Strange doctors have been prowling around superhero comics almost from the beginning.
The first Dr. Strange, or Doc Strange, debuted as the lead feature in Nedor’s Thrilling 1 (Feb. 1940), the creation of writer Richard Hughes and artist Alexander Kostuk.
In the wake of the spectacular, multi-media success of Superman, rival superhero characters could have powers similar to Superman’s, or a costume similar to his, but they’d better not have both. That mistake made Fox’s Wonder Man a one-issue wonder in 1939.
“Just as Fox had wasted no time before launching his Superman rip-off, DC wasted no time before suing him,” comics historian Don Markstein noted. “The action started the moment Wonder Comics reached the stands. Fox was hit with an injunction against the use of Wonder Man until the matter could be settled in court.”
Powered by a solar atomic drug he called Alosun, Doc Strange acquired Superman’s abilities — super-strength, flight, invulnerability — but wisely eschewed the fancy dress.
“He didn’t keep his identity a secret, hence no mask; and his superhero suit was both minimal (plain red T-shirt and blue jodhpurs, both worn properly skin-tight, plus ordinary belt and boots) and late in coming (it was half a year later, about when he started calling himself Doc instead of Dr., that he adopted the standardized appearance),” Markstein noted.
In Thrilling 24 (Jan. 1942), Strange acquired a young sidekick called Mike Ellis. Although Mike sported a cape, he wasn’t as much of a boy wonder as he might have been because Strange deemed him too young to use the super-drug.
Strange also appeared with Captain Future, The Black Terror and Fighting Yank in Nedor’s version of World Finest Comics, called America’s Best Comics, and was popular enough to outlast most other Golden Age superheroes. His last adventure was published in November 1948.
In 2001, renamed Tom Strange, the character was revived by the inimitable Alan Moore in his superb Tom Strong title.
Doc’s first name was Hugo, and that may ring a bell. Coincidentally, Prof. Hugo Strange was an early Batman villain, introduced in Detective Comics 36 (Feb. 1940), and the first foe to figure out Batman’s secret identity.
In May 1963, Marvel Comics got into the act — but not yet with Dr. Stephen Strange. Tales of Suspense 41 introduced Dr. Carlo Strange, a lightning-born criminal genius who threatened Earth until his daughter, Carla, betrayed him by aiding Iron Man.
Stan Lee must have liked the sound of the name “Dr. Strange,” because two months later (Strange Tales 110, July 1963) he reused in for the first appearance of Steve Ditko’s legendary superhero magician, Dr. Stephen Strange.
Of course, you could argue that there’s yet another Dr. Strange, whose first name is Adam. The intrepid archeologist-spaceman almost certainly has his Ph.D, but just doesn’t make a big deal about it.