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Meta-Messages – Dwayne McDuffie Explains to us That Doom is no Deadbeat

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator using the characters in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we examine an attempt by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie to explain away the classic “Where’s my money, honey?” confrontation between Luke Cage and Doctor Doom.

As you know (or if you don’t, then check this description of the story here), Steve Englehart once had an issue of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire where Luke Cage does some work for Doctor Doom only to be stiffed out of his $200 fee…

Angered, Cage travels all the way to Latveria to get his money…

Click on the link from before if you want to see more from that tale.

In any event, roughly fifteen years later, Dwayne McDuffie was working on Damage Control (the company that fixes messes caused by superhero fights) and decided to re-address’s Doom’s reputation as a deadbeat. McDuffie wished to correct this reputation…

And just in case you were wondering if this was just a coincidence, McDuffie actually posted a comment right here at Comics Should Be Good last year (in a discussion of the aforementioned “Where’s my money, honey?” scene) stating:

My Damage Control story ” When Doom Defaults!” was a direct response to this one, which I hated as a child.

34 Comments

I used to hate the Englehart story too, but recently I’ve been reading the old Fantastic Four run and I’m a little torn now. In his very first appearance, Reed Richards notes that for all Doom’s faults he’s at least one to keep his word, when they wonder whether it’s safe to let him send them back in a time machine.

Yet in later issues he’s seen routinely betraying people and breaking promises, like turning on Namor and tricking the Silver Surfer. Also, he hires three underlings called the Terrible Trio, and when it comes time to “reward” them, presumably by payment, he banishes them to another dimension until he needs them again. So there is some Lee/Kirby precedent for Doom not following through on payments.

Doom’s air of nobility has always been selective and self-servicing. He’s certainly never bothered with it when he’s trying to kill Reed Richards and his family for the unpardonable sin of pointing out his bad math twenty years ago.

As I was reading this I was thinking “That Damage Control guy totally got that Latverian flunky killed” when he outed him to doom.

Enjoyed the twist when “Flounder” was happy to only be fired.

Marvel really needs to collect all of McDuffie’s Damage Control work. Hell, if those Spider-Man PSA comics can get a trade, why not this?

But this story DOESN’T undo the previous one, unless I missed something – Doom didn’t default NOW, but he did THEN (apols for shouty upper case, I want itals for Christmas). Unless one version was a Doombot. Or one of those parallel world tourists from Dan Slott’s She-Hulk.

I liked the earlier one better, where Dr. Doom’s a cheapskate. I get a little tired of writers always trying to turn Dr. DOOM into “Mr. Wonderful” who’s not really evil, just misunderstood. I mean, he’s got the word “Doom” right in his name!

given how doom technically is the ruler of a country odds are he would not want his country to default on its debts even in the marvel universe. and dwayne did say he was addressing doom as a deadbeat from where my money honey though the doombot could explain why doom is there paying off damage control. will have to track down the issue and see if that is doom himself.

I’m assuming, Martin — not having read the full story in either case — that the late Mr. McDuffie was implying that the functionary who stiffed Luke Cage was doing the same thing as Count Flounder. Either that, or the doorman was simply repeating what Flounder had told him to say.

Steven R. Stahl

October 11, 2011 at 8:35 am

Englehart provides an explanation for the non-payment in the Doom-Cage sequence. Doom thought Cage was working for his enemy, Richards, and is angered when Cage insists on discussing a trivial (to Doom) amount of money when Doom has more important things to worry about. McDuffie (and others) might not have liked the explanation, but it’s reasonable and not out of character for either guy.

SRS

I guess I don’t get credit for pointing this out Brian?? I suggested this be one of your entries for this column. ;-)
I always wondered if it was more than coincidence if when the last time you posted the Luke Cage story, McDuffie posted not long after I mentioned the Damage Control story.

BTW, I wish McDuffie wrote more FF stuff. His brief run where he was pressed into service by Tom B to buy time for Millar/Hitch was far better than what we got from the Wonder Boys.

One of my favorite one shots he did was a “My Dinner with Doom” story in the antastic Four Special that featured Latveria’s Rapprochement (sp?) Day

Interesting, but how is this a meta-message? This and the Alan Davis “dream” stuff seems more like character correcting/adjusting and retconning character/continuity errors. This is far different than the “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way issue” and the “Architects” with Dr. 13.

Steven, if you mean the explanation given in the scans above, that is only when Cage goes to Latveria.

The first page scan shows that Doom intentionally stiffed Cage over a $200 bill, shut down his embassy to avoid paying it, and left a guy to flat out say that “Doctor Doom pays no money when he can avoid it”.

The second page scan is after Cage has gone to Latveria. It looks like Doom is saying that he thought Cage came to Latveria as part of one of Reed’s plans, not that Cage’s work in New York was part of Reed’s plans. And then they fight because Cage still wants his money while Doom thinks Cage is an idiot causing problems at a time when he is otherwise busy.

There needs to be a New Avengers story where they take on Doom, Doom takes down Cage. You see Cage lying on the ground, and a bit of Doom’s cape and two 100′s falling/landing on Cage.

For me, it’s not that important that Stan and Jack often portrayed Doom as a liar and a scoundrel to move the plot along back in the 1960s. I’m much more interested in the idea of Doom as a guy who generally refuses to lie or go back on his word because he’s so committed to playing the part of the noble, honorable man he secretly knows he isn’t.

The only time this “honor” falters is when his hatred for Reed overwhelms everything else, since blaming Reed for the mistake that derailed young Victor’s life is kind of the linchpin holding together the delusional self-image called “Doctor Doom.” (Mark Waid has, in his own way, suggested the same thing.) However, I find Doom a more interesting character when he holds himself back; I like the idea that for Doom, perceiving himself as noble is usually more important to him than actually winning.

In other words, I read Doom as a man of vast willpower and tremendous intellect, but one who has bent those talents entirely to serving as a defense mechanism against what must be, underneath it all, a truly psychotic sense of inferiority and persecution. The guy’s a classic narcissist, and most readings of narcissism suggest that the sufferer considers him or herself secretly worthless. Everything else is a frantic, destructive effort to deny and suppress that basic belief.

If Doom’s “honor” is part of how he does thastm it should take somethign equally fundamental to his self-image to make him undermine it. His hate for Reed is the only thing that should ever qualify, ad even then, sometimes being more “honorable” than Richards ought to be more important to Doom than killing the guy.

Oh, who did the art for the Damage Control story? Some of those expressions are priceless…

“Robert Eddleman
Marvel really needs to collect all of McDuffie’s Damage Control work. Hell, if those Spider-Man PSA comics can get a trade, why not this?”

agreed.

I hope to see Claremont’s response to the Storm marriage in X-Men Forever!!!

Oh, who did the art for the Damage Control story? Some of those expressions are priceless…

Ernie Colon.

Interesting, but how is this a meta-message? This and the Alan Davis “dream” stuff seems more like character correcting/adjusting and retconning character/continuity errors. This is far different than the “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way issue” and the “Architects” with Dr. 13.

As I noted, McDuffie saying that it was his response to the Englehart story is what made me feature it.

But this story DOESN’T undo the previous one, unless I missed something – Doom didn’t default NOW, but he did THEN (apols for shouty upper case, I want itals for Christmas). Unless one version was a Doombot. Or one of those parallel world tourists from Dan Slott’s She-Hulk.

Yeah, as Tom mentioned, McDuffie is implying that Doom intended to pay Cage way back when, but an intermediary took the money instead. If you go back to the Englehart story, Doom conveniently never admits to stiffing Cage the money. Even when he pays Cage at the end of the issue, he states, “Here is the money you say I owe you.”

I always am entertained and enlightened by Omar Karindu’s posts, particularly this part:

“In other words, I read Doom as a man of vast willpower and tremendous intellect, but one who has bent those talents entirely to serving as a defense mechanism against what must be, underneath it all, a truly psychotic sense of inferiority and persecution. The guy’s a classic narcissist, and most readings of narcissism suggest that the sufferer considers him or herself secretly worthless. Everything else is a frantic, destructive effort to deny and suppress that basic belief.”

IIRC, we’ve discussed this years ago on the FF board and I’ve always thought that Doom was invented to protect and fortify Victor’s wounded pride. Think about how his people were considered the lowest of the low in a country pretty far down on the food chain in Europe. Then he comes to America and is stuck with the offspring of an American billionaire as a classmate. That was never going to work out. Victor/Doom secretly seeks approval of the world at large but hates that circumstances forced him to do so.

I can see McDuffie’s point: Doom puts a lot of stock in his alleged nobility and honor. Sure, he’ll toss honor aside on a moment’s notice if he has something to gain, but stiffing Cage for a couple hundred bucks hardly qualifies. On the other hand, I think the Damage Control story goes too far in the other direction: No way is Doom going to meekly comply with some stooge asking to see his I.D.

But as a reader, I’m willing to let both stories slide, just because they’re both really, really funny. “Where’s my money, honey?” is a classic.

I like gentle Doom. I want to see him on “Undercover Boss”.

The Crazed Spruce

October 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

See, stuff like this is why I had Damage Control in my Top 10 Characters list.

But didn’t Byrne or somebody already say that it was a malfunctioning Doombot that stiffed Cage?

I think Omar Karindu’s post summed up Doctor Doom’s character perfectly.

There was an interesting, insightful article, “Doctor Doom: Monarch or Monster?” written by Eric Houston that appeared in Back Issue Magazine #27 (http://twomorrows.com/index.php?cPath=54&main_page=index) that examined the often contradictory aspects of Doom’s character, which reaches pretty much the same conclusions.

Ronald Jay Kearschner

October 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Thank you, P. Boz. It has been a long time since I’ve laughed out loud at something I’ve read online.

I think the Damage Control retcon makes the original story even funnier, because it means Doom must think that Luke borrowed Reed’s plane and flew all the way to Latveria to collect the $200 from Doom personally *instead* of going to the Embassy. Re-read Doom’s reaction there bearing in mind that he thinks Luke had the option of walking a few blocks to claim his money and decided to do all this instead. It actually makes Doom’s dialogue make more sense than it did to begin with.

Hahaha. I think both stories are hilarious. I especially love the part where the guy thinks he’s going to be executed but instead Doom fires him.

Brian wrote: ‘Yeah, as Tom mentioned, McDuffie is implying that Doom intended to pay Cage way back when, but an intermediary took the money instead. If you go back to the Englehart story, Doom conveniently never admits to stiffing Cage the money. Even when he pays Cage at the end of the issue, he states, “Here is the money you say I owe you.”

So Luke never checked whether or not The Latverian Embassy had been closed? I have to say, the idea that he would welch on a $200 deal is daft. I’ve not read the book, why was Luke even working for such a scumbag? Sorry … ‘noble scumbag’.

im liking both.

“Marvel really needs to collect all of McDuffie’s Damage Control work.”

I think the issue is that McDuffie has some ownership of the characters, so they’d get less money off of the trade than is their standard.

I don’t think so. I think the pressing factor is that they don’t think it’ll sell, principally because of the lack of name recognition associated with “Damage Control”, and the fact that there isn’t any current material in the marketplace to support it.

You should do one of these Meta-Message posts on Chris Claremont’s use of Fabian Cortez as a stand in punching bag for Fabian Nicieza. It adds an interesting dimension to 1991′s X-men 1-3 and to all the Cortez appearences in X-men Forever.

both of these stories were hilarious. I miss Dwayne McDuffie.

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