#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler
The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997. He wrote Marvel Novel #6 And Call my Killer … Modok.
Cover by Bob Larkin, released June 1, 1979; the book is 188 pages long, although the story begins at page 9. Illustrations of Dr. Strange begin each chapter, as was done with #1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan and #2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars; but as with the two prior books, there is no credit as to who drew them. It may be easy to guess, but I would rather not!
The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.” Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans
For the first time, the paperback contains four pages of ads for other Pocket Books – including a selection of occult books, their Space 1999 series and books by science fiction authors John Jakes, Larry Pournelle, Theodore Sturgeon, AE Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Kate Wilhelm and Jack Williamson.
Gratmens: who knows? As silly as Strange’s incantations are, each name could be a hidden friend or comic book professional. The king of the Hittites or the ancient god-mage of the Nubians could have been an anagram for anyone. Page 81’s Alantripi, an Atlantean Sage seems an obvious gratmen – but a quick internet search reveals nothing…
Some of his common phrases are here: the Hoary Hosts of Hoggarth, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, the Vapors of Valtorr, and the Yawning Yowls of Jagermeister. Well, I made up that last one. I once joked about Dr. Strange’s Amulet of Amaretto and have never forgotten it. It’s a fun game! Try it! Make one up of your own!
This is my favorite book of the series. I love them all, really. Not a stinker in the bunch. Granted these are not the collected works of Hemingway, but they are all fun superhero fare.
Maybe that’s why I like this one so much; like its protagonist, it is not necessarily a superhero story: it is mystical and magical! There are references to the Necronomicon and the Dreamlands.
The story itself is very Lovecraftian: At least three people in the world are having disturbing nightmares. One is a televangelist, the other an up-and-coming boxer and the third (that the readers know of) is a hitman/assassin. The evangelist’s wife is concerned: the minister is on the brink of “stardom” and he has not been the same since the nightmares started.
Dr. Strange senses something is indeed wrong and injects himself into the minister’s dreams. There he runs into his old adversary Nightmare, who is planning his most nefarious plan yet to conquer the waking world!
Oddly, I was never a huge fan of Dr. Strange’s comic book. I read them and liked them, but they were always read AFTER more standard superhero books. I did not much like magic and mysticism in comics … still don’t: it was never a good fit. In other books, most notably the Defenders, Dr. Strange was limited to blasting the bad guys with energy bolts from his hands – far removed from the incantations in this novel.
Just as odd: superheroes in prose was, to me, nothing more than light reading. Fun, sure! But as I said; this isn’t exactly Hemingway.
It makes sense that I would enjoy a novel about a supernatural character rather than a super-heroic one.
It is also the easiest book to re-do without the Marvel characters. This could have easily been re-written with a descendent of Randolph Carter or a new creation. Can you imagine the massive rewrite that And Call my Killer … Modok would have to go through to wipe out Marvel’s presence?
Rotsler did a fine job here. Only a tiny fraction of the cringe-worthy dialogue from his prior Iron Man book (“Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”) is present in Nightmare.
Dr. Strange’s multi-chapter hunt for Clea in the many-doored dreamscape is inspiring.
I read this just before the Dr. Strange movie came out. I couldn’t WAIT and was not disappointed! You won’t be either.
Original Material Copyright 2017 Michael Curry
Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.
I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.