Marvel Madness

That Time Doctor Strange Became a Werewolf

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Over the last few years October has become my favorite month to do Marvel Madness posts, because I’m always up for talking about insane Marvel stories that take on a spooky, Halloween-themed bent. But, I’ve also kind of cornered myself into two very specific patterns, sharing stories about Dracula and stories about Rutland, Vermont each year, not always leaving time for me to discuss any other weird Halloween tales I come across. Which is why I’ve allowed Halloween to encroach into September, because who can possibly contain all the spooky goodness of Halloween into just one month? And, thankfully, I’ve come across a very fun little story to share with you all that also ends up also containing another trend that I seem to talk about frequently here. A famous Marvel character getting turned into a werewolf! Now, this has typically taken the form of Captain America or the Falcon, so we’re branching out this week by seeing a story of lycanthropy featuring the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. This tale comes from two issues of Marvel Team-Up, one of my favorite sources of these Marvel Madness posts, because I don’t think I’ve read a single one that wasn’t completely insane. The formula was basically “take Spider-Man, a random other character who’s book wasn’t selling well, and have them face off with a bizarre threat.” And boy oh boys does this story-line check off all of those boxes. Plus, we  get a very surprising appearance from a character that I’m sure we’ve never discussed before. So, let’s get going!

The story begins with a bang, with Peter Parker walking through Central Park at night with his date, a woman named Cissy Ironwood. Which, doesn’t exactly seem like the brightest decision, but before they can be mugged they’re suddenly attacked by a werewolf who comes leaping out of the foliage and right into them. The werewolf takes Cissy down pretty quickly, knocking her out and sending her crashing to the ground, while Peter Parker begins battling the thing, relying on his spider-reflexes to dodge it’s razor-sharp claws. He wasn’t exactly expecting to be jumped by a werewolf, so he’s kind of struggling to keep up with it, but a few throat-punches seem to do enough damage to keep the thing distracted. And, while Peter is busy tussling with the werewolf, Cissy ends up waking up, and begins running through the Park, screaming for help. And, while she does encounter a cop on a horse and some random dudes, all that really comes of it is them all getting attacked by the werewolf too. Which, means Peter’s going to have to tackle the damn thing into a lake.

 

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Peter and the werewolf are sent into the lake, where things quickly get pretty intense. The werewolf is attempting to choke the life out of Peter, and he’s really struggling to keep that from happening. Luckily, he’s able to get a hold of a capsule of condensed web-fluid from his belt, and pries that lid off, causing an entire capsule of fluid to explode into the werewolf’s face, making it panic and flee from Peter. The werewolf climbs out of the lake and runs off into the Park, tearing at it’s severely webbed up face, while Peter sadly pulls himself out of he lake, soaked to the bone and pretty damn battered.

But, while Peter climbs out of the lake, he spots something odd sitting in the mud. He picks the object up, and realizes that it appears to the Eye of Agamotto, which Peter identifies as “Doc Strange’s amulet.” Peter decides that it could potentially be a coincidence, but also can’t ignore the possibility that the werewolf he fought could have been Strange himself. And, Peter has plenty of time to mull these options over while waiting for Cissy at the hospital. She wasn’t too injured from the werewolf attack, but she does have a pretty bad concussion, so they want to keep her overnight for observation. Which, of course, means that Peter Parker is going to wait by her side and ensure that she’s okay. Ha, just kidding, he peaces out immediately and goes to talk to Doctor Strange. But, since he didn’t think to call ahead, so he ends up getting a rather chilly reception.

 

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Spider-Man is not exactly known for his people skills. But, even with his lack of tact, he finds Clea’s reaction to his appearance rather strange. So, he decides that he has to get inside the Sanctum Sanctorum by any means possible, because this whole werewolf thing seems mighty fishy. Plus, he figures he owes it to Doctor Strange, since they recently had an adventure together. Basically, Spider-Man helped Strange out with a problem he was having with a recurring for called Silver Dagger, and which involved Doctor Strange absorbing some seriously dark magic from a sorceress named Marie Leveau, who promised that the magic would cause some terrible side-effects. She also read Doctor Strange’s tarot, promising that it spelled his doom.

So, since Peter doesn’t know what to do about Strange, he decides to go do some research. He finds a nearby fortune teller and asks if she could explain what the tarot pointed to. He explains the exact order of the cards, and the two women insist that it can only be a very bad thing. So bad that they highly recommend he find any way to help his friend. So, Peter suits up as Spider-Man, and heads back to the Sanctum so he can keep an eye on Strange. And, it just so happens that he spots the good doctor walking into the Sanctum. Spider-Man then sneaks up to the building to see what’s going on, and ends up witnessing a very unhinged Strange yelling at Clea. Strange ends up completely losing it, and in the process throws a chair through a nearby window, giving Spider-Man an opportunity to swing into the building and stop Strange from attacking Clea.

 

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Spider-Man really doesn’t know why Doctor Strange is acting this way, but it becomes clear that he’s going to have to fight the Sorcerer Supreme, which is maybe a little outside of his weight-class. Luckily, Spider-Man does recognize the fact that Doctor Strange’s spells often require some incantations, so he decides to web up Doc’s mouth, keeping him from saying his spells. However, Strange is still able to wield some of his magic purely through hand movements, and he blasts Spider-Man with a bolt of magic, sending the wall-crawler flying. Which finally gives Clea a chance to sling some spells herself, blasting him in the back. It doesn’t do a whole lot, but it does distract Strange long enough so that he doesn’t anticipate a huge haymaker from Spider-Man, which promptly knocks the Master of the Mystic Arts clean the hell out.

Spider-Man, Clea, and Wong then quickly begins discussing what in the world is going on. Apparently Strange had been acting increasingly odd the last few days, and when the full moon the night before happened they witnessed him turn into a werewolf and flee from the Sanctum. They have no idea what to do about this though, until Spider-Man hands Clea the Eye of Agamotto. She then uses it to meditate over Strange, using the Eye’s magic to peer deeply into Strange’s mind, verifying that he has indeed become a werewolf.

 

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So, now that they’ve confirmed Doctor Strange’s lycanthropy, the question becomes what do they do next. Thankfully, Wong has an answer. Apparently there’s a lama in Tibet who has the ability to cure lycanthropy, which is pretty convenient. So, they decide to take a flight to Tibet. They leave Clea behind to guard the Sanctum, and Spider-Man and Wong carry an unconscious Doctor Strange to the airport. Night-time is approaching, but they were able to book a flight that is supposed to leave before moon-rise, which would then put them on a path that would constantly be outrunning the moon, hopefully keeping Strange from becoming a werewolf.

The trio board the plane, and Wong begins securing Strange while Spider-Man does his best to close all the windows, in case that would help. Unfortunately though, there’s a delay with their takeoff, and that delay causes them to still be sitting on the runway when the moon finally does rise. Which means Doctor Strange turns into a werewolf, escapes from his captors, causes quite a bit of destruction on the plane, and flees into the night, leaving Spider-Man and Wong to presumably answer quite a bit of questions. And, while they’re busy dealing that all of that, Clea is back at the Sanctum, receiving a rather unexpected visitor.

 

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That’s right, we have another guest star! It’s Satana, the daughter of the devil. Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about Satana, other than the fact that she was a creation from the late seventies, when Marvel became fascinated with the Devil. You know, the same trend that brought us Ghost Rider and Damien Hellstrom. Apparently she’s the daughter of Satan and a mortal woman, and has spent most of her life in Hell, learning to be a very powerful sorceress. But, now she lives on Earth, and is trying to do more good than bad with those powers. Which, is what has brought her to Bleeker Street. She has become aware of Doctor Strange’s condition, and is here to offer her services.

And, while Clea is a little put off at first, she decides that they need all the help they can get, and she invites Satana into the Sanctum. Satana then begins casting spells to keep track of Strange, which is how she and Clea learn about the whole airplane fiasco. She also notices that Spider-Man and Wong are about to be arrested for causing an airplane to be attacked by a werewolf, and casts a spell to teleport them away from the airport and back to the Sanctum. Satana then introduces herself to Spider-Man and Wong, and explains her bona fides. She also lets them know the most important aspect of this entire thing. She can cure Strange, but if he kills another person and tastes their flesh, he’ll be trapped as a werewolf forever.

 

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Satana promises them that she’ll do whatever she can to help Strange, feeling that it would help in her mission to rebalance the scales after everything that her father does. But, she’s also a realist, and hands them a gun with a silver bullet in it, just in case. But, she hopes it won’t result to that. She also doesn’t think that she can be of any real help in the whole werewolf wrangling, since she needs to keep her magics prepared for the whole curing process. Which means that Spider-Man is going to have to go Strange hunting all on his lonesome. Thankfully Satana is able to expend a little magic to teleport Spider-Man into Doctor Strange’s general vicinity.

And, once Spider-Man is jettisoned across New York, he’s able to pick up the menace of Doctor Strange with his spider-sense, and uses that to track his ally down. And, unfortunately, it turns out that Spider-Man has been sent somewhere that he’s familiar with. It’s the same hospital that Cissy is being held at. Spider-Man doesn’t fully understand why, but it seems like Strange has tracked Cissy down so that he can finish the job, since she was the first person that he attacked as a wolf-man. So, Spider-Man races into the hospital, past some security guards, and sure enough finds a werewolf wearing Doctor Strange’s robes, and immediately attacks him.

 

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Spider-Man and the WereStrange begin battling, but things prove pretty damned difficult for Spider-Man. On the one hand, he doesn’t want to hurt the werewolf too badly, since it’s his friend and colleague. But, on the other hand, the werewolf is very strong, and is trying to actively kill people. And, these two warring ideas lead to Spider-Man having to get pretty creative with his fighting, going more for incapacitation than anything else. They battle all through the hospital, until they finally are thrown directly into Cissy’s room. The werewolf attempts to attack her once more, but Spider-Man manages to grab a hold of him, deliver an insane piledriver, and then choke the werewolf out, grabbing his carotid artery until the wolfman passes out.

And, after kissing Cissy on the forehead, Spider-Man webs Strange up and swings away from the hospital, bringing him back to the Sanctum Sanctorum. And, when he gets back to the Sanctum he finds it seemingly empty, except for a levitating Satana, floating over a magical flaming pentagram sigil that she’s been constructing. Spider-Man is a little put off by this whole scene, especially when she lets him know that Clea and Wong aren’t in the building any longer, because she wanted them to be at a safe distance in case this whole thing went sideways. But, she doesn’t want Spider-Man to go anywhere, because she needs Spider-Man as part of the ritual. So, although he’s feeling pretty freaked out, Spider-Man sits down in the middle of the sigil with the wrapped up werewolf, ready to do whatever he can to help with the satanic magic.

 

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And, now that Spider-Man has brought Doctor Strange’s body to the sigil, things can pop off. Because it turns out that Satana has been doing some research, and has figured out why Doctor Strange has been turned into a werewolf. And, it’s unique. Apparently during  a recent adventure with Spider-Man, as previously mentioned, Doctor Strange had to lean into a powerfully evil magic source, and earned the ire of a sorceress who promised revenge. And, apparently that took the form of her taking a fraction of Strange’s soul during that magic ritual, and giving it to some demons who promised to guard it, while turning Strange into a werewolf.

So, with Strange in the sigil, Satana is able to open up a pathway to the realm of the demons that hold Strange’s soul, and begins to do battle with them in order to rescue Doctor Strange’s soul. Meanwhile, Spider-Man is tasked with wrestling with the furious werewolf, making sure to keep him subdued in the sigil’s confines. Which, is obviously easier said than done. But, it turns out that it’s Satana who has a harder job, because the closer she gets to Strange’s captive soul, the more demonic resistance she finds. And, when she gets to the point of defeat, she decides she needs to do something drastic. She has one last ditch spell which could defeat the demons and free Strange’s soul, but it would almost certainly make her mortal in the process, where she would then be killed by the demons. However, the whole reason that Satana offered to help in this case was because she wanted to put good into the world, and she decides that the world would be more good with Strange in it, even if it meant her demise. So, she casts her spell, her soul perishes, and Doctor Strange’s soul is returned to his body, curing his lycanthropy. And, as Strange regains consciousness, he and Spider-Man reckon with the cost of that cure.

 

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When I first started reading this story, realizing that it was a tale about Doctor Strange being turned into a werewolf, I didn’t really expect that it would end with the daughter of Satan doing psychic battle with a bunch of demons who had stolen Stephen Strange’s soul at the behest of a voodoo priestess. Although, I kind of should have, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned during these stories involving werewolves it’s that Marvel can’t simply have someone get bitten by a wolf and turn into a monster, they have to jump through the craziest hoops to get there. And, I don’t know if that’s a result of the Comics Code or not. I know that there were some peculiar restrictions on werewolves in the Code, same with zombies, and it usually resulted in the folks at Marvel taking a weird stab at circumventing those rules. So, who knows, maybe having Doctor Strange become a wolfman thanks to voodoo magic somehow didn’t go against the Code. But, regardless of the why, this story just kind of delights me. I love these Marvel Team-Up books, the way that the get so very submerged in all of Marvel’s craziest aspects, finding insane characters, insane situations, and insane stories, all with Marvel’s veritable mascot running along the whole time. This story gives us werewolves, Spider-Man being heroic, Satana, Clea and Wong, and a mystical battle with demons. What more could you want from a batshit crazy issue of comics from the 1970’s?

 

Ghost Rider, I guess.

 

Marvel Team-Up #80-81 were written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Mike Vosburg, inked by Gene Day and Steve Leialoha, colored by Petra Goldberg and Ben Sean, lettered by Denise Wohl and Rick Parker, and edited by Jim Shooter and Al Milgrom, 1979.

 

 

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