Champion of Catastrophe and Son of the East:
A Short Genealogy of Victor von Doom
by Scott Koeller (Wold Atlas vol. 1, no. 4)
Once, long ago, there was a time when all the world's lands were distant, and mysterious, and far between; whenever a man sailed the sea by ship, he encountered new lands, ruled by strange cultures and barbaric kings. This is no more, of course. Civilization has made the world a finite place to be. All the world's land has been charted, and thousands of years of war have laid down the boundaries of countries. No more can undiscovered lands ruled by barbaric kings exist. No mysterious islands or lost continents.
However, try telling that to Professor Challenger, or Captain Nemo. No one knew of the existence of Maple White Land or the South Polar continent until these men, both Wold Newton Family Members, discovered them. Scott's Antarctic expeditions might have made the South Pole's true nature known to the masses, but Nemo sailed to the South Pole years before.
But is it really possible for a country, unknown to the majority of the world, to exist in this day and age? The UN might say no. The so-called rulers of the area in question might say no. But we have come to the conclusion that there exists this very day a small Eurasian country held in absolute sway by a terrible dictator, and that the world at large has no inkling of its existence.
The country is called "Latveria" in the literature dealing with it, and its ruler is named Victor von Doom. Never was a appellation more chillingly foreboding, for the word "von" in the Germanic languages can be translated as "of." Thus, Victor von Doom could be translated into "Champion of Catastrophe." Very appropriate. Doom, his scarred face masked by his armor, his cape swirling about him, stalks the unholy halls of Castle Doom, set on a lonely peak in Latveria. Tremendous rainstorms rage about the castle, lightning flashes, and it illuminates the terrible possessed eyes of Doom, as they glare balefully from behind the mask and plot the day when the entire world will pay for the atrocity committed on his body.
Who this terrible man is and how he came to be will be dealt with shortly; but first, some background. For those of you to whom the name Dr. Doom means nothing, the good doctor is one of the mainstays of villainy in Marvel Comics. He has fought or encountered nearly every character in the "Marvel Universe" and remains one of the epitomes of villainy there. Needless to say, most of the adventures chronicled by Marvel of him are distorted, if not downright fictitious, just as the pulp biographies of Doc Savage, the Spider, et al, were. And yet, Marvel seems to have a knack for stumbling onto the weird and extraordinary in this world and adapting it to fit their larger-than-life world. After all, it was Marvel (and Marv Wolfman) who learned, through Boston writer Harold H. Harold, of the latter-day activities of Count Dracula, and it was Marv again who has at last uncovered what when on during that mysterious nine-year gap in John Carter's life. And of course it is Marvel that is chronicling the exploits of Shang-chi, a previously unknown member of the Family and progeny of Fu Manchu. Which is appropriate, since Doc Doom fits in this category also.
Before we explore this statement more fully, let's first examine the clues within Marvel's Doc Doom story(s) and try to deduce the real location of Latveria. Assuming that Marvel has knowledge of Doc, we must also assume that they left some sort of clues for anyone who stumbled onto the truth behind their Dr. Doom, just as Watson and Burroughs and many others did.
The country's name is Latveria. Keeping that in mind, look at a globe or map of Russia. Up in the Northwest corner of this country, right across the Baltic Sea from Sweden, lies the Republic of Latvia. Could it be that the name "Latveria" is a rather obvious clue planted by Marvel to refer to Latvia? Could it be that Latvia is in fact a separate nation from the USSR, and is ruled by Dr. Doom?
Well, Russia is, after all, one of the few places on the globe where the existence of a monarchy could be successfully covered up. Virtually all the information that the Western world has on the people and produce of Russia comes from the Kremlin. And even in this age of détente many of Russia's workings remain a mystery. If they wanted to, the Kremlin could easily leak out false information about Latvia, thus making it appear that it is a part of the Soviet Union. But this gives rise to another question--why? Supposing that Latvia really was taken over by a dictator--why couldn't the Soviet Union just stomp on the rebellion, thus gaining a huge propaganda victory? Maybe because they can't. We're of the opinion that the weaponry displayed by Doom in the comics is a pretty accurate representation of his actual arsenal. After all, he has the brains and the means to create such weapons, as his lineage, soon to be revealed, will attest to. Thus, his pocket country is protected from the monster looming to the east.
And so you have the picture. Victor von Doom rules Latvia, referred to as "Latveria" by Marvel, and since Russia is literally unable to squelch his monarchy, they leak false facts which make Latvia appear to be a Russian possession. This couldn't suit Doom more, since he wants to keep his existence a secret. In fact, any ships or planes that stop there would notice nothing out of the ordinary. The crew might pause for a second to gaze at the dark castle looming on the mountaintop above, never knowing of the mad eyes that gaze back at them, the eyes of the ruler of Latvia and, one day perhaps, the world.
Castle Latveria, or Castle Doom, if you prefer. Let's see if we can determine a few possible locations for the Castle within Latvia. The exact background for the Castle varies from comic to comic, each artist and writer changing it a bit to fit their personal tastes. But, going by the original Doom stories and the majority of those that followed, the basic specifications are these: the Castle must stand in the mountains, overlooking a small Latv(-er-)ian village, next to a river that flows to the sea. Only three villages in Latvia fit this description--Krustpils or Jekapils on the Daugava River (of the two, probably Krustpils), or else Kraslava on the Zapadnya River. Actually, the only way to ascertain for sure is to go to Latvia and check for a forbidding mountaintop castle.
There is other evidence that "Latveria" is Latvia, by the way. Both are similar in size and appearance, customs and name, Latvians dress in gay, gypsy-esque style and are mostly rural, living in small villages (according to the information Russia lets out about the area, anyway). This describes exactly the Latverians depicted in the comics. And, most important of all, Latvia lies on the very edge of Russia, on the way to Moscow. And this is a crucial factor in the theory we are about to unfold for you.
It was sometime in the mid-1920s that Fu Manchu went on his mission to liquidate Grand Duke Stanislaus. It wasn't a matter of personal animosity, nor was it a "hired" job. Fu Manchu, in his career after the accident which crippled him and ended his career as Hanoi Shan (see Farmer's theories in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life), had gained much power. He was at various times governor of Tonkin-China and Honan, and has always had his hand in Chinese politics. All of these above-mentioned things were below him; he would send hired assassins to get revenge, and there was no one from whom Fu Manchu would take orders. In fact, there is only one thing that would motivate Fu Manchu to take a personal hand. That is a threat to his homeland, to China. Fu Manchu is possessed of a very strong nationalistic pride.
Duke Stanislaus was the only man of his time who was aware that Russia was under an increasing threat from China. His actual native country was never divulged, nor is it likely that "Stanislaus" is his real title. Undoubtedly, though, his country was located near enough to Russia for him to have many political industrial, and economic ties with her. To see Russia fall to China would mean an end to the mutually beneficial trade that had been going on between the two countries. So Stanislaus, when he became aware of the growing danger China offered to Russia, hastened to the Kremlin, in order to warn the Bolsheviks and maintain the status quo.
Fu Manchu soon learned of this mission via his network of spies, and this imminent threat to the advancement of China caused him to desire a personal hand in its prevention. In short, he wanted to liquidate Stanislaus.
The story of Fu Manchu's trek to Russia and his encounter with Nayland Smith is told in the book The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer as told by Nayland Smith. If we are to believe Smith, Fu Manchu was victorious in his mission to silence the Grand Duke. And so ends that episode in the chronicles of Fu Manchu. But what the book doesn't describe is the doctor's activities immediately following this excursion. Fu Manchu had heard rumors that the practice of arcane arts was being conducted by a latter-day gypsy witch in the small province of Latvia. He made a side journey there and became acquainted with the young sorceress, to the point of bedding down with her. Fu Manchu was always on the lookout for new practices to add to his resources and, unlike his contemporaries in the science field, he was willing to accept the supernatural as part of scientific fact, which was why his own machinery is so much more advanced. This liberality of judgment has enabled him to develop such devices as his reincarnation machine and the elixir vitae.
Here, clearly, was in practice a branch of the black arts with which Fu Manchu was totally unfamiliar. He used every means of persuasion to coerce her to reveal them to him, but she was adamant. Well, not totally. Once he promised his undying love to her, she relented and introduced him to her practices. After he had mastered these, it is to be assumed that he abandoned her. But, since he had been forced to use sex as a lever to obtain these skills, he left a legacy behind him--a son, whom he named, on a whim, Victor (remember, Fu Manchu had just been victorious in his latest mission). A son the world would one day know as Dr. Doom. All of this is surmise, as there is no recorded evidence as such of Fu Manchu's trip to Latvia, nor is there any that Dr. Doom's father was not a von Doom. But there is so much evidence, which will be examined later, to support this theory that it is almost certain to be correct.
The rest of von Doom's young life has been documented in the pages of Fantastic Four Annual, 1964 ed., and Marvel Super-Heroes #20, both of which were published by Marvel Comics. All of the references below, in relation to Doom's younger days, have been gleaned from these pages, and is thus fully authenticated.
After being abandoned (apparently), by Fu Manchu, the sorceress marred Werner von Doom, a gypsy, and he adopted the child Victor as his own, under gypsy law. Victor's mother was killed when he was but an infant by the baron's soldiers. His father died escaping the same oppressors. Victor never knew that Werner was not his real father, and he swore revenge on the baron's forces. It was not long before he discovered a strange chest, among his mother's things. It was her magical apparatus, and the young Victor soon learned how to use it, having inherited his father's and grandfather's (Sir William Clayton) superior intellect. With his arcane skill he terrorized the soldiery and became a leader of the oppressed gypsies. No one could harm the strange man, and his power and knowledge grew.
Then, one day, he was approached by an American who had journeyed to Latvia to talk to him. He was the dean of New York State University, and he said he'd "heard some very interesting things" about Doom, and was offering him a scholarship at NYSU. But where would he have heard about Doom? We think it's probable that Fu Manchu had had his eye on the boy all along, and had contacted the dean, and "arranged" for the boy to get a scholarship. Later, at the college, Doom met young Reed Richards, who was one day to become his most hated enemy. At the same college, months later, Doom had an accident in his lab that scarred his face. What most people don't realize is that his accident occurred while he was trying to contact the nether-world. How similar this is to Fu Manchu's reincarnation device, which is well known! Apparently, Fu Manchu sent his knowledge that he gathered while building the reincarnation machine to his son, perhaps anonymously, since it is never made clear that Dr. Doom ever found out who his father was.
As a result of the accident, Doom was expelled from school and went to Tibet. Why Tibet? Again, this can be attributed to Fu Manchu. Tibet has always been close to, and is now a part of, China. When Doom arrived in the Tibetan mountains, he encountered a group of monks with a strangely high technological resource center. Their costumes are so similar to those worn by Fu's Council of Seven, the elite of his Si-Fan cult, that obviously Fu Manchu arranged for Doom to travel to Tibet and to encounter a group of his Si-Fan whom he had planted there for just this purpose. The Si-Fan, with their technology, helped Doom construct his armor, which has saved his life countless times.
This is our theory, and from the evidence at hand, it seems hard to refute. In case you still doubt, we invite you to consider these following pieces of evidence:
Both Dr. Doom and Dr. Fu Manchu are tall men; both are possessed of a fanatical pride for their homeland, Doom for Latveria, Fu Manchu for China; Doom's eyes are consistently portrayed with an oriental caste to them; previous to his accident, Dr. Doom's eyes are predominantly shown as grey. Fu Manchu's father, Sir William Clayton, had grey eyes, being a Greystoke; both are men who combine science and sorcery to achieve great technological advancements; Werner von Doom repeatedly states that Victor takes after his mother, connotating that he does not take after Werner; this would be true, since Werner was not his real father; although his accident drove von Doom over the brink of sanity, he was evil before this, inherently evil; both of these men started their true criminal careers after being disfigured. This bespeaks of a similar basic personality between them, as a son and his father would have; Fu Manchu was near Latvia at the time Victor was born, so that he could easily have made the trip to Latvia; there are similarities between Doom's and Fu Manchu's resources and backgrounds, i.e. the reincarnation experiments and the Tibetan monks (or Si-Fan).
Thus, we can state almost positively that Dr. Victor von Doom is very real, that he is the son of Fu Manchu. This, then, makes Dr. Doom as half-brother to Shang-chi, Fah Lo Suee, and M'nai, also known as Midnight. Of these three, the latter two are evil. One might wonder, now that Dr. Doom has become such a powerlord, if Fu Manchu ever regrets having aided his son in becoming one. It is possible that Fu Manchu never considered his son a rival in world dominance. If this is the case, then Fu is in for a big surprise. Dr. Doom may very well be more powerful than his father.
One last thing puzzles us. Victor von Doom and Reed Richards are contemporaries, being about the same age. Recently, during his excursions as a member of the elite team, the Fantastic Four, Richards has become aware that his age is catching up to him, despite the active life he leads. He tires easily, is short of breath and complains of stiffness. He is, after all, nearing 50. Yet Dr. Doom shows none of these symptoms. He is, if anything, more active than ever before. Also, he never seems to be overly perturbed when one of his latest schemes is squelched, usually by the FF. He just starts over, seemingly unbothered by the lost time. All this points to one inescapable conclusion: Fu Manchu, besides giving young Doom his technology, also gave him the most precious commodity of all, his elixir vitae, the Serum of Immortality.
And so, we pity, and fear for, the future generations of mankind. With an eternity stretching before him, Doom may soon quit his incessant striving. He may lie low for 50 years and watch his enemies, like the FF, and his rivals, like the Red Skull, die off one by one. And then, one day, Victor von Doom will come forth from Latveria, the country no one even knew existed, and bring the world under his iron-handed rule. And there will be no one to stop him.
Farmer, Philip Jose- Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (the section of Addendum I dealing with Fu Manchu/Hanoi Shan)
"Latvia,"-Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. XII
Rohmer, Sax-The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu
Fantastic Four Annual, 1964 edition
Marvel Superheroes #20
Any Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Super Villain Team-up that features Dr. Doom. Only by reading a wide selection of stories can you get an accurate picture of Doom as a person.
Spider-Man newspaper strip.
Recent installments of this syndicated strip contain much background information on Dr. Doom.
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All rights reserved. The text of this article is copyright 2000 by the author, Scott Koeller. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portion thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without the prior written permission and consent of the author.