Doctor Strange isn’t the only master of the mystic arts in the Marvel Universe, nor was he the first. In the wild and wacky world of Marvel comics, they are entire dimensions filled with magical heroes, villains and other things besides. With the Doctor’s movie just about to inject some hoodoo into the MCU, let’s take a look at some of wielders of the mystical arts you can find the world of Marvel, as well as some of the other magically-empowered champions.
Poor Dr Anthony Ludgate Druid, one of Marvel’s first ever also-rans. A medically trained practitioner who learned his mystical skills from a Tibetan Lama, Doctor Druid was pretty much a dry run for Doctor Strange. The character debuted in 1961 and was pretty much forgotten immediately. When Kirby and Lee returned to the idea of a mystic hero two years later, they invented Doctor Strange, who has a far more detailed origin and personality.
Doctor Druid, however, soldiered on in the background for decades. His powers of mesmerism, telepathy and petty magic made him the pound-shop version of Doctor Strange, being drafted in for a team-up or two when the Hulk or Captain America needed an assist in punching the odd mythical creature. He eventually earned his way into the ranks of The Avengers, only to get banished into Limbo. He’s faked his own death several times (and pretty much no-one noticed). Back in 1995, young British comics talent Warren Ellis used the characters (and his habit of self-sacrifice) to explore themes of bloody paganism. Alas, the comic got cancelled too soon and the not-so-good Doctor found himself dead again.
Despite the name, Druid has mostly been a dude in a spandex costume, though in later years he’s been depicted more like the sort of mystic you’d find near Stonehenge on a weekend. Another random fact is that the character was originally called Doctor Droom, but Stan Lee changed the name to avoid confusion with another Marvel character, namely…
One of Marvel’s most notable villains is easily Doctor Doom, who unlike Strange and Druid, isn’t a medical Doctor. (In fact, he may not even have a PHD.) However, few are going to argue about his qualifications. Doom is a despot and tyrant, and even rules his own country. He’s able to do this because he has a technical prowess similar to that of Tony Starks and a mystical talent comparable to that of Doctor Strange. Though arguably he isn’t as talented or as skilled as either, it’s Doom’s ambition that drives him forward. Notably, at one point he combined magic and science to steal the power of creation from a space god known as The Beyonder. Doom does not do things by half. Combining magic and technology is his sort of thing; whereas Iron Man may have lots of suits of armour for all occasions, only Doom has a mystical suit made from the flesh of his only love, empowered by demons. And on the subject of horrible things…
Though Marvel no longer has the rights to the robotic hero known as Rom The Space Knight, it’d be a shame to talk about mystic creatures without mentioning Rom’s greatest foes, the Dire Wraiths. These alien invaders are dimension-hopping invaders who use their dark sorcery to enact their various nefarious plans for world domination. Their natural form was that of a bright red crab-like lizardy horrible thing, but fortunately for them they were also natural shape-shifters (they were distant cousins of another shape-shifting alien race, The Skrulls). Despite their access to witch-craft, the power to rip holes in reality and the ability to look like anything they fancied, they mostly bothered a small town called Clairton, in West Virginia, USA. They wasted most of their time infiltrating the town and baking cookies.
Continuing Marvel’s fine tradition of using the names of pagan belief systems to name their heroes, young William “Billy” Kaplan is a magical hero who goes by the name of Wiccan. Billy has inherited his powers from his mum, who happens to Marvel mutant the Scarlet Witch. Well, sort of. You see back in the ’80s the Scarlet Witch used her magic powers to have two twin sons with her robot husband the Vision. Except those children weren’t real, because magic is tricky like that. However, the souls of those children were real. Those souls belong to Wiccan and his “twin brother”, the super speedster known as Speed. Wiccan’s powers are pretty impressive; he has the god-like power to warp reality. Luckily for everyone else, his boyfriend keeps him grounded. Of course, it’s also worth mentioning his mother…
Wanda Maximoff hasn’t had it easy. She’s probably one of the better known wielders of occult power in the Marvel Universe. She’s also a mutant, but that’s because her father happens to be premium villain, Magneto. Along with her twin brother Pietro (aka the super-speedster Quicksilver), she was pretty much roped into the family business of causing trouble for heroes by her dad. She quickly rebelled and ended up joining the Avengers, bringing her mutant ability to alter probability into the team’s roster of terrifying talents. That is when the real trouble began; Wanda began to learn how to focus her powers into proper magical might thanks to the tutelage of another witch, Agatha Harkness (who was also The Fantastic Four’s regular babysitter for Franklin Richards when he was a littl’un). This knowledge took her ability from merely changing fate to altering reality, and these world-warping powers have led to some major Marvel storylines in the past, including the House of M cross-over event, which temporarily turned the world into a place where Magneto ruled supreme.
And so many more…
They are enough spell-wielding Marvel Superheroes to fill a Hogwarts school reunion. Some of these include…
Nico Minoru, a teenage goth who wields the Staff of One. This magical artefact can cast any spell, but only once. It is language dependent, so Nico has become quite proficient in multiple languages and very specific in her use of words.
Brother Voodoo, one of Marvel’s more complex characters. As his name implies, his powers derive from the Loa, the spiritual entities that are an innate part of voodoo. His power set is very similar to that of Doctor Strange, though he can also summon incredible supernatural strength. The hero even took on Strange’s role of Sorcerer Supreme for a short time.
Jennifer Kale is another noteworthy hero. Created by writer Steve Gerber (who also gave the world Howard The Duck), Kale has one of the more elaborate hero origins in the Marvel Universe. She’s actually descended from an 1800BC Atlantean sorceress called Zhered-Na. Thanks to a complicated curse that involved the forces of heaven and hell, Kale ended up adopting the powers of the ancient wish, and seems to constantly discovering that her destiny is tied to the freakier and stranger monsters that inhabit the Marvel Universe.
Marvels Magical Menagerie
It’s not just spell-wielders who are touched by mystical might. There are a fair few heroes who derive their powers from the supernatural. You don’t have to get your super-powers through a radioactive spider bite; a magical blessing (or curse) can also do the trick.
Man-Thing is a walking pile of vegetable matter and mystical energy. Those who fear him burn at his touch (and he is attracted to the fearful). More importantly, Man-Thing is a walking mystical portal that can magically take you anywhere.
Captain Britain – Brian Braddock, aka Captain Britain is more of traditional hero, with the powers of super strength, flight, etc. A mystical powerhouse of good intentions and good old British pluck, but he was given his powers by Merlyn and and his daughter, the Omniversal Guardian, Roma. Although for most of his publication history this side of the Cap has been ignored he did guest star in a Black Knight strip in the UK Hulk comic that went full-on Lord Of The Rings meets Camelot… and jolly good it was too!
Moon Knight – Ever wondered what Batman would be like if was possessed by an ancient Egyptian spirit of revenge? Turns out he’d turn out like Moon Knight, a white-suit wearing maniac.
The Spirits of Vengeance otherwise known as Ghost Rider has taken many hosts in the comic books. The gist behind them is the same though; some poor sap get possessed by supernatural entity that turns them into a walking heavy metal album cover. The Ghost Rider is leather clad flaming skeleton, wielding a burning chain. His powers involve fire, vengeance and looking badass.
Jacob Russell is known as Jack to his friends and to the authorities of Werewolf By Night. His wolfman form gives him razor sharp claws, super strength and a glossy coat the envy of Crufts. Descended from a long line of lycanthropes, Jack eventually learned to control his curse and tends to fight on the sides of the heroes. (His name being a breed of dog is a deliberate gag, right? – bemused ed.)
Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan – Yes, you read that right. One of Marvel’s supernaturally-powered characters is the son of Satan. He has pretty much godlike mystical ability, but mostly uses them to mope around.
Dracula – We couldn’t end this list without mentioning Dracula himself, who is a regular bad guy in the Marvel comics. Last seen using the moon as a staging point to invade the United Kingdom, Dracula has had a long history as a villain in the comics and has faced Doctor Strange, The X-Men and even Spider-Man in the past.
Feature by Ed Fortune