Doctor Strange is the heart and focal point of magic in the Marvel Universe. Whether Stephen Strange is Sorcerer Supreme, or not, or even dead and gone, magic is always the touchstone for his book and adventures. For the Scarlet Witch, this isn't always true. Over the course of nearly 60 years of appearances and adventures, Wanda Maximoff didn't start being a real magic user back in X-Men Volume 1 #4. Her adventures have gone back and forth between the X-Men and Avengers, with magic becoming a more important character component the longer she's been an Avenger. Her increase in being considered a sorceress has brought her more and more into Doctor Strange's orbit and adventures, often as an ally (like against Xandau & the Serpent Crown), sometimes an enemy, and sometimes as the cleanup crew for the Scarlet Witch's mistakes. This list will look at the top five comic book issues and arcs that show clear influence for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as well as the relationship between Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch. While we aren't going to be talking about direct SPOILERS that happen within the movie, if you look at this list of comics, you'll probably guess where a major plot point that has been kept from the marketing. So if you want to go into the movie knowing nothing, maybe come back to this one after you've seen the movie. Consider this to be a MINOR SPOILER WARNING.
Top Five Comic Books to read that "inspire" Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
#5. Doctor Strange Volume 2 #60, "Assault on Avengers Mansion"
Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch had met before Doctor Strange Volume 2 #60 in 1983, but this story informs so much of their relationship and really the foundations of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that it is a must-read to understand the interactions between Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch. The focus of the story is the Lord of Vampires, Dracula who after the cancellation of Tomb of Dracula had become a true Marvel Comics villain. As the solicits back then stated: "Last month not even Mighty Thor was able to stop Dracula, so what chance has the Master of the Mystic Arts? A large chance if the Scarlet Witch has any say in the matter." The Scarlet Witch had recently been revealed as a potential vessel of the immortal evil demon Cthon, and his book, the Darkhold, in Avengers Volume 1 #186 & #187, and this arc of Doctor Strange used those connections. The whole arc of issues #59 to #62 led to Doctor Strange using the Darkhold to try and rid the world of Dracula and vampires, but #60 is the focal point for this list. The story's use of the Scarlet Witch, the Darkhold, along with Doctor Strange, greatly inspires Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness plot, even if Dracula is not the main villain.
This issue has been reprinted in Avengers/Doctor Strange Rise of the Darkhold TPB, Doctor Strange vs. Dracula: The Montesi Formula TPB, and the upcoming Marvel Masterworks Avengers #22.
#4. Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #47, "Strange Bedfellows Part II"
Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #47 is a much more "innocent" entry as by the 1990's crossovers were a staple of comic book publishing, particularly for Marvel. While sharing a name with the MCU movie, Infinity War's villain was not Thanos but the evil version of Warlock, the Magnus. The Magnus created evil doppelgangers that were designed to take over all the heroes of the Marvel Universe during the Infinity War crossover and make them slaves to the Magnus. However, the great Roy Thomas decided not to make the Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme crossover issues that simple as he has not only a Magnus doppelganger for Doctor Strange but also his evil counterpart from Counter-Earth trying to replace Stephen in his role as Sorcerer Supreme in the 616 universe. Obviously an inspiration by having so many versions of Doctor Strange running around, this is also the first time we see the Scarlet Witch joining Doctor Strange and a group of magic users of the 616 universe against a common foe in issues #46 and #47. (Even has a teaser for the Scarlet Witch and the Darkhold at the end of issue #47.) The inspiration for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is very obvious in this issue. Still, this theme of Stephen and Wanda joining together in a loose group of magic users from throughout the Marvel Universe is a theme that other writers would use and continue to build on.
This issue can be found reprinted in the Doctor Strange Epic Collection #10, Dr. Strange Sorcerer Supreme Omnibus #2, and the Infinity War Omnibus.
#3. Doctor Strange Volume 4 #8, "The Last Days of Magic Chapter Three"
Jason Aaron had a great run on Doctor Strange in the 2010s but cemented the idea that a group of magic-users gathers together with Doctor Strange to deal with magical threats to the 616 universe. The arc "The Last Days of Magic" made the Scarlet Witch a full member of this group and showed her place in the magical corner of the Marvel Universe, something that Strange Academy has built up even more. Still, Aaron's whole 2015 run has Scarlet Witch cameos. Despite that issue #11 has the most famous cover by Adam Hughes, issue #8 is the most important on the list with a real focus on Wanda and Stephen interacting. However, #7 does have Shuma-Gorath (Gargantos) and a story point about an orphan child that travels across the multiverse… Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has a great deal of imagery from this arc, even if the Empirikul are not the movie's main villain. Plus, this arc brought us a lot of Doctor Strange / Scarlet Witch interaction, with most of the previous interactions having more brief.
This issue can be found in, and the whole run was recently collected in the Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo Omnibus, and #8 can be found in Doctor Strange Volume 2: The Last Days of Magic TPB.
#2. Empyre: X-Men #4, "Un-Ring"
The most recent interaction between the two characters comes from the most unusual source, Empyre: X-Men. The whole miniseries has a mystery of why Genosha is a zombie paradise now, which would seem to have nothing to do with the Empyre crossover, Doctor Strange, or the Scarlet Witch. Previously in the Secret Empire crossover, Cthon possessed the Scarlet Witch, and Doctor Strange had to exercise her, but that was a brief interaction. Empyre: X-Men, on the other hand, has a much more in-depth interaction between the two characters and shows despite progress from #1 on the list, Doctor Strange still has to help Wanda clean up her messes when she tries to do things that are just bad ideas magically (and in general). The setup is not replicated in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Still, the use of zombies and Doctor Strange having to help the Scarlet Witch fix a self-created problem and also warn her against making such horrible mistakes echoes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a lot.
This issue can be found in the Empyre Omnibus and the Empyre: X-Men TPB.
#1. Avengers Volume 1 #503, "Avengers Disassembled, Chaos (Part IV of IV)"
Despite other stories having longer interactions and more similarities to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the top comic book story that really influences Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still the most controversial, and Wanda's descent into madness in Avengers Disassembled. Whether fans hate this turn for the character, Wandavision as a show sets up very clearly that Wanda is very powerful, and sadly the tragedy in her life means she will use that power to try and fix things, even when it's a really bad idea. Avengers #503 established Wanda's use of "magic," her high-level power set, and Doctor Strange having to try and stop her and fix things when Wanda tries to fix her own life with magic, and it was the first story to do so. All of these themes are very important to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and this arc, and issue #503, is where those interactions and themes started.
This issue has been reprinted several times, including the New Avengers Omnibus #1 and the Avengers Disassembled TPB.