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The Untold Truth Of Marvel's Clea

When the "Doctor Strange" film was released in 2016, many fans were disappointed to find one major character conspicuously missing from the story. Introduced in "Strange Tales" #126 back in 1964, the sorceress known as Clea has long been one of Stephen Strange's most prominent supporting characters. A magical user whose power and stature rival Doctor Strange himself, she's appeared as the Sorcerer Supreme's partner and is no minor character, as she has appeared in plenty of comics through the decades. 

Though she's rarely thought of as one of Marvel's premier heroes, she might deserve to be. She's fought alongside Doctor Strange and been a part of his team of Defenders. Her adventures have brought her into contact with everyone from Ghost Rider and Man-Thing to Spider-Man and Howard the Duck. As a key member of the Sorcerer Supreme's inner circle, she's been featured alongside him outside of comics too, appearing in video games, animated appearances, and toys. She's even been seen on-screen live-action once before, believe it or not.

However, fans who do not closely follow Doctor Strange in the comic books may still not know much about her, and might be curious to find out more now that she's officially entered the MCU. Well, we're here to change all that. This is the untold truth of Clea, who just might be the Marvel Universe's most powerful sorceress you've never heard of.

Clea has dark family origins

Clea is not of Earthly origin, despite her human appearance. Though the Sorcerer Supreme — Stephen Strange — hails from New York City, his Clea is the product of an entirely separate dimension — the Dark Dimension. Home of the dread Dormammu, the Dark Dimension is a void within the Marvel Universe, an alternate plane of existence described by some as hell itself. It is a place of bizarre dark energies from which powerful ancient evils have arisen. Other noteworthy residents of the Dark Dimension include Prince Orini, a disciple of Dormammu, and Umar, an extra-dimensional energy being borne of magic known as a Faltine. Umar is also Dormammu's twin sister.

Though Umar often clashes with her brother and is disdainful of his protege, she and Orini were briefly bonded, and Clea is the product of their union. Clea's birth, however, has ramifications for her mother, Umar, who is then trapped in her humanoid form. Umar clashes with her brother after being driven mad by her inability to return to her true form and Dormammu — now a powerful ruler — banishes Umar to a pocket dimension. 

Despite all the conflict in her family, Clea is raised with no knowledge of her mother nor how Dormammu had exiled her from their home reality. Clea is brought up to worship her uncle, the fire demon ruler of the Dark Dimension, and eventually becomes one of his greatest admirers.

A very strange encounter

Growing up within the confines of the Dark Dimension, Clea knew little about what transpired beyond its borders. However, all of that changes when Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, arrives in her home dimension. Sent at the behest of the Ancient One, Strange is there to confront Clea's uncle, who has designs on conquering Earth. Clea is fascinated by the magician and wants to learn more about him and where he comes from. Enamored, she attempts to dissuade Strange from clashing with Dormammu, knowing that the demon's wrath would not spare him. 

After a battle between Doctor Strange and Dormammu, Clea is imprisoned by her uncle for allying herself with the Earth-bound sorcerer. However, when the Mindless Ones — a race of terrifying demons — are let loose in the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange aids Dormammu in apprehending them. To repay him, Dormammu grants Strange's request that he set Clea free. 

Following that first encounter, Clea begins to aid Doctor Strange in his many battles with Dormammu, and each time she is punished for her treachery. However, when Dormammu foolishly attempts to take down the almighty cosmic being known as Eternity, the two entities seemingly destroy each other. With Dormammu gone, Strange is able to free Clea once again, although the Dark Dimension found itself without a king.

She moved from the Dark Dimension to New York

Unfortunately, Dormammu's "death" is not the end of Clea's torment, as Umar picks up right where her twin brother leaves off. Once again, Clea finds herself at the mercy of the Dark Dimension's new ruler, and Doctor Strange comes to her rescue. With counsel from the Ancient One, Strange realizes that Clea will never be safe if she remains in her home reality and arranges to remove her from the Dark Dimension. Eventually, Clea joins Strange on Earth, and the extra-dimensional sorceress moves to the Big Apple near the Sanctum Sanctorum on Bleeker Street. If you think moving from the country to the big city is some real culture shock, try relocating to New York City from a parallel hell reality like the Dark Dimension. 

However, after her encounter with her mother, Clea no longer has her incredible powers on the Earthly plane. Adjusting to bodegas and riding the subway is bad enough, but adapting to life without her abilities is an almost insurmountable obstacle. To help her acclimate to her new home, Strange becomes her mentor and teaches her the ways of the mystic arts. It is during this time that Clea joins Doctor Strange on many of his Earthly adventures.

Clea has serious magical powers

A common misconception about Clea is that she is simply a magician. While she is certainly a powerful sorcerer in her own right, Clea is also half Faltine, born of the Dark Dimension. This gives her several natural abilities that eventually return to her, not the least of which is the power of flight. She can also summon the Flames of the Faltine at will, a mystical energy source that others such as Doctor Strange must use magic to call them forth.

However, Clea's skills as a sorceress help enhance her already-considerable demonic abilities, and she is as capable with magic as Stephen Strange is. This means that she too can astrally project herself outside of her body, summon force shields, produce energy blasts, and call down other-worldly weapons with a wave of her hands. Clea is also a powerful magical telepath who shares a unique connection specifically with Doctor Strange as a result of their close bond. She has even shown herself capable of implanting false memories in others while being able to read thoughts and detect truthfulness.

Of course, her study of magic also includes learning any number of magic spells and incantations, which make her, like Strange, a sorceress with a wide variety of abilities. This has included summoning the Rings of Ragga-Dorr, calling forth the powers of the Vishanti, and even resurrecting the dead. 

Doctor Strange's love, or how Clea learned to stop worrying and marry Stephen Strange

While on Earth, Clea learns the ways of magic from Stephen Strange. While they start as master and apprentice, the two slowly form a bond that transcends that relationship. Over time, Clea falls in love with Strange. While Stephen clearly holds some affection for her, their feelings are not equal — at least not at the start. However, Strange's love for Clea eventually blossoms, and the two become a serious Marvel power couple who adventure together, save the world together, and travel alternate realities together. Since they are both sorcerers, their relationship goes beyond a physical and emotional connection and is nearly spiritual.

During their many years together, Doctor Strange and Clea are mystically bonded through vows that could be considered a marriage. In fact, while in her human form in New York, Clea even wears a traditional human wedding ring to signify her union with Doctor Strange, who even jokes that it was simply "the commute" that had made him hesitant to commit. It's said that the rings they wear are relics of the Dark Dimension itself, a symbol of the powerful promise they've made to share their souls and hearts as one.

Unfortunately, their blessed union wouldn't last forever. Eventually, Strange's womanizing came between them, with Clea essentially asking for a divorce.

Clea shared a body with Doctor Strange

As lovers, Doctor Strange and Clea have a physical connection like any married couple, but they've taken theirs a step further than most. In a key storyline that begins in Strange's comic book series, "Doctor Strange: Master Of The Mystic Arts" #1, Stephen Strange is attacked by a villain called the Silver Dagger. After being stabbed, Strange finds himself transported inside the Eye of Agamotto and must find a way out. At the culmination of the story, Strange's non-corporeal self escapes and discovers that his protege and partner Clea is being tortured by Silver Dagger.

Strange learns that the villain sought the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme and is enraged when he discovers that Strange is not only the Ancient One's newest disciple but has recently taken up his mantle. With Strange freed from the Eye of Agamoto, his soul inhabits the body of none other than his protege and partner Clea, and the two defeat the big bad together. Though they quickly separate, sharing a body takes Clea's relationship with Strange to a new level.

She ruled the Dark Dimension

When Clea begins to feel that her love for Doctor Strange isn't being reciprocated, she resigns her apprenticeship. At the same time, Clea learns that the Dark Dimension is now in the midst of an uprising against its tyrannical ruler, Umar — Clea's mother. Returning to her home plane of reality, Clea — along with Strange — joins the rebellion and helps dethrone Umar. It is during this conflict that Clea finally learns of her true parentage. After Clea is victorious, she exiles Umar and her father, Orini. 

Despite her misgivings over Strange's love, she asks that the sorcerer remains by her side as she takes the throne of the Dark Dimension. Strange declines and Clea is left to rule alone. Clea and Strange have many future encounters, though, as Strange's nemesis — and Clea's uncle — Dormammu fights to regain his kingdom, and the two team up to defeat him time and time again. It is while she is the Dark Dimension's queen that Doctor Strange truly begins to fall in love with Clea, and the two are soon betrothed. But even when married, Clea and Doctor Strange live apart in separate realms. 

Clea faced off with Galactus and was mind wiped by Mephisto

When the world-devouring being known as Galactus is sent into a magical realm by a sorcerer named Zoloz, it leads to cosmic calamity. Instead of remaining trapped there, Galactus begins consuming powerful beings from other dimensions, threatening to destroy any number of different realms as he grows in power. Doctor Strange soon becomes Galactus' herald while Clea recruits her mother Umar to build a coalition of magical forces to try and stop this dimensional terror. But it all leads to disaster, and before long Doctor Strange finds himself with little recourse but to go to the devil Mephisto for help.

Striking a twisted bargain, Doctor Strange offers up a debt to be collected later if Mephisto will help them defeat Galactus. When all is said and done, Doctor Strange successfully resets the universe and reforms all of time and space as it was before Galactus' threat emerged. Once the dust is settled, Mephisto announces his price — Clea's memories of Doctor Strange. Tragically, just before Doctor Strange casts the spell that will wipe her memory of him, she tells him that she thought they could finally be together again.

She became the next Sorcerer Supreme

Eventually, Clea's memories of Doctor Strange return, but only through yet another tragedy. After being defeated by the sorcerer Kaecilius, every spell ever cast by Doctor Strange is undone, which allows Clea to regain her lost memories. With the help of a temporal remnant, Clea is able to find Stephen and resurrect him to say goodbye once and for all. However, Doctor Strange had one last surprise for his true love: gifting her the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme in his absence.

Following others that have come before, including the Ancient One, Brother Voodoo, and even Thor's brother Loki for a brief period, Clea becomes the latest in a long line of Sorcerer Supremes in Marvel Comics. She has become a new and different kind of hero wizard as well, vowing to find a way of resurrecting her ex-husband Doctor Strange. In honor of her lost love, Clea takes the last name Strange and received her own new comic book title, "Strange" #1, which debuted in March 2022 – perfectly timed for her first MCU appearance in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

There are other Cleas in the multiverse

Marvel fans should know that where there is one, there are many, thanks to the vast multiverse of stories in the comics and beyond. For Clea, she has appeared outside of the main 616 Marvel Universe a few times. Like many Marvel mainstays, the sassy sorceress makes her presence known — albeit briefly — in the 17th-century superhero tale "1602" by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert. There, she is a powerful magician and wife of Stephen Strange, in addition to being a queen from another dimension. Clea is perhaps even more loyal to her husband in this universe, where she allows him to be executed after being captured by King James because Strange has her swear not to get involved.

In the alternate future reality of "Earth X," it's revealed that the Dark Dimension is actually an alternate Earth, and Clea is an adversary of Doctor Strange's years after their love affair had ended. She eventually battles Strange in a deadly encounter and murders him while he is in his astral form, taking the title of Sorcerer Supreme by force.

In the alternate reality seen in the "M.O.D.O.K." comic book miniseries dubbed Earth-11131, we find a world where every superhero has been killed by a giant-headed villain. She is the lover of that world's Baron Mordo and is eventually killed by Aldrif Doomsdottir, a version of Thor.

She's already been seen in a Doctor Strange movie

It may come as a surprise to fans of the MCU, but Clea's appearance in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," where she debuts in a surprising post-credits scene, is not her first time appearing in live-action. Though Charlize Theron is sure to impress as the sorceress when she returns to the MCU, Clea was played once before by actress Anne-Marie Martin in 1978's "Dr. Strange." You'd be forgiven for not knowing she made an appearance in the film, though, as while she does share the character's moniker, she bears almost no resemblance to her comic book counterpart.

In the film, Martin plays Clea Lake, a young woman who inexplicably shares a psychic bond with psychiatrist Stephen Strange. Released from magical imprisonment, the villainous Morgan LeFay (Jessica Walter) possesses Lake's body as a way of striking at Strange's mentor, Thomas Lindmer (a stand-in for the Ancient One). Once LeFay leaves Lake's body, the young woman comes under the care of Strange, which prompts Lindmer to teach him the ways of the mystic arts.

We have yet to see if Clea in the MCU will be a faithful interpretation of the comic book version, but it can't be any further from the source material than what we saw in the 1978 film.