Forgotten Films: Doctor Strange (2007)

While the Benedict Cumberbatch Dr. Strange is in production, fans may want to check out this 2007 animated DVD to tide themselves over.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 142nd my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week, I am looking at a movie based on a comic book. Comic book movies have been around a long time. And Doctor Strange was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I had the early issues as they appeared in Strange Tales. First it was the art of Steve Ditko over Stan Lee’s stories. Then the art went through Bill Everett, Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, Frank Brunner, Gene Colon, Marshall Rogers and others. They were all interesting artists. The writers, including Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neill and Steve Englehart, had fun too dealing with weird and alien dimensions.

As many of you know, a live action Doctor Strange film is in production with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. And there was a CBS series pilot in 1978 starring Peter Hooten as Dr. Stephen Strange, a psychiatrist turned sorcerer. But, to date, the 2007 animated Doctor Strange film with Bryce Johnson stands as the most recent adaptation available.

For this film, they go back to address the origin of Dr. Strange as presented by Lee and Ditko, with Stephen Strange as a brain surgeon with great skills and a materialistic ego. When a traffic accident damages his hands to the point he can longer handle a scalpel, he begins searching for a second or third or fiftieth opinion that his hands can be repaired and his life regained.

He eventually finds himself in Tiber searching for “the Ancient One” (voiced by Michael Yama) who accepts him as a pupil and assigns him menial tasks. And, as clichés go, it is the usual one. Strange’s attitude is “I want the world and I want it now,” which does not fit well with mystic instruction. Aiding the Ancient One are Wong, a magician and servant (voiced by Paul Nakauchi), and Mordo, second only to the Ancient One in power (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson). Mordo is a mighty mystic and powerful warrior, but the Ancient One seeks someone who wants peace not war.

Menacing Earth is the Dread Dormammu (Jonathan Adams), a being of pure evil magic from another dimension trying to break into our own. He is using the dreams of children to break through the magic bonds binding him away from our world.

The mystic elements are well portrayed in the film, which is why animation was an ideal medium for this version. The 1978 TV version lacked somewhat in the special effects budget. This version has a good sense of it, though not nearly as wild and amazing as Steve Ditko’s comic versions of the 1960’s. Those comic pages had an almost psychedelic tinge to them. And Stan Lee was never more bombastic than when writing of the Eye of Agamotto or the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth. It made his work on Thor seem like a Weekly Reader title.

The choice of the Dread Dormammu was an expected one, though I might have preferred some other characters like Nightmare and then move to Dormammu. But, since Dormammu is to Doctor Strange like Doctor Doom is to the Fantastic Four, this was not going to happen.

All in all, I liked the film. It ran about 76 minutes, which I liked. I would have liked to have seen another film in this series. This was from the period that gave us two Iron Man and two Avengers made-for-video films in the mid 2000s. They all have their moments and are worth searching out.  Copies of the DVD and Blu-Ray are readily available online for less than $10, new or used. So, if you are interested, check it out. And be ready for the 2016 live action one next year. I’ll be there early.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Speculative San Antonio: Artist Alfredo Lopez Jr.

Freddy Lopez has been a ubiquitous presence at San Antonio conventions, film festivals and comic shops.

Today marks the launch of a new feature on my blog, Speculative San Antonio, in which I highlight a South Texas creator of science fiction, fantasy or horror literature, film or art.

My first real interaction with artist Alfredo ”Freddy” Lopez Jr. came more than a year ago when he illustrated the front cover of my novel Deadly Passage and that of Dog Days, the Joe McKinney novel it was published back-to-back with.

Freddy turned the covers around fast, working closely with myself, Joe and our publisher to accommodate a myriad of suggestions. He was an enthusiastic, patient collaborator and one I’d work with again in a heartbeat. The covers still gets numerous compliments.

Based on that experience, it comes as no surprise that Freddy has emerged as a go-to talent for comic cover art, concept, game and sketch card work. He’s collaborated with some of the top names in comics as a colorist, and he recently launched a Patreon page to free himself to pursue more work outside of comics.

Freddy’s work is recognizable for its vibrant, painterly use of color and for its clever humor. He’s a fan of mash-ups, frequently juxtaposing characters from different comic and movie franchises.

A Freddy Lopez illustration for an RPG rulebook.

I see from your Patreon page you’re trying to make the shift from the comic genre to do more fantasy, horror and concept art. What’s prompting that and what do you mean when you say “concept art?”

Freddy: Yeah it’s a shift that I’ve been talking about for a while but finally putting into action. When I was younger, my goal was to be a fantasy artist along the lines of Boris, Elmore, Bernie Wrightson, Frazetta, the Brothers Hildebrandt, etc. I dreamt of being a book illustrator like other kids dreamt of being athletes. I promised myself when I grew up, I’d be the next Frazetta. Of course, like every kid, I also grew up on superheros. So along with my drawings of knights and dragons, I had drawings of Batman and Superman.

As i grew older, I met more friends with similar goals. At the risk of sounding old, the internet was evolving as I was entering the scene and gave me a new way to get in contact with creative people all over. Forums and online portfolio sites helped get my work out and eventually, as friends broke into the business, they were kind enough to contact me and ask if I’d like to help. So that’s what got me into comic work. Friends like Nate Piekos, Chris Mills, Howard Wong and others really helped open doors for me. My first love was still illustration work, though, and I found what I enjoyed most was doing illustration style comic work like covers, pinups, coloring and painting. I soon discovered trading card work, which helps satisfy that aspect for me. Now I’ve had the chance to work for some of my fave companies and properties like Upper Deck, Walking Dead and Marvel Comics , where I’ve been part of the team of artists doing cards for Ant-Man, Avengers Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy and others.

Freddy Lopez's "Goblin Party."

Over time, I’ve also been getting back into more traditional illustration projects by doing work for books and games. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a couple of amazingly talented local authors doing covers for them. I’ve also been getting more work in RPG games and event posters.

The concept art is tied to the RPG projects in fantasy and sci-fi. Aside from cover and spot illustrations, I’ve had the chance to work with some great art directors on concept pieces. The general difference is that while illustrations are final pieces that are used in print, concept is usually higher level work used to get the basic ideas or concepts of a project down. It helps establish color palettes, mood and tone or the design of characters, creatures, ships and environments.

Part of this move to illustration has also included doing more prints for convention signings and appearances. I’ve built up a porfolio of convention poster/exclusives for a wide range of celebrity guests and appearances that have included Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), Ricou Browning (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Michael Rooker and both Boba Fetts, Jeremy Bulloch and Daniel Logan. Most recently I did the signing for Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy’s Drax) for a new comic store, Alamo City Comics. I even did the poster for the upcoming Horrific Film Fest, which includes celebs such as Elvira, the cast from The Warriors and Buck Rogers.

Freddy Lopez's "Guardians on the Run"

The Patreon page is a new concept for me but sounded like a fun way to reach out to fans and reward backers with behind-the-scenes items (tutorials and source files) as well as helping me to stay on track as I make the transition.

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