He’s the deadliest scientist on planet Earth and he is the most malevolent practitioner of black magic in this or any other realm. He is a protector of his people, a vile despot, a jealous industrialist, a man of vile fury, and a man with a strict code of honor. He’s totally allowed to refer to himself in the third person if he feels like it.
He’s Doctor Doom, and he’s the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe.
What he most certainly is not is a movie star. Unlike the Joker, no movie version of Victor Von Doom has ever managed to really capture the power of one of the best villains that pop culture has to offer. Unless you count Darth Vader.
None of this robs the character of his rich history or villainous potency. So many great stories have featured Doctor Doom since he was first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at the dawn of the Marvel Universe.
In fact, Doctor Doom has been the villainous proving ground for almost every Marvel hero. It’s like a hero isn’t totally legit until they have survived a battle with the armored ruler of Latveria.
So join us as we open the Book of Doom and examine the greatest stories that have made Doctor Doom Marvel’s greatest adversary…
“Prisoners of Doom”
Fantastic Four #5 (1962)
By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Doctor Doom’s first plot to bring down the Fantastic Four wasn’t exactly his most brilliant, but it did introduce the world to the greatest evil the Marvel Universe has ever known. In this, his very first appearance, Doctor Doom forced the FF to…well, keep in mind there are about 15,000 great Doctor Doom stories to follow…he, (ahem) forced the Fantastic Four to travel back in time to steal the legendary pirate Blackbeard’s treasure chest.
Now, if I had a time machine, that probably wouldn’t be my first stop, but, hey, Doom really wanted that treasure chest I guess.
Despite that (cough) brilliant plan, there just was something different about Doom that right away set him apart from the other villains of the very early Marvel Universe. In this issue, it was established that Doom was a figure from Reed Richard’s past which made the armored miscreant a very personal threat to the FF.
And then there was that mask, that cold, featureless mask that probably inspired the look of Darth Vader in the years to follow. That mask was one of Kirby’s greatest designs and it would make the villain one of the most stand out evils in comics. Doom cut such an imposing figure that he transcended the silly plot of his first appearance and became a legend.
Honey, Doom Shrunk the Kids
Fantastic Four #16-17 (1963)
by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Well, not the kids but the Fantastic Four. In these issues, Doctor Doom figured out a way to shrink the Fantastic Four down so he can pretty much just screw with them in order to prove his scientific superiority to that paltry Richards.
Now think about this one, Ant-Man’s whole gimmick was that he figured out a way to shrink matter. Pffft! Doom figured that out on his own before breakfast and used it to attack his enemies.
Speaking of Ant-Man, the Fantastic Four needed to turn to the master of shrinkage in order to defeat Doom but not before they had an epic confrontation in the newly introduced realm of Sub-Atomica. Lots of Silver age awesomeness in these issues between Doom, some early Kirby world building, and a very early heroic Marvel team up.
Fantastic Four Annual #2 (1964)
By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
You know a comic is good when its story is being built upon 50 years later. In this one oversized issue, Lee and Kirby perfected the character of Doctor Doom.
All the iconic Doom moments were introduced here: the scarring at the hands of an experiment gone wrong, Doom’s bitterness towards that accursed Richards, his connection to black magic, and the unforgettable moment when Doom’s vanity led him to have that metal mask permanently seared onto his noble face.
But if you’re looking for an even more in-depth version of this story, allow me to suggest…
The Expanded Origin
Books of Doom (2005)
by Ed Brubaker and Paulo Raimondi
Books of Doom presented the origin of the not so good Doctor as expanded upon by the writer who created the Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker. This book built upon the intense Lee and Kirby origin and repositioned Marvel’s greatest villain for a new century.
It’s an absolute how-to guide in comic book villainy.
Wow…what a dick.
Fantastic Four #57-60 (1966)
By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
This is probably Doom’s biggest dick move in a history of legendary dick moves.
When Fantastic Four #57 came out, the Silver Surfer was new to the Marvel universe. The Surfer was recently trapped on Earth as punishment after he betrayed his master Galactus and saved humanity from the Devourer of World’s appetite, and he was forbidden to soar the spaceways. With the Surfer at his most vulnerable point, he received an invitation to visit Latveria.
Now, you would think the FF might have warned the Surfer about Doom. Nope, they just let the innocent angelic patsy fly right into Latveria with nary a word. So Doom pretended to be the Surfer’s friend and showed him around his evil castle. He even showed the Surfer an image of far off space which is kind of like showing a Boston terrier a lamb chop. While the Surfer starred wistfully at the cosmos, Doom struck, draining the Silver Surfer of his Power Cosmic and basically rendering the visitor from the stars helpless. This is right after the Surfer saved all of Earth (including Doom) from Galactus.
Like I said, what a dick.
Astonishing Tales of Doom
Astonishing Tales #1-8 (1969-1971)
by Roy Thomas, Wally Wood, Larry Leiber, George Tuska, Herb Trimpe, Gerry Conway, Gene Colan
In the Silver Age, it wasn’t common for a villain to get his or her own strip, but Doom does not trod the path of normal evildoers (ahem, sorry) and was awarded his own feature in the pages of Astonishing Tales. These stories, featuring the work off some of the Silver Age’s most important creators, fleshed out the back-story of Doom while spotlighting the armored depot as a protagonist.
The first story arc saw Doom squash a rebellion in Latveria while the second saw Doom go up against the Black Panther. The third arc featured the first battle between Doom and the Red Skull as the Nazi menace tried to conquer Latveria, but it was the fourth and final story that still resonates.
In Astonishing Tales #8, Gerry Conway and Gene Colan presented a tale that would become a huge part of the Victor Von Doom mythos. In this unforgettable story, it was revealed that every year Doom does battle with the devil himself to save the soul of Doom’s mother from eternal damnation. Not only did this establish Doom as one of the world’s greatest sorcerers but it showed a nobility and a familial loyalty in a man who, on the surface, seemed primarily ego driven. Underneath that armor, there was a boy who loved his mother and would walk through the fires of Hell to save her.
Truly a unique villain that Doom…but he’s still a giant armored douche for what he did to the poor Silver Surfer.
Where’s My Money, Honey?
Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #9 (1973)
By Steve Englehart and George Tuska
This one has become such a legendary Doom moment, countless memes have popped around the nerdospehre celebrating the time Doctor Doom stiffed Luke Cage out of $200.
Keep in mind, that’s $200 of 1973 money. In 1973, $200 would have bought you 1000 comics. Today, $200 will buy you, like, three.
Anyway, Luke Cage was hired to find and take down some robots around Harlem when he discovered his employer was Doctor Doom. Doom stiffed Cage out of the cash because, as we established, Doom=dick, so Cage stole a high tech plane from the Fantastic Four and flew to Latveria. There, Cage confronted Doom over the cash but Doom was dealing with an uprising from a villain known as the Faceless One.
Not wanting the cat that owes him two bills to be taken down, Cage helped Doom. Doom was so impressed with Cage’s prowess he paid him the money. So, Doom may be a dick but he is a dick with honor.
But seriously, at this point in his classic career, Doom became the villain that legitimized new heroes in the Marvel Universe. Cage was a cool character but after facing down Doom, the Hero for Hire had major cred with fans.
Iron Man #149-150 (1981)
by Bob Layton, David Michelinie, and John Romita Jr.
Remember the whole Doom saving his mother from Hell awesomeness? Well, that amazingly compelling storyline continued in many places other than in the pages of Fantastic Four. One of the most notable was in the “Doomquest” story arc that ran in Iron Man #149-150.
The first thing this story taught fans was that if Doom wasn’t so obsessed with destroying Reed Richards and the FF, he would make the perfect Iron Man foe. Get this now, Doom traveled back to Camelot to seek help from Morgan Le Fay to free his mother. Le Fay, of course, wanted Doom to help her destroy King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. So it’s Le Fay and Doom versus Iron Man and the Knights of Camelot.
These right here are perfect comics and speak to the awesome storytelling potential of Doom as a character.
This Land is Doom’s Land
Fantastic Four #246-247 (1982)
By John Byrne
In these magnificent issues by master Fantastic Four creator John Byrne, Doom reminded readers that above all things, he is a ruler.
Latveria had been conquered by Prince Zorba, an arrogant and cruel ruler who had politically crushed all the progress Latveria has made under Doom. You see, under Doom, everyone eats, everyone works, and everyone praises Doom, but Zorba was a selfish leader who put his own needs first and this displeased Doom.
He may be a dick, but he’s a loyal dick, and Doom puts his pride aside and sought the aid of the FF to take back his country.
During the course of the story, Zorba killed the mother of a boy named Kristoff, who Doom later adopted and who would one day house the consciousness of Doctor Doom himself after Doom is believed killed. Of course, Doom killed Zorba and took back his country while the Fantastic Four could only watch.
After, Doom gave the heroes the boot (promising them that his next act will be to destroy them because…Doom) and ascended his throne once again because when Doom plays the Game of Thrones he don’t need no stinkin’ dragons.
Secret Wars (1984)
By Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
When a huge gaggle of heroes and villains got transported to Battleworld by the Beyonder, it was Doctor Doom (of course) who stood out as the most cunning villain of all.
Towards the end of Marvel’s first crossover event, Doom drained the Beyonder of his power and had the cast iron melons to go toe to toe with a cosmic god. There were some great moments of many villains doing many vile things during the first Secret Wars, but Doom stealing the Beyonder’s power and almost taking control of all of reality was one of the best moments in the unforgettable series. It just showed that Doom is a step ahead of the rest of the Marvel Universe and is always looking to seize power and glory for himself…even when he must bitchslap a god to do so.
Plus, the event led to the release of the very first Doctor Doom action figure complete with new badass battle armor.
Emperor Doom Graphic Novel (1987)
by David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, Jim Shooter, and Bob Hall
No matter how evil and brilliant Doctor Doom had been over the years, he never succeeded in his goal to conquer the world and show the planet the glory of living to serve Doom. Until Emperor Doom, that is.
In this classic graphic novel, Doom used the mind control power of Killgrave the Purple Man (who will soon by the big bad of Marvel’s Jessica Jones Netflix series and be played by David Tennant because life is awesome) to bring the world under his control.
First of all, it’s awesome that Doctor Doom used another villain’s powers better than that villain ever did. Secondly, many aspects of life on planet Earth were better thanks to Doom. Sadly, that whole “no free will” thing rankled some freedom fighters that escaped Killgrave’s control (most notably the Avenger known as Wonder Man) and they were able to break Doom’s control, but the message of Emperor Doom remained: that Doctor Doom was such a profound genius that if he ever succeeded in gaining control of society, in many ways, the lives of humanity would be better.
All hail, Doom!
The Tragic Hero
Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989)
by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola
This fantastic graphic novel served as a culmination of Doom’s attempts to save his mother from Hell. Triumph and Torment reestablished Doctor Doom as a potent magic user in the Marvel Universe and contained some insanely cool Mike Mignola artwork.
Throughout his rich history, Victor Von Doom has put many Marvel heroes through hell, but in this classic book, Doom puts himself through Hell to save the one person he ever loved.
I mean, it’s Doom versus Mephisto drawn by the creator of Hellboy…how are you not buying this off eBay as we speak?
Fantastic Four #67-70, 500 (2003)
by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
After all this evil, what could Doctor Doom do that could be called “Unthinkable?”
Mark Waid and the late, great Mike Wieringo, told the story of Doom’s first romantic love, a gypsy woman named Valeria. It detailed Doom’s relationship with Valeria when they were both young and related how Doom tracked his love down in present day Georgia. In an uncharacteristic moment of humanity for Doom, the armored despot declared his love for Valeria. When Valeria reciprocated the feelings, Doom had it all. He finally had one of the only people he ever loved back in his arms…and then he destroyed her.
Doom did the unthinkable, sacrificing his true love to gain dark powers. This story is te ultimate look at the sorcerer side of Doctor Doom but also reminded fans of the utter evil and depravity the man beneath the armor was capable of.
And you thought backstabbing the Silver Surfer was bad.
Secret Wars Redux
Secret Wars (2015)
by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic
Marvel’s new Secret Wars is an epic mash up of millions of possible realities, and of course, at the center of it all is Doctor Doom.
Doom may have failed to conquer his enemies or the cosmos with the powers of the Beyonder during their first encounter, but he learned from his mistakes and now he stands triumphant as god of all realities. Doctor Doom did not just conqueror the galaxy, he conquered every galaxy and holds dominion of all he sees. Every being in the Marvel Multiverse pays homage to Doom and they should, because when it comes to comic book villains, none are greater than Victor Von Doom.
Want more Fantastic Four talk? We went beyond the review on our latest podcast…