Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Gentlest of Sovereigns


For a more human perspective (as opposed to gods and space-gods) in Jack Kirby's full-page portraits, we need look no further than to someone whose humanity has been supplanted by the desire for power and the ability to inflict cruelty. No, I'm not speaking about a politician. I'm referring, of course, to our favorite armored doctor:



I never did figure out where Victor Von Doom received his doctorate from. I mean, he was expelled from college, and he'd pretty much had it with school at that point so I doubt he transferred elsewhere. Maybe he felt he had the authority to grant himself an honorary doctorate. You can probably assume I'm not going to argue the point with him.

Because, let's face it, he doesn't seem like he's the type to be reasoned with:



I consider this portrait of Doom by Kirby to be the definitive image of him, since it includes dialog by Stan Lee that brings to the fore the crazed workings of his mind (Doom's, not Lee's) that we've come to enjoy so much. How many rulers extol their virtues for you while holding you at gunpoint? Making Doom the king of his own country (albeit a postage stamp kingdom) was a masterstroke, since it gave him both a power base (complete with diplomatic immunity) as well as a populace that loves him and considers him the most benevolent ruler ever, only because they've been commanded to do so and will suffer the consequences if they don't. The Red Skull wishes he had that kind of characterization.

By the way, when I mentioned Doom's desire for power, I wasn't kidding:



Doom's most successful ploy, up to that point--depriving the Silver Surfer (the Silver Surfer, mind you) of his cosmic power and transferring it to himself. It's not every Latverian who wakes up one morning and cries out a challenge to Galactus--but if anyone would have the armored stones to do it, it's Doom.

This next portrait probably came to mind to me because of the news that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm. Does the image remind you of a certain scene from The Empire Strikes Back? And who better to trump Darth Vader than Doom?



And while Vader has a command center that he makes use of from time to time (especially when he wants to let his head breathe), he's still got nothing on Doom and his famous egg chair:



That's exactly the kind of chair and console I want for my office. I freely admit that.


Kirby's portraits of Doom, paired with Lee's writing, do an exceptional job of demonstrating Doom's ever-changing moods. When he's in the middle of a scheme, he seems to have two sides to him--one of calm calculation and plotting, and another where he struggles to tighten the reins of his control and prevent his plans from unravelling. These two portraits portray each of those sides beautifully:




Finally, there's this exquisite portrait which shows doom finally being able to view the hideous features of his damaged face. Though that doesn't mean Kirby is going to let us see it:



Just who does that artist think he is, not only interrupting Doom's musings but having the impertinence to issue instructions to him? Does he think Doom is going to cut him any slack just because he's painting his portrait?



Being able to look at himself in a mirror is really quite an accomplishment for Doom, given that he's tried before to look at his face but with disastrous results:


In any case, Doom should take comfort in the fact that even fully armored he makes an impressive figure--thanks to Kirby and a collection of full-page portraits that show Doom at his most twisted.



2 comments:

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

Canadian Cal at the Cave of Cool said Doom had a worse success rate than Cobra Commander, who couldn't (laughs) take over an ant hill :D Like Cal, I find this irresistible about Doom- he could take over the world, but always fails. I love this artwork- read that issue where Doom swipes the Surfer's Cosmic power- great stuff!

Comicsfan said...

Unlike Thanos, who seems to almost sabotage his own power plays, Doom makes a great effort to keep the power he's acquired (e.g., his conquest of the Beyonder)--it's just that events often spiral out of his control because, well, he's a madman who's caught up in the moment. With the Beyonder, his reach went well "beyond" his grasp; with his plan to have his cloned "son" succeed him, it was a house of cards that toppled; with his intention to acquire the Cosmic Cube, he pushed on even though to succeed would mean certain death. And so on. Whatever demons drive Doom have made him both a force to be feared and a man forever brooding on his next scheme.

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