Many Doom fanboys usually highlight Dr Doom’s cold logic, his well-crafted and well-executed plans as some of the reasons they like him, but I, even though I still like Doom as a character, feel an urge to put at the forefront one of his most irrational decisions, featured in Ed Brubaker’s Books of Doom (2005).
I am specifically talking about this:
Wait a second, and I will explain to you how completely insane this Doom’s decision really is, as well as the deeply selfish and perhaps even psychotic reasons he decided on this course of action.
Most of us probably had some sort of crisis in our young adulthoods. We perhaps failed at college or had second thoughts about our chosen vocation, we suffered a break of a serious romantic relationship, suffered the death(s) of our parent(s), or had trouble getting a job after university.
At this point of the story (Issue 3), Doctor Doom is grappling with something similar. He has failed in his attempts to combine science and magic to enter Hell and save his long-dead mother from the clutches of the immensely powerful demon Mephisto. He suffered some sort of injury to his face (the extent of which we never really see), which caused him to spiral-down into a depression, cut his ties with America by destroying all the work he’d done there in its military laboratories, and wander aimlessly from one Eastern European town to another, renting cheap accommodations. He has insomnia and hellish (literally) nightmares. He is completely alone. But still he is “arrogant and unafraid” as a KGB officer who offers him another job notices.
The KGB blackmails Doom to work for them by first setting him up with, and then taking hostage his childhood love Valeria. However, a homeless man whom Doom has on many occasions insulted as a “drunkard”, threatened with violence and tried to get rid of, seems to know some powerful magic himself and intervenes on behalf of Doom, cutting short his future with the KGB and saving Valeria, but also getting mortally injured in the process.
With his dying breath this man gives to Doom a prophecy, and it seem to be a prophecy about Doom himself, or rather his specialness and greatness:
And with as little as that Doom decides to leave Valeria with whom he previously planned a domestic future in Latveria, and go, with the last of his money, to the Himalayas, spending months there trying to find a temple which no one has even heard of in the last hundred years or so.
In the end he just decides to blindly search the Himalayas for this temple, and of course, almost dies in the process.
This is a totally irrational, insane decision he made. He is extremely lucky he didn’t die.
Despite the homeless man actually knowing magic presumably superior to Doom’s in that part of the story, this is someone Doom previously dismissed as a drunkard, a homeless lunatic whose life was worthless. But then he staked his life on this man’s words, because he was telling him that, despite the setbacks he had to endure, in the end Doom was special and destined for greatness.
But, you know, this wasn’t really at odds with his character because what Doom always chooses is his specialness. He visibly chaffed when Valeria told him she wanted a what could be summed up as a pretty regular life with him, to return to their gypsy family in Latveria and have a family of their own.
That is, of course, a part of his pretty obvious, but still, in Books of Doom, beautifully and convincingly articulated narcissistic pathology which is always based on copious amounts of fantasy. Dr Doom was not to live an ordinary life of a father, a husband and perhaps necessarily, someone’s employee.
For a favorite and obvious example, just remember Harry Potter’s Gilderoy Lockhart who wrote books and books of his megalomaniacal fantasies. In someone as truly intelligent and capable as Dr Doom this tendency for megalomaniacal fantasy is usually harder to catch on because he really does have great accomplishments. Doom is actually a genius. However, in times of personal crisis, the rough or unlucky patches of life (by the narcissist’s doing or not) this tendency to believe truly outrageous fantasies about themselves comes to the forefront.
Doom’s fantasies of superiority then get a mighty boost by his cult of monk-enablers:
And then Doom even renames himself in accordance with his megalomaniacal fantasies as “Dr” Doom even though he has never graduated, only to continue his (also largely imagined) rivalrly with Reed Richards, of whom he finds out just turning on the television that he is a “doctor” now and is considered “the smartest man in the world, if not the universe”.
It is so funny, while also being so scary. In fact, even to the enabler monks this seems kind of weird…
…but then they just excuse it.
However, connected with all this, and in particular with life crisis, I’ve wanted to add something else.
Recently I’ve watched a YouTube video of the Indian mystic and yogi Sadhguru about life crises. His view of it was, and I tend to agree, that they come after a life cycle has been completed, whether that be biological or social (i.e. when you finish university etc). For younger people he talks about the crisis that usually happens around age 24 (like a ‘quarter life crisis’) and it is (traditionally) a crisis between embarking on a ascetic spiritual ‘warrior’ path or having (for men) a wife, children and doing some work. Now 24 is also the age of Raskolnikov’s life crisis (when he commits the murders) in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and it also seems to roughly apply to Dr Doom in Books of Doom (as he is expelled from university after a few years in America), even though he might be somewhat younger. However, it is certainly the ‘gap’ between higher education and family life/spiritual (‘higher’) pursuit.
Indian society, as opposed to the West, seems to have (had) a kind of process for the resolution of this life crisis that interestingly doesn’t seem to condemn either path. Those who want to be these warrior ascetics (sanyasi) actually attend a funeral service for themselves where they renounce all worldly pursuits and pleasures. This is interestingly, again reminiscent of Raskolnikov who does think himself unfit for normal life, thinking how he ‘killed himself’ when he committed his murders, and embraces a life of severe asceticism in a Siberian prison, which coupled with Dostoevsky’s religious fervor, becomes quite reminiscent of a monastery.
Is choosing that kind of life truly narcissistic, or is it selfless? As Indian society makes place for such a choice (Sadhguru for example states even up to 30% of population (both male and female) becoming sanyasis in the past and never having children), in the present paradigm of psychology this is a healthy choice because it is a functional choice which society approves of.
Now, back to Doom.
What Doom does is similar to a sanyasi – first of all, he joins an actual isolated monastery. He has his ‘funeral’, when he entombs himself in his armor. He does renounce having a family. In fact many comics make great content out of his permanent bachelor status. In Doctor Doom (2019), plagued by visions of a better, healthier self, he has (temporarily) the desire to have children and get married. He also gets engaged once, in another comic, to his most fervent follower Victorious but their engagement and relationship remain, by Doom’s own choice, sexless. However, Doctor Doom does not renounce earthly possessions (he does own a whole country), and he certainly does not renounce violence, which sanyasi do renounce (this is called ahimsa).
So, no, Dr Doom remains a narcissist, and his version of a holy, ascetic life is a perversion of this ideal. You can’t have it both ways, you can’t take the privileges of both paths. A better example of a Marvel comic sanyasi is Dr Strange, who stays in a monastery after a life crisis, does remain ‘celibate’, doesn’t have kids, doesn’t get back to his life of privilege as a surgeon (even though he could), and becomes a literal ‘spiritual warrior’ saving Earth from attacks coming from the astral realm.
So yes, that would be all for today.