Quick Answer: The character of Doctor Strange has been around in the Marvel comics universe since 1963, created by Steve Ditko and first appearing in "Strange Tales #110." Despite that longevity, many non-comic readers haven't heard of him. The Marvel website describes his character as such: "Doctor Strange is one of the most powerful sorcerers in existence. Like most sorcerers, he draws his power from three primary sources: the invocation of powerful mystic entities or objects, the manipulation of the universe's ambient magical energy, and his own psychic resources." 

With a name like Stephen Strange, he was destined for odd things.

The character of Doctor Strange has been around in the Marvel comics universe since 1963, created by Steve Ditko and first appearing in "Strange Tales #110." Despite that longevity, many non-comic readers haven't heard of him, as the character has received precious little screen time in the way of film and television adaptation throughout the decades. The anticipation for Marvel's 2016 film Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role has caused many people to ask the simple question -- who is Doctor Strange?


Doctor Strange in the 1960s

Stephen Vincent Strange was born on November 18, 1930, the eldest of three children born to Eugene and Beverly Strange. When he was eleven, he provided aid when his sister Donna was injured, discovering he had a knack and appreciation for the medical field. Donna later drowned and Strange was unable to save her -- an experience that ruined his belief in the value of life -- but he nonetheless finished medical school early and became a renowned neurosurgeon. His renown, wealth, and arrogance grew quickly as he rapidly became one of the top talents in his field. He became incredibly self-absorbed and detached from others, including his family, eventually estranging himself from communication with them, even failing to visit his dying father on his deathbed. Stephen's younger brother Victor was furious about this and, after berating Stephen, was killed when he ran into traffic. Stephen cryogenically stored Victor's body and attempted to reanimate him, instead turning him into a vampire. 

Eventually, Stephen was in a car accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. This destroyed his ability to perform surgery and, arrogant as he was, he refused to settle for being an assistant or consultant. He scoured the world for a cure and, to no avail, discovered a Tibetan mystic known as The Ancient One. Strange revealed The Ancient One's fortress and sought help. Initially, The Ancient One refused to help, but was soon attacked by Baron Mordo, The Ancient One's chief disciple, in an attempt to destroy the mystic and gain power. The whole experience changed Strange, who abandoned his quest to heal his hands and instead proved himself to The Ancient One, becoming a disciple and learning all about sorcery and otherworldly dimensions, putting himself on the path to become the new Sorcerer Supreme, Earth's master of magic.


Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange

Strange becomes a practitioner of both the mystical arts and martial arts. He learns many spells and also possesses a costume with two mystical objects: the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto, which give him additional powers. The Eye of Agamotto is passed down between Sorcerer Supremes and is ultra powerful, with abilities like shooting beams, seeing through illusions, and reading minds. For the film version, Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige said that the Eye can manipulate probability and time itself. Strange takes up residence in a mansion called the Sanctum Sanctorum, located in New York City. Ultimately he takes the title of Sorcerer Supreme. Few other characters in the Marvel universe draw their powers fom sources like Strange.


Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

The Marvel website describes his character as such: "Doctor Strange is one of the most powerful sorcerers in existence. Like most sorcerers, he draws his power from three primary sources: the invocation of powerful mystic entities or objects, the manipulation of the universe's ambient magical energy, and his own psychic resources. Strange's magical repertoire includes energy projection and manipulation, matter transformation, animation of inanimate objects, teleportation, illusion-casting, mesmerism, thought projection, astral projection, dimensional travel, time travel and mental possession, to name a few. The full range of his abilities is unknown. Doctor Strange's powers are sometimes less effective against strictly science-based opponents, although he can overcome this limitation with effort. Doctor Strange is a skilled athlete and martial artist with substantial medical and magical knowledge. Though an expert surgeon, Strange's nerve-damaged hands prevent him from performing surgery except when supplemented by magic."

Doctor Strange is also Benedict Cumberbatch with an American accent, so if you weren't already on board with the film, there's always that to look forward to.