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When Titans Clash!

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As I've mentioned many times before, this blog is part of the process of writing my PhD, which is looking at Doctor Doom as an early transmedia character. Part of this involves looking at his "character coherence" - the extent to which he remains the same over time and media - and I'm measuring this by looking at his "signifiers" i.e. the things that make him Doctor Doom. This includes aspects like appearance, the other characters that are around him, the names he's referred to by them, and the physical actions he undertakes (among others). I mention this here because this issue is like a roll call for Doom signifiers, as if John Byrne was intent on making this the Doomiest Doctor Doom of all time... right before killing him.

Yes, that's right - Doctor Doom is killed in this issue, definitely, totally and without question. I remember reading this at the time and thinking that that must be true anyway, although now, with the experience of having read every Doom appearance up to this point, it's pretty clear how he gets out of it, even if it does take a very deep dive into past continuity to work it out. Maybe that's why Byrne has been using so many references in earlier parts of this story, so he can justifiably lay the groundwork for Doom's escape.

That's all to come later on though, as this issue begins with three pages featuring The Submariner. Reading Doctor Doom stories means I've read a LOT of Namor stories, and I must say he's never been a character I've ever been interested in. Luckily for me he is soon replaced by a much more enjoyable Big Fight between Tyros and the Fantastic Three (as Reed Richards is Mysteriously Absent) as he fights them to a standstill, watched the whole time by Doctor Doom. Watching events via a screen is one of the MOST Doomiest things that Doctor Doom does, and on the same page we get to see a Close Up Of Doom's Eyes and then Doom Striding Through A Crowd, two more extremely common signifiers, swiftly followed by Power Blasts From Gauntlets. Doom is unhappy because Reed Richards hasn't turned up, and he can't have the final victory he wants if his greatest enemy isn't there. This is a lovely bit of characterisation by Byrne - Doom hates Reed Richards specifically, much more than the rest of the FF, and is prepared to cancel the whole plan if he can't have the full result he's after. Tyros is understandably unhappy about having his own revenge thwarted, and uses a blast of the power cosmic to fuse Doom's armour, leaving him to "remain a monument to your own stupidity". Before he can carry on with killing the three members of the FF, however, yet another guest star arrives in the shape of The Silver Surfer. As the text box in the corner says, we saw the Surfer right at the end of the last issue, noticing a matter transference beam leaving the earth and deciding to investigate - I guess that the editor Bob Budiansky didn't think this was particularly clear, so felt the need to point it out in case it seemed like just a coincidence that the Surfer turned up. The matter transference beam, by the way, later turns out to be Reed Richards being transported off-planet to stand trial for saving the life of Galactus in an earlier issue, but that's got no Doctor Doom in it so, very sadly, won't be discussed here!

What we will discuss, however, is Doctor Doom's escape. We see him trying to work out how to escape while watching Tyros and the Surfer having a Big Fight in the sky, and realising that there's one way he could do it. We then switch to the watching crowds, and see a young man look suddenly surprised, and then speak very rudely to yet another guest star - it's Aunt May! This is a lovely bit of casting by Byrne, and an actually quite subtle bit of acting in the illustration of the surprised young man - at the time I thought Doom was sending a telepathic message or something, but now it's obvious that he's taken control of his body. This is done, we'll eventually find out, using the mind-transference techniques he was taught by The Ovoids way way back in Fantastic Four #10 For now though all we see is Doom's body being destroyed when the Surfer and Tyros crash to earth. I do like the fact that Byrne says "an armoured figure screams" - we later realise it's not Doctor Doom, and this way of putting it remains truthful while not giving the game away.

Tyros is defeated, and all that remains is for Sue to find Doom's mask in the wreckage, and to declare their old enemy as dead. "Good riddance", says The Thing. The comic still has three pages to go - they really packed the story in in those days! - as Sue wanders around the Baxter Building looking for Reed, realising something's up when she sees that he didn't put their lasagne in the oven for tea. Before she can stick it in the microwave, however, she's interrupted by Namor, who wants her to come with him into John Byrne's other series. Doctor Doom will now be absent from the majority of the Marvel Universe again for about two years, but that doesn't mean we won't be seeing him around. Very soon we'll be leaping into his show-stealing appearance in Secret Wars, but before that we've got a whole bunch of flashbacks and recaps, starting next time!

link to information about this issue

posted 10/11/2020 by Mark Hibbett

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DOOMBOT FILTER: an animal that says 'miaow' (3)

(e.g. for an animal that says 'cluck' type 'hen')

A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett