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Superheroes and Digital Perspectives

A new book, Superheroes and Digital Perspectives: Superdata, is being published on Monday 15 April, with a new chapter by me in it called "Doom’s Data: Tracking a Transmedia Supervillain Through Data". It's an overview of the data collected through these blogs, with a brief runthrough of the methodology and a couple of examples of the results. It's in amongst a whole lot of other interesting chapters, and is well worth a read!

Meanwhile, the first review of Data and Doctor Doom has just come in, and it's a good one! It's by the excellent Sean Kleefeld and you can find it on his website.

posted 13/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Data and Doctor Doom published

The book (partly) based on these blogs is now available to buy online from Palgrave Macmillan!

It uses the comics, cartoons and other texts discussed here as the many case study for the development of a tool for analysing the way that fictional characters change as they move through time and across different media. It then goes on to demonstrate how it can be used to analyse other characters, with the American and British characters called Dennis The Menace as an example, but that's probably less of interest if you've come here for Doctor Doom!

This is an academic book, so the pricing is Not Cheap to say the least - the general idea is that libraries order it, so if you have access to one of those please do ask them to do so. If not, there will hopefully be a (slightly) cheaper version next year, and Palgrave do have sales fairly regularly.

Either way, thanks very much for everyone who's shown an interest in this work over the years, and hope you do get a chance to see the book one way or another!

posted 7/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Update: Data and Doctor Doom

I'm very happy to say that my book, Data and Doctor Doom: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Characters, is now fully proofed and due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in March as part of their Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels series. Here's the cover!

You can pre-order it now direct from Palgrave. For those unused to academic publishing, be prepared for a shock when you see how expensive it is! The idea is that LIBRARIES buy it in hardback (so if you know a friendly library please ask them!) but all being well there'll be a paperback version next year. Meanwhile, here's the BLURB:

"The empirically grounded method presented here adds a truly innovative and much-needed tool to the growing field of transmedia character studies. I hope it will give rise to many further studies. But of course, Doom had to be first! Highly recommended for students as well as researchers." - Stephan Packard, Professor of Popular Culture and Its Theories, University of Cologne, Germany

"A complete data-driven examination into what makes the universe’s greatest supervillain tick. Read it now! Doom demands nothing less!" - Ryan North, Author of Dinosaur Comics , The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and The Fantastic Four

This book defines a straightforward way to analyse fictional characters through data. It shows how a data-led approach can produce rich analyses of characters, their surrounding storyworlds, and their authors across time and different types of media. It uses the Marvel Comics character Doctor Doom as its main case study, and demonstrates the advantages of this approach by comparing the results to those taken from a survey of fan attitudes. It also uses the methodology to analyse the differences between the American and British characters who share the name "Dennis The Menace". Finally, it offers a range of further uses for the tool. All datasets and tools are made available to download, so that other researchers can use the methodology and compare their own results to those generated in the book.

posted 27/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Update: Publications!

This is a quick update to let you know about a few publications that are either out now or coming soon(ish) based on the research from this blog.

First of all, I'm absolutely delighted to say that I've got a chapter in Comics And Agency, a brand new volume from De Gruyter looking at different aspects of Agency within Comics Studies. The hardback is available to order but you can read it for FREE online, which is amazing! Here's the blurb:
This volume aims to intensify the interdisciplinary dialogue on comics and related popular multimodal forms (including manga, graphic novels, and cartoons) by focusing on the concept of medial, mediated, and mediating agency. To this end, a theoretically and methodologically diverse set of contributions explores the interrelations between individual, collective, and institutional actors within historical and contemporary comics cultures. Agency is at stake when recipients resist hegemonic readings of multimodal texts. In the same manner, “authorship” can be understood as the attribution of agency of and between various medial instances and roles such as writers, artists, colorists, letterers, or editors, as well as with regard to commercial rights holders such as publishing houses or conglomerates and reviewers or fans. From this perspective, aspects of comics production (authorship and institutionalization) can be related to aspects of comics reception (appropriation and discursivation), and circulation (participation and canonization), including their potential for transmedialization and making contributions to the formation of the public sphere.

And yes, I do believe that IS an Ultimate Nullifier on the cover!

I've also recently signed a contract with Palgrave Macmillan to publish a whole book about this project, focussing on the unified catalogue of transmedia components - hopefully this will be out next year, so there'll be more news on that when it happens (and when I've finished it). Meanwhile you can always find the full datasets from this project, including the results of the initial signifier survey, over on the UAL data depository.

Thanks to everyone who's been part of all of the above excitement, hopefully more to come soon!

posted 12/11/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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What We Have Learned: The Grand Finale

This week I've had confirmation of a date for the Viva for my PhD, on December 10th. For those blissfully unaware of the workings of UK PhD examinations, that's the session where I sit down with three examiners and we have a discussion to make sure it's a Proper Piece Of Research that I've actually done myself- in other countries it's called a "defence" as that's pretty much what it is. Once that's done I either pass, pass with some amendments required (minor or major) or don't!

It's all quite exciting as, apart from any amendments required, that'll be pretty much the end of this whole process. There'll still be a confirmation of the result (if the result is good!) and then in theory a graduation, but once the Viva's over I've finished, and can go off an do something else if I want to! I'm hoping to carve up the final thesis into several chunks, notably a chapter about Periodising The Marvel Age, an Academic Book about my method of evaluating transmedia character coherence, and possibly also a slightly non-academic (i.e. broadly comprehensible) one about Doctor Doom as a character during the period covered. The last one will probably be based on this very blog!

The timing coincides rather nicely with the fact that we've now reached the end of the corpus of texts on this blog. There will be occasional updates here, when things get published or other stuff happens (including the unleashing of my full datasets for public consumption), but today's blog, looking at what it was all about overall, will be the last regular one. Let'd dry our eyes and get on with it!

Obviously the main thing it was all about was Doctor Doom! When this all started I thought that we'd be looking at all sorts of different interpretations of Doom as a character that would vary all over the place, especially when he appeared in other media, but to my great surprise this was not the case at all. Doom very quickly gets into a groove of - to use a techinical term - Doctor Doom-ness - so that within a year or so after his creation he is very much the same character as will appear throughout. This is even more clear in other media where, apart from occasional slightly different cloak clasps, he always looks pretty much the same, with very similar origins (occasionally removing Reed Richards) and motivations.

The only real differences occurred in comics, notably in the 1960s where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tried to evolve the character, turning him from the noble villain he became around Fantastic Four Annual #2 into a raving lunatic despot given to cackling self-deception. For a time there were two versions of the character running side by side, until around the early 70s when he reverted to the noble version and has pretty much stayed that way ever since. I found this fascinating, as the only people whose version of Doom deviated from the one set up by his original creators were ... his original creators!

The big exception to the above happens in the mid-1980s, where Doom becomes a lot more changeable. This is almost entirely due to the way he's presented in "Secret Wars", where many of his characteristics were changed. A lot of this was part of the story itself - Doom gaining cosmic power, curing his facial injuries, and becoming the saviour of the universe were all occurrences that came about because of, and drove, the plot, with the idea that things must be really bad if Doom is the universe's last hope. However, some of this was also due to the inarguable fact that "Secret Wars" was utterly terrible, with many characters behaving weirdly and the whole thing knocked off at high speed. As mentioned on several ocassions, I hated it!

Apart from that, Doom's constancy and cohesion showed (to my great relief) that he was indeed a good example of an early transmedia character, and proved to be a really good case study for looking at character coherence. I haven't really talked about this a lot on the blog, but character coherence is really the focus of the PhD which this all fed into. I ended up devising a model for how this could be assessed and mapped over time using a thirteen-dimensional model which... well, which I'll be talking about in more depth in the thesis! As I say, I'm hoping to publish this one way or another in the future, so I'd suggest waiting for that to come out, or possibly the movie adaptation!

All in all then, this has been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend four or five years of my life. There have been bumps along the way, notably trying to get through "Secret Wars" and also "Not Brand Echh", but for the most part I've been delighted to find that a lot of these comics are really good, and some of them are amazing. Many texts in the corpus needs you to squint a bit to take account of the times they were produced in, but there were a lot of stand-out moments which I would never have uncovered otherwise. I definitely wouldn't have watched the "Amazing Spider-man" cartoon or read the similarly named newspaper strip, and those were great!

So, that's your lot for now - more will come as I (hopefully) get some of this out into the wider world, but until then thanks again and, as Stan would say, Excelsior!

posted 8/11/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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What We Have Learned: The 'And' In 'Stan And Jack'

For the past six and a half years - ever since I signed up to do a PhD and then deferred it for a year - I've been reading people's ideas about what made Marvel comics work so well in the 1960s, and for almost as much time I've been getting annoyed with the sort of analysis that insists one person alone must always be responsible for creative work.

I'd encountered this before when reading abuot The Beatles (which I've been doing for a lot longer!) where you'd constantly come across daft ideas that either John Lennon or Paul McCartney was the one and only true genius of the band. When I first started reading such books it was usually John Lennon who was the genius, but these days you're as likely to see Macca called the guiding force, with George and Ringo generally left on the sidelines. The truth of the matter, as anybody who's ever genuinely collaborated on anything will know, is that it was all of them, all four, together, who made The Beatles work, even when the songs were written or performed alone. When a group of people work together creatively somehting different and strange happens quite apart from what each individual can do on their own, to create something entirely new that wouldn't have happened any other way.

This was especially true of the first decade of Marvel comics, when Stan Lee worked with Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko (and the various inkers, letterers, colourists and editorial staff) to create the amazing characters and stories that we're still reading today. There's a very strong inclination at the moment towards dismissing Stan Lee's contribution almost entirely - I recently read a (sligtly deranged) book which claimed to have extracted the "original" stories that Jack Kirby created, before it was messed around with and ruined by Stan Lee. It's actually a collection of pub rants written down, where the author has wild guesses about ways in which the panels could be completely rearranged into a different story, but the oddest part is that throughout the entire book he only mentions Stan Lee by name once, insisting on calling him "the editor" afterwards!

It's an extreme example of an opinion that has become prevalent, that Kirby (or Ditko for is characters) did all of the real creative work, then Stab Lee came along afterwards and "just" added the dialogue. Quite apart from anything else, the idea that this was a minor contribution seems absolutely potty to me. You only have to read Kirby or Ditko's later work without Lee to see what an enormous part of early Marvel Lee's dialogue was - and not just the dialogue either, but the sassy, sarcastic, often hilarious way he wrote footnotes, or conducted letter columns, or wrote his editorials. All of that stuff was, and is, an intrinsic part of what made Marvel comics so exciting and different. Without them they would still have looked amazing, but wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun.

Rather than accept this, however, there still seems to be a need to pin it all down to one person, and the cause of this is the same cause of all that is bad and wrong in the world of the arts and indeed the world of the world: Class! Comics are an inherently working class art from, created by and for working class people, and so are looked down upon by the traditional art world. There's an assumption that anything created as part of someone's job can't be considered as art, because of course art can only truly be created by people unconcerned with such matters i.e. those who are rich enough not to have to worry about where the rent's coming from. Similarly, art created by a group working together is considered inferior to that created by by a single individual, because again it's the privileged individual who has always been prized by the posh nits in charge.

All of which is rather a long-winded way of saying that I think people try to prise apart Stan and Jack, or Stan and Steve, or John and Paul, as a way of hammering popular working class art forms into a shape that would make them acceptable to the gatekeepers of Proper Art. This seems to me to be an utterly stupid thing to do. All comics work is the work of a group of creators, even when one person writes, draws, letters and colours their work there are still editors, printers, distributors and so on involved, but usually there are many more, all pouring their own ideas into the mix. Throughout the corpus of comics I've looked out there are examples of teams of creators doing work that they could not have done before. A great example of this is the way that pencillers and inkers work together, creating very different looks than either of them do with other people, or the way that you can see writers writing different kinds of plots to suit the artists they work with.

What I've learned then, throughout all of this, is that comics (and especially superhero comics) are a collaborative medium, and we should celebrate them because of that, rather than trying to deny it!

Rant over! Next time - a summing up of the whole lot!

posted 30/10/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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What We Have Learnt: John Byrne and Secret Wars

Over the course of the past four years (four years!) of running this blog a few things have cropped up again and again that I'd like to spend the next few weeks talking about, and the first one I want to discuss is almost definitely the most important. It is this: I was right all along.

I supposed I should probably go into a bit more depth about precisely how I was right! Over my many years as a comics fan I'd already read quite a lot of the comics in this corpus, so when I started going through them all again for this project I was expecting quite a lot of disappointment, as fondly remembered stories which I'd enjoyed at the time turned out to be awful. I was also hoping for some surprises, as others that I'd felt were terrible actually turned out to be great.

There definitely were some surprises, but these all came from weird little stories I'd never read before that turned out to be great, like Marvel Superheroes #20, , Fantastic Four #200, the Spider-man cartoon series, Emperor Doom and all sorts of others. However, contrary to all my expectations, the comics I remembered as being amazing WERE amazing, and the ones I remembered as awful were often even worse that I recalled.

The two great examples of this are John Byrne's run on "Fantastic Four", and the series "Secret Wars". A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation about John Byrne's use of previous events to enforce his "ownership" of Doctor Doom (you can read it yourself on UAL's outputs repository), and was amazed by just how much there was to say about it. Byrne does incredible storytelling work in every issue of that run, trying out new techniques, generating new twists on traditional storylines, generating new ideas and, of course, making everything look gorgeous. Yes, some of the dialogue is very hokey indeed but it always makes sense, is always exciting to read and, as I say, looks fabulous. Reading it all again as part of this I was if anything MORE impressed than I had been at the time, and can't help wondering why Byrne's work isn't more appreciated nowadays. In many ways I would have thought he's a prime candidate for being appreciated in academic fields where creators who write and draw (and in Byrne's case sometimes ink and letter) their own material are held in much higher esteem than "mere" writers and artists. Maybe it's his subject matter, which has doggedly stuck to superheroes, or maybe it's his own online remarks over the years, but I genuinely think his work is ripe for re-evaluation. Especially if it's me doing it!

On the other hand, "Secret Wars" is, to use a technical term, unforgivably shite. When it came out I thought it was awful, but decades later I wondered if maybe this was partly due to the fact that I was a teenager at the time. After all, the series regularly appears in lists of Marvel's greatest ever stories, is still referred back to - notably in Jonathan Hickman's reimagining a few years ago - and is constantly thought to be the basis of a movie in the future, so surely there must be something good about it?

No, there really isnt. There are plenty of terrible comics in this corpus, often the result of people having to finish them at speed to meet a deadline, or of creators trying to ape a new style without really understanding it, but rarely is there anything as nonsensical, ill-thought out, and unpleasantly cack-handed as Secret Wars. It was a real struggle to get through, and as close as I ever came to giving up!

Other comics were similarly as expected - George Perez is wonderful wherever he shows up, Chris Claremont is Not For Me, the second half of Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four run is just as incredible as everybody says it is, and comics overall really did start to get rubbish the closer they got to the 1990s. As I say, this last point was something I was ready to be proved wrong on but, from reading the last few years of this corpus and then reading some later titles to, it turns out that I was right when I decided to give comics up for the whole of the 1990s!

I don't want to dwell on the negatives too much here though, so next time we'll have a think about that Lee and Kirby run mentioned earlier, as well as the idea of collaboration in general. I'm pretty sure I'll be shoehorning The Beatles into it as well!

posted 29/10/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Bits And Bobs Round-Up

Today we're taking a whirlwind trip around some of the additional items I've found featuring Doctor Doom that don't really fit into the corpus of narrative texts, but are worth a quick mention.

First of all we've got the Golden Everything Workbook which claims to be a series of "fun" puzzles for kids but is actually extra homework with images of superheroes added to make it more palatable. I don't know much about it because it's another of those texts that aren't available online and are far too expensive for me to just buy. I do know that Doctor Doom's in at least on of them though, as I found the below picture online: Here we see Doctor Doom in a crowd of villains - right in the centre, in fact - doing his usual job of symbolising villainy in general, something we've seen him do an awful lot over the years. Doom also appeared in the Spider-Man and the Marvel Heroes Rub 'n Play Magic Transfer Colorforms Set in 1978 and the same company's Marvel Super-Heroes Shrinky Dinks Collectors Set in 1984 as one of the few villains. We've looked at a few other examples of Doom on non-narrative promotional items over the years, such as the Marvel Slurpee cups, where Doom gets chosen as a representative of villainy, much as he does in this poster for a "super card collection" promotion, which was run in conjunction with Marvel UK in 1979. These cards don't feature in the main corpus for several reasons, including the facts that it's not issued by Marvel, and also that I don't want to pay over 200 quid on eBay to look at them! However, the main reason for not including a lot of these items is that they don't contain narratives. When I initially set this out as a condition for corpus inclusion my PhD supervisors pointed out that toys and games do have narratives, it's just that these are made up by the toys' owners as part of play. One fun-sounding but frighteningly expensive example of this is The New Fantastic Four Board Game, which was a tie-in for the New Fantastic Four cartoon featuring HERBIE the robot. Herbie's all over the game, but there's quite a lot of Doctor Doom too! The classic example of toys featuring Doom is probably the Secret Wars Action Figures. I ruled this out of the corpus early on, so never covered them on this blog, which is probably a good idea as this is one item I would have been sorely tempted to hunt eBay for, especially after watching this Doom-heavy TV advertisement:

I love the way that "Doctor Doom and the Doom Platoon" is intoned with such gravitas. They should bring that back as a team name! Doom also featured (sort of) in an advert for Personna Double Razors starring Stan Lee. Well, he was mentioned anyway - apparently Stan says he has to be able to have a worry-free shave because "I've got Spider-man and all these characters and super villains like Dr. Doom to worry about", although the actual video has been lost to time. The best I could find was this breakdown of it on twitter: And finally, the item that I would most like to have included in the corpus but couldn't really justify, is the Marvelmania Doctor Doom poster specially created by Jack Kirby. I mean, just look how gorgeous that is! I love this image so much I have used it in Conference Papers as a way to explain how Doom's signifiers work - this is an especially great example because it not only includes aspects of Doom's appearance but also his name, actions, location and on top of everything else Jack Kirby's name as a textual and marketing author. It also looks amazing, but sadly it's not a narrative and it wasn't issued by Marvel, so I couldn't really justify it. It's also very expensive - this poster was sold on an auction site for over $400 - otherwise I would definitely have been chasing it on eBay!

And that just about rounds up all the extra items I've found over the years, which in turn almost rounds off this whole blog. All that remains is to have a look back at some of the Lessons Learned, which begins in a couple of weeks (after I've been on holiday!) with the startling revelation that Teenage Me was - incredibly - correct in almost all his comics opinions back in the 1980s. Join me next week to find out why!

posted 15/10/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Lest We Should Goof...!

In 1983 Marvel comics were targetted by corporate raider Mario Gabelli, who attempted a hostile takeover of the company. Marvel needed money, quickly, to fight him off, and so then-President Jim Galton ordered Jim Shooter to churn out a series of reprints one-shots that could raise cash without involving much expenditure. Today we're looking at one of those one-shots, 'The Official Marvel No-Prize Book'.

As anyone who follows this sort of thing knows, a 'No-Prize' is awarded not just for spotting a mistake, but also for offering an in-continuity explanation that means it's not an error at all. This book, however, does no such thing, instead giving a list of mistakes through the ages like a 'blooper reel'. Actually, when I say it offers mistakes through the ages, it actually concentrates almost entirely on those made in the very early days of Marvel. I can see that there would have been more errors back then, with a small team of creators bashing out the whole line under Stan Lee's less than exacting editorial eye (a lot of the mistakes are by him!), but still I would have thought there'd be a few more modern examples. Maybe Jim Shooter didn't like to admit to them? The comic makes no bones about the fact that it's a money-making exercise. The credits on the inside cover begin with "These people, who all love their jobs, were totally against this dumb idea*" with the note adding below "*But Jim Shooter backed a truck up to the office filled with so much money... well... what would you do?"

The comic is narrated by a caricature of Stan Lee who seems to be wearing a very badly fitted toupee. Maybe that's the cause of the rather strongly worded editorial where Lee states (semi-humorously) "I had nothing to do with this fiasco! That's not me talking !" It's all in line with the self-depreciating humour of Marvel, but something here feels like there's a little more truth in it than usual.

Doctor Doom does not appear inside the comic itself, but is (sort of) the cover star, as we see him pulling off his mask to reveal the face of Stan Lee. Apparently Jack Kirby once drew a similar caricature of Lee as Doom shortly after he left for DC comics, but I can't find any evidence of it online. There are, however, plenty of images of Funky Flashman's, Kirby's even less well-toupeed version of Lee from The New Gods! That's just about your lot for narrative appearances by Doctor Doom, however slimly connected they might be, but come back next time for a great big round up of all the other bits and bobs I've found over the past few years!

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posted 8/10/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Today we're looking at the most heinous omission from my PhD corpus - the novel "Doomsday" by Marv Wolfman!

This was released as part of a series of Marvel Novels by Pocket Books, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster, in 1979. It claims to be about The Fantastic Four, but oh boy is it ever about Doctor Doom! He is very much the main character throughout, carries most of the plot, and is surprisingly coherent with his comics equivalent, unlike the FF who have some major changes made to their origins.

I missed this one altogether when I was putting together my original corpus, and only discovered it this year because of a story in Bleeding Cool about it being reissued later this year as an audiobook. In my defence, none of the sites I looked at mentioned it, and it isn't in the Grand Comics Database because it isn't a comic, but it would have been amazing to have been able to include it in my PhD analysis as it's got so much to say about Doctor Doom.

The story features Doctor Doom turning up at his college reunion, in a vaguely similar way to what happened back in Fantastic Four #143 by Gerry Conway. However, where that was a cunning ruse to lure Mr Fantastic into his grasp, this time it's ... well, it's a cunning ruse to lure Mr Fantastic into his grasp, except here Doom turns up at the reunion unnanounced, rather than organising it, and invites all of the attendees to come back with him to Latveria for a week. Weirdly, they all agree - I guess in America people take a packed suitcase to college reunions, just in case?

Doom takes everyone on a tour of Latveria, as he is wont to do (for example in the Spider-man cartoon), and everyone is duly impressed, except for the FF who, of course, get stuck in some deathtraps. While they're safely kept out of his way Doom zooms back to the Baxter Building where he gains access to the Negative Zone, harnesses its power, then goes to Stonehenge where he manages to pierce the veil into the after-life, so he can try and rescue his mother.

All of the above takes most of the book, and it goes at a right old clip. It's very easy reading, but you do get the feeling that Marv Wolfman wrote it at a similarly fast pace, as there's lots of repetition of words and quite a lot that doesn't make sense. He also has a tendency to say things are "indescribable" before going on to describe them in the same sentence.

Doom is very Doom throughout the story, but the Fantastic Four do get tweaked a bit, notably the first meeting between Reed Richards and Sue Storm, which now takes place at a party which Sue is attending as a Famous Model And Actress, rather than the original rather creepy version where she's a young girl and Reed is the college-age lodger in her family home. It's a nice way of re-doing it, although the fact that she's an actress doesn't really get used anywhere.

There also seems to be a big assumption that the reader already knows who the Fantastic Four are. We get a re-tellinbg of Doom's origin threaded through the book, but very little about the FF and how they work. Ben Grimm, for instance, just turns up as an orange monster without any explanation or much description. I guess there was a feeling that people who didn't know Marvel comics wouldn't be bothering with these novels, although that doesn't explain why there's so much of Doctor Doom's background in there. My guess is that it's a similar idea to Noah Hawley's "Doctor Doom" movie proposal - his origin story is, like Spider-man's, the sort of story that works as a screenplay, with a character learning and changing across three acts, whereas the Fantastic Four's origin is basically "some people go into space and have an accident", which isn't quite as engaging.

There's some politics in here too, similar to the ideas Wolfman explored in Fantastic Four 198-200 around the same time. Johnny Storm meets (and inevitably falls in love with) the beautiful leader of the Latverian resistance, who asks why they don't overthrow Doom and free her people, Reed Richards says they can't possibly do that, the people must rise up themselves. By the end of the book the people have done just that, "inspired" by the FF, but even then the Latverians are shown as weak and probably unworthy of rebellion, with many of them wondering how they'll be able to get enough to eat without Doom.

I say that the people rise up, as that's how it's put across in the narration, but that's not really what happens. Once Doom gets into The After Life he meets his father and mother, both of whom renounce him for being evil, and he's dragged off, presumably into hell, removing him from power. The people of Latveria don't really do anything, and the only inspiration provided by the FF is that they manage to escape from the Death Traps. As I say, this is very much the story of Doom, who pretty much gets everything he wants and only fails at the final hurdle due to Being Evil.

The whole thing ends with Boris, who has been in it quite a lot, sitting in Doom's throne room. Somehow he's not been arrested as Doom's right hand man, and is just setting off to live the rest of his life when he hears the sound of Doom calling to him from wherever he is now... THE END! It's a lovely, if not entirely unexpected, B-movie ending for a very B-movie storyline which featured a whole lot of Doom. I would thoroughly recommend reading it for anyone who can find it, or indeed listening to it when the audiobook comes out. I know I'll be buying it!

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posted 1/10/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Stan Lee Presents The Mighty Marvel Funbook

Here's another text that I missed at the appropriate time, and which I would have missed all together if I hadn't spotted the image below on a Facebook group. The full thing is a superhero calendar which, using incredible detective work, I estimate to have been for the year 2013. However, the main image was the source of some debate until somebody pointed out that it had originally been shown in "Marvel Funbook #2", which I had never heard of. Further detective work with my research assistant Dr Google showed that this was a book issued in 1977 featuring various puzzles, apparently illustrated by Owen McCarron.

Owen McCarron was the regular illustrator for Marvel's Fun And Games series of puzzle books, so at first I thought that this must be a reprint of those, until I demonstrated my detective skills even more by noticing that this was published two years before those. McCarron did most of his work on puzzle strips, and according to Wikipedia he pitched the idea of doing the same with Marvel characters to Stan Lee, although this came out after Lee went to California to concentrate on getting movies made, so I'm not sure how accurate that was.

Either way, this is an interesting splash page which may indicate that there are other Doctor Doom appearances within the main text, but I don't know for sure because it's not available to view online anywhere, and I'm not super-keen to pay fifty quid to find out! Technically it's not a narrative-based text so, like the most of these "Addenda" texts, it wouldn't necessarily have gone into my research corpus, but still it would be nice to have a look. If anybody has a copy of this - or indeed the first issue - that they could scan please let me know!

Next time we're looking at a text that is definitely a narrative and would definitely have gone into my corpus if I hadn't found out about it two years too late. Join me as we enjoy the full-length Actual Novel that is Marv Wolfman's "Doomsday"!

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posted 24/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Marvel World Adventure Playset

Last time we reached a mighty milestone for this blog, with the final text in the original list of Dcotor Doom appearances during 'The Marvel Age'. For my purposes this includes any comic with a cover date from November 1961 when the first issue of "Fantastic Four" came out, to October 1987 i.e. the last month to have Jim Shooter credited as "Editor-in-Chief" throughout Marvel's comics. It also includes other narrative-based texts, such as radio shows or cartoons, that came out between the dates those particular comics were published, so around August 1961 to July 1987. If you want more information about how this was all worked out, you can find it in the FAQ!

It's taken about four years to go through all of these texts, and along the way I've found additional items that weren't part of my additional list. A big addition early on was the string of Doom appearances in Not Brand Echh - these were discovered quite near the start, so I was able to add them to the database and do them as recap without spoiling the flow too much. Other items, however, turned up much later in the process, so I've been saving them up to do all together as a sort of Addenda section.

The first such item is this wonderful playset, made out of cardboard, which you took out of the box, assembled, and then, well, played with! Unlike most of the other texts discussed so far, I've not been able to get a copy of this as they're quite rare and so quite expensive! Indeed, most of the articles I've read about it spend quite a long time saying how difficult they were to get hold of, and also how much the author had always wanted to own one. They do look amazing - it feels like a similar sort of long-held desire that people of my generation had (and sometimes still have) for the idea of owning one of those Millenium Falcon toys to put your action figures in. Just looking at it now, I WANT one!

This playset is very much the same idea, and it looks like it was great. Reading the reviews on Sanctum Sanctorum Comix and 13th Dimension, it's delightful to see how impressed the authors were with the actual toys. They may be made of cardboard but clearly some thought and care went into their design.

Both those pages have small images of the Doctor Doom figure included, which appears to be the classic John Buscema folded arm pose. There are thirty characters altogether, including some very mid-70s ones like Valkyrie, Luke Cage and Shang Chi, and Doom is one of eight villains. Most of the others are Spider-man villains, which I guess is because they're most recognisable, and Doom himself had by this point appeared in several Spidey cartoons too.

Indeed, Doom's appearance here is another example of his transtextual nature, being able to combine with any of the other characters in this set, as well as any of the other locations. The main "buildings" here are The Baxter Building, The Daily Bugle, The Sanctum Sanctorum, and Peter Parker's house and, with the excpetion of the last one, we've seen Doom interact with all of these.

Having said all of the above, this playset does not have its own in-built narrative, only the potential of the ones which the kids who owned it would make up for themselves, so like the Doctor Doom Slurpee Cup or the Doctor Doom Mask it wouldn't have been included in my main analysis, and that's a terrible shame. Now I've read so much about it, I really want the excuse to buy one!

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posted 17/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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This Secret Love..!

So here we are, at the very last, final and ultimate text in this long long look at Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age!

All right, we're not entirely finished, as there's still a few extra items that I've found over the past year or so that I'll be covering in Addenda over the next couple of weeks, but this is definitely the last item we'll be looking at chronologically and, like so many of the texts we've looked at over the past several years, it is... er... mildly underwhelming!

This story takes place in an odd little period for the main "Thor" comic when the ongoing storyline was paused for a few months to be replaced by a series of one-off stories instead. The following month has a seemingly unrelated story about a Thor of the future, for instance. I don't know what was going on, and if I was looking at Thor as a transmedia character in this or the following period then I'd have a look, but I'm not so I won't! All we need to know here is that this gives Tom Defalco the opportunity to tell an "untold tale of The Secret Wars", something which is rather cheekily advertised on the cover with a corner banner very similar to the ones we saw for "Secret Wars II" tie-ins a year earlier.

The main plot is basically a re-telling of the first few issues of "Secret Wars" as told from the perspective of The Enchantress, particularly the bit in Secret Wars #4 where she and Thor teleported away from everybody else to have a chat and do some kissing. I do remember this bit from when I looked at that comic at the start of this year, but it wasn't exactly one of the major plot points, and I'm not entirely sure why Defalco felt the need to return to it. Perhaps it's an attempt to stamp his authority on Jim Shooter's big storyline, just as he was about to replace him as Editor-in-chief the following month. On the other hand, it might have been a way of paying tribute to him, or indeed nothing to do with either.

There's a framing device which sees The Enchantress popping over to see her sister Lorelei and telling her to stop messing men around and learn to appreciate true love. To illustrate this she retells the her part in Secret Wars focussing on that soppy bit with Thor. It's comics, so the big emotional peak of it all comes when she has to pretend she isn't sad about her unrequited love being disintegrated, leaving only his helmet. "Do you question the wisdom of my actions?" asks Doctor Doom. We've all been there haven't we? Doctor Doom is threaded throughout, here taking on the double role as an avatar of villainy, and as a signifier of Secret Wars himself. He was the lead character, so whenever you see Doom standing with a few other supervillains in a very dull landscape of purple mountains, you can pretty much be assured it's a flashback to Secret Wars. I particularly like the way that Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding do a tribute here to those roll calls that Secret Wars used to love, showing all of the heroes and villains standing in a nice neat line. Frenz and Breeding are a very attractive combination on art, making the whole thing look much classier than the original did, and much classier than it deserves to be. Interestingly Ron Frenz starts off with rounded corners for the flashbacks, but then drops them for most of the story, only returning to them at the end just before we go back to the Enchantress. It seems to work, although your own mileage may vary on how interesting that actually is!

There's a much-reported story that Jim Shooter told all Marvel writers at the time that they must include a bit in every single issue where the Hero thought "I must - but I must not!" and here it comes when Thor has to choose between snogging the Enchantress and not snogging the Enchantress. Thor eventually does not snog the Enchantress, the story carries on in exactly the same way it originally did (there's no retconning here, it's not so much an "untold tale" as a "slightly different viewpoint on an already told tale"), and it all ends with the Enchantress saying "SO THERE!" and zapping off. Brilliantly, Lorelei thinks about what her sister has said for a moment then has a good old laugh about it, having learnt precisely nothing. And that's the end of that - the final Doom appearance (chronologically anyway), and it's a not particularly thrilling comic where he pops up to do his very specific thing of Being Doctor Doom for a little while (which is all done very well) and then steps back out of the spotlight. I really would have liked to have had a big blowout ending as the final text, and if Jim Shooter had lasted in post a bit longer we could have done that with the Triumph And Torment graphic novel, but in a way this is more fitting. Going through the history of Marvel comics in this way has meant avoiding the well trodden paths through the "important" texts or even the "really really good" ones, instead taking a semi-random sampling of the sort of comics that were actually around at the time. It's like listening to a recording of actual radio programmes from the 1960s, rather than a "Best Of The Sixties" compilation - in both cases you get a lot more rubbish, but also a few more interesting snippets that you'd otherwise have missed.

There'll be more earth-shattering statements like this in a few weeks, when I'll be having a look back at what we might have learnt from all this (hopefully more than Lorelei did), but next time we'll be going back to the mid-1970s to have a long, yearning look at the legendary Marvel World Adventure Playset!

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posted 15/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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For the penultimate text in our mighty Corpus Of Doom we have one of the tiniest Doom appearances of all, with him being shown in just a single section of a multi-faceted splash page, plummeting through time (or possibly dimensions). When I first encountered this I thought "Aha! Clearly Doom also appeared in the issue before this, but just didn't get recorded" but when I read the previous issue there was no Doom to be found. He's simply being used here as an illustration of a particular point in time when Rama Tut (who I think is, or has been, part of this story) met Doom, which we saw way way back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. It's actually very similar to the way Doom was used as part of Kang's back story, referring to part of the same story in Avengers #269. Doom is now such a key part of the Marvel Universe that he's being used as a signifier for other character's stories!

By the way, if I seem a bit vague about whether Rama Tut appeared in the story before this, that's because I am. I have read this particular comic several times for this blog and as part of my PhD, but very little of it has stuck in my brain, and apart from the fact that Doctor Doom isn't in it, I couldn't tell you much about the issue before either. This is partly because I have read a lot of comics over the course of the past several years, but it's mostly because this particular storyline is an unfortunate mixture of the Very Confusing and the Not Very Memorable. It's something to do with The West Coast Avengers splitting up, going back in time, meeting some other superheroes and then... er... coming back again, but what it's all for I could not say. The whole thing is very much of its time for Marvel comics, especially with the Al Milgrom art which carries with it the distinct whiff of being done in a hurry, and dense continuity-heavy storytelling that doesn't mean much even to me, who has spent several years knee deep in the Marvel Universe.

It's not a particularly auspicious text to start bringing down the curtain on Doom's appearances in The Marvel Age, and the final text next time isn't much better, but fear not True Believers, we do have some Addenda which will be a lot more fun. We've got this far, let's keep on going to the end!

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posted 3/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Double Double

This is the last proper full-length story that Doctor Doom stars in during 'The Marvel Age' (although there's still a few other ones to come), so it's fitting that it's almost a Greatest Hits, with various strands of continuity being referred to, notably a massive callback to the absolute classic 'Though Some Call It Magic' from way back in Astonishing Tales #8. It's nowhere near as good as that comic, but it's nice to be reminded of it at least!

The story picks up right from the end of Fantasic Four #305 with Doom demanding that the FF lend him Franklin for a bit. Doom has clearly been doing his homework, taking us through some of Franklin's recent adventures in 'Power Pack' and elsewhere, but Reed Richards is not going to let him borrow his son for anything. It's all very well Reed saying "I've seen how you care for the welfare of children - with poor, brainwashed Kristoff", but as far as I can see the FF haven't been looking after him much better - they've basically kept him locked up in a padded cell for two years without a change of clothes. Doom isn't bothered by this accusation, stating that Kristoff was activated "in error" and is now superfluous, which also seems a bit odd. We were led to believe that Doom cared for Kristoff, although the whole "mind wiping" plan does make me doubt that, but still it seems like a lot of effort to go through just to dump him when he's "activated" too early. Does he have other children lined up for future contingency plans?

Doom tries to persuade them of his good intentions by swearing an oath that he will sacrifice himself before he allows Franklin to come to any harm. Unsurprisingly this cuts no ice, so he turns on his heals and heads back to the Embassy. Just when it seems that the rest of the annual is going to be the FF sitting around having a nice chat (as so many comics seem to be during this period) Doom attacks the Baxter Build... sorry, Four Freedoms Plaza, and a very long fight breaks out between the FF and Doom's devices. The FF win, but amongst the wreckage we see the true point of Doom's plan - there was a sneaky robot in there all along! The robot snatches Franklin just as the FF are trying to launch into the previously mentioned chatting, and zooms off. Johnny gives chase and is so angry that he calls Doctor Doom the worst thing he can think of, not once but twice! "Pond scum!" Were the Comics Code Authority asleep on the job here? How did they allow such filth to get past them? The robot catches up with Doctor Doom in his aircraft, whereupon he tells Johnny that if Reed had lent him Franklin as asked he would have honoured his oath, but now he doesn't have to. Sorry, what? He made the oath earlier without any conditions, we all saw him do it, so surely he can't just go back on it now? Part of the fun of Doom and his Solemn Oaths over the years has been seeing him get around them while still maintaining his self-image as a man of honour, but this is him just saying "Nah, not doing that now."

Doom then demonstrates some previously unseen child-handling skills, telling Franklin that his mother was "taken away from me by the bad man named Mephisto!" Doom calling somebody "bad man" doesn't feel right - he's not usually one to treat children like children - but it works and Franklin agrees to help, and off they go to Latveria.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza the FF are indulging in some Claremont-esque bickering, furiously trying to blame each other for what's going on. Sue finds this as tiresome as I do, and tells them all to calm down and get ready for the flight to Latveria. As they set off we finally find out what's happened to Kristoff, as he uses a handy flute (?) to call the kidnapper robot back to his cell. It's nice to see that Kristoff has actually had a change of clothes since last time, and his cell looks less padded, but it still has bars on the window and is very definitely a prison. What's nice about this scene though, and the use of Kristoff throughout the rest of the story, is that it massively leans into the idea that he thinks he's Doctor Doom. He doesn't act like a child pretending to be him or anything like that, he's pretty much a second copy, who knows all Doom's secrets and Cunning Plans. Well, technically he should only know Doom's secrets up to and including his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5 , as per his own origin story in Fantastic Four #278, but this is pretty much ignored for this entire story. It's a shame, as I quite like the idea of Real Doom fighting a version of himself from right at the very beginning of his super-villain career, but as we'll see the plot requires him to have a lot more knowledge than he should have.

A prime of example of this is what happens next, as Kristoff flies all the way to Latveria on the robot's back and... hang on, what? Kristoff arrives just after Doom and the FF, so must have flown at pretty high speeds, and while everyone else was safely encased in supersonic vehicles Kristoff was hanging onto a robot while wearing a pair of shorts. Before we can deal with anything there, he rushes off to a nearby barn on the edge of the country where he keeps a spare Doombot and Doctor Doom suit. All right, how does this work? According to Kristoff's earlier appearance he was only Doom for a very short time, just long enough to abandon his mind-wipe and relaunch his attack on the Baxter Building. We know that this was all done in haste because the Doombots at the time said so, so when did he have time to set all this up? There's at least some attempt to embed this into the continuity, as the Doombot remarks upon his new "raiments" and Kristoff talks about how he must get the his robots similarly re-designed, but it doesn't actually help it make any sense!

Once again we're not given time to ponder this as Kristoff and the Doombot hop into Latveria's apparently extensive tunnel system where they bump into the Fantastic Four, at which point Kristoff sets off a trap that he can't know about because... well, you get the general idea. At this point we finally cut back to the real Doctor Doom, where it seems that Paul Neary has been doing some research, giving Boris the very same lamp he had in Astonishing Tales #8. Clearly this lamp is now seen as a Signifier Of Boris, as we also saw him using it recently in Cloak And Dagger #10, still carrying it around inside when there's surely no need to. There's another call back to Astonishing Tales #8 too, as Doom recites a similar incantation, although this time he adds Mephisto's name in there to make it clear that's who he's after. As the demon's begin to appear Paul Neary also recalls Gene Colan's smoky demons. Doom calls out the names of Namor and The Silver Surfer as he does this, reminding us all of some of his past victories. I'm not sure Namor or the Surfer would remember it quite the same, but it's nice to get these reminders of former glories as we head towards the end of this run.

Mephisto turns up as requested, and Doom's evil plan is revealed: he's going to give Mephisto Franklin's soul in exchange for his mother's! DAN-DAN-DAAAA!!! The FIEND! But hold on a minute, how does that work then? Can you just swap one soul for another? And if so, do you need to do it in person, or could Doom have just sent Mephisto a fax to make the offer? And what happened to the idea of people going willingly? If this is all that's required, couldn't Doom have done this ages ago?

And also: what was the plan going to be if the FF HAD let him take Franklin with him, and he'd have been bound to keep his oath? Surely none of this would have worked then?

A theme of this comic seems to be that whenever Steve Englehart writes himself into a corner like this he throws in the sudden arrival of some Action, and that's exactly what he does next. Kristoff arrives with his army of Doombots, throwing everything into disarray. Mephisto is confused, and so are the Doombots! It looks to me as if Neary is quoting the Worried Doombots from Kristoff's first appearance, and I like the way that Englehart writes them the same way, like Civil Servants who are not quite sure that what their master is saying is quite correct, but feel professionally bound to go along with it. Mephisto's had quite enough of all this and decides to go home to hell, taking Franklin with him. Again, this feels like cheating - is he allowed to just pop up to earth and steal any soul he fancies? I mean, I know he's Marvel's version of the Devil so should not be expected to play fairly, but if he can do that why doesn't he do it all the time? Why go to all the bother of Tempting or Tricking people if he can just take whoever he likes?

Reed sees Mephisto disappearing, so quickly picks up a remote control for the Psychic Dampeners that Doom had set up on the castle (somehow) and follows Mephisto into hell through a wormhole, where he switches off the Dampeners. But surely those were only effective in Latveria weren't they? So why do they need to be switched off when they're in another dimension? Either way, Franklin's power is unleashed, Mephisto decides he can't be doing with this much hassle, and both Reed and Franklin get sent home again. Once they get back Franklin's full powers are working again, and he decides he's going to punish Doom by sending him to hell. His dad tells him not to, as "no-one deserves to be sent to Mephisto", which I'm not sure I quite agree with. Doom has been an absolute swine here - I'd even go so far as to call him "Pond Scum"!

The final section of the comic is the aftermath, where we get Doom and Kristoff competing to be the most sad about "their" mother's death. At lot of this story has been nonsensical, but I do like the way that Englehart does this, with each of them getting annoyed at the other for being a fake version of themselves and blaming them for what's gone wrong. Reed Richards tells Real Doom that this was his fault all along, and Real Doom agrees. To me, this is a much needed return to Doom as Honourable Character, able to admit his own mistakes. We've not seen enough of that version in this issue, but it turns out that the Doombots prefer Straight Out Evil Doom, and decide that anyone prepared to admit weakness must be a fake. This is all a bit daft, but also brilliant! If we squint and cross our fingers we might even be able to see it as an acknowledgement of how much Doom has evolved as a character over the past 26 years, going from a straight-out villian (as portrayed by Kristoff) to a quasi-honourable human being who is at least partially self-aware. It's also a Really Cool Twist which allows Kristoff to take control of the situation, ordering the Doombots to attack and forcing Real Doom to display yet more of his characteristics by a) blowing up some robots and b) fleeing the scene while c) insisting he is definitely not fleeing the scene. All that remains is for Reed to have one more go at persuading Kristoff he's not really Doom, by saying "I don't suppose it would do any good to tell you once more that you're not Doctor Doom?" If that's been his methodology all this time then it's not really surprising that Kristoff's had absolutely no progress for two years, and here he brushes this aside, so that the FF are left to simply wander off and go home in an ending that is either a subtle nod to "The Most Off-Beat Ending Of The Year" in Fantastic Four #87, or just Englehart and Neary getting to the last page all of a sudden. And that's the end of that! As I say, we're very close to the end of this selection of comics and other texts, with just a couple of cameo appearances to go before we have a bit of a tidy up with a few items that got missed along the way. It would have been nice to have another classic story to finish off with here, but in a way it's nice to have something like this instead, which leans heavily into continuity but is also filled with big fight scenes, nonsensical plots, and some Really Cool Bits. That sums up an awful lot of what we've been reading!

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posted 27/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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All In The Family!

We're getting very close to the end of 'The Marvel Age' now, and this issue feels like a good example of what Marvel comics were like at this point, with some nice-looking but fairly unexciting artwork, a LOT of continuity, and some 'adult themes' which are dealt with in a way that feels rather uncomfortable now.

The main thrust of the storyline is that The Thing has taken over the running of the Fantastic Four because Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman want to go off and spend more time with their son Franklin. The Human Torch (now married to Alicia) is still around, which means that Ben Grimm still has to find two extra members, and the issue is mostly about how he starts making those choices. This involves an awful lot of Talking and Thinking and characters not really doing much at all - the Thing spends the first two pages standing on a roof having a Good Old Think, and apart from a couple of brief sequences where Superheroes Fight Each Other, that's pretty much how it carries on.

Crystal, former team-member and ex of Johnny Storm, pops in to see her estranged husband Quicksilver, who the FF recently captured after he'd gone mad. He claims to have been driven mad by Crystal's marital infidelity, and there's some distinctly iffy scenes throughout the issue where other characters react to this as if they were in the 1950s, rather than the 1980s. It reminds me of the scene back in Fantastic Four #237 where it's hinted that Ben and Alicia had sex whilst they were in their robot bodies in Liddleville, and Ben struggles to cope with this - not because he was human, or they were trapped in tiny robot bodies, but because they weren't married. Talking of Alicia, Ben is still not happy about her being married to Johnny (we'll eventually find out that she's actually a Skrull pretending to be Alicia, but that's a way off yet), so when he asks Crystal to join the team the others all wander whether he's just doing it to drive a wedge between the newlyweds. The message seems to be that Crystal has already cheated in her own marriage, so won't be worried about intervening in someone else's. While all that's going on we get a brief glimpse into the padded holding cells where Quicksilver is being kept next door to Kristoff, who we last saw two years ago, back in Fantastic Four #279. This leads to a couple of important questions. Firstly, if Kristoff has been under the care of the Fantastic Four for all that time, how come they've never given him a decent change of clothes? Secondly, Reed says that "The Courts have agreed to let us keep him temporarily while specialists come in to check him over constantly" but he looks very much like a prisoner to me, kept in a privately owned padded cell against his will with no visitors apparent at any point. Thirdly, and finally - the FF have a whole prison facility? Who else have they been keeping in there?!? The politics of all of this are deeply conservative, and so is the artwork by Marvel legends John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. It all looks perfectly nice, even when Steve Englehart doesn't really give them much to illustrate apart from people having conversations, but it feels curiously out of place in a comic from 1987, just on the cusp of the 90's stylings of Rob Liefeld, Art Adams, Todd McFarlane and the like.

Throughout the story we've had an occasional narration from a Mysterious Voice who seems to be watching them all, plotting something. This is very Doom-like behaviour, as is Appearing Dramatically on the very last page, which is exactly what he does! With all of the mentions of Kristoff we might expect that Doom has come to collect him, but no, "I care nothing for Kristoff", he says, he's there to collect Franklin instead. What can this mean? What is his big plan? We'll have to wait until next time to find out, in "Fantastic Four Annual" #20!

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posted 20/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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We're getting really close to the end of this project now, with only a few texts left to go in the official list and then a couple of "addenda" where I've discovered other items along the way that should have featured much earlier. After that I'm hoping to do a couple of overviews, looking at how Doom works and what sort of thing keeps cropping up, such as a particular aspect of Doom's history that keeps getting referred to again and again, including in this issue i.e. that time he stole the Silver Surfer's power cosmic.

This has cropped up on several occasions, notably in Silver Surfer #1 in 1968, Silver Surfer #1 in 1982, and here again in Silver Surfer #1 in 1987. The fact that Doom keeps popping up whenever the Silver Surfer has a first issue does lead me to think that it's also an important event in the latter's life as well!

The original storyline took place over four issues, in the classic "The Peril And The Power" running from Fantastic Four #57 to Fantastic Four #60 (not 58-60 as it says in the editorial box below), but here the whole story is retold in just three panels, as part of a brief history of The Silver Surfer which takes about three pages all together to give us his whole story so far, including a panel for the aforementioned Silver Surfer #1 of 1982. Doom doesn't appear in the rest of the story, which sees the Fantastic Four helping the Surfer to escape the Earth, after which he goes to visit Galactus to ask him not to put him behind another barrier (personally I'd have just kept quiet, rather than alerting him to the fact that I'd got out). Galactus sets him a quest to rescue his current herald, which the Surfer does fairly easily, and with his mind set at rest he then zooms off for cosmic adventures in the rest of the series. It's all perfectly pleasant, and extremely glossy - much like the Akin & Garvey poster last time, but here with Marhsall Rogers inked by the veteran Joe Rubinstein, who appears to be trying (and succeeding) to keep up with the current shiny style. Other than that the only oddity is that the Fantastic Four line-up is Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, The Thing and She-Hulk, which is not a combination I was ever aware of existing, although we're now just past the Byrne run of the series, which is when I stopped buying it. Steve Englehart was writing the FF then, as he was this series, so I guess he'd know what the line-up was - we'll find out next time when we look at an issue of his run on "The Fantastic Four", featuring a whole lot of Adult Issues and another classic Doom trope: popping up at the very end for the cliffhanger. See you then!

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posted 13/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Akin and Garvey Portfolio

As discussed before, "Marvel Fanfare" was a slightly odd series which never seemed to know what it was meant to be. In theory it was meant to be a showcase for the very best creators, but in practice it was more often a dumping ground for inventory material. Usually Al Milgrom, the editor, went to great pains to deny this, but here he has no choice but to admit it. He goes on to say that the lead story is still justified for Marvel Fanfare because it features "Claremont, Brigman and Austin", but while it does look very nice it can't be ignored that it was originally created as a tie-in for an X-Men "Questprobe" game that never happened. It even features The Chief Examiner, who we met way back in Questprobe Featuring The Human Torch And The Thing. This story ties into all of the previous games and, by trying to explain what it all means, makes about as much sense as they did i.e. not an awful lot. Doctor Doom doesn't appear in this story at all - in all the other issues of "Marvel Fanfare" we've looked at he's popped up either in very small cameos or as part of the "portfolios" section, and here he has a full page poster in one of the latter. It's drawn by Akin & Garvey, an inking duo working for Marvel around this time who were known for their smooth, super glossy inks on stories like "Rom" and "Transformers". I remember really liking them at the time, as they were very much in the same league as Bob Layton, taking anybody's pencils and placing them firmly in their own style. The picture of Doom included in the posters is very recognisably by them, even with nobody else underneath them. I'm not sure where that sceptre comes from, but otherwise this is a pretty standard depiction of Doom sitting on a throne, glowering away, with most of his standard signifiers showing. We can't see his nose or any rivets in his shadowed face, but this does at least draw attention to his very visible eyes through the mask!

That's it for this time, but come back later in the week for yet another cameo, in yet another first issue of "The Silver Surfer"!

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posted 11/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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A Matter Of Faith

What's going on with the covers for this series? I wonder if Jon Bogdanov drew them all before reading any of the scripts, expecting all sorts of action and excitement and getting... well, lots and lots of talking. As with last time, it looks great but nothing even approaching this scene happens in the comic itself!

We do get some quite interesting additions to Doctor Doom's history, but before that we have to wade through an awful lot of Claremont's trademark dialogue, which I must admit does become annoying after a while. Actually, it's pretty annoying to start with, as we start with Kitty changing the lyrics to "I am sixteen going on seventeen" in her head but changing the words, and then - in her internal monologue - offering a formal apology to the writer. There's several more pages of extremely verbose inner dialoguing, as Franklin appears to comfort Kityy, and then even more dialogue between the FF as they fly to Latveria. As I said last time, it doesn't half go on!

However, all this talking does give us a bit of previously unheard information about Doctor Doom's back-story. She-Hulk apparently spent some time at Empire State University (the fictional University where most Marvel characters go) and spoke to some old lecturers of Reed and Doom. According to them Reed and Doom were highly competitive, constantly arguing with each other about all manner of topics as they stomped around the campus together. This sounds entirely reasonable, and fits what we know so well that at first I didn't notice that it isn't actually something that had been mentioned before. The story of Doom and Reed being rivals has often been told, but this little detail hasn't, and it easily explains why, for instance, Reed would have been doing looking through Doom's equations. It also leads to yet another quotation of the famous image from his origin story in Fantastic Four Annual #2 that's been seen so many times before. It's worth restating at this point that the art throughout is fantastic. Jon Bogdanov is very good at facial expressions, drawing a great Franklin (even when he's being written at his most mawkish) who actually looks like a child for once, and a charming panel where Dazzler delights in beating Havok during "training" in the forest. The "training" session (training for some advance bickering and fighting, perhaps) happens while everyone's hanging around waiting for Doom to finally get started with his cure for Kitty. However, when this does eventually get started it's almost immediately put in jeopardy by Magneto, melting Doom's robots with his magnetic powers and thus interfering with Doom's computers. This is an absolutely classic bit of Doom action, with him looming out of the sky as he has done so many times before. The other characters might be annoying and stupid, but Claremont and Bogdanov are giving us a great Doctor Doom!

A prime example of this stupidity appears on the very next page. The Fantastic Four arrive and Magneto decides - despite being explicitly told, only a few seconds ago, that using his magnetic powers could kill Kitty - that the best thing to do is to use his magnetic powers to bring down the FF's plane. Storm is rightly livid with him, as is Doom. He sends the X-Men off to stop the Fantastic Four getting any closer, which they (stupidly) do. This leads to an extremely long and pointless fight which appears to be there to fulfill two functions: to fill in some space, and to get Rogue to steal the Human Torch's power and accidentally burn all her clothes off, like a superhero version of Jane. This goes on for ages until Franklin turns up and tells them to stop being such a bunch of idiots, and they all stomp off back to the castle where Doom is considering his next move. He's formulated an extremely cunning plan which result in either him saving Kitty and looking great, or getting to put the blame on the FF if it doesn't work. Better yet, he's spotted that Reed is still carrying that fake journal around - a journal which Doom recognises. It was him all along! Everyone gathers around as Doom starts the process of curing Kitty, only for Reed to notice an error in Doom's calculations. As The Thing says, "Remember the first time Reed gave you a warning, back in college? Didn't you learn your lesson then?" While this is entirely true it's not exactly tactful, especially when Doom blames Reed for the entire incident Ben's referring to, so in the end it takes The Wisdom Of A Child to calm everybody down and work together. Doom and Reed start the process and all is well, until Reed is suddenly struck by Doubt. Maybe he did write that diary after all, he thinks, despite the fact that he has no memory of doing so. Doom suggests he get Psylocke to open his mind and find out, but this - well, basically, it's three pages of torturous self-examination as Reed grapples with his "inner demons" when actually he should be getting on with it and saving Kitty. It's intensely annoying, especially as Reed is eventually cured by Sue and Franklin Having Faith In Him and his own self-belief. That was a whole lot of drama leading up to someone just going "Nah, it's fine."

The rest of the issue is a great long slab of everybody sitting around chatting again. The highlight is Sue telling Doom that she knows he forged the diary deliberately (years ago, I guess, as a long-term Scheme?), to which Doom responds by going on about caviar. Not only is this some pretty excellent Doom characterisation, but it also gives us another solution for the age old "How does Doom eat?" question - his mouth grill appears to be retractable! Sue warns Doom that she could kill him any time she wants using her forcefield, and when he doubts this she replies "Be careful Victor. A lionness is most dangerous defending mate and club and den." It's pretty awful dialogue, but it does lead to a nice image of Doom looking rather deflated. And there it all ends. This has been a rather peculiar series to read, especially when looking for signifiers of Doom. He's hardly in the first two issues at all, despite appearing on the (entirely misleading) covers, but when he does turn up he acts in a very Doom-like manner. Or maybe he just seems more suave, adult and intelligent when surrounded by a bunch of other characters who, apart from Franklin, are a load of hopeless idiots?

Talking of Franklin, we'll have a whole lot more of him soon, but before that we've got a few more cameos and posters to look at, as we very much head towards the last few texts in this whole thing! See you back here next time!

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posted 6/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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By The Soul's Darkest Light

Last week I read a twitter thread by The Claremont Run discussing the way Chris Claremont writes his X-Men characters from "a perspective of perpetual adolescence", with their emotioins raw and judgement hasty. Having since read this comic I can confirm that this analysis is absolutely 100% accurate. The X-Men and other characters act like teenagers throughout, which definitely does make the story more dramatic but, for someone who is very much not any teenager anymore, it also makes them all incredibly, perpetually, annoying.

Before we go any further, the cover image of the X-Men wearing Doom masks to murder the Fantastic Four is a) brilliant but b) entirely unrepresentative of what goes on inside. You might possibly argue that they take Doom's side against the FF, but then again they don't really at all. It's a shame, because it looks great!

What we do get inside is a bit of classic Doom Looming, although for once he's actually there in person, healing Storm, rather than appearing menacingly in the sky. The X-Men have gone to Latveria, where Doom has promised to cure Kitty Pryde of her Turning Into A Ghost complaint. Before that though he's using "bio-enhancer" to heal Storm's burns from last issue. As Psylocke remarks, this could help burn victims everywhere. Um... burn victims like Doom himself, maybe? If, as canon now says (and explicitly clarified in the preceding issue of this series) Doom's injuries were caused by him putting on a burning hot mask, couldn't he use this device on himself?

The other X-Men are hanging around being annoying. Rogue has nipped into town to do some shopping without letting anybody know, so when she comes back (wearing "absolutely aces threads") it trips the alarms, sending a group of exciting armour-based Doombots to catch her. We've never seen these sort of Doombots before, but they look brilliant - Jon Bogdanov's art throughout this issue is "absolutely aces". The X-Men leap into action and destroy the Doombots, competing with each other to see who can cause most mayhem, which gets them all into trouble when Storm finds out. They are extremely teenage here - Rogue even says "They started it!" I bet she was asking if they were nearly there yet all the way to Latveria too.

Doom is very smooth indeed throughout this issue, and indeed the rest of the series, where he's a much bigger presence than in the first half. "Perhaps an error was made. On both sides," he says.

There's more high drama as we cut to Kitty, who's decided that enough is enough and she's going to just let herself die. Drama! She phases out of her life-support system so her atoms can be scattered to the wind, only to be stopped by Franklin Richards in his Astral Form, using his Ill-Defined Powers to talk her down. The X-Men arrive to see him comforting her, and don't seen at all surprised to see him there, leaving asking about it pretty low down on their list of questions. We then get a lengthy cutaway to the Fantastic Four, all dealing with the idea that Reed might have sent them into space deliberately un-shielded, knowing the cosmic rays would give them special powers. Reed reads Franklin a story, Ben tries to get drunk and saves a child from a handily burning car crash, and Johnny has a moan to Alicia. It all ends with Sue deciding that the journal which "revealed" Reed's secret motivation must have been a forgery because "the author of that diary couldn't have related to Franklin the way you did." The others also come back, having decided that having superpowers is quite cool so they're fine with it. It's a lengthy section full of talking and talking and talking, and it doesn't half go on!

The issue leaves us there, with the FF happy to be reunited and Doctor Doom about to switch on his De-Ghostifying Machine to cure Kitty. There doesn't appear to be an awful lot left to tidy up in the final issue at the moment - the FF are fine, Kitty's about to be cured - but I'm sure Chris Claremont will manage something. Find out if he does, next time!

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posted 30/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Truths and Consequences

Before we get started on the contents of this issue, I think it's vitally important to recognise how brilliant the cover is. Doctor Doom is lurking menacingly in the background, the Fantastic Four are lying dead, Franklin is bawling his eyes out, and Wolverine is trying really hard to be comforting by saying "You're mother's been avenged, okay kid?" He is the best at what he does, and what he does is not counselling.

Once again, Doom is on the cover but he's hardly in the comic itself at all, though at least it is actually him this time rather than just a dream. His appearance is begun when it turns out that the fisherman Dazzler and Longshot plucked out of the sea last time isn't a fisherman at all but some kind of robot. I like the way this is described as something only mildly perturbing, like bringing home a new jar of jam and finding that the popping lid isn't popping. I suppose that's the way it is on Muir Island (with robots, I mean, not jars with pre-opened lids). The robot is actually a Projection Device, which then stomps out onto the tarmac where the FF and the X-Men have been having a fight as a result of Mr Fantastic not being prepared to cure Kitty Pryde from her Phasing Into Nothingness disease. The robot has of course been sent by none other than... Doctor Doom! There's a REALLY lengthy explanation here about why he used the robot, rather than, say, sending a fax. The real explanation, of course, is that this is a lot cooler than even faxing would have been in 1987. Doom appears in hologram form to offer to help, recreating the Molecular Reintegrator that Reed Richards refuses to use, and curing Kitty. As ever, Reed doesn't like the idea that Doom would actually do something better than him (why yes, I HAVE read a lot of comics starring Doctor Doom and started to see things from his point of view) so stomps off onto his plane and leaves the island. Doom himself disappears for the rest of the comic, telling the X-Men to call him when they're ready. After that most of the rest of the comic is a whole lot of talking. The X-Men spend pages and pages discussing whether to take Doom up on his offer, and eventually decide that they will. It's massively padded, as there's never any question about whether they will or not, but I guess this is Chris Claremont in his Pomp so that's what you'd expect. The FF, meanwhile, have another lengthy chat during which they discuss the journal that Sue found last time, which appears to suggest that Reed knew all along that their trip into space would transform them into superheroes. This involves some nice image quotation, with a bunch of iconic images from Fantastic Four #1 recreated by John Bogdanov. It's still Chris Claremont writing it though, so there's still an awful lot of dialogue! The issue ends with both teams in their living rooms looking glum, the FF because they're on the brink of splitting up (again), the X-Men because they're about to make a deal with Doctor Doom. It's sort of an anti-cliffhanger - "come back next time and hopefully things will be a bit more exciting than this!" But will they? Come back next time and find out!

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posted 23/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Are You Sure?

Doctor Doom appears on the cover of every issue of the four-issue "Fantastic Four versus The X-Men" mini-series, but he doesn't actually appear in it that much, unfortunately. He doesn't really appear in this one at all, apart from that cover image and a Dream Sequence that takes up the first few pages.

For years, Franklin Richards' super-powers had been extremely vaguely defined as "very powerful" without really saying what they are. In this issue they include seeing the future, astral projection, and convoluted metaphors. Many of these are expressed in the aforesaid dream sequence, where Franklin watches his Dad, Mr Fantastic, carrying his Mum, The Invisible Woman, around an Eery Dreamscape, having apparently killed her. Wolverine turns up and attacks Mr Fantastic for killing the X-Men too but misses, falls over, and ... er... dies. Reed then takes out a Spooky Book labelled (in large, Batman TV show letters) "REED RICHARDS JOURNAL STATE UNIVERSITY" which causes him to transform into ... Doctor Doom! There's a lot of Child Psychology going on here, but there's also some great character work as the cold, unemotional version of Reed Richards transfroms into Doom and his speech patterns do too. Reed/Doom takes up the Mask Of Doom and puts it on his face, completing the transformation and interestingly echoing the very recent canonisation of the idea that Doom was mostly scarred by putting on a very hot mask, as seen in Fantastic Four #278. It also echoes an idea we've seen a few times before, of Reed and Doom being the same person, such as in Marvel Team-Up #133. That's all the Doom we get for this issue, though it's not all the Child Psychology, as Franklin is brushed off when he goes to tell his Dad about his dream. Luckily Sue Richards is nearby, and she displays her excellent parenting skills by using that tried and tested method of getting frightened children to go back to sleep again - she gets him to help up open some old packing cases. Was that tea set packed like that? Does Reed Richards have special Science Packing Foam?

Also in the crate is REED RICHARDS JOURNAL STATE UNIVERSITY, but before we can find more out about that we cut away to Muir Island where the X-Men are busily catching us up with what's been going on lately. They're now living in Scotland with a bunch of new members who don't all get on (as is the way with X-Men), including Dazzler and Longshot, who stop off on their way back from collecting groceries by speedboat to rescue a drowned fisherman. More importantly for the series as a whole though, we find out that Kitty Pryde has got stuck in Phase Form and only has days to live! Back in New York, Franklin's dream is coming true as Sue confronts Reed with the journal, which she has read. You don't read people's journals Sue, nothing ever good comes of it, especially when your future-seeing son explicitly advises you not to!

Over in Greenwich village we see She-Hulk, who just so happens to be reviewing The Trial Of Magneto for a charity event. I say "just so happens" because she and The Thing then get caught up with stopping a burning building from collapsing, and who should turn up but ... Magneto! Magneto's there to ask Reed Richards for his help, as one of his experimental devices might be able to save Kitty. He agrees to go to Muir Island along with Thing, She-Hulk and The Human Torch, with The Invisible Woman choosing to stay home and be furious about what was in the journal. When they arrive on Muir Island Reed's in a bit of a state, worrying about what will happen about the Journal. This leads to him being over-cautious and not wanting to risk using the device, something which causes more of Franklin's dream to come true, as a furious Wolverine attacks Mr Fantastic, just like at the start of the story. What can it all mean? What was in the journal? Why won't Mr Fantastic help the X-Men? And will we get a little bit more Doctor Doom as the series progresses? Find out... next time!

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posted 16/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Who'll Stop The Rain?

After Doom's final panel cameo in the last issue of 'Cloak And Dagger', this time he's got a much bigger part to play. It starts with the cover, where we see a very familiar portrayal of Doom looming enormously over other characters, something which he's done repeatedly throughout his career so far.

There's more Doom Tropes on the splash page, where we find Doom standing on a castle balcony, planning to save the world, with Boris The Faithful Retainer in the background. This is great stuff from the writer, Bill Mantlo, who clearly knows his Doom! I also love the fact that Boris is carrying his lamp again, as he did in many of his earliest appearances, even when they get inside. As they stroll through the castle he and Doom briefly discuss the former's part in the latter's origin before entering a room full of technology which Doom is using to... predict the weather? Doom is very good at this, apparently, and I for one would sign up to watch The Weather Forecast if he was doing it! They pass through a room full of art and another room where a fancy meal is laid out - artist Brett Blevins has also been doing some Doom Tropes Research by the looks of it - as they head out onto more battlements and then into another tower where Doom has built a Particle Projector which is going to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons. This isn't the first time that Doom has tried to enforce nuclear disarmament - he's also attempted it in the the Spider-man newspaper strip (using a method eerily similar to the one from 'Watchmen') and as part of his takeover of the world in last week's blog. I really like his motivation here though - he's not doing this for the good of the world, not primarily anyway, he's doing it because if the world gets blown up he does too!

Cloak, Dagger, and her Annoying Boyfriend teleport into Latveria just as Doom has activated the device, and meet a bunch of Latverian peasants having a heated debate about whether Doom is a good guy or not. Most of them think he very much is, although I'm not sure how much you can trust the judgement of people who think it's a good idea to stand around in the pouring rain while wearing shorts. You'd think they'd have adjusted their outfits according to Doom's Weather Forecast really. The police turn up and take Cloak, Dagger, and Annoying Boyfriend to meet Doom. He tears himself away from a KirbyTech Control Panel (more Doom Themes from Blevins) to turn on the charm when he meets Dagger. Cloak is suspicious, but Doom then explains that everything they know about him is Fake News, and that he's simply the victim on malicious falsehoods from The Fantastic Four. To back this up he explains his Cunning Plan to them, which involves "neutralising the energy emitted by radioactive materials." This sounds totally plausible to me! Boris takes them away to a Plush Suite, where Annoying Boyfriend points out that getting rid of radioactive materials means "no energy for cities, no radiation therapy for cancer patients, no nuclear powered science research." The second point is fair enough, even if a Marvel Universe with Doom and Mr Fantastic in it should be able to sort that out some other way, but the first and third points aren't very convincing. Also: no nuclear war!

Annoying Boyfriend sends Cloak And Dagger off to find Doom, who is relaxing at his console, watching a viewing screen, drinking some wine. Really, Blevins and Mantlo, with all of these Doom signifiers you are really spoiling us! They also answer the question of how Doom drinks through his mask - inelegantly - and give us yet another foretaste of Watchmen. Doom is not a Republic serial villain - he did it thirty-five minutes ago (roughly)!

"We intend to stop you, madman!" says Cloak, which is going a bit far if you ask me, especially as he's already done it. Is it really that mad to get rid of all nuclear weapons? Or have five years of Doctor Doom made me more sympathetic to him than maybe it should?

Dagger zaps Doom with her light and then Cloak swallows him up into his cloak, where Doom has a Mystical Vision of his mum. This is definitely NOT a way to get onto Doom's good side and he blasts his way out of the Cloak, which is apparently either rare or impossible. Annoying Boyfriend shows up, and the three heroes teleport away to the Particle Projector. Annoying Boyfriend (who is REALLY annoying by this point) bosses the others around, getting them to try and destroy the device which, just to be clear, is about to remove the threat of nuclear war.

Doom turns up and Cloak comes up with a Cunning Plan all of his own. He traps Doom inside his cloak again, which makes him so absolutely furious that he lashes out with his gauntlets, just as the cloak opens up again so that he accidently blasts his own projector to bits. They teleport away and... that's it! We never get to find out how furious Doom must be, we just get The Three Idiots standing on a nearby rock, as Cloak ponders "Will we in time come to regret our gift, as we live with the gnawing guilt that we have given humanity back the means of its own destruction?" This is quite similar to the Moral Issues we looked at last time, where Doom basically saved the world but the Avengers had to stop him because of Reasons, which merrily restored Apartheid and The Cold War. Again, perhaps I've read too much Doctor Doom here, but it does feel as if maybe they could have had a sensible discussion about how it worked, rather than just blasting the whole thing to bits?

Despite all that, this has been a great example of Doom Being Doom, which I wasn't expecting to find at this late stage of the corpus. More please!

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posted 9/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Emperor Doom

Ever since "Secret Wars" finished we've had a long string of Doom in cameos, flashbacks, recaps, and occasional Massive Continuity Fixes, but we've not had much of him as the star of the show.

Until today!

Today we're looking at an actual graphic novel all about Doctor Doom! All right, technically it's called "Avengers: Emperor Doom" and is meant to be about how The Avengers, and specifically Wonder Man, stop him, but really it's all about what would happen if Doom took over the world. It turns out what would happen is that things would be great!

The story gets off to a baddy-based start, first with The Purple Man being kidnapped while being awful, then with Namor wandering the streets of New York before he arrives at a restaurant to meet Doctor Doom. I really like the art in this story, which is by Bob Hall (who's drawn some excellent Doom stories before) and inked by Keith Williams, making it all look very Bronze Age-y, even as we skirt uncomfortably close to The 90s. There's no reason on earth that this couldn't have been an Avengers Annual rather than a Graphic Novel, but seeing the art so big looks nice, and it gives the whole thing a big grandiose feel that the story is altogether too much fun to live up to.

Doom needs Namor's helps with a Cunning Plan. He's going to take over the entire world by strapping The Purple Man into a Psycho Prism and brainwashing everybody... or nearly everybody anyway. The prism only affects people who can breath, so he needs Namor to stick some Robot Controllers onto a few Robot Superheroes, and in exchange he promises him he can rule the sea while Doom rules the land. This sounds like a good deal, so Doom gives Namor a mini-Psycho Prism and the control discs, then the Submariner pops off to put them onto The Vision, Machine Man and Ultron. This he does with ease. While that's going on we take a trip to the HQ of the West Coast Avengers, most of whom are variously lolling about eating pizza and reading books. Wonder Man however is visiting Tony Stark, who is going to "perform a little science experiment" on him. They're going to find out how his pure energy body works, and so he needs to lie in a flotation tank for thirty days. This seems deeply weird - he's going to lie there for thirty whole days? And none of the other Avengers seem bothered enough to wish him good luck or anything? Anyway, I'm sure it's not important and will have no impact on the rest of the story, which goes on to feature some great Doom Action. We see him landing on Doom Island, which I don't think is a place we've seen in the comics before. This is a top secret facility, manned entirely by soldiers who are cos-playing as Doombots. I'm not sure what's going on here - those are definitely Doombots, and later on they are explicitly stated to be robots, so why they're soldiers here I don't know. They're guarding the Psycho Prism, which has a very annoyed Purple Man trapped inside it. He tells Doom that he doesn't deserve to rule, challenging him to face him man to man. Brilliantly, Doom does exactly that! I love this bit, and it's part of a theme throughout the story of Doom Being Excellent.

Meanwhile, Namor has made a bit of a botch job of putting the control discs on robots. They're all attached, but like certain former Health Secretaries we might know, he forgot about surveillance cameras, and now The Avengers have got wind that something's going on. They fly off to Doom Island, watched by Doom on his viewing screens as usual, and fight their way through the Doombots, here described as "Latverian citizens" and so humans still. They make their way inside, just as Doom activates the Psycho Prism and taking over everybody's minds, leading to the first of several great lines, as penned by David Micheline. The Avengers shuffle off, while Doom moves onto the next stage of his takeover. I said earlier that this all feels very Bronze Age-y, and this feeling is hugely reinforced by the fact that this next bit takes place at the United Nations building! Long-term readers of this blog will know that there was a period during the 1970s when Doom was hardly ever out of the UN, using it for takeovers in the Amazing Spider-man newspaper strip, the Spider-man cartoon, and in Spidey Super Stories. Spider-man isn't here to see him get voted in as world leader this time (as I've commented many, many times before, the UN works very differently on Earth 616), but Namor is, and he wants his dues. When Doom says no he gets most irate, until he discovers that he's been tricked. The mini-Psycho Prism is not a fun free gift, it's Doom's way of controlling Namor too! What a fiend! This is necessary because some people (including Namor) have extremely strong willpower, and so can fight against the Purple Man's power if they know what's going on, but I'm sure that won't come up again either.

Usually at this point something would go horribly wrong (usually involving Spider-man) and Doom would lose control, but not this time. Instead Doom immediately sets about changing things, and within days the Russians have withdrawn from Afghanistan, land is redistributed in Ethopia and farming is restored, apartheid is ended in South Africa, world economies all improve and nuclear disarmament begins. Everything, in fact, is going great, until Wonder Man gets out of his tank a few weeks later (nobody comes to help him out either, which seems a bit rude) and sees a news report saying that Doctor Doom is having a ticker tape parade to celebrate giving independence to Puerto Rico. Wonder Man isn't affected by the prism because he doesn't breath, but when he suggests stopping Doom his team-mates immediately turn him in. They force him to flee the mansion, only to fall foul of a crowd of angry shoppers who also love Doom. We're used to seeing ordinary people thinking Doom's great, but usually only in Latveria. Here it looks like the whole world is on his side, although only because of Mind Control. I wonder if this would change if everybody was released from this control and found themselves in a world free of hunger, war and poverty?

Wonder Man goes off on the run, leaving Doom to get on with the business of running the world. This, it turns out, involves an awful lot more admin than he was expecting. This is a brilliant double twist by David Micheline (or possibly Mark Gruenwald or Jim Shooter who are credited as coming up with the original concept with him) - the whole world is happy and at peace, which makes Doctor Doom bored! We've seen this before, of course, back in The Champions #16, where Doom took over the world and was beseiged in the White House by annoying politicians. That time he managed to take over by using a neuro-gas to mind control everyone in the world except for Ghost Rider, who was immune because he couldn't breath... hang on, isn't that exactly the same plot as this time? And if Ghost Rider was immune then why isn't he now? That story was also drawn by Bob Hall, funnily enough, although the script was by Bill Mantlo - perhaps Micheline, Gruenwald and Shooter should have shared the credits for their "concept"!

Wonder Man is wandering around (he does this a lot, maybe his name has just been spelt wrong all this time?) trying to find a way to put the world back to normal again. After a slightly boring chat with A Wise Blind Woman he goes back to Wet Coast Avengers HQ, fights Captain America, and forces him to watch video footage of Doom Being A Baddy. This is enough to restore Cap to normal, and then he chooses the most strong-willed Avengers he can think of (Hawkeye, Iron Man and The Wasp) to do the same to them. Hawkeye wants to restore his wife Mockingbird next, but Cap says it'll only work on super strong-willed people like them which, again, seems a bit rude. Hawkeye goes and gives it a go anyway but it doesn't work. She tells on them to Doom and so they have to go on the run again. Doom, however, is quietly pleased to have a bit of a challenge again. The Avengers fly off to fight him on Doom island, but their Quinjet is easily blown out of the sky by Doom's defences, leading to another brilliant quip which has since gone on to be one of those Internet Memes that the young people are so keen on. Again, this is a lovely bit of characterisation, and Doom is of course correct. The whole thing was a decoy, and the actual Avengers are now on the ground fighting the Doombot army, who are now definitely robots, honest. How Hawkeye knew they were robots is beyond me, but it's a flipping good job he was right! The Avengers fight their way inside, struggling against the power of The Purple Man as they get closer but, as Marvel superheroes always do, manging to prevail by Trying Really Hard. Still, even though they free Namor from the mind control by dousing him in water from a very handy nearby fish tank, Doom still has everything under control. All he has to do is press a big red button... I think we're all with Doom on this one - who among us hasn't wished we could get out of boring meetings and/or social engagements at some point? He decides to "let fate decide" which in this case means "do nothing" while Namor smashes up the Psycho Prism, and the whole world goes back to normal. Afghanistan goes back to war, racism is re-instated in South Africa, vandals take to the streets of Los Angeles and the armies of the world re-arm their nuclear warheads. Er... hooray for the Avengers? There's just time for one last Doom Trope, as he heads to an escape port and blasts off in a shuttle, and then all that remains is for The Avengers to fly home with more news of the world returning to normal on the radio. Hawkeye wonders whether they've done the right thing, and Captain America gives a speech which I guess is meant to be convinving and heroic... er... but isn't particularly. The final panel has Hawkeye wondering whether they've done humanity the greatest favour in history or the greatest damage. "Either way that's something we're going to have to live with for the rest of our lives," he says, but I wonder if this ever gets mentioned ever again? If I was the Avengers I'd probably keep it under my hat for a few years!

It's a daft end, but I suppose they couldn't do it any other way. Otherwise this has been a thoroughly enjoyable story to read through, packed with some great Doom insights and lovely art. Sadly, I think this might be the last properly great Doom story we get for a while, but there's still a few left issues left so let's see if I'm wrong next time, when we return to the pages of Cloak & Dagger!

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posted 2/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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With Foes Like These...

Today we're looking at yet another single panel flashback appearance by Doctor Doom, and once again it's all to do with Secret Wars.

When this issue came out it was about 18 months since the last issue of the original "Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars" series, but its importance to the shared Marvel storyworld is clear from the way it keeps on popping up, explaining costume changes, changes to team line-ups and, as here, the introduction of new characters. A big chunk of this story is about the relationship between Titania, who got her powers on Battleworld, and long-time Thor villain The Absorbing Man. We've looked at stories about quite a few couples recently, like Cloak & Dagger, Dazzler and The Beast, and Volcana and Molecule Man, and they have been pretty much universally awful, as if they were written by a very angry alien teenager who had based all their knowledge of human relationships on daytime soap operas and furious poems about how they're happy on they're own so please stop asking if I've got a boyfriend/girlfriend. In many cases I've expected to see an editorial note clarifying the point that they never asked to be born, GOD YOU'RE SO BORING.

However, Tom deFalco manages to write this pair, and all the other relationships in the issue, as if he's had at least a nodding acquaintance with human beings and how they work, while the art looks very pleasant in a late 80s/inked by Bob Layton sort of way, not least because it's inked by Bob Layton. We find ourselves thrown into the middle of several stories all going on at once, as seems to have been the trend for continuing series at this point, with Flash Thompson on the run from the police, Titania and The Absorbing Man arguing about their attempts to go straight, Peter Parker's ongoing work problems and weariness with superheroics, MJ's career in modelling, and the ongoing mystery of The Hobgoblin. There's a LOT going on, also including a guest appearance by The Wasp, a Policeman With A Secret, and a big fight at an airport. It's all very nicely written and drawn, but dipping into so many stories without much explanation and with no resolutions at all feels rather alienating. Jim Shooter was very keen on the idea that every comic was somebody's first comic, and should be written with that in mind, and though this is very much not my first comic it does feel as if the only way to get anything out of it would be to read the entire run of the series for a couple of years either side, and there's nothing interesting or exciting enough to make me want to do so.

To put it another way: this comics feels like another harbinger of 90's Comics!

Doom's appearance comes in the obligatory Secret Wars recap, this time focussing entirely on Titania's origin. It's interesting that this is all done in a single panel, with a note just pointing out that it happened in Secret Wars, as if that's all the information that's needed to explain what's going on. There's an expectation that anybody reading this will know what Secret Wars was, and so no further explanation is necessary. I guess that was probably true, and to be honest I didn't notice this assumption at all the first time I read it. I'm not always onboard with the idea that you HAVE to explain every single thing in a story, as sometimes it's exciting to be thrown into a fully functioning fictional world and have to work out what's going on for yourself, but here it feels more like a lack of concern for anybody who's not already on board. As I say: here come the 90s!

That's the lot for Doom this time, but stand by for more Doom in a single text than I think we've ever had before, as next time we finally get to "Emperor Doom"!

link to information about this issue

posted 25/6/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett