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Prisoners In The Village

This issue continues directly from the one before, with Doctor Doom talking to a captured Fantastic Four through an "electronic spy scope" (or "Skype call" in today's money). This is a distinctly different Doctor Doom from previous encounters. He's always enjoyed taunting his enemies from afar, but here he does it in the guise of kindness, telling them that they will now be looked after under his rule. Doom's character has changed, from a wise leader who only undertook villainous activities for the benefit of his people, to a deluded dictator who believes they are foolish children who must be severely punished if they ever stray. It's a view of dictators and their propaganda-based denial of reality that reminds me of the various "Number Twos" in "The Prisoner", and indeed by dictatorships in literature and real-life.

Reed Richards compares Doom to a slave master, which he takes great umbrage at, not on any moral grounds but because slaves were known to escape, and nobody ever escapes from Latveria. In order to make sure of this he orders the team's food to be drugged so they can be subjected to more of the hypnosis which causes them to be unable to use their powers. This leads to a long sequence focussing on Doom as he orders his subjects around and then sets a trap for some political prisoners, allowing them to think they've escaped so that he can use them as a test for his new killer robots. During this sequence Doom's self-delusion is reinforced, as he talks about his own hatred of violence just after almost throttling someone, and then going to watch prisoners being beaten up on his own instructions. Doom uses such language constantly, not just to trick other people but also when he speaks to himself, showing that it is a worldview that he actually believes in. He is no longer the solo Mad Scientist carrying out his own plans, nor is he the noble revolutionary leading a nation, he is now an avatar for the real-life "supervillains" that Cold War Americans saw ruling Eastern Europe.

The escaping prisoners are soon killed by the robots, which leads Doom to herald the next stage of his weapons testing - "the destruction of an entire village." The story then cuts to an image of The Fantastic Four, sitting in the self-same village. Moving the action to a village, especially an ornate and otherwordly one, draws immediate comparisons with The Prisoner again, set as it was in The Village, shot on location in the ornately designed and otherwordly Portmeirion Village. The Fantastic Four eat the food supplied for them, and then pass out. This does seem a bit foolish, as it's by no means the first time Doctor Doom has given them drugged food, and this time they wake up to find that they are terrified of anybody even talking about violence.

While this is going on Doctor Doom is having his portrait painted. Unusually for him he has demanded that his real face be represented. Doom has always been distraught about the destruction of his face, frequently thrown into fits of rage at the injustice of his disfiguration, so it's odd to see that he is now capable of not only looking at himself in the mirror but also appearing without his mask in front of other people. Way back in his origin story he stated that assuming the mask meant an end to Victor von Doom and the beginning of Doctor Doom, so does this mean he is reverting to his previous form? Or is his self-delusion now expanding to the point where he could one day convince himself that he is not ugly?

He's not there yet though - when an underling expresses the wish that Doom should like his painting, he is swiftly told not to be such an idiot. The sitting is interrupted by another Skype call, this time from some Standard Robots calling to tell him that the new Killer Robots have escaped and are heading towards The Village...sorry, towards the village, where a helpless Fantastic Four await. It's not clear whether they've really escaped, or whether it's all part of Doom's masterplan, because this is where the comic ends, on a classic cliffhanger.

The end of Lee and Kirby's run is often spoken of as a decline from their much-lauded middle-period, but I must say that so far this storyline has been terrific, in terms of plotting, characterisation, and fantastic imagery. It also marks a major turning point in the character development of Doctor Doom, which hopefully will continue as the story progresses!

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posted 8/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Name Is Doom!

It's been a whole year since Doctor Doom last starred in a Marvel comic, and a full two years since the climax of The Peril And The Power, but I think it was worth the wait! Not only is this a great late-period Lee and Kirby story, full of big ideas and amazing artwork, but it also marks a huge shift in Doom's overall character, moving him definitively from his origins as a mad scientist who more or less worked alone to the dictator in charge of a whole country's worth of mad science that he would remain as into the seventies and eighties.

This change in Doom can be seen from the front cover, where he lurks menacingly above the Fantastic Four, who are trapped in the weird world of Latveria. The four-part story which starts in this issue was later acknowledged by Lee and by Kirby as a homage to "The Prisoner", the Patrick McGoohan series based in "The Village" which was first broadcast in the US around the time that Kirby would have been plotting out these issues. He would later go on to pencil an adaptation of the series in 1976 which would not be released until after his death.

It's a little while before we get to Latveria though, as the first few pages follow the Fantastic Four on their way home from the previous issue's storyline with the Inhumans. At the end of the third page the story moves to "a forbidding castle, deep in the heart of the distant Balkans" where an old man is trying to escape a terrifying "him". The reader isn't told where this village... sorry, small Balkan state is, or who the man is fleeing (although they could probably guess from the cover), which makes the next page reveal even more powerful than it otherwise would have been. Which is still VERY powerful! Doom has always been self-deluded, but this character trait is really cranked up here, as he bemoans the fact that some of his citizens are ungrateful for all he does for them - he provides clothes and food and all he asks in return is total obedience. Previously he's either derided his citizens or acted protectively towards them, but now he moves into full-blown dictator mode, acting as a representative of an American view of life in Soviet Russia. This is a brutal tyrant, who tells his people that they are blessed by is rule, and to be happy or die - he is basically Stalin. Meanwhile the Fantastic Four are getting a briefing from Nick Fury, who has found a Robot Arm that is so deadly that it takes the combined might of the Fantastic Four and Shield to bring it back under control when it escapes from containment. Fury suspects that this must be the work of Doctor Doom and, fearing the development of terrifying new super-weapons, he asks the Fantastic Four to investigate.

The idea that Doom is harbouring weapons of mass destruction is one that will be returned to many times over the coming years, with any attempt to take action against him often thwarted by the politics of his position as a national ruler. Sometimes Doom will be seen as a representative of the Soviet State, other times a hard to swallow alternative, but here is shown as being even worse than America's sworn enemies. When the Fantastic Four travel incognito through "the heart of Communist-occupied Central Europe" they find that even KGB Agents fear Latveria. As soon as they enter the country the team (with Crystal doing maternity cover for Sue, who's just had a baby) are attacked by Killer Robots. Reed Richards claims to have had a plan to "let" the Robots capture them, though given the trouble they had fighting a single hand I imagine they'd have struggled to do anything else when there's at least six whole ones attacking. Unfortunately for Reed's "plan" Johnny loses his temper, so the team have to fight anyway, and end up losing. When their defeat is complete Doom himself appears, ordering the robots to take them away as his prisoners. When the team wake up they find themselves in a surreal world, treated as revered guests in a distinctly odd version of Latveria. Previously the country had been an American's idea of what Eastern Europe might be like, based as much on old movies and Kirby's experience of Europe during the Second World War as reality, but here it is deliberately strange, in obvious homage to "The Prisoner". Rather than the dungeons they might have expected, the find themselves in the midst of a parade to welcome them. This is, of course, all part of Doctor Doom's plan. However much things change, Doom will always have a plan, and he will always watch it unfold via television. There's just time for Doom to threaten an underling with "the penalty for looking discontented" before the story ends with him appearing on another TV screen to tell the Fantastic Four to be happy... or die! The ever-watchfulness of Doom ties in neatly with the homage to "The Prisoner", but what I think is really interesting here is his development from someone forever leaping out of windows to escape, just a few years ago, to a fully-fledged dictator, ruling an entire nation with maniacal zeal. There's a lot more of this to come!

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posted 1/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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There's a whole heap of Doctor Doom in this comic - he's there on the cover, and then he pops up in the first story, a parody of 'Camelot' featuring Thor, called 'Comicloct'.

Early on in this story there's a gathering of supervillains which, unusually,does not feature Doom amongt them. However, it seems that this time around Roy Thomas and Marie Severin are spreading the villains out, as he appears on the very next page along with other characters who weren't in the preceding group. As I keep saying, he's there as a representative of supervillains, not necessarily as the character of Doctor Doom himself. This is made even more clear in his other main appearance, as 'Doctor Doomenstein' in a retelling of the Hollywood version of 'Frankenstein'.

Apart from living in a castle and looking the same, 'Doomenstein' has no resemblance to Doctor Doom, although there are similarities to recent versions of 'Dr Bloom' seen in this series, in that he speaks with a 'comedy' German accent, again probably referencing 'Wolfgang' from 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In'. Between these two stories there's yet another appearance, alongside perennial 'Not Brand Echh' favourite Aunt May in a 'Puzzles' section. Doom sits wearing comfy slippers, reading a magazine - the 'humour' coming from the juxtaposition with his usual role as the ultimate supervillain. This has been how he's been used throughout this series, as a representative of supervillainy whose position is secure enough to be mocked without need for explanation.

In the mainstream Marvel Universe between the publishing dates of March 1967 and March 1969 Doctor Doom only appeared as a main character (as opposed to cameo or parody) in two issues of Daredevil. However, during the same period he appeared in nine issues of 'Not Brand Echh', often several times per issue. It's thus a mark of how well established he is in his position as Number One Baddy that it can survive this constant mockery with very little reinforcement of his 'proper' role elsewhere.

There's just one issue of 'Not Brand Echh' to go - it's been interesting reading them, but I must say I'm very glad that next time we'll be returning to the pages of 'The Fantastic Four' for 'The Name Is Doom'!

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posted 30/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Super-hero Daydreams

This is another double-sized issue, which sees 'Not Brand Echh' moving further away from its origins in self-mocking re-tellings of Marvel's own stories, towards something much more like 'Mad' Magazine, but with added superheroes. Half the stories here are parodies of TV shows and movies (with a sprinkling of added superheroes) while the rest either mock other company's characters (including Aquaman and Snoopy) or talk about the work of comic creators themselves.

One particularly interesting strip is in the 'Auntie Goose Rhymes' section, where Aunt May (who, as I've noted before, appears all over the place in this series, as if the creators either think an elderly woman is inherently funny, or that their readers do) 'reads' nursey rhymes about the 'Marble' characters and creators. Doctor Doom appears in the 'engraved border' for the first page of the strip along with several other characters, although he's the only super-villain represented. One of the rhymes is a tribute to Jack Kirby, and his ability to keep creating amazing characters. It's only one page long, and I think it's worth including here in full: Apart from the fact that Doctor Doom appears here in his usual prominent position amongst the other leading characters of the day, it's also interesting because it's not actually drawn by Jack Kirby, it's by John Verpoorten, and it's written by Roy Thomas rather than Stan Lee, who you'd usually expect to be the one buttering Kirby up in print. This comic came out only a year before Kirby left Marvel, at a time when he was already becoming discontented with the credit he received for creating all of these characters, as well as the payment. The fact that it's Roy Thomas, a former fan, writing this tribute is perhaps a precursor to the fights by fans through the 70s and 80s to get recognition for the artist, in the face of opposition from Marvel itself.

Doom makes two more appearances, both cameos in his position as 'representative of terrifying supervillainy'. The first is in a strip called 'Super-hero daydreams' where a small boy imagines being able to transform into Doctor Doom by uttering the magic word 'Shamarvey'. The other is in a barely comprehensible strip called 'It's A Mad, Mad Ave!' I think the idea is that all the Marble superheroes (and some villains) work in an advertising agency and can only speak in terms of advertised products... but then reply as if they're normal people off the street who don't know what's going on. Doctor Doom appears in the large pay-off panel where... er... everybody has a big fight. What all this shows, yet again, is that Doctor Doom is accepted as such an important part of the Marvel Universe that he has to be included on most occasions when there's a group shot, and is used as the main representative of supervillains. It also shows that I'm getting really fed up of reading 'Not Brand Echh' - just one more to go!

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posted 23/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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And Time, The Rushing River

This story sees Roy Thomas use Ray Bradbury's 'A Sound Of Thunder' for inspiration, as The Avengers return from a time travel adventure (using Doctor Doom's time machine) to discover that their actions have had dire repercussions for the present day.

When they return to their own time they discover a world subtly changed, not least by the fact that the original members of The Avengers are still together, and very surprised to see them. After a lot of research using a history-telling device called a 'Herodotron' they discover that in this new reality a mysterious figure called The Scarlet Centurion turned up at the end of The Avengers' first adventure and offered them an end to famine, plague and pestilence, in exchange for imprisoning all other superheroes. The Avengers have a meeting about it and decide to give it a go. After all, if he's lying then The Avengers themselves will still be around to stop him, so no harm done, right? You know, apart from beating up and imprisoning every other superhero, which is precisely what they go out and do. It's all supremely daft, but they think they're doing the right thing and, once every other superhero is overcome they go and duff up all of the supervillains, just to be sure. Doctor Doom, Electro, Doctor Octopus and The Mandarin were the last super-powered beings left at liberty to fight the Avengers, and though we don't see exactly how they were eventually defeated, we are told that they definitely were, with this panel the only mention of them in the issue. They're basically there to show how wrong The Avengers have become, that the Supervillains are now the ones fighting for liberty against super-powered oppression, whereas normally it would be the other way round.

The interesting thing for me here is that Doctor Doom is being used once again as a signifier of super-villainy, grouped with other major supervillains in a very similar fashion to how he has been used recently in Not Brand Echh. This is the first time he's been used this way in the main Marvel universe, even though this is actually an 'alternative' timeline rather than the 'real' one. As discussed previously, it definitely won't be the last time we seeing him heading up a representative group of villains, but it's interesting to see that this was a storytelling tool that was first used in a humour comic!

The Avengers travel back to Doom's old hideout, where his time machine was first demonstrated way back in Fantastic Four #5, which causes one of the team to remark how odd it is that the castle's still there in this reality. This is Roy Thomas using and old Stan Lee trick of pointing out how ridiculous a situation is, in order to get the reader to accept it! They cook up a plan to reset the timeline, which works so well that they themselves forget what has happened, although not before The Watcher turns up to give a brief explanation of who The Scarlet Centurion really is. What the Watcher conveniently omits here is the idea that Rama Tut and Doctor Doom might actually be the same person from different points in time, as mentioned when they met back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. I imagine that The Watcher, seeing all as he does, thought that that was all too confusing to go into here, and I think he makes the right decision. The story ends with The Avengers flying off with no memory of what's gone on, as none of it technically happened at all. It's a neat, sci-fi twist, ending to the story, even if it does make you wonder a little bit why you bothered reading it!

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posted 18/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Origin Of The Silver Surfer

After reading so much of 'Not Brand Echh' it's nice to read something in a Marvel comic that genuinely made me laugh... although I don't think it was meant to. It happened here, in the text to the splash page of 'Silver Surfer' #1. He's a Space Spanner! The rest of the issue is surprisingly short on laughs, as for once Stan Lee goes all in on the melodrama as the Silver Surfer tries to help mankind but is rejected again and again. As with Steranko's dialogue in the recent issue of Strange Tales everything is overwrought, self-pitying, and melodramatic, but (also as with that issue) it sort of works. John Buscema's art is gorgeous throughout, echoing the text with character poses that are forever straining away like ancient statues, conveying a feeling of power combined with emotional extremity. Over the course of the story the Surfer narrates his own origin story, mixed in with a recap of his adventures so far on Earth, which of course includes his meeting with Doctor Doom the year before in The Fantastic Four. Here we get to see the Surfer's side of the story, which features Doom being silent and the Surfer having no way of knowing that he'd turn out to be evil. I'd suggest that having the Power Cosmic might have made you a better judge of character, especially of armoured monarchs called 'Doctor Doom', but maybe the Surfer's right. He comes across as a slightly unattractive character in his flashbacks, especially when he's shown in his former life on Zenn-La. He spends so much time moaning about how easy and BORING his idyllic life is that he almost seems pleased when Galactus turns up to eat his planet and kill everyone he's ever known, as it's at least something to do. Similarly when he takes on the role of Galactus' herald, he claims that he'll do it to save further lives, when really it's just so he can get some cosmic kicks.

Whatever the reason, Doctor Doom does not feature any further in this story, and does not even speak - something which will be rectified at last when we see him next!

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posted 16/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Casey At The Bat

At this point in the series 'Not Brand Echh' had gone double-sized on a bi-monthly publication schedule, increasing the page count in an attempt to be more like 'Mad'. It even has a contents page, unlike (nearly?) all other Marvel comics of the time. Doom's first appearance is in an adaptation of the poem 'Casey At The Bat'. I must admit I had to look this one up - it's one of those (very few) pieces of American culture which haven't made it into the public consciousness over on this side of the Atlantic, possibly because it was never mentioned in an episode of 'Friends'! It's a nineteenth century poem about baseball, which is 'recited' faithfully here, with the humour coming from the use of comics characters and their commentary on what's going on. For some reason Doctor Doom talks in a German accent throughout the story. He's never done this in any of the comics, so I imagine it's an attempt to make it even MORE hilarious (NB I am now heartily fed up with 'Not Brand Echh' by this point, so that is definitely sarcasm) by referencing the Wolfgang character in 'Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In'. This character also appears on the front cover of Not Brand Echh #11 in another example of the growing focus on TV parodies as the series attempts to further mimic 'Mad' .

Doom shows up again in a couple of 'Super-Hero Greeting Cards'. As in most of Doom's appearances in 'Not Brand Echh', they don't refer to his actual character, rather using him as a signifier for all Super-Villains. In most cases another villain like Magneto or Doctor Octopus could have been used instead, but it's generally Doctor Doom who's used when a baddie's needed. It doesn't make for hilarious reading, but it does show how important he is as a character, even though at the moment he's being used a lot more for this than for actual narrative action in the main Marvel universe!

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posted 11/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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What Price Forbush-Man?

It's time for another visit to the world of 'Not Brand Echh', with Roy Thomas and John Verpoorten taking Forbush Man on a trip around this version of the Marvel Universe, meeting the likes of The Agents of Sheesh and The Echhs Men in what amounts to a forerunner of the line-wide crossovers which would start to become popular two decades later. It's interesting to note that we now see the same satirical versions of Marvel characters each time they appear in the comic - it's always "The Fantastical Four" or "The Revengers" rather than other versions of their names, and they always behave in the same ways, as if, even in a humour comic, the continuity of a shared storyworld is too hard to resist.

As before, Doctor Doom's appearance is as one member of a group of supervillains who attack Forbush Man and are foiled by him jumping down a manhole. Again, this demonstrates Doom's primacy amongst supervillains and again this has echoes with J Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's Amazing Spider-man #36: If there's ever a get together Doom's the one who's always got to be there to make it a proper gathering of supervillains. He's a figurehead for supervillainy, so in this case does not express many of his usually character traits, but we'll be seeing that in the next issue of Not Brand Echh when Doom... er... recognises his European roots!

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posted 9/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Doom In The Room

This issue did not come up in any of my original data searches, because Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear, visually, anywhere in it. He is, however, mentioned a lot, so I think it needs to be included, while noting that this demonstrates both the need to read around the data and the primacy of the image over the dialogue in comics.

The biggest shock for me with this issue is that, after the psychedelic bombast of Steranko last time Kirby's artwork suddenly looks flat and old-fashioned. I'm used to it being exciting and fresh, but here it seems like old news. The story is a sort of retread of The Wedding Of Reed and Sue from Fantastic Four Annual #3 except with even MORE continuity. It starts with Daredevil swinging in from the end of the previous issue of his own series and meeting Thor, who has come straight from events in his own title. Spider-man quickly joins them, and Daredevil tells the group that Doctor Doom has taken over Reed Richard's body (he hasn't, that was just a Cunning Fib by Doom at the end of his last appearance). They then go and fight the three male members of the FF (Sue is on pre-maternity leave) who, in a classic comics misunderstanding, believe that Daredevil is actually Doctor Doom and the other two are some allies in disguise.

Like I said, Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear in this issue, but he is mentioned a LOT! Of course, none of the superheroes take the time to discuss the matter, or even try to explain that they really are who they look like, and a colossal punch-up ensues which only comes to an end on the penultimate page when Sue turns up and separates them all with her force fields. She know Daredevil can't be Doctor Doom because she's just seen a live report on TV, showing Doom in Latveria, addressing a conference of ministers. One might think that this was an oversight of Doom's - his whole plan was to trick the heroes into fighting each other, so it was a bit daft to go on telly and give the game away - but then again, how could he possibly be in Latveria? This issue takes place immediately after Daredevil #37 where Doom was specifically shown, on multiple occasions, to be in New York City. The whole story in the current issue can't have taken more than half an hour, which is nowhere near time for Doom to leave the embassy, fly to Latveria, and then prepare his notes sufficiently for a meeting, so what's going on?

Here's my No-Prize application: we don't actually see the news report Sue is talking about, so maybe she's just made it up, as a way of pointing out that everyone is clearly who they say they are, without making the men feel too silly?

As with last time, Doom's actual presence in the comic may be tiny, but we still get several of his defining characteristics - his cunning, his leadership of Latveria, and his immunity from prosecution - even if they're only related by other parties. By this point Doom is so recognisably Doom that he doesn't even need to be shown to make his mark!

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posted 6/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Crikey. If going from Kirby to Colan felt like a jolt, going from 'Not Brand Ecch' to Jim Steranko is a serious case of psychedlic whiplash. This stuff is far out!

It feels especially FAR OUT because it STILL looks like an experimental freakout despite the fact that it's fifty years old and is widely reported as one of THE far out experimental freakouts. I often feel disappointed when allegedly KRAZY texts turn out not to be so, but there is no dissapointment here!

Right from the first page it's clear that Steranko has taken the Marvel Style of experimentation and histrionics and CUBED it. I mean, look at Jimmy Woo's dialogue on the first page: His girlfriend has been murdered, and THIS is what he says. It's like someone condensed Stan Lee until he was ten times normal strength and then served it up neat!

There's a whole heap more of this as the issue goes on, including an incredible four (4!) page spread, an infinity drive warping space and time as it enters nucelo-phoretic space, psychic storms, stunning colouring effects (especially for the time) and visuals that dare to take Kirby's stylings and crank them up even higher. It's an astonishing tour de force, which does not feature Doctor Doom until the very last double splash page, when it is revealed that Nicky Fury's epic battle with The Yellow Claw, which has taken up this entire issue, was simply a game between Doom and The Prime-Mover, a robot that he built for the purpose of playing games with. Basically, it's all been a single player campaign which Doom lost at the very end. Let's hope he saved his progress! It's just a single panel, but still Steranko squeezes in a lot of Doom characteristics - his arrogance, his hatred of losing, his leadership of Latveria, and his delight in toying with people from a distance. If only he'd flung himself out of an airship whilst comparing himself to Reed Richards we'd have had the full set!

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posted 4/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Origin of...The Fantastical Four

The absolutle tiniest of Doom appearances in this comic, as he pops up once in the background of a single panel, threatening Spider-Man's Aunt May with a "fat lip". This is a distinctly odd comic, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby doing their very best to mimic 'Mad Magazine'. Kirby had worked for humour magazines in the past, and does good job of mimicking the Mad Magazine house style here, to the extent that I don't think you'd ever guess it was him on the art if you didn't know. The story itself is a surprisingly faithful retelling of the Fantastic Four's origin story, which seems to have used the original story as a template, with gags added along the way. It starts with the same smoke gun warning as appeared in Fantastic Four #1, and a lot of the jokes require an intimate knowledge of that specific comic, published over six years ago. Up until this point, according to the Grand Comics Database this had only been reprinted once in the USA, in The Golden Book And Comic Set of 1966. This was a vinyl record accompanied by a specially reprinted version of the comics which was designed to help children learn to read by "reading along" with the audio, though as it was more expensive than the single comics, and less widely distributed, it would not have been available to most regular readers.

The fact that this story requires a detailed knowledge of a six year old comic is therefore a pretty extreme example of the kind of knowledge that Marvel expected of its readers by this point, though sadly, in this case, there are no huge rewards to be had, as the storyline is "wacky" to the point of annoyance. Maybe the Mad-style of comedy isn't for me, but it feels like Stan and Jack are great at humour as part of the story, not so much when GAGS are the whole point!

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posted 29/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Living Prison!

It looks like we have an item to add to the long list of Things I Was Wrong About Aged 10: Gene Colan is NOT "weird and a bit wonky" as Young Me believed, he is in fact FAB - I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover!

` The story inside picks up a couple of minutes after where we left off last time, with Daredevil in a prison cell beneath the Latverian Embassy, trapped inside the body of Doctor Doom. He's pleased to find that this means he can finally see again, at last, but one thing he CAN'T see (clever phrasing, thanks) is a way out of this mess.

Well, he can't see it for about 10 seconds, and then realises that he's in the Latverian Embassy, inside the body of the leader of Latveria, so he simply calls some guards in and gets them to let him out. This seems a bit of an oversight in Doctor Doom's plan, but then this curious mix of haste and prevarication does seem to be part of his personality. When he's got The Power Cosmic, for instance, he puts of doing anything with it for ages, but at other times he'll dash off to carry out a plan without really doing any of the necessary preparation.

Daredevil does an excellent impersonation of Doom, who we then see swinging along in Daredevil's body, strolling through the park towards The Baxter Building. This is a beautiful piece of work by Colan, capturing Doom's swagger and delight in the body he's stolen. Last time I commented on what a big deal it was that nobody knew Daredevil was blind, and expected it to be immediately discovered by Doom as soon as the body swap was complete. Incredibly, this does not happen! Doom notices that his vision is different, but deduces that this is because of the filters on Daredevil's mask! At no point does he try taking it off, instead believing that it is this "filter" that gives him the other enhanced senses he's noticed. This dogged persistence with whatever his first idea about something is is definitely part of Doom's character - it fits with his arrogant belief in his own intellectual supremacy, despite the fact that it constantly leads to him jumping to entirely the wrong concluson. Back at the Embassy Daredevil is being much more sensible, and decides to radio the Fantastic Four to tell them what's happened. They do not believe him at first - why would they? I mean, who's ever heard of body transferral? HANG ON A MINUTE - I'll tell you who's heard of body transferral! The Fantastic Four! Especially Reed Richards whose body was swapped with... DOCTOR DOOM, way back in Fantastic Four #10. How on earth can he have forgotten THAT?

They are eventually persuaded that this is Daredevil, because he knows their emergency frequency and Doom, they believe, doesn't, something which will prove to be incorrect later. Meanwhile, out in the street, Doom himself proves to be much better at this sort of thing. His guards, sent out by Daredevil, find and attack him, and he proceeds to duff them all up in no uncertain terms while calling them complete idiots for not realising who he is. This seems a bit unfair to me, as the whole point of the body transferral is to look like someone else, but they appear to be fine with it. Also of note here is that he deals with the whole gang of them pretty easily, while Daredevil was apprehended by just two of them. For someone who claims not to sully himself with hand to hand combat "like a peasant" Doom is pretty good at it!

Further evidence of this come when the thugs dash back and bump into Daredevil, who has a much harder time fighting them. He thinks to himself that this is because he's not used to having no powers or being inside suit of armour, but Doom did all right and he's now blind! In the end the police turn up and save him, choosing to believe a national ruler over a bunch of yobboes. Daredevil leaves the scene and bumps into Doom, totally by coincidence. The two men chat, from inside each other's body, and if you think this might get a little confusing then you're right. Stan Lee recognises this throughout the story, providing helpful notes every few pages. Daredevil tells Doom that he's got a brilliant plan to stop him, and that he should listen in to the radio to find out what it is. "You're MAD!" says Doom as they part, so secure in his own brilliance that he can't be bothered to even give chase.

This seems a bit nuts to me, but then, as we've seen time and time again, one of Doom's many flaws is his inability to recognise that other people may have schemes of their own, especially those who he's left free to wander around looking and sounding exactly like him.

Being in Doom's body seems to have worn off on Daredevil, as his brilliant plan is so badly thought out that it's worthy of the Latverian monarch himself. He stomps back to the Embassy and declares war on EVERY country that borders Latveria. Note that he does this via a TV screen, a perfect impersonation of one of Doom's favourite modus operandi!

Luckily Doom hear this and realised precisely how MAD it is - "One of our neighbors is allied with Red China!" he thinks. "We'll be over-run in hours!" This demonstrates that Doom genuinely does care about his country. He's stolen a new, super-powered, body and is thousands of miles away from danger, but chooses to rush back to the embassy and immediately reverse the body swap, so he can call off the war.

Daredevil's plan worked, which is handy because otherwise it would probablly have instigated a nuclear war, and once returned to his own body his swiftly smashes up the machine. He prepares himself for another fight, but Doom he tells him not to worry. "I have so rarely been defeated... that I am amused by the novelty," he says, and tells Daredevil he is free to go. Having read all of his adventures so far I'd say that it's probably not THAT much of a novelty, but Daredevil takes him at his word and heads off to tell the Fantastic Four what's been going on. It's here that Doom finally does exhibit some cunning - knowing what's gone before, he radios the Fantastic Four (using their radio frequency, which he did know after all) and tells them that Doctor Doom is heading their way, DISGUISED as Daredevil! That's genuinely pretty clever if you ask me! And thus the issues ends, with Daredevil swinging through the city towards the Baxter Building, unaware of what awaits him. This story, which had its roots in an issue of Fantastic Four, is now heading back there for its conclusion, but before we get there we've got a couple of other, very very different, Doom appearances to look at!

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posted 27/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Don't Look Now, But It's- Dr. Doom!

This issues carries straight on from the last, with Doom asking Daredevil to be quiet via the medium of a punch in the face. This leads to several pages of a right proper punch-up, which would appear to be unseemly for a world leader like Doctor Doom, who claims that he wouldn't normally get into a fist fight "like a peasant" but is doing so here because it would be beneath him to use any of his thrilling weapons on someone without powers like Daredevil. I'm not as familiar with Daredevil as I am with The Fantastic Four, so I was surprised by how important it is to the story that nobody realises he has super powers. I knew that nobody was aware that he's blind, but was not expecting absolutely everyone he meets to remark upon how odd it is that someone with no super powers should be able to do the things he does. It's like a second secret identity.

During the fight Doom explains that he was actually on his was to take his revenge on The Fantastic Four, but heard about Daredevil's fight so thought he'd pop along to see if he could capture him. The pair do have previous, from back in Fantastic Four #39, but this meeting is just a happy accident for Doom... which makes some of the events later on a little hard to explain.

Doom wins the fight, despite various New York subway users trying to stop him, and carries a newly knocked out Daredevil into a side street and then into the back of a waiting car, where we are reminded once again of Doctor Doom's status as a world leader and therefore, in the Marvel Universe, a possessor of diplomatic immunity. Daredevil wakes up and there's another big fight, this time taking place entirely in the back of the car as Daredevil struggles against Doom and his heavies. For an expressive artist like Colan who excels at freeflowing athletic action this seems an odd choice, but I wonder if it's all because he enjoys drawing cars. He and Stan Lee were firmly entrenched in The Marvel Method at this point, so it would most likely have been Colan's choice, and there are some lovely illustrations of the vehicle as it speeds along, with the battle continuing inside. Eventually they arrive at the Latverian embassy where Daredevil is marched in at gunpoint, and then unceremoniously booted up the bum by Doom. As we saw not so long ago, he does enjoy holding people in cells, but has clearly learned that they tend to escape quite easily too, as when Daredevil does exactly that he finds himself tricked into a bizarre fairground-style room containing oversized furniture that can turn itself upside down. Doom watches the confusion with delight, viewing the action, as ever, on a TV screen. When I started this blog I was hoping to spot some defining characteristics of Doctor Doom. I was expecting arrogance, cruelty or cowardice, I was not expecting to discover he was a relentless, TV-obsessed, voyeur.

Another recurring aspect of Doom's personality, in whatever media he appears, is his willingness to tell his own story, and thus we finally discover what happened to him when he was tricked into flying into the cosmic barrier that Galactus set up around the earth, originally designed to stop the Silver Surfer from escaping. It turns out that, much like Doom claims for himself, Galactus sees no point in punishing non-combatants, so when he sees that it's not the surfer who's crashed he simply sends Doom unharmed back to Earth, while the surfer's board zooms back to its owner - all of which is illustrated (as seems to be policy in these situation) to deliberatelty echol the original story. It's another mark of the continuing shared universe that these characters all live in that the final outcome to a cliffhanger in Fantastic Four #60 is only revealed a year later in a totally different series!

Doom then tries to hypnotise Daredevil, but fails because, this form of hypnosis relies on the victim being able to see what's going on - that extra secret to his secret identity keeps paying off! This leads to another fight, which Daredevil appears to be winning until- oh no! -Doom dives away and captures him inside a strange tube. This turns out to be key to Doom's "brilliantly conceived Master Plan" - a body transferal ray! This is all well and good, but hang on a minute, didn't he say, right at the start of the story, that he only bumped into Daredevil by chance, having been on his way to fight the Fantastic Four? It's only been an hour at most since then, which is clearly not even enough time to devise a Hare Brained Scheme, let alone a Master Plan. If Doom had claimed it was the pay-off to some "brilliantly conceived improvisation" I would have agreed - he's making excellent use of the resources to hand - but no way is this a Master Plan.

Despite this, it all works out in Doom's favour, and the pair swap bodies, with Daredevil trapped within a suit of armour and Doom all in red! Thus the next issue features Doom taking on the Fantastic Four wearing Daredevil's body. Will this mean the end of Daredevil's secret extra secret? Find out next time!

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posted 20/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Meet The In-Laws

After all the excitement of seeing Doom in a regular comic series again at last, we immediately return to another appearance by his 'Not Brand Echh' counterpart 'Doctor Bloom'.

I'm coming round to the conclusion that the indexers at The Grand Comics Database must have been deliberately cataloguing all of the characters by their 'Not Brand Echh' names to differentiate them from the regular universe versions, and thus keep them well away from mainstream continuity. There's no other explanation for the fact that this issue did not show up in my initial database searches for 'Doctor Doom' - he's right there on the cover, so there's no way they could have missed him!

Here Doom is depicted as shedding a single tear at the wedding of Crystal from The Inhumans and 'The Human Scorch', in an image weirdly reminiscent of one from J Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's 'Ground Zero' story in Amazing Spider-man #36. I wonder, could they been related? Or is it silly to suggest that a nuanced, heartfelt moment of supreme characterization coud be in any way linked to ... J Michael Straczynski's run on Spider-man?

Sorry, I think I've read so many issues of 'Not Brand Echh' that the 'humour' is starting to wear off on me. Or maybe just wear off.

Doom appears twice inside the actual comic, and in both cases he's used as part of a gang of villains. In the first story he's there as a member of Sandman's villain "family" when the Human Scorch needs someone to move in with: And in the final story he's in a group again, eagerly waiting to find out the identity of the bride of 'Spidey-man'. Neither of these appearances make any use of the specifics of Doom's character, he's just there to signify that this is a group of supervillains.Interestingly though he's the only character to appear in both groups, signifying his primacy amongst Marvel supervillains. If it was just a bunch of minor villains the joke might be that they *are* minor characters (similar to the use of Boomerang, Speed Demon and co in The Superior Foes Of Spider-man), but with Doom in the mix it's made clear that the "joke" is that a group of normally evil, powerful figures are behaving in a silly way.

SPOILER ALERT: this is a trend that will crop up several more times over the coming issues, and not just in 'Not Brand Echh'. It's as if Doom's place in the universe is so secure that he can just be referred to without having to ever do much - like an aged rock star who signifies Rock And Roll and doesn't need to record any new material again. That's not to say Doom's ready to retire to the Heritage Touring Circuit just yet, in 1967 he's still rocking, as we'll see next time when we finally find out how he managed to escape his apparent death way back in The Peril And The Power!

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posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Name Of The Game Is... Mayhem!

After the recent run of pin-ups, cartoons and satire it feels good to be talking about an actual bona fide superhero comic again, although Gene Colan's version arrival on the blog, after so much Jack Kirby, came as something of a shock to my delicate sense. It's a whole different, much more fluid, style, which I remember finding distinctly disconcerting when I first encountered it in my early comics reading days. I always thought that it looked like everyone was underwater and, coming back to it again now, I sort of see my point. The bulk of the story is a continuation from the previous issue of 'Daredevil', with our hero having to rescue Sue Richards, who has been kidnapped yet again, and then chase down The Trapster. It's scripted by Stan Lee but feels very different from his style on The Fantastic Four. There are still side-stories and references to what's gone on before, but the focus on one central character rather than (at least) four makes it all much more direct and fast-moving, helped along by Gene Colan's art which, despite what 10 year old me may have thought, is perfectly suited to this story and features some gorgeous illustration.

Doctor Doom himself does not appear until the very last panel, when he discovers Daredevil regaining consciousness after his final battle. At the time this must have come as a terrific shock for the reader, as Doom had not been seen in regular continuity for almost a year, after disappearing at the end of Fantastic Four #60 and there had been no indication on the cover that he would be appearing. The fact that a single image of a character who is, technically speaking, a supporting character in a different magazine can be using as the astounding cliff hanger ending here demonstrates both the popularity of Doctor Doom and the assumption that someone reading one Marvel comic would be familiar with all the others, Surprised, Tiger? They kinda hoped you would be! But what on earth is Doom doing here, in a New York subway, when the last we knew he was colliding with a cosmic barrier high up in the atmosphere? Come back next time (or rather the time after next, as there's more 'Not Brand Echh' to come) to find out!

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posted 13/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Introducing: The One And Only Unmitigated Forbush-Man

Our third visit to the world of "Not Brand Echh" brings two tiny cameos from Doctor Doom in "The Origin Of Forbush Man", which unusually for this series tells a whole new story rather than mocking a previous one. It tells the story of how Irving Forbush - a joke name often used in editorials by Stan Lee - accidentally becomes a superhero while roaming through the Marvel (or, in this case, "Marble") Universe.

It's all daft fun, although I must admit that the style of these stories does start to grate a bit when you read several in succession. I guess the idea is that if you throw enough jokes at the reader then some of them will be funny, but it doesn't always work!

Doom's first appearance is in a single panel showing the "usual suspects" whom you might suspect of doing good around the city. Doom is there as the joke suspect, alongside the likes of good guys like Bobby Kennedy, Santa Claus, Charlie Brown... and Woody Allen, which is probably not someone you'd include in such a list nowadays. He pops up again at the end of the story, as one of several villains who are terrified of Forbush Man and demand to be put in jail for their own safety. As with all of this, it's yet more evidence of what an established big star Doctor Doom is in the Marvel Universe - right up there with Peter Parker's Aunt May in fact - who is roped in whenever a bad guy is needed, despite the fact that he hasn't actually been seen in the official storyworld for nine months. That all changes in the next blog though, as he's finally back in action... in Daredevil!

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posted 8/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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You Asked For The Origins

Only the briefest of appearances for Doom here, as a face in a crowd of tourists heading for fabled Jazzgard, in the origin of The Mighty Sore.

I'm not making these dreadful jokes, by the way... but I am giggling at them. This panel is a great example of the sort of celebrity and gag-packed crowd scenes that fill this series, and which led me to think that Doom might be in it a bit more than the databases said. Apart from Aunt May (who is pretty much ubiquitous in these stories) and The Two Gun Kid he's the only other major regular Marvel character here, in a scene made up of stars of stage, screen, and world politics, demonstrating once again what an important figure Doom was to the Marvel universe at this time.

The rest of the story rattles long at high speed with some particularly exuberant illustration from Jack Kirby. I distinctly remember this panel, from when it was repeated (I think) in a Marvel UK comic some time later (which I guess must have been Marvel Madhouse). Just because this is a joke strip it doesn't mean that Kirby is holding back, filling this and every panel with dynamic action to match Stan Lee's relentess punning.

It's a whole lot of fun - and there's more to come next time too!

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posted 6/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Who Says A Comic Book Has To Be Good?

A change to our advertised programme - it's Not Brand Echh Week!

The purpose of this blog is firstly to organise my analysis of Doctor Doom's media appearances for my PhD and secondly to check that I've got ALL of his appearances logged in my "corpus" of texts. Going through all the stories in chronological order means that it's easier for me to spot gaps, such as when Doom's appearance at the very start of Avengers #25, which was listed in my database, led me to discover he also very briefly appeared in Avengers #24, which wasn't.

Something similar happened when I was reading Not Brand Echh #7 (I try to stay a few blogs ahead, so this is one yet to come!). It was listed as having a Doctor Doom appearance, which indeed it did in a single panel cameo. However, I noticed that they style of storytelling in this issue was to chuck in as many background gags as possible, featuring pretty much every character in the Marvel roster at the time, so it struck me as odd that Doom would only appear once in the whole 13 issue run of the comic.

I went and had a quick check on Marvel Unlimited and found that he appeared LOADS more times, including on several covers! The problem appears to be that the people who indexed this particular series for The Grand Comics Database classified him as "Dr Bloom", a name which is used a couple of times to describe him in the stories, although in other cases he is clearly meant to be the actual Doom from the comics, such as on the cover to issue #1 here.

I can understand why they might think this is best, but for completeness purposes I'm going to count all of these as either Doctor Doom or alternate universe versions (the series officially takes place on Earth-665 in the Marvel Multiverse). The problem for my attempts to read these chronologically was that I found out by reading #7, so needed to go backwards to catch up with these missing appearances, starting right here, right now, with issue #1.

As already mentioned, Doctor Doom is right there on the cover being menaced by Forbush Man... who doesn't appear anywhere in the comic. Doctor Doom - or "Doctor Bloom" here - does appear, in "The Silver Burper", a mickey take of the recent four-issue "Doomsday" series which had finished a few months previously in Fantastic Four #60. This is actually Doom's next chronological appearance, and the satirical version not only makes some very self-aware points, but does it a lot more quickly than the original storyline!

The story kicks off with Weed Wichards devising a formula to cure The Thung (there are a LOT of jokes like this), which ends up changing his head only, so that in each panel his face changes to that of a different Marvel Character. Then, just as in the original we see the Silver Burper (who does burp) arriving in "Batveria" where Doctor Bloom is waiting. By the second panel Bloom has already exhibited a key Doom-characteristic: kicking someone up the backside. He then comes up with a cunning plot, to trick the Burper by acting good, again much like in the original and, though played for laughs here, it's not that different from the first time around. Bloom uses a device to steal the Burper's power and has him imprisoned. He tests out his newfound superpowers and, just as in the original, destroys a chunk of his castle in the process. The Fantastical Four arrive and Bloom toys with them before soundly beating them. In the original this led to several issues of Doom flying around being annoying, but here it leads to an argument between him and Weed Wichards that only takes a single page, and then he's ready to deal the killer blow. He's stopped by the pay-off to the running gag about the Thung, as his face changes into Doctor Bloom's, which is so horrible that it causes Bloom himself to run away. Legging it is very much part of Actual Doom's character at this point, but it seems like a lost opportunity to have him flee from The Thung's imitation of his masked face, when generally it's his scarred face underneath that causes him so much horror. Still, it's a proper pay-off to an not unamusing story (especially if you find "The Silver Burper" funny, which I'm afraid I did) which keeps surprisingly close to the original. Will it remain this way throughout the series? Come back on Wednesday, true believer, and find out!

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posted 4/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Micro World Of Doctor Doom

Doom's final appearance in the Hanna Barbera series "The Fantastic Four" is a fairly straight adaptation of The Micro World Of Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #16. There are a few changes - notably the removal of Ant Man - but for the most part it follows the usual Hanna Barbera route to adaptation of simplifying certain aspects and more fully explaining others.

The story starts with The Thing getting shrunk while carrying a piano down the street. In the original this happens at Alicia's house, but she's not in these cartoons so the action's translated to the street, which has the added benefit of increasing the opportunities for shrinking-based shenanigans. Similarly, the comic starts with each member at base relating previous occasions when they've been shrunk, but here we just see the shrinkages as they happen, which is a lot easier to follow.

Reed, Ben and Sue make their way back to the Baxter Building, still at miniature size, where they hear a voice say "Beware!" Unlike in the comics, the voice doesn't say "Beware Doctor Doom", which is probably to keep some of the mystery alive about who could be doing this to them... although the story is called "The Micro World Of Doctor Doom" and the titles of every episode do show a clip from this one, featuring a miniaturised FF fighting Doom, so I would suggest that that ship has probably already sailed.

A couple of minutes later Johnny arrives to find the others, as in the comic, about to be killed by the horrifying menace of air conditioning. As he's trying to save them the mysterious voice says "Beware Of Doctor Doom!" and we cut to the Micro World where Doom is already acting true to character by a) kidnapping a woman as a lure to capturing the Fantastic Four and b) watching the action from afar on a television screen. This time it's Princess Pearla, not Sue, but otherwise all is the same as usual. Once the terrifying threat of an air vent has been beaten, the FF clamber up a table leg to look at an atom in a microscope, and Reed reveals that all those student discussions at 2am were right - there are microscopic worlds at an atomic level! Far out! "It's quite possible that Doctor Doom could have ended up on some such atom planet or Micro World" says Reed, because of course it is. In the comics this at least had some logic to it, as we saw Doom being shrunken down on his previous appearance, but here's it's just accepted as Something That Could Totally Happen.

"A clever guess" says the watching Doom, who then shrinks the four further until they arrive to be welcomed in ... The Micro World Of Doctor Doom! This leads to a big fight with the guards, which is ended when Doom uses his shrinking ray again to shrink them even further. With the FF powerless again, Doom asks Reed what he thinks of his power over size - seeking the approval of his arch-enemy as he always does. "Absolutely amazing" says Reed, conforming to his own character by appreciating his foe's genius. He then asks how he found the Micro Worlds and, again, as usual, Doom is happy to relate the story.

It turns out that this version of Doom was working on a shrinking ray, but rather than fall into it during a battle with The Fantastic Four he just sort of stumbled in front of it by accident. After that it's all much like the comics - he discovers a happy world, which makes him RUDDY LIVID, and preys on the natives' trusting nature to take control of the whole world.

The FF fight back, beating up the guards as they attempt to gain control of the shrinking ray... leading to Doom capturinng Sue (again) and gassing the others. They're then put in prison with the King and Princess Pearla, although unlike the original, this prison under a sea of acid is made of stone rather than metal.

It's at this point that the cartoon makes what I consider a brilliant decision - it shows us a LOT more of The Lizard Men Of Tok! Doom imagines the various uses the subdued FF members could be put to, and each time The Lizard Men appear in his mental image. The punishments are the same as the comics, even down to Sue's (much better) hairstyle when she's working in the kitchens. The Lizard Men arrive (in a much less cool looking ship than the Kirby-designed original) to swap some minerals for the four prisoners Doom has promised them. Meanwhile, down in the dungeon, the four tear some strips of rock off the walls to form an escape pod - sheets of metal made much more sense in the original, so I don't know why they changed it. Even less pleasingly, in this version it's Reed, not Sue, who comes up with the escape plan. Other than that things progress as before, with the four escaping with the King and Pearla.

They return themselves to normal size - or at least normal in the Micro World - and head off to the Royal Gardens to fight Doctor Doom and his new ally King Tok. They fight their way past the Lizard Men, and then when they reach the human (or whatever they are in the Micro World) guards they are surprised to discover that their King is alive, "Not dead as Doom said". It's a small addition to the original which handily explains how Doom took charge of an entire army so easily.

They burst in on Doom and Tok, having a delightul meal together. Doom plays true to character once again and legs it, leaving the Lizard Men to fight for themselves. The FF use the shrinking ray to stop the Lizard Men - it's "quicker than fighting" - then rush outside to find King Tok trying to escape in his spaceship, which allows the Thing to re-enact his baseball practice from the original comic, whacking the ship out of the sky.

With that done they're about to head off to capture Doom, only for the King to inform them that he's already turned the shrinking ray back on himself to reverse the process and returned to his own world. "If that is so then our world is in imminent danger," says Reed, and they dash off to re-size themselves home.

When they get there, Ben points out that the shrinking ray tickles and has a good old laugh about it... and there the episode ends. In the comics the Fantastic Four did go off in the next issue to track Doom down, in a story that has already been adapted for a previous cartoon episode, but I guess the fact that these cartoons were in syndication, with no guaranteed order of broadcast, made that impossible. Instead they show a world much like the one described by Umberto Eco in That Essay Everyone Always Goes On About, where everything is returned to its original state. In the case of Doom, in this storyworld, that state is of always having just escaped from the Fantastic Four, and being liable to return at any moment.

Unfortunately there would be no return of Doom to the Hanna Barbera cartoons, as only one series was ever made. It's a shame - these may be simplified retellings of the originals, but they're well-made (for the most part) with at least some of the spirit of the comics still intact. The next appearance of the team, and Doctor Doom, in cartoon form would not be for another eleven years, in the (much less faithful) "New Fantastic Four" series, and it really would not be worth the wait.

Next here, however, Doom appears in a completely different series, returning to menace Daredevil in 1968!

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posted 30/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Research Question

A quick interlude to ask for a bit of help - can anyone tell me anything about the image below?

I found it on Pinterest (at The Marvel Age Of Comics, fittingly enough), which says it's an in-house ad from Fantastic Four #15. I'm not sure if it's drawn by Jack Kirby or not - the costume looks so wrong I suspect it might be by somebody else. Can anyone help me out with some info on it? It's interesting not just because it appears to be the first version of Doom not drawn by Kirby (very very early on) but also because it means Doom appeared in two consecutive issues before his (second) Return in Fantastic Four #16, almost like a trailer, demonstrating that Marvel knew what a fan favourite he was already, building up the excitement for his comeback!

UPDATE: I am indebted to Mr Nathaniel Metcalfe for investigating this further and uncovering this blog by Mr Nick Caputo which thinks that it's by Sol Brodsky, which makes perfect sense as it looks similar to Kirby, but clearly isn't him. The blog also shows that Doom's reappearance was mentioned on another page promoting the next issue, alongside a picture of Ant Man!

Thanks all - isn't the internet brilliant?

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posted 23/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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We're back in the world of Hanna Barbera again today, with a story that owes a huge debt to At The Mercy Of Rama-Tut in Fantastic Four #19.

As with all these cartoons the story is significantly streamlined compared to the original. For instance, in the comics the team go back in time to find a cure for Alicia's blindness but here they do it to find a cure for Ben's condition as The Thing. Alicia doesn't seem to exist in these stories, so this is a much clearer, more direct, way to get them heading back into history.

Still, it's a bit odd that the makers of the cartoon chose to adapt this story at all, as it relies heavily on the use of Doctor Doom's time machine, introduced in the comics in Doom's first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, but never adapted by Hanna Barbera. Thus when Reed Richards refers to the existence of the time machine, in a scene taken directly from Fantastic Four #19, he's talking about something that happened only in the comics. It could therefore be argued that this is the first example of Doom being involved in actual transmedia storytelling! The picture of him hanging in the gallery certainly looks a lot more like his appearance in the comics than in these cartoons, so one could argue that this story is following on from that one. However, one could also be a little less excitable and say that its simply a reference to an adventure that did happen in the Hanna Barbera storyworld but was never actually seen on screen.

Reed goes on to relate what happened in that unseen adventure. "He abandoned his castle, but there's a chance the time machine he left behind is still in working order," he says, and so they jet over to Latveria to search Doom's castle which, again, looks very similar to the comics version. They use the machine and things progress in a very similar manner to the original story, except that when they eventually meet Rama Tut he turns out not to be an ancestor of Doctor Doom. He's still a frustrated adventurer from the future though, who was similarly enthralled by watching the Fantastic Four's old adventures on television. Doctor Doom's importance is reinforced by the fact that it's his capture we see in the archive footage, and perhaps it was this that led Rama Tut to go and visit the castle, which is apparently a tourist attraction in the year 3000. It's here (while presumably dodging the tour guides) that he found the blueprints for the time machine, which he then used to build one of his own. It's noticeable that Rama Tut looks very different from in the comics, here being given a much more 'Oriental Baddy' design, similar to The Yellow Claw or Ming The Merciless. I wondered if maybe this was to make the story simpler, so that he appeared Egyptian rather than the original Rama Tut's more 'American' look, but then he doesn't resemble any of the other Egyptian characters either, so maybe it's just a bit of old fashioned racism. Other than that the rest of the story follows the comics pretty closely, with the FF falling under Rama Tut's control, eventually escaping, fighting back and returning to their own time. There's lots more of the repetition of animation sequences that would make Hanna Barbera cartoons notorious amongst their young audiences, and also more of their insistence on ending an episode with an entirely uncomical joke. Here Ben laughs off the fact that their search for a cure didn't work out, by saying "Maybe it isn't so bad being the ever lovin' Thing. After all, I'm the only one who's an antique in his own time. For posterity!" The incidental music crescendoes to a big laugh... and the other three stare pointedly ahead, not reacting. I like to think that they're being polite, inwardly thinking "What on earth is that supposed to mean?" I know I was.

And there the episode ends. Next time we're off to the Micro World where, who knows? We might even get to see The Lizard Men Of Tok!

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posted 23/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Another Blockbusting Bullpen Bonus Bombshell

When the first X-Men film came out there was much self-flagellation and recrimination at Marvel because, some executives felt, they had passed up an opportunity to turn interested filmgoers into new comics readers. The team shown in the movie were not being published as an ongoing comic at that time, and if a new fan went looking for the X-men in a comic shop they'd find nothing that bore any relation to what they'd seen on screen, and what they did see was mired in decades of very complicated continuity.

There were attempts after that to make sure that the comics reflected the movies, such as the Ultimate Comics line, although nowadays it seems that Marvel prefer to carry on with the comics pretty much as normal while ensuring that collected editions related to the films are very much available. There are also direct tie-ins set in the Cinematic Universe, rather than the comics one. I don't know if this has had any particular effect on sales, but I do know that book shops have been full of Thanos collections just recently!

None of these issues seem to have worried Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1967, when this Annual was first published. TV stations across the country were broadcasting the Hanna Barbera 'Fantastic Four' cartoon, featuring a simplified, more streamlined, version of the team, but Stan and Jack were happily ploughing on with some very complicated, often rather adult, storylines. This issue, for instance, not only features The Psycho Man - a new villain who cynically manipulates people's emotions for his own ends - but also a huge dollop of continuity. Psycho Man comes from The Micro World, first visited way back in Fantastic Four #16, and spends a lot of his time fighting supporting characters The Inhumans and The Black Panther in plotlines that have been building up for months, coming to a climax here as they all team up with the FF to fight him. Also in this issue is the announcement of Sue's pregnancy as part of the main plot, plus an extremely jolly short story written and drawn by Jack Kirby purporting to show how he and Stan Lee come up with plots, and a surprisingly dark tale featuring The Silver Surfer and Quasimodo The Living Computer. It's a weird, exciting, funny, action-packed mixture that bares very very little relation to the cartoons being broadcast simultaneously, preferring instead to be part of the height of Lee & Kirby's classic run on the series. Doom only appears in a pin-up featuring some of the various supporting characters who make the Marvel universe such a storyworld. I said at the start that Lee and Kirby don't seem to be thinking about the TV show, but maybe this is actually a reaction to it, an attempt to re-stake their claim on the characters. A television show might be seen by many as more "important" or "respectable" than a lowly comic strip, and would definitely have a bigger team and budget behind it, but what Lee, Kirby and their small group of associates are creating here has a much wider scope for invention. Indeed, their run on the comic would be referred to many times over the forthcoming decades, including in the Hanna Barbera series - as we shall see next time!

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posted 18/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Three Predictions Of Doctor Doom

This episode starts with Dr Doom carrying out one of his most distinctive moves from this period, by appearing unexpectedly on a TV screen! This surprises The Fantastic Four because they thought he was dead. This surprised in turn surprised me, because I didn't realise that these cartoons followed any kind of serial narrative, but it seems they do. At the beginning of the previous episode he was known to be alive, but then believed dead by the end, so clearly there is some seriality in play here.

Doom challenges them to a competition, for which he makes three predictions - that he'll remove the heart of The Fantastic Four, that he'll remove their greatest strength, and that the strongest power will conquer all. What can it all mean?

With their greatest nemesis back on the scene Sue wonders if she should cancel her appointment with a photographer, but Reed tells her not to worry, but to meet them later at the award ceremony they've been invited too. Sue thus pops over to the studio of the photographer, who is hidden behind his camera and seems to be wearing a cloak. It was Doctor Doom al along! He captures the Invisible Girl with a "green sporoid" plant tentacle that shoots out of his camera, and then takes her to his rocket ship, which is disguised as a water tower - an idea nabbed from the Skrulls way back in Fantastic Four #2! Meanwhile at the United Nations the rest of the team are wondering where Sue has got to. "She's never late!" says Mr Fantastic. At that moment Doctor Doom appears on yet another massive television screen, threatening to destroy every major city on earth with tidal waves unless he is made world ruler. This, and much of the rest of the story, is quite similar to Defeated By Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #17, except that there he had the slightly less megalomaniacal demand to be a member of Kennedy's cabinet. Hanna Barbera Doom is clearly a bit more ambitious!

Doom uses his mighty powers to show "a television image of the Hudson River", where one of his tidal waves is destroying a naval yard. The Fantastic Four leap up to stop him, at which point Doom brings forth his hostage Sue and points out that this also fulfils the first of his three predictions - removing the heart of the Fantastic Four! Televisions, gloating, taking hostages - this is all VERY much in character!

Back at base Reed Richards finds Doom's massive airship, hidden in clouds just as it was in the comics version. It is, apparently, made of "anti-radar alloy" but luckily the FF have a ship with an "atomic magnet". It looks like this: Of course it does! They find and board the ship, where Doom sets his "Sporoid Men" on them. They're armed with Cosmic Ray Simulators which can remove the FF's powers. Ben throws himself in front of the others to take the full force of the ray, while Johnny flames on and burns the Sporoid Men to ash - helpfully reminding us that they're actually vegetables as he does so, so this is definitely not murder. Phew!

The Thing changes back into his human form which happened in the original comic, but the other way around, so that he was able to get into the ship as Ben Grimm, but was forced to return to being the Thing once he was inside. Doom, once more on television screen, points out this he has now thus fulfilled his second prediction, to destroy their greatest strength. I don't know about you, but I was hoping for something a bit more metaphorical than this. Ben has got his dearest wish, to be human again, but Reed and Johnny don't even acknowledge it, they just zoom off without even looking at him. Despite this callous attitude Ben refuses Doom's offer to send him back to earth, preferring to stay and help his friends if he can. However, Doom shows him that they have already been captured and trapped in their own specially designed rooms. How he managed to do this in the space of 5 seconds without moving is not explained!

Doom leaves Ben to watch his friends die, heading back to the UN - or rather, the Conference Of Peaceful Nations - to demand that they proclaim him ruler of the world. Unlike the regular Marvel Universe version of Doom, who we've recently seen spend four months procrastinating before finally trying to take over the planet, Hanna Barbera Doom is a man of action, although in this case that's more of a flaw than a feature. In his haste he's left the Cosmic Ray gun lying at Ben's feet, so that he can pick it up and re-zap himself back into the Thing. In the comics this would be cause for at least an anguished monologue, but here he joyfully shouts "It's Clobberin' Time!" and races off to find his friends.

Meanwhile, over at The Conference, the Peaceful Nations have refused Doom's offer, so he prepares to take his revenge them by unleashing tidal waves over major cities. For some reason he starts a countdown before pulling the "Tidal Impeller" lever, despite him being the only person there, which leaves plenty of time for The Thing to arrive and smash the device before he can pull it. Hanna Barbera Doom is not so free of procrastination as he first seemed!

Doom then flees, as usual, this time through a steel door, then jumps into an escape ship that looks a LOT like the one he was using back in his second appearance in Fantastic Four #6

It's interesting that the cartoon series has taken over so many minor design aspects from the comic. It could be just a case of saving time using old designs rather than creating new ones, but it does create some continuity with the world of the comics, even if the stories are slightly different.

The FF give chase in their Magnet Plane and find Doom hiding in an artificial cloud. They try to extract him using the Atomic Magnet but Doom escapes and returns to his Flying Fortress, setting everything back to how it was five minutes ago, making me suspect that this whole section was padding to make the cartoon the right length!

With everybody back in the Flying Fortress Doom unleashes Power Spheres on the team (again, similar to how he did in Fantastic Four #17). He traps them and then... leaves them there. Mr Fantastic stretches out an arm and - possibly not in tribute to Doctor Who - reverses the polarity of the spheres to free themselves. Doom is waiting for them, with a gun that shoots liquid titanium. They become trapped, again, so Doom goes off to continue with his plan. One must ask at this point - what plan is that? The whole "blackmail the world" plot is finished, so I'm not quite sure what he's on about.

The Fantastic Four escape (again) and discover Doom just about to unleash a tidal wave on London (despite the machine being smashed only a few minutes ago). Once again, his insistence on announcing his intentions aloud to himself is his downfall, as The Thing comes in and biffs him in the face. Reed points out that Doom's third prediction, that the strongest will conquer all, has now come true. Surely that's not what Doom originally meant though, is it? He can't have been predicting that he'd be defeated, so what was he talking about?

It's all rather unsatisfactory, sense-wise, but at least it leads to a fantastic example of Doctor Doom adhering to one of his primary character tropes, displayed in all media: he chucks himself out of a flying vehicle and plummets (apparently) to his death. The Conference Of Peaceful Nations thanks The Fantastic Four for their efforts and there the story ends. Apart from some padding, the occasional bit of typical Hanna Barbera re-use of animation, and some unhinged plotting towards the end, this has been another surprisingly enjoyable, well-made version of Doctor Doom and The Fantastic Four which even occasionally (dare I say it) improves on the original. It's clearly not the same Doom, in appearance or all his actions, as in The Marvel Universe, but it's also clear that the character is sufficiently robust to easily survive the transition.

Next in the world of Hanna Barbera it's a re-write of Fantastic Four #19, but before that we're back in the comics for another Annual and another pin-up!

posted 16/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Way It All Began

Growing up in Peterborough in the 1970s we didn't get any of the exciting television shows. The 'regional variations"'section of newspaper TV listings was agony for me, as I'd look longingly the scehdules for Yorkshire or LWT which had all kinds of thrilling-sounding kids' shows on during weekend early mornings, where all Anglia had was lots and lots of programmes about farming. It was even worse when I started reading American comics, with their full page advertisements for the kids's shows on NBC and CBS. There seemed to be hour after hour dedicated to cartoons like 'Space Ghost' or 'Super Friends', it must have been amazing!

What few shows we did get - like 'Battle Of The Planets' or 'The Space Sentinels' - were thrilling at the time, but when I saw them again decades later I was disappointed to find that they were either nonsenical, in the case of Battle Of The Planets (for very good reasons), or bland for the Sentinels. However, this disappointment was nothing compared to horror of finally seeing some of the cartoons I'd hankered after, like the dreadful 'New Fantastic Four' featuring HERBIE instead of The Human Torch, or the utterly awful The Marvel Superheroes, so when I reached the point where this blog would be looking at Hanna-Barbera's original 'Fantastic Four' cartoons, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it!

I was thus rather pleasantly surprised to find that, actually, they're all right! They're not exactly 'The Incredibles', but they're not bad, and unlike The Marvel Superheroes they give the impression that someone had at least tried to make a good job of them so that, despite occasional lapses into blandness, they were perfectly pleasant to watch.

Put that on a DVD cover, you'll sell a million!

The first episode of the series to feature Doctor Doom is 'The Way It All Began' which tells, quite appropriately, the way it all began. It kicks off with Doom flying towards New York in a massive aircraft and setting off "the rallying signal of The Fantastic Four". We get our first glimpse of the Hanna-Barbera Doom here, and he looks fairly similar to the comics version. A bit more robotic maybe, with a different coloured tunic, but all in all fairly close. Next we get a sequence not dissimilar to the start of Fantastic Four #1, with all the team members seeing the flare and rushing to the Baxter Building. Weirdly, the Thing seems to be standing around just watching a building being knocked down. When he sees the flare he's disappointed, but helps out by knocking the building down himself.

They arrive to find that Sue is chatting to the police commissioner who has come to warn them that "the dreaded international criminal" Doctor Doom has touched down at International Airport, but has claimed diplomatic immunity as "the reigning monarch of the principality of Latveria." This again sticks pretty closely to the comics, though it's unclear, once the episode is finished, why this was mentioned as it has nothing to do with anything that happens later.

At this point no-one knows what Doom is up to or where he's heading ... until he rings up to tell them. He calls to say that he's come to take his revenge on Reed Richards. This is obviously confusing for the police commissioner, which leads rather neatly into Reed explaining by telling him the first part of Doom's origin. This runs pretty closely to the version told in Fantastic Four #5, except for some reason Doom has blonde hair.

"He gives me the creeps" says young Reed. We then see his and Ben's first meeting, at which point the "now" version of Reed says "Anyway, as for Victor Von Doom, he *got* his private room", despite the fact that this is the first time it's ever been mentioned. As with The Marvel Superheroes it seems that the script writers are taking dialogue directly from the comics without checking it still makes sense in their new version.

This version of Doom is still undertaking dangerous experiments. Reed points out that his calculations are incorrect, but Doom carries on anyway and, as expected, it all goes horribly wrong. What happens next is very similar to the comics, except that his assistant not only gets a name - Carstairs - but also some attention from the Dean, who expels Doom for almost killing him. It's an addition to the original storyline that makes his expulsion seem more understandable.

Next we see an example of terrible unprofessionalism, as Doom's nurse takes off his bandages and screams in horror. "How horrible," she shrieks. "That face!" I'm no expert, but I would have thought that "Not screaming in horror" should have been covered in training.

Doom agrees, and instantly knows who to blame. "This is all Reed Richards' fault! He made me hurry my experiment," he says, which is slightly more explanation than we get in the original comics, and is another change that adds to the sense of the story.

"After his face was ruined he just seemed to disappear," says Reed, who then goes on to show off about his and Ben's lives post-Pearl Harbour (which actually gets shown briefly) as an agent of the OSS and a fighter pilot called "The Grimm Reaper" respectively. I know that in the comics they both fought in the second world war, at least in the early years, but I've never seen Ben named as "The Grimm Reaper" in this context before.

This leads on to a re-telling of the Four's actual origin, which gives even more background on how they all came to be aboard the ship. Once again this re-telling changes the comics version so that it makes more sense, with them not having to actually steal the rocket, and clearer reasons given for each of them being there, such as Sue as Data Recorder and Johnny as General Crew Member. This is the first time that the origin story is re-told, smoothing out some of the oddities of the original version, but also losing some of the edginess too. Ben Grimm has no self-pity here, for instance, agreeing to use his powers to fight evil as readily as the others, "for the good of man!" They all get quite distracted with their storytelling, and the police commissioner is too polite to point out that this is not what he came here to find out. Luckily for all Doctor Doom turns up at the front door at that very moment, to get us back on track. He's been stood outside listening to their story and, once he's got them all at gunpoint, offers to tell them the rest of his own origin. He sits down and tells a tale which follows the comics very closely, although the mask fits "in comfort" here, rather than scarring him further, which is probably to be expected for a Saturday morning cartoon.

"Soon I was ruler of a kingdom" he says, rather swiftly skipping over how he came to control Latveria. With the story told the Fantastic Four overpower him incredibly easily, with Mr Fantastic just snatching his gun away and Sue wriggling free and bonking him with a force field. It's all very very easy, weirdly so, leaving Doom to revert to his signature move of running away. He runs for The Missile Room and steals a missile. "What a triumph!" he cackles. "Going home to my own country with the Fantastic Four's own missile!"

"What will Reed say?" asks Sue, but it turns out he's not too bothered. The ship has no gyro, and so Doom can't steer it, meaning that he only gets a short distance before exploding and, apparently, crashing into the city. "I bet we won't see him again until... Doomsday!" says Ben, and everyone has a right old chuckle about it. This is a tiny bit strange, as they have just seen an old college acquaintance crash a missile into New York city, killing himself and who knows how many others. It sticks out as a misstep in what otherwise has been a surprisingly cogent version The Fantastic Four and especially Doctor Doom. Here he has definite motivation for his actions, and specific character traits such as an keenness to spy on others, no self-awareness, and a willingness to leg it at the first sign of danger. He's definitely a different version of the character from the one we've seen in the comics, but he's surprisingly faithful to the original!

The question is, will this version of Doom prove to be as impervious to death and destruction as his comics counterpart? We'll find out next time!

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posted 9/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Peril And The Power!

The cover for this issue promises a gigantic punch-up between Doctor Doom and The Fantastic Four but, after several issues of delay and prevarication, is that really what we're going to get? Or will it be more of the same hanging around, waiting for something to happen?

The splash page doesn't bode well for Action Fans, with Sue, Reed and Ben powerless to stop Doom from continuing to mess around with his powers, despite having said he was going to get ON with taking over the world at the end of the last issue. Instead of doing that he's decided to stick a cruise liner on top of a cliff for no apparent reason. I can't help sympathising with The Thing here. I too am "sick 'a watching on the sidelines! I say we go after 'im... and clobber the creep!"

Mr Fantastic wants to wait some more, but luckily for the readers the Human Torch has decided enough's enough and has zoomed off to fight Doom himself.

It does not go well. Doom turns himself into diamond to avoid Johnny's flames, flies out of his way at high speed, and then creates a typhoon to throw him into a "wondrous whirlpool" before taking a moment to pose groovily with his board to consider his work. The long awaited action continues with the rest of the FF trying to attack Doom. On the way they have to battle though several natural defences that he throws up, including gigantic moving trees, burning earth, and flying rocks before - eventually - The Thing reachs Doom himself where the long promised punch-up finally happens. It's been a long time coming, but a panel like this, all Kirby action, flying catchprases, and footnoted continuity, make it worth the wait. Doom is, brilliantly, still annoyed about the fact that it was The Thing who defeated him when last they met. When he's beaten by Reed Richards he doesn't seem to mind as much, as that's two equals in a battle of wits. Being beaten by a "regular joe" like Ben Grimm, through phsyical violence, clearly wrankles, and it's great to see that this is carried through in his characterisation. For all my (gentle!) mockery of some of the storytelling, the understanding of Doom as a flawed, three dimensional character in these comics is great.

The rest of the Fantastic Four regroup and go to help Ben, who is being thoroughly walloped. Doom takes delight in the fact that even though the four of them are back together at full strength he is still able to beat them all. The battle continues, with the most effective attack coming from The Invisible Woman, who manages to make an entire cliff invisible so that Doom crashes headfirst into it, but eventually they are defeated. "Your feeble efforts at self-preservation have ceased to amuse me" says Doom. They've been amusing him for almost four months now, so it's no surprise that it's not as much fun as it used to be, and he decides it's time to finally, finally, at long last, disintegrate his enemies. But wouldn't you know it? At just that moment the gadget that Reed was trying out on The Thing last time - the "anti-cosmic flying wing" - zooms out of nowhere and knocks Doom off his feet. Doom simply gets up and back on his board but, as predicted, is absolutely ruddy livid about the whole thing and decides, yet again, to demonstrate his contempt for Richards by not killing him but instead going after the wing thing to destroy it. To be fair to Mr Fantastic he did say that making Doom angry was the whole plan, and it succeeds as he follows the flying wing up innto the sky until - Doom flies so high that he bashes into the cosmic barrier that Galactus had set up to stop the Silver Surfer escaping the earth!

On the one hand this is a sudden, slightly disappointing, end to a four issue storyline where the reader (or this reader anyway) has been desperate for Doom to stop messing about, start taking over the world, and for the FF to start fighting him. On the other hand, however, it's a pretty amazing use of an ongoing continuity, relying on readers' knowledge of what has gone before, tied to an understanding of the characters' well-established personalities, to pull out an ending that makes complete sense. We all know about the cosmic barrier because it was such an important part of the previous storyline, and we can accept that Reed Richards was banking on Doom's anger and arrogance because... well, that's exactly the sort of thing that Doom would do!

And that's it for this four part storyline, with everything coming to a sudden halt without any explanation of what happens to Doctor Doom. We see his board flying off towards Latveria (and the next issue of The Fantastic Four shows the surfer getting it back) but readers at the time would have to wait almost a whole year to find out what happened to Doctor Doom!

Readers of this blog, at this time, will only have to wait a couple of weeks, as next time we'll be taking a small detour into the world of the (surprisingly enjoyable) Hanna Barbera adaptation of The Fantastic Four!

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posted 2/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett