…the Origin of Doom 2099 (or “The Fate of Doctor Doom”)?

In this special guest post, Victor Cardigan, admin of the 2099Bytes Facebook page and owner of a fan-site dedicated to 2099, gives you his thoughts on Doom 2099’s true identity.

In the year 2099, mega-corporations rule everything. They run the United States, with each of the mega-corp CEO’s ruling their own slice of the country. Mega-Corps such as Alchemax, Stark-Fujikawa, Pixel, and D/Monix, to name a few, serve as the primary antagonists in the 2099 books.

There are no heroes in 2099, at least not at first. The heroes we know – the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men – are all gone after the end of the Age of Heroes. Exactly how that age ended is shrouded in mystery. The world of 2099 suffers from a “cultural amnesia.” Only snippets of the Heroic Age remain, distorted by the passage of time.

When Marvel launched the 2099 universe in 1992, it included four characters: Spider-Man, Punisher, Ravage, and Doom. Ostensibly, Doom 2099 was the only character implied to have a direct connection to the original.  In fact, he believed himself to be the original Doctor Doom. Given Doom’s penchant for time travel, a technological capability of his since his very first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, it seemed reasonable that this Doom was the genuine article.

But, writer John Francis Moore threw readers a curve ball in Doom 2099 #1, planting the seed of doubt when Doom 2099 faced his first opponent, Tiger Wylde.  Unmasked, Doom 2099 was revealed to be a young man sporting an unscarred face – definitely not the original. He was also definitely not a Doombot, since Tiger Wylde burned his face away, leaving him to bleed all over the office carpet. Adding to the doubts about his identity, Doom 2099 suffered from amnesia and could not account for his whereabouts prior to his sudden arrival in 2099.

figure-01Despite these clues, Doom 2099 clearly had extensive knowledge that only the real Doctor Doom could have. For example, he knew the true purpose of an amulet he gave to Boris, his longtime friend and ally.

Writer John Francis Moore teased readers with more details surrounding Doom 2099’s past in issue #2.  There, we learned that Doom apparently outlived allies and enemies alike, surviving the end of the Age of Heroes. Doom, however, was still human, and age took its toll on his health. His friend Boris, apparently deceased, was replaced by Damon, who attended to his declining health.

Despite his triumph, Doom became convinced that shadowy wraiths were subverting his empire. In order to rout them, Doom “hurled himself again into the void.”

figure-02Another fragment of his past was revealed in Doom 2099 #3, where we learned that Doom’s attempt to bring unity and vision resulted in the destruction of a city or cities. Accompanied by his servant Damon, Doom concluded that to restore order he must leave. He knew where he would find answers, but readers were left to ponder where Doom went. All we knew for sure is that after his journey, whatever the outcome, he ended up in 2099.

figure-03These questions were tabled until Doom 2099 #19, when Doom 2099 received a vision that made him doubt his own identity. He saw another man’s face reflected in a mirror. He saw himself seemingly tortured by the “real” Doctor Doom.

figure-04Later, in issue #21, Doom 2099 received further evidence that there was another Victor von Doom in the mad ranting and ravings of Christian L’Argent. L’Argent, an Alchemax employee gone AWOL, traveled to the Savage Land in order to escape the all-seeing eyes of the Shadows who truly rule the world above and beyond the powers of the mega-corps.  L’Argent identified Doctor Doom as one of these Shadows.

figure-05The quest for the truth about his identity led Doom 2099 to the island of Myridia, a nexus of information ruled by General Tibor Czerny. There, Doom 2099 learned that General Czerny had a son, Erik. Erik disappeared fourteen years ago, obsessed with finding the Shadows he believed were responsible for the “political and social crises of recent years.”

figure-06In issue #25, Doom 2099 learned that 14 years earlier, in 2085, Erik Czerny was captured by one of the shadows he was chasing: Margaretta von Geisterstadt. Margaretta also happened to be the lover of another of these shadows: Victor von Doom. Margaretta and Doom played games, deadly games, against each other. Margaretta’s most recent scheme ended with Doom being severely wounded. She then placed Doom in a regenerative bubble to be healed. Meanwhile, she brainwashed Erik into believing he was the real Doctor Doom until the healed Doom was ready. This healing process would take fourteen years. Once he was ready, she unleashed him with Erik’s memories mixed with his own incomplete ones into the year 2099.

This “origin,” however, left some questions unanswered. Certainly it remains an open question if Doom 2099 is indeed the real Doom. Margaretta, a brilliant geneticist, could easily have “grown” her own Doctor Doom. L’Argent suggested as much during the Savage Land incident. There is also the question of character: how did the Doctor Doom we know evolve into Doom 2099?

After Doom 2099 was cancelled, I still wondered how Doctor Doom became Doom 2099. Although I believe them to be the same man, they are clearly the same man at two drastically different points in their life. The younger Doctor Doom is still fueled by his desire to destroy the Fantastic Four and rule the world.  Doom 2099 wants primarily to safeguard his homeland, Latveria. If that means taking over the world and making it a better place, so be it. But based on what we see in Doom 2099 #25, Doom decided at some point to leave Latveria and rule the world from the shadows. How? Why? When?

I propose that Doctor Doom made the choice to withdraw from the world and rule as a shadow king after two life-altering encounters with his own future. The first encounter was in Iron Man #250. That story showed Doctor Doom transported to the year 2093, a mere six years prior to 2099. He met and killed his future self, finding him a pathetic shadow of Doom’s former self. The Doom of 2093 was more robot than man. He lived only by virtue of the mechanics in his armor. Doom swore that this would not be his future.

Yes, at the end of Iron Man #250, Merlin erased both Iron Man’s and Doctor Doom’s memories of the events which transpired. However Iron Man: Legacy of Doom showed Tony Stark breaking through Merlin’s spell to recall the events of Legacy of Doom. I propose that Doom could similarly break through the spell and recall the events of Iron Man #250 at a later date.

figure-07The second encounter took place in the pages of Doom 2099 itself. Issue #43 tells the story of how Doom 2099 traveled to the year 1996. During his trip, he met his past self. After learning of his failed conquest of America and the subsequent destruction of Latveria, Doctor Doom once again denied this would be his future.

figure-08I propose these two encounters had a profound effect on Doctor Doom. They gave him important information about his future and informed his decisions on how to extend his life – and how to live it. From both encounters he learned that by the 2090s, he would still be trying to take over the world.

Remember, Doctor Doom has successfully taken over the world on a number of occasions. Two things always happen.  One, he gets bored.  (See the graphic novel Avengers: Emperor Doom and the two-part story Super-Villain Team-Up #14/Champions #16 for examples.)  Two, he is overthrown.

I propose that at a future date, a unique solution occurs to him. Instead of conquering the world publically, he will conquer the world in secret and become its shadow king. Thus, Doctor Doom leaves Latveria, possibly leaving a Doombot in charge, or maybe Kristoff.  Doctor Doom moves into the shadows to do his work, and he succeeds.

Doctor Doom quickly realizes that by removing himself from the scene, he can assert greater control over the world. Being in the shadows has its benefits. For instance, no one is trying to overthrow him, because they don’t know he’s really in charge. Also, he need not become bored with the daily drudgery that comes with being ruler of the world.

In time, he discovers he is not alone in the shadows. There are other such shadow kings – possibly Vulcann, Essex, and the Shaper’s Guild, all mentioned by John Francis Moore at the end of X-Men 2099. These Shadows are a loose cabal who do not exactly work together. In fact, they vie to wrest control of the world from each other. These Shadows, including Doom, push the world’s buttons from behind the scenes. It was their machinations that ignited the Pollution Wars which erupted between elected governments and the giant trans-national corporations. It was the hand of the Shadows which pulled the strings of the ruling mega-corps to hide advanced technology from the public. The world is their chessboard. Hidden from public view, Doom is no longer a piece on the board but one of the players moving the pawns.

In the shadows, Doctor Doom meets a woman, Margaretta von Geisterstadt, whose intelligence is matched only by her cunning. She is a master player in the chess game of the Shadows. Where she comes from is not important. She is the last of her people, as her name implies: von Geisterstadt = of Ghost Town. She lost everything in her past because of events completely out of her control. To make up for this lack of control, she sought total control of the world.  She has attained this, arguably, as a Shadow Queen.

This brings us to the second part of my proposal. I posit that the “cancer” which gnaws at Doctor Doom in the flashback from Doom 2099 #2 was not a preoccupation with the Shadows subverting his empire.  That was merely Erik Czerny’s memories bleeding into Doom’s. Rather, it was a real cancer.

What caused this illness? Take your pick from all the various energies Doom has exposed his body to over the years.  His body has held the power cosmic (stolen from the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four #57), the power of the Beyonder (Secret Wars #10), the power of Galactus (Fantastic Four World’s Greatest Comics Magazine #10), the power of a Watcher (Fantastic Four #375), and the Life Force (Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #7.)  A line of dialogue in Doom 2099 #43 could be interpreted as evidence of this future cancer. Doom 2099’s final warning to his younger self was, “But know this, for every victory you savor, there will be a loss that scars you.”

A human body was never meant to hold or endure being exposed to such energies. I propose that as the Age of Heroes ends and Doom survives triumphantly, his body finally succumbs to the years of torment he has put it through.  Never one to lie down and die, Doom seeks options to extend his life. However, Doom is acutely aware he must be careful of the choices he makes. At all costs he wants to avoid the future he saw in Iron Man #250.

Having vowed to change this future, and seeing that technology alone will not save him, Doom attempts to restore his health through mystical means. He returns to the place of his “birth” and attempts a “rebirth.” Doom travels to the Himalayas and visits the hidden order of monks who forged his first armor.

In a repeat of what Dr. Strange once did for him during the Infinity Gauntlet story (Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #34,) Doom attempts to heal himself in the furnace of his birth as Doctor Doom. Unfortunately, the restorative qualities of the flames are not enough to completely cure him.  They only stall his death. Doom leaves to continue his search for a cure, but not alone.  As seen in the Doom 2099 #2 flashback, he takes with him one of the monks, Damon, who administers his medicine.

figure-09For his cure, Doom turns to an unlikely source: one of the Shadows. Doom has always been drawn to powerful women like Morgan Le Fey, Storm, and Dorma.  It is not surprising he was drawn to Margaretta. Margaretta is likewise drawn to Doom because, in his weakened state, he is a man she can dominate.  Just look at her style of dress in the flashback in Doom 2099 #25 if you need evidence that this is her type of thing. Margaretta, a master geneticist, offers Doom a cure for his illness. He promptly accepts. In this way, Necrotek’s tease about Margaretta in Doom 2099 #13 comes true: her “love” redeems him. But how does it curse him?

figure-10A “cured” Doom begins an ongoing relationship with Margaretta. But, theirs is not a flowery romance. It is a game of chess, with the whole world as their chessboard. We know of Doom’s penchant for chess games from tales like Fantastic Four Special, Master of Kung-Fu #59-60, and Strange Tales #167. Doom and Margaretta’s games, like those of all who lurk in the shadows, shake and move events on a global scale.

However, by 2085, it becomes clear that Margaretta’s cure is not as permanent as they thought. Doom’s condition begins to deteriorate once more. Margaretta concludes that in order to heal Doom once and for all, she requires a “clean” genetic sample of Doom. She needs a sample not tainted by the energies he exposed himself to in his public quest to rule the world during the Age of Heroes.

Doom plans a journey into his own past to obtain the required sample. However, by doing this, he is inserting himself once more onto the chessboard at the mercy of Margaretta’s games. The journey into the past is a trap. Doom’s trip is diverted into a time corridor where Doom is forced to revisit his worst defeats, over and over again. The arduous flight through time ends with Doom’s arriving back at his citadel in the Pacific nearly dead.

This brings us full circle to the events depicted in Doom 2099 #25 where Margaretta finds a good use for Erik Czerny while healing Doom for her next game. She mixes Doom’s memories with Erik’s and erases some of his own memories before sending him out into the world of 2099.  This represents her best challenge yet for her lover. Doom, of course, overcomes her obstacles and wins the game. He is, after all, Doom.

figure-11figure-12

…Marvel’s Merlin?

Back in the early days of their pro-hood, Gruenwald, Macchio, Peter  Sanderson, Steven Grant and a few others set about some housecleaning, and one of the things they did was the two part Thor story which made the Space Phantom’s Limbo the same as Immortus’s Limbo (one thing I recall fondly about this story was Keith Pollard’s visual reference to Escher for the idea of Immortus’s palace).

So I sympathise with trying to clean up Merlin. Roy was terribly hungry to be able to tap into the Arthurian thing, and with his meticulous nature, he quickly got rid of the painful Mad Merlin story from the clumsy birth of the Thor strip. (It’s useful, considering that he ended up writing everything, to look at X-Men, starting with #20, as Roy’s first regular strip.  The Moldy Villain’s League was positively Gruenwaldian, the Kukulcán stories betrayed his archaeological bent – and then there was X-Men #30, starring the Warlock, cleaning up the Arthurian plate.

I think it was an unspoken assumption, never acted upon, that Merlin was Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme of that period.  I reckon this is what Peter Gillis was going for as well, since at the tail end of his stint on Doctor Strange, he was starting his own arthurian-themed storyline-and-maybe-strip, the Dragon Circle. He referred to the title Pendragon as a mystic office, an idea I suspect he lifted from C.S. Lewis (That Hideous Strength).  He created a Welsh professor, Dafydd ap Iorwerth, who, unknown to himself, was Earth’s then current Pendragon.  Of course, this all died aborning, but the Dragon Circle, consisting of the non-X-Men members of the Defenders gathered around the Pendragon, appeared to be creating a sort of legacy from a previous Sorcerer Supreme, with Dr. Strange.

Nevertheless, Marvel’s Merlin is a bizarre amalgam of all kinds of other sources, and I guess one of them is T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” where the wizard lives backwards through time (the implication being that Merlin might actually be T.H. White himself). However, while White’s work is charming, philosophical and wise – and living backwards is a swell conceit – there’s absolutely no ‘why’ to White’s Merlin at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I love T.H. White’s Arthur books, but a more Marvel-ish vision is Lewis’s, with a larger context – and even a daring continuity link to Middle Earth.

With Chris Claremont having revealed in more recent years, in his Excalibur: Die by the Sword mini-series, that Mad Jim Jaspers was merely a tool enabling Merlyn to accomplish his goals, combined with the fact combined with the fact that his Crazy Gang were derived from “Alice in Wonderland”, it is interesting to note that Immortus, self-styled Master of Limbo, often used characters from history, mythology and literature to create his armies. Then recalling that Belasco’s Limbo was also referred to as Otherworld at times, the same “nom de plume” as Merlyn and Roma’s realm, this would all seem to suggest that Merlyn is an older incarnation of Immortus.

So my idea here is that the manipulative, amoral Merlyn from Captain Britain and Excalibur could easily be Immortus, and here’s why:

1. He operates from a “nexus point” which has a special position in the multiverse – much as Limbo does;

2. He deletes realities which present a danger to him;

3. He often chooses to work through 20th century Marvel-Earth heroes;

4. He uses time travel;

5. He has faked his death before now, just like Immortus has;

6. He is a scholar by nature; and

7. He may have had something to do with the rather special bit of time where Camelot happened outside regular history – surely an Immortus plot if ever there was one.

********

Mind you, if Merlin is Immortus, it raises interesting questions about where his daughter comes from.

I don’t necessarily think Ravonna is the mother, though!

Remember that there is only ONE Immortus, not lots of divergent ones. At some point the one Immortus hooks up with Ravonna.  At some point he has a short-lived son Marcus, by an unspecified mother, and Marcus has to get himself reborn by impregnating Carol Danvers for reasons which are never fully explained but seem to do with Immortus “dying”.

However, if one needs a candidate for Merlin’s daughter, my first choice would be Nimue, the Lady of the Lake and Mistress of Avalon.  Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Lady who gave Dane his sword IS Roma’s mother, or Roma herself.  Roma has been known to be attracted to handsome, swashbuckling, rule-breaking heroes before.

We may have to assume that there are various alternate-timeline Camelots around too.  Apart from the various dramatically different versions of Arthur and his knights, and the three Merlins, it is hard to reconcile the legendary Matter of Britain even with itself let alone the Iron Man, Torch/ Thing, Black Knight, Dr Doom, Bizarre Adventures and other Marvel versions.  We also have to explain the fact that it never actually happened in history, so Dane is claiming descent from a mythical ancestor anyway.

It would be interesting to see Dane tied in to Morgan’s family tree, but I suspect she would have commented on it in some way in Avengers #1-3 if it was so.  After all, Dane would have made a much better lieutenant than her nephew Mordred.

My own preferred explanation would be that during “the Enchantment of Britain”, the time between the wounding of the Grail King and Arthur’s final battle at Camlaan, there was effectively a divergent timeline where all this Arthur stuff happened, and there were divergences from that in the usual Marvel way when time-travellers appear from the future which explain all the various Camelot visits.  Clearly those days, although expurgated from history (an Immortus trick if ever there was one) still case echoes.  The Black Knight seems to be one of them.

Quick summary of the three Merlins according to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, by the way: #1 was allegedly the demon-sired son of the princess of Dyfed, (as described by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain around the 12th century).  #2 was a psionic mutant impostor from the dawn of time who wielded a fragment of the Bloodstone Gem.  This one was exposed by Sersi (!), and placed in suspended animation by the real Merlin.  This is the guy who battled Thor in Journey into Mystery, and later became the Maha Yogi who plagued the X-Men and Hulk.  #3 was the Otherworldly master of deception (who may or many not be the same as #1) who imbued Captain Britain with powers (and indeed ALL Captain Britains in all the realities they exist in), was the father of Roma, Goddess of the Northern Skies, and plays with time.

Captain Britain’s Merlin also operates from the Otherworld, a strange nexus place (not to be confused with the Man-Thing’s nexus, of course; this one focuses on Brian Braddock’s lighthouse).  If Merlin is Immortus, is the Otherworld really Limbo?

This further makes the fact that Merlin was one of the Space Phantom/ Dire Wraith champions of Immortus in Avengers #10 more fun, too!

Then there’s that other Arthurian Immortus sighting in STRANGE TALES #134 vol.1:

In this issue Kang has, as I mentioned, gone to conquer Camelot. He begins by first imprisoning Merlin, Arthur’s “secret weapon”.

He then defeats knight after knight in a jousting competition, until he is made King. Arthur and his faithful are then sent into exile.

Kang then assembles an army and prepares to sweep it across the Earth.

Back in the 20th Century, The Watcher appears to the Thing and the Human Torch and informs them of what has transpired. He then enlists their aid to come back into time to defeat Kang. They agree.

He then informs them:

“The method I shall use to send you back into time is totally alien to you that there are no words with which I can describe it! But let us join hands – -”

The Watcher then has the two FF members hold hands with him and they begin to do a slow fade, he continues as this occurs:

“You shall travel to the days of King Arthur without me, for there is no reason for me to join you! My power is such that I can observe all that transpires no matter WHICH age I find myself in! Thus I shall remain in LIMBO — silently watching, and waiting to RETURN you to the present — IF YOU SURVIVE!”

The due does defeat Kang, but only by first freeing Merlin, and the “Watcher” then appears to return them quickly home.

–END–

Ok, innocent enough.  BUT, in the Kang History presented in THOR ANNUAL #17 (part 2 of CITIZEN KANG) Kang reflects on this adventure, and says:

“Soon the legendary CAMELOT was mine! I planned to CREATE an ALTERNATE reality in which MY Britain would CONQUER the GLOBE and SUPER HEROES would NEVER arise! Acting OUT of CHARACTER, UATU the Watcher enlisted the THING and HUMAN TORCH to STOP me…but WAS he UATU? He CLAIMED he was BASED in LIMBO…the REALM OF IMMORTUS!”

So, what do you think? Kang thinks it’s Immortus pretending to be Uatu.

(Making his “LIMBO” remark a slip of the tongue – which Kang must have viewed later in one of his Chrono-viewers)

Immortus doesn’t need to stop Kang here.  It’s a divergent reality after all.  But possibly…quite possibly… the Merlin from this era is important somehow and needed freeing.

Maybe Merlin created the Forever Crystal…

Maybe…

Postscript: Despite previous suggestions, I have come up with something better than having the Ebony Blade be Excalibur in disguise too (and I can see somebody eagerly doing a story which does just that). I’ll steal from another SF/ Fantasy writer, Fred Saberhagen, and posit something like the existence of Twelve Great Swords, scattered throughout infinity. Dormant, they can be almost anywhere, but activated by a person of power, they can do great things. Excalibur is one, Stormbringer another, Mournblade a third, and Andúril yet another. (and maybe the Odinsword still another.) They are entities on their own, and the activation never ends well.

Arthur is dead, the Round Table broken. Excalibur ultimately worked its doom upon Arthur, and the Lady of the Lake had taken both the body of Arthur and the sword Excalibur which, the bond now broken, is once again inert.

Despite all the tragedy, Merlin’s greater purpose was fulfilled: the Flame of the West would not be extinguished: though Rome had failed and would not be restored, civilization, the Celts would keep learning alive while Europe plunged into darkness, and the legend of Camelot would keep civilised men dedicated where the more savage and ugly history of Rome would not. the chain of light that stretched back to Númenor would not go dark.

But, as his time was going to end soon, he had to make sure the west still had supernatural defences. and so Merlin, in one of his last magical acts, brought from elsewhere another of the Great Swords.  Maybe Stormbringer, maybe another whose name only the Wise know. He sealed it in its inertness, and gave it to the utterly loyal Sir Percy of Scandia and his heirs to keep.

Sir Percy was a valiant but ordinary knight: the Ebony Blade would never come to life in his hands, or any of his descendants. The line of the Black Knights would stand eternally ready – ready to hand the blade to the one who needed it.

It is said that the grandson of Sir Percy gave it to Roland, who christened it Durendal (a mental echo of Andúril?) and fought the battle that ensured Europe would not be a branch of a Muslim Empire.  It is also said that the power of the awakened sword killed Roland as surely as if it had slit his throat. saddened, the Black Knight of that era took back the Ebony Blade, which fell asleep in his hand.

It began to look as if the Blade might be needed again in World War II, when Hitler found the Spear of Longinus. This awoke the Blade enough to bring the line of Sandia out of their long sleep. However, the latest heir, Dane Whitman, seemed to have lost the critical faculty of inertness with respect to the blade. His mission was to keep it safe, and he was awakening it instead.

The solution was to give it to Brunnhilde the Valkyrie. Now whether the Lady Of The Lake was in fact of the Valkyrior, or whether they just practiced the same craft, the Ebony Blade was calmed by Brunnhilde’s handling in the same way that the Lady brought Excalibur to rest while they took the hero Arthur to his reward. After a time, she gave Dane Whitman back the blade, judging that he would be able to handle it now.

Doesn’t fit everything in, probably, and there’s a lot of recent stuff I’m completely unaware of. But it’s pretty good, eh?