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Doctor Doom and the Flying Saucer

This time we're looking at a story that appeared in the "Amazing Spider-man" newspaper strip from December 7 1981 through to March 21 1982. It sounds like a lot to get through, but the nature of these strips means that the story takes an awfully long time to tell. The daily strips are at most three panels each, and these are usually a recap, a single panel of actual plot, and then a cliffhanger or joke ending, while the double-length colour sunday strips are generally designed not to carry very much story, so that readers of newspapers that didn't have a sunday edition wouldn't miss out. All in all, this means you get the equivalent of about two comics pages of story a week!

The first week sees the world reeling from the news that Doctor Doom has, apparently, captured a flying saucer. This is not the same Marvel Universe as the one in the comics, where aliens and UFOs are everyday occurrences. Here, nobody has ever seen a real UFO, and so it's big news, including at our favourite Doom location, the United Nations. (apologies for the blurry/wonky pictures in this blog - most of them come from my own collected version of these strips, taken on my phone!)

The nezt week of strips sees Peter Parker flying off to Latveria as the photographer for top investigative reporter Kitty Howell. When they arrive at the border they find the rest of the world's media stuck outside, unable to get in. Luckily for Peter and Kitty, however, Doctor Doom is watching as usual, and takes a shine to the reporter. The gates open to allow the team from the Bugle inside, where Doom greets them and explains that the UFO crashed after hitting the "protective lasser screen that makes Latveria the most impregnable nation on Earth!" He takes them on a tour of his castle before (finally, after two weeks of this!) showing them the UFO through a glass screen. Kitty asks when they can get inside for a proper look, and Doom replies "Never!"

Something shifty is clearly going on, so once he and Kitty have been sent to their rooms for the night, Peter puts on his Spidey costume and goes off to investigate. While he does so we get a great image of Doctor Doom sitting at his bank of computers. Not only does the purple chair and console behind him echo the control centres we've seen in the comics and the recent cartoons, but the bank of screens is almost a foretelling of Ozymandias's control centre in Watchmen. SPOILERS: this is not the only, or the biggest, such foretelling!

Spidey spends the next week avoiding Doom's guards, until he eventually finds a hiding place in... a movie studio? The next morning, over breakfast, Doom goes on an extended rant about the iniquities of American justice which, he says, favours the criminal over the victim. In America, he says, law-abiding citizens live in fear, while in Latveria they are safe from harm. It's a point that will be repeated in a year or two when the FF visit Latveria during John Byrne's run. Finally, nearly six weeks into the story, Peter and Kitty get to see the space ship close-up, but they're still not allowed inside. Frustrated by this behaviour Kitty asks Peter why Doom is the way he is and this, rather excitingly, leads us into a very interesting retelling of Doom's origin. Regular visitors here will know that I recently undertook a survey to find out what people thought were Doom's core characteristics - I'll be doing a blog post about the results soon, but one of the main things to come out of it was that Doom's hatred of Reed Richards was seen to be one of the most important aspects of who he is. And yet, in the newspaper strip, Reed Richards does not appear at all!

This version of the origin story starts much as it does in the comics. Doom's father is called to save the Baron's wife, and they are forced to flee when she dies. His father then dies from exposure and young Victor is rescued by Boris, then later he discovers his mother's "forbidden charms" and "magical symbols" while searching through a chest that looks a lot like the scene we have previously seen in comics. However, after that we suddenly leap forward ten years, missing out his time as a trickster in Latveria and any hint of attending college in America, to find a "tormented youth" living the high life, who has used these gifts to make money. He decides to seek revenge on those who have wronged him, but while conducting "his most dangerous experiment" (which doesn't seem to be linked to any form of revenge) there's an explosion which destroys his face. Things then continue as normal, with the trip to Tibet, the monks, the armour and mask, and finally the declaration of his new identity. We then get an extra slice of origin which has not yet been seen in the comics, as Doom returns to Latveria and, with the Baron now dead, is able to take control of the country. All in a single panel! This is a fascinating version of the origin, because it contains everything necessary for Doom to work as a Spider-man villain, and indeed a character in his own right (including the often omitted explanation of how he came to power), without needing to link it to the Fantastic Four. And it works! This is very clearly Doctor Doom, albeit one motivated entirely by his desire for revenge on the world for the murder of his parents, rather than throwing in an obsession with Reed Richards as well. Even in the recent cartoon version of his origin the accident happens at college, with someone who looks a lot like Reed Richards, so this is the most radical revision to his origin since... well, Spidey Super Stories! With all that sorted out the story continues with Doom threatening the world with an "omega ray", which he has derived from the technology in the flying saucer. There then follows several weeks of to-ing and fro-ing while the world trembles in fear of what this weapon might do, and Spider-man tries to get inside the saucer to see what's going on. Finally, in late February, he finally gets inside and learns... the secret! I love the fact that the lackeys who built the prop spaceship never got around to tidying up when they were finished... or maybe Doom had them killed? Anyway, Doom captures Spidey and chucks him in the dungeon, which he immediately escapes from. There's then several weeks of business with Doom's guards chasing Spider-man until eventually the tables are turned and Spidey captures Doom in a massive web. However, when Doom agrees to talk, Spidey lets him go, trusting to his famous sense of honour. Finally the scheme is revealed - Doom "planned a bloodless coup!" in which he would "bring order to the world, without a shot being fired." "All I wanted was to bring peace to the world" he says, to which Spidey replies: Doom agrees to Spidey's plan (which is not yet revealed to the reader), and Peter Parker returns to the USA with a special film by Doctor Doom, where he claims that the aliens have now left the planet, leaving behind them a deadly warning. Interestingly, the image used here is very similar to that used in Astonishing Tales #4, where Doom was once again appearing on screen, giving commands. And that's pretty much where the story ends, with just time for another visit to The United Nations. All it needs is for somoene to find Peter Parker's notes on what really happened, maybe in a slush pile at the Daily Bugle offices... Quite apart from how strange it is to see that much-discussed story pre-empted in a little mentioned newspaper strip, this has been a fascinating look at a Doctor Doom who has displayed all his usual traits of arrogance, honour, and megalomania, all without the need of one apparently vital aspect of his origin. You can bet I'll be discussing this in my thesis!

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posted 10/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lady IS For Burning

We're now into the realm of Issues Of Fantastic Four I Actually Own, and I distinctly remember reading this comic when it first came out, having my mind blown by THREE incredible stories. The main story, as promised on the cover gives us "the startling secret of Frankie Raye" (she's the adopted daughter of the inventor of the original Human Torch, and as a result got given flame powers as a child), while the final story featues "a dramatic development in the life of The Thing". It was the middle story I remember the most though, not for this issue but the next one when it turns out that the woman introduced here is actually Ben Grimm's much-mentioned but never seen Aunt Petunia! There is, however, no Doctor Doom inside, just as it says on the cover. It's a great cover, and an image that has been repurposed many times (including by me!), but I couldn't find any explanation online as to why such an unusual image was used. Luckily though, as I say, this is a run of comics that I actually own, so I was able to check the corresponding letters page a few months later in issue #243, where I discovered a reader complaining about John Byrne's egomania in putting himself on the cover. In reply, the editor Jim Salicrup reveals that it was his idea, and that he actually came up with the cover concept himself, after Byrne had told him that there were no actual villains in the issue at all.

As I've said before, I love this run and often wished for an issue where nothing much happened, and we just follow the characters through their daily life. I never realised I got so close to what I was after with this very issue - it's even referenced at the start of the final story! Next time there will be a lot more Doom, and definitely a lot more happening, as we return to the Spider-man newspaper strip for a nefarious scheme that uses a plot point from Watchmen several years before Watchmen ever did!

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posted 8/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Colorado Caper

It is my sad duty to inform you that today's blog concerns a comic that I have not actually read.

This has happened before - not long ago we looked at Fun And Games Magazine which had Doom on the cover - but that didn't feel so bad as it wasn't really a narrative comic as such. This very much is, as explained in this rather lovely description of the contents in the independent voice for Denver since 1977.

"The Colorado Caper" was a special advertising promotion given away free with The Denver Post to promote a local department store, in which Spider-man and the Hulk appeared in advertisements for the shop interspersed into a full-length comics story, which saw Doctor Doom kidnapping a scientist's daughter. Hulk and Spidey team up with a local reporter to foil the plot, and it all ends with a celebratory trip to the local shops!

It all sounds very interesting, not least because it sort of links to an article I've been writing about Doctor Doom's Milk Duds ad and other uses of superheroes in advertising. Sadly, all I could find online were the following very small, very partial scans. If anyone out there has access to this comic I'd love to get a look at it, but for now we'll carry on next time with a comic which makes the entire cover about the "fact" that Doctor Doom does not appear in it!

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posted 2/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Countdown To Doom

In order to watch Doctor Doom's appearances in the 1981 "Spider-man" cartoon I bought a three CD boxset of the series on eBay. I was quite pleased to be able to watch it on my television, rather than laptop, but distressed to discover that, for some reason, this episode wasn't included. It's an awful shame, as this marks the climax to the whole Doom storyline - and it's great!

The episodes starts with Peter taking his Aunt May to watch a NASA space launch. We're reintroduced to the scientist we meant at the end of Canon Of Doom, who now gets a name. He's called Doctor Zoltan, and he's sending Doctor Doom's laser cannon into space. When a reporter - quite understandably - asks why he's doing this Zoltan storms out.

The countdown commences, but nobody thought to tell the guys who were filling the rockets fuel tanks, and they end up stuck in an elevator with the rocket about to go off. Luckily Spidey is there to save them - a "strange twist of fate" according to Doctor Doom who, we discover, is watching the whole launch from his base. Doom looks in on his old friend Boris who, we remember, attempted to stop Doom the last time we saw him. i'm really enjoying the attention to continuity in this series, which continues when we go to the cell next door to find Johann planning a prison break. Doom calls Boris to his view screen to show him his plans coming to fruition, as a "mysterious tracking beam" forces the launch off course. While everybody at NASA is trying to save it, Aunt May notices Doctor Zoltan switching off what turns out to be the auxiliary tracking computer. She tries to warn the scientists, but they don't want to listen to her. Maybe they should be a bit more humble - they have, after all, just launched Doctor Doom's laser cannon into space for him. You would have thought someone somewhere might have at least done a Risk Management Assessment and decided that there was the possibility of this plan going hideously wrong, wouldn't you?

Doom uses the laser cannon to ignite a ring of volcanoes around the pacific ring, as is his wont. The power of these explosions causes the Earth to move out of orbit, heading away from the sun. The only person who can now save "Spaceship Earth" as he (brilliantly) calls it is, of course, Doctor Doom! It is "the ultimate blackmail". "Only I can keep it from a new Ice Age!" he declares.

NASA receive a fax which informs them that the tracking beam came from Latveria (who'd've guessed?) and we get a handy infographic showing how igniting the volcanoes again could act as a motor to push the earth back into place. "But only Doctor Doom can push the Earth back into place" says Doctor Zoltan, which (finally) tips Spidey off that Zoltan was involved. His name's Zoltan, surely that was clue enough?

The French ambassador arrives and offers Spidey a lift in his plan, dropping him off in Latveria on the way home. Meanwhile, a rowdy meeting at the United Nations is interrupted by Doctor Doom. "The world is filled with war and hunger, with violence and petty greed. You have done nothing to change that. I offer the world a better way," declares Doom. All they need to do is to declare him ruler of the world, or the Earth will freeze. A TV announcer, some hours later, tells us that so far the UN has completely failed to come up with an answer, which makes a change - usually they give in straight away. Latveria, meanwhile, is covered by a "radar blanket" so that "not even an insect could cross the border without being detected by Doctor Doom". This is a neat segue to Spidey jumping out of a plane and parachuting into action, where he is detected by the robots administering the radar. Again, it's great to see the same design of robots being used throughout the series. Spidey makes a web ballon which, apparently, confuses the radar, then creates some sort of cocoon that allows him to float down the river towards the secret resistance base that he remembers from last time. I'm not quite sure what the plan is, but I don't really mind!

The United Nations, meanwhile, has finally come to the conclusion it always comes to and has decided to give in to Doom's demand and declare him "Master Of The World". He swings into action immediately, activating robot duplicates of himself (what we would usually call Doombots in the comics) all around the world to take over every government, including, inevitably, the United Nations. It's amazing how often this happens isn't it?

He disbands the UN, and explains to Boris that he wanted him to see all of this, so he knows what he gave up when he betrayed him. This is a great piece of characterisation - Doom is showing one of the few people he has ever cared about how deeply he feels in his own twisted way. However, this isn't Boris - it's another robot duplicate, who explodes in Doom's face, leaving only pieces behind! "A robot?!?" says Doom, finally getting a taste of his own medicine. "Hmm! It seems Boris, I taught you too well."

Meanwhile, down in the caves, Spidey meets up with the resistance, who are very pleased to see him. Together they head to the castle, where they taunt the robot guards into leaving their posts so that Spider-man can web himself inside. Somehow he manages to avoid all Doom's security and get into the throne room. Doom tries to blast him, but Spidey manages to reprogram the laser with a single web, so that it zaps Latveria instead. That was awfully clever of him! The laser hits Doctor Doom, who instantly explodes, as does the laser cannon, and then all the Doombots fall over. Oh, and the earth moves back into place too. Well done Spidey!

There's even more good news in Latveria, as Doom is now deposed and the quaintly dressed people carry Johann aloft through the streets as their liberator. The episode ends with Spidey climbing up the side of the United Nations building as all the lights come back on again. "Some days it feels good being your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man", he says, and that's it - the end of the show and the end of this storyline. It's a great way to mark the climax of what has been far and away the best ongoing portrayal of Doom we've seen - I would say - in any portrayal outside of the comics. I wish there'd been another series!

posted 26/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Doom Report

Last time in the "Spider-man" cartoon we saw Doctor Doom flying away from New York after his latest plan (very similar to his usual plan: take over the world via blackmail of the UN) failed... or did it?

This episode picks up not long after the last one, with the freed revolutionary leader Johann fleeing from a bear. He's saved by a group of people who, going by their clothes and the way they say "Sacre Blue" are meant to be French. France, a country reknowned for its wild bears!

As we saw last time, it was Doom's faithful manseervant Boris who freed Johann, and for some reason he thinks it's a good idea to confess this to his boss. "I have served you faithfully for 30 years" he says, and Doom agrees that this is the first time he has failed him. "We will speak of it no more," he says. "Leave me now."

Just as we're thinking "Eh? What? Doom being reasomable?" he zaps the floor beneath Boris's feet with his gauntket, sending him down to the dungeons. "If we were not old friends, I would not have missed." That's more like it! Johann, meanwhile, has made it to New York. He meets with some members of the Latverian undergound, who are a bunch of massive racial stereotypes - they're a group of gypsies, including both a fortune teller and a fiddle player! Joachim, their leader, asks for the names of the people who Johann would like to contact back home, and then when Johann sets straight off to talk the newspapers Joachim recommends The Daily Bugle because, as he tells the fortune teller, the Daily Bugle is very unlikely to report anything bad about Doom. Oh no! The underground is secretly in Doom's control!

Once again with these stories, the cartoon's titular hero takes a back seat to Doom, and Spidey only appears five minutes in, foiling a bank robbery which - oops - turns out to be a movie set. What are the chances eh?

Then it's straight back to Johann, who is surprised to find J Jonah Jameson refusing to print his story, declaring that "Doctor Doom is the greatest man who ever lived!" Peter Parker hears the story and takes Johann home with him, where he sets up a recorder to record his story. When it's done he pops the tape round to the Bugke for Betty to type up (because that obviously is a woman's job...) and returns home to find Joachim and the fortune teller have entered the house. Once they hear where he's been they go back to the Bugle to kidnap Betty. Peter discovers this and gives chase as Spider-man, rescuing Betty just before the group of racial stereotypes drive their car into the river. Peter and Betty hand the story on to other newspapers, who happily run it on their front pages, next day. This includes that prestigious periodical, Newspaper News! "I hear the UN's going to put Doctor Doom on trial" says Peter, demonstrating once again that the UN in this universe works very differently to ours!

Johann rings to tell Peter that he's leaving for Latveria tonight to begin the revolution, so Spidey dashes off to join him, suspecting that the Latverian spies are involved. He's right, of course, and as soon as they take off Doctor Doom takes radio control of "The Doom Special", via comlink.

We haven't visited the United Nations yet, but that's soon rectified when go over to see the vote on Doom's trial (which seems to have happened at high speed) interrupted by Doom himself, appearing on the video screen above them. I'm forever saying how similar these cartoons are to the comics in their portrayal of Doom, and this use of video appearances is a great example of that. He threatens the UN with "giant Tesla coils" which can "produce rays anywhere on earth" - rays which can provide food or, if he is not obeyed, "rays for death!"
"Doom has spoken!" he says dramatically, inciting panic among the delegates.

Spidey and Johann are still in their plane on the way to Latveria, and we see the (genuine) Latverian resistance listening in to radio broadcasts about their destination. Most of them are dressed in the traditional peasant gear which never seems to have gone out of fashion in Latveria, all except for one chap in a trenchcoat and big hat, who says that he will go and rescue them alone when the plane lands. Personally, I don't trust him! "Thank you for flying Doom airlines" says Doom as the plane enters Latverian airspace. Spidey smashes the door and he and Johann jump out, saved by a handily spun web parachute. Doom, watching from afar as usual, is really annoyed. He sends "every solider" to find them, but by the time the robots arrrive Spidey and Johann have got into the secret Resistance base where they meet the trenchcoat-wearing Stephane, who takes them back to town. Maybe he wasn't dodgy after all? In which case, why was he dressed so differently?

Spider-man suggests that the resistance cause a diversion while he sneaks into the castle. This turns out to be really easy, and Spidey is next seen landing on Doom's very comics-based computer desk. It all seems a bit too straightforward, so it's no surprise when Doom greets Spider-man with "Welcome to Castle Doom!" He proceeds to zap him with laser blasts and is just about to destroy him when the video screen comes to life, showing the resistance attacking his new satellite tracking station - the diversion discussed earlier. This gives Spidey time to zap the Tesla coils with his web, causing them to explode. Doctor Doom flees the room just before the castle explodes! The next morning the resistance clamber over the ruins, looking for Spider-man. They can't find him, but take solace from the fact that at least Doom is dead too. However, just as they're celebrating and planning free elections, Doom himself appears from out of the rubble and strikes his best John Buscema pose. "Begin rebuilding Castle Doom!" he demnds, in a distinct echo of Astonishing Tales #4. "Doctor Doom survives! Which is more than can be said for Spider-man!"

Spider-man, it turns out, is not dead, merely cushioned within a web cocoon. We then cut to New York some time later, with an injured Peter Parker being sent on assignment by Jonah. "Looks like everything's back the way it was," says Robbie. "Even in Latveria," says Peter sadly.

This is a remarkably downbeat ending for what is supposed to be a kids cartoon - hasn't Doctor Doom just won here? Let's hope he gets his just deserts when we watch his final episode, next time!

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posted 18/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Canon of Doom

As promised, we're back in the world of the 1980s "Spider-man" cartoons today. This is the first of three episodes in a row that we'll be looking at and, to be honest, they should really be called "Doctor Doom" cartoons as he's very much the main character in a continuing story which, certain Scholars Of Doom would argue, is the best ever representation of the character outside of comics so far.

The story kicks off in a snowy Latveria, where the people are being put to work building a satellite tracking station for Doom's latest scheme, much to the dismay of Doom's faithful servant Boris. I can't help but feel that this is a poor use of resources - wouldn't it be more sensible to get his army of robots to do it, instead of using them as middle management?

Boris takes this up with his boss, who is distinctly unimpressed. "The people have only those rights which I choose to give them," he says. It's all tied in with the space platform and the device that Goron stole for him last time - another example of the ongoing continuity in this series. This carries on as they discuss Johann, the revolutionary leader who is still in prison since last time, before moving on to the new cunning scheme whereby Doom will use the laser cannon on the space platform to ignite a series of explosions which will open up a new volcanic fault beneath New York City. The fiend!

Doom sets off for New York, where he's been invited by J Jonah Jameson, carrying on his soft spot for the dictator. Ny DVD boxset of the series says that it's based on the newspaper strips, where we saw Jameson regularly crawling to Doom, so that makes sense.

Next we drop in to see Peter Parker tending to a poorly Aunt May - this is five minutes in to Spider-man's own show, and he's not even in costume yet! He does finally set off swinging through the city, where he spots a newspaper talking about a supposed new fault line under the city, which "will be great for my geology class". He does have a varied curriculum!

Later at the offices of the Daily Bugle Robbie Robertson tells Peter that Doctor Doom has arrived at Jonah's Long Island estate, where he's demonstrating a drill which can burrow to the Earth's core and thus (somehow) provide free energy for the whole city. Peter heads over to "take pictures" and finds his Spider Sense going crazy - the new fault line is right under Jonah's estate! Peter goes off and changes into costume in order to stop Doom's laser drill hitting the fault line, and a fight breaks out between the pair of them, which Doom wins by emitting a high pitched sound which, apparently, spiders are particularly vulnerable to. I checked online and it turns out that this is true, but there's no mention of whether they're also vulnerable to Kirby Krackle. With Spidey disorientated the drill hits the fault line and the earthquakes begin as planned. Spidey falls into a crevace and Doom declares "the end of Spider-man." We then get an unusually detailed, very comics-styled close-up of Doom as he demands that Jonah gets the President on the phone, before he destroys New York for good. Back in Latveria we find Boris witnessing the oppression of the Latverian people at first hand. He goes to visit Johann and, after a brief misunderstanding, claims that he has come to help. He frees Johann, who demands proof that Boris has changed sides. He wants him to say that Doom is a tyrant, but Boris can't bring himself to do it. "I have spent my life serving Latveria," he pleads. This is a lovely bit of characterisation - it would be easy, especially in a kids' cartoon, for him to change his mind completely and call Doom a tyrant, but this is a bit more subtle than that. This version of Boris feels quite similar to the conflicted character we see in the comics, aware of what Doom is but serving him nonetheless.

"You're wrong about Doctor Doom", he explains. "He too was a freedom fighter, just as you are." As the pair of them run from Doom's robot there's an excellent cross-fade to a picture of a young Doom and his father running from the Baron's men, and we get a potted version of Doom's origin story, very much like the comics original. Boris discovers the pair of them "nearly frozen to death" and takes them to his camp where the father dies. "They have murdered my mother, and now they have killed my father" young Victor tells Boris. "They will pay! All of mankind will pay for this!" "Even then I had the uneasy feeling it wasn't young Victor Von Doom who would need my protection", says Boris, and then we get a quick run through of the origin as seen in Fantastic Four Annual #2, with Doom selling fake hair restorer and fake gold to aristocrats, who have him arrested. However, the Doom that the Baron's men arrests then turns out to be a robot! It really is cracking stuff, which follows the comics origin very closely, with Dean Stockton from Eastern State University in America turning up to offer him a "full science scholarship". Doom heads there to conduct "strange forbidden experiments" with a very familiar looking machine. He's interrupted by another student who's spotted some errors in his calculations. We're not told the name of this student, but I've got a pretty good idea who it might be... The experiment goes wrong, of course, and Doom is horribly disfigured, so he goes to take refuge with a "mysterious order of monks", and it is "here that he became Doctor Doom!" The ending's a bit rushed, but it's an amazingly faithful retelling of the comics, which doesn't actually deal with how he came to be a freedom fighter, but is great fun in any case.

"A fascinating story but it changes nothing - Doom must be stopped!" says Johann. Boris reluctantly agrees, and gives him the address of some "friends in New York" who can help him. Johann sets off into the snow, and out of this episode. We'll find out what happens to him next time!

Doom himself has got the President on the phone, and threatens to destroy New York City unless his demands are met. "The United States does not barter with terrorists" says the President (whose face is hidden from view) before sending some jets to destory Doom's cannon.

While all that's going on Spider-man (remember him?) finally escsapes from his crevace, just in time to stop Doom from killing J Jonah Jameson. He then tries to shut down the cannon before the airforce arrive and blow the whole place up, but is knocked off course by Doom. His only chance is to use his webs to redirect the cannon, which forces Doom to scarper in the traditional manner with his backpack jets. Spidey's standing next to the controls, so one might think he could have just turned the switch back, but instead the cannon blows up its own control system, destroying itself just as the jets are about to fire. Phew!

We then get an intriguing short segment where an unnamed scientist in a NASA jacket turns up and says that happily the cannon can be repaired, but "it must be on the new NASA space platform within the month". This is Doctor Zoltan, who will show up in later episodes - again, setting up the story to continue on through the series.

And that's that, aside from a neat turnaround as Peter brings hot cocoas, this time for Jonah, who's staying in Aunt May's room while his mansion's repaired. It's a charming way to end what has been a really rather surprisingly good, Doom-packed episode in a series which has been surprisingly good and Doom-packed throughout. Next time, more of the same!

(I still don't know why it's called "Canon" rather than "Cannon" of Doom though!)

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posted 12/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Do-It-Yourself Comic Book

I'm not the biggest fan of Marvel's attempts at humour, mostly because they're very rarely funny, but I do quite like the almost British sense of cheekiness in this strip, which purports to contain "everything you need" to test your own suitability to be a comics professional. This includes two whole blank pages of empty boxes, which the strip assures the reader are essential for storytelling and definitely not just two blank pages, and a whole page of pre-prepared dialogue boxes. It's all good fun, as a series of characters take the reader through various aspects of comics storytelling, including a section in which a fight between the Hulk and Doctor Doom is used to explain how captions and sound effects work. It's all very jolly, and much more enjoyable than the various MAD rip-offs that fill the rest of this issue. Doom even makes another appearance in the final panel of this section, where he appears in a crowd scene reminiscent of all those we saw back in the days of Not Brand Ecch. As in those scenes, it's interesting to note that Doom is once more singled out for a speaking part - again, giving him an out of character line is what counts as a joke, alongside including Aunt May, of course. Some things never change!

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posted 9/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Eyes Have It!

When I was little I used to long for books where nothing much really happened, so that I could enjoy the characters without getting anxious about the plot. I particularly remember reading The Famous Five books, and wishing that there was a story where the children didn't go on an adventure, so that I could enjoy their company without worrying about what was going to happen next.

I mention this because that's one of the things I love about this particular issue, and John Byrne's run on this series as a whole. Things do happen pf course, and all the usual superhero story tickboxes get ticked, but there's also a lot of Narrative Admin going on, where people chat to each other and their lives carry on without them needing to fight Galactus all the time. In theory the main story here is about Reed and Sue meeting a Space Alien who, it turns out, is robbing banks because she's drunk on the high oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere, but that storyline doesn't even get started until halfway through the issue, as we're busy spending time with Johnny Storm and his mysterious girfriend, Reed and Sue on a date, The Thing and Alicia dealing with the aftermath of their "marriage" in the previous issue, and the whole problem of what to do with Doctor Doom's comatose body after defeating him in "Liddleville". Reed decides to store Doom in a stasis field while they contact the Latverian Embassy, which is bound to work out fine and probably means that this is the last entry for this blog, because Doom will never get out of this one. Unless... he does?

Anyway. the main reason I love this particular comic is that it's the first issue of John Byrne's run on "Fantastic Four" that I ever bought. In fact, it's one of the very first American comicbooks I ever bought too, from the newsagents near the Rainbow Superstore in Market Deeping. I'd always get "2000AD" from Jack Blades' newsagent in the main marketplace on a Saturday, using pocket money from my Nan, but the other newsagent round the corner had different sweets and different comics, so was always worth a look. I've still got that comic now, and as you can see, I read it a lot of times! It's not one of the best, or best-remembered, stories in this run, but parts of it have stuck with me for decades, especially the final panel, where Mr Fantastic explains that the giant blue space alien comes from a race of clones and so assumed that everybody on Earth would look the same as her. This stayed with me partly because it seemed like such an amazing sci-fi idea, but also because of the expressions on Reed and Sue's faces. They look like two people who actually really like each other, sharing a joke together. I sometimes think of it when I'm sat at home with my other half, talking things over and just enjoying each other's company, without having to worry about what's going to happen next, or whether Galactus is going to show up while we're trying to watch telly.

And that's all the self-analysis we have time for this week - next time, back to the cartoons!

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posted 22/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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In The Darkness... A Light!

Only one very brief appearance by Doctor Doom in this comics, as he appears in a single panel during a lengthy sequence in which Galactus catches up on Dazzler's adventures so far. That's it for Doom, leaving the rest of the issue to doeal with Galactus capturing Dazzler and giving her the power cosmic so that she can use her natural power over light to go into a black hole - or "the dimension of anti-light. (for British readers - that's Galactus' spaceship, not the Happy Eater logo... although it would be appropriate if it was both!)

It's all a bit potty, and the issue ends up with Dazzler trapped in the black hole with Terrax The Tamer, Galactus's former herald who she's been sent in to take back so his boss can punish him. It's all cast in very dramatic, epic, tones which is only slightly let down for me by the fact that, even when cosmically powered, she's got her sparkly disco handbag with her. Next time we're going for another very brief Doom appearance, but it's in a comic that means an awful lot to me - see you then for "The Eyes Have It"!

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posted 15/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Challenge Of Dr. Doom!

After all the excitement of Terror In A Tiny Town last time, it feels like a bit of a shame to have to cover this story, which is an adaptation of the cartoon The Fantastic Four Meet Doctor Doom from 1978. This, as a text piece just before it says, was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's first collaboration since Kirby left Marvel in 1970, so "When we were looking for a special feature, someone suggested we modify Jack's storyboard into a comics format, and voila!".

I think it's telling that the "someone" who suggested it is not named, because this was a really really bad idea. As discussed, at length, in my original blog about the cartoon, the whole thing is a terrible mess which is an awful way to remember Lee and Kirby's legacy, so why anybody thought it was a good idea to drag it out again, let alone in a twentieth anniversary celebration, is beyond me. To make matters worse, each page of this hacked together story is inked by a different person, nominally paying tribute to "The King", but actually making it even more of a mess, often highlighting the quickly sketched nature of these storyboards. This is more of a review than an analysis, but it really is pretty horrible, and I still resent the fact that this was one of my earliest introductions to the work of Jack Kirby - it's no wonder it took me so long to appreciated him after seeing this! Another oddity here is that the cover features a blurb promising "an all-new FF blockbuster by Stan (the man) Lee and Jack (King) Kirby". Apart from the fact that it isn't all-new and isn't much of a blockbuster, it's weird that they use both names as a selling point on the cover, but only include a picture of Stan Lee, in the top right corner. There's an obvious gap next to him where Jack Kirby clearly should have been - the rumour for years was that John Byrne drew Kirby in but Marvel ordered him removed, and that turns out to be partially true. He was removed, but not to disguise Kirby's part in the creation of the FF. It was, apparently, at Kirby's request, as he was taking legal action against Marvel at the time and did not want to be seen to be promoting their work.

As I say, it's all a bit grubby and disappointing, but it is at least short, and it leaves us free now to get on to something even more exciting and important than the creation of the Fantastic Four - the first John Byrne issue I ever bought, coming next time!

posted 13/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Terror In A Tiny Town

It's a big moment on this blog for me today, as we look at the first Doctor Doom appearance in John Byrne's legendary run on "Fantastic Four". I absolutely loved this series when it came out, and spent several years collecting the entire run, saving up pocket money and getting postal orders to send to mysterious comic shops whose details I got from the small ads in Marvel Uk comics. These were insanely glamorous places to me at the time, before "House On The Borderlan" opened in Peterborough - imagine, a whole shop that only sold comics! And better yet, it sold comics reliably, and three months before they came out in random newsagents elsewhere! I very clearly remember going to Forbidden Planet on a special trip with my grandparents and being astonished by how many comics there actually were, and the fact that I could only afford to buy a few issues that day is a big part of the reason why I have spent so much money in comic shops in adult life - because I can!

I didn't see this issue when it came out - the first Byrne FF that I actually bought was the issue after this one, in fact - but I do recall when I first got my hands on it, and being amazed at the story inside. Reading it back now I can see why. Yes, the dialogue's a bit clunky, and the captions still owe a lot to Chris Claremont's super-purple and pompous stylings, but the story's a thrill-ride of ideas and MY GOODNESS does it look good! It is a truth universally accepted that the BEST comics are the ones you read when you were eleven, and that's certainly true here!

This is the twentieth anniversary issue of The Fantastic Four and so, as is traditional, it kicks off with a re-telling of their origin, although this time it cuts off before anybody gets their powers, and we discover that it's actually a nightmare that Johnny Storm is having. Johnny shrugs it off and drives into town, where he meets his sister Sue and her husband, absent-minded Professor Reed. Sue says she's been having a recurring dream, which Johnny thinks is odd as its similar to his own, but he doesn't want to worry her so says nothing. Next he drives into town where he sees his friend Ben Grimm, outside his bar. I've read this comic about thirty times, and I've only just noticed that the window display is orange rocks, like The Thing's skin! I love the way that John Byrne piles on the mystery here, with all of the FF leading normal lives and, as we move on, Alicia being able to see and her step-father Phillip Masters being delighted with how things are working out.

The weirdness ramps up as we see Sue Storm having a nightmare about Ben turning into a rocky monster and her husband and brother becoming similarly weird creatures, then Ben himself telling Reed and Johnny about his own dreams. The only person not experiencing the nightmares is Reed, who is troubled instead by the fact that he's never able to think clearly. At work we meet Reed's tormentor, his boss Vincent Vaughan who looks... oddly familiar? That night Reed falls asleep at work and finally has a similar dream to the others, this time about the four of them, and Alicia and Franklin, being summoned to a "medieval castle" in the Adirondak mountains where they meet the puppet master "and one other" but before he can see who it is he's woken by a fall from his chair. This jolts his memory and (somehow) cures him of his mental fog so that he finally remembers who he really is. He realises that "somehow our personalities have been transferred into robot bodies" and, basically, stabs himself with a scalpel to prove it to himself.

Some time later he arrives at home, where all the others have gathered, covered in blood. I love the way Byrne draws this scene, with Reed moody and dark and Sue horrified. Reed explains what's happened and they storm off to Phillip Master's shop, where he drops the pretence completely, and confesses that he placed them into miniature cloned bodies in a town full of robots, all to give Alicia a normal life. "You could conceive of such a plan, but you haven't the technology to implement it," says Reed, and then we get this amazing double page splash of the true genius behind the scheme revealing himself. What a way to make an entrance! Yes, of course, it's Doom, who has taken The Puppet Master's daft plan and twisted it into a revenge scheme, using it to torture his arch enemy Reed Richards by entering the robot body of Vincent Vaughan. The FF are powerless to stop him, so he leaves them to their lives in "Liddleville" while he goes off to reclaim his throne in Latveria. The fiend!

The FF may not have their powers, but they still have the brain of Mr Fantastic, who works out that these cloned bodies (not robots, which is why there was so much blood earlier) have latent powers within them (because this is comics). He works out a way to give them their powers back, although Ben takes some persuading - after all, he and Alicia have a good life here. Eventually, however, he's persuaded and soon the FF are back, fighting miniature Robots as they try to get their real bodies restored. After rigging up a Gizmo, Sue uses her force fields to propel herself around Doom's castle, following the sounds of piano playing until she discovers Doom alone, and unmasked. For the first time ever, she sees his face! Byrne keeps the nature of Doom's disfigurement mysterious here, and it's something that he'll play around with throughout his run. Doom traps Sue in a glass and then marches down to the basement to see what's going on, discovering a water-logged floor with an electrical cable attached. He assumes this is a trap, and zaps the cable. Rather wonderfully, Reed Richards had predicted Doom's arrogance, and so the cable is actually there to power the real trap, a device which can use the power of Doom's armour to switch them back into their real bodies. The Human Torch and the Thing work together to trip Doom into it, and the whole plan works like clockwork. The only unexpected outcome is that Doctor Doom appears to have been put into a coma. The Thing picks up his frozen body and the team set off home, and that's that...but wait! There's a twist! Doctor Doom isn't comatose at all, he's simply switched bodies again, so that his consciousness is back in the tiny Vincent Vaughan robot, where he can simply wait for the right moment to return! Except... another twist! The Puppet Master is also there, and he's taken control of all of the other robots! One of them smashes Doom's Body Transfer ring, trapping him there with the rest of them! Doom flees, chased by an army of robots who will never give up... ever! COR! What a story - hopefully you can see why I was so excited to see it again! As we go through this run we'll see Byrne returning to Doom many times, expanding on his character and especially developing his relationship with Latveria, but here we see Byrne beginning to establish his take on him as a proud man who is constantly thwarted by his own arrogance. There's a lot more of this to come, but sadly we'll have to wait a little longer as there's a whole other story in this issue to look at next time, and it features... HERBIE!

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posted 7/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The A-B-Cs of D-O-O-M

An extra special thrilling episode of the Spider-man cartoon today, featuring giant vegetables, popular unrest, and poor computer security!

It all kicks off right in the middle of a battle between Doctor Doom and a Mysterious Bald Man (who we soon find out is called Goron), doing battle using Kirby Krackle and Multi-coloured Eye Beams respectively. The two men clearly have a history as during the battle they reminisce about previous occasions on which they've fought. After being unable to beat each other Doom suggests a truce, offering Goron "half the world" if he'll help with a scheme to make everyone trust Doom "one last time". I have a horrible feeling this is going to involve the UN again!

Over in Manhattan J Jonah Jameson gets a fax telling him that Doctor Doom is inviting dignitaries to Latveria to show off his latest scientific discoveries. "I knew he was my kind of guy" he says, apparently forgetting that Doom very recently kidnapped him for several days and replaced him with a robot duplicate!

We then go over to Latveria to see Doom leading the delegates on a tour, where they witness some Latverians (in their usual Sound Of Music gear from the comics) chanting "Long live Doctor Doom!" "Ze people, zay zeem to lurve 'im" says a French (I assume) delegate. The American (he's wearing a cowboy hat) isn't convinced, but then they see a "very impressive new factory", which is being cleaned by... the rebellious peasant we saw last time! It's a continuing story! He muses that it's all very beautiful, as long as you don't go round the back and see that the factory is just a film set, and also you ignore the fact that "we are all prisoners of Doom."

That includes his father, who's working in a lab where he discovers that Doom is creating a robot replica of his rebellious son, who we are told is called Johann. We then return to the party of delegates, who are being shown Doom's amazing invention: Giant vegetables! The delegates frantically bid against each other for the rights to grow massive marrows, then hop into a car to go back to base. On the way they meet Johann, and ask him what he was "so fired up about" earlier. This seems odd, as they never actually met him, but anyway the robot reassures them that everyone in Latveria loves Doom, and they carry on their way back to the castle, where they have a slap-up feed of giant vegetables. "Truly a meal fit for a king!" says the French delegate. Doom offers them the Colossal Carrot technology for free, which everybody apart from the American thinks is great. "Have you forgotten what Doctor Doom did at the UN?" he asks. "How can we trust him?" This surprised me on first viewing, as for the most part it seemed that everybody had forgotten completely, but it's a great bit of continuity which goes alongside the Johnann plot to show that this is a series taking inspiration from the continuing storyworld of the comics.

Doom presses a buzzer which calls in Goron, who uses his special Blue Eye Beams to zap the delegates with mind control which forces them to eat the vegetables, forget their suspicions, and also invite Goron to visit the USA.

"It can be arranged" says Doom, and in the next scene we find Goron giving a presentation to the press, durng which he zaps the vegetables with Green Eye Beams, and they grow right in front of their eyes! "I want a closer look at this", thinks Spider-man - you remember Spider-man don't you? He's not been in the show for nearly ten minutes and he's supposed to be the star!

The journalists tuck into the giant vegetables eagerly, begging Goron to bring Doom to NASA the next day (I'm not sure why) and, without the need for mind control, completely forgetting Doom's history. "Doctor Doom might be the greatest man who ever lived!" says one. Some might suggest this is unrealistic, but it sounds like standard journalistic practice to me! Spidey suspects something's up so swings in for a look, only to be attacked by Goron and his Red Eye Beams. Spidey runs away, into a back room, only to be followed by Goron who knocks him through the floor into the basement. He then uses his Green Eye Beams to enlarge some mushrooms, which attack Spidey! Spidey fights this terrifying menace by kicking it quite hard, but when this doesn't work he webs up a fir extinguisher which freezes the aggressive fungi, in exactly the way that fire extinguishers don't. It's all a bit odd really, so it's a relief to get back to Goron, who is at Cape Canaveral where they're watching a rocket lift off. "I'm not sure how this will help feed the world" says a Rocket Scientist, and you don't need to be a Rocket Scientist to see that he's got a point. "Doctor Doom was sure you'd feel that way" says Goron, who locks them in a conference room, melting the door shut with his laser eyes. The fiend!

Spidey arrives to find Goron in the computer room. He uses his Red Eye Beams to shove Spidey out and into one of those test pilot spinning machines which then activates at full speed. Poor Spidey, he can't get a break! Goron goes off to steal the rocket's guidance system, which is apparently what they're after. "Who would believe something this tiny would hold within it the fate of the world?" he says as he trousers it.

He then uses his Blue Eye Beams to force a member of staff to give him the secret launch codes for the space platform (whatever that is), which he then sends to Doctor Doom, who we discover relaxing on his throne back in Latveria. I know a lot of this show is a bit silly, but they do have some nice designs!

While Spidey escapes from the spinny thing, Goron hacks into every computer everywhere and uses the codes to take control of every nuclear missile in the world. He then makes a broadcasst giving the entire world five minutes to proclaim Doctor Doom as their ruler- but before he can finish explaining the process for this Spidey (finally) arrives. Goron doesn't care - there's a secret code word to stop the missiles that only he and Doom know, and if it isn't used in time the human race gets obliterated!

Spidey runs away again, leaving Goron to teleport a device which can control the space platform back to Doom. I'm not really sure what's going on here, to be honest - lots of different bits of plot seem to be flying about all over the place! There's no time to worry about it though, as Goron zaps Spidey with his special Toothpaste Coloured Eye Beams, only for Spidey to turn them back on him with a mirror! This changes Goron "back to his real form", an old man. What on earth is that all about? I've watched this cartoon a couple of times, and checked elsewhere online, and there's been no mention of Goron ever appearing before or having any other form. I suppose this too is a bit like the comics, with a much bigger story that we don't see all of, but it could also be the writers just chucking as many ideas as possible in to get to the end of the story!

Spidey has only two minutes to stop the missiles, and so has to guess Doom's secret codeword. What could is possibly be? Naughty Doctor Doom - that is definitely NOT a Strong Password - next time at least try d00M or something!

And that's the end of the story, apart from a coda at the Daily Bugle's office where they discover that Doom's vegetables rot away after two days, and Betty tells Peter off for missing a date. It's a slightly underwhelming end to what's been another enjoyable episode full of daft, pointless chunks of plot and some great Doom Signifiers throughout. More please!

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posted 1/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Doctor Prescribes Doom

After a bried hiatus for PhD Tasks (thanks very much to everybody who took part in the survey!) we're back to normal today as we take another look at the Surprisingly Quite Good Fun "Spider-man" series from 1981. This episode takes its inspiration from a story in the Spider-man newspaper strip that we looked at a little while ago, although it's also weirdly similar to the Dr Doom Master Of The World episode of this same series, in that all three heavily feature the United Nations.

It all starts off very calmly and spookily, with a man on the street being kidnapped by a passing van and replaced with... himself again? After a brief interlude where Spider-man saves a young girl from falling off a balcony (which surely required a call to social services - her mother wasn't even watching!) we switch to an office building where someone else is kidnapped and replaced with an identical duplicate. What's going on? "Morning ambassador" says a security guard as the duplicate heads into the office building, which turns out to be ... the United Nations! Looking the same as it did in the last episode with Doom! Surely we can't be seeing the same plot again can we?

As if to say "You betcha!" we go straight over to Latveria, where a very comics-adjacent version of Doom's castle looms out of the darkness. Interestingly, this does not then lead to a shot of Doom, but instead to the streets of Latveria itself, where a young peasant is using a pair of horses to try and free his father from prison. The noise attracts the attention of two robots - identical to the ones we saw before - but before they can investigate the lad sends his father away, saying "Do not speak of the tyrant! One day I will defeat Doctor Doom and free Latveria once and for all!" He's captured by the robots and is led away yelling "Doom is a monster!" We won't see this peasant again (or his dad, who is captured in the woods by a whole platoon of robots) in this episode and there story is left unresolved for now, making this very much like the comics, with an ongoing sub-plot which (spoilers) will continue in the next episode we look at.

After all that we finally go inside the castle to find Doom sat in a funky chair at a control desk very much like one we've seen before in the comics. He's there with Boris, who looks much younger than he did in Spider-man And His Amazing Friends recently. Together they're putting the final touches to another duplicate, this time of the secretary general of the United Nations. Doom fondles a globe thoughtfully. "Soon the world will be mine", he says. It really IS the same story again!

After all this Doom action, the show, which is after all called "Spider-man" rather than "Doctor Doom", finally catches up with Spider-man, or at least Peter Parker. He's in a meeting with J Jonah Jameson, who tells Robbie Robertson that "The world needs more leaders like Doctor Doom! Strong! Decisive", in exactly the same way that he did in the newspaper strip. It's lovely to see all these characters from the comics popping up, Betty Brant's there too!

Jonah, Betty and Peter head to the UN, where they pass an Ominous Looking Black Diamond. Hmm, I wonder if that might be a part of the plot?

The Secretary General of the UN arrives, and then Doctor Doom takes to the lectern and demands that the United Nations elect him as master of the world. "There will be no debate! Vote! Now!" he says and the delegates all agree. "Doom! Doom! Doom!" they chant. Only one delegate protests - the member for "Bokland", who declares that "the freedom-loving people of Bokland will never accept the rule of a tyrant!" and Doom responds by blasting a hole in the ceiling. With that bit of business over, Doom abolishes all newspapers and TV - "none must be able to criticise me!" he says.

Does this sound eerily familiar to anybody?

Betty Brant protests, so Doom does the ceiling trick again and Spidey has to leap in to save her, revealing himself to Doom who tells his army of delegate-duplicates to "destroy Spider-man".

Spidey flies off and... er... that's it for the day. Doctor Doom takes over the world and it seems that everybody just carries on as normal, with Peter Parker arriving at the Daily Bugle for work the next day as if nothing's happened. That doesn't last for long though, as he notices little oddities in the otherwise perfectly calm first day of Doctor Doom's dictatorship - Jonah is nice to him and the ambassador for Bokland refuses to hear a word against Doom. We, the viewer, can guess that they've both been turned into duplicates, but surely not everybody in the world has? Shouldn't there be at least some tutting about the overthrow of democracy?

Again, does this sound eerily familiar?

Peter heads to college (which is carrying on as normal too) for a lecturer where somebody mentions robots. "Robots!" he says, finally realising why all those UN delegates voted for Doom, and heading off to finally do something it, unaware that he's being watched from a distance. Watching from a distance is, of course, one of Doctor Doom's big signifiers!

Spidey tries to raise the alarm at the Bugle, and ends up thinking he's killed Robbie Robertson while failing to get away from from Doom's goons. Fraught with grief, he manages to escape from the back of their van just as it turns up at the UN, only for Doctor Doom to turn up and attack him using a giant dart throwing helicopter! Spidey falls into a handy fountain, managing to hide underwater using his "spider power" to hide his breath long enough for the nearby goons to wander off.

Later that night, while Peter Parker is learning all about Robot Electronics (a long night, but apparently do-able) Doom has sent the secratary general into work to steal the Ominous Black Diamond. He uses his "mechanical finger" to unlock the case and then replaces it with a fake and wanders out. What this diamond is doing at the UN, we're never told!

Meanwhile, as suspected, Peter has cracked All Robotic Technology, but before he can use his new expertise to save the world Aunt May comes in with a bowl of soup. Jaunty music tells us that this is a Comedy Interlude. Once he's finished his supper he heads to college where a Professor quickly knocks up a Device. "We won't know if it works until we test it", he says, but Spidey has no time for that!

The next day (Doom has now been ruler of the planet for at least two days!) Spidey spots some news of a Latverian ship in port. "Of course!" he says, and swings over to discover all the duplicated people lurking in the brig. He's delighted to discover that Robbie is still alive, once we've had some slightly daft business where ripping Robbie's shirt off proves he's human. Or something. Back at the UN Doom is making a speech, stating that all armies are under his command and all world leaders answer to him. As I say, it's been two days, how come he's only just getting round to the admin? Spidey swings in, presses a button on his device, and all the delegate duplicate robots explode! He was right - it didn't need testing at all! The fact that this happens on telly also, apparently, proves Doom's treachery, which I would have though people might have spotted a bit earlier due to it being Doctor Doom and him taking over the world, but what do I know?

We then get two more Great Doom Signifiers, firstly with Doom exploding to reveal that he was a robot all along! Secondly, we see the real Doom watching events on-screen from his aeroplane, from where he issues a threat as he flees the scene. "You and I have a score to settle, Spider-man!" And that's the end of what's been a fun episode packed full of Doom's trademark motifs, including Latveria, Boris, The United Nations, robots, video screens and even a Doombot. With all that going on it's no wonder it all seemed a bit familiar!

Next time there's another episode in this series, in which we discover the name of that peasant lad, and hear some very dodgy accents!

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posted 24/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Survey Update

A huge thank you for everyone who has taken part in my Doctor Doom survey - so far it has had over 200 responses, which is way past what I ever expected! This has come about largely because of the many podcasters and comics creators who have very kindly tweeted about it, via the Marvel Age Doom twitter account, so a very special extra thanks to them!

The only slight disadvantage to all of this extra material is that it's likely to take me much longer to extract the data from it than I expected! Those who have taken the survey will know that the first half is very text-based, with a series a questions basically asking people to list Doom's characteristics, and this is going to take a bit of work to tease out and categorise. However, I'm not complaining - I've had a look through what's there and there's loads of ideas that I've never considered, so it's going to be an extremely rich dataset! The second half of the survey asks more straightforward questions, so I'm planning to do an analysis of that first of all, and then report the results here (as well as emailing them to everyone who's joined the mailing list). I'm hoping to do that after Easter, so there's plenty of time to take part if you'd like to. The survey takes about twenty minutes and can be found here:

Thanks again to everybody who's taken part, or is planning to do so - normal service will resume here next week!

posted 8/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Doctor Doom Survey

As you may be aware, this blog is being written as part of the research for my PhD thesis, which is (currently!) called "Doctor Doom In The Marvel Age: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Character Coherence". I'm trying to read through every appearance by Doctor Doom in all narrative media from his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5 up until Thor #383, the last comic with Doom in it with Jim Shooter as editor-in-chief. I wrote a (rather long-winded) explanation of why those are the dates when I began all this a couple of years ago, but the short version is that that's what I'm calling "The Marvel Age".

The reason for reading them is to help me find out who Doctor Doom "is", as much as a fictional character really "is" anybody. Part of my methodology is to generate an empirical approach to this, so that it can be re-done for other characters, and as part of all that I'm doing an online survey to try and find out what other people think Doom's core characteristics are. Hopefully this will be a way to get a starting list for his characteristics that doesn't just rely on my own ideas of who Doom is, as well as maybe pointing me in the direction of some aspects I haven't noticed before.

I'd be very grateful to anybody who wishes to take part - the link to the survey is here:

It's completely anonymous, but you can also leave your email address at the end (unlinked to the main survey) to get updates on how it all goes if you'd like. It should only take about twenty minutes to complete, and is very much Not A Test - I'm as interested in finding out what aspects of Doctor Doom people don't know about as the aspects they do!

The more responses I can get for this the better, so do feel free to share this with other people who might be interested!

posted 1/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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What If The Avengers Were The Last Superheroes On Earth?

Doom appears a couple of times in this story, but never actually speaks. It's a re-telling of Avengers Annual #2, where Doom also had a very brief cameo. In that one he was acting in his role as an Avatar of Villainy, leading a group of supervillains in order to show that this is a major grouping of powerful baddies. He fulfils much the same function here, rather neatly appearing with exactly the same characters as before, getting soundly beaten by the Avengers. These "What If?" stories are all a bit rubbish (technical terminology), but I do like the way that they do at least seem to have been properly researched. This is shown by having the correct baddies in Doom#s first appearance and also in his second, as part of a very brief recap of his first meeting with Rama Tut, the baddie behind the Scarlet Centurion's mask. Here we see Doom getting picked up in Rama Tut's spaceship, seen from the opposite angle to the one shown in the original comics. That - and his appearance on the cover lying comatose - is the lot for Doom appearances in this story. We'll be back to something approaching normal soon, as we return to the world of "Spider-man" cartoons, but until then I'll leave you with this rather delightful image of Rama Tut/The Scarlet Centurion's collection of neatly shelved life-size superhero figures. It's like an eerie prediction of the Forbidden Planet shop window!

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posted 31/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fantastic Mr. Frump!

Last time we loooked at an episode of the 1981 cartoon "Spider-man", a series which never aired in the UK (at least not in my ITV region). This week we're looking at a series that definitely did, as "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" appeared on ITV at just the right time in life for me to be incredibly (very cleverly) cynical about it, mocking it constantly for its silly storylines and wooden acting. I still watched it every week though!

Both series were broadcast at the same time in the US, although where "Spider-man" was quite like the comics, "Amazing Friends" had a much more sitcom-like attitude, with regular interludes where Spider-man, Iceman and Firestar (the "Amazing Friends") would hang around in the home they shared with Aunt May and Firestar's dog, Ms Lion.

The show ran for three season, but Doctor Doom only appears in two episodes, and one of those is a barely noticeable cameo. Despite this, he has a regular space right at the end of the title sequence, a top billing which shows yet again what a recognisable, marketable, character he's become. It's noticeable that this version of Doom has the lighter coloured tunic and darker elbow/knee details of the "Spider-man" cartoon, although the image used for the title card is the classic John Buscema pose which crops up time and again in Marvel marketing.

The action begins at the Latverian embassy, although for some reason the spelling has been changed here to "Latvaria". Doom stands on the roof, wearing an amulet that reminded me, through no fault of its own, of the one from Sabre Wulf - a game which, by the way, I was national champion of in Crash magazine for two months running, although I don't like to go on about it. As stated earlier, this version of Doom is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the one in "Spider-man", with a longer tunic and slightly different mask. Whilst researching these two series online I found that there's no clear relationship between them, despite both being made at the same time. Characters appear in both series, and occasionally events from one are vaguely referenced in others, but stories also contradict each other.

Excitingly, if you're the sort of person excited by Doom's supporting cast, this cartoon also features Boris, the old retainer, who is sent to collect the final piece of the amulet which will give Doom "the power of the universe". After an (annoying) interlude with Peter Parker and Firestar's dog, we see Boris pop into a museum and steal the final piece of the amulet. It takes about 3 seconds to do it and nobody chases him, which explains why Doom chose an old man for this mission rather than bothering to send the robots.

While all that's going on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends are heading back from a trip to a baseball game (in their civilian identities) where they bump into a sad figure who Peter recognises as Mr Frump, an old friend of his Aunt's, getting the sack from his job. Firestar rather patronisingly tells him to keep his hopes up as "you never know when good luck will strike." "Sure," he says, and slumps off.

Back at the embassy, Doom has assembled the amulet and has got Boris switching on a transmitter which "will mix the ancient with the new, science with sorcery" - a classic characteristic of Doctor Doom. The magic words on the amulet will, apparently, bring forth a cosmic ray which will make Doom "Lord of all the earth - and beyond!" The Amazing Friends are still heading home from the baseball game, and decide to have a race back. It's a weirdly childish bit of action which, I remember at the time, made me think that this series was definitely "for kids". While taking a shortcut to try and catch up with the others, Spider-man sees Doom up to something, but before he can stop him Doom casts his spell. "I didn't know you were into magic", says Spidey, which seems a bit odd, as he definitely is, and then uses his webs to knock Doom over. The amulet goes flying and lands at the feet of Mr Frump, who gets struck with the cosmic ray and becomes "the most powerful being in the universe." At this point I have to pause and say how familiar this storyline is to Fantastic Four #234, where the most powerful being on earth is a dowdy middle-aged man called Skip Collins who doesn't realise he has amazing powers. That comic has a cover date of September 1981, so I wonder if it's just a coincidence, or if one of the storylines was based on the other?

Back in the cartoon, someone tells Mr Frump to "Bug off". "You bug off," he replies, and the nasty person gets turned into a giant insect. Mr Frump runs away! Later some kids tease him and he tells them to "go jump in a lake", so they do. He tells another to "clam up" and they turn into... a clam. Gradually he comes to realise that his dreams can all come true, and gives himself new clothes, a carriage, a hotdog, and a pet cat. Who can honestly say they would choose differently?

Back outside the embassy Doom and the Amazing Friends are fighting over the pieces of amulet, with Doom keeping the three heroes at bay fairly easily, stunning them with a "sonic siren" and blasting them with some pretty impressive Kirby Krackle. It's only when Frump starts to get more ambitious, changing the sky to rainbows and turning the buildings psychadelic, that they realise someone else has taken the power of the amulets. Frump summons Doctor Doom to explain what's going on, and Doom thinks quickly, saying that he deliberately gave Frump the powers. He offers guidance, suggesting that the Amazing Friends are his deadly enemies, so Frump summons them and turns them into stone. Doom and Frump have a good old laugh about this. While Doom rages about the amulet also getting turned to stone, Frump next summons Aunt May to be his companion. She's frightened to see Firestar has been statufied (she's not bothered about Iceman and Spider-man) so Frump brings them all back to life and then, when Doom protests, removes their superpowers. For someone with all the power in the universe he's very easily swayed!

Doom still has all his own abilities and is about to crush the heroes when Frump summons "all the money in the world", which falls on Doom's head, allowing them to escape. Frump then summons a big car, a yacht, and a massive telly. Doom suggests that a better entertainment might be to force the friends to fight various historical monsters. He gives them back their powers to do this, and it culminates with them fighting "the weirdest creature in the universe." When Aunt May takes fright Doctor Doom loses his patience and blasts her into the arena, where the creature grabs her. Frump decides to save her, transforming into "Wonder Frump - the most powerful superhero in the world." He beats the creature, saves Aunt May and flies off, leaving the Amazing Friends stuck with Doctor Doom. He offers them a deal - join forces with him to stop Frump. Again, it's a classic bit of Doom plotting, as they face a villain so evil that they must all join forces.

Doom tricks Frump by telling him that his powers will disappear in an hour unless he repeates the original incantation. The Amazing Friends back him up, though they have to cross their fingers behind their backs to get away with fibbing. Doom fools him into repeating all of the original circumstances, stealing the amulet for himself so that this time he'll get the cosmic powers. A battle breaks out in which Doom kidnaps Aunt May and Frump decides to save her. In the confusion the amulet gets smashed, depriving both Doom and Frump of the powers of the universe. "But there is another amulet somewhere", says Doom, "and I will never stop searching for it". As good as his word, he flies off into the sky to start looking right away. Everything returns to normal as everyone forgets what's happened, and that's the end of the show. I must admit I was sort of relieved to find that "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" was just as rubbish as I remembered it when I first watched, and I'm glad that Doom's other appearances are going to be in the much better "Spider-man" show!

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posted 27/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Dr. Doom, Master Of The World

Today we kick of a substantial run of Doom appearances in the 1981 "Spider-man" cartoon series. There was only ever one season of this show, but Doom appeared repeatedly, and as a result appears in the titles sequence several times - in fact a lot more often than more traditioanal spidey villains like The Green Goblin! This episode features an awful lot of early Doom signifiers, with the United Nations being mentioned in the first few seconds as the President's plane is captured by another great Doom tradition - a futuristic blimp. It's even piloted by robots! While this is going on Peter Parker is waiting at the airport to take some pictures of the president arriving. When he hears that the president has disappeared he changes into his Spider-man costume and zooms off to hire a plane so he can go investigate. Perky music alerts us to hilarity as he finds Wilbur Moses, a "World War One Flying Ace" who takes him off to see what's going on. I do like the implied gag here that Wilbur flew for the Germans! Up in the blimp Doom and his robots are operating on the president, giving him a "remote mind implant" which will put his thoughts under Doom's control. This version of Doctor Doom speaks with a very deep, modulated voice, not dissimilar to Darth Vader's. He also wears a costume very similar to his usual comics one, except that his tunic is a much lighter colour. All in all it's a very professionally done version of the character, much more in line with the Hanna Barbera cartoon from 1967 than the dreadful New Fantastic Four of 1978.

Spidey and Wilbur fly close to the "futuristic blimp" and Spidey immediately realises that "there's only one man I know who could create an overgrown balloon like that", clearly implying that he and Doom have history predating this series. Spider-man uses his webs to transfer over to the blimp, finds a handy doorway, and almost immediately runs into Doom's robots. He uses his webs again, this time to turn the robots into puppets who then punch each others' heads off. He finds Airforce One but is then faced with Doctor Doom, and the pair indulge in some verbal sparring. "You never learn, do you", says Doom, once again implying a history between them, before pulling a lever which drops both Spider-man and the plane out of the bottom of the blimp. Nobody in the plane seems to notice anything wrong and it merrily carries on with its journey, with Spider-man stuck onto the side. It lands, and Peter Parker goes home, sneaking in past a sleeping Aunt May.

Back in the blimp, meanwhile, Doctor Doom is adding a remote mind implant to the representative from South Africa, which completes his collection of world leaders under his control. The only one he's not done yet is the secretary general of the United Nations - yes, it's that old chestnut again, Doom is planning to get the United Nations to vote him in as master of the world! It's a plot that's been used many many times in various comics, cartoons and newspaper strips over the years, despite the ongoing fact that the United Nations really does not work like that!

The plan is "foolproof" according to Doom, but "just in case" he sends a nuclear-powered flying robot to keep Spider-man out of the way. Spider-man himself is heading to the offices of the Daily Bugle to show off some of his pictures of the president. He's spent all his bus money on hiring a pilot earlier, so has to web-swing his way to work, and during this he gets into a fight with the flying robot. When he finally makes it into the Daily Bugle offices he meets longstanding supporting characters like Betty Brant and J Jonah Jameson, plus a new cartoon cast member, Jonah's nephew Mortimer. He's a prat! Peter and Mortimer head to the UN to cover the extraordinary meeting where they see the secretary general trying to warn everyone what's happened to the other delegates, only to be stopped by Doom's robots bursting in with sleeping gas guns. With everyone else knocked out Spidey (whose "super spidey breath" has saved him) follows the robots as they take the secretary general up onto the roof and into Doom's blimp. However, before he can assist Doom captures him in some sort of freeze ray. Spidey keeps on quipping, which clearly annoys Doom who says "where you are going, there are no jokes". He sets the blimp on a course to crash into the statue of liberty and then teleports back to the UN Assembly, where his robots drain the sleeping gas so that everyone wakes up. The mind-controlled secretary general nominates Doom to be world leader, everybody votes in favour, and suddenly Doctor Doom is Master Of The World! High above, Spidey manages to fire a "super hot wad of web fluid" through the skin of the blimp, blowing air out of the side and thus diverting the balloon just enough to miss the statue of liberty. The strain of all this breaks the freeze ray and he's free to web-spin his way down the side of the statue and back to the UN Assembly. Phew!

When he gets there, however, he's surprised to find that Doctor Doom really is master of the world now, as he orders a couple of security guards to take Spidey away. Spidey escapes, and figures it all out. "Doom wasn't elected legally", he thinks to himself, which is certainly one way of putting it. Knowing that he has international law on his side Spider-man rushes into action, grabbing Doom's computer and thus (incredibly easily) taking control of his robots, forcing them to turn on their master. Doom responds with one last classic move - he ignites his back-pack rockets and escapes out of a window! Spider-man uses the robots to send things right, removing the mind control implants. All that remains is for Peter Parker to return to the offices of the Daily Bugle to sell some pictures of his adventures to J Jonah Jameson. With money in his pocket he invites to Betty to the pictures, where they're showing a film about "a strange super guy from another planet who's allergic to green rocks" (arf!) but before they go he's embarrassed by a call from Aunt May, who's worried about him missing his bedtime. It's a standard-issue not very funny "joke ending" to one of these cartoons, which is a bit of a let down after a surprisingly enjoyable, well made (for its time) cartoon. There's a lot more of these to come, including a visit next time to a whole other series - "Spider-man And His Amazing Friends"!

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posted 20/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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More Marvel Superheroes That Didn't Quite Make It

We're back in the (very) occasionally amusing world of Crazy Magazine, for what seems to be at least part two of a sequence of strips by Paul Kirchner poking gentle fun at superhero stereotypes. This includes Conan The Commuter running for the "great metallic hell-spawned serpent" that is the 08:02 train to Penn Station, Ms Punk ("they gave her a medal - she pinned it on her cheek!") and my favourite, "Plot Device Man" Doctor Doom makes a fleeting appearance in a five panel gag about "When Bruce Bummer was bitten by a radioactive oppossum he became ... Possum Man!" Doom is only in a single panel, doing his usual job in these situations of being The Avatar Of Villainy, demonstrating Possum Man's greatest power when faced with any and all supervillains. It's not exactly a side-splitter, but it does feature a pretty faithful depiction of Doom, even if the rings around his arms makes the costume look like the version used during his run in "Astonishing Tales" over then years beforehand. Next time we start on a run of appearances in the "Spider-man" and "Spider-man And His Amazing Friends" cartoons. Stand by for action!

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posted 17/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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When I looked at the first part of this story I mentioned that I've often seen it mentioned as a "classic" Iron Man story, but that it didn't really feel this way. This issue doesn't either - it does, however, feel like a classic Doctor Doom story.

It's Iron Man's name on the cover, but it feels like he's only there to highlight how much more interesting a character Doom is. All the way through the two are contrasted, and at each turn Doom comes off as more dynamic and interesting. I know that this may be due to the fact that I'm about two thirds of the way through reading several hundred Doctor Doom stories, but I'm pretty sure it would feel that way to someone who hasn't read so many!

The story begins where the last one left off, with the two characters falling through time and landing in a place that turns out to be ... Camelot! Doom quickly works out what's happened - he was planning to use the time machine next to visit Morganna Le Fey for advice, and so that was where it was set to take them when Hauptmann switched it on - but before they can deal with the situation they're apprehended by a bunch of knights on horseback. As we'll see throughout this story, this is a story where an awful lot of characters are wearing expressionless masks! The knights tell them to kneel and Doom, obviously, refuses. A big fight breaks out between him and the knights, which is only broken up by Iron Man pointing out that allowing themselves to be captured will at least get them into the castle. Here they meet a rather grumpy looking King Arthur, who challenges them to demonstrate their "magical powers". Iron Man responds with the old "reverse magnetic field" trick to raise Arthur's throne into the air (which I guess must be made of iron somehow?), whereas Doom refuses to have anything to do with such showing off and simply presents his credentials as a fellow ruler. That's good enough for Arthur and so the two men are sent away to their respective rooms. We first of all see Tony Stark, who is visited in his room by a fair maiden who tells him that "In Camelot, royal guests are provided with companionship during their stay." It's pretty clear that she doesn't mean someone to play Ye Olde Scrabble with, and Stark is delighted. Was there ever a time when this was anything other than massively dodgy? Before it can get any worse we switch to Doom's room, where he is visited by another maiden. The previous page was so very sleazy that it almost seems better when Doom decides to hypnotise her, forcing her to tell him where Morganna Le Fey is. Once he's got that information he blasts a hole in the wall, zaps a passing guard, and carries out one of his signature moves - flying out of a window! Next morning King Arthur tells Iron Man what's happened, filling in some Arthurian Legend Backstory about his sister Morganna and her fights with Merlin. At the same time the maiden who Doom hypnotised is shown to be still under his spell - this is done, I guess, to remind us that Doom is the villain, and that the character who has spent the night enjoying the "companionship" of a woman under orders from her feudal owner is the hero.

While this is going on Doom arrives at Morganna Le Fey's castle, which looks quite a lot like his own. It's worth noting that we're getting a lot more pages featuring Doctor Doom in this story than the nominal hero, and this continues as he works his way past various traps and ends up flying into Morganna Le Fey's castle, where we meet an extremely 1980s version of the legendary character herself. Doom explains that he's come to ask for her help as part of his ongoing quest to free his mother from hell, and relates the story of his annnual attempt to free her through a battle with demons, as first mentioned way back in Astonishing Tales #8. Le Fey in turn tells him that she's trapped in her own castle, and the pair make a deal for Doom to lead an attack on Camelot for her, in return for some Magical Training. Before you know it Doom is heading back with an amry of undead knights behind him. This is spotted by a sentry, who I think reacts as we all would. Boring old Iron Man tries to talk him out of the attack but Doom, of course, refuses, and a Big Fight breaks out between King Arthur's knights, a load of zombies, Iron Man and Doctor Doom. Thanks to John Romita Jr and (especially) Bob Layton it all looks gorgeous - everything is so shiny!

Eventually Iron Man works out that Doom has never previously had the power to raise the dead, so somebody else must be doing it. He zooms back to Le Fey's castle which he's able to find because "King Arthur gave me its general location during our talks yesterday", which is handy. Here we finally get a few pages of the lead character in action, as he fights some mystic shadows and a dragon, which he defeats using a previously unmentioned tube of freon which he just so happens to keep in his... shoulder? Also handy! This allows him to confront Morganna Le Fey who is not happy at all. "Ohhhh, you make me hate you", she says, and then disappears in a mystical huff, causing all of her zombies to suddenly collapse on the battlefield. Doom works out who's responsible and how he's done it and flies back to the castle ready for what Iron Man expects is going to be another punch-up. However, Doom points out that things have changed, and that they'd be better off working together now in order to get home again. Iron Man (who is meant to be one of the world's smartest men) is taken by surprise, and when he asks Doom how he can trust him we get a Classic Doom response. again, Doom is playing the lead role in all of this, with Iron Man simply reacting - it feels like David Micheline is enjoying writing him a lot more!

There then follows several pages of what would be, in a movie, a Working Together Montage, as the two men take their own suits of armour to pieces in order to build a device to send them home. They're both impressed by the skill of the other but, of course, would never say it aloud. Just before they switch the device on they agree a twenty four hour truce for when they get back, to give each other time to get home, then back they go in an oddly Ditko-esque splash of time travel. And that's pretty much that - all that's left is a one page "epilogue" which sees them arriving home, agreeing to have a Big Fight when they next meet, and then going their seperate ways. As I've said (repeatedly) this has very much felt like a Doctor Doom story, and it's one I've thoroughly enjoyed. I'm extremely aware of the fact that we're getting very close to looking at comics that I bought when they actually came out, and that's probably why I'm starting to enjoying the reading process so much. Everybody knows that the comics you read when you were eleven years old are the best comics you'll ever read, and there's some right crackers coming up on the horizon. Before that, however, we've got a whole heap of cartoons to watch, starting next time!

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posted 12/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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This is sometimes talked of as a "Classic story" for both Iron Man and Doctor Doom but, having read it, I think it's more likely that the next (double-sized) issue is the fondly remembered classic, as this one is more of a regular episode of "Iron Man", albeit one which has some important aspects of Doom's ongoing story in it as well.

Doom doesn't actually get mentioned until about 6 pages in, as the first 5 pages are concerned with Iron Man stopping a bunch of terrorists from hijacking a Stark International freighter ship. It's all inked by Bob Layton, so everybody involved looks very slick and shiny! Once he's foiled the baddies, Iron Man flies back to Long Island where he changes into a business suit for the Annual Meeting of Stark International's Regional Managers. He swoops in and swiftly fires one of his regional managers for selling electronic goods to Latveria. It's interesting that Latveria is still on the restricted sales list despite the fact that Prince Zorba is still in charge and, apparently, considered benevolent. The mere fact of Doctor Doom's presence in the country is still enough to stop Stark International trading with them.

Doom himself, meanwhile, has been on a trip into the past to learn the secrets of a magician called Cagliostro. This trip is not really important to the overal story in this issue, and is instead presented as a glimpse into Doom's day to day business, away from his more famous occupation as a supervillain. There are three nuggets of Doom-related storyworld in this section - first of all the contact with Hauptmann, the frustrated brother of another lackey previously murdered by Doom, secondly the use of his Time Machine, and final the lightning-bound castle in "the small european nation of Latveria". This castle is clearly based on the version drawn by Frank Miller a while ago, which has become the default design, even down to the constant bad weather surrounding it. Which castle is this meant to be though? The text clearly says it's in Latveria, so can't be the one we saw recently in New York state, but if Zorba is still in charge then it can't be the one in Doomstadt either. Maybe Doom liked the one in America so much he had another one built at home to exactly the same design?

Doom returns to his lab and congratulates Hauptmann for his work, using the people management skills that have made him so successful i.e. he tells Hauptmann that he won't kill him today. This genial atmosphere doesn't last for long, however, as Hauptmann has to deliver the bad news that their shipment of electronics has been turned back. I must admit to being a bit confused here - were the "terrorists" from earlier on actually employees of Doom, and if not, why didn't he stop them himself? Either way, Doom is livid, and stomps off leaving Hauptmann bristling at his own cowardice in still working for him. Doom sends a team to America to take back the shipment which he'd ordered and, apparently, paid for. They find Iron Man waiting for them, but with the help of their Doom-built submarine/tractor/aircraft thing they manage to escape, although this does not leave them enough time to actually pack the shipment away, instead zooming off like someone who's left their coffee cup on the roof of the car. Tony Stark flies off to Latveria to try and sort things out, and is met by armed guards. However, just as he's preparing to fight, he's surprised to discover that they're actually there to welcome him. Zorba is hoping that Iron Man will be coming along too, and that he'll somehow be able to keep Doom busy and stop him staging a counter-revoluton. Zorba doesn't actually appear in this story but his presence is definitely felt, especially here in the "new" Latveria. It's a nice bit of continuity from Dave Micheline, using the current storyworld situation to generate a fresh plot.

Iron Man does indeed show up, and flies to Doom's castle where... hang on, how does everybody know this is Doom's castle? Isn't that where Zorba lives now? Or does he really have another one stashed away - but if so, why don't the Latverian police pop over there to re-arrest him? It seems that what they meant by "keep him busy" was "do our job for us please"!

Anyway, Iron Man goes to this castle and quickly runs into another great signifier of Doom - robots! Iron Man makes quick work of the robots and finally reaches Doom himself, who is quite off-hand with the person he believes is just one of Tony Stark's employees. He points out that the consignment was paid for quite properly, and refuses to engage in any further negotiations with "a lackey". Iron Man refuses to leave until he gets the equipment back, and Doom retaliates by... shooting rocks out of his fingers? This is a brand new ability of Doom's armour, and quite a weird one at that. Iron Man manages to fight his way out of the instant avalanche and flies into the main laboratory area, where Doom gives chase. A big punch-up ensues! We see Hauptmann watching while all this is going on, and when the fight makes its way to the time machine he sees his chance and quickly switches it on, sending both hero and villain into the time stream. (I always think it's really weird when American superheroes say "Bloody". It sounds like such an English swear word - it pops up a few times in this comic, so maybe it's something David Micheline knew he could get past the censors?)

The story ends with Hauptmann smashing up the Time Machine's controls, thus marooning his boss in the distant past, and having a right old Super-villain cackle about his victory. And so ends this instalment of a story which has so far made excellent use of Doom's current storyline, a feat made more impressive by the fact that it's been carried on over several different series and creative teams over the past few months. We'll find out how it all ends... next time!

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posted 5/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Rogue Storm!

This issue begins right where the last one finished, with Nightcrawler finding himself two miles in the air, having teleported out of the trap we saw him in last time. He's bamfed himself two miles into the sky in order to be sure he's not teleporting into anything solid, but it does have the very slight disadvantage of meaning he's, well, two miles up in the air. Happily for all concerned he manages to glide down (using handy "updrafts") towards the lake that now seems to be next to Doom's castle, where he has time for a very soggy recap of the previous two issues.

With that all sorted out we go back to the inside of the castle, where Doom is explaining to Arcade that he personally designed the X-Men's traps (so not Arcade himself then) to test, rather than contain, them. Meanwhile an unnatural storm is raging, apparently caused by the Storm (the character) who has intense claustrophobia after being trapped inside a metal case. This leads to a nice chat between two of Doom's henchmen, Toby and Phil. We've seen Doom's henchmen turned into human beings on several occasions over the years, and even though these ones may be dressed slightly differently to their Latverian counterparts, it's heartening to see that Doom still hires chatty staff. Sadly Toby and Phil get knocked unconscious by Nightcrawler as he makes his way into the castle.

Meanwhile Colossus, Angel and Wolverine break out of their own traps, with Wolverine first to make it back to Doom's control room where he, alarmingly, stabs Robot Storm in the face then goes for Doom himself. Doom is impressed by what he takes to be Wolverine's ruthlessness, but is then disappointed by his apparent over-confidence in a fight. At this point Nightcrawler appears and brings Doctor Doom down, so that Wolverine can threaten him with a stab in the eye if he doesn't free Storm. He agrees, but the shock of seeing Storm released in a flash of light (and wearing what is basically two strips of toilet roll) distracts the heroes, so that Doom can zap them with his hand blasters. "Just as he'd planned", explains the text box. Storm is absolutely furious about being trapped, and goes a bit Dark Phoenix (actually a LOT Dark Phoenix), blasting Colossus when he tries to calm her down and posing such a threat to them all that Doom is forced to take charge of the situation. John Byrne can say what he likes about Claremont's characterisation, but this strikes me as a great use of one of Doom's main characteristics - taking control in emergencies with such authority that even superheroes are forced to fall into line. In the end it is Storm herself who brings things to a close, regaining control when Colossus points out that yes, this is all a bit of a rip-off of the Dark Phoenix story. She returns to earth where she asks Doom to hand Arcade over to them, and even makes him apologise for being rude. Doom agrees and then apologises again to Storm for attacking her team. This is just about within the realms of possibility for Doom's usual character - he's always saying he's a man of honour, but he's not usually prone to apologies, so it does seem a little odd. That, however, is as nothing compared to what comes next, when Doom basically asks Storm if they can be friends, and she says yes! Didn't he just completely trap her in her worst nightmare, causing her to lose control and almost go the way of the recently killed Jean Grey? And doesn't he look super creepy, leering at her through the mask? There are indeed some issues with Doom's characterisation, but maybe the problem isn't with Chris Claremonts understanding of Doom, but with his understanding of human beings altogether. If someone had dressed me up in loo roll, trapped me in tinfoil and kidnapped my friends, I would be blocking them on social media immediately!

And so ends an odd story, which sees Doom's grand return to Marvel continuity gently fading away from a big planned event and into business as usual. It seems a shame, but at least the next time we see him it'll be for an all-time Doom classic, in the realm of King Arthur!

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posted 28/2/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Tell Joey I Love Him

Doom only makes a very small appearance in this comic, which sees Dazzler continuing her Spider-man-esque life, struggling to pay her bills while almost reluctantly fighting crime. Here she wears herself out at work then teams up with an even lower league superhero called The Blue Shield to fight against a stolen piece of military weaponry called - brilliantly - The Think Tank. Doom pops up right at the start as part of a dream sequence which serves as a handy recap of the past two issues, as a delirious Dazzler imagines herself being shouted at by Doom, Nightmare, and The Enchantress. When she wakes up Johnny Storm congratulates her for facing off against "Doctor Doom - the deadliest guy on earth" and that's it for Doom content in this issue and indeed for this blog entry. Next time we're back to see what's happening with the X-Men!

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posted 21/2/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Doctor Doom Meets Prince Namor!

We're back in the cosy world of Spidey Super Stories today, with a light re-telling of a story that appeared in Super-Villain Team-Up a few years ago. It's the one where Doom managed to enslave Prince Namor and force him to fight his enemies for him - you can tell it's been copied from that story because it also features several of the supporting characters from that series, without really introducing them.

The action begins at one of Doctor Doom's favourite places, The United Nations! Prince Namor is there to get membership for Atlantis, but before he can enter the building Doom turns up with a proposal, at which point pretty much the entire run of Super-Villain Team-Up gets summarised in a single panel. Doom is never one to take "no" for an answer, so he zaps Namor into unconsciousness and flies off with his rocket pack. He straps a collar around Namor's neck (which only he can take off) and forces him to fight Spider-man, who has witnessed the kidnapping and is in pursuit. Namor thumps Spider-man, then he and Doom head to Atlantis, where Doom spots a "Sea Horn" in the throe room. He's told not to play with it, which obviously makes him do exactly that. I really like the Spidey Super Stories characterisation of Doom as an impulsive, very naughty child, who hates being told what to do and refuses to be denied anything he wants. It's feels very true to his persona in the mainstream universe!

The Sea Horn summons a sea monster, as Sea Horns are bound to do, which terrifies Namor but pleases Doom no end, who is soon riding round on it gleefully. He gallops back to the city, where Spidey is unable to stop him going on a rampage. Meanwhile in Atlantis Namor's pals have turned up, and manage to pull the collar off without any bother at all, which does rather beg the question why the (very strong) Namor didn't at least have a go at taking it off himself? He zooms back to dry land, where Spidey is still struggling to cope with the monster. Namor simply snatches the sea horn and smashes it up, so that the monster is freed from Doom's control. It decides to head back to the sea, taking its captor with it. Spidey wonders whether they should help Doom, but Namor says he'll be fine - his armour's watertight, and once the monster falls asleep he'll be able to escape without any bother. So that's all OK then.

And that's the end of a very concise, very simple, yet very well characterised version of some characters we've been spending a lot of time with lately. As EZ Reader says on the cover, that comic was very easy to read!

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posted 14/2/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Superman And Spider-Man

This comic is simultaneously very straightforward, in that two superheroes get together to fight a common foe, but also very odd as the superheroes come from two entirely different storyworlds, yet never mentioned the fact. Through it all, however, Doctor Doom remains resolutely Doctor Doom!

The story is a "spiritual sequel" to the huge-selling "Superman vs Spider-man" of 1976, and like that takes place in a world very similar to both the DC and Marvel universes, except that both appear to have always co-existed. It means we get a scenes such as the one where J Jonah Jameson orders Peter Parker to go and get pictures of Superman as if that's something he says all the time. It starts off like a normal Spider-man story, with Spidey stopping some bank robbers while being observed (from a distance) by Doctor Doom, who is busy with another plot for world domination. This is very much the Doom we know, so much so that Jim Shooter even gives him a moment of tortured contemplation in front of a mirror. Doom then goes to one his trademark video screens, where he sees the Hulk being guided towards Metropolis. One of the Daily Planet's reporters is also keeping an eye on his progress, while stuck in a meeting. Superman flies out to fight the Hulk in a scene which, for a long-time superhero fan, is immensely jarring. The Hulk behaves just like the Hulk, Superman is Superman, but the whole thing feels entirely wrong - these two should not be meeting, and even if they are, surely it shouldn't seem so everyday? Then, to make it even worse, Spider-man arrives to help too! My brain hurts! It turns out that Doctor Doom sent the Hulk to Metropolis to free The Parasite, accidentally breaking him out of an underground prison as part of his rampage. Meanwhile Peter Parker meets some of the staff from Galaxycom, where he sees someone he knows - Lois Lane! This is one of the very few nods to the previous story from five years ago. Meanwhile Superman has worked out that, with Lex Luthor locked up, only one man can be behind the Hulk's rampage, and so flies over to New York to visit the Latverian embassy, where he confronts Doctor Doom. Doom's behaviour, language and even location are all perfectly on-brand, which comes as something of a relief amongst the mash-up going on around him! He suggests that Superman could use his mighty powers to make the world a better place if he wanted to, to which Superman gives the standard, deeply conservative, superhero-genre response that actually doing something to change the world makes you a supervillain. Doom then demonstrates exactly what an actual supervillain would really do, by attacking Superman with a chunk of Kryptonite and then, when his foe escapes the trap, pointing out that he can't be punished because of his own greatest superpower - diplomatic immunity! This is becoming like a greatest hits tour for Doctor Doom - surely he will be jumping out of a window at any moment?

Superman is dismissed, and then Doom briefly calls in The Parasite to assure him that, under Doom's guidance,they will be victorious. We then get a humorous sequence where Clark Kent has to hide in a cupboard from J Jonah Jameson while Superman rescues a jumbo jet, before he flies over to Latveria for a little bit of reconnaisance. Doom,of course, had expected this to happen, so has lackeys on hand to fire a particle beam at Superman, which doesn't seem to hurt him or, as yet, have any kind of effect. Doom himself, meanwhile, is giving The Parasite a guided tour of his secret base, where he has the Hulk stored in a stasis cube. When the parasite starts to ask questions Doom is forced to show him who is boss. While all this has been going on Spider-man has been wandering round Metropolis, where he eventually discovers Wonder Woman fighting some of Doom's soldiers. She recognises him, and after an initial suspiciousness (she's been reading Daily Bugle editorials) they team-up. The soldiers are still too much for them, and Spider-man manages to escape while Wonder Woman is captured, much to the delight of The Parasite who has a mad crush on her. When Doom questsions this the Parasite points out that, beneath the "hideous thing that I am" he is still a man and, moved by this simularity between them, Doom decides to tell him the Big Plan for World Domination. He's built "Omega Installations" all around the world which will emit "Omega Radiation" that will destroy all fossil fuels and weapons. Thus, when he presents the world with a fusion reactor providing clean energy for the whole planet, nobody will be able (or really want) to stop him. Ooh, what an evil plan! Er... isn't it? Luckily for the world, or at least the fossil fuel industry, Superman and Spider-man finally team-up to stop him, smashing into his secret base where they have a Big Fight with a pumped up Parasite and one of Doom's robots. It's all going really well until Doom himself enters the fray and brings Superman to his knees with the application of (I think) Kryptonite gas. Spider-man is distracted all this and gets walloped by The Parasite, waking up not long after to find himself trapped in the same room as the unconscious Superman and the stasis tubes containing Hulk and Wonder Woman. Things look bleak - if they can't escape Doctor Doom will destroy fossil fuels and weapons and inflict clean energy on the world, the absolute fiend!

While Spidey tries to flex his webshooters to somehow free Superman, The Parasite gets a sudden jolt of spider-sense, stolen earlier from Spidey. He suddenly realises that Doom is about to betray him (another classic Doom trope!) and the pair have a punch-up which leads to Doom's falling into, and breaking, his own control panel. Spidey and Superman break free, stop the Parasite and halt the Omega Radiation just in time. Phew! And what is Doom doing during all this? He's jumping out of the window and legging it down the road to the Latverian Embassy! BINGO! I do believe that that's a full house of Doom activities! Superman and Spider-man can't do anything more about it, so head back to their respective cities, happy to be back where they belong. It's a cosy ending for what has been a thoroughly fun mash-up of the two universes, where many things have felt odd but Doctor Doom has proven to be the perfect portable supervillain, maintaining his character whatever happens. In a couple of weeks we'll see him doing this again in the world of cartoons, but next time we're back to a much more familiar alternate universe, as Doom returns to Spidey Super Stories!

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posted 7/2/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett