Whether you’re a fan of Marvel’s films or its comic books, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Doctor Strange.
While Benedict Cumberbatch’s live-action iteration of the Sorcerer Supreme is gearing up to become a major player in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe with the release Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness next year, the original and iconic comic book character is preparing to sing his swan song in the upcoming series The Death of Doctor Strange.
In the new series, not only does the character die, but a new Sorcerer Supreme is selected to take his place too.
Rather than ramp up to his demise though, the first issue begins with his murder. What follows – and what will follow in the coming months – is an investigation into who is responsible, why, and what happens next. As readers will see, with the Sorcerer out of the picture, things on Earth are about to get seriously STRANGE.
Ahead of the first issue’s release, The DisInsider’s Lead News Writer, Dempsey Pillot sat down with the main comic book writer behind the series Jed MacKay. Together, the two discussed what fans and readers should expect, whether or not his Moon Knight run has any connection to the upcoming Marvel/Disney+ series, and more!
You can read the full interview down below!
DEMPSEY PILLOT: Really enjoyed the first issue. It gave me goosebumps…THAT twist at the end…it kind of tricks you into thinking one thing is gonna happen, but then it does an interesting callback. Really good. I can’t emphasize that enough. For those people who probably didn’t know this comic book was coming out – which I think it’d be crazy if you didn’t – or if they don’t know what to expect with this comic book series, do you want to give them a brief overview?
JED MACKAY: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, it’s quite simple. It’s called The Death of Doctor Strange…We’re taking Doctor Strange off the board…He’s had a good run. You know, he’s a long-lived staple of the Marvel Universe, but, everything comes to an end. And over the course of this main series, we’re going to be investigating what happened. Why did this happen to him? Hopefully, I’ll find some justice for him, while at the same time looking at what the effects are of [his] murder. What does the world look like when there’s a big Doctor Strange-shaped hole in it? Obviously, it’s not going to be anything good. You know, he’s the Sorcerer Supreme, the head honcho of magic. He’s the guy who protects the world against magical threats. And when he’s not there, that’s going to be a big problem. And so we’ll explore that in the main series. And then with the tie-ins as well, we’ll see (all around the world) all the difficulties that ensue with a lack of the Sorcerer Supreme.
DP: And I’m glad you said that, because it actually really does paint an interesting picture of what that world is going to look like without him. And it raises a very important question about Doctor Strange that I don’t think anybody really realized: he is the [protector] of Earth from the supernatural realm. So that leads me to two questions: 1) Were you excited about that? Was that part of the reason why you took this job? 2) How did you get involved with this project?
JM: Well, it’s kind of a funny story. A year ago, [after] I finished up writing Taskmaster, I thought to myself, “Well, I need to get another book on my slate…gotta stay busy.” And I was finishing up writing the Black Cat: King in Black arc, which is where, you know, Black Cat goes to save Doctor Strange because he’s held in symbiote prisons. Well, there was no Doctor Strange book out [at the time], so I’m like, “Well, I’d like to write Dr. Strange.” So I just emailed Darren Shan, who is the Doctor Strange editor, and I was like, “Hey, I don’t know if you guys have any plans for Dr. Strange or anything going on, but can I write a Doctor Strange series?” He was like, “Yeah, absolutely. We’re gonna kill him. And you can write it.” I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s that not what I expected, but yeah, sounds great. Let’s roll with it.”
DP: So that actually answers another question that I had. I wanted to know if it was your idea to kill him off. As you said, Marvel said, “No, we’re gonna take him off the board ourselves, but you can decide how it happens.” So you pretty much got to fill in the gap?
JM: Yeah, I mean, with Marvel, it doesn’t always come from me coming out of nowhere saying, “Hey, I want to do this with this character,” or, “Hey, we should kill this character.” A lot of times, the editors are coming up with ideas and think, “What can we do that’s exciting. What can we do that’s interesting. What can we do to push this universe forward?” And The Death of Doctor Strange is one of those things. So it was in the works, and I just kind of staggered into it at the right time.
DP: That’s so awesome! So did they also pick the next Sorcerer Supreme or did they leave that up to you?
JM: Well, that’s something that we would work together on. Again, when I came into The Death of Doctor Strange, the sort of groundwork that had been laid was basically Doctor Strange [dying]. There are other kinds of bits and bobs…but for the most part, the circumstances of his death [and] the events which kind of snowball out of it, it’s stuff that I would work on with the editors.
DP: One thing that I really liked about it is that it’s kind of got like a murder mystery, whereas I’ve read a couple of other “Death Of” series and it kind of just takes you on this journey with this character to the very end and the last issue is them dying or showing you how they die. But here, [Doctor Strange] is out immediately. And [now] from this point forward, it’s kind of like a Sherlock Holmes thing – which I think is really funny because, you know, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes. Was that something that also excited you?
JM: To me, Dr. Strange is this character that has a lot of old school charm. His look, his whole demeanor, you know? His crew. And there’s nothing more charming, really old school than the classic murder mystery where there’s any number of people who could have done this. There’s any number of people could have been behind it. But generally speaking, not every murder mystery puts the entire planet in peril, which I think is kind of what’s fun about the series. On one hand, we’ve got a murder mystery angle, and on the other, the planet is also in you know, a great deal of difficulty as a result of this so they gotta kind of tie this up in order to save the world.
DP: So, this is actually something that I thought of – and I hope that this is the direction that it goes. I won’t be disappointed if it’s not. But at the end of the first issue, when you see that he’s dead [and] you kind of have all these rogue characters come out surprised, [will] they form like their own makeshift Avengers or special group to try to solve the mystery?
JM: You’re gonna see people coming together, in various aspects, to try to figure this out. As to the actual specifics of that, you’re gonna have to wait till next month to see how it all shakes out…
DP: Alright, fair enough. Fair enough. Now, you mentioned you kind of dabbled with this character before but this is the first full blown issue and story that you’re telling of Doctor Strange, right?
JM: Yeah, I mean, we’ve [seen] Black Cat rob his house early on in [my last] series. We brought him back in the last two issues of the King of Black arc, one of which he was unconscious for the entire time, [but] yeah, this is the first time I’ve actually got my hands on Doctor Strange to just drive in the car, so to speak. I’m very excited about it.
DP: And are there any other superheroes that you haven’t had the chance to work with or play with that you’re hoping you can after this?
JM: Yeah, I mean, there’s always characters I’m really interested in working with. I’ve actually been very lucky in that I’ve got to kind of cross a lot of them off, especially given how unmarketable them are. Like, you know, I’m Canadian. I love Alpha Flight a lot. It’s very tough to get an Alpha Flight book going. So I was very, very pleased and very happy that I got to do a story in the last Alpha Flight one shot that was like an anthology one shot. Similarly, there’s so many side characters. There’s a while there where I was really pushing for Ulysses Bloodstone. I just kind of like picking up characters and seeing what I can do with them, and what might be interesting, but I’ve also been very lucky in that I have worked with a lot of the characters who are on [my] list. You know, I’m writing Moon Knight right now, which is wild.
DP: Yes, and I have to say I was surprised. I’d always been fascinated by the character of Ghost Panther, and when I found out that you contributed to that, I was like, “Oh my god, that’s so cool.” It’s literally like the coolest idea ever. Let’s hope they find a way to bring them into the live action world one day.
JM: Yeah, I mean, Ghost Panther was a series that I think is kind of considered one of my diamonds in the rough where I don’t think it got a whole lot of attention. It was also like the second miniseries I’ve ever done, but I still really like it. I thought it was a lot of fun. And I’m glad, of the Infinity Warps characters, that was the one I got to work with, because it’s the one I like the most.
DP: With all this talk about the “What If…?” Universe, I think it is just a very ripe story, and like I said, I hope that that it’ll be plucked from obscurity in the future, because I think stranger characters have definitely been plucked for [worse] reasons. But that’s a different discussion for a different day. Now, I’m glad you mentioned Moon Knight. You’ve done quite a lot with the character, and I have to ask this because I’m personally interested, but have you been consulted with for the upcoming series with Oscar Isaac?
JM: Oh, no. I mean, like, by the time I started working on Moon Knight, I think they started filming the TV show. So they would have been long set on what they were going to do. I don’t think there’ll be a whole lot of crossover anyway [because] it’s the first season of a new character show. We’ve seen this before. It will probably be – as far as I know- origin stuff. Some day, I don’t know. But currently, our Moon Knight comic and the Moon Knight television show are two completely unrelated entities.
DP: Is there anything else that you think people should know? Anything you think people should be excited for? Do you want to tease anything else that you’re working on after this?
JM: Not much I can say that hasn’t been announced. There’s stuff I’m working on that I’m very excited about that I hope we can see soon, but as far as you know, I just hope people will keep trying out the books that we’re working on. Moon Knight issue #3 will be coming out soon. And [obviously] The Death of Dr. Strange. We’ll have a month before we see what shakes out of that for issue #2. So keep posted.
The first issue of The Death of Doctor Strange will be released on September 22, 2021.