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Blog Archive: November 2019

The Twilight Of Some Gods!
An VERY Minor Appearance for Doom today, in the middle of a massive Thor storyline that sees Roy Thomas doing some EXTREME retconning of the history of Asgard, and by extension the history of the Marvel Universe itself, years before "Crisis On Infinite Earth" came along and made massive continuity rewrites an ongoing event.

In this issue Thor is talking to the giant floating Eye Of Odin, who keeps on saying things like "EYE will tell you what only EYE know". The eye is doing a lengthy re-telling of Asgardian history which, for some reason, is being told in reverse order. This goes all the way back to the very start of Asgard which, according to this comic, happened "nearly two thousand years ago", a date symbolised by the birth of a specific baby. Now that's what I call a guest star! It's all very complicated (not least because it's back to front) but as far as I can work out Roy Thomas is trying to find an in-universe explanation for the fact that the superhero Asgardians are not quite the same as the original Norse Gods of history. He does this by introducing a whole OTHER version of Asgard which existed BEFORE the current bunch, several millenia ago. This version of the Norse Gods went through their own Ragnarok, and then the survivors were merged together to form the current iteration version of Odin, who then went on to create all of the other gods, but this time less hairy and more like superheroes. It's all pretty far-out and complicated, and it's noticeable that Roy Thomas acknowledges the help of two other writers who were also keen on this sort of retrospective rewiring of continuity. Doom appears in a single panel, as part of an abbreviated re-telling of Thor's years as a superhero. The idea, as so often happens, is that Doom stands in for the many other super-villains that Thor has fought. He hasn't actually battled Thor very often, but as ever if you need an avatar of super-villainy, it's Doom that you call for!

After this there are at least three more issues of this sort of thing, which goes into how the Asgardians are linked to the Eternals and Celestials, how Odin lost his eye and then, somehow, murdered Thor and wiped his memory. There's no more Doctor Doom in any of it though, sadly, so next week we'll returning to the world of "What If?" for another single page appearance as an avatar of supervillains. It's what he does!

posted 29/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Sunshine Machine
We briefly interrupt Minor Appearances Month to bring you an adapatation of the classic The Peril & The Power four-parter from the heyday of Lee & Kirby, in the gentle, slightly woozy, style of "Super Spidey Stories" .

As in the original, Doctor Doom wants to steal the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer, and manages to attact his attention as he flies over Latveria. Amazingly, the Spidey Super Stories version of the Silver Surfer is even more mopey and needy. Doom slaps the power transference head gear on almost immediately and then zooms off on the cosmic surfboard to carry out the next stage of his cunning plan - not revenge and world domination this time, but instead a device called "The Sunshine Machine". His motivations are a lot simpler this time - her's going to get it because "I get anything I want!" It's all very charming and simplistic, but it's also a pretty accurate distalation of Doom's core character! He steals the sunshine machine then zooms off into space with it, but luckily Spidey is on his tail. He manages to find a spacesuit which, when he puts it on, him to fly into the upper atmosphere. As ever, these stories have a weird dreamlike logic that falls apart whenever you try to think about it. How come he can just grab a spacesuit? Since when do they let you fly? And how does he get into space so quickly? It's all a bit dicombobulating, which in itself is odd as the whole idea of these comics are that they're easy to read, in which case surely they should make sense too?

As an example, Spidey turns the sunshine machine around to point it at Doom, and this somehow drains him of the Power Cosmic, which can then be zapped back into the Silver Surfer so he can rush to the rescue. They all fly back to earth, where the Silver Surfer is delighted to find a crowd has gathered to cheer for him. "I finally have friends!" he says, as Spidey takes Doom away. As with Doom, this is a pretty nifty distalation of the Surfer's core characteristic of being immensely self-pitying, nicely tailored in a way that young kids would understand - we can all feel sorry for someone who doesn't think he has any friends, and we all know someone who is Very Naughty and thinks they can just take whatever they want.

That's all for today but the weirdness continues tomorrow as we return to the Marvel Universe proper for another minor appearance in the extremely odd "The Twilight Of Some Gods!"

posted 28/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Happiness Is A Warm Alien
When I saw this comic on the list of titles in the corpus I got a little bit excited as I was SURE that this would be the first comic in the list that I actually bought when it first came out. I distinctly remember the cover, and how gorgeous the art inside was, and also how much fun the story had been, with The Impossible Man constantly winding the Thing up as they attended the opening of one of Alicia's art shows. However, after a bit of thought I realised that I'd actually bought it a couple of years later in Marvel UK's reprint series "Rampage". This was a brilliant comic which only appeared intermittently in Market Deeping, where I would buy my comics on a Saturday after going to see my grandparents with my Dad. As well as reprinting Two-In-One (drawn by Perez) it was also my introduction to the Claremont/Byrne run on The X-Men, reprinted in glorious black and white, the format I still prefer to read them in!

As I say, the story itself is an awful lot of fun, with guest appearances by the creators Mark Gruenwald and George Perez, along with editor Ralph Macchio, at the gallery party. It turns out that the caterers for the party are The Terrible Trio, last seen by us way back in Strange Tales #122. They're a group of criminals who were recruited by Doctor Doom even further back, in Fantastic Four #23, and then unceremoniously dumped in another dimension, returning when Doom himself fell through a hole in the floor into space. Despite this long history with Doom he doesn't get mentioned by the trio, who are plotting their revenge on The Thing for putting them in prison afterwards. They do this by taking control of some statues which, they reason, The Thing won't be able to smash because they were created by his girlfriend. The statues are of various supervillains but, once Alicia realises what's going on, she tells The Thing that he's more important than they are, and he smashes them up. So, not really a Doctor Doom appearance at all, even though someone, somewhere, decided it was Doom-y enough to be listed in a database and so find its way into my corpus. It is, however, a real deep dive into the darkest corners of Marvel's continuity, something which Mark Gruenwald would become well know for.

Next time we've got a bit more Doom as we return to the world of Spidey Super Stories for "The Sunshine Machine"!
posted 27/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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All I Ever Needed Was A Pencil
Today we have a fateful FIRST for "Marvel Age Doom" - a comic that I haven't read!

Most of the comics I've covered here appear on Marvel Unlimited, the online comics subscription service provided by Marvel themselves. They've got a massive, if not complete, library of comics and, for about 7 quid a month, it's pretty good value, even if the actual interface is a bit rubbish.

In cases where a comic isn't on Marvel Unlimited there are other ways to get hold of it. One is just to buy it on eBay, which I've done several times (these are not usually the expensive kind of old comics!), while another is to wait - most of the comics I bought a couple of years ago in preparation for this have subsequently turned up on Marvel Unlimited, which has been handy if ever so slightly annoying. Another easy way is to visit one of the many online comics scans sites, who have massive libraries including most of the comics Marvel haven't got round to uploading yet. Sometimes these even have the advert pages scanned, which can be very handy. Finally, at UAL we have our own Comics Collection, which isn't vast but has helped me out a couple of times.

This comic, however, wasn't available on any of them - indeed, I only found out about it when I saw it advertised in a different comic that I'd had to buy. We'll be covering that in Minor Appearances Month soon too!

The comic we're talking about today, "Fun And Games Magazine", was a short-lived series featuring puzzles and games loosely based around Marvel characters, put together by Owen McCarron. McCarron worked on a huge number of promotional comics, including the "Marvelous Fun And Games" strips that were briefly featured in various newspapers. I'm being vague here because these have proved very difficult to track down, as have the comics themselves. I've not been able to find scans anywhere, and individual issues are a bit too pricey for me - I don't mind buying one if I know it has Doom in it (like #6, which has him on the cover!), but I'm a bit reluctant to splash out just in case.

Luckily for me there are Nice People around in the comics community, including Jaz Jacobi of the Comic Book Historians Facebook group who very kindly went and checked through his run of issues to tell me which ones Doom appears in. He even scanned in an example page for me! It turns out that Doctor Doom appears in most issues of the series, in puzzles similar to the one above. In theory I could now hit eBay and try to buy them, but as the PhD is meant to be looking at narrative appearances by Doom, I don't think I need to. Also, I don't think it'd be much fun for anyone to sit through EIGHT more blogs which would basically be "Can you help Doctor Doom find his way out of his castle maze?" or similar, so I'm just going to count this as covering all of them!

Next time we're returning (briefly) to the main Marvel Universe for an appearance so minor that it isn't really Doom at all!

posted 26/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What If Doctor Strange Were A Disciple Of Dormammu?
Minor Appearances Month continues with another trip to the alternate worls of "What If?", where Doctor Strange becomes a disciple of Dread Dormannu rather than The Ancient One. This change leads to Strange becoming even more arrogant, self-centered and, well, sleazy - at one point he is tricked into releasing a sorcerous called Umar from the Dark Dimension, and the look on his face when she thanks him is Quite A Thing. Meanwhile The Ancient One tries to find another disciple, and happens upon Doctor Doom who, at that moment, is bemoaning his disfigured face. Bringing Doom into the story as a possible alternative is an interesting choice, as his and Strange's origins are pretty similar, with both suffering terrible injuries (Doom to his face, Strange to his hands), venturing to hidden monasteries in the mountains in search of a cure, and there learning forbidden secrets of sorcery. Actually, I say "pretty similar", what I mean is "the same"!

The Ancient One offers Doom a cure if he will become his disciple, but Doom is having none of it. "I... see", says The Ancient One, quickly departing. Doctor Doom doesn't appear again after that, which I think is a bit of a shame. Instead The Ancient One is forced to turn to some other wizards, who fail to stop Doctor Strange. However, just as he is about to conquer the universe, he suddenly realises that Dormannu is a baddie and decides to be The Ancient One's disciple after all. It's all perfectly enjoyable, if a bit dull, with the Doctor Doom section being the best bit (although I guess I may be the only one who thinks that!), and it's worth noting that, as with yesterday's comic, Doom acts the same here as he would in the mainstream universe, preferring to remain disfigured rather than follow the orders of somebody else.

Next week, Minor Appearance Month heads somewhere we've never been before - into a puzzle book!

posted 22/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What If a Criminal Had Become Nova?
Over the course of Minor Appearances Momth Doctor Doom will make several appearances in "What If?", varying from single panel flashbacks to starring roles. This one is somewhere in the middle, with Doom appearing in a supporting role in the last of four stories all looking at what might have happened if the powers of Nova (Marvel's latest young hero designed to be a "Spider-man for the eighties") had been given to somebody else, instead of Richard Rider. As with most "What If?" stories, the answer tends to be that things would have been much worse!

The first three stories concern a woman who uses Nova's powers to go on a killing spree, a hobo on a world without superheroes who ends up sacrificing himself to stop the Skrulls, and a version of Peter Parker who got radiation poisoning from the spider, fell ill, got the Nova powers but even then failed to stop his uncle being killed. They're all a bit grim, to be honest, so the final story, set in a world where super-villains have taken over the planet, comes close to being light relief!

The Nova in this story is an criminal who has used the powers of Nova for evil - you can tell he's a baddie because he smokes a big cigar while in costume. This Nova has gathered together "the world's most infamous villains" (Doctor Doom, The Red Skull and... er... The Sphinx) to use "Computer Prime" (the computer in Nova's space ship) to pick the right moment to destroy all of earth's superheroes - something which Doom regards as fairly straightforward. Being super-villains, of course, their alliance does not last long, and Doctor Doom is the first to break ranks, deciding to overthrow Nova and take charge of the group for himself via a slightly differently angled version of the traditional "close up on Doom's eyes" image by George Perez. Nova fights back, with Doom arrogant as ever, offering him the chance to live if he surrenders and vows allegiance to the ruler of Latveria. Nova, understandably, turns him down. Doom explains that "the right to rule cannot be assumed by anyone who finds it's trappings!" (despite that being a large part of his own origin story) but before he can expand upon his point his is shot in the back, murdered by The Red Skull. The Red Skull is then murdered by The Sphinx, who then kills Nova too. He's done this so that he can take possession of Computer Prime for himself in order to search the minds of every human on earth until he finds one who has the answer to the secret he has spent millenia searching for - how to end his own life! It's all very dramatic, if entirely nonsensical, and even more so when it turns out that the big twist ending is that there really WAS one person who knew how he could die... NOVA! This make precisely no sense whatsoever, but it doesn't matter - this is a "What If?" story, so all that matters is that you get a huge pile of bodies by the end! It has, however, been a pretty consistent version of Doctor Doom, even in an alternative universe. Tomorrow we're looking at another issue of "What If?", where Doom very nearly becomes Sorceror Supreme. What's the better it all goes horribly wrong?

posted 21/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Suddenly... The Shroud!
Today sees the beginning of Minor Appearances Month, during which we'll be covering a very interesting period for Doctor Doom. Over the next three weeks (there isn't a word for "three weeks" and "Minor Appearances Month" sounds better anyway!) we'll be covering about two years' worth of comics in which the mainstream universe's version of Doctor Doom does not appear in person at all. He'll pop up in flashbacks, alternate universes and advertisements, but he'll stay out of the ongoing storyline for the entire time. This means that when he does come back it'll be a pretty big deal, but we've got a lot to get through before then!

Fittingly, Minor Appearances Month kicks off with an EXTREMELY minor appearance in a story which spends most of its time following Jessica Drew (AKA Spider-Woman) as she tries to get a job. It's not particularly exciting, but it does look lovely thanks to the pencils of Carmine Infantino, who gives the whole thing a very glamorous look, reminiscent of the Spanish artists who used to draw UK girls' romance comics. Eventually she bumps into The Shroud, which gives him a chance to re-tell is origin from Super-Villain Team-Up, featuring a one-panel appearance by Doom. That isn't quite how I remember the story going, but I guess if you're telling your origin story you're not going to say "I let some dogs shove him off a cliff" are you?

That's the lot for today's minor appearance - tomorrow we take a trip into the alternative universes of "What If?" where Doom not only gets to speak, but also appears on the cover!

posted 20/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Final Victory Of Doctor Doom
After all the excitement in the comics, it's back to the distinctly half-arsed world of "The New Fantastic Four" with a story that's a vague adaptation of "The Final Victory Of Doctor Doom" from back in Fantastic Four Annual #2 ... only nowhere near as good.

Things get off to a poor start with an introduction to Latveria, "land of mystery and menace", using a sequence that's exactly the same as it was in the last episode we looked at. The first time I watched this episode I thought I'd got the wrong one, because it's EXACTLY the same!

Inside the castle Doom orders his soldiers (not robots this time) to prepare his rocket ship. "Prepare the Rrrroyal Rrrrocket" says the guard, rolling his r's like a Shakespearean stalwart - it looks like Latveria has moved to merry olde England this time! Doom (very slowly, for maximum time-filling) walks to his rocket and zooms off to New York, landing in Central Park. Here he puts on his jet-powered flying harnesss and flies to the Latverian Embassy, where he knocks on the door. A guard says "None may enter by order of Doctor Doom!" Doom calls him a "fool", which seems a little unfair - I'd've thought he deserves praise for doing his job properly? Doom storms in, where he's greeted by a line-up of very dodgy-looking ambassadors. "Hail Doom!" says the leader, but the others just stand there, almost as if animating them would be too expensive. Doom orders them to be quiet and go back to their jobs, but while he's being the worst boss ever we do get a glimpse of a portrait within the building. "Bring me the royal projector ray!" he says - not the standard projector ray, the royal one - and when it's all set up he orders the lackeys to leave him alone. "No man may witness what I am about to do," he says. He fires the ray into the Baxter Building, where Doom appears as a hologram once again. "Each time we have battled in the past you have managed to escape me", he says, which infers that there have been other adventures that have not appeared in the cartoon series. Both of the episodes that I've watched hint at a much wider world than that we've seen within the actual episodes, as if their creators are trying to reap the benefits of the immerseive world created in the comics without actually setting it up themselves. "This time Doctor Doom will be the victor!" he declaims, before threatening to turn HERBIE into "a whistling teapot". This upsets The Thing, but before he can clobber him Doom's image disappears. "You soon shall see what Doctor Doom will dare" he says as he vanishes, leading to a bit of self-aware commentary from the Thing. "I wonder who writes that cornball dialogue?" he says, recalling the sarcasm of the comics, before needlessly adding "Count Dracula?" This pretty much encapsulates this whole series - the memory of some great ideas, topped off with unfunny gags that nobody could be bothered to make work.

The FF set off to find Doom, running towards the lift through one of those classic cheap cartoon rooms that go on forever, so as to take up plenty of time without requiring extra animation. They head outside and split up, where they have seperate adventures just like in the original comics, only terrible instead of good. Sue finds a couple of toy gun salesmen and HERBIE calls Mr Fantastic to investigate some secret signals which turn out to be "just the finals of the world's fastest talking disc jockey contest", so Reed suggests they all "calm down, relax - take in a movie". Sadly they all remember that they've got other appointments so can't (more time filling) and head back out to variously go bowling, get a haircut, and receive a major science award. As they leave they meet their fans, who were all there last time they left but apparently are now a problem. Luckily there's an old lift attendant who helps them out by the back exit but, once they've gone, turns to be Doctor Doom wearing a mask! This is all very stupid, but at least it's taken from the original comic! As there, Doom has placed tracking devices on each of the FF, and once he's back at the Latverian Embassy he unleashes some "Doom Balloons" which will follow them. "And none can guess the reason why!" These are also from the oirginal comics, but here look disconcertingly like The Thing. I wonder if this was a mistake by the colourists? The balloons do look quite similar to him, so maybe they thought they should be coloured that way too? The balloons follow the FF around, generally annouying them (and me!). Everyone goes home for a good moan about how humiliating it's all been. Meanwhile Doom feels some sympathy. "I almost feel sorry for the Fantastic Four, what chance do they have against my own power and skill?" Doom returns to the projector - which this time seems to work more like an actual teleporter rather than an image projector - to offer the FF a chance to surrender. "You cannot fight me! You cannot even find me!" he says, and disappears again. "Doom's conceit will be his downfall" says Reed... who then works out that "the bearded elevator man" was Doom in disguise, and put the metal discs on their wrists. Well done, Mr Fantastic!

Doctor Doom, meanwhile, has gone to the Pentagon to demand that the joint chiefs of staff hand over command of the US's arms forces, or else! The joint chiefs say no, and Doom disappears, saying "I expected that answer!" Twenty four hours later, the lights start going off across America (which makes for some very cheap blackout scenses!) as all power is shut down and "the whole nation comes to a halt, as even the cars cannot run."

"He must have invented some sort of electronic nullifier which destroys electricity", says Reed... while explaining things to HERBIE, a robot, in a fully lit room. Did I mention that this whole thing is annoying and stupid? Reed and HERBIE then rub it in by connecting the robot's scanners into another big machine (which is also still working somehow) in order to discover where Doom's orbital base is located. At this point Reed claims he's worked out that the balloons were to record the molecules in their bodies - in the comics this lead to a terrific sequence in which Ben Grimm was briefly turned human again, allowing him to penetrate Doom's defences while undergoing a titanic struggle with the very essence of his being. In the cartoon they simply "switch some of HERBIE's circuits" and send him in. "You're tickling me!" says the awful robot, who then gets into the ship without drama or any problems and scuttles the alarms easily. Doom is monitoring them on a screen, and opens a trapdoor which the team fall thtough ... and then get out again easily. Doom tries again with an "anti-gravity" device, but Sue sends a force field through a wall "where I think his controls will be", turns them invisible, and... er... somehow this turns off the anti-gravity and lets them confont Doom in his control room. I did mention how terrible this all is, didn't I?

"Fools! I have just begun to fight!" exclaims Doom, which is bad news for those of us who just want it all to be over. "Anyone can fight with normal weapons" Reed replies, talking to a Doom whose hood has suddenly turned brown. It looks like a colourist thought it was meant to be hair and nobody bothered to correct it, a feat of half-arsedness which is instantly outdone by the next shot. Either Mr Fantastic has grown into a giant, The Thing has become tiny, or maybe, just maybe, somebody put the animation cels the wrong way round so that the foreground figure is in the background. Either way, it's awful!

The sotry now follows the original from the comics again, as Reed challenges Doom to a battle of wits, using a "brain machine" that measures their intelligence. Doom readily accepts, and the battle royale commences... and then ends about two seconds later, with Doctor Doom victorious and Reed Richards slumped across a table. "I've beaten him at last!" says Doom, who tells the others they are free to go, while he gets back into his rocket ship and clears off home. "With the defeat of Reed Richards I no longer care about taking over the American armed forces", he says as he goes.

But hang on... Reed Richards is fine! It was all a trick! Somehow! "The only way to be rid of him forever was to trick him into thinking he was the victor!" he says. There's no explanation how he did it, I suppose it was just lucky that he had that brain machine hanging around.

And that's the lot, apart of course for the traditional "joke" at the end. "What do we do for an encore?" asks Ben, and he and HERBIE laugh their heads off. I remember hating the cheapness of these sort of cartoons when I first saw them as a child - even at a young age the lack of effort that had gone into them was insultingly obvious, and it turns out that time has not made them any better. As you can probably tell, these two cartoons have been the most painful texts to get through in this whole project!

Don't worry though, there's a whole MONTH of fun to come now as tomorrow we embark on about two year's worth of cameos, flashbacks, alternative universes and puzzle books in what we could only descibe as "MINOR APPEARANCES MONTH!" See you there!

posted 19/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Heel, Superdogs!!
Get ready for a thrilling story today, featuring Primary Research, American sweets, and librarians alarmed!

Most of my reading for this blog is done via Marvel Unlimited a fantastic resource containing over 25,000 comics in digital format. It's an incredibly useful thing (even if the actual App is a bit frustrating) which contains the vast majority of the stories I'm covering here. Comics, however, are not just the stories - there's editorial pages, letters pages, and advert, and though Marvel Unlimited very occasionally includes letters, it never includes anything else.

This occasionally becomes a problem for my research, when Doom is listed as appearing in the comic but isn't in the story. Usually I can work out what's going on via scanned copies online, but sometimes I have to go and look at the actual comic. When I started on this project I hoped that I'd be able to solve this using the UAL Comics Collection (specifically the Nicholas Pollard Collection of US mainstream comics), but it turns out that Mr Pollard wasn't a particularly big Fantastic Four fan, let alone a Doctor Doom one, so none of the issues I was looking for were available.

However! A couple of weeks ago I realised that I didn't need to find the specific issues - Marvel comics of the time had the same paratextual content in EVERY comic published in a given month, so all I had to do was check what comics the collection DID have for the month I was interested in. Thus, although Defenders #65 wasn't in UAL's collection, Conan #92, published the same month, very much WAS! There were a few other comics in my corpus where the same problem existed, so I ordered copies of Conan for those months too, as well as "Captain America" so I could make sure that I was right about them having the same paratext. Thus, I arrived at the LCC archive one morning to find two boxes FULL of lovely smelling old copies waiting for me, many with the original price stickers on from British Newsagents - these were very much reading copies!

I had a clue as to what I was looking to thanks to the Grand Comics Database, which said that the issue I was looking for had a "Bullpen Bulletins" that featured Mr Fantastic and Dr Doom. I checked, and this was entirely correct - there's an advertisement for Fantastic Four #200. HOWEVER! When I looked through the rest of the comic (because I was obviously going to) I saw something that was NOT listed on any database, which forced me to emit an AUDIBLE GASP OF SURPRISE (and go into ALL CAPS!), causing raised eyebrows and consternation to nearby archive staff. I had reached the centre pages of the comic, where I suddenly saw THIS: It's a whole double-page spread with not only a picture of Doctor Doom but an entire text narrative demanding that fans of super-villainy enter a competition to ensure that they, rather than fans of superheroes, win. The text is very slightly off, with Doom talking in a generally less formal way than he normally would and being a little more pally than you'd expect, although he does refer to superheroes as "Dolts!" at one point, which is very much in character! The illustrations are very on-brand throughout though, as he explains his scheme. It was all very exciting to find, although it does raise questions, not least "Are there any more like this?" I checked through the boxes I had access to, and this advert appears in the previous month's issues of "Conan" and "Captain America" too, so presumably that means there were two whole months of Marvel comics containing the advert, which none of the indexers for the Grand Comics Database saw fit to include in their data entry. Arguably, they were right to do so - it's not part of the actual story, after all - but, as we'll see soon, other advertisements definitely did get entered. Are there therefore even more advertisements featuring Doctor Doom that I'm unaware of?

One way to find out would, of course, be to read every single Marvel comic published, or at least one each per month, but that wouldn't be possible with either the resources I have (the collection doesn't go back far enough) or the time I have to spend on all this. What I could do, however, is look at a sample of comics. I actually own a complete set of John Byrne's run on 'Fantastic Four', which means I have access to a Marvel comic for every publishing month from July 1981 to October 1986. Goodness knows I've read through the whole set enough times in the past, but maybe it's time to do so again?

posted 18/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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When Titans Clash!
Here we go then, this is the grand finale for the recent (pretty exciting) story running through The Fantastic Four, starting where the last issue left off, with Doctor Doom cradling his son/clone in his arms, after strangling and electrocuting him to death. This is peak Doom-of-this-period, screaming into the ether, demanding to know why he was "forced" to kill his clone. As we saw last time, he did it in a fit of pure rage, and this denial of his own responsibility is entirely in line with his current characterisation.

The FF attack, and Doom blasts them all with "energy" which Sue says is "even more powerful than my force field", trapping them while he goes to "take care" of his clone. Before he can do anything though, a lackey comes in to warn him that the Latveria people are gathering outside. Doom once again lashes out, before rushing off to see what's happening. This time he doesn't bother so much with pretending to be quiet, bellowing "Everyone - Silence!" at the waiting crowd. Keith Pollard again draws our attention to Zorba's credentials as a man of the people, by showing him standing within the crowd, shouting up at Doom in his lofty perch. Doom can't be bothered with any of this, and unleashes an artificial whirlwind on the people, stating "you've brought your destructipon on yourselves" before stomping off to carry on with his plan. Here we get another insight into the inner life of Doom's goons, as one called Gustav does his master's bidding whilst in fear for the life of his family. Marv Wolfman has been doing a lot of this during the course of this story, showing that the people of Latveria, even Doom's employees, are still people, seeking to find an explanation for how they can obey Doom in this way. It sets up the revolution as an inevitable consequence of his rule, and also comments on the people of Eastern Europe who, at the time the story was issued, were (according to the US Government) struggling under oppressive dictatorships themselves. It's a much more sympathetic way of looking at a people who, rather than being simple-minded peasants, are living in fear, dreaming of freedom.

Doom packs up the statue that Alicia has designed and heads off in a plane for the United Nations. The FF escape from their prison and give chase, much to the annoyance of Doom who, as usual, takes it out on his staff. I keep saying it, but this is a long long way from the heroic revolutionary leader we saw back in the sixties! While the rest of the team deal with the Omni-missiles Reed Richards gives chase on his own, finding Doom in his "upstate New York laboratory", where he's treated to a recap of their history together. This follows all the usual beats of Doom's origin, neglecting the recent idea that he sought medical assistance before leaving the country, with the only change the idea that the monks in Tibet forged Doom's entire suit of armour, rather than just his mask. As advertised on the cover, a Big Fight then ensues between the two of them, which Doom very easily wins. While Reed lies on the floor Doom goes next door to observe his enemy from "my macabre murder room". As ever, he's watching via a screen. I do like the handy telephone in the console!

While Doom tortures Mr Fantastic, his robots are delivering the statue to the united Nations, where it's greeted by some very "of the time" racist caricatures. Doom receives a signal to say that the statue's in place and so leaves, trusting that his "automatic murder room" will be fine killing Reed Richards on its own. He's been a supervillain for nearly twenty years, and yet he appears to have learnt nothing! While Mr Fantastic (inevitably) escapes, Doom enters his "Solartron Complex - the energy storage center for all of Doom's incredible weapons" where, on yet another screen, he spots the rest of the FF fighting their way into the UN. While he's distracted Mr Fantastic creeps up and, using a device mentioned a couple of issues ago, short circuits Doom's armour, leading to another Big Fight which, again, Doom wins pretty easily by using the "refrigeration controls" we've seen recently on the moon. I'm not sure how these work when his armour is short-circuited, but I imagine it's the same way they managed to freeze water molecules when they were already at absolute zero!

The rant about his inheritance from his mother is very interesting - his mother didn't actually have any political power for him to receive, but the idea that he is somehow the rightful ruler of Latveria will return in a few stories' time. Here and now, however, he's busy with the next stage of his cunning plan, activating a hypnotic ray which takes control of the minds of the UN delegates. Once again, it seems that in the Marvel Universe the UN is more like a world government, and that if you can control the delegates you can control the world. This is clearly not true in our world, but it gets mentioned so often, across different media, that it must be true for Marvel's!

Everything's going great for Doom until Reed Richards picks himself up one last time. Getting up again when all else is lost is a common story point in Marvel comics, and normally you'd expect Reed's bravery and determination to triumph, but here Doom gets the upper hand yet again, strangling his enemy almost to death while demanding that he admits that Doom's disfigurement was his fault all along. Just at the last moment Reed pulls off Doom's mask, without which he is unprotected from the "solar-powered intensified reflections" of the Solartron. Confronted by images of his own face he is driven MAD (or madder than usual, anyway), which Keith Pollard very cleverly manages to depict without actually showing Doom's face. With Doom disabled Mr Fantastic is able to disable the hypno-ray, and we see a classic example of Marvel Age depictions of other (i.e. non-American) nations. Blimey indeed! All the remains is an epilogue, featuring a particularly well constructed image showing exactly how the revolution has worked out. Here we see the Fantastic Four (representing America) conferring legitimacy on the new head of government, standing on a raised area which places them above the mass of the people, who are now coloured as a group and silent. Tellingly, there's a UN guard there too, standing to one side, taking no part in proceedings. It's almost as if Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard are suggesting that America is the only country strong enough to confer legitimacy on revolutions abroad!

Doom, meanwhile, is seen in a padded cell, writhing in "eternal torment" as a result of what he's seen. And there ends what has been, leaving my academic objectivity to one side for once (hem hem), a bloody brilliant storyline which has shown why this version of Doom is such a terrifying villain. After this it'll be an incredible two years before Doom properly returns to the mainstream Marvel Universe, although there'll be a lot of alternative realities, flashbacks, adverts and cartoon to look forward to along the way. Before that, however, we have an extra bonus look at part of this very issue where Doctor Doom attempts to sell... MILKDUDS!

posted 15/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Son Of Doctor Doom!
It's a massive relief to be back in the comics after that dreadful excursion into the 1978 cartoon series last time, and things are better right from the off with a thrilling cover and an even more exciting splash/recap page, showing Doctor Doom masterfully mixing metaphors around two of his favourite hobbies - chess and music! He's disturbed by his lackey Hauptmann, who rushes in to tell him that "the peasants are up in arms - led by the rebel Zorba." Doom does not take kindly to this news, and very much blames the messenger. If anyone's not already sure which version of Doom we're dealing with, it becomes abundantly clear in the next two panels, with Doom appearing on the balcony to address his people in wheedlig terms, which instantly turns to abuse when he realises they're onto him. I must admit that it's hard to remain Academically Objective about this story, especially having recently sat through the cartoon series, because it is SO BRILLIANT! Enraged, Doom fires on the crowd with his finger lazers, leading Zorba's rebels to fight back with "weapons smuggled into our tyrant's country." This was first published at a time when the USA was covertly funding rebellions all over the world, seeking to remove governments who disagreed with them. The only difference between that and what appears in this comic is that in our world these governments were often democratic, and not usually run by super-villains. I wonder though, did Zorba get his guns from SHIELD?

Doom reacts with more wheedling words, begging forgiveness and - bizarrely - promising to retire to do some gardening. Throughout this issue Doom acts as a satire on East European communist governments who claim to love their people and only want what's best, while carrying out dictatorial policies and, according to US commentators at least, loathing the peasantry. It's all very different from the early version of Doom as a genuinely caring revolutionary leader.

He next visits the dungeons, where Alicia is working on the sculpture we saw in the previous issue. He removes his mask to allow her to feel his face, giving us a glimpse of the back of his head which differs markedly from previous versions - usually he's shown as having a full head of hair, with only the face disfigured, but here it looks as if his whole head is damaged. It's not unlike the brief glimpse we get of Darth Vader in "The Empire Strikes Back" a couple of years later. While he's busy the Fantastic Four escape and manage to get into a fight with Doom's "Servo Guards". There's always been confusion about whether these are robots or human beings in robot-like uniforms, but calling them "Servo Guards" does tend to point to them being robots. The FF fight their way through to the dungeon, but are forced to surrender again when Doom threatens to hurt Alicia. "It looks like Doom has finally won", says Sue. We're then treated to an utterly splendid splash page, showing Doom wearing a crown, stood on top of a flight of stairs with his "son", while down at the bottom Zorba and his men plan their revolt. This is a glorious page from Keith Pollard, showing Doom's arrogant delusion that he's better than everyone else, raised above the teeming mass of furious Latverians who, this time, seem to be dressed as modern East Europeans rather than the extras from "Hans Christian Anderson" we've seen before. The coronation ceremony goes ahead but, just as Victor Von Doom the Second is crowned, Zorba bursts in with the FF, announcing that Doom's son is really his clone! Doom unleases the Omni-Bots (more killer robots) for a Big Fight, and then sets in motion the process of transforming his son/clone into a kind of quarter-strength Super Skrull, with milder versions of all the FF's powers in a single body. Unfortunately for Doom this also awakens his son/clone's consciousness, making him realise that he is actually a perfected version of Doom - a version who was never disfigured and turned to evil! As I said earlier, this is bloody brilliant! The two versions of Doom fight, until the "son" tells his "father" the truth - that he is an evil being who has lost his own humanity. Doom refuses to accept this and is driven into such a state of madness that he ends up murdering his own son/clone to shut him up! Crikey! That's where it ends, with a promise that the next issue will be "possibly the most important story in the Marvel Age of comics!" If it's anything like this one it's going to be a corker!

posted 13/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fantastic Four Meet Doctor Doom
This is the first of two appearances by Doctor Doom in "The New Fantastic Four", the 1978 cartoon series by DePatie Freleng which is perhaps best remembered for featuring HERBIE The Robot rather than the Human Torch. There was a widespread belief at the time that this was because the television networks worried that kids would be inspired to set themselves on fire to be like their hero if they saw it on TV, but this was wrong on two counts - firstly because the rights to use the Human Torch had already gone elsewhere, meaning he couldn't be shown, and secondly because nobody would ever be inspired by anything in this show. It's not quite as terrible as Doom's first TV appearance in The Marvel Superheroes, but it's not far off.

It would be bad enough to have to watch this as it is, even without the knowledge that this dreary, half-arsed load of rubbish was actually the final Lee-Kirby collaboration, with Stan Lee writing the "teleplay" and Jack Kirby doing the storyboards. You can see hints of their better work, especially some of the jokey snippets of dialogue or the jaggedy Kirby lines on Doom's armour, but it's all submerged beneath a truly dire production.

This episode is a loose adaptation of Doctor Doom's first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, and begins quite promisingly in "the far off forbidden Kingdom of Latveria". The castle looks like a mix of science fiction and olde worlde magic, there a robots marching around, and inside we discover Doctor Doom glaring angrily at chess figure versions of The Fantastic Four. Doom himself talks with a heavily echoed deep voice, back to his usual performance style after the recent (much more fun) campery, and he looks very much like he does in the comics, with the only slight difference being that he appears to have a large row of metal teeth and a lower jaw that moves up and down as he speaks. He sets off in his ship, heading for Manhattan where the action slides into the original story, right down to The Thing sitting reading a comic... except in this case he's reading a "Silver Surfer" comic rather than "The Hulk", I guess because someone else had the rights to the Hulk. There seems to be a tendency in a lot of these adaptations to keep stuff in that just doesn't work in the new medium - 16 years earlier it would have been fun to see a character in a comic reading a recently released comic starring another character, but here it's just someone in a cartoon doing so for no apparent reason.

Doom turns up and, as before, hovers above the Baxter Building. This time, however, it's a (much easier to animate) rope rather than a net that falls over everything, electrifying some (though not all) of the contents. Doom appears as a hologram, much to the confusion of HERBIE who has no record of Doom in his "memory banks", so Reed Richards gives an extremely full version of his origin, including lots of details that weren't available in the original comic. The first part is much the same as usual, with Doom showing an unhealthy interest in ... sorcery! In this version he's doing some sort of chemistry experiment, but the end result is the same, and the heavily bandaged Doom gets expelled from college. The college Dean here looks very Kirby-esque to me, reinforcing the sadness of this missed opportunity. Doom seeks the advice of specialists to cure his injuries, and then "forsakes the civilised world" to travel through remote villages dressed, for some reason, as a barefoot monk, using his horribly disfigured face to frighten off bandits. Eventually he finds some actual monks, makes his own armour, then heads back to Latveria to take it over. The whole thing is done very quickly and, again, makes me wonder why they bothered including things like the monastery, or indeed Latveria, if it's not going to play much part in the story.

"An admirable summation," says Doom, and then tells the FF it's time for them to return to Latveria with him. Understandably they say no, except Reed who wants to see what Doom is up to. Reed gets in the spaceship and then the others join him so he doesn't have to go alone, and they're soon in Latveria where a tractor beam and then some gigantic pincers bring their ship in to land. They're greeted by a great Jack Kirby robot. Doom tells them he needs money to buy "more arms, more magic potions, more giant robots" and, to be fair, who could disagree with that? He still wants the FF to go back in time to collect Blackbeard's treaure, but this time it's to sell it off rather than use it for magic. The whole thing is a much simplified, much blander, version of the original story and, with that in mind, on first viewing I thought it was rather odd that the composition was so different to the original. If they're copying the story so diligently, why didn't they copy any of the imagery? I was just thinking that, in fact, when this image appeared. It's yet another direct swipe of John Buscema's image from Thor #183!! This strikes me as very odd - this image was definitely not part of the original story, yet here it is again, the only direct swipe I could pick out. I wonder why this above all else was chosen, especially in a Jack Kirby storyboarded cartoon?

Doom pulls the lever and Sue falls through a trapdoor, saying "I'm falling!" as she goes. "A trap door!" replies Reed. "He's captured me!" she responds. As stated previously, this really is a load of old rubbish!

As in the original, Sue's capture forces the rest of the team to go back in time to collect the treasure chest, despite Ben's wish that they "clobber" Doom instead. "Personally, I abhor acts of violence" replies Doom, taking another line of dialogue directly from the comic. There it was stated ironically, whereas here it seems to be true.

Reed tells the others that they needn't worry, he'll think of a plan to foil Doom... while standing right in front of him. Doom doesn't seem bothered about their planning and sends them back in time for a very sanitised version of the original story. There's a "comedy" section where Ben and HERBIE run away from some pirates while Reed steals their clothes, with "whacky" music playing all the time, but then they just agree to go with the pirates onto their ship rather than being drugged. Worst of all, when after a very brief not-quite-punch-up, when the pirates start calling the Thing "Blackbeard" it's just a mildly amusing occurrence, not the terrifically emotional chance for him to stay behind and be accepted as something other than a monster, as in the original comics. It's terrible!

They empty the box and we watch them very slowly head back to the island,load the chest with rocks, and walk back to their original spot. Slowly. Back in the future, Doom checks a clock and decides "they must have found the treasure by now" because apparently that's how time travel works, and uses a funky television screen to check. It would be unfair to point out how idiotic this is, because the comic itself did much the same thing, but at least the original comic was exciting, this is just dull! The FF somehow morph back into their costumes (presumably to cut down on the number of new figure drawings they'd need for the rest of the episode) and they're beamed back to our time, where Doom fulfills his promise by releasing Sue.

He is, however, distraught to see that Reed Richards has done the smart aleck tricking of bringing the chest as promised, without any treasure, so he points out that he promised Sue would be safe, but not the rest of them. A very slow, unexciting fight ensues which has lots and lots of time for chat, and then we cut back to Doom at another, very Kirby-esque, view screen. HERBIE and Ben had forgotten that Sue existed earlier, and now Doom does too. "The girl! She's vanished!" he says when he realises she's missing, apparently also forgetting she's called The Invisible Girl. Sue "short circuits the robot control" allowing the others to (very easily) break down a wall and discover a Doom who looks like he has been drawn by a ten year old. Doom pulls yet another lever and falls through a trapdoor. "It's over", says Reed. "He's the monarch here, if he chooses not to fight, so be it." It's not quite the same as the usual "He has diplomatic immunity" super-power, but it's close enough.

At the end Doom stands with a bunch of pilots, watching as they fly home. "They have earned their freedom," says Doom, "they won it fairly. But this was only the first round - there will be other encounters!"

Sadly, for me, he's telling the truth. They'll be another, equally awful, cartoon starring Doc Doom soon, but before that we'll be heading back at last to the Latveria of the mainstream Marvel universe. What a relief!

posted 11/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Thunder In The East!
I'm combining two comics together in this blog, as it's one story in which Doctor Doom appears incredibly briefly across the course of both. It's also a comic in which Doctor Doom is completely and utterly unnecessary, and seems to have been chucked in by Roy Thomas as one extra bit of continuity re-writing, just because he can! The story itself has more than enough going on in it already, as The Invaders (the team of World War Two Marvel Superheroes who never actually existed as a team at the time) are tasked with stopping the Nazis from destroying some experimental Achilles Tanks (which turn out to be a real, if rather oddly named, thing) and then delivering them to the Russians. Along the way we get a cameo from Stalin and several appearances from Hitler, who has had the brilliant idea of using a Dimensional Gateway to access the world of the Teutonic Gods which only Wagner had previously been able to see into in order to write his operas. I believe this is where we all say together "Because Comics!"

Hitler recruits a scientist called Doctor Olsen to analyse Wagner's operas, using science, in order to build this dimensional gateway, because that is how both opera and science work. Olsen has a mysterious assistant called Hans, whose face is bandaged due to an accident. Olsen's machine works and calls Thor (actual Marvel Thor) into our dimension, and Hitler uses his astounding persuasive skills to convince him to fight for the Nazis. Thor flies off and, in the second issue, has a Big Fight with The Invaders, who are forced to save Stalin even though they - with remarkable foresight - don't really like him very much. Hitler starts ranting about how he's going to get all the old Norse gods to fight for him, while Olsen and Hans become worried that he might - just might - be bonkers. The strain of it all is too much for Olsen, who has a heart attack and dies, leaving the mysterious Hans to carry on the work. I do find that text box odd - I'd guessed it was Doctor Doom because I knew he was meant to be in these comics, but other than that there's absolutely no indication whatsoever that it's him, and nothing like this has ever been mentioned before. However, as soon as the reveal is made he starts to act in a much more Doom-like way, notably by double-crossing his boss, changing the spying device that allows them to watch Thor in action so that Thor himself can hear Hitler ranting, and then by destroying the dimensional gateway altogether. With Hitler trapped in the ruins Doom is able to give him a piece of his mind, pointing out that his mother was a gypsy, and so one of the people that Hitler would have destroyed. It turns out that Doom has been working for Olsen as a way of finding out more about dimensional gateways, so that he can build his own to try and bring his mother back from hell - which is actually quite a neat bit of continuity-revision from Roy Thomas. What is slightly less neat is that this nails down Doom's origin story to at least the late 1930s, as he must have attended college with Reed Richards sometime before this, hopped over to Europe for a while, and only then gone off to see the Tibetan monks. It doesn't really make any sense whatsoever, so it'll be interesting to see if this ever gets mentioned again!

It definitely won't next time, however, as we're off for a look at The New Fantastic Four cartoon series, starring the one and only Herbie The Robot!

posted 8/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Invasion!
This is a comic that feels quite special to me, as it was part of my very first Academic Output in Comics Studies, when I presented a paper called Latverian Incursions: Dr Doom and Cold War Politics at the Eighth International Graphic Novel, Comics Conference and Bandes Dessinées Society Conference in Dundee in 2017. It feels like a long old time ago, but as it happens I'm off to do another talk, this time about periodising "The Marvel Age", at Comics Forum in Leeds tomorrow!

That first paper was all about the way that the portrayal of Doctor Doom changed over time as American attitudes to Eastern Europe developed during the Cold War. The actual comics starts with Mr Fantastic making his way into Latveria, where he discovers a country that's markedly different from the original version seen way back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. Back then it was an olde-worlde "fairytale kingdom", but now it's an Orwellian state, constantly watched over by unshaven goons and ruled with fear. Mr Fantastic is immediately attacked by robot guards and thrown, unconscious, into a pond. "Will a man who has survived countless intergalactic battles die in a most ignoble manner?" asks the caption. The answer is "no", as in the very next panel he's dragged out by some locals who intend to "bring him to our leader".

Doom, meanwhile, is showing off his castle to the rest of the Fantastic Four while his people prepare for the coronation of his son. He takes them out onto the balcony of his residence to look at a parade rehearsing. Referring to his people as "mindless cretins, prancing like headless chickens" is a very different attitude to his previously professed love for his people, and it's very much more in line with American attitudes of the time, with East European rulers (not unreasonably) viewed as propaganda-spouting despots who ruled over the masses without a thought for their welfare.

Alicia is still working on Doom's sculpture, which is designed to show Doom before he was "so horribly scarred". It's meant to be a gift to the United Nations, so he wants it to show him at his best in order to persuade them that Latveria itself is not scarred... or something. It doesn't make any sense to be honest and (spoilers) won't make any more sense later on either!

What does make a little bit more sense, comparitively speaking anyway, is the next stage of Doom's plan, which involves putting the Fantastic Four into "transference globes" which will allow him to transmit their powers into the body of his son. There's four globes there, which finally explains why Doom was spending so much time and money helping Mr Fantastic to get his powers back - so that they could then be given to his son. Talking of Mr Fantastic, he has woken up and been introduced to Zorba, the leader of the Latverian resistance who saved him. Together they are making their way towards Doom's castle, avoiding the gaze of more goons. I like the way that Marv Wolfman gives the goons back stories and inner lives. I certainly hope this doesn't mean anything awful is going to happen to them! There's more to come, when Mr Fantastic manages to sneak up on a couple of guards who are moaning about how dull it is, working as hired goons for a super-villain. We've all been there Brechner!

Mr Fantastic leads the resistance army into the castle, only for most of them to get trapped in a gas filled room. Only he and Zorba make it out, much to Zorba's dismay. This leads to him requiring a talking to from an all-American ally. In my presentation I used this as an example of America (in the shape of Mr Fantastic) having to literally shake some sense into the revolutionary forces trying to overthrow Communism. It's a metaphor for the CIA intervening, because only with American leadership can the world become free! There's more of this when Reed confronts the scientist Hauptmann, who knows he was wrong to work for Doom, but was insufficiently American to resist. The action cuts to Doom's chamber, where he's back at the sonic keyboard we last saw back in Fantastic Four #85 (which really does seem to be the key reference for this storyline). Hauptmann enters to tell Doom what's going on, but he's fooling nobody - Doom instantly recognises him as Mr Fantastic in disguise and zaps him with sleeping gas. Clearly he has a much better memory for faces than his adversary! The story ends with all four members of The Fantastic Four captured and their powers being transferred into Doom's son. It looks like nothing can stop him now - but we'll have to wait a while to find out what happens, as next time we're off to World War Two and some classic Roy Thomas revisionism!

posted 6/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Riotous Return Of The Red Ghost!
At the end of the previous issue, 75% of The Fantastic Four discovered that the person who had captured them was Doctor Doom. The only one who has not worked it out yet is Reed Richards, Cleverest Man In The World, despite the fact that he's been working on a top secret project with a man who looks exactly like his old college friend ... Victor Von Doom. This mysterious, yet oddly familiar, figure has built a spaceship which he promises will give Reed his stretching powers back. Mr Fantastic, Super Genius, is perplexed by it all. "Why is he doing this?" he asks himself. It would need "the resources of a small country" to build the ship. "And why does he seem so familiar?" Yes, yes he did.

Mr Fantastic flies the spaceship into space for a bit of continuity re-writing - since the first issue of "The Fantastic Four" back in 1961 a lot of other people, in real-life and especially in the Marvel Universe, have travelled into space without becoming superheroes, so Marv Wolfman explains that it wasn't just cosmic rays that caused their transformation, but also sun spot activity, "a flaring of the van allen belt" and "an abnormal increase of neutron activity", all of which solves the problem of Neil Armstrong not turning into The Thing quite neatly. The plan here is the recreate these original conditions and, amazingly, it works, returning Mr Fantastic's powers but also allowing a stowaway to come back to life - The Red Ghost, the only other person to have been changed by the cosmic rays, who's been drifting around in space waiting for a chance to return! Meanwhile in Latveria, Doctor Doom is treating the rest of the FF to a private concert on his piano. It looks like we're back to the pretentious, deranged, deluded mad desport version of Doctor Doom seen in Lee & Kirby's final Doom story, The Power And The Pride, where he used a similar piano to destroy Hauptmann's brother This becomes even more likely when Doom reveals that he has kidnapped Alicia to sculpt a statue of him, a statue which looks very similar to the painting he was having done back in Fantastic Four #85. He's brought in Alicia to do the job because she is blind, and so can't look at his face. She does, however, have to touch it, and when she does she finds that he's not what she expected at all. The idea that he's "a man wracked with a life-time of pain" switches back to the other version of Doom, as a good man turned bad by circumstances, and it shames Doom into another old characteristic, of turning his face away in shame. It looks like Keith Pollard has been doing his research! There's no time for reflection on any of this, however, as Doom reveals his plan, first of all by explaining that he has to abdicate as ruler under "the laws of Latveria" (something which we've never heard of before) and then revealing his nominated successor: his son! The action switches back to space, where The Red Ghost manages to beat Mr Fantastic, sending their shared spaceship plunging into the atmosphere, where it startes to burn up. Doom is disgusted as this goes against his plans, but he decides to make the best of it and move on with his scheme anyway, not even bothering to check that the ship actually does crash into the ground. It doesn't, of course, and the issue ends with Nick Fury collecting Mr Fantastic from the ocean, where he's finally worked out exactly what's going on. Will he end the menace of Doctor Doom forever? Find out - next time!

posted 4/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Who In The World Is The Invincible Man?
Since Super-Villain Team-Up ended Doom has drifted away from mainstream continuity. The final instalment of the series of solo Doom stories that began way back in Marvel Super-Heroes #20 ended in The Champions #16 with him paralysed by his own cunning, but then he reappeared a couple of months later apparently safe and sound, interacting with The Prime Mover in Master Of Kung Fu #59, then a little while after that he was back in Latveria, watching the skies as Thor and Iron Man saved the world, with no reference to either of the two previous tales. It feels like he's come loose from continuity, but now, after an absence of two years, he's back in the pages of 'The Fantastic Four' for a story that will have him very much in a lead role.

He doesn't appear until the very last page of this issue, but clues to his presence are laid throughout. In fact, hints have been laid for several issues prior to this, in an ongoing story that sees The Fantastic Four splitting up and a de-powered Mr Fantastic going to work for a mysterious corporation who, he's told, are working for "The Government". He's supposed to be a genius, but at no point does he ask exactly who's employing him, and the comic keeps cutting away to a mysterious figure, watching from a distance. He's talking another nation conquering the world whilst watching a video screen... but then again he's also wearing a normal suit, so it can't be Doom, can it? Similar hints follow in this issue, as we see a shadowy figure referring to an underling called "Hauptmann" as a "dolt". Meanwhile, the rest of the FF are in Hollywood, where they're attacked by their old enemy The Invincible Man. Last time he appeared he was a Skrull masquerading as Sue and Johnny's father, but this time he turns out to be ... Reed Richards? When we finally see the face of the mysterious character who has been employing Reed for the past few months, standing behind him above, he turns out to look oddly familiar. However, just when we're ready to believe that this is a Doctor Doom who is somehow cured of his facial disfigurement while also unrecognisable to his college friend, this same individual does something Doom would never do - he goes and reports to his boss. We're looking at an armoured hand holding a goblet with Doctor Doom's crest on it, yet still Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard don't actually name him. It gets even more obvious a few pages later when Sue, Johnny and Ben escape from captivity and fight a bunch of purple-uniformed metal-helmeted goons who look very much like Latverian soldiers (or robots, depending on who's writing them). The trio burst into another room where a mysterious gloved hand blasts them with sleeping gas, leading to a final page reveal of who has been behind it all. As so often happens, this is presented as a massive shocker, despite the fact that it's been blindingly obvious for several pages that it's Doctor Doom!

With his scream of triumph and mouth wide open in mad joy he's drawn to look like a throwback to the mad despot of Lee and Kirby's later years, rather than the more complex, thoughtful character who's been appearing more recently, but perhaps that's just all the excitement getting to him. We'll find out for ourselves... next time!

posted 1/11/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett