Was Doctor Strange As “Trippy” As They Claim?

Was Doctor Strange As “Trippy” As They Claim?

The sun took its sweet time sinking into the horizon that summer day. July was coming to an end, but still the days seemed longer. Maybe they seemed that way because of my particular position on the globe at the time; the parabola of the Northeast region made it feel like the Earth was grabbing on to as much sunlight as it could, as if it was storing it up for the long, cold winters. Maybe they seemed that way because I might be looking back on my twenties with a fondness for my more rebellious and carefree days. The poetry in the long goodbye note of a late summer sunset is written in the color of black raspberry ice cream and pink lemonade. It’s close to dusk, and my toes grab wet sand as a guy we just met walks out into the waist deep surf to take a piss while holding on to a case of cheap beer. There was something surreal, beautiful and strangely silly about this scene, and we all pick up on it right away. My friends and I look at each other and grin like mad. Maybe they seemed that way because we knew that this moment would never come our way ever again.

Maybe they seemed that way because we realized that the blotter acid we just bought in the parking lot outside of a Jerry Garcia concert was the real deal as it dug its claws into our cerebellum. We knew we’d be up for a while.

The last rays of sunshine flickered into nothing. I meander back to the parking lot. I have lost track of my friends a while ago. I knew it was going to be an interesting night as I looked up to see the stars dance and warp as Rob Wasserman plucked the melody to The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” on one of his many upright bass solos. The details of the rest of the night were murky. There was no sleep involved that night, however I do remember taking a much needed shower in the morning. Afterwards, I dried off, collapsed on the couch, and did my best to relax. But it was difficult because the cat kept trying to force her head into my mouth.

What I’m trying to say is, in terms of a Jimi Hendrix litmus test, I am experienced.

I have seen horizons and landscapes that shouldn’t exist. I’ve felt immeasurable joy, paralyzing fear, and pants-shitting danger. I have been places. They’re nice to visit, but you wouldn’t want to raise a family there (stay in school, kids!). I lived and breathed “trippy” for a brief moment in time.  I know what “trippy” means.

It is nothing like what they’re trying to sell you with the new Doctor Strange movie.

Now, before you think I’m hating, let me explain…

Comic books, historically, have never been taken seriously. I know, try telling that to a serious collector, and he might throw his bowl of Kraft Dinner at me. But from Golden Age to the Silver (translated: from the early 1930s to the late 1960s) pulp comics in general, Marvel in particular, have always fought tooth and nail to keep and expand its fan base. Which, in and of itself, is challenging. If it wasn’t the period where pulp comics were considered the folly, and ultimately the downfall of America’s children, then it was the Comics Code Authority making life miserable for everyone. If it wasn’t them, then it was the long process of trying to get back the disaffected youth that they were trying to get to read to begin with. If it wasn’t that, then it was trying to stay ahead of the curve and avoid being out of touch, to be reminded that you need to constantly evolve. If it wasn’t that, then it would be the endless one-upmanship with their closest competitor.

DC had been the standard bearer for what the modern heroes would be; square-jawed, two dimensional dudes in flashy costumes, swooping in to thwart a burglary in progress while simultaneously saving the equally two dimensional, anatomically impossible female from danger, and trying not to look gay while doing it.


Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee where busy wrangling their own creative bullpen over at Marvel. Most of the time it was hit and miss.

By the early 60s, the perfect storm of censorship and uninspired story lines nearly brought an end to the brand.

That all changed when Stan introduced”The Fantastic Four”.

On the surface, just another superhero comic. But dig a little deeper, you found four individuals with different abilities who argue and spat just like an actual family would. Just like people who knew each other would. Just like people.

Flawed characters were the thing that would save Marvel during the dark times of the early 70s. But at this time, they were still fighting to keep their head above water. One of the many offshoots of Marvel was an anthology series that went by the moniker, Strange Tales. The pages were mostly about monsters and ghouls and gore and blood and guts and zombies and vampires. It was presented as an alternative to superhero drama, but it wasn’t completely devoid of familiar characters. Cloak and Dagger first appeared there. The previously mentioned Fantastic Four found their origins there. Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were first kicking Hydra’s ass in a few issues. And, a mystical character who was inspired by a radio era serial rounded out the entourage.

That character was called Doctor Strange.

Without giving too much away that you probably already know, Stephen Strange is a brain surgeon who travels to the Far East to be healed after his hands had become damaged in a car accident.  You know the rest.

The movie is a total blast to watch. But that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is the advertising campaign billing this film as “psychedelic” or “trippy”.

There is a sequence in the film that may constitute a decent head trip, but that’s not the point. The point is that this character was made before the Psychedelic Era, although it has been noted that it might have had a hand at predicting it. Steve Ditko’s motivation when drawing for the Sorcerer Supreme wasn’t to recall the night when he baked magic mushrooms on his pizza. It was more about how would somebody draw something mystical; an idea that hasn’t been explored very much. Especially in comics. If someone came up to you and said, “Draw black magic”, how would you do that? Steve employed purples and reds, darker colors and free form shapes. He employed the use of Abstract Art, something else that hasn’t been tried before in comics. To bill this film as “trippy” does a great disservice to the essence of what was originally achieved.

Shorter: The film is nowhere near as hallucinogenic is one might think. It is abstract. Or more to the point, it is abstract as much as a mainstream movie could be. It is a family friendly Disney property, after all. Trippy is “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Jacob’s Ladder” or “The Science of Sleep”. Any of these films do a much better job at portraying an interpretation of hallucinating. The effects of the movie seem to lean more towards playing with geometric shapes than anything else; brick patterns, mosaic tiles, window panes. Anything that has a unifying structure is manipulated in such a way that no longer follows an actual design. If it were trippy, the bricks would come alive and shape-shift into something else before changing back into its original form. This is was just fun with shapes. To be honest, it was fun, really fun to look at, but it’s hardly mind-bending.

Other than that, the only real complaint I have about this movie is that it moves almost too fast. I suppose that might be a good thing. Calling attention to every single dollar that you throw into a scene is considered gauche, and the MCU have been quite adept at not doing that. But still, enjoying a moment for a second or two longer wouldn’t damage the narrative. I took a YouTube refresher course on the backstory of the good doctor. It turns out that it wasn’t completely necessary, although it wouldn’t kill ya to do your research.

Personal gripes aside, the movie is a blast. It is so much fun packed into an hour and fifty-five minutes (it could have run longer, and it would have been fine). This movie is a perfect example of a comic book adaptation done right. It is a perfectly stitched together collage of right choices. The writing was snappy and alive. The casting choices were perfect (let’s leave the whole “whitewashing” controversy alone for another time, shall we?) And the soundtrack. The effing SOUNDTRACK! A perfect homage to the time from whence this came from; a full orchestra combined with harpsichord, sitar and a fuzzy guitar shoved through a Tube Screamer (go ask a guitarist) was just delicious to listen to. Still, the theme, if there was one, was as forgettable as the other Marvel franchises. It’s been a complaint amongst music and movie nerds. But at least this time, they put a little more effort into it.

Go see this movie.
Go see this movie with an open mind, and if you can afford it and have the ways and means, see this in an IMAX theater.

Bottom line, Doctor Strange is not “trippy”

…It’s…strange…in a good way.


Too Much Noise (Warning: May Contain Top 5 List)

For the past two hours, I’ve been trying to conjure up a story about leaving home unprepared. Some sort of analogy that I like to lead off with when I go into observational mode in my blog. Nothing was working. Nothing fit and I was getting further away from what I originally wanted to write about.

It’s been well over a month since I had a 9 to 5. Since that time, things have been thrown into a sharper focus as far as not only what I want to do for a job, but what do I want to do with my life. I started out as a Creative; an actor, performer, a singer in a rock band. When that wasn’t paying the bills anymore, I moved on to something that did. And when that wasn’t doing it anymore, something else. And so on and so on and compromise and sell myself short and lose sight of what I did until I finally ended up here; a stone’s throw from 50, no richer than when I left school and a strong realization that I should have never stopped creating to begin with. The urge to blog, to write, to publish, to go back to being creative is now far greater than the urge to take that job that will probably be a poor career choice not only because this job you wanted me for had nothing to do with the last one I had, but because it was the first one that came along and I’d probably last a month anyway because you can’t see it in your heart to pay me enough to put gas in my tank in order to get to the job but that’s okay because the interview was going to be a waste of both of our times anyway because just like everything else in this town, I have no experience in what you need so it would probably be better if you hired a high-schooler or a retiree to fill your position rather than someone who you’d think would jump at the first thing that came to him even though it would be more of a liability RUNONSENTENCE!!! *GAAAASSSP*…..

What I’m trying to say is that because I’m not getting any younger and my skills don’t match what employers are looking for, I want to go freelance. I want to work for myself. I think that now is the time. Everyday I’m jumping onto forums and networking and communicating with like minded people and despite not starting off with a decent analogy, this is where I’d like to start…

Branding. I suppose it would be helpful if I knew how to brand myself, what to brand myself with and where to go to do that. But trying to navigate that is like trying to find a seat in a high school cafeteria when you’re new in town. It’s that feeling where you feel you have to be something, as if you somehow magically weren’t anything before. There’s a sense that you have to hurry up and decide which club you want to be active in, which clique looks better on you, who’s colors you want to carry.

I come from a different school. My Alma Mater is the one that observes, shares and engages. From the looks of things, it would appear that my education has not prepared me again for the real world. From what I gather, in order to make it as a freelance blogger, or anywhere for that matter, you have to hit people over the head to get them to buy something.

Presenting: The Top 5 Types of Bloggers!!1!
That’s right, a Top 5 List; the National Currency of Blogging! ‟Goodness Gracious,” your thinking to yourself. ‟When’s he gonna get to a list or something? I have a life to get to! I can’t wait around here and listen to this jibber-jabber and not be given a list to read! What is this world coming to?” Here’s my list of the top 5 bloggers on the internet. Yeah, I know its better if I lead off with a list so people won’t tune out halfway down your post, but you made it this far, and I’m going the long way around to make a point again. I would also like to point out that this list based solely on observances and not actual research, y’know, like most of the lists online…
Fabulous, Dahling…

   5. Fashion Blogger: This one has a pretty wide net. There are a handful of reviewers, but this one is primarily the domain of the person who creates. Fashion blogs are owned and maintained by craftspeople selling their own creations. From jewelry to t-shirts, haute couture to up-cycled blue jeans, from posts on Etsy to updating their own website, these people are content providers in more ways than one. They are their own business, entrepreneurial, and have a keen sense of what it takes to make a name and survive.

Uh-Oh, I think we lost him…

     4. Reviewer: Food, films, books, entertainment…too many choices these days and where would I be if I didn’t purchase something based on someone else’s scrutiny? Reviewers…are…somethingsomethingsomething…blippty bloppty bloop…phhththhththttthhhh sorry, I kind of
lost interest in the whole scheme of this thing halfway through #5. Yes, lists are handy. But sometimes, it’s almost as if some authors put their blog on autopilot when they list things; especially the Reviewer. These guys tend to regurgitate the same material over and over again, because it’s cheap, easy, you don’t have to put much effort into it and search engines will love them for it. Think I’m being too harsh? Ever StumbleUpon a FilmSchoolReject blog one too many times? I rest my case.

Don’t leave me hangin’, dude. You’re coming back soon, right?

    3. Cooking: Yes, I’m continuing this theme even though I abandoned it. Because…y’know…lists! By god…we shall have lists! My frustration started last week when I wanted to monetize my blog just a little bit more. I am anything, if not ambitious and so I started research on how to take full advantage of Adsense. Months ago, I formatted my blog the way they suggested to take full advantage of ad placement. That part has been taken care of. Now, I started looking for ways to monetize further (because, making a whopping ¢.09 in a month just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore). Adsense now has a function where bloggers can actively solicit businesses directly for use of your ad space. You can go to a company, hopefully a company that is related to what you blog about, and say, “Hey, I can put your product on my page for x amount of time for x amount of dollars, what do you say?” And if all goes well? TAH-DAH! Instant revenue stream! Which is awesome, except for the fact that this blog, MY blog, lacks a theme and direction. I’m a nuanced Slacker, I’m not selling the latest and greatest iPhone app. Nor am I making one. I observe and share; it’s mostly things that bounce around in my head too much and I need to let them out, see them for what they really are and deal with them accordingly. I don’t think there is a thriving market for catharsis. Perhaps if I went in an other direction…?

Dude! What the hell is wrong with you? Seriously!

     2. Business/Technical: I used to be a devout follower of Odd Todd. Not only was he laugh out loud hilarious, but the back story of how he came to be and prosper is the genesis to why my attitude is the way it is: Things not going your way? Try something new, take a risk and who knows, you may end up surprising yourself. In the early days of his website, his sponsors would include start-up companies who shared his philosophy; mom-and-pop websites selling their inventions complete with glowing endorsements from the Odd one himself. I always thought that was brilliant. In my quest to further monetize my blog, I thought maybe I could do the same thing. I could go to websites of start-up companies and get them to advertise on my blog. But then it all came back to that whole… no focus/no mon-ay thing. So then I started looking into trying to wrangle my blog into something cohesive, something that has a point. Maybe I should blog about something that I have no concept of, like computer hardware or haute couture. Something to grab the attention of all the major search engines. Maybe something practical like: 10 Easy Steps to Removing Ketchup Stains from a Dashboard of ’67 Karmann Ghia. Maybe I should abandon who I am and just blog to make money. Right? This is the noise that I’ve been running into for weeks. The only way that you are going to be a successful blogger is if you become one of those…

aaaand we’re back…

   1. Bloggers Who Like To Make Lists: Actually, there are two different camps on this. One saying that lists are the way to go, the other saying that they are complete waste of time. Too much noise. I like to write. I like to write a lot. As of right now, I am for sale if anyone needs articles written or something. Research isn’t an issue, I actually like doing it. Perhaps one day when I grow up, I’ll be writing about SEO and UGC and sound really professional as I fake my way through it.

Apologies for my candor. Too many things that happened this morning that I allowed to get under my skin and I haven’t stopped writing since. Fortunately, I gleaned some inspiration from it and I’ll be acting on it soon. 

Please feel free to share your experiences and advice. All feedback is appreciated.

…back soon…

Photo Credits:

Volume Button
Fashion Victim
Hipster Critic
Perfect Couple Grazing
Board Room Meeting
Top Ten