Culture & Lifestyle
Published March 18, 2024

'Doctor Strange: Dimension War' Exclusive Excerpt Finds the Sorcerer Supreme in Baron Mordo's Clutches

In an exclusive excerpt from 'Doctor Strange: Dimension War,' Stephen Strange seems doomed to Baron Mordo's endless torture.

On March 26, New York Times-bestselling author James Lovegrove will bring the mind-bending origin and earliest adventures of the Sorcerer Supreme to life for a new era in Doctor Strange: Dimension War.

When arrogant physician Stephen Strange lost his ability to wield a surgeon's knife, he embarked on a journey of self-reflection, mysticism, and discovery. Now equipped with magical powers, he battles tirelessly to defend the Earth from arcane threats that few humans can conceive of—battling rival sorcerers, thwarting Nightmare the malevolent ruler of dreams, and daring to defy Dormammu, the terrifying despot of the Dark Dimension.

This creative novelization of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Doctor Strange stories sees Stephen Strange magically transform from a vain egoist to one of Earth's greatest defenders.

'Doctor Strange: Dimension War' cover

By James Lovegrove
Release Date: March 26, 2024
ISBN: 978-1803362571
Format: Hardcover

Your story brings the origin and earliest adventures of Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, to life in a new way. Can you tell us what readers can expect from Dimension War?

JAMES LOVEGROVE: The comics containing the original Doctor Strange stories are episodic, and my job with this novel has been to turn them into a single, cohesive prose narrative. It wasn't, in fact, as tricky as it initially appeared to me, since there is already a kind of through-line in those issues, beginning with Strange's battles against recurring villains such as Nightmare and Baron Mordo and culminating in his final, desperate face-off with his nemesis, the Dread Dormammu. 

Along the way, the character develops, going from consulting mystic who combats various supernatural evils to Earth's defender against magical threats. It's a fascinating evolution, which I used as a framework to underpin the book: how Doctor Strange steps up to accept the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and enters more fully into the world, by which I mean the Marvel Universe. 

I made sure to fit in as much spellcasting action as I could, and also build up supporting characters such as the Ancient One, Wong, and Clea, giving them a bit more depth and grounding. It was a joy and a privilege to be given this opportunity, and I relished it—and I hope that shows in the book.

How did it feel to adapt Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's work?

JAMES LOVEGROVE: I was intimidated to begin with. These are classic Marvel comics, created by two of the three linchpin Marvel originators (the third being Jack Kirby, of course). I wanted to treat their work with the respect and reverence it deserves, but also give it a refresh and bring it up to date. We are, after all, talking about comics that are over sixty years old, with some dated elements. 

I needed to figure out, too, how to retell the tales in such a way that they'd be interesting to readers who already know them well and accessible to readers unfamiliar with them. The trick, I found, was simply to synthesize everything I understand about the character—his power set and his world from my years of reading—and distill all this down to its essence, and then have some fun with that. 

So, in Dimension War, I have a Doctor Strange who utters his inimitable phrases such as "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" and "Curse me for a novice!" but also a Doctor Strange who echoes his more modern portrayals.

How did you manage to capture in words what Steve Ditko conveyed with images in the original comic?

JAMES LOVEGROVE: Ditko's artwork is unique. It's not easy to recreate visually, and you certainly can't reproduce it exactly in prose. What I did was incorporate plenty of his imagery into the novel, particularly his visualizations of alien dimensions, with all those giant disembodied mouths and spiraling midair pathways and yawning portals to other realms. But I also used typography in a few sections of Dimension War to recreate the trippy, surreal feel of Ditko in text form. The novel may not have Ditko pictures, but it has a distinct Ditko vibe throughout.

What are your thoughts about the staying power of such iconic characters?

JAMES LOVEGROVE: Stephen Strange, before he becomes Master of the Mystic Arts, is a decent but flawed man whose arrogance almost proves his undoing. After his near-fatal car accident, he undergoes a journey of self-discovery and reinvention, until at last he's a worthy champion of good. It's a classic hero journey, and that's why I think Doctor Strange endures, along with so many other Marvel characters. 

He shows that nobody is beyond redemption, everyone is savable, and that suffering can be survived and hubris does not necessarily have to lead to downfall. It's why he's relatable, too. You can't easily sympathize with a wealthy surgeon who has everything except humility, but you end up rooting for him because he learns—the hard way—that there's a better path in life.

In advance of Doctor Strange: Dimension War's release on March 26, check out an exclusive excerpt from the novel, where Stephen Strange finds himself trapped in one of Baron Mordo's wicked spells:

Eventually Mordo came to a decision. 

"I shall begin by binding you in the Chains of Krakkan, Strange. Their constricting embrace can, I understand, be exquisitely painful," he said. 

Suiting deed to word, Mordo conjured up the mystical restraints, wrapping them around Strange's stationary body from shoulders to ankles. Face contorted with glee, he instructed them to tighten, then tighten yet further. 

Had he been able to, Strange would have woven the counterspell that traditionally combated the Chains of Krakkan, namely the Fangs of Farallah. As it was, all he could do was writhe and grimace as the Chains dug their mauve links into him ever more agonizingly, squeezing him like the coils of some giant python. A scream rose in his throat, but his mouth could not open to vent it. 

Mordo looked on, exultant. "You humiliated me last time we clashed, Strange. Now it's my turn. I'm going to make you suffer. I'm going to make you regret you ever heard the name Baron Mordo. I trust you will not pass out from the pain. I want you conscious throughout this whole ordeal, which is, let me tell you, going to last a long time. A very long time." 

The Chains of Krakkan were now digging in so hard Strange could hardly draw breath. Practically every muscle in his body was afire, and every bone felt ready to crack. 

Mordo was focused solely on his enemy's anguish, deriving a sick, sadistic pleasure from it. His hands bunched into fists as he willed the Chains to increase the pressure that little bit more. Strange did not think he could withstand it much longer.

Then came a crash—the sound of crockery smashing.

Someone had brought the willow-pattern vase down on Mordo's head, hard.

Mordo crumpled to the floor, out cold.

Instantly, the Chains of Krakkan relinquished their grip, vanishing. The relief, for Strange, was immense. This must be how someone drowning felt upon suddenly, at the last minute, being plucked from the water to safety.

His rescuer was a woman who resembled Sir Clive Bentley in certain ways, especially the gray eyes and the forthright patrician nose.

"I… I don't pretend to know what's happening here," said Victoria Bentley. "All I know is I felt this strange urge to come up to the house. Someone was in trouble." She pointed at Strange. "You. And it had something to do with him." Now she pointed at the unconscious Mordo. "And that." She approached the candle. "Why is it even lit? The staff have been laid off. An unattended candle is a fire hazard in an old place like this." She pinched out the flame between her fingertips.

Just like that, Strange was released from the effects of the Mists of Munnopor. Control over his limbs reasserted itself. He was able to speak again, albeit hoarsely.

"Miss Bentley," he said, "I cannot thank you enough. I was in dire straits and might have died, if not for you. Forgive me—I should introduce myself. Dr. Stephen Strange. An acquaintance of your father."

"I know the name," said Victoria. "Dad mentioned you once or twice. He had a high regard for you, Doctor Strange."

"And I him. My condolences on your loss, by the way."

"Thank you."

"I suppose I should explain all this." Strange motioned at the candle, then at the prone Mordo with the scatter of ceramic shards around him.

"I suppose you should," said Victoria. "But first, how about some tea? You look like you could do with it."

"I undoubtedly could."

Victoria made to leave the study, but just then Mordo let out a groan.

"He's coming round," Strange said. "I must do something to restrain him."

"I could fetch some rope, if that'll help," Victoria said.

"In this instance, it won't. He could get out of rope easily. Something rather more exotic is required."

Strange was about to conjure the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to fasten Mordo, but all at once, showing a surprising turn of speed, Mordo sprang to his feet.

"Oh no you don't!" he cried, and with an intricate wave of his hands, he disappeared. A flash of light, a burst of smoke, and he was gone.

"Curse me for a novice!" Strange said, clenching a fist in anger. "If only I'd been quicker off the mark."

"Did that man just vanish?" said Victoria, astonished. "In a literal puff of smoke?"

"The fumes that erupt when someone uses the Wondrous Wormhole of Weygg- Kalkuun aren't, strictly speaking, smoke," said Strange. "They're closer to brimstone. But yes. That is more or less what happened."

"My goodness. This is all very bewildering. I really do need that tea. And an explanation."

Order your copy of Doctor Strange: Dimension War today!


DEADPOOL #1 cover by Taurin Clarke


April 3's New Marvel Comics: The Full List

Enter Deadpool's new era, join the X-Men's last stand against Orchis, and more in this week's comics!

Our Complete Comics Guide to 'X-Men: The Animated Series’ S3 on Disney+


Our Complete Comics Guide to 'X-Men: The Animated Series’ S3 on Disney+

Head to Marvel Unlimited to binge the comics behind the cartoon.

Prove Your Allegiance in Avengers vs. X-Men for New Season of 'MARVEL SNAP'


Prove Your Allegiance in Avengers vs. X-Men for New Season of 'MARVEL SNAP'

It's Heroes against Heroes in the latest season of 'MARVEL SNAP'! Are you Team Avengers or Team X-Men?

ULTIMATE X-MEN (2024) #1 cover by Peach Momoko


March 6's New Marvel Comics: The Full List

Meet the mutants of the new Ultimate Universe, swing into the Spider-Men's new team-up series, and more in this week's comics!