Marvel Madness

That Time Iron Man and Doctor Doom Wielded Excalibur

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I’ve talked about a whole lot of silly Marvel stories over the years I’ve been doing this Marvel Madness post. But, two of the absolute goofiest I’ve had the pleasure to share with you have been a running story line between Iron Man and Doctor Doom. And Camelot. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Doctor Doom, and specifically when Doctor Doom hangs out with heroes outside the Fantastic Four. So, while combing through stories that featured Doom, I came across an insane little tale of a time when Iron Man and Doctor Doom traveled back to the time of Camelot, and had to help King Arthur fight back an invasion from Morgan la Fey. It was a wonderfully goofy story, and one of my favorite picks I’ve shared. So, you can imagine my joy when I accidentally stumbled upon a sequel, that somehow got even crazier. That story featured Iron Man and Doctor Doom going back to Camelot, but in the future where an insane descendant of Iron Man and a mostly cyborg Doctor Doom were threatening to destroy the world with the abandoned Star Wars project. It was utterly ridiculous, but was also very enjoyable, and I was thrilled to have found that this weird story had a companion. And, at the time I made a vow. I wouldn’t look up to find if there was another part of this unexpected ongoing narrative, and preferred to stumble upon it organically. And, the gods have smiled upon me, because while scrolling around in Marvel Unlimited I came across something that made me literally gasp when I found it. There’s a third “Iron Man and Doctor Doom get wrapped up in Camelot shenanigans” story! And folks, it’s weird. They’ve all been weird, but this one may take the cake. So, buckle up and get ready to have a lot of weird feelings about eyeballs, because we’re going back to Camelot!

The story begins in a secret laboratory on Coney Island belonging to Tony Stark. He’s hard at work destroying every single one of his old Iron Man suits, having decided to give up on them all in favor of his Extremis armor. And, to make sure no one ever used them for nefarious purposes, he’s literally melting them. Which, also gives him an excuse to take a trip down memory lane, plugging all of the destroyed suits’ memory chips into his computer, watching old footage from his many adventures. And, while looking at the various adventures he’s had, he comes across a very strange file. Because the date-stamp on the file doesn’t make sense, listing a time when he swears he was on vacation, and thus not piloting an Iron Man suit. He plugs the chip in and starts scrubbing through the videos, looking for some clues as to what was going on, and ends up coming across something rather unexpected.

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Yep! The mysterious data-file seems to show that Iron Man was in space and was confronted by Doctor Doom. Certainly something you’d think he would remember. So, Tony starts wracking his mind, trying to remember what in the world happened in this missing time. And, in the process, starts to have a flashback to the events of the first Iron Man/Doctor Doom story, remembering that they went to Camelot, hung out with King Arthur, fought with Morgan le Fay, and had to work together to return to their own time before Doom swore vengeance. But, none of that answers why Tony saw Doom in space. But, while sitting there thinking as hard as he can, something finally surfaces in his memory, and it all comes rushing back to him.

Apparently during the time Tony thought he was on vacation he was actually in outer space, personally fixing a Stark International satellite that was in danger of failing and crashing to Earth. But, while he was fixing the satellite, something unexpected happened. Doctor Doom suddenly appeared next to him, ominously telling him they had work to do. Iron Man obviously responds by blasting a repulsor ray at Doom, finding that he was actually a hologram. Doom laughs at Iron Man’s gusto, and tells him that he’s not here to chat. He’s here to recruit him. Doom demands that Iron Man meet him in Latveria as soon as possible, because he’s found something that will require his assistance, lest millions of innocents die. Iron Man obviously doesn’t want to trust Doom, but just in case he is right and millions of people’s lives hang in the balance, he decides to go for it. So, Iron Man returns to Earth and sets course for Latveria. Which, is in a bit of a situation. Apparently at this time Doom was currently deposed, and the people of Latveria were currently laying siege to Castle Doom, which is hiding behind an energy field. Iron Man’s pretty confused by this situation, but Doom appears again and gives him shit for even hesitating, ordering him into the castle.

 

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Iron Man then makes his way to Doom’s control room, where the despot continues to neg old Shellhead for being so late. Iron Man responds by pointing out the fact that there happens to be a war going on, to which Doom merely scoffs and explains he’s planning on essentially nuking his own citizens. Iron Man is horrified by this idea, and tells Doom that he can stop the war in ten minutes, meaning he won’t have to kill them. So, Iron Man flies out into the battlefield, and comes up with a plan to end the battle as quickly as possible. Which he accomplishes by flying up to a fighter jet, yanking the pilot out of the cockpit before triggering his parachute. He then lets some heat-seeking rockets hit the plane, causing a distraction for him to smash a couple of empty tanks together, successfully scaring enough of the soldiers to cause them to retreat in horror.

So, with the citizens of Latveria safe, Iron Man returns to Castle Doom so he can finally hear what was so damned important. And, it turns out that Doom has learned of a doozy. Apparently Mephisto has found a way to hasten the End Times, which is obviously something that neither Doctor Doom or Iron Man want to happen. So, Iron Man and Doctor Doom are going to Hell! And, to get there, Doom has modified his Time Cube, and has even built two devices to remotely trigger the Cube, so they won’t run into any issues like last time. Doom gives Iron Man one of the devices, and even allows him to scramble the two to ensure that Doom didn’t give him a fake one. So, with that taken care of, the two hop onto the platform and activate the Time Cube, teleporting themselves straight to Hell. Which, has changed since the last time Doctor Doom has been there. Which we’ve also talked about.

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And, while Doom and Iron Man are gawking at the insane landscape of Hell, they’re attacked by a group of strange little demons, which are taking the shape of vaguely anthropomorphic blobs of protoplasm. Doom and Iron Man start attacking the little demons, but find that when they blast them with their various lasers, the little buggers just reform, ready attack again. It seems to be rapidly becoming a Sisyphean task, until Iron Man comes up with a plan. He grabs as many of the little demons as he can and starts fling straight into the inexplicable forge that happens to be right next to them, hoping that his armor can withstand whatever molten material Hell is cooking up. And, it pays off. The monsters are incinerated, unable to regrow themselves, and Iron Man survives! Success!

That doesn’t necessarily help Doom though, who is still throwing everything he’s got at the little blobbies. And, it’s probably going to take a lot of work for Iron Man to kill these things one arm-load at a time. But, while Iron Man’s flying around, he notices something strange. A nondescript door that is simply marked “Manager.” That perhaps seems too easy, but Iron Man doesn’t want to look a gift-door in the mouth, so he shouts down to Doom, telling him he found a way out. Doom doesn’t really care for Iron Man speaking to him that way, but does agree that the door seems like the most likely choice. So, the two fight their way through another wave of globbies, and burst into the “Manager” door, which is where the find basically exactly what they were looking for.

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So, I’m not really sure why Mephisto has decided to style Hell like an office. That’s never explained. But, there he is, sitting on a throne of stone ready to complete some TPS reports. And, surprisingly, he’s thrilled to see Doom and Iron Man. In fact, as soon as the two walk into the room, he congratulates Doom and hands him a little shard of metal, saying that their bargain is complete. This obviously raises a whole series of red flags in Iron Man’s mind, causing him to immediately grab his little device to trigger a return to Earth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Doom explains that while the devices are indeed identical, they only work when used in conjunction with a circuit in his suit, meaning only he can escape Hell. And, after that friendly little tip, he activates his device, and teleports away, leaving Iron Man trapped in Hell. Which was actually Doom’s entire plan.

Now, you’re probably wondering why in the world this all happened. And, the answer is predictably buck-wild. See, Doctor Doom has made a deal with Mephisto wherein he promised to deliver one of Earth’s meddlesome do-gooders  in exchange for that weird shard of metal. Which, logically, is a piece of the mythical sword Excalibur. Duh. So, after teleporting out of Hell, Doctor Doom gets to work on the next stage of his plan, which requires him to summon and capture Morgan le Fay. See, apparently in that first Camelot story le Fay was going to give Doom some of Excalibur, but when everything went sideways she vanished from Earth with it. And, she ended up in Hell as an honored guest of Mephisto, who ended up gaining control of the shard in exchange for sanctuary. So, now that Doom has the shard and le Fay, he demands her to cast a special spell on the shard, or else he’ll return her to Mephisto as a new possession instead of a guest.

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Meanwhile, in Hell, Iron Man is struggling to get used to his new surroundings. He immediately starts trying to escape, causing him to kill a whole bunch of those glob-demons. Which, accomplishes little else but amusing Mephisto. However, after vaporizing several waves of the little things, Mephisto’s entertainment does start to wane, and he decides to kick things up a notch by making things get disturbingly Freudian. Because, apparently preparing for just such an outcome, Mephisto has created a special demon that appears to be a gigantic version of Howard Stark, Tony’s absent father. And, as you might have guessed, this catches Tony off guard. The little globbies flee in terror, and Tony finds himself stuck in place, unable to even form a sentence before Demon Howard starts mocking his manhood and telling him he wasted his life.

Tony obviously knows that this is a trick, but it’s still one that is able to get under his skin. So, he starts trying to flee from the giant monster, hoping to not get into a fight. Which, doesn’t go well. Demon Howard ends up spawning his own suit of armor and starts attacking him, showing off the fact that he’s able to create demonic counter-measures for anything Iron Man is able to throw at him, all while hurling insults. But, what finally gets Iron Man to snap out of his funk is when Demon Howard says that Tony was always an embarrassment to him and his mother. And, because Tony Stark is apparently a massive mamma’s boy, this makes him snap. He grabs Demon Howard’s arm and starts flying him around Hell, yelling about how much his mommy loved him, before smashing Demon Howard into a wall until he falls apart and is revealed to be a robot. Which, is weird.

 

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Meanwhile, Doctor Doom is still antagonizing le Fay, who has finally agreed to perform the spell for Doom. He makes a change to le Fay’s magical cage, allowing her to perform one spell, and one spell only. She does, and is able to fuse the shard of Excalibur with Doctor Doom’s armor, turning him into a living instrument of magical destruction. His cloak turns black, his armor starts to glow, and he’s able to summon a magical sword whenever he wants. And, just to be an asshole, Doom then teleports le Fay back to the same magical prison he found her in at Camelot, all because she tried to screw him over back them. And, Doctor Doom never forgets.

Back in Hell, Iron Man finishes off the weird demonic version of his father, freezing him with some chemicals and smashing him to bits. At which point Mephisto, pissed off, sends another swarm of the little globbies at him, causing Tony to have to think fast. And, he has an idea. He grabs the robotic arm of Demon Howard, and starts looking at the inner-mechanisms, hoping that he can find a way to jerry-rig a way to activate his teleporter. And, after tossing up a shield to keep the globbies away he gets to work with the device, and because Tony Stark is a genius, he’s able to get it to function, sending himself out of Hell and back to Earth. Unfortunately that means he finds himself in Castle Doom, where Doctor Doom is hanging out with his new magical sword. Iron Man is obviously pretty furious about this whole Hell thing, and he attacks Doom. Which makes things pretty awkward when Doom is able to slice right through Iron Man’s armor with a single flick, showing him the power of Excalibur.

 

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And, that’s a little upsetting. Iron Man isn’t really sure how to deal with a Doctor Doom wielding a magical sword, so he just starts blasting lasers at him. Which, isn’t exactly the most elegant solution, but the dude just escapes Hell using his wits, so I guess we can cut him some slack. Unfortunately, Doom is able to literally just bat away the lasers, causing them to slam into Iron Man and smash him into a wall. Less than stellar. And, sensing some weakness, Doom just starts lunging at Iron Man, swinging his sword psychotically in the hopes that it will kill Iron Man. So, Iron Man decides that he’s a little out-classed, and starts flying away as fast as he can, zipping through Castle Doom while coming up with a plan. And, he does. He waits until Doom steps onto the Time Cube platform and then uses his armor to pump a whole lot of power from his armor into the platform, electrocuting Doom.

This gives Iron Man just a moment where he’s able to fly out of Castle Doom and escape Doom’s power while the despot is temporarily stunned. But, the power of Excalibur allows him to heal himself, fixing his minor electrocution. And, after healing himself, he decides that he doesn’t want to chase after Iron Man, because he has bigger fish to fry. Which, does appear to be true, because we then briefly check in with the scientists at Stark International, who are noticing that the satellite Tony fixed earlier is picking up some incredibly strange readings. It appears that space itself is bulging, as if something was ripping a hole in space. And, there’s only one person who can figure out what’s going on. Unfortunately, Tony Stark doesn’t know much about magic, and it’s going to be hard to figure out how to stop Doom. Luckily, Merlin’s here.

 

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Well, actually this is a magical apparition of Merlin. The real Merlin is still in some sort of mystical hibernation until the future, when he actually has met Tony Stark. As it stands, Tony is pretty baffled to meet a famous wizard, other than Stephen Strange I guess. But, Merlin is able to magically energize Tony’s suit, completely recharging it. And, with Iron Man ready for battle, Merlin starts to explain some things. He tells Tony that the whole Mephisto/End Times thing was complete bullshit. Whatever Doom’s plan may be, Merlin assumes it will require the second half of Excalibur, the scabbard. See, the sword makes the wielder invincible, but the scabbard makes the holder invulnerable. So, Merlin recommends that Tony travel to Ballanayr, Scotland where the scabbard is held before Doom can get it and become omnipotent.

So, Iron Man flies off to Ballanayr while Doom is in his castle, casting a spell that will send several magical Excalibur’s into the world to try and find their missing piece. But, since Tony knows where he’s going, he gets there first, only to find himself at a standing stone monument, similar to Stonehenge. But, there’s no clear sign of where the scabbard may be hiding. He starts looking for the secret to the scabbard, but gets distracted by a bunch of tourists who start demanding autographs. Which, gives Doctor Doom’s weird spell enough time to work. The good Doctor then appears before Iron Man, ready to kill him and take his scabbard. And, as soon as Excalibur enters the ring of the stones, something strange starts to happen, causing a whole series of stone gateways to appear, trapping Doctor Doom and Iron Man inside.

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Both of them are pretty alarmed by this, and that feeling just gets worse when the air around them is sealed off by a mystical barrier, making sure they can’t escape.  And, as if that wasn’t weird enough, all of the strange stone gateways that have suddenly appeared start to glow with pink mystical light, and inside of each one appears to be the magical scabbard of Excalibur, reflected as if by a mirror. Iron Man is pretty out of his depth by all of this, but Doctor Doom decides that the best course of action is to just start smashing the mirrors with his sword, figuring that one of them is bound to actually have the scabbard behind it. Which, turns out to not be the most sound strategy.

As soon as Doom smashes the first mystical mirror, several giant stone knights come barreling out of the gateway, ready to kick their asses.  And, unfortunately for Iron Man, they seem to be pretty indiscriminate in their ass kicking, targeting him as well. So, Doom and Iron Man are forced to fight their stone adversaries, struggling with the question of how you kill stone. They manage to hold their own a bit, but make it clear they can’t just go around breaking more mirrors. Which is when a stray chunk of stone from one of the knights Doom destroys manages to break another mirror, causing a torrent of semi-sentient highly-corrosive water to come pouring out. The water swirls around Doom and Iron Man, burning through their armor, until Iron Man uses one of his gadgets to flash-fry the water, evaporating it. And, taking that downtime, the two decide to actually think things through. They start studying the various mirrors, and at the same time they both notice something. Only one of the mirrors doesn’t appear to be a reflection, it’s showing Doom and Iron Man as they truly stand. So, both men race towards that mirror, ready to smash it. And, Iron Man actually gets there first. He breaks the mirror, grabs the scabbard, and his armor is instantly transformed into a far more ceremonial look.

Which is when the sky rips open and a giant eyeball shows up.

 

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Wow! Didn’t see that coming, did you? And, sadly, this is not a surprise appearance of Shuma-Gorath, a character I am shocked has never been discussed on this site before. No, this is something else. Something that doesn’t ever get fully explained. But, this is the thing that was causing those weird results at that Stark International satellite, and the whole reason that Doom went on this quest for Excalibur. He knew that this being, which takes the form of a giant humanoid made out of eyeballs, was coming, and had hoped that the combined might of Excalibur and its scabbard might have been enough for him to vanquish it. But, since that didn’t work out, Doom and Iron Man are forced to join forces and attack the Eyeball Monster together, with their now magically enhanced weaponry.

And, it doesn’t accomplish much. The Eyeball Monster barely seems phased by their attacks, and quickly stops paying attention to them in order to drain the souls out of some passing Scottish people. The Monster then starts marching away from Ballanayr toward the nearest populated city, which causes Doom to start panicking. He tells Iron Man that they have to do everything within their power to stop the creature from reaching the town, and Doom does his best to teach Iron Man how to use his newly found magical powers in as short a time as possible. Doom explains that magical might comes from the mind and willpower, and tells Iron Man to blast the ground around the Eyeball Monster while thinking as hard as possible that it will shatter the ground. And, it works. Iron Man is able to create a small sinkhole that causes the Monster to collapse.

 

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Doctor Doom, being a real spoil-sport, tells Iron Man that this is just going to be a temporary break, which means it’s time for him to finally explain what in the hell is going on. Apparently this being comes from another dimension, and was in possession of a magical tome that Doom was quite interested in, hoping to expand his magical arsenal. So, he stole the tome, and almost immediately earned the ire of this being. It swore to get revenge on Doom, in the form of taking all he possessed. And, since Doom is the monarch of Latveria, that included the souls of all citizens of Latveria. So, he began researching ways to destroy the Eyeball Monster, and found out about the power of holding Excalibur and its scabbard, which started this whole crazy story.

But, thanks to Iron Man, that plan has now gone out the window. And, as the two men stand there, trying to come up with a new game plan, the Eyeball Monster starts dragging itself out of the hole, ready to cause some havoc. But, to their surprise, the Monster starts lumbering off to the North, even though Latveria is to the South. Which, makes Doom remember something important. See, Doctor Doom once successfully pulled off a scheme that made himself Emperor of the entire Earth. Which, I’ll talk about someday. But, this little footnote of canon makes Doom realize that the Eyeball Monster is operating under the understanding that every person on Earth belongs to Doom, and is thereby fair game to eat. So, things look a little dire. But, as they stand there, flabbergasted at what they should do, they get a surprise visit from Merlin once more. He explains to them that the only way to stop the creature is to put Excalibur and the scabbard together. Which, does raise a bit of an issue.

 

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So, yeah. The only way to save the entire planet from a horrible eldritch monster that is only on Earth because Doctor Doom is an asshole seems to be for Doctor Doom to straight up murder Iron Man. Which, is less than ideal. Iron Man stands there in stunned silence for a moment, running all sorts of scenarios through his head. But, he eventually realizes that this is what he needs to do. So, he accepts his fate, and tells Doom and Merlin that he’s made his decision. He’s going to allow Doom to run him through with Excalibur, thus giving Doctor Doom near unlimited power to kill the Monster. So, Doom lifts Excalibur high above his head, tells Iron Man he’s sort of impressed by his self-sacrifice, and promptly stabs Iron Man in the chest.

Which, does nothing. Doom and Iron Man are pretty confused by this, but Merlin drops another magic lesson on them, reminding everyone magic works by belief and willpower. So, this ceremony will only work if Iron Man fully believes in the magic involved. But, it goes against everything Iron Man believes. However, he decides to start thinking about Doom, and the way that he balances a life of science and magic, and figures that Doom knows what he’s talking about. So, Iron Man accepts another stabbing, and this time it does something. The sword pierces Iron Man’s arc reactor, causing a storm of magical energy to blast forward from him, melting the Eyeball Monster. It’s reduced to a steaming pile of protoplasm, and Iron Man and Doom find themselves alive and well. And in their classic armor. Neither of them have any wounds, and seem completely fine. Oh, and Merlin has Excalibur and the scabbard in his possession, flat-out explaining to them that he doesn’t trust either of them to hold onto it. He also hits them both with a spell that will wipe all memory of this adventure from their minds, before vanishing. Doom and Iron Man then went their separate ways, both quickly forgetting this insane journey. Well, except Tony, who is still in his office watching the footage from his suit, remembering the whole thing. It obviously freaks him out, learning about the power of Excalibur, how close the world came to ending, and the fact that the magical sword is sitting at the bottom of a lake waiting for someone to wield it. So, to feel a little more secure in the world, Tony Stark buys the land that the Lake of the Lady is on, and builds a shopping mall over it, keeping the Lake and the Sword hidden for a hundred years, when he and Doom will next travel to Camelot.

 

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I may never understand why writer David Michelinie decided to tell three separate stories, over several decades, about Iron Man and Doctor Doom getting involved in increasingly insane and elaborate plots involving King Arthur and Camelot, but I am so happy that he did. It makes a whole lot of sense that Iron Man and Doctor Doom would work well together, both being men of science who wear convoluted suits of armor, but I feel like that dynamic isn’t often explored enough. Other than the strange inclination in recent years to have Doom become a surrogate Iron Man…which never really worked that well, to me at least. But, for whatever reason, we don’t get to see Iron Man and Doctor Doom dealing with each other too often, outside of these little forays into Camelot lore. Which, is still pretty fantastic. I mean, three times we were given these utterly bizarre stories, and I couldn’t be happier. They somehow got weirder and weirder as time went on, culminating in this fascinating little piece of comics. It really is everything I could hope from a weird Doctor Doom story. He gets to deal with a hero moping up a problem that he himself caused, one that’s based on incredibly pedantic continuity, and that requires Doom and the hero to join forces against both of their common foe. That’s a golden formula. But, what makes this story so wonderful is the insane details that Michelinie put in. I mean, this story takes Doom and Iron Man to Hell, involved a monster made of eyeballs, featured Merlin wearing some sort of Oktoberfest outfit, and required some basic knowledge of the wonderfully weird Emperor Doom graphic novel. All while getting into the sticky world of Marvel magic, and the way that Doom manages to juggle his love of science and his faith in magic. It’s stories like this that remind me why I love comics. It’s just a shame they can’t all be this wild.

 

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom was written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, penciled by Ron Lim, inked by Bob Layton, colored by Moose Baumann and Chris Sotomayor, and lettered by Artmonkeys Studio, 2008.

 

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