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Where Angels Fear To Tread!

This issue carries on at the same furious pace as the last one, starting with Luke Cage fighting the entire Fantastic Four single-handed! He's gone to the Baxter Building to borrow a rocket, so he can fulfil the promise he made last time and go to Latveria to collect the money Doom owes him.

The Fantastic Four find the idea of anyone going to so much trouble to collect on a debt jolly amusing, which makes them an interesting contrast to the distinctly working class Luke Cage. To them, $200 is a negligible sum, but to a working man like him it's a lot. Also, there's the principle of the thing - he won't stand for being ripped off. It's a neat bit of writing from Steve Engelheart which demonstrates how different Cage is from the first family of Marvel Comics, while also rather cleverly finding a way for the character to get over to the other side of the world.

As soon as Cage arrives in Latveria his ship is stopped by Doctor Doom's security systems, and a platoon of guards runs out, expecting to be fighting the Fantastic Four. When they discover just one man they find the whole thing hilarious. People laugh a lot at Cage in this story, and he never rises to the bait, fighting back with his fists rather than reacting to mockery. Having said that, he can hardly resist commenting on the guards' costumes, which have completed their journey from Kirby's original terrifying robots to their current status as something out of "a crackerjack's box". (for fellow non-Americans: it's a breakfast cereal that sometimes had free toys in the box)

Suddenly a bunch of robots appear, similar to the ones Cage fought last time, and start killing the guards. Cage follows the robots and discovers that their leader is a very familiar figure... at least to those of us who have been reading a lot of Doctor Doom comics. It's The Faceless One! The last time we saw him was way back in Astonishing Tales #3, which ended with him being "driven off by an earthquake." Back then he was trying to depose Doctor Doom by putting Prince Rudolfo on the throne, though it was never clear exactly why he was doing so. This time he has gathered an army of robot followers to try again, although his reasons remain as obscure as ever.

The Faceless One tries to persuade Cage to help him by comparing the robots' plight to slavery, but Cage is having none of it. Once again, someone underestimates Cage's intelligence, and once again he immediately puts them right. He decides to help the robots invade the castle anyway, so that he can get to Doom, and George Tuska and Billy Graham kick off the attack with a fantastic panel. As the attack enters the castle Cage goes in search of Doom, who's relaxing on his throne. He says he's been expecting him, but is astonished to find out that this is not a scheme by Reed Richards, but a genuine attempt to force him to pay up. It's interesting that Doom, the arrogant supervillain, is not the first person to express disbelief at Cage's need to get paid. It's a running theme throughout the issue, as privileged white individuals (and, to be fair, a space alien too) laugh at the working class black man's demand to be treated fairly. This time it leads to a fantastic one-two panel. Is it me, or is this an inspiration for a much more famous sequence? The two have a right proper punch-up, during which Cage hits on the secret weakness of Doom's armour - he has, in his own words, "forged my armor to withstand anything... except repeated stress on a solitary point!" This seems like a distinctly foolish error to make, and hardly fits in with Doom's usual forward thinking. It also gives The Faceless One the ideal opportunity assassinate Doom. Doom leaps out of the way, giving Cage enough time to leap up onto the balcony and stop The Faceless One from trying again, because "murder's a gig I don't take kindly to." The Faceless One is forced to extract itself from its android body and flee again, off to goodness knows where without ever making it clear what it was trying to do in the first place. Doom demands that Cage follow him, but he quite rightly points out that he hasn't been paid for his first job yet. Doom find this absolutely hilarious, thanks him for saving his life, and duly pays up. This feels like a nice bit of characterisation, combining Doom's high-handed arrogance and superiority complex with a recognition of an honorouable individual, even though it does come off as massively patronising. Cage heads off just as the robot rebellion enters Doom's inner sanctum, and it's only when he arrives back at the Baxter Building that we find out what happened, thanks to The Thing's newspaper. The newspaper is The Daily Bugle, which is of course the newspaper that Spider-Man works for. It's a nice touch which shows how rich the Marvel Universe has become, with it's own newspaper amongst many other aspects of the fictional storyworld. It's also a good end to a thoroughly enjoyable, frenetic, well-written and illustrated story that makes me want to read more Luke Cage!

Other things to note about this issue are the fact that Doom's armour is still very much on-brand with the John Buscema design, and that his character is also in line with the Roy Thomas/Gerry Conway version as an honourable man, with the only hint of Stan Lee's deluded dictator coming in the rather petty refusal to pay his debts. It feels like this is definitely the direction Doom is moving in.

Next up an extremely weird cameo, in the one hundredth issue of 'Daredevil'!

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posted 22/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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This is a comic I've read about a few times over the years, as various commentators have used it as an example of how silly comics can be. Reading it for myself for the first time, however, I'm struck by how exciting, action-packed and characterful it is. Luke Cage is absolutely bloody furious throughout most of the two-part story, with good reason, and this makes everything rocket along at high speed. It's not silly at all, it's brilliant!

The story starts with Luke recapping the previous issue whilst trashing his own offices in frustration with how his life is going. He's interrupted by a flashy looking fellow who wants to offer him a job, but Cage is too wrapped up in his current worries to pay too much attention, and sets off instead to chase a suspect across the streets. Some of the dialogue is a little "of its time", with multiple racial stereotypes at play, but it's a great example of high-octane comics with little in the way of superpowers. Eventually Luke loses his quarry, so he pops over to see his girlfriend, Claire Temple. Claire is a young, black, female doctor, which seems terribly modern, especially just a few years since the Fantastic Four were forever telling The Invisible Girl to get on with the washing up, although this is slightly let down by the fact that she immediately sews Luke's shirt up before hopping into bed with him. An hour later Luke is back on the street, where the mysterious well-dressed businessman from before returns to offer a lot of money to track some people down. Luke accepts the offer and very quickly finds the men he's after, who turn out to be robots! "What is this spit?" Is Luke in The Good Place?

The robots escape, so Luke tracks down his contact, who he discovers dressed in full military uniform at an embassy party. The embassy, of course, turns out to be Latveria's, and the host is none other than Doctor Doom! I do like the fact that Luke Cage refuses to believe that Doctor Doom is for real. It's a nice touch which reinforces the idea that Cage is a hero of the streets, with little do do with the traditional cosmic superheroics of the Marvel Universe. In a way he harks back to the early days of the storyworld, when aliens and robots weren't necessarily accepted as common occurrences.

Also notable here is that this version of Doom looks almost exactly the same as the pin-up by John Buscema from last time, with only his pistol pouch missing. His character is also in line with recent developments, taking care of his subjects while openly expressing his superiority to them, and talking to Cage with respect rather than derangement. It's also here that we find the most famous panel from this issue, with Doom lamenting the fact that nobody ever seems to emigrate to Latveria. Cage heads off to find the robots again, leading to a gorgeous sequence where George Tuska and Billy Grahams get to depict a right old punch-up, with dialogue by Steve Engelheart which reminds me of early 2000AD stories. It's brilliant, funny, fluid storytelling that is miles away from the early days of Lee and Kirby, but very much in the same tradition of everyday worlds being invaded by the bizarre. This is underlined even further at the end of the story when Cage rushes back to the embassy to get paid, only to find that Doctor Doom has left without paying! The only wrong note in this entire excellent comic is there at the end, when we're told that "Doctor Dooms pays no money when he can avoid it." This is not something we've ever seen before, and bears little relation to a character who's prepared to pour everything he's got into his latest inventions. I can see why it's there - to push us onto what happens in the next issue - but it sticks out as a wrong note in an otherwise thrilling issue. More please!

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posted 15/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fabulous FF's Friends... and Foes!

This is yet another in a very long run of Doom appearances that don't feel like they should really 'count'.

This issue's story sees the Fantastic Four saving a local priest from the clutches of The Mole Man, who's kidnapped him to officiate at his marriage to Kala, Queen of The Netherworld. If this seems like a weird match, between the Officially Ugly Mole Man (it's part of his origin) and the beautiful Kala that's because, inevitably, Kala is simply playing the Mole Man, tricking him into marrying her so she can steal his subterranean kingdom and then cop off with the dreadful Tyrannus instead. Tyrannus, frankly, seems like a dick. Mr Fantastic disguises himself as a Subterranean using his surprisingly little used ability to mold his facial features into a different shape so that he looks like somebody else. He also utilises some skin dye which he "thought might come in handy", which seems doubly odd given that he almost never uses this aspect of his superpower.

Anyway, the team manage to rescue the vicar while simultaneously saving the surface world from Kala's plan to destroy it with volcanoes, and the story ends with The Mole Man left alone once more. Poor old Mole Man! Doctor Doom then appears in a 'pin-up' page by John Buscema, the first in a series called "The Fabulous FF's Friends... and Foes!" This image by John Buscema would be used again and again, in merchandising and in the comics themselves, as a template for Doom's overall design, defining how the character will look from now on. It does little things like stabilising the size of his bright yellow cloak clasps and formalising the design of his armour, especially the boots and gloves which have tended to change with different artists. It'll be interesting to see, the next time somebody other than Buscema draws him, whether they stick to this design.

Sadly for the Mole Man, although this image will be re-used again and again, he will always be cut out, like a quickly dumped ex in a family wedding photograph. Poor old Mole Man!

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posted 8/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Destination: Nightmare!

Doctor Doom only appears in flashback in this issue, in which the writer Archie Goodwin leans heavily on an old episode of 'Star Trek' and a tiny aspect of an even older issue of 'The Fantastic Four'.

The story begins with Bruce Banner falling through 'the microverse' (which would later be called 'The Quantum Realm' in the Marvel movies) as an overdose of shrinking serum causes him to get smaller and smaller. This leads to some excitingly psychedelic scenes, with Banner bashing into actual planets on his way down. He eventually lands on a sidewalk, in a version of New York under attack from Nazi planes, and soon discovers that this is the world of The Shaper, a powerful being with the power to warp the world according to the dreams of those who live there. Sadly for the natives, their dreams were too dull, so when another "outworlder" arrived recently The Shaper latched onto his dreams instead, turning the planet into a version of Earth where the Nazis won World War 2.

This is quite similar to the Patterns Of Force episode of the original series of Star Trek, where a History Professor imposes a version of Nazism on another planet. The episode was first broadcast in 1968, and would have been repeated since, so it's not unlikely that Archie Goodwin was aware of it.

The link to Doctor Doom comes from the fact that the 'outworlder' is an escapee from Doctor Doom's payroll called Otto Kronsteig, who was used as a test subject for the shrinking ray that Doom employed against the Fantastic Four back in Fantastic Four #10. That was only Doom's third appearance, 18 months before his origin story revealed that he was an Eastern Europe dictator as well as a supervillain, so Goodwin is toying with continuity here, filling in some previously unseen back story. However, he does so using the version of Doom seen in Fantastic Four #86, who is happy to consort with former Nazis, rather than the heroic freedom fighter he would later become. Indeed, Kronsteig looks very similar to the former Nazi Hauptmann who Doom would later kill in that storyline. I wonder if perhaps Goodwin and/or Trimpe got confused about Doom's lackeys, and used the wrong Nazi? Either way, he is soon defeated by The Hulk, who is sent on his way through the Microverse by a penitent Shaper.

Doom's appearance here seems odd, like the definition of the character is retreating once more to the later Lee version rather than the more nuanced, sympathetic one that the likes of Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas have been introducing. It'll be interesting to see which version turns up next!

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posted 6/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Pulse-Pounding Publication

In a break from our advertised programme, I'm very happy to say that my first Doom-related academic publication is now available to view online!

The paper is called 'In Search of Doom. Tracking a Wandering Character Through Data' and it's available in the current issue (#29) of IMAGE: The Journal of Interdisciplinary Image Science. It's a discussion of the methods I used to generate the corpus of texts for this project, and as well as the usual help I got from my supervisors, Roger Sabin and Ian Horton, I also had a HUGE amount of advice and editing from Lukas Wilde, who ran the original conference where this was first presented.

I hope it's of interest - next time, back to the actual comics!

posted 5/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Way It Began!

Doctor Doom's first appearance in this new era of the Marvel Age is a very minor one, although the story he appears in is an interesting one.

He appears right at the start, in a splash page which seems to show him murdering Sue Richards. However, when The Thing tries to help it turns out to just be a hologram, generated by Reed Richards using his new improved Thought Projector Helmet. Apparently the best way to test it was to think of the most repulsive thing he could imagine, which was Doom killing his wife. The Thing, quite rightly, points out that this is a bit of a strange way to go about research.

That's all there is of Doom, with the rest of the issue seeing The Thing and Human Torch use the Thought Projector Helmet to re-tell the events of their first issue, including their origin and first adventure with The Mole Man. Re-telling a superhero's origin story is almost obligatory for a new creative team, re-working it, or focusing on different aspects, as a declaration of intent for how they intend to write and/or illustrate the series. Here Roy Thomas re-uses much of the dialogue from the original story, while John Buscema re-draws the characters to be much more in line with their current looks. This is not unusual, but does lead to one weird moment when the Thing recalls his original, more monster-like design. A few pages later, Buscema draws Ben Grimm transferring into the more rocky figure that had become familiar in recent years. Future revisions of the Fantastic Four's origins would keep the original, lumpy, version of The Thing as part of the story, with John Byrne even reverting the character to this original look for a while, but here it's introduced only to be ignored a few pages later.

Otherwise it's a straightforward re-telling which seems to be there primarily to acknowledge what has gone before, possibly to reassure long-term readers that this is the same story they've enjoyed before, even if the original creators are now gone. The 'Stan's Soapbox' section of 'Bullpen Bulletins' in this issue takes up almost a full page, as Stan Lee explains to readers that's he's handing over Marvel's editorial reins to Roy Thomas so he can go off in search of new markets for their characters. With that in mind it's not surprising that Roy Thomas chose to include Doom. As a central part of The Fantastic Four it wouldn't really be a new starting point without him, but it would be quite a while before he returned to his 'home' series in an actual story.

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posted 1/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The End Of The Beginning

As mentioned last time, we've now reached something of a milestone in this blog. Up until now everything discussed has been under Stan Lee's stewardship as Editor-In-Chief, whereas what comes next is a chaotic few years during which five different people fill the role, before Jim Shooter comes on board and changes everything around again.

In my PhD thesis (which is the driving force behind this very blog) I go into quite a lot of detail about why this changeover matters. The general idea is that it marks a shift between what I call the "creation" phase of The Marvel Age, during which most of what we understand as "Marvel comics" is created by a small group of, largely, middle-aged men, to a "chaos" phase during which a new generation of, for the most part, much younger men take over. Its a changing of viewpoint too, from a group who learned their trade during the so-called Golden Age of comics, to a very different group who emerged from comics fandom, who take the very idea of superhero comics a lot more seriously.

That's the theory anyway - whether it actually has any effect on the comics is something we'll find out over the next several months. In the meantime though I think it's worth pausing to look at where we are so far. The blog began just over a year ago with a look at Doctor Doom's first appearance as baddy-of-the-month, but he very quickly developed into something much more, with the key change being his origin story in Fantastic Four Annual #2, which saw him develop as more of an anti-hero, with his own complex motivations and, usually, the sympathy of the audience. The key signifiers of Doom's history and appearance were pretty much set in stone then, to the extent that he could be used almost exclusively in 'Not Brand Echh' as a figure of fun, before returning to the main Marvel universe with his reputation and character intact. Doom's appearance and origin were so set in stone that they've remained more or less the same until the present day, but his character continued to develop. Stan Lee gradually steered him towards becoming a semi-satire on East European dictators, becoming more outright villainous, and more ready to believe his own publicity. However, whenother writers such as Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway started to use Doom they moved him back towards the tragic anti-hero, acting with his own idea of honour and doing what he believed had to be done to the good of all (which admittedly tended to involve him ruling the world). These two versions of the character existed side by side for some time, with Stan Lee's version becoming more evil while others brought in characters like Valeria and Igor to shed light on his personality. Archie Goodwin seemed to recognise this during Doom's final appearance in The Fantastic Four during this period, having Sue Richards accuse Doom of forgetting his honourable roots. And of course, throughout this time Doom ventured out into other media, appearing wherever the Fantastic Four did and in other places beside. It seems that he was such a well-defined, portable character that he was the first choice for use as a villain not just in comics but elsewhere too.

The next six years will see Doom travel even further across the Marvel Universe, appearing in most of their regular titles as well as on albums, radio, television, and even meeting the band Kiss. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens, and hope you'll be along for the ride with me!

posted 29/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Return Of The Monster

The most fleeting of Doom appearances in this issue, as The Thing and Human Torch struggle to work out whether they've met that month's baddy before.

It's a problem I'm surprised they don't have more often - they do meet a lot of monsters - and they attempt to solve it by using a projector screen like a science-fiction 1970s version of Tindr, swiping through to find the monster they're looking for. I have to agree with The Thing's opinion here - surely they can at least filter the results somehow - but they do eventually work out who it is they're facing, and Doctor Doom plays no real part in the story whatsoever. This is right at the end of Stan Lee's run on the title, and isn't what you'd call a classic story, so maybe this is him remining readers of some of the great characters he's co-created in the past, before his final story in the next issue.

Talking of which, this is a low-key milestone in Doom's history, as it's the last time he'll appear in the first stage of The Marvel Age - what I'm calling the "Creation" period. In a couple of months' time Stan Lee will have stepped down as Editor-In-Chief and Roy Thomas will (briefly) take over, kicking off a tumultuous few years that I'm calling the "Chaos" period, before Jim Shooter rolls in at the end of the decade and changes things all over again. For that reason, the next blog will be a very special, no-specific-issue, edition, when we'll look at how far we've come since Doom first appeared. See you then!

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posted 25/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Dreamstone

This third and final part of the Namor/Doom team-up picks up exactly where the last one ended, with Namor being attacjed by Modok's army of androids. It turns out not to have been much of a cliffhanger, however, as he beats them easily, only falling when Modok steps into the battle and zaps him with a deadly Mindblast. Why he couldn't have done this to start with I don't know - let the world tremble should I ever become a super-villain, for LO! I would be much better organised!

When Doom wakes up Modok tells him he's captured Namor, and summons him for a meeting to discuss terms. Doom goes and, along the way, indulges in some more self-reflection, wondering why it is that he is acting to save Namor. Could they be... friends?!? When Modok mocks him for coming, Doom replies that he has done so because he is a man, "and men have feelings... and yes, have loyalty!" Again, this is most unlike the Doom of old but very much in tune with the tortured character that Conway is now writing him as. Previously Doom would have denied any such perceived weakness and claimed he was only acting out of devious self-interest, but here he's proud of his emotions. There's another big fight, which expands out to Doom's ship, where his delightfully normally-named henchmen wonder what's happened to that twit Kenner while they launch an attack on the AIM base. Meanwhile Namor manages to trick some androids into giving him a tube of water, which he splashes all over himself to revive his superpowers. I must admit I've always found Namor to be a bit of a rubbish superhero - his secret weakness is getting dehydrated, but he can be easily revived by a tap - but it does lead to a rather brilliant Gene Colan illustration of him bursting out of his chains. Namor heads off to a radioactive chamber where he discovers the Cosmic Cube in a handily labelled container, not unlike the sort of thing you'd see on the Batman TV show. The container opens and Namor sees something horrific, but we don't find out what it is because we briefly flip over to catch up with Cindy Jones. She's decided to try and escape, and is doing so by... er... flashing some leg. The guard seems utterly delighted by this turn of events, which is a bit odd bearing in mind that the last guard who took a lewd interest in Cindy was instantly executed by his employer. Perhaps he feels safe because Doom is out of the office, in Modok's control room getting into a proper Big Supervillain Fight, during which he proudly talks about his root to power as a demonstration of his unwillingness to give in. This is yet another example of Conway writing Doom differently to recent portrayals, harking back to the idea that he's a working class revolutionary, as used so effectively in his earlier appearances. Doom beats Modok only to discover that it was a robot all along, with Modok watching via TV screen. Using a robot while watching the action on a TV set? Modok is totally ripping off Doctor Doom, as well as being unforgiveably snobbish! Doom ignores this and goes in search of the cube, along the way revealing his true purpose - he wants to use the Cosmic Cube to cure his facial disfigurement, so that he can be the man he once was and be at peace! I keep saying that this is a very different version of Doom from what we've seen lately, because it is. This is a Doom back to the nuanced, sympathetic, properly motivated character of the origin and mid-sixties, rather than the deranged dictator of more recent times, and I have to say I prefer it. Unfortunately though, before he can get the cube, the long-running sub-plot about the minion called Kenner comes back, as he is discovered to be an assassin placed on the ship in order to get closer to the Sub-Mariner and kill him. He surprises Doom and knocks him unconscious, but we don't find out who has sent him here, or how he knew that Doom and Namor would be teaming up, as he immediately becomes entranced by the Cosmic Cube and destroyed by it.

Doom is left beside the glowing cube, moments away from destruction, but is rescued by Cindy - she was let out of her cage by a randy guard who gets a well-deserved bonk on the head with a spanner for his troubles. She drags Doom away from the radioactive cube, only for him to try to fight his way back towards it when he wakes up. It's only when Namor turns up and tell him it's a bad idea that Doom is persuaded to leave it be, and even then he has to pause a moment to think about what might have been. They escape into Doom's ship just in time to fly away as the cube explodes, taking the whole base with it and, presumably, irradiating the ocean for miles around. We next see the trio in New Orleans, saying goodbye. Doom tells Namor what he knows about the plot by Kenner to kill him, and then disappears into the mist, saying "you've gained a friend." And there the issue, and the story, comes to an end. As so often happens, Doom has more or less taken over another character's book and been by far the most interesting part of it, especially now that Gerry Conway is trying to return him to his tortured roots. It'll be interesting to see whether this characterisation sticks!

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posted 23/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Twlight Of The Hunted!

This story starts with Doom and Namor stepping out in New Orleans near the site of the supposedly abandoned AIM base they were heading for last time, and almost immediately getting into an argument. Doom says that Namor's friend Cindy Jones should not accompany them, while Namor insists she should. When Cindy herself suggests she could head into New Orleans herself the Sub-Mariner ignores her and flies off in a huff, zooming away out of earshot before Doom has a chance to talk about it it.

A willingness to negotiate and think of others is unusual for Doom, to the extent that one of his henchmen, Franklin, remarks upon it as he's sent off to watch over Namor. There'll be more of this this sort of thing throughout the story, as well as more henchmen with names that sound like they work for a bank. Before that, however, we follow Namor to New Orleans, where he has decided to return Cindy for safekeeping after all. Franklin watches as they enter Cindy's old home, which appears to be a commune ruled over by a startlingly realistic pusher called 'Brother Johnny'. There's a big fight, during which Franklin kidnaps/rescues Cindy and Namor is knocked unconscious, only to be awoken by police and thrown into another fight. At this point Doctor Doom appears to rescue his friend, much to the relief of the local cops who suggest that he takes Namor away to save them some paperwork. Doom tells Namor that Cindy is his prisoner, and that he must do exactly as he is told to secure her safety. Namor agrees and is soon being dropped off closer to the base, while Doom indulges in some self-reflection. This is distinctly unlike the Doom we have come to know, although not entirely out of character. We very rarely get to hear Doom's thoughts, so it's quite possible that, for instance, he's been remonstrating with himself on a regular basis while simultaneously acting like, well, Doctor Doom. Here, for instance, in the recent Incredible Hulk #144, could he really be thinking "I've messed this up so badly with Valeria, please don't leave me alone so I have to talk to her"? Or maybe in the classic The Power And The Pride, rather than being supremely arrogant, is Doom really desperately hoping that people will like him? All right, maybe not, but it's an interesting way to look at the character, possibly reflecting the inner workings of Gerry Conwway who is, after all, only 19 years old and so (if he's anything like most teenagers I've known or indeed been) he's probably plagued with very similar self-doubt.

Back in the comic, Doom's introspection is cut short here by a signal from his bank of machinery which jolts him back to his normal self, although we only see his spoken words, so beneath the bluster he may still be riven with doubt. The ship dives into the sea, becoming a submarine, and we see a bunch of henchmen busy at work. One of them asks his chum Orson if he's seen another colleague called Kenner lately, who was sent off to get some coffee and never came back. It's all very office-like, and entirely unlike the East European thugs we've become used to seeing in Doom's employ - a fact that will pay off a bit later.

Meanwhile Namor is swimming towards the base, fighting automatic defences on the way. Similar defences shoot at Doom's ship, but despite this Doom remains sure that Modok is dead. There's then a brief interlude during which Modok watches his enemies approach and reminisces about how he survived - he had a secret underground railway and robot army ready, just in case he was ever caught in a collapsing building, which is only sensible if you happen to be a supervillain living in the Marvel universe - before we return to Doom's ship, where Cindy Jones is being visited by the office creep. Luckily for Cindy, but less so for Wilson (another very American name, along with Orson, Kenner and Franklin), his boss Doctor Doom turns up and flat out kills him. Cindy, oddly, tries to excuse Orson's behaviour, saying "he was only.." before Doom cuts her off, saying he has no time whatsoever for that sort of behaviour. It's another example of Doom being shown in a good light, clamping down on sexual harrassment in the workplace, even if some would argue that his methods are perhaps a little harsh. The message is clear though: even world-conquering dictators disapprove of sexual harassment.

The issue ends with Namor fighting his way into the base, only to discover Modok waiting for him (as we all knew he was, so again the big surprise splash isn't much of a surprise). A bigger surprise, perhaps, is the revelation that the "weapon" Doom had come here to steal is actually... a Cosmic Cube! This is a McGuffin capable of changing reality and giving the user power over reality itself, as well as being utterly meaningless to anyone who hasn't read Marvel comics much. Ending with this reveal as the cliff-hanger demonstrates how much Marvel was relying on its readers having an in-depth knowledge of the storyworld during this period, and hopefully it'll work here in the 21st Century to bring you back next time to see how the story concludes!

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posted 18/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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This issue features the 'dream team' (according to me anyway) of Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, with a story titled 'Doomsmasque' as opposed to the 'Deathmasque' promised at the end of Astonishing Tales #8. Clearly Gerry Conway was quite pleased with the word 'masque', even going so far to define it for the readers on the splash page! I didn't realise before, but Conway was only around 19 years old when he wrote that (rather brilliant) story, and by the time this issue rolled around he was working regularly for Marvel across all their titles as one of the wave of new creators who came in during this period. His work here is very much in the Stan Lee style, though concentrating a lot more on the florid descriptions and 'Shakespearean' dialogue than humour for the most part.

The story starts off with Prince Namor on a train, having lost his memory after the shock of seeing his father die in his arms in the previous issue. After fighting off some hoboes he jumps off the train in Chicago and is almost shot by a policeman, only saved by a cloaked figure dissolving the cop's gun before he can fire. Whoever could it be? Namor then meets a girl, Cindy Jones, who takes him into her house. They're sitting having a chat and a mildly flirty coffee when there's a knock at the door. Namor answers it to find - Doctor Doom! The surprise is a little diminished by the fact that he was on the cover and in the story's title, but still, it jogs Namor's memory, reminding him of all the other times they have met. This also reminds Namor of the recent death of his bride Dorma, sending him into a furious rage. He attacks Doom who fights back, but only gently, preferring not to hurt Namor as he needs him alive for whatever plan it is he's working on this time. This is a much calmer, considered Doom than we've seen in the most recent Stan Lee stories, who flies into a rage at the merest perceived slight, as is especially apprent when he decides to allow Namor to throw him around a bit to work off some anger, through the wall into the next door apartment. This is a lovely sequence very much in the early Marvel tradition of mixing the everyday in with superhero antics, featuring Doom setting fire to the elderly couple's sofa and then quickly putting it out again to prevent any further damage (apart from the wall, obviously, and soon the window). Again, we see Doom expressing consideration for others, even if he does insist that it's all to preserve his reputation rather than any deeper feeling. Namor disagrees with even this level of professed feeling, saying "you but masquerade as a man," using a word which, thanks to the definition at the start of the issue, we all know the meaning of.

They fall through the window and out onto the street for more fighting, at which point Cindy Jones appears and begs them to stop. Doom invites Namor back to the Latverian Embassy - although surely, with Chicago not being the capital, this should be the Latverian consulate - and invites him to team-up again by telling a heavily doctored version of their history together which carefully avoids tricky subjects like betrayals and double-crosses. Namor agrees and the pair of them, along with Cindy, hop into Doom's jet and head off for an abandoned AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) base, where Doom hopes to find a "most fantastic weapon". After avoiding some automatic defences, Doom ponders the fact that he might not be attempting this at all if he wasn't convinced that Modok, the leader of AIM, was dead. This being comics we instantly know that Modok must therefore definitely be alive, and the issue concludes with the giant-headed baddy laughing at Doom's mistake and looking forward to fighting him again. But how did Doom get it so wrong? I am comvinced that we will not find out next time!

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posted 16/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To The Sixties

We start the new year with a flashback to the sixties, and an example of the big problems that crop up trying to use databases created by fans in this sort of research.

According to my database, which was compiled from several fan-built databases, the next issue to look at in the run of Doom's appearances is Marvel Superheroes #31. However, a quick look at this issue shows that it's in fact a reprint of several older stories, including a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko 'Tales To Astonish', an Iron Man from 1967 and, most relevant to us here, Daredevil #19 from 1965. As I say, I used several databases as sources for my 'corpus' of comics, but not a single one of them mentioned Daredevil #19 as having a Doom appearance. Admittedly that's probably because it's barely an appearance at all. Daredevil is on the run from some Hoods (or possibly Goons) and makes his way through a costume store, where he sees some display waxworks in familiar outfits. It would be very easy to argue that the original story was not included anywhere because it's just a dummy in a phoney costume and not technically a Doom appearance at all, , but i that case it shouldn't have been included in the listing for the reprint either. The whole thing is a good example of how the lack of strict guidelines about what counts as a 'real' appearance by a character produces multiple discrepancies between databases and indeed within the same databases, and shows why data cleaning (because that's what it is!) is vital for any analysis of them.

It's also a shame that I didn't discover this in the right chronological order, as it's an interesting use of Doom, or the appearance of Doom, at an early stage of the Marvel Universe. This was only his third appearance outside of his native series, 'Fantastic Four', and the fact that he's included in the panel without comment, alongside the much more well known Captain America, in a series that he's never been in before, shows how Marvel readers were expected to know what was going on elsewhere. In a way it's a harbinger of his use in 'Not Brand Echh' too.

Still, it gives me a chance to have a bit of a moan about the logistical problems inherent in this process before we get into the main business again, which we'll do next time as Doctor Doom once more meets Namor, The Sub-mariner!

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posted 11/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Alien, The Ally, And... Armageddon!

Doom hasn't been seen in The Fantastic Four for over two years, apart from the brief appearance of an android duplicate in Fantastic Four #100, but here he finally returns to his home title, after much wandering across the Marvel Universe, for a story which brings the full range of his character developments into sharp focus.

Reed Richards has been kidnapped and mind-controlled by a being called The Overmind, last of the Eternals. The Thing and The Human Torch set out to find him, eventually discovering Reed fighting back against his kidnapper. The pair try to help but get thoroughly beaten, leaving The Invisible Girl to turn up and discover, to her horror, that her husband is completely in thrall to the alien villain. She heads off to look for help from other superheroes, only to find that they're all otherwise engaged or out of contact. Apart from showcasing the breadth of the Marvel storyworld, and suggesting that interested readers can find out exactly what the other heroes are up to by buying their associated books, this also answers the constant question asked by fans: why don't superheroes ask each other for help when they face a bigger than usual threat? Turns out they do, but everybody's always busy!

Wracked with despair, Sue pauses her hoverbike on a rocky shore, where she sees a vision of Agatha Harkness, Spooky Nanny to her son Franklin, who suggests another candidate via the medium of Spooky Vision. Doctor Doom! Sue thinks about it for a moment and decides to give it a go, heading off to the Latverian Embassy (where Doom always seems to be at home, when not in his own stories). On arrival two goons refuse to let her in, so she jumps through the window to find Doctor Doom... vaping? She asks him to help them fight the Overmind but he refuses, saying his only regret is that someone else is destroying the Fantastic Four. Sue then says something that cuts Doom to the quick and, perhaps, speaks to any readers who've been following his development over recent years. Could this be a recognition, in the text itself, of how Doom's character has changed, especially when appearing as guests in other character's series? We've seen hints of his complex, tortured character when he's been in the lead role of his own stories, but otherwise he has very much put aside the honour and nobility shown in his origin story, in favour of posturing and pettiness.

As ever, Doom's pride gets the better of him, and he agrees to help, setting off with Sue to discover Ben and Johnny lying unconscious, utterly defeated. When they wake up to see Doom standing over them they spring into action, and are shocked when Sue tells them what's really going on. They reluctantly agree to fight alongside him, and return to battle. Doom works out a strategy which the others follow and, rather brilliantly, it totally works, until the possessed Reed Richards returns and takes Sue out of action. This leaves Doom to fight alone, unprotected by her force field, refusing to give in. We've seen a lot of Doom ranting and raving lately as opponents fly off without finishing a fight, but here he's clearly behaving heroically, sacrificing himself to stop a major threat.

At this point The Stranger, another cosmic being, arrives, tells The Overmind that he's too great a threat to the universe, and sends him into exile into a subatomic void before leaving as quickly as he'd arrived. It makes the efforts of Doom and the FF seem utterly pointless, as the Human Torch himself complains. The whole team wake up, with Reed himself again. Sue looks over to check on "poor Doctor Doom" who is absolutely fine, thank you very much. The story ends with The Watcher turning up to tell them that, actually, it wasn't as pointless as it seemed. The Stranger only knew The Overmind had returned because he'd been forced to exert his full power during the battle, alerting The Stranger to what was going on. Basically, they were hopelessly outclassed but the fact that they - or rather, Doctor Doom - tried really hard made someone much more capable notice.

It's an unsatisfactory ending to a story which has shone some very interesting light on the changes Doom has gone through, and the fact that other characters have noticed. Will this be reflected in his future development? Tune in next time to find out!

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posted 13/12/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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... Though Some Call It Magic!

After all the unexpected enjoyment of Doom's guest appearance in The Incredible Hulk we return to Astonishing Tales for the final story in the run of his own series, which is called either "Some Call It... Witchcraft!" or "...Though Some Call It Magic!" depending on whether you believed the cover or the splash page. Or perhaps it's both together?

Whatever it's called this is an absolute stone cold classic story from Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, building on their own previous work and that of others to give us a beautifully written and drawn story that sheds light on a brand new aspect of Doom's character that would have repercussions for years.

It starts with Doom being called for by his manservant Boris, a character introduced in Doom's origin story back in Fantastic Four Annual #2 and only seen since in the re-telling of that story in Marvel Superheroes #20. Returning to the interpretation of Doom as the heroic, misunderstand leader of his people, is Conway's attempt to move him away from the deluded lunatic we've seen in recent stories, and show once more the tortured man behind the mask. This is demonstrated when the two characters make their way to an "old oaken door" and, in his thoughts, Boris reveals a very different Doom to the one we've seen lately, whose voice has always been "calm". These seems like a wildly inaccurate view of Doom's behaviour, but perhaps Boris has seen a different side to him that the one we've seen screaming and shouting at adversaries over the years? Here he is behaving much like Alfred does with Batman, nominally a servant but acting more like a worried parent.

Outside the people of Latveria watch the castle in fear. They explain to a young woman (who has been "abroad") that every Midsummer Doom engages with dark forces in an attempt to free his mother from hell. The fact that Doom's mother was a witch has been mentioned before, but her damnation and his annual battles to save her are new information.

We see Doom beginning the process of this fight, by summoning up... Satan! It's a bit of a shock to see The Actual Devil named as such here, as usually Marvel prefers to call him "Mephisto". There's a bit of badinage between Doom and Lucifer, before Doom requests that they get on with it. The deal, apparently, is that Doom fights a monster of Satan's choosing and if he wins his mother will be freed from hell.

Kagrok The Killer is summoned, a Gollum in bandages basically, and he and Doom do battle, with Doom very nearly winning, right up to the moment when... he doesn't. Satan disappears, taunting Doom with the promise of a rematch next year, and Doom leaves the room, falling into the arms of a waiting Boris. This is a beautiful bit of characterisation from Conway and Colon, with the severely weakened and distraught Doom accidentally allowing himself a moment of humanity with one of the few people left who knew him as a child and, apparently, remain genuinely loyal to him now, before realising who he is and refusing human contact once more. The story ends with Doom stalking off alone once again, promising to do better next time. As I say, it's a classic story which will inform the development of Doom's character right up to the present day. It also ends with the promise of a story called "Deathmasque", leading one to believe that there was meant to be another solo Doom story. If they'd all been as good as this one it would have been amazing, but it was not to be, and readers would have to wait several months for Conway and Colan to continue the tale as promised.

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posted 7/12/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Monster And The Madman!

One of the great things about reading through all of Doctor Doom's appearances like this, that I get to be surprised by finding surprising developments in the most unlikely places. I would never have expected to see vital parts of his fictional biography taking place in a couple of obscure issues of 'The Incredible Hulk', but that's exactly what's happening with this story.

This is meant to be part two of the tale covered in my previous blog, but the issue starts with a bizarrely misleading splash page, showing The Hulk fighting Iron Man. At first I thought I'd skipped an issue, but then saw the footnote which pretty much predicted my reaction! The next page rather cunningly pulls back to show General Ross giving a talk about previous meetings with the Hulk, and leads into the traditional recap of what happened last time, featuring Dick Ayers doing a copy of his swipe of a John Buscema image from last time. Next the scene shifts to Latveria, where we find Bruce Banner working in Doctor Doom's lab as an apparently loyal team member who leaps to join in with the hailing of Doom when he enters the room (Latverians love hailing as we've seen many times before). However, Doom is not alone - he has Valeria with him! We last saw Valeria back in the (brilliant) Marvel Superheroes #20, leaving Doom's castle determined never to see him again. It seems that Roy Thomas, who also wrote that story, must have regretted this decision, and he had Valeria address it early on. Seeing Doom profess his love for another individual is distinctly odd - one supposes, based on his previous actions, that he must have some secret plan, but for now it looks like he means it.

He introduces Valeria to Banner, who immediately gets agitated and turns into the Hulk, allowing Doom to play the kindly protector, trying to show Valeria how much he cares for his subjects. He uses his tranquilizer ray (which I guess is an upgrade on the Hypno Gas) to calm the Hulk, who transforms back into human form. If Doom was doing this to impress his unwilling girlfriend, however, he rather blows it when he snaps at her entirely reasonable shock at what she's just seen. It turns out that he does have a cunning scheme after all, although this one is designed to make Valeria fall in love with him. SPOILERS: Doom is unlikely to be getting work as a relationship counsellor.

His plan is to tell Valeria that a neighbouring country (presumably the one very briefly mentioned last issue) wants to attack Latveria. When she begs him not to strike the first blow he gladly agrees, knowing that at that moment his lackeys are down in the lab ready to bring the Hulk back by shooting Bruce Banner with a jolt of electricity. Once they've done this the Hulk immediately bursts out of the castle and heads to the border, as programmed to do by Doom, with a gamma bomb strapped to his back!

Doom's plan continues apace, with a lackey running into his room to tell him that the Hulk has escaped, having stolen the Gamma Bomb. He pretends to bravely take responsibility for the error, and declares that, regretfully, he must now detonate the bomb to save innocent lives before the Hulk is able to reach a populated area. Doom is feeling pretty pleased with itself - he's actually detonated a bomb over enemy territory AND he's impressed the girl he likes, and who amongst us can say they have never dreamed of achieving something simmilar? But then another lackey comes in with a genuine message - his plan hasn't worked! The bomb really did blow up over unoccupied territory, and Valeria reveals that this was her doing. She knew what was going on all along, and had undertaken a complicated scheme to revive Banner and get him to reprogramme himself so that, as the Hulk, he could take the bomb to a safe place.

I tell you what, with Cunning Plans like this, it's no wonder Doom thinks they're well matched!

Doom, however, is most miffed by this turn of events and declares that his love for her is finally over. However, before she can be thrown into the dungeons, the Hulk returns and he and Doom launch into battle over the skies of Latveria, watched by terrified locals. Is it me, or have the Latverians got somewhat Groovy since we were last there? They're right to be worried though, as the battle quickly puts Valeria in danger. Doom leaps into action to help her, leaving himself open to attack by the Hulk, who tries to squeeze him to death. Doom gets out of this one by refusing to give up, until the Hulk gets bored and lets him go.

Valeria runs over to Doom, apparently convinced that he's not such a bad sort after all. This reminds the Hulk of Betty Ross, and leads to a rather brilliant image of him with The Glums. Poor Hulk! The issue then comes to an end with a very similar sequence to that seen in the recent Thor 183, with Doom ranting and raving at his enemy to come back and fight him. Is this a new trope in the making? We'll have to wait and see!

And thus ends a surprisingly Doom-heavy episode of a series in which another character is meant to be the lead. This is a pretty good run of Doom stories, and it's about to get even better when we return, in our next blog, to an absolute classic!

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posted 30/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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This issue kicks off with Bruce Banner on the run from the police in a story entitled "Sanctuary" which, rather brilliantly, comes with a little editorial note which says the title is taken "With apologies to William Faulkner". I haven't read the Faulkner novel, but I'm pretty sure it's not much like this!

Banner is chased across town and is about to be captured when a mysterious limousine appears and offers him a ride. We don't have to wait long to find out who the car's owner is, as Bruce looks to one side and sees... Doctor Doom! As yet, there's nothing to tie this into Doom's adventures over in his own stories. It seems like there's one Doom who exists in Latveria (and elsewhere) over in "Astonishing Tales" and another who spends his time in the Latverian Embassy, bothering superheroes in New York. This Doom is very much on-book with his New York adventures, riding around in the same car that he used to kidnap Daredevil a little while ago, but when he gets back to the Embassy we see his two personas - the arrogant dictator and the man of the people - start to come together. The army surround the building, but are, as usual, unable to gain entrance due to "diplomatic immunity". Doom and Banner watch from an upstairs window, with one of Doom's guards behind them sporting a rather special helmet. These guards have evolved quite a bit since they were first introduced by Jack Kirby, changing from Robots, to Armoured Guards with small nodules on their heads, to what appears to be a member of the Mickey Mouse Fanclub (Latverian Division). Meanwhile, General Ross is wondering what Doom's playing at. "What's Doom doing here in the states anyway?" he asks himself. "We'd heard he was busy planning to conquer a nation bordering on his own!" At first I thought this might be a reference to Doom's recent trip to Wakanda, but that's in Africa, not bordering Latveria. As we'll see later, he's talking about plans Doom has closer to home, none of which have been mentioned before, which is especially odd because Roy Thomas , the writer of this story, had recently written some of Doom's solo stories. Thomas is usually very keen on continuity and tying things together, so it seems a bit strange that he ignores so much of it here.

Doom decides it's time for action, and unleashes his secret weapon - the Hulk! The Hulk leaps instantly, and silently, into action, apparently under Doom's control. He smashes up a bunch of tanks and then leaps away, at which point the army point their remaining guns at him, shoot, and much to their surprise, kill him! This is all a bit of a shock to everyone, and each of the regular characters - Bruce's girlfriend Betty, her father General Ross, Major Talbot and the psychiatrist Doc Damson - take a moment to reflect on what it means to them personally. Doom, meanwhile, does something that we haven't seen him do for a while, and has a good old laugh. He's very pleased with himself because the Hulk that the army destroyed was yet another of his robots - he's VERY good at those isn't he? The real Bruce Banner/Hulk is safe and sound, although very annoyed. Banner is about to vent this fury and transform into his alter ego, but before he can change Doom blasts him with sleeping gas. Roy Thomas may not be directly linking this into Doom's regular continuity, but I do like the way he's using established parts of it throughout this story. Doom's car, his enjoyment of a chortle, and now his use of gauntlet-launched sleeping gas have all been seen in previous outings, rather than (as with Larry Leiber's stories) just being chucked into the mix to keep things moving.

Similarly, Dick Ayers seems to have had a look back at some of Doom's earliest adventures, notably the spaceship that he used way back in Fantastic Four #6 (an issue which also saw a good old Doom guffaw) AND in the Hanna Barbera Cartoon series! This part of the story is all quite similar to Thor #182, when Doom kidnapped Thor's alter ego Don Blake, right down to the description of Latveria as "a storybook nation". I wonder if there was a directive from somewhere to always call it that? When Doom gets out of his plane there are immediately two call-backs to his own adventures, one subtle, and one markedly less so. These Latverians really do love hailing people don't they? It looks like Doom has decided to take their latent Nazism and keep some of it for himself, as they seem to like it so much. He's also carried through one of his ideas from Astonishing Tales #5 where he made himself a note to "arrange for spontaneous outpourings of joy among the peasantry to greet my homecoming"! I must say, I'm starting to think I was wrong about Roy Thomas for not directly linking this story into previous ones, he's just doing it very subtly.

There's another callback in the artwork too, as Ayers basically swipes a panel from John Buscema. The issue ends with Doom revealing his plan in one of those monologues he's so fond of - he's going to use his 'subliminal inducer' to brainwash Banner so that both he and his alter ego will be fanatically loyal to Latveria, and Doom can use the former as a scientific advisor and the latter as a weapon. It's a good plan, although it's a little disappointing to find Thomas, after so much good work, giving in and inventing a brand new device to generate a cliffhanger.

Still, other than that it's been a great story digging into all sorts of continuity, and we'll see how it all works out next time!

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posted 23/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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...And If I Be Called Traitor!

This story carries on from the last, but now with added Gene Colan, who brings a touch of swirling, gothic class to a story which, as far as I can see, has absolutely nothing to do with its title!

Doom is underneath Wakanda, where he's come to steal some Vibranium but has been cornered at gunpoint by The Black Panther. Doom uses a trick that he's been fooled by himself many times, appealing to the Panther's pride and challenging him to lay down his weapon and face him man to man. The Black Panther, rather foolishly, does exactly that, and Doom demonstrates how daft this was by zapping him. This is all very much in character for Doom, claiming to believe in Honour whilst doing the opposite, and refusing to taint himself with tawdry combat whilst doing exactly that.

Whilst The Black Panther is taken away to be imprisoned Doom muses about his plan, giving a handy catch-up for anybody who didn't read the previous issue but also introducing the idea that he might want to enslave the people of Wakanda at some point. This is new information, added by Gerry Conway who takes over from Larry Leiber with this issue. It's also a new idea for Doom, and another example of his journey away from the righteous, justice-led revolutionary of his earliest days and towards the fascist dictator he's now become.

Doom's despotic plans are illustrated with a monologue about how brilliant he is, which Gene Colan illustrates gorgeously - 'Astonishing Tales' has felt like a bit of a second-rate title up until this point, but with Conway and Colan on it it's become something slightly special. (SPOILERS: it will become even more so in the next issue!) "And so I must hurry" he says to himself, coming down from his dreams of world domination to basically think "Well, best be getting on with it." He returns to his ship where two worried lackeys have managed to break the engine. They refer to him as "Herr Doctor" - another example of his transformation into a movie-style Nazi. Doom decides the only way to get something done is to do it himself, so sets off to make repairs, stopping off on the way to taunt the imprisoned Black Panther. While doing so he refers to him as an "equal" and "a prince of the blood" which, of course, Doom himself is not. Once more, his roots as a persecuted gypsy seem to have been forgotten, or perhaps this is Doom ignoring his own beginnings and placing himself amongst the royalty that he once sought to overthrow?

Once he's gone the Black Panther breaks out of his chains (remarkably easily) and sets off to halt Doom's plans. We see scenes in Wakanda (which is still being portrayed as "primitive" in this series rather than the Afro-Futurist techno city of the Kirby version) which is being torn apart by Doom's machine. His men try to stop him, but Doom is having none of it. Is it me, or does the fact that the lackey's name is "Ramon" make it seem as if Doom is arguing with his hairdresser? The Black Panther sees all this going on and decides to act, and it's around here that one begins to realise that Gerry Conway is solving the perennial problems of having Doom as the lead character by simply portraying him as the villain in someone else's story - if this issue had been officially released as a Black Panther story with Doom as the guest villain I don't think it would have been done any differently. Doom has always had a big chunk of the focus whenever he's guested in anybody else's title, and doing it this way means that Conway can get in all the villainy that the fans actually liked about Doom without having to make out that he's a hero.

Thus The Black Pather is able to leap into action, beat up some guards, and point a gun at the Vibranium core, threatening to blow it up if Doom doesn't leave, just as he would have done if he was the official lead character. Doom decides to believe the Panther, turning around his ship and heading home. The Panther wonders whether he really would have blown up the core, while Doom reassures himself that he could easily have disarmed him, but that the Panther's demonstration of bravery proves that he would have made a rubbish slave. That wasn't the reason Doom had gone to Wakanda - if he could have disarmed the Black Panther then he could have taken the Vibranium he'd come for - but perhaps this is Conway giving Doom a justification for his retreat.

And there the story ends. It's been a bit confused but the team of Conway and Colan has made a great start on the character, which unfortunately will only last for one more issue. Before that though, next time sees another guest appearance, when Doctor Doom finally meets the Hulk!

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posted 9/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Tentacles Of The Tyrant!

After the last issue's attempt to portray Doom as the hero by pitting him against Actual Nazis, this one tries a different tack, keeping Doctor Doom as the clear bad guy and sending in a superhero investigate what he's up to. Normally such a story would concentrate on the superhero, but here Larry Lieber concentrates on Doom. It's a good idea, enabling him to use the aspects of the character that fans enjoy, such as his arrogance and gadgetry, without having to water them down or try and find someone even more despicable to make him look good.

Doom's villiany is in place right from the start where we find him torturing somebody for information, although it's made clear that this is only done for practical reasons, rather than sadism, as when the prisoner tells them what they want to know - that the mineral Vibranium can be found in Wakanda - Doom has him released, despite the ideas of his goonish henchman. This is all part of Doom's self-image as a good person - yes, he'll certainly torture and kill people, but never just for fun. Heaven forbid!

With the information extracted he dashes back to his lab where he puts together a scanning device in the shape of Hawk, and he sends it off to Wakanda to see what he can see. As ever this involves his most favourite form of communication - Skype! A nearby poacher spots the 'hawk' and decides to shoot it down, despite the fact that he knows that its a protected species. Doom reacts by simply killing him. To be honest, I'm with Doom on this one, and if that makes me a "lily-livered conservationist" then so be it!

The robot bird flies to Africa and quickly spots the Vibranium, so Doom blows it up. "What Doom does not need, he destroys!" he says which, as a lily-livered conservationist, seems a bit of a waste of resources to me. This does give George Tuska an opportunity to flex his design skills , in a beauitfully constructed page which sadly also shows that American attitudes to modern Africans are even less enlightened than their attitudes to Eastern Europeans. Talkin of which, Doom terrifies the local Latverians (who seem to be heading for a jazz club) by starting up his tunnelling machine and generating a most unusual sound effect. A little while later he arrives in Africa where another beautifully constructed splash page shows the people of Wakanda having their daily life interrupted by a mysterious earthquake, caused by the arrival of Doom's tunnelling craft beneath a volcano. The illustration shows images of Africans living in huts, throwing spears, and hanging around with ostriches, which is reductive at best, but also plain wrong for Wakanda, which is surely meant to be a technological paradise? I always remember getting annoyed when I was first reading comics about how Britain was depicted, all Big Ben, moustachioed bobbies and tudor cottages, so goodness knows what an actual Wakandan would think!

The terrified Wakandans call their leader, the Black Panther, who flies back from Avengers Mansion to be with them. Hmmm... is it me or does that also look a bit racist?

The Panther goes off to investigate and discovers Doom trying to repair his ship's regulator. Normally this would be the start of the adventure, with the superhero arriving to discover a villain up to no good, but here it's the end of this instalment, with the Panther presenting himself to Doom in the final panel, ready for a promised battle next time. Apart from the depiction of the Wakandan people, this has been a much more successful way of using Doom as the lead character, telling a conventional superhero story from the villain's viewpoint without trying to turn him into something he's not, thus giving the reader more of the character they have paid to see without having to reduce any of the reasons they like him. The only question that remains to be answered though is: why on earth is the story called "The Tentacles Of The Tyrant"?

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posted 2/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Land Enslaved!

The splash page for this story picks up minutes after the end of the last issue, with Doom leaving the French Riveriera by jetpack, talking to himself about how boring it all was and how happy he'll be to get home. His internal dialogue reveals the contradictions that have developed over recent year, between his earlier depiction as a 'hard man' ruler governing his people with an iron rod for their own good, which Roy Thomas has favoured, and the more corrupt, deluded dictator he's been depicted as more recently, especially when written by Stan Lee. Here Larry Leiber hedges his bets, with Doom saying "As a shepherd belongs with his flock, so must a monarch remain with his beloved subjects!" and then immediately adding "... lest the misbegotten dogs grow restive and rebellious in their master's absence!"

There's more of this when he finally arrives home, "How quiet and serene the realm is!" he says to himself. "In the future I must arrange for spontaneous outpourings of joy among the peasantry to greet my homecoming!" Little does he realise that Latveria has actually been taken over in his absence by the Red Skull, and the populace converted to Nazism. Perhaps this isn't such a leap as it may at first have seemed - after all, during Rudolpho's rebellion the people did seem very keen indeed on hailing him. The Red Skull attacks Doom, using the tried and tested method of deploying his own weapons against him. This has happened several times now, and one might have thought that a self-proclaimed genius like Doom would have made sure he had safeguards against all of his own inventions, but once again he falls victim to his own devices, this time "the one weapon I've no defense againts - chemi-sleep gas!" Get some defence against it then!

Doom is imprisoned in an 'adamantine mummy case' and put on public display to demonstrate the futility of rebellion against the new leadership. The case is designed to heat up, to torture the incumbent, but this time Doom has a plan. All he needs to do is use a 'thermo-energizer', yet another previously unheard of device, which converts heat into power which he then uses to break free. As in previous issues, Larry Lieber seems quite happy to invent new superpowers as he goes along, robbing his stories of tension as the reader just assumes that Doom will remember another gadget that he's never mentioned before which will get him out of bother.

Still, it's a good job he escapes, as at the very moment that new regime is busying itself by shipping people off to concentration camps. I must admit that this made me feel a little uncomfortable. We know that the Red Skull and his Exiles are Nazis - they tell us all the time and drape swastikas everywhere - but they're presented almost as comedy caricatures, so this sudden reveal of Actual Proper Nazism is a bit of a gut punch. As previously discussed, Lieber is making the baddies as bad as possible to ensure that we can root for Doom as the hero, but this seems to be in rather bad taste.

Doom charges up to the castle and, never one to make the same mistake twice (well, not all the time) he goes underground, heading for the power station where he finds the fusebox for the weapons systems and switches them all off. This allows him to get into the main castle, by which point the Skull has ordered his men to "reverse the input lines and attach an auxiliary power box", which means the weapons are back online. The Skull orders the use of a flame-gun, ignoring objections that his own men will be killed, and his men obey. I think this is meant to show how ruthless the Skull is, but it doesn't exactly paint Doom in a great light either. Presumably the men he is fighting are all Latverians who have been forced into service for the Nazis, but Doom is only concerned with his own safety, and does nothing to protect them. This is not the behaviour of a conventional superhero - Doom remains a villain, even if one we're meant to cheer for.

He then plunges the temperature of his armour to "sub-freezing depths" (yet another previously unmentioned power which, surely, would have come in handy when the sarcophagus was boiling him alive) and proceeds to duff up all of the Exiles one by one, chucking them all into an underground room which then fills with gas. The Nazis are convinced it's going to kill them, but then wake up later to discover that it's been used to shrink them instead! Doom pops them into a miniature rocket and blasts them back to Exiles Island, chortling to himself about the great gag he's played on them - it wasn't shrinko-gas he used, but hypno-gas, which they will wake up from soon and realise they were conned! How this works with regards to his revenge, or why he doesn't kill them, or how he puts them in an actual rocket, are not discussed, and the issue ends with a rather marvellous series of silhouettes from George Tuska, depicting Doom relishing his own brilliance. Like most of this series, this has been an odd story which has struggled to find ways to make Doom a lead character whilst still enjoying the villainy that made him a fan-favourite. The method used here, of simply making him fight someone even worse, doesn't work as well as that used by writers like Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, where they try to find reasons for his villainy, and the issue as a whole is at times in rather poor taste. Maybe that's why Larry Lieber tries something a little different in the next story, sending Doom off to fight The Black Panther!

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posted 25/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Invaders!

This story deals with an issue central to the entire series - how do you deal with having a super-villain as the hero of the story? Along the way it has a lot to say about American Cold War attitudes to Eastern Europe.

It starts with Doom standing in the ruins of his castle, apparently continuing directly on from the previous issue two months ago, with no mention of the various other appearances he's had since then. After a very brief recap ("To defeat the rebels I had to destroy my palace!" That's it!) he immediately switches on his video communication system to issue orders to his subjects. The Latverians trudge along to do his bidding, disgusted with themselves for the way they put up no resistance. In this story Latveria is standing in for Eastern Europe, and thus its people are viewed with a kind of disdain throughout, as weaklings unable to overthrow the yoke of dictatorship as Americans had two centuries before. They agree to "labour night and day" on Doom's reconstruction project, at which point Doom himself flies off, leaving them to get on with it. The problem for the storytellers, Larry Leiber and Wally Wood, is that with such an unlikeable character as their lead they need to find a way to make the reader sympathise with him. One way to do this is to have him fight against somebody even worse, and so they bring in pretty much the worst of all villains - the Red Skull. Here we see him hanging around with a group of quite ludicrous national stereotypes - the Exiles, a group of old Nazis looking for somebody to give them direction. The Skull gives them this, taking them wth him to Latveria because "after years of subjugation by Doctor Doom, the Latverians have little spirit left." It's a bit of a risky trade-off if you ask me - the people might be easy to subjugate, but won't their current ruler be a bit annoyed when he comes back?

The Red Skull seems to think it's worth the risk so he and his gang fly over to the "Story-book kingdom" of Latveria and make short work of beating up the local populace. Meanwhile Doctor Doom has flown down to the Riviera, where he's wandering around the resort, looking for fun. Apart from being a fabulous image, this neatly encapsulates certain US attitudes towards Eastern Europe, and indeed other countries around the globe, during the Cold War. Here we see that as soon as the strong ruler leaves the country it is taken over by much worse characters - the worst of all, in this case. This is an echo of US Foreign policy during this period, when dictators would be supported abroad in the belief that they would at least prevent the arrival of something much worse, whether that be Nazism or Communism. Doom's dalliance at the beach is a metaphor for other dictators losing concentration and becoming (even more) decadent, rather than ruling their people.

fter having a couple of thieves try to rob him and being barred from the roulette table Doom soon tires of the life of the idle rich, so he flies off again, looking forward to getting home. However, there's a very different scene waiting for him when he gets back which... well, let's have a look: The Latverians have not only been defeated, they are now Actual Nazis! And that's it for this issue, and a story in which Doom has behaved absolutely appallingly, though theoretically less badly than those who wish to oppose him. It's not exactly a ringing endorsement of his leadership and, yet again, it's a very very different portrayal than that which we saw when we were first introduced to Latveria. We'll see how it goes next time, when Doom fights the Nazis!

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posted 19/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Their Mission: To Destroy Stark Industries

Doom only appears in flashback in this issue, which concerns a determinedly mulitnational criminal version of Mission Impossible setting out to bring down Tony Stark's company. While they get ready Tony Stark mopes around thinking about his history as a superhero, musing over some of the adventures that he had with The Avengers. The only problem with this, continuity-wise, is that Iron Man has as yet to met Doctor Doom, at least in the stories published so far. Doom has appeared in a couple of issues of The Avengers, but this was during the Kooky Quartet era and Iron Man was not a member then!

I don't recognise the two villains on the right of the picture, so I guess that the artist, Don Heck, decided he needed to bump up the star quality and, as usual, Doctor Doom was the first choice. We've seen on many occasions that, if there's a gang of baddies, you need Doom in there amongst them to prove that they're proper supervillains, and that seems to be what's happened here!

Next time we're finally back in Doom's own series to find out what happens with The Doomsman - at last!

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posted 16/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Trapped In Doomsland!

Doom has his own ongoing story in Astonising Tales during this period, but the fact that that only comes out every other month means that there's plenty of time for Stan Lee to continue with his own version of the character in the second part of a two-parter in Thor.

The story picks up right where the last issue of Thor left off, with the Thunder God being chased by a guided missile. Rather than risk the Latverians below he throws his hammer Mjolnir into the sky, so that the missile will follow that instead. The plan works, but without his hammer Thor crashes to the ground and, after sixty seconds (non) hammer time he transforms back into his human form as Don Blake.

The hammer lands nearby, and the locals wonder whether to go and find it. Here we see again how the Latverian people's attitude to Doom has changed. Where once they saw him as a benevolent leader, now he is the head of a terror state with eyes and ears everywhere on his frightened people.

Doom's own delusion about this is shown yet again, believing his own lies about what a kindly ruler he is. "I merely sought to protect you all!" he says after shooting at them with his finger lasers, before attempting to gain the hammer for himself, under the guise of keeping his people safe. Of course, Doom is not worthy to lift the hammer, so he places it under a protective force field and then stomps back to his lab to set his robot hounds to find the missing Don Blake.

After a brief interlude in Asgard, where we see Odin watching the proceedings, we catch up with Don Blake who has managed to find the missing Professor La Farge, father of Cosette who he promised to help last time. To Blake's surprise the Professor does not want to come with him, apparently convinced that it's a trap set by Doom. Blake returns to the town square, where he tricks some of Doom's soldiers into blasting a hole in the ground near the hammer. The guards trot off to report their good work to their masters, leaving Blake able to jump into the hole, dig around the edge of the force field and up through the paving slabs, to grab hold of the hammer and turn into Thor again. This whole bit is massively silly - why did they wander off without checking for a body and why did Doom only make the force field semi-circular? - but it does at least get the comic's title character back into action. He flies back into the castle, only to find Doom waiting for him in a fantastic depiction by John Buscema that was destined to be re-used several times for merchandise and advertising. Thor tricks Doom into taking Mjolnir, which he is again unable to hold onto. Unfortunately this leaves Thor weaponless and with only sixty seconds to get the hammer back before he transforms once again. Thor is often spoken of as the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe - the only one, for instance, who could conceivably fight DC's Superman - but Doom puts up a good fight here and almost overpowers him, only losing out due to some loose flooring titles. Thor flies out and destroys a whole bunch of missiles - the very missiles that Professor La Farge has spent all these years building - before zooming back to collect the kidnapped scientist. However, when he does, he's in for a rather nasty surprise. Whoa! So Cosette's version of events was untrue all along - a child's imaging of what had happened, designed to cast her father in a good light whilst all along he was happily in league with Doctor Doom!

The Professor accidentally kills himself in a hail of bullets directed at Thor, and dies cursing his daughter's name. Thor leaves the area, more worried about how he's going to explain all of this to Cosette than the threats hurled at him by a furious Doom. The story ends with Thor back in Manhattan, forced to tell Cosette that his daughter is dead, and coming up with a rather clever way of telling her what happened. It's all true! As I've said in other recent blogs, it's easy to mock Stan Lee's writing sometimes, but things like this remind you of why he was so successful. It's been an exciting story with moral twists and turns, helped along the way by some gorgeous art by John Buscema. It also includes coherent characterisation of Doom which follows on, and builds upon, the work Stan Lee has done on the character since his creation. The only problem, as we shall see in the next blog, is that it no longer lines up with how other creators are depicting him!

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posted 11/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fearful Secret of Bucky Barnes!

Doctor Doom cameos in this issue and, as it's written by Stan Lee, he's shown as a pompous despot who'll fall for anything if it means proving his own genius.

In this case he's drawn into a very complicated plan whereby MODOK, head of AIM, has convinced another supervillain to use a body double of Captain America's old sidekick Bucky to try and confuse him (Cap) enough to be defeated in battle. This plan fails, but it turns out that that was all part of MODOK's own scheme, which was to convince Cap that this double was the real deal long enough for him to reveal that - aha! - he was a robot all along, designed to kill him, either by hand or, in the last resort, using an Automatic Destruct Control. Of course, as any long-term comics fan would guess, the plan fails because the robot has Bucky's memories and can't bring himself to murder his hero. Come on MODOK, you've got a massive brain, surely you could have thought this all through beforehand?

The bit involving Doom happens in a flashback when MODOK decides to think back, "to enjoy the success of my plan," which is jolly handy for the reader. He recalls how he recently inflamed student demonstrations past the usual point of disagreement, into a riot very similar to the one seen recently in Thor.

In this case Captain America turns up, and places himself firmly on the side of The Kids. This gives MODOK the idea for his Exploding Robot Duplicate plan and he decides, sensibly, to get the help of the world's greatest Exploding Robot Duplicate manufacturer - Doctor Doom. This is an interesting example of the way that the wide Marvel Universe was used by now - there's no real need, story-wise, for it to be Doctor Doom who builds thr robot, why having him on hand and in continuity means that Lee don't need to bother creating a new character to do it.

Of course, they don't really need to show the robot being built at all, but the flip-side is that, with a great character like Doctor Doom available, you might as well.

MODOK uses the oldest trick in the book to get Doom to work for him, issuing him with a challenge and then suggesting that it's impossible, forcing Doom to go odd in a strop, determined to prove him wrong. We then get a wonderful Mad Science montage of Doom building the robot which, "thanks to the genius of Dr. Doom" will have "the personality of his human counterpart as well." That definitely was not in the specifications - so it turns out that MODOK's plan collapses because Doom did his work TOO well. This is a neat little touch which, I have to admit, I only spotted myself on the second reading. I guess one can get too used to Stan Lee dashing off stories full of plot-holes and weird turns, so that when he's as clever as he is here, it's easy to miss.

Doom's part in the flashback ends with him handing over the goods, communicating as ever by video. And that's that for what turns out to be a very clever, perfectly in character (or Stan Lee's version of the character at least) version of Doctor Doom. The next time we see him it'll be back in the current continuity, still under Stan Lee's guidance, and back in Latveria.

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posted 9/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Doom Must Die!

This is one crazy comic.

Some of the craziness works in favour of the story, as more and more ideas are piled on, but elsewhere you get the distinct impression that Larry Leiber was making things up as he went along. There's several occasions, for instance, where Doom suddenly uses a new, previously unmentioned power, to get himself out of a fix, often a power which would have solved other problems earlier on in the story with ease.

The splash page shows the last issue's revolution against Doom in full swing, with rocket-powered rebels zooming into the castle where Doom and The Faceless One are still facing off against each other with the Doomsman in the middle. Both Doom and The Faceless One instruct the android to attack the other, and these two equally forceful but opposite commands cancel each other out, leaving him free to exercise his own free will. Because that, apparently, is how voice-recognition software works in Latveria,

Both villains back away from the robot, but then Doom decides to try Mind Fusion, a simple process whereby he can take control of the Doomsman's mind because it is based on his own. I don't recall this ever being mentioned as one of his abilities before, and does lead one to wonder why he didn't try it sooner. ,Still, it works, and the Doomsman turns on The Faceless One, grabbing him an unescapable grip.

It's at this point that we get the best twist in the whole story: It turns out that The Faceless One is not a humanoid in a round helmet after all, but a weird space ball on robot spider legs! He skitters off, blowing up his body and managing to fool Doom into thinking he's left the castle by sending his spaceship away without him. Doom then turns to the other matter on his to-do list - quelling the rebellion. He does this easily by using unspecified "energy" which is "generated by forces far beyond your comprehension", another example of a new super power that could have come in handy on plenty of previous occasions. He's acting like a Silver Age Superman here, seemingly unstoppable with a new power for every occasion.

Doom immediately finds himself under attack from "Anti-Particles", one of his own inventions that, again, have not been mentioned before. The Faceless One has got into Doom's control room and, rather wonderfully, is also using his favourite method of communication against him. Doom is chased out of the castle by a range of his own weapons, until an astonished group of rebels watch him disappear from existence altogether. Thinking their rebellion has accidentally succeeded, Rudolpho is proclaimed their new ruler and the crowd start doing that slightly dodgy "Hailing" that they're so worryingly keen on. Their happiness does not last long, as the castle starts to vibrate and, up in the sky, a massive image of Doom appears, informing them that he cannot be beaten and, even now, his earthquake generator is destroying the building. What on earth is going on here? How did he escape whatever weapon the Faceless One turned on him? How did he do the big Sky Face? Why is his castle built on a fault line, and how come there's such a thing in the Bavarian mountains? The only thing that does ring true here is Doom's actions - an earthquake machine is exactly the sort of precautionary device he'd install, and destroying his home to stop somebody else getting hold of it is precisely the reaction you'd expect. Part of the reason this story gets away with as much as it does it that Leiber writes a great Doom, if not a sensible plot, and Wally Wood makes him look very exciting. One does have to wonder though, where are all the robots and soldiers that he usually has access to? Doom may be in character, but Latveria is not.

The rebels flee, with a much more heroic than usual Rudolpho leading them away, carrying a wounded Ramona in his arms, swearing to try again. Meanwhile the Doomsman is called to The Cave Of Sorrows, another freshly mentioned area, where he finds Doom sitting on a throne. There's no explanation of how he got there.

Doom decides to test the android, freeing him of mind control so he can fight a couple of handy robots (where were they when he needed them earlier?) before attacking Doom himself. Doom takes back control, admits that his plan to create an army of super-powered androids might have been flawed, and then... falls asleep? This, of course, was another trap. The android finds it has been freed and goes to attack Doom who reveals that he was just pretending, so teleports the Doomsman into another dimension. Doom does at least have some history of transporting people to other dimensions, but even so, why did he need to test the Doomsman at all, and again, why didn't he use this power earlier on The Faceless One? Actually, that's a point, isn't he still in the control room? Is it me, or does this feel like Lieber and Wood completely forgot about The Faceless One, and had to stick this bit of dialogue in at the last minute to explain it away?

And that's the rather rushed end to the story, which finishes with Doom ranting about how he's undefeatable, and the "next time" box offering a challenge. What indeed? Astonishing Tales came out bi-monthly, so it would be a while before regular readers found out... and it'll be quite a while for us too, as there's several other stories between now and then!

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posted 5/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Prisoner, The Power, And Dr. Doom!

This story is an early example of the problems that come up when a wandering character like Doom gets tied down to his own series. Previously he's been free to pop up wherever a creative team want to use him, but now he has his own series there are continuity questions to consider. When last we saw him he was in a Mexican stand-off with The Faceless One and The Doomsman in Latveria, but this issue calls for him to be elsewhere. The story deals with this problem by... completely ignoring it.

The story begins with Thor giving himself a brief recap of his previous adventure, where Loki impersonated him to stir up a load of trouble. His thoughts are interrupted however by a right old racket on the streets below, which turns out to be an argument over a demonstration outside the Latverian Embassy. I do like the way Stan Lee is trying to engage with modern politics here, using the Latverian Embassy as a metaphor for all the other embassies young people were protesting outside, and about, at this time, while being sure to have all viewpoints expressed, with John Buscema illustrating a (still dynamically drawn) old lady worried about this all causing a war. It's also another example of Lee falling in love with his own idea of Doom being unique among supervillains in that his power is partly derived from diplomatic immunity. To be fair, it's a great idea, but it's noticeable that he returns to it every time he writes Doom now.

Thor changes into his human identity of Don Blake to investigate, but quickly gets caught up in things as the demonstration turns into a riot, forcing him to transform into Thor again to scare people away and escort an injured girl - the same girl who instigated the demonstration - to safety. When the girl awakes she finds Don Blake watching over her again, who asks her what she was protesting for.

This seems a bit odd to me - surely you don't need a personal connection to protest against an authoritarian regime - but it turns out she has a link anyway, and proceeds to explain how her father was kidnapped by Doom years ago, and how she was kept as a hostage to ensure that he complied with Doom's wishes. During this flashback we once again see Doom as the sauvely relaxed liar who believes all of his own propaganda - very much in line with Lee's own recent characterisation, but different from the version seen in the contemporary story in Astonishing Tales. The girl, Cosette, escaped recently with the aid of the underground, who are shown here in an unambiguously heroic light, again differing from the story running simultaneously in Astonishing Tales. Don Blake decides to help, and turns back into Thor only to be interrupted by a message from Odin, who calls him back to Asgard fro a brief interlude involving the ongoing sub-plot of The World Beyond. That doesn't concern us here, suffice to say it's all very mysterious and then Thor heads back to Midgard to undertake a cunning scheme of his own. He's planted a Fake News story in the Daily Bugle, claiming he can cure any facial injury, no matter how severe. Thor thinks, correctly, that this will bring Don Blake to the notice of Doctor Doom, but doesn't seem particularly bothered about all the other victims of facial injury who, surely, will see this and be filled with false hope.

Over at the embassy Doom reads the piece and we get a re-run of two recurring Doom tropes - ripping up a newspaper in rage, and standing disconsolately in front of a mirror. As mentioned, this is all a bit difficult for the Marvel Universe's ongoing continuity - we know that Doom is currently fighting against a revolution in Latveria, so what's he doing in America lounging around in the embassy? When most of the titles were written by Stan Lee this was not an issue (except when he forgotten what he'd written previously, of course) and the Marvel Universe was able to maintain coherence, but as it expands, and other writers want to use the same characters, this is becoming a problem which, in the coming decade, would require solutions.

Stan Lee regularly places Doctor Doom in the Latverian Embassy, which not only reinforces his position as a head of state with vaguely defined diplomatic immunity, but also allows him to interact with the rest of the superhero/villain community. Here he's able to pop out in his limousine, find Don Blake wandering the streets, and kidnap him using a Molecule Displacer. He's then driven out into the woods, where he uncovers a secret helicopter/missile ship, which he uses to fly a sleeping Don Blake to a noticeably peaceful and intact version of Latveria. Doom takes Blake into a private room and prepares him to see "a sight that no other human eyes save mine have ever yet beheld", which isn't quite true, but anyway. He takes his mask off and Don Blake reacts with spectacular unprofessionalism. I think Doom has every right to report him to the American Medical Association. It's not exactly tactful, is it? Blake is, quite reasonably, chucked in a dungeon with his walking stick placed just out of reach. He needs this stick to transform into Thor and... quickly manages to get hold of it and transform, in a brief sequence that is not quite as exciting as it was maybe meant to be. Thor bursts out of the dungeon and into the cliffhanger for the next issue - Doom launches a missile to bring down a "foreign object" spied overhead, leaving Thor with a "deadly dilemma". We'll find out what happens soon (SPOILERS: Thor makes it out OK), but before then we're back to Latveria to see what's going on with The Doomsman!

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posted 28/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett