Doctor Strange's loyal opposition

Baron Karl Mordo has been Doctor Strange‘s arch-enemy from almost the very beginning. He debuted one issue after Strange himself, in Strange Tales #111. Everything about him has been defined in opposition to Strange, although their naturally arrogant base personalities are actually quite similar. The difference is that Strange was depicted as having the circumstances of his life teach him humility when he was no longer able to be a surgeon, thanks to his hands being damaged in an accident. Both were students of the Ancient One, a.k.a. the Sorcerer Supreme.

The Ancient One was aware of Mordo’s hunger for knowledge and power, and took him on as a disciple to keep an eye on him. That plan backfired spectacularly when Mordo learned how to summon the Dread Dormammu, another of Strange’s long-time enemies. However, he sensed greatness in Strange and took him on as a disciple at the same time as Mordo.

Ever since then, Strange has spent his entire career foiling Mordo’s increasingly unhinged bids for power. The MCU version of Mordo was a loyal lieutenant of the Ancient One until he learned that she used forbidden magic to extend her life. Disillusioned by this betrayal, he walked away from saving the world in disgust. However, in the end sequence, he vowed revenge by killing every user of magic in the world. He’ll likely be a key figure in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, so let’s take a look at the comics version’s most infamous exploits.

Desperately seeking Dormammu

Mordo and Mentor

Like many villains’ formative moments, Karl Mordo’s came with him observing his grandfather being possessed by Dormammu in a bid to steal the power his grandson had amassed. His grandfather, Heinrich Krowler, learned that Karl’s future father, Baron Nikolai Mordo, had gained magical power, but Krowler couldn’t transfer it to himself because Mordo wasn’t a blood relation. So he made his daughter marry Mordo, produce an heir, and then kill Nikolai. Mordo became aware of all of this when he was sent off to Tibet to train with the Ancient One. When his grandfather’s bid for power defeated, Karl Mordo secretly left his training and sacrificed both his mother and grandfather to Dormammu.

Mordo had learned about the ruler of the Dark Dimension by thumbing through the Forbidden Scrolls section of the Ancient One’s library. He hoped that Dormammu would give him the power he wanted. That did happen, except that every time Dormammu would give him more power, Doctor Strange would still find a way to beat him. Dormammu gave him evil wizards and his spirit wraiths to help him find and kill Strange, but Strange kept finding ways to elude Mordo. When Strange fought Dormammu in the Dark Dimension, Mordo angered his master by using a sneak attack on Strange in the middle of their fight and was turned into a prisoner. Strange not only beat Dormammu, but he also freed Mordo and then promptly imprisoned him again. Dormammu made a poor surrogate dad.

Creating his worst foe

Strange has his eyes opened

The Ancient One always knew what he was doing. He agreed to train Mordo, hoping to contain his potential for evil. He agreed to train Doctor Strange, even as he knew Strange only wanted someone to help him with his neurologically-damaged hands. The Ancient One simply let people show themselves for who they really were. Mordo knew that Strange would be his opponent even when Strange was still a child, and he sent demons to torment him. The Ancient One, always one step ahead of his treacherous pupil, saved young Strange.

When Strange was accepted into the Ancient One’s Tibetan home, Mordo was the one who helped get him settled. However, after sacrificing his family to Dormammu, he was ready to step up his evil plans. At that point, Strange didn’t believe in magic and was only there for selfish reasons. In fact, when the Ancient One said he couldn’t fix his hands but he could teach him magic, Strange was all set to leave. However, Strange found Mordo secretly trying to kill the Ancient One with animated skeletons. Strange confronted Mordo, who mystically bound and silenced him. Strange had his eyes opened to the mystical world and vowed to stop Mordo from hurting anyone else. That’s when he became the Ancient One’s true disciple, and Mordo fled to begin a lifetime of trying to rid the world of Strange. If Mordo hadn’t tried to kill the Ancient One, he wouldn’t have created his greatest enemy.

How it all began

Sise-Neg at work

When the elder god known as Shuma-Gorath awakened and started to feed on the Ancient One’s power, Strange had no choice but to kill his master. In so doing, the Ancient One became one with the universe and Strange received all of his power, becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. He knew this would sit poorly with one person in particular: Mordo.

Strange traveled to Transylvania to try to bury the hatchet, but he discovered Mordo had gone back in time. He had learned how to change the past without altering the future. They encountered the famous magician Cagliostro but found themselves feeling weaker when they fought him. As they chased him through time, Cagliostro revealed that he was actually a 31st-century wizard named Sise-Neg. He had learned that there was a finite amount of magic to be had in the universe, and he wanted all of it. That’s why Strange and Mordo were only at a fraction of their normal power.

Mordo kept begging to be Sise-Neg’s servant in order to get at some of his power, while trying to disparage Strange by blaming him for the fall of Camelot. Sise-Neg kept picking up more power until they reached the beginning of time. That’s when Sise-Neg became enlightened and decided to re-create the universe in exactly the same way. Strange was awed by this, but poor Mordo went catatonic, stunned senseless by what he saw.

Gates of chaos

Doctor Strange at the gates

Strange believed Mordo to be comatose. Then a photo emerged of Mordo stealing a mystical tome from the Vatican library, and Strange realized that he had been fooled by an illusion. Mordo’s plan was vintage Mordo: summon a Chaos demon that would unmake creation and then hopefully be put in charge of the material realm. Mordo sent a mystic named Lord Phyffe against Strange, and when Phyffe failed, Mordo resurrected him as Azrael, the Angel of Death. Azrael almost killed Strange with his rapid-aging ability, but the Doctor destroyed him.

Mordo needed 13 sacrifices to open the Seven Gates of Chaos and a powerful place to do it, so he went to the Nexus of All Realities, located in a Florida swamp. He knew he had to deal with its guardian, the muck-encrusted Man-Thing, so he appealed to the man deep inside of it: Ted Sallis. He offered Sallis his humanity back if he helped him. Strange initially thought that Mordo wanted him alive as a sacrifice, but Mordo had chosen the Man-Thing, and simply told the monster to kill Strange. Strange used breathing techniques to fake his death and busted in on Mordo performing the ceremony.

Mordo zapped Strange to another plane, because all he had to do was stall Strange in order to win. However, sorceress Jennifer Kale appealed to Sallis’ humanity, and the Man-Thing pushed the demon back and crushed the Gates. Strange found his way back through a vortex. Mordo did not.

The cat came back

Morgana Blessing

Mordo tumbled through the planes of existence after failing to open the Chaos Gates. This made him more powerful, and he started spying on Strange, waiting for the right time to strike. A woman named Morgana Blessing started flirting heavily with Strange, and Mordo made it seem as though she had some kind of magical spark in order to get Strange to investigate her. Mordo hid in her mirror and attacked Strange, who initially thought Mordo was in Blessing’s body. Strange hid in Blessing’s cat after the onslaught, and then blasted Mordo.

Two can play that game, though. Mordo killed Blessing’s cat and took its place. He hid in her bag and waltzed into the Sanctum Sanctorum, kidnapping both Clea and Blessing. He took them to Stonehenge and then went back into time, to World War II-era England. There, his grandfather Heinrich Krowler was waiting, as the real power behind this was revealed: Dormammu.

Dormammu planned to enter Earth from the past, using Krowler’s body as his host, Clea as his sacrifice, and Blessing’s body to house Mordo. Strange cleverly attacked the Dormammu of that era and timed it such that he channeled the older Dormammu’s energy against the present one, destroying his host body. Clea had cast a love spell that disrupted the hate sustaining the ceremony, allowing Strange to strike. Once again, Mordo was someone’s pawn, and once again, he was blasted to bits for his efforts.

Offenders!

The Anti-Non-Team

Once upon a time, the Hulk was sent to a world in the Microverse, where he fell in love with a princess named Jarella. He helped save her people, but she was killed on the day they were to be married. In the present, two Elders of the Universe, the Grandmaster and the Collector, decided to play a game, one they had played many variations of before. The Grandmaster selected that particular Hulk to form his own team of champions to fight against the Collector’s champions.

The Hulk was sent back into time at various points to select the heroes he wanted at their most vulnerable: when they had lost a loved one or were separated from them. He picked his closest teammates: the Defenders. He picked the Silver Surfer when he became Galactus’ herald, he picked Prince Namor when his love Dorma died, and he picked Doctor Strange when he was separated from Clea. The Grandmaster’s thinking was that a team fighting for love would be invincible.

The Collector anticipated this move and chose the opposites for his team called the Offenders: the Red Hulk, Terrax, Tiger Shark, and Baron Mordo. Mordo may have been dead in real time, but his life-long hatred of Doctor Strange was very much alive in the past. The Elders put them on the Surfer’s home planet of Zenn-La to battle, and then Galactus got involved. Various shenanigans occurred, as the Red Hulk killed the Grandmaster and no one got what they wanted.

Astrid Mordo

Astrid Mordo

An adrift Doctor Strange went back to the Tibetan home of his deceased master, the Ancient One. He found a penitent Mordo waiting for him with many of the Ancient One’s former servants, begging for forgiveness. Mordo was dying after a lifetime of using foul magic and unspeakable acts to keep himself alive, but it had started to manifest as a cancer that was rapidly ravaging his body. While revealing his cancer to Strange, he also confessed that he had been torturing him since he was a kid, but that Strange had blocked out these memories.

Strange didn’t want to forgive him and went back to his Nebraska home. He found himself suddenly stricken by cancer, as Mordo apparently revealed he was deceiving him. Strange was brought to Mordo’s ancestral home in Transylvania, where it was revealed that Karl Mordo had nothing to do with this, and was sincerely seeking forgiveness. But his heretofore unseen daughter Astrid, having secretly been taught magic by her father, also took up his insatiable lust for power and hatred of Strange. She transferred her father’s cancer into Strange.

Just as it seemed like Strange was as good as dead, Karl Mordo surprised him by taking his cancer back. Strange surrendered to Astrid when she threatened some of Strange’s loved ones, but Mordo literally stabbed her in the back to save Strange. He died with Strange’s forgiveness and his friendship, although a younger, time-swept version of Mordo would soon appear.

Hydra supreme

Mordo, caretaker of Manhattan

During the "Secret Empire" event, the Hydra-brainwashed Captain America and Baron Zemo surrounded New York City with a Darkforce dome. No one could get out. Evil Cap named Mordo the "Caretaker of Manhattan," and he mostly just wanted him to prevent Doctor Strange from interfering with his plans. Strange didn’t have any of his magical talismans and precious little access to magic, and his one play to summon enough force to open up the dome was accidentally disrupted by Spider-Woman and Ben Urich, who along with Daredevil were trying to foil Mordo’s plans.

The Kingpin rescued the heroes after Mordo went after them and they formed an unlikely alliance. The Kingpin knew of a source of cursed magical items, and he and Urich took them up. Mordo still completely overpowered Strange and his friends, so Strange did what he had done so many times before: he tricked his arch-enemy. He used an illusion to make Mordo leave the Sanctum, removing him from much of his power. Daredevil knocked Mordo out, and Strange helped remove the Darkforce dome after a long bath.

This version of Mordo, back from the dead, had acquired a quirky sense of humor, as he cracked jokes and drank coffee while dispatching his enemy.

Super Hero Squad!

Trapped in a soda can

Super Hero Squad, an animated show that humorously featured the Marvel universe for a younger audience, had Baron Mordo as the villain in a couple of episodes. He was depicted as completely unhinged both times, as opposed to the sneering schemer in the comics. In "Night In The Sanctorum," the Squad had to find a new place to stay after they accidentally destroyed the Helicarrier and wound up sleeping in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Mordo was imprisoned inside a can of soda, but the Enchantress made Thor open it. Mordo and Thor wrecked Strange’s kitchen until the Doctor put him back in the can.

In "Invader From The Dark Dimension," Wong accidentally recycled the can containing Mordo, sending it into the Dark Dimension. When Iron Man inadvertently wound up there, Mordo took over his body and escaped. Mordo then gained power over the minds of Wolverine, the Falcon, the Abomination and others, becoming the Iron Menace. Strange had to organize a team of Defenders with the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and Valkyrie and team up with Doctor Doom to stop the menace. Strange wound up tricking Mordo back into the Dark Dimension.

Mordo 2099

Mordo influencing others

Even Mordo’s descendants made the bad decision of summoning immensely powerful beings in order to give Mordo power. In the Battleworld that resulted after the Multiverse was destroyed, one segment of it resembled the original 2099 universe of Earth-928. The heroes and villains of Nueva York were run by Miguel O’Hara, the former Spider-Man of this reality. O’Hara also ran the Avengers through his Alchemax corporation, making them a law unto themselves. As a result, his Avengers got into a tussle with the Defenders of this world over an arms dealer named Martin Hargood.

Hargood had hired someone to kill the Captain America of this world, and they all wanted to know why. It turns out that Hargood was a direct descendant of Karl Mordo and had inherited his mystical abilities as well. Hargood was captured and tortured by O’Hara, who revealed his true identity. Hargood escaped and was able to create a mystical gate that allowed him to achieve his true goal: summoning the ancient fear demon the Dweller-In-Darkness.

Hargood and the Dweller ran amok, with the monstrous Dweller’s ability to inspire fear striking down even the most powerful heroes. Prince Roman, the son of Namor and ruler of Atlantis, summoned the fearless, indestructible monster Giganto, and he not only took down the Dweller, he made him afraid. The heroes stopped Hargood, pushed the Dweller through the gate, and closed it.