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)

9 of the Strangest and Most Gruesome Author Deaths

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People often say that life is stranger than fiction, but what about death? Throughout history, many notable authors have themselves become the subjects of a noteworthy story because of the strange and sometimes gruesome ways in which they have died.

Listed below are 9 of the weirdest demises I have come across. If you are aware of any others, please feel free to add them in the comments section below!

 

  1. Christopher Marlowe

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Believe it or not, the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe was no stranger to a bar-room brawl. On May 30, 1593, Marlowe arrived at a lodging house with a few acquaintances to dine and have drinks. Everything was going well until it was time to pay the tab, at which point a heated argument broke out between Marlowe and his friend, Ingram Frizer.

Eyewitnesses claim that Marlowe seized Frizer’s dagger and in the resultant struggle, Frizer plunged the implement into Marlowe’s skull directly above his right eye, killing him instantly.

As if this wasn’t brutal enough, some conspiracy theorists claim that Marlowe’s murder was actually an assassination ordered by none other than Queen Elizabeth I – a theory made more credible by the fact that she pardoned Frizer four weeks later for undisclosed reasons. As an outspoken atheist, Marlowe was seen as a direct threat to the Church and given this was Elizabethan England (where you could be executed for far lesser crimes), it is plausible that ol’ Liz’s orders to prosecute Marlowe “to the full” may actually have been an order to end his life, carried out by his friend.

Weirder still, there are some who support the Marlovian Theory that the whole thing was an elaborate set-up designed to help Marlowe flee the country to avoid his impending inquisition and that Marlowe lived for many years afterwards, producing plays under a different name… and the name he apparently chose? William Shakespeare. The real Shakespeare, these theorists argue, was nothing more than a front-man to allow Marlowe to keep writing and having his plays performed in England long after 1593. Although there are many who doubt Shakespeare was the mastermind behind all of his plays, this is one of the strangest theories out there about who the great bard really was.

 

  1. Aeschylus

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Aeschylus, an Ancient Athenian author who specialised in tragedies, befell a tragedy of his own in 455 BC after having his head split open by a falling tortoise. Yes, you read that right. When outlining the specifics of Aeschylus’ demise, Valerius Maximus wrote that the tortoise had been dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald pate for a rock (a technique used by hunting birds to ‘break open’ their prey).

That’s not the only bizarre thing about his death. In his Naturalis Historiæ, Pliny claims that Aeschylus was only outdoors in the first place to avert the fulfillment of a prophecy that his death would occur as a result of a “falling object.” Spooky!

 

  1. Dan Andersson

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Sadly, the Swedish poet Dan Andersson is better known for the gruesome nature of his death than he is for his life’s works. He died on September 16, 1920, after the concierge at the appropriately-named Hotel Hellman failed to inform him the room was about to be fumigated for bedbugs.

I know what you’re thinking – unless they were some kind of massive, mutant bed-bugs needing to be mowed down with bullets or something, Andersson shouldn’t really have been at too much risk… right? However, in 1920s Stockholm it was commonplace to use lethal doses of hydrogen cyanide for pest control, meaning the fumigation basically transformed Andersson’s hotel room into a giant, chintzy gas chamber. His body wasn’t found until 3:00pm during the clean-up, at which time it was much too late. The hotel has since been demolished.

 

  1. Edgar Allan Poe

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To this day, the death of Edgar Allan Poe – considered by many to be the godfather of modern horror – is steeped in mystery and intrigue. Why? The fact is that no-one really knows how and why Poe died. No death certificate was ever filed and the only known obituary in existence claims that he died of “phrenitis” (congestion of the brain), which frankly raises more questions than it answers.

What little is known of the circumstances surrounding Poe’s demise sounds like they were plotted by the man himself in one of his more sinister tales.

On a wet and stormy night back in October 3, 1849, a compositor working for the Baltimore Sun by the name of Joseph W. Walker found a drenched and delirious man lying in the gutter close to Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore. The man, it transpired, was none other than Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe had left Richmond, Virginia bound for Philadelphia the week prior to being discovered by Walker, but since his departure no one had heard from him. As Poe was incoherent until his death 4 days later on October 7, 1849, he was unable to tell anyone where he had been for the last week, but Walker noted at the time that Poe was dressed in soiled, second-hand clothes (clearly not his own), a fact which struck him as suspicious.

Another interesting fact is that Poe called out the name “Reynolds” repeatedly the night before he died, but nobody has ever been able to piece together who or what this meant – was it a plea for help, or an accusation? Or, perhaps, simply the senseless outpourings of his maelstrom of a mind in those final days?

There are many theories surrounding how exactly Poe died, the most popular including that he was “cooped” (a practice in which corrupt electioneers would abduct voters, ply them with drink, dress them in gentlemanly get-up, and force them to vote for a specific candidate) and subsequently died of alcohol poisoning, or that his raging alcoholism exacerbated a more serious medical condition (such as syphilis, diabetes, TB, epilepsy, or rabies) which not only killed him, but may have driven him mad in the process.

 

  1. Tennessee Williams

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The Pulitzer prize-winning playwright behind A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams, died aged 71 of asphyxiation after choking on a small plastic bottle cap.

His body was discovered a day later on February 25, 1982, by his secretary Joh Uecker.

New York’s Chief Medical Examiner later ruled that Williams was using the cap to ingest barbiturates.

Due to his copious drug use, Williams did not have a gag reflex and so was unable to expel the object from his throat after swallowing it. Moral of the story: be careful what you put in your mouth.

 

  1. Li Bai

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Li Bai (also known as Li Bo) was one of the great Chinese poets of the Tang Dynasty; he was also a serial womaniser and a drunk. Although the circumstances of his death in 762 AD are now the stuff of Chinese legend, meaning they may have been embellished or be entirely inaccurate, they’re bizarre enough to deserve a place in the list.

The story goes that following a long night of drinking, Li Bai drowned in the Yangtze River after trying to “embrace” the reflection of the moon, falling from his boat in the process. “Embrace,” of course, is a rather euphemistic way of saying Li Bai tried to *ahem* grab the moon by the crater in a show of lust of which Donald J. Trump would be proud… which, let’s face it, is a pretty weird way to go.

 

  1. Mark Twain

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Mark Twain, author of such classics-now-considered-racist as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, died of a heart attack in his home in Redding, Connecticut on April 21, 1910… a decidedly average demise. What’s so intriguing about Twain is not therefore how he died, but when: more specifically, the fact that he actually predicted the date of his death more than a year before it happened.

Twain is quoted as saying that he “came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835” (i.e. he was born on the same day that the comet came into closest proximity with the Earth) and so he “expect[ed] to go out with it.” This expectation was eerily fulfilled as on April 21, the comet could be seen once again streaking across the skies, the closest to Earth it had been on this particular fly-by.

Can a man die of expectation? Or was it fate that saw “these two unaccountable freaks… go out together,” as Twain himself once predicted they would?

 

  1. Albert Camus

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Like some of the other authors on this list, the death of writer and philosopher Albert Camus has drawn the attention of conspiracy theorists worldwide. Although officially Camus died an accidental death as a result of a fatal car crash on January 4, 1960, evidence has since been uncovered that suggests the crash was no accident. In fact, there is a possibility that Camus was killed by the KGB.

This theory hinges on the testimony of the celebrated Czech poet and translator Jan Zábrana, who claims in his diary that the crash that killed Albert Camus in 1960 was organised by Soviet spies.

This act was apparently in retaliation for an article published in Franc-tireur in 1957 in which Camus had criticised Moscow’s decision to send troops to crush the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

According to Zábrana, the KGB damaged a tyre on Camus’ car using a sophisticated piece of equipment that cut into the wheel at speed, but all evidence of the device was destroyed in the resultant crash.

 

  1. Sylvia Plath

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The acclaimed poet and feminist icon, Sylvia Plath, battled with depression for most of her life, undergoing experimental treatments such as electroshock therapy in her search for a ‘cure.’

After several failed suicide attempts (including ingesting large amounts of pills and intentionally driving herself off the road into a river), Plath succeeded in taking her own life on February 11, 1963, using her most extreme method yet: while her children slept in the next room of her London home, she plugged up the door leading into the kitchen with wet towels, knelt on the floor, and stuck her head in her gas oven as far as it would go. When they found her dead a few hours later, her head was still in the oven.


(Images: Wikipedia)