Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is one of the most popular characters in the MCU (audiences rated him one of their favorites in post-screening surveys), and while it hasn’t been announced just yet, most assume that Doctor Strange 2 is in the midst of pre-production and is targeting a 2020 release date. But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the hazy days of the 1980s, before Tim Burton’s Batman proved to studios that there was big money in superheroes, Marvel was trying and failing to get their own Doctor Strange film off the ground.
C. Robert Cargill, who co-wrote the MCU pic, revealed on Twitter earlier this week about how that went, and about the role the sadly departed Stan Lee played in its pre-production. It seems that multiple screenwriters took a stab at the project, including Larry Cohen, Bob Gale and Lawrence Block. None of them really worked, but then Stan Lee stepped up the plate and while his script never went before a camera, Cargill explains that Stan’s was the best of the lot.
Though this project never got made, it ended up having a curious history. In the late 80s when in a financial pinch, Marvel sold off the movie rights to Strange, which were snapped up by Charles Band. He failed to make a movie in time and lost the rights, but he stripped off the Doctor Strange name and released what he had as the Doctor Mordrid: Master of the Unknown (which you can watch in full here, though I advise against it).
Cut to the modern day and Marvel Studios realized during production of Doctor Strange that their movie has technically been in the works for 33 years, meaning that everyone involved in it must be credited in some form. And who was the first writer to smooth the process and claim that the script belonged to them? Stan ‘the man’ Lee.