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In my previous question about psychics, it was pointed out that Stephen Strange was name-dropped in Winter Soldier as one of the people Hydra was keeping an eye on as possible threats.

Obviously, in most of his Marvel comics appearances, Dr. Strange is a sorcerer and his powers draw directly from magical entities. However, this seems like a pretty radical departure from the overall tone of the MCU thus far, where even the seemingly-magical powers of the Asgardians are explained as "sufficiently advanced technology" (things like Loki's scepter and the Tesseract).

Has there even been a Marvel comics version of Dr. Strange where his power was not truly "magic", but explained as something else? I'm just curious if there is any canon for the MCU to draw on to avoid having to introduce magic into their world.

  • His name was also 'dropped' in Spider Man – Valorum May 24 '14 at 15:16
  • In the animated version of Doctor Strange, during his training the mystical arts is explained as an enhanced understanding of physics & the universe. Does that count? – Omegacron Dec 16 '14 at 22:00
  • @Richard: when was that? – Paul D. Waite Aug 28 '15 at 9:16
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    @pauld.waite - When they're brainstorming names for doc ock, they suggest Dr. Strange. JJ points out that it's already taken – Valorum Aug 28 '15 at 9:32
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    @PaulD.Waite - J. Jonah Jameson: What are we gonna call this guy? Hoffman: 'Doctor Octopus'? J. Jonah Jameson: That's crap. Hoffman: 'Science Squid'? J. Jonah Jameson: Crap. Hoffman: 'Doctor Strange'. J. Jonah Jameson: That's pretty good. [Hoffman looks proud] J. Jonah Jameson: But it's taken! Wait, wait! I got it! 'Doctor Octopus' – Valorum Aug 28 '15 at 10:01
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Within the comic universe, his powers are directly rooted in magic rather than advanced technology. The official Marvel page for Dr Strange describes his abilities as having come from "Catastrophe Magic" and "Chaos Magic" as well as his association with various "demons" and several "ancient magic tome[s]".

There is no suggestion whatsoever that his powers are technically derived, indeed one of the major plots of later Doctor Strange comics is his use of real magic, in the form of Vincent Stevens to help him to oppose the use of techno-magic (e.g. technology that mimics magic).


In the upcoming Dr. Strange movie, this is subverted to some extent. Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios has identified that Strange's magic will be partially based on the same sort of advanced technology we see in Thor as well as some genuinely inexplicable occurrences:

Are you watching the Cosmos series? That’s magic, [the quantum physics]. It’s unbelievable. If somebody knew how to tap into that stuff, what’s the difference between that and magic?

You don’t get into it in Harry Potter, but if a scientist went to Hogwarts he’d find out how some of that stuff is happening! We’re not going to spend a lot of time on that, but there will be some of that. And particularly for a character like Strange, who goes from a man of science to a man of faith and who traverses both worlds. And sometimes there won’t be an answer! Sometimes he’ll want an answer - “How is this happening?!” - and nothing.

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  • So similar to what they did with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, they appear to be making up a whole new MCU-specific "grounded in reality" backstory? – KutuluMike May 24 '14 at 15:54
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    @MichaelEdenfield - From the quote, the answer is no. There will be genuine magic but they aren't planning to explain everything. – Valorum May 24 '14 at 15:56
  • As best I can tell, they played the magic as being completely straight "this is magic" in the film, no advanced technology (apart from an Infinity Stone, which is debatable). – FuzzyBoots Jul 11 '17 at 20:44
  • Yes, it’s a common belief among non-scientists (and a few scientists) that “if only” “somebody” understood how quantum physics worked, they could “tap into that stuff” and perform magic. Much like the belief among some in the 1800s and early 1900s that if only someone knew how to “tap into electricity” they could perform all manner of sorcery. Then laypeople started getting some idea of how it worked. Of course, saying that someone who could “tap into” quantum mechanics could perform magic, while true, is like saying that someone who could “tap into” classical mechanics could do the same. – Adamant Dec 12 '17 at 19:34
  • That is, yes, if one can reorder the laws of physics according to one’s whim, one can do “magic.” There’s nothing special about quantum mechanics in this regard, except that it’s closer to the “actual” rules than classical mechanics. Of course the problem is that, most likely, people can’t do this. It’s really the same thing that let’s people get away with calling blatantly non-physical superpowers “scientific”: much of the time, the limits to the scientific knowledge of the audience are second only to those of the writers. – Adamant Dec 12 '17 at 19:36

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