Monday, February 29, 2016


Story and Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In Latveria, Doctor Doom describes to the Fantastic Four how his homeland has fallen since King Zorba assumed the throne. The group is approached by a child named Kristoff, and then by his mother, who is elated to see Doom. She fills the FF in on the tyrannical rule of Zorba, but is subsequently killed by Zorba’s robotic secret police.

The FF and Doom defeat the robots and go into hiding with some Latverian citizens, where Doom continues to assert that he is a more benevolent leader than Zorba. Meanwhile, Zorba, mad with power, releases Doom’s killer robots to wipe out the populace. Once again, the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom join forces to defeat these new foes. Two hours later the final robot is vanquished, but Doom has vanished from the battlefield.

Inside his castle, Doom releases his right hand man, Boris, from captivity, and then confronts Zorba. Zorba swears Doom will never rule while he is alive, so Doom rectifies the problem. He then returns to the Fantastic Four and gives them leave to depart Latveria. Mister Fantastic accepts the offer under the condition that Doom will devote himself to the peaceful restoration of his land.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Zorba, brother of the late King Rudolpho and therefore the rightful heir to the Latverian throne, assumed the crown in FANTASTIC FOUR #200, following a storyline in which the FF aided the Latverian resistance to install him.

Kristoff’s mother describes Zorba’s rule:

I don’t know what a burgermeister is, but Doctor Doom has one named Josef.

Is It Clobberin' Time? You bet it is!

The Quotable Doom: “…mark you well my words – the ultimate destruction of the Fantastic Four is ever my most cherished goal. When next we meet it shall be achieved!”

My Thoughts: When John Byrne took over FANTASTIC FOUR with issue 232, he inherited a situation for Doctor Doom which had been in place for over two years at that point: Doom was deposed as ruler of Latveria, instead operating out of his castle in upstate New York. Byrne seemed to be in no special hurry to rectify the situation, giving us one Doom story using that same set-up, “Terror in a Tiny Town” from FF 236.

But now, one month shy of four years since the overthrow of Doom in issue 200, Byrne returns him to his most recognizable status quo, in a very good story.

It can’t be questioned that Doom is a dictator, but Byrne goes to great pains here to show us that unlike most such personalities in the real world, Doom legitimately cares for his people, and they adore him. We get these words from the mouth of Doom himself, but also from Kristoff’s mother, who drops to her knees with joy when she sees him. In the castle, the head of Zorba’s secret police states that Doom very seldom punished his people for anything; the simple threat of punishment was enough to keep them in line. Doom elaborates on this, admitting that he deprived his people of one simple freedom: the freedom to commit evil. (And the hypocrisy of this statement is a nice touch by Byrne.)

It’s really a fascinating look at the character. Byrne goes to great lengths to show us that Latveria really was better off when Doom was in charge. Of course, he accomplishes this in part by turning Zorba — a genuinely charismatic and noble character in his earlier appearances — into a raving lunatic, but still. We may never know what would’ve happened had a legitimately benevolent character seized the throne; maybe Latveria would have prospered. But for the purpose of this story, at least, we find ourselves rooting for Doctor Doom to win and reclaim the throne.

Like I said last time, Doom really brings out the best in Byrne.


  1. I believe that a "burgermeister" is the name given to a person working at a Burger King in Latveria.
    Now, a burgomeister is the German word for a "mayor", which I'm guessing was Byrne's actual intent.

    I wish that the FF would have attempted to help establish a democracy in Latveria at some point. Instead, they decided to back a monarchist to the throne, to replace Doom.

    1. Totally allowed spelling, "bürgermeister". And umlauts often get omitted when used in English context. Byrne would be right enough if he meant it this way too.

      Also, I hate to get modern day political, but outsiders coming to establish democracy to places can backfire so that lots of folks will think they were better off with the tyrant. And didn't people actually vote Zorba on themselves here too, so one could say FF did attempt it and now the place is in ruins. Disturbingly topical.

    2. Correction to myself: nope, he got it by succession, albeit with popular support, and the free elections were only coming up, until they didn't. Though technically that probably would count as an attempt by FF when it was their supported guy who was promising it.

    3. I agree that outsiders coming in to meddle with the political situation is problematic, regardless.
      Still, for the good guys to back democracy in a nation, rather than backing another dictator, seems to be the better direction.

      I was thinking that it would have been a better shades of grey story had Dr. Doom returned to Latveria, which was nominally democratic, and saw the same sort of situation as in this story. Then, the FF would have to face the moral quandary of helping Dr. Doom back in to power, or continuing to back a corrupt democratic government.

    4. Thanks, fellows. I knew someone could fill me in on the mystery of the burgermeister!

      Didn't the FF back an elected president (who also naturally turned out to be evil) in the 00s? I feel like I read something about this, though I didn't actually read the series during that time. Maybe it was in Mark Waid's run? Or perhaps I'm mistaken.

      The thing that gets me about the whole Zorba business is that, if I recall correctly, Marv Wolfman presented him as a genuinely good guy during his early appearances. Apparently Byrne decided that absolute power should corrupt him, because he's quite the tyrant here.

    5. So I went to read the story up to #200 and Zorba's ascension, and had a blast doing it, and I think Wolfman may have been (possibly without knowing it himself ;) ) a tad bit unreliable narrator who buys into Zorba's perceived nobleness. But there are hints, if you want to read such: at first we meet Zorba as charismatic rebel leader only interested in putting the rightful heir to tge throne, but it comes as a surprise that the heir in question is himself. And, of course, I've read enough Donald Duck comics to know that person with scarred face is up to no good, and enough superhero comics to know that someone implanted with cybernetics is at least compromised.

      Also, pre-Byrne Doom is totally unhinged.

    6. ... and then I just now went to read the 2nd story in FF Annual #15 (Oct 80) by Doug Moench where the downward spiral of the elected(!) king Zorba from idealism to paranoia is depicted. Who knew, Dr. Doom as an evil despot had wide arrays of means with which to provide better life to his subjects while the democratic approach by the good guy Zorba through raising taxes and whatnot had the people up and against him.

      Byrne may have given the final push to Zorba's corruption, but it's through a natural enough path that Moench set up.

      It's mandatory reading really for this story, so go check your Marvel Unlimited, everyone.

    7. Thanks, Teemu -- I had no idea Zorba had appeared between FF 200 and 247. Interesting that it was Doug Moench, rather than John Byrne, who started his spiral, since it really sort of feels like a Byrne-ish thing to do.

    8. I have taken it as pretty much a standard procedure nowadays to check up and the "character appearances in chronological order" page therewith every time a secondary character tickles my fancy. It's a bit d'oh that they list every one panel flashback appearances among others though.

    9. I use that site a lot too, and I agree that the flashbacks are a bit much. It'd be nice if they somehow maintained two lists -- one including flashbacks for the really comprehensive-minded people, and one without, for those whose interest is more casual.

  2. I don’t know what a burgermeister is, but Doctor Doom has one named Josef.

    Effectively a mayor; 'burg' being a town, 'burger' being citizen(s) and 'meister', naturally enough, a master. Wikipedia has an article on 'burgomaster' should one feel like getting some needless education. Unless of course Doom took liking to American food during his stay and he's an actual burgermaster. I would certainly have one if I was to tyrannically rule an European city-state.

    I must insist we continuity-note the Doom's robots to the story in #85-86, because that's a treasure trove Byrne has not stopped digging into yet.

    1. Byrne loves to revisit Kirby whenever he can, so it's no surprise he would use those older robots rather than come up with new ones. I appreciate when he does stuff like that, such as showing the X-Men using the aircraft they stole from the Sentinel base during "Dark Phoenix" (and later in X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS).


  3. // I don’t know what a burgermeister is, but Doctor Doom has one named Josef. //

    Have you never seen the Rankin-Bass classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town?!?

    1. I think maybe I saw it, and RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, when I was really little. I generally wasn't a fan of stop motion stuff when I was younger, and I've never reexamined those specials as an adult.

    2. Ah yes, that was where I first encountered the term burgermeister as well, Blam, the awesomely-named Burgermeister Meisterburger.

      Matt, this coming holiday season, you should definitely check out those Rankin-Bass specials. RUDOLPH is hilarious for how much of jerks everyone (including Santa) is to Rudloph, while SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN is like a Silver Age origin story for Santa Claus.

    3. All right, if you guys are recommending them, perhaps I'll check 'em out.

  4. Well, I can’t deny that my love for it is inextricably bound up in memories/nostalgia, so your mileage will certainly vary coming to it now, but I’ve always thought it was quality stuff too.