Sunday, 23 December 2012

Super-Villain Team-Up

Back in the 70s Marvel was happy to unleash experimental titles on the world. Unlike today not everything had to be a continuity heavy crossover providing in-depth analysis of a superhero with a film coming out. The company was happy to have writers write things that were fun.

One such title was Super-Villain Team-Up. Instead of focusing on the latern-jawed do-gooders of the Marvel U it put their iniquitous counterparts centre stage. Bad deeds were the order of the day in SVTU, not world saving. Failed attempts at world domination reigned supreme.

The natural choice for the starring role was Doctor Doom. The arch enemy of the Fantastic Four has been one of Marvel’s most well-rounded ne’er-do-wells since his first appearance, part of the reason he is still used frequently to this day and enjoys such popularity with fans. His over the top personality and access to wide range of gadgets and gizmos meant he was a perfect choice to carry such a title and also keep sales high. He referred to himself in the third person far more back then, another bonus.

The Team-Up part was the downside of the book, at least at the start. Doom is such a great character that having him share pages with the likes of Namor and Kazar feels like a wasted opportunity. Things do improve during the Doom and Namor saga (some of which features them battling rather than teaming up), and they really heat up when Magneto becomes a part of the series, playing the party of the hero to save the world from another of Doom’s plots.

The art by Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Herb Trimpe, Jim Shooter and others is textbook mid-70s Marvel. Everyone makes sure that the running gag of Doom’s mask showing emotions is kept alive and well. The lack of colour in the collected edition doesn’t matter a bit such is the care and attention paid to the pencils and inks.

Red Skull pops up too. He starts off being pitted against Doom and ends up becoming the central character of the final team-up of the series, paired with the equally hateful… erm… Hate-Monger. While they’re not the stars the good guys do make appearances, with the Avengers, the Shroud (a Batman take-off that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years), and the Fantastic Four all cropping up for a spot of thwarting.

Doctor Doom is the undeniable star though. Any fans of his have to read this. Practically every issue contains a classic Doom line, be it “Serve me, woman!”, “Doom will be revenged, cur!”, or “Doom needs no one!”, bellowed as the character is flying through the air. The story’s all over the place, thanks mainly to the large number of writers coming and going over a relatively small number of issues, but ultimately it’s a great read. Good fun a fine example of Marvel at their best.

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