From the late seventies onward, Stan Lee made it his mission to bring Marvel’s characters to Hollywood. His efforts and those of producers from Lauren Shuler Donner to Kevin Feige eventually paid big dividends, raking in box office gold and remaking the film business in the process. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Through the eighties and well into the nineties, Marvel saw a certain success on television but struggled to gain a foothold at the movies. The handful of films that were released during this period could generously be described as a mixed bag. Others, most famously ‘Spider-Man’, languished in development hell for years. It’s oddly appropriate, then, that the Wall Crawler was joined in this production limbo by fellow Lee/Ditko creation Doctor Strange. During this period a murderers row of screenwriters, including Bob Gale, Lawrence Block, and Stan Lee himself all took passes at the screenplay.
These early efforts to bring the Master of the Mystic Arts to the silver screen, however, never quite succeeded. The closest they came was in the early nineties when Full Moon Entertainment was poised to begin filming their version. Due to a bizarre oversight, however, their option of the Doctor Strange movie rights expired before production began. Rather than cancel the production, the script was rewritten to remove all the specific references to the Marvel character and the resulting product was filmed and released direct to video as ‘Doctor Mordrid’ in 1992.
But, because ‘Doctor Mordrid’ isn’t technically a Doctor Strange film (and let’s be honest, Full Moon would almost certainly be sued into oblivion if they tried this today), the development process for the 2016 film is officially considered to have lasted thirty-three years. As ‘Doctor Strange’ screenwriter C. Robert Cargill explained on Twitter following Stan Lee’s death on Monday morning, this meant that Writers Guild rules required the efforts of every writer to have participated in this unusually lengthy affair be included in the arbitration process (for determining the official onscreen writing credit).
And yes, that includes Stan Lee.
As part of the arbitration process, Cargill was required to review every single script draft that had been generated over the decades. And so as part of his Twitter tribute, Cargill posted a page from one of Lee’s drafts. While he provided precious little context, the scene reads like a fairly early one, in which the Ancient One reveals to Strange – at least in part – the threat posed by Dormammu. You can read it for yourself here:
A page of Stan’s from one of the 1986 drafts of DOCTOR STRANGE. pic.twitter.com/hMcwTxnoyz
— C. Robert Cargill (@Massawyrm) November 13, 2018