By Dave Buesing
Doctor Doom is my favorite villain. Full stop. Not my favorite villain “in comics”, not my favorite “Fantastic Four” villain, not my favorite villain “with a good mask” (stiff competition for this one, Lord Vader!). When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee co-created Doctor Doom they perfected arch-villainy. The Latverian defense rests.
So it’s only natural that when Marvel 2099 launched in 1992, Doom 2099 was the only series retaining the present-day incarnation of the lead character. For the future-flung reinvention, Spider-Man 2099 had Miguel O’Hara, Punisher 2099 had Jake Gallows, and Ravage 2099 had ’90s Stan Lee. But Doom 2099? The return of the one and only, Doctor Victor Von Doom.
The general premise of “Muses of Fire” is that Victor Von Doom (or is he, as the series would go on to ask for the following ~30 issues) suddenly portals into Latveria in the year 2099, and promptly proceeds to reclaim Latveria from its new ruler, Tyger Wilde. The story told by John Francis Moore (or as true comics aficionados say, “the good Moore”) and Pat Broderick is a means of ensuring Doctor Doom’s immortality, even into the increasingly not-so-distant future, and connecting his presence in 2099 to new facial reconstruction surgery and spikier, bluer (see also: better) armor.
Mostly, Doom 2099 #1 dares to ask “What if comic book covers peaked?” No joke, I bought a $1 copy of the issue from my LCS to give to my brother for Christmas, and I liked the holofoil cover so much I just wound up keeping it. One does not simply gift infallibility.
Intriguingly, though, Doom 2099 proposes that the most irreplaceable aspect of the Marvel Universe is Doctor Doom. It is not the first or last Marvel project to come to this conclusion. In 1993’s Guardians of the Galaxy #39, an extension of ideas started in Jim Valentino’s run on the title, it’s revealed that Victor Von Doom transferred his consciousness into the adamantium skeleton of Wolverine, surviving into the 31st century. In more recent years, Jason Aaron has played with possible futures where Doctor Doom has survived to the near end-of-time through acquiring powers like the Iron Fist, Starbrand, and becoming Sorcerer Supreme.
The world burns. Doom endures.
What’s most interesting to me here is the process of excavating the elements which have made this so. Aside from the nebulous reality that Doom is “cool as hell” there must be some base layer that explains the longevity and central resonance to the Marvel Universe. So naturally, I turned to the 20th and 99th appearances of the character in Marvel Comics history to see what I could learn.
His 20th appearance occurs in Fantastic Four #60, the final issue in a peak Jack and Stan era story, where Doom has stolen the Silver Surfer’s power cosmic (and surfboard) and is bringing the world under his thumb. It’s a great exploration of a core facet: Doom’s never-ending quest for ultimate power.
Doctor Doom’s 99th appearance, meanwhile, takes place in Fantastic Four #246, a John Byrne, Glynis Wein, Jim Novak era story. It follows up on Doom getting tiny and seemingly dying in, ahem, Liddleville. Amazingly, the goofy parameters of my 2099-infused criteria also lead to another core facet of Doom: his sense of nobility and purpose as ruler of his personal “Utopia,” Latveria.
Ultimately, both these facets are interconnected and are tapped into in familiar ways in the pages of Doom 2099 #1.
Personally, I’ve always been infatuated by Doom’s various quests for power. It’s the way only he sees the potential of stealing the Beyonder’s power in Secret Wars. The way he steals the Odinforce in Ultimate Alliance – aka the greatest Marvel video game story. And yes, the way how, in Fantastic Four #60, he rides around on a shiny surfboard saying things like “I’ll fly to the capital of each helpless nation, one by one.. seizing the reins of power… until at least, all of Earth is at my feet!”
When it comes to the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe, they all seek power for different reasons. Thanos quests for unrequited love; Magneto for vengeance and freedom; the Red Skull for hate; and Stilt-Man for his stilt-greasing-budget. But Doom is chief among those who seek power because power is a goal in and of itself, and he feels he deserves it.
As a metaphor for society’s most threatening leaders, this often feels the most honest. Why does Doctor Doom challenge world governments and commit human rights violations? Because it is but a step on his path of entitlement to what he is owed.
This all intersects with The Divine Right of Doom, which is what we see every time Victor seeks to reclaim or reassert his dominance in Latveria. While his dreams of power often involve cosmic artifacts, sorcerous secrets, and literal godhood, they all begin with his legitimate claim to the throne of Latveria. The particular brilliance of Doom’s monarchy is that he’s not a pampered prince born into royalty, but instead born to Romani parents subjugated and ultimately killed by Latverian punishment. In his ascension to ruler of Latveria, Doom is indeed the underdog, the marginalized child who lost his parents to bigotry and cruelty. And yet, through all that, his Latveria is beloved.
It is easy to romance this notion of a benevolent savior and forget we’re celebrating a perfectly crafted supervillain. That is, of course, part of the character’s charm: that you can spend pages watching the adoring streets of Latveria and think, if even just for a moment, that his motives are pure, and not undone by the atrocities lingering behind those castle walls. It’s often too easy to waltz into the cognitive dissonance that comes from overlooking the murder of a lackey because the Dictator does, indeed, throw a hell of a dinner party. It’s this nuanced balance between nobility and ego that perpetually elevates Doom above the rabble calling themselves supervillains.
In asserting his eternal presence, Doom 2099 #1 leans heavily into the Divine Right of Doom as the first building block in quests for power. The series will go on to more adequately satiate the appetites of Doom’s hunger for power in stories like “Fall of the Hammer” and “President Doom.” No matter the era, the formula for Doom is an immutable law of physics; pull it from the center and the Marvel Universe teeters and falls. Doom 2099 #1 doesn’t launch to great heights with this knowledge, but it does understand it well enough to add to the legacy.
In the immortal words of Shakespeare’s Henry V, “Long live Doom!”
Doom 2099 #1 “Muses of Fire”
Writer: John Francis Moore
Artist: Pat Broderick
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Christie Scheele
Dave Buesing is the founder and editor-in-chief of www.comicbookherald.com, dedicated to helping all kinds of readers enjoy comics. He hosts Krakin’ Krakoa on Youtube, and a Marvel reading club podcast called My Marvelous Year. He’s written about comics for CBR, Popverse, and created many unsolicited text exchanges with his wife.
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