It’s no secret that I had a deep love for Doctor Victor Von Doom. He’s not just my favorite supervillain of all time, he’s pretty damn high up on my list of favorite comics books characters, and favorite fictional characters. There’s a reason that whenever Marvel tries to tell an over-arching story in a medium other than comics that brings the entire Marvel universe together, they generally decide to make Doctor Doom the villain. Doctor Doom works in every type of story. He can be a cosmic threat, and he can stiff a hero for $200. Doctor Doom can be a fascinatingly deep character, but at the same time he’s one of the most simplistic villain in comics. He has his reasons for being a villain, but for the most part he does evil because he just does. He just loves being a bad guy. And I love him for that. But, if I had to pick a runner up for the most interesting Marvel villain, I would have to go with Magneto. Because while Magneto doesn’t have that purity that gives Doctor Doom the edge with me, he’s probably the most compelling and fascinating villains Marvel has. His backstory, his passion, and the fact that he almost always is proven correct makes him a great character. So, imagine my joy when I found out that there was a story that pitted Magneto and Doctor Doom against one another, in a game of wits, that come out of the fantastically insane Super-Villain Team-Up series from the 70’s. I haven’t fully dove into this series, but it seems like it’s incredibly up my alley, basically just having Doctor Doom screwing over all the lesser villains in the Marvel universe. Which is completely my jam. But we’re here to talk about one specific story.
This story begins in the aftermath of the previous story in Super-Villain Team-Up, which revolved around the Red Skull attempting to overthrow Doctor Doom as the ruler of Latveria. This obviously failed, and now Doom is back in power, but as the people of Latveria are undergoing some mandatory celebration for that fact, a new problem arises. Because Magneto has just arrived in Latveria, and he is in no mood for a weird forced party. He storms through the crowd, mocking the Latverians for their unyielding devotion towards Doctor Doom. See, Magneto is here to prove a point, because he’s convinced that he’s the greatest villain on the planet, and the only thing that stands in his way of conquering the planet is Doctor Doom, the only other person he thinks even holds candle to his power. Plus, he has a pretty big recent defeat to compensate for, but I’ll get to that a little later. Anyway, Magneto has arrived in Latveria, and he begins showing off to the peasants, destroying a statue of Doom and tossing around some police. And once he gets that little confidence boost out of the way, he flies to Doom’s castle, and breaks into his private study, where Doom is busy playing around with a chess-set of Marvel heroes, coming up with a plan to conquer the world.
Yeah, Magneto just goes right ahead and blasts into Doom’s room, ready to throw down. But, despite the whole vibe that Magneto is throwing out, he’s not here for a fight. He just wants to talk to Doom about a proposition he has. Doom is actually kind of charmed by this, and agrees to hear him out. So Doom pours them some wine, and listens to Magneto’s story. But first he’s curious about the fact that Magneto is a full-grown man, and not a baby anymore. Yeah, that’s what I was talking about earlier. This story takes place shortly after an absolutely insane story where the Defenders turned Magneto into a baby that Charles Xavier then planned to raise. And trust me, I’m planning on getting to that story sooner or later. But, rest assured, Magneto is no longer a baby, all thanks to some weird X-Men bullshit.
But none of that’s important. What is important is the reason that Magneto is here. Because, now that he’s been turned into a baby, and back again, he’s decided he needs to step up his game, and take over the world. Unfortunately, while he thinks he has the raw power to dominate the world, he doesn’t have the skill to subjugate it. But, Doom does. So, Magneto has come to Latveria in the hopes that he and Doom can come to some sort of understanding, and work together to conquer the world. But once Magneto is done with his pitch, he finds that Doctor Doom is barely paying attention. Because he has no interest in taking over the world. Because he already has taken over the world!
So yeah. Doctor Doom apparently has created some sort of magical neuro-gas that turns anyone who inhales it into a mindless servant who only obeys him. And, he’s apparently been pumping this as into the atmosphere for some time. The people of Earth have already breathed in this gas, so now it’s just a matter of time before Doom activates it, this taking over the world. Magneto is more than a little shocked by this revelation, and that feeling increases when Doctor Doom begins making demands, proving that he has total control over Magneto. Hell, Doom even makes Magneto use his powers to nearly commit suicide with some decorative weapons in the room. But Doom doesn’t let Magneto go through with it. Why? Because Doom is bored. This whole mind-control gas thing may have been brilliant, but it was too easy. Doom conquered the world without anyone noticing, and now he wants to prove that he really did have the power to do it. So, he proposes a game. He gives Magneto a pill that will counteract the gas, letting him be the only other person on Earth with his faculties. He then lets Magneto leave, telling him that the game is now afoot, and he’ll allow Magneto to go plan, and attempt to dethrone Doom as the most powerful being on Earth.
Magneto then flees Latveria, and realizes that the only way he’s going to be able to defeat Doom, is to get help. And, instead of going to the supervillain community, who are always defeated, he decides he needs to ask the heroes for help. So, Magneto heads straight to Avenger’s Mansion, in the hope that they will aid him in defeating Doctor Doom. There’s only one problem with that plan. Magneto is one of the most prominent supervillains on the planet, and there are currently two former X-Men on the Avengers at the moment. So as soon as Magneto shows up everyone immediately freaks the hell out, and attacks him. Magneto really wants their help though, so he just uses his powers to do whatever he can to defeat them, without injuring them. He gains control of Mjolnir to take down Thor, seizes Captain America and Iron Man, puts Yellow Jacket and Wasp in balls of ferrous metal, turns Vision off by stopping his synthetic blood, and just kind of beats up Wonder Man and Beast. And after all of that, the Avengers decide that they’re overpowered, and let Magneto explain what’s going on. He then starts rapidly telling them everything that’s going on, while they stand there shocked. But, just as they start to get won over, the shit hits the fan.
Doom has apparently been monitoring Magneto this whole time, and watched this whole attempt at gaining allies. But, after Magneto explains how dire things are, Doom projects himself into Avenger’s Mansion, and activates their mind-control. He has the Avengers fall under his spell, and begins taunting Magneto, telling him that he can have them kill him in any number of ways. But, because Doom is still feeling bored and wants this little game to continue, he tells Magneto that he’ll do him a favor. He’ll keep the Avengers from killing him, and he’ll even let Magneto take one of them as an ally. So, panicking, Magneto comes up with a plan. And the Avengers he chooses as his ally is his old for, Beast. He grabs Beast and the two flee from the Mansion before the Avengers come to and attack them. Magneto and Beast then steal a Quinjet, and take to the skies, while Magneto uses some unexplained powers to free Beast’s mind of the gas. Beast now realizes what’s going on, and agrees to help Magneto. But they’re still going to need more allies. Unfortunately, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are both currently off-world, meaning that there’s no other super-teams available to help them. Well. Actually. There is one super-team left. And it just so happens Beast has an in with them. That’s right folks. It’s time to go deal with the mother fucking Champions!
Hell yes! In case you aren’t familiar with the Champions, or are only aware of the modern reboot of the team, let me fill you in on what’s probably the weirdest team of Marvel heroes ever assembled. The Champions were a group of heroes, based in Los Angeles, who only had a series for 17 issues, and were comprised of Iceman, Angel, Ghost Rider, Hercules, a new Russian hero called Darkstar, and led by Black Widow. They were a hilariously weird team, and kind of deservedly are only a footnote in Marvel history. But since they have two former X-Men on the team, it makes sense that Beast would seek them out. Unfortunately, they seem to have gotten a call from the Avengers, and are ready to beat Magneto and Beast’s asses. Whoops!
The story then moves over to the Champions, who are ready to fight Magneto and Beast, and their crazy story about the world being controlled by Doctor Doom. The Champions then spring into action, and attempt to fight off Magneto and Beast. Well, mainly Magneto, because he’s busy literally ripping their building apart. The heavy-hitters of the Champions obviously direct most of their attention on Magneto, while Iceman and Black Widow try to subdue Beast. Unfortunately, Iceman isn’t too keen on attacking one of his oldest friends, so he continues to pull his punches while Beast leaps around and tries to convince them he isn’t insane. And, after a whole lot of needless fighting, Magneto and Beast realize that this plan isn’t going to work, and attempt to regroup. Magneto completely wants to just kick Hercules’ ass, since he disrespected him, but Beast points out that a nearby radio says that Doom is in Washington DC, meeting with the leaders of the country, and convinces Magneto that he’s been played, yet again. So, having his honor attacked, yet again, Magneto and Beast flee from the Champions, and head to Washington DC to see what Doom has gotten up to while they were busy wasting time with the Champions. And what has been Doom been up to? Well…
Your eyes do not deceive you! Doctor Doom is currently inside of the White House, with a very casually dressed Jimmy Carter, some other leaders of the country, demanding that they cede all authority and power in the nation to Doom. And, because of the gas, they all think that this is the greatest goddamn idea in the world. Doom then begins storming around the White House, making all sorts of demands, and heading out to look at a military procession that’s winding past the White House in his honor. Oh, and his own personal bodyguard has arrived. The goddamn Incredible Hulk! Doom has used the mind-control gas to summon Hulk to the White House as his muscle and secrete weapon against whatever Magnet scrapes together to fight him.
Which was a good plan, because as Doom is chatting with the Hulk and his generals, Magneto and Beast arrive, ready to just attack Doom head on. Magneto thinks quickly, and is able to use his abilities to wrap a tank around Hulk, holding him down and taking him off the board. Which makes it seem like things are going to fall apart pretty quickly for Doom. Unfortunately, this story is taking place in the Champions, so right as Magneto and Beast begin advancing on Doom the Champions arrive, and continue to attack our accidental heroes. At which point things get wacky. Because Hercules is still pissed about Magneto’s previous attack, so he immediately charges the master of magnetism, who ends up hurling the price of power right at the Hulk. And, because the Hulk is an idiot, he begins attacking Hercules, even though they’re nominally on the same side.
And with his two strongest pawns currently beating the shit out of each other, Doom realizes he needs to amp things up. So he takes direct control of the Champions, and demands that they do whatever possible to slay Magneto. There’s just one problem. Apparently part of Ghost Rider’s whole deal is that he doesn’t breathe. So, he never breathed in this mind-control gas, and was just going along with everything back in Los Angeles because the Avengers told them Magneto and Beast were evil now. But, now that he’s in Washington DC and sees that Doctor Goddamn Doom is running the country, and is taking control of his teammates, he realizes that he’s been on the wrong side. So Magneto has accidentally gained another ally!
Ghost Rider and Beast then join forces, and begin fighting off the various members of the Champions and some random government agents, while Hercules and Hulk continue to beat the hell out of each other for no real reason, and Magneto spars off against Doom. We end up hopping all around the battlefield, checking in on all of the random fights, but it’s really all about Doom and Magneto. The two are throwing everything they have at each other, and they seem pretty evenly matched. Doom’s various force fields can protect him from whatever objects that Magneto hurls at him, and Magneto is in turn about to deflect anything Doom fires at him. But, when Magneto finally drops all subtlety, and just tries to crush Doom in his armor, Doom activates his secret weapon. He’s somehow figured out how to “reverse his armor’s magnetic polarity,” which causes Magneto to go flying through the air, defeated. Which is a bummer, because now no one is able to stop Doctor Doom. But that ain’t gonna stop Ghost Rider! The Spirit of Vengeance sees an opportunity to take down Doom, and goes running at him, hurling some of his hellfire right at Doom’s goddamn head! But his goal wasn’t just random violence, because as soon as the fire hits Doom’s mask, he suddenly realizes that he can’t breathe. So Doom detaches his face-plate, desperate to get air. And, in doing so, he inhales that goddamn mind-control gas! And, because Doom apparently didn’t take that same pill he gave Magneto, he’s suddenly affected by the gas. He manages to get his face-plate back on, so no one can see his true face, but he’s then thrown into a weird feedback loop with his own mind-control. Doom’s powers are then thrown out of whack, and a lot of things happen at once. The people of Earth are suddenly freed from Doom’s grip, Magneto decides to flee because there’s no way he can stop everyone working together, and Doctor Doom appears to be frozen in some sort of hellscape where he has no control over his no body. Victory!
This story is an absolute delight. Not only do we get to see my main man Doctor Doom being as Doctor Doom as possible, we also get some great Magneto action, a prominent role for one of my favorite X-Men Dr. Henry “The Beast” McCoy, a random appearance from Jimmy Carter, and one of the few appearances of the Champions! What’s not to like? I love how incredibly strange, and ultimately ineffectual the Champions were, and I have to assume that the team was created by drawing names out of a hat. I really do like all of these characters individually (well, maybe not Angel), but putting them all together is so tremendously weird. Plus, the fact that one of the few books of their series was hijacked for this insane Doctor Doom and Magneto story that barely involved them is kind of hilarious. The Magneto we have in this story isn’t really my favorite type of Magneto, a little too cackling evil and not enough thoughtful evil. But the real draw for me is, as always, Doctor Doom. Because this is one of the most Doctor Doomy stories I’ve ever encountered. The man built a device that let him control almost every person in the world, without anyone else being aware, and decided that wasn’t good enough. Because there wasn’t enough challenge in it. Doctor Doom won! He had control of the world. But because there wasn’t a big enough struggle for him to overcome to gain that victory, he decides to take Magneto up on an insane gamble, and creates an insane Calvinball-esque game where the rules constantly shift, just to gain some small semblance of intrigue to the whole thing. And that’s the best. Doctor Doom could take over the planet any time he damn well pleased. But it’s got to be fun.
Super-Villain Team-Up #14 was written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Bob Hall, inked by Don Perlin & Duffy Vohland, lettered by Irv W, and colored by Don W, 1975.
Champions #16 was written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Bob Hall, inked by M Esposito, lettered by Denise Wohl, and colored by Phil Rache, 1975.
Categories: Marvel Madness