Science and Magic Reconciled in Doctor Strange 1

by Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

For some, there is a fine line to be drawn between the science fiction and fantasy genres. The former often focuses on technology and space travel while the latter often takes place on Earth-like planets and features magic, and it’s easy to see why the twain should never mix. While these differences are stark, many have come to recognize that enough similarities exist between the two for them to be clumped into one genre called “speculative fiction.” The Marvel Universe, with its huge amount of both space-age technology and mystical powers, certainly belongs in this classification. While this hasn’t hasn’t always been an easy mixing, in Doctor Strange 1 it not only works, but is explained elegantly.

Stephen Strange is reeling from the gradual loss of his mystical powers. This leads him to Tony Stark, of all people, who is known for being a champion of technology. Being a man that views things from a scientific standpoint, he has an interesting perspective on Stephen’s problem.

As Tony says, Stephen’s problem could be an “engineering” one, that is, one that can be fixed with reason and logic and not by tapping into some mystical base knowledge. Tony continues along this path and suggests that Stephen may be able to regain his powers if he uses technology to visit other worlds in a quest to find magic fuel.

At first this might seem blunt, but in reality this approach is quite elegant in terms of expressing how magic and science exist in the Marvel universe. When Stephen first arrives at Tony’s, they argue about portals. Tony makes the point that a magic portal is the same thing as a scientific one. The only difference is how you access and activate it. For some, like Stephen, they access it using magic. For others, like Tony, they access it using science. This suggests that magic and science are in some ways the same thing. They tap into the mysteries of the Marvel universe and allow their users to do incredible things. Magic and science aren’t what give superheroes their powers, it gives them access to to a third party entity they can tap into to do incredible things.

This is an unique explanation as to how science and magic coexist in Marvel stories and one I think is interesting. It basically says that Tony and Stephen are the same type of hero, the only difference being how they go about tapping into the world’s latent superness.

*Please note I purposefully didn’t make reference to that Asimov quote about magic and science. It’s just a bit overdone these days. 

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

2 comments on “Science and Magic Reconciled in Doctor Strange 1

  1. A couple things about this comic I noticed.

    1) I loved the art. The cover was amazing. The colors were great. Just a beautiful comic.

    2) This was the only Marvel comic I picked up this week. That’s unique.

    3) I really liked this story. I didn’t know what to expect. I was ok with the opening scene, it didn’t strike me as anything special (very much, “Ok, it’s Doc Strange words – Vishanti, Agamotto, etc.”), I wasn’t too in to the loss of magic, I kind of felt like we just did something like that with Aaron’s run (not exactly the same, but kind of right there), but as soon as we got to the conversation with Stark – you know, I liked this. I’m really interested in seeing where this goes.

    4) I think the page you picked were the least interesting visual page in the comic. Tony and Steven look very, very similar with very similar clothes.

  2. Honestly, the idea of saying that science and magic is just different ways to achieve the same goals bores me to death.

    If making a portal requires you to either go through a very specific process/ritual OR go through a very specific process/ritual, what is the meaningful difference between science and magic? Why does magic exist and what purpose does it have in the setting? Especially as the Marvel Universe is a universe that keeps a clear divide between the two and doesn’t go full magitech to take advantage of any possible similarities.

    That’s why magic works better when it is contrasted with science. Can’t be reconciled. THe moment int eh Doctor Strange movie where the mage with one hand is still able to do a spell is a great example of that idea. In science, you can’t just pretend you did a step. But where science is logical, magic is symbollic.

    There shouldn’t be a third party entity that both science and magic access, because, exactly as you say, it makes Doctor Strange and Tony Stark the same. And why would you do that? That’s stupid. If I want Tony Stark, I’ll read Iron Man.. Not Doctor Strange. Hell, the fact that the premise seemed to be trying to equate them is a big reason I didn’t care to try this run, other than the awful writer (I accidentally read his Ant Man and Wasp. Why is it that every time he writes Nadia, her big thing is the fact that she doesn’t like someone? And that’s ignoring the dozen other awful problems).

    Magic and Science should be different. Otherwise, what is the point?

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