As Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Strange's job consists of protecting Earth from all offenders of a supernatural or mystical variety. Dealing with messed up stuff comes with the territory, but that doesn't mean his stories never veer into the macabre. The worst part? When things go really, really wrong, it's usually Doctor Strange's fault.
Mister Misery is not the name of a post-emo band that has too many bass guitars and not enough women, it's actually the name of a Marvel supervillain created by Doctor Strange. It's a bit weird to begin a superhero's list with the time he created a supervillain, but well, turns out that's actually one of the more positive things he's ever done.
Here's the thing about magic: It always has a price. Whenever Strange is casting a spell to save a life or just to mess with Thor, there is a physical and psychic cost. But the Sorceror Supreme doesn't have time to suffer for the mystic arts. So instead of taking that pain onto himself, he decides to send it to the basement. Literally. Under his Sanctum, Strange has locked up a physical repository for all the stress and pain his body and mind should be shouldering for the magic he sues on a daily basis.
Aptly called The Thing in the Cellar, this amorphous mass of all things vile eventually gains consciousness. And wouldn't you know it, a being that was made with pain and suffering wishes for nothing but to inflict pain and suffering onto others. Funny how that works.
Of course, the basement dweller wouldn't be a problem if it hadn't escaped. A magic-hating techno-cult who didn't know what the hell they were dealing with saw to it that The Thing in the Cellar became The Thing Just Sort Of Wherever It Wanted to Go. Thanks a lot, magic-hating techno-cult. One silver lining: The blob of pure hate finally got to meet its dad.
Because this is a comic, Strange is soon handed a magical solution for the cost of magic problem. The good doctor takes all of the suffering that he put into the Thing and... gives it some other people. Some are friends, some are devotees, some are people he's saved over the years. Spread over a wide swath of people, the cost of magic is lower per-capita. That's just math.
It might sound like a happy ending, but Strange is basically the dude who bailed on the school project, forcing everyone else to pick up the slack. Apparently this worked out, however, since after the Thing's sustenance begins being projected onto random people, the Thing ceases to feel anything at all. And that doesn't sit right with this basement monster.
At that point the Thing names itself Mr. Misery. It's a little corny, but it's not like Doctor Strange has any room to talk.
Sometimes it might seem like Strange is actually just a villain in hero's clothing, pretending to help humanity only to keep superheroes off his case, but that's totally not true. He's a member of the Avengers, after all! So what did he do last time he was working with the Avengers? Oh, he tried to stop the end of literally everything. Okay, cool, definitely heroic, right?
Well, yes, unless you consider the part where Doctor Strange went go back in time and accidentally joined and then willingly became the leader of the Black Priests, a group dedicated to destroying countless Earths in an effort to briefly stave off multiuniversal entropy.
Yes, okay, that does mean he killed many trillions of people and instituted perhaps the world's worst office dress code, but it's not all bad. It's not like he had to turn into an ancient demon to destroy a rival Earth with his own endless tentacles, right?
So uh, about saving the multiverse? That didn't happen. Strange murdered countless worlds for nothing. He and Doctor Doom attempted to salvage what was left with reality, but the man with experience in ruling small nations was the one who ended up the sovereign king of this new patchwork world. But then... Doctor Strange rose up and beat Doctor Doom at his own game, right?
You probably see where this is going.
So, at the start of Secret Wars, everything dies. That's bad.
Thankfully, Doctor Doom and his newfound God powers reform the last remaining shreds of existence into one big jagged hunk. As ruler of this amalgamation of universes, Doom decides to kill Reed Richards, send the Human Torch into space, turn The Thing into a wall and then pretends Sue Storm and her daughter are his own kin. That's worse. Doom also takes dozens of supervillains and assigns them their own areas of a planet that he calls Battleworld, where only the strongest survive. That part's kind of rad, actually.
Strange, meanwhile, managed to survive the end of everything, and made it to Battleworld. He then organized a resistance and -- ha. No, he wimped out and decided to become Doom's sherriff. Yes, with everything in eternity destroyed, and the most evil man alive in charge of all that remains of life, Strange becomes his right-hand man, and helps him rule over the whole world, killing any who would oppose him, or break the Draconian rules of his world. It's possibly the most evil thing someone who isn't Doom has ever done.
Eventually, real heroes arrive (including a fresh Reed Richards) and Doctor Strange... still does barely anything. After telling the actual good guys what's going on, Strange teleports his friends away to safety. Then he stands there and lets Doom kill him. As opposed to you know, teleporting the hell out of there himself.
Hopefully the Infinity War version of Doctor Strange has more of a plan than this.
At some point, you might be wondering why we need Doctor Strange at all. And well, I'll tell you, but first --
Hey, so, if you for some reason are reading this from inside the Marvel Universe, some bad news: Hell is real and the devil is a tricky little douche. But don't worry, he's not the worst thing out there, because all of the Lovecraftian monsters are real too, and unimaginably strong. Of them, the single worst is Shuma-Gorath. Since you're from the Marvel Universe, you probably haven't played Marvel Vs. Capcom, so let's just call him Garth.
Garth is one of the most ancient beings in existence, despite being basically a giant starfish with an eyeball that would be begging to be punched if that eyeball weren't several times bigger than the planet Earth. But luckily Doctor Strange is here. Yes, a man who studied his whole life to become a doctor, got in an accident, and took a trip to Tibet before opening a magic shop in Manhattan, will definitely protect us. Remind us again what type of stuff Garth gets up to?
Oh, okay. So, Garth originally was the supreme ruler of all Earth, and every living creature served to worship him. He's more or less God. That's chill, the magical hero most likely to vape will definitely be able to take down this dude. It's not like this is a being who has tried to kill Death itself and almost succeeded. Oh, wait. OH. WAIT.
Turns out that the whole hate-on for Death is mostly linked to Garth being a "many angled one" from the Cancerverse, which means it literally cannot die. Doctor Strange has fought him off before, but it always comes with a price. One time, Garth possessed the Ancient One -- the supreme magical being for about, oh, the next sentence -- and Doc Strange defeated Garth... killing the Ancient One.
It gets even more intense. Doctor Strange once traveled to Garth's own dimension to do battle, and was met with a human-like avatar of the otherwise Lovecraftian nightmare. Faced with an improbably powerful being on its home turf, Strange fused with the avatar (gaining some gnarly hair in the process), and fought off his enemy.
Strange knew that Garth would put humans on Earth in harms way, but he proceeded anyway. Innocent lives were killed, but the day was won. Nothing was left of Garth. Nothing but the warped fusion of Doctor Strange. Rather than succumb to the evil festering inside him, Strange took his own life.
It was for the best. I mean, that hair was just awful.
During Secret Empire -- when Captain America turned evil and took over America -- Doctor Strange was locked inside of New York for what felt like roughly nineteen months, and after he came out, he was ready and raring to prove himself. A lot happened while he was stowed away, including the utter destruction of Las Vegas at the hands of HYDRA.
Strange mustered his magical might to do the unthinkable, to raise a razed city. And he does. Everyone who died in the HYDRA attack comes back to life, all the buildings return, and all is right with the world.
And that's how he leaves Secret Empire. Okay, that bullshit is over. Thank God.
Except see, Doctor Strange, as should be clear by now, kinda sucks. So when he attempted to raise the city, he brought back more than he intended. That "more" turns out to be a stronghold of Hell -- yeah, the literal, actual Hell -- that rises as a physical building. It is from this infernal tower that Mephisto begins attacking and destroying the lost souls of Las Vegas.
The doc realizes he fucked shit up once again and tries to fix it by playing a life-or-death card game with the newly-earthbound demons. But because he's basically Mr. Magoo with wizard powers, Strange gets caught cheating. As a result, Stephen Strange is transformed into a Mephisto-controlled Ghost Rider (along with all of the Avengers).
For some perspective: The last arc of Doctor Strange's comic was about him reclaiming the role of Sorcerer Supreme and proving he was a competent magician. (Oh, yeah, because he's lost the title of Sorcerer Supreme to Loki, because the magical ruling beings decided that Loki was more trustworthy than Doctor Strange. Hey, Loki's name is better.)
So his first act back in the role as Sorcerer Supreme? Get turned into a mind-controlled demon.
Thankfully, Wong -- the real hero of every Doctor Strange story -- comes up with a plan involving the Son of Satan and a dead dog (for real). Together they hatch a plot that hinges on Ghost Rider allowing Mephisto to kill him. When the last desperate battle is raging and all seems lost, Mephisto shows up to gloat. But as it so happens, Ghost Rider was handed a one-way ticket to hell. And Mephisto just left the throne wide open.
Which is why you can call him King Johnny Blaze.
This is the good ending. It involved a hero committing suicide, and the literal pinnacle of Hell is still just chilling in Las Vegas. But hey, at least Secret Empire's over. For now.