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Blog Archive: December 2019

Let Doctor Doom Tell You How To Subscribe To 4 Marvel Comics For The Price Of 3!!
Minor Appearances Month comes to a pulse-pounding end today with yet another advert featuring Doctor Doom. We've previously seen him advertising Fun And Games Magazine and commanding readers to enter a Milk Duds competition, and today he's at it again, trying to sell subscriptions to Marvel comics.

As with those adverts, I found out about this thanks to the efforts of the Grand Comics Database indexers - my suspicion is that one of the people who was indexing 'The Defenders' was particularly scrupulous about what he included (they're all "he" according to the listing for this comic), and I must say I'm glad he was, otherwise I might have missed it!

The version of Doctor Doom shown in this ad isn't particularly Doom-ish - on other occasions the creators of the adverts have at least tried to make him a villain, but here he comes off more as a huckster, trying to interest us in a deal. The Fantastic Four also seem out of character, all being keen on the idea with the exception of Reed Richards, who at least considers the idea that it might be a trap! All in all it seems like a very strange way to advertise anything. "A notorious liar and villain is saying this is a good deal, and even the superheroes have their doubts!"

If only there was some sort of topical joke I could make about this today.

And with that we draw Minor Appearances Month, and indeed the blog for this year, to a close. These blog entries have covered two whole years during which Doctor Doom made no "real" appearances in the mainstream Marvel Universe but, as we'll see when we get back into action in the new year, when he does finally return it will have been worth the wait. In the meantime - Merry Christmas everybody!
posted 13/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Super Fantasy...
After all the excitement of a proper full-scale Doom appearance last time (albeit in an alternative "What If?" universe) we're back into the swing of Minor Appearances Month today with a very minor appearance indeed. It takes place in the pages of "Crazy", another attempt by Marvel to do a rip-off of "Mad" in the same vein as "Not Brand Ecch" and it's... well, it's a rip-off of "Mad", basically.

Doctor Doom appears in a two panel gag which seems to be an ongoing feature comparing reality to fantasy - later on there's one about a dentist's called "The excruciating reality and the exhilerating fantasy" where the reality of a dentist's appointment is contrasted with a fantasy of taking revenge on the orthodontic team. It's not very good!

The Doctor Doom one contrasts the fantasy of being a superhero with the reality (in the second panel) of being a bespectacled comics fan being beaten up by bullies. Here Doom is once more shown at the front of a group of supervillains, cowering for comic effect, just as he was in all of those "Not Brand Ecch" strips, and, as with those, it's one of those occasions where you see something from a different time and/or culture and think "Was this ever believed to be funny?" In a way, "Crazy" Magazine is much like the bits of "Henry IV Part One" that always get cut out because they don't make sense anymore. In a way.

Anyway, that's your lot for today. Tomorrow it's the last instalment of Minor Appearances Month, as Doctor Doom tries to sell magazine subscriptions!

posted 12/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What If Doctor Doom Had Become A Hero?
Over the course of Minor Appearances Month 'What If?' has become a sort of second home for Doctor Doom, just like 'Not Brand Ecch' when we looked at the late sixties. This particularly story is, however, not minor at all, comprising a remix of most of Doom's greatest hits so far. For someone who's spent a lot of time reading those hits (and misses!) it's pretty exciting stuff!

Unusually for this series, the cover answers it's own question. "What if Dr. Doom had become a hero?" it asks, then comes straight back with "He would struggle with Mephisto... and he would suffer as no man has ever suffered before!" I'm very tempted to say "Thanks, the cover, I don't need to read the rest of this one then", but there is much, much more inside.

It all begins with The Watcher giving a brief recap of Doom's story in the main Marvel Universe, starting with a scene from Doom's very first appearance, way back in Fantastic Four #5. The FF's costumes are drawn correctly for the period, although the Thing is a lot rockier than he was then, but Doctor Doom is drawn in the current version of his costume, not the slightly more medieval one he debuted in. He's also shown with his tunic hitched up to reveal his metal pants. This seemed incongruous at first, until I turned the page and discovered that Fred Kida has drawn The Watcher in exactly the same way! Once we've all recovered from that, The Watcher gives an abbreviated version of Doom's origin as it was told in Fantastic Four Annual #2, with the addition of Valeria's presence, as first seen in Marvel Superheroes #20, and then gives a brief explanation of how Multiverses work using an image very similar to the front cover of DC's "Crisis On Infinite Earths" #1. The idea of 'What If?' is that it shows what might have happened if one crucial moment had gone differently, and in this case it's Doom's decision in college to ignore Reed Richards' warning about an error in his calculations, which led to his machine exploding an scarring his face. Here, Victor Von Doom takes moment to calm down, and then asks for an explanation, which leads to Reed fixing the machine. Instead of exploding it works as planned, with Victor visiting the Netherworld where he discovers that his mother is trapped in hell. As the note in the panel says, his mother's fate was previously established in Astonishing Tales #8. Clearly Don Glut did his homework before sitting down to write this story, picking out the highlights of Doom's story so far, although the bit about her being damned to hell because she was unable to confess before she died is, I think, a new addition.

Another addition is Doom's claim that he is the rightful heir to the Latverian throne. I don't recall this ever being mentioned before, but it'll crop up again later in this story. As in the main Marvel Universe, Doom sets out on a quest for knowledge, eventually reaching the same sect of monks who accept him as their master and forge him a suit of armour, although this time it's made of gold with "a helmet befitting a knight of old" rather than grey with a sombre mask. Doom flies off to a nearby cave where he performs a magical ritual which sets his mother free from hell. It only takes a couple of panels to do, and appears to be ridiculously easy. However, when Mephisto, one of hell's "brooding masters" finds out about it, he swears to have his revenge on Doom.

Blissfully ignorant of all this, Doom flies home to "the tiny, storybook kingdom of Latveria" where he discovers that the Baron who caused the death of his father has himself died, leaving the country under the villainous yoke of none other than Prince Rudolfo, first seen in Astonishing Tales #1. He is, to use the correct terminolgy, even more of a dick here than he was then. Rudolfo is enraged by a peasant who has come to ask for mercy paying his taxes, which Rudolfo says makes him "no better than this kingdom's thieving gypsy population", setting him at ideological odds with Doom, who promptly bursts in to free the man, fighting off a platoon of royal guards through the medium of laser blasts and... turning them into frogs? It's great to see that even in this universe, Doom still calls his enemies "Dolt"!
Rudolfo is mortally wounded in the battle, but with his dying breath he crows that he will die without Doom knowing "the richest secret" about himself. Rudolofo dies, from his wound or from the shock, leaving Doom able to rush down to the dungeons and free all the gipsy prisoners that have been kept there, including his ongoing supporting characters, Valeria and Boris. Doom becomes King, not through revolution but from birthright, and brings about great changes to the country, notably through the provision of tractors and arc welding equipment. This delights the peasantry who salute the King and his fiancee as they walk through the streets of Latveria, in another callback to an image first seen in Fantastic Four Annual #2 and homaged many times since. The pair marry and the whole country celebrates, but just as they're heading off on their honeymoon Doom suddenly finds himself standing on "what appears to be some god-forsaken asteroid", where Mephisto tells him that he's stolen Latveria, put it into an orb, and trapped the whole country in hell, as compensation for the loss of Doom's mother's soul. I'm neither a theologian nor a lawyer, but it seems to me as if Mephisto has taken things a bit too far here. Surely a whole country isn't repayment for a single person? Sadly there isn't an ombudsman for Doom to complain to, so instead he launches into a Big Fight with Mephisto, which ends very badly for him. Mephisto, perhaps aware of the unjustness of his original plan, offers Doom a way out. He'll swap all of Latveria for just one soul - that of either Valeria, or Doom himself! Normally, in a superhero story, the hero would offer himself up willingly to save the eternal soul of his country and his wife, but Doom is not that kind of hero and, after grappling with the issue, decides that "the world must not be deprived of Doom", and Mephisto takes Valeria's soul instead. Immediately Doom is returned to the car, where his wife has suddenly disappeared. The story then flashes forward several years to mid-summer's eve where, just as in Astonishing Tales #8, Doom is doing battle with Mephisto's demons for the soul of a woman that he loves - only this time it's his wife, rather than his mother. As with the original version of the story, Doom fails, and the issue ends with Boris watching as his master retires, beaten, but promising himself that he'll try again next year. It's a downbeat ending which doesn't have a lot to do with him becoming a hero, but does follow a distinct pattern for "What If?" stories, which always seem to end either with everybody dying or, as here, things turning out pretty much the same as they did in the main universe, if with a slight twist.

Despite the slightly standard ending, this has been a fascinating story which, as I said at the start, takes us on a tour of most of Doom's greatest hits so far. Next time, however, we're back to a single panel appearances, as Minor Appearances staggers towards a climax!

posted 11/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Masks Of Doom
Another flashback today to a Minor Appearance that I didn't know about until I started out on Minor Appearances Month, and, as with last week's example I only found out about it by accident, in this case vy spotting Doctor Doom in the background of a Facebook post about Ben Cooper masks.

Ben Cooper were an American company who made masks and costumes, mostly for Halloween, often tied into licensed properites. They did a lot of superheroes and supervillains including this rather wonderful Doctor Doom costume in (as far as I can tell) 1967. As you can see, the face part is really quite close to the comics character, while the costume... isn't. I do like the idea of Doctor Doom storming around with his own face on his chest - it's not impossible to imagine him thinking that this is a good idea - and the "DOOM" on the belt buckle is a nice touch too. It's interesting to see this appearing as an item of merchandising so early on in Marvel's existence, when they were only just starting to become popular and well before Doom himself appeared in much other media. Around this time he was making a guest appearance in the Hanna Barbera cartoon but before that he'd only been in one edition of the (awful) Marvel Super-Heroes series the year before.

About seventeen years later Doom would appear again in an entirely new version of the costume which, to my eye, owes quite a lot to Darth Vader. Again, the mask is very close to the comics version but the costume isn't, and again it features an image of Doom's own face on the chest. It's interesting that this costume should go so far towards Darth Vader (who was based, at least partly, on Doom), but maybe that's more of a reflection of the fact that Doom was also appearing in 'Secret Wars' around this time, when his costume was altered vaguely along these lines. Or maybe they had a design for a Space Astronaut that they weren't using!

Either way, it's interesting to see Doom popping up amongst the more conventional hero costumes, proving his popularity yet again. That's all for the flashbacks for now - next time we're back to chronological order for what will turn out to be a very major appearance as we discover what would have happened if Doctor Doom had turned out to be a hero.

Hang on, I thought he already was?

posted 9/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Come on in... the Revolution's Fine!
Here's an extra special flashback edition of Minor Appearances Month, looking at a very minor appearance from 1970, where Doctor Doom - or, rather, a Doctor Doom costume - appeared in the first Rutland Halloween Parade comics crossover.

These crossovers occurred occasionally throughout the 1970s (and even more occasionally beyond then) as an unofficial link between Marvel and DC's universes, notably in 1972 when a story involving Steve Englehart driving to meet Gerry Conway and Len Wein began in the background of Amazing Adventures #16 (written by Englehart), continued into Justice League of America #103 (written by Wein) and concluded back in the Marvel universe with the Gerry Conway-written Thor #207. It's a lovely bit of fun brought about by the enthusiasm of this generation of comics creators, recently arrived from the world of fandom.

This story does not, sadly, feature any actual superhero crossovers - the parade's organiser Tom Fagan traditionally wore a Batman costume but even this could not be shown in the Marvel-published stories, so he's shown dressed as Nighthawk - but it does feature plenty of comics creators in cameos, including Roy and Jeanie Thomas, who look very excited to be there. Doom appears a few times, although he's quickly revealed to be just someone in a halloween costume. There's a brief moment when he first appears when it might just be him though, if only due to the dialogue. It's a great gag, only slightly given away by the fact that the Red Skull is clearly some bloke in a mask! Doom takes his own mask off in the following page, and then makes his final appearance on the page after that, actually leading the parade. Is it me, or is there a cheeky Batman in that crowd? The rest of the story is... let's say "very of its time", as The Valkyrie organises a bunch of female Avengers into a group called "The Liberators" in order to fight the "male chauvinist pigs" in the rest of the team. She turns out to be The Enchantress in disguise, and the less said about the sexual politics of the whole thing the better! Unfortunately I only found out about this story by chance, when I noticed Doom in a feature about the Halloween parade - it would have been good to talk about it in its rightful place between Thor #182 and the DERANGED Astonishing Tales #3, as this was right at the start of Doom's first real period of glory. It would also have been good to have been able to relate it to Daredevil #9, another appearance of a Doom costume and, coincidentally, another issue that I missed at the time! Having said that, it does fit in quite nicely with the next episode of Minor Appearances Month, which will be another flashback, looking at some real-world Doom costumes!

posted 6/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What Do Marvel Super Heroes Really Talk About in the Midst of Battle?
When I talked about "Marvel Fun And Games" last week, I promised that one day I would tell the scintialating story of how I fouund out about it. This is that wonderful day, so get ready for an explanatory thrill-ride as I basically say "I saw it in an advert".

For LO! It saw it in an advert!

All right, there's a bit more to it than that, although not much. When I first looked through my corpus I was slightly mystified as to why Fantastic Four #220 was included. I have always loved John Byrne's run on the comic, and had read a reprint of this comic in "Volume 0" of Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, a collection of his various bits of Fantastic Four work before he took over properly, and didn't remember Doctor Doom appearing.

Normally when Doom isn't in the actual story it's because he's in an advert or editorial page, and I usually check this by visiting one of the "scan" sites, which sometimes contain these "paratexts" alongside the story pages. Sadly that wasn't the case for this one, but luckily for these me comics are fairly inexpensive, so I was able to buy a copy on eBay. Well, I say "luckily for me", but on the other hand I also have a complete collection of Byrne's FF run, which by this logic remains pretty much worthless!

When the comic arrived my suspicions were proved correct - Doom did appear in an advert, for "Fun And Games Magazine" as shown below, in an image clipped from the cover of Fantastic Four #200 What's interesting here (to me at least) is that this advert must have appeared in pretty much all other Marvel comics that month, yet it's only logged as appearing in two comics - this one and The Defenders #85. This demonstrates, yet again, the lack of consistency you get with crowd-sourced databases. They don't tend to have clear rules about what "counts" as a story or character appearance, so some people get a bit more enthusiastic than others. Looking at the databases it seems to me that the person who was logging "The Defenders" was one of these enthusiastic people, as several issues have advertisements logged in The Grand Comics Database where other series don't. That includes another one that we'll be looking at next week!

Tomorrow, however, Minor Appearances Month has a special flashback episode as we look at another comic that I discovered by accident, all the way from 1970!

posted 5/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What If Sub-Mariner Had Married The Invisible Girl?
This is a follow-up to the very first issue of "What If?" which saw Spider-man joining the Fantastic Four. At the end of that story Sue Storm left the team to marry Prince Namor, and here we discover that Mr Fantastic hasn't been coping very well, taking his anger out out on poor old Spider-man by constantly criticising the quality of his work. This is, quite understandably, annoying for Spider-man, who doesn't go to HR, which is what I would recommend, but instead just hands in his resignation. Reed Richards goes a bit mad and ends up fighting with Namor, only stopping when they realise that Sue is giving birth to a baby. It does seem monumentally dick-ish of both men to be so busy waving their willies around that they don't notice a woman giving actual birth in the same room as them, but the shock of seeing the baby does at least make Reed Richards realise that he should probably try and get over it. It's a bit of a daft story, though beautifully illustrated by Gene Colan, which makes it a shame that Doom only appears in the single panel above, and only as a prop to demonstrate Spider-man's efficiency and Reed's lack of management skills! Still, that's Minor Appearances Month for you!

posted 4/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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What If The Avengers Had Fought The Kree Skrull War Without Rick Jones?
This is another of those occasions where Doom shows up in a montage to demonstrate that the current World Shaking Event is so Important and World Shaking that characters all over the planet are involved, no matter whether they're heroes or villains.

The World Shaking Event in this instance is a "What If?" re-imagining of the Kree-Skrull War where Rick Jones gets killed early on, so that everybody else had to step in to save the day without him. Doom appears as part of the aforesaid montage, along with several other characters, reacting to a call to arms. As the story progresses we see most of these characters again, thumping Skrulls, but sadly no Doom. As is so often the case, he's being called on to represent Super-Villains in general, putting "petty differences" aside to fight a greater evil, rather than as a character himself.

That's it for today, but Doom's back again tomorrow in the next issue of "What If?" for an even more minor appearance!

posted 3/12/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett