Marvel’s Doctor Strange has meddled in dark magic before, but his title of Sorcerer Supreme used to be held by a complete villain. While the Sorcerer Supreme is a heroic title taken on by worthy bearers, past holders have stretched the ethical limits of what Earth’s magical protector can do. Past Sorcerer Supreme mages include the trickster god Loki and Ghost Rider, after all. But the most evil of them all is someone readers would least expect: real-world historical figure Isaac Newton.
Isaac Newton was a 17th-century scientist whose work on mathematics and gravity formed our understanding of physics. The actual Newton was also an alchemist whose occult study and scientific learning were closely intertwined. His study of magic and transmutation led him to beliefs that he then used to make breakthroughs in natural law.
In the Marvel Universe, where magic is much more powerful and dangerous, Isaac Newton took a path to stranger things. He began to study ways to predict the future through both prophecy and math until he arrived at what he called the “Silent Truth”, a divine equation that proved when the world would end. Armed with this knowledge, he began to corrupt the secret society he belonged to, the Brotherhood of the Shield. Isaac Newton imprisoned Nostradamus to torture prophecies out of the French seer. He convinced his followers to abandon their moral boundaries in the face of the apocalypse and murdered anyone he saw as a threat, including the astronomer Galileo.
Isaac Newton became the Sorcerer Supreme of the 17th century and is the only known evil Sorcerer Supreme. He protected Earth, but he did it to further a secret agenda. In the 2017 series Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme, the legendary wizard Merlin united bearers of the title from across time to recover a reality-changing artifact called the Word of God. When the Sorcerer Supreme team got it back, Newton stole it away and betrayed the team for the power to change fate.
The Marvel Universe was changed by Newton’s legacy of evil. When the time-traveling Leonardo da Vinci returned to the Brotherhood of the Shield and brought Isaac Newton to trial, he split the secret society apart. The faction that sided with da Vinci became Nick Fury’s spy agency SHIELD. Newton’s believers joined the Brotherhood of the Spear, which became SHIELD’s fascist archenemy. In other words, Isaac Newton founded Hydra. Doctor Strange must get a lot of tension whenever he looks at an apple.