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Blog Archive: January 2018

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)

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!

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 understanding 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!

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 Data 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 'Journey 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 America, 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 the 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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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett