Here’s the thing: I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who was commenting on my Doctor Doom T-Shirt (favorably, of course) and we got to talking, as geeks do, about which villain in the comics is the best. He suggested the Joker.
Okay. He MIGHT be right. I mean, come on, the JOKER! He’s amazing! He is the only guy who faces off against the Batman without even blinking. He freaking killed Robin and in one version of DC’s future he even killed Lois Lane just to piss off Superman. We’re talking a guy with testicular fortitude on an epic scale! I’m exceedingly fond of the Joker. I could write articles about the man.
Instead, however, I’m here to talk about Doctor Doom. He may or may not be cooler than the Joker, but for my money he is, hands down, the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe.
Say what you will about Marvel Comics (I’ve been known to have a complaint or two myself, but honestly, I love them) but if there’s one thing they really know how to do, it’s allowing the characters to evolve.
Let’s take Victor von Doom as an example. When he first showed up in the pages of the Fantastic Four, he was just a dude in gray armor who was holding a mysterious grudge against Mr. Fantastic. Boy, howdy, did that ever change.
Let’s take a quick summary. Once upon a time Doom and Reed Richards, also known as Mister Fantastic, went to the same college and were rivals after a fashion. In the standard as told by Richards, they were equals, but Richards found a flaw in the schematics and equations that Doom was working on and tried to warn him. Doom failed to listen and was hideously scarred in the resulting explosion.
Expelled for performing unauthorized experiments, Doom left and sought other sorts of knowledge.
That’s Reed Richard’s version of events. According to Doom, Richards made alterations to his equations in a fit of jealousy at Doom’s sheer genius and those alterations led to the devastating explosion and resulting expulsion from school. I leave it up to you to decide who told the truth.
Doom went on to seek mystical knowledge. He already knew a good deal because, well, his mom was a witch and she had some serious mojo going on.
Okay, from humble beginnings, right? Victor von Doom was born to Cynthia and Werner von Doom, both of whom were gypsies. Cynthia dabbled maybe more than she should have, and wound up possessed by a demon. That demon didn’t really possess her so much as send her on a rampage against the Baron of Latveria, whose soldiers tended to do whatever they wanted to do when it came to the gypsies. That meant stealing from them, beating on them and doing what despots have done to women for far too long.
One of the soldiers got lucky and managed to kill Cynthia.
Not too much later, Werner suffered the consequences of not successfully tending to the baron’s child. That left Doom an orphan who was taken in by his gypsy brethren.
It also left him about as solidly vengeful as Bruce Wayne. Wayne became Batman and declared an unending war on the criminals of Gotham City (Sorry, wrong universe, but you get the idea.)
Doom took a different path.
What was his motivation? First, revenge on the Baron. Eventually he got that and from that vengeance he maneuvered his way into being the king of Latveria. That was just part of his trek, of course. Because there’s lots of revenge to be had out there.
See, the thing is, Doom was a bit of a momma’s boy. He took it personally that his mother’s soul was ragged down to Hell when she died. A gigantic portion of his motivation was to get her back from Hell. Eventually he succeeded, but that’s not the purpose of this particular essay.
What is the point? Evolution of character.
Seriously, few characters have changed as much over the years as Doctor Doom. But as much as he’s changed, he remains mostly the same: a powerful arrogant and impressive force to be reckoned with. Listen, mostly he’s survived stuff that would have killed anyone else and he’s done it by sheer force of will combined with a mastery of technological skills that rivals Reed Richards and Tony Stark alike. That would be Mister Fantastic and Iron Man respectively, folks. He’s gone toe to toe with both of them on numerous occasions, by the way, and currently, he’s outlived both of them, but it’s comic books, so you never really know.
Doom mastered science to the point that little Latveria is one of the wealthiest countries around based solely on his patents. He mastered magic well enough that he’s also been known to go a few rounds with Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. Seriously, the man gets around. He’s basically fought every hero and every villain you can think of in the Marvel Universe and some of them on multiple occasions. In one storyline DOOM 2099, he even traveled to the future and pretty much fixed all the stuff that was going wrong. Maybe not a superhero at that point, but certainly a repairman with an attitude and the power to back it up.
Doom tends to fixate on Reed Richards a lot. Many of his schemes over the years have involved A) Killing Reed Richards (No success) b) Wooing Susan Richards, wife of reed (A surprising amount of success considering the horrible disfigurement) and putting an end to the Fantastic Four. Well now, the comic book has gone the way of the dodo bird, and while a few characters are still around, I’m gonna have to put that in the “win” category for the good Doctor.
In his time Doom has been a villain, a monarch, a dictator, a conqueror, a mad scientist, an evil overlord, a master sorcerer and, oh yeah, a god. That’s right. Once upon a time (actually more than once) Doom actually beat ALL the good guys and a lot of the bad guys, too. He became Emperor Doom and reshaped the universe in his image.
Here’s the thing. Doom is a megalomaniac. He doesn’t think he should be in charge, he KNOWS it. Currently, by the way, he has also added superhero to his resume. In the comic book THE INFAMOUS IRON MAN Victor von Doom is working toward redemption for his many past sins. There are a lot of them. He’s killed a lot of people and he’s tortured, beaten and vivisectionalized whomever he felt it was necessary to take care of. He’s even taken on Loki and a few other gods and that was before he became a god himself. Don’t worry too much. He’s still a megalomaniac and an arrogant bastard. Some things do not change easily.
Now he’s doing redemption. I don’t think it’ll last, but, hey, you never know, Currently his face is unscarred and he got his mom back from Hell. Might be he’s just relaxing for a while. Only two issues in and I’m enjoying the ride.
Want to know what else he did? He got imitated. According to George Lucas, Doctor Doom was a very heavy influence in the creation of a bad guy named Darth Vader. Imitation is the finest form of flattery. Seriously, horribly scarred wears battle armor, controls magic (or the Force, call it what you will) and is feared by all who come across him. Vader has Storm Troopers. Doom has Doom Bots and mechanical imitators who take care of business for him while he’s locked away in his castle and brooding, and experimenting, and considering what else he plans to do with the world that has offended him on so many levels.
And they say megalomaniacs never have any fun.
JAMES A. MOORE is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) Cherry Hill, Alien: Sea of Sorrows and the Seven Forges series of novels. He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.
Never one to stay in one genre for too long, James has recently written epic fantasy novels in the series SEVEN FORGES (Seven Forges, the Blasted Lands, City of Wonders and The Silent Army). He is working on a new series called The Tides Of War. The first book in the series The Last Sacrifice, is due out in January. Pending novels also include A Hell Within (a Griffin & Price Novel) co-written with Charles R. Rutledge and an apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel tentatively called Spores. Why be normal?
Being a confirmed Luddite, he is working up the nerve to plunge completely into the electronic publications age.