ITEM! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an American doctor travels to the Far East and unwittingly passes a series of character tests, only to discover that an ancient, dying sorcerer has selected him to accept the mantle of mystic defender of the Earth. That’s the origin of Doctor Stephen Strange, the one character even your Uncle Stanley has acknowledged was basically Sturdy Steve Ditko's idea, right?
Don’t you believe it, pilgrim! I was down in The Climate-Controlled Crypt a few days ago looking through some of my leather-bound copies of past Marvel Classics when I came across a character that even I’d forgotten: The Fantastic Doctor Droom! Who the heck was he, you ask, oh Faithful Follower of all things Marvelous? Doctor Droom was an abstruse antecedental attempt at an ongoing super-heroic character that debuted in Amazing Adventures #1 (June 1961) — five months prior to the first issue of The Fantastic Four, and over two years before the debut of Doctor Strange. What’s that you say, pilgrim? Lost your 47-year old copy of this frankly fabulous fable, did you? See the whole debut story here.
Everyone always wonders what Jolly Jack’s version of Spider-Man would’a been like if I had decided to go in that editorial direction in 1963. Well the Doctor Droom stories in Amazing Adventures #1-4 and #6 might give you some unimpeded insight... which is to say not all that great. Mine and Jack’s earlier Doc Strange prototype spent most of his time hypnotizing alien invaders... which Reed Richards, the scientist’s scientist, was prone to do a few times in early issues of the FF. Even the titanic team of Lee-Kirby was a little hit-and-miss in those earnestly early eons-ago. The Doc Droom stories were hardly the mind-bending mystic battles fought across far-flung dimensions that would later be a part-and-parcel of Ditko’s Doctor Strange.
But still, it hard to believe that Stevey-Boy didn’t take major inspiration from Ol’ Doc Droom. Interestingly, although the first Doc Droom tale was a Lee-Kirby production, guess who inked it? If you guessed Sterling Steve Ditko, award yourself you own home-grown No-Prize True Believer! After the drubbing Ditko’s given me over the years over who co-created Spidey, it sure looks like it’s sauce-for-the-gander time to the Smilin’ One. Wanna check out all of Ol' Doc Droom's dramatic adventures for pennys-on-the-collector-comics-dollar? Irving Forbush says to be sure and check out the Amazing Adult Fantasy Omnibus.