what to sacrifice, and to be able to transcend pain, before he petitions the Beyonder to use his power responsibly. They're brave words with which to charge someone who's omnipotent, but Strangie boils it all down into suggesting that one should try to foster happiness in others, and also try to prevent them from hurting.

Depending upon what order you read these issues in, the Beyonder then follows his mentor's example and immediately attempts to help the Human Torch in the same way.

Torchie is wracked with guilt over a young fan who's set himself on fire in a fatal attempt to emulate his idol. Attempting to prevent the guilt-ridden super hero's pain, the Beyonder presents him with a similar holographic representation of the deceased child's life, to show him all the earlier happiness that he had unknowingly also been responsible for.

Though the progression between these two episodes is undeniable (they're listed as running-on from each other at the end of Secret Wars II #5), Marvel UK chose to reverse their reprinted order, publishing the second instalment a full eight weeks before the first.

Why, sure that sounds crazy and pointless, but in the versions that I've read there is such a disparity of tone between the two episodes that they do also appear quite isolated from each other. In the Doctor Strange strip the Beyonder speaks like a child. In the Fantastic Four one, he's scripted much more like the wise all-knowing god that he seemed to be in the original Secret Wars series.

To muddy the chronology further, Dr Strangepork doesn't recognise the Beyonder at first, although he's already met him at the end of Secret Wars II #5, so that segment at any rate probably comes earlier.

I really can't draw too many conclusions on this though. I only have the UK printing of the Doctor Strange story, which is a full four pages short of the usual US 22, and anything could have happened in those additional fantastic four sides.

In conclusion, these two issues seem to fit rather well together, but they are also a little estranged.


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