A special edition of Badass of the Week by Ben Thompson
“Show me the puny mortal who does not tremble at the name of Doctor Doom!”
I’ve always held a soft spot in my heart for comic books characters who go out there with no inherent super-powers and roll the dice in toe-to-toe combat against genetically-engineered superhuman mutant warriors from some quadrant of space where people are born with the muscular density of a rhinoceros. Never is this more true than in situations where the aforementioned character is a sort-of-misunderstood supervillain who wants nothing more than an eternal end to war, conflict, substandard wages, hunger, and illiteracy – and who seeks to accomplish these lofty idealistic goals by violently obliterating all who stand in his way and replacing every government on Earth-616 with an autocratic New World Order devoted to worshipping him as a living God among mortals.
I mean, sure, any two-bit chump lowlife dirtbag with a Beretta can rob a bank in real life, but when you’re trying to hack it as a villain in a city where every third person is capable of unassisted flight and can shoot death rays out of their eyes, you need to step up your diabolical criminal game if you want to avoid being one of those masked, beanie-wearing unshaven thug douchebags lumped unceremoniously in a shopping cart with a black eye and a broken arm on the cover of Batman #5,472.
Dr. Victor Von Doom is exactly the sort of average-Joe-turned-badass who transcended a life of petty crime and went straight to large-scale, world-domination-scheming global villainy. Created by comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962, Von Doom has spent nearly fifty years beating the shit out of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, Punisher, Blade, Superman, and every other roided-up do-gooder asshole in comics, and even though writers always seem to fuck him up in movies and TV shows, you still love him anyways – mostly because he wears a suit of nuclear-powered titanium armor, wears a bitchin’ green cloak, carries a Lil’ Jon-style pimp chalice, commands near-limitless power from a horde of ultra-obedient minions, and because his last name is “Doom” and/or “Von Doom”.
Dr. Victor Von Doom is not to be confused with Dr. Travis Doom, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Wright State University (and yes, that is a real person.)
Victor Von Doom was born to a tribe of Latverian Gypsies in the mid-20th century. His father was a doctor and his mother was a witch who died while Vic was still a kid (she incurred the wrath of a demon from Hell she’d summoned onto the material plane, one thing led to another, and the next thing you know she’s being burned at the stake by a pitchfork-wielding mob or something).
Not long after that, Vic’s dad pissed off a local Baron by not curing the Baron’s wife of incurable terminal cancer, so the Baron quite reasonably responded to this failure by ordering the entire Von Doom clan be wiped off the face of the Earth forever. Dad ran into the wilderness, where he died of exposure, but as he passed away his last act being to shield young Victor from the elements like the tauntaun that saved Luke in Empire Strikes Back. Victor survived the wilderness, returned home, learned his mother’s witchcraft arts, combined it with the science he learned from his father, and used his powers of Gypsy Witch Trigonometry to kick the shit out of the Baron, conquer Latveria somehow, and install himself as the supreme dictator presidente-por-vida of the entire Kingdom.
After subjugating the population of some random nonexistent third world Eastern European country using nothing more than his ungodly intelligence and a nefarious blood pact with Satan, Von Doom next decided to go off to college, because it’s not like he really had anything else going on at the time. He attended Empire State University on an Evil Genius scholarship to get his Evil Medical Degree in Criminal Engineering, but unfortunately for Von Doom he was roomed up with some obnoxious do-gooder named Reed Richards.
Everything was downhill from there. Reed Richards was like the closest thing a college engineering department has to the quarterback on the high school football team – he was tall, handsome, dated a leggy blonde, and was such a douchebag that everybody simply knew him as “Mr. Fantastic”. Like Doom, he was also a super-genius, and, also like Doom, he was also a total dick about the whole thing.
“I am no longer amused by your amateurish display of mediocrity.”
The Richards-Doom roommate debacle eventually came to its thrilling conclusion one fateful day, when Von Doom was working on a class project (some kind of theromonuclear warhead or something), and right as he was getting ready to test it Richards came by like a smug jackass and was all like, “hey douchebag you forgot to round up the remainder on your long division LOL WTF!!!” Doom was all like, “Blow it out your asshole, Richards, you fucking prick,” but then when he went to test the experiment out the machine blew the fuck up in his face and left him with some badass scars (the full severity of which have never really been fully established in Marvel canon).
Even though Doom was kicked out of school for illegally detonating a weaponized warhead on campus, after the incident he went around calling himself Doctor Doom anyways, because I guess Victor figured that, if nothing else, being the smartest man in the world probably made him worthy of an honorary PhD or two (and, as ruler of his own country, he was probably able to set that up by using his royal power to establish the “University of Dr. Doom Is Fucking Awesome – Reed Richards Sucks a Dong School of Diabolical Mathematics” and bestow himself an infinite number of advanced degrees). After circumventing the collegiate accreditation process and skipping out on his medical board exams, Von Doom then went to Tibet, chilled with some monks, learned Shaolin Kung Fu (probably), fist-bumped His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and then promptly used his training in the pacifist, self-improving teachings of Buddhism by becoming a completely fucking insane megalomaniac bent on world domination.
When Dr. Doom isn’t plotting world domination, swearing at his legions of incompetent stooges, or trying to bring his life-long blood feud with Reed Richards to a violent, explosion-filled conclusion (he hates that guy so much that Doom sometimes beats up other supervillains right when they’re getting ready to kill the Fantastic Four, simply because Doom wants to be sure that HE’s the guy that finally puts the world out of Mr. Fantastic’s misery forever), he serves as the literally-iron-fisted ruler of Latveria. Latveria, in case you’ve never visited, is kind of like a cross between Latvia and Siberia. Carved out on the border between Hungary, Romania, and Serbia, this country is about the size of Luxembourg and is populated solely by Doctor Doom, his army of robot warriors, and a horde of oppressed citizens who are fanatically devoted to their King.
Doom is kind of like Vlad Dracula, in that he’s pretty much totally evil and hell-bent on the annihilation of his enemies, but his people all seem to love him for some reason anyways (it’s probably because if they don’t act overjoyed at the mere mention of his name he has them summarily executed without trial). This is pretty fucking awesome, primarily because I love the idea of Doctor Fucking Doom sitting in a UN meeting in a green cape and titanium facemask, breathing like Darth Vader and talking down to “servile dolts” while hot babes fan him and he sips Courvoisier out of a ruby-encrusted pimp chalice.
Well, sure, Von Doom is super loaded and has Castle Von Doom, limitless money, hot women, and thousands (millions?) of adoring subjects, but in his day-to-day life the Doc spends most of his time in the Latverian Embassy in New York City, where his primary superpower is Diplomatic Immunity. And, while this is nothing to laugh at, Von Doom has plenty of other superpowers that are bigger and more impressive than his ability to only be held accountable for his crimes by a United Nations tribunal in The Hague. For starters, he’s like the smartest man alive.
He also has mad kung fu skills, over-the-top math skills, owns a time machine, can kill a lion with one punch, and is surrounded by badass Doombot robots that look and act exactly like him and ensure that no matter how many times comic book writers kill him off there’s a totally simple way to bring him back to life without any in-depth explanation required. He uses his diabolical powers to plot world domination and build weapons of mass destruction, his every castle is constructed with plenty of unnecessarily-slow-moving dipping mechanisms, and all he has to do is grab his balls and suddenly the entire Latverian Armed Forces shows up armed to the teeth with assault rifles and tanks.
“The welfare of my people is ever closest to my heart… that is why my invincible robot army stands guard both night and day!”
During his adventures kicking ass and taking names, Doctor Doom has built so many badass devices that his plots for world domination now have their own Wikipedia entry. Despite all of his Sonic Frakulators and Cosmic Deconstructulatrons, the one thing that makes Doctor Doom stand out is his badass, nuclear-powered, titanium-alloy body armor. Forged in the Tibetan Himalayas, this armor allows him to survive in atmospheres ranging from the deepest oceans to outer space (which is extra impressive considering that there doesn’t appear to be anything covering his eyes). It’s built in with a force field, lasers, infrared and night vision binoculars, and a jetpack, and can be charged up with lightning to shock the shit out of people like Blanka from Street Fighter. And its so badass looking that it was the inspiration for Darth Vader (no kidding).
Doctor Doom is basically like Darth Vader, Skeletor, Professor Moriarty, and Vladimir Putin all rolled together and stuffed into a suit of impenetrable armor capable of withstanding a direct blow from a nuclear warhead. In his 50 years of terrorizing the world, he’s stolen the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, hijacked Dardevil’s body, led the bad guys in the Secret Wars, helped deliver Sue Richards’ second child, climbed his way out of Hell, wielded Thor’s Hammer, slept with Morgan Le Fay, and saved humanity from zombies with the help of Bruce Campbell’s character from Army of Darkness.
He has a code of honor that prevents him from being a total fucking jackass to everyone all the time – that code basically revolves around how Doctor Doom can never go back on his word. Of course, in practice this code of honor works kind of like the Monkey’s Paw or a Wish spell in D&D – when you’re asking Doom for his word you’d better be pretty careful how you word shit, because this guy seriously fucking loves puns and he’s not about to pass up an opportunity to weasel out of a promise and find some way to fuck your ass up when you least expect it.
And, in the end, isn’t that the sort of thing we all look for in a diabolical criminal mastermind?
“Before this day is ended, mankind shall grovel helplessly at my feet – and, as fate has obviously ordained, Doctor Doom shall be master of Earth!”