If there is one word that best personifies evil in comics, that word has to be … DOOM!
Not the video game, or Walter Simonson’s ominous “countdown” to the arrival of Surtur during his acclaimed 1980s Thor run (though that does come close), but specifically, the Latverian monarch named Victor Von Doom, aka Doctor Doom!
Since the 1960s, Doom’s quest for power in the Marvel Universe has escalated, and seen him cross paths with the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Despite his popularity as a villain, Doom’s character and influence have been used sparingly, which is quite unlike Marvel, who tend to milk its cash-cow characters for all they’re worth.
Calculated or not, this relatively limited exposure has certainly done Doom a lot of good in maintaining his stature as a Grade-A villain.
Ironically, Doom’s dastardly persona has not expanded beyond the print medium. Despite appearing in three Fantastic Four movies (including the ill-fated and mostly unseen 1994 version), Movie Doom has not lived up to Comics Doom. Is it the fault of the casting? Or the story? Or is 120 minutes just not enough to build up his villainy?
Whatever the reason, the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot directed by Josh Trank offers a glimmer of hope for one of Marvel’s longest-serving supervillains. Will the fourth time be the charm for Doom and offer him a possible way into the Avengers: Infinity War movies?
Well, based on these top 10 comic-book Doom moments, he already has a strong case for it.
1. Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, Annual #2
Although Doom’s first comic-book appearance was in 1962’s Fantastic Four (Vol 1) #5, co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby only comprehensively told his origin two years later in this annual. As it goes, Doom’s father (Werner Von Doom) was a gypsy healer who incurred the wrath of a baron after failing to cure his wife. Fearing for their safety, Werner and Victor braved harsh snowy conditions, with Werner succumbing to the cold.
Victor survived the ordeal and grew up a very bitter but brilliant lad, whose academic prowess took a twisted turn when a failed experiment while at university scarred his face. His quest for power and perfection took him to Tibet, where he permanently disfigured himself and encased himself in an armoured suit.
While this one-shot is not the ultimate word on Doom, it provides the foundation for future story-mining attempts, with 2006’s Books Of Doom being the most intriguing effort (to date).
2. Books Of Doom #1-#6
For decades, Doom’s origin was presented based on the template provided in FF Annual #2, with occasional flashes of non-conformity by the likes of FF greats like John Byrne. The best and biggest breakthrough in terms of adding depth and dimension to Doom’s origins came via this Ed Brubaker-Pablo Raimondi masterpiece.
Consider this to be Victor’s very own autobiography, as the Latverian monarch shares his deepest secrets – his relationship with his mother, his childhood, his thoughts about Reed Richards, and his one true love. What’s thought-provoking here is the fact that there was once some goodness (and even a heart) in the man once known as Victor Von Doom.
3. Triumph And Torment
If Doom has a weakness, it is definitely his love for his mother – Cynthia Von Doom, whose soul is held captive by Mephisto. After years of failed attempts to rescue his mother’s soul, Doom now receives help from an unlikely source: Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme himself – Doctor Strange!
In a rare collaboration between good and evil, the two Doctors tag-team into the Netherworld to reclaim Cynthia’s soul, in this original graphic novel. The two Doctors recently teamed up again in the ongoing Secret Wars event.
4. Secret Wars (1984) #1-#12
Secret Wars is known for many firsts: the Beyonder, Spidey’s black costume (aka the symbiote Venom), a new Spider-Woman, Zsaji, Titania, Volcana … but what is often overlooked is how this mega-event truly elevated Doom’s stature above all the other A-list villains.
From the very first issue, Doom cut himself off from the villainous grouping assigned by the Beyonder, preferring to go solo and explore Battleworld’s mysteries. Subsequently, he reprogrammed Ultron as his bodyguard, usurped Galactus’ might and defeated the Beyonder – all this without the assistance of an Inifinity Gauntlet, a Cosmic Cube or even an Ultimate Nullifier!
5. Unthinkable (Fantastic Four, Vol. 3, #67-#71)
Besides his mom, Doom had another true love … and the keyword here is “had” as he does the unthinkable by sacrificing her to gain a sorcerous edge over the FF. This was Mark Waid and the late Mike Wieringo’s finest story arc, with Doom unveiling his mystical side.
6. Interlude (Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, #258)
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a supervillainous Latverian monarch is like? This offbeat tale offered us a glimpse of his daily itinerary, from breakfast to plotting the Fantastic Four’s demise! Key questions about Doom are (finally) answered in this issue. Yes, he does bathe. No, he doesn’t sleep in his armour. No, he can’t get dressed on his own. And yes, he even has a nifty “breakfast for villains” menu!
7. Terror In A Tiny Town (Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, #236)
In conjunction with the FF’s 20th anniversary, they battled Doom in a different battlefield – the mental plane. Doom enlists the help of the Puppet Master to trick the FF into believing they never “went cosmic” and are now living powerless lives among puppet-sized miniatures in a giant-scale township. The concept of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben facing off with (Vaughn) Doom in an academic setting is a refreshing diversion from their usual confrontations.
8. Emperor Doom
In this graphic novel, Doom finally gets to rule the world … but what’s even more shocking is that he does a pretty great job! Under Doom’s new world order, nukes are eradicated, crime is eliminated, and even world peace is achieved! Too good to be true? Well, not when you have the Purple Man’s powers of influence at your bidding. Trust the Avengers to play party poopers on the pretext of upholding free will! Bah … Earth’s Mightiest Buzzkills!
9. Doom #1-#3
What is Doom without his armour, Doombots and country? Answer: still dastardly and even more deadlier, as this three-parter published in 2000 has him literally stripped of everything and enslaved on Counter-Earth. Obviously, this is not a fate befitting Doom and he rejects it outright by reclaiming what is rightfully his!
10. True Lies (Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, #278-#279)
So powerful is Doom that even a no-show still makes him a thorn in the side of the FF. In this two-parter, a stand-in Doom (a brainwashed Kristoff) re-enacts his master’s early acts of securing the Baxter Building and goes one up by levitating it into space and subsequently detonating it – with the FF and Franklin Reed in it!
Surely this feat surpasses whatever hold the Joker has over Harley Quinn or the lengths to which mutants would go to serve Magneto.