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Strange Tales 145
"To Catch A Magician!"


Eerily Edited By STAN LEE
Spookily Scripted By DENNIS O'NEIL
Demoniacally Drawn By STEVE DITKO
Laconically Lettered By ARTIE SIMEK
Repeatedly Reviewed By STEVE CHUNG

After a fierce battle in the twilight dimension, the weary master of the mystic arts has returned to his sanctum sanctorum to regain his strength, in the event of a faithful re-match with the Dread Dormammu! Doctor Strange will soon learn that he will find himself in battle with a mystical madman who wishes to rule the world! (Holy Druid, Batman! Didn't Nick Fury deal with this guy in the previous story?) On the splash page, the astral form of Dr. Strange is caught in the mystical spells of Mr. Rasputin (who doesn't see Doc's cloak of levitation sneaking up behind him...)

It's night in the capital of a small European republic. A startled official is greeted by an incredible visitor... The prime minister had refused to hand over the state secrets Mr. Rasputin requested, and the mystic has his ghostly friend ask for them! The little illusion causes the official to faint, and the mystic is forced to take what he wants. The guard who aided Mr. Rasputin asks for the money promised for his cooperation, and the mystic makes a gesture... The guard finds himself immobile and is told that the spell will wear off in the morning. A day passes, and in a government office... Mr. Rasputin is reading a diary about two warring nations having agreed to exchange defense information -- which is very useful information, indeed! When a guard discovers him, Mr. Rasputin paralyzes him with a single gesture... He tells the guard that when he recovers, tell his superiors that Mr. Rasputin thanks them for the hospitality! The most guarded secrets are plundered, one after another, by the mystic known only as... Mr. Rasputin! It is unknown where or when he'll strike next! In March, a new visitor arrives in Greenwich Village --- He must find a place where he won't be disturbed! Later, he shall pay a visit to the United Nations! Soon, the rightful destiny denied his ancestor, the first Rasputin, will be his! After renting an abandoned loft, the magician tests his powers... His skill at casting the illusions of Ikonn have not disminished! If anything, they are increasing with continual use! With both magic and stole scientific knowledge at his disposal, none will dare refuse his demands! He will rule men as they should be ruled -- as they need to be ruled -- -- by total fear!

At his sanctum sanctorum, the master of the mystic arts finds his meditations interrupted... (Holy Jolie, Batman!) The crystal detects some evil magic nearby! He must find the origin, if he can! (Holy Quesada, Batman!) Donning his cloak of levitation, Dr. Strange glides quietly along the rooftops of the city... The sense of danger grows stronger! He wonders if perhaps Mordo could have returned from his other-dimensional imprisonment? The master of the mystic arts uses the eye of Agamotto to search the buildings below... In one loft, he sees someone performing the forbidden ritual of Ikonn! (Holy Kama-Sutra, Batman! This is a family book, Doc!) Landing near an open window, he watches the new arrival complete his evil incantation... Dr. Strange sees that this newcomer is well-versed in the back arts! He would learn the name of someone who would dare perform the forbidden rites! Mr. Rasputin has been expecting a house call from the master of the mystic arts, and gestures with his hands... Unlike those who have seen it before, Dr. Strange is unfazed by the illusion -- a shadow of a shadow! (Holy Welles, Batman!) Mr. Rasputin has some other surprises for the master of the mystic arts! Seeing his foe fending off his every attack, Mr. Rasputin knows that he can't win the battle fairly -- ! Dr. Strange knows that he could defeat the villain with ease, but he is still drained from his battle with Tazza!

Mr. Rasputin's strongest defenses are being shattered by the master of the mystic arts, and he can't keep him back for much longer! Dr. Strange is determined not to show any signs of weakness until he defeats his foe! Having no further counter-measures, Mr. Rasputin is forced to resort to the one thing which will defeat the master of the mystic arts! He bows to Dr. Strange's prowess, but Mr. Rasputin seeks another way to the path of victory... something which the master of the mystic arts would not expect! He produces a pistol, and Dr. Strange has no time to set up a defense... from the coward's weapon! KRAK! Mr. Rasputin does not claim to be a brave man -- merely a successful one! Now wounded, Dr. Strange manages to reach the window and retreats... carried away by his cloak of levitation... Mr. Rasputin had hoped to watch him die, but no matter -- his aim was true! The master of the mystic arts is close to losing consciousness -- but there's a hospital below... he must will his cloak to take him there! He cannot -- he must not die! Mr. Rasputin must be stopped!

Inside, a doctor and a nurse working the night shift see a man -- floating in the window!!? They see that he's hurt and the unconscious magician is taken to the emergency room... The nurse gives him a blood transfusion, while the doctor readies for surgery! Once the wound has been taken care of... Dr. Strange is in shock, but will recover, and the police have been notified! Hours pass -- with the police questioning, medical minstrations, and throbbing pain! Then... The police tell Dr. Strange that they searched the loft, but there was no sign of Rasputin! The master of the mystic arts knows that Rasputin is too clever to stay in one place for long! He could be anywhere in the city! The authorities are confident that the villain can't stay in hiding for long, but only Dr. Strange knows the true nature of the danger that Rasputin represents! Once the police and doctor have left, the master of the mystic arts wonders where Mr. Rasputin would hide! He would need a place where the police would never look... a place like -- the sanctum sanctorum!

Uncertain about this hunch, Dr. Strange assumes his astral form and heads for his Greenwich Village retreat! In the master of the mystic art's studio, Mr. Rasputin is talking to a hard-headed thug! He wants him to search the hospitals and eliminate Dr. Strange! If Rasputin pays his price, he'll do the little job! The hired thug tells him to have the money ready, and Mr. Rasputin promises him that he'll receive exactly what he deserves! With the master of the mystic arts gone, the villain will be able to achieve his namesake's goal of domination! Mr. Rasputin turns and begins to study the spells in the books, in order to gain more power! He doesn't see the astral form of Doctor Strange watching him studying the Vishanti and the omnipotent Oshtur! If the incantations are decoded by Rasputin, Dr. Strange will be doomed! (Holy Viagra, Batman!) Knowing that he can't battle the villain until he has some physical aid -- he sends the all-seeing eye of Agamotto to retrieve the cloak of levitation from his hospital room!

No sooner has the cloak left through the room window, that the nameless thug enters... He sees Dr. Strange resting in bed, and plans to kill him quickly! Knowing that Rasputin only wounded him, the thug plans to finish the amateur job with the thoroughness of a pro! If Rasputin had hired him in the first place, he would have used his silencer for a quiet job... just like he's going to do right now! As the thug fingers the trigger, the astral form of Dr. Strange is in the basement of his retreat, making his plans to attack Rasputin... The cloak cuts through the power lines -- and the advantage is now his, not his foe's! One floor up... the illusionist sees the lights go out... and someone approaching! In the dim gloom from the street below, Rasputin sees the silhouette of Dr. Strange! KRAK! KRAK! The bullets pass harmlessly through the empty cape, and Mr. Rasputin is startled to see that there is no one there! The master of the mystic arts commands his cloak to attack his off-guarded foe! The illusionist wonders if Dr. Strange is striking from the dead...

He now knows that the master of the mystic arts is here in his astral form! Rasputin uses one spell to incapacite the cloak... and another to make Dr. Strange visible! He gestures and tells the master of the mystic arts that he is about to travel into the nether dimension! (Holy Serling, Batman! Doc may visit the nether regions!) Once the astral form has arrived there, it cannot reunite with its host body -- and Mr. Rasputin will be free of him -- forever! Even as he is buffeted by the illusionist's power, Dr. Strange comes up with a plan... He knows that Rasputin's magic is divided between the cloak and himself! The illusionist has no defenses left -- if he can will the eye to hypnotize Mr. Rasputin, he may succeed! As the astral form continues to struggle, the illusionist fails to see the eye silently approach! It begins to glow... and Mr. Rasputin is caught in its unwavering focus! He is now confused and cannot concentrate... his very skull has become cold... numb! (Holy Jemas, Batman!) It is now Mr. Rasputin's turn to be caught in the grip of magic!

Even so, the illusionist continues to struggle against the eye, and as Dr. Strange begins to vanish into the nether dimension, he orders the cloak to attack! Mr. Rasputin is soon enshrouded within the cloak, and struggles to break free! The master of the mystic arts struggles to maintain contact with the earthly dimension, while the illusionist seeks one last bargain with his foe! He wishes to be freed and will share the glory with his captor! Mr. Rasputin's dreams of conquest end when he loses consciousness, and Dr. Strange is free from the spell... but he must return to his physical body... and has his cloak carry the illusionist along for the ride to the hospital!

In the room, the master of the mystic arts sees the thug about to shoot his physical body, but the would-be killer has been immobilized by the amulet! It reacted to the thug's murderous thoughts, and froze his mind in a mystical beam! When he is roused, the thug will be subject to Dr. Strange's mental commands! Now that both Rasputin and his henchman have been taken care of, the master of the mystic arts re-enters his physical body, but there's still one thing left to do... The amulet erases all memory of magic from Rasputin's mind before he is turned over to the authorities! A hypnotic spell will have both men confessing to past crimes! The nurse comes with Dr. Strange's medicine, begins to tell the two men that visiting hours are over, and sees that they are standing quite still! A police officer arrives and takes their confessions, with both men taken away, and the doctor recommending that his patient needs some sleep! The physcian tells Dr. Strange that there were no complications from the wound, and the hospital will release him in the morning! The master of the mystic arts finds that he likes being there, and needed a good rest anyway! And so it goes that the world slumbers for another night, unware of the danger it so narrowly escaped!

Dennis O'Neil is a writer who is best known for his work on Green Lantern and Batman, but the writer also made several house calls on the Dr. Strange feature.

Mr. Rasputin resembles a bald Baron Mordo in a purple outfit.

I first read the name of "Mr. Rasputin" in a Marvel Treasury Edition in the '70s. The reprinted adventure shows Dr. Strange leaving the hospital, his arm in a sling from the bullet wound from Mr. Rasputin.

Not having read this story before, I used my imagination to conjure up what Mr. Rasputin must have looked like. My then seven-year old brain came up with the image of a hunchback gorilla in a purple robe, armed with a gun. I got this idea from a Power Records Spider-Man album, where the web-headed hero took on an evil magician, Mope The Rope, and a monkey named Rasputin!

In the '80s, Mr. Rasputin and his son met Dr. Strange during the period where the master of the mystic arts was wearing an eye-patch in Strange Tales.

The thug resembles a cross between Frederick Foswell and the Sandman.

SAR member Tom Orzechowski once wrote of working the graveyard shift at a hospital, while SAR member Jen Contino was recently in the hospital as a patient. I doubt that both people have had quite the experience that Dr. Strange had in this issue.

For a professional who wants to make a quiet killing, the thug certainly mouths off a lot.

The master of the mystic arts uses his cloak to make Mr. Rasputin think he made a house call.

Dr. Strange would pull the "wrap the cloak around the crook" trick on Nightmare, while taking another astral trip into the Ancient One's mind in a later story (which was reprinted in that self-same Dr. Strange Marvel Treasury Edition).

This Review Is Dedicated To Hoy Murphy, Kevin Grady, and J.K. Carrier

Steve Chung
"To Review A Magician!"