The character's origin story relates that he was once a brilliant but egotistical surgeon. After a car accident severely damages his hands and hinders his ability to perform surgery, he searches the globe for a way to repair them and encounters the Ancient One. After becoming one of the old Sorcerer Supreme's students, he becomes a practitioner of both the mystical arts as well as martial arts. Along with knowing many powerful spells, he has a costume with two mystical objects—the Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto—which give him added powers. Strange is aided along the way by his friend and valet, Wong, and a large assortment of mystical objects. He takes up residence in a mansion called the Sanctum Sanctorum, located in New York City. Later, Strange takes the title of Sorcerer Supreme.
In 2008, Doctor Strange was ranked 83rd in Wizard's "200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time" list, and in 2012 was ranked 33rd in IGN's list of "The Top 50 Avengers". He was also ranked 38th on IGN's list of "Top 100 Comic Book Heroes". The character was first portrayed in live-action by Peter Hooten in the 1978 television film Dr. Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first appearing in the role in the 2016 film Doctor Strange.
Artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee have described the character as having been originally the idea of Ditko, who wrote in 2008, "On my own, I brought in to Lee a five-page, penciled story with a page/panel script of my idea of a new, different kind of character for variety in Marvel Comics. My character wound up being named Dr. Strange because he would appear in Strange Tales." In a 1963 letter to Jerry Bails, Lee called the character Ditko's idea, saying:
Well, we have a new character in the works for Strange Tales (just a 5-page filler named Dr. Strange) Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him-- 'twas Steve's idea and I figured we'd give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much. Little sidelight: Originally decided to call him Mr. Strange, but thought the "Mr." bit too similar to Mr. Fantastic -- now, however, I remember we had a villain called Dr. Strange just recently in one of our mags, hope it won't be too confusing!
Doctor Strange debuted in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963), a split book shared with the feature "The Human Torch". Doctor Strange appeared in issues #110–111 and #114 before the character's eight-page origin story in #115 (December 1963). Scripter Lee's take on the character was inspired by the Chandu the Magician radio program that aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System in the 1930s. He had Doctor Strange accompany spells with elaborate incantations, such as the "Eye of Agamotto", the "Wand of Watoomb", and "Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth"; though these often referenced established mythological figures, Lee has said he never had any idea what the incantations meant and used them simply because they sounded mystical and mysterious. Ditko showcased surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly vivid visuals that helped make the feature a favorite of college students at the time. Comics historian Mike Benton wrote:
The Dr. Strange stories of the 1960s constructed a cohesive cosmology that would have thrilled any self-respecting theosophist. College students, minds freshly opened by psychedelic experiences and Eastern mysticism, read Ditko and Lee's Dr. Strange stories with the belief of a recent Hare Krishna convert. Meaning was everywhere, and readers analyzed the Dr. Strange stories for their relationship to Egyptian myths, Sumerian gods, and Jungian archetypes.
"People who read Doctor Strange thought people at Marvel must be heads ," recalled then-associate editor and former Doctor Strange writer Roy Thomas in 1971, "because they had had similar experiences high on mushrooms. But I don't use hallucinogens, nor do I think any artists do."