Victor von Doom began life as a gypsy in Latveria, his family persecuted by the aristocrats and the royal family. Following the death of his parents, he rose in power, learning magic while also discovering he was a prodigy in many fields of science. Gaining the attention of the US military, he was offered a scholarship at an American university so he could later create great weapons for them. At Empire State University, he met Ben Grimm and Reed Richards, the latter of whom would become an intellectual rival.
Von Doom was obsessed with making contact with his dead mother's soul and built a machine that would tap into mystical forces through scientific means. But a miscalculation led to the machine exploding and his face being scarred in the process. Von Doom left the U.S. then and traveled the world, eventually making a temporary base of operations in Tibet where a small group of monks came to serve him. Victor von Doom, now also calling himself Dr. Doom to signify that he was a scientist at heart, decided it was his destiny and his right to rule the world, for no one else alive was qualified for the task. The monks helped him craft a suit of technological armor that would make him powerful in battle and then they made a mask to hide the single scar on his face. But in his arrogance, Doom donned the mask before it cooled, further destroying his features. After operating as a terrorist for months, he eventually usurped the royalty of Latveria and has, for the most part, commanded the country since then, a tyrant king who now acts like the aristocracy he once hated.
Doom is one of the biggest threats in the Marvel universe, a genius who uses magic, science and manipulation in constant bids for power. He has fought many superheroes, as well as teams such as the Avengers, the X-Men and, most of all, the Fantastic Four, led by his old enemy Reed Richards. So let's take a look at how his appearance has evolved over the years.
KIRBY'S GRIM REAPERStan Lee and Jack Kirby created The Fantastic Four in 1961. The next summer, Doctor Doom appeared in Fantastic Four #5. Superheroes often fought criminals with powers and fantastic devices who were mainly concerned with money and fame. And then there were mad scientists such as Lex Luthor who created large scale devices to take over the world and defeat his enemies. But Dr. Doom was a new level, a new sort of foe who truly deserved the title "super-villain." And to make him stand out, Jack Kirby deliberately designed him to evoke an image of death.
Essentially, Kirby thought of the classic Grim Reaper, a skeleton wearing a hooded robe, emerging from the shadows and always clearly standing apart from humanity, emotionally removed from everything around it. Kirby believed that if you removed the appearance of flesh from Doom, readers would automatically see him as a pitiless being. Because this would be a figure who evoked the image of old legends but would use highly advanced technology, the skeleton limbs and skull were replaced with metal coverings. The effect definitely works. In his first appearance, Doom seems like some medieval villain who has somehow survived into the modern day, which is a perfect visual considering the Fantastic Four, his targets, were intended to symbolize the pioneering spirit of the space race and scientific exploration. He could be some prisoner forced into an iron mask for his crimes, except that we quickly learn that he is his own jailer, in every sense of the word.
I'd think that black would be an effective color for doom and would enhance the idea of him being the Grim Reaper. But considering the colors used and the inking techniques of the 1960s, dark green is an effective color. A black suit might've made Doom seem flat and drab next to the colorful heroes he fought.
THE CLASSIC LOOKVery quickly, Doom altered his outfit and this second design became the classic look. A full cape with golden clasps have been added. The trousers have removed so that doom's full armor is now in sight, with the torso only being covered by a long tunic. We also have a high-tech weapon holstered to the hip. All of this makes Doom seem more majestic and commanding, which makes sense since he wishes to command the Earth and since he very quickly became leader of his own country. Before, you may have mistaken him for a strange monk. Now, he's letting you know he's a leader. Kirby didn't hand out capes to just any of the superheroes he designed, often keeping them for those he considered to seem truly powerful, near god-like, or otherworldly. Doom fits the bill.
The gun may seem unnecessary since Doom's gauntlets are armed with miniaturized weapons. But the gun actually works for me because: 1, Doom is someone who never thinks you can have enough weapons; and 2, it's a visual reminder that though Doom is a king, he often prefers to savor glory for himself. He may sometimes have a robot act in his stead, but he rarely lets an agent act for him. He's a hands-on villain.At times over the years, Victor von Doom has decided to travel amidst the masses for different tasks, to gather information or simply to observe and ponder what lays before him. Wearing his armor, cloak and metal mask would attract a lot of unwarranted attention during these sojourns and trips, of course. Therefore, he dismisses the suit and his famous, death-like mask and grabs more ordinary looking clothes (a hooded frock coat, a business suit and fedora) and simply dons a less fearsome disguise.
At times, it's been a simple mask with a frozen expression, the sort that is worn by certain burn victims. Other times, it's been a ceramic mask that may look unusual but certainly gives a friendlier impression than what he normally wears on his face. These masks still hide Doom and his scars, but still give fans a rare opportunity to see him as more human than he cares to believe.
KRISTOFF - THE SECOND DR. DOOMAt one point, it looked like Victor von Doom was dead. Like any truly manipulative villain, he had prepared for this. Various robots at Doom's command followed an automatic protocol, making sure that their master's legacy was carried out. A young boy named Kristoff had been adopted into Doom's care a while back. Now the boy was placed into a robotic suit of armor that was similar to Doom's and his mind was altered so that he actually believed he was the true Victor von Doom. Kristoff sported a new outfit that involved shorts over the armor as opposed to an extended tunic. His armored legs also had a slightly different design usually, a little more fashionable. And with rare exception, he wore no cape and only had a black cowl rather than a hood.
This costume definitely implies that we are looking at a pretend Doom and not the genuine article. Without the death hood and the cloak, it loses a sense of majesty. The cape also added mass to Doom, whereas Kristoff seems a bit skinner without it. At times, he wore a purple cloak, but this only made him seem a bit flamboyant rather than powerful like his mentor.For several story arcs, Dr. Doom attacked Kristoff, trying to gain back his castle and power base, while Kristoff claimed that he was the true Doom and this other one was a malfunctioning robot duplicate. It turned out they were both right. During one battle, the true Doctor Doom reappeared, very quickly deactivating the robot and then shutting off Kristoff's hypnotic spell by speaking the command word "Oroboros." This was indeed the true Victor von Doom, who reminded the readers that he, being such a brilliant villain, would surely be smart enough to have made fail safes in case Kristoff were prematurely activated. Apparently, Doom had been traveling for some time since his apparent death and was now sporting a whole new take on the armor.
This armor definitely takes the villain to a new level, making him appear much more powerful. But it also puts too much emphasis on technology. Doom no longer looks as if he may be a warlock, a paradox of science and magic that resembles death. Before, Doom's tunic and the fact that we could see his eyes through the mask reminded us that there was a scarred, vicious human being behind the metal. Now, he could very well be a robot with a cloak.
Doom only wore this for a few issues and then went back to his classic armor without explanation.
DESPERATE NEEDS AND UNEARTHLY FORCESNow, there have been times when Doom has worn specialty armor in order to help regulate cosmic power he's attained. During the 1980s crossover Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, he made a version of his armor that had no cape and involved the tunic being yet another layer of technology. This helped him examine and then steal the incredible powers of the god-like being known as the Beyonder.
Years later, during the 1990s, Doom stole power from a member of the race known as Watchers, near-immortal beings sworn to observe and record the events of the universe and to never interfere. Doom built a special new suit of armor specifically designed to house this great energy. This version of the suit was terribly shiny and decorated with extra spikes that served no real purpose beyond saying, "If you try to punch me, you'll probably bleed."
Like the armor Doom wore when he returned to deal with Kristoff, this is a little too robotic. But it was not meant in any way to become a possible standard new look, it was just a new design to use for one specific story.A few years later, the story Heroes Reborn involved Doom and many of Earth's heroes being transported to a duplicate of Earth (called Counter-Earth) and forced to relive similar lives to the ones they'd led before. The heroes eventually escaped, but Doom wound up alone on the planet, without his armor or resources. Rather than give in to defeat, Victor von Doom made due. He killed a lion, using its hide and fur for clothing and to fashion a new mask. He then made his way back to civilization, gathering materials and weapons where he could, constructing a makeshift outfit.
This look is definitely a departure, which is the point, but still has that hint of Doom. You know that's him, even if the mask is leather rather than metal. And the makeshift nature actually makes him look rather desperate and dangerous, which is frightening when you consider how deadly the guy already is.Eventually, of course, Doom returned to his true Earth. Several years later, the armored tyrant decided that he needed to focus a lot more on using magic to defeat the Fantastic Four rather than science. In the story Unthinkable, Doom created a new leather suit of armor from the flesh of the only woman he'd ever possibly loved. Yes, that's not a joke. He did that. That's how evil he is. Sacrificing her love was the price he paid for the mystical armor and the power that came with it.
It's an interesting alternate look for Doom. If it has an obvious flaw, it's that this says "dark ages" and "magic" without giving a hint of science, in the same way that the robotic suits gave no hint of magic. But again, the intention is not for this to be a new standard, just to give us a new look for one story. And for that story, this look definitely worked.
After the story ended, Doom was away for a while. When he returned, he was once again wearing his classic design.
Most recently, in the pages of Avengers: Children's Crusade, Doom has accessed the same incredible life energies that the hero called Scarlet Witch temporarily possessed, which drove her insane and caused her to bring about the tragic events of Avengers Disassembled. Doom was the architect behind those events and now he has that power for himself, resulting in a new angelic take on his suit (as well as a healed face, showing that even with god-like power, his first instincts are based on vanity). No doubt Doom will lose this power soon enough and our heroes won't all die terrible deaths at his hands.And that wraps us up for now. Of course, there have been alternate Dooms we've met from other timeline and universes. And Doom has been interpreted a few different ways in other media. But we can discuss that next week. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off! Alan Sizzler Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in New York City. His work can be found on various websites and he has been recognized by publishers and news media outlets as a comic book historian and Doctor Who historian. He is the author of the Unofficial Game of Thrones Cook Book (coming out in April) and a contributor to the book Star Trek and History, coming soon. He knows entirely too much about superheroes, time travel stories, Muppets, and vampires that don't sparkle. His website is AlanKistler.com and his twitter feed is @SizzlerKistler. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!