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Blog Archive: August 2019

The Private War Of Doctor Doom!
Sadly this issue doesn't feature George Perez, with Sal Buscema taking over instead. I've always liked his artwork, especially (obviously) on the Hulk, but it looks a bit odd here underneath Pablo Marcos' shiny inks. Marvel comics at this time seem to switch between Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo and whoever else is around every few issues, and this one is written by Jim Shooter, who was called in a couple of blogs back to draw Super-Villain Team-up!

We pick up where the last issue finished, with an unusually long three pages of recap, including a splash page with almost exactly the same dialogue as the end three panels last time. Once we're finally caught up Doom agrees almost immediately to The Vision's proposal of a team-up and pretty much takes control of the situation. There's a quick look at what Namor's up to - getting into a Quinjet with Beast, Whizzer and Wonderman - before we return to Hydrobase where Doctor Doom appears to have freed the Avengers from their Slave Collars. There then follows a LOT of melodramtic soul searching as different characters ponder their relationships, complicated here by the existence of magic, androids, and people revived from the dead. It's almost a prototype for the kind of storytelling Chris Claremont would use so successfully on the X-Men.

Doom, meanwhile, has totally taken over, working with Iron Man to plan their next steps. Nobody seems to have any complaints about working with someone who's meant to be an arch enemy of all that is good and right, until The Whizzer sees them all heading his way a few pages later. There then follows the traditional Big Fight, with The Avengers leaping into action against Attuma's forces. This goes on for several pages until The Avengers are able to triumph by using, once again, their secret weapon of Teamwork. Doom has been absent for the whole thing, running off with the "cell stimulator" which Attuma had been intending to steal. Namorita tries to stop him getting away, and Doom very un-chivalrously bats her away with his fist - something which I'm sure an earlier version of the character would have baulked at. Luckily for the free world The Avengers arrive and, while Doom is fighting them off, The Vision destroys the cell stimulator. This leads to an absolutely classic bit of old-style Doom behaviour - he sees that the device has been destroyed and instantly flees by jumping out of a window, swearing to be avenged! And that's pretty much the end - we never did find out who the mysterious "buyer" was that Gregor was talking about a few issues ago. Perhaps we'll learn more when we return to Doom's own series next time?

posted 30/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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To Stand Alone!
This is the final part of a three part story which began in Avengers #154 (which didn't feature Doctor Doom at all, so didn't feature here), moved into Super-Villain Team-Up #9, and now returns to The Avengers. This means we're treated to a Jack Kirby rendition of Doctor Doom for the first time in several years, as at this point he'd returned to Marvel and, as well as running is own series, was also doing covers here.

Sadly for Kirby, his style now looked somewhat old-fashioned to comics fans at the time, who made their objections known in letter columns. It's a shame, but you can see why they'd react strongly against Kirby's now rather clunky looking-later style on the outside of a comic which features the artwork of George Perez inside.

I distinctly remember having my tiny mind BLOWN when I first saw George Perez's artwork, when part of his Avengers run was reprinted in Marvel UK's "Marvel Superheroes" series. I have a vivid memory of taking these two issues on holiday with me and just GAZING at them in awe - seeing the covers now I can SMELL the sunshine on them! It was so different to what I was seeing in British comics at the time, even in 2000AD, and I LOVED it. This is probably also why I reacted so badly to Jack Kirby at first - it does look weird and clunky compared to the smooth shiny gorgeousness of George Perez.

Anyway, this is meant to be a deadly serious peice of academic research, so let's get on with it. Let's look at the splash page, featuring Perez's first depiction of Doom. Thanks George! The Avengers attack, and we get a lovely couple of pages showing fights between indiividual characters along the sides of the page while a recap goes on in the middle. Doom and the Hydrobase characters beat up the Avengers (I suppose it's easier because they're wearing slave collars), and then discover that they were here to capture Namor under the orders of Attuma. Namorita tells Doom that he's the only person alive - apart perhaps from Namor - who can save them from Attuma, which Doom finds... intriguing. We then go back to New York for some more of the subplot involving The Whizzer before heading back to Hydrobase, where the captured Avengers use their teamworking skills to escape from captivity. Namor, meanwhile, is heading for that research lab in Maryland that the talkative Russian pilots told him about last time. Attuma and his army have already arrived, however, only to find the aforementioned Whizzer, along with The Beast and Wonder Man, waiting for them. A big fight breaks out, as is tradition, but when Namor arrives he is tricked into believing the Avengers are on Attuma's side, thanks to some devilish cunning by his arch enemy. This is, I think, an excellent trick, which actually works too! Further fighting ensues until Namor recognises The Whizzer as an old ally from his days in The Invaders. He's distracted for a moment, which gives Wonder Man the chance to knock him out.

The story ends with The Vision hurrying to make "a pact with the devil himself", or rather in this case an armed Doctor Doom. Next time it's the finale, still within the pages of The Avengers but, sadly, not drawn by George Perez. Did I mention how much I like his artwork?

posted 28/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Pawns Of Attuma!
The splash page for this issue has an extremely helpful opening paragraph, telling the reader not to be confused, as they haven't picked up the wrong comic by mistake - this is carrying on from Avengers #154. It's nice of them to point this out - I must admit I was confused myself when I first looked at this page, not least because Avengers #154 isn't in my database of issues that feature Doctor Doom. Happily for me and my collection methodology that's because he isn't in there! It's still odd to have this jump though - there was nothing in the previous issue to indicate that the story would be carrying on in another series, but then I'd guess that The Avengers was selling enough copies not to need help from Super-Villain Team-Up, although the reverse may not have been true!

For those who haven't the time to catch-up, Avengers #154 sees Namor's nemesis Attuma putting slave collars on the Avengers, which allows him to force them to do his bidding - in this case, beating up Namor. They head over to Hydrobase, bemoaning their fate as they go, while we return to Latveria, where Namor is amazed by how brilliant his master is at creating robots. Because, of course, this is a Doombot - that explains everything! Except - it isn't!! This is a great twist by Bill Mantlo (surprisingly nicely drawn by future editor-in-chief Jim Shooter), although it does make me wonder how on earth Boris, who has known Doom since he was a child, was fooled?

Rudolfo appears to have changed since last time we saw him, claiming not to want a return to monarchy anymnore, but wanting the opportunity to lead his people to freedom. We then get an extremely succinct recap of Rudolfo's previous attempt at revolution, including some nicely abbreviated copies of the actual artwork from that issue. Finally assured that Doom is dead, and he is released from his oath, Namor immediately clears off, heading back to Atlantis to check on his people. We then switch our view to Hydrobase where Doom is loafing around, relaxing while he's meant to be working on a cure for the people who have been transformed into amphibians. Namorita demands results, and Doom is delightfully cheeky, praising her extravagantly and claiming that he has totally got a cure. In a terrifying prediction of future office life, however, he then bunks off even more by taking a personal call on his video phone, talking to a "Gregor" about a mysterious "client" he has lined up. Alas for Doom he is spotted, but in the confusion manages to grab Namorita as his prisoner. Before he can press his advantage the Avengers arrive - Doom points out that he has a non-aggression pact with the USA, which Iron Man (incorrectly) refuses to believe. They demand that Doom hands Namor over and, rather than simply say he's not there, Doom gets annoyed at them making demands upon him, and the inevitable Big Fight breaks out. It looks like Doom is winning, but before we can find out for sure we switch again to a subplot about The Whizzer being in hospital - something which has not been mentioned at all in this series, having been carried over from The Avengers, and never will be here again!

The issue ends with Namor fighting some Russian jets, piloted by some (very) Russian pilots who say things like "Lenin's Ghost!" They tell Namor that they're on high alert over Latveria, because (in a massive dump of exposition) Doom is "after a special weapon housed at a Maryland Research center, with it he will be invincible." Rather than ask why on earth Russian jets are patrolling Eastern Europe on the lookout for someone who is rumoured to be thousands of miles away in America, Namor turns around and flies off, determined to stop Attuma getting his hands on some weapons.

It has, to be honest, all been a bit confusinbg, with the switches in location and the various Doom's, Doombots and disguises, but it'll all be worth it next time when the story crosses back over into The Avengers and we get to see George Perez's first go at Doctor Doom!

posted 23/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Usually this series has featured both its lead characters on the cover, often with Namor in action and Doctor Doom looming over him, but this one looks a little odd, like it was originally a Namor cover with Doom added at a later date. Interestingly (to me) it's inked by Owen McCarron, more famous for various "Fun Pages" of puzzles and quizes in newspapers, including a series called "Marvelous Fun" which I'm trying to find out more about at the moment.

The story itself carries on from last time, with Doom captured by Namorita. He's immediately thinking of ways to escape, and claims that he's there as an ally of her cousin. The people of Hyrdrobase, quite rightly, point out that he is no such thing, citing Reed Richards as their source, at whcih point Doom replies that Richards was lying. This strikes me as particularly of its time. In an earlier decade the word of a superhero would always be believed, but here in the 1970s nobody can be trusted, and everything is in doubt. We only saw in the last issue that the United States government is happy to work alongside Doom, so who's to say he's not the good guy, or that the previously purely heroic leader of The Fantastic Four could be the baddy?

Doom increases their confusion by offering to cure the people of Hydrobase and turn them human once more. Namorita and co can't be sure if he's telling the truth or not, so take him back to his castle where we once again meet Doom's lackey Bela. Bela seems to have been invented by Steve Engelheart to be abused by Doom, and there's a lovely character moment where Doom claims to be "like unto his father, and he my errant son" before, of course, screamimg at him for being the bearer of bad news. His captors smell something "fishy", but Doom calms down and smooths things over, convincing them again that he just might be telling the truth, while leading them deeper into his castle. I must admit I rather like this version of Doom - he's not the tortured, damaged figure we've seen from a few years ago, but neither is he the ranting, purely evil, deluded demagogue from more recent times. He's a complicated character who can't always control his temper, but is most dangerous when forced to rely solely on his wits.

Meanwhile Namor and The Shroud are heading back to the latter's plane which, they are horrified to discover,is being destoyed by loyal Latverians. Here we also find Doom's surrogate father Boris, who hasn't been seen for some time. After Doom's defeat by a wolf in the last issue it's now Namor's turn to be overwhelmed by furry friends, as a dog scents him and leaps to attack. This alerts the Latverians, who (thinking Doom has been murdered) follow the dog into action, leading the Boris, who has always been shown to be his own man, at least somewhat, to wonder at their loyalty. It's interesting here that Steve Engelheart is giving a fairly common (during the Cold War), if rather patronising, explanation for the people's loyalty to Doom - they simply don't know any better.

Our heroes just about manage to escape, with The Shroud seeing a mysterious "something" along the way which we're expected to ponder for later. The scene then switches to Hydrobase, where Doom is inspecting their laboratory and, secretly, communicating with the loyal Boris. We then head back to Latveria, where Namor and The Shroud stumble upon a village where the circus is in town - not just any circus though, this is The Circus Of Crime! The Shroud recognises them and asks for their help. The Ringmaster is clearly down in the dumps about his current run of luck and refuses, as there's no way he can go against Doctor Doom. While probably a fair assessment this enrages Namor, who launches into a big fight which ends with him thumping an elephant. This persuades the Ringmaster to help them escape, and we next find Namor and The Shroud disguised as circus crew, walking through Latveria as part of a parade. Things are going fine until Namor spots Doom on a balcony. He'd thought that Doom was dead, but seeing him makes Namor realise that he's still under an (idiotic) oath of obedience. He tries to struggle free, only for The Shroud to try and stop him, and the issue ends with Doom demanding to know what's going on. Or is it Doom? As the "Next Time" box says, "Isn't Doom really on Hydrobase?" What's going on? We'll find out... next time!

posted 21/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Deadly Is The Doctor Called Doom
We're back in the world of "Spidey Super Stories" again, with Doctor Doom's origin undergoing a few changes since last time. The first time he appeared in this series he was just "a scientist who built a special metal suit" that made him "the strongest man on earth." Now, however, we are told in the inside cover that "Once Victor Von Doom was just a very smart scientist. Then a terrible accident happened..." I love Doom's confidence here, which is an abbreviated version of his character in the main Marvel Universe too. It's also interesting that he's still got his hair in this universe, showing that his accident may not have been quite as damaging, nor as potentially frightening for a young audience.

The main story begins with Spidey backstage at a talent contest, which before we pull away to discover that Doctor Doom is also watching. Here we see that this version of Doom is very close to the main Marvel universe version, watching events via a television link. His henchman however are different, here shown as regular goons rather than robots or Latverian stormtroopers.

The talent show turns out to be sponsored by Doctor Doom, with the main prize a trip to his kingdom. This seems very odd, but that seems to be how these stories work, with a dream-like logic where events just sort of happen without anybody questioning it. Spidey, unsurprisingly, is suspicious, so when The Short circus (a young dance group from "The Electric Company" TV show) fly out to Doom's kingdom, he decides to go with them.

Doom meets them at the airport, displaying his usual outward friendliness and surprise that anybody would doubt him. They head off to the castle where Doom sits everyone down at a table and proposes "A toast to all children, pure and innocent". Everyone drinks their soda which, of course, turns out to have been dosed with some kind of sleeping potion. This has happened before in the main Marvel universe, and we can't blame Spidey for falling for it when even Mr Fantastic got fooled.

Spidey wakes up to find himself being experimented on by Doctor Doom who reveals that - gasp! - the contest was a trap all along, designed to capture Spider-man! The next couple of pages see Doom revelling in his dreams of power, thanks to an army of Spider-men which look a lot like the robots/henchman his main universe counterpart uses, although these have a single spike in their helmets rather than the usual mickey mouse ears. The plan culminates in Doom being crowned King Of The World, with the ceremony taking place at The United Nations. What is it with Doctor Doom and The United Nations? It pops up again and again in stories involving him, generally depicted as a sort of over-arching World Government that can hand over power of all its member states purely through a vote. I'm no expert on international law, but I'm fairly sure that's not right.

Meanwhile in the dungeons one of The Short Circus activates a special ring that Spider-man gave her earlier in case of emergency, which calls an army of spiders towards the castle. Once inside Spider-man is able to use his telepathic power over spiders to get them to turn off the machine that's trapping him and ... hang on, what? Spider-man has telepathic powers over spiders? The Spidey Super Stories version of Doctor Doom may be very similar to the original, but clearly this version of Spider-man is a lot more powerful!

He frees the kids and together they run through the castle looking for a way to escape, but unfortunately end up in the wrong room. A big fight breaks out with Spider-man and The Short Circus against Doom and his men. The kids manage to drape Doom in a ceremonial flag, and when he manages to free himself he runs at what he thinks is Spider-man... ... but is in fact a mirror, behind which is an empty window. Thus Doom re-enacts one of his earliest characteristics, throwing himself out of a window at the end of a story to escape justice!

The story ends with Spidey and The Short Circus on the plane home, discussing that fact that a rusty Doctor Doom got fished out of the moat. That, however, is not the last we see of Doom, as later on in the same issue we get this rather glorious montage of images. I love the way they've mocked up a tourist poster for what is really just a subscription ad - I'm pretty sure that's a Jack Kirby picture of Castle Latveria too. There's also a different version to the "Marvel Value Stamps" we've seen in the main universe, this time called "Spidey Stamps".

So ends a very interesting episode, where Doctor Doom acted in a way that was surprisingly close to how he appears in the "normal" comics, even when Spider-man definitely did not!

posted 13/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Marvel Collector's Far-Out Bonus!
Here's a very brief detour from Doom's adventures over in "Super-Villain Team-Up" - a cameo appearance in Jack Kirby's massive "Captain America's Bicentennial Battles".

This was one of Marvel's "Treasury Editions", a series of much bigger than usual comics, both in terms of page-count and page-size, that, for the most part, really were quite special. This one definitely is as it features an epic story in several chapters, written and drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by some of the leading artists of the time.

As well as the story there are pin-up pages throughout, including this black and white image on the inside back cover: And there, right at the bottom, is Doctor Doom. This is a throwback to his appearances in Not Brand Ecch (also often drawn by Jack Kirby) where he'd regularly show up with a whole gang of super-villains, signifying that this was meant to be funny because it WAS a bunch of proper super-villains doing something daft. The use of Doom as a signifier of super-villiany would very quickly leak out into the main Marvel Universe, and would happen so often that researchers (hem hem) would even deliver academic papers about it at conferences!

Another interesting aspect of his use here is that Doctor Doom, at this point, was NOT a Captain America villain. So far, in fact, they have only actually met once, a whole decade ago in Avengers #25 - Doom does show up in Captain America #132 in 1970, but that was just a cameo in which he doesn't interact with Captain America at all. The fact that they've only met once seems strange in itself - Captain America is one of Marvel's biggest heroes, and Doom one of their biggest villains - and it makes it even more odd that he should appear in this celebratory piece alongside Cap's regular antagonists like The Red Skull and Batroc.

The only explanation,in fact, is that Doom really is being used as an avatar of supervillainy, and that these academics - whoever they are - were right!

posted 9/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Who Is ... The Shroud?
After all the excitement last time building up to who Doom's mysterious guest might be, this issue kicks off with Henry Kissinger right there on the splash page, agreeing with Doctor Doom that "these super-heroes have enjoyed too much freedom to this point." Next time some idiot on the internet complains about comics "becoming" political, please feel free to show them the above!

The Fantastic Four leave, with Mr Fantastic, supposedly the most intelligent man on the planet, having complete trust in his goverment Johnny Storm accuses him of being like Neville Chamberlain, and Doom like Hitler, which might be going a little bit far, but does show that the Human Torch didn't sleep through quite ALL of his classes at school. Kissinger then hops into a helicopter, while Namor storms off in disgust, back to the castle where he bumps into The Shroud. Namor hops into the bath to recharge, and The Shroud decides it's a good time to tell him his origin story. It turns out that his parents were murdered right in front of him on the way home from a public entertainment one night, and the young orphan swore to spend his life avenging their death by fighting all criminals. He trains himself but, somehow, that doesn't seem quite enough until he realises that he should become a Superhero instead so...

Hang on, does this sound eerily familiar? Sadly he doesn't decide that criminals are a cowardly superstitious lot but does very much head into the himalayas where he meets a mystic sect who teach him their mystic ways, which leads to him having his face scarred horribly and...

Come on Steve Engleheart, this is just combining the origins of Batman and Doctor Doom isn't it? I mean, it's not like they were that different to begin with! (actually, a brief Google tells me that he was actually meant to be a mix of Batman and The Shadow!)

With that story told The Shroud reveals that he plans to kill Doctor Doom in order to... jumpstart his superhero career? "Oh. I see... you're insane," says Namor, which is an entirely fair point.

Doom himself is out walking his dogs, thinking about the fact that where his subjects used to respect him, they now fear him instead. We addressed this in the previous blog, and I think it's worth noting that Doom's version of history isn't quite correct. He was depicted as loved by his people well after he first attacked the Fantastic Four, and has shown to be similarly respected quite recently. This is a major rewrite of Doom's character, with Engleheart claiming that Doom's attitude towards his people was a "mask" all along, rather than heartfelt. This is a massive change, but it's nothing compared to what happens next. What the ACTUAL HECK? Doctor Doom is a rapist now? Nothing like this has ever happened before with this character, and it's a sudden leap that makes even the biggest previous changes seem like nothing. On first reading this I hoped that he was maybe using this as an excuse to take the girl out to the woods to maybe give her cosmic powers or something, but no, he's definitely doing exactly what it looks like he's doing. Thankfully for all concerned, The Shroud chooses this moment to attack, and launches into a big fight that shows all of Doom's gizmoes and tactics are pretty much useless against someone who knows how to jump out of the way. Doom finds the entire thing very tiresome, especially when this "upstart super-hero" attaches a magnetic magnesium bomb to his chest plate. Doom simply rips off his chest plate, but then, bizarrely, is attacked from behind by a wolf who knocks him off the side of a cliff. It is, to be frank, all a bit rubbish. The Shroud rushes back to tell Namor that he's killed Doctor Doom and therefore the Sub-mariner is no longer bound by his oath. Namor finds this all a bit unbelieavble but slinks off anyway, and the issue ends with his suspicion being proved correct, as Doom wakes up in a submarine. Hang on, they found him in a river? What on earth were the inhabitants of Hydrobase doing in a river in Eastern Europe? And doesn't Doom's army have an air supply? The whole thing is most unsatisfactory, much like this entire issue. If I sound annoyed it's because I am - let's hope there's another Exciting New Direction for this series coming soon!

posted 7/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The cover of this issue promises "the most unexpected guest star of all! We kid you not!" and, for once, this isn't hyperbole.

Before we get to that we've got a whole issue to get through, which begins with Namor trapped in Latveria, shouting for Doctor Doom. His captor turns up, revealing that he's been watching Namor pace about through the eyeholes of a painting. This is a VERY Doctor Doom thing to do, as is the fact that he revels in his victory, bossing Namor around and then stomping back to his main office where he has another video screen set up, showing the approach of The Fantastic Four. We then get several pages of The Fantastic Four in action, just as we did last time. I wonder if this was Steve Engelheart auditioning to be the regular writer on that series too?

Eventually we get back to the stars of the series, with Namor still imprisoned, catching a glimpse of The Shroud creeping about outside. Doom, meanwhile, is in a meeting with a special guest, demonstrating a nuclear explosion! Doom takes his guest, whose face is concealed by shadow, on a trip round his armoury before heading back to the throne room where they conclude their discussions with a toast to their negotiations. They're interrupted by a Snivelling Lackey called Bela, who has come to tell his boss that The Fantastic Four have, inevitably, beaten his army of androids. Doom pops down the corridor to Namor's cell and gives the order that the Sub-mariner was dreading: to attack the Fantastic Four! This whole thing seems profoundly daft to me - Doom shot Namor, destroyed the suit that kept him alive, and then made him promise to be his slave in exchange for not destroying Atlantis. I'm pretty sure that there's a better way out of this problem than just going along with whatever Doom says, but Namor doesn't think so, and heads off into a big fight with the FF which takes up most of the rest of the comic.

Eventually they subdue him and return to Doom's castle where they discover that his guest is none other than... Henry Kissinger!! Now that's what I call a twist! Jason Dittmer and others have talked about the 1970s being a period when superhero comics reflected the American people's loss of faith in their government, and nothing shows that more than having your Secretary of State forming an alliance with Doctor Doom!

There's not really any way to top that, and so the issue ends with The Shroud once again lurking melodramitcally, this time in the rafters. The next issue blurb promises an origin for him, but let's be honest, after that massive reveal it's going to have to be something pretty special!

posted 2/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett