Doctor Doom - the comic book history Marvel Studios needs to embrace

Doctor Doom #10 cover excerpt
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

There are always high-profile rumors circulating about which actors and which characters may join the MCU next, and the latest round of speculation has centered on where and when Doctor Doom, the arch-enemy of the Fantastic Four, will make his MCU debut.

Many fans speculated that Doom could appear in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, but now that the film is in theaters we know that's not the case.

Still, Doom is one of the oldest and most iconic supervillains in the Marvel Universe, so it's only natural to start questioning how he might come to the MCU in the lead-up to the 2025 Fantastic Four movie.

But if Marvel Studios really wants to get Doom right and do justice to one of the most popular and striking characters in Marvel history, they'll do what no movie adaptation of Doom has done yet and stick to his comic book history.

And what exactly is Doctor Doom's history in comic books? Here's everything you need to know about Doctor Doom - including what Marvel Studios needs to get right to have the perfect big-screen Doctor Doom.

Who is Doctor Doom?

Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Doctor Doom is one of Marvel's oldest supervillains, debuting all the way back in 1962's Fantastic Four #5 - meaning he's 60 years old this year. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Doctor Doom isn't the first Marvel supervillain, but he is just about the first major A-list villain in the Marvel Universe.

Trying to sum up everything Doctor Doom has ever done in the Marvel Universe would be almost impossible in a concise amount of time. 

But there are a few key things that are important to know about who Doom is, what he's done in the Marvel Universe, and exactly why he's considered not just one of Marvel's most enduring villains, but one of its most iconic characters overall - and which are illustrative of exactly what Doom needs to really work and fill the important role he fills in comics on the big screen.

Born Victor Von Doom, the good (er, bad?) Doctor was once the college roommate of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Though he was a brilliant scientist working on a machine to contact the spirit of his dead mother, Richards noticed flaws in Doom's calculations, warning him to revisit his work before using the machine.

Haughty with pride and arrogance, Doom ignored Richards' warnings, turning on the machine.

It ran for exactly 2 minutes and 37 seconds before backfiring, causing the machine to explode. Doom's face was mildly scarred, but his ego was damaged seemingly beyond repair.

Blaming Richards for his failure, Doom returned to his native Latveria, dedicating himself to reclaiming the small nation's throne as its rightful ancestral monarch.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Leaning into his Latverian Roma heritage, Doom began studying magic and sorcery alongside mastering numerous disciplines of super-science, building a level of proficiency in both science and magic that has led to him being labeled both the smartest person in the Marvel Universe and one of the most powerful magic users in the core Marvel reality (though these descriptors have waxed and waned over the years).

To complete his transformation from arrogant student to armored dictator, Doom traveled to Tibet where he met with a group of monks who forged his iconic iron mask. 

Though the mask was originally intended to hide only the small scars caused by the explosion of his machine, Doom couldn't wait to put the red hot mask on his face the instant it was done being forged, causing massive burns that caused his face to become as hideously scarred as Doom's vanity already made him believe it had been.

As a result, the true face of Doom remained a mystery in Marvel Comics for decades, with his pre-scarring face revealed in the original 1985 Secret Wars event, and several subsequent stories showing both his scarred face and his unscarred face in recent years.

Through it all, Doom harbored an unrelenting hatred of Reed Richards, who he blamed for his machine's failure (even though all Reed did was point out the mistake that Doom himself made).

As a result, his main role since has been as an antagonist both of the Fantastic Four, and for the wider Marvel Universe - though he's also technically been a straight-up hero from time to time.

But even with his dalliances as a hero, Doom's arrogance and haughty nature always come through - and he almost always goes back to being more of a menace than an ally to the wider Marvel Universe.

Doctor Doom in the Marvel Universe

Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As we said, Doctor Doom's history in the Marvel Universe is extensive - he's fought everyone from his arch-foes the Fantastic Four, to Spider-Man, the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, the X-Men, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and just about everyone else in the Marvel Universe you can think of.

But it all comes back to his relationship with the Fantastic Four, and specifically Reed Richards. Doom has challenged the FF countless times, even coming close to destroying them on several occasions. And what's more, he's actually switched sides and joined their ranks from time to time, and even helped save the lives of Reed and Sue Richards' children.

In fact, he's actually Reed and Sue's daughter Valeria's godfather and sometimes mentor, guiding her in the ways of super science - sometimes behind her father's back.

With six decades in the Marvel Universe, it's hard to run down every single thing Doom has done - especially since there are times when it's been revealed that the 'Doom' taking the actions was actually an out-of-control Doombot, one of Doom's robot doppelgangers, who are meant to not just replace him in his absences but to genuinely believe they're the actual, original Doctor Doom when active. 

That said, here are a few of Doom's 'greatest hits,' so to speak - including some of the exploits most likely to be adapted into the MCU.

For starters, he's often teamed up with other villains - notably Namor, the Sub-Mariner, in times when he's been more antagonist than anti-hero, all the way back to some of both characters' earliest appearances in the Marvel Universe (not counting Namor's '40s adventures that were later grandfathered into Marvel continuity).

In relation to other FF villains, he once managed to steal the Power Cosmic from Galactus' herald the Silver Surfer, nearly becoming all-powerful in the process.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

He also has a long history with Doctor Strange, including the story 'Triumph and Torment' in which Doom and Strange venture into Hell itself - where Doom manages to outwit the devilish Mephisto into making a losing bargain.

Then of course there's his history with time travel. In the Marvel Universe, Doom is actually considered the inventor of the first time machine, his Time Platform - a machine which was adapted by his descendant Kang the Conqueror into his own all-powerful time travel technology.

That leads right into Doom's relationship with Iron Man. Along with the similarity of both Doom and Iron Man both wearing high-tech suits of armor loaded with gadgets, the pair have actually time traveled together to the Medieval era multiple times. 

And once, when Tony Stark was dead (he got better, comics are like that) Doom took up the mantle of Iron Man himself as the Infamous Iron Man.

Perhaps Doom's biggest moment is actually two-fold. Doom is a central character in both the original 1985 Secret Wars and its 2015 sequel, also called Secret Wars.

In the original Secret Wars, Doom is the leader of the villain faction, eventually using the reality-warping power of fellow FF villain the Molecule Man to seize the power of the omnipotent Beyonder (Doom has a habit of stealing cosmic power), nearly creating his own reality before being betrayed by the Molecule Man.

In the 2015 Secret Wars, Doom discovers a plot of the race known as the Beyonders to destroy the entire Multiverse through Incursions (in which two realities collide), using the power of the Molecule Man once again to save a portion of the Multiverse, creating his own stitched-together reality known as Battleworld.

More recently, Doom had a brief stint on the Guardians of the Galaxy while teaming up to combat a massive existential cosmic threat. But in current Avengers comics, Doom has returned to his straight-up villainous ways, assembling a whole Masters of Evil team made up in part of versions of himself from around the Multiverse.

That conflict between Doom and the Avengers forms the basis of the upcoming Avengers Assemble crossover, which brings together every Avenger ever in a story that will mark the end of writer Jason Aaron's years-long stint as the writer of Avengers.

Doctor Doom in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Doctor Doom hasn't actually been officially announced for the MCU yet. But with a Fantastic Four movie officially now on the schedule with a director attached, it's a safe bet Marvel Studios won't hesitate to take the opportunity to do right by one of Marvel's most iconic characters in a way other FF movie adaptations haven't managed.

There are plenty of rumors about who might play Doctor Doom in the MCU, or where he may appear outside of a likely inclusion in the Fantastic Four movie. But until Marvel Studios actually announces something, it's all merely speculation.

For now, what we can say definitively is that Marvel Studios has a chance to nail their portrayal of Doctor Doom - a villain who has made it to the movies twice in previous non-MCU franchise attempts, and who was a far cry from anything like the Doctor Doom fans know and love (and maybe fear a little bit) both times.

First and foremost, Doom should show up fully formed. No long, complex origin story needed. That's how he first appeared in comics, as the armored dictator of Latveria, fully prepared to menace the Marvel Universe.

Speaking of which, that means nailing not just Doom's armor and especially his mask, but his overall look. After a decade of Iron Man, Marvel Studios are basically experts at putting people in armor, so we have confidence it'll get that part right. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

But Doom's costume is so striking and iconic that he's basically gone unaltered for 60 years now. So if Marvel Studios can embrace the simplicity of his green cloak and tunic and get the mask exactly right, it should be a slam dunk to take Doom almost straight off the page to the screen.

And there's one more key component in that.

We’re seemingly entering a renewed age of MCU villains with the popularity of Tenoch Huerta's Namor ahead of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the rise of Jonathan Majors' Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, as well as the return of the Leader and the casting of Harrison Ford as General-Secretary of State Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross (replacing the late William Hurt) in Captain America: New World Order - all of which signal that Marvel is looking for villains who can match its heroes the way Thanos once did.

Which is the key to Doom's success. Like we've said over and over, Doom's history in the Marvel Universe is deep and extensive, and he's much more than a simple one-and-done villain. There's a certain code of honor in Doom's villainy that belies his occasionally heroic nature. He's not just a guy who hates Reed Richards - he has larger goals that he considers noble ends for mankind.

That means the biggest key to Doom's success in the MCU will likely be whether he gets room to breathe and develop across multiple appearances, as he always has in comics - in other words, whether he's treated like a supporting character as much as a villain.

And that seems like a strong possibility. With Avengers: Secret Wars set to cap off the current 'Multiverse Saga' of the MCU, we have to guess that Marvel is setting up Doom as the antagonist of the story, whichever version of Secret Wars they adapt, as he was central to both.

With all of that in play, Marvel could absolutely have the next Thanos on their hands in Doom - a recurring, prestige role for an actor who can handle not just Doctor Doom as a villain, but as a complex moral being who doesn't always have purely evil motivations.

Here's hoping that when Doom finally arrives, Marvel Studios nails it.

Doctor Doom tops the lists of both the best Fantastic Four villains ever, and the best Marvel Comics villains ever.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)