Wednesday, February 12, 2020

With Colleagues Like These...!

Or: "Is There A Doctor In The Cult?"

It's probably safe to say that, since his ascendance to the mystic arts, Dr. Strange has no regrets in leaving behind his self-centered life as a surgeon, when he charged top dollar for his services while completely devoid of any bedside manner or other regard for his patients. We could also make the argument that he's made more of a contribution toward the well-being and preservation of mankind than he did in the operating theater. When Strange was first dealing with the repercussions of the car accident which deprived him of the use of his hands in performing delicate surgery, colleagues reached out to him with offers of remaining in the field as a consultant/assistant, though his ego wouldn't permit him to assume a position which he considered demeaning to someone of his stature.

Many of us know what happened from there--Strange quit the medical profession and spent his last cent exploring various medical options which might restore the steadiness and deftness of his hands. Finally, rumors of a healer in the east named "the Ancient One" led him to a temple in the Himalayas, where his host sought some proof that this man's motives were something other than selfish. That proof didn't come easily, with the skeptical Strange attributing the abilities he saw in the Ancient One to parlor tricks and/or hypnosis; but when he saw evidence of the Ancient One's resident pupil, Mordo, plotting to kill his master, Strange sought to defend the Ancient One by offering to become his disciple. From there, Strange fully immersed himself in his new calling--and the rest is history.

But from time to time, Strange's path still crosses with other physicians--and despite Strange's former attitude and reputation as a doctor who never displayed an ounce of humility, there are those who believe his knowledge of surgical techniques shouldn't be lost, and that his most productive role is still that of a surgical consultant.

Which brings us to one such man, and yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

What path did Dr. Charles Benton take which sealed his doom?

In the fall of 1968, during the brief run of the first series of Doctor Strange, Benton visits Strange's sanctum while the mystic master is away (in this case, off in another dimension battling the Dread Dormammu). But Benton, as is evident, has become a bit more assertive since we last saw him--and it becomes clear that he hasn't come to pay a courtesy call.

(Don't mince words, Doctor--tell us how you really feel about Strange's new life.)

Benton's frankness is an interesting base for writer Roy Thomas to cover, since there would likely have been some in medical circles (granted, not many) who might have sought out Strange as Benton has and attempted to bring him back into the fold in some capacity. But there is more to Benton's entreaties than the thought of letting Strange's skills go to waste, as we'll see.

For now, however, it seems that Benton is able to reach his own conclusions in regard to Strange's state of mind and the bizarre lifestyle he's chosen to pursue, as the weary sorcerer gets an earful of when he returns from successfully dealing with Dormammu.

Oddly enough, however, Benton persists in attempting to reach Strange by telephone in an effort to revisit the subject of convincing him to turn away from the course he's chosen--even as Strange faces a new enemy in a sorcerer's cabal called the Sons of Satannish and their leader, Asmodeus. In time, Asmodeus would betray his followers and would go on to disguise himself as Strange, in order to gain access to the book of the Vishanti and make use of a spell which would bring the Asgardian entities Ymir and Surtur to Earth in a destructive rampage. Before dealing with that threat by joining forces with the Avengers, Strange would engage with Asmodeus in their final clash, where Strange prevails--and learns the shocking true identity of his foe.

In essence, Benton put on one hell of a show for Strange's benefit, to throw his foe off guard and ward off his interference in his plans. Strange also raises the notion that Benton might have arranged for the accident which caused the injury to his hands, though the reasoning there in terms of connecting the dots is dubious, nor was it ever (to my knowledge) followed up on.

Strange would later discover that Satannish had offered Asmodeus a second chance at life, providing he was successful in securing five souls to take his place (Strange and his comrades in the Defenders, as well as Daimon Hellstrom). As you might have guessed, he fails, with Benton's life ending a second time as he's taken by Satannish.

From what I understand, however, somewhere around 2015 Benton is resurrected once more--and in 2017, he shows up in the Old Man Logan book, where Logan decides to return to the post-apocalyptic future known as the Wastelands to make good on his vow to save the baby grandson of Bruce Banner. Unfortunately, everyone in his present who is versed on time travel refuses to help him, which leaves Logan no option but to invade the maximum-security "super-prison" known as the Cellar (the name was changed to the Raft in the next issue--let's make up our minds, gentlemen)--specifically, the lower Black Level, where supernatural and occult prisoners are kept incarcerated permanently. There he finds, breaks out, and enlists the reluctant help of the sorcerer Asmodeus to transport his consciousness through time.

*Maybe in the aptly-named Resurrexion series? Someone will have to educate me.

Unknown to Logan, Asmodeus has other ideas for Logan's fate--for the right price.

When Logan returns, he finds that a message he left with Bobby Drake (Iceman) in the past has borne fruit, as the X-Men arrive to bust up Asmodeus' little scheme.

Benton, a low-key character except for his history as Asmodeus, is probably the last character I'd expect to achieve such mileage in the Marvel universe. This development in particular gives you an idea of how desperate Logan was to go through with what he had in mind, if he thought Asmodeus was his only option.  More surprising still is that he even knew of Asmodeus in the first place--naturally I can only assume that Logan has made it a point to keep abreast of Marvel Trivia Question updates. ;)

Some exquisite Gene Colan artwork from an issue in this story arc.
Or: "Clea Needs A Crib!"


George Chambers said...

Steve had a pretty bad nicotine jones in the old days, didn't he? Lighting up while still in his surgical gear? The AMA would not have approved.

Comicsfan said...

George, I suppose we have to assume that he felt comfortable in doing so post-operation (and more than likely feeling that he had the clout, albeit setting a bad example). As we've seen, the good doctor apparently still enjoys a cigarette even as an enlightened mystic (and it seems he's not alone in his fondness for tobacco).