The Comics Classroom: Decades of Doom, Part 1

Is there any villain more fascinating than Dr. Doom, the Master of Menace, the Monarch of Latveria, the Emperor of Evil? While the Fantastic Four have always hosted a large and interesting number of rouges in their gallery, Doom has constantly risen to the top over the decades to be both a dangerous enemy as well as a complex one. Various aspects of Doom’s mythos, from his love of Valeria to his on/off-again ‘friendship’ with Namor, have evolved and intermixed with his character across the decades to create one of the most interesting characters in comics.

Considering how long Doom has been around, how can you really understand his character evolution without talking about his publication history? What comics truly stand out and which ones are just fun to read? The Comics Classroom is going to tackle Dr. Doom, decade by decade, to trace his origins, his rivalries, and his character evolution. While every Doom appearance cannot be addresses directly, this column series will showcase every decade’s stand-out books, the best Doom moments, and it might help those unfamiliar with Doom come to see more about his character. Considering his importance in the new Secret Wars/Battleworld books and his appearance in the new Fantastic Four film, a series revealing Doom’s history might prove useful.

So buckle up as we dig into Dr. Doom’s 60s appearances!

The First Appearance of Doom – 1962

No history overview of Dr. Doom is complete without his first appearance in Fantastic Four Vol. 1, #5 which was published in July of 1962. That’s right: this month marks Dr. Doom’s 53rd birthday! Doom’s appearance from the first page defines much of his character: he broods over a chess-board upon which he has miniature figures of the FF while in the corner there sits a book appropriately labeled Science & Sorcery. Doom’s role as a grandmaster of ‘the game’ is set up from page 1, as is the fact that his power straddles two distinct domains.

 

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Written by Stan Lee and with art by Jack Kirby, Doom’s comes across as lackluster in that his ultimate agenda is theft. What does make the issue stand out is that he captures Sue Storm and assaults the Baxter Building on his own to force the Fantastic Four into his service. Doom manipulating others via threat over their loved ones will continue on through Doom’s history as a bit of a “classic scheme” set-piece. And, hey, Doom’s simple theft request includes time-travel and seeing the Fantastic Four dressed as pirates. Even in one of Doom’s less interesting schemes he still manages to make things interesting.

FUN ‘DOOM’ FACT: Doom’s first appearance also sets up the first use of a Doom-bot to deceive his enemies!

Doom’s First Alliance With Namor – 1962

Despite having been bested by the Fantastic Four in the previous issue, Doom returns in Fantastic Four Vol. 1, #6 for revenge with unexpected help: Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The over-all plot is how Doom seeks to launch the Baxter Building into space with the fantastic Four inside of it, but the real fun comes from Namor and Doom’s interactions.

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While Doom tries to destroy Namor along with the Fantastic Four, this issue proves important in that Doom and Namor’s history becomes increasingly complex from this point. While Doom and Namor meet again in the future, this comic sets up the antagonistic foundations of what will become a multi-layered relationship between the two figures. Like Doom’s first appearance, this comic was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. At the comic’s end, Doom is defeated by Namor and finds himself adrift in space, seemingly (pardon the pun) doomed.

Doom Goes Meta – 1963

Doom’s third appearance hosts one of his more classic schemes, albeit one with a bizarrely ‘meta’ twist. In Fantastic Four #10, 1963, Doom (having escaped certain death in space thanks to aliens called Ovoids) holds Jack Kirby and Stan Lee hostage to lure Reed Richards to him. Yes, Doom holds the Fantastic Four staff hostage. The plot starts out humorous but it introduces one of Doom’s more unique schemes: steal the body of Reed Richards! Unfortunately the plot also includes showing Doom shrinking down animals from a zoo which, while posing as Reed, he keeps out in the open for the fantastic Four to see. Still, over-all, Doom’s scheme to ‘become’ his rival is a good one. In the end, Doom is shrunk by his own villainous invention and seemingly vanishes.FF101963

FUN ‘DOOM’ FACT: This issue shows Reed has a chess set of villains in the same way Doom has a chess set of heroes. This is one of the first set-ups for Doom and Reed being mirrored personas.

Doom and … Spider-Man? – 1963

The first appearance of Dr. Doom outside of a Fantastic Four comic comes from the pages of 1963’s The Amazing Spider-Man #5. Written by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, this comic is the first time Doom is not drawn by Jack Kirby since Ditko was both a writer and an artists for the issue. The comic showcases Doom seeking out a new partner, but unfortunately for him he takes J. Jonah. Jameson’s word that Spider-Man is a menace at face value. While Spider-Man refuses to work with Doom, the comic provides one of the funnier Doom moments:

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Doom invents a Spider-Phone. Brilliant!

Doom’s Origins … REVEALED! – 1964

Up until ’64, Dr. Doom has proven to be a threat to the Fantastic Four, as well as a resourceful enemy who managed to escape defeat after defeat … but where did he escape to? Doom previously was a character with little in the way of definition outside of the fact that Reed knew they both attended the same college and that Doom combined magic and science. It was the Fantastic Four Annual #2, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, that truly added depth to Doom’s character. In this issue we see the revelation of Doom’s childhood, how his mother was a witch and that his father, on the orders of an insane Baron, was murdered. We are introduced to Boris, Doom’s reluctant retainer who serves his lord even while knowing he should never have attained the power he did. The origins of Doom’s mask, his experiments at University, and the fact he is the monarch of Latveria are all in this issue. We also get to see Doom manipulate the puppet Prime Minister of Latveria, establishing how Doom’s character is not just villainous, he is internationally political.

Outside of the section of Fantastic Four Annual #2 which shows Doom’s origins is a second story where Doom, having survived a dear-death experience after being bested by the Fantastic Four in Volume 1, #23, returns to his embassy to get revenge. It is in this story we get one of the first genuinely bitter reactions from Doom regarding his face whose features remain unseen. Doom sets a hallucinogenic, mind-altering trap for the Fantastic Four at the embassy, only to (again) have his plot turned on him in the end by Reed Richards.

Fantastic Four Annual #2 is one the best Doom stories of his 60s appearances, but it is far from the best.

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Doom vs Grimm – 1965

In Doom’s first two-part story, the Master of Menace invades the Baxter Building while the Fantastic Four are powerless thanks to events from earlier issues. Doom invades the Baxter Building in Fantastic Four #39, but the real action picks up in Issue #40. While powerless, Daredevil assists the Fantastic Four in taking back the Baxter Building, only to find that Doom is physically a match for every single one of them. Even after Reed manages to restore their powers, Doom still proves too strong. It is only when Ben Grimm is turned back into the Thing that the tables turn. In one of the longer fights between the Four and Doom yet, Grimm overcomes all of Doom’s mechanical tricks to crush his hands under his rocky grip. The defeat humbles Doom into retreat, marking his first genuinely ego-deflating defeats ironically after having shown just how powerful he is when in his armor. Once more, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby provide the story and the art.

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Doom Hates Weddings – 1965

While Dr. Doom is not a major player in the Fantastic Four Annual #3 issue, he deserves to be mentioned since he is the instigator of the drama in the plot. Doom, in an effort to ruin the happiness of Reed and Sue’s wedding, uses one of his diabolical invention to drive the hatred for the Fantastic Four in numerous villains to uncontrollable levels. The villains then storm the wedding in their efforts to annihilate the happy couple.

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NEXT TIME: Dr. Doom, 1966 to 1969! Dr. Doom steals the powers of the Silver Surfer, seeks a renewed alliance with Namor, and we finally meet one of Doom’s most important acquaintances, Valeria!

 

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