What If... the Fantastic Four Battled Doctor Doom Before They Got Their Powers?

Or What if Marvel Comics had started a few years earlier? After a couple of issues I felt less than enthusiastic about, it was nice to sit down with a more fondly remembered story, written and drawn by people I liked - in this case, Dwayne McDuffie and Luke McDonnell. It's really fun to see the FF a few years before their famous space flight too: Reed as a young genius, Sue convinced he's the man she will marry, Ben the college best friend, and Johnny, the little kid with the remote controlled miniature fantasticar. So without further ado...

What If vol.2 #18 (October 1990)
Based on: Fantastic Four #5
The true history: In college, Victor Von Doom built a machine with which to contact the soul of his mother trapped in Hell. The experiment went wrong, and though Reed Richards saved Doom's life by interrupting it, Doom still blamed him for his mother's continued stay in the bad place. Doom was expelled from the university (so where did he get his doctorate?), went on a pilgrimage to Tibet to master the mystic arts. He would later use both magic and science against the Fantastic Four.
Turning point: What if Doctor Doom wasn't expelled from university?
Story type: Momentary difference
Watcher's mood: Dreaming of Bela Lugosi
Altered history: But what if Doom wasn't expelled, stayed on, nursing his grudge against Reed Richards until he got his diploma?
Sometime after graduation, while Reed is boarding at Sue and Johnny's aunt's and working on space portals in his room, two college chums come to visit. One is Ben Grimm, the other Von Doom. Ben's there to take Reed out to some jazz clubs, but Doom wants the warp projector thingie so he can open a portal to Hell again. When the gang discovers the theft, Reed activates the projector from afar to follow its unique energy signature, but Doom doesn't care.
It basically leads to Ben Grimm fighting primitive Doombots!
And yes, he does say "It's clobberin' time", and Sue gets by a trap unnoticed, and Johnny flies his toy in circles around the 'bots. They had already found their niches. But the robots and traps were just a distraction while Doom opened the portal, and there was his mother, surrounded by demons! Well, things go wrong almost immediately as Doom is knocked out and the portal tries to suck our world in. Reed notices that a piece of paper inside Doom's pentacle isn't being affected, so they use the 5-point star as a refuge. The next plan falls in the "it's so crazy, it just might work" category. Sue's lipstick + Johnny's toy fantasticar = instant pentacle around the warp projector.
The warp fizzles, Hell goes back to Hell, and Mrs. Doom goes "noooooooooooooooo". But wait, the projector was now the only thing sucked into Hell and Reed has the remote. He activates it from across the dimensions (funny, my remote control won't work if the cat sits in front of it), and brings Doom's mother back!
And you know what? It doesn't matter one jot. Reed improvising a solution to something Doom had failed to do for years just embittered him further. And when the gang became the Fantastic Four, there was Doom, up to his old tricks. He had his mom back, sure, but you've got to leave home sometime. Especially if you have a kickass powered armor.
Books canceled as a result: None.
These things happen: In the graphic novel Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange: Triumph and Torment, Mephisto allowed the soul of Cynthia Von Doom (really?! a Latverian gypsy sorceress called CYNTHIA?!) to ascend to a higher plane due to the machinations of Doom and Strange.

Next week: What if the Vision Had Conquered the World?
My guess: He didn't mean to! Boy, is his face red!


Anonymous said...

So at least in this world Doom deserves being a doctor.


Bill D. said...

I collected What If Vol. 2 right up through Timequake, and even with as many bad issues as that meant... this was the one I could never get through. Something about it always just turned me off completely before I could even get 10 pages in, no matter how many times I attempted it.

Siskoid said...

The rough and dirty art?

De said...

I liked the moody art in this one quite a bit. It had sort of a Simonson-Mignola feel to it.

chiasaur11 said...

So, uh, you heard McDuffie died today, right?

Man. See stuff like this, and it stings all the more.

Siskoid said...

Yes, I wrote something about it for tomorrow's posts.


Siskoid said...

We're years later, and I'm searching Facebook and come upon Dwayne McDuffie himself posting a very nice comment about this article on the day it went up, and 3 days before his untimely death.

It's a little shocking. I'm not going to sleep well tonight. Still one of the greats. We, his readers, miss him.


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