Monday, August 22, 2016


Script & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Glynis Oliver | Letters: John Workman
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chiefs: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In Latveria, Doctor Doom’s robots bring young Kristoff to a special wing of Castle Doom, where they reveal that Doom is dead and Kristoff will now rule in his place. The robots hook Kristoff into a machine and begin implanting Doom’s life’s memories into his brain. But Kristoff orders the procedure stopped when it reaches a point just after Doom’s second encounter with the Fantastic Four.

Soon after, as the FF go about their normal business one evening, the Baxter Building tears away from its foundation and takes off for outer space. Doctor Doom, wearing modified armor, contacts the FF via a video screen and taunts them, then blows up the upper portion of the building once it's left Earth’s atmosphere.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Doctor Doom’s past is recapped via the memory implantation, including some bits newly created by Byrne: His mother long dead, Victor Von Doom’s father was targeted for execution as well, having failed to save the life of a local baron’s wife. Victor and his father were taken in by a gypsy clan, and the elder Doom soon died. Victor began to study the black arts using his mother’s paraphernalia, alienating Valeria, the woman who loved him.

With magic mastered, Doom next turned his education toward science, traveling to the United States to attend college at State U. There, he met Reed Richards and, in a failed attempt to travel to the netherworld with technology, blew up his dorm room, injuring a fellow student and mildly disfiguring his own face.

Doom next traveled to the Himalayas and studied with monks, eventually mastering their techniques and becoming their master. He had them craft a suit of armor for him and donned the mask while it was still red hot, completely destroying his face. He then set out to rule the world, coming into immediate conflict with the Fantastic Four.


In other news, the Thing formally quit the FF in THING #23. While out on the town mulling this over, Johnny and Alicia bump into a chipper young man defacing a series of racial equality rally flyers with hateful banners. The young man seems to be enthralled by a mysterious figure (Psycho-Man) watching the altercation from a shadowy alleyway.

Sue and Reed recall Franklin’s showing against Mephisto last issue.

Johnny notes that the Baxter Building was shot into space once before by Doom in FANTASTIC FOUR #6. On that occasion, the plot was thwarted by Doom’s then-ally, Namor. This time, Doom believes the absence of Namor will allow his plot to succeed.

The small device which freed Spider-Man’s alien costume from captivity in issue 274 is revealed to have been sent by Doom to surreptitiously recalibrate some of the FF’s equipment in anticipation of this new attack.

The Quotable Doom: “There can be no peace for me now, no days of sweet contentment, until the world is driven to its knees! Not until all humanity has paid the price for its crimes against the name of Doom!”

My Thoughts: This issue is mostly just set-up for next time, though it’s a good set-up with an engaging cliffhanger. Byrne has recapped the Fantastic Four’s origin a few times since taking over the series with issue 232, though he’s barely so much as touched on the history of their greatest enemy and most-recurring antagonist. It’s nice to see him do so here.

There are those who believe Doom has but a tiny scar beneath his mask, underscoring a tremendous vanity on his part. He believes himself hideous when his “disfigurement” is something all but unnoticeable to anyone else. Unless I’m mistaken, former FF writer Mark Waid subsribes to this theory. Jack Kirby seemed to as well, at least later in his life.

I appreciate this school of thought and I think it would work fine for another character. Heck, it’d work for Doom as well, if not for all the numerous times in multiple issues (including early Kirby issues!) where people are shown recoiling in horror at the sight of him without his mask. Even dialogue over the years has made reference to Doom’s disfigurement. It’s nice to believe otherwise if you want to, but there can be no doubt that Doctor Doom’s face is a horrific mess behind his mask.

So Byrne puts an exclamation point on that idea here, starting with Doom suffering relatively minor (but still very noticeable) scars in the accident at college, as a way to possibly appease those who subscribe to the “small scar” version of the character — but then he follows this up with the vain Doom believing the scars to be utterly hideous and cementing his disfigurement by placing the red-hot mask on his face, burning his skin irreparably.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive origin of Doctor Doom. I recall watching a Fantastic Four anniversary panel at Comic-Con some years ago where Waid and a few other writers scoffed at Byrne’s addition to the backstory, but for me there’s no better way to present it. The tragic idea that Doom’s own vanity ruined his face is perfect.


  1. It still seems stupid that he would want to cause himself a hideous amount of pain, just because he couldn't take the time to wait for the mask to cool down.
    He has a genius level intellect, so it's hard to accept he couldn't understand a simple concept like scalding hot.
    I can understand Waid mocking the scene, even if Byrne's view is the correct one.

    1. I look at it as Doom believing his face to be completely ruined and not caring about the cosmetic consequences of donning the red-hot mask, while the pain could be sort of a rite of passage he's putting himself through.

  2. The searing-hot mask in itself comes already from FF ANNUAL #2 from where the dialogue here is lifted from near verbatim, and Byrne only added some (quite realistic) sizzle to it. The running to snow with face burning bit absent from the original is noted to be quite reminiscent of the Shroud's origin story in the 70's MARVEL SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP where the Himalayan-based cult of Kali branded his face.

    The "official" reason for Doom not waiting for the mask cooling is that "pain is for lesser men", but it's difficult to not think that Doom purposefully (consciously or not) chooses to ruin his face for the reason that the other people maybe didn't see his initial negligible scars the way he did. "Come on, it's really not that bad, Vic" may just be the sort of questioning Doom will not oblige to stand for.

    Byrne's Doom not being above the pain but screaming and running to snow (unlike the the one in FFA #2) is something one could perhaps write a lengthy essay about.

    What these variations of the origin story are all lacking is where exactly Doom developed his hatred for Reed Richards? He is always said to hate Richards for the failed experiment in ESU, but Byrne (too) has Doom initially blaming himself of the accident here when gazing upon his visage on the mirror.

    1. I always say "pain is for lesser men" before stuffing hot pizza in my mouth.

    2. As a perennial victim of getting an aching blister to my gums behing my front teeth when eating a heated frozen pizza, I take objection to that.

    3. Huh. Having never read Lee/Kirby, I had no idea the hot mask bit existed prior to this issue. Thanks, Teemu!

    4. Matt, just check out the beautiful cover for MARVEL SAGA THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF MARVEL UNIVERSE #3 that I think repints the original sequence (or then has original artwork for it). They put this one out for us pretty much the same time they published this FF issue, right in my formative years, so I naturally filed it under This Is Important.

    5. The aforementioned MS #3 switches back and forth with reprinting Dr. Doom's origin scenes alternatively from the FFA #2 and the Byrne interpretation from this issue. Less surprising is that the official history written in 1985 considers Byrne's version with the sizzle and snow to be the definite one. As it should be.

      Damn if I didn't love Marvel Saga back in the day. Great way to bring info of the unavailable first Silver Age stories for the fans in a time when handheld devices having 16000 times more RAM than Commodore 64 that you could use to wirelessly tap into all of them weren't even a pipedream. ("Cyberspace" obviously had been imagined, but still mostly filed under "oh, you".)

    6. I've always wanted to read MARVEL SAGA but I never got around to it. I think Marvel produced an ESSENTIAL version some years back; I wonder if they'd consider an Omnibus? I might pick that up.

    7. I would think it's hard to justify publishing (re-)reprints of abridged reprints today, as most of the material is nowadays available on Marvel Unlimited and with Wikipedia and other resources it's extremely easy for one to do his own research on the early phases of his favorite hero and read the essential issues. The first issue that very shortly (in singular panels) puts together the pre-history of Marvel Universe with Celestials, Deviants, Atlantis and rest may be of interest, but Marvel having shut down the Marvel Universe publishing that stuff now wouldn't make them look very creditable. MARVEL SAGA is of time when continuity in any way mattered. An anathema really to what they're doing now.

  3. I thought the Annual showed where Reed told Doom that some of his figures were wrong, and warned him to take more time before pursuing the experiment.
    Then, Doom said that Reed's criticism forced him to question himself, or something like that, which is what led to the explosion.
    If Reed hadn't meddled, things wouldn't have gone wrong, in Doom's mind. Because, he couldn't have actually had his mathematics wrong, like Reed told him.

  4. It's kind of awesome that ESU apparently has seen it fit to explicitly forbid experiments that attempt contacting the nether world.

    Especially as Reed doesn't note in his thoughts that trans-dimensional warps per se would be banned. Either they aren't or then Reed just doesn't sacrifice a thought for it being a boundary-pushing scientist who by definition always are at odds with the current accepted paradigms anyway. His old man's time travel experiments certainly are close enough to that sort of thing.

    They actually got a Dean back in the day to look up young von Doom to grant him a scholarship. I'm growing suspicious at this school.

    1. State U., not ESU! Reed Richards and Peter Parker do not share an alma mater, despite the similarities in their colleges' names.

    2. Goshdangit! I was already working on a continuation by reference to Dr. Miles Warren and the look of his post-grad work at the Citadel of Science on Wundagore on his CV surprisingly being a good thing when hiring him.

      It was on verge of looking like Marvel had appropriated the Miskatonic University from H.P. Lovecraft much earlier than DC did their Arkham Asylum.


  5. I feel like this unparalleled institution of higher education that has drawn both Reed and Doom to its halls being called “State U.” is the kind of thing it’d be totally okay to retcon. Not that I’m casting any aspersions on state/public universities, mind you. I just find the name laughably generic.

    Johnny’s new haircut is only marginally less irksome to me than Sue’s femullet, to be honest.

    1. I agree; I've always thought it really kind of silly that Reed went to "State U." Though I suppose he could've gotten his doctorate someplace more prestigious. The weirder part is Doom traveling all the way around the world to go there.