|DF INTERVIEW: BRIAN K. VAUGHAN
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By: Brian HofackerBrian K.Vaughan is an Eisner Award winning writer. His repertoire consists of some critically acclaimed series such as Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and Runaways, as well as some incredible stories titles such as Batman, Green Lantern and Ultimate X-Men. Brian’s most current work, Doctor Strange: The Oath, is going to re-establish Dr. Strange into the current Marvel Universe. Doctor Strange has been around for almost half a century, first appearing in Strange Tales #110, 1963, in which time the character has had a few different spins; such as the cosmic and abstract adventures created by Lee and Ditko, the super hero persona by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, and an investigator of the occult plotted by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner.
BH: Y: The Last Man totally dissolved my fantasy about being the only man on a planet full of woman; so if there is one thing I’ve come to expect from you, it’s the unexpected in the most perfectly logical way. Your latest project Doctor Strange: The Oath is no exception… You’ve said that you are going to focus more on the “Doctor” than the “Strange” in The Oath… a perfectly logical portrayal as for the past few years Dr. Strange has been more of supporting character to whom Marvel superheroes turn to for matters concerning magic and the supernatural as they would a medical doctor (for example his part in House of M and most recently Ms. Marvel.)
What made you decide to use the medical aspect of Doctor Strange as the focus for The Oath, and how closely are you going to relate the obligations of a medical practitioner to those of being Sorcerer Supreme?
BKV: I adore Ditko's design and the trippy visuals that go with it, but over the years, I think we've focused too much on the “Strange,” and not enough on the “Doctor.” It's such a classic Stan Lee touch to make the Sorcerer Supreme a man with a background in science and logic. My favorite panel from Doc’s origin involves the arrogant Stephen looking down at his trembling hands right after he crashes his sports car, knowing that he'll never again be able to perform surgery. How brilliantly tragic that this guy can cast any spell imaginable, but he's reminded of his own flaws every time he picks up a drink, and hears the ice cubes rattling inside the glass.
Strange can call upon Hoggoth or Watoom all he wants, but his first allegiance is still to Hippocrates, and an oath he first swore as a young med student: “Do no harm.” So artist Marcos Martin and I are going to be introducing a new threat to Stephen's life that will really challenge that belief.
BH: During the Englehart and Brunner run back the early 70’s, Doctor Strange inherited the mantle and power of Sorcerer Supreme, and was granted the immortality befitting his new role. Also, it has been said that there are no rules to govern Doctor Stranger's powers and that basically he can cast his way out of any peril. From a storytelling perspective, did this become problematic? If so, how did you overcome it?
BKV: The Sorcerer Supreme might be able to do anything, but Stephen Strange the man certainly has a ton of weaknesses, all of which Marcos and I will be exploring in our mini. After all, a hero is only as interesting as his Kryptonite.
BH: The headlines for Doctor Strange: The Oath state that the story is going to re-establish Doctor Strange in the current Marvel Universe; was this a request that Marvel made or your concept? What were some of the challenges of “re-establishing” the character?
BKV: This was our concept. Though we'll never be able to accomplish anything half as good, Marcos and I definitely looked to Miller and Mazzucchelli's "Born Again" for inspiration. That book didn't recreate Daredevil, as much as it reminded readers what had always made the character so cool. We're definitely aiming to do the same thing with Strange. I'd rather let our story define what we think the good doctor's role should be than explain it to you here, but I hope it's something other writers will want to run with.
BH: With the exception of Swamp Thing, I believe that most of your stories are centered on super hero stories (Ultimate X-Men) and very scientific (Y: The Last Man and Mystique) and less on the supernatural. Other than character and continuity research, how much did you have to delve into the occult and supernatural to prepare for the story? And did you get to make up any new catch phases like “By the Omnipotent Oshtur!" and “By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak"?
BKV: Ha, no new catch phrases. Stan Lee's characters were always intended to speak with "modern" voices, but Strange's dialogue has stayed stuck in the past while other Marvel heroes have evolved. I hope to give Strange a more contemporary voice, without sacrificing his charm. As for research, I did a great deal of medical reading, but as for magic, I left that realm to my imagination.
BH: Are you looking to bring back a certain era or sense from Doctor Stranger's history; for instance the abstract tales from the early Ditko/Lee years or the super hero person from Thomas/Colan issues?
BKV: Marcos and I stand on the shoulders of all those giants, but we wanted to tell OUR story, rather than simply taping another team's style.
BH: Is there a specific philosophy or literary work that you are using for the basis of The Oath?
BKV: Not really. I like fiction that takes inspiration from life rather than from other works of fiction.
BH: Doctor Strange has had a small array of interesting apprentices like Wong and Clea, as well as a quite a cadre of nemesis; is the supporting cast of The Oath going to consist of past characters or is the Doctor going to be working and fighting a whole new cast?
BKV: I know I'm in the minority, but I actually don't think every Marvel character needs to be interconnected. Some of the best Strange stories have been his solo investigations into his own weird corner of the Marvel Universe, while some of his worst have involved him showing up like a mystical deus ex machina to save the Fantastic Four or whatever. That said, we are going to be giving Strange a new partner from elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, an existing character who no one will expect, but who compliments the good doctor perfectly.
BH: When not working solo, Doctor Strange has sporadically summoned superhero "non-teams" with antiheroes like the Hulk and Sub-Mariner in the Defenders, or Blade and Hannibal King in Nightstalkers; rumor has it that The Oath is setting Doctor Strange up to join a team. What can you tell me about the new team? Any hints?
BKV: Our mini really focuses on just Strange, but I know other writers at Marvel are interested in having him join a team after our story ends. They have some very cool ideas, but I'm afraid I can't say anything more than that!
NEW! 1. 11/29/2021 - DAVID ANDRY & TIM DANIEL
2. 11/22/2021 - KURT BUSIEK
3. 11/18/2021 - MIKE FEDERALI
4. 11/15/2021 - DAVID M. BOOHER
5. 11/11/2021 - MARK D'ANNA