A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up: Doctor Strange
STRANGE TALES #128 January 1965
Steve Ditko original artist
By late 1964, I'd pretty much gotten my act together. Though I'd been an almost instantly loyal Marvel fan right from the time I purchased FANTASTIC FOUR #4 in early 1962, due to my young age and the vagaries of newsstand distribution, I would be destined to miss more than the occasional Marvel publication in those formative years. For whatever reason, that distressing situation had happily come to an end by the time '64 closed--with one final exception. STRANGE TALES #128 somehow escaped my grubby little grasp.
Well, it wasn't like missing an issue of FF or Spidey, so I managed to live with it. Those Torch and Thing stories were far from classics, a blatant reality even this dyed in the wool Marvelite would have to admit. As for Dr. Strange, well, he may've been drawn by my favorite artist, Steve Ditko, but his by then-meandering never-ending mystical mumbo jumbo serials were not nearly to my taste the way that OTHER Lee/Ditko collaboration was. So, I never did quite make a mad rush out to find me a back issue copy of number 128...

When I finally did locate one many, many years later, I was stunned to find included within it's pages one of those nifty neato pin-ups Marvel was sneaking into most of their titles that year. I'd long since read that particular issue's Dr. Strange offering in a subsequent reprint compilation, but I'd never ever before laid eyes on that magically executed Ditko Doc drawing found therein! Sturdy Steve had long since moved on from his Marvel haunts by that late date, and I had been under the mistaken impression that I was familiar with ALL his sixties Marvel super-scribblings. Wrongo!

Ditko succinctly and superbly captures the unique otherworldliness his vision provided for the strip with this single brilliant illustration. Unlike his companion Spider-Man piece (seen previously here at redo central), he makes no attempt to include anyone else from the Strange mythos in his tableau, and yet his mind-blowing backgrounds are so much a part of the feature's primal identity, without a even a hint of Baron Mordo, the Ancient One, or the Dread Dormammu himself, this piece enscapsulates the mystical world of Dr. Strange perfectly!!

What a hidden treasure THAT was, what an absolutely delightful surprise!! (Plus, I finally got to read about Ben and Johnny's pre-AVENGERS #16 clash with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch! Turns out they weren't really villains after all, just sorta misunderstood, y'know? Um, the pin-up was a slight bit more memorable, to be brutally honest...}