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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 230

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the origin of Doctor Doom, courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four Annual #2!!

We pick up when Doom is living with the gypsies and fighting against the evil tyrannical ruler of Latveria…

“The” moment for me is probably when he puts on the mask for the first time (and you have to love Lee’s nonsense explanation for how Doom can take his mask off), although, I’ll admit, part of the reason I’m showing you this legendary origin today (and man, isn’t it amazing how much they pack into these few pages?) is to demonstrate that Doom putting the mask on for the first time really isn’t all that iconic of a panel – that’s not a panel that I recall ever seeing homaged. When future artists mostly choose to draw the scene their own way when they reference Doom first putting on the mask (and it has been mentioned a number of times since) that’s usually a good sign that the original panel was not seen as something so notable that it needs to be referenced (unlike, say, Bucky and Cap on the rocket – that Kirby panel has been homaged innumerable times).


Sometimes I forget how all-out Stan went in crafting Doom’s origin. He’s a gypsy sorcerrer mad scientist monk super villain. Just, wow.

“Special herbs” seems so obviously concocted by the Marvel Method Stan was using at the time, so what DID Kirby intend for that ring which he draws so prominently in a single panel and then never again?

Doctor Doom’s origin is cooler than the Fantastic Four’s. Shows way more depth, in any case. And we find out Reed actually used to say words like “wow” or “far out” as much as Johnny would later in the series.

I got to meet Jack Kirby a short while before his passing. He was still very enthusiastic about Doom’s origin, regaling us with his theory of how Doom’s drive towards perfection had driven him to wear the mask even though the accident had only left a mere scar on his face. But according to Jack, Doom felt that the scar had ravaged his face beyond recognition.

I’m not sure if this aspect of his origin was touched on by Byrne or other creators. Has it been ret-conned by now? From what I read in Stan’s script here, nothing suggests that anyone other than Doom himself felt he had been completely disfigured.

Lt. Clutch; I think it was Byrne who expanded on Kirby’s concept that the accident merely caused a small scar, but putting on the still-heated mask disfigured him beyond all recognition. I like that one.

Lt. Clutch > John Byrne : The Great Debate ove Doom’s face was a fan myth. There was never any
suggestion in the books themselves that his face was anything other than horribly disfigured. As Kirby drew him in the post-explosion flashback in FF5, in fact, Doom’s bandaged profile clearly shows he doesn’t even have an external nose any more.

Then the story started circulating that Kirby wanted Doom to have only a minor scar, and it be his tremendous ego that rendered this, in his own mind, a hideous disfigurement. Again, nothing in the books themselves
to support this (and, since Kirby drew him without a nose we can assume Jack had changed his mind on this idea before he penciled FF5). Anyone who saw Doom’s face recoiled in horror. Even Don Blake, a
doctor, was repelled by what he saw.

A segment of fandom, however, grabbed hold of this little legend and turned it into yet another Stan vs. Jack story. So I silenced them, by saying both versions were true. (Now, go after me for that, since it clearly contradicts Kirby having drawn Doom without a nose.)


I think we just found another iconic panel…this book is full of them. From now on, whenever Doctor Doom’s past is referenced, the art will call back to this issue.

Ben meeting Reed
Victor’s face wrapped in bandages
The explosion
Trekking through Tibet
The burning hot mask
The behind the head shot of the face plate being put on

Whenever Doom is in a book, this origin runs through my head.

The problem with Kirby’s theory was that on the earlier Doom appearances he drew people recoiling in horror at the sight of Doom’s unmasked face, so it couldn’t JUST be a small scar (he occasionally also drew scars around Doom’s eyes inside the mask).

So although John Byrne DID like the theory that Doom had only a small scar and his vanity made he think of himself as disfigured, he couldn’t use it “as is”. Inspired by the “not completely cooled yet” line he then devised the idea that Doom would have had his face burned out by the still hot mask, allowing thus the two versions of Doom’s scarring to be true in a fashion.

A clever idea. His version of the good doctor’s origin REALLY impressed me when I first read it! To me, that’s the definitive version.

The Ed Brubaker limited series Books of Doom also has an interesting version of the origin, although he skirts around the well-beaten path to explore the more obscure points. That way he is able to introduce A LOT of new stuff without retconning anything! A lesson that other modern writers should learn…

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I just love the following:

“Dean of Science at State Univeristy” (I don’t think “state” means much in a European country)
“There’s something ominous about him…”
“Ben Grimm, The Touchdown King!”

Also what freshman gets a private room, let alone one big enough to have a big science gadget in it?

I’d just like to comment on Kirby’s work here. Not just the power of the drawings (which many automatically think of when you mention Kirby’s name) but the panel layouts. Just initially scanning these pages, I’m struck by just how well crafted each individual panels are!

The camera angles he chooses, the lighting (he didn’t need any high-tech Photoshop coloring), all great stuff!

And like you say Brian, look how much story is packed within these pages.

No doubt, Jack was an artist at the top of his game at that time.

I’ve been reading some early Marvel lately and one of the first things I noticed was how long they take to read because of so much stuff packed in there. Now they’ll make a four issue arc out of it.

If only the movie version of Doom wasn’t so incredibly horrible. I cringe when I see it. The greatest villian, reduced to some terrible mockery of himself. If Victor was real, he’d probably hunt down and kill everyone involved with those movies.

Ooop. I posted that last comment

I recall seeing a sketch of a maskless Doom drawn by Kirby in his Comic Journal collection, and he only had a small scar. I have no idea if other artists/writers took to that idea, but I think it makes total sense and says a lot about victor.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 19, 2009 at 7:31 am

To repeat myself repetitively and redundantly with reiteration, note that Doom did not blame Reed for his scarring in the origin. Again, that detail was introduced in FF v.1 #200 by Marv Wolfman, so far as I can tell.

Yeah, Doom was pathetic in the movie because they took away his arrogance, probably Doom’s defining trait. As Mark Waid once explained, “Doom would eat a baby’s head like it was an apple if it somehow meant that he was smarter than Reed Richards.” By removing Doom’s inferiority complex with Reed, they destroyed his character (btw, I think Morrison cribbed a lot of character notes from the Doom-Reed relationship for his work with Lex Luthor and Superman).

I love that Doom uses a “witches cauldron” straight out of Previews to do science experiments in his dorm room.

The whole thing with early Marvel taking a while to read when compared with current comics is kind of a double-edged sword. Yes, in some ways you feel you are getting more “bang for your buck,” but a lot of that time is taken up with unnecessary exposition, where the comic tells you what is happening rather than showing you.

Man, I love the ridiculous tweed suit the dean of science is wearing in Latveria. It’s like the uniform that shows he’s an American.

“So although John Byrne DID like the theory that Doom had only a small scar and his vanity made he think of himself as disfigured, he couldn’t use it “as is”. Inspired by the “not completely cooled yet” line he then devised the idea that Doom would have had his face burned out by the still hot mask, allowing thus the two versions of Doom’s scarring to be true in a fashion.”

Its probably the best part of Byrne’s retcon- the fact that to Victor, one small scar from an accident (easily reparable with plastic surgery) and the catastrophic burning he voluntarily does to himself are one in the same- anything less than absolute perfection is monstrous. It also adds a new level to Victor’s character- the fact that he will completely destroy the image the world has of Victor Von Doom and forever be Doom, uncompromising and terrible whether through his iron mask or in his scarred flesh. He’s had plenty of opportunities and technology to restore his face, but he’s really only done it once, when he took the power of the Beyonder- because unless he can restore it through complete ominpotence, answerable to no one but himself, its a reminder that victory is incomplete without a victory up to his extreme standards.

“We shall cover your ring with special herbs, camouflaging it so completely that none shall see it!”

What a line.

It obviously worked though, as you say, we haven’t seen it since.

Speaking about “iconic” panels, the panel where Victor shatters the mirror has always been iconic to me. It appears on at least one more occasion, namely Byrne’s retelling of Dr. Doom’s origin.

And I would also immediately recognize the scene where the room explodes, but probably this is not enough to make it iconic.

BTW, has Stan Lee ever offered any explanation for the ring and the “special herbs” line?

Random Stranger

August 19, 2009 at 9:39 am

“Also what freshman gets a private room, let alone one big enough to have a big science gadget in it?”

Who said it was a private room?

“Curse you, Stevens! When the sock is on the door I am attempting to contact the Netherworld!!”

Seriously, who’s the dude helping Doom with the experiment that scarred and expelled him? Did he get expelled too, for helping Doom?

The way Silver Age stories get picked over and whatnot, I’m kinda surprised he hasn’t shown up, as a super villain in his own right, or a flunky, or something (at least as far as I know).

I would say young Doom strapped into his Netherworld device (in a dorm room? wuh-huih?) would qualify as an iconic moment

As is the panel where his acolytes are putting his armor on him asking him if it pains him- its been referenced time and time again (though as flashbacks rather than homage- most notably by Byrne and Mignola)- its my favorite panel by Kirby, and as you can see in both the referenced flashbacks, nobody tries to better it- they simply draw it in their own styles and keep the angle, the lighting, its perfect.

I love Doom, he’s just so overweeningly (?) arrogant, all stemming from insecurity and inferiority complex. I mean, he gets expelled from University, and then after amping himself up w/arcane knowledge, armor, etc. he gives himself his own honorary degree: “I shall be known as DOCTOR Doom.”

I don’t see it so much here in his origin, but I always love how he manages to turn everything around in his mind to blame others. I think somewhere else he gets it in his head that Reed actually caused the explosion of his dorm-room device.

Okay, my comment from earlier disappeared. I hope it wasn’t offensive. I meant it tongue in cheek.

Basically, I think the comic book version of Doctor Doom is awesome.

I think the movie version is unbelievably lame.

IMHO, the origin story presented here, and elaborated on over the years by Byrne et al, is infinitely superior to the movie version.

That’s all I wanted to say.

Oh. Woops. The comment reappeared. Sorry. I guess I didn’t refresh. Apologies

even though it seems to have been done to death over the years doom putting on his mask for the first time is still a little iconic since kirby did it first. not to mention finaly lfrom it learning that doom can indeed if he chooses remove his mask . even if its only with his ring.

Having recently read Bru’s run on Iron Fist, wouldn’t it be great to link this order of monks to K’un L’un, specifially to the ruler of K’un L’un, who was breaking the rules and maintaining contact with the outside world.

Concurring with the Omniscient Omar, Doom never blames Reed in any of the Lee/Kirby stories. If you check the FF Annual #2 story after the origin, he clearly knows that he’s screwed no matter what he does.
He’s on the verge of defeating the FF and yet he knows “No victory…no triumph can restore my normal face to me. No conquest can make me the man I once was. I made a rather long post about it in the MU boards how in the early 70’s, Marvel was experimenting a bit with Doom in his first solo story and then Gerry Conway had a couple of interesting outings with the character. He has him team up with Namor on a quest to find the Cosmic Cube. Namor thinks he just wants it for another scheme of conquest but he really wanted to use it to change his life back. I always think that Doom would find a lot of truth in Shakespeare’s line in Richard III…
“And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain”

Like Gloucester, he equates his “deformity” with evil so he gives in to it.

Oh, and later on in that annual, he does use the ring again to remove the mask when he is at the Latverian Embassy.. And I have no idea why he would need “herbs” :-) Most of the time if he uses it again, there’s a little beam of light that triggers the release.

Nice little snippet showing Doom’s ‘original’ costume in his first appearance in the panel where he’s demanding the furnace be made hotter.

I don’t know why but when I read the line “in the days that followed” I can’t help but hear the voice of Bernard Cowan as the narrator in the 1960’s Spider-man cartoons (in fact, I think that exact line was used in a Spidey episode)

Lee and Kirby must have reworked this material more than once; I remember a panel by Kirby of a Jane Foster lookalike nurse cutting off the bandages and falling back in horror upon seeing Doom’s face. And a panel of Doom once shooting a ray from the herb ring at his mask to unlatch it.

Rob, I always imagined Doom taking a wrong turn in Tibet and becoming the Ancient One’s other disciple instead of Baron Mordo…

Rob, I always imagined Doom taking a wrong turn in Tibet and becoming the Ancient One’s other disciple instead of Baron Mordo…

If you read the graphic novel Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment, that is pretty much what happens. Victor meets the Aged Genghis before Strange, and he is directed to go to the monastery shown in the origin. Stephen Strange arrives shortly after and is directed to go to the Ancient One.

There’s also a What-If that has Doom becoming Sorceror Supreme instead of Strange worth looking for if you want to see how that turns out- rather clever really.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 20, 2009 at 7:01 am

Oh, and later on in that annual, he does use the ring again to remove the mask when he is at the Latverian Embassy.. And I have no idea why he would need “herbs” Most of the time if he uses it again, there’s a little beam of light that triggers the release.

The ring releases the mask;l the herbs conceal the ring itself, presumably so no one can unmask Doom without his permission.

Well, or Stan was scripting too fast so we got dialogue about the herbs working on the ring which works on the mask instead of just the herbs or ring being what makes the mask come off, and everyone since has followed Stan’s lead because he’s Stan.

Another novelty about Doom is that he’s a leader of a country….you can’t put the guy behind bars…I think this was a pseudo-reference to the Communist nations…Latveria? That IS a real country…I wonder how many tourists go there to look for his castle…Ha! Seriously…this was an extremely original and well thought out character …. Lex Luthor has absolutely NOTHING on him!

Latveria isn’t a real country. Latvia, however, is.

There would definitely have to be some reason why he deliberately chose to keep his face scarred; nobody with his scientific and magical abilities would remain ugly for long, if it truly bothered him that much.

There are two reasons that have been given in the books Felicity- one is that Doom chooses to live with his pain- it has become a driving force for him, a constant reminder of adversity- a discipline of sorts (Doom 2099). Also, in order to heal his face, the restoration would have to be absolute- complete and perfect all at once, no convalescence no weakness or compromise of any kind, as he did when he gained the Beyonder’s omnipotence, beholden to no-one and superior to all (at least for the brief span of time he held the power)- basically Doom fixing his face is pretty much his personal reward he will give himself upon completion of all and every last one of his goals.

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