Monday, July 11, 2016

Real Name: Victor Von Doom
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #5 (July, 1962)
Fight Club Ranking: #67

Featured Fights:
- vs THING: Fantastic Four #350 (Mar 1991)
- vs THING: Fantastic Four #361 (Feb 1992)
- vs SILVER SURFER: Silver Surfer #107 (Aug 1995)
- vs SUPER-SKRULL: Fantastic Four #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs THOR: Heroes Reborn: The Return #4 (Dec 1997)
- vs FANTASTIC FOUR: Ultimate Fantastic Four #12 (Dec 2005)
- vs BLACK PANTHER & STORM: Black Panther #19 (Oct 2006)
- vs IRON MAN: Mighty Avengers #10 (May 2008)

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but what if another flower takes that name?

The Marvel Universe is about to have two heroes answering to the title of Iron Man - and neither of them is Tony Stark! It was revealed in a Comic Book Resources  exclusive: "Infamous Iron Man" -- a new series that will place Dr. Doom beneath the title on the cover, if not the armor itself. With new creation Riri Williams already announced to don the yellow and gold as a teenage girl also calling herself "Iron Man" - the law of diminishing returns seems to be an objective at Marvel Comics.

Editor Tom Brevoort took to Twitter to sideswipe critical response, calling the installation of a new identity as Iron Man "diversity in the line". He was right to cast aspersions about those immediately incensed by a change of race (or gender), but his examples of War Machine, Beta Ray Bill, or USAgent as hypocritical preference overlook the obvious.

Both of the new "Iron Man" characters are fighting an uphill battle against several decades of stand-in substitutes, as well as Marvel's present trends. We've already got a replacement Captain America, Thor, Hulk and more. There are two Spider-men swinging around, and a couple of derivatives. The sheer volume of time Marvel has dedicated to not featuring its iconic heroes has consumed a massive amount of the last six or so years. These inevitably temporary gimmicks are now stretching increasingly far - at the expense of years worth of mainstay hero stories, and genuine new additions.

It's the tired quality of a repeating concept that Brevoort overlooks. "Diversity" in the most precarious sense. Neither committed to genuinely creating new social icons for a new era, nor expanding the content and branding of "the line", as it was seemingly proposed.

Weak brand and creative management is arguably the most unattractive thing about Marvel right now. The more identities that assume an alias (and powers) - the less special they become.

In the case of Dr. Doom, I'm not entirely sure if he'll be going by "Iron Man" in the book. I'm certainly skeptical about the notion of Victor Von Doom -- a man who names everything after himself -- taking someone else's identity. That said, it revisits old themes of Doom's morality and sincerity, repackaged as another go 'round with Dan Slott's "Superior" Spider-man aka; body hopping Otto Octavius. That storyline took a transformation plot worth a few of days gone by issues, and stretched it out to a couple of years. The suspension of disbelief found in neophyte and gullible readers - no real substitute for playing with a concept, and getting back to business. After the farce of the last Fantastic Four movie -- legitimate Dr. Doom stories are more appealing than ever!

The business of brand management has been as grim as any of Marvel's character shuffling. Being an Avenger, X-Man, Inhuman, Phoenix, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man... None of it really seems to mean much, these days. You've got to think eventually the plan will be to restore order to the line. That's what made much of the 2000s compelling, with Marvel and particularly DC doing tremendous work to rebuild icons damaged by haphazard stunts the nineties. Of course, in the 2000s, comics were still running themselves, and the movies were seen as the inferior bastardized versions that they were. There's no safety in the assumption that that will ever be the case again, at least in the near future.

Maybe Marvel's new Secret Wars was the last hurrah of everything we knew, but I doubt it...

Dr. Doom won't be Iron Man forever. Tony Stark will probably be back some time. Same goes for Steve Rogers as Captain America, Thor as Thor, Peter Parker as Spider-man. The unique strength of comic books has long been their ability to tell decades of weekly or monthly serials with a single character. Mythologies and icons bigger than any of us. It makes good sense to keep adding to that, with increasingly interesting, different, diverse, socially relevant characters. I just hope that's still an option in a Marvel Universe were so much seems to mean so little.


WarrenB said...

The thing that gets me is that there's always a mad scramble to make disclaimers and denounce the internet trolls who make it all about gender. Y'know who made it all about gender in the first place? The people introducing the changes.
I'd hazard there'd be a little less friction if the changes included an increase in the current quality of writing in superhero comics, rather than only on shoving a carefully-selected non-cis-het-male-WASP into a long-established character's (repulsor) boots to score brownie points with just one or two segments of a fast-disappearing readership - and on a cynical, temporary basis in most cases. Maybe not much less friction, I dunno, but I have to believe there'd be less.
Write stories about non-cis-het-male-WASP superheroes, dear comic writers, but could ya make it look a bit less like a bevy of cosplayers - making a superficial attention-grabbing spectacle by awkwardly dressing up like a more popular property?

Mike Haseloff said...

Balance in all things. This kind of stuff definitely isn't a reason to be a disgusting human being. Sadly there is an abundance of those and they really should be denounced.

The jury's still out on new additions like Riri Williams. Calling her "Iron Man" is pretty on-the-nose, and with so many "cosplay" replacement heroes running around, it's all getting very stale. Gotta think she'll eventually get an identity of her own and that's probably the more interesting end we should be starting with. If Marvel wants to sell new icons and broaden their line, it'd be nice to see them go all-in on that, instead of fetishizing race and gender, as they've tended to do.

Victor Von Doom is the subject of this article. He's no exception. If we hadn't been wasting so many years on arbitrary nonsense, maybe these skewed plays on character identity would have more flavour. I'm much less concerned about friction with the audience than I am the fading cloth of the Marvel tapestry. It should be getting bigger and brighter, as it always was. Not smaller, less vivid.

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm playing catch-up at the moment, so I already know this theme continues in the next Hero of the Week.