Unlocking the Secrets of Doctor Strange: 6 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the New Kid on the MCU Block

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Doctor Strange is set to hit the screens on November 5 after an excruciating wait, and I for one cannot wait to see Marvel’s latest addition to their ever-expanding cinematic universe.

If you want to brush up on your comic book history before seeing the movie, look no further. Here are 6 facts about everyone’s favourite scarlet-caped magic man:

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This Isn’t Doctor Strange’s First Movie

His first outing was in a made-for-TV movie that aired on CBS back in 1978. The network had high hopes for the DS franchise and were already planning to use the film as the jumping-off point for a weekly 1-hour TV series by the time it aired. However, despite its Incredible Hulk TV show being relatively successful, CBS soon found out that the Doctor Strange TV movie was a dud ratings-wise and scrapped their plans for a series soon afterwards. Doctor Strange also starred in his own animated feature film in 2007, called Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme.

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Benedict Cumberbatch Wasn’t the First Choice (or the Third!) to Play the Lead This Time Around

Given how comfortable he looks in recent trailers wearing that kick-ass red cape, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone’s favourite British crumpet was the first and only choice to portray DS on the big screen… but you’d be wrong. The truth is that the producers were set on getting Joaquin Phoenix to play the iconic part, so much so that they spent 3 months negotiating with his agents to get him on board. After the deal fell through due to a money dispute, the producers then approached Johnny Depp and Jared Leto, both of whom turned it down. The uncertainty about Cumberbatch apparently stems from the producers’ worry that he’s not a big enough star to play the lead in a Marvel blockbuster. Try telling that to the Cumberb*tches!

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Doctor Strange Isn’t His Original Name

Stan Lee, the mastermind behind many of Marvel’s most successful comics, revealed in a fan letter back in 1963 that the Sorcerer Supreme was originally called Mr. Strange. Amid concerns that Mr. Strange might be confused with Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four franchise, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided to change the character’s name at the last minute. However, that wasn’t the end of the problem, as The Amazing Spider-Man comics had an issue featuring a mad scientist called Dr. Strange. In order to distinguish Doctor Strange from his villainous namesake, Lee and Ditko decided to spell the word ‘Doctor’ in full instead of using the traditional abbreviation.

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His Character is Inspired by a 1930s Radio Magician

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko shared a childhood fondness for a 1930s radio program, Chandu the Magician, which featured a sorcerer with the powers of teleport, astral projection and general mind trickery that was hell-bent on conquering the evils that threatened humankind. Sound familiar? Yep, you guessed it, Doctor Strange’s abilities, motivation and black magic mystique are all inspired by that very same magician.

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He is Not a Fully-Fledged Avenger

While Doctor Strange joined the New Avengers back in 2008, and has fought alongside them on numerous occasions (including in the Avengers Vs. X-Men comic book story arc), he has never been a member of the core Avengers team. The closest he has come to being in the inner circle is his involvement with the Illuminati, a group of super-powered intellectual elites working behind the scenes to protect humanity from major threats – this group included Iron Man, Professor X and Mr. Fantastic, so it was basically a Mad Scientists’ Tea Party (only with more fighting and less patisserie). There’s still a good chance he might show up in 1 or 2 of the Avengers movies though.

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…But He’s a Founding Member of The Defenders

Doctor Strange might never have been an Avenger, but that doesn’t mean he always operates solo. In fact, Doctor Strange is 1 of 4 founding members of The Defenders (the other 3 being the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Namor the Sub-Mariner), a group that now counts Nighthawk, Hellcat, Luke Cage and Beast amongst its ranks. The Defenders differ from the Avengers in that they are not a “team” per se – it’s more accurate to say they’re a bunch of super-people who come together as and when needed to protect the Earth from the latest deadly threat. With crossovers happening all over the MCU, there’s a chance some of these other characters might make it to the big screen as part of the ongoing franchise.  

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If you know any other weird and wonderful facts about Doctor Strange, why not share them in the comments below? 

(Images: CBS, Marvel, Wikipedia)

Good News! Studio Ghibli’s Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is Coming to Amazon Prime

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After Studio Ghibli announced in 2014 that it would shutting down film production in the wake of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, anime fans were left in mourning.

However, Studio Ghibli fans in the West finally had reason to celebrate today after Amazon announced that it was picking up three new children’s series for its Prime streaming service, one of which is Studio Ghibli’s first ever TV show, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter – directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki (best known for his work on Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill), and animated by CGI animation studio Polygon.

The series is based on a fantasy novel by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (yes, that Astrid Lindgren), following the adventures of the adolescent daughter of a professional robber (Ronja) whose friendship with a member of a rival gang (Birk) makes her life very complicated indeed… and that’s before you take account of the slew of strange creatures she encounters in the enchanted forest!

Although the series aired in Japan between October 2014 and March 2015 and has already gained critical acclaim (winning Best 2D Animation at the Asian Television Awards and an International Emmy in the Kids/Animation category), this is the first time the 26-episode series will be dubbed and aired abroad. The series is due to premiere on Amazon in the US, UK, Germany and Austria later this year (exact date TBC).

The main changes will, of course, be the language – this new English dub will see The X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson take up the mic again (having voiced Moro in the English dub of Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke) as narrator; no doubt she will soon be joined by an all-star cast.

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If you’d like a sneak peek, take a look at the Japanese trailer here.

(Images: Studio Ghibli, Wikipedia)

 

Modern Heroes: Why Confirmation of Wonder Woman’s Bisexuality is a Win for the LGBTQ+ Community 

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Greg Rucka caused a stir in the comic book community this week after revealing that Diana of Themyscira, aka everyone’s favourite corset-wearing, truth-lassoing superhero Wonder Woman, is in fact queer.

Speaking to Comicosity’s Matt Santori-Griffith, Rucka confirmed that as part of the Year One narrative arc currently unfolding in Wonder Woman: Rebirth, Diana will be shown to be romantically and/or sexually attracted to members of the same gender as well as those of the opposite sex. Speaking plainly on the subject for the first time, Rucka says, “Are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As Nicola [Scott] and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes.”

Rucka’s affirmation of the status of Diana’s sexuality simply confirms what many of those already familiar with canon have long since reasoned: that the Amazonian society in which Diana grows up is exclusively composed of women, and so it naturally follows that the vast majority of the romantic and/or sexual feelings Diana and her fellow Amazonian women experience will be about other women. “When you start to think about giving the concept of Themyscira its due,” Rucka states, “the answer is, ‘how can they not all be in same sex relationships?’ Right? It makes no logical sense otherwise.”

As Rucka notes in his interview, the concepts of gender and gender-specific behaviour are “very different” in Themyscira, a society exclusively composed of one gender in which hunting, fighting and strategy are taught from a young age and women are raised to be warriors and philosophers (all of which your garden-variety misogynist would argue are ‘male’ pursuits).

However, rather than falling into the trap of inverted heteronormativity – making gay the new straight, and female the new male – Rucka and Scott have thus far managed not to turn Wonder Woman’s sexual identity into her defining narrative quality; instead, her queerness is not treated as any bigger a deal than a heteronormative character’s inclinations would be. In fact, it’s arguably even less of a deal, as homosexuality and polygamy are so normalised that the Amazonians don’t even have words to describe them! As Rucka puts it, “an Amazon doesn’t look at another Amazon and say, ‘You’re gay.’ They don’t. The concept doesn’t exist.”

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So why is it so important to point out something which was already pretty obvious, and which has little impact on the story itself? Firstly, in the canonical sea of superheroes and villains, it is far more difficult than it should be to pick out characters which represent marginalised groups within our society. Sure, there are a fair number of female superheroes/villains, but very few occupy the spotlight and so are often reduced to attractive sidekicks, dangerous but well-dressed distractions, or straight-up booty calls for the white cis males of DC and Marvel. When was the last time we had a disabled superhero, or a Muslim one, or someone identifying as transgender take the lead?

It’s been 10 years since Batwoman’s alter-ego, Kate Kane, came out of the bat-closet, and apart from Sara Lance (Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow), there aren’t really any other LGBTQ+ superheroes out there at the moment. Even where fan followings plead for greater diversity, these calls are often ignored – the recent debacle with Captain America becoming a Nazi rather than admitting to his Bucky crush left shippers wondering just how far writers are willing to go to avoid the obvious.

That’s why Rucka and Scott’s reimagining of Diana’s origin story is a breath of fresh air. Not only does it clear up the ambiguity surrounding Wonder Woman’s sexuality once and for all, it also takes steps towards normalising her same-sex relationships and manages to complicate a few gender binaries, something which the LGBTQ+ community sorely needs right now.

Furthermore, by creating a dynamic in which Diana is not motivated by heterosexual desire, her decision to leave with Steve Trevor cannot be reduced to a longing to initiate a romantic relationship with him. As Rucka rightly says in his interview, this would only “hurt the character and take away her heroism.” Her romantic relationship with Steve is thus portrayed as merely a consequence of, rather than the motivation for, leaving paradise – a move I thoroughly applaud.

So what does this mean for the DCEU? We already know that the Wonder Woman movie scheduled for released sometime in 2017 will feature Steve Trevor as Diana’s love interest, but it is unclear as of yet whether or not her bisexuality will be referenced.

It’s likely the writers will pillage Diana’s new origin story (if only to avoid the whole bizarre virgin-birth, made-of-clay-and-then-magically-brought-to-life-by-Athena thing), but they may avoid explicit references to her queerness for fear of provoking the trolls. Worse still, her sexuality could just as easily be reduced to a few half-hearted one-liners about her past experience with women -which is the last thing anyone needs. I for one will be keeping my fingers, toes and other extremities crossed in the hope that this doesn’t happen (and, of course, listening at least once a day to that badass theme song).

So that are your thoughts on the Year One narrative arc of Rucka and Scott’s Rebirth series? Do you agree that it’s high time that the wielder of the Lasso of Truth finally came clean about her sexuality, or did you prefer it when Diana’s sexuality was still a bit of a mystery? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

(Images: Comic Alliance)