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Blog: Choosing DOOM

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Last time I was discussing - IN FASCINATING DETAIL (NB there is a lot more detail which is slightly less fascinating) - what I meant by "Character Components" for my PhD. This time, as nobody has actually begged me to stop yet, I thought I'd explain how I chose the CHARACTER what I looked at and the TEXTS what they appeared in.

As many will be aware the character I chose to look at was DOCTOR DOOM. I was looking for a character who travelled widely throughout the Marvel universe but did NOT usually have his own series, so that what I'd get from looking at their stories was a cross section of all sorts of DIFFERENT texts with different creators, rather than just focussing on lots of comics/cartoons/other stuff by the same people in the same format. Doctor Doom sprang to mind because a) he totally does that and b) he is in a lot of stories that I love, notably from the John Byrne run on "Fantastic Four" and especially in stories like This Land Is Mine! and Interlude.

I had a look into this idea and it turned out to be a GRATE one, as Doom appears all OVER the place, and though he does get his own series a few times (usually shared with another character) these very rarely had a consistent creative team and never lasted long, so I knew I'd get a good variety. ALSO he popped up in a surprisingly wide range of other formats apart from comics.

I knew the bulk of my CORPUS (i.e. the list of comics etc that I was going to be looking at) was going to be IN comics, and so I'd looked at various databases that I could use to generate a starting list - as I would later discover, there are several comics which Doom appears in where he's not listed in these databases, and there are all the OTHER media where he appears that don't tend to list character names, so this would always be a starting point rather than a definitive list. I knew I could search these databases for comics with Doom in, the only problems were that a) there were flipping LOADS of them and b) there were more and more all the time. I was going to need some sort of CUT-OFF point for the texts I'd look at!

One way to do this would be to arbitrarily say "THIS date and no more!" but that's not hugely satisfactory for a PhD thesis where ever tiny flipping thing has to be justified. What I needed was a DATE RANGE and the obvious answer was to try using THE AGES system. This is the process whereby comics are split into AGES, so "The Golden Age" starts with the first appearance of SUPERMAN in Action Comics #1, for instance, and then "The Silver Age" takes over with the first apperance of the updated version of The Flash in DC Comics Showcase #4. This is all widely agreed and PEASY... until you get to "The Bronze Age" which somewhere around 1970-1972, unless it doesn't (some people say there's no such thing, others that it should be something else) and then that ends... er... at another point, when it's replaced by the Dark Age. Or the Modern Age. Or Iron, Heroic, Platinum, Rust, Steel etc etc etc - basically there are as many proposals for what comes next as there are people vociferously arguing about it in comic shops/pubs/basements/online discussion forums.

None of this was much use to me, as I needed ACTUAL DATES, so I went looking for something else and found "The Marvel Age". This is a period which, like the "Silver" and "Golden" ages ALSO has a comic as its definitive starting point - Fantastic Four #1 - but then ends somewhere vaguely around the end of the 1980s. I did a lot of research into this and found that NOBODY had ever tried to formally define what "The Marvel Age" actual MEANS, even though hundreds of articles, books and wotnot had USED the term. Actually defining it sounded very much like a UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE so that is what I set out to do.

I won't go into TOO much detail about how I did this as a) even I have to admit it is not TOTALLY fascinating and b) I've got a paper coming out (hopefully) later this year which explains it and I do not want to give SPOILERS. The short version is that I used something called "The Production Of Culture Approach" to define it using COVER DATES for comics with specific Editors-in-Chief, so that it started with "Fantastic Four" #1 (cover date November 1961, edited by Stan Lee) and ended with all Marvel comics with cover dates of October 1987 (the final month where Jim Shooter was credited in all Marvel comics as "Editor-In-Chief"). Using editors meant I could ALSO use this process to define three SUB-PERIODS of "Creation" and "Chaos" and "Consolidation", and using COVER DATES meant I could clearly and easily say whether ANY comic should be up for inclusion in my corpus, and then place it within a sub-period.

That is a VERY short version of how it all worked - I am always ALMOST TOO EAGER to explain further, and indeed DID do that last year at Factually Inaccurate Stand-Up. The upshot is that it gave me a GRATE way to select comics and a NEARLY AS GRATE way to select other texts (which don't have cover dates, but still have SOME sort of date) as well.

Next time I'll try and talk as briefly as I can about the CORPUS what I selected and what I actually DID with it. And then I might just go and have a little lie down!

posted 6/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett

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You chose Doctor Doom so you could be Dr Doctor Doom as any fule kno
posted 6/4/2022 by Pete

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