Warning: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange.
The Doctor Strange movie is nearly here, and it’s worth noting that the Sorcerer Supreme has some truly otherworldly foes. We’re talking Null Living Darkness and Shuma-Gorath level otherworldly here…cosmic evils that are as deadly as they are surreally alien.
But there has always been a constant presence in the life of Stephen Strange, and that’s Mordo…or Baron Mordo as he’s known in the comics. Mordo is in the Doctor Strange movie played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Again, we have to warn you, this article contains spoilers!
The First Appearance
Strange Tales #111 (1963) by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were still cutting their teeth on the early Doctor Strange adventures in the pages of Strange Tales when the creative duo introduced Strange’s dark half, our douchebag wizard of the hour, Baron Mordo. Mordo was introduced as a disciple of the Ancient One, and he was portrayed as a shadowy figure that stood in stark contrast to Stephen Strange’s more regal and upright form. It must have been a rather rude awakening for Strange, a man seeking a mystic cure for a crippling hand injury, as he was thrust into this Faustian drama involving a fallen student and his threatened master.
During the Baron’s introductory story, Mordo poisoned the Ancient One’s food because Mordo’s a dick and cast a spell that prevented Strange from revealing his treachery. Turns out, the Ancient One knew what Mordo was up to all along and used the treachery to test Strange. In a dramatic burst of heroism, Strange agreed to be the Ancient One’s disciple and defeated Mordo, that skulking jerk. So basically, Mordo became an outcast from Magic City as the Ancient One and Strange began this Yoda/Luke relationship with Mordo on the outside looking in like a kid with a broken femur on the first day of summer vacation.
Mordo may have been a dick but he was a powerful dick. He essentially had the same powers as Doctor Strange but also was willing to pay the price for wielding black magic and summoning demons. There were no limits to Mordo’s depravity as he sought out and consorted with netherworldly evils that would even shrivel H.P. Lovecraft’s testicles.
After this origin tale, Mordo returned many, many times to bedevil Strange and his allies. It wasn’t his lack of power that caused Mordo so many defeats, but his inflated ego and infinite hubris that would allow the always wary and empathic Doctor Strange to best his most constant antagonist.
The Origins of Mordo
Doctor Strange #50 (1981) and a few other notable places By Roger Stern and Marshall Rogers
So the Ancient One’s first mistake was to allow a man with the title of Baron in his name to become his disciple. I mean this is the Marvel Universe, are there any good barons?
Zemo? Nope. Blood? Nope. Von Srucker? Nope. Von Raschke? He’s a wrestler, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention, but nope.
Anyway, Baron usually equals evil at Marvel. Also, Baron Mordo has a rather dark family history, and maybe the Ancient One should have done a background check before granting Mordo his magical internship.
Mordo’s family has their roots in Transylvania (that probably should have been another clue of where this all was eventually going to go). Mordo’s father was an angry boyar who was embittered after his country was conquered during World War I. After the Austrian-Hungary Empire fell, the senior Mordo wanted to rebuild his Carpathian kingdom using dark mystic means. Daddy Mordo was tutored in the dark arts by Miarka, Witch-Queen of the Gypsies because awesome. He passed this knowledge down to his son Karl Amadeus Mordo who inherited all rights and titles when his father passed. This new Baron Mordo (our Mordo) swore he would see his father’s dreams become a reality and continued to study black magic under the watchful eye of his tutor. Viscount Krowler.
Now, and this is where the Ancient One really fumbled a perfect spiral pass on the five yard line, Krowler was the tutor of a young Austrian who also had political ambitions. Yes, Krowler’s other student was none other than Adolf Hitler. That should probably have sent up more than one red flag in the Ancient One’s mystic senses, after all, it seems like Hitler was Ron Weasley to Mordo’s Harry Potter, but the Ancient One still let Mordo into his mystic Tibetan retreat in order to teach him the proper way to use magic.
As we said, when Stephen Strange showed up, Mordo got all Iago jealous and plotted to kill master and disciple. So yeah, if this took place in the modern day, Hitler and Mordo would have been Facebook friends so not the Ancient One’s best choice here.
Strange Tales #130-132, 134, 135-136, 139, 141 (1965-1966)
Mordo, being power hungry and an all around short sighted sack of crap, made a deal with the Dread Dormammu that gave the dark wizard tremendous power. This was a multi-part Lee and Ditko story arc in Strange Tales and it was freakin’ epic. The whole thing culminated in the Dark Dimension where Strange was vastly overpowered his demonically enhanced foe. Mordo cowardly struck Strange from behind which enraged Dormammu’s odd sense of demonic honor. Dormammu stripped his disciple of all his powers and banished him to the Demonic Dimension.
Listen, when the despotic, evil ruler of a place called the Dark Dimension thinks that you’re a dick, then you are most certainly a dick. It may not have ended well for Mordo, but his time as Dormammu’s agent established Mordo as not only Doctor Strange’s greatest foe, but one of the most potent villains in all of the Marvel Universe.
That time Baron Mordo saw an ancient god create the universe and went insane…
Marvel Premiere #13-14 (1974) By Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
You can’t keep a good evil sorcerer down, so after Mordo was exiled by Dormammu, the green clad evil wizard returned many times to bedevil Doctor Strange and other heroes of the Marvel Universe. But this particular time was memorable.
Strange and Mordo were battling through the time stream as people do when they encountered a sorcerer from the 40th century also traveling through Earth’s history. This wizard, Sise-Neg by name, gained a tremendous amount of power and wanted to travel back to the beginning of time and recreate history in his own image. Strange was desperate to stop Sise-Neg and tried to recruit Mordo’s help. Mordo categorically refused because he’s a cranky pants.
Strange pursued Neg through history with Mordo as a witness. The duo encounter Sir Lancelot in Camelot and saved his life from a dragon, they traveled back to Sodom and Gomorrah and witnessed Sise-Neg’s biblical destruction of those ancient cities and finally, they arrived at the moment of reality’s creation where Sise-Neg had a change in heart and created the universe in the way it was supposed to be created.
So essentially, Sise-Neg is God and Strange and Mordo witnessed God create everything. The sight made Mordo insane so Strange took his drooling foe back to the present where he cared for him. Doctor Strange is a very nice guy. Most people would have left their arch foe back in the primordial past pooping himself.
He Sold His Soul for Rock n’ Roll
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #5-8 (1989) By Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, and Jackson Guice
Well not for rock n’ roll. Mordo really sold his soul just to kill Doctor Strange. The wacky Mordo sold his tainted soul to not one but two omnipotent demonic entities.
He already made a pact with Dormammu which totally backfired but that didn’t stop Mordo from selling his soul to both Mephisto and Satannish. Now, these two devils are some serious heavy hitters in the Marvel Universe demon set, so selling your soul to both of them is some beyond John Dee shit.
Mordo knew that when both of these proud devils came to Earth to collect, Earth would be torn apart. Mordo also knew that Doctor Strange would have to step in and exile these two entities and that he would be profoundly weakened by the strain of exiling two creatures as powerful as Mephisto and Satannish. When Strange succeeded in ridding the Earth of the devils, Mordo struck.
Indeed, Strange did not have the strength to mystically battle Mordo, so instead, our hero punched Mordo in the jaw, knocking his foe out and ending his Faustian plotting.
Hulk #10 (2009) By Jeff Loeb and Ed McGuiness
Baron Mordo’s most recent bit of deviltry happened in the pages of Hulk where he teamed with three other villains to take on the original Defenders. Just like Mordo is the antithesis of Strange, the Offenders (oh, that name…yuck) were the antithesis of the classic Defenders. Countering the Hulk was the freshly introduced at the time Red Hulk, countering the Silver Surfer was Terrax the Tamer, countering Sub-Mariner was Tiger Shark, and countering Doctor Strange was, of course, the not so good Baron.
The whole thing was profoundly convoluted and somehow ended with Mordo and Strange doing battle in Galactus’ ship, but it was a reminder that Mordo is still a dangerous entity in the Marvel Universe.