How Marvel Can Bring Doctor Doom to the MCU Without the Fantastic Four

In most appearances he ever makes, Doctor Doom is the straightforward antagonist of the story. One of Marvel's first (and iconic) villains -- debuting all the way back in Fantastic Four #4 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby -- Doctor Doom has fought almost every hero in the Marvel pantheon. While the Fantastic Four are his most personal foes, his versatility as a villain has allowed him to come to blows with figures from pretty much every corner of the Marvel Universe.

But there have been some stories where his goals coincide with the efforts of the heroes, setting up unexpected team-ups. One of his most interesting relationships is with Stephen Strange -- aka Doctor Strange, the mystic protector of the Marvel Universe. In fact, the most famous team-up for the pair -- Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola -- is the perfect blueprint for a potential third Doctor Strange film AND Doom's introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Triumph & Torment focuses on the fallout of a mystical challenge to prove who is Sorceror Supreme once and for all. Doctor Strange is victorious, but he's forced to grant a boon to the closest challenger for the title: Doctor Doom. Initially fearful of Doom's intent, Strange is caught off-guard when the Latverian King wants Strange's help in freeing his mother's soul from the grasp of Mephisto. Strange agrees, and the pair decide to venture into hell to try and rescue her. Strange even discovers that Doom never intended to win the contest, but merely to earn a favor from Strange. Departing into the afterlife, the pair are forced to work together to even stand against Mephisto let alone defeat him and free Doom's mother.

While Doctor Doom is this boisterous and self-congratulatory best in Triumph & Torment, the character's one redeeming mission proves to be the heart of the story. Doom has thought three moves ahead at all times, manipulating events and even seemingly betraying Doctor Strange at one point. But it was all a long strategy to catch Mephisto by surprise, allowing his mother to depart hell while finding a loophole to save Strange. But in doing so, Doom seemingly bargains with Mephisto and condemns an innocent man in front of his mother's spirit. Disgusted, she is petrified by Doom, claiming for making this deal, she has no son. Strange eventually frees her from this petrifaction, revealing she's been redeemed and taken to a higher plane of existence -- which burns Mephisto and gives the sorcerers their opening to escape.

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Doom isn't portrayed as the antagonist of Triumph & Torment, a role gleefully taken by Mephisto. Instead, Doom gets to be a genuinely morally complex character -- someone with plenty of pride hiding a scared boy who misses his mother, who finds a way to cheat the devil himself but refuses to learn the lesson from the experience. Doom isn't redeemed in the story, and neither does he seek it. He refuses Doctor  Strange's help once their mission is completed and orders him to leave his presence, as he can no longer use him for anything. Even when all Strange offers is a shoulder to lean on, Doom refuses and commits himself to his lonely existence, content at least with having saved his mother at the cost of her love for him.

If the MCU wants to introduce wide audiences to Doctor Doom, this might be the best way to do it. It keeps Doom as a more morally-flexible character, while still clearly setting up the qualities that make him such a good villain. Proving as adept at magic as Doctor Strange is a great way to set the scale for his power levels -- as well as elevate the status of the Fantastic Four and any other hero who then goes on to defeat him. While it's still a big story, it's a deeply personal one focused largely just on Strange and Doom -- which might be a more contained and tighter dramatic story for Doctor Strange to be featured in following the massive scope of the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

Doom doesn't become a hero by the end of Triumph & Torment but is cemented as one of Marvel's most fascinating figures. It's the perfect way to set up the character as more than just a Fantastic Four villain and help transform him into someone who could potentially surpass Thanos as the MCU's ultimate villain.

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Brandon Zachary (4193 Articles Published)

Brandon Zachary is an Associate Writer with Comic Book Resources and has written for CBR since 2018. He covers breakouts on comics, film, television, video games, and anime. He also conducts industry interviews, is a Rotten Tomatoes certified film critic, and knows SO MUCH about the X-Men. For requests, comments, or to hear his pitch for a third Avatar series that incorporates robots, you can contact him through [email protected].

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