Doctor Strange debuted in 1969, but three months earlier, Marvel Comics introduced a supervillain – with the same name.
The first Doctor Strange was actually a villain. Stephen Strange, the future Magical Supreme, was created in 1969 by the legendary Jack Kirby. Ironically, there is some evidence that Stan Lee was not particularly impressed with the character, as he was not sure if this kind of witchcraft would work in the MCU.
Kirby initially made a five-page short story, which he intended to publish behind the compilation series Strange Tales. Although Lee acknowledged this, he was not impressed by the character’s name; Kirby initially called his hero “Mr. Strange,” but Lee felt that it was somewhat similar to the “Mr. Fantastic” of the Fantastic Four.
As Lee noted in his letter to fan academic Jerry Balls, he states that the name “Doctor Strange” has been used before, and he hopes it doesn’t get too confusing. He was referring to the mad scientist Doctor Carlo Strange, introduced in Tales of Suspense #41 – just three months before Stephen Strange‘s debut.
Carlo Strange considered himself a “Master of Evil,” struck by lightning as he stood against US soldiers trying to arrest him. He knew he would be placed in a military prison near the test center and believed that Iron Man would inevitably come closer. He was right – and took control of Iron Man, arresting the armored Avenger. Strange then tried to conquer the world but was betrayed by his daughter before he could succeed.
Lee should not have worried as Carlo Strange may have been quite arrogant, but he was also quite a traditional steward and was clearly unrecognizable as a character. In contrast, Doctor Strange was more interesting and captured the reader’s imaginations. Marvel has forgotten Carlo Strange, and he has never appeared, only remembered by the writers of the occasional manual.