“Doctor Strange is Rich, But Not For The Reason You Think”
Fans of Doctor Strange know that, following the car accident that destroyed his hands, Stephen Strange spends his fortune on expensive operations to fix the nerve damage. Ending up a homeless vagrant, Strange uses the last of his money to travel to the Himalayas where the Ancient One teaches him the ways of magic. Finally restored, in spirit if not in body, Strange returns to New York healthy, mentally stable… and remarkably wealthy for a guy who was sleeping in alleys just a few years ago.
The MCU Doctor Strange movie attempts to explain this by stating Strange’s posh Greenwich Village townhouse is one of Kamar-Taj’s Sanctums and that the valuable antiques and artifacts inside are his to protect rather than own. In the comics, however, the writers make it clear that Doctor Strange actually rents his brownstone and has to pay to stay in the neighborhood. This is keeping with Stan Lee’s desire to give his heroes real-world problems and show how Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four regularly suffer from money problems. For some reason, however, Doctor Strange never seems to be hurting for cash – despite the fact that his bank account was destroyed prior to him becoming Sorcerer Supreme.
With the good doctor finally returning to medical practice in Dr. Strange: Surgeon Supreme, now’s a good time to explore how Stephen Strange has been making ends meet for the last fifty-seven years. Magic can accomplish a great many things – but how can Doctor Strange (ethically) be replenishing his bank account?
Stan Lee himself explored the unique expenses of a Sorcerer Supreme in the tongue-in-cheek one-shot Stan Lee Meets Doctor Strange. In the story, Lee pops into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum for a friendly visit, but is shocked to discover it’s become a tourist trap offering guided tours ($25), personal audiences with Doctor Strange ($50), paid incantations ($100), exorcisms ($200), and even personalized T-shirts. Concerned, Lee rushes into Strange’s study and finds the doctor floating in mid-air… and doing on his taxes.
Doctor Strange then gives Stan Lee the rundown on why his expenses are so high. Dry cleaning costs for his Cloak of Levitation are astronomically expensive. He has to hire a rent-a-cop to guard his body when he astral projects. And demons keep invading the Sanctum every time he tries to renegotiate his rent, making his housing costs rise every year. Realizing “it costs a fortune to be Dr. Strange” the Sorcerer Supreme resorts to selling his autographs for money and asks Lee to “drop a few coins in the kitty” before he leaves.
Jokes aside, it’s clear the job of Sorcerer Supreme does come with business expenses (at least in the comics) and that some of those expenses need to be paid for in cold hard cash. So, how could Doctor Strange be raising the funds?
The simplest explanation is that Strange is conjuring counterfeit currency out of thin air and passing it along to his landlord. However, considering all the times Strange claims all magic has a price, the karmic consequences of this unethical act would undoubtedly come back to bite him. Moreover, Doctor Strange clearly does have legitimate funds in a bank account – as shown when he magically withdraws $100,000 from his account to buy his way back into a charity superhero poker game. (He also promptly loses that money, showing he’s not worried about spending vast amounts of cash).
Strange could be offering his services as a medical consultant – a position offered to him shortly after his car accident. While he arrogantly turned down the job, he could have seen the value in it after becoming Sorcerer Supreme. Even so, he probably doesn’t have time to consult full-time – and couldn’t earn enough money doing such work part-time. Stan Lee also showed Doctor Strange performing a stage magic show in the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip that probably earned him a lot of money. Again, however, while Strange would be able to make a killing in Las Vegas with such an act, he couldn’t perform multiple times a night and be Sorcerer Supreme.
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In the Strange Tales comic book, one of Doctor Strange’s mentors, the black magic-using Kaluu, decided to retire with the money he made by influencing the stock market. While Doctor Strange likely knows some useful spells to help him accomplish similar feats, he’s shown he’s ethically opposed to making money this way. (Plus, given how quickly Strange lost his money playing poker, it’s unlikely that he’ll have much luck playing the stock market.)
In truth, the easiest way for Doctor Strange to settle his money worries can be found in Daredevil #223. In the issue (which takes place during Marvel’s Secret Wars II event) the all-powerful cosmic entity The Beyonder attempts to hire Matt Murdock to help him legally and legitimately take over the planet Earth. When Murdock’s partner Foggy Nelson asks for a retainer, the Beyonder uses his power to find and recover a million dollars from the safe of a sunken ship which he states is legally his to spend due to the right of salvage.
Given how easily Doctor Strange can teleport virtually anywhere he wants (using his “Sling Ring” in the MCU films and a simple hand gesture in the comics) it should be easy for him to simply locate gold, cash, and jewels in pirate ships at the bottom of the ocean and collect enough to take care of all his financial needs. Since such refuse is polluting the ocean floor anyway, Strange could see this as part of his civic duty to clean up the Earth’s waters (Namor the Submariner may see things differently as he also uses that pirate treasure to buy what he needs).
No matter what clever way Doctor Strange may be handling his financial issues, it’s almost a sure bet that magic is involved somehow in the solution. Being Sorcerer Supreme may require you to risk your life against foes like Baron Mordo or the Dread Dormammu on a daily basis – but it certainly does come with some nice fringe benefits for your bank account.
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