Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Startling Secret Origin Of Doctor Strange's Funky Biker 'Stache!

At some point in the early 80's, artistic license or editorial fiat mandated that Doctor Strange be drawn with a more fanciful Ted Nugent biker moustache instead of his traditional pencil-line number. (I say "biker moustache" instead of "fu-manchu" because technically a fu-manchu features a clean-shaven upper lip and the only hair is on the sides of the mouth. I'm a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to facial hair, so I know these things.) Nobody knew why Doctor Strange switched to this groovier style of face fuzz until "Doctor Strange" #54 (August, 1982). The issue begins with Doctor Strange moping about his student/girfriend Clea leaving his eldritch ass (her stated reason being that she thinks another woman loves him MORE but seriously, come fucking ON.) And then, doodly-doodly-doop! Cue the harp glissando and the swirly effect on the TV screen, we're transported into a flashback sequence by a different writing and art team. In other words, it's a cut-up filler issue that never got published, and they'd better go ahead and print the damn thing because Clea is still Strange's girlfriend in it! It starts with a biker 'stache-free Doctor Strange and the buxom Clea enjoying a stroll in Washington Square Park. And who should they run into but Shaggy of "Scooby Doo" fame!

Zoinks! Shaggy sports a "My First Goatee" (by Playskool) and as Jeremy likes to quip about such dodgy facial hair, "A little club soda and it wipes right off." Note also the pseudo-braid on the back. All you need is a half-dozen rubber bands and forty-five seconds of free time and voila! Your unruly mane of dry, hopelessly damaged hair, which has never seen a bottle of conditioner, is arranged in an unreasonable facsimile of a braid. This look is wildly popular with roofers and carpet installers. "The psychic emanations pouring from his body are almost palpable!" thinks Doctor Strange. No, honey, that's just the heady melange of patchouli and B.O. But yes, it is quite palpable.

Since the filler story is written by J.M. "Starbaby" DeMatteis, it ends with a bunch of hippies passed out on the floor. Then the regular team of Roger Stern and Paul Smith tack on a new last page, in which Clea makes an interesting request:

This should have been Doctor Strange's first clue that his relationship was in trouble. Clea's basically telling him, "I want to start seeing other people, but for now I'll settle for you just looking like other people." And Doctor Strange, still so gooey-eyed in love with her and yet so self-centered he's not really listening to what she's saying, goes along with it. Kind of sad, really. That said, I think Doctor Strange looks cooler with the biker 'stache than he does without it. The VanDyke's pretty nice, though. Does he still have that? Now, if only he'd do something about his hair. Really, if I had my way he'd look like one of those Ultimate Fighting guys, with the crew cut and no shirt and a lot of tattoos and... sorry, I kind of drifted away for a second. Um. Heh. Anyway...!

Bonus! In "Doctor Strange" #71 (June, 1985) we find out what Doctor Strange would look like with a full beard and Shawn Cassidy hair.

And the answer is, "Like a suicidally depressed llama."


Anonymous said...

If Doctor Strange were less of a pushover, here is how that conversation might have gone:

Clea: "Would you consider growing it long like that again...for me?"

Strange: "Would you consider making an effort to look slightly less like my grandmother...for me? Float your magical little ass down to the corner pharmacy and pick up a bottle of hair dye, already. Or hell—just conjure one up or something. Then we'll talk."

Anonymous said...

"His eldritch ass." Heh heh.