Monday, July 16, 2007

Face-To-Face With the Magic of Baron Mordo (Marvel comics)
Strange Tales #111 When: August 1963
Why: Stan Lee How: Steve Ditko

The story so far...
Somewhere in the mountainous regions of Tibet lives The Master, ancient master of the occult and mentor to Earth's Sorceror Supreme -- Dr. Strange! The final line of defense against all things mystic, occult and supernatural!

Though Dr. Strange's name inspires intrigue and fear, there is yet another name still that sends an even colder chill down any man's spine. He was once the Master's disciple, but he was seduced by the dark arts, and so he became the exile. The man who could have been the Sorceror Supreme, Baron Mordo.

Using his astral essence to travel undetected into The Master's lair, Mordo uses hypnotic suggestion to command his faithful servant to poison his food!
Unaware of Mordo's act of treachery, Strange sends his own astral form to visit the Master in lieu of new experiments, and finds him besieged. Can Strange overcome Mordo and save his mentor, or is Earth's eldest champion doomed?

Previous Form:
Dr. Strange (#95): Aided in defeats against The X-Men, Venom & The Hand.
Baron Mordo: Has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Dr. Strange 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 2 (Average)
Energy Powers: Draw 6 (Mass Destruction)

Okay, Baron Mordo, an evil sorceror, is a character with infinite potential.
You look at the tape there, and as per the infamous Haseloff SCIENCE, it's one of those 'evenly matched' hero vee villain scenarios that everyone loves.
He does comics magic in a superhero universe, so his bredth of capability, like Dr. Strange, is pretty broad, but... I really don't like Baron Mordo.

No, no... I mean, like, I rue the day I decided to feature as many of the core villains from Marvel Ultimate Alliance as I could -- JUST because Baron Mordo is on that list. He... I mean... Look, I'll admit, I'm one of those guys who likes Dr. Strange and wants Dr. Strange to stay in regular print, but I don't have a whole lot to choose from in the Dr. Strange longbox. So, my scope of reference is pretty narrow, but seriously, can't someone do something really wacky and fun with Baron Mordo?

Baron Mordo can take Dr. Strange, and Strange can take Mordo... I don't care!... We don't need to go into what kind of Casshernesque mouth restraints or Dragonmen these guys can conjure. It's not important. If you're dying for that, just look around and take note of the nineteenth object you see in the room, and then imagine it giant and weaponized and with huge teeth -- that's how either sorceror will win. It's fine.

But, seriously... The tale of the tape is all about how much Baron Mordo sucks.
He's like Strange's Dr. Doom, only he never wins, and has lost in a way as such that I instantly think of him as a fat-headed bumbling moron. Which is a shame, because like I said, he's got a ridiculous amount of potential.

After a night of sleep, I'm going to assume there's some grandious read out there I've missed. Something that makes Baron Mordo worthy of his position, and I invite anyone to drop a comment and tell me where to go (to find such a read), but in the mean time...

The Math: Dr. Strange (Meta Class)
The Pick: Dr. Strange (Because Baron Mordo hasn't been good since the sixties)

What went down...
Sensing The Master's perilous predicament through the energies of his amulet, Dr. Strange arrives via astral projection to confront Mordo.

Strange, having long expected Mordo's treachery, is all too pleased to step up, but it is Mordo who throws the first occult punch, toppling the astral presence of Strange.

Mordo continues his metaphysical dominance as the ghostly reflections of the two mystics slide effortlessly through the solid matter of the fortress' stone walls.

While the life slowly fades from The Master, Mordo and Strange debate the finer points of one's worth to maintain and control the dark mystic arts, whilst maintaining their spirited spirit-form fisticuffs.

Mordo declares his intent to destroy the Sorceror Supreme's spirit image, thus extinguishing his life for certain, whilst battling him through another wall.

The Master, even in his weakened state, continues to seek the betterment of his student, muttering something as Strange begins to gain the upper hand.

Strange hits Mordo with a stiff spirit-uppercut, before deducing from the sounds stirring from The Master that his direction was to the amulet Eye of Agamotto!
Sacrificing his own strength, Strange channels pure energy through the mystic charm, instilling The Master with renewed lifeforce.

Mordo recovers, and renews his assault, interrupting Strange's efforts to save his aging master. Weakened by his effort, Strange becomes the victim of Mordo's astral strength.

In one final expulsion of energy, Strange manages to maneuver himself into a somersaulting kick, hurling the Baron's astral projection away from him.

Still toting superiority, Mordo's confidence soon fades as Strange reveals a plan to use his amulet to locate the Baron's physical form to do away with him.

Intent on saving himself, Mordo abandons his pursuits and enters into a competitive retreat to defend his own body.

It is indeed the Baron who arrives first, returning to his mortal form before calling for Strange's surrender. Strange scoffs, revealing his gambit to bluff Mordo into returning to his body, thus lifting the hypnotic spell over The Master's loyal servant. Strange uses the power of his amulet to hold Mordo still, retreating to a fully restored Master, victorious!

The hammer...
As you would expect of a Sorceror Supreme, Dr. Strange emerges victorious from his first encounter with what will become a mortal nemesis across the ages.

So, you might have noticed that I'm posting well after Monday, even though I had officially caught up on posting duties. I have to admit, it took me a little while to get going on this one, even resigned to the fact that I was going to openly confess my distaste for Mordo as a villain.

Dohhh! Why I oughtta!I like some pretty corny villains. I can only assume my select few exposures to the character have been particularly unfortunate, but I think it is here, in his first appearance, that we can isolate some of the reasons Baron Mordo has been cast as a bumbling meathead.

As provisional as standards probably were in the sixties, you'd have to think it's more than contemporary irony or imagination that suggests this was a pretty tame outing for two of the world's foremost mystics.

Mordo's attempts to poison the greatest magical presence in the known world proves less than Shakespearean, likewise his squinted grimace as Strange makes a getaway having tricked him into buggering off is less than epic.

These are men who can conjure objects and manifestations inconceivable to mere mortals. They can defy time and bend logic in their conquests, and yet, these two settle their conflicts by chasing each other around the castle throneroom, while The Master sits slumped in his chair with a labored expression, and a migrane. One has to question if it was the effects of the potion-mick sapping his strength, or dismay at the sight of his two greatest pupils floating around the room like two school children.

Fisticuffs isn't what we know of a contemporary Dr. Strange, and that's a good thing, but I can't help but feel that Baron Mordo has never fully recovered from these seminal appearances. Though he goes on to challenge Dr. Strange in many fantastic and Ditko-driven ways, he is forever caught in the grips of goatee-stroking plots and 'next time Gadget' conclusions.

There's been a lot of 'if I wrote it' talk on Secret Earths lately, and until I muscle my way into any kind of printed credibility, it's a lot of fanboy hot-air. I probably shouldn't be succumbing to the temptation to bring the hammer down to my own concepts, but if I'm going to be so critical I feel I should at least put my money where my mouth is!

And with Mordo, the formula really only needs improved dressing.
The costume, ironically absent from his original appearance, needs to go, and be adapted into something far more subtle. Playing into this design might be an effort to better represent Mordo's inclination towards the dark arts, and an overall overhaul of his philosophy and outward appearance.

These are men who have mastered the fantastic, and I personally like the idea of following that throughline into their design. Their costumes should be basic, and not entirely unrealistic. I like the idea of trenchcoats instead of capes, and in the case of Mordo, perhaps an acceptable dark suit of some kind. I mean, he's a Baron, so it wouldn't hurt to look like it.

Then it's just a matter of giving him terms to develop motivations beyond the vengeful pursuit of Dr. Strange, and most importantly, throwing away the rule book. In this issue these guys are spirit-fighting, in most contemporary appearances characters like Strange and Mordo are conjuring hell beasties, and shooting colourful plasma from their hands.

Sure, that's going to be part of the arsenal, but these guys are Dragon Ball styled chi fighters. They're occultists and mystics! I like the idea of adding some constraints to the common use of their powers. Mythological artifacts and practical processes are always good for that sort of thing.

I even like the idea of putting constraints derived from traditional western magic tricks. Let's remember the fascination of transportation, transformation, levitation and various other stalwarts of traditional stage illusion and magic.

Heck, let's go nuts and build stronger emotional and personal ties between the two characters. I'm almost certain the history of Mordo/Strange has been explored, but these days nothing is sacred, so if they must be inevitably drawn together, let's put some pathos into it! Let's paint with grand and epic strokes!
Colours and chorus that make it something driven and superb!

And now as I delve into madness, let me close with this little sleight of hand:
Christian Bale as Dr. Strange; Hugh Jackman as Baron Mordo; David Bowie as The Master; Michael Caine as Strange's hospital boss! Eh? Eh?

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4
NEXT WEEK: Thor survived death, but can he survive -- THE DESTROYER?!

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