By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Each is described as being the strongest man in the world and each as battling against “evil and injustice.”
Judge Augustus Hand (writing for the majority)
Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc.
Augustus Hand served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1928 to his death in 1953, and just might be the most quoted judge when it comes to the definition of the superhero, owing to the decision he wrote when the Second Circuit ruled that Wonder Man did indeed constitute copyright infringement on Superman. His decision provided a revealing definition for the genre, insisting not just on superpowers, but a selfless, pro-social mission. Indeed, it’s not until after that decision that you see superheroes whose superpowers and pro-social mission are seen as separate things, with perhaps separate origins. That is, while Superman fought crime because he could, and Batman became a superhero specifically to fight crime, Spider-Man only picked up his pro-social mission after Uncle Ben died, well after he’d been using his powers for decidedly less selfless purposes. In that way, we might understand Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1 as a key part of Victor Von Doom’s superhero origin; it’s the story of how he became a good guy.
In true secret origin style, the issue opens with a flashback to Doom’s childhood, offering some insight into his morality. It suggests that Doom’s superheroism is motivated by the same thing as his supervillainy — he believes that he alone is best qualified to wield power. But as our Doom confronts the more platonic Doom of another universe, we catch a hint that something might be missing from our’s (and not just a gnarly face scar).
Our Doom manages to “escape” to the reformed Council of Reeds, but it’s there that he confirms that something is missing:
And it turns out he’s right; Reed (our Reed) had taken something from Doom: the knowledge that Reed is still alive. Without Reed to compete and war with, Doom could refocus his genius on doing anything else. It was maybe an act of faith on Reed’s part, but he believed that “anything else” would be good. That is, the only thing preventing Doom from being a superhero was his fixation on Reed Richards — remove Reed Richards, and you remove Doom’s villainy.
It ends up being more complicated than that, but it’s hard to say — Doom hasn’t forsaken the path of goodness, but he does kill the other Doom, so he’s not as locked into it as, say, Reed would be. But that coincides with his learning of the truth, so it’s hard to say how he would have resolved the fight with the other Doom if he had remained blissfully ignorant. Even so, Doom’s mission seems aligned with the Reeds’ — that no child should suffer the way Doom did. They may have different paths to that goal, but perhaps Doom’s mission was “pro-social” all along?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?