This week’s episode of What If…? wowed audiences for a slew of reasons, not the least of which was the amazing fight Doctor Strange had with his evil self, Strange Supreme. With the fate of existence at stake, the fight delivered the same kind of thrills found in some of the biggest Marvel films like Avengers: Infinity War.
We sat down and spoke with What If…? editors, Joel and Graham Fisher, on how exactly this amazing fight scene was brought to life in the production offices of Marvel Studios. Turns out the fight scene was the brainchild of showrunner Bryan Andrews and storyboard artist Aram Sarkisian.
As far as the action sequences go, it’s all Bryan Andrews [director] and his right hand, Aram Sarkisian, who is now the Head of Story for the series. Bryan actually storyboarded that Infinity War sequence that you’re referencing. When the two of them are in a room, it’s amazing to watch. It’s a nonstop rapid fire of ideas.
All the best fight scenes are dynamic; they tell a story through means of punching and kicking. In Doctor Strange’s case, it’s all about using the visuals of conjuration and sorcery as a storytelling device. This episode of What If…? has the two Stranges doing all kinds of things in all sorts of ways.
Aram, as he was originally boarding it, was keeping the battle on the ground to a certain extent. And Bryan was like, “We gotta get elevation [gestures vertically]. This dance has to keep changing and can’t be all in the ground.” So they took Strange up and then took him down. All these different ways to make this fight scene flow in an organic way. And then there’s the capes fighting each other [laughs].
With great action comes great stakes and the stakes for this episode are immense. Not only is the universe in peril in the fight but Strange’s humanity is at stake as well. The Fishers shared the production’s insistence on keeping everything about the story.
It’s just an amazing collaboration between the director and the storyboard artists that drew it. But also the collaboration within the animation department is amazing because we got to a point where we went, “This is great but we’re gonna get battle fatigued if we keep doing action. We need to ground it within the story. What are the stakes?” So Strange needs to get into his head. We had that whole shadow moment that got storyboarded. He has to have that last temptation. Will he give in and bring back his love?