Few villains are as iconic as Doctor Doom. The ruler of Latveria's green cloak and metal armor makes for a distinctive visage that would stand out by itself.
What makes him more than just this is the definition and texture his character has received over the course of the many stories he has featured in since his creation in 1962.
He's an antagonist that wields intense power and enacts this not just through his actions, but through his commanding voice - and these are the best Doctor Doom stories that illustrate this.
10. Books of Doom
Being such a prevalent villain since the early days of the Marvel Universe, it can be tricky to get a comprehensive handle on the extent of Doctor Doom's history.
In late 2005 through early 2006, the Ed Brubaker-written Books of Doom consolidated the chapters of his life that preceded the Fantastic Four's arrival. By and large, it's a Cliffs Notes-style telling as Brubaker has a large swathe of time to cover and always keeps things moving from one major event to the next.
The framing sequence for the limited series sees the ruler giving a reflective monologue about his youth. Pablo Raimondi, Mark Farmer, and Brian Reber capture the character in a splash where his visage dominates the perspective. After showing who Doom has become, the creative team flashback to Victor's childhood, letting their lead narrate their journey to becoming the ruler of Latveria.
Final-issue twist aside, the overall experience makes for a uniform and house-style retelling, which makes for a good starting point. By sequencing this period of his history into a trade paperback-length story, it makes the timeline clear while still emphasizing the relationships – his family, early dealings with Reed Richards and Ben Grimm at university, his royal advisor Boris and the rest of his Romani clan – that defined the man that Victor von Doom has become.
9. Degree Absolute/Fall Out
Marvel's sheer frequency of events during the '10s ended up hijacking some of their ongoing series' narratives, though Al Ewing has proven to have a knack for keeping the momentum going and making the most important points relevant to the story he was already telling.
2014's Loki: Agent of Asgard #6 and #7 demonstrate this well. The overall narrative thrust of the series follows Loki's journey to change his destiny and decide his own fate. These issues make Doom a formidable foe for him to face down, as he believes that Loki will bring about the destruction of Latveria in the future. Jorge Coelho and Lee Loughridge handle art duties and their rendering of the desolate landscape where Latveria once stood is cold and harsh.
There are minor references to Magneto, the Red Skull, and the Hatewave, yet Ewing keeps things focused on the trickster god and the ruler of Latveria's showdown.
Doom's power is aptly demonstrated in his ability to weaponize the very concept of stories, not just in how he traps his decided enemy, but recontextualizing existing ideas like the prevalence of Doombots. Even in a supporting role, Doom's character is on full display, both in the possibilities of his achievements and how his hubris can get the better of him.
8. Avengers: The Children's Crusade
Conversely, some books contain stories so big that they manage to feel massive and universe-spanning.
Published between 2010 and 2012, Avengers: The Children's Crusade from Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung is one such limited series. The focus is on two of the Young Avengers; Speed and Wiccan, who might be the reincarnations of the Scarlet Witch's children and they all set off in search for her, finding her in Latveria and set to marry Doom.
Even with the series building off some of the biggest stories of the era like Avengers: Disassembled and House of M, Heinberg and Cheung never get too bogged down in needing to stop and explain all the context. Each issue moves at a breathless pace, with the Young Avengers' understanding of what's happened constantly being reshaped, not to mention the number of Avengers and X-Men that make an appearance at multiple points in the story.
The large cast means that Doom doesn't occupy as much of the spotlight as he does in the other entries on this list, but it does show how well he fits into the Marvel Universe. Even in a series that doesn't feature the Fantastic Four, he makes for a smart and cunning antagonist that keeps our many heroes on their toes.
7. Origin of Doctor Doom/The Final Victory of Doctor Doom
Of course, let's not forget when Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chic Stone and Sam Rosen first defined the character's past. 1964's Fantastic Four Annual #2 was filled to the brim with two stories (as well as a whole host of pin-ups sandwiched between them) the first of which is the titular origin.
Despite some unfortunate slurs, Lee and Kirby paint the picture of a young Victor von Doom, who has already lost his mother – without knowing the true extent of her life – and soon loses his healer father as well, due to the ruling Baron of Latveria's rage regarding their own dying wife. Doom's journey in life eventually leads him to America, where he meets Reed and Ben for the first time, as well the accident that leads him to adopting his iconic armor. Meanwhile, the second story is another of his clashes with the Fantastic Four.
Lee and Kirby's work on Fantastic Four is their imaginative peak, a quality exemplified by the imagination on display throughout. Doom's origin is rich with detail despite running just twelve pages. The genius stroke however comes from how Kirby's perspective choices in the second story avoid showing Doom's face, even when he ultimately unmasks, allowing for the interpretation that it is just a minor imperfection that otherwise sees him remain covered.
6. Fantastic Four: 1234
Across their time playing in both the Marvel and DC sandboxes, Grant Morrison has always proven adept at writing heroes within the broader context of their place in the industry. In 2001, they wrote Fantastic Four: 1234, a four-issue series that treats the Fantastic Four and Doom as locked in the same old battles. Jae Lee and José Villarrubia strike up a melancholic air with their art, in order to capture the sadness of the thematic premise.
Morrison takes Reed out of the equation for much of the narrative. He's off working in the lab, and in that absence, Doom strikes. Not with weapons, but with offers of what Ben, Sue, and Johnny want. Doom starts with Ben, by suggesting that he can turn him human again. Ben accepts, only for the deal to have a monkey's paw-style side-effect, the first step in Doom's attempt to dismantle the family.
With the second issue, a torrential downpour starts up – a motif that fits the dour and downcast mood. Yet even when Reed makes his grand entrance into the story, the creative team doesn't cast aside their grander concerns in order to make him saving the day into a truly triumphant moment. Doom will always find a way to briefly gain the upper hand and Reed will always rise to meet this.
They will be locked in battle in this manner forevermore, all the more tragic for Doom as it means his victories are even more fleeting.
One of the reasons Doom's dynamic with the Fantastic Four is so interesting is the solo vs. family aspect that makes for an involving tension; they always have someone to count on, while he is frequently alone.
In 1983, John Byrne wrote and drew Fantastic Four #258, an interlude in which the team doesn't feature at all; instead focusing entirely on Doom and particularly how he thinks about maintaining his legacy.
This is primarily done via Doom spending time with a young boy called Kristoff, who has become the ruler's ward in the wake of the boy's mother dying, by introducing him to the equally necessary tasks of running calibrations on some Doombots and ruling on his people's disputes. "It is important to me that you know these things," he says to the child. We aren't privy to anything the citizens who have come to be heard have to say; instead the duo's relationship takes focus.
Of course, Kristoff can't fully comprehend everything he's being told, and Doom's rage explodes after one such perceived insult. The cold, reflective metal of his mask is juxtaposed against the fear on the young boy's face, the emotion enhanced by Glynis Wein's hot colors. As much as Doom sees potential in his ward, as a future ruler and an opportunity for found family, Kristoff can't match him in terms of wanting to destroy the Fantastic Four.
Even when Doom has people close to him, he still stands alone in this respect.
Though every now and again, they do work together. One example of this is during Jonathan Hickman's tenure on Fantastic Four and its sister title Future Foundation.
During the War of the Four Cities, it seemed like Doom heroically sacrificed himself to help save the day, but Hickman's final issue - Fantastic Four #611, entitled 'Foundation' – in 2011 brought him back, in addition to revealing how he'd been able to stay alive as well as what he'd been doing to keep himself busy. The story alternates between this unseen period of Doom's life which mirrors the biblical telling of how God created the universe – though it must be said, God never had an Infinity Gauntlet at their disposal – and the present-day efforts of Reed, Nathaniel, and Valeria Richards to rescue him.
It is not necessarily an issue that can be read by itself, as its greatest strengths come from being the culmination to everything Hickman had built up during his time with the characters until that point. Regardless, Ryan Stegman and Paul Mounts' energetic stylings can certainly be appreciated without the wider context of the full run.
From the starkness of how they open the issue through to the more cosmic-scaled pages, there is an abundance of character to be found in their pages and the story culminates in an all-time great Doom line: "I was a god, Valeria. I found it… beneath me." At the time, it seemed this was where Hickman was leaving Doom.
Now, it plays like a hint towards Secret Wars, but more on that later.
3. Under the Skin/Unthinkable
Speaking of Valeria, Doom's relationship with her has gradually become one of the more intriguing qualities of both characters.
Doom helped Sue through childbirth, and in 2003 the consequences of that came home to roost in Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's Unthinkable, the high point of their run. While the arc has been widely celebrated since its release, people often forget the strength of the preceding issue, Fantastic Four #67 or 'Under the Skin,' which adds another wrinkle to the Latverian's backstory – a woman from his youth called Valeria who disappeared years prior – as well as revealing his shift from science to sorcery, setting the stage for his attack in #68-#70 and #500.
Doom goes after the children, with Waid's scripting adopting a horror approach, by communicating with the young Valeria Richards in a way her family can't see and trapping Franklin in hell. Wieringo, working with Karl Kesel, Lary Stucker, and Paul Mounts, is magnificent at character acting; a main proponent of what helps to sell Doom's ruthlessness. The Fantastic Four seem truly shaken up at his attempts to dismantle them as a family unit, like when they realize that something's up with Valeria.
Of course, he also makes sure to deliver on the action when the time comes and the arc more than justifies the build-up to the Fantastic Four going on the offensive. Coupled with Waid's insightful writing on the nature of the family relationship at the core of the Fantastic Four and their one with Doom, it makes for a story that is a grand showdown for the ages - one that also ensures repercussions for the continuing run and the various character dynamics at play.
2. Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
Not all of the original Marvel Graphic Novel line are winners, yet the line is home to classic stories such as The Death of Captain Marvel, God Loves, Man Kills and one of interest to this list – 1989's Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment.
Roger Stern's script finds the two characters summoned to a temple in Indonesia in order to take part in a tournament. Stephen Strange ends up being the victor, becoming Sorcerer Supreme, while Doctor Doom is granted one wish – to free his mother's soul from captivity to a demon. Thus, an unlikely alliance is formed and the pair journey into hell in order to complete the task at hand, coming face-to-face with Mephisto along the way.
The script delves into an aspect of Doom's history which was briefly mentioned by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and finds new depths with which to explore it, as much as he requires Strange's help to an extent, his wish is driven by that strong sense of agency that makes him such an intriguing rogue element.
It's also the best-looking entry on the list, courtesy of Mike Mignola and Mark Badger. They quickly get to setting the moody atmosphere, with an early panel of Doom trekking through harsh conditions. The time spent inside the temple sees them make use of the pitch-black interior, illuminated only by the magic wielded by the various competitors.
Flashbacks are conveyed with a gloomy air and the titular duo's trip to Hell is defined by abstract locales and an explosion of quality that define the intensity of the location. By the end of the story, it does truly feel as if you've been there and back with them.
1. Secret Wars
Not many people get to destroy the Marvel Universe, and sure they didn't stop publishing comics with this, but few pages carry as much gravitas as the one in Secret Wars that reads "Marvel Universe 1961-2015" like a tombstone. The event to end all events comes from Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribić, Ive Svorcina, and Chris Eliopoulos.
It's a direct follow-up on his Avengers and New Avengers runs, which saw the teams fail to stop the universally-destructive Incursions. In the wreckage of everything, Doctor Doom creates Battleworld from the fragments of worlds he could save, the patchwork of which he rules over. It's the story that best shows the sheer power and determination he's capable of. Despite the scope of the grand stakes at play, it ultimately builds to a confrontation between Doom and Reed - a physical one that gradually shifts into a more psychological battle of their minds and ideals.
As the culmination of everything Hickman had done at the House of Ideas up until that point, it functions as a remarkable final thesis on the two of them, as competitors and close-to-equals, a character-focused story even amidst the end of worlds.