Cold Comforts at the End of the (616) Universe.
Ever since “Secret Wars” No. 3, where for no narrative reason, Marvel reveals Doctor Doom’s face. it used to be, if a person saw the Doom mask off of his face…either Doom was dead, or that person was very soon to be dead. Let me tell you, for all of the speculation over the years…the “is it a little scar and a lot of vanity, or a really gruesome injury” speculation since 1961 or so…Victor’s face is a mess. It has been pinned down as pretty Epic Level scarring, making Darth Vader (who owes Victor for inventing a ton of his schtick) look like he has it easy.
The protagonist is pretty open minded, but I’m thinking that Victor keeps the mask on in front of her. Take from that sentence whatever you want, True Believers.
This post isn’t just the continued rantings of an English teacher and comics lover about a destroyed plot point, for no reason. It’s not about the plot holes that this produces. It is also not about Isaac Perlmutter’s continued war on Marvel Properties That He Doesn’t Have the Rights To Make Films About. It would be more sarcastic and less somber in artistic tone, there would be a punch line if it were about those things.
Instead…it’s about the narrative point of Marvel’s “Secret Wars” series, and why that’s important in comics. Since that’s the case, I should get to the point, and actually explain it. I’ll do my best to be brief.
Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and executive editor Tom Brevoort confirmed months ago that the eight-issue series “Secret Wars will” represent the end of not only the Ultimate Universe (which we knew was coming, and has been ended like twice already), but also the classic Earth-616 Marvel Universe, effectively ending some fifty plus years of Marvel continuity.
And now…you might be confused. Earth-616?
Yeah. I’ll keep this short, but scholarly. The term Earth-616 was first used in “Rough Justice,” a story credited to both Alan Moore and Alan Davis published in July 1983 by Marvel UK in the anthology comic “The Daredevils.” The term is initially used to differentiate Brian Braddock, the Captain Britain of the regular Marvel Comics universe, from the other members of the Captain Britain Corps, each of which inhabit DIFFERENT parallel universes. The designation was later used by the American branch of Marvel Comics in the “Excalibur” title, which frequently referenced Captain Britain’s early UK-published adventures. This comic was written by Chris Claremont, the guy who pretty much wrote all the X-men stories that you cherish…hence the “whole cloth” adoption of the term by Marvelites.
Despite this, Tom Brevoort (Marvel Executive Editor) had this to say about the beloved term, which also allowed books like the successful “Exiles” to exist:
“I can tell you for sure that those of us actually working on the books virtually never use the term — and I kind of wince inside whenever I hear somebody use it. It just sounds so stupid to my ear, and so counter to the kind of mindset we try to foster in regard to the stories we create and the thinking we try to employ.”
Wow. Harsh, Tom.
Brevoort further elaborated his view at the Secret Wars Kick-Off event: “The Ultimate Universe, the Marvel Universe, they’re going to slap together. Imagine two pizzas: They’re going to combine toppings, some toppings are going to drop off. It’s more than the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, it’s all the universes you can imagine. That is the Marvel Universe going forward; Battleworld is the melting world from which the new Marvel Universe will be fermented; various characters will live their lives, and contend with this new situation, and set up all the building blocks and the bedrock of what the new Marvel Universe will be going forward.”
So…no a reboot of continuity, as Marvel keeps saying…but an attempt to be all things to all fans. Thus far, the “Battleworld” stuff has been okay. Not great, but better than DC’s “Convergence.”
Marvel also took time to develop a plethora of licensed tie-ins for “Secret Wars” as well – Hasbro, Diamond Select, Mighty Fine, Funko, Hot Wheels and Marvel’s game division ar all involved. Nothing says “big deal event” like tons of product. After all, that was the driving force behind the original 1984 “Secret Wars”…in that case, the comic was pushing the toy line, not the other way around.
Also…part of the reason Doom looks sad above…he’s God Emperor (literally, that’s how they write it) of Battleworld, but for licensing reasons, you might not get much Merch about him. Unlike the first “Secret Wars,” where you straight up NEEDED Von Doom.
Despite that snubbing by Corporate, the “iconic”, Doctor Doom is one of the most well-received supervillains of the Marvel universe, as well as one of the most recurring. In his constant battles with heroes and other villains, Doctor Doom has appeared more times than any other villain. The comics site “Panels of Awesome” ranked Doctor Doom as the number one villain in their listing of the top ten villains in comics; Wizard Magazine went a step further by declaring Doctor Doom the fourth greatest villain of all time.
It strikes me that the Marvel Universe is coming to a close…in a very real sense, with Corporate History Rewrites and changes to Marketing, at the same time that significant eras of my own life are coming to a close. Doctor Doom just won’t have that rigorous appearance schedule in Marvel Comics any more, his days as the kind of Top Dog of Supervillainy might be at their end. Marvel says that none of my beloved comics will be “tossed out”, but the very structure that new comics will be based on is directed toward a newer, hipper, younger audience. I’m not good at change, nor at closure, so that’s where the art comes from.
In a very real sense, it is a small matter of time before I don;t get any marvel Comics that I recognize, and I probably won’t be menaced by Doctor Doom any more. During the recent run of the Fantastic Four, he didn’t even appear except in a custody dispute. I never got to draw the protagonist as a member of the FF, in a duel of wits with Marvel’s most well known Bad Guy.
And…I probably won’t, given Marvel’s choices.
Doom is classy though. He has wine with Storm, feasts with Loki, and is usually a pretty elegant host to Sue Richards, not the least of which he successfully delivers her baby, and raises it for a time. In the most recent run, he is given custody of her daughter, and proves to be a pretty decent Dad, as well as run a pretty good Easter European country. It strikes me, with all of that, he would be pretty classy to our hero, in those last lonely moments of the Earth-616 universe, and the Battleworld afterward.
I just wish that they let him keep his mask on.
Next Issue: Giant Monsters from The Adorable Zone! Inking! Plus…the Process!