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Revolution!


The second issue of Doom's own series begins with a masthead declaring him "Doctor Doom, Master Of Menace!" It's an odd way of celebrating, well, villainy, and is part of the ongoing difficulty these stories have in portraying Doom as the hero of the story whilst he carried on behaving like the Mad Scientist/Evil dictator he has always been. Modern versions of this sort of story, like Brian Bendis's "Infamous Iron Man" series, tend to try to make Doom more sympathetic by giving him regrets, or at least better reasons for his villainy, and although that does happen later in this series, there's still a lot of menacing, mad science, and dictating.

Inside Castle Doom we find Ramona and Rudolfo imprisoned after their attempted revolution in the last issue. Rudolfo speaks ominously about "The Faceless One", leaving Ramona (and us) to wonder what he's on about, as this person has never been mentioned before. "There is much that you do no know, Ramona!" he replies, before leaping up the wall and ripping open the bars.

His escape is short-lived, as he bumps into Doctor Doom who immediately works out what's going on - Rudolfo is, of course, a robot! I must say, I do like the way that Roy Thomas sticks to the idea that Doom is a genius. rarely fooled by events that are commonalities in a superhero universe such as robot doubles or, as with his uncovering of Ramona's true identity last time, human lookalikes.

There's still a big surprise for Doom though, when he's told that this is not just any robot double, but one he built himself as a stand-in for Rudolfo at Doom's own coronation. This is not only a neat way of explaining where the revolution obtained a robot, but also fills in a missing piece of Doom's origin story. Filling in the gaps between previous stories is something that Roy Thomas would go on to do many times in the future, and here it feels very satisfying to get a glimpse of a previously unseen episode in Doom's past as part of the ongoing story.

Miles away the real Rudolfo is watching the destruction of his robot double. His viewing is interrupted by the arrival of the previously mentioned Faceless One, who not only reminds Rudolfo who's boss ("I call you what I will, because you cannot regain your petty throne without my secret help!") but also tells him what happened to the Doomsman, who escaped last issue. This android with Doom's brain patterns has fought his way across country and into the Soviet Union, bashing up tanks and striding through explosions. "We must have him as our ally!" says The Faceless One, so the pair of them hop into his Spheroid space shop and zoom off to find him.

While that's going on Doom is hanging around with Ramona, allowing her the chance to kill him as a test, which she fails ... or passes, depending on how you look at it. She's unable to kill him anyway, reassuring him that it is safe to allow her to wander the castle. "It is beneath me to imprison a woman" he says, a load of nonsense which, surely, is his way of hiding the fact that he just likes having her around?

He tears himself away from his passive aggressive stalking to return to his favourite place - the TV lounge - where he watches the resistance attacking yet more of his robots. It's noticeable that the narrative text refers to the resistance in phrases like "skulking rebels" during this story, not "noble revolutionaries" or "resistance fighters" as they might be termed elsewhere. Doom is a terrible person but, it seems, nobody else is much better.

The rebels attack and Doom goes off to fight them, leaving the castle apparently unguarded, so that The Faceless One and the newly recruited Doomsman can easily sneak in, kill the remaining guards, and kidnap Ramona. Doom flies back and easily battles his way through the rebels, merrily gunning them down in a manner which almost, but not quite, seems heroic. In a way this is all feels very modern, reminiscent of something like "Game Of Thrones" where we find ourselves cheering on morally "complex" characters doing dreadful things to other baddies in order to get their way. The story ends with Doom and The Faceless One finding themselves equals in battle, only to be disturbed by the sudden entrance of the Doomsman, who ends the story stood between the two evil characters, with nobody sure what will happen next. We'll find out - next time!



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posted 21/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Unto You Is Born... The Doomsman!


A year after his tryout in Marvel Superheroes #20, Doom finally gets an ongoing series, albeit one shared with Ka-Zar, another Marvel Super-heroes alumni. However, even with only half an issue, Roy Thomas and Wally Wood pack in an awful lot of story, continuing the characterisation of Doom that Thomas began the previous year, as a tortured soul determined to succeed at being a ruthless dictator, whatever his heart might say.

The story begins with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong finding a strange globe on the moon which, when shown to Nixon on their return, turns out to be yet another remote broadcasting device belonging to Doctor Doom. As has been frequently mentioned, he does love to taunt people by television, and he's gone to an enormous amount of trouble to do it this time, teleporting a spherical screen a quarter of a million miles just to show how clever he is! We then cut to Latveria, a "storybook kingdom" "nestled high in the bavarian alps" where the people scatter in fear as their dictator approaches, recreating once again the classic scene of Doom walking amongst his people, first seen back in Fantastic Four Annual #2 and repeated many times since. He's off to view his latest Mad Science project, unaware that the Latverian Resistance is plotting against him. Right from the start, the Latverian Resistance is shown to be a somewhat dubious organisation, who seem to be oddly fond of "hailing" people. Their leader is Prince Rudolfo, technically the heir to the Latverian throne. He is, not to mince words, a bit of a dick, and some of the members of the resistance are uneasy about allying themselves with someone who makes no secret of the fact that all he cares about is putting himself back on the throne. Rudolfo resembles Doom in many ways, but the key difference is that Rudolfo has done nothing to earn his rulership, whereas Doom at least led a revolution - something which could go either way in American readers' affections, depending on whether he's "good" revolutionary (like the Americans themselves) or a "bad" one like Lenin. Making Rudolfo resemble a Nazi is a way of nudging the readers' sympathies away from him. After all, it's Doom, not Rudolfo, who is the hero of this story, so traditionally storytelling would dictate that he's the one the readers should be sympathising with.

Similar, Rudolfo's Cunning Scheme to bring Doom down does not exactly endear him to readers. He has recruited a girl who resembles Doom's lost love Valeria (introduced in Thomas's previous issue) and he intends to use this resemblance to destroy his opponent. How Rudolfo knows about Valeria, or what she looks like, is not discussed.

Thus the girl, Ramona, is deposited in a faked car crash where she is seen by some of Doom's robots, who have instructions to bring anyone resembling Valeria to their master. The entire scheme falls apart instantly, and rather wonderfully, as Doom (who has extensive history with body swaps and doubles) immediately, and very sensibly, uses his Hypno Probe to see if the girl is who she appears to be, and quickly discovers that she is part of Rudolfo's plan to overthrow him. If only more superheroes and villains took the time to check things before flying into action there would be a lot fewer misunderstandings!

Interestingly, rather than thrash about with rage, screaming at subordinates, Doom wanders off to have a bit of a mope on the balcony, demonstrating that this is the sensitive version of Doom who we saw in Marvel Superheroes and his original origin story, rather than the deluded despot seen in recent issues of The Fantastic Four. When he finds out that the plan has failed Rudolfo tells his men that this was all part of an even more Cunning Scheme to put Doom off his dictatorial stride (is he related to Reed Richards, I wonder?), much to the disgust of the resistance members, who quite rightly point out that risking their lives so easily makes him no better than Doom.

The Cunning Scheme does seems to be working, however, as an emotional Doom finds himself unmasking in front of Ramona/Valeria. Underneath the mask she sees not his true face, but an illusion he has set up of his previous handsome looks, leading her to say "Yours is a face - a woman could love!" This is all too much for the sensitive, self-aware Doom, who rushes from the room regretting his own weakness. "I cannot - will not live a lie!" he thinks, as he returns to the Mad Science dungeon which is, he believes, his only true home. This is some beautiful characterisation by Thomas, aided by some lovely artwork by the great Wally Wood, who still manages to convey Doom's inner turmoil through body language, despite facial expressions being all but ruled out beneath a full face mask.

Doom decides to get on with his day job, which today involves placing his own brain patterns inside a robot. While he's busying himself with the mundanities of the nine to five Rudolfo (who doesn't get any subtle shades to his characterisation) launches his attack, sending Ramona into the lab where she catches Doom with his mask off and no illusions in place to conceal his true face. Appalled by what she sees, and the evidence of the Mad Science he's working on, she tries to smash up the lab, cutting power to the castle in the process and allowing the jetpack-wearing resistance to storm the barricades, unhindered of the robot guards who, apparently, were plugged into the same power supply which has now been cut off.

During all this the creature Doom was developing - the "Doomsman" - also manages to escape and flee the area, heading for the next issue.

It's all going well for Rudolfo until Doom himself enters the fray, using technical wizardry to confuse the interlopers with multiple mirages of himself. When they finally work out which one is the "real" Doom he explodes, and they discover that it was a robot all along, primed with explosive. The real Doom, as is his wont in whatever characterisation, is watching, and gloating, from the safety of his castle. He does this while sitting in the same broadcasting booth that was seen in Fantastic Four #85, demonstrating that Wood is attempting to work with the visual continuity established by Jack Kirby, even while Thomas is diverging from the characterisation being pursued by Stan Lee. The story ends with Doom celebrating victory over his enemies while still harbouring personal doubts. The Doomsman is still at large, with a copy of his own brain inside a super-robot body, meaning that "I may have created the most formidable enemy of all!" He may be sensitive, but he's still Doom and still arrogant - whether he's right, however, we'll find out next time!



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posted 14/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Doom In Advertising


Doctor Doom does not appear in this comic at all, which is a shame as it's drawn by Gil Kane and looks gorgeous. The reason it's found its way into my database is that the entry on The Grand Comics Database lists Doom as appearing in an advert for Astonishing Tales #1. This is part of the problem with using data submitted by lots of different people at different times without clear guidance on exactly what they should be including. Other adverts appear that don't get included, while some adverts that do don't list every character, so it's impossible to get a clear view on what's happening across the full range of comics published.

It also forces me to go beyonad Marvel Unlimited in search of explanation - it's a great site, but it only tends to include story pages, rather than the adverts and other editorial material, so in this case I had to find scanned copies elsewhere, which actually turned out to be very handy as it also showed me this advertisement: This was NOT listed on GCD, showing once again how haphazard the listings are. I'm very glad to have found it though, as Doctor Doom is one of the characters on the decal stickers sheet, and once again he's the only villain amongst Marvel's most popular heroes. This is something I'll be covering elsewhere, outside of this blog, when I look at the "non-narrative" appearances of Doom, but it's a great find. Thanks, non-standardised data enterers!



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posted 10/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Long Journey Home


This comic is a landmark 100th issue (not including annuals) of an uninterrupted run from two of the absolute greats of comics, promising every single villain ever. And it's a big disappointment. Doom's on the front cover, right in the centre, fighting Mr Fantastic, but he only appears very briefly in the issue itself, and even then it's not the "real" Doctor Doom.

I know that this is almost the end of that run, when Jack Kirby was fed up with the way he was being treated and was clearly no longer pouring his all into the artwork, but coming only a year or so after "The Power And The Pride!" it all looks very mundane, and the story itself is a big let down.

The plot, such that it is, sees The Fantastic Four (and Crystal) attacked on their way home from a mission. They crash land and are attacked by Kang The Conqueror and a particularly pedantic Doctor (not "Doc") Doom. There's just time for Doom to bring up the whole "Are Doom and Kang and Rama-Tut the same person?" nonsense (I wish he wouldn't, it makes precisely NO sense) before Crystal zaps a tree and, basically, kills them both. Luckily for all concerned it turns out that Crystal isn't a murderer, as these were just androids, created by The Mad Thinker and The Puppet Master. They have loads of these androids, which apparently have "the powers and the memories" of the originals, but still AREN'T the originals, which makes the whole thing feel a bit of a let down. It's the 100th issue and the Fantastic Four are fighting The Mad Thinker and The Puppet Master, not exactly the Premier League of their bad guys.

Their plans to conquer the FF collapse when they unleash an android version of The Hulk, who refuses to obey orders and instead sets about destroying the lab. The Puppet Master tries to shoot him and accidentally hits some explosives, blowing them all up. Thus, not only do the FF not fight most of their baddies, they don't even win!

It all ends with the team hitching a ride on "a specially requisitioned NATO plane", and congratulating themselves on the face that they're still together. This is surely Stan Lee talking to Jack Kirby, but it rings very hollow indeed. They're far from at their best, and they won't be together much longer, with Kirby leaving after issue 102. It is, as stated earlier, a disappointing way to wind up one of the greatest runs of superhero comics... EVER!



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posted 7/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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In The Darkness Dwells... Doom!


It's another issue drawn by John Buscema for us today as he fills in for the regular series artist, the great, sadly departed Marie Severin who was, according to the credits box, "vacationing in the beautiful Bahamas!"

It's a great looking story, packed with Buscema's dynamic art, packed with straining figures as a de-powered Namor struggles to escape from the US Army. Eventually he finds his way to the back of a building which, as luck or otherwise would have it, turns out to be the Latverian Embassy. What are the chances? Namor is allowed in, and he's saved from the army, only to be attacked by what appears to be a lazer-powered vacuum cleaner. It's all part of the security system operated by Doctor Doom, who quickly shows up calling himself Namor's friend. The Sub-mariner quite rightly points out that the last time they met Doom betrayed him, and Doom dismisses this as an "old mistake" which should not get in the way of their common goals. This is the same Doom who, very recently trapped Diablo in a post-apocalyptic nightmare future for daring to propose an alliance, in a story also written by Roy Thomas, yet here is talking team-ups, it seems, with anybody who happens to pop round the back door. Perhaps he sees Namor as more of an equal - he does also rule his own kingdom, as he points out, which could "swallow Latveria whole."

In general, however, Doom's characterisation here tends to match the one which appeared in the recent Marvel Super-Heroes appearance, rather than that seen over in The Fantastic Four, with Doom using his own wits and technology rather than the power of the state. Maybe he just behaves differently at home to how he does when he's in the embassy?

Actually, maybe he does? Let's keep an eye on that in future!

Namor refuses the offer of an alliance, which Doom accepts with apparent ease. All the Sub-Mariner wants is a glass of water to restore his strength, so Doom promises to pop off and get him one. However, instead of heading to the kitchen sink, Doom gathers a few henchmen together to tell them his cunning plan - to lock Namor in the embassy and remove all traces of water from the building! What a fiend! It's noticeable that the Embassy staff are very different from his servants in Latveria, looking more like hired mercenaries rather than Latverian peasants, although the ambassador does at least try to discuss diplomatic niceties with his boss. If Jeff Sessions ever read this comic, I wonder if he'd sympathise? Doom tells Namor what's going on, and the Sub-Mariner fights back. Last time there was a scrap in the Embassy Doom duffed up Daredevil easily, but here the de-powered Namor is a much trickier opponent, forcing Doom to call in his "army of mercenaries" to bring him down. Again, this is a return to earlier versions of Doom without armies of killer robots, but maybe this really is what happens when he's in America. I guess there isn't a diplomatic bag big enough to bring his Robot Factories over, so he has to rely on hired human help instead.

The mercenaries aren't up to much, and eventually Doom realises that he has to step in himself, going head to head with his former ally and unleashing Heat Rays which drain Namor of moisture and, basically, start to burn him to death. Namor pretends to be defeated, but in one last act of defiance manages to break one of the Heat Ray Guns, unleashing "pent-up flames" on the building. As the lackey says, this is a bit of a problem because they don't have any water in the building to use to put it out. I'm not au fait with 1960s US Fire Regulations in Diplomatic Buildings, but surely they would have had some capacity for dealing with such a threat? Like a fire extinguish, or even just turning off the Heat Rays?

Luckily for all concerned the New York Fire Brigade turns up, blasting water into the building which not only puts out the fire but douses Namor in water, allowing him to regain his strength and flee. Doom is unable to stop him because, he says, doing so would violate his Diplomatic Immunity. Yet again Doom (or, rather, Roy Thomas) seems to contradict himself. Back in Marvel Super-Heroes Doom specifically said that he didn't care about Diplomatic Immunity, yet here he is saying that he's prepared to let an adversary escape, rather than risk losing it. I'd argue that the truth of this is that Doom really does care about his immunity, and he was just getting over-excited and showing off in front of Diablo before.

So the story ends with Doom's character appearing to vary according to where he is. This version of him seems to be a continuation of his appearances in Daredevil and, going further back, The Peril And The Power!, where he's willing to get directly involved in conflict, rather than the version we've just seen in The Power And The Pride! who prefers to operate from afar. The clear similarity between the latter two story titles now makes me wonder if the change into a deluded despot was a deliberate attempt by Lee and/or Kirby to evolve the character into something new, possibly as a commentary on current events in Eastern Europe, with Roy Thomas and others instead building on the quasi-heroic character first introduced back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. Or maybe we can explain it in-universe by saying that Doom, like so many of us, just acts differently at work to how he does at home?

Either way, it's a fascinating development for the character, which hopefully we'll be seeing more of soon as we approach his first appearances as an ongoing (shared) lead in Astonishing Tales!



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posted 5/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Space Spanner Returns


There's just a single cameo appearance by Doctor Doom in this issue, but it's one that draws into question the intelligence of The Silver Surfer, for LO! he has been called a spanner of space before, and he definitely acts like a right spanner here.

The story starts off with a Dr Frankenstein and his hunchbacked assistant doing various experiments which lead to them being attacked by a village mob. Throughout the story this Frankenstein talks about his ancestors, and the villagers shout about wanting to be rid of Frankensteins in the plural, which means that there must have been at least two more before him, who also created monsters. How this all worked, and how the family managed to maintain a castle in the same village despite all the monster creation, is not explained. Instead we see the current holder of the name sitting at home watching videos of one of his predecessors, which look suspiciously like certain old movies... The Silver Surfer eventually comes into the story when he notices the angry mob heading for Frankenstein's castle. "Once again I must bear witness to man's inhumanity to man!" he sighs, like an Intergalactic Morrissey, then zooms down to disperse the mob. He then flies into the castle to meet the man he's just saved, and remarks that the last time he did this it was to meet Doctor Doom. "I gave him my trust... and lived to regret it," says Moz... sorry, the Silver Surfer, who then goes on to make EXACTLY the same mistake again. Maybe on Zenn-La things like cloaks, histrionic protestations of innocence, eeries castles and evil henchmen are associated with delightful toddlers and fluffy kittens? It's the only explanation for what a total pillock he is here.

He allows Frankenstein (who is called FRANKENSTEIN for heaven's sake) to conduct an experiment on him, which creates an Evil Duplicate, which leads to a massive battle than involves the Air Force being called out, and ends with the Surfer beating his rival because he can concentrate for slightly longer. The story ends with a, to me, hilarious picture showing the Surfer lying on his bed... sorry, an asteroid, moping like a massive teenager about how misunderstood and sensitive he is. It's one of Stan Lee's daftest scripts, but it looks gorgeous throughout, with Sal Buscema providing thrilling inks for his big brother John's wonderful pencils. They even make a rabid rabbit looking exciting! Next time there's more John Buscema as Doom meets, and fights, Namor The Submariner once again, in a story that is a big step towards Doom's 70s characterisation and position as an occasional lead character.



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posted 3/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Power And The Pride!


The previous issue began with a splash page of the Fantastic Four standing around explaining the plot to each other, and exactly the same thing happens at the start of this one. Everyone looks heroic, and I guess it gets the recap out of the way (rather than having it woven through the first few pages as was more usual), but it's a jarringly old-fashioned moment in what goes on to be a thrilling comic.

As the FF explain to each other, their powers are back but they're still trapped in Latveria, so they're making their way to the castle via the medium of chucking lumps of other buildings around as they go. Meanwhile, inside the castle, artist who Doom captured to paint his portrait suggests to the lackey Hauptmann that they should use all this confusion as an opportunity to escape. Hauptmann is having none of it and reveals that he is an ex-Nazi who transferred his allegiance to Doom when the Third Reich collapsed. This confirms what I've suspected in previous issues, and solidifies the connection between Doom (and by extension the Eastern Bloc regimes he represents) and Fascism. This link will be swiftly peddled back when Doom gets his own series, and it sticks out here as an uncomfortable oddity in his long-term character progression. Doom doesn't think one race is better than any other, he just thinks he's better than everyone!

Hauptmann takes the news to Doom who, quite understandably, points out that he's very much aware of his arch enemies lobbing chunks of churches at his home. He explains that he has (yet another) cunning plan to deal with them - Hyper Sound! Rather than finding out what this actually means we're instead shown the progress of the Fantastic Four as they make their way into the castle. What usually seems to happen at this point is that The Invisible Girl somehow gets kidnapped, but this time both her AND her maternity cover, Crystal, fall into a trap, leaving the men to fight some Doombots. At least, I think they're Doombots - they have purple skin and robotic clothing, and I'm pretty sure they behaved like Doombots in earlier issues, but now they seem to be human beings in electronic uniforms. I wonder if this was a bit of confusion between Lee and Kirby? Whatever they are, Sue and Crystal fight even more of them when they land in an underground bunker, fighting through until they burst in on... Doctor Doom and a slap-up feast! Doom plays the perfect host, indulging in small-talk about Sue's recently arrived baby. As usual, he's claiming to be a gentleman, treating the women as guests and providing them with food, drink, and also culture, in the form of a recital on the piano. We get the first inkling that there might be something more to this than meets the eye when we see that he has yet another viewing screening set into the piano, which he uses to keep an eye on the rest of the Fantastic Four. The men uncover a room full of priceless art, stolen by Doom. However, before they can browse the catalogue Hauptmann bursts in with a flame thrower, determined to win his master's approval by murdering his arch enemies. What he doesn't reckon with is Doom's apparently genuine love of Art - he cannot bear to see his collection destroyed, and so is forced to use his Hyper Sound piano to kill his aide before he can burn down the gallery. This is another example of Doom's strange code of honour. He claims to be a man of taste and education, who appreciates great art so much that he's not only prepared to kill his aide to preserve it, but also to ruin his own carefully laid plans to do so. By blasting the Hyper Sound Piano at Hauptmann he has, apparently, used it all up, so there is no way of killing the Fantastic Four any more. Thus he sets them free, in the pre-advertised "Possibly the most off-beat ending of the year!" So ends what would be Lee and Kirby's final Doctor Doom story - and what a way to go out, throwing all the excitement available into the mix but also developing one of their greatest characters even further. The Doctor Doom who was happy to work alone and then chuck himself out of a window when it all goes wrong is now long gone. This revised version of Doom is all-powerful, ensconced in his own world, and even more contradictory and deluded than ever. "The Master of Latveria does not lie", he says, which is a great big fib as well he knows! He's become one of Marvel's greatest, most complex characters, fully deserving of a series of his own - as we shall soon see!



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posted 29/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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This Man! This Demon!


We take a break from our ongoing story for something very different, but vital to Doom's development, in Marvel Super-Heroes #20.

The title "Marvel Super-Heroes" first appeared as the name of a terrible cartoon series in 1966 (which I have moaned about previously) with an accommpanying one-off "Marvel Super-Heroes" comic to go with it. The series which this issue is part of, however, was originally called "Fantasy Masterpieces" and was dedicated to reprints of Golden Age stories. It continued to feature these when the name was changed to "Marvel Super-Heroes" with issue 12, when a "try-out" feature was added as the lead story. The experiment with try-outs had some success, showcasing the first appearances of Marvel's own version of Captain Marvel, The Guardians of The Galaxy and the revived Ka-Zar, although after this issue it would return to all reprints again.

These stories went down well enough for Doom and Ka-Zar to go on to share lead roles in "Astonishing Tales", and you can see why, with Doom at least. This is a really enjoyable character study which adds greater depth to Doom's personality, although it does grate a little when read alongside the story being published simultaneously in "The Fantastic Four". This version of Doom is much more in line with how he's been previously portrayed, as a vain, tortured man who believes he's doing the right thing, rather than the deluded dictator he's transforming into elsewhere.

The story has been very rarely reprinted, appearing as part of "Giant Size Super-Villain Team-Up" a few years later and then in the collected "Essentials" version of the same, but that's about it. It seems odd, as it's a great piece that has lasting repercussions for the way the character would be portrayed.

It all kicks off with Doom reliving some of his past defeats by The Fantastic Four, in an effort to learn what went wrong. I'm all in favour of some personal growth, but right away this differs from the current portrayal of a Doom who doesn't believe he ever is wrong. Here he's quite clear about how many humiliations he's previously faced. His revision is interrupted when the characters from the "3D Playback Tape" come to life and fight him. Doom does pretty well fighting the illusory Fantastic Four (which at least shows that his studies have been worthwhile) until they fade away, and Diabol reveals himself as being behind the attack. Diablo is there to propose an Alliance, which Doom refuses and, as is the rule for meetings of Supervillains (and most meetings of Superheroes too) they immediately get into a fight. This ends in a stalemate as Doom's science cannot beat Diablo's ... er... Chemistry, so the latter reveals that he has another means of persuading Doom to join him - a hostage! This is a neat turnaround, as it's usually Doom who goes around kidnapping people. The sight leads Doom into a recap of his origin story, this time with another character added, a "childhood friend" who is inserted into a fairly straight retelling of the story, complete with precise reconstructions of a lot of the imagery. In a very neat bit of retconning the as yet unnamed girl is skilfully slotted in between the frames. The script is co-credited to Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas, with Lieber apparently doing the first half up to page 11, but this does feel a lot like the kind of retelling of history that Roy Thomas would later take much delight in, in series like "The Invaders". Valeria (as she's finally named on page 10) begs the young Victor to stay in Latveria, but he's determined to to go to America to learn as much as he can about science, as part of his bid for power - the only thing he cares about now. "I have no love... no compassion, not a tender feeling to share with anyone," he tells her, leaving Valeria to mourn the man he once was.

It's all a bit "Ghost Of Christmas Past" really, and once Doom returns to the present day Diablo even tells him that he'll be visited again shortly, though admittedly just by Diablo returning to see if he'll change his mind about teaming up.

The first half of the story then ends with Doom pondering the fact that seeing Valeria has had an unexpected emotional effect upon him. This feels very much like a deliberate end of a "chapter", and the fact that the following page is a splash, recapping what's happened so far, leads me to wander whether this was originally intended to be a two parter? Each part is the same length as Doom's half of "Astonishing Tales" would be, and it make senses of Lieber stopping halfway through and Roy Thomas taking over, so I wonder if this was meant to be the start of that series, but put into "Marvel Super-Heroes" instead? Don't ask me, I don't know!

The second half begins with more of the self-pity Doom would regularly exhibit during his early years, in a panel which seems to be specifically drawn to recall those stories. Again, this is very different from the current version of Doom who, only a couple of months ago was not only able to look at himself in a mirror, but was ready to force others to do the same too. The Grand Comics Database suggests that this story comes before Fantastic Four #84 in continuity, but there's nothing in the text to suggest that it does. Perhaps the Doom currently appearing in The Fantastic Four is just having one of those days where you act like a bit of a dick?

He's definitely in full-on Emo mode here though, eventually consoling himself with the idea that he shouldn't get all upset about his physical appearance when he is who he is - Doom! Positive self-image! You go Victor!

Diablo returns to taunt Doom with images of Valeria, which leads to him taking decisive action and flying off to America, where he finds that - finally - the government has decided that it might be a good idea to maybe put some guards around his old castle/headquarters, rather than letting just anybody wander in as has previously been the case. Once past the ineffectual guards he discovers Diablo holding Valeria hostage. How Diablo got in, or how Doom knew he'd be there, are not explained, but then we don't ever find out how Valeira was kidnapped either, or where she's been all this time. Instead Doom decides to destroy the guards surrounding his castle, because he's the kind of guy who likes to take direct action rather than hiding behind politics. Um... I beg your pardon? Isn't this the same Doctor Doom who has regularly used diplomatic immunity as a key part of his plans and actions? This level of contradiction makes me wonder if Roy Thomas is trying to say something about how the character has changed from his original personality, losing his dynamism to become a statesman instead. It certainly bares little resemblance to the character appearing elsewhere!

Diablo has a cunning scheme to use Doom's time machine to alter the course of history, which Doom listens to patiently - after all, others have listened to enough of his mad rants, so it's only polite that he should do the same. He uses his listening time to get close enough to the Time Machine so he can activate a force field, cutting him and Valeria off from Diablo. Another fight ensues, during which Diablo lures Doom onto the Time Machine and then switches it on, only to find that Doom had earlier changed the settings (he did, we saw him do it!) so that it's the person activating the device, not the person stood on its platform, who gets transported. Diablo thus teleports himself into a nightmarish post-nuclear future where everybody else is dead. You've got to admit, that's a pretty good trick!

Valeria, however, does not think so. When Doom turns to her, ready to "recapture a lifetime together" she immediately and firmly rejects him. She asks if her appraisal of him is wrong, and he cannot reply, leaving her to walk off.

The last page sees Doom alone, in shadow, "knowing, at long last, that it is not his burnt scarred face... his grim metal mask... which are now and forever his merciless prison... but the man himself... the tortured, twisted being whom the world calls only... Doom!!"

Wow! What an ending! What a story! What a great examination of a character which does not entirely line-up with how he was simultaneously portrayed elsewhere!

These two portrayals of Doom will fight it out over the years to come, with one occasionally taking precedence over the other for a period, such as when Doom was all-out evil in Waid & Weiringo's run on "Fantastic Four", only to become tortured and reflective in Brian Bendis's recent "Infamous Iron Man". For now though it's a quick return to the deluded dictator in the conclusion of Lee & Kirby's tribute to "The Prisoner" - next time!



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posted 22/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Victims!


This issue starts right where the last one ended, with the Fantastic Four trapped in a Village in Latveria without their powers, waiting for some Killer Robots to attack. If you didn't already know this you'd be quickly brought up to speed by the team explaining it to each other in the opening splash page - in the modern age of Recap Pages it feels a bit clunky, but once that's out of the way we're into the action, with Reed Richards telling the villagers to go and hide in their homes while the FF try to protect them. At this point another of Doctor Doom's mobile TV screens arrive, with him expressing his regrets for any inconvenience caused by the accidental unleashing of a horde of killer robots. When Reed Richards questions the sincerity of this non-apology Doctor Doom is utterly horrified that anybody could be so ungrateful in what are trying circumstances for everyone. This is all very much in keeping with the new developments in Doom's character, where his delusion has reached such heights that he seems genuinely surprised that anybody would not be grateful for his benevolent, if fatal, leadership. It's also pretty funny!

Next we see him musing on the fact that his plan has not been entirely flawless. The Killer Robots really have escaped, but cunningly he has installed a secret weakness within them that means that, if they ever turn upon their creator, he will be able to stop them. Ooh, I wonder what it could be? Something very clever, no doubt!

The Robots smash their way through walls and arrive at the village, where the Fantastic Four discover that their powers are gradually returning. The villagers help them fight back, but, as Doctor Doom watches the mayhem from a balcony on his castle, it seems that it will not be enough to save them. His aide Hauptmann warns Doom not to underestimate the Fantastic Four. Given his employer's track record in dealing with staff suggestions this is a spectacularly brave/foolish move, but luckily for him Doom agrees, and hopes that the team are destroyed before Reed Richards discover the secret flaw in the robots. It's worth noting that the name "Hauptmann" is German for "Captain", a fact that would be familiar to many readers from years of reading war comics. It seems that Stan Lee is once again nudging Doom towards Nazi territory, inferring that Doom's men, if not Doom himsefl, are relics of fascism.

While the battle goes on in the village Doom decides to show Hauptmann his back-up plan, in case the otherwise almost entirely flawless main plan hits any problems. He shows his aide a model of the target village, which they have looked upon many times before. However, with the click of a switch Doom reveals that there is more to the village than meets the eye! "Why?" says Hauptmann, though "What the HECK is THAT?" might have been more to the point. It appears that the village is built on two GIGANTIC sticks of TNT with skyscraper sized fuses, poised delicately close to similarly gargantuan sparks. In a series full of fantastically ludicrous ideas, this is one of the most fantastically ludicrous, and you've got to admire Kirby's chutzpah in not only thinking he can get away with something as utterly daft as this, but then actually getting away with it!

Back in the village the FF and the villagers prepare to meet the robots. The only thing they have to defend them is a very vaguely defined "control unit" that can open pits in the ground and throws people into the air. It was hidden in one of the turrets of a bridge... for some reason? Anyway, this sequence is VERY exciting, as we watch the robots getting closer and closer before finally arriving with Mr Fantastic immediately clicking a switch to do... something! I very rarely talk about the lettering in these comics, but crikey, look at the "Krrash!" and "Klak!" in these two panels - amazing work by Sam Rosen!

This time the device triggers a "hidden turbulence pressure engine", which rather handily throws all the robots up into the air and into the river. Hang on, the major flaw in the robots was that they were too heavy to swim? That was IT? This sounds very much like Doom trying to make out that a major design flaw is in fact a FEATURE. I wonder if that was Jack Kirby's intent all along, or whether Stan Lee added it in to explain how chucking the robots in a river is enough to defeat them?

Doom is utterly incensed, and presses the button to detonate the gigantic sticks of TNT. Hauptmann begs him not to do it - "Think of the people!" "I... forgot!" says Doom. This is another instance where I wonder if Stan Lee added a line of dialogue to excuse Doom flat out murdering a whole bunch of his subjects. He'd already condemned them to death with his Killer Robots, but maybe he's able to excuse that as an "accident", whereas this is killing them more directly. It's the only time in the whole issue where he does genuinely give a thought to his people - when Latveria was first introduced he seemed to genuinely care about them, but this reminder of such previous behaviour tends to highlight the fact that he's now a heartless, self-fixated dictator.

The whole town is destroyed, but luckily one small section - the bit where the FF and the townspeople had all gathered - is protected by what appears to be a force field. It was The Invisible Girl! She was so worried that she made Nick Fury tell her where the rest of the team had gone, sorted out a babysitter, and then ... somehow made her way to Latveria, secretly entered the country, discovered where they were, and then snuck over to save them all.

That sounds fair enough.

With the whole team back together at last it's time to go and "tackle Doom", as The Thing says. "Next: The Wrap-up!" says the final panel, but before that we've got another visit to Latveria to fit in, in a very different story indeed!



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posted 17/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Brand Ecch No More


This would be the final issue of 'Not Brand Ecch' until it was continued in a special issue 48 years later. It goes out as a confusing mixture of satires on Marvel's own output, mash-ups of other companies' characters, Mad-style film parodies, one-off gags, and a Forbush Man story. It's a sort of summary of the entire run of the comic, and therefore also features several appearances by Doctor Doom.

He's there on the cover, as part of a group of pretend trading stamps. Once again, he's there as a representative of supervillainy. This is a role he's fallen into over the course of this series, being used as an avatar of evil, almost apart from his own character in the main Marvel Universe.

His first appearance within the comic itself, however, does make a small reference to the more usual characteristics of Doom, via some balloons that say "Visit Beautiful Blatveria". This is a "humorous" reference to the nation of Latveria which has become a much bigger part of Doom's character in recent years, notably in the storyline occurring simultaneously in "The Fantastic Four". The wording on the balloons is just an extra detail, rather than the gag itself, but it does at least refer to an aspect of Doom himself, rather than using him as a symbol.

Normal service is resumed for his final appearance, as part of a crowd of superheroes, villains, and other company's characters on a Valentine's Card featuring Forbush-Man. The remarkable thing about all of Doom's appearance over the course of the series is that he has been used almost exclusively as a representation of the wider "Supervillain Community". In most cases another character such as Magneto or Doctor Octopus could have been used without losing any of the humour, but almost invariably it's Doctor Doom that is chosen. This demonstrates how important and how recognisable he is within the Marvel Universe, even at a time when he is almost absent from stories within the main continuity. I've been surprised to find such a rich seam of material in what appeared to be such an obscure, ephemeral series. I can't say I'll miss reading 'Not Brand Ecch', but I'm glad that I did!



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posted 15/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Prisoners In The Village


This issue continues directly from the one before, with Doctor Doom talking to a captured Fantastic Four through an "electronic spy scope" (or "Skype call" in today's money). This is a distinctly different Doctor Doom from previous encounters. He's always enjoyed taunting his enemies from afar, but here he does it in the guise of kindness, telling them that they will now be looked after under his rule. Doom's character has changed, from a wise leader who only undertook villainous activities for the benefit of his people, to a deluded dictator who believes they are foolish children who must be severely punished if they ever stray. It's a view of dictators and their propaganda-based denial of reality that reminds me of the various "Number Twos" in "The Prisoner", and indeed by dictatorships in literature and real-life.

Reed Richards compares Doom to a slave master, which he takes great umbrage at, not on any moral grounds but because slaves were known to escape, and nobody ever escapes from Latveria. In order to make sure of this he orders the team's food to be drugged so they can be subjected to more of the hypnosis which causes them to be unable to use their powers. This leads to a long sequence focussing on Doom as he orders his subjects around and then sets a trap for some political prisoners, allowing them to think they've escaped so that he can use them as a test for his new killer robots. During this sequence Doom's self-delusion is reinforced, as he talks about his own hatred of violence just after almost throttling someone, and then going to watch prisoners being beaten up on his own instructions. Doom uses such language constantly, not just to trick other people but also when he speaks to himself, showing that it is a worldview that he actually believes in. He is no longer the solo Mad Scientist carrying out his own plans, nor is he the noble revolutionary leading a nation, he is now an avatar for the real-life "supervillains" that Cold War Americans saw ruling Eastern Europe.

The escaping prisoners are soon killed by the robots, which leads Doom to herald the next stage of his weapons testing - "the destruction of an entire village." The story then cuts to an image of The Fantastic Four, sitting in the self-same village. Moving the action to a village, especially an ornate and otherwordly one, draws immediate comparisons with The Prisoner again, set as it was in The Village, shot on location in the ornately designed and otherwordly Portmeirion Village. The Fantastic Four eat the food supplied for them, and then pass out. This does seem a bit foolish, as it's by no means the first time Doctor Doom has given them drugged food, and this time they wake up to find that they are terrified of anybody even talking about violence.

While this is going on Doctor Doom is having his portrait painted. Unusually for him he has demanded that his real face be represented. Doom has always been distraught about the destruction of his face, frequently thrown into fits of rage at the injustice of his disfiguration, so it's odd to see that he is now capable of not only looking at himself in the mirror but also appearing without his mask in front of other people. Way back in his origin story he stated that assuming the mask meant an end to Victor von Doom and the beginning of Doctor Doom, so does this mean he is reverting to his previous form? Or is his self-delusion now expanding to the point where he could one day convince himself that he is not ugly?

He's not there yet though - when an underling expresses the wish that Doom should like his painting, he is swiftly told not to be such an idiot. The sitting is interrupted by another Skype call, this time from some Standard Robots calling to tell him that the new Killer Robots have escaped and are heading towards The Village...sorry, towards the village, where a helpless Fantastic Four await. It's not clear whether they've really escaped, or whether it's all part of Doom's masterplan, because this is where the comic ends, on a classic cliffhanger.

The end of Lee and Kirby's run is often spoken of as a decline from their much-lauded middle-period, but I must say that so far this storyline has been terrific, in terms of plotting, characterisation, and fantastic imagery. It also marks a major turning point in the character development of Doctor Doom, which hopefully will continue as the story progresses!



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posted 8/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Name Is Doom!


It's been a whole year since Doctor Doom last starred in a Marvel comic, and a full two years since the climax of The Peril And The Power, but I think it was worth the wait! Not only is this a great late-period Lee and Kirby story, full of big ideas and amazing artwork, but it also marks a huge shift in Doom's overall character, moving him definitively from his origins as a mad scientist who more or less worked alone to the dictator in charge of a whole country's worth of mad science that he would remain as into the seventies and eighties.

This change in Doom can be seen from the front cover, where he lurks menacingly above the Fantastic Four, who are trapped in the weird world of Latveria. The four-part story which starts in this issue was later acknowledged by Lee and by Kirby as a homage to "The Prisoner", the Patrick McGoohan series based in "The Village" which was first broadcast in the US around the time that Kirby would have been plotting out these issues. He would later go on to pencil an adaptation of the series in 1976 which would not be released until after his death.

It's a little while before we get to Latveria though, as the first few pages follow the Fantastic Four on their way home from the previous issue's storyline with the Inhumans. At the end of the third page the story moves to "a forbidding castle, deep in the heart of the distant Balkans" where an old man is trying to escape a terrifying "him". The reader isn't told where this village... sorry, small Balkan state is, or who the man is fleeing (although they could probably guess from the cover), which makes the next page reveal even more powerful than it otherwise would have been. Which is still VERY powerful! Doom has always been self-deluded, but this character trait is really cranked up here, as he bemoans the fact that some of his citizens are ungrateful for all he does for them - he provides clothes and food and all he asks in return is total obedience. Previously he's either derided his citizens or acted protectively towards them, but now he moves into full-blown dictator mode, acting as a representative of an American view of life in Soviet Russia. This is a brutal tyrant, who tells his people that they are blessed by is rule, and to be happy or die - he is basically Stalin. Meanwhile the Fantastic Four are getting a briefing from Nick Fury, who has found a Robot Arm that is so deadly that it takes the combined might of the Fantastic Four and Shield to bring it back under control when it escapes from containment. Fury suspects that this must be the work of Doctor Doom and, fearing the development of terrifying new super-weapons, he asks the Fantastic Four to investigate.

The idea that Doom is harbouring weapons of mass destruction is one that will be returned to many times over the coming years, with any attempt to take action against him often thwarted by the politics of his position as a national ruler. Sometimes Doom will be seen as a representative of the Soviet State, other times a hard to swallow alternative, but here is shown as being even worse than America's sworn enemies. When the Fantastic Four travel incognito through "the heart of Communist-occupied Central Europe" they find that even KGB Agents fear Latveria. As soon as they enter the country the team (with Crystal doing maternity cover for Sue, who's just had a baby) are attacked by Killer Robots. Reed Richards claims to have had a plan to "let" the Robots capture them, though given the trouble they had fighting a single hand I imagine they'd have struggled to do anything else when there's at least six whole ones attacking. Unfortunately for Reed's "plan" Johnny loses his temper, so the team have to fight anyway, and end up losing. When their defeat is complete Doom himself appears, ordering the robots to take them away as his prisoners. When the team wake up they find themselves in a surreal world, treated as revered guests in a distinctly odd version of Latveria. Previously the country had been an American's idea of what Eastern Europe might be like, based as much on old movies and Kirby's experience of Europe during the Second World War as reality, but here it is deliberately strange, in obvious homage to "The Prisoner". Rather than the dungeons they might have expected, the find themselves in the midst of a parade to welcome them. This is, of course, all part of Doctor Doom's plan. However much things change, Doom will always have a plan, and he will always watch it unfold via television. There's just time for Doom to threaten an underling with "the penalty for looking discontented" before the story ends with him appearing on another TV screen to tell the Fantastic Four to be happy... or die! The ever-watchfulness of Doom ties in neatly with the homage to "The Prisoner", but what I think is really interesting here is his development from someone forever leaping out of windows to escape, just a few years ago, to a fully-fledged dictator, ruling an entire nation with maniacal zeal. There's a lot more of this to come!



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posted 1/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Doomenstein!


There's a whole heap of Doctor Doom in this comic - he's there on the cover, and then he pops up in the first story, a parody of 'Camelot' featuring Thor, called 'Comicloct'.

Early on in this story there's a gathering of supervillains which, unusually,does not feature Doom amongt them. However, it seems that this time around Roy Thomas and Marie Severin are spreading the villains out, as he appears on the very next page along with other characters who weren't in the preceding group. As I keep saying, he's there as a representative of supervillains, not necessarily as the character of Doctor Doom himself. This is made even more clear in his other main appearance, as 'Doctor Doomenstein' in a retelling of the Hollywood version of 'Frankenstein'.

Apart from living in a castle and looking the same, 'Doomenstein' has no resemblance to Doctor Doom, although there are similarities to recent versions of 'Dr Bloom' seen in this series, in that he speaks with a 'comedy' German accent, again probably referencing 'Wolfgang' from 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In'. Between these two stories there's yet another appearance, alongside perennial 'Not Brand Echh' favourite Aunt May in a 'Puzzles' section. Doom sits wearing comfy slippers, reading a magazine - the 'humour' coming from the juxtaposition with his usual role as the ultimate supervillain. This has been how he's been used throughout this series, as a representative of supervillainy whose position is secure enough to be mocked without need for explanation.

In the mainstream Marvel Universe between the publishing dates of March 1967 and March 1969 Doctor Doom only appeared as a main character (as opposed to cameo or parody) in two issues of Daredevil. However, during the same period he appeared in nine issues of 'Not Brand Echh', often several times per issue. It's thus a mark of how well established he is in his position as Number One Baddy that it can survive this constant mockery with very little reinforcement of his 'proper' role elsewhere.

There's just one issue of 'Not Brand Echh' to go - it's been interesting reading them, but I must say I'm very glad that next time we'll be returning to the pages of 'The Fantastic Four' for 'The Name Is Doom'!



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posted 30/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Super-hero Daydreams


This is another double-sized issue, which sees 'Not Brand Echh' moving further away from its origins in self-mocking re-tellings of Marvel's own stories, towards something much more like 'Mad' Magazine, but with added superheroes. Half the stories here are parodies of TV shows and movies (with a sprinkling of added superheroes) while the rest either mock other company's characters (including Aquaman and Snoopy) or talk about the work of comic creators themselves.

One particularly interesting strip is in the 'Auntie Goose Rhymes' section, where Aunt May (who, as I've noted before, appears all over the place in this series, as if the creators either think an elderly woman is inherently funny, or that their readers do) 'reads' nursey rhymes about the 'Marble' characters and creators. Doctor Doom appears in the 'engraved border' for the first page of the strip along with several other characters, although he's the only super-villain represented. One of the rhymes is a tribute to Jack Kirby, and his ability to keep creating amazing characters. It's only one page long, and I think it's worth including here in full: Apart from the fact that Doctor Doom appears here in his usual prominent position amongst the other leading characters of the day, it's also interesting because it's not actually drawn by Jack Kirby, it's by John Verpoorten, and it's written by Roy Thomas rather than Stan Lee, who you'd usually expect to be the one buttering Kirby up in print. This comic came out only a year before Kirby left Marvel, at a time when he was already becoming discontented with the credit he received for creating all of these characters, as well as the payment. The fact that it's Roy Thomas, a former fan, writing this tribute is perhaps a precursor to the fights by fans through the 70s and 80s to get recognition for the artist, in the face of opposition from Marvel itself.

Doom makes two more appearances, both cameos in his position as 'representative of terrifying supervillainy'. The first is in a strip called 'Super-hero daydreams' where a small boy imagines being able to transform into Doctor Doom by uttering the magic word 'Shamarvey'. The other is in a barely comprehensible strip called 'It's A Mad, Mad Ave!' I think the idea is that all the Marble superheroes (and some villains) work in an advertising agency and can only speak in terms of advertised products... but then reply as if they're normal people off the street who don't know what's going on. Doctor Doom appears in the large pay-off panel where... er... everybody has a big fight. What all this shows, yet again, is that Doctor Doom is accepted as such an important part of the Marvel Universe that he has to be included on most occasions when there's a group shot, and is used as the main representative of supervillains. It also shows that I'm getting really fed up of reading 'Not Brand Echh' - just one more to go!



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posted 23/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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And Time, The Rushing River


This story sees Roy Thomas use Ray Bradbury's 'A Sound Of Thunder' for inspiration, as The Avengers return from a time travel adventure (using Doctor Doom's time machine) to discover that their actions have had dire repercussions for the present day.

When they return to their own time they discover a world subtly changed, not least by the fact that the original members of The Avengers are still together, and very surprised to see them. After a lot of research using a history-telling device called a 'Herodotron' they discover that in this new reality a mysterious figure called The Scarlet Centurion turned up at the end of The Avengers' first adventure and offered them an end to famine, plague and pestilence, in exchange for imprisoning all other superheroes. The Avengers have a meeting about it and decide to give it a go. After all, if he's lying then The Avengers themselves will still be around to stop him, so no harm done, right? You know, apart from beating up and imprisoning every other superhero, which is precisely what they go out and do. It's all supremely daft, but they think they're doing the right thing and, once every other superhero is overcome they go and duff up all of the supervillains, just to be sure. Doctor Doom, Electro, Doctor Octopus and The Mandarin were the last super-powered beings left at liberty to fight the Avengers, and though we don't see exactly how they were eventually defeated, we are told that they definitely were, with this panel the only mention of them in the issue. They're basically there to show how wrong The Avengers have become, that the Supervillains are now the ones fighting for liberty against super-powered oppression, whereas normally it would be the other way round.

The interesting thing for me here is that Doctor Doom is being used once again as a signifier of super-villainy, grouped with other major supervillains in a very similar fashion to how he has been used recently in Not Brand Echh. This is the first time he's been used this way in the main Marvel universe, even though this is actually an 'alternative' timeline rather than the 'real' one. As discussed previously, it definitely won't be the last time we seeing him heading up a representative group of villains, but it's interesting to see that this was a storytelling tool that was first used in a humour comic!

The Avengers travel back to Doom's old hideout, where his time machine was first demonstrated way back in Fantastic Four #5, which causes one of the team to remark how odd it is that the castle's still there in this reality. This is Roy Thomas using and old Stan Lee trick of pointing out how ridiculous a situation is, in order to get the reader to accept it! They cook up a plan to reset the timeline, which works so well that they themselves forget what has happened, although not before The Watcher turns up to give a brief explanation of who The Scarlet Centurion really is. What the Watcher conveniently omits here is the idea that Rama Tut and Doctor Doom might actually be the same person from different points in time, as mentioned when they met back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. I imagine that The Watcher, seeing all as he does, thought that that was all too confusing to go into here, and I think he makes the right decision. The story ends with The Avengers flying off with no memory of what's gone on, as none of it technically happened at all. It's a neat, sci-fi twist, ending to the story, even if it does make you wonder a little bit why you bothered reading it!



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posted 18/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Origin Of The Silver Surfer


After reading so much of 'Not Brand Echh' it's nice to read something in a Marvel comic that genuinely made me laugh... although I don't think it was meant to. It happened here, in the text to the splash page of 'Silver Surfer' #1. He's a Space Spanner! The rest of the issue is surprisingly short on laughs, as for once Stan Lee goes all in on the melodrama as the Silver Surfer tries to help mankind but is rejected again and again. As with Steranko's dialogue in the recent issue of Strange Tales everything is overwrought, self-pitying, and melodramatic, but (also as with that issue) it sort of works. John Buscema's art is gorgeous throughout, echoing the text with character poses that are forever straining away like ancient statues, conveying a feeling of power combined with emotional extremity. Over the course of the story the Surfer narrates his own origin story, mixed in with a recap of his adventures so far on Earth, which of course includes his meeting with Doctor Doom the year before in The Fantastic Four. Here we get to see the Surfer's side of the story, which features Doom being silent and the Surfer having no way of knowing that he'd turn out to be evil. I'd suggest that having the Power Cosmic might have made you a better judge of character, especially of armoured monarchs called 'Doctor Doom', but maybe the Surfer's right. He comes across as a slightly unattractive character in his flashbacks, especially when he's shown in his former life on Zenn-La. He spends so much time moaning about how easy and BORING his idyllic life is that he almost seems pleased when Galactus turns up to eat his planet and kill everyone he's ever known, as it's at least something to do. Similarly when he takes on the role of Galactus' herald, he claims that he'll do it to save further lives, when really it's just so he can get some cosmic kicks.

Whatever the reason, Doctor Doom does not feature any further in this story, and does not even speak - something which will be rectified at last when we see him next!



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posted 16/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Casey At The Bat


At this point in the series 'Not Brand Echh' had gone double-sized on a bi-monthly publication schedule, increasing the page count in an attempt to be more like 'Mad'. It even has a contents page, unlike (nearly?) all other Marvel comics of the time. Doom's first appearance is in an adaptation of the poem 'Casey At The Bat'. I must admit I had to look this one up - it's one of those (very few) pieces of American culture which haven't made it into the public consciousness over on this side of the Atlantic, possibly because it was never mentioned in an episode of 'Friends'! It's a nineteenth century poem about baseball, which is 'recited' faithfully here, with the humour coming from the use of comics characters and their commentary on what's going on. For some reason Doctor Doom talks in a German accent throughout the story. He's never done this in any of the comics, so I imagine it's an attempt to make it even MORE hilarious (NB I am now heartily fed up with 'Not Brand Echh' by this point, so that is definitely sarcasm) by referencing the Wolfgang character in 'Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In'. This character also appears on the front cover of Not Brand Echh #11 in another example of the growing focus on TV parodies as the series attempts to further mimic 'Mad' .

Doom shows up again in a couple of 'Super-Hero Greeting Cards'. As in most of Doom's appearances in 'Not Brand Echh', they don't refer to his actual character, rather using him as a signifier for all Super-Villains. In most cases another villain like Magneto or Doctor Octopus could have been used instead, but it's generally Doctor Doom who's used when a baddie's needed. It doesn't make for hilarious reading, but it does show how important he is as a character, even though at the moment he's being used a lot more for this than for actual narrative action in the main Marvel universe!



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posted 11/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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What Price Forbush-Man?


It's time for another visit to the world of 'Not Brand Echh', with Roy Thomas and John Verpoorten taking Forbush Man on a trip around this version of the Marvel Universe, meeting the likes of The Agents of Sheesh and The Echhs Men in what amounts to a forerunner of the line-wide crossovers which would start to become popular two decades later. It's interesting to note that we now see the same satirical versions of Marvel characters each time they appear in the comic - it's always "The Fantastical Four" or "The Revengers" rather than other versions of their names, and they always behave in the same ways, as if, even in a humour comic, the continuity of a shared storyworld is too hard to resist.

As before, Doctor Doom's appearance is as one member of a group of supervillains who attack Forbush Man and are foiled by him jumping down a manhole. Again, this demonstrates Doom's primacy amongst supervillains and again this has echoes with J Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's Amazing Spider-man #36: If there's ever a get together Doom's the one who's always got to be there to make it a proper gathering of supervillains. He's a figurehead for supervillainy, so in this case does not express many of his usually character traits, but we'll be seeing that in the next issue of Not Brand Echh when Doom... er... recognises his European roots!



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posted 9/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Doom In The Room


This issue did not come up in any of my original data searches, because Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear, visually, anywhere in it. He is, however, mentioned a lot, so I think it needs to be included, while noting that this demonstrates both the need to read around the data and the primacy of the image over the dialogue in comics.

The biggest shock for me with this issue is that, after the psychedelic bombast of Steranko last time Kirby's artwork suddenly looks flat and old-fashioned. I'm used to it being exciting and fresh, but here it seems like old news. The story is a sort of retread of The Wedding Of Reed and Sue from Fantastic Four Annual #3 except with even MORE continuity. It starts with Daredevil swinging in from the end of the previous issue of his own series and meeting Thor, who has come straight from events in his own title. Spider-man quickly joins them, and Daredevil tells the group that Doctor Doom has taken over Reed Richard's body (he hasn't, that was just a Cunning Fib by Doom at the end of his last appearance). They then go and fight the three male members of the FF (Sue is on pre-maternity leave) who, in a classic comics misunderstanding, believe that Daredevil is actually Doctor Doom and the other two are some allies in disguise.

Like I said, Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear in this issue, but he is mentioned a LOT! Of course, none of the superheroes take the time to discuss the matter, or even try to explain that they really are who they look like, and a colossal punch-up ensues which only comes to an end on the penultimate page when Sue turns up and separates them all with her force fields. She know Daredevil can't be Doctor Doom because she's just seen a live report on TV, showing Doom in Latveria, addressing a conference of ministers. One might think that this was an oversight of Doom's - his whole plan was to trick the heroes into fighting each other, so it was a bit daft to go on telly and give the game away - but then again, how could he possibly be in Latveria? This issue takes place immediately after Daredevil #37 where Doom was specifically shown, on multiple occasions, to be in New York City. The whole story in the current issue can't have taken more than half an hour, which is nowhere near time for Doom to leave the embassy, fly to Latveria, and then prepare his notes sufficiently for a meeting, so what's going on?

Here's my No-Prize application: we don't actually see the news report Sue is talking about, so maybe she's just made it up, as a way of pointing out that everyone is clearly who they say they are, without making the men feel too silly?

As with last time, Doom's actual presence in the comic may be tiny, but we still get several of his defining characteristics - his cunning, his leadership of Latveria, and his immunity from prosecution - even if they're only related by other parties. By this point Doom is so recognisably Doom that he doesn't even need to be shown to make his mark!



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posted 6/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Armageddon!


Crikey. If going from Kirby to Colan felt like a jolt, going from 'Not Brand Ecch' to Jim Steranko is a serious case of psychedlic whiplash. This stuff is far out!

It feels especially FAR OUT because it STILL looks like an experimental freakout despite the fact that it's fifty years old and is widely reported as one of THE far out experimental freakouts. I often feel disappointed when allegedly KRAZY texts turn out not to be so, but there is no dissapointment here!

Right from the first page it's clear that Steranko has taken the Marvel Style of experimentation and histrionics and CUBED it. I mean, look at Jimmy Woo's dialogue on the first page: His girlfriend has been murdered, and THIS is what he says. It's like someone condensed Stan Lee until he was ten times normal strength and then served it up neat!

There's a whole heap more of this as the issue goes on, including an incredible four (4!) page spread, an infinity drive warping space and time as it enters nucelo-phoretic space, psychic storms, stunning colouring effects (especially for the time) and visuals that dare to take Kirby's stylings and crank them up even higher. It's an astonishing tour de force, which does not feature Doctor Doom until the very last double splash page, when it is revealed that Nicky Fury's epic battle with The Yellow Claw, which has taken up this entire issue, was simply a game between Doom and The Prime-Mover, a robot that he built for the purpose of playing games with. Basically, it's all been a single player campaign which Doom lost at the very end. Let's hope he saved his progress! It's just a single panel, but still Steranko squeezes in a lot of Doom characteristics - his arrogance, his hatred of losing, his leadership of Latveria, and his delight in toying with people from a distance. If only he'd flung himself out of an airship whilst comparing himself to Reed Richards we'd have had the full set!



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posted 4/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Origin of...The Fantastical Four


The absolutle tiniest of Doom appearances in this comic, as he pops up once in the background of a single panel, threatening Spider-Man's Aunt May with a "fat lip". This is a distinctly odd comic, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby doing their very best to mimic 'Mad Magazine'. Kirby had worked for humour magazines in the past, and does good job of mimicking the Mad Magazine house style here, to the extent that I don't think you'd ever guess it was him on the art if you didn't know. The story itself is a surprisingly faithful retelling of the Fantastic Four's origin story, which seems to have used the original story as a template, with gags added along the way. It starts with the same smoke gun warning as appeared in Fantastic Four #1, and a lot of the jokes require an intimate knowledge of that specific comic, published over six years ago. Up until this point, according to the Grand Comics Database this had only been reprinted once in the USA, in The Golden Book And Comic Set of 1966. This was a vinyl record accompanied by a specially reprinted version of the comics which was designed to help children learn to read by "reading along" with the audio, though as it was more expensive than the single comics, and less widely distributed, it would not have been available to most regular readers.

The fact that this story requires a detailed knowledge of a six year old comic is therefore a pretty extreme example of the kind of knowledge that Marvel expected of its readers by this point, though sadly, in this case, there are no huge rewards to be had, as the storyline is "wacky" to the point of annoyance. Maybe the Mad-style of comedy isn't for me, but it feels like Stan and Jack are great at humour as part of the story, not so much when GAGS are the whole point!



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posted 29/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Living Prison!


It looks like we have an item to add to the long list of Things I Was Wrong About Aged 10: Gene Colan is NOT "weird and a bit wonky" as Young Me believed, he is in fact FAB - I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover!

` The story inside picks up a couple of minutes after where we left off last time, with Daredevil in a prison cell beneath the Latverian Embassy, trapped inside the body of Doctor Doom. He's pleased to find that this means he can finally see again, at last, but one thing he CAN'T see (clever phrasing, thanks) is a way out of this mess.

Well, he can't see it for about 10 seconds, and then realises that he's in the Latverian Embassy, inside the body of the leader of Latveria, so he simply calls some guards in and gets them to let him out. This seems a bit of an oversight in Doctor Doom's plan, but then this curious mix of haste and prevarication does seem to be part of his personality. When he's got The Power Cosmic, for instance, he puts of doing anything with it for ages, but at other times he'll dash off to carry out a plan without really doing any of the necessary preparation.

Daredevil does an excellent impersonation of Doom, who we then see swinging along in Daredevil's body, strolling through the park towards The Baxter Building. This is a beautiful piece of work by Colan, capturing Doom's swagger and delight in the body he's stolen. Last time I commented on what a big deal it was that nobody knew Daredevil was blind, and expected it to be immediately discovered by Doom as soon as the body swap was complete. Incredibly, this does not happen! Doom notices that his vision is different, but deduces that this is because of the filters on Daredevil's mask! At no point does he try taking it off, instead believing that it is this "filter" that gives him the other enhanced senses he's noticed. This dogged persistence with whatever his first idea about something is is definitely part of Doom's character - it fits with his arrogant belief in his own intellectual supremacy, despite the fact that it constantly leads to him jumping to entirely the wrong concluson. Back at the Embassy Daredevil is being much more sensible, and decides to radio the Fantastic Four to tell them what's happened. They do not believe him at first - why would they? I mean, who's ever heard of body transferral? HANG ON A MINUTE - I'll tell you who's heard of body transferral! The Fantastic Four! Especially Reed Richards whose body was swapped with... DOCTOR DOOM, way back in Fantastic Four #10. How on earth can he have forgotten THAT?

They are eventually persuaded that this is Daredevil, because he knows their emergency frequency and Doom, they believe, doesn't, something which will prove to be incorrect later. Meanwhile, out in the street, Doom himself proves to be much better at this sort of thing. His guards, sent out by Daredevil, find and attack him, and he proceeds to duff them all up in no uncertain terms while calling them complete idiots for not realising who he is. This seems a bit unfair to me, as the whole point of the body transferral is to look like someone else, but they appear to be fine with it. Also of note here is that he deals with the whole gang of them pretty easily, while Daredevil was apprehended by just two of them. For someone who claims not to sully himself with hand to hand combat "like a peasant" Doom is pretty good at it!

Further evidence of this come when the thugs dash back and bump into Daredevil, who has a much harder time fighting them. He thinks to himself that this is because he's not used to having no powers or being inside suit of armour, but Doom did all right and he's now blind! In the end the police turn up and save him, choosing to believe a national ruler over a bunch of yobboes. Daredevil leaves the scene and bumps into Doom, totally by coincidence. The two men chat, from inside each other's body, and if you think this might get a little confusing then you're right. Stan Lee recognises this throughout the story, providing helpful notes every few pages. Daredevil tells Doom that he's got a brilliant plan to stop him, and that he should listen in to the radio to find out what it is. "You're MAD!" says Doom as they part, so secure in his own brilliance that he can't be bothered to even give chase.

This seems a bit nuts to me, but then, as we've seen time and time again, one of Doom's many flaws is his inability to recognise that other people may have schemes of their own, especially those who he's left free to wander around looking and sounding exactly like him.

Being in Doom's body seems to have worn off on Daredevil, as his brilliant plan is so badly thought out that it's worthy of the Latverian monarch himself. He stomps back to the Embassy and declares war on EVERY country that borders Latveria. Note that he does this via a TV screen, a perfect impersonation of one of Doom's favourite modus operandi!

Luckily Doom hear this and realised precisely how MAD it is - "One of our neighbors is allied with Red China!" he thinks. "We'll be over-run in hours!" This demonstrates that Doom genuinely does care about his country. He's stolen a new, super-powered, body and is thousands of miles away from danger, but chooses to rush back to the embassy and immediately reverse the body swap, so he can call off the war.

Daredevil's plan worked, which is handy because otherwise it would probablly have instigated a nuclear war, and once returned to his own body his swiftly smashes up the machine. He prepares himself for another fight, but Doom he tells him not to worry. "I have so rarely been defeated... that I am amused by the novelty," he says, and tells Daredevil he is free to go. Having read all of his adventures so far I'd say that it's probably not THAT much of a novelty, but Daredevil takes him at his word and heads off to tell the Fantastic Four what's been going on. It's here that Doom finally does exhibit some cunning - knowing what's gone before, he radios the Fantastic Four (using their radio frequency, which he did know after all) and tells them that Doctor Doom is heading their way, DISGUISED as Daredevil! That's genuinely pretty clever if you ask me! And thus the issues ends, with Daredevil swinging through the city towards the Baxter Building, unaware of what awaits him. This story, which had its roots in an issue of Fantastic Four, is now heading back there for its conclusion, but before we get there we've got a couple of other, very very different, Doom appearances to look at!



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posted 27/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Don't Look Now, But It's- Dr. Doom!


This issues carries straight on from the last, with Doom asking Daredevil to be quiet via the medium of a punch in the face. This leads to several pages of a right proper punch-up, which would appear to be unseemly for a world leader like Doctor Doom, who claims that he wouldn't normally get into a fist fight "like a peasant" but is doing so here because it would be beneath him to use any of his thrilling weapons on someone without powers like Daredevil. I'm not as familiar with Daredevil as I am with The Fantastic Four, so I was surprised by how important it is to the story that nobody realises he has super powers. I knew that nobody was aware that he's blind, but was not expecting absolutely everyone he meets to remark upon how odd it is that someone with no super powers should be able to do the things he does. It's like a second secret identity.

During the fight Doom explains that he was actually on his was to take his revenge on The Fantastic Four, but heard about Daredevil's fight so thought he'd pop along to see if he could capture him. The pair do have previous, from back in Fantastic Four #39, but this meeting is just a happy accident for Doom... which makes some of the events later on a little hard to explain.

Doom wins the fight, despite various New York subway users trying to stop him, and carries a newly knocked out Daredevil into a side street and then into the back of a waiting car, where we are reminded once again of Doctor Doom's status as a world leader and therefore, in the Marvel Universe, a possessor of diplomatic immunity. Daredevil wakes up and there's another big fight, this time taking place entirely in the back of the car as Daredevil struggles against Doom and his heavies. For an expressive artist like Colan who excels at freeflowing athletic action this seems an odd choice, but I wonder if it's all because he enjoys drawing cars. He and Stan Lee were firmly entrenched in The Marvel Method at this point, so it would most likely have been Colan's choice, and there are some lovely illustrations of the vehicle as it speeds along, with the battle continuing inside. Eventually they arrive at the Latverian embassy where Daredevil is marched in at gunpoint, and then unceremoniously booted up the bum by Doom. As we saw not so long ago, he does enjoy holding people in cells, but has clearly learned that they tend to escape quite easily too, as when Daredevil does exactly that he finds himself tricked into a bizarre fairground-style room containing oversized furniture that can turn itself upside down. Doom watches the confusion with delight, viewing the action, as ever, on a TV screen. When I started this blog I was hoping to spot some defining characteristics of Doctor Doom. I was expecting arrogance, cruelty or cowardice, I was not expecting to discover he was a relentless, TV-obsessed, voyeur.

Another recurring aspect of Doom's personality, in whatever media he appears, is his willingness to tell his own story, and thus we finally discover what happened to him when he was tricked into flying into the cosmic barrier that Galactus set up around the earth, originally designed to stop the Silver Surfer from escaping. It turns out that, much like Doom claims for himself, Galactus sees no point in punishing non-combatants, so when he sees that it's not the surfer who's crashed he simply sends Doom unharmed back to Earth, while the surfer's board zooms back to its owner - all of which is illustrated (as seems to be policy in these situation) to deliberatelty echol the original story. It's another mark of the continuing shared universe that these characters all live in that the final outcome to a cliffhanger in Fantastic Four #60 is only revealed a year later in a totally different series!

Doom then tries to hypnotise Daredevil, but fails because, this form of hypnosis relies on the victim being able to see what's going on - that extra secret to his secret identity keeps paying off! This leads to another fight, which Daredevil appears to be winning until- oh no! -Doom dives away and captures him inside a strange tube. This turns out to be key to Doom's "brilliantly conceived Master Plan" - a body transferal ray! This is all well and good, but hang on a minute, didn't he say, right at the start of the story, that he only bumped into Daredevil by chance, having been on his way to fight the Fantastic Four? It's only been an hour at most since then, which is clearly not even enough time to devise a Hare Brained Scheme, let alone a Master Plan. If Doom had claimed it was the pay-off to some "brilliantly conceived improvisation" I would have agreed - he's making excellent use of the resources to hand - but no way is this a Master Plan.

Despite this, it all works out in Doom's favour, and the pair swap bodies, with Daredevil trapped within a suit of armour and Doom all in red! Thus the next issue features Doom taking on the Fantastic Four wearing Daredevil's body. Will this mean the end of Daredevil's secret extra secret? Find out next time!



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posted 20/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Meet The In-Laws


After all the excitement of seeing Doom in a regular comic series again at last, we immediately return to another appearance by his 'Not Brand Echh' counterpart 'Doctor Bloom'.

I'm coming round to the conclusion that the indexers at The Grand Comics Database must have been deliberately cataloguing all of the characters by their 'Not Brand Echh' names to differentiate them from the regular universe versions, and thus keep them well away from mainstream continuity. There's no other explanation for the fact that this issue did not show up in my initial database searches for 'Doctor Doom' - he's right there on the cover, so there's no way they could have missed him!

Here Doom is depicted as shedding a single tear at the wedding of Crystal from The Inhumans and 'The Human Scorch', in an image weirdly reminiscent of one from J Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's 'Ground Zero' story in Amazing Spider-man #36. I wonder, could they been related? Or is it silly to suggest that a nuanced, heartfelt moment of supreme characterization coud be in any way linked to ... J Michael Straczynski's run on Spider-man?

Sorry, I think I've read so many issues of 'Not Brand Echh' that the 'humour' is starting to wear off on me. Or maybe just wear off.

Doom appears twice inside the actual comic, and in both cases he's used as part of a gang of villains. In the first story he's there as a member of Sandman's villain "family" when the Human Scorch needs someone to move in with: And in the final story he's in a group again, eagerly waiting to find out the identity of the bride of 'Spidey-man'. Neither of these appearances make any use of the specifics of Doom's character, he's just there to signify that this is a group of supervillains.Interestingly though he's the only character to appear in both groups, signifying his primacy amongst Marvel supervillains. If it was just a bunch of minor villains the joke might be that they *are* minor characters (similar to the use of Boomerang, Speed Demon and co in The Superior Foes Of Spider-man), but with Doom in the mix it's made clear that the "joke" is that a group of normally evil, powerful figures are behaving in a silly way.

SPOILER ALERT: this is a trend that will crop up several more times over the coming issues, and not just in 'Not Brand Echh'. It's as if Doom's place in the universe is so secure that he can just be referred to without having to ever do much - like an aged rock star who signifies Rock And Roll and doesn't need to record any new material again. That's not to say Doom's ready to retire to the Heritage Touring Circuit just yet, in 1967 he's still rocking, as we'll see next time when we finally find out how he managed to escape his apparent death way back in The Peril And The Power!



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posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Name Of The Game Is... Mayhem!


After the recent run of pin-ups, cartoons and satire it feels good to be talking about an actual bona fide superhero comic again, although Gene Colan's version arrival on the blog, after so much Jack Kirby, came as something of a shock to my delicate sense. It's a whole different, much more fluid, style, which I remember finding distinctly disconcerting when I first encountered it in my early comics reading days. I always thought that it looked like everyone was underwater and, coming back to it again now, I sort of see my point. The bulk of the story is a continuation from the previous issue of 'Daredevil', with our hero having to rescue Sue Richards, who has been kidnapped yet again, and then chase down The Trapster. It's scripted by Stan Lee but feels very different from his style on The Fantastic Four. There are still side-stories and references to what's gone on before, but the focus on one central character rather than (at least) four makes it all much more direct and fast-moving, helped along by Gene Colan's art which, despite what 10 year old me may have thought, is perfectly suited to this story and features some gorgeous illustration.

Doctor Doom himself does not appear until the very last panel, when he discovers Daredevil regaining consciousness after his final battle. At the time this must have come as a terrific shock for the reader, as Doom had not been seen in regular continuity for almost a year, after disappearing at the end of Fantastic Four #60 and there had been no indication on the cover that he would be appearing. The fact that a single image of a character who is, technically speaking, a supporting character in a different magazine can be using as the astounding cliff hanger ending here demonstrates both the popularity of Doctor Doom and the assumption that someone reading one Marvel comic would be familiar with all the others, Surprised, Tiger? They kinda hoped you would be! But what on earth is Doom doing here, in a New York subway, when the last we knew he was colliding with a cosmic barrier high up in the atmosphere? Come back next time (or rather the time after next, as there's more 'Not Brand Echh' to come) to find out!



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posted 13/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett