A superhero comic is pointless without supervillains. They are the jelly to the hero’s peanut butter sandwich, the decanter that allows a fine red wine to breathe and evolve (though I wouldn’t recommend a fine red wine with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).
Spider-Man has always had his fair share of awesome villains. Villains of great strength and intellect like the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus; villains of great character and interesting back-stories, like the Lizard and Morbius; villains who are essentially evil Spider-Man dopplegangers like Venom and Carnage; and villains who are just plain fun with the chaos they can cause like Mysterio and Chameleon.
But there’s one villain in the Marvel universe that’s the trump card to all of the others. He’s a villain who’s certainly appeared in Amazing Spider-Man comics but is not a “Spider-Man villain.” And that’s always made me a little envious towards the comic series that got to claim this villain for its own.
Doctor Doom may be the greatest antagonist in the Marvel universe, but he is unquestionably a Fantastic Four villain. He’s fought Spider-Man (ASM #5 for the first time) enslaved the Incredible Hulk, taken on the Avengers, but his presence in the comic book world is nullified without the Fantastic Four. As Comic Book Resource’s Brian Cronin wrote back in 2007 when his site was going through the greatest Marvel characters of all time:
Doctor Doom, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, is that rare villain who is basically as much a part of the comic as any of the superheroes in the book. Doom is basically the fifth member of the Fantastic Four, only he’s super evil.
Getting a steady dose of Doom in a Spider-Man comic is one of the bigger reasons why I’ve decided to dive head first into the new FF (Future Foundation) series that features Spider-Man as the new member of the Fantastic Four. Because I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before Doom would show up. In this case, he’s on the cover in all his glory of just the second issue of FF.
What makes Doom so special? He combines so many of the attributes of the other supervillains I mentioned. He has incredible strength and is utterly brilliant; is ridiculously evil but believes his actions are justified, giving him a layer of dept; he causes chaos through his powers that include sorcery and creating a number of body doubles known as “Doombots;” and his personal connection as a the primary scientific rival to Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four makes him a vital component to the evolution of the HEROES he faces. In the earlier issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is defined by the actions of his archvillain, Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, but the Doom/Reed Richards dynamic technically predates the pages of Fantastic Four, making their relationship seemingly even more profound.
Heck, Doom runs his own country, the fictional European nation of Latveria. His technological know-how and evil intentions help transform this small little country into a global powerhouse. Take that England.
Doom’s origin story is straight out of Shakespeare. His ambition to be a better scientist than Reed and his own fascination with the occult leads to an explosion during an experiment that severely damages his face. He wears a robotic-looking face-mask and body armor to hide his scars from the world. His disfigurement turns Doom against the world, and more specifically, the Fantastic Four, vowing vengeance and retribution.
My first true introduction to Doom as a child was through Marvel’s Secret Wars crossover “event” – a 12-part miniseries where groups of heroes and villains are transported to a different galaxy to due battle. Doom clearly establishes himself as the alpha of the villains, and even absorbs the power of a god-like entity, the Beyonder towards the conclusion of the series.
Doom made such an impression on me as a young child. He was in a league of his own in an environment completely surrounded by other popular comic book villains like Doctor Octopus, the Lizard and Ultron (from The Avengers). I was too young to fully absorb the depths of his character, but sometimes a presence is more than enough.
While Spider-Man and Doom have crossed paths over the years, it’s never been enough for me to feel like my education of the character has advanced enough beyond those initial first impressions I had as a kid. There’s a part of me that’s remained awestruck of the character. That when he does appear in a comic I’m reading, it’s a big deal, a special event since this is the vanguard of Marvel supervillains we’re talking about. The character has gone through great changes over the years, and he’s clearly no longer the guy who was able to steal the abilities of the Beyonder, but now, with my transition to FF, I’ll be able to discover this all for myself.
For me, what makes Doom the best villain is that he sees himself as a hero. After all, when he takes over the world, he will make it into a paradise, and so anybody who stands in his way is the evil one. And his own personal sense of honor is so strong, so unbreakable, that in a way he is the most trustworthy person in the Marvel Universe. No doubt he would kill you if you interfere with his plans–but if he’s made an agreement with you, there is no force on Earth that could make him break that agreement and besmirch his honor.
A complicated man indeed, and the only truly worthy foe for Reed Richards.