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Blog Archive: March 2020

What If The Avengers Were The Last Superheroes On Earth?
Doom appears a couple of times in this story, but never actually speaks. It's a re-telling of Avengers Annual #2, where Doom also had a very brief cameo. In that one he was acting in his role as an Avatar of Villainy, leading a group of supervillains in order to show that this is a major grouping of powerful baddies. He fulfils much the same function here, rather neatly appearing with exactly the same characters as before, getting soundly beaten by the Avengers. These "What If?" stories are all a bit rubbish (technical terminology), but I do like the way that they do at least seem to have been properly researched. This is shown by having the correct baddies in Doom#s first appearance and also in his second, as part of a very brief recap of his first meeting with Rama Tut, the baddie behind the Scarlet Centurion's mask. Here we see Doom getting picked up in Rama Tut's spaceship, seen from the opposite angle to the one shown in the original comics. That - and his appearance on the cover lying comatose - is the lot for Doom appearances in this story. We'll be back to something approaching normal soon, as we return to the world of "Spider-man" cartoons, but until then I'll leave you with this rather delightful image of Rama Tut/The Scarlet Centurion's collection of neatly shelved life-size superhero figures. It's like an eerie prediction of the Forbidden Planet shop window!
posted 31/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fantastic Mr. Frump!
Last time we loooked at an episode of the 1981 cartoon "Spider-man", a series which never aired in the UK (at least not in my ITV region). This week we're looking at a series that definitely did, as "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" appeared on ITV at just the right time in life for me to be incredibly (very cleverly) cynical about it, mocking it constantly for its silly storylines and wooden acting. I still watched it every week though!

Both series were broadcast at the same time in the US, although where "Spider-man" was quite like the comics, "Amazing Friends" had a much more sitcom-like attitude, with regular interludes where Spider-man, Iceman and Firestar (the "Amazing Friends") would hang around in the home they shared with Aunt May and Firestar's dog, Ms Lion.

The show ran for three season, but Doctor Doom only appears in two episodes, and one of those is a barely noticeable cameo. Despite this, he has a regular space right at the end of the title sequence, a top billing which shows yet again what a recognisable, marketable, character he's become. It's noticeable that this version of Doom has the lighter coloured tunic and darker elbow/knee details of the "Spider-man" cartoon, although the image used for the title card is the classic John Buscema pose which crops up time and again in Marvel marketing.

The action begins at the Latverian embassy, although for some reason the spelling has been changed here to "Latvaria". Doom stands on the roof, wearing an amulet that reminded me, through no fault of its own, of the one from Sabre Wulf - a game which, by the way, I was national champion of in Crash magazine for two months running, although I don't like to go on about it. As stated earlier, this version of Doom is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the one in "Spider-man", with a longer tunic and slightly different mask. Whilst researching these two series online I found that there's no clear relationship between them, despite both being made at the same time. Characters appear in both series, and occasionally events from one are vaguely referenced in others, but stories also contradict each other.

Excitingly, if you're the sort of person excited by Doom's supporting cast, this cartoon also features Boris, the old retainer, who is sent to collect the final piece of the amulet which will give Doom "the power of the universe". After an (annoying) interlude with Peter Parker and Firestar's dog, we see Boris pop into a museum and steal the final piece of the amulet. It takes about 3 seconds to do it and nobody chases him, which explains why Doom chose an old man for this mission rather than bothering to send the robots.

While all that's going on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends are heading back from a trip to a baseball game (in their civilian identities) where they bump into a sad figure who Peter recognises as Mr Frump, an old friend of his Aunt's, getting the sack from his job. Firestar rather patronisingly tells him to keep his hopes up as "you never know when good luck will strike." "Sure," he says, and slumps off.

Back at the embassy, Doom has assembled the amulet and has got Boris switching on a transmitter which "will mix the ancient with the new, science with sorcery" - a classic characteristic of Doctor Doom. The magic words on the amulet will, apparently, bring forth a cosmic ray which will make Doom "Lord of all the earth - and beyond!" The Amazing Friends are still heading home from the baseball game, and decide to have a race back. It's a weirdly childish bit of action which, I remember at the time, made me think that this series was definitely "for kids". While taking a shortcut to try and catch up with the others, Spider-man sees Doom up to something, but before he can stop him Doom casts his spell. "I didn't know you were into magic", says Spidey, which seems a bit odd, as he definitely is, and then uses his webs to knock Doom over. The amulet goes flying and lands at the feet of Mr Frump, who gets struck with the cosmic ray and becomes "the most powerful being in the universe." At this point I have to pause and say how familiar this storyline is to Fantastic Four #234, where the most powerful being on earth is a dowdy middle-aged man called Skip Collins who doesn't realise he has amazing powers. That comic has a cover date of September 1981, so I wonder if it's just a coincidence, or if one of the storylines was based on the other?

Back in the cartoon, someone tells Mr Frump to "Bug off". "You bug off," he replies, and the nasty person gets turned into a giant insect. Mr Frump runs away! Later some kids tease him and he tells them to "go jump in a lake", so they do. He tells another to "clam up" and they turn into... a clam. Gradually he comes to realise that his dreams can all come true, and gives himself new clothes, a carriage, a hotdog, and a pet cat. Who can honestly say they would choose differently?

Back outside the embassy Doom and the Amazing Friends are fighting over the pieces of amulet, with Doom keeping the three heroes at bay fairly easily, stunning them with a "sonic siren" and blasting them with some pretty impressive Kirby Krackle. It's only when Frump starts to get more ambitious, changing the sky to rainbows and turning the buildings psychadelic, that they realise someone else has taken the power of the amulets. Frump summons Doctor Doom to explain what's going on, and Doom thinks quickly, saying that he deliberately gave Frump the powers. He offers guidance, suggesting that the Amazing Friends are his deadly enemies, so Frump summons them and turns them into stone. Doom and Frump have a good old laugh about this. While Doom rages about the amulet also getting turned to stone, Frump next summons Aunt May to be his companion. She's frightened to see Firestar has been statufied (she's not bothered about Iceman and Spider-man) so Frump brings them all back to life and then, when Doom protests, removes their superpowers. For someone with all the power in the universe he's very easily swayed!

Doom still has all his own abilities and is about to crush the heroes when Frump summons "all the money in the world", which falls on Doom's head, allowing them to escape. Frump then summons a big car, a yacht, and a massive telly. Doom suggests that a better entertainment might be to force the friends to fight various historical monsters. He gives them back their powers to do this, and it culminates with them fighting "the weirdest creature in the universe." When Aunt May takes fright Doctor Doom loses his patience and blasts her into the arena, where the creature grabs her. Frump decides to save her, transforming into "Wonder Frump - the most powerful superhero in the world." He beats the creature, saves Aunt May and flies off, leaving the Amazing Friends stuck with Doctor Doom. He offers them a deal - join forces with him to stop Frump. Again, it's a classic bit of Doom plotting, as they face a villain so evil that they must all join forces.

Doom tricks Frump by telling him that his powers will disappear in an hour unless he repeates the original incantation. The Amazing Friends back him up, though they have to cross their fingers behind their backs to get away with fibbing. Doom fools him into repeating all of the original circumstances, stealing the amulet for himself so that this time he'll get the cosmic powers. A battle breaks out in which Doom kidnaps Aunt May and Frump decides to save her. In the confusion the amulet gets smashed, depriving both Doom and Frump of the powers of the universe. "But there is another amulet somewhere", says Doom, "and I will never stop searching for it". As good as his word, he flies off into the sky to start looking right away. Everything returns to normal as everyone forgets what's happened, and that's the end of the show. I must admit I was sort of relieved to find that "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" was just as rubbish as I remembered it when I first watched, and I'm glad that Doom's other appearances are going to be in the much better "Spider-man" show!

posted 27/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Dr. Doom, Master Of The World
Today we kick of a substantial run of Doom appearances in the 1981 "Spider-man" cartoon series. There was only ever one season of this show, but Doom appeared repeatedly, and as a result appears in the titles sequence several times - in fact a lot more often than more traditioanal spidey villains like The Green Goblin! This episode features an awful lot of early Doom signifiers, with the United Nations being mentioned in the first few seconds as the President's plane is captured by another great Doom tradition - a futuristic blimp. It's even piloted by robots! While this is going on Peter Parker is waiting at the airport to take some pictures of the president arriving. When he hears that the president has disappeared he changes into his Spider-man costume and zooms off to hire a plane so he can go investigate. Perky music alerts us to hilarity as he finds Wilbur Moses, a "World War One Flying Ace" who takes him off to see what's going on. I do like the implied gag here that Wilbur flew for the Germans! Up in the blimp Doom and his robots are operating on the president, giving him a "remote mind implant" which will put his thoughts under Doom's control. This version of Doctor Doom speaks with a very deep, modulated voice, not dissimilar to Darth Vader's. He also wears a costume very similar to his usual comics one, except that his tunic is a much lighter colour. All in all it's a very professionally done version of the character, much more in line with the Hanna Barbera cartoon from 1967 than the dreadful New Fantastic Four of 1978.

Spidey and Wilbur fly close to the "futuristic blimp" and Spidey immediately realises that "there's only one man I know who could create an overgrown balloon like that", clearly implying that he and Doom have history predating this series. Spider-man uses his webs to transfer over to the blimp, finds a handy doorway, and almost immediately runs into Doom's robots. He uses his webs again, this time to turn the robots into puppets who then punch each others' heads off. He finds Airforce One but is then faced with Doctor Doom, and the pair indulge in some verbal sparring. "You never learn, do you", says Doom, once again implying a history between them, before pulling a lever which drops both Spider-man and the plane out of the bottom of the blimp. Nobody in the plane seems to notice anything wrong and it merrily carries on with its journey, with Spider-man stuck onto the side. It lands, and Peter Parker goes home, sneaking in past a sleeping Aunt May.

Back in the blimp, meanwhile, Doctor Doom is adding a remote mind implant to the representative from South Africa, which completes his collection of world leaders under his control. The only one he's not done yet is the secretary general of the United Nations - yes, it's that old chestnut again, Doom is planning to get the United Nations to vote him in as master of the world! It's a plot that's been used many many times in various comics, cartoons and newspaper strips over the years, despite the ongoing fact that the United Nations really does not work like that!

The plan is "foolproof" according to Doom, but "just in case" he sends a nuclear-powered flying robot to keep Spider-man out of the way. Spider-man himself is heading to the offices of the Daily Bugle to show off some of his pictures of the president. He's spent all his bus money on hiring a pilot earlier, so has to web-swing his way to work, and during this he gets into a fight with the flying robot. When he finally makes it into the Daily Bugle offices he meets longstanding supporting characters like Betty Brant and J Jonah Jameson, plus a new cartoon cast member, Jonah's nephew Mortimer. He's a prat! Peter and Mortimer head to the UN to cover the extraordinary meeting where they see the secretary general trying to warn everyone what's happened to the other delegates, only to be stopped by Doom's robots bursting in with sleeping gas guns. With everyone else knocked out Spidey (whose "super spidey breath" has saved him) follows the robots as they take the secretary general up onto the roof and into Doom's blimp. However, before he can assist Doom captures him in some sort of freeze ray. Spidey keeps on quipping, which clearly annoys Doom who says "where you are going, there are no jokes". He sets the blimp on a course to crash into the statue of liberty and then teleports back to the UN Assembly, where his robots drain the sleeping gas so that everyone wakes up. The mind-controlled secretary general nominates Doom to be world leader, everybody votes in favour, and suddenly Doctor Doom is Master Of The World! High above, Spidey manages to fire a "super hot wad of web fluid" through the skin of the blimp, blowing air out of the side and thus diverting the balloon just enough to miss the statue of liberty. The strain of all this breaks the freeze ray and he's free to web-spin his way down the side of the statue and back to the UN Assembly. Phew!

When he gets there, however, he's surprised to find that Doctor Doom really is master of the world now, as he orders a couple of security guards to take Spidey away. Spidey escapes, and figures it all out. "Doom wasn't elected legally", he thinks to himself, which is certainly one way of putting it. Knowing that he has international law on his side Spider-man rushes into action, grabbing Doom's computer and thus (incredibly easily) taking control of his robots, forcing them to turn on their master. Doom responds with one last classic move - he ignites his back-pack rockets and escapes out of a window! Spider-man uses the robots to send things right, removing the mind control implants. All that remains is for Peter Parker to return to the offices of the Daily Bugle to sell some pictures of his adventures to J Jonah Jameson. With money in his pocket he invites to Betty to the pictures, where they're showing a film about "a strange super guy from another planet who's allergic to green rocks" (arf!) but before they go he's embarrassed by a call from Aunt May, who's worried about him missing his bedtime. It's a standard-issue not very funny "joke ending" to one of these cartoons, which is a bit of a let down after a surprisingly enjoyable, well made (for its time) cartoon. There's a lot more of these to come, including a visit next time to a whole other series - "Spider-man And His Amazing Friends"!

posted 20/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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More Marvel Superheroes That Didn't Quite Make It
We're back in the (very) occasionally amusing world of Crazy Magazine, for what seems to be at least part two of a sequence of strips by Paul Kirchner poking gentle fun at superhero stereotypes. This includes Conan The Commuter running for the "great metallic hell-spawned serpent" that is the 08:02 train to Penn Station, Ms Punk ("they gave her a medal - she pinned it on her cheek!") and my favourite, "Plot Device Man" Doctor Doom makes a fleeting appearance in a five panel gag about "When Bruce Bummer was bitten by a radioactive oppossum he became ... Possum Man!" Doom is only in a single panel, doing his usual job in these situations of being The Avatar Of Villainy, demonstrating Possum Man's greatest power when faced with any and all supervillains. It's not exactly a side-splitter, but it does feature a pretty faithful depiction of Doom, even if the rings around his arms makes the costume look like the version used during his run in "Astonishing Tales" over then years beforehand. Next time we start on a run of appearances in the "Spider-man" and "Spider-man And His Amazing Friends" cartoons. Stand by for action!

posted 17/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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When I looked at the first part of this story I mentioned that I've often seen it mentioned as a "classic" Iron Man story, but that it didn't really feel this way. This issue doesn't either - it does, however, feel like a classic Doctor Doom story.

It's Iron Man's name on the cover, but it feels like he's only there to highlight how much more interesting a character Doom is. All the way through the two are contrasted, and at each turn Doom comes off as more dynamic and interesting. I know that this may be due to the fact that I'm about two thirds of the way through reading several hundred Doctor Doom stories, but I'm pretty sure it would feel that way to someone who hasn't read so many!

The story begins where the last one left off, with the two characters falling through time and landing in a place that turns out to be ... Camelot! Doom quickly works out what's happened - he was planning to use the time machine next to visit Morganna Le Fey for advice, and so that was where it was set to take them when Hauptmann switched it on - but before they can deal with the situation they're apprehended by a bunch of knights on horseback. As we'll see throughout this story, this is a story where an awful lot of characters are wearing expressionless masks! The knights tell them to kneel and Doom, obviously, refuses. A big fight breaks out between him and the knights, which is only broken up by Iron Man pointing out that allowing themselves to be captured will at least get them into the castle. Here they meet a rather grumpy looking King Arthur, who challenges them to demonstrate their "magical powers". Iron Man responds with the old "reverse magnetic field" trick to raise Arthur's throne into the air (which I guess must be made of iron somehow?), whereas Doom refuses to have anything to do with such showing off and simply presents his credentials as a fellow ruler. That's good enough for Arthur and so the two men are sent away to their respective rooms. We first of all see Tony Stark, who is visited in his room by a fair maiden who tells him that "In Camelot, royal guests are provided with companionship during their stay." It's pretty clear that she doesn't mean someone to play Ye Olde Scrabble with, and Stark is delighted. Was there ever a time when this was anything other than massively dodgy? Before it can get any worse we switch to Doom's room, where he is visited by another maiden. The previous page was so very sleazy that it almost seems better when Doom decides to hypnotise her, forcing her to tell him where Morganna Le Fey is. Once he's got that information he blasts a hole in the wall, zaps a passing guard, and carries out one of his signature moves - flying out of a window! Next morning King Arthur tells Iron Man what's happened, filling in some Arthurian Legend Backstory about his sister Morganna and her fights with Merlin. At the same time the maiden who Doom hypnotised is shown to be still under his spell - this is done, I guess, to remind us that Doom is the villain, and that the character who has spent the night enjoying the "companionship" of a woman under orders from her feudal owner is the hero.

While this is going on Doom arrives at Morganna Le Fey's castle, which looks quite a lot like his own. It's worth noting that we're getting a lot more pages featuring Doctor Doom in this story than the nominal hero, and this continues as he works his way past various traps and ends up flying into Morganna Le Fey's castle, where we meet an extremely 1980s version of the legendary character herself. Doom explains that he's come to ask for her help as part of his ongoing quest to free his mother from hell, and relates the story of his annnual attempt to free her through a battle with demons, as first mentioned way back in Astonishing Tales #8. Le Fey in turn tells him that she's trapped in her own castle, and the pair make a deal for Doom to lead an attack on Camelot for her, in return for some Magical Training. Before you know it Doom is heading back with an amry of undead knights behind him. This is spotted by a sentry, who I think reacts as we all would. Boring old Iron Man tries to talk him out of the attack but Doom, of course, refuses, and a Big Fight breaks out between King Arthur's knights, a load of zombies, Iron Man and Doctor Doom. Thanks to John Romita Jr and (especially) Bob Layton it all looks gorgeous - everything is so shiny!

Eventually Iron Man works out that Doom has never previously had the power to raise the dead, so somebody else must be doing it. He zooms back to Le Fey's castle which he's able to find because "King Arthur gave me its general location during our talks yesterday", which is handy. Here we finally get a few pages of the lead character in action, as he fights some mystic shadows and a dragon, which he defeats using a previously unmentioned tube of freon which he just so happens to keep in his... shoulder? Also handy! This allows him to confront Morganna Le Fey who is not happy at all. "Ohhhh, you make me hate you", she says, and then disappears in a mystical huff, causing all of her zombies to suddenly collapse on the battlefield. Doom works out who's responsible and how he's done it and flies back to the castle ready for what Iron Man expects is going to be another punch-up. However, Doom points out that things have changed, and that they'd be better off working together now in order to get home again. Iron Man (who is meant to be one of the world's smartest men) is taken by surprise, and when he asks Doom how he can trust him we get a Classic Doom response. again, Doom is playing the lead role in all of this, with Iron Man simply reacting - it feels like David Micheline is enjoying writing him a lot more!

There then follows several pages of what would be, in a movie, a Working Together Montage, as the two men take their own suits of armour to pieces in order to build a device to send them home. They're both impressed by the skill of the other but, of course, would never say it aloud. Just before they switch the device on they agree a twenty four hour truce for when they get back, to give each other time to get home, then back they go in an oddly Ditko-esque splash of time travel. And that's pretty much that - all that's left is a one page "epilogue" which sees them arriving home, agreeing to have a Big Fight when they next meet, and then going their seperate ways. As I've said (repeatedly) this has very much felt like a Doctor Doom story, and it's one I've thoroughly enjoyed. I'm extremely aware of the fact that we're getting very close to looking at comics that I bought when they actually came out, and that's probably why I'm starting to enjoying the reading process so much. Everybody knows that the comics you read when you were eleven years old are the best comics you'll ever read, and there's some right crackers coming up on the horizon. Before that, however, we've got a whole heap of cartoons to watch, starting next time!
posted 12/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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This is sometimes talked of as a "Classic story" for both Iron Man and Doctor Doom but, having read it, I think it's more likely that the next (double-sized) issue is the fondly remembered classic, as this one is more of a regular episode of "Iron Man", albeit one which has some important aspects of Doom's ongoing story in it as well.

Doom doesn't actually get mentioned until about 6 pages in, as the first 5 pages are concerned with Iron Man stopping a bunch of terrorists from hijacking a Stark International freighter ship. It's all inked by Bob Layton, so everybody involved looks very slick and shiny! Once he's foiled the baddies, Iron Man flies back to Long Island where he changes into a business suit for the Annual Meeting of Stark International's Regional Managers. He swoops in and swiftly fires one of his regional managers for selling electronic goods to Latveria. It's interesting that Latveria is still on the restricted sales list despite the fact that Prince Zorba is still in charge and, apparently, considered benevolent. The mere fact of Doctor Doom's presence in the country is still enough to stop Stark International trading with them.

Doom himself, meanwhile, has been on a trip into the past to learn the secrets of a magician called Cagliostro. This trip is not really important to the overal story in this issue, and is instead presented as a glimpse into Doom's day to day business, away from his more famous occupation as a supervillain. There are three nuggets of Doom-related storyworld in this section - first of all the contact with Hauptmann, the frustrated brother of another lackey previously murdered by Doom, secondly the use of his Time Machine, and final the lightning-bound castle in "the small european nation of Latveria". This castle is clearly based on the version drawn by Frank Miller a while ago, which has become the default design, even down to the constant bad weather surrounding it. Which castle is this meant to be though? The text clearly says it's in Latveria, so can't be the one we saw recently in New York state, but if Zorba is still in charge then it can't be the one in Doomstadt either. Maybe Doom liked the one in America so much he had another one built at home to exactly the same design?

Doom returns to his lab and congratulates Hauptmann for his work, using the people management skills that have made him so successful i.e. he tells Hauptmann that he won't kill him today. This genial atmosphere doesn't last for long, however, as Hauptmann has to deliver the bad news that their shipment of electronics has been turned back. I must admit to being a bit confused here - were the "terrorists" from earlier on actually employees of Doom, and if not, why didn't he stop them himself? Either way, Doom is livid, and stomps off leaving Hauptmann bristling at his own cowardice in still working for him. Doom sends a team to America to take back the shipment which he'd ordered and, apparently, paid for. They find Iron Man waiting for them, but with the help of their Doom-built submarine/tractor/aircraft thing they manage to escape, although this does not leave them enough time to actually pack the shipment away, instead zooming off like someone who's left their coffee cup on the roof of the car. Tony Stark flies off to Latveria to try and sort things out, and is met by armed guards. However, just as he's preparing to fight, he's surprised to discover that they're actually there to welcome him. Zorba is hoping that Iron Man will be coming along too, and that he'll somehow be able to keep Doom busy and stop him staging a counter-revoluton. Zorba doesn't actually appear in this story but his presence is definitely felt, especially here in the "new" Latveria. It's a nice bit of continuity from Dave Micheline, using the current storyworld situation to generate a fresh plot.

Iron Man does indeed show up, and flies to Doom's castle where... hang on, how does everybody know this is Doom's castle? Isn't that where Zorba lives now? Or does he really have another one stashed away - but if so, why don't the Latverian police pop over there to re-arrest him? It seems that what they meant by "keep him busy" was "do our job for us please"!

Anyway, Iron Man goes to this castle and quickly runs into another great signifier of Doom - robots! Iron Man makes quick work of the robots and finally reaches Doom himself, who is quite off-hand with the person he believes is just one of Tony Stark's employees. He points out that the consignment was paid for quite properly, and refuses to engage in any further negotiations with "a lackey". Iron Man refuses to leave until he gets the equipment back, and Doom retaliates by... shooting rocks out of his fingers? This is a brand new ability of Doom's armour, and quite a weird one at that. Iron Man manages to fight his way out of the instant avalanche and flies into the main laboratory area, where Doom gives chase. A big punch-up ensues! We see Hauptmann watching while all this is going on, and when the fight makes its way to the time machine he sees his chance and quickly switches it on, sending both hero and villain into the time stream. (I always think it's really weird when American superheroes say "Bloody". It sounds like such an English swear word - it pops up a few times in this comic, so maybe it's something David Micheline knew he could get past the censors?)

The story ends with Hauptmann smashing up the Time Machine's controls, thus marooning his boss in the distant past, and having a right old Super-villain cackle about his victory. And so ends this instalment of a story which has so far made excellent use of Doom's current storyline, a feat made more impressive by the fact that it's been carried on over several different series and creative teams over the past few months. We'll find out how it all ends... next time!

posted 5/3/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett