Every tongue brings in a several tale,Shakespeare, Richard III
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the highest degree;
Murder, stern murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, “Guilty! guilty!”
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me,
And if I die no soul will pity me.
The way in which Putin’s ‘story’ in the sense of his decisions and apparent mindset closely follows that of the comic book supervillain Victor von Doom is truly a bit scary, but undoubtedly fascinating.
Putin is by no means a genius engineer-sorcerer, but Doom’s (usually) East European Slavic Latveria being kind of always ‘programmed’ in text as a shadow of the Soviet Union and plagued by an array of problems that still plague the previously Soviet-controlled part of the world in real life make this comparison amazingly fruitful. Dr Doom as a comic book character is a product of the Cold War era, and in his universe he makes (disastrous) decisions with a particularly Soviet-like mindset, just like Vladimir Putin does in our own. Doom’s iron mask is in a way a representation of the notorious ‘iron curtain’ between the Soviet Union and the West.
And in no comic is this as apparent as in Cantwells’s Doctor Doom (2019).
Doctor Doom (2019) is a peculiar Marvel story that deals with the present state of the world more than most Marvel runs, and arguably tries to make a coherent political comment, especially in relation to weapons of mass destruction – however mostly not as an atomic threat, but in the sense of the mass extinction by means of global warming. This is a comic book where NATO, UN, Brexit and the European Union are called out by name, and where CNN coverage is only thinly veiled.
Doctor Doom is also a comic book in which Victor von Doom runs a dictatorship in the heart of democratic Europe, but is, to an extent, tolerated by the West, even partnered with it. He is even asked for an opinion on CNN. However, arguably just as Vladimir Putin, Doom actually feels excluded from truly big, global-impact decisions made by the West, mainly the West’s idea, put into reality by his rival Reed Richards, of making a black hole on the Moon in order to suck in the excess CO2 from Earth’s atmosphere and so save humanity from global warming (perhaps reminiscent again of the America-Soviet real-life space-race to the Moon).
Doom chafes, because he feels he and Latveria ought to have been truly consulted and included in the operation. He feels put aside by the West, not considered a true partner nor a true rival, devalued, second-tier.
Doom’s neighbor country Symkaria, decides to use Doom’s very public discontent with the West’s decision to exclude him from the Antlion project and his statement of it being doomed to fail, to make him out as an aggressor at not only the West but the whole world, by blowing up the Antlion station, thus dooming Earth to global warming-caused extinction.
The world takes this as a threat by Doom to its existence similar to the scope and impact of direct nuclear threat. Doom becomes a pariah in a second, he is invaded by NATO, there is a bounty on his head, and UN sanctions unilateral action on Latveria. While, of course, Putin is the aggressor on Ukraine in the real world and has not been in any way, shape or form ‘set up’ by anyone, he also, just like Doom, brought up the possibility of total annihilation to the world, arguably underestimating the reaction of the rest of the world, but the West in particular. The fallout of this train of events for Doom isn’t pretty, as he (in great fear!) observes, the world is angry.
He perhaps understands, for the first time ever, that his presence truly was only tolerated, and that, if it wanted, a united world could make him perish pretty easily.
I honestly, carefully watching Putin’s behavior in recent days, do not believe that Putin really wants total nuclear war. Now, is he capable of it is another question, and I will come to that, but I do not believe he wanted this present outcome at all. What he seems to have done is a mistake, a serious miscalculation, and then unwisely doubled down on it.
It seems to me that Putin thought Ukraine would surrender in the matter of a day or two, but that didn’t happen. Instead of returning back to Russia before the sanctions came, he stayed and continued, extremely unwisely.
I, mean, he must have realized by now that the price of doing this is already too high. The economic sanctions on his country are severe. He has completely lost face in the eyes of the world. He stepped over the line, just like Doom did.
And I do think that he realizes this. He knows he is in the wrong. And that is why it is arguably important not to grate too much on how wrong he really is. And how wrong everything about his existence and his country might seem. Because, you know, there is a humanity even behind the iron
curtain mask. A humanity which still can be dangerous if it feels everything about it and its way of being and thinking is threatened.
Cantwell shows this extremely well in Doctor Doom. At the end of the story, Doctor Doom encounters, in an alternate universe, an utopian version of himself, the version that put down the iron mask and is a close partner to the West and Reed Richards to truly outstanding results. However, this utopian Doctor Doom, along with his iron mask, also put down his Soviet-like way of thinking and living. Latveria is transformed and modernised, and Doom doesn’t live anymore in his castle nor is he a totalitarian leader. This utopian version of Dr Doom condemns every facet of regular Dr Doom’s way of life and thinking right in his face, not willing to give in even an inch. He corners Dr Doom is this way, especially because Dr Doom already knows very well he is completely in the wrong. Dr Doom feels like he is humiliated and again feels like he is losing face (literally, his iron mask). A cornered Dr Doom is a dangerous Dr Doom, who is liable to make extreme and virtually insane decisions.
Dr Doom kills his other, pro-West twin, takes the ultimate nullifier on display and completely erases that whole utopian universe from existence, even killing his double’s children, the children he has been yearning for this whole run. He didn’t want for them a future in which the West, it seems to him, takes everything and wins in everything, just like Putin doesn’t want his daughters to ‘forget’ they’re Russian.
In conclusion, just like in Dr Doom’s case, it is important to give Vladimir Putin a way out, a way to save face, a way to put back on the iron mask, because he has already lost and he knows it, while controlling over 5000 nuclear weapons.