Why Doctor Strange Can't Be on the MCU's Midnight Sons Team

By Pierre Chanliau Updated:
Doctor Strange Midnight Sons Marvel Studios

Fans have begun to suspect that Marvel Studios has big plans for the supernatural corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It started with the shocking reveal of Mahershala Ali being cast as Blade. Then, a month camelater the announcement of Moon Knight as a series on Disney+, whispers of Werewolf By Night having his own Halloween special, and rumors about Elsa Bloodstone soon making her debut.

All of this points to the potential formation of the Midnight Sons, a team of supernatural vigilantes dedicated to putting a stop to the monsters that go bump in the night. Since this realization, fans have been endlessly speculating on what this team would look like in the MCU, often with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange taking the leadership role.

But, the Master of the Mystic Arts being the leader, let alone a member, of the Midnight Sons isn't as sure an assumption as one would expect.

Addressing Misconception

Midnight Sons comic

Suppose you aren't familiar with the comics at all. In that case, it's almost certain that the only frame of reference you may have for the Midnight Sons is a single comic cover circulating on the internet for years, especially recently. In the comic cover, Doctor Strange, Blade, Mr. Knight, Johnny Blaze's Ghost Rider, The Punisher, Hannibal King, and Hellstrom are depicted as members of the Midnight Sons.

Midnight Sons Greg Smallwood Doctor Strange
Greg Smallwood

But, there is only one problem: this comic doesn't exist.

The artwork originated in a, since deleted, tweet from the end of 2017 by Marvel artist Greg Smallwood, renowned for his work on Jeff Lemire's "Moon Knight." It was seemingly his attempt to pitch a new "Midnight Sons" series to Marvel Comics, but nothing ever came of it.

Since then, it's drastically altered the perception of the supernatural team of heroes, whose comics were, to put it delicately, lame when they debuted. Doctor Strange wasn't even ever a member of the group in the comics.

Stephen Estranged From Supernatural Team

Doctor Strange Midnight Sons
Marvel Studios

No, really, despite Doctor Strange being the de facto expert on the mystic arts and supernatural in the Marvel universe, he was never once an official member of any incarnation of the Midnight Sons. At most, he was a distant associate and manipulative benefactor.

The first Midnight Sons team was formed in 1992 with Frank Drake, Johnny Blaze, Morbius, Danny Ketch's Ghost Rider, Hannibal King, Blade, Victoria Montesi, Sam Buchanan, and Louise Hastings as its nine members.

Midnight Sons First Team-Up
"Ghost Rider" (1990) — Issue #31

There was one time that the Sorcerer Supreme fought side-by-side with them, but that was simply due to happenstance. However, the one time that Doctor Strange did appear to join the Midnight Sons in any official capacity was almost immediately retconned into that being a magical manifestation of the real Stephen Strange.

Again, this is real. Marvel dedicated an entire issue to essentially explain away how Strange was never "technically" a member of the Midnight Sons.

Doctor Strange Morbius Blade Vengeance Comic Panel
"Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme" (1988) — Issue #66

It's as if the comics took every opportunity to come up with an excuse for Doctor Strange not to become a member of the group or overly involve himself with them. Heck, it took another 40 years for Doctor Strange to even interact with the group again, but maybe the writers had the right idea of keeping him away.

Strange Too Powerful for His Own Good

Doctor Strange power
Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange has held the title of the Sorcerer Supreme for a reason, as he is by far one of the most powerful magic users in the Marvel universe. But perhaps he's too powerful for his own good.

Hilariously, in the first comic event about the Midnight Sons, Doctor Strange being too powerful was a literal plot point. He couldn't directly fight the villain of the event, Lilith, because their battle would undo the dimensional walls that Strange was duty-bound to protect. 

Doctor Strange Comic Panel Midnight Sons
"Ghost Rider" (1990) — Issue #31

The next time Strange met the Midnight Sons, he fought alongside them, but it was made explicitly clear that, during that time, Strange's magic was drastically dampened due to Vishanti's influence leaving him, on top of being mentally assaulted. So, the writers had to actually nerf Strange's powers for him not to make it a cakewalk for the Midnight Sons.

Doctor Strange Comic Panel Midnight Sons
"Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme" (1988) — Issue #60

The third and final time that Strange had ever directly interacted with the group of undead or death-touched superheroes in the comics was decades later when Mephisto captured Strange during the comic event "Damnation." However, even in that story, the Midnight Sons were essentially background characters, who only acted as a distraction.

Elsa Bloodstone Blade Doctor Strange Comic Panel
"Doctor Strange: Damnation" (2018) — Issue #4

The sorcerer would not only be too powerful for the group, but versatile as well, and could conceivably solve every obstacle they would face on his own, whether it be teleporting the group to any location, creating barriers, throwing enemies into the Mirror Dimension, and so much more.

So, it'd be nice if, in their MCU debut, they weren't overshadowed by the inclusion of Doctor Strange, a character who is undoubtedly going to be the star of the first billion-dollar movie of 2022.

Strange Has Already Had Too Much Spotlight

Doctor Strange MCU
Marvel Studios

Reading through all the Midnight Sons' issues, any time Doctor Strange appeared, he always had an overwhelming presence and would always overshadow all the characters around him, which makes sense. Again, as the Sorcerer Supreme, he pretty much has automatic authority over everyone else in the Midnight Sons, which is the problem.

It doesn't help that Doctor Strange already has a significant foothold in the MCU, starring in his own movie, soon his second, and appearing as a major supporting character in Avengers: Infinity War. So, Strange having a major role as a member or leader of the group in a prospective Midnight Sons series or movie would cause him to cast a shadow over everyone else.

Midnight Sons Mr. Knight Comic Panel
"Doctor Strange: Damnation" (2018) — Issue #4

The sorcerer not being a member would allow other characters to shine. If Strange were even just a member, it'd be hard for any supernatural plot not to veer in his direction for answers or solutions.

Now, this doesn't mean that Doctor Strange shouldn't appear in any future Midnight Sons series or movie. After all, he's still the Sorcerer Supreme, so having a role, no matter how small, would be appropriate and have a bonus of boosting eyes on the project.

How He Could Still Be Involved

In the comics, Doctor Strange was actually the one who formed the Midnight Sons in secret so that they could fight on his behalf. As a result, he would occasionally appear in the background of that story, showing readers how he pushed the group together.

Doctor Strange Forming Midnight Sons Comic Panels
"Ghost Rider" (1990) — Issue #31

Strange could also have a similar role to the one he had in Thor: Ragnarok as a go-between for the characters. He could have a brief cameo, perhaps to help the Midnight Sons on their mission or journey, whether it's opening a portal for them or helping them retrieve some magical MacGuffin.

Doctor Strange Thor Ragnarok Book
Marvel Studios

One last possibility would be for Strange himself to be in danger, like in the comic event "Damnation," but instead of being used as just distractions, the Midnight Sons would be on a mission to save him from whoever or whatever has him imprisoned, whether it be Mephisto, Lilith, Dormammu, or some other magical entity.

Not only would that allow members of the Midnight Sons to fight on their own, but it would still allow Strange to operate on his own, separate from the group. So, hopefully, no matter how the Midnight Sons are introduced, they get their due.

Regardless, fans will see the supernatural side of the MCU expand when they see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 6.

- About The Author: Pierre Chanliau
Pierre Chanliau began as a news & feature writer for The Direct at the site's launch in 2020. As a longtime reader of superhero comic books, Pierre's knowledge of Marvel and DC is extensive, informing his reporting and editorial pieces regarding the MCU and DCU.