Doom is master of all.

08Sep12

Oddly enough, after catching up with some of the second season of Avengers: EMH, I found myself thinking about Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four. I couldn’t tell you what chain of thought lead to that, but it led me to the conclusion that Doctor Doom’s origin works best in its original form, and that it is a mistake to tie it into the creation of the Fantastic Four. It’s an understandable mistake, but it leads to watering down one of comic’s best villains.

From a character standpoint, I understand the impulse. The original origin for Doom was probably hastily thrown together by Lee and Kirby, to briefly explain why this random guy in armor and a tunic hates Reed Richards so much. It’s the kind of anecdote scattered across much of the Silver Age-every one-off villain got their own origin panels, no matter how silly they turned out to be (see Superboy and the loss of Lex Luthor’s hair). There was nothing wrong with this, or with using it for Doom. But from a modern standpoint, it probably looks quaint, or even silly. If you’re going to make Doom hate Richards, why not combine the two accidents together, and make Reed more directly responsible for the creation of his arch-enemy? It’ll make things quicker and simpler, especially since the modern version of Doom’s origin would probably take at least an entire issue to itself.

The problem is that by tying them together, Doom becomes a lesser character. Yes, he becomes more directly involved in Reed’s life pre-Fantastic Four, but the point of Doom is not that Richards did something to him, or that he did something to Richards. It’s that Richards questioned him once, Doom blew him off, and it literally exploded in Doom’s face. He was proven wrong casually by an acquaintance, and it consumes him. Reed didn’t have any motive for saying Doom’s calculations might have been off, and after hearing about Doom’s accident, he probably hoped Victor was okay and then went back to his work. These are two brilliant man with vastly different perspectives on the same incident, one who was minimally involved and the other fundamentally altered by it.

Does that make sense? No. Doom’s reaction and blame for Richards is not just irrational, it is supremely irrational. It is megalomania and paranoia rolled into one very destructive ball, something that oddly enough makes sense for many highly intelligent people that have trouble relating to the average intelligence. It makes no sense whatsoever, and that makes Doom a better villain. His grievance with Richards is completely fictional, and that alone emphasizes his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring down Reed Richards. He will gladly turn his life into ashes for the mere chance to destroy Reed, and then find a way to rebuild and be just as dangerous as before.

If, on the other hand, Richards and Doom were working together on an experiment that transforms them (and the rest of the Fantastic Four) into super humans, then his grievances become harder to dismiss. Maybe he tried to correct an error in Reed’s work, but couldn’t catch all of them in time. Maybe he introduced errors that caused the accident, but did so to fix previous errors before they could be caught by Reed. The point is that his direct involvement with Reed changes his motivation, so it’s not as inherently irrational and dangerous. It even runs the risk of making him a sympathetic figure, something that doesn’t fit with a mad scientist dictator at all. Sure, the narrative will state that Richards isn’t at fault for turning Doom into some kind of metallic goat man, but it’ll be hard to avoid wondering if Doom has a point. And Doom should not have a good point. He is someone who will do terrible things in service for a revenge that is completely unjustified, which should always be remembered.

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