A classic Doctor Strange comic story has had a lasting impact on magic battle tropes, influencing everything from Dragon Ball to Harry Potter!
From Dragon Ball to Harry Potter and many franchises in between, a classic Doctor Strange story–and the unforgettable magical duel contained within–has had more influence on pop culture than Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, or Jack Kirby could have ever dreamed.
Marvel Comics was producing many of its most influential characters, stories, and moments at the height of the Silver Age of comics. Led by industry legends like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, ‘Marvel God’ Jack Kirby, and countless other writers and artists, the groundwork was being laid for future storytellers in comic books and beyond. One of the most unlikely examples being what might very well be one of the first appearances of a classic trope in anime, science fiction, and fantasy: the ‘Beam-O-War.’
For the unfamiliar, the ‘Beam-O-War’ sees one opponent send out a beam of destructive or focused energy, forcing the other to do the same, sending out a beam of their own. The two beams meet in the middle until one overpowers the other and goes on to defeat the enemy. The first appearance of the ‘Beam-O-War’ can be found in “Beyond The Purple Veil” from 1964’s Strange Tales #119. In this Silver Age story, Doctor Strange finds himself traveling to another dimension to save the lives of two petty criminals who took a powerful and dangerous gem from the Master of the Mystical Arts. When Strange ventures into the other dimension, he meets with the sinister Aggamon who fires what he calls a “massive demolisher beam” at the Marvel Hero. Strange counters by firing his own beam of energy from the amulet on his chest. The two beams meet in the center of the panel, causing a large destructive center to emerge. As time passes, the Strange and Aggamon begin to fade, with their energy beams reflect their weakening status. Aggamon tells Strange they will meet certain death if they do not stop… and Strange announces he does not fear death, inviting Aggamon to meet their fate.
The imagery in these panels can draw comparisons to climactic moments from several television shows and movies. A prime example is one of the great moments from the Harry Potter franchise which saw Harry Potter battling against the evil Lord Voldemort in more than one epic showdown (drawing the ghosts of Voldemort’s victims out in spectral form). Similarly, many of the battles in Dragon Ball Z feature several “Beam-O-War” moments with Gohan’s episode-long struggle against Cell being a particular Dragon Ball Z fan favorite.
Whether it’s a ‘Beam-O-War’ in a climactic battle or spoofing traditional comic character archetypes, comics have become an inspiration for many artists, writers, and filmmakers around the world. This influence not only speaks volumes of the power of quality storytelling but how comic books have continuously pushed the envelope forward and created exciting moments for fans to hold on to. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then the world of comics (and Doctor Strange in particular) should be honored by the overwhelming amount of it.