The Ancient One as re-envisioned in the Strange mini-series. Art by Brandon Peterson
|First appearance||Strange Tales #110 (July 1963)|
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Alter ego||Yan|
|Team affiliations||Ancient Ones|
|Notable aliases||The Master, The High Lama, The Mystic, The Spirit Leopard|
|This section requires expansion. (June 2015)|
Fictional character biography
The character who would eventually become the Ancient One was born in Kamar-Taj, Tibet, more than 500 years ago.[volume & issue needed] He spent his youth as a peaceful farmer, until his friend Kaluu discovered the power of magic.[volume & issue needed] When Kaluu shared this knowledge of the mystic arts with the Ancient One, the two disagreed on how they would use the powers. The Ancient One wished to turn their village into a utopia, while Kaluu desired power and conquest over nearby villages.
The Ancient One and Kaluu agreed to cast a spell, eliminating sickness, disease, and age from Kamar-Taj. Subsequently the villagers, under Kaluu's mind-control spell, crown him king of the village.[volume & issue needed] The Ancient One attempts to stop Kaluu, but the village of Kamar-Taj is wiped out as a result of their conflict.[volume & issue needed] As a result, Kaluu is banished to an alternate dimension and the Ancient One is stripped of his immortality. Nonetheless, the Ancient One ages far more slowly than any regular human.
Sometimes later, the Black Rider investigates a crime in Texas that eventually leads him to New York City's Chinatown.[volume & issue needed] While there, he receives help from a mysterious Chinese man,[volume & issue needed] who is later revealed to be a younger version of the Ancient One.[volume & issue needed]
Over the next few centuries, the Ancient One travels the Earth, battling demons and evil spirits, banishing many from Earth. He increases his own knowledge, gathering and guarding books that contain dangerous knowledge.[volume & issue needed] He encounters the being, Eternity, through his meditations and the latter gives him the Amulet of Agamotto, a powerful mystical artifact.[volume & issue needed] Then in Babylonia, the Ancient One defeats a griffin while guarding the Book of the Vishanti, a tome of mystical knowledge, that eventually ends up in his possession.[volume & issue needed]
The Ancient One finally settles in the Himalaya Mountains and builds a palace as his home, together with an order of monks that he forms for his own protection and support.[volume & issue needed] In a tournament organized by the sorcerer Aged Genghis, the Ancient One wins the title of Earth's Sorcerer Supreme[volume & issue needed] and subsequently takes on responsibility for a student, who later becomes Mister Jip. The student is then banished from the Ancient One's home when the student is discovered by his master to have been studying forbidden books of black magic to increase his own power.
In London, during the Great London Fire, the Ancient One battles Dormammu in one of their many conflicts, forcing him to retreat.[volume & issue needed] While the Ancient One successfully protects Earth, he never completely defeats Dormammu, meaning that Dormammu repeatedly returns.
Taking an apprentice
As he ages and weakens, the Ancient One seeks out another student and eventually approaches Anthony Ludgate Druid, a psychiatrist with mystical talents.[volume & issue needed] Posing as the High Lama, the Ancient One trains Druid to become Doctor Druid. Also, Baron Mordo, a Transylvanian nobleman, approaches the Ancient One to inquire about the possibility of becoming his student. The Ancient One sees the corruption within Mordo's heart, but holds hope that redemption would occur following the training process.[volume & issue needed]
The Ancient One accepts Mordo's request and begins teaching Mordo,[volume & issue needed] who seems to change at first, but grows jealous when the Ancient One proceeds to protect a boy named Stephen Strange — the Ancient One claims that Strange possesses incredible magical talents and holds the potential to become the new Sorcerer Supreme.[volume & issue needed] Mordo constructs a plot against Strange, sending demons and nightmares to plague the boy, but the Ancient One continues to protect Strange and erases the encounters from the boy's mind. However, the boy has nevertheless been affected by Mordo's actions and Strange eventually becomes a self-centered, highly successful neurosurgeon.[volume & issue needed] It is revealed that the Ancient One was aware of Mordo's actions, but decides to maintain a close relationship with Mordo with the intention of limiting any further damage due to an ability to monitor Mordo's actions.[volume & issue needed]
After a car crash, Strange seeks assistance from the Ancient One to cure the nerve damage in his hands. The Ancient One then accepts Strange as a student when Strange reveals a discovery to the Ancient One, whereby Mordo and Dormammu had become collaborators and that Mordo had perpetrated an attack against the Ancient One.[volume & issue needed] Mordo leaves the palace shortly afterwards and Stephen becomes the Ancient One's successor under the name Doctor Strange. The Ancient One often assists Strange, but when the extra-dimensional monster, Shuma-Gorath, tries to invade Earth through the Ancient One's mind while the latter is in the Crypts of Kaa-U, the Ancient One prompts Strange to destroy the portion of the Ancient One's mind in which the ego, or sense of self, exist within. While such action blocks the way for Shuma-Gorath, trapping him within the Ancient One's mind, the Ancient One's physical body is also destroyed. The Ancient One's corporeal existence is over, but his soul subsequently achieves transcendence, becoming one with the universe and Eternity. Strange then inherits the Ancient One's title as Sorcerer Supreme.
The Ancient One demonstrates his existence following the death of his physical body by manifesting himself as an avatar of Eternity, intervening in a struggle between Doctor Strange and Eternity. He also briefly regains his corporeal form when the Creators cause the universe to reject him,[volume & issue needed] during which time he lives as an alcohol-dependent derelict in the Bowery section of Manhattan, New York, United States (US). He resumed his oneness with the universe upon Doctor Strange's defeat of the Creators.
The Ancient One reappeared in the Dead Girl mini-series as an opponent of Dr. Strange. For increasingly evil acts in the afterlife, the Ancient One is demoted to Hell. While in Hell, the Ancient One becomes an ally of the Pitiful One and other banished characters seeking to regain life. In a climactic battle, Strange defeats his former teacher,[volume & issue needed] but, in the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z, select entries (including that of the Ancient One himself) state that the Ancient One on this occasion was likely to have been an impostor.[volume & issue needed]
During Hercules' journey to the underworld in the Dark Reign storyline, the Ancient One was seen in Erebus gambling for his resurrection. As explained to Hercules, the afterlife has become a shambles, due to various entities not paying attention.
During a demonic invasion of New York via the Eye of Agamotto, Iron Fist finds himself transferred into a white void when he comes in contact with the Eye, resulting in a face-to-face confrontation with a form that appears to be the Ancient One; the form claims that both he and a currently-unidentified associate are responsible for the demonic invasion due to his anger at Strange's recent "failures". However, a casual comment by Spider-Man prompts Strange, Doctor Voodoo, and Daimon Hellstrom to realize that they are actually dealing with Agamotto himself, as the Ancient One's demands for the Eye defy everything that was previously told to Strange about how the Eye is passed from one sorcerer to another.
After Doctor Strange defeats Daniel Drumm, using dark magic that does not control him, the Ancient One's spirit appears and speaks to Doctor Strange:
You taught yourself to vanquish a foe who used your friends as weapons against. And you did it without hurting any of them. You protected this realm even though it is no longer your duty. I know that you relinquished your role as Sorcerer Supreme because you thought you did not deserve it anymore. Yet you continued to act as hero to anyone and everyone. And you asked for nothing in return. And because of this, I bequeath you once again the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto. For you are the Sorcerer Supreme once more."
In J. Michael Straczynski's 2005 Strange series, Doctor Strange's origin was adapted. In this series, the Ancient One differs slightly from the established Ancient One, as he is an ancient magician, physically frail from old age, but spiritually and psychically powerful. He is depicted as an old, bald man with a long, flowing, white beard and moustache, usually shown sitting cross-legged and immersed in prayer or meditation, while dressed in nothing but a white robe. This version of the character retreated from human society more than a thousand years ago, preferring to live alone in the depths of a dark cavern, sustaining himself through prayer and meditation, having no need for food or drink.
In the Dr. Strange: Season One graphic novel, the Ancient One is presented as more sociable. He makes self-deprecating jokes and forms friendships with outsiders.
Powers and abilities
In his prime, the Ancient One was a master of the mystic arts, with a vast knowledge of magical lore. He possessed the ability to manipulate the forces of magic for a vast number of effects and was able to tap into extra-dimensional energy by invoking entities or objects of power, existing in dimensions tangential to those of the Earth, through the recitation of spells. The Ancient One was capable of astral projection, levitation, interdimensional teleportation, and a large number of other effects. However, in his extreme old age, the Ancient One was unable to perform any major feats of sorcery without placing great physical strain upon himself.
The Ancient One also possessed a variety of mystical objects, such as the Book of the Vishanti, the Orb, Amulet, and Eye of Agamotto, and devices gathered throughout his lifetime. After he unified with Eternity, the extent of the Ancient One's powers ceased to be known.
In other media
- The Ancient One features prominently as an unseen entity in the finale of the unsuccessful series pilot/TV-movie, Dr. Strange; the character is voiced by Michael Ansara.
- The Ancient One makes a non-speaking appearance in the Spider-Man episode, "Doctor Strange". He only appears in a flashback that details Doctor Strange's origin.
- The Ancient One appears in Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme, voiced by Michael Yama.
- Actress Tilda Swinton will play The Ancient One in the 2016 live action film Doctor Strange.
- The Ancient One is featured in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, voiced by James Sie. He is seen in a void within a blurry mirror in the Sanctum Sanctorum. He has special dialogue with Doctor Strange and Deadpool (with the latter mistaking the Ancient One for his "Grampy"). During this dialogue, Doctor Strange informs the Ancient One that the Masters of Evil have threatened the world and asks that the Ancient One watches over the superhero alliance and aids them in whatever way possible.
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- Fleming Jr., Mike (June 11, 2015). "Chiwetel Ejiofor’s ‘Doctor Strange’ Character Revealed: He’ll Play Baron Mordo". Deadline.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.