Legendary comic writer/graphic artist Neil Gaiman has been in the news in recent months thanks to Netflix's adaptation of his work on The Sandman, which just premiered on the streaming service earlier in August. He's also since taken time to comment on other major franchises in the comic book movie world, most recently an experience with Marvel Studios.
Gaiman revealed that Marvel actually rejected a pitch to bring his limited "1602" comic run to the big or small screen, but noted that he remains interested in making it happen in the future. Even more recently, he shared an older pitch that he brought to the Marvel brass - one which included another legendary director from a similar vein of storytelling and a different take on Doctor Strange.
Gaiman on Del Toro's Marvel Pitch
Speaking with Josh Horowitz on a live taping of the Happy, Sad, Confused podcast, comic writer Neil Gaiman addressed his relationship with Marvel Studios.
After saying he didn't know why Marvel and DC don't consult him often for their work, he noted that he's spoken with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige "a few times over the years" about certain topics. He even revealed that he and director Guillermo Del Toro pitched a Doctor Strange movie to Feige back in 2007, although the producer largely wanted to "concentrate on the core characters" like Iron Man and Captain America at the time:
"Kevin and I have spoken a few times over the years on things. The only one that I wish, although, odds are probably, I think the way they did it commercially was better than…but I remember back in 2007, having minimalistic conversations with Kevin Feige about ‘What about Doctor Strange?’ Then talking to Guillermo Del Toro, and Guillermo and I having these ideas about Doctor Strange and starting the beginning, me starting the beginning of the conversation with Kevin about ‘I could do Doctor Strange with Guillermo.’ And basically, they said ‘We just want to concentrate on the core characters right now. Doctor Strange is way up the line, we don’t want to go there.’”
When asked about the specifics of that pitch, Gaiman revealed that he wanted to have Strange's origin story all take place in the 1920s or 1930s. On top of that, he noted the late Steve Ditko's influence as something he'd want to bring to a Doctor Strange adaptation:
“There were some cool things in it. My favorite Doctor Strange thing was the idea of…the one thing that we really wanted to do was have his adventures, have him become an alcoholic and a disbarred physician, all that sort of stuff, happen in the 1920s. So the idea is that, he went though all of that and the training to become the world’s greatest magician maybe in the early ’30s, late ’20s, and he’s been living in Greenwich Village for 90 years looking the same in his place, and nobody really notices. We just sort of liked that idea, and he would have been sort of out of time. But other than that, it would have just been very sort of Steve Ditko, because, you know, that’s the best.
Will Del Toro Work With Marvel?
Guillermo Del Toro certainly has the pedigree to take on some of Marvel's darker and more mysterious characters, having already directed 2002's Blade II with Wesley Snipes and both of Ron Perlman's Hellboy movies. But with the MCU, the Marvel Studios team took their time with bringing heroes like Blade and Doctor Strange into the mix, even with an exciting initial pitch from Gaiman.
Doctor Strange is no stranger to working in different timelines, as indicated by his mastery over the Time Stone in his early appearances in the MCU. Steve Ditko's work also had a major influence over both of his solo movies and his time alongside the Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame, showing how familiar Gaiman and Del Toro were with the master magician's time in the comics.
Whether Del Toro joins Marvel Studios in the future is a mystery, especially with a noted hesitation to work on superheroes that aren't monsters, which he revealed a few years ago. But this pitch certainly has fans wondering what could have been, particularly with the timing coming almost immediately before the MCU took off with Iron Man in 2008.
Doctor Strange and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are now streaming on Disney+.