By: Gary Webb
Well, they did it. Earlier today we got word that Disney has come to terms with FOX on a deal that will fundamentally change the landscape of the entertainment we consume via both cinema and television viewing. Disney who already controlled a staggering percentage of box office receipts has gained the rights to a number of FOX’s assets which, if it was ever in question, clearly puts Disney in a position of market dominance the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the MGM of the 30’s. That’s just looking at it from a movie-goer perspective, once you factor in the television production capabilities, the non-network channel line-up and gaining a controlling interest in streaming service HULU,; it becomes clear as to how all encompassing this deal is. The status quo has definitely shifted. This, however, is “The Comic Panel”, so now that I’ve dealt with the basic details it’s time to dive into the part that has all of geekdom paying attention. The House of Mouse has secured what many consider the final piece of the intricate puzzle the House of Ideas has been working on for almost 10 years: Marvel has the rights to the “First Family” of the Marvel Universe the Fantastic Four and the pillar that carried them throughout a large portion of the last forty years the X-Men.
I already talked about how Marvel built it’s unprecedented cinematic universe without some of the key cogs in the Marvel machine in “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been “ in an earlier post on this very site. Let’s face it the thought of seeing Reed Richards working with Tony Stark to solve problems (which doesn’t always end well as the comics have shown), Wolverine running alongside the Avenger (as he’s done for almost 10 years at this point), to seeing a knockdown drag out fight between the Hulk and the ever loving blue-eyed Thing is enough to send us all into cackling fits of glee. But while an Avengers vs X-Men movie (a 2012 mega crossover) is appealing, and the ability to tie Galactus and the Silver Surfer into the cosmic stories Marvel is expanding on with Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Infinity War, and the forthcoming Captain Marvel, I’m of the belief that those are not the true jewel in Marvel’s Crown (or Gauntlet as the case may be). It all boils down to the nastiest four letter word in all of Marvel, Doom.
When you look at the MCU as a whole, one of the most common complaints aimed at it are the less than compelling villains. With the obvious exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, for the most part the MCU’s villains have been fairly flat and poorly developed. Part of the problem is, of course, the fact that once you do the hero’s story and the inevitable laying of groundwork for the future, theres only so much movie left to go around. Even those with glimpses of greatness like the Red Skull are hampered by the fact that each villain exists as a foil to his respective hero. In the standard set-up of a trilogy of movies for each hero, in order to hit all the beats you want to with a character you’re kind of forced to move on with each subsequent release. There’s A LOT of history in these characters but due to increasing age and salaries there’s only so much time to realistically tell these tales.
But Doctor Doom is a slightly different story. While yes, Victor Von Doom will always be inextricably linked with Reed Richards, he has proven time and time again that, like Thanos, he’s a worthy opponent for literally the whole universe. At first glance he can come across as an Iron Man with a strong “Man in the Iron Mask” vibe going on but that’s a gross understatement. His armor trumps Stark’s, he’s intellectually as smart as Reed Richards (therefore in the top 4 smartest people in the world), and if that wasn’t enough he studied the mystic arts in order to free his mother’s soul from the devil and so is only slightly behind Dr. Strange as far as magical power as well. That’s just the everday Doom the Fantastic Four have to deal with. At various points throughout the last 50+ years, combining his science and sorcery, Doom has achieved power on par with the Infinity Stones themselves. Whether it was siphoning the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer, or stealing the power of the reality manipulating Beyonder, Doom consistently redefined the limits to which a man could aspire. In such times as these it requires the cooperation of all Earth’s Champions to stop him.
So, having established that on a pure power level he could be a force in the MCU, the other half of the equation that would justify his spot is the complex nature of his character. While initially limited to wanting revenge on Richards for his perceived fault in the accident that scarred his face and wanting to expand his control from just the nation of Latveria to encompass the whole world, Doom’s motivations and desires have been expounded upon over the years. Outside of the misguided attempt to confront Mephisto for his mother’s soul, Doom has been known to work for the common good upon occasion. His attempt to take over the world can be directly tied to his belief that the world would be a better place with him in charge. Even in 2015’s “Secret Wars” (another instance of Doom absorbing power, this time that of all the Beyonders), when Doom wrested control of the universe, he did so in an attempt to salvage what he could of a failing reality. Following recent events Doom, motivated from both the repercussions of Secret Wars and inspired by the memory of Tony Stark, has even taken on the mantle of Iron Man in an attempt to atone for past sins.
Taking all of that into account, I’m very excited to see how this will all play out on screen. I fully believe that the “right” Doctor Doom could be both Loki and Thanos to the MCU going forward. Despite already having appeared in three movies, neither portrayal gave us a definitive version of the character. With a new take on the character, there’s nothing to keep them from using him in a couple F4 movies, a major Infinity War-like crossover, then have a changed man become the Infamous Iron Man, thus giving us a villain with a true journey that we’ve shared while at the same time getting past the whole, “how do you recast Robert Downey Jr.” question.
This early into the deal, obviously we don’t have any indication as to how this will all shake out, but the possibilities are fascinating. I made the case for whom I most strongly feel could impact the whole universe but of course this is just one aspect of the potential rewards from this acquisition. The storytelling possibilities are endless and unfortunately it may be quite a while before we see any ramifications from it. I know I’ll be right here, eagerly following the road Kevin Feige and company lead me down, but I know I’m not alone…isn’t everyone dying to see Wolverine go to “claw-city” with The Hulk?