It’s Time for Doctor Doom in the MCU

Brian Campbell
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel MCU
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Thanks to the recent announcement of a merger between Disney and Fox, The Fantastic Four will inevitably make their MCU debut. They’ll bring with them arguably the greatest supervillain in comics — Doctor Doom. In years prior, such news would’ve caused fans apprehension, and rightly so. Many of the MCU’s past villains have been fairly one-dimensional. It would be disappointing to see a villain with Doom’s gravitas fall victim to the same trap. Luckily, Marvel has finally produced somoe solid villains of late — most notably, Black Panther‘s Erik Killmonger — proving that they are ready to take on complex villains like Doctor Doom.

Paving the Way

(Left): Michael B. Jordan as Erik Kilmonger in Black Panther (2018); (Right): Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four (2005)

Over time, we’ve seen the MCU improve its rogues’ gallery. Characters like Loki in The Avengers and Adrian Toomes in Spider-Man: Homecoming break the bland, one-dimensional mold of villains seeking wealth or power. Loki seeks to give mankind the enslavement they crave and deserve, whereas Toomes just wants to support his family. With Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, the MCU really hit the mark. Never have we had such a multi-layered and relatable MCU villain.

A comparison of Killmonger and Doom illustrates the richness of Marvel’s villains. On the surface, they are on opposite ends of the villain spectrum. Killmonger’s motives illicit sympathy while Doom simply relishes being evil. However, a closer look reveals an important connection. Their villainous personas are born from the tragic loss of a parent as a child. Killmonger loses his father, N’Jobu, who promised him a trip to Wakanda. Doom’s mother has her soul stolen by Mephisto. His attempt to recover it literally blows up in his face, leaving it permanently scarred. Not to mention, he also gets expelled from college.

Killmonger has paved the way for Doom. Besides their similar, heartbreaking backstories, both share other important traits like sheer willpower and ruthlessness. Killmonger’s success proves that the MCU is finally ready for higher caliber, more complex villains. Audiences could relate to Killmonger’s fight against the oppression of black people and his anger at Wakanda for abandoning him. His seemingly noble cause gives him an edge over forgettable villains like Malekith. Doom possesses a different sort of edge that’s equally as unique: his intelligence.

A Thinking Person’s Villain

Doctor Doom rides Silver Surfer's board in a scene from Fantastic Four No. 57 (1966)

Doom’s best and deadliest asset is his intellect. It is the nexus where his scientific knowledge combines with his skills as a strategist and puppet master. Doom strategically manipulates events and people like a master chess player. At one point, he even brainwashes the United Nations into declaring him Emperor of Earth and enslaves mankind. He’s that good.

Doom also prioritizes eliminating his adversaries, often using creative methods to deal with them, including planting a fake journal presumably authored by Reed Richards in his belongings. The journal was all part of an elaborate plot to cause discord within The Fantastic Four. Often, Doom is at least three steps ahead of his enemy. Almost every time some do-gooder thinks they’ve defeated Doom for good, it turns out what they actually defeated was one of his highly advanced Doombots. Catching Doom off guard is nearly impossible, as T’Challa learned in the comics.

The Master Tactician

Doctor Doom stands triumphantly over other characters

Doomwar is a prolific example of the magnitude of Doom’s intellect and his skills as a master tactician. The story chronicles Doom’s plot to destroy Wakanda using its most precious resource: vibranium. He first covertly ousts T’Challa from the throne by allying with a rogue faction of Wakandans called the Desturi. With his main obstacle out of the way, Doom steals Wakanda’s entire supply of the metal in hopes of tapping into its mystic powers to upgrade his armor. That’s right, he manages to infiltrate the most advanced and reclusive nation in the Marvel universe and steal its resources.

Even with Shuri, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men at T’Challa’s side, defeating Doom proves to be an insurmountable task. Shuri’s strike teams suffer many casualties while trying to shut down the production factories Doom has set up across the world thanks to his Doombots. Mr. Fantastic and T’Challa hope to locate the stolen vibranium on a quantum level by hooking Deadpool up to the Nowhere Room device. However, Doom uses sensor dampening to prevent them from proving the vibranium is in his castle, leaving the heroes without evidence to take to the World Court.

(Left): Doom finally suffers defeat in the conclusion of Doomwar #6. (Right): The Marvel heroes help Black Panther rebuild Wakanda in the final scene of Doomwar.

To defeat Doom, T’Challa uses creative problem solving that’s on par with Doctor’s Strange use of the Time Stone to defeat Dormammu and Kaecilius. Realizing that physical confrontations won’t work, T’Challa manages to stop Doom from utilizing the vibranium’s power without taking it back. After goading Doom into a fight, T’Challa taps into Doom’s armor and manages to render all the world’s Wakandan vibranium dormant and useless. Even though the victory comes at a temporarily high cost to Wakanda, Doom is finally defeated. Imagine how dramatic this would be on the big screen. It would force T’Challa and team, especially Shuri, to defy our expectations yet again.

The Future Is Diversity

Doctor Doom in his Latverian castle

Fans wonder what the future holds for our heroes after Avengers: Endgame. MCU storytellers would benefit from also considering the future of villainy. It’s important that the MCU continues to build upon this momentum.

Diversity has served the heroes well and will be key for the villains moving forward. Diversity can take on many forms, and it’s important that we get it in both appearance and character types. The MCU needs to continue pursuing villains with sympathetic motives like Killmonger. However, intellectually challenging villains, like Doom, are also essential. These are the kinds of characters who can shake things up, giving us more than monotonous fisticuffs showdowns. Both types of these villains (and many more) exist in the comics. Marvel simply has to dust them off and give them a chance. Doing so will ensure the MCU is as creative with its villains as it is with its heroes.

Brian Campbell
Mild-mannered working professional by day, epic purveyor of pop culture by night! I have a wide array of interests across several fandoms, including film, television, music, and literature. I look to offer my unique perspective on any topic in an entertaining and insightful fashion.
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