All Hail Doom!

Superhero universes are littered with all kinds of bad guys. You have your standard street toughs that are looking for a quick score to fund their headband habit. There are those lucky few that stumble into a crime gimmick that lands them in soul crushing debts. That gets filtered down to the few that manage to get attached to a hero. A regular gig as they say in the evil business.  A face to punch every month. Damsels to distress on a regular basis. Then in a ivory tower way above all other villains is the rarefied upper class of evil. Those villains that transcend. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the ultimate of these villains. I speak of Dr. Doom. To truly understand why he is so special I would like to draw your attention to Fantastic Four #87. The story and art are by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The inks are by Joe Sinnott with lettering from Artie Simek.

In the previous issues we see the Fantastic Four warned by S.H.I.E.L.D.  that a powerful army is being formed in Latveria, the kingdom ruled by Dr. Doom. Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, Johnny Storm and Crystal go to Latveria seeking to be captured by Doom. Once they are captured they will be close enough to determine the nature of the army and put a stop to it. Doom immediately goes to work to eliminate their ability to stop him. He uses hypnosis to take away their access to their powers. He leaves them in a local village that is to be part of a nefarious test of his new army. The army is series of robots created by Doom to dominate the world. The robots are so powerful that Doom loses control of them and they go on a rampage toward the simple Latverian Village. Reed comes up with a plan that allows them to stop the robots. Sue Storm shows up at the last minute to save everyone. The village is saved for the most part. Now the heroes have to deal with the villain.

It is an issue of the Fantastic Four storming Doom’s castle. It is also exactly as cool as that previous sentence would lead you to believe. Within this action packed assault are several Doom moments that hit me like punch from Ben Grimm.  This is the most precious kind of evil. A vintage that must be savored.

As Ben launches a steeple at the castle we have one of Doom’s minion’s warning him of the assault. Doom reacts with anger at the idea that he would not be ready for this attack. We have a full page of Doom’s angry verbal assault of his minion. This page brought me to a dead stop. Kirby’s approach to the close up of Doom’s face is a moment of genius. Within most super hero stories the mask literally replaces the face. They become interchangeable. The reader forgets that the mask is being worn by a man. Doom and his mask have a unique relationship. His twisted real face is never to be seen. One would think that this would be a perfect opportunity for the artist to grasp onto the mask as a face replacement.  Kirby’s rendition of the Doom mask never lets us forget the humanity. You can see that area around the eyes. That area that never lets you forget that THERE IS A DUDE IN THERE….AND HE HAS CRAZY EYES!

Once we confirm the crazy eyes we are then introduced to Dr. Doom: Patron of the Arts. We see Doom standing before a piano, explaining that he will greet his enemies with art and music. It will soothe their fears. Hypnosis is involved as well. Not that I had to tell you that once you knew a piano was involved. The artistic side of Doom goes beyond just the weird dissonance that I love. It gives Doom another level of personality. It isn’t tied to his origin story or to his enemies. The character of Doom has his own independent qualities, removed from the plot devices of the series.

Lee and Kirby elevate Doom beyond the standard villain with that sort of independent quirk. Those quirks are often the elements that draw me to a character. For example, Captain Cold went on a crime spree to impress a woman he saw on television. That will always stick out to me because it doesn’t have anything to do with the Flash. If there was no Flash that would be the kind of stunt that Len Snart would be up to. Doom would love art whether or not he was facing the Fantastic Four. These aren’t just reactions to heroes. They are actions that readers can hold onto to.

Doom’s quirks are all over this issue. We later see him trap Sue Storm and Crystal and separate them from the male team members. They are led into a dining hall where Doom has prepared a feast for them as they await the end of the conflict. This is a big page of carving stations, hams, candles, soups, salads, modest centerpieces, and a highly trained waitstaff. It is another great Kirby full page scene. Low on captions. Just enough dialogue to let you know what is going on but all the art feels like it is pointed at YOU. The feast is being revealed to the reader. Doom’s gallantry is on display and again we are left wondering about Doom’s true nature. A gentleman, a scholar, and villain. He seems to hold traits that we respect yet his twisted agenda is horrifying. I have a hard time imagining any other villains getting a feast together for their foes. I don’t think most of them could afford it. Most villains would also not really know how to put together a really well organized catered meal.

These qualities all end up wrapping around and becoming an important part of the plot. They become the entire reason that the Fantastic Four survive. Doom’s minion (Who was trained by Nazis…so you know he is thorough) traps the FF in Doom’s art gallery and is going to torch them with a high powered flame weapon. The weapon will also happen to destroy all the art in the gallery. Doom is not down with that. He lets the FF survive rather then have his art destroyed. Have no doubt. Doom wants to destroy Reed. It just happens that Doom also really digs art. He is going to get another chance to kill Reed. He isnt going to get another chance to own that art. Doom has priorities beyond just evil. He is a fan of impressionist painting.

The Fantastic Four escape but really not of their own power. They didn’t really beat Doom as much as just end up in a position where they were a low priority. Doom will eat the cost of the carving station. Art is of the utmost importance.

The issue is an encapsulation of everything that makes Doom such a great character. Not just a great villain, but a character worthy of attention on his own. The creators lay out a scenario that should be laughable, but through Kirby’s dynamic but humane art we are left with an uneasy respect for Doom. He is worthy of fear but perhaps respect as well. The mask of Doom is frightening but the man behind the mask is complicated.  I only wish that my archenemy (Col. Whitenboom Pistollero) would think of having soup ready for me when my time comes.

Tom Katers has seen Doom's wine cellar. It is nice.


  1. Marvel before the art collection…of DOOOOM!

  2. Damn. Those are some good Doom moments right there.

  3. Street toughs  – Do they sing and dance?

  4. The links to the pictures are all different (one opens a new tab, one opens its own window, one takes me there and I have to go "back" to return to the article). Was that intentional or something random the universe threw at me?

  5. I want to hear Doom’s Hyper-sound mixtape.

  6. Tom, can you explain the possible links between hyper-sound and hypercolor?