Dr. Doom In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two

Making his debut in Fantastic Four #5, Dr. Doom quickly became the biggest and most popular enemy that the group ever faced and has never seriously been challenged for the role. When you think of a Fantastic Four villain, you think of Dr. Doom – it’s as simple as that. Dr. Doom has had a long and eventful history in animation beyond The Fantastic Four.

Doom’s animation begins before The Fantastic Four oddly enough. Doom was featured in The Submarinor the same episode as The X-Men, who weren’t actually called The X-Men but The Allies For Piece, for some unknown reason. Said episode is based upon a Fantastic Four comic, but since the creators didn’t have the rights for the FF, they replaced them with The X-Men instead. As with all these 60’s shows, its just moving comics, but this one is a particularly jaded episode. After seeing how pretty a lot of today’s cartoons now look, such as The Batman, Justice League Unlimited and Avatar, I’d imagine anyone who’s not a pure comic book geek would struggle to sit through this, and even the hardcore fans wouldn’t be able to sit for long.

Doom made his debut on The Fantastic Four in 1967 in a story based upon Fantastic Four #17 in which he kidnapped Sue and does what Reed has never yet managed to do – turn Ben into a human again! The design is similar to that of Doom’s classic costume but the voice was a little too on the camp side to take him as a serious threat. Doom would appear twice on the show, the next time using one of the classic clichés of animation – the shrinking episode.

I’ve never seen what the fascination of having characters shrink is, but it’s appeared a few times over the course of Marvel animation, here, and both the solo Spider-Man and Hulk cartoons had episodes based on the hero being shrunk and becoming knee high to a grasshopper. Naturally, The Incredible Hulk version is the best of the stories, because let’s face it; The Incredible Hulk in the 80’s was the balls. The FF episode in question is your basic overthrow the villain episode, hardly befitting of the good doctor. Due to appearing in this show, Dr. Doom was presumably off limits of the 67 Spider-Man show, which is a shame – I imagine Dr. Doom would’ve been hilarious in this show, for all the wrong reasons of course.

Doom would next appear in the 70’s FF show, in an episode based upon his first appearance. I’ve never understood quite why Doom would want Blackbeard’s treasure to begin with but the site of seeing H.E.R.B.I.E dressed up as a pirate is hilarious enough for me to forgive however bad the plot may be!

Doom would appear once more in this show, in a slightly better episode than it’s predecessor in an episode that our own Jon T describes as the show’s finest! Naturally, it features Doom doing the same thing he tries to do everyday – try to take over the world! Like the shows themselves, this version of Doom features nothing outstanding in anyway – but can best be described as not bad, especially considering the era it’s from.

The next time Dr. Doom would appear in animation would be his finest, by a great deal!

Despite the fact that he is a Fantastic Four villain, Dr. Doom’s finest appearances are in Spider-Man cartoons, the best being the 1980’s solo cartoon. The show featured a rather ballsy feud between Spider-Man and the good Doctor that ran over 5 or 6 episodes, and show’s Doom’s quest to become Master Of The World. The show is one of the only to portray Doom as the leader of Latveria, or more accurately, it’s the only one where it means a damn. Of course, this means that Doom has diplomatic immunity and his quest to become master of the world is a legal one, believe it or not.

Some of you might question why Dr. Doom was chosen to be the show’s main villain when Spider-Man has the best rouges gallery in comics and Doom is a FF villain. The reason - Darth Vader. The Star Wars villain was still immensely popular at the time, and there are more than a few similarities between Doom and Darth. It’s a well-known fact that Lucas saw Doom as inspiration for Darth, and Mark Hamill apparently noticed it on the original set of Star Wars too! Doom’s design remained unchanged from the comics, but he was given a robotic, Vader like voice which I thought was really, really cool. The fact he (and everyone else on the show) was based on the designs of John Romita Sr. one of the greatest Spider-Man artists of all time only helped matters.

This is easily my favourite animated version of Doom, and the only one that I think has really come close to capturing his brilliance. I don’t think Doom works well as a generic supervillain – the ruler of Latveria angle has so much more going for it. They really managed to craft a great story here, which never even ended in a fisticuffs! Spider-Man vs Dr. Doom was one of the wall crawlwer’s greatest animated feuds and Doom himself was one of the best villains we ever had in all of the various Marvel cartoons. I don't know if it's just memories of the excellent Spider-Man arcade game slipping into this retrospective but I think that Spider-Man and Dr. Doom go great together. I'd love to see them go at it again in the next Spider-Man cartoon!

Having the story set out over 6 episodes was a ballsy move, completely unheard of at the time, as was the fact that Doom actually succeeded in becoming master of the world too. This version had everything you could ask of Doom, bar his great rivalry with Reed Richards. Sure, there was some fluff in here about Johan and his Father, but the episode shows Doom doing what he does best – trying to take over the world in the most ruthless way possible.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for this next appearance. For some unknown reason, Dr. Doom was back to being a pitiful supervillain in his appearance in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, even playing second fiddle to an irritating old man who was granted God like abilities. I almost cringed watching Dr. Doom suck up to the old geezer! The same cool design and voice were present but the episode has literally nothing else going for it. The episode ranks as one of the worst the show ever did, despite the fact it featured one of the coolest supervillains of all time.

The scary thing is it wouldn’t even begin to reach the horrors of Dr. Doom’s next animated appearance.