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This Secret Love..!


So here we are, at the very last, final and ultimate text in this long long look at Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age!

All right, we're not entirely finished, as there's still a few extra items that I've found over the past year or so that I'll be covering in Addenda over the next couple of weeks, but this is definitely the last item we'll be looking at chronologically and, like so many of the texts we've looked at over the past several years, it is... er... mildly underwhelming!

This story takes place in an odd little period for the main "Thor" comic when the ongoing storyline was paused for a few months to be replaced by a series of one-off stories instead. The following month has a seemingly unrelated story about a Thor of the future, for instance. I don't know what was going on, and if I was looking at Thor as a transmedia character in this or the following period then I'd have a look, but I'm not so I won't! All we need to know here is that this gives Tom Defalco the opportunity to tell an "untold tale of The Secret Wars", something which is rather cheekily advertised on the cover with a corner banner very similar to the ones we saw for "Secret Wars II" tie-ins a year earlier.

The main plot is basically a re-telling of the first few issues of "Secret Wars" as told from the perspective of The Enchantress, particularly the bit in Secret Wars #4 where she and Thor teleported away from everybody else to have a chat and do some kissing. I do remember this bit from when I looked at that comic at the start of this year, but it wasn't exactly one of the major plot points, and I'm not entirely sure why Defalco felt the need to return to it. Perhaps it's an attempt to stamp his authority on Jim Shooter's big storyline, just as he was about to replace him as Editor-in-chief the following month. On the other hand, it might have been a way of paying tribute to him, or indeed nothing to do with either.

There's a framing device which sees The Enchantress popping over to see her sister Lorelei and telling her to stop messing men around and learn to appreciate true love. To illustrate this she retells the her part in Secret Wars focussing on that soppy bit with Thor. It's comics, so the big emotional peak of it all comes when she has to pretend she isn't sad about her unrequited love being disintegrated, leaving only his helmet. "Do you question the wisdom of my actions?" asks Doctor Doom. We've all been there haven't we? Doctor Doom is threaded throughout, here taking on the double role as an avatar of villainy, and as a signifier of Secret Wars himself. He was the lead character, so whenever you see Doom standing with a few other supervillains in a very dull landscape of purple mountains, you can pretty much be assured it's a flashback to Secret Wars. I particularly like the way that Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding do a tribute here to those roll calls that Secret Wars used to love, showing all of the heroes and villains standing in a nice neat line. Frenz and Breeding are a very attractive combination on art, making the whole thing look much classier than the original did, and much classier than it deserves to be. Interestingly Ron Frenz starts off with rounded corners for the flashbacks, but then drops them for most of the story, only returning to them at the end just before we go back to the Enchantress. It seems to work, although your own mileage may vary on how interesting that actually is!

There's a much-reported story that Jim Shooter told all Marvel writers at the time that they must include a bit in every single issue where the Hero thought "I must - but I must not!" and here it comes when Thor has to choose between snogging the Enchantress and not snogging the Enchantress. Thor eventually does not snog the Enchantress, the story carries on in exactly the same way it originally did (there's no retconning here, it's not so much an "untold tale" as a "slightly different viewpoint on an already told tale"), and it all ends with the Enchantress saying "SO THERE!" and zapping off. Brilliantly, Lorelei thinks about what her sister has said for a moment then has a good old laugh about it, having learnt precisely nothing. And that's the end of that - the final Doom appearance (chronologically anyway), and it's a not particularly thrilling comic where he pops up to do his very specific thing of Being Doctor Doom for a little while (which is all done very well) and then steps back out of the spotlight. I really would have liked to have had a big blowout ending as the final text, and if Jim Shooter had lasted in post a bit longer we could have done that with the Triumph And Torment graphic novel, but in a way this is more fitting. Going through the history of Marvel comics in this way has meant avoiding the well trodden paths through the "important" texts or even the "really really good" ones, instead taking a semi-random sampling of the sort of comics that were actually around at the time. It's like listening to a recording of actual radio programmes from the 1960s, rather than a "Best Of The Sixties" compilation - in both cases you get a lot more rubbish, but also a few more interesting snippets that you'd otherwise have missed.

There'll be more earth-shattering statements like this in a few weeks, when I'll be having a look back at what we might have learnt from all this (hopefully more than Lorelei did), but next time we'll be going back to the mid-1970s to have a long, yearning look at the legendary Marvel World Adventure Playset!



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posted 15/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Showtime!


For the penultimate text in our mighty Corpus Of Doom we have one of the tiniest Doom appearances of all, with him being shown in just a single section of a multi-faceted splash page, plummeting through time (or possibly dimensions). When I first encountered this I thought "Aha! Clearly Doom also appeared in the issue before this, but just didn't get recorded" but when I read the previous issue there was no Doom to be found. He's simply being used here as an illustration of a particular point in time when Rama Tut (who I think is, or has been, part of this story) met Doom, which we saw way way back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. It's actually very similar to the way Doom was used as part of Kang's back story, referring to part of the same story in Avengers #269. Doom is now such a key part of the Marvel Universe that he's being used as a signifier for other character's stories!

By the way, if I seem a bit vague about whether Rama Tut appeared in the story before this, that's because I am. I have read this particular comic several times for this blog and as part of my PhD, but very little of it has stuck in my brain, and apart from the fact that Doctor Doom isn't in it, I couldn't tell you much about the issue before either. This is partly because I have read a lot of comics over the course of the past several years, but it's mostly because this particular storyline is an unfortunate mixture of the Very Confusing and the Not Very Memorable. It's something to do with The West Coast Avengers splitting up, going back in time, meeting some other superheroes and then... er... coming back again, but what it's all for I could not say. The whole thing is very much of its time for Marvel comics, especially with the Al Milgrom art which carries with it the distinct whiff of being done in a hurry, and dense continuity-heavy storytelling that doesn't mean much even to me, who has spent several years knee deep in the Marvel Universe.

It's not a particularly auspicious text to start bringing down the curtain on Doom's appearances in The Marvel Age, and the final text next time isn't much better, but fear not True Believers, we do have some Addenda which will be a lot more fun. We've got this far, let's keep on going to the end!



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posted 3/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Double Double


This is the last proper full-length story that Doctor Doom stars in during 'The Marvel Age' (although there's still a few other ones to come), so it's fitting that it's almost a Greatest Hits, with various strands of continuity being referred to, notably a massive callback to the absolute classic 'Though Some Call It Magic' from way back in Astonishing Tales #8. It's nowhere near as good as that comic, but it's nice to be reminded of it at least!

The story picks up right from the end of Fantasic Four #305 with Doom demanding that the FF lend him Franklin for a bit. Doom has clearly been doing his homework, taking us through some of Franklin's recent adventures in 'Power Pack' and elsewhere, but Reed Richards is not going to let him borrow his son for anything. It's all very well Reed saying "I've seen how you care for the welfare of children - with poor, brainwashed Kristoff", but as far as I can see the FF haven't been looking after him much better - they've basically kept him locked up in a padded cell for two years without a change of clothes. Doom isn't bothered by this accusation, stating that Kristoff was activated "in error" and is now superfluous, which also seems a bit odd. We were led to believe that Doom cared for Kristoff, although the whole "mind wiping" plan does make me doubt that, but still it seems like a lot of effort to go through just to dump him when he's "activated" too early. Does he have other children lined up for future contingency plans?

Doom tries to persuade them of his good intentions by swearing an oath that he will sacrifice himself before he allows Franklin to come to any harm. Unsurprisingly this cuts no ice, so he turns on his heals and heads back to the Embassy. Just when it seems that the rest of the annual is going to be the FF sitting around having a nice chat (as so many comics seem to be during this period) Doom attacks the Baxter Build... sorry, Four Freedoms Plaza, and a very long fight breaks out between the FF and Doom's devices. The FF win, but amongst the wreckage we see the true point of Doom's plan - there was a sneaky robot in there all along! The robot snatches Franklin just as the FF are trying to launch into the previously mentioned chatting, and zooms off. Johnny gives chase and is so angry that he calls Doctor Doom the worst thing he can think of, not once but twice! "Pond scum!" Were the Comics Code Authority asleep on the job here? How did they allow such filth to get past them? The robot catches up with Doctor Doom in his aircraft, whereupon he tells Johnny that if Reed had lent him Franklin as asked he would have honoured his oath, but now he doesn't have to. Sorry, what? He made the oath earlier without any conditions, we all saw him do it, so surely he can't just go back on it now? Part of the fun of Doom and his Solemn Oaths over the years has been seeing him get around them while still maintaining his self-image as a man of honour, but this is him just saying "Nah, not doing that now."

Doom then demonstrates some previously unseen child-handling skills, telling Franklin that his mother was "taken away from me by the bad man named Mephisto!" Doom calling somebody "bad man" doesn't feel right - he's not usually one to treat children like children - but it works and Franklin agrees to help, and off they go to Latveria.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza the FF are indulging in some Claremont-esque bickering, furiously trying to blame each other for what's going on. Sue finds this as tiresome as I do, and tells them all to calm down and get ready for the flight to Latveria. As they set off we finally find out what's happened to Kristoff, as he uses a handy flute (?) to call the kidnapper robot back to his cell. It's nice to see that Kristoff has actually had a change of clothes since last time, and his cell looks less padded, but it still has bars on the window and is very definitely a prison. What's nice about this scene though, and the use of Kristoff throughout the rest of the story, is that it massively leans into the idea that he thinks he's Doctor Doom. He doesn't act like a child pretending to be him or anything like that, he's pretty much a second copy, who knows all Doom's secrets and Cunning Plans. Well, technically he should only know Doom's secrets up to and including his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5 , as per his own origin story in Fantastic Four #278, but this is pretty much ignored for this entire story. It's a shame, as I quite like the idea of Real Doom fighting a version of himself from right at the very beginning of his super-villain career, but as we'll see the plot requires him to have a lot more knowledge than he should have.

A prime of example of this is what happens next, as Kristoff flies all the way to Latveria on the robot's back and... hang on, what? Kristoff arrives just after Doom and the FF, so must have flown at pretty high speeds, and while everyone else was safely encased in supersonic vehicles Kristoff was hanging onto a robot while wearing a pair of shorts. Before we can deal with anything there, he rushes off to a nearby barn on the edge of the country where he keeps a spare Doombot and Doctor Doom suit. All right, how does this work? According to Kristoff's earlier appearance he was only Doom for a very short time, just long enough to abandon his mind-wipe and relaunch his attack on the Baxter Building. We know that this was all done in haste because the Doombots at the time said so, so when did he have time to set all this up? There's at least some attempt to embed this into the continuity, as the Doombot remarks upon his new "raiments" and Kristoff talks about how he must get the his robots similarly re-designed, but it doesn't actually help it make any sense!

Once again we're not given time to ponder this as Kristoff and the Doombot hop into Latveria's apparently extensive tunnel system where they bump into the Fantastic Four, at which point Kristoff sets off a trap that he can't know about because... well, you get the general idea. At this point we finally cut back to the real Doctor Doom, where it seems that Paul Neary has been doing some research, giving Boris the very same lamp he had in Astonishing Tales #8. Clearly this lamp is now seen as a Signifier Of Boris, as we also saw him using it recently in Cloak And Dagger #10, still carrying it around inside when there's surely no need to. There's another call back to Astonishing Tales #8 too, as Doom recites a similar incantation, although this time he adds Mephisto's name in there to make it clear that's who he's after. As the demon's begin to appear Paul Neary also recalls Gene Colan's smoky demons. Doom calls out the names of Namor and The Silver Surfer as he does this, reminding us all of some of his past victories. I'm not sure Namor or the Surfer would remember it quite the same, but it's nice to get these reminders of former glories as we head towards the end of this run.

Mephisto turns up as requested, and Doom's evil plan is revealed: he's going to give Mephisto Franklin's soul in exchange for his mother's! DAN-DAN-DAAAA!!! The FIEND! But hold on a minute, how does that work then? Can you just swap one soul for another? And if so, do you need to do it in person, or could Doom have just sent Mephisto a fax to make the offer? And what happened to the idea of people going willingly? If this is all that's required, couldn't Doom have done this ages ago?

And also: what was the plan going to be if the FF HAD let him take Franklin with him, and he'd have been bound to keep his oath? Surely none of this would have worked then?

A theme of this comic seems to be that whenever Steve Englehart writes himself into a corner like this he throws in the sudden arrival of some Action, and that's exactly what he does next. Kristoff arrives with his army of Doombots, throwing everything into disarray. Mephisto is confused, and so are the Doombots! It looks to me as if Neary is quoting the Worried Doombots from Kristoff's first appearance, and I like the way that Englehart writes them the same way, like Civil Servants who are not quite sure that what their master is saying is quite correct, but feel professionally bound to go along with it. Mephisto's had quite enough of all this and decides to go home to hell, taking Franklin with him. Again, this feels like cheating - is he allowed to just pop up to earth and steal any soul he fancies? I mean, I know he's Marvel's version of the Devil so should not be expected to play fairly, but if he can do that why doesn't he do it all the time? Why go to all the bother of Tempting or Tricking people if he can just take whoever he likes?

Reed sees Mephisto disappearing, so quickly picks up a remote control for the Psychic Dampeners that Doom had set up on the castle (somehow) and follows Mephisto into hell through a wormhole, where he switches off the Dampeners. But surely those were only effective in Latveria weren't they? So why do they need to be switched off when they're in another dimension? Either way, Franklin's power is unleashed, Mephisto decides he can't be doing with this much hassle, and both Reed and Franklin get sent home again. Once they get back Franklin's full powers are working again, and he decides he's going to punish Doom by sending him to hell. His dad tells him not to, as "no-one deserves to be sent to Mephisto", which I'm not sure I quite agree with. Doom has been an absolute swine here - I'd even go so far as to call him "Pond Scum"!

The final section of the comic is the aftermath, where we get Doom and Kristoff competing to be the most sad about "their" mother's death. At lot of this story has been nonsensical, but I do like the way that Englehart does this, with each of them getting annoyed at the other for being a fake version of themselves and blaming them for what's gone wrong. Reed Richards tells Real Doom that this was his fault all along, and Real Doom agrees. To me, this is a much needed return to Doom as Honourable Character, able to admit his own mistakes. We've not seen enough of that version in this issue, but it turns out that the Doombots prefer Straight Out Evil Doom, and decide that anyone prepared to admit weakness must be a fake. This is all a bit daft, but also brilliant! If we squint and cross our fingers we might even be able to see it as an acknowledgement of how much Doom has evolved as a character over the past 26 years, going from a straight-out villian (as portrayed by Kristoff) to a quasi-honourable human being who is at least partially self-aware. It's also a Really Cool Twist which allows Kristoff to take control of the situation, ordering the Doombots to attack and forcing Real Doom to display yet more of his characteristics by a) blowing up some robots and b) fleeing the scene while c) insisting he is definitely not fleeing the scene. All that remains is for Reed to have one more go at persuading Kristoff he's not really Doom, by saying "I don't suppose it would do any good to tell you once more that you're not Doctor Doom?" If that's been his methodology all this time then it's not really surprising that Kristoff's had absolutely no progress for two years, and here he brushes this aside, so that the FF are left to simply wander off and go home in an ending that is either a subtle nod to "The Most Off-Beat Ending Of The Year" in Fantastic Four #87, or just Englehart and Neary getting to the last page all of a sudden. And that's the end of that! As I say, we're very close to the end of this selection of comics and other texts, with just a couple of cameo appearances to go before we have a bit of a tidy up with a few items that got missed along the way. It would have been nice to have another classic story to finish off with here, but in a way it's nice to have something like this instead, which leans heavily into continuity but is also filled with big fight scenes, nonsensical plots, and some Really Cool Bits. That sums up an awful lot of what we've been reading!



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posted 27/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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All In The Family!


We're getting very close to the end of 'The Marvel Age' now, and this issue feels like a good example of what Marvel comics were like at this point, with some nice-looking but fairly unexciting artwork, a LOT of continuity, and some 'adult themes' which are dealt with in a way that feels rather uncomfortable now.

The main thrust of the storyline is that The Thing has taken over the running of the Fantastic Four because Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman want to go off and spend more time with their son Franklin. The Human Torch (now married to Alicia) is still around, which means that Ben Grimm still has to find two extra members, and the issue is mostly about how he starts making those choices. This involves an awful lot of Talking and Thinking and characters not really doing much at all - the Thing spends the first two pages standing on a roof having a Good Old Think, and apart from a couple of brief sequences where Superheroes Fight Each Other, that's pretty much how it carries on.

Crystal, former team-member and ex of Johnny Storm, pops in to see her estranged husband Quicksilver, who the FF recently captured after he'd gone mad. He claims to have been driven mad by Crystal's marital infidelity, and there's some distinctly iffy scenes throughout the issue where other characters react to this as if they were in the 1950s, rather than the 1980s. It reminds me of the scene back in Fantastic Four #237 where it's hinted that Ben and Alicia had sex whilst they were in their robot bodies in Liddleville, and Ben struggles to cope with this - not because he was human, or they were trapped in tiny robot bodies, but because they weren't married. Talking of Alicia, Ben is still not happy about her being married to Johnny (we'll eventually find out that she's actually a Skrull pretending to be Alicia, but that's a way off yet), so when he asks Crystal to join the team the others all wander whether he's just doing it to drive a wedge between the newlyweds. The message seems to be that Crystal has already cheated in her own marriage, so won't be worried about intervening in someone else's. While all that's going on we get a brief glimpse into the padded holding cells where Quicksilver is being kept next door to Kristoff, who we last saw two years ago, back in Fantastic Four #279. This leads to a couple of important questions. Firstly, if Kristoff has been under the care of the Fantastic Four for all that time, how come they've never given him a decent change of clothes? Secondly, Reed says that "The Courts have agreed to let us keep him temporarily while specialists come in to check him over constantly" but he looks very much like a prisoner to me, kept in a privately owned padded cell against his will with no visitors apparent at any point. Thirdly, and finally - the FF have a whole prison facility? Who else have they been keeping in there?!? The politics of all of this are deeply conservative, and so is the artwork by Marvel legends John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. It all looks perfectly nice, even when Steve Englehart doesn't really give them much to illustrate apart from people having conversations, but it feels curiously out of place in a comic from 1987, just on the cusp of the 90's stylings of Rob Liefeld, Art Adams, Todd McFarlane and the like.

Throughout the story we've had an occasional narration from a Mysterious Voice who seems to be watching them all, plotting something. This is very Doom-like behaviour, as is Appearing Dramatically on the very last page, which is exactly what he does! With all of the mentions of Kristoff we might expect that Doom has come to collect him, but no, "I care nothing for Kristoff", he says, he's there to collect Franklin instead. What can this mean? What is his big plan? We'll have to wait until next time to find out, in "Fantastic Four Annual" #20!



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posted 20/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Free


We're getting really close to the end of this project now, with only a few texts left to go in the official list and then a couple of "addenda" where I've discovered other items along the way that should have featured much earlier. After that I'm hoping to do a couple of overviews, looking at how Doom works and what sort of thing keeps cropping up, such as a particular aspect of Doom's history that keeps getting referred to again and again, including in this issue i.e. that time he stole the Silver Surfer's power cosmic.

This has cropped up on several occasions, notably in Silver Surfer #1 in 1968, Silver Surfer #1 in 1982, and here again in Silver Surfer #1 in 1987. The fact that Doom keeps popping up whenever the Silver Surfer has a first issue does lead me to think that it's also an important event in the latter's life as well!

The original storyline took place over four issues, in the classic "The Peril And The Power" running from Fantastic Four #57 to Fantastic Four #60 (not 58-60 as it says in the editorial box below), but here the whole story is retold in just three panels, as part of a brief history of The Silver Surfer which takes about three pages all together to give us his whole story so far, including a panel for the aforementioned Silver Surfer #1 of 1982. Doom doesn't appear in the rest of the story, which sees the Fantastic Four helping the Surfer to escape the Earth, after which he goes to visit Galactus to ask him not to put him behind another barrier (personally I'd have just kept quiet, rather than alerting him to the fact that I'd got out). Galactus sets him a quest to rescue his current herald, which the Surfer does fairly easily, and with his mind set at rest he then zooms off for cosmic adventures in the rest of the series. It's all perfectly pleasant, and extremely glossy - much like the Akin & Garvey poster last time, but here with Marhsall Rogers inked by the veteran Joe Rubinstein, who appears to be trying (and succeeding) to keep up with the current shiny style. Other than that the only oddity is that the Fantastic Four line-up is Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, The Thing and She-Hulk, which is not a combination I was ever aware of existing, although we're now just past the Byrne run of the series, which is when I stopped buying it. Steve Englehart was writing the FF then, as he was this series, so I guess he'd know what the line-up was - we'll find out next time when we look at an issue of his run on "The Fantastic Four", featuring a whole lot of Adult Issues and another classic Doom trope: popping up at the very end for the cliffhanger. See you then!



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posted 13/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Akin and Garvey Portfolio


As discussed before, "Marvel Fanfare" was a slightly odd series which never seemed to know what it was meant to be. In theory it was meant to be a showcase for the very best creators, but in practice it was more often a dumping ground for inventory material. Usually Al Milgrom, the editor, went to great pains to deny this, but here he has no choice but to admit it. He goes on to say that the lead story is still justified for Marvel Fanfare because it features "Claremont, Brigman and Austin", but while it does look very nice it can't be ignored that it was originally created as a tie-in for an X-Men "Questprobe" game that never happened. It even features The Chief Examiner, who we met way back in Questprobe Featuring The Human Torch And The Thing. This story ties into all of the previous games and, by trying to explain what it all means, makes about as much sense as they did i.e. not an awful lot. Doctor Doom doesn't appear in this story at all - in all the other issues of "Marvel Fanfare" we've looked at he's popped up either in very small cameos or as part of the "portfolios" section, and here he has a full page poster in one of the latter. It's drawn by Akin & Garvey, an inking duo working for Marvel around this time who were known for their smooth, super glossy inks on stories like "Rom" and "Transformers". I remember really liking them at the time, as they were very much in the same league as Bob Layton, taking anybody's pencils and placing them firmly in their own style. The picture of Doom included in the posters is very recognisably by them, even with nobody else underneath them. I'm not sure where that sceptre comes from, but otherwise this is a pretty standard depiction of Doom sitting on a throne, glowering away, with most of his standard signifiers showing. We can't see his nose or any rivets in his shadowed face, but this does at least draw attention to his very visible eyes through the mask!

That's it for this time, but come back later in the week for yet another cameo, in yet another first issue of "The Silver Surfer"!



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posted 11/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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A Matter Of Faith


What's going on with the covers for this series? I wonder if Jon Bogdanov drew them all before reading any of the scripts, expecting all sorts of action and excitement and getting... well, lots and lots of talking. As with last time, it looks great but nothing even approaching this scene happens in the comic itself!

We do get some quite interesting additions to Doctor Doom's history, but before that we have to wade through an awful lot of Claremont's trademark dialogue, which I must admit does become annoying after a while. Actually, it's pretty annoying to start with, as we start with Kitty changing the lyrics to "I am sixteen going on seventeen" in her head but changing the words, and then - in her internal monologue - offering a formal apology to the writer. There's several more pages of extremely verbose inner dialoguing, as Franklin appears to comfort Kityy, and then even more dialogue between the FF as they fly to Latveria. As I said last time, it doesn't half go on!

However, all this talking does give us a bit of previously unheard information about Doctor Doom's back-story. She-Hulk apparently spent some time at Empire State University (the fictional University where most Marvel characters go) and spoke to some old lecturers of Reed and Doom. According to them Reed and Doom were highly competitive, constantly arguing with each other about all manner of topics as they stomped around the campus together. This sounds entirely reasonable, and fits what we know so well that at first I didn't notice that it isn't actually something that had been mentioned before. The story of Doom and Reed being rivals has often been told, but this little detail hasn't, and it easily explains why, for instance, Reed would have been doing looking through Doom's equations. It also leads to yet another quotation of the famous image from his origin story in Fantastic Four Annual #2 that's been seen so many times before. It's worth restating at this point that the art throughout is fantastic. Jon Bogdanov is very good at facial expressions, drawing a great Franklin (even when he's being written at his most mawkish) who actually looks like a child for once, and a charming panel where Dazzler delights in beating Havok during "training" in the forest. The "training" session (training for some advance bickering and fighting, perhaps) happens while everyone's hanging around waiting for Doom to finally get started with his cure for Kitty. However, when this does eventually get started it's almost immediately put in jeopardy by Magneto, melting Doom's robots with his magnetic powers and thus interfering with Doom's computers. This is an absolutely classic bit of Doom action, with him looming out of the sky as he has done so many times before. The other characters might be annoying and stupid, but Claremont and Bogdanov are giving us a great Doctor Doom!

A prime example of this stupidity appears on the very next page. The Fantastic Four arrive and Magneto decides - despite being explicitly told, only a few seconds ago, that using his magnetic powers could kill Kitty - that the best thing to do is to use his magnetic powers to bring down the FF's plane. Storm is rightly livid with him, as is Doom. He sends the X-Men off to stop the Fantastic Four getting any closer, which they (stupidly) do. This leads to an extremely long and pointless fight which appears to be there to fulfill two functions: to fill in some space, and to get Rogue to steal the Human Torch's power and accidentally burn all her clothes off, like a superhero version of Jane. This goes on for ages until Franklin turns up and tells them to stop being such a bunch of idiots, and they all stomp off back to the castle where Doom is considering his next move. He's formulated an extremely cunning plan which result in either him saving Kitty and looking great, or getting to put the blame on the FF if it doesn't work. Better yet, he's spotted that Reed is still carrying that fake journal around - a journal which Doom recognises. It was him all along! Everyone gathers around as Doom starts the process of curing Kitty, only for Reed to notice an error in Doom's calculations. As The Thing says, "Remember the first time Reed gave you a warning, back in college? Didn't you learn your lesson then?" While this is entirely true it's not exactly tactful, especially when Doom blames Reed for the entire incident Ben's referring to, so in the end it takes The Wisdom Of A Child to calm everybody down and work together. Doom and Reed start the process and all is well, until Reed is suddenly struck by Doubt. Maybe he did write that diary after all, he thinks, despite the fact that he has no memory of doing so. Doom suggests he get Psylocke to open his mind and find out, but this - well, basically, it's three pages of torturous self-examination as Reed grapples with his "inner demons" when actually he should be getting on with it and saving Kitty. It's intensely annoying, especially as Reed is eventually cured by Sue and Franklin Having Faith In Him and his own self-belief. That was a whole lot of drama leading up to someone just going "Nah, it's fine."

The rest of the issue is a great long slab of everybody sitting around chatting again. The highlight is Sue telling Doom that she knows he forged the diary deliberately (years ago, I guess, as a long-term Scheme?), to which Doom responds by going on about caviar. Not only is this some pretty excellent Doom characterisation, but it also gives us another solution for the age old "How does Doom eat?" question - his mouth grill appears to be retractable! Sue warns Doom that she could kill him any time she wants using her forcefield, and when he doubts this she replies "Be careful Victor. A lionness is most dangerous defending mate and club and den." It's pretty awful dialogue, but it does lead to a nice image of Doom looking rather deflated. And there it all ends. This has been a rather peculiar series to read, especially when looking for signifiers of Doom. He's hardly in the first two issues at all, despite appearing on the (entirely misleading) covers, but when he does turn up he acts in a very Doom-like manner. Or maybe he just seems more suave, adult and intelligent when surrounded by a bunch of other characters who, apart from Franklin, are a load of hopeless idiots?

Talking of Franklin, we'll have a whole lot more of him soon, but before that we've got a few more cameos and posters to look at, as we very much head towards the last few texts in this whole thing! See you back here next time!



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posted 6/8/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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By The Soul's Darkest Light


Last week I read a twitter thread by The Claremont Run discussing the way Chris Claremont writes his X-Men characters from "a perspective of perpetual adolescence", with their emotioins raw and judgement hasty. Having since read this comic I can confirm that this analysis is absolutely 100% accurate. The X-Men and other characters act like teenagers throughout, which definitely does make the story more dramatic but, for someone who is very much not any teenager anymore, it also makes them all incredibly, perpetually, annoying.

Before we go any further, the cover image of the X-Men wearing Doom masks to murder the Fantastic Four is a) brilliant but b) entirely unrepresentative of what goes on inside. You might possibly argue that they take Doom's side against the FF, but then again they don't really at all. It's a shame, because it looks great!

What we do get inside is a bit of classic Doom Looming, although for once he's actually there in person, healing Storm, rather than appearing menacingly in the sky. The X-Men have gone to Latveria, where Doom has promised to cure Kitty Pryde of her Turning Into A Ghost complaint. Before that though he's using "bio-enhancer" to heal Storm's burns from last issue. As Psylocke remarks, this could help burn victims everywhere. Um... burn victims like Doom himself, maybe? If, as canon now says (and explicitly clarified in the preceding issue of this series) Doom's injuries were caused by him putting on a burning hot mask, couldn't he use this device on himself?

The other X-Men are hanging around being annoying. Rogue has nipped into town to do some shopping without letting anybody know, so when she comes back (wearing "absolutely aces threads") it trips the alarms, sending a group of exciting armour-based Doombots to catch her. We've never seen these sort of Doombots before, but they look brilliant - Jon Bogdanov's art throughout this issue is "absolutely aces". The X-Men leap into action and destroy the Doombots, competing with each other to see who can cause most mayhem, which gets them all into trouble when Storm finds out. They are extremely teenage here - Rogue even says "They started it!" I bet she was asking if they were nearly there yet all the way to Latveria too.

Doom is very smooth indeed throughout this issue, and indeed the rest of the series, where he's a much bigger presence than in the first half. "Perhaps an error was made. On both sides," he says.

There's more high drama as we cut to Kitty, who's decided that enough is enough and she's going to just let herself die. Drama! She phases out of her life-support system so her atoms can be scattered to the wind, only to be stopped by Franklin Richards in his Astral Form, using his Ill-Defined Powers to talk her down. The X-Men arrive to see him comforting her, and don't seen at all surprised to see him there, leaving asking about it pretty low down on their list of questions. We then get a lengthy cutaway to the Fantastic Four, all dealing with the idea that Reed might have sent them into space deliberately un-shielded, knowing the cosmic rays would give them special powers. Reed reads Franklin a story, Ben tries to get drunk and saves a child from a handily burning car crash, and Johnny has a moan to Alicia. It all ends with Sue deciding that the journal which "revealed" Reed's secret motivation must have been a forgery because "the author of that diary couldn't have related to Franklin the way you did." The others also come back, having decided that having superpowers is quite cool so they're fine with it. It's a lengthy section full of talking and talking and talking, and it doesn't half go on!

The issue leaves us there, with the FF happy to be reunited and Doctor Doom about to switch on his De-Ghostifying Machine to cure Kitty. There doesn't appear to be an awful lot left to tidy up in the final issue at the moment - the FF are fine, Kitty's about to be cured - but I'm sure Chris Claremont will manage something. Find out if he does, next time!



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posted 30/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Truths and Consequences


Before we get started on the contents of this issue, I think it's vitally important to recognise how brilliant the cover is. Doctor Doom is lurking menacingly in the background, the Fantastic Four are lying dead, Franklin is bawling his eyes out, and Wolverine is trying really hard to be comforting by saying "You're mother's been avenged, okay kid?" He is the best at what he does, and what he does is not counselling.

Once again, Doom is on the cover but he's hardly in the comic itself at all, though at least it is actually him this time rather than just a dream. His appearance is begun when it turns out that the fisherman Dazzler and Longshot plucked out of the sea last time isn't a fisherman at all but some kind of robot. I like the way this is described as something only mildly perturbing, like bringing home a new jar of jam and finding that the popping lid isn't popping. I suppose that's the way it is on Muir Island (with robots, I mean, not jars with pre-opened lids). The robot is actually a Projection Device, which then stomps out onto the tarmac where the FF and the X-Men have been having a fight as a result of Mr Fantastic not being prepared to cure Kitty Pryde from her Phasing Into Nothingness disease. The robot has of course been sent by none other than... Doctor Doom! There's a REALLY lengthy explanation here about why he used the robot, rather than, say, sending a fax. The real explanation, of course, is that this is a lot cooler than even faxing would have been in 1987. Doom appears in hologram form to offer to help, recreating the Molecular Reintegrator that Reed Richards refuses to use, and curing Kitty. As ever, Reed doesn't like the idea that Doom would actually do something better than him (why yes, I HAVE read a lot of comics starring Doctor Doom and started to see things from his point of view) so stomps off onto his plane and leaves the island. Doom himself disappears for the rest of the comic, telling the X-Men to call him when they're ready. After that most of the rest of the comic is a whole lot of talking. The X-Men spend pages and pages discussing whether to take Doom up on his offer, and eventually decide that they will. It's massively padded, as there's never any question about whether they will or not, but I guess this is Chris Claremont in his Pomp so that's what you'd expect. The FF, meanwhile, have another lengthy chat during which they discuss the journal that Sue found last time, which appears to suggest that Reed knew all along that their trip into space would transform them into superheroes. This involves some nice image quotation, with a bunch of iconic images from Fantastic Four #1 recreated by John Bogdanov. It's still Chris Claremont writing it though, so there's still an awful lot of dialogue! The issue ends with both teams in their living rooms looking glum, the FF because they're on the brink of splitting up (again), the X-Men because they're about to make a deal with Doctor Doom. It's sort of an anti-cliffhanger - "come back next time and hopefully things will be a bit more exciting than this!" But will they? Come back next time and find out!



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posted 23/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Are You Sure?


Doctor Doom appears on the cover of every issue of the four-issue "Fantastic Four versus The X-Men" mini-series, but he doesn't actually appear in it that much, unfortunately. He doesn't really appear in this one at all, apart from that cover image and a Dream Sequence that takes up the first few pages.

For years, Franklin Richards' super-powers had been extremely vaguely defined as "very powerful" without really saying what they are. In this issue they include seeing the future, astral projection, and convoluted metaphors. Many of these are expressed in the aforesaid dream sequence, where Franklin watches his Dad, Mr Fantastic, carrying his Mum, The Invisible Woman, around an Eery Dreamscape, having apparently killed her. Wolverine turns up and attacks Mr Fantastic for killing the X-Men too but misses, falls over, and ... er... dies. Reed then takes out a Spooky Book labelled (in large, Batman TV show letters) "REED RICHARDS JOURNAL STATE UNIVERSITY" which causes him to transform into ... Doctor Doom! There's a lot of Child Psychology going on here, but there's also some great character work as the cold, unemotional version of Reed Richards transfroms into Doom and his speech patterns do too. Reed/Doom takes up the Mask Of Doom and puts it on his face, completing the transformation and interestingly echoing the very recent canonisation of the idea that Doom was mostly scarred by putting on a very hot mask, as seen in Fantastic Four #278. It also echoes an idea we've seen a few times before, of Reed and Doom being the same person, such as in Marvel Team-Up #133. That's all the Doom we get for this issue, though it's not all the Child Psychology, as Franklin is brushed off when he goes to tell his Dad about his dream. Luckily Sue Richards is nearby, and she displays her excellent parenting skills by using that tried and tested method of getting frightened children to go back to sleep again - she gets him to help up open some old packing cases. Was that tea set packed like that? Does Reed Richards have special Science Packing Foam?

Also in the crate is REED RICHARDS JOURNAL STATE UNIVERSITY, but before we can find more out about that we cut away to Muir Island where the X-Men are busily catching us up with what's been going on lately. They're now living in Scotland with a bunch of new members who don't all get on (as is the way with X-Men), including Dazzler and Longshot, who stop off on their way back from collecting groceries by speedboat to rescue a drowned fisherman. More importantly for the series as a whole though, we find out that Kitty Pryde has got stuck in Phase Form and only has days to live! Back in New York, Franklin's dream is coming true as Sue confronts Reed with the journal, which she has read. You don't read people's journals Sue, nothing ever good comes of it, especially when your future-seeing son explicitly advises you not to!

Over in Greenwich village we see She-Hulk, who just so happens to be reviewing The Trial Of Magneto for a charity event. I say "just so happens" because she and The Thing then get caught up with stopping a burning building from collapsing, and who should turn up but ... Magneto! Magneto's there to ask Reed Richards for his help, as one of his experimental devices might be able to save Kitty. He agrees to go to Muir Island along with Thing, She-Hulk and The Human Torch, with The Invisible Woman choosing to stay home and be furious about what was in the journal. When they arrive on Muir Island Reed's in a bit of a state, worrying about what will happen about the Journal. This leads to him being over-cautious and not wanting to risk using the device, something which causes more of Franklin's dream to come true, as a furious Wolverine attacks Mr Fantastic, just like at the start of the story. What can it all mean? What was in the journal? Why won't Mr Fantastic help the X-Men? And will we get a little bit more Doctor Doom as the series progresses? Find out... next time!



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posted 16/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Who'll Stop The Rain?


After Doom's final panel cameo in the last issue of 'Cloak And Dagger', this time he's got a much bigger part to play. It starts with the cover, where we see a very familiar portrayal of Doom looming enormously over other characters, something which he's done repeatedly throughout his career so far.

There's more Doom Tropes on the splash page, where we find Doom standing on a castle balcony, planning to save the world, with Boris The Faithful Retainer in the background. This is great stuff from the writer, Bill Mantlo, who clearly knows his Doom! I also love the fact that Boris is carrying his lamp again, as he did in many of his earliest appearances, even when they get inside. As they stroll through the castle he and Doom briefly discuss the former's part in the latter's origin before entering a room full of technology which Doom is using to... predict the weather? Doom is very good at this, apparently, and I for one would sign up to watch The Weather Forecast if he was doing it! They pass through a room full of art and another room where a fancy meal is laid out - artist Brett Blevins has also been doing some Doom Tropes Research by the looks of it - as they head out onto more battlements and then into another tower where Doom has built a Particle Projector which is going to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons. This isn't the first time that Doom has tried to enforce nuclear disarmament - he's also attempted it in the the Spider-man newspaper strip (using a method eerily similar to the one from 'Watchmen') and as part of his takeover of the world in last week's blog. I really like his motivation here though - he's not doing this for the good of the world, not primarily anyway, he's doing it because if the world gets blown up he does too!

Cloak, Dagger, and her Annoying Boyfriend teleport into Latveria just as Doom has activated the device, and meet a bunch of Latverian peasants having a heated debate about whether Doom is a good guy or not. Most of them think he very much is, although I'm not sure how much you can trust the judgement of people who think it's a good idea to stand around in the pouring rain while wearing shorts. You'd think they'd have adjusted their outfits according to Doom's Weather Forecast really. The police turn up and take Cloak, Dagger, and Annoying Boyfriend to meet Doom. He tears himself away from a KirbyTech Control Panel (more Doom Themes from Blevins) to turn on the charm when he meets Dagger. Cloak is suspicious, but Doom then explains that everything they know about him is Fake News, and that he's simply the victim on malicious falsehoods from The Fantastic Four. To back this up he explains his Cunning Plan to them, which involves "neutralising the energy emitted by radioactive materials." This sounds totally plausible to me! Boris takes them away to a Plush Suite, where Annoying Boyfriend points out that getting rid of radioactive materials means "no energy for cities, no radiation therapy for cancer patients, no nuclear powered science research." The second point is fair enough, even if a Marvel Universe with Doom and Mr Fantastic in it should be able to sort that out some other way, but the first and third points aren't very convincing. Also: no nuclear war!

Annoying Boyfriend sends Cloak And Dagger off to find Doom, who is relaxing at his console, watching a viewing screen, drinking some wine. Really, Blevins and Mantlo, with all of these Doom signifiers you are really spoiling us! They also answer the question of how Doom drinks through his mask - inelegantly - and give us yet another foretaste of Watchmen. Doom is not a Republic serial villain - he did it thirty-five minutes ago (roughly)!

"We intend to stop you, madman!" says Cloak, which is going a bit far if you ask me, especially as he's already done it. Is it really that mad to get rid of all nuclear weapons? Or have five years of Doctor Doom made me more sympathetic to him than maybe it should?

Dagger zaps Doom with her light and then Cloak swallows him up into his cloak, where Doom has a Mystical Vision of his mum. This is definitely NOT a way to get onto Doom's good side and he blasts his way out of the Cloak, which is apparently either rare or impossible. Annoying Boyfriend shows up, and the three heroes teleport away to the Particle Projector. Annoying Boyfriend (who is REALLY annoying by this point) bosses the others around, getting them to try and destroy the device which, just to be clear, is about to remove the threat of nuclear war.

Doom turns up and Cloak comes up with a Cunning Plan all of his own. He traps Doom inside his cloak again, which makes him so absolutely furious that he lashes out with his gauntlets, just as the cloak opens up again so that he accidently blasts his own projector to bits. They teleport away and... that's it! We never get to find out how furious Doom must be, we just get The Three Idiots standing on a nearby rock, as Cloak ponders "Will we in time come to regret our gift, as we live with the gnawing guilt that we have given humanity back the means of its own destruction?" This is quite similar to the Moral Issues we looked at last time, where Doom basically saved the world but the Avengers had to stop him because of Reasons, which merrily restored Apartheid and The Cold War. Again, perhaps I've read too much Doctor Doom here, but it does feel as if maybe they could have had a sensible discussion about how it worked, rather than just blasting the whole thing to bits?

Despite all that, this has been a great example of Doom Being Doom, which I wasn't expecting to find at this late stage of the corpus. More please!



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posted 9/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Emperor Doom


Ever since "Secret Wars" finished we've had a long string of Doom in cameos, flashbacks, recaps, and occasional Massive Continuity Fixes, but we've not had much of him as the star of the show.

Until today!

Today we're looking at an actual graphic novel all about Doctor Doom! All right, technically it's called "Avengers: Emperor Doom" and is meant to be about how The Avengers, and specifically Wonder Man, stop him, but really it's all about what would happen if Doom took over the world. It turns out what would happen is that things would be great!

The story gets off to a baddy-based start, first with The Purple Man being kidnapped while being awful, then with Namor wandering the streets of New York before he arrives at a restaurant to meet Doctor Doom. I really like the art in this story, which is by Bob Hall (who's drawn some excellent Doom stories before) and inked by Keith Williams, making it all look very Bronze Age-y, even as we skirt uncomfortably close to The 90s. There's no reason on earth that this couldn't have been an Avengers Annual rather than a Graphic Novel, but seeing the art so big looks nice, and it gives the whole thing a big grandiose feel that the story is altogether too much fun to live up to.

Doom needs Namor's helps with a Cunning Plan. He's going to take over the entire world by strapping The Purple Man into a Psycho Prism and brainwashing everybody... or nearly everybody anyway. The prism only affects people who can breath, so he needs Namor to stick some Robot Controllers onto a few Robot Superheroes, and in exchange he promises him he can rule the sea while Doom rules the land. This sounds like a good deal, so Doom gives Namor a mini-Psycho Prism and the control discs, then the Submariner pops off to put them onto The Vision, Machine Man and Ultron. This he does with ease. While that's going on we take a trip to the HQ of the West Coast Avengers, most of whom are variously lolling about eating pizza and reading books. Wonder Man however is visiting Tony Stark, who is going to "perform a little science experiment" on him. They're going to find out how his pure energy body works, and so he needs to lie in a flotation tank for thirty days. This seems deeply weird - he's going to lie there for thirty whole days? And none of the other Avengers seem bothered enough to wish him good luck or anything? Anyway, I'm sure it's not important and will have no impact on the rest of the story, which goes on to feature some great Doom Action. We see him landing on Doom Island, which I don't think is a place we've seen in the comics before. This is a top secret facility, manned entirely by soldiers who are cos-playing as Doombots. I'm not sure what's going on here - those are definitely Doombots, and later on they are explicitly stated to be robots, so why they're soldiers here I don't know. They're guarding the Psycho Prism, which has a very annoyed Purple Man trapped inside it. He tells Doom that he doesn't deserve to rule, challenging him to face him man to man. Brilliantly, Doom does exactly that! I love this bit, and it's part of a theme throughout the story of Doom Being Excellent.

Meanwhile, Namor has made a bit of a botch job of putting the control discs on robots. They're all attached, but like certain former Health Secretaries we might know, he forgot about surveillance cameras, and now The Avengers have got wind that something's going on. They fly off to Doom Island, watched by Doom on his viewing screens as usual, and fight their way through the Doombots, here described as "Latverian citizens" and so humans still. They make their way inside, just as Doom activates the Psycho Prism and taking over everybody's minds, leading to the first of several great lines, as penned by David Micheline. The Avengers shuffle off, while Doom moves onto the next stage of his takeover. I said earlier that this all feels very Bronze Age-y, and this feeling is hugely reinforced by the fact that this next bit takes place at the United Nations building! Long-term readers of this blog will know that there was a period during the 1970s when Doom was hardly ever out of the UN, using it for takeovers in the Amazing Spider-man newspaper strip, the Spider-man cartoon, and in Spidey Super Stories. Spider-man isn't here to see him get voted in as world leader this time (as I've commented many, many times before, the UN works very differently on Earth 616), but Namor is, and he wants his dues. When Doom says no he gets most irate, until he discovers that he's been tricked. The mini-Psycho Prism is not a fun free gift, it's Doom's way of controlling Namor too! What a fiend! This is necessary because some people (including Namor) have extremely strong willpower, and so can fight against the Purple Man's power if they know what's going on, but I'm sure that won't come up again either.

Usually at this point something would go horribly wrong (usually involving Spider-man) and Doom would lose control, but not this time. Instead Doom immediately sets about changing things, and within days the Russians have withdrawn from Afghanistan, land is redistributed in Ethopia and farming is restored, apartheid is ended in South Africa, world economies all improve and nuclear disarmament begins. Everything, in fact, is going great, until Wonder Man gets out of his tank a few weeks later (nobody comes to help him out either, which seems a bit rude) and sees a news report saying that Doctor Doom is having a ticker tape parade to celebrate giving independence to Puerto Rico. Wonder Man isn't affected by the prism because he doesn't breath, but when he suggests stopping Doom his team-mates immediately turn him in. They force him to flee the mansion, only to fall foul of a crowd of angry shoppers who also love Doom. We're used to seeing ordinary people thinking Doom's great, but usually only in Latveria. Here it looks like the whole world is on his side, although only because of Mind Control. I wonder if this would change if everybody was released from this control and found themselves in a world free of hunger, war and poverty?

Wonder Man goes off on the run, leaving Doom to get on with the business of running the world. This, it turns out, involves an awful lot more admin than he was expecting. This is a brilliant double twist by David Micheline (or possibly Mark Gruenwald or Jim Shooter who are credited as coming up with the original concept with him) - the whole world is happy and at peace, which makes Doctor Doom bored! We've seen this before, of course, back in The Champions #16, where Doom took over the world and was beseiged in the White House by annoying politicians. That time he managed to take over by using a neuro-gas to mind control everyone in the world except for Ghost Rider, who was immune because he couldn't breath... hang on, isn't that exactly the same plot as this time? And if Ghost Rider was immune then why isn't he now? That story was also drawn by Bob Hall, funnily enough, although the script was by Bill Mantlo - perhaps Micheline, Gruenwald and Shooter should have shared the credits for their "concept"!

Wonder Man is wandering around (he does this a lot, maybe his name has just been spelt wrong all this time?) trying to find a way to put the world back to normal again. After a slightly boring chat with A Wise Blind Woman he goes back to Wet Coast Avengers HQ, fights Captain America, and forces him to watch video footage of Doom Being A Baddy. This is enough to restore Cap to normal, and then he chooses the most strong-willed Avengers he can think of (Hawkeye, Iron Man and The Wasp) to do the same to them. Hawkeye wants to restore his wife Mockingbird next, but Cap says it'll only work on super strong-willed people like them which, again, seems a bit rude. Hawkeye goes and gives it a go anyway but it doesn't work. She tells on them to Doom and so they have to go on the run again. Doom, however, is quietly pleased to have a bit of a challenge again. The Avengers fly off to fight him on Doom island, but their Quinjet is easily blown out of the sky by Doom's defences, leading to another brilliant quip which has since gone on to be one of those Internet Memes that the young people are so keen on. Again, this is a lovely bit of characterisation, and Doom is of course correct. The whole thing was a decoy, and the actual Avengers are now on the ground fighting the Doombot army, who are now definitely robots, honest. How Hawkeye knew they were robots is beyond me, but it's a flipping good job he was right! The Avengers fight their way inside, struggling against the power of The Purple Man as they get closer but, as Marvel superheroes always do, manging to prevail by Trying Really Hard. Still, even though they free Namor from the mind control by dousing him in water from a very handy nearby fish tank, Doom still has everything under control. All he has to do is press a big red button... I think we're all with Doom on this one - who among us hasn't wished we could get out of boring meetings and/or social engagements at some point? He decides to "let fate decide" which in this case means "do nothing" while Namor smashes up the Psycho Prism, and the whole world goes back to normal. Afghanistan goes back to war, racism is re-instated in South Africa, vandals take to the streets of Los Angeles and the armies of the world re-arm their nuclear warheads. Er... hooray for the Avengers? There's just time for one last Doom Trope, as he heads to an escape port and blasts off in a shuttle, and then all that remains is for The Avengers to fly home with more news of the world returning to normal on the radio. Hawkeye wonders whether they've done the right thing, and Captain America gives a speech which I guess is meant to be convinving and heroic... er... but isn't particularly. The final panel has Hawkeye wondering whether they've done humanity the greatest favour in history or the greatest damage. "Either way that's something we're going to have to live with for the rest of our lives," he says, but I wonder if this ever gets mentioned ever again? If I was the Avengers I'd probably keep it under my hat for a few years!

It's a daft end, but I suppose they couldn't do it any other way. Otherwise this has been a thoroughly enjoyable story to read through, packed with some great Doom insights and lovely art. Sadly, I think this might be the last properly great Doom story we get for a while, but there's still a few left issues left so let's see if I'm wrong next time, when we return to the pages of Cloak & Dagger!



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posted 2/7/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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With Foes Like These...


Today we're looking at yet another single panel flashback appearance by Doctor Doom, and once again it's all to do with Secret Wars.

When this issue came out it was about 18 months since the last issue of the original "Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars" series, but its importance to the shared Marvel storyworld is clear from the way it keeps on popping up, explaining costume changes, changes to team line-ups and, as here, the introduction of new characters. A big chunk of this story is about the relationship between Titania, who got her powers on Battleworld, and long-time Thor villain The Absorbing Man. We've looked at stories about quite a few couples recently, like Cloak & Dagger, Dazzler and The Beast, and Volcana and Molecule Man, and they have been pretty much universally awful, as if they were written by a very angry alien teenager who had based all their knowledge of human relationships on daytime soap operas and furious poems about how they're happy on they're own so please stop asking if I've got a boyfriend/girlfriend. In many cases I've expected to see an editorial note clarifying the point that they never asked to be born, GOD YOU'RE SO BORING.

However, Tom deFalco manages to write this pair, and all the other relationships in the issue, as if he's had at least a nodding acquaintance with human beings and how they work, while the art looks very pleasant in a late 80s/inked by Bob Layton sort of way, not least because it's inked by Bob Layton. We find ourselves thrown into the middle of several stories all going on at once, as seems to have been the trend for continuing series at this point, with Flash Thompson on the run from the police, Titania and The Absorbing Man arguing about their attempts to go straight, Peter Parker's ongoing work problems and weariness with superheroics, MJ's career in modelling, and the ongoing mystery of The Hobgoblin. There's a LOT going on, also including a guest appearance by The Wasp, a Policeman With A Secret, and a big fight at an airport. It's all very nicely written and drawn, but dipping into so many stories without much explanation and with no resolutions at all feels rather alienating. Jim Shooter was very keen on the idea that every comic was somebody's first comic, and should be written with that in mind, and though this is very much not my first comic it does feel as if the only way to get anything out of it would be to read the entire run of the series for a couple of years either side, and there's nothing interesting or exciting enough to make me want to do so.

To put it another way: this comics feels like another harbinger of 90's Comics!

Doom's appearance comes in the obligatory Secret Wars recap, this time focussing entirely on Titania's origin. It's interesting that this is all done in a single panel, with a note just pointing out that it happened in Secret Wars, as if that's all the information that's needed to explain what's going on. There's an expectation that anybody reading this will know what Secret Wars was, and so no further explanation is necessary. I guess that was probably true, and to be honest I didn't notice this assumption at all the first time I read it. I'm not always onboard with the idea that you HAVE to explain every single thing in a story, as sometimes it's exciting to be thrown into a fully functioning fictional world and have to work out what's going on for yourself, but here it feels more like a lack of concern for anybody who's not already on board. As I say: here come the 90s!

That's the lot for Doom this time, but stand by for more Doom in a single text than I think we've ever had before, as next time we finally get to "Emperor Doom"!



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posted 25/6/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lady And The Unicorn


I've spent a lot of the past four years banging on about 'The Marvel Age' as a distinct period in superhero comics, and have gone so far as to Empirically Define it as being all American superhero comics with cover-dates from November 1961 (the first issue of Fantastic Four) to October 1987 (the last month with Jim Shooter credited as editor on all Marvel comics). If you ever see me out and about in The Real World I will be more than happy to bang on about it in person as well, or you can see me talking about it next month at Factually Accurate Stand-Up, but the basic idea is that this covers the time period in which Marvel emerged as first the creative leader in superhero comics, then the market leader, and then finally lost that creative lead under Jim Shooter.

One question that has arisen from this is 'So what comes next?' My standard answer is 'Not my problem', but if I was forced to answer I would probably suggest something similar to what people call 'The Dark Ages', when Marvel went bust, gimmicks were everywhere, and big name artists like Rob Liefeld came to the fore.

We get a little hint of this future in today's comic, mainly due to the artwork by Art Adams. I don't think he's usually roped in with people like Liefeld and Jim Lee, but his hugely detailed, super-stylised work, especially when drawing women, comes as a bit of a shock after reading a quarter century of Kirby-inspired superheroics. I must admit that I dropped out of superhero comics around this time, mostly because I was a student and couldn't afford to buy them anymore, but whenever I popped into a comic shop during my time of absence I can't say I was hugely impressed by what I saw. Looking back now, I can appreciate this style of art as something exciting and dynamic, even though I don't really like it myself, but what I can't get over is how turgid the writing would become. This issue's written by the great Bill Mantlo, for example, but the pages are packed with heavily Claremont-inspired dialogue that's drenched in metaphors and high emotions that, for me at least, is really difficult to read. Again, I know other people like it, but this style of prose has made some of the recent comics (especially "Beauty And The Beast"!) hard to get through!

The actual storyline, as far as I can make out, sees Dagger wanting to join the circus but Cloak thinking she's wasting her talents. There's also a smarmy boyfriend and Cloak is... maybe evil? The story includes that really annoying thing where superheroes, who live in a superhero world where weird things happen all the time and there is literally a person called Nightmare who controls dreams and a version of Satan who steals souls, just shrug off Terrible Feelings and Dire Omens as "just a bad dream". Come on guys, this is your ninth issue, get with it! Also, Dagger seems to have forgotten that Cloak doesn't eat, which seems a bit insensitive. Anyway, some mobsters turn up and there's a big gunfight, so the circus fights back in an appropriately circus-like way, with strong-men and human cannonballs. The post-Marvel Age period was known for its "Grim 'n' Gritty" nature, and that is very much on display here when the gunfight between mobsters, clowns various and an elephant ends, as it so often does, with the accidental death of a unicorn. Heavy stuff! Dagger zaps the unicorn-murderers and then she, Cloak and the smarmy boyfriend teleport away to continue on their neverending quest to do whatever it was they were meant to be doing all along. And that's the lot, except for one last panel which - finally! - tells us why this comic is in a blog about Doctor Doom. As Douglas Wolk recently pointed out in an episode of his (excellent) Voice Of Latveria podcast, Doom popping up right at the very end of a comic is something that happens an awful lot. Sometimes he's used as a big final twist, like in Strange Tales #167 and Fantastic Four #196, while other times, such as here and in Champions #15 he's used as an enticement to come back next time. It's certainly worked here, as we'll be back in a couple of weeks to see what happens when Doom meets Cloak and Dagger, but before then we're off to see yet another Secret Wars flashback with Spider-man!

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posted 18/6/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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The Once And Future Kang!


Recently we've seen several examples of John Byrne claiming ownership of Doctor Doom by dragging together various previous appearances into a single storyline under his authorship. In this issue we see Roger Stern do much the same for Kang The Conqueror!

There's an awful lot of recapping in this comic, and that's where we find Doctor Doom, in a re-telling of his first meeting with Rama Tut way back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. John Buscema re-draws a panel from that issue from a different angle, this time showing Doom's rescue from space from his own perspective. My favourite aspect of this page is that Roger Stern has Rama Tut saying that this meeting happened when "I had just finished removing my ceremonial beard." Stern is so concerned with tidying up the continuity that he takes time out to explicitly explain why Rama Tut looked slightly different in his second appearance from his first.

That's all for Doom in this issue - he doesn't even get any dialogue! After that there are pages and pages of further recapping, which I take to be mostly re-tellings of previous stories - I can't say for sure because I've only read every Doctor Doom story up to this point, not every Kang story. There are a few story quotations that I do recognise though, and John Buscema uses rounded panel borders to indicate that these are historical re-tellings, so I assume most or all of the panels in this style are the same. For instance, he redraws a specific panel from Rama Tut's first appearance in Fantastic Four #19 in this way. The middle picture above is the same panel redrawn three years earlier by John Byrne in Fantastic Four #273, where he slipped Rama Tut's origin into an alternate future where Reed Richard's father was The Warlord, a ruler who saved civilisation on Earth, and Buscema re-draws several panels from that too. So this means that Rama Tut was distantly related to Reed Richards, and if you think that makes things complicated it is as nothing to the general shenanigans of the story itself. Kang The Conqueror has been zipping about through time accidentally creating new realities with divergent versions of himself in them, divergent versions which he has frankly no time for. Who among us can honestly say they have never looked back at younger versions of ourselves and thought "They're such IDIOTS!" This version of Kang has managed to kill almost all of the other versions of himself except one, who is being held in a paralysis beam with The Avengers. The superheroes (who spend most of the issue literally standing around doing nothing) eventually manage to escape using the tried and tested superhero methodologies of Trying Really Hard and also Never Giving Up, which allows the other Kang to get away too. A big fight breaks out and Kang Senior kills Kang Junior, at which point Immortus turns up! Immortus is yet another version of Kang from the far future, who Kang's girlfriend Ravonna has secretly been working with all along because he's the good version of him, whereas all the others are idiots for whom Immortus also has very little time. I love that bit of dialogue - "Oh do be still!"

So, just to be clear, Reed Richard's Dad went sideways in time to an alternate Earth which he saved from devastation. Centuries later his ancestor, inspired by The Fantastic Four, went back to Egyptian times to become Rama Tut. When he was defeated he then went forward in time where he met, and rescued Doctor Doom - thankfully Roger Stern explicitly says that Rama Tut was fibbing when he said he and Doom might be the same person, which is some relief at least. Rama Tut, now inspired by Doctor Doom, built himself a suit of armour, and went back and forth in time creating loads of idiotic versions of himself which he felt duty bound to kill, only to get told off and then tricked into Limbo by Immortus, yet another version of himself from the far future who's decided to stop being an idiot and instead be a bit of a dick instead.

With a story as straightforward and sensible as this, you can see why Marvel Studios are so keen to have Kang as the next big villain! Joking aside, it's all written in a thoroughly entertaining way, much like Byrne's excercises in continuity-grabbing, and it looks great thanks to John Buscema. It does feel a little weird to see an absolute legend of superhero comics re-drawing panels by creators who would have grown up reading his stuff, but it's all lovely to look at, with Tom Palmer's inks keeping it recognisably Buscema with a "modern" (for the late 80s) sheen to it.

The only thing this story is lacking is more Doctor Doom, but there's plenty of him to come soon!



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posted 11/6/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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The Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game


Today we're looking at one of Doom's adventures into non-comics media, and it's an area I know very little about - role-playing games! When he's appeared in cartoons, or radio shows or computer games I've had at least some experience of how those all work, but I have had precisely one direct experience of role-playing games, and it wasn't a very good one.

It was a rainy lunch-time in my second year of senior school (so I would have been about 12) and someone had brought in a copy of Dungeons And Dragons. My memories of it consist of a lengthy, very complicated, explanation of the rules, approximately two throws of the dice, a lot more explanation of what we'd done wrong, and then we were all dead. It was all incredibly pernickety and annoying, and I think that all of us gathered around that school desk were put off it for life.

Since then I've known several people who love these games, and tell me it's a free-flowing communal improvisation, expressing imagination wherever it takes you, and I'm sure it is, but I must say that reading through some of the material today takes me right back to that lunchtime.

There are five items all together in this look at TSR's "Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars Special Campaign Adventure" - three hefty tomes of rules and two sets of figures. The figures are pretty easy for me to get my head around. The first is a set of miniature figureines showing the heroes and villains in action, while the second is a similar, presumably much-cheaper, set of cardboard cut-out versions. This is an adaptation of "Secret Wars", so of course Doctor Doom is featured in both. In both cases Doom has his arms raised in anger, with all his usual character signifiers in place, although for some reason his gun holster is on his left hip rather than his usual right on the cut-out version. Whichever of these figures are used, they're all meant to go onto a map somehow, which is then used to plot the characters' progress through the game.

It's at this point that I get a bit lost, as the actual game instructions are bewilderingly complicated. It sounds very interesting to begin with, offering the players the chance to create their own stories - "You can branch out on your own. Not all the tales of the SECRET WARS have been told," it days. However, there are then sixteen closely typed pages of RULES telling you exactly what you can and cannot do, in a game divided into days with each day divided into four "shifts", which makes it sound like work rather than fun. There's a map of Battleworld itself, then rules on how you move around, how buildings work, how events occur and how characters can act. I know it's called a "rulebook" but this seems like a lot of rules!

Interestingly, for me at least, the various areas covered do align quite well with the work I'm doing on my PhD. My categorisation divides character aspects into character-based (what they look like, how they talk etc), storyworld-based (the settings, rules, history and so on), behavioural (how the characters interact with each other within the storyworld) and authorial (who creates them). There's nothing much about authorship in this book, but there's a LOT about everything else.

This continues when we get into the "Roster Booklet" section, where each character gets described in terms of the games statistics. For characters these include ratings for fighting, agility, strength, endurance, reason, intuition and psyche, then scores for health, karma, resources and popularity. The ratings have a scale with names like "excellent", "remarkable", "typical", "good", "unearthly" and "amazing" which, as far as I can see, aren't actually put in order anywhere. Is being excellent better than being amazing? Where does being unearthly come into it? It feels very much like the authors wanted to make sure there'd be as many chances for bickering as possible!

Doom's listing is pretty accurate, and includes a neat summation of his origin which even has space to address the knotty problem of him apparently being dead before Secret Wars began! As somebody who's spent several years categorising Doom, there's not really much to disagree with here. Even the relatively high score of 40 for "popularity" seems fair enough, as he does know a lot of people!

This is explained in the next book, called the "Player's Book", as due to him being a "charismatic bad guy... whose very evil bends others to their will", which sounds about right. This book is 100 pages long and is packed with rules about everything you can imagine, and again feels like a device for encouraging bickering. I can imagine it being very handy if you were setting up a computer game, and using it as a way to develop the rules that ran it, but it does seem like an awful lot of work to have to go through before you can even start playing. As I say, I've spent five years on the PhD trying to understand how this sort of thing works, and even I think it's a bit much!

Most of the illustrations for these books are taken from the comics - even the front and back covers of the main rulebook are adapted from the covers of Secret Wars #1 and #6 - but the front of the "Player's Book" and final "Judge's Book" do at least have original art, with the judge's book featuring the villains. It's nice to see that they've put Doom in his proper place, front and centre leading all the others forward! This is another massive tome, although this one does at least recognise the fact with a sentence right at the start that says "Don’t let the size of this product, the amount of text included, put you off." It goes on to say that this, along with the Player's Book mentioned above, is an expansion of the original game, encouraging judges and players to invent new stories using the game machinery described. Within this book there's new rules about things like other dimensions and creating new settings, and the general gist seems to be more towards fans exercising their own imaginations to generate more stories, although it's all in the context of loads and loads of facts and figures and rules. As I say, if this was all in a computer game then I guess all of that would be invisible, allowing players to feel like they were in a "sandbox" where they could do what they like. Maybe it's just that seeing the mechanics laid out like this makes it feel more... well, mechanical.

Doom appears in the "Villains" section, which has a much clearer version of character attributes - the categories are still the same, but this time they get numerical scores and, in line with the idea of "negative popularity" his score there has changed from 40 to -40! He gets two columns of text, as opposed to the usual single column for other villains, which includes information about how his Doombots work, and another version of the origin, which is worth putting here in full:

Victor von Doom is a self-taught tyrant, who rose from humble beginnings as the son of gypsies to his present status as an international madman. Doom is a technological genius, and is continually modifying his armor with new inventions and devices. He is a man of honor and his word, and specializes in schemes to destroy his enemies. He has three goals in life: to rule the entire world; to destroy his rival Reed Richards; and to rescue the spirit of his mother, which is trapped in a netherworld dimension. He is not someone to offend, as he will take the time and effort to hunt down and destroy his enemies.


I love the idea of "international madman" being something to aim for. I imagine you'd start as just a local madman, compete to national level, and then move onto the world stage.

More seriously, I find the description of his three motivations very interesting. In my research I've found that, during this period, the desire to save his mother only comes up a couple of times, and the need to thwart Reed Richards only really crops up when he's in a Fantastic Four comic. In other series, and especially in other media, Doom rarely if ever mentions him, which was a surprise as this is often given, as here, as one of his main motivations. Even ruling the world isn't quite as big a motivation as it's often said to be. Instead, according to my research anyway, what drives Doom is the need to prove himself to be better than other people. That's pretty much it, which I guess does cover ruling the world and beating Reed Richards, but is far and away the most common thing that drives him.

Towards the end of the guide there are brief descriptions of what we would these days call "Non-Player Characters". Being comics, this includes a huge variety of creatures, from fish and horses to "Dinosaur, Giant Armored" and "Dinosaur, Giant Radioactive", and from Asgardians and Denizens Of The Dark Dimension to Paramedics and Lawyers. Truly, all human (and non-human) life is here!

In summary then, these rulebooks and figures are similar in some ways to the overriding research project behind this blog, which is trying to find ways to describe how transmedia characters work. They're surprisingly similar in places too, although I'd like to think that my eventual schema will lead to less bickering... although, on the other hand, maybe it won't!



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posted 4/6/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Full Circle


So here we are: John Byrne's final Doctor Doom story from my corpus. It's by no means his best work on the series but it does very much stand alongside the other stories where Byrne tried to fix what he saw as problems in Doom's continuity. Previous examples include changes to Doom's origin in Fantastic Four #278, redefining his relationship with Latveria in Fantastic Four #247 and tidying up several years' worth of guest appearances in Fantastic Four #258, and though this issue isn't quite such a tour de force as these others it does solve a problem that needed solving - what on earth has been going on with Doctor Doom since "Secret Wars"?

The problem started when Doom appeared in Secret Wars #1 despite having been disintegrated in Fantastic Four #260 six months earlier and very much assumed to be dead. Then, at the end of "Secret Wars", he was supposedly sent back to earth, still without an explanation of how he could be alive at all. Here Byrne not only manages to give a vaguely plausible in-universe answer but simultaneously deals with an enforced tie-in to the "Secret Wars II" sequel series, which is quite an impressive feat!

The story picks up not long after the end of the last issue, with the Human Torch attacking the Latverian Embassy in answer to a call for help from his sister's emergency flare device. Here we get the usal recap of the previous issue, and it looks suspiciously like Byrne has just cut and paste a few panels from that comic into this one. I'm used to seeing him redraw panels from other people's work as a sort of Visual Quotation, but this is the first time I've seen him copy his own work. This is getting close to the end of his run on the title, so maybe he was running out of energy - or maybe a "Secret Wars II" tie-in was something he just wanted to get done as quickly as he could?

Either way, Mr Fantastic turns up and he, Johnny and She-Hulk battle their way through some robots, at which point they meet Doctor Doom. He seems to have taken a shine to She-Hulk... "First meeting?" But what about "Secret Wars"? What could it mean?!? Anyway, he blasts them with a "Concussion Ray" which knocks all of the FF out, giving him a chance to be even more creepy over the prone She-Hulk. Some time later the team wake up to find that Doom has put them all, including the Invisible Woman, into specially designed prison cells, although the one for She-Hulk was meant for the Thing. Doom takes off his mask to reveal that he's wearing the body of Norm McArthur (as seen last time), but shows that inside he's still the Doom we all know when he flips out at Peggy McArthur's suggestion that Reed Richards is "the most brilliant scientist alive." After another quick recap, during which Byrne again copies some of his own panels, this time from Fantastic Four #260, Doom reveals the cunning plan which will transfer him back into his old body. Yes, for the first time in absolutely ages he's going to use Black Magic rather than Science to solve his problems. Right from the first page of his very first appearance he's supposed to have been a master of both magic and science, but it's almost always the latter that he falls back on. Doom's plan is to "reach out to the farthest corners of space and time to summon... the greatest power in the universe." The FF react in horror, as they all assume that this greatest power will be exactly who it turns out to be - The Beyonder! They seem to be confident about this, but I wonder who Doom himself thought he'd be getting? Apart from there surely being greater powers than The Beyonder, like Eternity for example, we'll soon discover that Doom does not even know who The Beyonder is, despite supposedly stealing his power the previous year on Battleworld. There's even more confusion when The Beyonder claims not to know who Doom is either, and Reed Richards is called upon to try and explain what's going on, which involves yet another recap, this time of the much-recapped original "Secret Wars" series. Reed realises that The Beyonder is judging the Doom in front of him based on his "true body's aura", rather than what he says, does, or acts like. This seems a bit daft to me - surely "the greatest power in the universe" would have looked a bit more closely - but it makes The Beyonder look again and realise that yes, this is the same person who nicked his powers not so long ago. He's about to destroy Doom once and for all when Reed interjects again with a whole lot of dialogue, during which he finally gets The Beyonder to explain how Doom could be on Battleworld in his true body when he was meant to be dead at the time. Aha! I see, that's why we had to go through all the rigmarole with The Beyonder not recognised Doom in this body - it was so that Reed Richards could work out the whole timey-wimey thingy. It feels a bit of a long way round, but I guess it's about as elegant as it's possible to make what, when all's said and done, is a huge exercise in No-Prizery!

So, the Doom we saw in "Secret Wars" was taken from the future, but that still doesn't help us because the current Doom is still in the wrong body. Thus we get even more hands-on continuity fixing as The Beyonder recreates Doom's true body, swaps his and Norman McArthur's minds back again, sends this recreated Doom back to fight in Secret Wars, oh, and also wipes his recent memory so he can't remember what's just happened here. Phew! That was some pretty heavy lifting, which seems to have fixed everything... except where did Norm McArthur's mind come from? He's dead too isn't he? Did The Beyonder put it in Doom's original body when he recreated it, so it could be swapped over? Maybe he realised that he was already going on a bit, so decided to skate over that section. For this mercy I thank him!

With all of that finally sorted out The Beyonder decides to clear off back to his own series, leaving one last bit of continuity to sort itself out - where did actually Doom disappear to at the end of "Secret Wars"? I love the way Reed refers to their time on Battleworld as "The first Secret Wars", almost as if he knows that there's a "Secret Wars II" series going on right now. Maybe the version of Marvel Comics that publishes the in-universe adaptations of their adventures has been sending him comp copies? Whatever the reason, he knows enough to tell everyone to get out quick, just in time for the real Doom to start to materialise, finally back in his own body and the main continuity again. And that's the end of the story, the long-running plot-hole, and John Byrne on Doom for our corpus. As I said at the start, it's not his best work and it's a shame that he's had to spend two whole issues trying to work this all out, but now it's done we can hopefully never mention "Secret Wars" ever again.

Next time, we're taking a trip into a whole other form of media, as we look at the Marvel Role Playing Game based on ... oh bugger. It's "Secret Wars"!



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posted 28/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Prisoner Of The Flesh


Today we're looking at the first half of John Byrne's final Doctor Doom storyline during his legendary run on Fantastic Four. It's a sad moment for me, as this run was one of the main motivations for me studying Doctor Doom, and we leave it on a bit of a low point, when Byrne was having to rush around fixing continuity issues. This is clearly something he enjoyed doing though, so the low's not too low!

I remember when I originally bought this comic feeling intensely disappointed by the artwork, as this issue saw the return of Joe Sinnott to the series. Sinnott is one of those inkers, like Terry Austin or Bob Layton, who give everything they ink a very distinctive look, and at the time it was a look that I really didn't like. A big part of my reason for buying this series was John Byrne's art, but with Sinnott inking it didn't look the same at all. Reading it again now I can see Teenage Hibbett's point - it's all very nice and glossy but at lot of the time it doesn't look much like Byrne anymore. The plot, however, is very recognisably Byrne, as he once again seeks to put his own stamp on a tangled bit of Marvel continuity. This time he's trying to sort out the long-running mess around how Doctor Doom could appear in 'Secret Wars', and various other places since, when he was supposed to be dead for the entire time. The answer is a very convoluted one which we'll get the full details of next time, but if you squint and don't think about it too much it does at least make some kind of sense!

The story starts off with the Wasp interupting Mr Fantastic, who is hard at work building a Doom Scanner. He's convinced his old enemy is still alive, and so this will search the brain-waves in the atmosphere (somehow) for Doom's specific pattern. Apart from how on earth any of this works, the other main question it evokes is what does Mr Fantastic think he's playing at? The FF have been staying at Avengers Mansion since The Baxter Building was destroyed, so it seems a little rude of him to rewire all of their equipment like this without asking. Luckily for him, Sue and She-Hulk turn up and inform him that they're all off for a trip to "the beauty parlour" for some "girl talk". It's another in a long line of examples of the icky way that this generation of almost exclusively male comics creators try to write female characters, and it continues as the three women go to get their hair done by a ludicrously French hair-stylist who operates from the French Embassy. Thankfully for all of us this doesn't last long as they're interupted by a loud "BOOM" from across the road, where the Latverian Embassy is being attacked by somebody who appears to be The Invincible Man. One of the handy things about having She-Hulk in the team is that it gives everyone the perfect excuse to explain past continuity to her, so Sue is able to tell her (and us) that The Invincible Man was a Skrull pretending to be her father, but this can't be the same individual as the Skrulls have all been recently defeated, so this must be someone else. Thanks Sue!

The three women leap into action and quickly stop The Invincible Man, who then tells them a sob story about how Doctor Doom has kidnapped his wife and child in order to gain the secrets of his "invincibility war-suit". Sue asks how this can be true when Doom is dead, so Invincible Man points up to the windows of the Embassy where we see - Doctor Doom! They agree to help him, despite the facts that a) they have never met this person before b) they know that he is pretending to be a character who was pretending to be someone else in the first place, and c) they are all entirely familiar with Doombots and know full well that the figure at the window could well be one of those. On top of this the whole business of diplomatic immunity is quickly cast aside by She-Hulk - who is a lawyer in her secret identity - because "this is a hostage situation." Does international law work that way in the Marvel Universe? If so it must have recently changed, otherwise a lot of earlier stories make even less sense than they did already!

While they charge in we cut away to a little old lady who is disturbed by her neighbour, Peggy. She has her own sob story to tell about how her husband completely changed personality a couple of months ago, and became obsessed with building weird devices. Those of us who have been following this series can recognise "Norm" straight away - he's that bloke who was so rude to Aunt May over two years ago back in Fantastic Four #260. That's 27 issues ago - a massive chunk of time in comics terms, and an act of supreme confidence by Byrne to assume he'd still be around to carry on this dangling plotline. Unless, of course, he'd intended to resolve it all earlier, but had been unable to due to 'Secret Wars' intervening?

Byrne also answers a question that's previously been left unanswered in the comics, if not in other media - what does Doom's accent actually sound like? Well, he does keep coming back! I've never personally thought of Doom sounding like Arnie, and none of the actors who have played him have thought so either, so maybe Peggy is a bit limited in her knowledge of European accents? Anyway, now that we know who Invincible Man is it's time for the other characters to find out. While they battle a bunch of Doom's sentry robots She-Hulk remarks that this Invincible Man person seems to know an awful lot about the embassy's security. Shortly after this he disappears down a corridor. Sue turns invisible and follows him, stumbling into a room and finding Doom himself! Doom attacks her, and this leads her to realise that it must be a Doombot, because the real Doom would know that he can't penetrate her force field with his energy bolts. I'm not quite sure if this works - we've recently been told that Doombots are convinced they ARE Doctor Doom - but it's enough for Sue, who explodes the Doombot and says "as far as I'm concerned, this proves the real Doom is dead!" She should have touched wood when she said it, because the next moment - Sue uses her powers to show his face, which is definitely not Doom's - a ssensible thing to check, as they've only recently fought another pretend Doom in Fantastic Four #279. The matter is soon settled once and for all when Peggy turns up (having infiltrated the Embassy quite easily in Sue, She-Hulk and Wasp's wake) and smashes a handy pot over Sue's head. She goes to help her "husband", who pulls off his mask to reveal... a whole other mask underneath! Doom then gives a quick explanation of how it was all done, using the body-swapping powers given to him by The Ovoids way back in Fantastic Four #10. Sadly this explanation does not extend to a traditional Byrne re-drawing of the original panel, which is something I would very much like to have seen! The problem Doom now faces is that his own security systems are so good that he can't access anything in this new body, hence the need to hide out in Peggy's basement building a suit, and then recruiting Sue and friends to help him gain access to the embassy. Now he's inside he can re-program the systems to obey him in his current body but, as he explains rather heartlessly to Peggy, this is a temporary measure. He has a cunning plan to get back his original body, despite the fact that we've just been told it was completely incinerated, and whatever it is seems to involve the rest of the FF because the story ends with Doom using Sue's signalling flare to call the rest of them to help her. He says this is so he can destroy them once and for all, which seems to be a bit ahead of himself as he's still not got access to all of his gizmoes, but we'll have to wait until next time to find out what nefarious plan he has in mind - see you then!



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posted 21/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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...And Then The Gods Cried


This is one of the tiniest Doom appearances we've ever had, with him only just distinguishable amongst a group of baddies in a one panel recap of "Secret Wars". He's a bit difficult to spot, so here's a zoomed-in version. That's a tiny little image, but it's completely recognisable as Doom from his cloak, clasps, hood, steel mask and square eyeholes, showing yet again how important these are for making Doom Doom.

The rest of the issue is a tie-in to Secret Wars II, with all the stupidity and weird mish-mash of styles that go with it. There's a lot about The Puma, a character I've never come across before, and an awful lot of attempted "humour" around the idea that his mystical Sensei actually likes pop music. Crazy! Spider-man isn't in it very much at all, and it feels like this is a sudden swerve from whatever story was meant to be going on. It's more like an extra episode of "Secret Wars II" featuring The Beyonder meeting Puma, and there's even a pre-warning of this right at the start. It all ends with Puma failing to kill Beyonder, and everyone shrugging their shoulders and going home, with Spider-man a bystander in his own comic. It's a bit rubbish really, and we've got something similar next time, with a lot of The Beyonder and the title characters mostly sidelined. However, the characters sidelined are the FF, and the guest star who takes over is Doctor Doom, so there'll be a lot fewer complaints from me!



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posted 19/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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To Save Arcade?!?


Today we're looking at an issue of the X-Men for the first time in what feels like AGES, and it's quite a shock to the system after some of the ploddingly dull/incomprehensible stuff we've had lately. The main story is fairly throwaway,but it's surrounded by some Peak Claremont sub-plotting with loads going on that seems mildly pointless if you've not been reading the series for years, but is clearly vital to the ongoing epic, and it's all told with Claremont's distinctive, weirdly stilted, theatrical language.

The main storyline is all about Colossus and Kitty Pryde being kidnapped by Arcade to protect him from Doctor Doom, but it takes ages to get to that bit, as we have to sit through a lengthy sequence where Colossus has a bad dream about the various women he's let down over the years. I have had quite enough of Colossus lately, to be honest, and this bit goes on forever, eventually ending when he turns into his armoured form. I love the line "and ruined yet another pair of pajamas!" Bozhe Moi!

He wakes up to discover that Arcade has somehow kidnapped him and Kitty from the X-mansion and transported them to Murderworld. It's never explained how he does this, and it falls into the general category "It's An Arcade Story", which means he can do pretty much anything he likes. At least when The Impossible Man does this sort of thing we know he's able to because he's a space alien with cosmic powers, but when it's Arcade it's all a bit confusing. Surely he's just a technical whizz with a sophisticated amusement park?

Anyway, Arcade takes them for breakfast (a very Claremont thing to feature in a comic) but they're attacked by a missile which ruins Colossus' costume - he's not having a good day, clothes-wise. Happily Arcade has a replacement costume in the warehouse where he keeps his Robot X-Men, some of whom are wearing somewhat off-brand versions of their usual clothes. Arcade explains that he's being targetted by Doctor Doom, and needs protection. This doesn't entirely make sense, as he's got a whole army of robot superheroes who, as we'll see later, work just as well as the originals, but at least Doctor Doom works as an enemy. We know from The Fantastic Four that he's annoyed with Arcade about having to destroy one of his Doombots, so it makes sense that this is his attempt at revenge, but then again, isn't he supposed to still be dead at the moment?

Sub-plots keep popping up all over the place while this is going on, with little vignettes showing someone called Nimrod stopping a robbery, Storm fighting some vultures, and Cyclops saying goodbye to his wife before going to work, using dialogue that surely nobody has ever used in real life. It's all very very Claremont-y, and I'm sure is rewarding to regular readings, but I'm still waiting for Doctor Doom to turn up!

Things start to look up when Kitty, Colossus, and a bunch of robot X-Men travel to a version of 1940s New York because, as we know, you can do anything in Murderworld. They're waiting on a station platfrom when the arriving train turns into a brilliant Doctor Doom Transformer and starts to fight them! Hoorah! Fighter aircraft launch from some nearby buildings (see above re: anything being possible), the robot X-Men get dispatched fairly easily, but Kitty and Colossus manage to eventually defeat Optimus Doom. This leads to a panel PACKED with Feelings. Thankfully Doctor Doom himself finally turns up at this point, blasting the pair of them with lasers before Colossus has a chance to start reading some of his Emotional Poetry. Colossus does a Fastball Special, throwing Kitty after Doom's fighter jet as it attacks Arcade, but when he manages to catch up he finds that he's too late - Doom has captured Arcade and killed Kitty! Of course, that's not what happened at all. The Kitty we've been watching for the past several pages was a robot all along, with the real version staying with Arcade. She pops up, phases through Doom's armour and shorts it out. Colossus realises that he's poured out his emotions to a robot, which leads to yet MORE emotions, and then we discover what's really been going on. It wasn't Doom at all, it was Arcade's assistant Miss Locke in a Doom costume! It turns out that it's Arcade's birthday, and so to celebrate he's given Miss Locke 24 hours to try and kill him, and for some reason she chose to do it in character as Doctor Doom. "That's insane", says Kitty - I would have said "stupid", but the point stands. "Ain't it though!" says Arcade, and that's pretty much it, although he does at least have the good grace to give them a lift home. So, to recap, Colossus had a dream then they had an adventure where it wasn't the X-Men, they weren't fighting Doctor Doom, the Kitty who died wasn't Kitty, and the person who caused it all gets away completely scot free. So what was the point of any of it?

Still, it was all very nicely done, with dynamic art from John Romita Jr right at the start of his career, and it was worth it just for the Doom Transformer train really. I've read an awful lot of awful comics lately, and none of them have had anything even remotely as brilliant as that in them!



link to information about this issue

posted 14/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Secret Wars II


Legend has it that when Carol Kalish, Marvel's Direct Sales Manager at the time, announced at a retailers conference that they'd be doing a sequel to "Secret Wars" she was, at first, booed. In response to this she said "Let's be honest. Secret Wars was crap, right? But did it sell?" The answer was "yes" to both questions!

"Secret Wars" might have been crap* (*it definitely was) but its sequel was much much worse, and was by far the worst series I've had to read for this entire project. There have been plenty of daft comics, unfunny comics, misfires and misjudgements along the way, but this series is entirely without anything to recommend it at all. Luckily for all of us, then, it hardly features Doctor Doom at all, restricting him to a few flashback sequences and a cameo in a crowd scene, so rather than force myself (and you, dear reader) to put up with several weeks of me moaning about how terrible it is I thought I'd save us all the trouble by looking at the whole thing in one go, focusing especially on Doom's sequences.

The first issue sees The Beyonder coming to Earth, assuming human form, and then wandering around causing chaos with extremely uninteresting and unamusing results. As with "Secret Wars" there's a huge amount of dialogue (with unusually tiny lettering to fit it all in) and all sorts of weird mixtures of confusing storyline, half-arsed cosmic ideas, and cack-handed attempts at relevance. It also features the hideous soppiness of Molecule Man and Volcana, which I'm sure was nobody's first choice for what they'd like to see continued from the original series, this time turned into a ghastly sitcom about two super-powered pillocks "hilariously" destroying things. This is a Jim Shooter comic, so of course there is a recap of what's gone before, this time giving the whole story of the original "Secret Wars" in about eight panels, most of which feature Doctor Doom. The recap makes it clear that Doom was a big part of "Secret Wars", so it's odd that he doesn't appear more often in the sequel. We don't see him again until the third issue, when he's there in another recap. This issue is much the same as the first, with added attempts at ill-adivsed "relevance" as The Beyonder has a lengthy chat with a prostitute, a pimp and various hoodlums. It is Not Good. One thing that is of interest (if you've read a lot of Doctor Doom stories anyway), is that the title of this story is "This World Is Mine!", which I guess might be a reference to "This Land Is Mine!" in Fantastic Four #247 (which could itself be a reference to the film This Land Is Mine), which again would seem weird as there's no link to Doctor Doom or really anything to do with that story.

Also of interest is the "Next time" panel at the very end of the story, which gives the reader detailed instructions for following the rest of the plot. These panels appear at the end of every issue, including the final one where there are instructions on how to find the epilogue. We've occasionally seen this kind of thing before, especially when a series was ending before a storyline had finished and readers needed to be told where to find the continuation. However, we've never seen something with quite this many tasks before. Maybe that's why it's formatted in a typed font rather than standard comics lettering, so that the reader will view it as an Important and Official list of Things To Do and so be more likely to go out and buy all these extra comics. As we'll see in future weeks, tie-ins to this series were marked as such on the covers, so collecting them all was definitely something fans would be encouraged to do.

Doom next appears in issue 6, in a single panel as part of yet another recap. This issue features more awful sitcom romance, some very rushed artwork, a huge amount of explanatory dialogue, and a whole bunch of Cosmic Beings which the omnipotent all-seeing Beyonder has taken the trouble to carefully label. Doom's final appearance is in issue seven, "Charge Of The Dark Brigade", which has to be one of the stupidest titles for anything, ever. Mephisto has been plotting to copy Doctor Doom (shown in another recap image) and steal The Beyonder's power, which involves gathering together a "legion of Doom" consisting of all the baddies in the Marvel Universe. This is Doctor Doom's first "in person" appearance in the series, yet he doesn't have a single line of dialogue throughout, even though he's on the cover. He's just lumped in with everybody else like it's an issue of "Not Brand Echh" or something! It's very unusual for him to just be lumped in with other baddies like this - he's usually placed at the front of such gatherings - but it's even more puzzling to see him treated this way when he's been regularly mentioned as the only person who has been able to defeat The Beyonder before. Also, how is Doom here at all? At this point he's still technically dead - as we'll soon see (SPOILERS!) The Beyonder will be instrumental in bringing him back into The Marvel Universe, but that's still a few months away, so how can he be here now? If I was chasing a No-Prize (and I'm always chasing a No-Prize!) I might suggest that this is a Doombot, but surely Mephisto wouldn't be fooled by a Doombot, and if he was summoning one on purpose wouldn't he summon up a whole bunch of them? This sort of thing is precisely why I decided to look at these four issues all in one go, rather than one by one! It's all deeply awful, but thankfully that's the end of Doctor Doom in this series, although not the end of his interactions with The Beyonder. We'll be having a look at that soon enough, but next time we've got another visit to The X-Men, and another mysteriously sighting of the supposedly dead Doom!



link to information about this issue

posted 7/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
(click here for permanent link)

(0) comments


Secret Wars II


Legend has it that when Carol Kalish, Marvel's Direct Sales Manager at the time, announced at a retailers conference that they'd be doing a sequel to "Secret Wars" she was, at first, booed. In response to this she said "Let's be honest. Secret Wars was crap, right? But did it sell?" The answer was "yes" to both questions!

"Secret Wars" might have been crap* (*it definitely was) but its sequel was much much worse, and was by far the worst series I've had to read for this entire project. There have been plenty of daft comics, unfunny comics, misfires and misjudgements along the way, but this series is entirely without anything to recommend it at all. Luckily for all of us, then, it hardly features Doctor Doom at all, restricting him to a few flashback sequences and a cameo in a crowd scene, so rather than force myself (and you, dear reader) to put up with several weeks of me moaning about how terrible it is I thought I'd save us all the trouble by looking at the whole thing in one go, focusing especially on Doom's sequences.

The first issue sees The Beyonder coming to Earth, assuming human form, and then wandering around causing chaos with extremely uninteresting and unamusing results. As with "Secret Wars" there's a huge amount of dialogue (with unusually tiny lettering to fit it all in) and all sorts of weird mixtures of confusing storyline, half-arsed cosmic ideas, and cack-handed attempts at relevance. It also features the hideous soppiness of Molecule Man and Volcana, which I'm sure was nobody's first choice for what they'd like to see continued from the original series, this time turned into a ghastly sitcom about two super-powered pillocks "hilariously" destroying things. This is a Jim Shooter comic, so of course there is a recap of what's gone before, this time giving the whole story of the original "Secret Wars" in about eight panels, most of which feature Doctor Doom. The recap makes it clear that Doom was a big part of "Secret Wars", so it's odd that he doesn't appear more often in the sequel. We don't see him again until the third issue, when he's there in another recap. This issue is much the same as the first, with added attempts at ill-adivsed "relevance" as The Beyonder has a lengthy chat with a prostitute, a pimp and various hoodlums. It is Not Good. One thing that is of interest (if you've read a lot of Doctor Doom stories anyway), is that the title of this story is "This World Is Mine!", which I guess might be a reference to "This Land Is Mine!" in Fantastic Four #247 (which could itself be a reference to the film This Land Is Mine), which again would seem weird as there's no link to Doctor Doom or really anything to do with that story.

Also of interest is the "Next time" panel at the very end of the story, which gives the reader detailed instructions for following the rest of the plot. These panels appear at the end of every issue, including the final one where there are instructions on how to find the epilogue. We've occasionally seen this kind of thing before, especially when a series was ending before a storyline had finished and readers needed to be told where to find the continuation. However, we've never seen something with quite this many tasks before. Maybe that's why it's formatted in a typed font rather than standard comics lettering, so that the reader will view it as an Important and Official list of Things To Do and so be more likely to go out and buy all these extra comics. As we'll see in future weeks, tie-ins to this series were marked as such on the covers, so collecting them all was definitely something fans would be encouraged to do.

Doom next appears in issue 6, in a single panel as part of yet another recap. This issue features more awful sitcom romance, some very rushed artwork, a huge amount of explanatory dialogue, and a whole bunch of Cosmic Beings which the omnipotent all-seeing Beyonder has taken the trouble to carefully label. Doom's final appearance is in issue seven, "Charge Of The Dark Brigade", which has to be one of the stupidest titles for anything, ever. Mephisto has been plotting to copy Doctor Doom (shown in another recap image) and steal The Beyonder's power, which involves gathering together a "legion of Doom" consisting of all the baddies in the Marvel Universe. This is Doctor Doom's first "in person" appearance in the series, yet he doesn't have a single line of dialogue throughout, even though he's on the cover. He's just lumped in with everybody else like it's an issue of "Not Brand Echh" or something! It's very unusual for him to just be lumped in with other baddies like this - he's usually placed at the front of such gatherings - but it's even more puzzling to see him treated this way when he's been regularly mentioned as the only person who has been able to defeat The Beyonder before. Also, how is Doom here at all? At this point he's still technically dead - as we'll soon see (SPOILERS!) The Beyonder will be instrumental in bringing him back into The Marvel Universe, but that's still a few months away, so how can he be here now? If I was chasing a No-Prize (and I'm always chasing a No-Prize!) I might suggest that this is a Doombot, but surely Mephisto wouldn't be fooled by a Doombot, and if he was summoning one on purpose wouldn't he summon up a whole bunch of them? This sort of thing is precisely why I decided to look at these four issues all in one go, rather than one by one! It's all deeply awful, but thankfully that's the end of Doctor Doom in this series, although not the end of his interactions with The Beyonder. We'll be having a look at that soon enough, but next time we've got another visit to The X-Men, and another mysteriously sighting of the supposedly dead Doom!



link to information about this issue

posted 7/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
(click here for permanent link)

(0) comments


Secret Wars II


Legend has it that when Carol Kalish, Marvel's Direct Sales Manager at the time, announced at a retailers conference that they'd be doing a sequel to "Secret Wars" she was, at first, booed. In response to this she said "Let's be honest. Secret Wars was crap, right? But did it sell?" The answer was "yes" to both questions!

"Secret Wars" might have been crap* (*it definitely was) but its sequel was much much worse, and was by far the worst series I've had to read for this entire project. There have been plenty of daft comics, unfunny comics, misfires and misjudgements along the way, but this series is entirely without anything to recommend it at all. Luckily for all of us, then, it hardly features Doctor Doom at all, restricting him to a few flashback sequences and a cameo in a crowd scene, so rather than force myself (and you, dear reader) to put up with several weeks of me moaning about how terrible it is I thought I'd save us all the trouble by looking at the whole thing in one go, focusing especially on Doom's sequences.

The first issue sees The Beyonder coming to Earth, assuming human form, and then wandering around causing chaos with extremely uninteresting and unamusing results. As with "Secret Wars" there's a huge amount of dialogue (with unusually tiny lettering to fit it all in) and all sorts of weird mixtures of confusing storyline, half-arsed cosmic ideas, and cack-handed attempts at relevance. It also features the hideous soppiness of Molecule Man and Volcana, which I'm sure was nobody's first choice for what they'd like to see continued from the original series, this time turned into a ghastly sitcom about two super-powered pillocks "hilariously" destroying things. This is a Jim Shooter comic, so of course there is a recap of what's gone before, this time giving the whole story of the original "Secret Wars" in about eight panels, most of which feature Doctor Doom. The recap makes it clear that Doom was a big part of "Secret Wars", so it's odd that he doesn't appear more often in the sequel. We don't see him again until the third issue, when he's there in another recap. This issue is much the same as the first, with added attempts at ill-adivsed "relevance" as The Beyonder has a lengthy chat with a prostitute, a pimp and various hoodlums. It is Not Good. One thing that is of interest (if you've read a lot of Doctor Doom stories anyway), is that the title of this story is "This World Is Mine!", which I guess might be a reference to "This Land Is Mine!" in Fantastic Four #247 (which could itself be a reference to the film This Land Is Mine), which again would seem weird as there's no link to Doctor Doom or really anything to do with that story.

Also of interest is the "Next time" panel at the very end of the story, which gives the reader detailed instructions for following the rest of the plot. These panels appear at the end of every issue, including the final one where there are instructions on how to find the epilogue. We've occasionally seen this kind of thing before, especially when a series was ending before a storyline had finished and readers needed to be told where to find the continuation. However, we've never seen something with quite this many tasks before. Maybe that's why it's formatted in a typed font rather than standard comics lettering, so that the reader will view it as an Important and Official list of Things To Do and so be more likely to go out and buy all these extra comics. As we'll see in future weeks, tie-ins to this series were marked as such on the covers, so collecting them all was definitely something fans would be encouraged to do.

Doom next appears in issue 6, in a single panel as part of yet another recap. This issue features more awful sitcom romance, some very rushed artwork, a huge amount of explanatory dialogue, and a whole bunch of Cosmic Beings which the omnipotent all-seeing Beyonder has taken the trouble to carefully label. Doom's final appearance is in issue seven, "Charge Of The Dark Brigade", which has to be one of the stupidest titles for anything, ever. Mephisto has been plotting to copy Doctor Doom (shown in another recap image) and steal The Beyonder's power, which involves gathering together a "legion of Doom" consisting of all the baddies in the Marvel Universe. This is Doctor Doom's first "in person" appearance in the series, yet he doesn't have a single line of dialogue throughout, even though he's on the cover. He's just lumped in with everybody else like it's an issue of "Not Brand Echh" or something! It's very unusual for him to just be lumped in with other baddies like this - he's usually placed at the front of such gatherings - but it's even more puzzling to see him treated this way when he's been regularly mentioned as the only person who has been able to defeat The Beyonder before. Also, how is Doom here at all? At this point he's still technically dead - as we'll soon see (SPOILERS!) The Beyonder will be instrumental in bringing him back into The Marvel Universe, but that's still a few months away, so how can he be here now? If I was chasing a No-Prize (and I'm always chasing a No-Prize!) I might suggest that this is a Doombot, but surely Mephisto wouldn't be fooled by a Doombot, and if he was summoning one on purpose wouldn't he summon up a whole bunch of them? This sort of thing is precisely why I decided to look at these four issues all in one go, rather than one by one! It's all deeply awful, but thankfully that's the end of Doctor Doom in this series, although not the end of his interactions with The Beyonder. We'll be having a look at that soon enough, but next time we've got another visit to The X-Men, and another mysteriously sighting of the supposedly dead Doom!



link to information about this issue

posted 7/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
(click here for permanent link)

(0) comments


Secret Wars II


Legend has it that when Carol Kalish, Marvel's Direct Sales Manager at the time, announced at a retailers conference that they'd be doing a sequel to "Secret Wars" she was, at first, booed. In response to this she said "Let's be honest. Secret Wars was crap, right? But did it sell?" The answer was "yes" to both questions!

"Secret Wars" might have been crap* (*it definitely was) but its sequel was much much worse, and was by far the worst series I've had to read for this entire project. There have been plenty of daft comics, unfunny comics, misfires and misjudgements along the way, but this series is entirely without anything to recommend it at all. Luckily for all of us, then, it hardly features Doctor Doom at all, restricting him to a few flashback sequences and a cameo in a crowd scene, so rather than force myself (and you, dear reader) to put up with several weeks of me moaning about how terrible it is I thought I'd save us all the trouble by looking at the whole thing in one go, focusing especially on Doom's sequences.

The first issue sees The Beyonder coming to Earth, assuming human form, and then wandering around causing chaos with extremely uninteresting and unamusing results. As with "Secret Wars" there's a huge amount of dialogue (with unusually tiny lettering to fit it all in) and all sorts of weird mixtures of confusing storyline, half-arsed cosmic ideas, and cack-handed attempts at relevance. It also features the hideous soppiness of Molecule Man and Volcana, which I'm sure was nobody's first choice for what they'd like to see continued from the original series, this time turned into a ghastly sitcom about two super-powered pillocks "hilariously" destroying things. This is a Jim Shooter comic, so of course there is a recap of what's gone before, this time giving the whole story of the original "Secret Wars" in about eight panels, most of which feature Doctor Doom. The recap makes it clear that Doom was a big part of "Secret Wars", so it's odd that he doesn't appear more often in the sequel. We don't see him again until the third issue, when he's there in another recap. This issue is much the same as the first, with added attempts at ill-adivsed "relevance" as The Beyonder has a lengthy chat with a prostitute, a pimp and various hoodlums. It is Not Good. One thing that is of interest (if you've read a lot of Doctor Doom stories anyway), is that the title of this story is "This World Is Mine!", which I guess might be a reference to "This Land Is Mine!" in Fantastic Four #247 (which could itself be a reference to the film This Land Is Mine), which again would seem weird as there's no link to Doctor Doom or really anything to do with that story.

Also of interest is the "Next time" panel at the very end of the story, which gives the reader detailed instructions for following the rest of the plot. These panels appear at the end of every issue, including the final one where there are instructions on how to find the epilogue. We've occasionally seen this kind of thing before, especially when a series was ending before a storyline had finished and readers needed to be told where to find the continuation. However, we've never seen something with quite this many tasks before. Maybe that's why it's formatted in a typed font rather than standard comics lettering, so that the reader will view it as an Important and Official list of Things To Do and so be more likely to go out and buy all these extra comics. As we'll see in future weeks, tie-ins to this series were marked as such on the covers, so collecting them all was definitely something fans would be encouraged to do.

Doom next appears in issue 6, in a single panel as part of yet another recap. This issue features more awful sitcom romance, some very rushed artwork, a huge amount of explanatory dialogue, and a whole bunch of Cosmic Beings which the omnipotent all-seeing Beyonder has taken the trouble to carefully label. Doom's final appearance is in issue seven, "Charge Of The Dark Brigade", which has to be one of the stupidest titles for anything, ever. Mephisto has been plotting to copy Doctor Doom (shown in another recap image) and steal The Beyonder's power, which involves gathering together a "legion of Doom" consisting of all the baddies in the Marvel Universe. This is Doctor Doom's first "in person" appearance in the series, yet he doesn't have a single line of dialogue throughout, even though he's on the cover. He's just lumped in with everybody else like it's an issue of "Not Brand Echh" or something! It's very unusual for him to just be lumped in with other baddies like this - he's usually placed at the front of such gatherings - but it's even more puzzling to see him treated this way when he's been regularly mentioned as the only person who has been able to defeat The Beyonder before. Also, how is Doom here at all? At this point he's still technically dead - as we'll soon see (SPOILERS!) The Beyonder will be instrumental in bringing him back into The Marvel Universe, but that's still a few months away, so how can he be here now? If I was chasing a No-Prize (and I'm always chasing a No-Prize!) I might suggest that this is a Doombot, but surely Mephisto wouldn't be fooled by a Doombot, and if he was summoning one on purpose wouldn't he summon up a whole bunch of them? This sort of thing is precisely why I decided to look at these four issues all in one go, rather than one by one! It's all deeply awful, but thankfully that's the end of Doctor Doom in this series, although not the end of his interactions with The Beyonder. We'll be having a look at that soon enough, but next time we've got another visit to The X-Men, and another mysteriously sighting of the supposedly dead Doom!



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posted 7/5/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Checkmate


It feels like ages since we last had a Doctor Doom story called "Checkmate" or "Endgame" or that tried to draw a comparison between super-villiany and a board game, but here we have it in the grand finale of a series that has managed to combine all of the weird attempts at "grittiness" from "Secret Wars" with all of the horrendously long slabs of dialogue from "Secret Wars" without any of the very occasional flashes of excitement from... er... "Secret Wars". What I'm saying is that this is even worse than "Secret Wars" was!

A major reason for this is that "Secret Wars" did at least have loads of Doctor Doom in it, whereas "Cloak and Dagger" has so far had about one page per issue, building up to this finale where Doom appears a lot but does absolutely nothing whatsoever. It's really weird - we've been teased his arrival since the cover of the very first issue, but when he turns up he just watches what's going on and, even more weirdly, seems to think this is "strategy". Thus, according to this comic, the way to win at chess is to basically watch while other people play it.

Doom is there right on the very first page, wandering around the nightclub/arena from last time, where he discovers the murdered body of the club's owner. It turns out though that this guy was a robot all along! We then get a classic Close Up On The Eyes shot of Doom, where he engages fully with the chess metaphor as he plans his "moves". As we will see, this will consist entirely of slinking around the building, observing other people do stuff. We next catch up with Dazzler and Beast, who since last time have been hung upside down by their feet, which gives them the opportunity to engage in huge slabs of horrible dialogue and uncomfortable kissing. Examples of the intensity of the romance here include The Beast explaining at length what happens when two cats are tied together over a washing line, and Dazzled saying she loves his "ribald sense of humour". So sexy!

Thankfully this is interrupted by Alex The Smoothie who reveals tha he is actually the son of Doctor Doom. His acceptance of his lineage (which he hadn't really mentioned before) is shown by his adoption of a vaguely Doom-ish outfit. As with so much to do with this series, the interior visuals are a huge disappoint after the Bill Sienkiewicz cover. Sienkiewicz draws Doom Jr in a shining gold costume, somewhat similar to the one worn by Doom Sr back in the inside pages of What If? #22, "What If Doom became a hero?" This is a lovely use of continuity, which is totally lost by Don Perlin's version where he's wearing something much more like a traditional villain's one-sie with a boring grey crown thing and Doom-like gauntlets.

After a brief look at Poltergeist and Link (two characters so annoying and boring that I'd forgotten all about them) we return to Doom Jr to find him throwing daggers at a map of Latveria. Two things strike me about this image. Firstly, how on earth has he missed Doom's face so many times when he's throwing the daggers from about twelve inches away? We see another shot of this later on in the page when it's abundantly clear that he's standing right there in front of it, with hardly enough room to swing his arm - does Don Perlin know nothing of the correct distance for a darts oche? The second, more exciting, point is that this is an Actual Map Of Latveria! Marvel Unlimited lets us zoom in for a better look: This version of Latveria not only has towns and villages but also a railway (which appears to go beyond the country's borders), county lines and possibly a river. Settlements named include "Doomsfalls", "Doomton", "Doomsburg" and "Doomsvale", alongside oddities like "Skidsville", "Otisburg" and, I think, "Canarsis". I have no idea where any of these names come from, but later on they are joined by "Doomshill" and... "Bronx"? Doom Jr is ranting away in a very Doom-like way in front of two of his lackeys, who start to worry that he is turning nuts. Unbeknownst to them as they wander off talking about it, and arguing over whether they should confront him, they are being watched by Doctor Doom himself. "The first piece is lost", says Doom like some kind of master strategist, despite having done nothing whatsoever except watch other people doing stuff. Shortly after this one of the disaffected lackeys frees Dazzler and the Beast, and Doom again takes credit for something which is absolutely nothing to do with him at all. I've re-read this just to check, but Doom is definitely not doing anything here, just observing. It's most perplexing - clearly Ann Nocenti has intended for Doom to appear right from the start of the series, but once he does arrive he doesn't do anything at all. The cover of the first issue showed him looming over everything, as he is wont to do, as if it was all a scheme, but it is nothing of the kind! Also, if Doom Jr is really Doom's son, doesn't that mean that Doom is calling himself a "snivelling cur" here?

Beast and Dazzler escape, but then run into Doom Jr and his circus of mutants. A big fight breaks out which goes on for ages, as everyone involved comments on how amazing it is that Dazzler (until very recently a singer) and Beast are able to fight off an entire army of trained professional killers. I guess it's supposed to be inspiring, but it's just daft. All of this is watched - just watched - by Doom, who yet again uses the chess metaphor to make it sound like this is the culmination of a devious plan. In case I have not made this clear yet, it really isn't! Link and Poltergeist, the two boring teenage mutants who were also staying at Heartbreak Hotel, turn up and join in and end up nearly killing Doom Jr, but then don't. I may have made this sound more exciting than it is. Once freed Doom Jr orders his army of mutants to kill Dazzler and Beast - something which they have manifestly failed to do over the preceding few pages - but they wisely decline. This is the last straw for Doom who finally makes his grand entrance to give his son a right good telling off. And then he just walks away! Doom has a history of doing this - notably in the classic Fantastic Four #87 when he just let the FF go in "the most offbeat ending ever". Here, however, it just seems that Doom is sick and tired of the whole silly thing and is sodding off back to Latveria to put it all behind him. Over the years of this project I have often found myself agreeing with Doctor Doom, but rarely more so than here. Is Latveria airlines taking bookings?

Dazzler and Beast follow suit and head back to the Heartbreak Hotel where they have another interminable conversation which attempts to make everything that's gone before somehow meaningful. They decide to end their relationship in the dullest, most emotionless way I think possible, and as they talk the camera continues to pull away from them until the very last panel showa a tiny earth millions of miles away, which goes some way to conveying how emotionally distant it all feels. And that's the end of what has been a truly dreadful mini-series, which doesn't even go to the trouble of telling us when it's set or how Doctor Doom is wandering around in it when he's supposed to be dead and/or on another planet. This series came out around the time that I was drifting away from mainstream comics for a while, first of all to fanzines and indies, but then on to bands and, vitally, BEER, and reading stuff like this reminds me of what a wise decision that was. We're getting closer to the end of the Marvel Age now, and there aren't many enjoyable comics left to look at, let alone any Actually Great ones, and this is illustrated very clearly by what comes next time: "Secret Wars II"!!!



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posted 30/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett