The Ancient One In The Comics Is A Product Of Another Time
Doctor Strange is ready to conquer the box office as the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the movie is hardly going to accomplish that feat on account of the good doctor alone. The film has an absolutely stacked cast of characters, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, Benedict Wong as Wong, and of course, Tilda Swinton as a new version of the Ancient One. Her bald, Celtic, female incarnation of the classic character has gotten loads of press, leaving casual fans to wonder how the Ancient One in the comics is different.
The most obvious difference between the two is in their appearance. The character of the comics is both a different race and gender than Swinton. The original version of the Ancient One, who first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1963, is a Tibetan male with a long white beard who debuted in an era when racial stereotypes in American fiction were commonplace. The idea of Far East mysticism and exoticism would come across as outdated or even offensive if portrayed in a 2016 movie, which is why Marvel decided to take the character in another direction. But there is of course more to the Ancient One than his physical appearance, so here's what else you should know about him.
In the comics, the Ancient One is roughly 500 years old. He was born in Kamar-Taj, a village hidden within the Himalayas. As a young man, he learned the mystic arts from an older member of the village named Kaluu, who had stumbled across some secrets of performing magic. The two had different philosophies on how to use their newfound abilities, with Kaluu wishing to conquer the world and the man who would become the Ancient One desiring to spread peace. The Ancient One eventually taps into mystical forces to defeat Kaluu, and decides to devote his life to protecting the world from dark magic.
When the Ancient One first meets Stephen Strange, he holds the title of Sorcerer Supreme — the most powerful magician in the cosmos. He was the first sorcerer from Earth to ever hold this distinction, thanks to his mastery over the mystic arts. Most of the magical artifacts associated with Doctor Strange — the Eye of Agamotto, the Cloak of Levitation, the Book of the Vishanti — were first procured by the Ancient One. Most fans know that Doctor Strange is now the Sorcerer Supreme, but with the Ancient One having centuries of experience, how was he surpassed by his pupil after only a few years?
He wasn't, really. Strange became the Sorcerer Supreme after the Ancient One died. He sacrificed himself to prevent the demon Shuma-Gorath from entering Earth's realm, leaving his disciple to take on the title of Sorcerer Supreme. However, the Ancient One was so powerful that he continued to live on even after the death of his physical body, and still appears in astral form from time to time to help Doctor Strange.
The Ancient One in the comics is very different physically from the character of the film, but there is little variation in the two characters' morals, wisdom, and magical mastery; which are far more important aspects of the character's identity.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy