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“Finding that true north”: Leah Williams talks ‘Doctor Strange: The End’

In which the Sorcerer Supreme says his final farewell.

All good things must come to an end, an adage Marvel is clearly taking to heart with their new “The End” one-shots. On January 29, Leah Williams, Filipe Andrade, and Chris O’Halloran present Doctor Strange: The End #1, in which everyone’s favorite Sorcerer Supreme “makes his final journey through a cyberpunk sprawl that forgot about magic.”

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Before the issue hits shelves, we sat down with Williams to talk about her past work with Marvel, how this series came about, the importance of finales, her efforts with Gwenpool, and much, much more.

AIPT: You last worked with Filipe Andrade on What If? Magik, which I loved. Did you approach Doctor Strange: The End any differently after working with and knowing what Andrade could bring to the table? As a follow-up, does Doctor Strange: The End connect with your What If? Magik story?

Leah Williams: Oh, it absolutely affected my approach in every respect—in the more technical sense, I knew right away that I would be reserving page space for one of Filipe’s jaw-dropping double-page spreads before knowing what I would script happening in it. And it was also just an added layer of excitement in my approach to this project, because What If? Magik felt special to me the whole time I was working on it. It’s a unique and rare story for Marvel to publish, which is arguably the beauty of the What If? line, but having already worked with Filipe Andrade and Chris O’Halloran in What If? Magik felt like we could level-up as a team with Doctor Strange: The End. And we did.

AIPT: Doctor Strange is obviously older in this new one-shot, is there an approach you take in writing characters at different ages?

LW: Yes, most definitely. We are all affected by the accumulation of our life’s experiences in one way or another. Writing an older Strange while maintaining his core characteristics is the balance I strove to find. (I wrote that, and then had to go google if “strove” is even a real word, so if it looks funny to anyone else, please know that you are not alone.)

AIPT: Can you tell us if this story connects with other “The End” titles, and, for good measure, is this taking place in the Earth-616?

LW: It doesn’t connect with other “The End” titles on purpose, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for it to connect. This is definitely not Earth-616, though. This is Earth-18133 because we picked that setting on purpose.

AIPT: Telling a story about a hero’s death (or end) is tricky business when coming back to life and dying is a standard for every hero. Are you approaching “The End” any differently knowing you can close the door on Doctor Strange forever?

LW: Yes, it’s a different approach. It’s not just “a” death, but the one truest and most poignant end that we, as creators, can give to these beloved heroes. It’s a speculative exercise in finding that true north and is by design what “The End” line of comics hopes to accomplish. Not a hero’s death, but the end.

AIPT: Doctor Strange: The End is a superhero story mixed in with cyberpunk. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship/exploration of cyberpunk and how you’re applying it to this series?

LW: I tend to fixate on the fraying edges of disparate genres where one thing could blend into the next. Science fiction and fantasy have “cyberpunk” sharing the center of a Venn Diagram on their genre attributes, and that overlap is one that really fascinates me. The allure of telling a story about magic and technology colliding and dividing; coupled with our elderly protagonist struggling to navigate a world that’s left him behind in almost all respects had far too much potential to ignore. A quote related to this fraying of edges that I thought about a lot while writing is from Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto”: “The hybrid is metaphorically praised as a figure that can overcome the dualism and dichotomy of identity.” [This series] is largely about transformation.

AIPT: I simply loved your Gwenpool Strikes Back! series, bravo! Curious, do you have a pitch for Gwenpool: The End?

LW: Oh, wow. Thank you, but this is such a cruel thing to ask me! I’m refusing to answer on the very reasonable grounds that David, Jordan, and I just spent the past 7-8 months busting our asses just to keep Gwenpool alive. Like, she can’t die! I’m not even exaggerating about that either; we literally made it canon.

P.p.s. No, you know what? I’m back. Sorry for losing my temper. Here’s my Gwenpool: The End pitch:

Layers of reality are seen compacting and collapsing into each other with the intensity of a dying sun until ontological infinity is achieved. Everyone is dead because now, everyone is nothing and everything at the same time. The once-teeming cosmos are finally silent (2 pages).

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