In Marvel comics, Doctor Strange has had some intensely trippy adventures during his nearly 60-year tenure as the Sorcerer Supreme, but during that time he was never known for his sense of humor. What many fans and even some writers don’t realize about Stephen Strange’s haughty self-seriousness is that it makes him one of the biggest straight straight guys in all of Marvel’s comics. Pair Doctor Strange with the Submariner and suddenly you have Frasier and Niles Crane with super powers, the classic combination of Strange and Spider-Man is like Marvel’s version of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the more frustrated you make him, the funnier he gets. But combine Doctor Strange with Spidey’s talking funny animal variant, Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham, and you’ve got a meta-comedy that rivals Deadpool’s.
Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham (with Wolverham) written by . from 2007 J. Michael Straczynski featuring art by Mike Wernigo and several others, is complete madness from the title to the last page. The book is a relentless satire of crossover tie-in comics, and as if that wasn’t clear enough, the cover features Spider-Ham with a bloodied dollar sign in a broadcast of Captain America holding his shield of Michael Turner’s now iconic Civil war art. The story begins with Spider-Ham bemoaning the loss of his thought bubbles, which have been replaced with narrative text boxes, and now he’s out of ideas. Spider-Ham takes the text boxes off the panels and follows the path straight to Marvel’s Civil war event, where he encounters Doctor Strange, who somehow manages to make things even weirder.
The punch line of a loss of ideas leading to Civil war, one of the many excuses for superheroes to battle each other over the years, the perfect time to introduce Spider-Ham to Doctor Strange, who is suitably surrounded by the Mindless Ones. Once it’s determined that Marvel’s main continuity is getting a bit old, it’s time to introduce the man who can travel the multiverse, which is exactly what Strange and Spider-Ham are doing. Overwhelmed by the Mindless Ones, Strange opens an interdimensional doorway, completely oblivious to the cartoon pig reclaiming his thought bubbles until it’s too late. Spider-Ham causes the spell to destabilize because, according to Doctor Strange, he is not kosher. From there, the book makes up pig-based parodies Apocalypse Now, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and countless Marvel properties.
Strange eventually catches up with Spider-Ham by following the path of damaged trademarks in the familiar multiverse, sending him back to the beginning of the comic. This time, Spider-Ham accepts that comics have changed and the thought bubbles won’t come back, only to find two rats in Spider-Man and Venom costumes using thought bubbles freely. He again follows the trail of thought bubbles to a comic crossover, but this time it’s marvel zombies, one last chance at the occasional lack of ideas of the House of Ideas.
Marvel has multiple characters who are well aware that they live in a comic book fantasy world. She-Hulk, Loki, Rick Jones, and even the squirrels of Squirrel Girl, Tippy-Toe, Monkey Joe, and Deadpool have all shown an awareness that they exist for the entertainment of others, but Doctor Strange’s level of consciousness even goes up. beyond that. Knowing every universe, a universe in which you are a product is just one of many, and as a result, he has resigned himself to just about everything, including a talking cartoon pig. That Doctor Strange and others have brought the multiverse to multiple Marvel Studios projects, a crazy one-off like Ultimate Civil War is suddenly ahead of its time.
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