Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marvel 1964 Week--Fantastic Four Annual #2!! Part 1

It's Wayback Machine time again, folks, so it's time for Slay Monstrobot to hop back 45 years, and take a look at Marvel 1964!! The year I was born!!

Now, the fascinating thing for all you young 'uns out there--and you won't believe this--is that Marvel published a whole 11 issues in September of 1964 (and one of those was an annual!). 11. For the entire month!! That's less than half of a single week of Marvel's output these days...You could have bought Marvel's entire output for $1.45!! (That's only $9.96 in 2008 dollars, Marvel, not $45. I'm just sayin')

The other fascinating thing is the relatively few creator names we're going to see, as the Marvel Bullpen consisted of about 5 people at this point. So this week we'll be getting a whooole lot of Stan and Jack, a dash of Ditko, and a helping of Heck.

(A special note to artists who can't seem to complete even one comic on a monthly basis--please look at the sheer amount of material these guys were turning out. This month alone Kirby cranked out 4 complete monthly issues AND an Annual with 37 pages of new material AND 6 covers. Lord knows, not all of it was his greatest work--we'll see some rush jobs--but there's a message in there for all of you "slow" artists: stop trying to make it perfect--just draw, dammit)

So how will we start Marvel 1964 Week? Only with one of the seminal classics of Marvel history:

Oh, yeah.

Not even 3 years into Marvel history, and we're going to get an entire annual devoted to Victor Von Doom. That's what kind of impact the character had. And while he had a small taste of his origin back in his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, Stan and Jack decided it was time to substantially flesh out that story:

Our creators? Why, of course:

Stan wasn't over-hyping the splash page copy too much. We were going to learn secrets we hadn't known. Despite several attempts to slay the FF, neither we nor the FF had learned of his Latverian origins. And this story would be a Mighty Marvel Classic.

We start of with meeting young Victor's father, a simple gypsy healer.

Hmm, apparently even Latveria had health care problems, with the rich having to kidnap wandering doctors.

Anyway, although Werner wasn't able to save the countess, he escapes, goes into hiding with Victor, dies of exposure, and leaves us with famous last words:

And then Doom discovers the truth about his mother:

Victor grows up to be a scientific genius and a mystical wonder...yet for some reason, wastes his gives on ridiculously trivial con jobs:

I mean, check this out:

He's created a substance which makes wagons impervious to mortar fire...and instead of selling this to the defense departments of any number of countries, he's just running around outwitting Latverian Keystone Kops!! Good gosh, Victor, you could have bought each member of your tribe their own mansion with the kind of money that was worth!!

Still, all these high-tech hijinks pay off in one way:

A "State University" that goes around recruiting known felons and giving them scholarships?? Must be Ohio State University...(sorry, Buckeyes, I kid because I despise every molecule of your being).

I won't belabor Doom's days at OSU, because we all know them very well. A couple of notes, though:

Oh, if only they had invented calculator's by then...

Doom violates dorm rules with a hot plate...

Really? OSU had "forbidden" experiments? I'm curious what that list would have looked like...

If this happened today, instead of being expelled, Doom would be suing the university...

Now, here comes the juicy part, and my most brilliant idea ever:

Mysterious order of monks? Himalayas?? Think about it...(brace yourself)...did Von Doom somehow stumble into K'un L'un? Is Doctor Doom's origin tied up with Iron Fist's?? Now, as far as I know, we've never seen these monks again. There's one heck of a Doom/Iron Fist story waiting to be told. Marvel, you're welcome to use it, if a) you give me credit and b) you lower the price of your comics so I can afford to read it.

(By the way, that idea actually came to me in a dream. Ultra-nerd, or hidden genius? You decide!)

And then Victor earns his doctorate--in pain:

And we leave back in present day, with Doctor Doom doing his Reservoir Dogs walk through town:

Hmm...that was Doctor Doom's origin, all right. But I didn't see any sign of him bowing and scraping to become an apprentice to some omnipotent dimension-hopping evil god. Geez, that's odd...ah, well, who am I to doubt the quality of Mark Millar's Fantastic Four run (which he couldn't even be bothered to finish himself...)?

And let's give fullest kudos to Stan and Jack. Doom becomes a fully independent character here, a villain whom the reader still has some sympathy for, whom many of the Latverians view as a good leader, someone with a touch of tragedy behind the evil. This was a level of depth you just weren't getting anywhere else in comics. Suddenly, Doom stopped being simply a recurring annoyance, and become Doctor Freakin' Doom.

There's lots more in this annual, but the next story is more than twice as long, so I'm breaking the Annual into 2 posts. So tune in about an hour from now for "The Final Victory Of Doctor Doom" (SPOILER ALERT: He gets no victory, final or otherwise).


Mark Engblom said...

Fantastic idea linking the Iron Fist story to Doctor Doom! It's got hopefully someone can take it and run with it.

God knows there's quite a surplus of mysterious mountain societies/Shangri-La's in if we can combine a few of them and thin down their ranks...AND tell a great story in the process...I say MAKE IT SO!

Mark Engblom said...'s got "legs", not "lets". (sigh)

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Mark can draw. learning to draw. And there may be other artists reading who could make your dream a reality. (I once dreamed of an Optimus Prime comic, but I didn't get to read the whole thing.)

Also glad to see another flashback series on Slay Monstrobot.

googum said...

Dude, Marvel-Tibet is jam-packed full of crazy monks: Doom's boys, K'un-L'un and the other kung-fu cities, pretty sure the Shroud's Kali-worshippers are there (even if they're Indian) and the Blazing Skull's skull guys...

Some of these may be the same batch of monks, but I like to think there's multiple franchises of insane monks competing for super-villain face time.

-3- said...

Wondering what that dream of yours was could really nag at someone, y'know?
And, yeah - epic potential.

Doom has got a full Campbell 'Hero's Journey' origin that would make a great stand-alone movie in this age of villain based flics. Unfortunately, the rights holders only seem to be familiar with the 'Ultimate' version of Doom. Satanist daddy beat him into being a villain.

No wonder i stopped reading the crap they publish these days. It's astounding how much better the Marvel Universe is if one hasn't suffered through the pathetic re-telling and un-telling of the classic stories that got them where they are.
It's a shame more of the modern story tellers never ruminated upon the wisdom of Isaac Newton*, and are allowed to write fanfic seemingly without editorial oversight.

*(When Newton was asked how he was able to envision & understand so much, he replied that it was only because he stood on the shoulders of the giants who preceded him that he could accomplish what he did. (Not the die-a-virgin part))