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Blog Archive: June 2018The Origin of...The Fantastical Four
The absolutle tiniest of Doom appearances in this comic, as he pops up once in the background of a single panel, threatening Spider-Man's Aunt May with a "fat lip". This is a distinctly odd comic, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby doing their very best to mimic 'Mad Magazine'. Kirby had worked for humour magazines in the past, and does good job of mimicking the Mad Magazine house style here, to the extent that I don't think you'd ever guess it was him on the art if you didn't know. The story itself is a surprisingly faithful retelling of the Fantastic Four's origin story, which seems to have used the original story as a template, with gags added along the way. It starts with the same smoke gun warning as appeared in Fantastic Four #1, and a lot of the jokes require an intimate knowledge of that specific comic, published over six years ago. Up until this point, according to the Grand Comics Database this had only been reprinted once in the USA, in The Golden Book And Comic Set of 1966. This was a vinyl record accompanied by a specially reprinted version of the comics which was designed to help children learn to read by "reading along" with the audio, though as it was more expensive than the single comics, and less widely distributed, it would not have been available to most regular readers.
The fact that this story requires a detailed knowledge of a six year old comic is therefore a pretty extreme example of the kind of knowledge that Marvel expected of its readers by this point, though sadly, in this case, there are no huge rewards to be had, as the storyline is "wacky" to the point of annoyance. Maybe the Mad-style of comedy isn't for me, but it feels like Stan and Jack are great at humour as part of the story, not so much when GAGS are the whole point!
posted 29/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Living Prison!
It looks like we have an item to add to the long list of Things I Was Wrong About Aged 10: Gene Colan is NOT "weird and a bit wonky" as Young Me believed, he is in fact FAB - I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover!
` The story inside picks up a couple of minutes after where we left off last time, with Daredevil in a prison cell beneath the Latverian Embassy, trapped inside the body of Doctor Doom. He's pleased to find that this means he can finally see again, at last, but one thing he CAN'T see (clever phrasing, thanks) is a way out of this mess.
Well, he can't see it for about 10 seconds, and then realises that he's in the Latverian Embassy, inside the body of the leader of Latveria, so he simply calls some guards in and gets them to let him out. This seems a bit of an oversight in Doctor Doom's plan, but then this curious mix of haste and prevarication does seem to be part of his personality. When he's got The Power Cosmic, for instance, he puts of doing anything with it for ages, but at other times he'll dash off to carry out a plan without really doing any of the necessary preparation.
Daredevil does an excellent impersonation of Doom, who we then see swinging along in Daredevil's body, strolling through the park towards The Baxter Building. This is a beautiful piece of work by Colan, capturing Doom's swagger and delight in the body he's stolen. Last time I commented on what a big deal it was that nobody knew Daredevil was blind, and expected it to be immediately discovered by Doom as soon as the body swap was complete. Incredibly, this does not happen! Doom notices that his vision is different, but deduces that this is because of the filters on Daredevil's mask! At no point does he try taking it off, instead believing that it is this "filter" that gives him the other enhanced senses he's noticed. This dogged persistence with whatever his first idea about something is is definitely part of Doom's character - it fits with his arrogant belief in his own intellectual supremacy, despite the fact that it constantly leads to him jumping to entirely the wrong concluson. Back at the Embassy Daredevil is being much more sensible, and decides to radio the Fantastic Four to tell them what's happened. They do not believe him at first - why would they? I mean, who's ever heard of body transferral? HANG ON A MINUTE - I'll tell you who's heard of body transferral! The Fantastic Four! Especially Reed Richards whose body was swapped with... DOCTOR DOOM, way back in Fantastic Four #10. How on earth can he have forgotten THAT?
They are eventually persuaded that this is Daredevil, because he knows their emergency frequency and Doom, they believe, doesn't, something which will prove to be incorrect later. Meanwhile, out in the street, Doom himself proves to be much better at this sort of thing. His guards, sent out by Daredevil, find and attack him, and he proceeds to duff them all up in no uncertain terms while calling them complete idiots for not realising who he is. This seems a bit unfair to me, as the whole point of the body transferral is to look like someone else, but they appear to be fine with it. Also of note here is that he deals with the whole gang of them pretty easily, while Daredevil was apprehended by just two of them. For someone who claims not to sully himself with hand to hand combat "like a peasant" Doom is pretty good at it!
Further evidence of this come when the thugs dash back and bump into Daredevil, who has a much harder time fighting them. He thinks to himself that this is because he's not used to having no powers or being inside suit of armour, but Doom did all right and he's now blind! In the end the police turn up and save him, choosing to believe a national ruler over a bunch of yobboes. Daredevil leaves the scene and bumps into Doom, totally by coincidence. The two men chat, from inside each other's body, and if you think this might get a little confusing then you're right. Stan Lee recognises this throughout the story, providing helpful notes every few pages. Daredevil tells Doom that he's got a brilliant plan to stop him, and that he should listen in to the radio to find out what it is. "You're MAD!" says Doom as they part, so secure in his own brilliance that he can't be bothered to even give chase.
This seems a bit nuts to me, but then, as we've seen time and time again, one of Doom's many flaws is his inability to recognise that other people may have schemes of their own, especially those who he's left free to wander around looking and sounding exactly like him.
Being in Doom's body seems to have worn off on Daredevil, as his brilliant plan is so badly thought out that it's worthy of the Latverian monarch himself. He stomps back to the Embassy and declares war on EVERY country that borders Latveria. Note that he does this via a TV screen, a perfect impersonation of one of Doom's favourite modus operandi!
Luckily Doom hear this and realised precisely how MAD it is - "One of our neighbors is allied with Red China!" he thinks. "We'll be over-run in hours!" This demonstrates that Doom genuinely does care about his country. He's stolen a new, super-powered, body and is thousands of miles away from danger, but chooses to rush back to the embassy and immediately reverse the body swap, so he can call off the war.
Daredevil's plan worked, which is handy because otherwise it would probablly have instigated a nuclear war, and once returned to his own body his swiftly smashes up the machine. He prepares himself for another fight, but Doom he tells him not to worry. "I have so rarely been defeated... that I am amused by the novelty," he says, and tells Daredevil he is free to go. Having read all of his adventures so far I'd say that it's probably not THAT much of a novelty, but Daredevil takes him at his word and heads off to tell the Fantastic Four what's been going on. It's here that Doom finally does exhibit some cunning - knowing what's gone before, he radios the Fantastic Four (using their radio frequency, which he did know after all) and tells them that Doctor Doom is heading their way, DISGUISED as Daredevil! That's genuinely pretty clever if you ask me! And thus the issues ends, with Daredevil swinging through the city towards the Baxter Building, unaware of what awaits him. This story, which had its roots in an issue of Fantastic Four, is now heading back there for its conclusion, but before we get there we've got a couple of other, very very different, Doom appearances to look at!
posted 27/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Don't Look Now, But It's- Dr. Doom!
This issues carries straight on from the last, with Doom asking Daredevil to be quiet via the medium of a punch in the face. This leads to several pages of a right proper punch-up, which would appear to be unseemly for a world leader like Doctor Doom, who claims that he wouldn't normally get into a fist fight "like a peasant" but is doing so here because it would be beneath him to use any of his thrilling weapons on someone without powers like Daredevil. I'm not as familiar with Daredevil as I am with The Fantastic Four, so I was surprised by how important it is to the story that nobody realises he has super powers. I knew that nobody was aware that he's blind, but was not expecting absolutely everyone he meets to remark upon how odd it is that someone with no super powers should be able to do the things he does. It's like a second secret identity.
During the fight Doom explains that he was actually on his was to take his revenge on The Fantastic Four, but heard about Daredevil's fight so thought he'd pop along to see if he could capture him. The pair do have previous, from back in Fantastic Four #39, but this meeting is just a happy accident for Doom... which makes some of the events later on a little hard to explain.
Doom wins the fight, despite various New York subway users trying to stop him, and carries a newly knocked out Daredevil into a side street and then into the back of a waiting car, where we are reminded once again of Doctor Doom's status as a world leader and therefore, in the Marvel Universe, a possessor of diplomatic immunity. Daredevil wakes up and there's another big fight, this time taking place entirely in the back of the car as Daredevil struggles against Doom and his heavies. For an expressive artist like Colan who excels at freeflowing athletic action this seems an odd choice, but I wonder if it's all because he enjoys drawing cars. He and Stan Lee were firmly entrenched in The Marvel Method at this point, so it would most likely have been Colan's choice, and there are some lovely illustrations of the vehicle as it speeds along, with the battle continuing inside. Eventually they arrive at the Latverian embassy where Daredevil is marched in at gunpoint, and then unceremoniously booted up the bum by Doom. As we saw not so long ago, he does enjoy holding people in cells, but has clearly learned that they tend to escape quite easily too, as when Daredevil does exactly that he finds himself tricked into a bizarre fairground-style room containing oversized furniture that can turn itself upside down. Doom watches the confusion with delight, viewing the action, as ever, on a TV screen. When I started this blog I was hoping to spot some defining characteristics of Doctor Doom. I was expecting arrogance, cruelty or cowardice, I was not expecting to discover he was a relentless, TV-obsessed, voyeur.
Another recurring aspect of Doom's personality, in whatever media he appears, is his willingness to tell his own story, and thus we finally discover what happened to him when he was tricked into flying into the cosmic barrier that Galactus set up around the earth, originally designed to stop the Silver Surfer from escaping. It turns out that, much like Doom claims for himself, Galactus sees no point in punishing non-combatants, so when he sees that it's not the surfer who's crashed he simply sends Doom unharmed back to Earth, while the surfer's board zooms back to its owner - all of which is illustrated (as seems to be policy in these situation) to deliberatelty echol the original story. It's another mark of the continuing shared universe that these characters all live in that the final outcome to a cliffhanger in Fantastic Four #60 is only revealed a year later in a totally different series!
Doom then tries to hypnotise Daredevil, but fails because, this form of hypnosis relies on the victim being able to see what's going on - that extra secret to his secret identity keeps paying off! This leads to another fight, which Daredevil appears to be winning until- oh no! -Doom dives away and captures him inside a strange tube. This turns out to be key to Doom's "brilliantly conceived Master Plan" - a body transferal ray! This is all well and good, but hang on a minute, didn't he say, right at the start of the story, that he only bumped into Daredevil by chance, having been on his way to fight the Fantastic Four? It's only been an hour at most since then, which is clearly not even enough time to devise a Hare Brained Scheme, let alone a Master Plan. If Doom had claimed it was the pay-off to some "brilliantly conceived improvisation" I would have agreed - he's making excellent use of the resources to hand - but no way is this a Master Plan.
Despite this, it all works out in Doom's favour, and the pair swap bodies, with Daredevil trapped within a suit of armour and Doom all in red! Thus the next issue features Doom taking on the Fantastic Four wearing Daredevil's body. Will this mean the end of Daredevil's secret extra secret? Find out next time!
posted 20/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Meet The In-Laws
After all the excitement of seeing Doom in a regular comic series again at last, we immediately return to another appearance by his 'Not Brand Echh' counterpart 'Doctor Bloom'.
I'm coming round to the conclusion that the indexers at The Grand Comics Database must have been deliberately cataloguing all of the characters by their 'Not Brand Echh' names to differentiate them from the regular universe versions, and thus keep them well away from mainstream continuity. There's no other explanation for the fact that this issue did not show up in my initial database searches for 'Doctor Doom' - he's right there on the cover, so there's no way they could have missed him!
Here Doom is depicted as shedding a single tear at the wedding of Crystal from The Inhumans and 'The Human Scorch', in an image weirdly reminiscent of one from J Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's 'Ground Zero' story in Amazing Spider-man #36. I wonder, could they been related? Or is it silly to suggest that a nuanced, heartfelt moment of supreme characterization coud be in any way linked to ... J Michael Straczynski's run on Spider-man?
Sorry, I think I've read so many issues of 'Not Brand Echh' that the 'humour' is starting to wear off on me. Or maybe just wear off.
Doom appears twice inside the actual comic, and in both cases he's used as part of a gang of villains. In the first story he's there as a member of Sandman's villain "family" when the Human Scorch needs someone to move in with: And in the final story he's in a group again, eagerly waiting to find out the identity of the bride of 'Spidey-man'. Neither of these appearances make any use of the specifics of Doom's character, he's just there to signify that this is a group of supervillains.Interestingly though he's the only character to appear in both groups, signifying his primacy amongst Marvel supervillains. If it was just a bunch of minor villains the joke might be that they *are* minor characters (similar to the use of Boomerang, Speed Demon and co in The Superior Foes Of Spider-man), but with Doom in the mix it's made clear that the "joke" is that a group of normally evil, powerful figures are behaving in a silly way.
SPOILER ALERT: this is a trend that will crop up several more times over the coming issues, and not just in 'Not Brand Echh'. It's as if Doom's place in the universe is so secure that he can just be referred to without having to ever do much - like an aged rock star who signifies Rock And Roll and doesn't need to record any new material again. That's not to say Doom's ready to retire to the Heritage Touring Circuit just yet, in 1967 he's still rocking, as we'll see next time when we finally find out how he managed to escape his apparent death way back in The Peril And The Power!
posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Name Of The Game Is... Mayhem!
After the recent run of pin-ups, cartoons and satire it feels good to be talking about an actual bona fide superhero comic again, although Gene Colan's version arrival on the blog, after so much Jack Kirby, came as something of a shock to my delicate sense. It's a whole different, much more fluid, style, which I remember finding distinctly disconcerting when I first encountered it in my early comics reading days. I always thought that it looked like everyone was underwater and, coming back to it again now, I sort of see my point. The bulk of the story is a continuation from the previous issue of 'Daredevil', with our hero having to rescue Sue Richards, who has been kidnapped yet again, and then chase down The Trapster. It's scripted by Stan Lee but feels very different from his style on The Fantastic Four. There are still side-stories and references to what's gone on before, but the focus on one central character rather than (at least) four makes it all much more direct and fast-moving, helped along by Gene Colan's art which, despite what 10 year old me may have thought, is perfectly suited to this story and features some gorgeous illustration.
Doctor Doom himself does not appear until the very last panel, when he discovers Daredevil regaining consciousness after his final battle. At the time this must have come as a terrific shock for the reader, as Doom had not been seen in regular continuity for almost a year, after disappearing at the end of Fantastic Four #60 and there had been no indication on the cover that he would be appearing. The fact that a single image of a character who is, technically speaking, a supporting character in a different magazine can be using as the astounding cliff hanger ending here demonstrates both the popularity of Doctor Doom and the assumption that someone reading one Marvel comic would be familiar with all the others, Surprised, Tiger? They kinda hoped you would be! But what on earth is Doom doing here, in a New York subway, when the last we knew he was colliding with a cosmic barrier high up in the atmosphere? Come back next time (or rather the time after next, as there's more 'Not Brand Echh' to come) to find out!
posted 13/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Introducing: The One And Only Unmitigated Forbush-Man
Our third visit to the world of "Not Brand Echh" brings two tiny cameos from Doctor Doom in "The Origin Of Forbush Man", which unusually for this series tells a whole new story rather than mocking a previous one. It tells the story of how Irving Forbush - a joke name often used in editorials by Stan Lee - accidentally becomes a superhero while roaming through the Marvel (or, in this case, "Marble") Universe.
It's all daft fun, although I must admit that the style of these stories does start to grate a bit when you read several in succession. I guess the idea is that if you throw enough jokes at the reader then some of them will be funny, but it doesn't always work!
Doom's first appearance is in a single panel showing the "usual suspects" whom you might suspect of doing good around the city. Doom is there as the joke suspect, alongside the likes of good guys like Bobby Kennedy, Santa Claus, Charlie Brown... and Woody Allen, which is probably not someone you'd include in such a list nowadays. He pops up again at the end of the story, as one of several villains who are terrified of Forbush Man and demand to be put in jail for their own safety. As with all of this, it's yet more evidence of what an established big star Doctor Doom is in the Marvel Universe - right up there with Peter Parker's Aunt May in fact - who is roped in whenever a bad guy is needed, despite the fact that he hasn't actually been seen in the official storyworld for nine months. That all changes in the next blog though, as he's finally back in action... in Daredevil!
posted 8/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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You Asked For The Origins
Only the briefest of appearances for Doom here, as a face in a crowd of tourists heading for fabled Jazzgard, in the origin of The Mighty Sore.
I'm not making these dreadful jokes, by the way... but I am giggling at them. This panel is a great example of the sort of celebrity and gag-packed crowd scenes that fill this series, and which led me to think that Doom might be in it a bit more than the databases said. Apart from Aunt May (who is pretty much ubiquitous in these stories) and The Two Gun Kid he's the only other major regular Marvel character here, in a scene made up of stars of stage, screen, and world politics, demonstrating once again what an important figure Doom was to the Marvel universe at this time.
The rest of the story rattles long at high speed with some particularly exuberant illustration from Jack Kirby. I distinctly remember this panel, from when it was repeated (I think) in a Marvel UK comic some time later (which I guess must have been Marvel Madhouse). Just because this is a joke strip it doesn't mean that Kirby is holding back, filling this and every panel with dynamic action to match Stan Lee's relentess punning.
It's a whole lot of fun - and there's more to come next time too!
posted 6/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Who Says A Comic Book Has To Be Good?
A change to our advertised programme - it's Not Brand Echh Week!
The purpose of this blog is firstly to organise my analysis of Doctor Doom's media appearances for my PhD and secondly to check that I've got ALL of his appearances logged in my "corpus" of texts. Going through all the stories in chronological order means that it's easier for me to spot gaps, such as when Doom's appearance at the very start of Avengers #25, which was listed in my database, led me to discover he also very briefly appeared in Avengers #24, which wasn't.
Something similar happened when I was reading Not Brand Echh #7 (I try to stay a few blogs ahead, so this is one yet to come!). It was listed as having a Doctor Doom appearance, which indeed it did in a single panel cameo. However, I noticed that they style of storytelling in this issue was to chuck in as many background gags as possible, featuring pretty much every character in the Marvel roster at the time, so it struck me as odd that Doom would only appear once in the whole 13 issue run of the comic.
I went and had a quick check on Marvel Unlimited and found that he appeared LOADS more times, including on several covers! The problem appears to be that the people who indexed this particular series for The Grand Comics Database classified him as "Dr Bloom", a name which is used a couple of times to describe him in the stories, although in other cases he is clearly meant to be the actual Doom from the comics, such as on the cover to issue #1 here.
I can understand why they might think this is best, but for completeness purposes I'm going to count all of these as either Doctor Doom or alternate universe versions (the series officially takes place on Earth-665 in the Marvel Multiverse). The problem for my attempts to read these chronologically was that I found out by reading #7, so needed to go backwards to catch up with these missing appearances, starting right here, right now, with issue #1.
As already mentioned, Doctor Doom is right there on the cover being menaced by Forbush Man... who doesn't appear anywhere in the comic. Doctor Doom - or "Doctor Bloom" here - does appear, in "The Silver Burper", a mickey take of the recent four-issue "Doomsday" series which had finished a few months previously in Fantastic Four #60. This is actually Doom's next chronological appearance, and the satirical version not only makes some very self-aware points, but does it a lot more quickly than the original storyline!
The story kicks off with Weed Wichards devising a formula to cure The Thung (there are a LOT of jokes like this), which ends up changing his head only, so that in each panel his face changes to that of a different Marvel Character. Then, just as in the original we see the Silver Burper (who does burp) arriving in "Batveria" where Doctor Bloom is waiting. By the second panel Bloom has already exhibited a key Doom-characteristic: kicking someone up the backside. He then comes up with a cunning plot, to trick the Burper by acting good, again much like in the original and, though played for laughs here, it's not that different from the first time around. Bloom uses a device to steal the Burper's power and has him imprisoned. He tests out his newfound superpowers and, just as in the original, destroys a chunk of his castle in the process. The Fantastical Four arrive and Bloom toys with them before soundly beating them. In the original this led to several issues of Doom flying around being annoying, but here it leads to an argument between him and Weed Wichards that only takes a single page, and then he's ready to deal the killer blow. He's stopped by the pay-off to the running gag about the Thung, as his face changes into Doctor Bloom's, which is so horrible that it causes Bloom himself to run away. Legging it is very much part of Actual Doom's character at this point, but it seems like a lost opportunity to have him flee from The Thung's imitation of his masked face, when generally it's his scarred face underneath that causes him so much horror. Still, it's a proper pay-off to an not unamusing story (especially if you find "The Silver Burper" funny, which I'm afraid I did) which keeps surprisingly close to the original. Will it remain this way throughout the series? Come back on Wednesday, true believer, and find out!
posted 4/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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