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“They wanted to focus on core characters”: Marvel Studios Rejected Mystic Doctor Strange Origins Set in 1920 By Neil Gaiman and Guillermo Del Toro

Neil Gaiman doctor strange

After the release of Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, many fans expressed their disappointment at how underwhelming some concepts of the film felt – often at times lacking narrative logic or a sense of rhythmic, balanced pacing. Neil Gaiman, renowned as the author of The Sandman, recently talked about the pitch he made to the President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige back in 2007 regarding a project concerning the Supreme Sorcerer. Guillermo del Toro, who is notable for his distinct gothic-horror expertise and unique visual storytelling style, was also a part of this plan, and the two had high hopes for it.

Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman
Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman

Read more: Scrapped Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness Concept Art Shows Us What Could Have Been

This revelation has gotten the audience mourning over what could’ve been a promising endeavor to look forward to and with the way Gaiman described the premise, the fans simply cannot be blamed for feeling the way they do.

Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro’s Pitch To Marvel

While appearing on the Happy, Sad, Confused live show, author Neil Gaiman talked to host Josh Horowitz about the supposed concept he had in mind for one of the most beloved characters amongst Marvel fans, originally created by the late Steve Ditko. When asked about the reasoning behind Marvel and DC not consulting the writer — who is known for his expertise in fictional archetypes, having created many memorable characters and projects himself — for their films, the comic book writer detailed his experiences with Marvel, specifically involving Feige.

Doctor strange 2 writer hints that the illuminati may return
Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness

Read more: ‘This Sh*t’s Good’: Kevin Feige So Mesmerized With What If’s Strange Supreme, He Made Entire Doctor Strange 2 Crew Watch the Show Before Making the Film

According to the writer, the producer has spoken to him “a few times over the years.” The only aspect or a “wish” as the writer called it, which he wholeheartedly wanted to move forward with was in association with Doctor Strange. As stated by the writer, back in 2007, he used to engage in “minimalist conversations” with Kevin Feige over the Ditko-penned character. The talented author also had talks with Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro about the project, who mirrored Gaiman’s enthusiasm.

This is what Neil Gaiman had to say:

“I remember back in 2007, having minimalistic conversations with Kevin Feige about ‘What about Doctor Strange?’ Then talking to Guillermo Del Toro, and Guillermo and I having these ideas about Doctor Strange and starting the beginning; me starting the beginning of the conversation with Kevin about ‘I could do Doctor Strange with Guillermo.’”

The Neil Gaiman adaptation garners immense success
Neil Gaiman, known for The Sandman, Good Omens, and Coraline

Unfortunately, if we look at the timeline of Marvel Studios and their productions, it can be ascertained that back in 2007, they were on the cusp of beginning their commercial takeover. As a result, Gaiman and Del Toro’s project was denied. This is what the author had to say:

“Basically, they said ‘We just want to concentrate on the core characters right now. Doctor Strange is way up the line, we don’t want to go there.’”

Therefore, with their primary focus being characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers, presumably, a film revolving around the Master of the Mystic Arts would have been a disconnected entity of its own. It does beg a question — would the film have worked if it were an independent venture? Perhaps. 

A Doctor Strange Film Set In The 1920s

Doctor Strange Marvel Comics
Strange in the comics

Read also: Doctor Strange Reveals Marvel’s Most Powerful Superhero

While detailing the premise of the denied project, Neil Gaiman emphasized how he wanted the character of Stephen Strange in the 1920s. A fan of Steve Ditko, Gaiman has never been shy to express the admiration he holds for his works, and how the premise planned by Del Toro and Gaiman was influenced by the late artist. According to his statement, it would have been very Steve Ditko-esque, cause “that’s the best.”

The following is what the writer revealed about the plan he had in mind for his rendition of Strange:

“[We wanted to] have him become an alcoholic and a disbarred physician, all that sort of stuff, happen in the 1920s. So the idea is that he went through all of that and the training to become the world’s greatest magician maybe in the early ’30s, late ’20s, and he’s been living in Greenwich Village. For 90 years. Looking the same in his place, and nobody really notices.”

The idea, according to many fans, felt like an opportunity that was missed out on. The premise, completely separated from the MCU canon, would’ve been remarkable, if pulled off correctly.

The Fans Are A Little Upset

Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Upon the breaking of such a reveal, which is not inherently new — years ago, Neil Gaiman mentioned it briefly in a tweet — the fans have stated their discontentment. With the commercial and critical success of Netflix’s The Sandman and Del Toro’s exuberant works like The Shape Of Water, many are opinionated to believe that Marvel Studios missed out on a distinct, mystical version of storytelling, which would’ve best suited a character like Strange.

Following is how some of the fans reacted:

While we can only make a theoretical and imaginative deduction of what a 1920s Doctor Strange movie would’ve looked like, there’s no denying that the concept itself would’ve acted like a breath of fresh air — something that Marvel seems to be in dire need of at the moment. Who knows, with the endless possibilities of filmmaking, perhaps such a rendition of Strange will become a reality one day. That’d be certainly something to look forward to.

Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness is available for streaming on Disney+.

Source: Josh Horowitz

Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Always having had a deep fascination for content creation and pop-culture, Debdipta joined as a writer at FandomWire in 2022. Currently pursuing an undergraduate Mass Communication degree, Debdipta enjoys the intricacies of cinema and film-making, with a year of screenwriting experience to account for. Besides her knack for writing, she's also an avid reader, a connoisseur of music across all genres, and a die-hard fan of Charlie Kaufman.