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Strange Diagnosis

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With Dr. Strange: The Oath #1 in stores today, Broken Frontier caught up with the book’s artist Marcos Martin to find out what he and Brian K. Vaughan have got in store for the good Doctor over the next couple of months.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Let’s start off with the question most Dr. Strange fans will want to see answered: what is the purpose of The Oath? Is it just telling a great Dr. Strange story, or has Brian Vaughan set it up to make the doctor hip and cool again and re-establish him as the Sorcerer Supreme for this generation of fans?

MARCOS MARTIN: Well, I don't think both options are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, we hope that by telling the best Dr.Strange story we could possibly craft we'll be able to attract new interest in the character.

BF: A question that’s perhaps easier for a writer than an artist: why do you think it is that Dr. Strange has never really had any long-lasting success on his own?

MM: I'm afraid I don't have a real answer for that. I can only guess on what the reasons might be.

In my opinion, Strange was probably too much of an adult character for the teenage audience that makes for Marvel's bulk of readers. He's old, lives alone or with the occasional girlfriend in a weird mansion, and although heroic he still keeps a bit of his arrogant nature, sometimes bitter even. In other words, he's COOL. But if you take all that and mix it with the world of the supernatural (which is alienating by definition) it makes for a rather inaccessible character.

Also, and from a merely visual point of view, he's one of the few superheroic characters that has specific physical traits. He was born with very distinctive facial features that set him apart from your average superhero, even when he was later modified to match the more handsome standards of his heroic role. Again, COOL. But the fact that he doesn't have an interchangeable face also makes it harder for the reader to relate to. The more iconic the drawing of a face is, the easier it is for the reader to identify with.

So, the end result is you have a character most teenage readers can't relate to, but that becomes more appealing as they grow older... and they no longer read comic-books.

But anyway, my guess is as good as yours.

BF: Another character that’s showing up in the series and is also out of touch with current readers is the Night Nurse. What’s her role in the story going to be?

MM: She's going to play Watson to our Strange’s Sherlock... A much sexier and attractive Watson, that is.

BF: Why did you jump at the chance to work on Stephen and the supernatural?

MM: Well, Dr.Strange is not only a classic Marvel character but also a favorite of mine. I've always been fascinated by Ditko's creation and especially the way he grounded such a mystical character in Manhattan and the real world. I think the combination of the trippy dimensions and exotic scenery with the gritty streets of New York made the character work at its best.

If you add to that, this was the chance for Brian and I to finally work together after years of trying to start a project together—it really was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

BF: It must also have been a pleasure to collaborate with one of comics’ cream of the crop writers, wasn’t it?

MM: Brian is, to me, the best mainstream comic-book writer today. He understands the medium and knows how to structure a story and give the right amount of information all the time. When I get his scripts I know I could follow his indications exactly and have a perfectly laid-out story. That makes my job of coming up with good visual storytelling ideas all the much easier.

AND he writes the best dialogue lines in the industry.

BF: Did you delve into the early Lee/Ditko stories a lot to get a good grasp of the character and his origin?

MM: I grew up reading the old Lee/Ditko stories that were usually published as back-up stories in some of the Spanish editions of Marvel comics. So, as much as I love Gene Colan's, Marshall Rogers' or Paul Smith's take on the character, in my mind, Doctor Strange has always looked and moved like the original Ditko creation.

And I can honestly say that after living with the Essential Dr.Strange Vol.1 by my side for almost a year, by now I know all of Lee and Ditko's stories by heart! 

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge

BF: The story is said to heavily focus on the ‘Doctor’ part of Dr. Strange, who used to be a surgeon in a previous life. Will we see him wear a surgeon’s mask and pick up a scalpel again?

MM: I wish I could tell you but I don't want to. But you'll see SOMEONE using a scalpel, that's for sure.

BF: The Oath will also evolve around a murder mystery, as someone attempts to murder Dr. Strange. How does that come about?

MM: Again, I'm afraid I can't tell. It wouldn't be that much of a mystery if I did, right? I guess you'll just have to wait and see.

However, if you're asking how we came up with that idea, it all goes back to the our intention of recovering Ditko's original concept where he was portrayed more as a paranormal investigator than a supremely powerful sorcerer.

BF: You’ve been working in the US industry for several years and have mostly worked at DC, especially on titles from the Batman family (Birds of Prey, Batgirl: Year One, The Joker’s Last Laugh), and most recently, Breach. This leads me to a two-fold question: for starters, how did you finally manage to land a project at Marvel?

MM: Marvel was kind enough to invite Brian and me to do something there. And we picked Strange.

BF: And secondly, your US work doesn’t total that many issues in proportion to your debut several years ago. Are you very active in the European market next to the US one?

MM: No, I've never worked in the European market. And yes, you're right; my work doesn't amount to many issues. That's partly because I'm slow and partly because I like to take short breaks between one project and the next. Also, although I started working for the US in 1997, I didn't really start to get steady work until 2001.

BF: Speaking of Spain: what are your thoughts on the recent influx of Spanish artists like Daniel Acuña, Jesus Saiz and Al Barrionuevo?

MM: I think we have a very different approach to our work but I know they're very successful and can only wish them the best.

BF: I'm sure there also several rising stars in your home country that the US public hasn’t discovered yet...

MM: Yes, of course. Fortunately, we were able to track them down first and they are now sporting some spanking new concrete shoes at the bottom of the ocean. [Laughs]

BF: Heh. Talk about friendly competition! Finally then, what are you up to once Dr. Strange: The Oath has been completed?

MM: I have no idea. Against all rules of the good freelancer, I usually don't start thinking about my next project until I'm done with the one I'm working on at the time.

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