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Blog Archive: April 2019

Encounter At Land's End
During the now legendary 'Minor Appearances Week' on this blog we looked at a reprinted poster of Doctor Doom in Giant-Size Superstars #1. The poster was interesting because it featured a surprisingly accurate list of Doctor Doom's previous appearances, and in today's issue we find out who put it together!

The information comes in an editorial at the back of this issue, 'Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up' #1, where Roy Thomas reveals that it was none other than he who put it all together. This makes a lot of sense, as he comes from the world of fanzines, where list-making like this is very much part of the fun. In his (brilliant) book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Sean Howe discusses how Roy Thomas kept a box of index cards during this period, with details of character's powers and appearances, in order to help writers keep track of who was where, who'd met before, and what they were capable of. Over time this would become a computerised database, but at this point Roy was keeping it all on paper, and it seems that going through this data, and seeing how often Doom and Namor had tried to team-up before, gave him the idea to create this new title.

(ADDENDUM: since writing this blog I've read an interview with Roy Thomas in which he says he doesn't remember creating any index cards, and that it seems a bit too organised for him to have done. It was, however, forty years ago, and the evidence for some kind of recording seems pretty compelling, so I'm going to go with him having forgotten about it!)

The box of index cards comes in handy right at the start of the story, as Thomas speaks directly to the reader, acknowledging that they have (very) recently seen Doom alive and well in Fantastic Four #155 with no explanation of how he escaped from being blown up in a spaceship at the end of Fantastiuc Four #144 almost a year earlier. It turns out that Doom fell into the ocean (from space) and was picked up just in time by Namor, who pops him into 'The Electronic Stimulatron' which he has onboard his ship and blasts him back to life. The box of index cards comes out again as Namor reminds Doom of a conversation they had back in Submariner #20 about being "natural allies" and Doom hit backs with a reminder of their first team-up in Fantastic Four #6. Thomas seems to be really enjoying using this resources, as Doom thinks back to the team-up Namor mentioned in Submariner #20, which is reprinted here in full. It's an interesting story from the time when Doom's character was being pulled in two different directions, with his creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby turning him into a maniacal despot, and others like Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway pushing back towards his original status as a tortured outsider.

That conflict, as we've seen recently, was still going on in 1975, with Doom alternating between lunatic and anti-hero, and this issue sees Thomas giving Doom a shove back into anti-hero territory as he thinks back on his old adventures. The reprint is followed by a one page interlude leading into Doom recalling the events of Marvel Super-Heroes #20. I have to respectfully disagree with Doctor Doom on this one - 'This Man! This Demon!' very much WAS one of his finest hours, especially in the second half of the story where none other than Roy Thomas delved further into the character's background for an exploration of what makes him who he is.

The moral that Doom himself takes from this re-telling is surprisingly self-aware, seeing that he himself is not to be trusted, and he decides not to ally himself with Namor again because they'd end up betraying each other. A fight breaks out, during which Doom escapes, leaving Namor to shout to the skies like a drunk outside a nightclub at 2.30am that one day they will get back together again. And there the story ends, with the aforementioned editorial promising more team-ups to come. This may not have been a particularly noteworthy story in and of itself, but the sudden explosion of references to past adventures does point to this being written around the time that Roy Thomas's index cards were created, and that's something that will become a bigger and bigger part of the storyworld for years to come.

posted 25/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Battle Royal!
Doom's return to "The Fantastic Four" is, in some ways, yet another minor appearance to follow all of those seen in Minor Appearances Week, as he only really turns up on one page. He does at least speak in this one though, and in many ways he's the driver of the plot.

The story kicks off with the Fantastic Four walking through Central Park, where a bunch of muggers try to attack them. The Thing frightens them off, and then they're suddenly attacked by The Silver Surfer who asks the ever pertinent question, "who shall clobber whom?" He has turned up with only one thing in mind: The Silver Surfer easily beats the Fantastic Four in a fight - or, rather, The Fantastic Three, as Medusa does precisely nothing. It's very noticeable during this, and other issues featuring the character, that she never actually seems to do anything. She's been brought in to replace the absent Invisible Woman, but for all intents and purposes they could have just left her out. Her powers are very similar to Mr Fantastic's, so it makes me wonder why the writers decided she'd be a good replacement in the first place.

Anyway, The Silver Surfer is just about to kill the team when he realises he can't go through with it. Instead he explains that, after a failed attempt to escape the planet's orbit he fell back to Earth, landing in a "quaint balkan township." Looking at this image again I realise that Doctor Doom is standing on the balcony watching. I hadn't noticed it before because he'd been coloured the same as the battlements, presumably in order to hide his presence ready for the big reveal at the end.

The Surfer spots a poster of the town's new queen, who looks uncannily like his lost love Shalla Bal. The Surfer goes to find her, and comes across a battle scene featuring the Fantastic Four... or rather Three. This turns out to be robot versions of the team being used in a military exercise, so the Surfer flies on, into a nearby castle where he discovers Shalla-bal, who doesn't recognise him. The Surfer turns round to discover that he is in the castle of ... Doctor Doom! How he didn't realise this earlier is beyond me - he's been there before at least once, has seen Doom's military, and also of course has The Power Cosmic, but maybe he was just distracted by the thought of seeing his girlfriend again?

with his story told the Surfer realises that, now he thinks of it, he really should get on with killing the FF, and the issue finishes with him doing just that. Interestingly, the next issue blurb promises a story called "Doom's Day", which we've had several times before. That won't be the title (it'll be something much less exciting) but it will definitely feature a whole lot of Doom. Before then though, we'll be hopping over to a brand new series to find out exactly how Doom got back to Latveria from space!

posted 18/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Marvel Value Stamp #84
As a special addendum to Minor Appearance Week we have what may be one of the most minor of ALL minor appearances, although one which sheds interesting light on the methodology of the people adding information to the various databases I used to set up this corpus.

At first I thought this would be a Doom solo story, as used to be the case when this series began five years before, but sadly he makes no appearance at all in the actualy series - this issue was logged as featuring Doom simply because it includes a 'Marvel Value Stamp'. This was a long running series that ran in the Marvel house ad pages, encouraging readers to collect the entire set. According to The Unofficial Index Of Marvel Value Stamps this particular stamp, #84 in the series, had already appeared in three other comics before this one, none of which made it into any of the comics databases. The fact that it did get entered this time is, I think, purely down to a very diligent data enterer!

As ever the fact that Doom gets his own stamp, as with the Slurpee cup, demonstrates his prominence in the universe, although in this case various other villains had stamps too. The really interesting aspect of the stamp itself is that, like the back of the Slurpee cup, it's using the Rich Buckler image from the end of Fantastic Four #142. Clearly this was a favourite among the Marvel editorial team at the time, and is on its way to becoming one of the defining images of the character for this period.

And so ends Minor Appearances Week - next time Doom returns in a three-part story battling his old nemeses, The Fantastic Four!

posted 8/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Games Godlings Play!
Minor Appearances continues with a WEIRD comic, which is just what you'd hope one co-created by Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin and Len Wein would be like. It sees The Defenders being recruited for a cosmic game of chess between The Grandmaster and... The Prime Mover! The Prime Mover originally appeared, as detailed above, in one issue of Strange Tales and then disappeared, apparently abandoned by Doctor Doom. It turns out that the hyper-intelligent robot decided to sod off under its own power in search of more games when its creator didn't come back, and to be honest, who can blame it?

There's no more Doctor Doom in the story, but there's a lot of other stuff going on, including some illustrated text pieces, very similar to the ones that Gerber tried out towards the end of his run in Howard The Duck, lots of flashbacks, some general Cosmic Malarkey, and... this very strange sequence: It also includes an imp walloping the Hulk and, I think, the first appearance of Korvac, who would later go on to fight the Avengers. It all ends with Daredevil gambling the fate of the entire human race on the toss of a coin and, thankfully, winning, due (somehow) to his hypersenses. It's a right rollercoaster of a story, and a prime slab of mid-1970s Marvel!

Minor Appearances Week has one more instalment, coming your way on Monday!

posted 5/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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In 1975 the 7-Eleven chain of US convenience stores launched a new range of plastic cups for Slurpee drinks featuring Marvel characters. They'd already done this a couple of years earlier with DC characters, with the idea being that comics fans would be encouraged to buy Slurpee drinks in an effort to collect thet lot.

There's a lot more information about the series on The Dork Review, and about this specific cup at The National Museum Of American History. Points of interest for this blog include the fact that this is one of the earliest examples of Doom appearing in non-comics merchandising (with the Power Record being the first, I think) and that he is the only supervillain to appear in the entire series, showing once again his importance in the Marvel character universe.

Also of interest is that the back of the cup features the Rich Buckler Doom who appeared at the end of Fantastic Four #142. This particular image will be making another appearance very soon in an almost, but not quite, as odd location!

posted 4/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Prisoners of the Pharoah!
This very Minor Appearacne see Doom appearing only once in flashback. The story itself is still pretty entertaining, with some great art by Dave Cockrum and some properly amusing writing by Steve Engleheart, as Hawkeye and The Swordsman, officially The Worst Avengers, recruit The Pharaoh to do battle with Kang The Conquerer. The Pharoah and Kang are sometimes said to be time-split versions of the same person, as well as being variously The Scarlet Centurion and a much older version of Doom himself too, and this story doesn't do much to clarify the issue, instead showing them all together as part of one massive time paradox. That's the one and only appearance of Doctor Doom, but I so there's plenty of room for excellent panel from halfway through the issue, showing Kang raging against the efforts of Hawkeye and Swordsman. I think we can all sympathise with the immortal conqueror from the future here can't we?

Next time it's time for some proper transmedia action in Minor Appearances Week, as Doom makes his debut on... Slurpee cups!

posted 3/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Power Records - The Way It Began
Minor Appearances Week continues, with what is strictly speaking, just a reprint of Fantastic Four #126, accompanied by an audio recording of the whole issue being read out. Apparently the idea of this was that young readers would listen to the record and read along with the comic, as a way of helping them to learn to read.

I'm not sure quite how valid this is, educationally, but it is a very entertaining listen, especially the full-powered interpretation by the actor playing The Thing. Stan Lee also provides the narration, which you can hear for yourself right here:

The only real shame is that Doctor Doom doesn't actually say anything! More minor appearances tomorrow!

posted 2/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fantastic Four's Most Famous Foes
This week is 'Minor Appearances Week' with a whole string of extremely minor appearances by Doctor Doom in Marvel comics during 1974 and 1975. We start with one so minor that Doctor Doom doesn't even appear in the actual story itself, instead popping up at the end in a series of pin-ups reprinted from way back in Fantastic Four Annual #1. When I started doing these blogs I was quite strict about what "counted", preferring to look only at actual in-story appearances, which means there is no blog about this issue, which seems a bit daft looking back. Doom may not be in the story, but he's on the cover! The "pin-up" in this issue is not an exact copy of the original - it's been slightly recoloured to make Doom's chest clasps yellow, rather than green as they occasionally were when they first appeared, and there's a new text box in the bottom right with some "vital statistics". Here's both versions, with the original on the left and the new one on the right. This seems like an odd choice of image to reproduce, because it's not what Doctor Doom looks like anymore. The John Buscema version has been standardised for a couple of years, whereas this much earlier Jack Kirby version has small cloak clasps, pants instead of a tunic, and very off-brand gauntlets and boots. The only reason to use it, and I suspect this was the reason it was, is that it's part of a ready made sequence of already formatted images that can just be shoved in en masse.

The list of appearances is also rather interesting, as it marks a recognition of the fan activity (which in many ways this blog is a part of) of making lists of appearances. It's even more interesting for the appearances it chooses to include, with almost every "real" appearance counted (when Doom himself takes part in the story), but with none of the flashbacks or illusions that we've noted along the way, like in Iron Man #33 or Daredevil #100, and DEFINITELY no 'Not Brand Echh'. Weirdly, while it does contain fairly recent appearances in other series there's nothing from 'Fantastic Four' for the past couple of years. Other than that I was surprised by how accurate it was - I wish they'd done one of these every few years, it would have made selecting the corpus an awful lot easier!

More Minor Appearances tomorrow, Minor Appearances fans!

posted 1/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett