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Blog Archive: June 2020

Countdown To Doom
In order to watch Doctor Doom's appearances in the 1981 "Spider-man" cartoon I bought a three CD boxset of the series on eBay. I was quite pleased to be able to watch it on my television, rather than laptop, but distressed to discover that, for some reason, this episode wasn't included. It's an awful shame, as this marks the climax to the whole Doom storyline - and it's great!

The episodes starts with Peter taking his Aunt May to watch a NASA space launch. We're reintroduced to the scientist we meant at the end of Canon Of Doom, who now gets a name. He's called Doctor Zoltan, and he's sending Doctor Doom's laser cannon into space. When a reporter - quite understandably - asks why he's doing this Zoltan storms out.

The countdown commences, but nobody thought to tell the guys who were filling the rockets fuel tanks, and they end up stuck in an elevator with the rocket about to go off. Luckily Spidey is there to save them - a "strange twist of fate" according to Doctor Doom who, we discover, is watching the whole launch from his base. Doom looks in on his old friend Boris who, we remember, attempted to stop Doom the last time we saw him. i'm really enjoying the attention to continuity in this series, which continues when we go to the cell next door to find Johann planning a prison break. Doom calls Boris to his view screen to show him his plans coming to fruition, as a "mysterious tracking beam" forces the launch off course. While everybody at NASA is trying to save it, Aunt May notices Doctor Zoltan switching off what turns out to be the auxiliary tracking computer. She tries to warn the scientists, but they don't want to listen to her. Maybe they should be a bit more humble - they have, after all, just launched Doctor Doom's laser cannon into space for him. You would have thought someone somewhere might have at least done a Risk Management Assessment and decided that there was the possibility of this plan going hideously wrong, wouldn't you?

Doom uses the laser cannon to ignite a ring of volcanoes around the pacific ring, as is his wont. The power of these explosions causes the Earth to move out of orbit, heading away from the sun. The only person who can now save "Spaceship Earth" as he (brilliantly) calls it is, of course, Doctor Doom! It is "the ultimate blackmail". "Only I can keep it from a new Ice Age!" he declares.

NASA receive a fax which informs them that the tracking beam came from Latveria (who'd've guessed?) and we get a handy infographic showing how igniting the volcanoes again could act as a motor to push the earth back into place. "But only Doctor Doom can push the Earth back into place" says Doctor Zoltan, which (finally) tips Spidey off that Zoltan was involved. His name's Zoltan, surely that was clue enough?

The French ambassador arrives and offers Spidey a lift in his plan, dropping him off in Latveria on the way home. Meanwhile, a rowdy meeting at the United Nations is interrupted by Doctor Doom. "The world is filled with war and hunger, with violence and petty greed. You have done nothing to change that. I offer the world a better way," declares Doom. All they need to do is to declare him ruler of the world, or the Earth will freeze. A TV announcer, some hours later, tells us that so far the UN has completely failed to come up with an answer, which makes a change - usually they give in straight away. Latveria, meanwhile, is covered by a "radar blanket" so that "not even an insect could cross the border without being detected by Doctor Doom". This is a neat segue to Spidey jumping out of a plane and parachuting into action, where he is detected by the robots administering the radar. Again, it's great to see the same design of robots being used throughout the series. Spidey makes a web ballon which, apparently, confuses the radar, then creates some sort of cocoon that allows him to float down the river towards the secret resistance base that he remembers from last time. I'm not quite sure what the plan is, but I don't really mind!

The United Nations, meanwhile, has finally come to the conclusion it always comes to and has decided to give in to Doom's demand and declare him "Master Of The World". He swings into action immediately, activating robot duplicates of himself (what we would usually call Doombots in the comics) all around the world to take over every government, including, inevitably, the United Nations. It's amazing how often this happens isn't it?

He disbands the UN, and explains to Boris that he wanted him to see all of this, so he knows what he gave up when he betrayed him. This is a great piece of characterisation - Doom is showing one of the few people he has ever cared about how deeply he feels in his own twisted way. However, this isn't Boris - it's another robot duplicate, who explodes in Doom's face, leaving only pieces behind! "A robot?!?" says Doom, finally getting a taste of his own medicine. "Hmm! It seems Boris, I taught you too well."

Meanwhile, down in the caves, Spidey meets up with the resistance, who are very pleased to see him. Together they head to the castle, where they taunt the robot guards into leaving their posts so that Spider-man can web himself inside. Somehow he manages to avoid all Doom's security and get into the throne room. Doom tries to blast him, but Spidey manages to reprogram the laser with a single web, so that it zaps Latveria instead. That was awfully clever of him! The laser hits Doctor Doom, who instantly explodes, as does the laser cannon, and then all the Doombots fall over. Oh, and the earth moves back into place too. Well done Spidey!

There's even more good news in Latveria, as Doom is now deposed and the quaintly dressed people carry Johann aloft through the streets as their liberator. The episode ends with Spidey climbing up the side of the United Nations building as all the lights come back on again. "Some days it feels good being your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man", he says, and that's it - the end of the show and the end of this storyline. It's a great way to mark the climax of what has been far and away the best ongoing portrayal of Doom we've seen - I would say - in any portrayal outside of the comics. I wish there'd been another series!

posted 26/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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The Doom Report
Last time in the "Spider-man" cartoon we saw Doctor Doom flying away from New York after his latest plan (very similar to his usual plan: take over the world via blackmail of the UN) failed... or did it?

This episode picks up not long after the last one, with the freed revolutionary leader Johann fleeing from a bear. He's saved by a group of people who, going by their clothes and the way they say "Sacre Blue" are meant to be French. France, a country reknowned for its wild bears!

As we saw last time, it was Doom's faithful manseervant Boris who freed Johann, and for some reason he thinks it's a good idea to confess this to his boss. "I have served you faithfully for 30 years" he says, and Doom agrees that this is the first time he has failed him. "We will speak of it no more," he says. "Leave me now."

Just as we're thinking "Eh? What? Doom being reasomable?" he zaps the floor beneath Boris's feet with his gauntket, sending him down to the dungeons. "If we were not old friends, I would not have missed." That's more like it! Johann, meanwhile, has made it to New York. He meets with some members of the Latverian undergound, who are a bunch of massive racial stereotypes - they're a group of gypsies, including both a fortune teller and a fiddle player! Joachim, their leader, asks for the names of the people who Johann would like to contact back home, and then when Johann sets straight off to talk the newspapers Joachim recommends The Daily Bugle because, as he tells the fortune teller, the Daily Bugle is very unlikely to report anything bad about Doom. Oh no! The underground is secretly in Doom's control!

Once again with these stories, the cartoon's titular hero takes a back seat to Doom, and Spidey only appears five minutes in, foiling a bank robbery which - oops - turns out to be a movie set. What are the chances eh?

Then it's straight back to Johann, who is surprised to find J Jonah Jameson refusing to print his story, declaring that "Doctor Doom is the greatest man who ever lived!" Peter Parker hears the story and takes Johann home with him, where he sets up a recorder to record his story. When it's done he pops the tape round to the Bugke for Betty to type up (because that obviously is a woman's job...) and returns home to find Joachim and the fortune teller have entered the house. Once they hear where he's been they go back to the Bugle to kidnap Betty. Peter discovers this and gives chase as Spider-man, rescuing Betty just before the group of racial stereotypes drive their car into the river. Peter and Betty hand the story on to other newspapers, who happily run it on their front pages, next day. This includes that prestigious periodical, Newspaper News! "I hear the UN's going to put Doctor Doom on trial" says Peter, demonstrating once again that the UN in this universe works very differently to ours!

Johann rings to tell Peter that he's leaving for Latveria tonight to begin the revolution, so Spidey dashes off to join him, suspecting that the Latverian spies are involved. He's right, of course, and as soon as they take off Doctor Doom takes radio control of "The Doom Special", via comlink.

We haven't visited the United Nations yet, but that's soon rectified when go over to see the vote on Doom's trial (which seems to have happened at high speed) interrupted by Doom himself, appearing on the video screen above them. I'm forever saying how similar these cartoons are to the comics in their portrayal of Doom, and this use of video appearances is a great example of that. He threatens the UN with "giant Tesla coils" which can "produce rays anywhere on earth" - rays which can provide food or, if he is not obeyed, "rays for death!"
"Doom has spoken!" he says dramatically, inciting panic among the delegates.

Spidey and Johann are still in their plane on the way to Latveria, and we see the (genuine) Latverian resistance listening in to radio broadcasts about their destination. Most of them are dressed in the traditional peasant gear which never seems to have gone out of fashion in Latveria, all except for one chap in a trenchcoat and big hat, who says that he will go and rescue them alone when the plane lands. Personally, I don't trust him! "Thank you for flying Doom airlines" says Doom as the plane enters Latverian airspace. Spidey smashes the door and he and Johann jump out, saved by a handily spun web parachute. Doom, watching from afar as usual, is really annoyed. He sends "every solider" to find them, but by the time the robots arrrive Spidey and Johann have got into the secret Resistance base where they meet the trenchcoat-wearing Stephane, who takes them back to town. Maybe he wasn't dodgy after all? In which case, why was he dressed so differently?

Spider-man suggests that the resistance cause a diversion while he sneaks into the castle. This turns out to be really easy, and Spidey is next seen landing on Doom's very comics-based computer desk. It all seems a bit too straightforward, so it's no surprise when Doom greets Spider-man with "Welcome to Castle Doom!" He proceeds to zap him with laser blasts and is just about to destroy him when the video screen comes to life, showing the resistance attacking his new satellite tracking station - the diversion discussed earlier. This gives Spidey time to zap the Tesla coils with his web, causing them to explode. Doctor Doom flees the room just before the castle explodes! The next morning the resistance clamber over the ruins, looking for Spider-man. They can't find him, but take solace from the fact that at least Doom is dead too. However, just as they're celebrating and planning free elections, Doom himself appears from out of the rubble and strikes his best John Buscema pose. "Begin rebuilding Castle Doom!" he demnds, in a distinct echo of Astonishing Tales #4. "Doctor Doom survives! Which is more than can be said for Spider-man!"

Spider-man, it turns out, is not dead, merely cushioned within a web cocoon. We then cut to New York some time later, with an injured Peter Parker being sent on assignment by Jonah. "Looks like everything's back the way it was," says Robbie. "Even in Latveria," says Peter sadly.

This is a remarkably downbeat ending for what is supposed to be a kids cartoon - hasn't Doctor Doom just won here? Let's hope he gets his just deserts when we watch his final episode, next time!
posted 18/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Canon of Doom
As promised, we're back in the world of the 1980s "Spider-man" cartoons today. This is the first of three episodes in a row that we'll be looking at and, to be honest, they should really be called "Doctor Doom" cartoons as he's very much the main character in a continuing story which, certain Scholars Of Doom would argue, is the best ever representation of the character outside of comics so far.

The story kicks off in a snowy Latveria, where the people are being put to work building a satellite tracking station for Doom's latest scheme, much to the dismay of Doom's faithful servant Boris. I can't help but feel that this is a poor use of resources - wouldn't it be more sensible to get his army of robots to do it, instead of using them as middle management?

Boris takes this up with his boss, who is distinctly unimpressed. "The people have only those rights which I choose to give them," he says. It's all tied in with the space platform and the device that Goron stole for him last time - another example of the ongoing continuity in this series. This carries on as they discuss Johann, the revolutionary leader who is still in prison since last time, before moving on to the new cunning scheme whereby Doom will use the laser cannon on the space platform to ignite a series of explosions which will open up a new volcanic fault beneath New York City. The fiend!

Doom sets off for New York, where he's been invited by J Jonah Jameson, carrying on his soft spot for the dictator. Ny DVD boxset of the series says that it's based on the newspaper strips, where we saw Jameson regularly crawling to Doom, so that makes sense.

Next we drop in to see Peter Parker tending to a poorly Aunt May - this is five minutes in to Spider-man's own show, and he's not even in costume yet! He does finally set off swinging through the city, where he spots a newspaper talking about a supposed new fault line under the city, which "will be great for my geology class". He does have a varied curriculum!

Later at the offices of the Daily Bugle Robbie Robertson tells Peter that Doctor Doom has arrived at Jonah's Long Island estate, where he's demonstrating a drill which can burrow to the Earth's core and thus (somehow) provide free energy for the whole city. Peter heads over to "take pictures" and finds his Spider Sense going crazy - the new fault line is right under Jonah's estate! Peter goes off and changes into costume in order to stop Doom's laser drill hitting the fault line, and a fight breaks out between the pair of them, which Doom wins by emitting a high pitched sound which, apparently, spiders are particularly vulnerable to. I checked online and it turns out that this is true, but there's no mention of whether they're also vulnerable to Kirby Krackle. With Spidey disorientated the drill hits the fault line and the earthquakes begin as planned. Spidey falls into a crevace and Doom declares "the end of Spider-man." We then get an unusually detailed, very comics-styled close-up of Doom as he demands that Jonah gets the President on the phone, before he destroys New York for good. Back in Latveria we find Boris witnessing the oppression of the Latverian people at first hand. He goes to visit Johann and, after a brief misunderstanding, claims that he has come to help. He frees Johann, who demands proof that Boris has changed sides. He wants him to say that Doom is a tyrant, but Boris can't bring himself to do it. "I have spent my life serving Latveria," he pleads. This is a lovely bit of characterisation - it would be easy, especially in a kids' cartoon, for him to change his mind completely and call Doom a tyrant, but this is a bit more subtle than that. This version of Boris feels quite similar to the conflicted character we see in the comics, aware of what Doom is but serving him nonetheless.

"You're wrong about Doctor Doom", he explains. "He too was a freedom fighter, just as you are." As the pair of them run from Doom's robot there's an excellent cross-fade to a picture of a young Doom and his father running from the Baron's men, and we get a potted version of Doom's origin story, very much like the comics original. Boris discovers the pair of them "nearly frozen to death" and takes them to his camp where the father dies. "They have murdered my mother, and now they have killed my father" young Victor tells Boris. "They will pay! All of mankind will pay for this!" "Even then I had the uneasy feeling it wasn't young Victor Von Doom who would need my protection", says Boris, and then we get a quick run through of the origin as seen in Fantastic Four Annual #2, with Doom selling fake hair restorer and fake gold to aristocrats, who have him arrested. However, the Doom that the Baron's men arrests then turns out to be a robot! It really is cracking stuff, which follows the comics origin very closely, with Dean Stockton from Eastern State University in America turning up to offer him a "full science scholarship". Doom heads there to conduct "strange forbidden experiments" with a very familiar looking machine. He's interrupted by another student who's spotted some errors in his calculations. We're not told the name of this student, but I've got a pretty good idea who it might be... The experiment goes wrong, of course, and Doom is horribly disfigured, so he goes to take refuge with a "mysterious order of monks", and it is "here that he became Doctor Doom!" The ending's a bit rushed, but it's an amazingly faithful retelling of the comics, which doesn't actually deal with how he came to be a freedom fighter, but is great fun in any case.

"A fascinating story but it changes nothing - Doom must be stopped!" says Johann. Boris reluctantly agrees, and gives him the address of some "friends in New York" who can help him. Johann sets off into the snow, and out of this episode. We'll find out what happens to him next time!

Doom himself has got the President on the phone, and threatens to destroy New York City unless his demands are met. "The United States does not barter with terrorists" says the President (whose face is hidden from view) before sending some jets to destory Doom's cannon.

While all that's going on Spider-man (remember him?) finally escsapes from his crevace, just in time to stop Doom from killing J Jonah Jameson. He then tries to shut down the cannon before the airforce arrive and blow the whole place up, but is knocked off course by Doom. His only chance is to use his webs to redirect the cannon, which forces Doom to scarper in the traditional manner with his backpack jets. Spidey's standing next to the controls, so one might think he could have just turned the switch back, but instead the cannon blows up its own control system, destroying itself just as the jets are about to fire. Phew!

We then get an intriguing short segment where an unnamed scientist in a NASA jacket turns up and says that happily the cannon can be repaired, but "it must be on the new NASA space platform within the month". This is Doctor Zoltan, who will show up in later episodes - again, setting up the story to continue on through the series.

And that's that, aside from a neat turnaround as Peter brings hot cocoas, this time for Jonah, who's staying in Aunt May's room while his mansion's repaired. It's a charming way to end what has been a really rather surprisingly good, Doom-packed episode in a series which has been surprisingly good and Doom-packed throughout. Next time, more of the same!

(I still don't know why it's called "Canon" rather than "Cannon" of Doom though!)

posted 12/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Do-It-Yourself Comic Book
I'm not the biggest fan of Marvel's attempts at humour, mostly because they're very rarely funny, but I do quite like the almost British sense of cheekiness in this strip, which purports to contain "everything you need" to test your own suitability to be a comics professional. This includes two whole blank pages of empty boxes, which the strip assures the reader are essential for storytelling and definitely not just two blank pages, and a whole page of pre-prepared dialogue boxes. It's all good fun, as a series of characters take the reader through various aspects of comics storytelling, including a section in which a fight between the Hulk and Doctor Doom is used to explain how captions and sound effects work. It's all very jolly, and much more enjoyable than the various MAD rip-offs that fill the rest of this issue. Doom even makes another appearance in the final panel of this section, where he appears in a crowd scene reminiscent of all those we saw back in the days of Not Brand Ecch. As in those scenes, it's interesting to note that Doom is once more singled out for a speaking part - again, giving him an out of character line is what counts as a joke, alongside including Aunt May, of course. Some things never change!

posted 9/6/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett