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At The Mercy Of Rama-Tut

This is yet another example of an issue in which Doctor Doom is mentioned as part of the story without actually appearing in it, although this time he does have a bigger presence than just being part of the recap.

He still IS part of the recap though, appearing in either The Fantastic Four Gallery Of Villains" or (I hope) "OUR Gallery Of Villains", depending on what we imagine the off-panel text to be. This sort of labelling would be heavily used three years later in the "Batman" TV series, but at this point seems to be commonly accepted as a sensible part of Superhero Admin. After all, if you don't actually SAY it's a gallery of villains, visitors might think it's a gallery of people you like.

That's the only appearance of Doom in the story, but we do get a visit to his earliest headquarters, where I'm sure everyone will be relieved to discover that the crocodiles in his moat are alive and well, not boiled alive as previously feared. Alas we don't find out what happened to Doom's pet tiger, but we do see that lots of his equipment is still working, so maybe not everything was burned to the ground after all?

The FF are there to use his time machine to travel back to Egyptian times for a caper in which they meet a time traveller who, it's inferred, is a distant descendant of Doctor Doom The exact relationship between Doom and Rama-Tut will be explained (also confused) in later issues, but for now he's rather delightfully portrayed as a 31st Century TV Addict who decided to use amazing futuristic technology to stave off boredom, something which I feel we can all identify with. It's worth noting that once again Stan Lee is using television as an engine of plot. This is a theme that keeps cropping up during these early Marvel comics and it's perhaps evidence of an obsession with television that would eventually lead to Lee moving to California to try and persuade film and TV executives to create adaptations of his characters.

The FF manage to beat Rama-Tut and return to the present day, but still manage not to win, exactly. The whole point of travelling back in time had been to collect a radioactive herb which can cure Alicia's blindness, but when they get back to the present day they realise that the time machine has left it behind. It's a surprisingly downbeat ending that demonstrates the way in which creators like Lee and Kirby were trying to do something different with their storytelling, apart from the usual stories of heroic characters constantly winning. Their stories featured not only sympathetic villains like Doctor Doom, but also fallible heroes who do not always emerge victorious.

SPOILERS: if you don't enjoy fallible heroes, don't read the next blog. It's a Fallibility Festival!

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posted 23/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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It Had To Happen!

Just over a year since he first appeared, and still very much in the early stages of the Marvel Age, Doctor Doom makes his first "proper" hop into another series outside of The Fantastic Four with this appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #5. He's certainly been mentioned in several stories already, but this is his first actual appearance in another title, and an early example of the way that characters were free to move around between different series in the new Marvel Universe.

The series may have changed but Stan Lee is still the writer, so there are several recurring themes that recur (as recurring themes tend to do), including the use of television sets as plot engines. TV screens pop up throughout this issue, providing information and driving the story forward, such as in the very first panel where Peter Parker's schoolmates watch a J Jonah Jameson advertorial about how awful Spider-man is. This blog is meant to be about the development of Doctor Doom as a character, but it's interesting to see the way that other characters are also in flux in these early days. For instance, the Peter Parker we meet here is not the guilt-ridden groovy teenager we come to know later on, but rather a distinctly angry, and somewhat unpleasant, young man who is full of inner rage towards pretty much everybody apart from his Aunt May. Doctor Doom is watching telly too, which gives him the idea to see if he can enlist Spider-man to help him beat The Fantastic Four - if he really is as bad as Jameson says, thinks Doom, he'd make a good partner. While mulling this over Doom handily recalls the last time we saw him, chucking himself out of an airship to escape the Fantastic Four. This sequence is almost exactly the same, in text and illustration, as his airship exit in Fantastic Four #17, except for an extra panel at the end showing him igniting his rocket belt. This attention to detail demonstrates a growing awareness of the importance of continuity, especially in the midst of the furious pace of production at Marvel. Having the two sections match so well shows that some care was taken to show that this was the same story as before, just being carried on in a different title. There's more evidence of the growing fictional universe on the next page when, after being called to Doom's lab by Spider Telepathy (something invented here but, as far as I know, never referred to again) Spider-man sees Doom through a window and says "I'd know that guy anywhere." According to the actual comics he's never met or even spoken about Doctor Doom before, so he must have found out about him at some other time, away from the comics page. This is evidence of a whole world of stories happening outside of the ones we get to read, a much larger ongoing storyworld which Matt Hills calls "the Hyperdiegesis" (and what I call "part of my PhD title").

Doom asks Spider-man to team up with him, while secretly planning a double-cross. Spider-man considers the offer for a moment then declines, not because it's a bad idea but just because he doesn't think he needs a team-mate - another example of Peter Parker's much less heroic character at this stage. He webs Doom up, only to find out that he's been speaking to a robot... which is a little strange as, only a few panels ago, that robot was thinking about destroying him. This sort of logical error is evidence of the speed of creation of these comics, and highlights again how remarkable it was to see that flashback so meticulously done. Perhaps it's also evidence of Stan Lee not applying the same levels of rigour to his scripting as he does to the artists!

Spidey escapes and Doom blows up his lab to stop anybody finding out his secrets. Next day Peter pops over to the offices of the Daily Bugle for a brief interlude where we see the greed which drives J Jonah Jameson's editorial policy, and another flash of Peter's internal rage. To be fair, Peter does have a right to be angry, as his life is pretty difficult. We see an example of this next as his schoolmates plan a prank to utterly humiliate him. Flash Thompson has dressed up as Spidey in order to leap out and terrify Peter, a plan which a great gang of fellow students take enormous delight in. "Poor Peter! He'll never get over it!" says one of them, full of glee. Steve Ditko really sells the relish on the faces of the students here, in much the same way that he conveys Peters rage elsewhere. This fury at an unjust world permeates the whole issue, and comes as something of a shock after the rough and tumble excitement of Kirby.

Things go wrong for Flash just as he's about to carry out his mean scheme. Doctor Doom turns up, having tracked the real Spider-Man down using a "Spider Detector" - a device which is a) somehow related to the previous bit of "Spider Telepathy" and b) also never to be used again - and kidnaps Flash by mistake. He makes this error because Flash is only a couple of feet away from Peter, who trudges by on the other side of a fence, lost in his angry thoughts. Back at Aunt May's house there's more use of television screens as narrative devices (Steve Ditko pre-empting Frank Miller's use of the same technique in 'The Dark Knight Returns' by twenty years!) as Doom reveals his cunning plan to use Spider-Man as a hostage to force the accursed Fantastic Four to give up superheroing. Say what you like about Doctor Doom but he doesn't give up on a methodology just because it's failed multiple times before. Maybe the problem with the whole "kidnap someone in order to blackmail the Fantastic Four" scheme is just that he's never tried it with Spider-Man before?

While Peter's watching all this on the news, trying to work out what on earth's going on, he gets a call from one of his classmates telling him that it's Flash who's been captured. I'm not sure why they're ringing Peter, as it's not like he can do anything about it as far as they know, and he and Flash aren't exactly chums, but it does give rise to an alarming panel where he considers doing absolutely nothing to help. I can completely understand Peter's point of view here - Flash has made his life miserable, after all - but it's still a little disconcerting to see, especially when Ditko draws him like he's about to laucnh into a maniacal cackle, and it's yet more evidence of the way that Spider-man's personality was still in flux. He does decide to do the right thing in the end though, and sets off to track Doctor Doom down, at which point we get a remarkable caption which thanks the reader for sitting through what it describes as "the longest introduction you've ever read"! It's a lovely example of Stan Lee's supposed openness and honesty with the readers, pre-empting their complaints and folding them into the fun of Marvel. It's also true, as the action does shift up a gear at this point, with Spider-man breaking into Doom's latest headquarters and launnching into the issue's fight scene.

Another recurring theme in these early years of Doom and The Fantastic Four has been the nonsensical ways in which Johnny Storm's nebulous "flame powers" have been used, such as fusing water into solid forms, creating mirages, or constantly making solid devices out of fire. Something very similar happens here, with Spider-man apparently able to use his webs to create solid objects like shields and web-balls - it turns out that he got the idea from Johnny Storm! Other regular features of Doctor Doom appearances which crop up during the fight include Magnets! Electricity! and Robots! Some might say that this is Stan Lee recycling plot devices, but I like to think of it as coherent characterisation, with Doom having a standard set of fight moves he likes to use. As the battle goes on it turns out that Doom policy of re-using tactics was completely correct. These moves may have failed against the Fantastic Four, but when used against a single teenager with the powers of a spider, he actually manages to win! It's only the arrival of the Fantastic Four that save's Spider-Man's life, and leads to Doom repeating himself once again, by jumping out of a window to escape. The issue ends with Spider-man having to rush home, leaving Flash Thompson to meet the Fantastic Four who, in yet another example of the joyfully casual use of the shared Marvel Universe, only actually appear in a single panel. The issue finishes with a slightly alarming scene where the adult professional Betty Brant lusts inappropriately over the certifiably under-age Peter Parker, and then a rather nice gag about Flash Thompson showing off about his part in the defeat of Doctor Doom.

As well as being a thoroughly enjoyable story this issue is a great example in the way in which the shared world of Marvel comics was developing, and a clear sign that the characters were able to maintain their own personalities, and their own continuing stories, as they moved between publications. This was Doctor Doom's first trip into another series, but it would by no means be his last!

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posted 21/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Skrull Walks Among Us

This is yet another occasion in which Doom appears only briefly as part of the recap, this time on the first page as part of a TV broadcast which the Fantastic Four are watching. This is a lovely example of the "real world" of the Marvel Universe, with the four main characters just sitting around watching telly together. It's not something you'd expect to see in DC's comics of the time, for instance, and sets the tone for the whole first half of the issue, which features a lot of fun with a trip to Hawaii on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and some light shopping. While this is going on we also visit the Skrulls, returning for the first time since their debut way back in Fantastic Four #2. On that occasion they were defeated by Reed Richard's cunning use of pictures of MONSTERS, cut out from issues of 'Strange Tales' and 'Journey Into Mystery'. The Skrull leader has a much better plan this time. Rather than sending a bunch of dimboes who can't tell the difference between a photograph and a drawing, this time he's deploying a mighty warrior: The Super Skrull! The Super Skrull is pretty flipping cool, as we see when he lands on Earth and, much to the amazement of the New Yorkers around him, declares that he has conquered the entire planet all by himself. There then follows a series of fights in which the FF get thoroughly duffed up by someone who has all their powers and then some. The team retreat to the Baxter Building for the night to regroup, and it's here that Reed Richards uses his mighty brain to work out that the Super Skrull's powers are being beamed to him by a space ray! All he has to do is develop a Power Beaming Space Ray Jammer, get Sue to stick it onto the Super Skrull's neck, and voila! Problem solved! By the standards of the time this is a perfectly logical solution that is part of a lovely issue which really feels as if the series is getting into its stride. There's plenty of fun interaction between the main characters, exciting new ideas, and a finale which doesn't rely on coincidences or some new ludicrous use of Johnny's "flame power". More of this sort of thing please!

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posted 16/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Defeated by Doctor Doom

If ever a comic undersold itself it has to be this one. The "thrills" advertised on the cover feature "America's most colorful super-combo" being menaced by such exciting dangers as concrete! scaffolding! missing floorboards! wind! It's less a superhero thrillfest, more a public information film warning children about the dangers of building sites.

Once you get inside the comic, however, it's packed full of NUTTINESS and LUNACY. It starts off fairly calmly with the Fantastic Four saying goodbye to Ant Man, last month's guest star, in a neat example of the then-new idea of linking stories together from issue to issue, and indeed from title to title, all compounded by the Thing then relaxing with a copy of "Tales To Astonish" ... featuring Ant-Man! Newsstand distribution of comics at this time meant that there was no guarantee that all, or even most, of those picking up this issue would have read the previous one, so it was traditional to include a recap of previous events at the start of the current issue, usually as part of the story itself. Here Lee and Kirby create an entertaining variation by having Ben, Johnny and Sue telling the story-so-far between the three of them, featuring a lot of interplay and the group's trademark bickering. It's a nice illustration of characterisation as a key selling point for Marvel Comics, differentiating them from the interchangeable characters still being published by their competitors. Reed however has had enough of the bickering and tells Johnny and Ben to "clam up" and stop "trading love letters". They have work to do - Doctor Doom is still at large!

The team set off to inidividually search the city, which leads to a generous helping of hi-jinks. Ben falls down a manhole and then attacks a man advertising a play set in medieval times, while Sue wrecks havoc when she sees a man demonstrating a toy gun and thinks (understandably) that it's real. Neither this, nor Reed's science or Johnny's heat based sonar system (yet another example of the deranged "science" applied to the Torch's powers) get any results, so they decide to call it a day and head out to their various evening engagements.

As they're leaving they see a big crowd waiting for them in the entrance lobby, but luckily one of the janitors is able to take them out via the service elevator. Once they've gone, however, he removes his disguise and we see that it was Doctor Doom all along, working a new scheme which involves putting tracking devices on their hands!

This is where things start to get particularly nutty, as Doom releases lighter than air robots (no, shut up, that's a thing) to follow each of the four and, basically, mess up their social lives. Johnny is the first victim, as his date is upset to find them being followed around by a goonishly grinning floating zombie. Ben is similarly embarrassed, Sue has a fashion shoot ruined by her own polka dot creature, and Reed loses his chance at an honourary degree because the stuffy old scientists think he's taking the mickey out of them with his own floating goon. The four regroup and Reed works out that it's something to do with Dr Doom, who's watching them via cameras in the floating robots. Doom then dissolves the weird creatures and declares an end to this part of his plan. Doom says that he just wanted to wind them up, but he's surely selling himself short here, as the floating robots were an excellent way of gathering intelligence on his enemies' weaknesses. Indeed, he uses this gathered information to develop a revolutionary new scheme - instead of kidnapping Sue, he's going to kidnap Alicia instead!

Doom gets a great moment of self-examination here, musing on the fact that, although he is the equal (not the better, as he would always insist in later years) of Reed Richards intellectually, his one flaw is that he doesn't understand human beings. He goes on to bemoan his status as a "dark wraith" with a deformed face, unable to ever find love and companionship. As many people, including me, have said before, the practice of giving their heroes real human motivations and their own flaws and quirks rather than just being "Good" or "Evil" is what set Marvel apart from DC and other publishers of the time. It had worked with the heroes, and here Lee and Kirby apply it to a villain too. This is shown most clearly in the image of a pained Doom unable to look at himself in the mirror, but still drawn towards it. He's still a villain doing villainous things for the sake of revenge, but you do feel some sympathy for him, rather than just waiting for the good guys to beat him up.

Doom carries out his brilliant new plan of kidnapping Alicia and then warns the Fantastic Four not to interfere with the next stage of his scheme, lest he unleash a series of psychedelic horrors on New York. He has a good laugh about it to himself, and then prepares the next part of his cunning scheme - to blackmail President Kennery into making him a member of the cabinet! Where to start with this section? It's just three panels but it's SO full of STUFF. First of all there's Doom's laughter, echoing his gleeful enjoyment of his own plan back in issue 10. Kirby draws him in exactly the same pose, reinforcing the characterisation of Doom as someone who enjoys his work, and enjoys enjoying it!

The rest of the sequence deals with what he sees as the nobility of his actions. He could have money if he wanted, easy peasy, but he requires something higher, more laudable - power! And he's going to do that by ... joining the advisory body of the government's executive branch. I can't be the only person who doesn't flash forward here to Austin Power's Dr Evil and his demand for "a million dollars"?

Another revolutionary aspect of "Marvel Age" storytelling was its engagement with the modern world, which we see here in a lovely sequence where John F Kennedy's hair discusses the problem posed by Doom's demands. There's also an interesting look at how this affects world affairs. Doom demonstrates his power by wrecking electronic gadgets all over America, which causes much delight among Russian generals, who are then upbraided by Krushchev himself. If Marvel came make their main villain into a sympathetic character then they can also make a case for the leader of America's greatest enemmies being a sensible human being. This also reflects a gradual change of attitude in the 1960s towards "the commies", as Krushchev began a gradual policy of change in the Soviet Union, leading to rapproachment in the next decade.

The US government come to the Fantastic Four for help, and Reed reveals that he's been busy working out what's going on. He's discovered Doom's hidden airship, and realised that the Grinning Floaters had actually been used to transmit printed circuits of the Fantastic Four's atomic and molecular structure! It wasn't just a wind-up after all!

He works all night long and develops a solution which can change him back to a human being but only temporarily. This section, by the way, is a cracking read - both men know that they have no idea how long the effect will last, which means that if he changes back too soon he'll be killed by the circuit, but they're prepared to take the risk. Thus Ben is transformed and then shot off to penetrate Doom's defenses in... er... a giant flyng sperm. Taken out of context these two images could be telling a very different sort of story, but let us rise above that and enjoy this deliciously tense sequence, with Ben beginning to change back at precisely the wrong moment, managing to maintain his human form for just a few more seconds using sheer force of will. It's a forerunner of the classic scene from Amazing Spider-Man #33, with Peter Parker trapped beneath a giant piece of machinery and only able to extract himself through willpower. This version's a lot quicker, because there's a whole lot of other stuff going on!

Ben destroys the disintegrator circuit that was preventing them all from boarding the ship, allowing his team mates to join him. It's only here, three quarters of the way through the issue, that we get to the building site perils mentioned on the cover, as the three male members of the team are disabled by specially designed traps set just for them. Doom then uses Power Spheres to transport them all into another dimension (why has he never used these before? They sound amazing!) but his victory celebrations are short lived - it turns out that he has only defeated some "flame images", not the real Fantastic Four. I must admit I'm getting a bit fed up with Johnny Storm's ever-expanding arsenal of ludicrous flame-based powers. How is a "flame image" a thing? It's at times like this that I want Doom to win.

With the plan going awry Doom hurries off to collect his hostage, Alicia, but unfortunately Sue has beaten him to it. There's a great couple of panels here where we see Sue coming in to find Alicia distraught, then a few panels later the exact same view, with Doom creeping up on a disguised Sue. It's lovely! Sue then fights Doom on her own, using her powers, her brain, and judo! It's great to see her fight him to a standstill, continuing the gradual change in her character from terrified hostage-in-waiting to effective team member, although she does still need the men to turn up to save her from Doom's "ultra heat beam".

As soon as they're all together Doom realises that, once again, the jig is up, and decides that running away is by far the better part of valour. This is now a core part of Doom's character, that he will always recognise when he's beaten and decide to flee to fight again another day. If he can do this in a manner which persuades his enemies that he's actually dead, then all the better. That's exactly what happens here as, rather than be captured, he chucks himself out of the airship. The Fantastic Four don't have time to worry about him, as they're busy reuniting with each other, but we will later discover that's fallen a very long way indeed - into an entirely different comic altogether!

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posted 14/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Micro World Of Doctor Doom

You get a sense of Doctor Doom's pulling power before you even open this comic, with a cover showing him towering over the Fantastic Four and a headline stating that it features "The Return Of Doctor Doom". Clearly putting "The Return Of Doctor Doom" on the cover had worked so well the last time they did it that they decided to try it again!

The story inside is called "The Micro World Of Doctor Doom", which is a distinctly less thrilling headline. It begins with Johnny Storm returning to the Baxter Building to find all three of his colleagues "reduced to the size of toys". He saves them from being killed by the Air Conditioning (not an auspicious end to a superhero career) by melting it, after which they all return to full size and, rather sheepishly, all admit that this is not the first time they've shrunken recently. There's some delightfully non-heroic body language here, as it turns out that they were all too embarrassed to admit to having been shrunk in case the others thought they were making it up. This nervousness is despite the fact that something extremely similar happened to all of them about six months ago, when they last met Doctor Doom. The idea that this might have something to do with him doesn't seem to occur to anyone, not even to Mr Fantastic, allegedly the biggest brain on earth. I personally worked it out right away, but then I did see that he was returning on the cover so maybe that was a clue. Or maybe I'm just cleverer than Reed Richards?

There follows several pages of each of them telling their own stories of shrinkage in a jolly sequence that, as Ben says, "sounds like we're playing 'Can You Top This?'". Unable to work out what is causing the shrinking they decide to call in Ant Man, recent star of "Tales To Astonish". This is an early example of Stan Lee knitting together the Marvel Universe as a cohesive fictional storyworld. Whereas other superhero series, existing in their own isolated worlds, would have had to invent a Professor Of Shrinking to explain what's going on, the Fantastic Four are able to call on a pre-existing Shrinking Expert from another comic who happens to live in the same city. This little piece of cross-title interaction happens so casually and quickly that it's easy to forget how revolutionary it was at the time.

Ant Man flies over on a couple of flying ants and lends the team his amazing shrinking/growing potion, which requires one drop to make you smaller, and another to make you tall. This has a very Alice In Wonderland kind of vibe (several years before Jefferson Airplane had a hit with "White Rabbit") but I think that, in this case, it may not be an intentional reference, if only because when it is attended a character will usually draw attention to it! Even though the Fantastic Four have a lot on their plate at the moment, what with the unfathomable attacks from a mysterious unknown nemesis who hates them and uses shrinking rays, Reed Richards still has time to pursue other projects. The next day he pops round to give Ben another potion which, temporarily, turns him back into his human form. Unfortunately for Alicia, Ben was holding up her piano with one hand at the time, so drops it as soon as he's no longer the Thing. know science is exciting, but surely even in the 1960s they had some sort of health and safety awareness to stop this sort of accident happening? Sue and Johnny are also going about their everyday business - Johnny showing off to school friends, Sue testing out perfumes to see if they disguise her from dogs (that's her story anyway, I think she just wanted an excuse to fill the lab with adorable dogs). Suddenly they all hear a voice telling them to beware of Doctor Doom, which finally - FINALLY - leads them to suspect that he might still be alive (like he has been every other time they thought he was dead) and behind their recent attacks. They immediately take the shrinking potion and shrink down into another universe - the Micro-World of Doctor Doom! It's taken over half of the issue for the cover star to make an appearance - who said decompressed storytelling was something new? Doom is very Doom-like right from the off, relaxing in a throne, using local people to do his work for him, and eager to fill his enemies in on what he's been up to since they last saw them. He too shrank down to this other universe and found a people living a peaceful, happy life, which of course made him FURIOUS! We're still over a year away from learning Doom's full origin, but his adventures in the Micro World are very similar to what we will learn of his history in Latveria. Here, as there, he uses his scientific skills to fool an easily impressed aristocracy. Gradually he takes over a quasi-medieval society, gaining the trust of the locals to help him build his devices, and then takes power for himself. "Conning the masses" is pretty much Doom's main superpower, and he must be really good at it. If someone in a grey metal skull mask calling himself "Doctor Doom" turned up and said he was here to help, you'd think people would see through him. But then again, in the world of Trump, who are we to judge the innocent denizens of the Micro World?

After the usual capture of Sue, followed by everybody being dosed with sleeping gas, the Fantastic Four find themselves imprisoned in a cell inside a lake of acid, along with the King of the Micro World and his daughter, Princess Pearla. Pearla explains that Doom has summoned the Lizard Men of Tok to come and discuss an alliance, and they're arriving any minute! I love the Lizard Men of Tok, mostly because of their name, but also because of their brilliantly weird-looking spaceship. Pearla then describes, with slightly more gusto than perhaps necessary, the iniquities that will befall her fellow prisoners, with Reed being used as a bridge, Ben as a miner, Johnny as a flame thrower and Sue as... a scullery maid? I'm sure being invisible would be handy for spying, but the Lizard Men Of Tok clearly require a cook more than they do tactical intelligence. Still, is it me or is this a great look for Sue? Not the drudgery, but the hairdo: Maybe it's the fed-up expression, but I reckon she looks like a supermodel. In a nice change from Sue's usual passiveness, this time she's the one who has the brilliant idea of tearing down parts of the acid-proof wall cladding to make an escape pod, and it's Sue who then rescues Ant Man, who came to help but got himself instantly captured by Doom's men.

The rest of the Fantastic Four race to head off the incoming Lizard Men of Tok, which The Thing does rather elegantly by picking up a control tower and using it as a baseball bat to whack them back into space. It's a great visual, but I must admit to being a bit sad that we never got to meet them. Come back soon, Lizard Men of Tok!

Back in the throne room it all kicks off, with Sue stealing Doom's gun and Ant Man duffing up the army. Doom knows the jig is up, so runs away, using his own shrinking/growing device to boost himself up to our universe once again. All that's left is for Johnny to say goodbye to Pearla, who wanted him to stay, and then to head off to the next issue, where Doom will be waiting!

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posted 7/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Patriarchal Four

This is another brief Doom cameo, with him appearing only once in Fantastic Four #14 on The Puppet Master's mental list of all the Fantastic Four's enemies. The rest of the story is not what anyone would call a classic, not least because of the eye-watering sexism that goes on throughout. It begins with the team returning to base, knackered from their previous adventure. Once they get in the men sit down to relax while Sue goes off to do some cleaning. "That's fine, as long as you do it in silence", says Reed. That's nice isn't it? Reed continues to be a complete git throughout the story. For instance, shortly after this incident he writes up some of his scientific thoughts and then hands his notes over to Sue to type up for him, because clearly this is woman's work. Reed isn't the only misogynist in this story, with Ben later complimenting Alicia on being the only woman he knows who is able to keep quiet. This is all while they're on a mission to save Sue, who has been taken hostage yet again as a consequence of her darned female weakness for the near naked body of the Submariner. It is, to be honest, a bit alarming. I know this was all published over fifty years ago, but the extent of the misogyny throughout the issue is still quite surprising.

The plotting is completely all over the place too, though at least there's some humour about it. For instance, when The Thing sees Sue guarded by a Giant Octopus he remarks that he wouldn't have believed it if he'd read it in a magazine - a technique that I believe the critics call "lampshading", where attention is intentionally drawn to an implausible plot point, in the highlighting it will excuse it. Another example is the Puppet Master's cunning scheme, which is to use mind control to force the Submariner to destroy the Fantastic Four for him. The reader would surely be thinking "Why doesn't he just mind control them and get them to kill themselves?" and the Puppet Master answers this question halfway through, almost as if Stan Lee suddenly realised that there was a gaping hole in his plot. There's also a lovely scene where The Thing goes to park the Fantasticar and gets stung by a parking attendant who doubles the ticket price because he can see he's in a hurry. It's a great example of Lee and Kirby's innovation in setting fantastical events in very real world settings. Unfortunately none of this humour makes you forget quite how unpleasant some of the gender politics is in this story, so let's hope there's less of it when we regroup for the next blog which features the second (but definitely not last) Return Of Doctor Doom!

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posted 5/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Johnny Storm The Human Idiot

When I set out on this pulse-pounding project I combined several different comics databases in order to select a "corpus" of comics which, in theory, featured Doctor Doom. I say "in theory" because the different ways these databases list character appearances, and the different people who do it, means that several comics got into my list where Doctor Doom doesn't actually appear in the story itself.

An excellent example of this is The Incredible Hulk #2 which doesn't feature Doctor Doom at all, except for an advert promoting Fantastic Four #5. Interestingly (for a certain value of "interesting"), in this advert his mask is coloured correctly, rather than the green version that appeared on the actual cover. There are other occasions when he does appear in the story but only in passing, such as when another character mentions him, or he pops up in a flashback. As discussed previously I'm going to keep these stories in the final corpus because they count towards Doom's presence in the Marvel Universe as a whole, but I'm not intending to devote any of the main weekly blogs to them as there won't be much to say, Doom-wise.

"Doom-wise" is a great phrase which I hope to be using constantly during the lifetime of this blog, by the way.

I do however plan to talk about them a bit, starting with the very first Doom cameo in a rather wonderful story called "The Threat Of The Torrid Twosome" in Strange Tales #106.

This one appears in the databases because Doctor Doom appears briefly in a single panel (making Dick Ayers the first person apart from Kirby to draw Doom), as the Human Torch thinks back on some of the times when he, the Torch, has been completely brilliant, and definitely the best member of the Fantastic Four. This sets out the theme for the entire story: Johnny Storm is a total idiot. Having said that, his daftness is portrayed in a surprisingly endearing way, like an adult looking back on what it was really like to be a teenager. Teenagers in comic books, in all media in fact, are often shown as wise, pure, questioning and unfettered by the petty concerns of dreary adult life, which is a lovely thing to think if you actually are a teenager, but of course completely unrealistic. I am sure there are teenagers who aren't self-obsessed idiots, but I have certainly never met any, even (especially) when I was one myself. When I think back to the decisions I made at that age my overriding thought is always "Why on earth did I do that?" and the answer is always "Because I was an idiot." Great idiotic acts in this issue include working hard to protect a non-existent secret identity (he thinks that nobody will associate him, Johnny Storm, with the world famous Johnny Storm who looks exactly like him and also has a sister called Sue) and joining a brand new team called "The Torrid Twosome". Clearly Johnny doesn't know what the word "Torrid" means, but can't be bothered to get a dictionary because he is, as stated above, an idiot. Beautifully, Stan Lee highlights this idiocy throughout, with other characters referring to it constantly. Local children laugh at Johnny behind his back because of his supposed secret identity, Sue Storm gives up trying to persuade him out of his stupid plans for The Torrid Twosome and tells him to just get on with it, and The Acrobat, the story's supposed villain, laughs constantly at what a pillock Johnny is and how easy it's been to trick him into opening a bank vault for him. Eventually the day is saved by The Fantastic Four who, like my mum secretly following me on my paper round to make sure I'm all right, have followed at a safe distance to check that he's okay. The main difference between me and Johnny is that I didn't get shot by a Frenchman while delivering The Peterborough Advertiser, which demonstrates once and for all that my mum is better than 75% of The Fantastic Four. The issue concludes with Johnny trying to make out that he new The Acrobat was a wrong'un all along, and he was carrying out a cunning plan to catch him. The rest of the Fantastic Four are all very nice about it, but it's absolutely clear that they don't believe a word he's saying. It's a not a particularly thrilling superhero story, but it is a surprisingly touching depiction of a teenager from someone who's long stopped being one, and well worth a read.

The next comic we'll be looking at is another cameo, this time in a story which defies logic and, indeed, good manners. It'll be up on the blog on Monday, but in the meantime any thoughts on this, or any other issues so far, would be most appreciated in the comments!

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posted 2/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Return Of Doctor Doom

It says on the cover of this issue that "our fans oughta flip over this yarn" and that is no exaggeration, because not only does "surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story" but it also questions the very nature of reality itself!

The story kicks off with The Thing causing a mad panic amongst his colleagues by summoning them to his girlfriend Alicia's apartment using the Emergency Signal Flare. When they finally get there, having caused chaos all over the city in their hurry, they're a bit miffed to find that he just wanted them to pop round and see Alicia's latest artwork. One can understand their annoyance - they do have access to telephones, as we'll note later - but they are mollified by the display of miniature statuettes, which serve as both a round-up of all their baddies so far and also an eerie prediction of what it will be like in Forbidden Planet in the twenty first century. Meanwhile, over at "the studio of Kirby and Lee" we find Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in conversation, trying to devise a new villain for the Fantastic Four comic. While it's exciting to, as promised, "actually meet Lee and Kirby", it's also distressingly problematic. How does any of this make sense? Are Lee and Kirby godlike beings dictating events around them? If not, do they just make up the stories? Later on Reed Richards will talk about having agreed the next plot with Lee and Kirby, so does that mean the characters are real but all the events are made up? Is that why The Thing complains that they're making him look uglier than he is? It's all made even stranger when Stan Lee complains about Doctor Doom being shot into space so that they can't use him in stories anymore. If Doom is real, and was really shot into space, then surely that infers that they're just documenting the stories as they happen, but then what's Jack doing inventing new characters? The only logical, sensible explanation is that Stan and Jack are basically GOD, creating the universe around them. This makes perfect sense, and is even (sort of) acknowledged many years later in Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo's run on "The Fantastic Four" when the team go to heaven and meet their creator. All of these philosophical questions are set aside when Doctor Doom enters the studio to involve Lee and Kirby in his latest cunning scheme. He is recognisably the same character from previous occasions but now he seems even more tortured, at one point taking his mask off in front of Lee and Kirby, as he feels it is "strangling" him. He forces them to ring Reed Richards (presumably because Lee and Kirby don't have an Emergency Flare) and call him in for a story conference, showing that Doom is aware of whatever arrangement exists between Marvel and the superhero team. When Richards arrives Doom uses a gas gun to knock him out and then kidnap him, which makes a nice change from it being Sue who gets captured all the time. Doom takes Richards back to his base and then explains how he managed to escape the eternity of space into which he fell the last time we saw him. It was ALIENS! The Aliens in question are the Ovoids, a bunch of effete Space Wallies who happened to pick Doom up seconds before his oxygen supply expired. They are so civilised and trusting that they allow Doctor Doom to learn the secrets of their technology before dropping him off home again. One of these secrets is the ability to swap bodies, which he uses on Reed Richards. There's some great art and writing here, as the body-swapped characters still act and talk in their original personas, with Doom's facial expressions remaining in Reed's body, and the Reed trapped within Doom's armour no longer strutting around so arrogantly. Interestingly, although Doom's speech is recognisably distinct from Reed's he does occasionally use somewhat "hep" turns of phrase, like "All right sister" and "You're whistling in the dark Mister" The idea that Doom comes from Eastern Europe won't be introduced for over a year yet, so it could be that Stan Lee is still writing him with an American accent.

The rest of the Fantastic Four arrive and ignore attempts by Reed-in-Doom's-Body to explain what's happening, instead getting over-excited with ideas about how to imprison him. Johnny comes up with a whole bunch of endearingly potty ideas which are very much in keeping with his character, including a blazing cell he can recharge once a week. Even at this early stage the characters all have distinct, enjoyable, personalities, which was a huge reason behind their growing popularity in a comics market where superheroes tended to be straightforward Good Guys.

Doom-in-Reed's-Body suggests that they use a chamber which he says - quite accurately - Doctor Doom had prepared to hold The Fantastic Four! So far it's all been quite a sensible plan, but it suddenly goes awry in the next chapter when we meet.. a whole bunch of shrunken animals. Doom has been using these as a test for the next stage of his plan, which is something to do with shrinking bodies but leaving brains and powers the same size so that, when the bodies are returned to their normal size, the powers then increase with it. This makes no sense whatsoever, but it does allow Jack Kirby to draw SPACE DINOSAURS! I flipping LOVE Space Dinosaurs - so much so that a few years ago I wrote and released a FULL CAST ROCK OPERA about them - but this is a deadly serious academical blog so we must not allow such things to distract us (though you can find out more here if you like). Back in the story Doom continues to explain his ludicrous scheme, telling the three superheroes that this project will allow Johnny to fly faster, Sue to turn different parts of herself invisible (which she's been shown to be able to do on several occasions already) and Ben to change back to human form at will.

On first reading this comic I was enraged by how stupid the whole scheme is, but then had to chastise myself because, it turns out, Doom himself knows how daft it all is and is thoroughly enjoying tricking Ben, Sue and Johnny with something so idiotic. There's something in this panel that reminds me of a leading British politician. I can't think who though - he's guffawing about conning a whole bunch of people into doing something utterly stupid, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Anyway, while this is going on Actual Reed escapes and goes round to see Alicia. Unfortunately for him Sue has also gone round to tell her about potential benefits of Brexit... sorry, I mean the Shrinking Super Powers Machine that definitely works, so is able to clonk "Doom" round the head with a vase. However, the blind Alicia, unbiased by how Reed now looks is able to sense "an aura of goodness about him... of nobility." Sue tells her not to be stupid, then Johnny and Ben pile in to duff "Doom" up. However, this time they too sense something different about him (so Sue, Reed's lover, is the only one who can't tell him apart from their worst enemy...) and decide to take him back to the Baxter Building to see what "Reed" thinks. This means that Actual Doom is forced to move the con forward, trying to persuade them into the shrinking machine with some haste. Actual Reed tries to stop them and the others realise that he is sounding and acting like their leader, so Johnny tries a cunning plan of his own: he creates a "heat mirage" of a dynamite stick from a handy nearby building site. Despite making no sense whatsoever this works brilliantly, with Actual Reed throwing himself onto the dynamite stick to save the others while Doom tries to save himself. In the ensuing melee Doom loses his mental concentration and is returned to his own body again. All that remains is for a bit more scuffling, during which the shrinking ray gets accidentally switched on so that Doom gets zapped and shrunken out of existence. Once again, the climax of the story feels incredibly rushed and based on an accident, but then that's not really what it's all been about. This has been a character piece from start to finish, examining who these people are and how they relate to each other and, despite the space dinosaurs, dynamite mirages, accidents and "senses", it ends up as a triumph.

With Doom definitely completely dead* I guess it'll all be just memories and mentions of him from now on. Find out for yourself, true believer, in our next thrilling episode!

(SPOILERS: he isn't)

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posted 31/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Captives of the Deadly Duo

After his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5 Doctor Doom returned in the very next issue, teaming up with The Submariner, who had been the villain in issue #4.

Like all of the Fantastic Four's most successful supervillains of this era, Namor The Submariner has a tragic backstory which informs his villainy. He isn't evil at heart, he has his own logical justification for doing what he does. In his case, he decides to take vengeance on the human race after discovering that his homeland of Atlantis has been destroyed by atomic tests. Fair enough really.

The first four and a half pages of this story are taken up with the characters going about their daily business (including answering fan-mail), bickering with and worrying about each other. It's often said that this concentration on character was what set Marvel apart from its competitors at the time, and that's clearly the case here. The Fantastic Four definitely do not get on like chums all the time and the basic principles of their characters are already in place, especially for the frustrated, angry Ben and the pompous Reed.

While this is going on a pleasure boat out at sea spots a school of porpoises frolicking through the waves. On closer examination they realise that there's a human swimming amongst them - this is Namor, chillaxing between attempts at world domination. When his fun is disturbed by a flying vessel buzzing the school Namor leaps out of the sea and jumps onto its wing, demanding to know who'd ruining his leisure time. It turns out that the pilot is none other than Doctor Doom, getting Namor's attention in order to propose an alliance. Clearly since last time we saw him he found that "hidden site" he was off to. Note that once again he's talking about combining science and sorcery - this, as the modern young people might say, is his "jam".

They head back to Namor's home in the ruins of Atlantis to discuss teaming up, and Doom is surprised to find out just how chillaxed Namor really is. Doom needs the Submariner ready to fight, so he taunts him repeatedly until he's angry enough to agree to a team-up. Jack Kirby draws this brilliantly: Psychological manipulation is another of Doom's core strengths, using it to get other people to do his dirty work for him and, as we shall see, it's all part of another cunning scheme.

It's worth noting that Doom's costume has changed slightly since the last issue, looking less medieval and almost exactly how it will remain for most of the next fifty years. The only big difference is that he has a single clasp holding his cloak together at the front, rather than the two large golden discs and chain of his classic look, but otherwise his design is already fully formed.

Back at Fantastic Four headquarters Johnny Storm finds a picture of Namor hidden amongst his big sister Sue's things. Like any annoying little brother he takes great pleasure in teasing her about it, at which point Namor himself appears, having flown in through the window. He claims to be on a mission of peace, and Sue stands up for him by pressing herself very closely indeed against his naked chest. Where are you putting your hands, Sue?

Reed suspects that this is a trap, and he's right, of course, as another of Doctor Doom's amazing science gizmos lifts the entire building off the ground and into space with them all inside it. This is an incredible piece of artwork, it makes me feel vertigo just looking at it! Doctor Doom is double cunning here, as the trap for the Fantastic Four is also a trap for Namor - he has identified these five people as the only ones who can stop him in his quest for world domination, and now they're all out of the way at once! Eventually, after quite a lot of arguing, the Fantastic Four and Namor are able to work together, with Namor leaping through space from meteor to meteor to get to Doom where he uses the power of an electrical eel (which apparently he also possesses) to electrocute him and send him tumbling into space, where he is apparently lost for eternity. Spoilers: he isn't.

Two other quick things to note about this story. Firstly, the actual plot doesn't take very long, with the solution to the problem of Doom's kidnap attempt being wrapped up pretty simply in the last couple of pages. What matters is not the "puzzle" set by the villain, as would have been the case in other superhero comics of the time, but the interpersonal relationships of the characters. Secondly, this isn't really a story about the Fantastic Four at all, it's actually about the different approaches of Namor and Doom. To use classical storytelling vocabulary, Namor is the Protagonist who is met with a challenge, is tempted by the dark side, and renounces it, to return home changed, whereas Doctor Doom is the Antagonist, the evil reflection of the Protagonist who tempts him and must be rejected. It's their conflict that plays out here, demonstrating once again how important supervillains are in these stories, and why, once you've got a good one, you need to keep bringing them back!

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posted 24/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Prisoners of Doctor Doom

Superhero stories are different from other stories. In the conventional, Western, three-act structure story the protagonist, or hero, is somebody who causes change, who leaves home, has adventures, and comes back different. In a superhero story, as Richard Reynolds and others have pointed out, change comes from the outside and the hero's job is the status quo. No less a person than Umberto Eco identified superhero comics as an "iterative scheme", where a similar story keeps on happening, outside of normal time, with everything set back at the end of an instalment to how it was at the start.

I hate to disagree with Umberto Eco, what with his gigantic brain and all, but I do think he could have read a few more comics before coming to that conclusion. True, there are plenty of resets, reboots and returns to how things were (look at the constant churn of Captain America, for instance, as different characters take over the role before always returning to Steve Rogers) but there is a very gradual development over time and a knowledge, in the fans and writers if not necessarily the characters, of all that has gone before.

Still, Umberto's got a point - superheroes do tend to react to trouble, and generally need somebody else to come into the story to shake things up, and these somebody elses are known as "supervillains". As Stan Lee says, "if not for the villains the good guys would either have to apply for welfare or be reduced to battling each other" . In recent times this is pretty much what has happened, with Civil Wars and all sorts, but right back at the start of The Marvel Age there weren't really any other superheroes for the Fantastic Four to fight, so Lee and Kirby had to come up with some interesting villains.

They did pretty well, creating The Mole Man in the first issue of The Fantastic Four, the Skrulls in the next, and reviving Namor The Submariner in the fourth. All right, they also came up with the entirely rubbish Miracle Man in issue three, but a 75% hit rate of classics isn't bad, and they raised this to 80% (MATHS) in their fifth when they came up with Doctor Doom. Doctor Doom is probably the greatest supervillain of them all. I know I would say that, as I'm writing a blog about him and also doing a PhD, but he's been a fan-favourite right since his first appearance and, as we'll see as this blog goes along, has continued to appear all over the Marvel Universe ever since, in comics and all their other transmedia outlets. I personally first encountered him in Peterborough WH Smiths back in the early 1980s, when he was right on the front page of this mighty tome:

This amazing book contained reprints of the first six issues of The Fantastic Four and, as you can see from both covers, it got read a lot! Doctor Doom's on the front cover too - he's clearly the big draw as far as villains go, and in the first issue he appears very nearly fully formed as the character we know today. In the original run of comics it would take a couple of years for his full origin to be revealed, in Fantastic Four Annual #2, although we do get an abbreviated version in this issue. Here we've already got the idea that he uses a deadly mixture of science and sorcery - he's even got a book labelled "Science And Sorcery" in the very first panel! We also get a glimpse of his personal rivalry with Reed Richards, as his plan to capture the Fantastic Four depends on him knowing that Mr Fantastic will be unable to resist a battle of wills. Doom's actual plan is (as they usually turn out to be) a bit nuts. He's built a time machine, but has not managed to devise a remote control or timer for it, so he needs to send somebody else back in time to carry out his errands for him. To this end he kidnaps the Fantastic Four and demands that the three men head back to the time of Blackbeard to find Merlin's Treasure, while he keeps the Invisible Girl hostage. Sue Storm gets taken hostage quite a lot in these early issues, though she does also tend to get away and, as we'll see in later issues, is often the one who ends up saving everybody else.

Here though the entire Fantastic Four are kept at bay by a tiger. In their very first issue they managed to fight a gigantic monster, but for some reason a big cat is enough to hold them in place on Doom's time machine, which he activates, sending them into history. When they arrive back in Ye Olden Times there's a lot of fun with them finding some clothes and then... well, then they go to the pub where they get mickey finned and end up shanghaied onto a pirate ship. I love this image - it looks, to me, like a storybook illustration rather than the Jack Kirby of thrusting limbs, forced perspective and dynamic action that I associate with his later Marvel work.

Anyway, what with one thing and another Reed, Ben and Johnny have a big fight with the pirates who've captured them and then get involved with fighting a whole other bunch of pirates. Doom has told them that they've got to capture Blackbeard's Treasure Chest so they think maye it's Blackbeard who's attacking them. However! In a very cunning bit of time travel storytelling, it turns out that Blackbeard has been amongst them all along! I distinctly remember having my tiny mind blown by this panel when I first read it. I love the fact that The Thing wants to stay in this time and be the famous Blackbeard - as he rightly says, there's nothing for him as a monster in his own time, so why shouldn't he stay in the past and be a hero?

Unfortunately for Ben, but fortunately for the next fifty years of comics, there's a storm which casts the three of them onto a desert island, just in time for Doctor Doom's time machine to find them and bring them back to the present day. Here they hand over the treasure chest to Doctor Doom, who reveals that the treasure within will give him power to take over the world. Luckily for the world, Reed Richards used his famous brain to dupe Doom, giving him the treasure chest he'd asked for but not the treasure within, which he'd cleverly dumped in the sea back in the past. Clever Reed! Um. Yes. Good point Johnny. Doctor Doom is understandably annoyed by Reed's pedantic lawyery and decides to have them all killed to death by suffocation. The Thing reacts angrily to this and discovers that... ... Doctor Doom is actually a robot! The real Doctor Doom is in a different room, watching them on a monitor screen. This is some classic Doctor Doom action, right here in his first appearance. He'll go on to use Doombots (as they get called) all the time, for fighting fights that are too dangerous for him to undertake in person, or for fulfilling tasks that he considers beneath him. For some reason though he doesn't seem to be able to use them to go back in time to carry out missions or operate time machines.

The three male members of the Fantastic Four find themselves trapped inside a reinforced airtight room from which they cannot escape, and it's up to Sue Storm to escape and liberate them all. They flee the castle, with the Human Torch using some powerful "science" to help them get across a moat full of crocodiles. I'm pretty sure that that's not how anything works? As we shall see as we go along, Stan and Jack have a rather shaky understand of what you can do with fire and heat, leading to the Human Torch using flame for some bizarre purposes in the first few years of his existence. One thing fire definitely can do, however, is to burn things, and that's precisely what happens to Doctor Doom's castle. In credit to him, he makes the best of a bad deal by acknowledging that this will keep his secrets from the world, and then flying away using his jet pack, setting off to find "a new hidden site where I can plan for my conquest of earth!!" This is all well and good, but what happened to that Tiger? Did it manage to escape? And what about the crocodiles? This was none of their faults!

And on that note of animal cruelty Doctor Doom's first appearance ends. The Fantastic Four wonder where he's gone, but they only have a couple of months to wait. We, on the other hand, will be getting to his next appearance in just a week!

In the meantime, I'd be very interested in anyone else's thoughts about this issue, not just because I'll be nicking... sorry, sourcing critical consensus for the purposes of my PhD, but also because I reckon it'll be interesting - if you have anything to say, please use the comments!

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posted 17/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Selecting The Comics

Once I'd worked out my inclusion criteria for this project the next step was to get myself a list of all the comics I needed to read. The simplest way would be to read through everything Marvel published during the 26 years I've set my sights on, and make a note of every time Doctor Doom pops up. I'm sure this would be fun, but it would also probably increase the length of this PhD by a couple of decades. Luckily for me, several groups have already catalogued these comics and made the results of their research publicly available.

The first I looked at was The Marvel Chronology Project, which attempts to place every story from Marvel comics into in-universe chronological order. For example, it lists Ed Brubaker's 'Books Of Doom' (published in 2007) as Doctor Doom's first chronological appearance, interspersed with flashback sections from other stories such as 'Fantastic Four Annual' #2 from 1964 and 'Marvel Superheroes' #20 from 1969, together telling the story of his early life and how he came to conquer Latveria.

Unfortunately for me The Marvel Chronology Project doesn't allow direct querying of its data - questions can be emailed to the moderators, and snapshots of the dataset are available on the site, but they cannot queried for more information or downloaded. It has been used by other research projects looking at the social network of the Marvel Universe but the lack of accessibility to the main dataset, and the absence of open data about publication dates, severely limited its usefulness for me.

I looked at four other databases, all of which allowed direct access to their databases in various ways, and also allowed users to suggest updates to the moderators. This "peer review" of the data makes it, theoretically, more reliable than a site set up by one enthusiast, but it is still possible for different biases to arise between communities. For instance, conventions might develop differently as to whether background glimpses of characters should be included as full appearances, or on whether to categorise alternate universe versions as the same character.

The oldest of these databases was The Grand Comics Database, which was set up in 1994 as a successor the paper-based Amateur Press Alliance for Indexing. The Grand Comics Database allows users to download their entire database as a .SQL file, meaning that it can then be uploaded to a server and queried independently by users.

The other available databases allow querying via API, a method of passing simple queries to the online database and receiving datasets in a format which can then be used to display customised information. One such is The Comic Book Database, a site dedicated to cataloguing "every comic book, graphic novel, manga, illustrator, publisher, writer, and character Ö ever." It claims to be " the largest database of its kind", while its competitor Comic Vine calls itself "the largest comic database online". Comic Vine, first established in 2006, requires registration to allow queries and edits, and its customisable data outputs are formatted in a way that makes it more difficult to scrape data. I've never really got to grips with using API, so data scraping was the main way I extracted data from Comic Vine, The Comic Book Database and The Marvel Database - another online system similar to the others. I have, however, got decades of experience using SQL, and was able to download the Grand Comic Database onto my own server SQL file and search the full range of information it contained.

Thus my eventual strategy for creating a timeline was to use the Grand Comics Database data as the base of my investigations, which I could then check against the less rich datasets scraped from The Comic Book Database, Marvel Database and (to a much lesser extent) Marvel Chronology Project, with Comic Vine used as a tool for checking individual cases. In this way I hoped to sidestep any biases inherent in using the results from any single community while also ensuring that I was uncovering the widest possible list of Doctor Doom appearances.

Using my inclusion criteria I was able to query the Grand Comics Database and discover over 200 comics purporting to feature Doctor Doom. My next step was to attempt to link this to scraped data from the other sources, to help with verification and to see if anything had been missed. This took quite a lot of Date Cleaning, largely because of the differences in the way series were numbered or titled. Most series had very slightly different titles in the different systems (for instance "The Fantastic Four" might also be logged as just "Fantastic Four") which made linking the datasets very time consuming.

Once all the data was finally linked together I discovered 22 comics that were listed as featuring Doctor Doom in other databases, but were not inlcuded in the Grand Comics Database, so they were added to my list. A quick look through these issues showed that many of them were just very small cameo appearances, or sometimes adverts in the comic featuring Doom, rather than in-story appearances, but it did include three definite appearances not listed on the GCD, notably a very enjoyable guest appearance in 'Marvel Comics Super Special' starring the band Kiss!

Put together this gave me my final list of comics to read, with 240 individual issues of 58 seperate series. As I go through I'll be further categorising them, assigning some to sublists for stories where Doom is only mentioned and others to a list of comics where Doom doesn't appear in the story at all. In this way I hope to devise a final, fully confirmed list of comics which together tell Doom's story during The Marvel Age!

posted 15/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Inclusion Criteria

Now I'd worked out what I meant by 'The Marvel Age', I had to work out which comics published during that time I was going to read. I needed it to be comics that featured Doctor Doom, but that wasn't quite as simple to narrow down as it might seem. After a bit of thought I came up for these rules as to which comics would "count".

To be included, an issue must:
Be published during 'The Marvel Age'
For reasons already explained I'm considering 'The Marvel Age' as all comics with a cover date between November 1961 (The Fantastic Four #1) and October 1987 (Watchmen #12 and the final month with Jim Shooter as editor in chief).

Not be a reprint
Marvel published a range of reprints during the 1970s, featuring several of their earlier publications in series such as 'World's Greatest Comics' (reprinting 'The Fantastic Four') and 'Marvel Tales' ('The Amazing Spider-Man'). Collected editions such as 'Origins of Marvel Comics' also began to be published around this time. Unlike later series, such as 'Classic X-Men', these did not include any original material, so will not be included here.

Be published by Marvel Comics
Obviously Doom is a Marvel character, so you might expect all of his appearances to be published by Marvel, but as the company's characters became popular several foreign editions were produced, reprinting stories, sometimes in translation. Some of these had slight amendments made to their text or art, such as in the UK where the publishers Odham made changes to costumes in order to maintain the continuity of their own, slightly different, publishing timeline ( see Lew Stringer's blog for more details). These publications are still basically reprints, so I'm not going to be looking at them.

Feature Doctor Doom Appearing In Person
The nature of the shared Marvel Universe means that sometimes characters appear in the background without actually being part of the story, such as when Doctor Doom appears as an image on a TV screen at the start of Fantastic Four #18. When I get to these issues my plan is to write a little bit about them, but not include them in the main list of Doom's "In Person" appearances.
With all that in place, my next step was to find the actual comics which fitted these criteria...

posted 12/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Marvel Age

The idea of dividing American comics into ages began in the mid-1960s, with the then current era being referred to as the 'Silver Age', named as a next stage after the so-called 'Golden Age' of the 1940s which saw the emergence of such classic characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Captain America.

Since then a 'Bronze Age' has been proposed as occurring from roughly 1970 to the mid-1980s, with several names, including 'Dark Age' and 'Platinum Age' for what came next. All of these names have been contentious for various reasons, including the fact that they were suggested by fans and collectors instead of historians or critics, that the terms apply only to superhero comics, and the way the infer a decrease in quality over time.

However, before any of these names were suggested, another age was already being loudly celebrated: 'The Marvel Age Of Comics'. The phrase first appeared on the cover of 'Jurney into Mystery' #94 in July 1963 and was then proclaimed on the front of most of their superhero comics for the rest of the year.

'The Marvel Age' therefore pre-dates all other categorisations of American superhero comics into ages. It might well be argued that this is just a promotional slogan used to sell Marvel Comics only - which it is - but I think it's also a useful way to look at an entire era of superhero comics when Marvel came to dominate the market both financially and artistically.

If we accept that there is such a thing as 'The Marvel Age' then we need to define it's beginning and end. The beginning is easy - November 1961, when the first issue of 'The Fantastic Four' was published. This series would set the tone for all Marvel comics to come and revolutionise the way that superhero comics were created. Until this point superhero comics had been straightforward stories for children in which unambiguously heroic characters fought evil together, never doubting their own mission or disagreeing with each other. The Fantastic Four were very different. They were a team of characters who argued with each other constantly, got angry about their fate, behaved selfishly, and generally acted like normal human beings.

The inspiration to write a comic like this apparently came from Stan Lee's wife Joan. When Stan Lee was told by his publisher to write a superhero team book, to compete with DC's Justice League of League, he was already thinking of quitting the business. Joan told him "Why donít you do one book the way you want to do it? The worst thatíll happen, heíll fire you, but you want to quit anyway. At least youíll have gotten it out of your system." He took her advice, and together with Jack Kirby changed the medium forever.

It's clear from that first issue that this was a very different sort of comic book story, and Lee expanded his idea of portraying "The world outside your window" with all the series that he would go on to co-create, notably The Incredbile Hulk, The Avengers and The X-Men with Jack Kirby and Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Steve Ditko. These stories would in turn inspire future generations of writers and artists, and force DC and other companies to come up with their own more emotionally interesting stories in order to compete.

Just as Marvel revolutionised superhero comics in the 1960s, so too did Alan Moore and Frank Miller in the 1980s with their series 'Watchmen' and 'The Dark Knight Returns', both published by Marvel's main rival DC Comics. These comics - along with non-superhero publications such as 'Love and Rockets', 'Maus' and others - promoted the idea that comics were not just for children and teenagers, but could tell adult stories worthy of standing alongside other forms of literature.

Marvel comics were left behind by this new wave of 'Adult' comics, sticking to standard superhero stories in a style dictated by its then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter. DC Comics became known as a company who paid their creators well and provided more artistic freedom and thus were able to persuade more and more of Marvel's top talent to join them instead. This talent drain, along with a management style that many considered adversarial, led to Shooter being fired in 1987.

The end Shooter's regime marked the end of Marvel's artistic dominance of the superhero market. October 1987 was the last month in which all Marvel Comics listed him as Editor-In-Chief and, rather neatly, this was also the cover date for the final issue of 'Watchmen', and so I propose that this can be regarded as then end of 'The Marvel Age'. Marvel Comics themselves appeared to regard Stan Lee and Jim Shooter as the two bookends of this era, as shown by this cover to their fan magazine 'Marvel Age' in 1983.

With November 1961 and October 1987 selected as the start and end points for my research my next step would be to identify the comics appearing in this time which featured Doctor Doom.

posted 10/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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PhD Abstract

Here's the current abstract for my PhD, which this blog is a part of:

Comics And Transmedia In The Marvel Age (1961-1987): Doctor Doom As Hyper-diegetic Hero

Since he was created for 'Fantastic Four' #5 (1961) Doctor Doom has been a recurring character in every aspect of Marvel's transmedia universe. He has been the main villain in all four live action Fantastic Four films (including the unreleased Roger Corman movie of 1994), featured in almost every Marvel cartoon series, from 'The Marvel Superheroes' in 1966 to the current 'Avengers Assemble' and has appeared in video games, trading cards, toy ranges and even hip hop tracks. In the core Marvel comics universe he has appeared in over a hundred separate series, but until the current 'Infamous Iron Man' series has only ever headlined one, short-lived, ongoing series of his own ('Doom 2099', 1993-1996).

My research seeks to show that Doctor Doom's lack of his own series or dedicated creative teams has allowed him to evolve as a prototype of 'open source' characters, developed by numerous creators with no predetermined path, but managing to retain the core concepts of his character throughout. It will also propose that the shared 'universe' of Marvel comics in the period 1961-1987 is an early example of the shared world multiple author storytelling which has become the source material for the hugely successful 'Marvel Cinematic Universe' of the 21st century. Further, it will argue that Doctor Doom's emergence from the hyper-diegesis of the Marvel storyworld makes him a key case study for how such characters develop, and a counterpoint to the current focus on Batman as exemplar of transmedia characterisation. In this way I hope to challenge received narratives about the origins of this mode of storytelling, and to build on existing academic work on transmedia and convergence theory, thereby offering a new model of 21st century transmedia theorising based in 20th century comics seriality.

posted 8/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Hello, and welcome to the Marvel Age Doom blog!

My name's Mark Hibbett and, among other things, I'm a PhD student at Central St Martins. The current title of my thesis is Comics And Transmedia In The Marvel Age (1961-1987): Doctor Doom As Hyper-diegetic Hero and part of my research involves reading every comic featuring Doctor Doom which was published between 1961 and 1987 (see this blog for an explanation of what I mean by 'The Marvel Age'), so I thought a blog would be a good way to record my impressions as I go along, and also to see if anybody else has any thoughts about them.

I'm planning to read each issue in order (see this blog for an explanation of how I identified the relevant comics) then write them up here. The plan is to post at least one blog a week about a comic which fulfills my inclusion criteria, with more on other days about the issues which don't fit the criteria, or any interesting aspects of the research that pop up.

I think it'll be interesting and hopefully informative - let me know what you think in the comments!

posted 4/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The List Of Doom

For future reference purposes, this is the original huge list of comics purporting to feature Doctor Doom:

Fantastic Four #5 (Jul 1962)
The Incredible Hulk #2 (Jul 1962)
Fantastic Four #6 (Sep 1962)
Fantastic Four #10 (Jan 1963)
Strange Tales #106 (Mar 1963)
Fantastic Four #14 (May 1963)
Fantastic Four #15 (Jun 1963)
Fantastic Four #16 (Jul 1963)
Fantastic Four #17 (Aug 1963)
Fantastic Four Annual #1 (Sep 1963)
Fantastic Four #18 (Sep 1963)
The Amazing Spider-Man #5 (Oct 1963)
Fantastic Four #19 (Oct 1963)
Fantastic Four #23 (Feb 1964)
Strange Tales #122 (Jul 1964)
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (Sep 1964)
Fantastic Four Annual #2 (Sep 1964)
Fantastic Four #39 (Jun 1965)
Fantastic Four #40 (Jul 1965)
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (Sep 1965)
Fantastic Four Annual #3 (Oct 1965)
Fantastic Four #43 (Oct 1965)
The Avengers #25 (Feb 1966)
Journey into Mystery #125 (Feb 1966)
Fantastic Four Annual #4 (Nov 1966)
Fantastic Four #57 (Dec 1966)
Fantastic Four #58 (Jan 1967)
Fantastic Four #59 (Feb 1967)
Fantastic Four #60 (Mar 1967)
Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Nov 1967)
Daredevil #36 (Jan 1968)
Daredevil #37 (Feb 1968)
Daredevil #38 (Mar 1968)
Strange Tales #167 (Apr 1968)
The Silver Surfer #1 (Aug 1968)
The Avengers Annual #2 (Sep 1968)
Fantastic Four #84 (Mar 1969)
Fantastic Four #85 (Apr 1969)
Fantastic Four #86 (May 1969)
Marvel Super-Heroes #20 (May 1969)
The X-Men #56 (May 1969)
Fantastic Four #87 (Jun 1969)
The Silver Surfer #7 (Aug 1969)
Fantastic Four Annual #7 (Nov 1969)
Sub-Mariner #20 (Dec 1969)
Fantastic Four #100 (Jul 1970)
Amazing Adventures #1 (Aug 1970)
Astonishing Tales #1 (Aug 1970)
Captain Marvel #21 (Aug 1970)
Astonishing Tales #2 (Oct 1970)
Conan the Barbarian #1 (Oct 1970)
Thor #182 (Nov 1970)
Fantastic Four Annual #8 (Dec 1970)
Astonishing Tales #3 (Dec 1970)
Captain America #132 (Dec 1970)
Thor #183 (Dec 1970)
Iron Man #33 (Jan 1971)
Astonishing Tales #4 (Feb 1971)
Astonishing Tales #5 (Apr 1971)
Astonishing Tales #6 (Jun 1971)
Astonishing Tales #7 (Aug 1971)
The Incredible Hulk #143 (Sep 1971)
Astonishing Tales #8 (Oct 1971)
The Incredible Hulk #144 (Oct 1971)
Fantastic Four #116 (Nov 1971)
Marvel Super-Heroes #31 (Nov 1971)
Fantastic Four Annual #9 (Dec 1971)
Sub-Mariner #47 (Mar 1972)
Sub-Mariner #48 (Apr 1972)
Sub-Mariner #49 (May 1972)
Fantastic Four #124 (Jul 1972)
Fantastic Four #126 (Sep 1972)
The Incredible Hulk #155 (Sep 1972)
Fantastic Four #128 (Nov 1972)
Fantastic Four Annual #10 (Mar 1973)
Hero for Hire #8 (Apr 1973)
Hero for Hire #9 (May 1973)
Daredevil #100 (Jun 1973)
The Avengers #118 (Dec 1973)
Fantastic Four #142 (Jan 1974)
Fantastic Four #143 (Feb 1974)
Fantastic Four #144 (Mar 1974)
Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 (May 1974)
Giant-Size Avengers #2 (Nov 1974)
Giant-Size Defenders #3 (Jan 1975)
Astonishing Tales #28 (Feb 1975)
Fantastic Four #155 (Feb 1975)
Fantastic Four #156 (Mar 1975)
Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1 (Mar 1975)
Fantastic Four #157 (Apr 1975)
Iron Man #74 (May 1975)
Marvel Team-Up #33 (May 1975)
Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #2 (Jun 1975)
Spidey Super Stories #9 (Jun 1975)
The Human Torch #6 (Jul 1975)
Super-Villain Team-Up #1 (Aug 1975)
Super-Villain Team-Up #2 (Oct 1975)
Super-Villain Team-Up #3 (Dec 1975)
Marvel Team-Up #42 (Feb 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #4 (Feb 1976)
Marvel Team-Up #43 (Mar 1976)
Marvel Team-Up #44 (Apr 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #5 (Apr 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #6 (Jun 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #7 (Aug 1976)
Marvel Treasury Special Featuring Captain America's Bicentennial Battles #1 (Sep 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #8 (Oct 1976)
Spidey Super Stories #19 (Oct 1976)
Super-Villain Team-Up #9 (Dec 1976)
Marvel Comics Super Special #1 ( 1977)
The Avengers #155 (Jan 1977)
The Avengers #156 (Feb 1977)
Super-Villain Team-Up #10 (Feb 1977)
Super-Villain Team-Up #11 (Apr 1977)
Super-Villain Team-Up #12 (Jun 1977)
Super-Villain Team-Up #13 (Aug 1977)
Spidey Super Stories #25 (Aug 1977)
Iron Man #102 (Sep 1977)
Marvel Comics Super Special #1 (Sep 1977)
Super-Villain Team-Up #14 (Oct 1977)
The Champions #16 (Nov 1977)
Master of Kung Fu #59 (Dec 1977)
Fantastic Four #190 (Jan 1978)
Master of Kung Fu #60 (Jan 1978)
Spidey Super Stories #31 (Feb 1978)
Thor #271 (May 1978)
The Amazing Spider-Man #181 (Jun 1978)
Fantastic Four #196 (Jul 1978)
Fantastic Four #197 (Aug 1978)
Fantastic Four #198 (Sep 1978)
The Invaders #32 (Sep 1978)
The Invaders #33 (Oct 1978)
Fantastic Four #199 (Oct 1978)
The Defenders #65 (Nov 1978)
Fantastic Four #200 (Nov 1978)
Marvel Team-Up #75 (Nov 1978)
Super-Villain Team-Up #15 (Nov 1978)
Spider-Woman #13 (Apr 1979)
What If? #15 (Jul 1979)
What If? #18 (Dec 1979)
Marvel Two-In-One #60 (Feb 1980)
Thor #293 (Mar 1980)
Spidey Super Stories #45 (Mar 1980)
What If? #20 (Apr 1980)
What If? #21 (Jun 1980)
The Defenders #85 (Jul 1980)
Fantastic Four #220 (Jul 1980)
What If? #22 (Aug 1980)
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14 (Oct 1980)
Fantastic Four Annual #15 (Oct 1980)
Crazy Magazine #68 (Nov 1980)
The Defenders #90 (Dec 1980)
Conan the Barbarian #118 (Jan 1981)
The Defenders #91 (Jan 1981)
Dazzler #3 (May 1981)
The Uncanny X-Men #145 (May 1981)
Dazzler #4 (Jun 1981)
The Uncanny X-Men #146 (Jun 1981)
Marvel Treasury Edition #28 (Jul 1981)
Dazzler #5 (Jul 1981)
The Uncanny X-Men #147 (Jul 1981)
Spidey Super Stories #53 (Jul 1981)
Iron Man #149 (Aug 1981)
Iron Man #150 (Sep 1981)
Crazy Magazine #78 (Sep 1981)
What If? #29 (Oct 1981)
Fantastic Four #236 (Nov 1981)
Marvel Super-Heroes #103 (Nov 1981)
Dazzler #10 (Dec 1981)
Fantastic Four #237 (Dec 1981)
Fantastic Four #238 (Jan 1982)
Crazy Magazine #82 (Jan 1982)
Fantastic Four #242 (May 1982)
Fantastic Four Roast #1 (May 1982)
Micronauts #41 (May 1982)
What If? #33 (Jun 1982)
Silver Surfer #1 (Jun 1982)
Fantastic Four #244 (Jul 1982)
Micronauts #43 (Jul 1982)
What If? #34 (Aug 1982)
Fantastic Four #246 (Sep 1982)
Fantastic Four #247 (Oct 1982)
Thor #325 (Nov 1982)
Doctor Strange #57 (Feb 1983)
Marvel Two-In-One #96 (Feb 1983)
Daredevil #192 (Mar 1983)
Marvel Two-In-One #100 (Jun 1983)
The Thing #1 (Jul 1983)
The Avengers #234 (Aug 1983)
Fantastic Four #258 (Sep 1983)
Marvel Team-Up #133 (Sep 1983)
Fantastic Four #259 (Oct 1983)
The Amazing Spider-Man #246 (Nov 1983)
Fantastic Four #260 (Nov 1983)
The Thing #6 (Dec 1983)
What If? #42 (Dec 1983)
Micronauts Special Edition #3 (Feb 1984)
The Incredible Hulk #295 (May 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #1 (May 1984)
The Thing #12 (Jun 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #2 (Jun 1984)
Fantastic Four #268 (Jul 1984)
Marvel Fanfare #15 (Jul 1984)
The Thing #13 (Jul 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #3 (Jul 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #4 (Aug 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #5 (Sep 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #6 (Oct 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #7 (Nov 1984)
Beauty and the Beast #1 (Dec 1984)
Sheena #1 (Dec 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 (Dec 1984)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #9 (Jan 1985)
Beauty and the Beast #2 (Feb 1985)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #10 (Feb 1985)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #11 (Mar 1985)
Beauty and the Beast #3 (Apr 1985)
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #12 (Apr 1985)
Fantastic Four #278 (May 1985)
Beauty and the Beast #4 (Jun 1985)
Fantastic Four #279 (Jun 1985)
Secret Wars II #1 (Jul 1985)
The Uncanny X-Men #197 (Sep 1985)
Secret Wars II #3 (Sep 1985)
Secret Wars II #6 (Dec 1985)
Secret Wars II #7 (Jan 1986)
Fantastic Four #287 (Feb 1986)
The Spectacular Spider-Man #111 (Feb 1986)
Fantastic Four #288 (Mar 1986)
Daredevil #229 (Apr 1986)
The Avengers #269 (Jul 1986)
Cloak and Dagger #9 (Nov 1986)
The Amazing Spider-Man #283 (Dec 1986)
Marvel Graphic Novel: Emperor Doom -- Starring the Mighty Avengers #27 (Jan 1987)
Cloak and Dagger #10 (Jan 1987)
Fantastic Four vs. X-Men #1 (Feb 1987)
Fantastic Four #300 (Mar 1987)
Fantastic Four vs. X-Men #2 (Mar 1987)
Fantastic Four vs. X-Men #3 (Apr 1987)
Fantastic Four Annual #20 (May 1987)
Fantastic Four vs. X-Men #4 (Jun 1987)
Marvel Fanfare #33 (Jul 1987)
Silver Surfer #1 (Jul 1987)
Fantastic Four #305 (Aug 1987)
West Coast Avengers #23 (Aug 1987)
Thor #383 (Sep 1987)

posted 2/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett