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Too Many Dooms

Last time we looked at an issue of Fantastic Four we were faced with an impenatrable mystery - we knew that Doctor Doom was trapped in a puppet body in Liddleville, but then we also saw Doctor Doom picking that body up, and then later giving orders to the Latverian ambassador. How could noted Robot-Builder and Duplicate-fiend Doctor Doom possibly be in more than one place at once?!?

Well obviously it's robots, but one of the many wonderful things about this extremely excellent comic is the way that John Byrne leads up to the "revelation", allowing the characters to work it out for themselves all at the same time, before going on to explore how this might all work. It's a great example of how his approach to the series worked, taking the best bits of the Lee/Kirby run, revamping where necessary, adding new aspects, but never forgetting to pay tribute to the originals. This is demonstrated with the cover too, which is a homage here to the cover of Fantastic Four #17. In Lee and Kirby's version Doom basically pitted the Fantastic Four against the unassailable might of... er... a building site, whereas Byrne takes the idea of splitting the team up and then makes it much more exciting. It's very similar to the way that Alan Moore used to take characters apart and then build them back up again, although I doubt either creator would appreciate the comparison.

The story itself kicks off with Reed Richards having another attempt at curing Ben Grimm of being The Thing... or at least pretending to. He suspects that his friend believes that Alicia only loves him when he's The Thing, and so is subconsciously preventing any "cure" from working - a lovely idea that not only makes the characterisation more interesting, but also generates lots of further story ideas.

Reed's musings are interrupted by Sue, who, in a jarring return to her previous duties as secretary to the team, has the Latverian amassador on line three. The ambassador is calling to finalise arrangements for the delivery of Doom's comatose body while, unbeknownst to the FF, Doom himself is sitting in the same room. We then go over to Doom's New York castle, where we catch a glimpse of The Micronauts leaving after the end of their recent adventure in Liddleville. Byrne doesn't actually show The Micronauts themselves here, only the underside of their ship, thereby avoiding the copyright issues which means that The Micronaut's own series (and any guest appearances by them in other series) cannot be reprinted these days. I wonder if he did it this way on purpose? Inside a smaller version of this castle, within Liddleville itself, we see the Puppet Master taunting Doom, having trapped him there back in Micronauts #41. However, just as he's enjoying himself, who should suddenly appear looming above them but... Doctor Doom?!! What the?!? How can Doom be in Liddleville, above Liddleville, and in the Embassy all at the same time? There's no time to ponder this though as we're taken immediately back to the Embassy where the ambassador very foolishly raises the possibility that Doom's latest cunning plan will fail. His boss does not take this idea in the constructive spirit in which it was intended, and once again demonstrates why the Latveria Embassy has won no awards for good Human Resources practice. The FF arrive in the building and are immediately dropped into a series of pits, where they each have their powers neutralised before individually meeting Doom himself. Each member of the team gets their own mini-fight with Doom, during which they have to work out what's going on in their own way, eventually coming to the same conclusion at the same time as one another. It's beautifully done - the reader will probably have worked this all out already, but seeing the FF seperately get there for themselves, in their own individual way, is a lovely bit of character work. With this "secret" now out in the open we get to see the various Doombots all gathering together, at which point they stop pretending to be Doom and work as a Robot Army. It's a great idea which I don't think has been seen before - we always knew Doom had lots of robot duplicates, but we've never seen how they might interact when they're all together. They return Doom's mind to his body and after a very brief sit-down he's back in charge, bossing the Fantastic Four around, completely unphased by their attempts to tell him off. Doom reveals that he wants the FF to help him re-take the throne of Latveria, which they not unreasonably reject out of hand as an utterly crazy idea. "I did not expect immediate agreement", he says, and the issue ends with a dramatic splash page, showing that contrary to all expectations way back in Fantastic Four #200, deposing Doom from the throne has led to Latveria becoming a ruined wasteland. As I've said many times, I bought these comics when they first came out, and the idea that Doctor Doom's rule could have been beneficial to the people of Latveria was mind-blowing. I was so used to baddies being unremitting baddies, especially in American comics, that to see it even being suggested that Doom could be good for his people was incredible. It's one heck of a cliffhanger, and it leads into what I think is one of the greatest Doom stories ever. It's "This Land Is Mine", and we'll be looking at it next time!

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posted 17/9/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Spider-man Unmasked!

It feels like a long time since we last looked at an episode of "Spider-man And His Amazing Friends", the slightly dopey, sitcom-esque sibling to the plainly-titled (but much more exciting) "Spider-man" cartoon of the early 1980s. Doctor Doom played a major part in the latter, so it's a shame that that series only lasted for a single season, while "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" went for three whole years.

As I said last time we looked at this show, I remember it as being a bit daft and rubbish, and this episode very much reaffirms that opinion. Spider-man, Firestar and Iceman seem to spend most of the episode in their civilian identities, in this case going to the beach (where they scare off a shark), popping to the pictures and then going to the zoo. In the midst of this is a storyline in which The Sandman learns Peter Parker's secret identity, so Firestar enlists the help of Flash Thompson to do the old "Peter stands next to someone in a Spider-man costume" trick to throw the villain of the scent. "Parker? And Spider-man? Together?" says The Sandman, and that's that sorted.

Doctor Doom appears only very briefly, when Flash and Firestar visit the aptly named "Stan's costumes" to pick up Flash's Spidey suit. It's interesting that they've got a The Thing costume in the window - I would have guessed that rights issues would have meant that the Fantastic Four couldn't appear in this series, but then again the presence of Doom here indicates that they might? Either way, there's a Doctor Doom costume on display alongside a very much Of The Time range of superheroes, including Elektra and Dazzler. The Doom costume isn't mentioned and isn't really relevant to the story, although it is identical to the one seen in the title sequence, where Doom appears as the grand finale to the titles for each episode, despite only appearing in the actual show twice. This highlighting of Doom, along with his presence in this episode alongside other leading characters (or, in the case of Dazzler, characters Marvel wanted to promote) demonstrates yet again that he's viewed as one of the major assets in the Marvel universe. I just wish that meant he'd been more a part of the actual show, especially as this is the last cartoon we'll be looking at in this corpus.

Next time, however, we're back to looking at Doom in the main Marvel Universe, in an actual comics - and a great comic too!

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posted 15/9/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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What If Doctor Doom Had A Sense Of Humour?

Long-term readers of this blog will know that there's one type of Marvel Comic I enjoy more than any other, and that is of course the Marvel Humour Comic. Oh! The wonderful hours I have spent chortling away at the hysterical possibilities of Marvel characters being played for laughs, and Oh! the number of times I have had to go to A&E to have my very SIDES sewn up again as a result.

Aha! I was joking! For LO! when Marvel attempts to do humour, from Not Brand Echh to The Fantastic Four Roast it is about as funny as a slap in the face with a wet sock. So, you can understand my trepidation when I started reading this issue and found that all the usual suspects were present, including the Watcher being a twit, Fred Hembeck's heavily involved, there are single-panel puns and,of course, the never-ending hilarious possibilities of Aunt May being a superhero. One thing that never seems to change, throughout this period of Marvel, is the fact that they think there's something inherently funny about Aunt May. There really isn't!

However, my general grumpiness at the prospect of reading this was thrown off balance when I came across a page I remembered very well indeed, from when it was reprinted in Marvel UK's "The Daredevils" series. At the time it was home to Alan Moore and Alan Davis's "Captain Britain" series, and I distinctly remember it featuring the short gag strip called "What If Daredevil were deaf instead of blind?" At the time I thought it had been written by Alan Moore, which was an easy mistake to make as most of the rest of the comic was! I have to admit, that joke did make me smile all these years later, and it almost makes up for "jokes" such as "What If Luke Cage had found the hammer of Thor?" (he would say "by the gleamin' gates of funky Asgard"...) and "What If Iron Man had an eating problem instead of a drinking problem ". Doctor Doom appears twice in this comic. The first is on the cover, where he's pictured wearing a mask and stethoscope because - HO HO! - he is a Doctor!!! The second is right at the end, when we have a one-panel gag "What if Dr. Doom had a sense of humor?" It's a load of old rubbish, but it's (almost) interesting to note that, fifteen years after his appearances in Brand Ecch, there's still an assumption that Doctor Doom's po-faced villainy is so well-accepted that placing him in any other situation is a surefire route to comedy gold.

Thankfully, for me at least, this is the last time we'll have to look at Marvel's full-on attempts at a humour comic, although there are still plenty of jokes to come!

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posted 10/9/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig!

Doom only appears in a single panel of this story, as part of a recap of the Micronauts' recent adventures. There's not really much else to say, except that the rest of the comic is another cracking issue of a surprisingly enjoyable series, gloriously illustrated by Gil Kane with full-on superhero storytelling by Bill Mantlo. Could this series be one of those "lost classics" you hear about?

Anyway, join us next time for a comic which is definitely not a lost classic, as "What If?" does perhaps my least favourite kind of Marvel story - yes, it's "humour" time once again!

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posted 8/9/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Prolog One

With the survey results FULLY examined it's time to get week back to the actual texts today, with a rather wonderful John Byrne issue of the FF which sees him very gently preparing for one of the greatest (in my opinion!) Doctor Doom stories... ever!

Most of the story here follows on from the previous issue, in which the FF finally managed to defeat Galactus, with Reed Richard now deciding that they have a duty to save him. This will lead to huge ramifications for the team later on, but for now the big change caused by it comes when Frankie Raye, the new female version of the Human Torch, volunteers to be Galactus's herald in exchange for him vowing not to eat the Earth. The Doctor Doom subplot appears right at the end of the issue, as part of "Prolog One", which seems an odd thing (and an odd spelling) to have at the end of a story. It starts off with Reed Richards finally buying the Baxter Building from their landlord, and then remembering that they've got Doctor Doom stored in one of their labs. This seems an odd thing to forget about, but anyway, he rings the Latverian embassy and speaks to Ambassador Leopold. "What's that?" the diplomat says. "You say you are holding our former monarch, and want to know what we wish you to do?" He seems very calm about such an unusual telephonic opening gambit, but I suppose that when you're the ambassador for Latveria you get used to that sort of thing.

Reed explains that Doom is "locked into a suspended animation field. No, it was an accident - his own", and Leopold agrees to take delivery of Doom's body on Thursday. It's all massively pedestiran until we get to the final panel on the page when it's revealed that Doom himself has been there all along! What the?!? How is this even possible? I for one can definitely not think of any way that Doctor Doom could be in two places at once, so I guess we'll just have to wait until the next time we're back in "The Fantastic Four" to find out what possible explanation there can be!

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posted 3/9/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Survey Results - Overall Analysis

At last it's here, the Grand Finale of the Survey Analysis!

I think it's fair to say, overall, that the survey worked really well, giving me lots of valuable information about what people thought made Doctor Doom the character he is, and providing lots of new ideas about how I move on to the next stage of my own analysis. However, there were to big issues that I think would need to be addressed if the process were repeated with other characters.

Firstly, my recruitment of respondents was obviously biased in favour of comics. This was especially clear from the way that Squirrel Girl and Ryan North were represented, due to Ryan North's (very helpful) retweeting of the recruitment request. For Doctor Doom, who appeared mostly in comics during this period, this should not pose too many difficulties, but for characters who appear more often in other media I would recommend taking the time to reach out to other fandoms. I would also suggest that, although it was great to have so many respondents, it is not actually necessary, and a smaller group taken from wider sources would give results that were at least as good, and possibly better. When entering the data, I found that 50 respondents was enough to get the vast majority of information I needed.

The second issue was with the design of the survey itself. As noted throughout these blogs, leaving the questions about which media respondents had experienced Doom in to the end of the survey meant that many tried to answer them elsewhere. I think that moving this section to the start of the survey would reassure respondents that these questions would be asked, and also give a clearer idea of which areas were being examined. There were also several questions where respondents were not always clear about what was required of them, and these should be rephrased. I'll be creating a revised version of the survey for my final thesis to address these issues, so if anyone's interested in using it do let me know!

Having said all that, the survey did elicit a wide range of responses which painted a rich, and surprisingly coherent, picture of who Doctor Doom is. The answers can be broadly characterised as follows:

  • He is an arrogant, megalomaniacal, egotistical genius who is obsessed with Reed Richards, the welfare of his country, and the fate of his dead mother. This is shown by his use of dramatic actions, often involving his hands, and penchant for striking dramatic poses, as well as the way he refers to himself in the third person, making self- aggrandising claims and using phrases such as "Fools!" "Bah!" and "Curse you!"

  • He is generally referred to in three ways - as Doctor Doom (or simply "Doom", usually by himself), variations of his full name Victor von Doom, or with honorifics referring to his status as the ruler of Latveria. He wears a mask and suit of armour with a green tunic over the top, a hooded cloak, attached with golden clasps, and a leather belt with a gun holster. His eyes are visible beneath the mask, and his face is scarred after an accident. This incident occurred while at University with Reed Richards, and is the most important even in his life, followed by the damnation of his mother.

  • Doom is most often associated with the Fantastic Four, especially Reed Richards, and the Doombots of his own creation. Other close associates include Namor the Sub-Mariner, his son Kristoff, and his manservant Boris, but he interacts with a wide variety of characters across the Marvel Universe.

  • He can mostly be found in Latveria, especially in his castle, or in New York locations such as the Baxter Building, his castle in the Adirondacks, or the Latverian Embassy.

  • He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with other notable creators being John Byrne, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo, and Walt Simonson.

  • He is a Marvel comics character.

    This description would, I think, be agreed as true by anybody familiar with the character. However, not all aspects of it are true all the time - there are, for instance, versions of Doom in other media which do not include Reed Richards at all. Similarly, there are many aspects of his character that are apparent from a close reading of the corpus, such as his use of viewing screens and many visits to the United Nations, that are hardly mentioned. I'll be examining this further in my thesis!

    Talking of which, the next step for me will be to take the character components identified in this survey to form the basis of an empirical tool which can be used to analyse the texts themselves, and see whether Doom's actual characteristics as displayed in my sample of texts match the perception outlined above. I'll most likely be mentioning this later in the year when it's underway, but for now that's the end of the analysis. Next time we're back to the texts themselves, kicking off with a prologue to Doom's triumphant return to the pages of "The Fantastic Four"!

    posted 27/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Survey Results - Creators And Marketing

    Today we reach the final part of the main survey analysis, looking mostly at aspects of Doom as a character created and sold by people and commercial entities in the "real world", as opposed to the fictional aspects covered previously.

    Creators: Please enter the names of any people or organisations that you associate with the creation of Doctor Doom's stories. Please note that this can refer to anybody who worked on any story, not just the original creators of the character.

    This question is looking for the names of those who actually create Doom's stories. As might be expected, there were a huge number of different responses with were 59 creators mentioned by two or more respondents and a further 54 unique responses. For brevity's sake I have only included those with 4 or more mentions here.
    Creator Mentions
    Stan Lee 192
    Jack Kirby 188
    John Byrne 85
    Jonathan Hickman 42
    Marvel Comics 28
    Mark Waid 25
    John Buscema 24
    Walt Simonson 21
    Jim Shooter 21
    Mike Weiringo 17
    Ryan North 16
    Roy Thomas 15
    Mike Mignola 15
    Joe Sinnott 15
    Chris Claremont 14
    Roger Stern 11
    Steve Ditko 10
    Ed Brubaker 9
    Mike Zeck 9
    Brian Michael Bendis 9
    Wally Wood 9
    Josh Trank 7
    Erica Henderson 7
    Warren Ellis 7
    Steve Englehart 6
    Mark Millar 6
    Gene Colan 6
    George Perez 6
    John Romita (Sr) 6
    Tom deFalco 6
    Bob Layton 6
    Esad Ribic 5
    Marv Wolfman 5
    Roger Corman 5
    Tim Story 5
    Julian McMahon 4
    David Michelinie 4
    Rich Buckler 4

    The first thing to notice about this category is that although the question said "this can refer to anybody who worked on any story, not just the original creators of the character", the vast majority of respondents still identified Doom's creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as people they associated with the character.

    After that we see the names of the creators usually named as responsible for the most "important" or fan-favourite runs on the "Fantastic Four" series i.e. John Byrne, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo, and Walt Simonson . Interestingly, "Marvel Comics" is also included in this category. As we will see, this would be a better fit for the next section "Market Authors", but it is interesting to see how many people think of the brand as an actual creator of Doom's stories.

    As seen for other categories, the bias inherent in the selection of respondents is clear, not just the usual one towards the "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" series (with both series creators, Ryan North and Erica Henderson, included in the responses), but in the fact that almost all of the names mentioned come from comics. The first non-comics creator is Josh Trank, Director of "Fantastic 4", with Roger Corman (director of the unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four movie), and Tim Story and Julian McMahon (the director and the actor who played Doom in the 2005 "Fantastic Four" and 2007 "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer" movies) also appearing.

    Marketing: Please enter the names of any people or organisations that you associate with the marketing of Doctor Doom's stories. This could include names that you have already entered in the previous question, but does not have to.

    In contrast, this question is looking for the names that are used to sell the stories - as will be seen, there is quite a lot of crossover with answers to the previous section.

    Creator Mentions
    Marvel Comics 111
    Marvel 84
    Stan Lee 68
    20th Century Fox 28
    Fox studios 26
    Jack Kirby 25
    Disney 12
    Sony Pictures 7
    Jim Shooter 7
    John Byrne 7
    ToyBiz 5
    Mattel 4
    MF Doom 4
    Hanna-Barbera 4
    Jonathan Hickman 4
    Roy Thomas 3
    Fantastic Four 3
    Secret Wars 3
    Capcom 3
    Universal 2
    Mark Waid 2
    Roger Corman 2
    Don't know 2
    OTHER 53

    Unsurprisingly, "Marvel Comics" and "Marvel" were mentioned most here, along with the different movie studios that have produced Doom's appearances. Similarly, the creators named are broadly in line with the top answers from the previous category, as these are the ones whose names are often used in conjunction with collected editions. Also, most Marvel comics from the mid-1970s to late 1980s are headed with "Stan Lee Presents..." so it is expected that his name should be quite high in the list.

    The only surprise for me was the appearance of "MF Doom" here, an artist I was completely unaware of until starting this PhD, although given the amount of times people have mentioned him to me since I began, perhaps it shouldn't have been!
    Cover of Operation: Doomsday

    Other associations: Is there anything else that you associate with Doctor Doom that has not been covered in this survey so far?.

    This category was included so that respondents could mention anything else that had not been covered.

    Topic Mentions
    Behaviours and Actions already discussed 54
    Characters and object already discussed 20
    MF Doom 11
    Cartoons/movies (and comments on quality) 11
    Secret Wars 7
    Action figures/toys 5
    Doom 2099 3
    Darth Vader 3
    OTHER 39

    As can be seen above, most respondents did not feel they needed to answer this question, and many of those who did used it to mention other media they had seen Doom in. This is another argument for re-ordering the survey - if they had already listed the media they had seen Doom in then they would hopefully not feel the need to do so again.

    In fact, the only topics brought up by more than one person which were not covered in the main survey questions were MF Doom again, and Doom's relationship to Darth Vader. If nothing else, I feel that this shows how comprehensive the survey was!

    That ends our look at the individual survey responses - join us next time for the grand finale, when we look at the responses overall!

    posted 25/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Survey Results - Doctor Doom's World continued

    Today we're continuing with our look at the aspect of Doctor Doom's world that define him as a character, this time looking at locations and events. Let's go!

    Locations: Please enter any places that you associate with Doctor Doom stories.
    Location Mentions
    Latveria 210
    New York 88
    Baxter building 57
    Castle Doom 43
    Castle 37
    Hell 26
    Doomstadt 20
    Latverian embassy 19
    Space 18
    Battleworld 10
    Laboratory 10
    college (ESU) where he met Reed Richards 9
    Four Freedoms Plaza 7
    other dimensions/realms 6
    Throne room 6
    Atlantis 5
    Tibet 4
    United Nations Building 4
    Doom Island 4
    USA 3
    Upstate New York Castle 3
    Earth 3
    the Moon 3
    2099 universe/timeline 3
    Camelot 2
    Wakanda 2
    wherever the FF are 2
    Avengers Mansion 2
    Eastern Europe 2
    Other 33

    This was another category that was straightforward to code, with a very clear top answer. The only real issue was with the different Castles that Doom inhabits. Occasionally respondents would state that they were referring to Doom's original castle in New York, which appeared in his debut appearance, but others simply said "Castle Doom" (i.e. the one in Latveria) or just "Castle", so for clarity I coded each separately.

    There was another difference here between my own perceptions of Doom and that of the respondents. My reading (and viewing) has shown that the United Nations building occurs again and again in Doom's stories across different media - while analysing the survey I was watching the Spider-Man cartoon series from 1981, which features the UN building in almost every episode where Doom appears - yet only four people mentioned it. Unlike the viewing screens in the previous category, this is less easy to explain away with advances in technology, and may point to differences in the way that comics fans and creators view the core components of character. It may also suggest that the creators do some revision in advance of creating a new story, and pick up aspects of previous stories that readers tend to miss, like the re-use of certain locations.

    Previous events: Please enter any important events from the past that are referred to in Doctor Doom's stories.
    Event Mentions
    Scarring of face (in explosion) 150
    University 83
    Early meetings with Reed Richards 81
    Death of his mother 78
    Overthrowing ruler of Latveria 51
    Mother's damnation 49
    Mask place on face 33
    Time in Tibet/Himalayas 32
    Attempts to save mother from hell/Mephisto 30
    Gypsy life/Childhood in Latveria 30
    Armour being built 28
    Finds mother's spells/learns magic 23
    Ongoing rivalry with Reed Richards 22
    Father's death 20
    Steals Silver Surfer's power/board 16
    Steals Beyonder's Power 16
    Various confrontations with FF 13
    Mother was a witch 8
    Remade the universe/Became a God 8
    Time Machine/Blackbeard's treasure adventure 8
    FF Origin 7
    Loses his true love/wife 6
    Birth of Valeria 6
    Secret Wars 6
    shooting Baxter Building into space 6
    Tries to take over the world 5
    Doom as part of FF Origin 5
    Beaten by Squirrel Girl 4
    Father was a doctor 3
    Camelot 3
    expulsion from school 3
    Adopted Kristoff 3
    Marrying Scarlet Witch (almost) 2
    Murdered Valeria for more magic 2
    Confrontations with Iron Man 2
    Stiffing Luke Cage for payment 2
    Hands crushed by Thing 2
    Became Iron Man 2
    Tried to date Sue 2
    On the run with father 2
    Other 72

    There seemed to be some confusion amongst respondents here. The question asked for "important events from the past that are referred to in Doctor Doom's stories", but what most people entered seems to have been the events that they themselves remembered. This is especially noticeable in the "Other" category, which largely consists of specific stories recalled by respondents, or indeed internet memes. Perhaps the question did not make this sufficiently clear, erring on the side of brevity rather than clarity.

    Other than that the responses here did tally with my own experience of reading Doom's stories, with aspects of his origin story rating most highly, along with the events regarding his mother's death and damnation. These are clearly core to Doom's character, and the fact that very few subsequent events are referred to points to the way Doom is often used as a "modular" or "portable" character who can be dropped into any storyline without need of much introduction or knowledge of anything except his origin.

    That concludes our look at Doom's world - next time we'll be covering the creators associated with the character before wrapping the whole thing up with an overall analysis of What We Have Learned!

    posted 20/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Survey Results -Doctor Doom's World

    Last week we looked at our respondents' views on Doctor Doom himself, and now it's time to have a look at the world he actually lives in. For any transmedia character this is at least as important as their personal characteristics - for instance, for Sherlock Holmes, the presence of Watson is as important to us accepting the main character as any other aspect. Today's analysis will look at this in particular, along with the items that accompany Doom.

    Other characters: Please enter any other characters who regularly appear in Doctor Doom's stories - his supporting cast.
    Character Mentions
    Fantastic Four 191
    Doombots 58
    Sub-Mariner 53
    Kristoff/son 49
    Boris 37
    Doctor Strange 35
    Iron Man 32
    Valeria Richards 28
    Mother (Cynthia) 27
    Reed Richards 27
    Spider-Man 26
    Mephisto 25
    Latverian citizens 23
    Silver surfer 21
    Franklin Richards 20
    Avengers 20
    Squirrel Girl 19
    Valeria (true love) 16
    Galactus 10
    Black Panther 8
    Marvel Universe in general 7
    Kang The Conqueror 7
    Scarlet Witch 7
    various lackeys/servants 6
    Father 5
    Morgana Le Fay 5
    Luke Cage 5
    Sue Richards 5
    X-Men 4
    Victorious 4
    Captain America 4
    Hauptmann 4
    Magneto 4
    Thor 3
    Red Skull 3
    Peasants 3
    Klaw 3
    Layla Miller 2
    Zorba 2
    Hulk 2
    Agatha Harkness 2
    Beyonder 2
    Loki 2
    OTHER 37

    One of the issues that arose here was that respondents had difficulty in remembering some of the characters' names, especially for Boris. They usually described the character well enough to be clear who they meant, using terms such as "faithful manservant". A similar problem was working out which of the two characters called Valeria was being referred to. Usually respondents would make this clear themselves, by prefacing it with terms such as "his lost love..." if they meant Doom's childhood sweetheart, or giving the full name "Valeria Richards" if they meant his goddaughter. However, on other occasions the identity had to be discerned through context, so that if the respondent included "Valeria" directly after members of the Fantastic Four I assumed they meant Valeria Richards, while mentioning the name alongside Boris or Doom's mother would lead me to assume they meant the childhood friend.

    Also of note here is that Doom's relationship with Valeria Richards is one of the few aspects of his character (apart from his encounters with Squirrel Girl of course)that first appeared after 1987. Indeed, most aspects were defined within the character's first few years of existence and were little changed afterwards.

    Another coding issue arose around the group description "Fantastic Four". Whilst some respondents would enter the name of the group as a whole, others would list all four names. In both cases I coded their answer as "The Fantastic Four", as this allowed me to reflect the fact that lot of respondents gave answers like "Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four", clearly prioritising the latter. While there were also many occasions where respondents would only name Reed Richards, the only other member of this team to also be highlighted in this way was Sue Storm/Richards, and much less often.

    It was also interesting to see how many respondents mentioned Kristoff, a character who I assumed had only appeared in a few John Byrne stories but, according to The Marvel Database, has made over 70 appearances in the Marvel Universe.

    Objects: Please enter any objects that regularly appear in Doctor Doom's stories.
    Object Mentions
    Doombots/Robots 107
    Armour 62
    Time machine 57
    Machinery/KirbyTech 41
    Castle 37
    Mask 35
    Throne 29
    cloak and/or hood 25
    Goblets 17
    Weaponry (high tech) 16
    Mad Science Device (new to this story) 13
    Magical artifacts 11
    cosmic cube 9
    Gun 9
    infinity stones/gauntlet 8
    laboratory equipment 8
    Books 7
    Gauntlets 6
    Dining tables/chairs 6
    Traps 5
    McGuffin - the evil device Doom seeks 4
    Plane 2
    Crown and sceptre 2
    Viewing screens 2
    Bombs 2
    Lasers 2
    OTHER 53

    This category had the most overlap with other categories, with the top item "Doombots" also cropping up in answers to the "Appearance" (5 responses), "Physical actions" (26), and "Other characters" (58) questions. Several other items here - "armour", "mask", "cloak and/or hood" etc. - are also part of his "Appearance", whilst "Castle" is also a location. Clearly these are all core components of Doom, however they are categorised, but for the purposes of my own analysis later they would need to be placed in one category only. This will be done based on the number of respondents mentioning them in each category, so that Doombots would be included in the "Other Characters" category because that is where they received the most mentions.

    Apart from these the top answer was Doom's time machine and then machinery in general. Machinery is coded as "Machinery/Kirby Tech" because the latter term was frequently used to describe Doom's devices . The code "Mad Science Device (new to this story)" however is a different signifier, referring to the stream of new inventions that often form the starting point for Doom's adventures, which were referred to in this manner by respondents.

    Also of interest was the fact that only two people mentioned "viewing screens". During my research I have noticed that these appear again and again, across all media versions of Doctor Doom, and yet they do not seem to have left an impression on respondents. One explanation for this could be that they were answering questions in the twenty first century, where viewing screens are so common as not to be notable, whereas the stories themselves were written and consumed in a time when they were still the stuff of science fiction.

    As ever, these results show how useful it was to conduct the survey, rather than simply doing it by myself. We'll have more of this next time, when we look at the rest of Doctor Doom's world!

    posted 18/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Survey Results - More About Doom

    Today we're continuing our look our survey respondents thought makes Doctor Doom Doctor Doom, this time in terms of behaviour and dialogue. Here's the questions asked, and what people said:

    Behaviours: Please enter general behaviours or personality traits that you associate with Doctor Doom.

    This category had a massive 83 different answers which were given by more than one respondent, with another 150 unique replies! For the sake of brevity, therefore, only the behaviours mentioned by 10 or more respondents are included here.

    Arrogant 88
    Megalomania 77
    Genius/High Intelligence 63
    Reed Richards obsession 60
    Egotistical/Narcissistic 54
    Scheming/Plotting/Devious 43
    Concern for his own country and people 33
    Vengeful 26
    Authoritarian/Tyrannical 25
    Mother Obsession 25
    Angry 25
    Sense of justice/honor/chivalry 24
    Condescending/haughty 22
    regal/imperious/aristocratic 22
    Vain 20
    proud/prideful 20
    Jealous 17
    Speaks in third person 15
    Commanding 14
    driven/self-motivated 13
    Evil 13
    Pompous/verbose 12
    Cruel 11
    self-aggrandising 11
    soft spot for Valeria Richards/other children 10
    Confident 10
    Boastful 10

    This was a huge response, but (luckily for me and my attempts to analyse it) this sort of complexity is not unique to this survey, and is in fact a longstanding problem for the psychological analysis of personality traits. This goes back to at least 1936 when Allport & Odbert initially identified 18,000 words to describe personalities in "Trait names: A psycholexical study". Since then many theories have been put forward about how to address this issue, with the most widely used currently being "The Big Five", a system for grouping together personality traits into five broad dimensions to describe human personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

    It's possible that I'll be able to use some aspects of this codification scheme when I move onto the next stage of this project, which will be using the responses to create a tool for analysing the comics themselves. However, it will not form the basis of the tool itself - certain specific aspects of Doom's personality, such as his obsessions with Reed Richards and his mother, need to be recorded as specific details, rather than in the more general terms of this psychological tool.

    For the moment, however, it is clear that Doom's characteristics are broadly centred around his arrogance, desire for power, and the twin obsessions mentioned above.

    Dialogue: Please enter things that Doctor Doom regularly says - his catchphrases.

    This question had far fewer different responses than Behaviours, in large part because lots of respondents difficult to think what Doom's dialogue might consist of - the phrase "Can't think of any specific (catch)phrases" or similar came up so often that it was included as a category of its own. Also, as can be seen below, there were several popular answers which referred to a general way of speaking rather than specific phrases.

    Speaks in Third Person 49
    Doom used in various self-aggrandising statements 42
    Richards! 36
    Fool(s) 34
    Can't think of any specific (catch)phrases 32
    I am Doom 31
    Accursed (Reed) Richards 21
    Kneel/Bow before Doom 18
    Confound these squirrels! 14
    Bah! 11
    Doctor Doom does/toots as he pleases 9
    You dare/how dare you? 9
    Says his own name a lot 6
    Mentions Latveria 4
    None shall/can/will... 4
    So swears/says Doom 4
    Curses/Curse/Damn you! 4
    Doom commands (it/you) 4
    Dolt 4
    Fear the wrath of DOOM! 3
    Silence! 3
    Cretin(s) 3
    Doom cares not! 3
    Formal language 2
    Doom's word... 2
    Tremble before Doom 2
    You will rue the day 2
    My people love me 2
    Witless fool 2
    Other 27

    The presence of "Confound these squirrels!" (and variations thereof) shows yet again the influence of Ryan North's followers on the survey!

    Doom in "The Coming Of Squirrel Girl" from Marvel Superheroes #8

    As I write this blog I'm just starting on the process of collecting Doom's dialogue from the actual texts, and I must say that this list is pretty accurate, especially "Bah!" which seems to come up in almost every example. He also speaks in the third person and says his own name a lot, and although so far he hasn't said "Doctor Doom does/toots as he pleases", the specific issue is that they internet meme comes from is in the sample!

    Next time we're moving on to look at Doom's world, where we'll see some more of the influence of Squirrel Girl, and a lot more chances for comic fans to prove how much they know!

    posted 13/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Survey Results - All About Doom

    This week we’re going to start digging through the answers given to the main body of my Doctor Doom survey, kicking off with some questions about Doctor Doom himself. This, and the other remaining sections, allowed respondents to enter as many answers as they liked in free text, and I mildly coded them so they could be counted up, as shown in the tables that follow.

    Appearance: Please enter as many aspects of Doctor Doom's appearance as you can think of.

    Aspect of appearance
    Green Cape 212
    Metal armour 187
    Metal Mask 186
    Green Hood 119
    Scarred face 85
    Green tunic/skirt 57
    Gauntlets 51
    Eyes visible 47
    Gold disk clasps 47
    Leather belt 32
    Rectangular/Grill in mouth 24
    Gun on hip 23
    Square eye holes 23
    Rivets 19
    Metal Boots/Jet boots 14
    Tall 12
    Red/brown hair 10
    D-shaped belt buckle 8
    Gritted teeth/Scowl 6
    Robotic looking 6
    Doombot nearby (or he is one) 5
    Discs on joints 5
    Blasters in hands 5
    Muscular 3
    Brown Eyes 3
    Triangular nose 3
    White 2
    Medieval 2
    Other 26

    The "Other" category featured a range of signifiers that were only mentioned by single respondents, most of which were ones that belonged in other categories, such as "over the top speech patterns" or "Wine goblet".

    The value of using a survey to find aspects of Doom's character, rather than simply deciding on my own, was demonstrated very clearly during the analysis of this category as there were several aspects of Doom's appearance that I would not have thought to include myself, but are entirely obvious when pointed out - this includes things like "Gauntlets", "Eyes visible" (often stated as "angry eyes visible") and "Rivets".

    Some aspects that seemed important to me, however, did not rate highly in the survey at all, such as the discs on his knee and elbow joints which were only mentioned five times. Other characteristics mentioned were perplexing, such as the "D-shaped belt buckle" mentioned by five respondents. I had never seen a "D" on Doom's belt in any media, within or without my sampling area, but when I mentioned this to a younger comics reader (my nephew Noah) he immediately knew what I meant and fetched an image of Doom from a character guide which featured a belt buckle stylised to look something like a "D".
    Image from Marvel Avengers: The Ultimate Character Guide

    Names and titles: Please enter ways that Doctor Doom is addressed, either by other characters, the narrator, or himself.

    Name or Title
    Doom 145
    Victor von Doom 132
    Dr/Doctor Doom 123
    Victor 85
    Ruler of Latveria 35
    Master 31
    Emperor/God Emperor Doom 27
    von Doom 23
    Lord Doom 19
    King of Latveria 17
    Doc Doom 16
    Vic 13
    Your highness 13
    Lord of Latveria 10
    Doomsie/Doomie/Doomsy 10
    Monarch of Latveria 9
    Majesty 8
    Excellency 6
    Doc 6
    Lord 6
    Doctor 6
    uncle doom 6
    Sire 6
    Infamous Iron Man 4
    Sorcerer Supreme 4
    Victor Van Damme 2
    Honey 2
    Invincible Man 2
    Leader of Latveria 2
    my liege 2
    Other 46

    As can be seen, there were a lot of variations on "Doctor Victor Von Doom", all of which were recorded separately as I was aware that a character addressing him as "von Doom" had very different connotations to another using "Victor". Similarly, the different titles relating to Latveria ("Ruler", "King", "Lord" etc.) were retained separately. Others, such as "Doomsie/Doomie/Doomsy" were compacted into one simply because they were different spellings on the way that he is often referred to by the Thing.

    What is abundantly clear from this category is that while other titles do exist, Doom is generally called either simply "Doom", various permutations of "Doctor Victor Von Doom" or some version of "Ruler of Latveria".

    Physical actions: Please enter specific physical actions that you associate with Doctor Doom.

    Physical Action
    Bolts of energy from hands 80
    Shakes or clenches fist/hand gestures 72
    Magic/Dark Arts 58
    Dramatic pose/Power pose 57
    Flies/hovers (often with jetpack) 45
    Builds/invents things 40
    Sits on Throne 36
    Manipulates machinery (buttons/levers) 35
    Doombot (uses or is one) 26
    Monologues 19
    Curses reed richards 17
    Makes a speech/Addresses crowd 16
    Strides (through crowds) 15
    Arms in the air (while speaking) 14
    Fighting/hand to hand combat 14
    Rules Latveria 12
    Rants/Shouts 12
    Cape flourish 10
    Broods (often on parapets) 10
    Gives Orders 10
    Arms crossed 10
    Combines science and sorcery 9
    Uses Weaponry/gadgets (in armour) 9
    Pointing 9
    Drinks Wine 9
    Experiments/works in lab 8
    Looms 8
    Time Travel 7
    Zaps things with electricity 7
    Fist hits table 7
    Laughs manically 7
    Kidnaps/traps people 6
    Gloats 6
    Howls with rage 6
    Shoots gun 5
    Glares 4
    Grimaces/Scowls 4
    Attempts to conquer the world 4
    Hands clasped behind back 4
    Backhanding/swatting enemies 3
    Speaks in third person 3
    looking at monitors/video screen 2
    Plays chess 2
    preside over sumptuous feast 2
    Removes mask 2
    Blows the seahorn 2
    Other 42

    A major problem with coding for this section was that many of the responses were not really physical activities at all. Answers such as "Magic" or "Dark Arts", "Combines science and sorcery", " Builds/invents things" and "Time Travel" refer to more general activities which would be better suited in the "Behaviours" category, while a lot of the unique answers in the "other" category referred to past events ("Putting on his mask and scarring his face forever", "being attacked by squirrels").

    Clearly there was an issue here with the description of what was meant by "Physical actions", and if this exercise was repeated there would need to be a reappraisal of how this question was phrased. Having said that, the benefits of undertaking this survey were once more made clear, as several responses arose which I would not have considered. These included "Bolts of energy from hands" or "Shakes or clenches fist/hand gestures". Conversely, aspects such as "looking at monitors/video screen", which to my mind is one of Doom's defining characteristics, was only mentioned by two people.

    More of this next time, when we look at what Doom says and the very complicated question of the way he acts!

    posted 11/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    More Survey Results

    Today we're continuing our look at the results from my Doctor Doom survey. Last time we saw what kinds of media the respondents remembered seeing Doom in, and took a deeper look at the comics section. This time we're carrying on with a look at what movies, animated TV shows and video games they remembered.

    Movies: Which movies do you remember seeing that featured Doctor Doom?

    This question was only asked for people who had answered "Yes" or "Not sure" to the question asking if the remembered seeing Doom in any movies. The results were as follows:

    Movie Yes No Don't Know or Missing
    Fantastic Four (2005) 154 25 46
    Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (2007) 117 60 48
    Fantastic 4 (2015) 84 92 49
    The Fantastic Four (1994) 78 98 49
    Other 0 131 94

    Even the most widely known movie was known by only 154 of the respondents, which is less than the top four series in the comics section. This may be due to the bias towards comics fans in my recruitment, although it may also be because none of the films listed were particularly successful

    As one might expect, the most widely known film appearance by Doom was the film that did best commercially, and the least known was the Roger Corman version which has never been officially released. Much to my relief, nobody entered any answers in the "Other" section - I didn't think there have ever been any other Doom appearances in movies, and it looks like I was right!

    Animated TV shows: Which animated TV shows do you remember seeing that featured Doctor Doom?

    Similarly to the previous question, this one was As before, This question was only asked for people who had answered "Yes" or "Not sure" to the question about animated TV shows earlier. Results were as follows:

    Animated TV Show Yes No Don't Know or Missing
    Fantastic Four (1967) 85 77 63
    Fantastic Four: The Animated Series (1994) 83 79 63
    Spider-man And His Amazing Friends (1981) 79 82 64
    Spider-man: The Animated Series (1994) 64 98 63
    The New Fantastic Four (1978) 60 101 64
    Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes (2006) 52 106 67
    Spider-man (1981) 50 111 64
    The Marvel Super Heroes (1966) 49 113 63
    The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (2010) 48 110 67
    The Super Hero Squad Show (2009) 39 120 66
    The Incredible Hulk (1996) 34 125 66
    Avengers Assemble (2013) 25 132 68
    Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2009) 22 136 67
    Ultimate Spider-man (2012) 21 137 67
    Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. (2013) 11 145 69
    Other 3 125 97

    The main point of interest for this list is that it appears to favour the older TV shows. One explanation for this could be that TV shows like this are generally aimed at children, so older respondents would not necessarily be familiar with more recent shows.

    Video games: Which video games do you remember seeing or playing that featured Doctor Doom?

    Video game Yes No Don't Know or Missing
    Marvel vs Capcom (1995-2011) 77 34 114
    Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006-2019) 74 35 116
    Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013) 45 66 114
    Marvel Heroes (2015-2016) 26 82 117
    The Amazing Spider-man and Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge! (1989) 23 86 116
    Spider-man: The Video Game (1991) 15 95 115
    Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009-2011) 14 96 115
    Other 13 79 133

    The "Other" answers included 18 different games, including 3 which were included in the list above and some which Doom definitely does not appear in. I was quite surprised that Lego Marvel Super Heroes was not higher in the list, as that was the one I was most aware of, but again there does not seem to be any particular trend in the dates for different games.


    So what have we learnt so far? If nothing else, these and the previous results demonstrate that the survey respondents had a broad knowledge of Doctor Doom in different media and different time periods. On average, each respondent was aware of Doom appearing in 3.89 out of the 8 different media types (median 4), with the overwhelming majority (77.78%) being aware of him in 3-6 media types. Similarly, on average respondents had some familiarity (score 3-5) with 3.72 out of the 6 eras, with a slight bias, as described previously, towards the period of this thesis.

    There were other biases, such as for comics or for Squirrel Girl, which came from the method of recruitment, and if I was to run such a survey again I would make a greater effort to engage with fans of other media, but I think it is fair to say that this group of respondents could be trusted to give an informed view of who Doctor Doom was generally thought to be.

    Next time we'll start having a look at what that view actually was!

    posted 6/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Doom Survey Results

    Back in April I used this blog to conduct an online survey, designed to try and discover what makes Doctor Doom Doctor Doom. It went much better than I expected (I was hoping for about 50 responses, but by the end of the survey period I had had 225 completed surveys returned) which is why it's taken so long to sort out the results, but for the next couple of weeks I'm finaly going to be sharing them with you here.

    I'm going to start with the analysis for section five of the survey, "Your Experience Of Doctor Doom". It makes sense to start here, rather than in the order the questions were actually asked, because this section gives a lot of insight into the background knowledge of those taking part, which in turn sheds light on some of the results themselves.

    For all answers, I'll give the question in bold and then go through the results, as follows:

    Media types: In which of the following media have you experienced Doctor Doom stories?

    Respondents were asked to answer "Yes", "No" or "Don't know" to this question to indicate which types of media types they had experienced Doctor Doom in.

    Media Type Yes No Don't Know Missing
    Comics 221 2 1 3
    Movies 185 30 7 5
    Animated TV shows 164 40 17 6
    Video games 108 92 19 8
    Newspaper strips 50 152 17 8
    Radio shows 6 209 4 8
    Action Figures/Toys 136 77 9 5
    Other 54 64 70 39

    If the respondent answered "Yes" to "Other" they were asked which other media they had seen featuring Doctor Doom. The answers were as follows:

    Other Media Types Mentions
    Costumes/Cosplay 11
    MF Doom/Hip Hop 9
    Trading Cards/Table top games 9
    Fan-Art/Fan-fiction 8
    Prose fiction/Text Books 7
    Memes 4
    Vinyl record/Audio story 4
    Collectibles 3
    Other 7

    By adding the top answers here to the main table the following graph was produced.

    Comics came out clearly on top, although movies and animated TV shows were not far behind. This was to be expected, as most of the respondents were recruited via comics-related groups, but I did not expect Action Figures/Toys to be such a popular response. As will be seen throughout this analysis, respondents regularly gave answers that I would not have considered important, or included at all, if the survey had not been run - a great justification for actually doing it!

    Comics: How familiar are you with comics from each of the following decades?

    The next questions were only asked for people who had answered "Yes" or "Not sure" to the question "Comics" at the start of the section. Results were as follows:

    Decade Scale of 1 to 5 where 1 means " Not familiar at all" and 5 means "Very familiar"
    1 2 3 4 5 Missing
    1960-1969 12 51 59 27 55 21
    1970-1979 19 53 62 25 44 22
    1980-1989 19 34 50 38 62 22
    1990-1999 19 45 65 36 38 22
    2000-2009 16 47 56 41 43 22
    2010 - present day 22 44 50 30 56 23

    By recoding scores 1 and 2 as "Not familiar", 3 as "Neither" and 4 and 5 as "Familiar" the following graph was produced. This shows that awareness of Doctor Doom's appearances was fairly evenly spread across time, with a slight bias towards the 1980s, which could be accounted for by his leading appearance in "Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars" during this period. This might also explain why so many people thought of Doom appearing as an action figure, as this was the commercial driving force behind the creation of the "Secret Wars" series.

    Comics series: Which comics series are you aware of Doctor Doom appearing in?

    This was only asked for people who answer 'Yes' or 'Not sure' to the previous question.

    Comics Series Yes No Don't Know or Missing
    Fantastic Four 203 2 20
    Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars 164 39 22
    The Avengers 164 40 21
    What If? 156 46 23
    The Amazing Spider-man 145 59 21
    Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 144 59 22
    Doom 2099 141 63 21
    The X-Men 129 75 21
    Infinity Gauntlet/Infinity War 127 76 22
    Secret Wars 127 76 22
    Secret Wars II 127 75 23
    Spidey Super Stories 101 102 22
    Infamous Iron Man 100 102 23
    Dark Reign 94 107 24
    Not Brand Echh 80 120 25
    Books Of Doom 74 127 24
    Super-Villain Team-Up 64 137 24
    Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil 50 152 23
    Other 80 95 50

    Predictably, "Fantastic Four" and "Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars" were the most popular answers here, although it was intriguing to find "What If?" appearing so high in the list. This is not a series that I personally would associate particularly with Doom, even though I know he did appear in it several times.

    One important thing to note here is how many people were aware of Doom's appearances in "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl". This is likely, in part at least, to be due to so many respondents finding out about the survey via Ryan North's retweet of the call for participation. As will be seen as the analysis continues, this would lead to some skewing of other results.

    If the respondent answered "Yes" to "Other" they were asked which other series they had seen featuring Doctor Doom. The top answers were as follows:

    Series Mentions
    Iron Man 13
    Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment Graphic Novel 12
    Luke Cage Hero For Hire 12
    Doctor Doom (2019) 10
    Thor 9
    Daredevil 7
    Astonishing Tales 6
    Black Panther 5
    Dazzler 5
    Future Foundation 4
    invincible iron man 4
    X-Men/Fantastic Four 4

    It's notable here that so many people mentioned Doom's appearance in "Luke Cage: Hero For Hire", a series which he only appeared in for two issues but which did generate a popular internet meme.
    Widely quoted panel from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #9

    There were also another 66 separate series mentioned for this question, all with three or less responses, demonstrating how widely Doom has travelled throughout the Marvel Universe.

    I think that's enough for today - hopefully it's been of some interest. Join us next time when we'll be looking at responses for movies, animated series and video games!

    posted 4/8/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Escape - To Terror!

    As a big fan of John Byrne's run on Fantastic Four, I was really excited when I saw this comic in my research corpus. It looked like it might be the equivalent of a whole extra issue of his run on the FF that I'd not seen before, with a script by Stan Lee!

    When I actually read it, however, I got vague memories of having picked it up in my local comic shop at the time and being too disappointed to spend my saved-up dinner money on it. It is indeed plotted and drawn by John Byrne, with dialogue by Stan Lee, but there's something about it that feels like a fill-in issue done by people who aren't as good as the regular team. To be honest, I think it's Tom Palmer's inks, which make John Byrne look significantly less exciting than he was when inked by Terry Austin, Al Gordon, or indeed himself. It just looks a bit ordinary, especially when the FF show up to give a direct comparison with the ongoing series of the time. The story itself sees the Surfer indulging in some of the extreme self-pity that Stan Lee provides him with, attempting to escape the force field that Galactus has set up around the earth to keep him trapped. After a lot of smashing and bashing, and some help from Reed Richards, he eventually gets out and flies straight home to Zenn-La, where he discovers that the planet has been laid waste, and it's all his fault. It turns out that when the Surfer left his employ, Galactus (with good reason) decided their original deal was cancelled, so he could quite legally pop back and drain all the life out of the planet. Ever tactful, the surfer goes straight from this tale of planet-wide woe to asking what happened to his girlfriend, Shalla-bal. When he finds out she was kidnapped by Mephisto he flies straight off to find her, leaving behind an entire planet of people whose lives he, at best indirectly, has ruined. This is where Doctor Doom comes in, with a very brief flashback to the events of Fantastic Four #157 where Doom tricked the Surfer into thinking that he had married Shalla Bal, but then it turned out not to be her, but then - aha! - it turned out that the whole thing was an (over-complicated) scheme by Mephisto to torture all concerned, and it WAS her after all! No, I'm not really sure how that's meant to work either. This leads to a Great Dilemma, where the Surfer realises he's got to go back to earth to try and find her, even though this means he will once more be trapped inside the force field, because the thing that Reed Richards did to allow him to escape could only work once. He doesn't spend an awful lot of time considering the matter, which seems a bit daft considering that she might not even be on Earth, and is soon zooming over Doom's castle in Latveria. He smashes his way in, duffs up some Doombots, and then finds Shalla Bal (or whoever she is), working in the kitchens. Unsurprisingly, after he's blown up the doors of her place of work for no good reason, she's a bit frightened. At this point Mephisto shows up and the pair of them have a Big Fight in hell, which ends with Mephisto apparently killing Shalla Bal - because he's the devil, basically, and so not worried about cheating. Mephisto then brings her back to life as an energy form, which he then sends off to Zenn-La again, because this will be an even greater torture for the Surfer, knowing she is still alive but that he can never see her again. I don't know, personally I'd have though just killing her would be worse, but perhaps that's why I don't get to have dominion over Hades?

    The Surfer chases after her but can't catch up. Then he has a great idea - he'll zap her with the Power Cosmic, so that when she does get home she can "undo the horror Mephisto has wrought." By this he means the ruination of the whole planet, which I thought was more his and Galactus's fault rather than Mephisto's, but this does lead to quite a nice ending, with Shalla Bal wandering around with flowers growing wherever she walks. It's a good finish for a fairly daft comic which I think I might have been a bit hard on back in the day. Still, there's no need to worry, as we'll soon back in that much-loved (by me) run of John Byrne's as we start the build-up to Doom's latest return from the dead. However, before we do that, we're going to take some time to look at the results of my Doctor Doom Survey, starting next week!

    link to information about this issue

    posted 30/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    What If Iron Man Had Been Trapped In King Arthur's Time?

    There's only two pages of Doctor Doom in this story, recapping and slightly changing the one we looked at a little while ago in Iron Man #151. That issue saw Doctor Doom and Iron Man eventually having to work together to escape from King Arthur's time, and this one rather cleverly alters one small aspect to change the entire outcome.

    In both versions of the story, Doctor Doom tells Iron Man that they will have to work together to escape. Iron Man asks how he knows he can trust him, and, in the original, Doom replies "Because, Avenger... you have my word." However, in this version of the story he replies instead "Because, Iron Man... you have no choice." In both cases Tony Stark is forced to accept the offer, and in the mainstream version Doom keeps his word here. However, in the version he has not done so, and is therefore (according to Doom Logic) free to double-cross his colleague and leave him behind. As he disappears he says (a bit meanly I think) "One last bit of advice. Never bargain with an enemy until you first wrest from him his word of honor!" There's no need for that is there? The story then carries on with Iron Man eventually getting voted in as King of England, which I'm pretty sure isn't how it works, but maybe it did then, legendarily, in the Marvel Universe? The story ends with The Watcher telling us that "under his leadership, Britain will unite half a world under King Anthony's scepter" which sounds like pretty good going for medieval times, and is a much happier ending than you usually get with "What If?" stories, which always seem to involve a lot of regret and/or mass killings. The artwork throughout also looks pretty nifty, with Bob Layton returning to lay on his usual shiny inks, demonstrating just how much work he does in these situations by making Don Perlin's pencisl disappear almost as much as John Romita's did in the original.

    What's most interesting to me here though is the insight into Doom's personality. It's clear that he's entirely happy to betray someone if it's for his own gain, no matter how hard they have worked together, but it's also clear that he would not do so if he had given his word. Both versions of Doom seem correct here, despite them carrying out very different actions.

    Next time we're looking at another very tiny appearance, in a comic that I should be a lot more excited about than I actually am!

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    posted 28/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Everyone's Little In Liddleville!

    Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear until halfway through this story, despite the fact that he's central to the cover - and what a great cover it is! Gil Kane is the artist inside the comic as well, and it's amazing to me that a proper comics legend like that should be working on what in theory should be a cheap toy tie-in.

    Reading the story, however, it's clear that nobody's told Bill Mantlo and Gil Kane that it's a cheap toy tie-in, as they seem to think it's a key part of the Marvel Universe, free to roam where it wishes, have guest stars, and generally be a thumping good read. I was surprised how enjoyable this was, to be honest, even when the first five pages are about the tiny little Micronauts trying to escape from a stinky sewer. There's then a lengthy sub-plot in the Microverse, where a very Darth Vader/Doctor Doom-ish baddie is laying out the main story arc for the series, and then it's back to the Micronauts themselves. Last issue they visited the Baxter Building, where The Thing told them about their own recent adventure in Liddleville, so the Micronauts head over to Doctor Doom's castle in "the pine-covered slopes of the rolling Adirondak mountains." This is a great use of continuity and shows how the Marvel Universe can be flexed to create new stories. If somebody else has done a story about superheroes being turned into the size of action figures, then it only makes sense to follow it up with some superheroes who actually ARE the size of action figures, and see how it all works out from there.

    The Micronauts smash their way into Doom's castle, and uncover his piano, as seen when we were last here in Fantastic Four #236. They eventually find Liddleville and land on the outskirts where they meet a tiny citizen who looks remarkably like Tom Baker. Tom gives them an update on what's happened since we last visited. With Doom out of the way, The Puppet Master became the Mayor of Liddleville, but was overthrown when a fully armoured Doctor Doom returned and took control again. They once again fight their way into Castle Doom, this time a miniature version which Doom has had built, and here they meet Doom himself. He makes short work of the Micronauts, gassing them and chucking them into the dungeons, where they meet The Puppet Master for another bit of back story about how Liddleville came to be and how Doom managed to come back. The Puppet Master suggests that Doom is enjoying himself in Liddleville because his tiny robot body has a handsome face, rather than his usual scarred visage, which I think is a great bit of characterisation. The Micronauts realise that this is all well and good but won't provide them with a way to return to The Microverse, so when some robot guards turn up they take the opportunity to escape, bashing them to bits and heading for a final confrontation with Doom himself, who they discover playing with his organ. This is a version of the Hyper Sound piano he used against the FF back in Fantastic Four #87. Most of the Micronauts are knocked down, apart from Acroyear who is strong enough to smash the piano to bits with his sword. It's a great bit of comicbook action which is immediately followed up with some more as he and Doom launch into a sword fight. Doom ends up fighting the whole team, and is only beaten when he realises that Acroyear's flaming sword has set the room on fire, and his painting and other works of art are burning. The whole thing reminds Doom of his own accident years ago. It's great stuff, only slightly spoiled by The Puppet Master turning up to reveal that he still had some Radioactive Clay left, and so has managed to use it to trap Doom where he is. It all feels a bit like Bill Mantlo suddenly remembered that he'd got to the last page, especially as it leads to the Micronauts getting straight into their flying ship and zooming off for the next issue, but it does lead to a fantastic face-off between the two villains, as Doom's handsome face literally melts off while he swears revenge. It's a great ending which deserves to be followed up, and it will be pretty soon when John Byrne uses it as the starting point for a whole new story, but before then we've got a bunch of cameos, re-caps and, next time, What Ifs?

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    posted 24/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    When Titans Chuckle!

    That sound you hear is me whooping and hollering with glee, because today we're going to be looking at my absolute most favourite type of comic - a Marvel "humour" magazine!

    That sarcasm, and those quotation marks, are used advisedly, as there is rarely anything remotely funny about these comics, and "Fantastic Four Roast" is no different. It's a special written and pencilled by Fred Hembeck, who I seem to remember being Marvel's go-to person for this sort of thing in the early 1980s, including a regular strip in "Marvel Age". It's a very gentle sort of comedy that at the time made me oddly grumpy, as it always felt like he was the company jester, making acceptable mockery while still toeing the company line, especially when it came to Jim Shooter. I imagined him as a fanzine guy who had taken the corporate shilling, which was pretty rich coming from me, someone very happy to give that corporation his dinner money every week!

    Reading it back now however, I can see there's a definite charm too it, even if it's still not particularly funny, although I may have been swayed slightly by seeing the cover of one of his earlier comics, below! The story here is that the Fantastic Four think they're attending a special dinner where their achievements will be toasted but, when they arrive, the host Fred Hembeck tells them it's actually a "roast", where their peers will come on and mock them. When I bought this comics, back in 1982, this was an entirely alien concept to me, and though these days I've seen a few roasts on telly I have to say it still feels like a weird thing to do - why would you want to watch a famous comedian (it's usually a comedian) pretend to enjoy their contemporaries being unfunnily mean about them?

    Clearly this comic still has the power to make me feel grumpy! One thing I did enjoy about re-reading it though was the artists' jam, whereby each page has a different character roasting the FF, with Hembeck's pencils inked by the creators most closely linked with them at that time. This means you get Mike Zeck on Captain America, Bob Layton on Iron Man, Sal Buscema on the Hulk, and even Frank Miller on Daredevil! These pages do feel a lot like Not Brand Echh and other Marvel attempts at humour, with slightly exaggerated figures, lots of dialogue, and panels packed with pretty lame jokes. It even manages to squeeze in that old standby for hilarity, Aunt May as a superhero! As the story progresses we learn that someone is trying to sabotage the meal and, of course, the main suspect is Doctor Doom. When the Thing mentions this Doom himself appears to say how unfair it is that he always gets the blame. This leads into a rant which re-evaluates his origin as the result of Reed Richards and other students not inviting him on a "panty raid" back in college, which made him too upset to check his own calculations and thus causing the accident which scarred him. This is definitely a re-writing of the origin, but I think it's safe to say it's not one that was ever taken up by other creators. Doom doesn't appear again, and the issue continues with the villian being revealed to be the FF's mailman Willie Lumpkin, who accidentally fell into one of Reed Richard's inventions. It is distinctly silly from start to finish, something which Hembeck talks about in the inside page, making a claim for this being part of a long legacy of silliness in the Fantastic Four. It's a nicely argued point with some very silly examples, which is part of the reason why this is my favourite page in the book. However, the main reason it's my favourite is that it's also the last page in the book!

    Next time we're back to the deadly serious world of the Marvel Universe proper, as we delve into the deadly serious adventures of The Micronauts!

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    posted 17/7/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Doom and the Flying Saucer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    posted 22/5/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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  • A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett