Doctor Doom is one of the most iconic villains in comic book history, dating back over fifty years, and the subject of countless classic stories by the likes of John Byrne, Jonathan Hickman, and of course Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Created in the pages of Fantastic Four, Victor Von Doom has remained steadfast in his goals: Take over the world for its own benefit, and kill Reed Richards along the way, if there's time.

Doctor Doom first appeared in Fantastic Four #5 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott and Stan Goldberg, published on April 10 1961. Although mostly recognizable as the Doctor Doom we’d know and love today, his goals were less lofty than usual. He kidnapped the Fantastic Four and sent them back in time to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure chest, an adventure that ended with Ben Grimm becoming the legendary Blackbeard, and Doom being thwarted by the FF, returning with the chest but no treasure inside.

The first few years of Doctor Doom appearances essentially presents him as a Saturday morning cartoon villain, and while they are fun stories that stand up with the best of anything by Stan and Jack, there’s an aspect of Doom still somewhat missing in those appearances. Doctor Doom’s first real character defining story would come in Fantastic Four #57-60 when he stole the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer and attained something close to godhood for the first --- but nowhere near the last --- time.

 

Jack Kirby

 

Subsequent Fantastic Four runs by the likes of John Byrne and Walter Simonson would build upon the foundation laid by Stan and Jack, and they not only helped define the character, but the kingdom of Latveria that he claims dominion over. His appearance as the real big bad in the original Secret Wars by Jim ShooterMike Zeck and Bob Layton once again had Doom steal godhood, and it took the combined might of the best and worst of the Marvel Universe to stop him.

Over the decades, Doctor Doom proved to be such an iconic foe that he outgrew the Fantastic Four and became a villain for the entire Marvel Universe. His time travel clash with Iron Man in “Doomquest,” and his journey to hell with Doctor Strange in “Triumph & Torment,” proved how versatile the character could be, and how interesting a story could be with the addition of Doctor Doom.

Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo gave the character a re-invigoration for the 21st century with their “Unthinkable” story arc, which saw Doctor Doom embrace his magical heritage and construct a new armor from the living skin of his one true love. “Unthinkable” isn’t just one of the greatest Doom stories, but also one of the greatest Reed Richards stories, as Reed wins the day with magic powered by his own willingness to admit he doesn’t know everything --- something Doom cannot admit.

 

Mike Wieringo

 

The mid-2000s saw the release of Books of Doom, an oft-overlooked origin by Ed Brubaker and Pablo Raimondi, which collected the disparate tales of Doom’s youth and built a coherent and compelling coming-of-age story for the future dictator. He later battled the Avengers and Black Panther, before uniting with his dread foe Richards as part of the Future Foundation to help them figure out the best way to stop three alternate Reeds.

2015’s Secret Wars event by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic was the culmination of one long story Hickman had been telling since 2009, which ran through Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and New Avengers, and ended with Doctor Doom as the God-King of all reality, having saved patchworks of destroyed universes and assembled them into a new Battleworld. Although once again defeated by the accursed Richards, Doom was recreated without his infamous scars when reality was restored to normal, setting the course for a potential reformation of the character.

The mythos of Doctor Doom has been built upon by some of the best in the industry for over fifty years, on a foundation that remains unshakeable. Doom endures. And any time he stumbles, we can just blame it on a Doombot.

 

Steve Epting