Tag: wizards

From the Vault: Paging Doctor Strange

Courtesy Marvel Studios

It’s been almost six years since I originally wrote about Doctor Strange, and now, there’s a major motion picture telling his story. I haven’t seen it yet. But I’m very eager to do so. Part of the reasons why are laid out below. As is his origin story, at least from the comics, so… spoilers, I guess?

This is a time where, now more than ever, the world needs some magic, and those with the wisdom and humility to wield it for the greater good. The world needs wizards.

As much as I never really got into reading his stories on a regular basis, I’m a big fan of Doctor Strange.

Marvel’s a world full of armored geniuses, super-soliders and Viking gods. Standing right beside them is this bookworm, a former surgeon who managed to become Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme? How did he do it? Did he stumble across a magical MacGuffin or get touched by an angel or bitten by a magical spider?

No. He worked for it.

Granted, his origin story isn’t a terribly noble one, but this is Marvel we’re talking about. Strange was a gifted surgeon who cared more about his wealth and reputation than actually helping people. He got involved in an auto accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. He lost much of the fine manipulation necessary to be a surgeon. Stubborn and vain, Strange refused to take a position as a consultant or practice ‘lesser’ medicine and hunted down every potential cure he could find. His search was fruitless and drained his fortune, leaving him a destitute back-alley doctor, his reputation lost and his bar tabs mounting. Finally, he heard word of someone called “the Ancient One,” pawned the last of his possessions to seek the hidden monastery, and begged for the Ancient One to heal him.

The Ancient One refused. Furious, Strange very nearly left only to see the Ancient One beset by mysical forces. His curiosity overwhelmed his frustration and he began to speak to the Ancient One as a pupil does to a student. Uncovering treachery and trying to warn the master, Strange overcame his selfishness and vowed to combat the evil he’d seen with his own eyes. Through years of study and practice, he became a sorcerer and one of the foremost minds of the arcane in the world.

He’s been through a lot. He’s faced all sorts of challenges from the likes of Doctor Doom to personifications of cosmic forces. He’s survived them all, with nothing more than the contents of old scrolls and his own quick thinking. And he has never, ever gone back to thinking only about himself. At every turn, he’s contributed to the greater good of the world around him.

How is this not something to which we should aspire? Doctor Strange is a shining example of the proper response to hubris and hardship. Despite all his challenges, all he’s lost, he soldiers on, taking on the next obstacle as resolutely as possible. He never gives up. Even when he loses the title of Sorcerer Supreme, he holds on to his abilities not to pursue his own aims, but to help from the sidelines, advise from the shadows. He still refuses to give up on a world that would have given up on him long ago.

Courtesy Marvel Studios I have to wonder if, these days, walking as he does with a sullen disposition and rocking a mean trenchcoat, he ever thinks back to those days as a surgeon, to the way he’d casually light a cigarette the moment he’s out of the operating room ensuring the patient can pay for the life-saving medicine he just administered. Since becoming a sorcerer, he’s never demanded payment, never asked for special recognition or reward. Even when he’s all but bugged to remain with Luke Cage’s New Avengers, he politely and humbly tries to tell them he’s not worthy to stand among them, that his mistakes are too great, his burdens too much for others to bear. Yet he has borne the hardships of others many times, and when Strange finally cracks the smallest of smiles, it’s a greater statement than reams of text could make.

Brian Michael Bendis and Grant Immoren are doing a fantastic job with Strange. I’m glad to see him in this current form and look forward to more. When I was a child, I was fascinated with the magic. Nowadays, I’m fascinated by the man.

Flash Fiction: Benjamin Franklin in the Bermuda Triangle

Couretsy Fist Full of Seamen

For the Terribleminds request for pulp insanity, we return to the adventures of a revolutionary wizard.

The lingering storm clouds made way for the moon, and that was when it began.

The crew of the fluyt Eenhoorn lit lamps on-deck to throw back the darkness. The ocean nearby rippled and swooned, small waves crashing over one another. To Captain Kroeger, the phenomenon was entirely unnatural. He gave the wheel to his first mate, passed a deckhand being sick over the rail, and went into the cabin where their passenger sat, reading.

“Mister Franklin, we need you on deck.”

The American looked up over the rims of his spectacles.

“I take it the storm has ended?”

“Yes. But something else has begun.”

Franklin put his book aside and rose. He picked up a collapsing umbrella from his belongings and ventured out with the captain. He took one look at the swirling waters nearby and frowned.

“Captain, you may want to have your men man their battle stations.”


“We passed Bermuda this morning, correct? And are taking a southern course?”

“Yes, but…”

“Then we are in dangerous waters.”

“We spotted no other ships nearby! Neither the English nor the Spanish are…”

The roar of the sea in upheaval drowned out the captain. From the swirling pool burst the prow of a ship. Its hull rose into the moonlight like a breaching whale, its masts hung with seaweed instead of sails and tackle. Kroeger’s breath caught in his throat when he beheld the opposing crew. They shambled rather than walked, in various states of decay, many an eye missing from its socket and those still intact smoldering with murderous intent.

“Battle stations! Run out the guns! Prepare to repel boarders!”

Benjamin Franklin furrowed his brow as he studied the enemy ship. Any colors it would have flown had long been consumed by the wildlife beneath them. Sliding the long umbrella into his belt, he climbed the rigging towards the crow’s nest. The Eenhoorn reeled under the superior firepower of the enemy vessel, despite said vessel’s cannon having been underwater moments before. Franklin nearly lost his grip more than once, but he refused to let go completely, gritting his teeth against the spray of the sea and the smell of battle. He alighted into the crow’s nest and took stock of the situation.

The enemy ship was closing in on the Eenhoorn. The half-eaten ambulatory corpses and oddly animated skeletons moved towards the railing closest to the fluyt, wielding grappling lines. Franklin knew it was now or never. He reached down the front of his shirt for the key that hung around his neck. When he freed it from the silver chain, it made his fingers tingle. He slid it around the top of the umbrella, opened the device, and held it above his head.

The storm clouds high above began to shudder and growl. Lights went off like cannon fire within the dark surfaces, and as Franklin pitched the umbrella towards the enemy ship, there was a momentary feeling that his hair was standing on end, his skin about to catch fire. A bolt of lightning snapped into existence, connecting the cloud to the umbrella as it sailed over the ghost ship. The steel spines of the device conveyed smaller bolts onto the ghost ship’s deck, catching a few of the undead crew on fire. A cheer went up from the Dutchmen as Franklin climbed back down.

“That was brilliant, Mister Franklin!”

“Thank you, Captain, but it only slowed them down. I need to find a more permanent solution, and I only brought the one umbrella with me. Hold them off as best you can. Excuse me.”

He grabbed his jar of salt from his belongings and made his way below decks, to the lowest point in the ship. He set a box down and carefully laid out the circle he’d need. Praying the Eenhoorn did not list too much, he touched the circle with both hands.

“Come up from your Locker,” he said. “Come up from your Locker, Come up from your Locker, Davy Jones, Davy Jones.”

The shadows in the bilge seem to grow longer, and in the circle, two saucer-like eyes appeared, blinking at Franklin.

“Ye be a bold soul to summon me, human.” Blue smoke wafted from the spirit’s nostrils. “Release me, and I’ll not drag your ship down to me Locker.”

“I will release you when you take back the ship attacking us.”

“Ye have no business at sea, Benjamin Franklin.”

“Shall we parley, then?”

There was an annoyed puff of blue smoke. “Go on.”

“My destination is Barbados. I have business there with a voudoun priestess.”

“I know of whom ye speak. She be a long way from home.”

“I want to offer her help. Perhaps bring her back to our colonies.”

“Two of ye at sea, then? I should indeed drag ye down now.”

“We will do no harm and work no further magic while at sea. You have my word.”

Jones reached up with a hand to stroke one of his horns. His tail swished in the dark.

“And what benefit be Davy Jones getting out of this bargain? I drown ye now, I’d have me no worries.”

“I wouldn’t go down without a fight. And if we fight, we draw the attention of ocean powers greater than you.”

Jones grinned, his eyes alight. Three rows of teeth glistened in the semi-darkness. “Ye’d lose, little wizard.”

“Maybe. But not before hurting you just in time for your king to arrive.”

The smile vanished. “Fine, then. I give ye safe passage to Barbados and back. But this not be something Davy Jones will forget, Benjamin Franklin.”

“Nor shall I.” Fingers broke the circle and the spirit was gone. He climbed through the decks to find the crew celebrating.

“The sea swallowed them up again!” Captain Kroeger slapped Benjamin on the back. “How did you do it?”

“The fine art of parley, captain. Now, let us get to Barbados with all possible speed. The less time we spend in these waters, the better.”

2012’s First Braindump

In lieu of IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! this week, postponed due to the dayjob workload, I give you the start of that thing I’ve been inspired to write thanks to Chuck Wendig as I mentioned Tuesday. I honestly don’t know if anything will actually come of this, but rather than post some pithy filler I was driven to put this little scene down and see how looks. So here’s the opening to Dead Man On Campus.

Ever been punched in the face?

I don’t mean tapped on the cheek in an endearing way by a family member or close friend. I don’t mean slapped by a girl (or guy) you were trying to compliment and ended up insulting. And I don’t mean the kind of dead-leg punch you get from a chum on the couch when you’re kicking their ass in a first-person shooter on their expensive console that you kind of only befriended them to play since you live down the hall & get bored sometimes.

No, full-on punched. Right goddamn hook to the jaw.

It was my first time and my ass hurt almost as much as my face did from it hitting the curb.

I tasted blood. This wasn’t unfamiliar. Growing up nerdy in the outskirts of a big city, you learn to take a few shoves and pick up books out of the gutters. I’d had a bloody nose from a spill a couple of times. But this was the first time I’d seen a big, idiotic jock standing over me and not felt a surge of paralytic fear.

No. I was fucking pissed.

“What?” I give the jock a shit-eating grin. “All I said was it might behoove you to stop treating your girlfriend like a piece of meat.”

He hauled me up by the collar of my jacket. It’s a really nice pea coat my mom bought me, black with those little anchor buttons, like the ones worn by the Boondock Saints. I’m not Irish, though. I’m some kind of American mutt. The bozo nose-to-nose with me has some Teutonic blood in him, though. He’s tall, broad-shouldered, thick and brawny. His ice-blue eyes are trying to burn holes in my skull.

“You talk to me that way again, freshman, and I’ll turn you to paste. You feel me?”

I glance at the girl. She’s more scared than I am. There’s a switch.

“Yeah, bro, I feel ya.”

He drops me. He grabs the girl – by her waist, of course, with hand in prime gropeing position – and walks away. She glances over her shoulder at me, apologies in her wide, frightened eyes. I wave goodbye and, in spite of the pain in my jaw, smile.

She’d been pushing him away, telling him ‘No’, and he’d insisted on being all grabby. What was I going to do? Just let him fondle her in the street between the library and the science building, leading into the big parking lot in the middle of the campus? At one time, I might have. But I wasn’t the huddled little boy trying to get to school without the neighborhood toughs beating me up for my lunch money. Not anymore.

As they walk away I contemplate what I can do. I can make Bozo think it’s raining frogs. I can cause his vision to blur and turn his flavor of the week into a reject from Hellraiser before his eyes. I’d love to set his varsity jacket on fire but I have real trouble controlling that sort of thing. If I were really brave I’d pull my entire being into myself and concentrate my consciousness into a sort of singularity in my soul that would burst out of me and blast all of my organs and senses into overdrive, basically slowing everything around me to a crawl. But the last time I tried that my mentor nearly called 911 when my heart stopped.

I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Simon Aechmagoras, and I’m a sorcerer.

Well, a sorcerer’s apprentice. Like Mickey Mouse, only taller and with better fashion sense.

I check my watch, a mechanical pocket-and-chain job I inherited from my grandfather, and swear. I get up and run, sore jaw and bruised ass and all. Sorcerer or not, my biology teacher hates it when people show up late for his lectures.

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