Friday, February 15, 2019

Gene Colan's Dr. Doom: The Living Prison!

Having looked at artist Gene Colan's work with Doctor Doom from 1971 as it appeared in Astonishing Tales, followed by a three-part Sub-Mariner story from 1972 where Doom came into conflict with M.O.D.O.K., we now circle back to 1968 to find Colan's earliest work with the Master of Menace. We haven't seen Daredevil clash with Doom since their meeting during the so-called Battle of the Baxter Building--but here, writer Stan Lee has something completely different in mind (a pun which will become clear in a moment), as Doom devises his latest plot to gain revenge on the Fantastic Four.

By this time, Colan has drawn the Daredevil title for nearly a year and a half and succeeded in putting his distinctive stamp on the character, so there couldn't be a better time to witness his treatment of the fighting styles of both DD and Doom in a second meeting. But without spoiling things too much, you shouldn't expect a knock-down drag-out between them, since we wouldn't exactly be witnessing a battle of equals; in fact, the graphic we see here by Colan of the two duking it out (well, one of them is) speaks volumes as to which of them has the greater likelihood of prevailing. Yet there's enough novelty in Lee's approach to satisfy the reader and at least keep things interesting, though the most action that "Doom" will see is in battling his own henchmen.

To bring us up to speed as to the circumstances which bring Doom and DD together, let's have a quick recap of the events that led us up to this point:

  • The Trapster launches his own scheme of revenge against the FF--but first he has to regain his confidence, by seeking out and killing a hero he considers to be far less trouble (i.e., Daredevil).
  • With the help of a few of the Wizard's anti-gravity discs, the Trapster pastes a number of them on DD, sending him soaring into the sky and to his eventual death. Yet the Trapster's trademark super-paste is usually only as super as the writer allows--and DD manages to dislodge and discard all but the single disc he needs to retain on his person in order to descend back to Earth safely. (Tsk. Time was when one disc would have done the job, Wiz.)
  • DD returns in time to foil the Trapster's plans for the FF, but the wily villain manages to give DD a run for his money before he's finally brought down in a railway station.
  • Unfortunately, in trying to prevent serious injury to the Trapster, DD wrenches his back. And though the Trapster is taken into custody by the police and carted off to jail, amazingly no one stays to assist the injured DD.

But look who does show up to take care of him.

And while right away it does look like the start of a knock-down drag-out between Doom and DD, that description generally refers to a fight that goes the distance; in this case, however, the fight is all too brief, thanks to DD's timely injury. Yet the real hook of the scene isn't so much the beating that Daredevil takes--rather, you have to be more than mildly curious as to why in the world Doom has sought him out, and, particularly, why he wants to take him prisoner.

And Doom provides further confusion for his captive when they arrive at the Latverian embassy, including putting him through some hallucinatory trickery with his surroundings that, while not of course affecting him visually as Doom expects, still manages to play havoc with his perceptions.

Eventually, however, Doom is ready to spring his trap and reveal his purpose for abducting Daredevil. For that to happen, he needs to be in proximity to his prisoner, which opens the door to Round Two and a chance for Daredevil to bounce back--but for Doom, all is still proceeding according to plan.

Despite a scheme which has been so intricately executed, right down to the choice of victim, Lee provides us with no inkling as to why Doom feels that his mind being in the body of Daredevil will facilitate his revenge against the FF. Instead, Lee leapfrogs right over those apparently unnecessary details and jumps right to having Doom (now in Daredevil's body) proceed on his way to the Baxter Building on foot, while DD (in Doom's body) is returned to his cell in the embassy. Yet as we'll see, Lee doesn't really need to be concerned with presenting a plan here, since Doom doesn't even make it to FF headquarters. But hold that thought.

Let's return to Daredevil, now cooling his armored heels in his cell.

We have to assume a few things here for the sake of the story: (a) that DD staying put is due to the fact that this cell can withstand any physical force that the real Doom could use to free himself, (b) that it's pointless for DD to attempt to figure out how to use the armor's built-in devices to do so... and, the most unlikely of all, (c) that it never even occurs to DD to try. But he meets with success with a different approach.

Our hired henchmen of course fall for the deception; in fact, they might as well receive billing here, since from here they're almost laughably used as clueless ruffians by both DD and Doom, sent by one to stop the other and then vice versa when Doom (as Daredevil) proves his true identity beyond a doubt and angrily sics them back on the hero. This definitely hasn't been an easy night for them.

Finally, DD is able to confront Doom on the street directly--and while it's easy to assume that he'd make use of Doom's armor to attack Doom in the same way he did his henchmen (which is frankly the direction I was expecting Lee and Colan to take), he instead hands Doom a transistor radio and tells him to tune in the next news broadcast. Doom naturally thinks that Daredevil has gone mad--but Daredevil has devised a way to not only stop Doom but also to ensure that he's returned to his own body.

The gambit succeeds--and just for good measure, DD destroys Doom's body transferral equipment after the process has been reversed, so that it can never be used again.

It's curious that Lee has had Doom resort to technology to pull this plan off, since he'd already provided Doom with the means to accomplish his goal via the technique he learned from the alien Ovoid race:

If I were bucking for a no-prize, I'd offer the explanation that the story in Daredevil made it clear that Doom wished to make the transferral permanent--and we saw in the FF tale that a lapse in Doom's concentration caused the transferral to be reversed. The only way to prevent that from happening would have been if one of the two bodies had died when the transferral was in effect--a situation which actually took place in a later story by John Byrne which saw Doom assuming the guise of the Invincible Man, who confronted the wife of the recently deceased with the tragic truth of the circumstances involving her husband's end.

In a way, Doom can count his blessings that Daredevil outmaneuvered him to have his essence returned to his true body, since during this entire debacle Doom never did realize that Daredevil was blind--instead attributing his heightened senses to DD's costume design. I doubt even Doom's intimidated minions would have wanted to be in the same room with him whenever the moment came when he decided to unmask.

A piece of Colan's original art from 2004,
depicting Daredevil perhaps turning the tables on his situation.

Daredevil #s 37-38

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: John Tartaglione and Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Artie Simek and Sam Rosen


dangermash said...

I look at these Colan panels of Doom and I'm drawn to the cape. Why is he wearing it? Doesn’t it make the fights more difficult? Something that I never thought looking at Kirby art. And that, my friend, is why Gene was the dean.

Comicsfan said...

In terms of Daredevil being trapped in Doom's body, dangermash, fighting with a cape (or with armor!) certainly wouldn't suit his style of acrobatics; but in Doom's case, my guess is that as a rule he doesn't expect to be involved in fisticuffs that often, and so prefers to maintain a regal appearance when dealing with his enemies.

B Smith said...

I recall a letter in a later issue pointing out a fairly major plot point Stan seems to have overlooked - unless I'm mistaken, at no point does Matthew suddenly realise that he can see, nor does von Doom notice that he is now, for all purposes, blind. Nor do they seem to be in any way inconvenienced by this state of affairs.

I daresay Stan had way of weaselling out of it, but it did seem to be a salient point.

Tiboldt said...

This story does seem to be a bit shallow in its treatment of the reality of being Daredevil.

Doom-as-DD would be unexpectedly blind and overwhelmed by the other sensory input he was receiving, something Matt has had years of practice and discipline to control.

On the other hand, DD-as-Doom would suddenly be able to see (to which his reaction is likely to be more than just, 'I can see at last!') but would now be comparatively deaf and numb, especially in that armour.

The main consequence I see of this mind-swap is two non-functional humans virtually catatonic on the floor. Not an interesting story in the short term.

Comicsfan said...

B, I think it's more of a case of Stan not spending more time on those issues, as I think would have been the case had both men not been in the middle of a situation. DD, in fact, does acknowledge that he can see, as the splash page of Part 2 of the story reveals (though opening his eyes to find himself behind bars and in someone else's body couldn't exactly have been a cause for celebration), along with the panels where he's taking out Doom's henchmen (and elsewhere in the story). As for Doom, my closing paragraph mentions how Stan deals with Doom not realizing that DD was blind--something he surely would have, if he had taken a moment to unmask before proceeding to the Baxter Building. (You would think Doom would want to see his brand-new, unravaged face right away, wouldn't you? Maybe he'd previously given orders that all the mirrors in his embassy be removed, which would be in keeping with his character.) In the story, Doom is naturally curious about how DD has managed to sharpen his senses simply by using the costume's eye filters to obscure his normal vision--but he hasn't really put two and two together yet, and for the time being he's content to rely on how DD's senses more than compensate for his eyesight.

Tiboldt, those are good points--though in Doom's case, he's proven his ability to adapt quickly to disorientation in other stories (one instance that comes to mind is when Sue Storm turned him invisible for the first time in order to throw him off his game). I suspect, though, that if he were strolling through, say, Times Square, instead of along streets with litte traffic and in the dead of night, we might have seen more of an effort on his part to retain his focus.

Big Murr said...

At the risk of taking us further away from Gentleman Gene Colan and his work, I have to refer to "Spider-Man_Fantastic Four" #1 (of 4) (2010)

The great little "lost tale" story involves the Sub-Mariner story Comicsfan posted about previously and also has Doom do that mind-switch gimmick, referring to this post with Daredevil.

A dynamite comic where the "black belt" insult and practical joke capability of Spider-Man and the Human Torch save the day!

Comicsfan said...

As well as a hilarious crack about the pogo plane. A nice surprise, Murray, thanks!

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