Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hero of the Week #27: Dr. Doom

DR. DOOM (Marvel)
Real Name: Victor Von Doom
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #5 (July, 1962)
Group Affiliation: Latveria, The Cabal (former)
Gaming Credentials: Spider-man & Captain America in: Doctor Doom's Revenge (1989); Spider-man: The Video Game (1991); Marvel Super Heroes (1995); Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems (1996); Fantastic Four (1997); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000); Fantastic Four (2005); Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (2005); Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006); Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007); Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #64

If you've played one of the Fantastic Four video games, saw the movie(s), or dabbled in the comics, you probably think Dr. Doom is a pretty bad guy. As the major villain behind Marvel Ultimate Alliance, he certainly didn't do his public image any favours, but while MUA presented a great slice of the Marvel Universe as opposed to the usual brand-specific outings, it wasn't a game that excelled in the plot or characterization department.

Contrary to the name; Victor von Doom is neither an officially recognise practitioner of medicine, nor is he a harbinger of doom. In fact, depending on your reference, he's potentially a downright tragic hero, trapped within a prison of his own making, and intent on redemption through science and mysticism. Behind the cartoon trappings of a European hellbent on world domination, Dr. Doom is a rare breed of villain, as likely to save us all from damnation, as he is to condemn us. It's dramatic tragedy as bold as this that inspired one of cinema's greatest villains -- Darth Vader -- and assured the good Doctor a place in comics legend.

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962; Dr. Doom was an incomplete concept, alluded to only in the broadest sense, but quickly defined through keen visual design and playful antagonism as one of comics' greatest arch-nemesis.

Since his inception, Dr. Doom's story has unravelled through many interpretations. Some introduced legendary milestones, like the moment he scarred his own face by applying a still hot metal mask to the insignificant scarring he sustained during a failed college experiment to converse with the Netherealm. Other more modern tales have cast doubt on the truth of Dr. Doom's many stories, suggesting a man capable of travelling nimbly through time has, during some stories, been represented by a robotic doppelganger left in his stead. This is the explanation best used to dismiss some of his less refined appearances, where the character has fallen into the mindless antagonism of some of his video game appearances.

Despite forming strong rivalries with the likes of Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Namor, Mephisto, and Dr. Strange; Victor von Doom will always be remembered as the arch-nemesis of Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. It's through this association that the character made his way to the screen, both in live-action film and television animation, and been couriered to the world of video games, typically as a final boss in the heirharchy of villains.

While Dr. Doom is undeniably destined to play the role of antagonist, I feel the most true vision of the character is one less than evil. When Marvel launched their 2099 line of comics set in an possible future; readers were privvy to a glimpse of the world if Doom were to have his way with it. As it turned out, much of the globe came to share the opinions of the Latverians he ruled over in the presence, finding a man as capable of ruling the Earth as he had always claimed.

I think a comparison that does a wonderful job to convey the nuances of Dr. Doom is that of his well known mutant counterpart -- another Lee/Kirby creation from the sixties -- the master of magnetism - Magneto. Though a distinct personality; Magneto has essentially played the same arch-villain role to Professor X and the X-Men that Doom has to the FF. Magneto's experiences with the darker side of humanity have compelled him to turn the same level of intolerance onto the ruling class that once threatened him. Doom's rise against adversity, however, compelled him to practise an entirely different brand of superiority. Where Magneto desires to destroy, Doom hopes to control.

Sure, he's arrogant and uses violent methods, but really, all Dr. Doom potentially wants to do is make sure we're all protected from our own stupidity. Is that really such an awful thing? Y'know, if you assume that that's really what he's all about, and all those crazy Dooms were just rogue or malfunctioning Doombots... And if you don't mind him killing one of America's greatest heroes and scientific minds... And if you don't mind surrendering your freewill to the state...

Latverians -- ready to kill at the snap of a finger, 'cause Doom's a merciless dictator with benefits!

The complexities of Dr. Doom's character are set to play a significant part in Marvel's upcoming special event, Siege, which reunites the figurehead Avengers trio of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, for the first time in five years! It will also tell the tale of Norman Osborn's gambit as his Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe is tested by the galvanized union of superheroes once fractured by a Civil War, and by those allies who once stood beside him in The Cabal, namely the likes of Dr. Doom and Sub-Mariner! It should be a doozy and it's also why Dr. Doom is our HOTW!

Siege: The Cabal is a one-shot special released this week, previewing the meltdown of The Cabal and the upcoming Siege event. You should still be able to find it at comic stores if you so desire, or, wait for the event to kick-off proper in 2010. You'll find more information on good comics sites, and somewhere on, too.

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