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Blog Archive: September 2021

Stan Lee Presents The Mighty Marvel Funbook
Here's another text that I missed at the appropriate time, and which I would have missed all together if I hadn't spotted the image below on a Facebook group. The full thing is a superhero calendar which, using incredible detective work, I estimate to have been for the year 2013. However, the main image was the source of some debate until somebody pointed out that it had originally been shown in "Marvel Funbook #2", which I had never heard of. Further detective work with my research assistant Dr Google showed that this was a book issued in 1977 featuring various puzzles, apparently illustrated by Owen McCarron.

Owen McCarron was the regular illustrator for Marvel's Fun And Games series of puzzle books, so at first I thought that this must be a reprint of those, until I demonstrated my detective skills even more by noticing that this was published two years before those. McCarron did most of his work on puzzle strips, and according to Wikipedia he pitched the idea of doing the same with Marvel characters to Stan Lee, although this came out after Lee went to California to concentrate on getting movies made, so I'm not sure how accurate that was.

Either way, this is an interesting splash page which may indicate that there are other Doctor Doom appearances within the main text, but I don't know for sure because it's not available to view online anywhere, and I'm not super-keen to pay fifty quid to find out! Technically it's not a narrative-based text so, like the most of these "Addenda" texts, it wouldn't necessarily have gone into my research corpus, but still it would be nice to have a look. If anybody has a copy of this - or indeed the first issue - that they could scan please let me know!

Next time we're looking at a text that is definitely a narrative and would definitely have gone into my corpus if I hadn't found out about it two years too late. Join me as we enjoy the full-length Actual Novel that is Marv Wolfman's "Doomsday"!

posted 24/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Marvel World Adventure Playset
Last time we reached a mighty milestone for this blog, with the final text in the original list of Dcotor Doom appearances during 'The Marvel Age'. For my purposes this includes any comic with a cover date from November 1961 when the first issue of "Fantastic Four" came out, to October 1987 i.e. the last month to have Jim Shooter credited as "Editor-in-Chief" throughout Marvel's comics. It also includes other narrative-based texts, such as radio shows or cartoons, that came out between the dates those particular comics were published, so around August 1961 to July 1987. If you want more information about how this was all worked out, you can find it in the FAQ!

It's taken about four years to go through all of these texts, and along the way I've found additional items that weren't part of my additional list. A big addition early on was the string of Doom appearances in Not Brand Echh - these were discovered quite near the start, so I was able to add them to the database and do them as recap without spoiling the flow too much. Other items, however, turned up much later in the process, so I've been saving them up to do all together as a sort of Addenda section.

The first such item is this wonderful playset, made out of cardboard, which you took out of the box, assembled, and then, well, played with! Unlike most of the other texts discussed so far, I've not been able to get a copy of this as they're quite rare and so quite expensive! Indeed, most of the articles I've read about it spend quite a long time saying how difficult they were to get hold of, and also how much the author had always wanted to own one. They do look amazing - it feels like a similar sort of long-held desire that people of my generation had (and sometimes still have) for the idea of owning one of those Millenium Falcon toys to put your action figures in. Just looking at it now, I WANT one!

This playset is very much the same idea, and it looks like it was great. Reading the reviews on Sanctum Sanctorum Comix and 13th Dimension, it's delightful to see how impressed the authors were with the actual toys. They may be made of cardboard but clearly some thought and care went into their design.

Both those pages have small images of the Doctor Doom figure included, which appears to be the classic John Buscema folded arm pose. There are thirty characters altogether, including some very mid-70s ones like Valkyrie, Luke Cage and Shang Chi, and Doom is one of eight villains. Most of the others are Spider-man villains, which I guess is because they're most recognisable, and Doom himself had by this point appeared in several Spidey cartoons too.

Indeed, Doom's appearance here is another example of his transtextual nature, being able to combine with any of the other characters in this set, as well as any of the other locations. The main "buildings" here are The Baxter Building, The Daily Bugle, The Sanctum Sanctorum, and Peter Parker's house and, with the excpetion of the last one, we've seen Doom interact with all of these.

Having said all of the above, this playset does not have its own in-built narrative, only the potential of the ones which the kids who owned it would make up for themselves, so like the Doctor Doom Slurpee Cup or the Doctor Doom Mask it wouldn't have been included in my main analysis, and that's a terrible shame. Now I've read so much about it, I really want the excuse to buy one!

posted 17/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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This Secret Love..!
So here we are, at the very last, final and ultimate text in this long long look at Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age!

All right, we're not entirely finished, as there's still a few extra items that I've found over the past year or so that I'll be covering in Addenda over the next couple of weeks, but this is definitely the last item we'll be looking at chronologically and, like so many of the texts we've looked at over the past several years, it is... er... mildly underwhelming!

This story takes place in an odd little period for the main "Thor" comic when the ongoing storyline was paused for a few months to be replaced by a series of one-off stories instead. The following month has a seemingly unrelated story about a Thor of the future, for instance. I don't know what was going on, and if I was looking at Thor as a transmedia character in this or the following period then I'd have a look, but I'm not so I won't! All we need to know here is that this gives Tom Defalco the opportunity to tell an "untold tale of The Secret Wars", something which is rather cheekily advertised on the cover with a corner banner very similar to the ones we saw for "Secret Wars II" tie-ins a year earlier.

The main plot is basically a re-telling of the first few issues of "Secret Wars" as told from the perspective of The Enchantress, particularly the bit in Secret Wars #4 where she and Thor teleported away from everybody else to have a chat and do some kissing. I do remember this bit from when I looked at that comic at the start of this year, but it wasn't exactly one of the major plot points, and I'm not entirely sure why Defalco felt the need to return to it. Perhaps it's an attempt to stamp his authority on Jim Shooter's big storyline, just as he was about to replace him as Editor-in-chief the following month. On the other hand, it might have been a way of paying tribute to him, or indeed nothing to do with either.

There's a framing device which sees The Enchantress popping over to see her sister Lorelei and telling her to stop messing men around and learn to appreciate true love. To illustrate this she retells the her part in Secret Wars focussing on that soppy bit with Thor. It's comics, so the big emotional peak of it all comes when she has to pretend she isn't sad about her unrequited love being disintegrated, leaving only his helmet. "Do you question the wisdom of my actions?" asks Doctor Doom. We've all been there haven't we? Doctor Doom is threaded throughout, here taking on the double role as an avatar of villainy, and as a signifier of Secret Wars himself. He was the lead character, so whenever you see Doom standing with a few other supervillains in a very dull landscape of purple mountains, you can pretty much be assured it's a flashback to Secret Wars. I particularly like the way that Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding do a tribute here to those roll calls that Secret Wars used to love, showing all of the heroes and villains standing in a nice neat line. Frenz and Breeding are a very attractive combination on art, making the whole thing look much classier than the original did, and much classier than it deserves to be. Interestingly Ron Frenz starts off with rounded corners for the flashbacks, but then drops them for most of the story, only returning to them at the end just before we go back to the Enchantress. It seems to work, although your own mileage may vary on how interesting that actually is!

There's a much-reported story that Jim Shooter told all Marvel writers at the time that they must include a bit in every single issue where the Hero thought "I must - but I must not!" and here it comes when Thor has to choose between snogging the Enchantress and not snogging the Enchantress. Thor eventually does not snog the Enchantress, the story carries on in exactly the same way it originally did (there's no retconning here, it's not so much an "untold tale" as a "slightly different viewpoint on an already told tale"), and it all ends with the Enchantress saying "SO THERE!" and zapping off. Brilliantly, Lorelei thinks about what her sister has said for a moment then has a good old laugh about it, having learnt precisely nothing. And that's the end of that - the final Doom appearance (chronologically anyway), and it's a not particularly thrilling comic where he pops up to do his very specific thing of Being Doctor Doom for a little while (which is all done very well) and then steps back out of the spotlight. I really would have liked to have had a big blowout ending as the final text, and if Jim Shooter had lasted in post a bit longer we could have done that with the Triumph And Torment graphic novel, but in a way this is more fitting. Going through the history of Marvel comics in this way has meant avoiding the well trodden paths through the "important" texts or even the "really really good" ones, instead taking a semi-random sampling of the sort of comics that were actually around at the time. It's like listening to a recording of actual radio programmes from the 1960s, rather than a "Best Of The Sixties" compilation - in both cases you get a lot more rubbish, but also a few more interesting snippets that you'd otherwise have missed.

There'll be more earth-shattering statements like this in a few weeks, when I'll be having a look back at what we might have learnt from all this (hopefully more than Lorelei did), but next time we'll be going back to the mid-1970s to have a long, yearning look at the legendary Marvel World Adventure Playset!

posted 15/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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For the penultimate text in our mighty Corpus Of Doom we have one of the tiniest Doom appearances of all, with him being shown in just a single section of a multi-faceted splash page, plummeting through time (or possibly dimensions). When I first encountered this I thought "Aha! Clearly Doom also appeared in the issue before this, but just didn't get recorded" but when I read the previous issue there was no Doom to be found. He's simply being used here as an illustration of a particular point in time when Rama Tut (who I think is, or has been, part of this story) met Doom, which we saw way way back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. It's actually very similar to the way Doom was used as part of Kang's back story, referring to part of the same story in Avengers #269. Doom is now such a key part of the Marvel Universe that he's being used as a signifier for other character's stories!

By the way, if I seem a bit vague about whether Rama Tut appeared in the story before this, that's because I am. I have read this particular comic several times for this blog and as part of my PhD, but very little of it has stuck in my brain, and apart from the fact that Doctor Doom isn't in it, I couldn't tell you much about the issue before either. This is partly because I have read a lot of comics over the course of the past several years, but it's mostly because this particular storyline is an unfortunate mixture of the Very Confusing and the Not Very Memorable. It's something to do with The West Coast Avengers splitting up, going back in time, meeting some other superheroes and then... er... coming back again, but what it's all for I could not say. The whole thing is very much of its time for Marvel comics, especially with the Al Milgrom art which carries with it the distinct whiff of being done in a hurry, and dense continuity-heavy storytelling that doesn't mean much even to me, who has spent several years knee deep in the Marvel Universe.

It's not a particularly auspicious text to start bringing down the curtain on Doom's appearances in The Marvel Age, and the final text next time isn't much better, but fear not True Believers, we do have some Addenda which will be a lot more fun. We've got this far, let's keep on going to the end!

posted 3/9/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett