Well everyone, after spending all last month regaling you with some of the most humiliating defeats ever dished out to Thanos the Mad Titan, I think it’s time to get back to the real reason this whole Marvel Madness exists. Talking about the exploits of my all-time favorite comic book character, Doctor Victor von Doom. It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the good Doctor, and I’m always on the lookout for more stories featuring his particular brand of villainy. And I never seem to be in short supply of these types of stories, because essentially every single story I’ve ever read with Doctor Doom in it has been dynamite. But, while I’m a huge sucker for Fantastic Four stories, and the way that Doom plays off against those characters, I’m always a fan of seeing him play around with the other heroes of the Marvel universe. We’ve seen Doctor Doom travel back in time with Iron Man, fail to kidnap Spider-Man, and switch brains with Daredevil, among others. So, moving down the list of Marvel heroes, it’s time to talk about a time where Doctor Doom and the Mighty Thor dueled. Which may seem like a bit of a strange pairing, since Thor is a literal god and Doctor Doom is just the most capable and ridiculous human being who ever lived. But, surprisingly, Thor does a good job keeping up with him.
This story picks up shortly after another tale where Loki was able to disguise himself as Thor and wreck havoc in New York. Thor obviously saved the day, but is now worried that the people of New York will fear him, since as far as they’re concerned Thor went crazy and attacked them all. So, to regain the confidence of the people, Thor begins flying around the city, looking for some trouble to stop. And, as luck would have it, he ends up finding a crowd of angry people surrounding a lone protester. It’s a young woman who is doing her best to protest outside the Latverian embassy, trying to convince people of the vast crimes against humanity that Doctor Doom is personally responsible for. But, all she’s succeeding in is convincing a bunch of yokels that she’s just a whiny communist. They’re getting quite hostile towards her, for some reason, and Thor decides he should help her. But, he think that the best way to handle this would be to switch back to Donald Blake.
Now, I don’t know how common this knowledge is anymore, but for a shocking amount of Thor’s history he had an alter-ego. Back in the day Thor was actually a mortal man, a doctor, named Donald Blake, who would be able to slam a wooden walking stick he found in Norway down on the ground, and be imbued with the power of Thor. Donald Blake was eventually excised from the character, just letting Thor be Thor all the time, which was probably the route they should have gone the entire time. Donald Blake is not interesting, and he’s not even particularly helpful, as is demonstrated by Blake hobbling into the crowd of people and almost immediately becoming so terrified by the angry counter-protesters that he turns right back into Thor as as soon as he gets a hold of the woman.
Thor flies the woman away from the crowd, up to the office of Doctor Blake and safety. The woman was unconscious the whole time, so Thor transforms back into Blake, keeping his identity a secret. Blake then wakes the girl up, and she starts explaining what’s going on. Her name is Cosette Lafarge, and she has a very personal reason for hating Doctor Doom. Her father is a professor and scientist, and when she was just a little girl some Latverian soldiers came and kidnapped the both of them, bringing them to Latveria to deal with Doom himself. Doom intends to have Professor Lafarge build him a series of missile silos all around Latveria. And, to ensure his obedience, Doom says that he’ll be keeping both Lafarge’s hostage until the silos are completed.
Years went by, and Professor Lafarge continued to build the system of silos for Doom, while Cosette plans her escape. She grows into the woman we’ve seen Donald Blake save, and she ends up working with the Latverian underground to escape the country so that she could flee to America and drum up support for her campaign against Doom and Latveria. Blake is incredibly moved by Cosette’s story, and tells her that he’ll do anything to help her. And he thinks that he knows someone who could help stop Doom and his missile silos. Cosette is thrilled to have Blake in her corner, and excuses herself, letting Blake figure out a plan.
Unfortunately, he realizes that Doom is the leader of a sovereign nation, and he probably can’t just attack Latveria for no real reason. So, he needs a reason to get into Latveria legitimately. And, he comes up with a pretty ridiculous idea. He figures that Doom must wear a metal mask because he’s disfigured and shy about it. So, Blake calls a friend of his at a newspaper and plants a story that he, Donald Blake, has just come across a revolutionary new method of plastic surgery that could probably fix Doom’s face. And, after a bit of time where Thor goes back to Asgard to deal with some irrelevant stuff, we see that Doom has seen the reports, and is fascinated.
Doom finds the idea of repairing his face irresistible, so he and some Latverian soldiers hop on a plane and fly to New York so that Doom can personally abduct Blake. I’m not sure why he didn’t just send the soldiers to do his dirty work like he did with the Lafarge’s, but whatever, it lets us see Doctor Doom pop his own head out of a limo and blast Donald Blake with some sort of ray gun that causes him to banish and reappear inside Doom’s limo. They then quickly make their way to some random woods outside the City and get into a hidden jet that they’ve placed there. Once again, I’m not sure why they didn’t just fly there as legitimate Latverian business, instead skulking around in the woods like maniacs.
But, whatever the reason, they put an unconscious Donald Blake into the plane and blast off, and flying around the world and back to Latveria in mere minutes. And, as they get there, Blake awakens from his ray gun assault, and Doom begins intimidating him, showing off the might of Latveria, and himself. But, when they get to Doom’s castle he just get right down to it and starts telling Blake that he expects him to use his new procedure on him, and if it fails Doom will destroy him. Blake obviously hasn’t actually invented any miracle procedure, he’s just doing this all in order to find Lafarge. But, before he can stall, Doom pulls Blake into a private room and removes his face-plate. Donald Blake then becomes one of few human beings on Earth to see Doctor Doom’s true face. And he doesn’t exactly handle it well.
Nice work, Donald. Doom is obviously offended by this outburst, and immediately calls in some guards who bring Black down to a dungeon where they lock him up. But, as luck would have it, the guards also toss in Blake’s walking stick for some reason. So, he able to get a hold of the stick as soon as the guards are gone, and bashes it against the ground, instantly transforming himself into the Mighty Thor. Thor then snaps out of his manacles and blasts out of the castle, just in time to see Doom test-launch his brand-new missile silos. Which is unfortunate, because the missile then locks onto the God of Thunder, and begins hurtling straight toward him, no matter how fast he tries to escape.
Thor flies around Doomstadt, trying to escape the path of the rocket, but nothing seems to work. However, Thor eventually comes up with a decent plan, and uses his hammer to create a suction of air that will drag the missile up into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, in doing so, Thor has to throw his hammer, which causes him to loose flight and come crashing down to the ground. And this isn’t just about humiliation. See, during this time of the series Thor couldn’t let go of Mjolnir for more than a minute without turning back into Donald Blake. So, right on time, Thor turns back to Donald Blake and hobbles off into the city to hide. Which is a shame, because right as he leaves someone else shows up to find the hammer. Doctor Doom! But, you can probably guess how this goes.
Doom does not take this rejection lightly. He flies into a rage, and seeing some random Latverian peasants standing around he decides that if he can’t have the hammer, no one can. So, Doom uses his magical abilities to surround the hammer with a force-field, making it so no one else can touch the enchanted mallet. He then storms off and goes back to his original task, finding the missing Doctor Blake. He finds his way back to his castle and turns on a special robot that can track down people just by seeing a picture of them. So, Doom feeds a picture of Blake into the robot, and it begins flying around the city, hunting him down.
And, while all of this is going on, Blake ends up actually succeeding in his main goal. He shockingly finds Professor Lafarge inside of a laboratory, and sneaks himself inside. Blake then breaks into the lab and confronts Lafarge, and gets a surprising reaction. Lafarge doesn’t want to leave. Now, it’s not quite clear if he’s developed some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, or if he’s actually just incredibly greedy and expects monetary compensation for giving Doctor Doom nuclear missile silos, but regardless, he’s fully on board with helping Doom, and doesn’t want Blake to ruin a good thing. So, Blake leaves the lab, and decides to starts looking for his hammer, hoping that he’ll be able to take Lafarge back to America if he’s Thor. But, he quickly finds the hammer inaccessible.
Blake quickly surmises that he’s unable to grasp the hammer, but comes up with a rather improbable solution. He heads into a nearby barn, gets a shovel, and begins digging a hole next to the hammer, figuring that Doom’s mystical shell is only a dome, which Blake will be able to dig under. But, it’s an accurate hypothesis, and after some manual labor, he’s able to get blow the dome and seize the hammer. Blake is then transformed back into the Mighty Thor, and with is powers regained flies straight to Castle Doom in order to confront the tyrant himself.
Thor comes crashing into the castle, leaving what I believe is the second massive hole in the castle that day, and finds Doom waiting for him. Unfortunately, Doom has been planning, and has his hands on a lever which will release a barrage of missiles onto every major city on Earth. He’ll destroy the world if Thor attempts to fight him. Thor realizes that Doom isn’t bluffing, and says that he will stand down, for even the power of his mighty Mjolnir isn’t enough to stop that many bombs. However, as he says that, Doom gets interested in the hammer again, and commands Thor to give it to him. Which works exactly as well as you’d think it would.
Not so smart, Doc. And, with Doctor Doom otherwise occupied, Thor takes the minute he has sans hammer and begins smashing all of the missile-guidance computers, taking away control of Doom’s entire arsenal. And, seeing his evil plan fall apart, Doom finally gives up on the hammer, and just starts fighting Thor mano a mano. The two begin grappaling, while Thor is mentally counting down the seconds he has before reverting to Donald Blake. And things don’t look good. Doom uses every device in his possession to cripple the Asgardian, and Thor finds himself in quite a contentious battle.
But, eventually, Thor is able to toss the Doctor off of him, and regain his hammer. He then flies out of the castle, not creating another hole this time, and begins doing some preemptive damage to Doom’s missiles. He flies around Doomstadt destroying each and every one of the missiles that Doom and Professor Lafarge had been making, ruining Doom’s plan. His mission a success, Thor then flies back to the laboratory of Professor Lafarge, hoping the man has come to his senses. And he has not! He rants and raves about the money Thor just cost him, and in his anger ends up having a heart attack and dying. Thor then leaves Latveria, after mocking Doom a little more, and returns to America to tell Cosette died a hero, lying to save her the shame of having a father who prided money over the stability of the world.
I may not be a big fan of the concept of Dr. Donald Blake, but I think one of the greatest things his character every achieved was making a story like this possible. I love that Thor wanted to go fight Doctor Doom, but realized that he couldn’t just attack him out of nowhere, and was able to devise a scheme that involved preying to Doom’s greatest weakness. Now, I’m sure it’ll surprise you to hear this, but I have quite a few thoughts about Doctor Doom, and specifically what’s under his mask. I know that the relatively recent Secret Wars event finally put the mystery to bed, revealing the grim visage beneath Doom’s mask, but I feel like there were two options. Either he was horrifically disfigured, like this issue also suggests, or else there’s actually very little damage and Doom’s just the most vain and self-centered human to ever walk the planet. And, personally, I kind of prefer that second option. But, regardless, the idea that Doom would be suckered into such a ridiculous scheme because of his vanity makes perfect sense to me, and it’s a really clever idea. It probably ends up making no difference to the rest of the plot, since Thor probably could have just come barreling in to stop the missiles without the pretense that Doctor Doom “started it,” but I think it’s a fun little idea. We also get to see another aspect of Doom I love in this story, his insane desire for power. Doom twice falls for the trick of picking up Mjolnir, always falling into the same trap of lusting after whatever will make him more powerful. There’s just a lot of really great Doom action in this story, and even though we don’t get the customary acknowledgment that Thor was a worthy adversary that Doom usually imparts to the random heroes he comes across, it was a really fun story. I’m not sure if Doom and Thor tussled too many other times over the years, but if I come across them I’ll be sure to regale you all with the surely goofy details of the stories.
Thor #182 &183 were written by Stan Lee, penciled by John Buscema, inked by Joe Sinnott, and lettered by Art Simek, 1970.
Categories: Marvel Madness