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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – The Fantastic Four and Doom’s True Face

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked.

Today we examine the odd case of how the Fantastic Four could look straight at Doctor Doom’s un-masked face and still somehow not see him.

Enjoy!

In the storyline leading up to Fantastic Four #200 (by writer Marv Wolfman and artists Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott), Doctor Doom captured Sue Richards, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters. Doom had Alicia sculpt a statue of him as how he looked before his scars. To do so, he had her feel his face, scars and all…

Sue gets a glimpse right after that…

And then the captive members of the Fantastic Four got a ringside seat of Doom’s mask-less features, these issues were the first time that they had ever seen his true face!

I know there was some debate over whether the team should have seen Doom’s face but more importantly, there was debate over whether it was proper to establish WHAT Doom’s face looks like, other than it was scarred.

So, in Fantastic Four #236 (by writer/artist John Byrne), it turns out that Sue had not seen his face…

When fans wrote in, puzzled, the letter column in #241 explained it all…

They didn’t see Doom’s face in that story. There are several theories as to just what is wrong with good Doctor’s mug, but all of them would certainly elicit some kind of reaction from the members of the FF. Shock, horror, gales of laughter, but something. Yet not one of them so much as blinked at Doom’s unmasking. Therefore whatever may have seemed to be happening in the pictures otherwise, they could not have seen his face.

So there you go!

If you have suggestions for future editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com. Don’t make suggestions in the comment section.

36 Comments

Clearly, the statue was in her way!

“Do you buy that?”

What a silly statement. Clearly Sue sees his face and flinches.

I was always fond of Stan Lee’s concept that it would eventually be revealed that the horrific damage that marred Doom’s perfect face was a tiny nick, but that his vanity made him believe that he was now grotesque. Of course, that plan was kind of scuppered at the point he put on a mask that hadn’t cooled, which wielded to his face.

Wasn’t his face post-accident actually shown in some comic, where the damage was indeed a single scar, noticeable but hardly that damaging? Of course when he pressed the just-forged mask on his face the damage would be more extensive…

That’s what was so great about John Byrne’s take on Doom’s face when he did the story that combined Stan’s slight scar version with Kirby’s badly scarred one.

You guys have it in reverse. Kirby’s concept was slightly scarred, while Stan’s was badly scarred.

He even did this picture of it at a convention:

http://kirbydynamics.blogspot.com/2010/07/fascinating-image-of-dr.html

interesting from the looks of things doom stated that he was going to let them see his face plus the fact that i fthey wound up really did not see doom unmasked. then alicia is the only one not to mention doom had a statue showing what his face looked like before the accident. though given how Marvel one time stated doom face will not be revealed in the comics ever. not surprise over the confuston and the dropping on if the ff finaly saw what doom looks like unmasked.

Just another instance of John Byrne deciding to rewrite Marvel history to conform to his own personal whims. You could do a whole month just on Byrne pandering to his own ego.

IIRC, editorial remarks on the letters page of FF #200 very coyly suggested that Doom’s face might not be too scarred after all, that is, the Kirby version. I believe this was in response to a letter from future Marvel Handbook writer Peter Sanderson, who wondered why the FFers weren’t shocked by Doom’s ruined face.

@Scott Harris: I’m no fan of John Byrne’s excesses — and he’s certainly egotistical — but this doesn’t strike me as Byrne playing out his own whims. Doom’s co-creators had two visions of Doom’s scars, and different writers and artists over the years had gone with one or the other.

Byrne wrote a story that attempted to elegantly resolve the contradictions by combining both ideas into an expanded origin story. And he even left room for it to be a false account, since we only got it from some Doombots acting in their master’s absence.

If Byrne is an egotist for his story, then is Marv Wolfman just as bad for his suggestion that — as Kirby wanted — Doom was hardly scarred at all, despite Stan Lee insisting otherwise in stories like FF v.1 #10?

I should note that Byrne’s actual dialogue for Sue in #236 is more of a sidestep — she’s surprised by Doom’s face, but why she’s surprised is carefully left unaddressed — and that I’m referring to Byrne’s eventual resolution of these problems in FF v.1 #278.

Scott’s right: if I remember the interviews he did at the time, Byrne’s whole attitude toward his predecessors on FF was that nothing that happened between Kitby’s departure and JB taking over as writer/artist “counted”. It wouldn’t be the last time he would piss on continuity for the sake of a shock or a gag (talking Lockjaw, anyone?).

Also, from what I gathered, Kirby’s claim that Doom’s face was minimally scarred came years after the character’s creation. I have no doubt that he sincerely remembered it that way but the actual work doesn’t support it. It’s blatantly obvious from the reactions of others in those early appearances (*including* Lee and Kirby themselves in #10) that the Doomster’s face is stomach-churningly grotesque. Moreover, it seems unlikely that his entire head would be swathed in bandages (as seen in the origin story in Annual #2) if his injuries resulted in the single scar Byrne depicts.

Byrne took a similar view to Kirby-at-DC– not only the New Gods but, e.g., Etrigan apparently froze into amber when Kirby stopped writing them.

Wasn’t there an issue of Super-Villain Team-Up that showed a flashback of Doom applying a red-hot mask to his face? (I don’t recall if he was supposed to have been slightly or drastically scarred before that, though.)

The hot mask thing is, as far as I can tell, FF #278 closely inspired by FF Annual #2.

I don’t think the FF’s lack of reaction to Doom’s face in FF 200 is particularly meaningful or telling. Considering some of the amazing/frightening/unbelievable stuff they’d seen, the sight of a guy with burn scars seems pretty unlikely to make them do a spit take. Seriously, why would the Thing gasp in horror upon seeing Doom, when he has to look in a mirror every day?

I just read Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk 4 (yes, I’m way behind, I’ve reading on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited), and it actually has an unmasked Doom on-panel, in a scene shown on a time-viewer. The scene turns out in the same issue to have been faked, though.

Even ignoring Sue’s flinch, Doom’s face *did* get a reaction from the FF. The Thing, across the room from the unmasked Doom, says that Doom’s face is uglier than his own.

Yet, in Stan Lee’s Thor story Dr Blake puts a fake story in the newspaper saying he has a new plastic surgery technique as a ruse to get into Latveria. When Doom unmasks in front of him, Blake loses it and acts like it is the worst thing he has ever seen.

One theory could be that the injury has some kind of curse attached to it from Mephisto and maybe different people see a different face.

Even ignoring Sue’s flinch, Doom’s face *did* get a reaction from the FF. The Thing, across the room from the unmasked Doom, says that Doom’s face is uglier than his own.

Which could easily be explained as Ben taunting Doom and trying to get a rise out of him. Or simply suggesting that Alicia’s sculpture isn’t as accurate as Doom implies, given what Ben thinks Doom looks like. Or some combination of the two.

I always much preferred the idea that Doom was only minimally scarred and then placed the hot metal face plate onto his face, making it much worse. But that’s not really the way it is generally portrayed in the comicbooks. Doom’s real face is hideous.

You can usually see a hint of some pretty serious facial scarrng through Doom’s eye-holes. And Blake’s horrified reaction in the Thor story is hilariously over the top.

IIRC, the explanation later given was that Wolfman & Pollard were under the impression that the FF had seen Doom unmasked before – they hadn’t – and thus there was no reaction or dramatic reveal. Under the circumstances, I think that is why Byrne ignored that sequence and went for his own “first time”.

I still prefer Jack’s concept that Doom’s vanity wouldn’t accept a small scar. (Though I gotta agree, the explosion he drew, combined with the red hot mask being fitted over his face the first time, certainly would have given him more than a tiny scar.) :)

Just a thought, but since the idea of an incredibly vain person who also happens to be a genius applying red-hot metal to his face is the kind of stupidity that only worked when comics were solely aimed at little kids, maybe there’s a possibility we’re missing here?

Doom is clearly mad. That makes him an unreliable narrator. Maybe we have the same situation as happened to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight Returns – although his face has in fact been repaired, his insanity convinces him that it’s actually twice as bad as before. What’s more likely to get a reaction of genuine surprise from people – including doctors whose whole job involves impassively looking at horrible injuries that would make most of us throw up – who know in advance that a man in a mask is the ugliest person on Earth: the removal of his mask, revealing that, yes, he really is that ugly, or the revelation that there’s little or nothing wrong with him?

I think Doom is an average-looking dude who has, at worst, a tiny scar nobody in their right mind would worry about, and he interprets the surprise or sarcasm of people who see his supposed “ugliness” in a way which fits in with his psychosis. It’s interesting that even in canon, Alicia, who is blind and therefore doesn’t have any concept of what she’s supposed to be seeing, feels the face of a potentially good and even noble person, which doesn’t seem very likely if she’s running her fingers over a hideously warped mass of scar tissue. This happens to real people – look at Michael Jackson. What, exactly, was so wrong with the face he started out with that he had to surgically transform himself into a deformed cartoon, and then took to wearing a mask most of the time anyway? Some people are never satisfied!

It’s also true that Doom is both an insane dictator and an A-list supervillain, and he’s permanently armed with weapons that make him an armored division all by himself. Almost everybody he ever meets is going to be absolutely terrified of him all the time, even more so if he takes off his mask and rants about some non-existent ugliness that they’re supposed to perceive. Hitler’s strategy in the latter stages of WWII was impaired by the fact that none of his aides dared to tell him the truth, and after Stalin’s fatal stroke, he lay dying in a pool of his own wastes for several days because nobody dared to enter his study without permission, or even knock on the door. In the same way, no normal person would dare to contradict Doom’s delusion, even to say that he doesn’t really look that bad, because he’d instantly blast them to ashes for being sarcastic.

You know what would be good? Squirrel Girl, probably the only person on Earth who is completely unconcerned about Doom, catches him without his mask, and in her invincible innocence, tries to give him a pep-talk about how having a teeny little scar like that is no big deal, possible with reference to her childhood as a buck-toothed weirdo with the biggest tail on the planet who got called “the rodent” and hey, it didn’t make her a bad person, while he squirms in agony because she’s chipping away at his delusion.

This would actually work in all versions of continuity if we never got to see Doom’s real face, so the possibility existed that Squirrel Girl was being optimistically extra-nice to a guy with genuinely awful deformities (which is entirely in character for her), but at the same time, it was strongly implied that she was just stating the obvious because she’s too naive not to.

It also raises the potentially interesting possibility of Squirrel Girl, who has bested Doom in combat, sees the good in absolutely everyone, and, since she suddenly grew up and discovered squirrel musk, has some kind of hot guilty past with Wolverine and is apparently willing to throw herself at pretty much anybody, having the most controversial relationship in comics ever! Look at the way Doom reacts the second time they meet: “Oh, it’s you…” As soon as he knows who she is, the hostility just evaporates. I think he’s fighting his own feelings. Wouldn’t that be great? Squirrel Girl gets so worked up about redeeming the worst guy on the planet that she tries to cure his ugliness delusion by going to bed with him, and is genuinely shocked when he doesn’t instantly turn totally nice and nukes some random place the next morning. But actually he kinda likes her all the same…

That could get both crazy and fun! Start a meme now! Doreen + Doom 4ever!

That letter col comment effectively just ignores what is presented on the page! It’s bonkers!

@Fantomas

I don’t know that his vanity overriding his common sense is really all that odd in a character that gets scarred in the first place because he refuses to listen to Reed about an error he’s about to commit? And he at least sees Reed as somewhat close to himself, where his underlings he wouldn’t even honor with listening to them. Though we often say “red hot mask”, while it was hot, it had cooled to it’s metallic coloring, so it wouldn’t necessarily have been readily obvious till possibly too late. (Interestingly enough, the FF Annual #2 where he first dons the mask seems to show it still steaming). There’s also the psychological aspect where he already considers his face ruined, so gives no thought to the fact that the mask is hot or not. “What does it matter? It can’t be any worse.” But his slow reaction after recovering from the pain seems to show he’s realized he has made things far worse, and dismisses them, as kind of a baptism to his new life.

However, I do love your whole Squirrel Girl storyline. I’d buy that mini.

Jack Kirby’s Doom was barely scarred at all. While not cannon here he is drawing Doom unmasked. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6hX21EYFyY

I honestly always liked this explanation better. His scar was small and the scars he hides are actually the ones in his mind. It was a really bad move of Marvel, IMHO to contradict this.

Addendum: It is actually worth noting that doom is actually quite dashing in Kirby’s interpretation.

i figure Doom uses Sorcery to make people forget they’ve seen his face

I’ve always thought that Doom’s face was only scratched as a result of the explosion. But in Lee\Kirby’s “The Origin of Doctor Doom”, it was revealed that Doom felt that his pretty face was marred by this scratch so when one of the monks\Druids(?) told him that his newly created face mask was still hot, he ordered them to place it on his face anyway and his face was scarred even further, making him truly grotesque! (Making The Thing look like “Robbie Redford” in comparison!)

As for Byrne’s attempting to “retcon” Marv Wolfman’s story, well, let’s just say I’m not surprised, it has always been my biggest petpeeve about Byrne.

ADDENDUM:
After having watched the video of Kirby’s drawing Doc Doom, I’m convinced that the whole “controversy” is an early example (FF Annual #2) of what Mike Gartland once called “A Failure To Communicate”. Kirby meant for Doom to only have a scratch but Lee wrote in the dialogue that the amored face mask was still hot from its creation and that further damage was done. Oh,well…

ParanoidObsessive

December 5, 2012 at 1:29 am

I always liked the “slight scar/leading to eventual horrible disfigurement as he puts the red-hot mask on his face too soon” angle for the character. Not only is it perfectly in character for Victor “When what I believe and reality disagree, it is reality that must change!” Von Doom, but it also opens the door to the “Gates of What If?” (an old Marvel Super Heroes Roleplaying Game module from the mid-80’s) reality where Victor only gets the minor scar (and Reed is killed in the explosion), but is much more emotionally grounded (mainly through love for Valeria), and actually becomes a super-hero (named Victor).

I always loved the hell out of that story. Not least because it had him wearing a golden version of his armor (without the helmet), and Valeria had matching armor as well…

Wow, blast from the past. Not only does it mention the MSHRPG, but I remember that module (heck, just remembering “modules” is something). It was a glorious read all on its own, and some of their most original work, rather than just adding existing characters as is. Trying to remember what other “What If” characters they had in there; because I remember golden armor Doom distinctly. Might be time to go to the basement and find that old box….

I always hated the whole “he was barely scarred” angle. Sure a guy can be egoistical but he doesn’t put this thing on if he only have a scar. Doesn’t make any sense, Generals are proud of their scars and Doom has that mentality. I also don’t like the hot mask thing that Byrne introduced. I don’t think it added anything to the story.

You cant really say he was barely scared when you could see scares in the eye holes of his mask.

I think it’s hilarious how there is panel after panel showing Sue and Ben clearly seeing his face and commenting on it but, magically, it didn’t happen. So much for only DC being the kings of endlessly rewritten histories. Marvel does it too.

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