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Deadly Is The Doctor Called Doom - The Album

This time we're looking at - or rather listening to - an audio story which appeared on the 'Spider Super Stories Album'. It's one of eight adaptations of stories which originally appeared in the 'Spidey Super Stories' comic book, which was in turn based on the version of Spider-man seen in 'The Electric Company' show, which was a further adaptation of the original comic character. If that isn't transmedia then I don't know what is!

This particular story is based on Spider Super Stories #19, and sticks extremely close to that storyline, with almost every single world being read out and only a couple of additional descriptions inserted to alert the reader to scene changes, all read out very clearly by none other than Morgan Freeman! It reminded me of the Power Records adaptation of Fantastic Four #126 in how closely it stuck to the comic, and I wonder if the idea was for the audience to read along as the record plays, similar to the Power Records one, in order to help them learn to read? If so, it doesn't seem to have come with a comic included.

It also reminded me of The Fantastic Four Radio Show, if only for the way that certain lines get said as quickly as possible by the actors, as they don't really make any sense at all without the visuals. The section where Doctor Doom imagines a future where he has a Spider Army is particularly confusing!

Here's a YouTube clip of the whole story so you can judge for yourself:

Doctor Doom is played here by Luis Avalos, one of the regulars on 'The Electric Company' who performs the role as a rather camp mixture of Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. In the context it works surprisingly well, coming off like a rather creepy uncle - I guess the usual vocalisation of Doom, as a forbidding, deep voiced menace, wouldn't really work when his main plot is to kidnap a bunch of school children in order to lure Spider-man to his castle to steal his spider powers. It's also quite close to Stan Lee's early 70s version of the character as a wheedling, self-pitying, deluded dictator, so it's a pity Avalos didn't get the chance to use his particular performance on one of those stories too - I think it would have worked, but maybe it wouldn't have been as much fun for the Electric Company's target audience!

It's a very interesting way to play the character which, I'll warn you now, has the unfortunate side effect of getting into your head, so that Doom will continue to speak a little bit more camply forever after, notably in his 'Spidey Super Stories' appearances, but in the mainstream universe too!

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posted 18/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Death Duel!

As we've seen before, one really easy way to make Doctor Doom the sympathetic lead character in a story is to pit him against someone who is clearly, unequivocally, much worse than he is, and they don't come much more clearly, unequivocally evil than The Red Skull.

The story here carries on shortly after the previous issue of this series, with The Red Skull on the moon ready to fire a hypno ray and Doctor Doom (accompanied by The Shroud) heading into space to stop him. There's a lot of minor plotholes getting explained and characters moving into place during the start of the story, and initially I thought that Bill Mantlo (who writes this one) had been brought in as "The Fill-In King" to sort it out, but no, he wrote the previous issue too. Maybe this sort of fix-it scriptwriting becomes a habit?

One early example of this is when Doom and Captain America discuss what's happened since last time, and why it's Doom in the spaceship. This is the kind of recapping/explanation that usually happens in the first few pages of superhero comics from around this time, and Mantlo achieves it with some excellent Doom dialogue. Dolt! There's a bit more plot mechanics as Namor decides to leave the others to it and head back to Atlantis, and then Doomn ejects The Shroud into space so ge can guard the Hypno-Ray satellite. Having read quite a lot of The Shroud lately I am entirely in favour of him being ejected into space, and I really like Doom's reaction to his traditional superhero dialogue here. There's also a great, brief, explanation of Doom's entire motivation for saving the world - it will, after all, all belong to him soon! Next comes a brief interlude during which The Skull demonstrates his villainy by horribly murdering members of his staff for disagreeing with him (Doom rarely does this - he'll slap them in the face, but doesn't usually kill them) and then reveals that he was the mysterious bidder who's been buying Doom's technology in the distant sub-plots lately. He also does a recap of his recent history and explains that being teleported to the moonbase means that the firing of the Hypno Ray has had to be delayed by an hour. It's a tour-de-force of This Kind Of Comic Writing by Mantlo, getting a whole heap of information over in an exciting way (thanks to Bob Hall's illustrations) while demonstrating character and, on top of all that, setting a countdown timer before the end of the world! I am honour bound as a Middle-Aged Superhero Fan to say "That would take an entire issue nowadays".

It's then time for action, as The Skull fires missiles at Doom's approaching space ship. I was going to say that it all loooks a bit like Star Wars, but of course this came out before the film, so Doctor Doom being blasted into space comes at least a year before the same fate befell Darth Vader. You don't think..?

Doom escapes the destruction of his ship, sealing off his armour and jetting down to the lunar surface, where The Red Skull (with swastika clearly displayed) arrives on a space jet ski, intent on killing him. A Big Fight then takes place in which the two supervillains have a go at each other, both using Doctor Doom's own devices. At first it looks like The Skull is going to win easily, but then Doom produces what looks like a massive bread knife and cuts a hole into the underneath of the skull's space cycle. The Red Skull falls into the mines that he himself had set, and as Doom approaches we get a great character moment, showing the difference between the two once more, with Doom enjoying the game and the Skull absolutely terrified. The Red Skull shows fear whenever he's in danger, a villainous trait which Doctor Doom rarely if ever demonstrates - another sign that we are supposed to be see him in the role of hero.

While this is going on The Shroud decides to ignore Doom's orders to wait and watch the satellite and instead try and disable it himself. This, of course, goes wrong (because The Shroud is rubbish) and he's knocked unconscious. Luckily for him (if not the reader) Captain America trundles by in the SHIELD spaceship and picks him up. Shame.

Back on the moon, Doom and The Red Skull are having a proper punch-up, which leads to Doom's armour being pierced so that his air supply starts to leak out. He solves this problem by using the freeze-unit in his glove to freeze the oxygen, sealing the hole. Um... it doesn't work like that, does it? Anyway, the fight continues until Doom manages to trap The Red Skull under an avalanche. Just as Doom is enjoying his victory, the Skull points out that his henchman are approaching to free him, but Doom, rather brilliantly, stays where he is and uses one of his major, unacknowledged, super-powers on them: persuasion! I love the fact that all of the henchmen say "Sod this" and clear off! The story ends with The Red Skull trapped under rubble, about to suffocate when his air supply runs out, and Doom in his spaceship heading for home. For all his heroic tendencies, that's one thing you'd never catch an actual superhero doing!

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posted 12/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Time Of The Terrorist

Doctor Doom makes his way into yet another media format this time, appearing as the villian in the first storyline in Spider-man's newspaper strip. This strip began in January 1977, written by Stan Lee and drawn (beautifully) by John Romita Sr and, with various other artists and ghost writers, would run for over forty years, only ending shortly after Stan Lee himself died.

The strip makes for mildly frustrating reading at first, as each three panel storyline is constructed so that the first panel is usually a recap of what's happened before, and the Sunday strip generally being unnecessary to follow the story, so that readers who could only follow it in a daily edition wouldn't miss out. This was, and probably still is, standard practice for an adventure-style comic strip, but in it does mean that there's an awful lot of strips which start or end with J Jonah Jameson leaning out of a window, angrily shouting the story so far at Spider-man!

Spider-man himself is slightly different from the comics version - here he's seen as a frightening, creepy individual by New Yorkers, while his alter ego Peter Parker is rather hairier and more matinee idol. It's as if Lee and Romnita are merging the Spider-man of Ditko's early run with the Peter of their own run shortly afterwards. Doctor Doom doesn't appear in person until the very end of the second week of strips, with the precediing fortnight concerned with introducing the reader to Spider-man's supporting cast as they all wait for Doom to arrive. He's been invited by J Jonah Jameson to - wait for it - address the United Nations! What is it with Doctor Doom and the United Nations? He's been there in the regular comics, Spidey Super Stories, the cartoon and now here, to the extent that it's almost as much a part of his world as his castle and the Latverian embassy!

One small difference here is that Doom is the actual King of Latveria, rather than just the "Lord" as he's usually termed. It doesn't make any difference to the story, so I assume this was done to make it easier for new readers to understand in the quick three panel version of the Marvel Universe. We do still get a brief, yet fairly complete, version of his origin in the Wednesday to Friday strips on week six, which sticks pretty closely to the regular comics version, including some near swipes of that version. The only big difference, in fact, is that Reed Richards doesn't appear!

When Doom finally arrives in New York he's very rude to an ingratiating J Jonah Jameson. He holds a press conference where he stops a crate from landing on some news reporters, which he blames on Spider-man, thus happily reinforcing the Daily Bugle-promoted view that Spider-man is a menace and Doctor Doom is a hero - just as was the case when a very similar story played out in Spidey Super Stories #9. Here, as there, Doctor Doom is speaking to a meeting of the UN - a smaller sub-committee in this case, although it does contain some very familiar faces. Does Henry Kissinger have a non-aggression pact with Doctor Doom in this universe as well? Either way, the assembled dignitaries are very wary of Doctor Doom, refusing his offer of taking full control of the world's security services to destroy terrorism. Maybe our universe is the only one where the UN DOESN'T have the power to decide policy in all member states? Doom doesn't take kindly to this and locks the world leaders in the room with him, apparently as part of his plan for world domination. This makes little sense, but luckily Spider-man bursts in for a fight during which he is knocked out and, for some reason, dreams the aforementioned precis of Doom's origim.

The fight carries on, with Doom burning through Spidey's webbing but then getting trapped by a specially prepared web-fluid which causes his armour to short circuit. Doom thus has to fight back using only his "super strength" until he's caught by a judo throw which, accoring to the world leaders, means Spider-man is the winner. Doom is so disgusted in the world leaders for siding against him that he storms out, refusing to have anything more to do with them, rather like someone who angrily quits their job five seconds after being sacked, much to the dismay of his biggest fan. And there this first foray into newspaper strips ends, with the story's attention immediately switching for the story beginning the following day with Doctor Octupus. It's been a very faithful rendition of Doctor Doom for the first part, and oddly similar to the version seen in Super Spidey Stories. He will return to the newspaper strip very soon, but before then we've got the thrilling conclusion to Doom's battle with the Red Skull - next time!

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posted 10/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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My Ally, My Enemy!

Last time I was bemoaning the fact that this series was claiming "a dynamic new direction" while doing nothing of the sort, but maybe I was being unfair. Until now "Super-Villain Team-Up" has actually been just "Namor And Doctor Doom" every issue. The main "Marvel Team-Up" series almost always had Spider-man as lead, it's true, but they did swap around the guests a bit.

However, I now realise that this issue, and the previous one, actually did have a change, with The Red Skull sharing the top billing instead of Namor. It does make more sense of the title, although Namor is still there, as is The Shroud, and Doom and The Red Skull don't so much team-up as fight each other throughout.

The story begins where the last one left off, with The Red Skull having shot Prince Rudolfo, who was disguised as Doctor Doom. The Shroud tries to fight the Skull but is quickly overwhelmed by a Goon with a spanner. The Shroud is rubbish.

The Red Skull then drags him over to a video screen, where we see that his Doomjet had not, as depicted last time, disappeared, but instead has been hit by The Rainbow Missile and is now crashing.

We also FINALLY get a reveal about the mysterious "buyer" Doom was talking about so long ago - it was The Red Skull, conning Doom into building him a Hypno-Ray! We then cut to The Doomjet as it crashes, with Doom and Captain America discovering that The Red Skull has used some of Doom's own technology against them, and shrunk them "to the size of field mice." There's a reference to Astonishing Tales #5 when Doom similarly shrank The Red Skull and The Exiles down to the same size... except that he totally didn't - it was Hypno Gas that made them think they'd been shrunken! I'm all for an obscure callback, but come on Bill Mantlo, if you're going to do that at least get it right!

The pair fight their way through a range of over-sized obstacles, including a grass snake and the castle's moat, with Doom remarking how well they work as a team, and Captain America being sensible enough to see exactly how that would work out. Again, I very much like Bill Mantlo's take on Doom here - arrogant, self-assured, but also enjoying himself and keen to behave honourably - or at least to his own ideas of honour. This characterisation continues when Doom discovers that his old friend Boris has been captured, all of which surprises Captain America. Clearly Cap has not been reading this blog!

The shrunken pair discover that Namor has arrived, and is arguing with The Red Skull and The Shroud in Castle Latveria's throne room. This enrages Doom who leaps into action and shoots the Skull... up the bum? The Skull grabs Doom, who orders Namor to save him - in theory Namor has sworn an oath to do whatever Doom says, so should do it anyway, but Doom sugars the pill by promising to cure the people of Atlantis. Namor does as he's asked, Doom and Captain America return to normal size, and then it's time for a Big Fight between the heroes and The Skull's forces. In this context Doom is very much a hero, trying to save the world, although The Shroud doubts this, believing Doom will use the weapon for himself. In a weird turnaround, Doom shouts for Captain America's aid, and he leaps forward to help. The Shroud, understandably, is shocked by this! Despite Doom and Captain America's efforts, The Red Skull manages to retreat inside a force field of Doom's own making - other people using Doom's inventions against him is a characteristic of these stories almost as much as him watching people via a remote viewer!

Faced with the prospect of a world mind-controlled by The Red Skull, a wounded Prince Rudolfo decides he prefers rule under Doom, and activates a device which he hopes will defeat The Skull. Sadly for all concerned this turns out not to be a bomb or something equally useful, but a teleportation device which sends The Red Skull to the moon, where he can activate his world-dominating hypno ray by hand! This is spectacular bad luck for Doom and co, but a great way to end an issue in which Doom has, fairly successfully, been cast as the hero against an even greater villian. Will he win in the end? We'll have to wait a while to find out, because next time we're off to another version of Doom in another media altogether - the newspaper funnies!

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posted 6/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Sign Of The Skull!

It's been at least three issues since we last had a "Dynamic New Direction" for this series, so thank goodness this one starts off with the promise of exactly that! Another recurring theme at the moment is chucking the reader into what appears to be a different comic to the one advertised on the cover. This one starts with Captain America in action and a note at the bottom of the page promising that "We'll explain as we go along pilgrims - hang in there!"

In the previous comic, Avengers #156, we saw Cap wander off to investigate something, with a promise that we'd find out what in Super-Villain Team-Up #11, yet here we are in Super-Villain Team-Up #10 with him telling (not showing) his colleagues that he went off and followed a trail from Hydrobase to the Latverian Embassy in New York. It's all a bit confusing, especially if you're reading these comics as a continuous block, rather having a month's gap in between!

The first four pages here see Captain America fighting his way through the Latverian Embassy's defences (apparently unconcerned about the non-aggression pact his country recently signed with Latveria) until he finds... Doctor Doom! Captain America is surprised because he was expecting to find the Red Skull (though he never mentions him by name), and presents Doom with a sceptre that he found back on Hydrobase. We then cut away to Namor, who has returned to Atlantis to find some miners about to destroy the city under the orders of the mysterious "Orbiter". All we know about this person is that "he's working out of some third-world country called - Latveria!"

I don't think Eastern Europe is, techically, the third world, but we all make mistakes when being violently threatened by undersea monarchs. We then head over to Latveria itself, where The Shroud and Rudolfo are leading a pack of peasants through the castle. Rudolfo is in disguise as Doctor Doom, and is finding it all a bit too warm. Unluckily for him, a bunch of guards burst in at that exact moment and a fight breaks out - or, as The Shroud calls it "a good old American Free-For-All". Latveria isn't in America either - Bill Mantlo's geography is all over the place! During the fight the pair make their way into Doom's throne room and are attacked by a Mysterious Figure. Bob Hall's art is great throughout this issue, but it seems like a very odd decision to keep the Mysterious Figure's face in shadow, especially when the edges are coloured red, his voice is so accented... and The Red Skull is on the front cover!

Meanwhile Doom and Captain America are on their way back to Latveria in a Doomjet, which Captain America is very impressed by. Doom, however, is unmoved. I do like this characterisation - he understands that a compliment is being given, but refuses to take it because it's so foolish.

The issue comes to an end with the ship being hit by "the rainbow missile", and then a cut back to Latveria where the villian is revealed as... The Red Skull! Just as promised on the cover! Characters have studiously avoided mentioning his name throughout, but still, it's hardly a surprise, nor is the fact that Doom is announced as returning in the next issue. I'm not sure why this is called "a dynammic new direction", as it continues the previous storyline with one of the regular writers, but it's been enjoyable nonetheless, even with one such as I who has the incredible detective skills needed to work out who the baddy's going to be!

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posted 4/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Private War Of Doctor Doom!

Sadly this issue doesn't feature George Perez, with Sal Buscema taking over instead. I've always liked his artwork, especially (obviously) on the Hulk, but it looks a bit odd here underneath Pablo Marcos' shiny inks. Marvel comics at this time seem to switch between Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo and whoever else is around every few issues, and this one is written by Jim Shooter, who was called in a couple of blogs back to draw Super-Villain Team-up!

We pick up where the last issue finished, with an unusually long three pages of recap, including a splash page with almost exactly the same dialogue as the end three panels last time. Once we're finally caught up Doom agrees almost immediately to The Vision's proposal of a team-up and pretty much takes control of the situation. There's a quick look at what Namor's up to - getting into a Quinjet with Beast, Whizzer and Wonderman - before we return to Hydrobase where Doctor Doom appears to have freed the Avengers from their Slave Collars. There then follows a LOT of melodramtic soul searching as different characters ponder their relationships, complicated here by the existence of magic, androids, and people revived from the dead. It's almost a prototype for the kind of storytelling Chris Claremont would use so successfully on the X-Men.

Doom, meanwhile, has totally taken over, working with Iron Man to plan their next steps. Nobody seems to have any complaints about working with someone who's meant to be an arch enemy of all that is good and right, until The Whizzer sees them all heading his way a few pages later. There then follows the traditional Big Fight, with The Avengers leaping into action against Attuma's forces. This goes on for several pages until The Avengers are able to triumph by using, once again, their secret weapon of Teamwork. Doom has been absent for the whole thing, running off with the "cell stimulator" which Attuma had been intending to steal. Namorita tries to stop him getting away, and Doom very un-chivalrously bats her away with his fist - something which I'm sure an earlier version of the character would have baulked at. Luckily for the free world The Avengers arrive and, while Doom is fighting them off, The Vision destroys the cell stimulator. This leads to an absolutely classic bit of old-style Doom behaviour - he sees that the device has been destroyed and instantly flees by jumping out of a window, swearing to be avenged! And that's pretty much the end - we never did find out who the mysterious "buyer" was that Gregor was talking about a few issues ago. Perhaps we'll learn more when we return to Doom's own series next time?

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posted 30/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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To Stand Alone!

This is the final part of a three part story which began in Avengers #154 (which didn't feature Doctor Doom at all, so didn't feature here), moved into Super-Villain Team-Up #9, and now returns to The Avengers. This means we're treated to a Jack Kirby rendition of Doctor Doom for the first time in several years, as at this point he'd returned to Marvel and, as well as running is own series, was also doing covers here.

Sadly for Kirby, his style now looked somewhat old-fashioned to comics fans at the time, who made their objections known in letter columns. It's a shame, but you can see why they'd react strongly against Kirby's now rather clunky looking-later style on the outside of a comic which features the artwork of George Perez inside.

I distinctly remember having my tiny mind BLOWN when I first saw George Perez's artwork, when part of his Avengers run was reprinted in Marvel UK's "Marvel Superheroes" series. I have a vivid memory of taking these two issues on holiday with me and just GAZING at them in awe - seeing the covers now I can SMELL the sunshine on them! It was so different to what I was seeing in British comics at the time, even in 2000AD, and I LOVED it. This is probably also why I reacted so badly to Jack Kirby at first - it does look weird and clunky compared to the smooth shiny gorgeousness of George Perez.

Anyway, this is meant to be a deadly serious peice of academic research, so let's get on with it. Let's look at the splash page, featuring Perez's first depiction of Doom. Thanks George! The Avengers attack, and we get a lovely couple of pages showing fights between indiividual characters along the sides of the page while a recap goes on in the middle. Doom and the Hydrobase characters beat up the Avengers (I suppose it's easier because they're wearing slave collars), and then discover that they were here to capture Namor under the orders of Attuma. Namorita tells Doom that he's the only person alive - apart perhaps from Namor - who can save them from Attuma, which Doom finds... intriguing. We then go back to New York for some more of the subplot involving The Whizzer before heading back to Hydrobase, where the captured Avengers use their teamworking skills to escape from captivity. Namor, meanwhile, is heading for that research lab in Maryland that the talkative Russian pilots told him about last time. Attuma and his army have already arrived, however, only to find the aforementioned Whizzer, along with The Beast and Wonder Man, waiting for them. A big fight breaks out, as is tradition, but when Namor arrives he is tricked into believing the Avengers are on Attuma's side, thanks to some devilish cunning by his arch enemy. This is, I think, an excellent trick, which actually works too! Further fighting ensues until Namor recognises The Whizzer as an old ally from his days in The Invaders. He's distracted for a moment, which gives Wonder Man the chance to knock him out.

The story ends with The Vision hurrying to make "a pact with the devil himself", or rather in this case an armed Doctor Doom. Next time it's the finale, still within the pages of The Avengers but, sadly, not drawn by George Perez. Did I mention how much I like his artwork?

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posted 28/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Pawns Of Attuma!

The splash page for this issue has an extremely helpful opening paragraph, telling the reader not to be confused, as they haven't picked up the wrong comic by mistake - this is carrying on from Avengers #154. It's nice of them to point this out - I must admit I was confused myself when I first looked at this page, not least because Avengers #154 isn't in my database of issues that feature Doctor Doom. Happily for me and my collection methodology that's because he isn't in there! It's still odd to have this jump though - there was nothing in the previous issue to indicate that the story would be carrying on in another series, but then I'd guess that The Avengers was selling enough copies not to need help from Super-Villain Team-Up, although the reverse may not have been true!

For those who haven't the time to catch-up, Avengers #154 sees Namor's nemesis Attuma putting slave collars on the Avengers, which allows him to force them to do his bidding - in this case, beating up Namor. They head over to Hydrobase, bemoaning their fate as they go, while we return to Latveria, where Namor is amazed by how brilliant his master is at creating robots. Because, of course, this is a Doombot - that explains everything! Except - it isn't!! This is a great twist by Bill Mantlo (surprisingly nicely drawn by future editor-in-chief Jim Shooter), although it does make me wonder how on earth Boris, who has known Doom since he was a child, was fooled?

Rudolfo appears to have changed since last time we saw him, claiming not to want a return to monarchy anymnore, but wanting the opportunity to lead his people to freedom. We then get an extremely succinct recap of Rudolfo's previous attempt at revolution, including some nicely abbreviated copies of the actual artwork from that issue. Finally assured that Doom is dead, and he is released from his oath, Namor immediately clears off, heading back to Atlantis to check on his people. We then switch our view to Hydrobase where Doom is loafing around, relaxing while he's meant to be working on a cure for the people who have been transformed into amphibians. Namorita demands results, and Doom is delightfully cheeky, praising her extravagantly and claiming that he has totally got a cure. In a terrifying prediction of future office life, however, he then bunks off even more by taking a personal call on his video phone, talking to a "Gregor" about a mysterious "client" he has lined up. Alas for Doom he is spotted, but in the confusion manages to grab Namorita as his prisoner. Before he can press his advantage the Avengers arrive - Doom points out that he has a non-aggression pact with the USA, which Iron Man (incorrectly) refuses to believe. They demand that Doom hands Namor over and, rather than simply say he's not there, Doom gets annoyed at them making demands upon him, and the inevitable Big Fight breaks out. It looks like Doom is winning, but before we can find out for sure we switch again to a subplot about The Whizzer being in hospital - something which has not been mentioned at all in this series, having been carried over from The Avengers, and never will be here again!

The issue ends with Namor fighting some Russian jets, piloted by some (very) Russian pilots who say things like "Lenin's Ghost!" They tell Namor that they're on high alert over Latveria, because (in a massive dump of exposition) Doom is "after a special weapon housed at a Maryland Research center, with it he will be invincible." Rather than ask why on earth Russian jets are patrolling Eastern Europe on the lookout for someone who is rumoured to be thousands of miles away in America, Namor turns around and flies off, determined to stop Attuma getting his hands on some weapons.

It has, to be honest, all been a bit confusinbg, with the switches in location and the various Doom's, Doombots and disguises, but it'll all be worth it next time when the story crosses back over into The Avengers and we get to see George Perez's first go at Doctor Doom!

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posted 23/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Usually this series has featured both its lead characters on the cover, often with Namor in action and Doctor Doom looming over him, but this one looks a little odd, like it was originally a Namor cover with Doom added at a later date. Interestingly (to me) it's inked by Owen McCarron, more famous for various "Fun Pages" of puzzles and quizes in newspapers, including a series called "Marvelous Fun" which I'm trying to find out more about at the moment.

The story itself carries on from last time, with Doom captured by Namorita. He's immediately thinking of ways to escape, and claims that he's there as an ally of her cousin. The people of Hyrdrobase, quite rightly, point out that he is no such thing, citing Reed Richards as their source, at whcih point Doom replies that Richards was lying. This strikes me as particularly of its time. In an earlier decade the word of a superhero would always be believed, but here in the 1970s nobody can be trusted, and everything is in doubt. We only saw in the last issue that the United States government is happy to work alongside Doom, so who's to say he's not the good guy, or that the previously purely heroic leader of The Fantastic Four could be the baddy?

Doom increases their confusion by offering to cure the people of Hydrobase and turn them human once more. Namorita and co can't be sure if he's telling the truth or not, so take him back to his castle where we once again meet Doom's lackey Bela. Bela seems to have been invented by Steve Engelheart to be abused by Doom, and there's a lovely character moment where Doom claims to be "like unto his father, and he my errant son" before, of course, screamimg at him for being the bearer of bad news. His captors smell something "fishy", but Doom calms down and smooths things over, convincing them again that he just might be telling the truth, while leading them deeper into his castle. I must admit I rather like this version of Doom - he's not the tortured, damaged figure we've seen from a few years ago, but neither is he the ranting, purely evil, deluded demagogue from more recent times. He's a complicated character who can't always control his temper, but is most dangerous when forced to rely solely on his wits.

Meanwhile Namor and The Shroud are heading back to the latter's plane which, they are horrified to discover,is being destoyed by loyal Latverians. Here we also find Doom's surrogate father Boris, who hasn't been seen for some time. After Doom's defeat by a wolf in the last issue it's now Namor's turn to be overwhelmed by furry friends, as a dog scents him and leaps to attack. This alerts the Latverians, who (thinking Doom has been murdered) follow the dog into action, leading the Boris, who has always been shown to be his own man, at least somewhat, to wonder at their loyalty. It's interesting here that Steve Engelheart is giving a fairly common (during the Cold War), if rather patronising, explanation for the people's loyalty to Doom - they simply don't know any better.

Our heroes just about manage to escape, with The Shroud seeing a mysterious "something" along the way which we're expected to ponder for later. The scene then switches to Hydrobase, where Doom is inspecting their laboratory and, secretly, communicating with the loyal Boris. We then head back to Latveria, where Namor and The Shroud stumble upon a village where the circus is in town - not just any circus though, this is The Circus Of Crime! The Shroud recognises them and asks for their help. The Ringmaster is clearly down in the dumps about his current run of luck and refuses, as there's no way he can go against Doctor Doom. While probably a fair assessment this enrages Namor, who launches into a big fight which ends with him thumping an elephant. This persuades the Ringmaster to help them escape, and we next find Namor and The Shroud disguised as circus crew, walking through Latveria as part of a parade. Things are going fine until Namor spots Doom on a balcony. He'd thought that Doom was dead, but seeing him makes Namor realise that he's still under an (idiotic) oath of obedience. He tries to struggle free, only for The Shroud to try and stop him, and the issue ends with Doom demanding to know what's going on. Or is it Doom? As the "Next Time" box says, "Isn't Doom really on Hydrobase?" What's going on? We'll find out... next time!

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posted 21/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Deadly Is The Doctor Called Doom

We're back in the world of "Spidey Super Stories" again, with Doctor Doom's origin undergoing a few changes since last time. The first time he appeared in this series he was just "a scientist who built a special metal suit" that made him "the strongest man on earth." Now, however, we are told in the inside cover that "Once Victor Von Doom was just a very smart scientist. Then a terrible accident happened..." I love Doom's confidence here, which is an abbreviated version of his character in the main Marvel Universe too. It's also interesting that he's still got his hair in this universe, showing that his accident may not have been quite as damaging, nor as potentially frightening for a young audience.

The main story begins with Spidey backstage at a talent contest, which before we pull away to discover that Doctor Doom is also watching. Here we see that this version of Doom is very close to the main Marvel universe version, watching events via a television link. His henchman however are different, here shown as regular goons rather than robots or Latverian stormtroopers.

The talent show turns out to be sponsored by Doctor Doom, with the main prize a trip to his kingdom. This seems very odd, but that seems to be how these stories work, with a dream-like logic where events just sort of happen without anybody questioning it. Spidey, unsurprisingly, is suspicious, so when The Short circus (a young dance group from "The Electric Company" TV show) fly out to Doom's kingdom, he decides to go with them.

Doom meets them at the airport, displaying his usual outward friendliness and surprise that anybody would doubt him. They head off to the castle where Doom sits everyone down at a table and proposes "A toast to all children, pure and innocent". Everyone drinks their soda which, of course, turns out to have been dosed with some kind of sleeping potion. This has happened before in the main Marvel universe, and we can't blame Spidey for falling for it when even Mr Fantastic got fooled.

Spidey wakes up to find himself being experimented on by Doctor Doom who reveals that - gasp! - the contest was a trap all along, designed to capture Spider-man! The next couple of pages see Doom revelling in his dreams of power, thanks to an army of Spider-men which look a lot like the robots/henchman his main universe counterpart uses, although these have a single spike in their helmets rather than the usual mickey mouse ears. The plan culminates in Doom being crowned King Of The World, with the ceremony taking place at The United Nations. What is it with Doctor Doom and The United Nations? It pops up again and again in stories involving him, generally depicted as a sort of over-arching World Government that can hand over power of all its member states purely through a vote. I'm no expert on international law, but I'm fairly sure that's not right.

Meanwhile in the dungeons one of The Short Circus activates a special ring that Spider-man gave her earlier in case of emergency, which calls an army of spiders towards the castle. Once inside Spider-man is able to use his telepathic power over spiders to get them to turn off the machine that's trapping him and ... hang on, what? Spider-man has telepathic powers over spiders? The Spidey Super Stories version of Doctor Doom may be very similar to the original, but clearly this version of Spider-man is a lot more powerful!

He frees the kids and together they run through the castle looking for a way to escape, but unfortunately end up in the wrong room. A big fight breaks out with Spider-man and The Short Circus against Doom and his men. The kids manage to drape Doom in a ceremonial flag, and when he manages to free himself he runs at what he thinks is Spider-man... ... but is in fact a mirror, behind which is an empty window. Thus Doom re-enacts one of his earliest characteristics, throwing himself out of a window at the end of a story to escape justice!

The story ends with Spidey and The Short Circus on the plane home, discussing that fact that a rusty Doctor Doom got fished out of the moat. That, however, is not the last we see of Doom, as later on in the same issue we get this rather glorious montage of images. I love the way they've mocked up a tourist poster for what is really just a subscription ad - I'm pretty sure that's a Jack Kirby picture of Castle Latveria too. There's also a different version to the "Marvel Value Stamps" we've seen in the main universe, this time called "Spidey Stamps".

So ends a very interesting episode, where Doctor Doom acted in a way that was surprisingly close to how he appears in the "normal" comics, even when Spider-man definitely did not!

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posted 13/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Marvel Collector's Far-Out Bonus!

Here's a very brief detour from Doom's adventures over in "Super-Villain Team-Up" - a cameo appearance in Jack Kirby's massive "Captain America's Bicentennial Battles".

This was one of Marvel's "Treasury Editions", a series of much bigger than usual comics, both in terms of page-count and page-size, that, for the most part, really were quite special. This one definitely is as it features an epic story in several chapters, written and drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by some of the leading artists of the time.

As well as the story there are pin-up pages throughout, including this black and white image on the inside back cover: And there, right at the bottom, is Doctor Doom. This is a throwback to his appearances in Not Brand Ecch (also often drawn by Jack Kirby) where he'd regularly show up with a whole gang of super-villains, signifying that this was meant to be funny because it WAS a bunch of proper super-villains doing something daft. The use of Doom as a signifier of super-villiany would very quickly leak out into the main Marvel Universe, and would happen so often that researchers (hem hem) would even deliver academic papers about it at conferences!

Another interesting aspect of his use here is that Doctor Doom, at this point, was NOT a Captain America villain. So far, in fact, they have only actually met once, a whole decade ago in Avengers #25 - Doom does show up in Captain America #132 in 1970, but that was just a cameo in which he doesn't interact with Captain America at all. The fact that they've only met once seems strange in itself - Captain America is one of Marvel's biggest heroes, and Doom one of their biggest villains - and it makes it even more odd that he should appear in this celebratory piece alongside Cap's regular antagonists like The Red Skull and Batroc.

The only explanation,in fact, is that Doom really is being used as an avatar of supervillainy, and that these academics - whoever they are - were right!

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posted 9/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Who Is ... The Shroud?

After all the excitement last time building up to who Doom's mysterious guest might be, this issue kicks off with Henry Kissinger right there on the splash page, agreeing with Doctor Doom that "these super-heroes have enjoyed too much freedom to this point." Next time some idiot on the internet complains about comics "becoming" political, please feel free to show them the above!

The Fantastic Four leave, with Mr Fantastic, supposedly the most intelligent man on the planet, having complete trust in his goverment Johnny Storm accuses him of being like Neville Chamberlain, and Doom like Hitler, which might be going a little bit far, but does show that the Human Torch didn't sleep through quite ALL of his classes at school. Kissinger then hops into a helicopter, while Namor storms off in disgust, back to the castle where he bumps into The Shroud. Namor hops into the bath to recharge, and The Shroud decides it's a good time to tell him his origin story. It turns out that his parents were murdered right in front of him on the way home from a public entertainment one night, and the young orphan swore to spend his life avenging their death by fighting all criminals. He trains himself but, somehow, that doesn't seem quite enough until he realises that he should become a Superhero instead so...

Hang on, does this sound eerily familiar? Sadly he doesn't decide that criminals are a cowardly superstitious lot but does very much head into the himalayas where he meets a mystic sect who teach him their mystic ways, which leads to him having his face scarred horribly and...

Come on Steve Engleheart, this is just combining the origins of Batman and Doctor Doom isn't it? I mean, it's not like they were that different to begin with! (actually, a brief Google tells me that he was actually meant to be a mix of Batman and The Shadow!)

With that story told The Shroud reveals that he plans to kill Doctor Doom in order to... jumpstart his superhero career? "Oh. I see... you're insane," says Namor, which is an entirely fair point.

Doom himself is out walking his dogs, thinking about the fact that where his subjects used to respect him, they now fear him instead. We addressed this in the previous blog, and I think it's worth noting that Doom's version of history isn't quite correct. He was depicted as loved by his people well after he first attacked the Fantastic Four, and has shown to be similarly respected quite recently. This is a major rewrite of Doom's character, with Engleheart claiming that Doom's attitude towards his people was a "mask" all along, rather than heartfelt. This is a massive change, but it's nothing compared to what happens next. What the ACTUAL HECK? Doctor Doom is a rapist now? Nothing like this has ever happened before with this character, and it's a sudden leap that makes even the biggest previous changes seem like nothing. On first reading this I hoped that he was maybe using this as an excuse to take the girl out to the woods to maybe give her cosmic powers or something, but no, he's definitely doing exactly what it looks like he's doing. Thankfully for all concerned, The Shroud chooses this moment to attack, and launches into a big fight that shows all of Doom's gizmoes and tactics are pretty much useless against someone who knows how to jump out of the way. Doom finds the entire thing very tiresome, especially when this "upstart super-hero" attaches a magnetic magnesium bomb to his chest plate. Doom simply rips off his chest plate, but then, bizarrely, is attacked from behind by a wolf who knocks him off the side of a cliff. It is, to be frank, all a bit rubbish. The Shroud rushes back to tell Namor that he's killed Doctor Doom and therefore the Sub-mariner is no longer bound by his oath. Namor finds this all a bit unbelieavble but slinks off anyway, and the issue ends with his suspicion being proved correct, as Doom wakes up in a submarine. Hang on, they found him in a river? What on earth were the inhabitants of Hydrobase doing in a river in Eastern Europe? And doesn't Doom's army have an air supply? The whole thing is most unsatisfactory, much like this entire issue. If I sound annoyed it's because I am - let's hope there's another Exciting New Direction for this series coming soon!

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posted 7/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The cover of this issue promises "the most unexpected guest star of all! We kid you not!" and, for once, this isn't hyperbole.

Before we get to that we've got a whole issue to get through, which begins with Namor trapped in Latveria, shouting for Doctor Doom. His captor turns up, revealing that he's been watching Namor pace about through the eyeholes of a painting. This is a VERY Doctor Doom thing to do, as is the fact that he revels in his victory, bossing Namor around and then stomping back to his main office where he has another video screen set up, showing the approach of The Fantastic Four. We then get several pages of The Fantastic Four in action, just as we did last time. I wonder if this was Steve Engelheart auditioning to be the regular writer on that series too?

Eventually we get back to the stars of the series, with Namor still imprisoned, catching a glimpse of The Shroud creeping about outside. Doom, meanwhile, is in a meeting with a special guest, demonstrating a nuclear explosion! Doom takes his guest, whose face is concealed by shadow, on a trip round his armoury before heading back to the throne room where they conclude their discussions with a toast to their negotiations. They're interrupted by a Snivelling Lackey called Bela, who has come to tell his boss that The Fantastic Four have, inevitably, beaten his army of androids. Doom pops down the corridor to Namor's cell and gives the order that the Sub-mariner was dreading: to attack the Fantastic Four! This whole thing seems profoundly daft to me - Doom shot Namor, destroyed the suit that kept him alive, and then made him promise to be his slave in exchange for not destroying Atlantis. I'm pretty sure that there's a better way out of this problem than just going along with whatever Doom says, but Namor doesn't think so, and heads off into a big fight with the FF which takes up most of the rest of the comic.

Eventually they subdue him and return to Doom's castle where they discover that his guest is none other than... Henry Kissinger!! Now that's what I call a twist! Jason Dittmer and others have talked about the 1970s being a period when superhero comics reflected the American people's loss of faith in their government, and nothing shows that more than having your Secretary of State forming an alliance with Doctor Doom!

There's not really any way to top that, and so the issue ends with The Shroud once again lurking melodramitcally, this time in the rafters. The next issue blurb promises an origin for him, but let's be honest, after that massive reveal it's going to have to be something pretty special!

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posted 2/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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... And Be A Villain!

This issue is the start of one of the regular "new directions" that this series go in for, as shown by the somewhat excitable text at the start, calling it a "re-affirmation of comics' most awesome legends". SPOILERS: don't get too excited, it isn't really.

One things that does get re-affirmed is Namor's classic costume (or "swimming trunks") but otherwise it's a somewhat unsatisfying mix of flashbacks, new characters, and Herb Trimpe's underwhelming pencils. One of the great things about doing this blog had been revisiting great artists like Jack Kirby and Gene Colan who I never liked when I originally read these comics aged 10, but love now. Sadly, however, I must say that my original opinion of Herb Trimpe has not changed.

The actual story sees Namor bursting through a window at the Baxter Building demanding help. He gets put in a big bucket of water to recover, and then he fills everyone in with what's happened since the last issue. Doom didn't believe Namor was dead for long, and that morning found him and shot him with a gun that disabled his costume so that he could no longer survive for long outside of water. Doom then took Namor to Atlantis, where he threatened to destroy the ancient city completely unless Namor agreed to be his servant.

Namor was forced to agree, but then Doom allowed him to escape, challenging him to go back to Reed Richards to get his air-breathing suit repaired. When Namor reaches this part of the recap a hologram of Doom appears to say that the whole exercise is designed to prove that he is cleverer than Reed Richards. This very much Classic Doctor Doom! Reed Richards duly accepts the challenge, swearing to fix Namor's suit. The rivalry between the two men is always set up as a defining factor for Victor von Doom in these stories, but reading them in order it's very noticeable that Mr Fantastic is also really into it. The writers often have him complaining and saying "Oh why can't we work together," but whenever there's a challenge he makes sure that he's the winner!

Elsewhere Doom turns away from his hologram projector, feeling pleased about how it's all going. A text box tells us that "he feels good, does Doctor Doom - better than he's felt in weeks, in fact!" I don't think Doctor Doom's mental health has ever been discussed like this before!

The next panel is something we definitely have seen before, it's Doctor Doom walking through the streets of Latveria. This is an image that pops up regularly, ever since Jack Kirby's original back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. The reaction of the people, however, is very different in this instance, demonstrating the way that Doom has changed over the course of the Cold War from a much respected saviour to a feared dictator. It seems like an odd choice by Steve Engleheart to make Doom MORE villainous here, as he's one of the two headline characters and so supposedly some kind of sympathetic lead, but as we'll see, there's another candidate for that role coming up soon.

Back at the Baxter Building, Namor has taken off his costume and reverted to his classic swimming trunks look, which is already attracting some admirers. Sadly for Torch/Sub-mariner shippers, Johnny Storm is distracted by movement outside the window, and when he goes to investigate he discovers a mysterious character called The Shroud. All we find out about him at this point is that he's been in training for a long time, may have a connection to Doctor Doom, and wears a cape lined with asbestos.

The Shroud gets away, and when Johnny returns to Reed's lab he finds that things aren't going well. Namor, as is his way, loses patience and breaks out of his water tube, determined to return to Doctor Doom and be his slave, in accordance with their agreement. He's still weakened though, and so when he jumps out of the window he's unable to fly and plummets to the ground. Luckily he's scooped up by Doctor Doom in some sort of ... force field? Or is it a teleporter? Whatever it is, Namor disappears, and the issue ends with both the Fantastic Four and The Shroud seperately shouting their determination to track him down and/or destroy Doom. The whole story so far has felt much more like an episode of The Fantastic Four, with Doom living up to the story's title "And Be A Villain" - let's see if he stays that way next time!

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posted 25/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Death In The Year Before Yesterday!

This issue promises "Guest Stars Galore" and certainly delivers, with Moondragon joining Spider-man's previous guests Doctor Doom, The Scarlet Witch and The Vision. There's also a cameo from Iron Man in the first few pages, during which Moondragon discusses her weird dreams before being captured by a ball of light which transports her to historical Salem, where she disovers the superheroes unconscious and Doctor Doom trapped in some sort of force field by The Dark Rider. The Rider gives his lackey, Cotton Mather, a mystic blade which he's meant to use to drain power from The Scarlet Witch. Before he can do that, however, Moondragon strikes, leading to a fight which wakes up Spider-Man, Vision and The Scarlet Witch. Bill Mantlo manages to squeeze in a very quick explanation of how they all got here (Scarlet Witch summoned them... somehow, through time) and then Spider-man realises that the Rider is using the force field to drain Doom's powers. This leads to yet another fight, and a double page spread similar to the one we saw in the previous issue, this time showing the simultaneous physical and telepathic battles that are going on. They eventually manage to free Doctor Doom, whose first question on waking are about the enemy they all face. This, plus the classic heroic struggle to get back and fight show that Doom is being used here as a hero rather than a villain. Doom remains aloof and arrogant, but Bill Mantlo manages to balance his characteristics really well here. Sadly, there's not much Doom left in this issue, as once the heroes unite to beat The Dark Rider Doom leaves, using "the time-circuitry I have incorporated into my armour" (which he has never mentioned before and probably never will again). His last words are a great encapsulation of his character, stating that any alliance will only be temporary. There's just time for Spidey to make a callback to the first time he met Doom, way back in Amazing Spider-man #5 before the story finishes with a frankly weird final image, which sees Spider-man upset that he didn't get away in time to change history and save the villagers, who have all been hanged. As mentioned in other issues, this mixing in of actual historic events feels distinctly uneasy - these were, after all, real people who died. Apart from that though, "Fill In King" Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema tell a guest-packed story which really nails Doctor Doom's character as it is at this point in time, without actually telling us which point of time he comes from (time travel everybody!) and therefore not troubling the needs of continuity. We're right back in the thick of it for the next issue though, when The Fantastic Four return Doom's regular visits by showing up in is own series!

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posted 17/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Past Gone Mad!

Doctor Doom's been co-starring in various versions of "Super-Villain Team-Up" for a while now, but this is his first appearance in the more popular "Team-Up" series. Spider-man's shared this title with various anti-heroes before, including Namor, Werefolf By Night and Son Of Satan, but Doom is the first outright supervillain to star. And is that a Jack Kirby Doom at the top right?* (sorry for the poor quality picture - this issue isn't on Marvel Unmlimited so I had to source it elsewhere!)

The previous issue ended with Doom saying he's come to make an alliance with Spider-man in order to save the world, but this one starts with him admitting that he's been drawn here by the power of The Dark Rider. The Dark Rider claims to have been expecting this, deliberately luring Doom here out of interest in the magic powers Doom inherited from his mother, and this leads into a rather natty double page spread by Sal Buscema which gives a pretty swift recap of Doom's origin (missing out the attempts to save his mother from hell) while, around them, Spider-man and The Vision are attacked by the Rider's familiar. This is all a distraction, as The Dark Rider is draining Doom's mystic powers for himself - another example of Doom's old plots being used against him, in this case the comfy chair which drained the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer - but Doom, as ever, refuses to be beaten, and fights back. The action cuts to a fairly straight re-telling of the historical story of the Salem Witch Trials, before we return to find Doom and the Rider still fighting. Spider-man and The Vision leap in to help, with the latter getting zapped. The Scarlet Witch revives herself enough to zap back, but then she too collapses, leaving Doom and Spidey alone. At which point the former makes a slightly less than truthful statement: Not "the first time", surely? Doom takes control of the situation, giving orders to Spider-man, but it's all for nothing and, when the issue ends, Doom's worries turn out to be true. It seems significant that Doom is the one the Rider is holding as the final trophy - the last one to fall, showing his heroism once again. It's all very exciting, and we don't even have to wait a month until we find out how it all ends!

*UPDATE - it looks like the picture of Doom was taken from an advert, spotted back in Captain Marvel #21!

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posted 11/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Visions Of Hate!

This is the second part of a four issue-long story in "Marvel Team-Up" which sees Spider-man and various pals travel back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Doctor Doom very nearly appeared in the previous issue, in which The Scarlet Witch was summoned by evil voices to a mysterious castle, where she stole a time machine. It's clearly Doom's time machine, although its less clear whether the castle is in Latveria or the original one near New York (which seems to be left completely unguarded - surely a health and safety incident waiting to happen?) but Doom himself is never mentioned, I guess in order to raise suspense for when he eventually does appear, in this issue.

Spider-man, Scarlet With and The Vision start the issue in Salem in 1692, with The Scarlet Witch casually mentioning that yes, it definitely was Doctor Doom's castle she was summoned to, which rather spoils my theory above. They're surrounded by Cotton Mather and various Salem citizens, who are extremely keen to see them burnt as witches. It's a bit of an uneasy situation for a reader - we know that the people of Salem murdered several women in a fit of mass delusion, but in this case all three characters are at least supernatural, and one really is a witch! A big fight breaks out, as it so often does, until Spider-man is knocked out and Wanda is shot. The Vision is about to embark on a killing spree, but then he gets struck down by Cotton Mather with what seems to be a laser powered crucifix. Spider-man wakes up in a dungeon, where a Historical Character gives him a brief history of the Salem Witch Trials. Again, it's a slightly uneasy read as these were real people who were killed, but then maybe it's no different to reading stories set in, say, World War Two.

Spidey breaks free, freeing the others along the way, and together they escape, with him and The Vision heading towards a "weird greenish glow away off in the woods". This turns out to be Cotton Mather's master, the distinctly demonic "Dark Rider". The Vision, who is rather enjoying This Human Emotion You Call "Hatred" leaps in to thump him. Another fight ensues, broken by a voice off panel who turns out to be... Doctor Doom! He's arrogant, demanding an alliance, and working for the common good - all excellent signifiers of Doom which, hopefully, we'll see more of in the next issue!

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posted 5/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Time Of Titans!

The previous issue of 'Super-Villain Team-Up' ended with a promise of "a new artist! a new writer! and a new direction from your humble house of ideas!" and while this one does indeed have a new creative team, it feels much more like a fill-in rather than a new direction. Bill Mantlo, King Of Fill-Ins, only stays for this one story, although "story" is perhaps a generous description as it basically consists of one long fight, with half a sub-plot flown in from an entirely different series altogether. At times the whole thing is so lightweight that it almost becomes comical!

It all starts right where the last issue left off, with Namor suddenly becoming a lot less sanguine about Doctor Doom murdering Attuma's jester. Doom is having none of this and makes to leave, but Namor hasn't finished. This leads to a big fight which takes them most of the issue to sort out, with the two characters knocking seven shades of super-villainy out of each other. The fight is watched by a navy vessel which has come in search of the "energy accumulation" that the two are generating. The ship, it turns out, is carrying Simon Ryker, the mad scientist who eventually creates Deathlock, along with a body floating in a tank of Protogen Gel. I don't know enough about Deathlock to say which version of the character this is meant to be, or even if it is Deathlock, and there's nothing in this story to explain what's going on or where this fits in continuity. This in itself is unusual, as other recent stories have gone out of their way to point out exactly where they fit in the general continuity.

Meanwhile Doom and Namor continue to fight, with Doom using his forcefield to tire his opponent out before retaliating. When he does, however, he discovers that Namor was only pretending to be knackered, and is still strong enough to throw Doom into the nearby ship. Doom recovers in time to fight back, blasting Namor with an apparently fatal dose of "pure energy", but then is grabbed from behind by Ryker with some sort of Power Syphon. This is a neat reversal of a trick which Doom has previously used on The Silver Surfer, and it provides enough power to bring Ryker's creature to life. We don't actually find out what that means, however, as Doom throws Ryker around and then, full of joy because he thinks he's killed Namor, flies away. Namor, of course, isn't dead at all, and the issue ends with him bashing up some rocks in frustration. And then that's it, with no resolution to the the whole Ryker/Deathlock storyline, and none forthcoming in the following issue either. Apart from that the entire comic has been taken up with a single fight, almost as if it was, well, a fill-in while we wait for Steve Englehart to take over next time.

Before we get to that on this blog, however, the bi-monthly schedule of 'Super-Villain Team-Up' means we can fit in a three issue run of Doctor Doom guest-starring in Marvel's other team-up series, featuring the return of his time machine - next time!

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posted 26/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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If Vengeance Fails!

This issue kicks off right where the last one ended, with a furious Namor ready to kill Dr Dorcas for murdering his wartime girlfriend. Angry Heroes Intent On Revenge is nothing new in the Marvel Universe - raw human emotion was the main selling point after all - but usually the hero would be talked down from actually hurting people by their friends. Here Namor's friend is Doctor Doom, who simply watches the ensuing fight for a while before zapping everybody with a "stun-shock" to stop them. Doom knocks Namor unconscious, who later wakes up to see Doom chatting with the other villains. This cues up another fight, and this time Doom does try and calm Namor, begging him to calm down and not be ruled by his emotions. This is a bit rich coming from him, as we shall soon see, but before the group can start thumping each other the pair are teleported away to Doom's ship, where Namor collapses again.

When he wakes up he finds he's been transported to a health facility in Doom's castle, where loyal Latverians are happily serving their master. Namor considers this, and comes to a similar conclusion to Betty in the previous issue. "Can the man the world fears be not the wicked despot he is painted? And yet... Namor is feared also," he thinks. Here Jim Shooter, taking over for this issue from Tony Isabella, is similarly casting doubt on the trustworthiness of Marvel's own "reporting" of their storyworld. It's a really nice way of helping the reader to sympathise with characters who they should really be booing.

Doom offers "constructive" criticism, telling Namor that he was stupid to go into battle unprepared. This leads to heated words during which Doom also loses his rag. The pair quickly come to their senses, and then set off back to Hydrobase, where Doom has concocted a plan of attack. It all goes brilliantly well, with him distracting Attuma's armies to allow Namor to sneak into the base to free the prisoners - once again, Tiger Shark, Dr Dorcas and Attuma are shown to be the baddies of the story by the fact that they've kept hostages, while Namor and Doom are the liberators.

With that done Namor returns to the main battle to continue the plan, using a freeze-ray gun given to him by Doom to stop his enemies in their tracks. It's all going really well, until Namor decides that this isn't how he wants to win, and smashes the gun up so he can have a proper fight instead. It's noticeable that Namor says again that he wants to kill them - there's no chance of him tying them up and dropping them off at the police station like Spider-Man would.

This is all well and good for Namor, but it leaves Doom high and dry without reinforcements, and he is soon overwhelmed by Attuma's army. As Attuma's jester mocks him, Doom scrabbles around in the sound and finds a couple of handy high-explosive missiles which he is able to slam together, killing everybody else around him. There's no escaping, and no robot doubles here - Doom has just killed a whole bunch of people. Namor then does the same, throwing Tiger Shark at a nearby Octo-Mek, forcing it to collapse and apparently kill Dr. Dorcas. There's more murdering to come, as Namor heads back to the beach where he finds Doom taking his revenge on the Jester, giving him a couple more missiles which he asks him to smash together, so that the poor Jester explodes. Namor is not impressed, but Doom tells him to mind his own business, which in the circumstances seems fair enough. And so ends a story where a pair of self-obsessed villains merrily murder a whole bunch of people, and then stand together at the end proposing an alliance that neither of them expect to last long. It's all a bit bleak and oddly unsatisfactory, at least for someone used to conventional superhero stories where, in the end, something good comes out of it.

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posted 20/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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In the Midst of Life...!

In many ways Super-Villain Team-Up is like a glimpse into the (then) future of comics, to the "grim'n'gritty" 90s when the superheroes of the time would happily kill anyone who got in their way without a second thought. In this issue, for instance, Doom and Namor are meant to be forging an alliance, based on Doom's slightly creepy plan to demonstrate to Namor how much he needs him by saving him from his enemies, and along the way they behave in ways which would have been unthinkable for heroes of the time. However, they also get to demonstrate some of the soul-searching that had always been part of the Marvel Universe, leading to questioning of boundaries between "good" and "evil".

It starts with Namor defeated, and Doom watching proceedings, as he tends to, from a distance via his viewing screen. He does this via a robot fish which he'd sent to follow Namor around, which unfortunately is discovered by Tiger Shark, one of the Submarinor's captors. This is followed by almost two full pages of silent captions as Doom hops into a rocket ship like a romantic hero, off to save his beloved. He arrives on Hydro Base, the island where Namor has been trapped, and is greeted first by an electric tripwire (which he defeats easily thanks to a rather neat callback to he and Namor's very first meeting) and then by Octo-Meks. These are eight-limbed defensive vehicles, which Doom forces to fight each other using his "instant hypnotism optimiser." Doom then meets Betty Dean Prentiss, Namor's former girlfriend from the war years who is also living on Hydro Base. He reveals that he knows all about her - almost as if he's been looking up his crush's exes on Facebook. Doom tells her he's a friend of Namor, which she finds hard to believe at first as he's a well known villain, but then again "Namor's gotten some awfully bad press though, so I guess the same thing could have happened to you." It's an interesting way to cast Doom as a possible hero again, as if everything we've learnt previously about him could have been Fake News.

Doom does act like a hero here, calmly setting off to save his friend with Betty in tow, using his gadgets to steadily make his way into their enemies' lair. When they arrive the other villains greet him as an equal, but then demonstrate that they are actually more evil than Doom by hitting Betty. This is in marked contrast to Doom's gentlemanly behaviour, and leads to tragedy as Namor tries to escape to help her, only for Betty to get caught up in the crossfire of a super-villain battle, and end up dead. The issue ends with a furious Namor, with murder in his eyes, ready to take vengeance for the death of someone he loves. If this were a superhero led comic we'd expect a friend to step in and stop him, but Namor's friend is Doctor Doom, so who knows what'll happen? See you next time to find out!

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posted 17/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fantastic Four Radio Show

The Fantastic Four Radio Show was a series that ran on syndicated radio for 13 weeks in 1975. There's an extremely interesting interview with the Producer, Peter B Lewis, at Kleefeld On Comics where he discusses how it came to be made, cast, and broadcast, and how it pretty much ruined him financially. The short version is that he originally hoped to make a "Silver Surfer" radio show but thought the FF would be a better place to start, got together some actors (including a young Bill Murray), put the whole thing together himself, and then never really got the funding he needed to make it work. The full interview is well worth a read!

The shows were originally broadcast daily in five minute sections, with each week's episodes making up an adaptation of a single comic, taken from the very earliest issues of the series. You can listen to all of the episodes for free over on Archive.Org, and they are also well worth a listen as they're a lot of fun, although I'm not sure how much actual sense they would make if you haven't read the comics already - I was reminded quite powerfully how much comics relies on visuals, especially when you have characters who stretch or turn invisible!

The adaptations themselves are pretty interesting, as they follow the original comics fairly closely, but not literally. A lot of the dialogue, for instance, is altered to help carry the story more clearly, or to share the lines out more equally, with the characters often describing what's happening to each other. The sound production helps it along (and is generally pretty great) and, like the Power Records audio version, Stan Lee is on hand as narrator, but even for someone who's read these stories several times already, in several different formats, there are moments when what's going on becomes unclear.

The episodes that are relevant to us on this blog are adaptations of Fantastic Four #5, Fantastic Four #16, Fantastic Four #17 and Fantastic Four #19 which all feature Doctor Doom (if only slightly for issue 19). The character is played in all of these episodes by Jerry Terheyden, who gives him the menacing air of an old b-movie villain, with a posh, superior voice and a lot of cackling. It works really well, even though sometimes the ring modulator effect on his voice makes him sound a little bit like a Dalek.

The other performances are pretty good too, with Bill Murray clearly enjoying himself and Cynthia Adler basically doing celebrity impersonations for the minor characters - for instance, Alicia Masters is performed as a semi-comatose Marilyn Monroe and Princess Pearla, bizarrely, talks exactly like Mae West!

As I say, the episodes are, for the most part, pretty faithful adaptations of the comics, except for the adaptation of Fantastic Four #5, which has the ending of Fantastic Four #10 pasted in instead of its original ending - the team-up between Namor and Doom is skipped (possibly due to rights issues?), and so instead of jumping out of a window to escape his burning castle at the end of the story, Doom is shrunk, ready to reappear in The Micro World. Another change is in Fantastic Four #17 where Doom still blackmails the president, but this time it's Richard Nixon (impersonated by a member of the cast) rather than John Kennedy.

The most curious thing, to me, about this series is the fact that they went right back to the start of the comics for their adaptations - just as most other media versions so far have done - rather than dip into other aspects of the (at this point) 14 years of publication. This tendency means that there are plenty of adaptations of some fairly clunky stories (especially "The Micro World Of Doctor Doom") while later stories in Lee & Kirby's run, which some people (me) would argue are much more worthy of adaptation, don't get touched.

I won't be going into the individual episodes in any further depth because, as I say, they are for the most part adaptations of existing comics, but they're definitely worth a listen. Next time we're back to the comics themselves, as we find out whether Namor realises how wrong he was to dump Doom!

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posted 6/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Slayers From The Sea!

We're back in the Marvel Universe again for this issue, which provides features a LOT of references to previous stories!

It all kicks off moments after the end of Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #2 with Namor suddenly changing his mind and (quite sensibly) realising that Doctor Doom may not be the best person to ally yourself with. To begin with Doom argues his case, but then Namor points out some of the many times Doom has betrayed him recently, with footnotes linking back to stories in Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1, Fantastic Four #157 and Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #2. As mentioned previously, Roy Thomas has cast doubt on the existence of these index cards, but from the amount of footnotes that keep cropping it there must surely have been some sort of indexing going on.

Namor flies off and initially Doom rails against him, calling him an "ungrateful water-snipe", but then stops and reflects, asking himself whether this problem has been caused by his own pride, in an (unfootnoted) reference to Fantastic Four #116. Doom retreats to his control room, where he looks at recordings of some of his many defeats. There's more evidence of research having gone here, as Doom looks back at stories told in "over a dozen" encounters with the Fantastic Four, as well as in Thor #183, The Amazing Spider-Man #5, The Avengers #25 and The Incredible Hulk #144 (with a direct swipe from that issue's cover) and Daredevil #37. Having just spent a good ten minutes looking all of those up with my own set of index cards I certainly hope Tony Isabella had access to some when he was writing the story!

In a moment of surprising reflection Doom thinks to himself "I'd always thought I could stand against all mankind unaided, but the evidence of my eyes proves those vain thoughts false." This is a long way from the power-crazed megalomaniac who was only recently proclaiming himself as the rightful ruler of the world, and shows again how differently Doom appears when he's a lead character to when he's the villain of the month.

Doom thus decides that he will stand alone no more, and hatches a plan to follow Namor, so that when he's in trouble Doom can prove his worth by stepping in to help. Doom here acts rather like a creepy/needy ex who believes that Namor just needs to wake up and realise how much they belong each other, and all will be well. He sends a robot fish to chase the Submariner, and thus ends part one of the story. The second part sees Namor returning to his current home of Hyrdrobase, where he is captured by a group of his own villains who, ironically, have decided to band together to fight him. This leads to a good old punch-up and an avalanche of footnotes before the issue ends with Namor defeated, at the mercy of his enemies. There's been no Doom at all in this second part of the story, which means we need to wait until the next issue to see if he comes charging in on (I assume) a white stallion to save Namor. Before that we're looking at a familiar story in an entirely different media, as the Doom arrives on the radio!

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posted 31/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Day Of Doom!

We've had various different versions of Doctor Doom before via the various cartoon series he's appeared in, but this issue of Spidey Super Stories marks the first time that an "alternate universe" version of Doom has appeared in an actual comic. Weirdly, it's a comic based on a TV show, which Doctor Doom did not even appear in!

"Spidey Super Stories" was a regular sketch feature on "The Electric Company", a TV show made by the Children's Television Workshop for children aged 6-10 i.e. the next age group up from kids who'd watched "Sesame Street". Spider-man would interact with a range of characters, often from other aspects of the show, in short comedy skits. Marvel didn't charge a licensing fee for this, most likely because they saw it as a way to draw children towards the comics, and this series was a tie-in designed to do just that, featuring adaptations of existing sketches plus new stories featuring other Marvel characters (none of whom ever appeared on the TV show).

The adaptations of existing sketches are pretty weird, as they stick with the actors and designs of the TV show, making some of it look a bit queasy. The art is gorgeous though, drawn by DC veteran Winslow Mortimer, and it's written by Jean Thomas, wife of Roy Thomas and author of "Night Nurse" around the same time. The stories are very straightforward but are not hugely different from regular Marvel comics, although they do have a distracting habit of splitting up sentences into seperate speech bubbles which makes it seem... like everybody talkes like ... William Shatner. The story starts with a potted origin of Dr. Doom, and it's immediately obvious that he has been simplifed a LOT for a younger audience. Interestingly he's still the King of a foreign country, and the image chosen to illustrate this does look rather similar to previous stories in 'Astonishing Tales', with his briefly glimpsed army reminiscent of Latverians seen in the same series. Doom himself is visually very much on-brand, drawn in exactly the same style as that set out by John Buscema a few years ago, although in this version he does seem to wear a wrist watch over his armour. The storyline is very similar to the Hanna Barbera version of The Three Predictions Of Doctor Doom, with Doom trapping the United Nations inside a force field, and refusing to let anybody leave until they've all given him their countries. J Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson are also trapped inside, and there's a lovely running gag about Jonah thinking Doom was "peace loving". Spidey watches from outside the force field, and realises that it must be powered by electricity, so he writes a message using his webs to tell the team from The Electricity Company to pull the power. A character called "Easy Reader" (played by Morgan Freeman) uses the mighty power of literacy to read it, and the kids go off unplugging everything they can find. Duly defeated Doom tries to flee, only to be knocked out by Spidey, who's been able to get in now that the force field is down. It all ends with the police leading Doom away, and J Jonah Jameson still looking annoyed that he was wrong about Doom's character. It's an elegantly done, really rather delightful story that, apart from aspects of the origin, is surprisingly close to Doom's usual characterisation!

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posted 24/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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To Bestride The World!

After so much Doom in recent issues of The Fantastic Four it's something of a surprise when he doesn't appear for the whole first "chapter" (apart from the silent splash page) of the series he officially co-stars in. Instead we spend a lot of time with an oil tanker, especially two crew members called Mickey and Turk who are so distinctly drawn and written that I think they must be references to real people. I guess they might be based on characters from a TV show but have no idea - any thoughts would be most welcome in the comments!

Namor shows up, tells them to leave Atlantean waters and then when they don't, sinks the ship. This does seem to be somewhat counter-productive - if he's bothered about surface dwellers impinging on his territory, surely he wouldn't want a dirty great tanker full of oil on the bottom of the sea - but he doesn't seem too bothered. Instead he heads back to Atlantis to mope around his people, who have been put in suspended animation, only being roused by the sounds of battle above.

This brings us to part two of the story, where he discovers an underwater army attacking the city. They're dressed in red and gold with a logo not unlike that of The Flash, but when Namor gets up close to one of them he discovers that it's - Except, of course, it isn't him - as usual Doom is not getting directly involved, he's simply projecting his face onto the inside of the helment, in a new twist on his old "floating TV screen" idea. He directs Namor to the surface, blowing up one of his own ships in the process to force him to get a move on, and when Namor arrives Doom greets him like an old pal. It turns out the attack was just a way to get Namor out in the open so Doom could re-propose an alliance. Personally, if I'm not answering my emails, I would prefer a phone call rather than a fleet of death robots attacking my flat, but super-villains probably have different priorities.

Doom tells Namor that he's reconsidered the matter and would like to have an alliance now, especially if Namor is going to be attacking the oil trade, as the more the world is in crisis the easier it is for Doom to seize control. There follows several pages of talking heads, dynamically illustrated nonetheless by Mike Sekowsky and Sam Grainger with cutaways and exciting expressions, where the pair discuss the nature of "super-villainy". It's always weird in comics when the "villains" describe themselves as such, and Doom addresses this directly, saying that calling them "super-villains" is, to him, melodramatic and that, actually, seen from another angle it's them that are the heroes. As a brief SIDEBAR, I'd say that, according to screenwriting theory, characters like Doom and Namor really ARE the heroes. They're the ones who are always struggling against the system, striving to change themselves and the world, whereas the "superheroes" always act to maintain the status quo.

Anyway, their chat occurs as they fly back to Doom's castle in Latveria, where he unveils the latest version in a long line of android armies, which Doom is now using entirely instead of actual human lackeys because they are unable to betray him. Doom demonstrates this fact by ordering two nearby androids to fight to the death. I love the simplicity of Android 714 whispering "356...?" here. It's a first gentle hint of problems ahead which Roy Thomas very skilfully builds up. The next hint follows soon after when they pass what appears to be a religious altar. It never gets addressed in the story, but it's clear to anyone (who has read every single appearance of Doctor Doom so far) that the idols on the altar are meant to represent "The Faceless One" detaching his true form from his robot body way back in Astonishing Tales #3. Hmm, didn't we talk about that particular issue recently?

Doom dismisses this as a simple design flaw (which is odd, as surely his creations are perfect?) but Namor notices an odd look pass between two other androids. Again, this is lovely work from the whole creative team, slowly building up the sense that something isn't quite right and giving subtle hints as to what might be coming.

This is expanded on further over the next few pages as we see hundreds of androids worshipping at the altar, and the appearance of a Mysterious Figure who the androids bow down to. Doom and Namor are unaware, as they are viewing Doom's latest dastardly invention - solar panels! Doom, it turns out, is a green warrior, intent on replacing oil with solar power - what a madman!

Doom brings his presentation to a close by showing how great their combined branding will be, drawing his own lighting flash logo (which has never previously been seen) over the top of Namor's trident. My advice: stick to Solar Energy, victor, brand design is not your strong point.

Before they can get onto a discussion about corporate fonts they are attacked by Doom's army of androids, now under the leadership of the Mysterious Figure, who is now calling himself "Andro, Lord Of The Androids". Andro is the original Doomsman - it's almost as if Roy Thomas went back and read Astonishing Tales as part of his recent data gathering exercise and came back with all sorts of ideas for new stories. Andro retells his origins, and explains how he escaped from the dimension where Doom exiled him. This involves yet more continuity, although this time it's to a story that hasn't even been published yet. I've checked, and there's no mention of Doomsman in that issue, which seems an opportunity missed. A fight ensues, which Doom and Namor win by flooding the castle. These androids have been specifically designed to breath air (it's an anti-betrayal tactic, apparently), and Andro proves himself no better than Doom by sending his androids to drown. This is because, of course, Andro is designed to be a duplicate of Doom himself, with all of his ruthlessness. Andro points this out when the two of them come to blows, before immediately teleporting away. As with the previous story, a final battle is avoided through stalemate. This does seem to happen fairly often with Doom - I wonder if it's a way to avoid showing him actually winning? The triumph of evil was explicitly banned by The Comics Code Authority, and although they were much less powerful in 1975 than a decade or more earlier, especially after Amazing Spider-man #96 was issued without their approval (due to its mention of drugs), but perhaps Roy Thomas and other writers are still erring on the side of caution.

The story ends with another science fiction twist. Doom decides to go back to his original army of obedient robots, who never caused him any trouble, and as he and Namor go off to plot their next moves, we see a glint in the eye of one of his robot soldiers, suggesting matters might not be quite as straightforward as they think. So ends the story and indeed the very short-lived "Giant-Sized" version of this series. Doom and Namor will return soon in a normal-sized version, but before then we have some distinctly different versions of Doom to enjoy, including what I think is the first alternate universe version of the character!

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posted 17/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The MODOK Machine!

We're back to Minor Appearances again for this issue, as Doctor Doom appears in a single panel of a story which sees various supervillains being approached by a mysterious figure called The Black Lama, who wants them to compete for a "golden globe" which will bring them inner harmony and thus allow them to conquer the world. I would have thought that gaining inner harmony would mean you wouldn't be so bothered about conquering the world anymore, and Doctor Doom seems to agree, sending the lama packing. The Red Skull and Fu Manchu are similarly dismissive, leaving lesser villains like MODOK, The Mad Thinker and Titanium Man to punch it out. As ever, Doom is thus used as a signifier of Serious Supervillainy - his decision not to take part in the competition, alongside other heavyweights like the Red Skull, gives the reader clear guidance about exactly what sort of supervillain they're going to be seeing in this contest. Whiplash might turn up, but Galactus definitely won't!

That's your lot for Doom in this story, but come back next time for more Giant-Sized Super-Villain Teaming-Up!

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posted 15/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett