DR. STRANGE #177 February 1969
Gene Colan/Tom Palmer original artists
Things had gotten tough for the Master of the Mystic Arts by late 1968. The burden for such a cerebral character of headlining his own monthly title, instituted less than a year earlier during Marvel's big "DC Doesn't Control Our Distribution Anymore" expansion breakout blitz, was beginning to wear on the mustachioed mage. In other words, sales were lousy. The solution? How about a new look? And that's exactly the momentous issue we're spotlighting here.
Admittedly, it could've been an unqualified disaster, but the Doc had the good fortune of having the brilliant Gene Colan at the artistic helm. No doubt, writer Roy Thomas had his say regarding the redesign, and embellisher Tom Palmer rounded out a trio of A list creators. Take a look at that getup. Not all that much different than the original, now is it? The most substantial change is the obscuring mask, which was probably intended to be the key deviation. There's a school of thought that believes the kids buying these books don't want to see heroes that look as old as their parents, and with that little lip warmer and patch of snow at the temples, little Johnny may've been torn between rooting for Doc and asking him for a ride to soccer practice (magically, of course...)!!

Nice try, fellas, but unfortunately, it didn't work. The new wardrobe only managed to get the former surgeon through five additional issues, despite superb work from our creative triumvirate. In quest of a new home, Dr. Strange made several guest appearances in the full-face mask, on his way towards establishing the Defenders non-group, at which time, the headgear came off once and for all.

I can't say I ever preferred this look for the Sorcerer Supreme, nor do I think back on this period with any extra fondness (save for the high quality of the material), but at least it was a sharper retooling than Doc's fellow Defender, poor Prince Namor, had to endure a few years later just before his SUB-MARINER title went under for the first--but not last-- time. You folks remember THAT ghastly set of duds? And "duds" says it all! Funny thing is, despite multiple cancellations over the years, Doc--and Subby as well--keep coming back time and time again with new series!?! Sadly, they never seem to stick for long, as Marvel still hasn't figured out the proper way of selling them to the public on a long-term basis, but there is ONE thing they've learned early on, and it's a mistake they haven't repeated--playing dress-up with these two just DOESN'T help!! However, a little hair coloring and a razor might not be totally out of the question, if you follow my thinking? If I remember correctly, wasn't there a barbershop somewhere over near S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters?...