Strange Ways, Here We Come: Marvel’s Dr Strange and his psychedelic secrets

Strange Ways, Here We Come: Marvel’s Dr Strange and his psychedelic secrets
From LSD to Ayn Rand to Satanism, the roots of Marvel’s latest superstar are a tangle of the American unconscious. John Naughton elevates to the astral plane to investigate. 

“Open Your Mind,” advises the trailer to the forthcoming movie of Doctor Strange. “Change Your Reality”, it adds, as cityscapes fold in on one another Inception-style and the titular Marvel comic-book hero – made flesh in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch – opens the doors of perception and inspects his new, deceptively spacious surroundings.

Though he’s had to bide his time patiently to take his place on the big screen in the new Marvel Comics Universe, behind the likes of Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and the rest, Doctor Strange arrives on the big screen this month and expectations are, well, high.

Because from his very earliest appearances in July 1963 in the pages of Strange Tales #110, Doctor Strange, with his cosmic wanderings across astral planes, protecting Earth from dark forces often only with his mind, has been intimately linked to LSD and the counterculture.

Since that time, he has been reimagined successfully by writers such as Roger Stern and most recently, Brian K. Vaughan in the excellent one-shot, The Oath. But most comic book aficionados would agree that there have been two iterations of the Sorcerer Supreme that stand out above the rest. The first was the original run, drawn by his creator, the enigmatic, reclusive, comic book genius, Steve Ditko and the second was during an intense period of creativity at Marvel in the early 70s when writer Steve Englehart and artist Frank Brunner took over his story. Continue reading “Strange Ways, Here We Come: Marvel’s Dr Strange and his psychedelic secrets”

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Up Pompeii! David Gilmour meets Pink Floyd fan Mary Beard

Up Pompeii! David Gilmour meets Pink Floyd fan Mary Beard
ARENA SPECIAL: Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour meets classicist and secret Floyd-head Mary Beard in the ruins of Pompeii. LAURA BARTON sees a funny thing happen on the way to the amphitheatre… Pictures: Sarah Lee

“I probably first saw the Pompeiian amphitheatre with Floyd in it,” says Mary Beard. “And I only visited it later. Because back in the day I was quite a Pink Floyd fan.” We are standing in the middle of Pompeii in the blazing sun of a July afternoon, and Beard, famed Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, author of numerous books on ancient Rome, and celebrated host of BBC Two’s Meet The Romans, is granting David Gilmour and his wife, the author Polly Samson, a guided tour of the ruins. Beard is resplendent in snakeskin trainers; Gilmour is in black t-shirt and jeans, a faint sheen blooming across his forehead. “This,” says Beard, brightly, “was the Saffron Walden of the ancient world.”

Over their shoulders, at the far side of the arena, stands a very modern stage, across which black-clad roadies beetle about in the heat trailing cables, testing lights, snares, amplifiers. This evening Gilmour will play here in the amphitheatre as part of a two-night residency. These two shows carry considerable sentimental weight for Gilmour and his fans. In 1971, Pink Floyd famously played here, but with an audience not permitted inside the ancient ruins they performed to an empty arena, the concert filmed and released as the 1972 documentary Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii. Continue reading “Up Pompeii! David Gilmour meets Pink Floyd fan Mary Beard”