Friday, March 1, 2019

The Man And The Monarch!

The Stan Lee Meets... series from 2006 was, in Marvel's promotional words, "a series of stand-alone specials celebrating the 65th Anniversary of Stan Lee's employment at Marvel!" Perhaps "association with" should be substituted for "employment at," since I'm not sure if Stan was actually drawing a paycheck from Marvel Comics for 65 years (though feel free to fact-check me on that); nevertheless, the series was a nice set of stories that gave readers one of their last looks at Stan's wise-cracking style of relating to (and, in this case, interacting with) Marvel's characters. We've already seen that style on display to some degree in the Doctor Strange and Silver Surfer installments of the series--yet with Doctor Doom having been featured prominently in the PPC as of late, it seemed appropriate* to give the man his due with "The Man."

*In fact I'd almost use the word "urgent." I can't explain this sudden anxiety I feel on the matter--but, judging by the limo with Latverian plates that's been passing in front of my home recently, I can't shake the feeling that a certain doctor feels that I've waited too long as it is.

These "meet and greet" stories are really more like brief chats between Lee and his host, which seems to be intentional in order to avoid saddling him with a full issue of scripting in what amounts to a six-issue commitment; consequently, there are other segments in these issues scripted by other writers, but which still provide the full flavor of Lee's presence as he takes us through different avenues of Marvel and its characters. In this particular issue, for instance, Lee is there as a character in his own right, as he defends his treatment of Doom in past stories; yet in the story that follows, Lee is still present (in a manner of speaking) as writer Jeph Loeb follows up on Doom in the aftermath of his battle with the Thing during the time that he'd seized the Baxter Building.

But we begin, of course, with Lee's personal meeting with Doom, at the, uh, request of a representative from Doom's court who shows up on Lee's doorstep and doesn't take no for an answer. The next thing Lee knows, he's halfway across the world standing in front of a most imposing edifice, and its even more imposing master.

The premise of Doom's summons is that he's seeking justification on why he's often widely regarded as a despot--specifically, in the comic books that Lee portrays him in. And for answers, he's come right to the source.

Lee takes certain liberties (and if he can't, who can) with the manner in which he himself has previously portrayed Doom, the country he rules, and his subjects--all for the sake of the all-in-good-fun overtone which pervades these segments. For instance, no travel agent in their right mind would recommend Latveria as a destination for their clientele; on the contrary, they'd issue a travel advisory at the very least. (On the other hand, I can see Doom making a pitch for Latveria being a potential site for the Winter Olympics, if only to maintain his country's facade as a benevolent locale and a model kingdom.) Doom would also never label himself a tyrant, or admit to uprisings among his subjects; in fact, taking into account his tendency to make an example of dissenters in addition to insisting that his subjects always give the appearance of contentment and happiness, it's hard to imagine uprisings taking place at all. In addition, Doom's manner of speech here often strays from the formal, calculated manner in which he addresses those before him and instead adopts the casual style that Lee himself exhibits--though given Lee's tendency to embellish, that's not altogether a surprise.

A second story in the issue, scriped by Loeb, takes things a little more seriously--joining Doom upon his return to Latveria following a conflict with the Fantastic Four that nearly shuttered him in his castle for good.

If you've received the impression here that Ben Grimm made the decision to return to his existence as the Thing out of a sense of heroics and his wish to protect his teammates, you're seeing one of Loeb's own embellishments of that particular scene, as Lee himself would probably attest to.

Yet for "the rest of the story," as the title proclaims, our focus is solely on Doom, as his faithful retainer, Boris, discovers the severity of Doom's injuries from the Thing's attack and takes the opportunity to implore his friend to desist from his continuing vendetta against the Fantastic Four.

Boris walks a virtual tightrope in terms of the words that he must choose and the tone he adopts in pursuing this subject with his master, particularly in the frame of mind that Doom must be in so soon after such a defeat. It is at the same time Boris's best chance to reach Doom on the matter as well as a topic that could be worth his life should he press too hard. Yet Boris is the one man who can be blunt with Doom, though he combines that level of frankness with his usual deference, along with the advantage that he's known Doom long enough to be in perfect tune with his moods and the way his mind works.  Here, his points are well-made, his arguments convincing enough to perhaps have the desired effect at last.

It is of course Doom's decision to make--and we discover that the well-meaning Boris has only provided Doom with the means to reject any notion of forswearing the enmity he feels toward Reed Richards and those who stand with him.

There's a twist to this ending which I won't spoil for you; but rest assured that Lee's presence plays a part in how Loeb's short story is resolved. (And under the circumstances, you can bet that Lee would only trust the reader to know the details.)


Big Murr said...

Just a general appreciation of your effort, CF!

I do not always have something especially coherent to offer as a full comment. I truly wish Blogger had some social media-esque "tip of the hat" button where a guy could acknowledge the post.

I hope the inner workings of Blogger are at least telling you that visitors are walking thru the door!

Anonymous said...

I concur!
I don't always pause to spray my "wit and wisdom" around the comment section like the mutant skunk I am, but I always do check in.


Comicsfan said...

Thank you, gentlemen, it's appreciated!

Unknown said...

And aside from the last 3 images posted, all art, which Stan's career relied upon, was a gazillion times better than the tumblrina crap of today's 'Bullpen'.

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