Today is National Superhero Day! This year, we’re using the holiday to reflect on and appreciate everything that everyday heroes do for us, including doctors. So, it’s a great day to note how many of Marvel’s major heroes, or their alter egos, are in fact doctors, whether of the medical profession or of a more scientific background.
Doctor Strange was introduced in Strange Tales #110 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963. As a successful surgeon, Stephen Strange had a steady hand that was envied and sought out by many in the medical profession to perform the most difficult and challenging surgeries. Strange proudly profited from his reputation.
This all changed when an auto accident shattered his hands, making his skills as a surgeon now useless. In a vainglorious attempt to restore his skills, he sought out an obscure mystic known as the Ancient One to repair his hands. But the Ancient One had different plans for Strange and trained him in the mystic arts. Strange quickly mastered these arts and soon answered to his higher calling as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor Strange used his mystical mastery to defend our world from supernatural threats.
Dr. Hank Pym
Another doctor who became a hero was Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym. Introduced in Tales to Astonish #27 in 1962 by Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber, he returned as the hero Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35 that same year by the same creative team. His ability to shrink and command ants, and later to increase his size as Giant-Man, earned him a place as an Avenger alongside the likes of Iron Man and Thor. Speaking of which:
Dr. Donald Blake
Thor’s disabled alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, was introduced in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962 by Lee, Kirby and Lieber. Blake discovers a wooden walking stick that he can strike on the ground and it becomes the magical hammer known as Mjolnir, which transforms Blake into the Mighty Thor. The weak and mortal Donald Blake body was Odin’s way of teaching Thor humility that he lacked before he became the heroic God of Thunder we all know today.
Blake was also an excellent doctor and surgeon, and beloved by the nurse-in-training later known as Jane Foster. Introduced in Journey into Mystery #84 as Jane Nelson, Foster became entangled in a romantic triangle between the humble Blake and the handsome god Thor. Basically, Thor was caught in a romantic triangle with himself! Over the years this all got sorted out and Jane Foster went on to become a medical doctor and even spent a couple of recent years wielding Mjolnir as Thor herself!
Dr. Bruce Banner
Another doctor who served as the alter ego to a superhuman was Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. He was introduced in The Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962 by Lee and Kirby. A brilliant but troubled scientist, he built the deadly gamma bomb that became his bane and turned him into the monstrous Hulk. His brave rescue of teen Rick Jones, about the only one who ever really called Banner “Doc,” led to his exposure to the bomb’s transforming rays. Despite the ongoing curse of being the Hulk, Doctor Banner is highly respected by his colleagues, such as Tony Stark, and is consulted whenever true scientific brilliance is needed to solve a new crisis in the Marvel Universe.
An honorable mention must go out to Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic, introduced in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 by Lee and Kirby. Arguably the smartest man in the Marvel universe, he has several science doctorates, but he’s rarely referred to as Doctor Richards. Much more often he’s addressed by the title Professor Richards, or “Big Brain” by his oldest friend Ben Grimm, aka the ever-lovin’ Thing. Why Reed doesn’t just change his superhero moniker to Doctor Fantastic, we may never know.