The Marvel Universe features some of the most compelling villains to ever be created. From Magneto to Thanos, the best villains believe themselves to be the hero of their own stories. Doctor Doom is cut from the same cloth. Doom’s arrogance and intellect have given him a desire to gain as much power as possible. On the other hand, the character has a sense of honour and a genuine love for his people. These conflicting traits have made him a complex person.
Doctor Doom has been matched against more heroes than any other villain. I’m taking a look into what makes him such a memorable character and what drives him.
A melding of sorcery and science
Doom’s upbringing laid the foundations for the man he would become. Born into a tribe of Latverian Romani, Victor’s people were ruled by a corrupt baron. His mother, Cynthia, was a witch who died through contact with Mephisto. The loss of his mother affected Doom on many levels, driving a lot of his future decisions.
The baron called on Doom’s father, Werner, to help heal his sick wife. When she died, the baron labelled Werner a murderer. He escaped with his son, though Werner died of exposure. Doom returned to his people, vowing revenge on the baron. He learned how to wield magic and combined it with technology to help protect his countrymen. Eventually, Doom’s genius earned him the chance to study in the US, where he met Reed Richards.
Doom’s rivalry with Mister Fantastic started in university. He wanted to prove he was smarter than Richards, so he built a machine that could communicate with the dead, with Victor hoping he could speak to his mother.
The machine exploded, due to the interference of Ben Grimm, who disliked Doom. Victor’s face was left severely damaged. He chose to travel the world until he was found by a group of Tibetan monks and learned their disciplines. Soon after, Victor forged an iron suit and mask, becoming Doctor Doom. Blaming Mister Fantastic for his accident, Doom lashed out at the world. At the same time, he led a revolution in Latveria, taking over from the baron.
Doctor Doom’s intelligence, resources and magic have made him a threat to every hero in the Marvel Universe. Although he’s considered to be the archenemy of the Fantastic Four, Doom has fought against The Avengers, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther and many others. He’s also warred with other villains, such as Galactus, Thanos and Mephisto.
Through his intelligence, Doom has achieved a number of impressive feats. These include taking the Power Cosmic from The Silver Surfer, standing up to Galactus by controlling his ship, outsmarting Mephisto and turning himself into the singular God of the Marvel Multiverse. In addition to his scientific prowess, Doctor Doom is a formidable sorcerer. There was a time that Doctor Strange admitted Doom had enough power to potentially become the new Sorcerer Supreme.
The psychology of Doom
Doctor Doom’s abilities make him the perfect antagonist, but he’s far from a one-note villain. His arrogance has proven to be his defining trait and greatest weakness. He’s believed himself to be correct in every situation and refused the opinion of others. Even as a hero, Doom believed only he could fix the world.
Doom possesses a sense of nobility that makes him a man of his word. For example he chose to save Captain America from drowning because he owed Cap a life debt. Doom’s honour has also manifested in him giving respected opponents a fair chance. Rather than gain an easy victory, Doom has chosen to fight opponents at their full strength because he views anything else as meaningless.
As ruler of Latveria, Doom has dedicated himself to bettering the lives of his subjects. He wanted to give Latverian people a better future by improving their welfare. Despite all of his flaws, Victor has the potential to be a good person. The greatest example happened when he took on the mantle of Iron Man, wanting to make up for his past mistakes.
I think Jack Kirby’s take on Doctor Doom is a great way to understand the character’s motivations. Kirby modelled him after Death, as Doom’s armour takes the form of his skeleton.
“It was the reason for the armour and the hood. Death is connected with armour and the inhuman-like steel. Death is something without mercy, and human flesh contains that mercy. Doctor Doom is an evil person, but he’s not always been evil. Doctor Doom was a guy who was a thoroughly respected academician; a highly respected chemist, but through a flaw in his own character, he was a perfectionist. Perfections cannot accept imperfection.”
“So what happens to Doctor Doom – who wasn’t Doctor Doom at the time? He was just a chemist. He gets a cut on his chin! The perfectionist suddenly finds himself imperfect, small as that scar may be. So he can’t live with the rest of humanity. He can’t live with himself and the rest of humanity. He knows that every man, woman and child who passes him will know that he has this scar on his chin. So he encases his face in an iron mask.”
Doom’s perfectionism is the root of his conflicting traits. He sees himself above humanity and a part of it. He wants to safeguard it, to lead humans into a utopian future, but only on his terms. It’s why he’s Marvel’s most prolific villain and one of the greatest characters of all time.