Dr. Doom’s Disillusioned Dichotomy

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November 10, 2012 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

Don’t tell anyone this, but I think I like supervillains more than I do superheroes.  I always suspected this was true, but up until recently it was only a speculation, not a universal constant.  Even as a kid I preferred Venom over Spider-Man and Two-Face over Batman.  After reading the most recent issue of Fantastic Four, a Dr. Doom centric story, I realized that they tend to be more human.  For a villain to be believable there has to be a stronger motivating force for them to do evil, than there has to be for a hero to do good.  The best villains are ones that you can identify as people and believe that they are people; for me this means having a wide range of characteristics and emotions, instead of being one-dimensional.

The best villains possess a multi-faceted nature that not many superheroes exhibit.  Superman is the boy scout; Batman is the dark brooding vigilante, and Hulk……well Hulk smash.  Sinestro, Two-Face, and Dr. Doom, to name a few, all exist within a feuding dichotomy that is the foundation of their character.  It is their defining trait as well as their Achilles heel.  All three are caught between two very strong and opposing forces that lead to the imbalanced nature of their being.

For anyone looking to get into Green Lantern, the best place to start is “Secret Origin”.  Not only is it a retelling of Hal Jordan’s origin, but it also sets up the “Blackest Night” while at the same time drawing parallels to John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Look at it this way; the Guardians are like God, the creators of the Green Lanterns and the ones who rule over them trying to do good throughout existence.  Sinestro is like Satan in that he is constantly told that he is the greatest of all, which leads to his megalomania and arrogance, which eventually will cause his downfall and expulsion from the Green Lantern Corps, similar to Satan’s expulsion from Heaven.  Just as Satan knew that he was the most beautiful of all the angels, Sinestro was constantly referred to as the greatest of all Lanterns, and was even acknowledged as the greatest Green Lantern by the Guardians themselves.  Hal Jordan is then like Adam since he is now the greatest Green Lantern, surpassing Sinestro, just as Adam had surpassed Satan as the pinnacle of all of God’s creations.  Just as Satan caused the downfall of Adam via eating the forbidden fruit, Sinestro caused the downfall of Hal Jordan by exposing him to Parallax, the living embodiment of fear.[1]

Implicit literary allusions aside, Sinestro is purely motivated by pride and arrogance; but at the same time he believes that he is genuinely making the universe a safer and better place because of it.  He can’t be as great as he is without that sense of arrogance, but at the same time that same arrogance often places the universe in peril.  At one time he was the greatest Green Lantern, but his hubris led to him overstepping his jurisdiction.  And because he thought he knew better than the guardians (a la Satan) he created his own corps and waged a war across the galaxy to inspire fear.  However, at the same time his own sense of confidence was enough to keep death incarnate at bay during the “Blackest Night”.  He needs that hubris to empower him, but it will always overdo it leading to him becoming a threat to the universe.  The best portrayal of Sinestro is often done when he can be compared to a flawed Greek Mythological character, one whose greatest strength turns out to be their undoing.

Similarly to Sinestro, Dr. Doom is a creature motivated by his own arrogance and sense of superiority.  The most recent issue of Fantastic Four completely exemplified and summarized the inner split of Dr. Doom.  He is a character who exists between two equal and opposite forces: science and magic.  The split goes further than that; it is a paradigm of logic and irrationality, knowledge and emotion, physical and spiritual, and constant and creation.  Doom finally possesses the ability to create an entire universe complete with his own laws to govern it as well as the power to create life itself.  However, he uses himself as the template for this new universe, mixing in his knowledge of science and magic to create all.  Things go awry however when his creations rebel and Doom loses control of this new reality.

The reason why Doom cannot sustain this universe is because of the initial instability of the foundations of this reality.  The fact that the creator used two contrasting fundamentals (science and magic) caused the universe to function improperly.  This is because the creator himself is a walking paradox, a combination of opposing forces that should not exist.  The universal imbalance of this one man seeped through into all that he created so that his creation literally became made in his image.

For Doom, someone who thinks he’s God’s gift to the world, the fact that his creations took after this fundamental flaw in their creator instead of the vain self-image of perfection, is quite possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to him.  Although he would never admit it, Doom realized his glaring imperfection when he noted to Reed Richards that he found being a god to be beneath him.  For Doom an incredibly proud and arrogant man, turning his back on a project is akin to admitting failure.

Unlike the other two, Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face is not motivated by arrogance or held back by it.  Instead his is the quintessential battle between good and evil.  Suffering from a split personality disorder, Dent is a walking contrast between the rage and mania of Two-Face and the benevolent justice seeking decency of Harvey Dent.  Yeah, that may seem trite and overplayed on the surface, but underneath it all, Harvey is the representation of all of Batman’s failures.  Two-Face exists because Batman was not strong enough; because Batman failed to save Harvey Dent from having acid hurled in his face, a new monster sprung up from the boiling remnants of Harvey Dent.

With Two-Face, there is no want, or even any ego; it’s all id and superego, which leads to the constant war inside his head.  He doesn’t even choose the outcomes of his own life.  Whether he kills or spares someone, breaks out or goes silently to the asylum or even helps Batman is predicated on the heads or tails outcome of his coin.  It’s the extreme manifestation of fate wherein the self has no say in his own life.  Without an ego to mediate between Two-Face (id) and Harvey Dent (superego), his psyche is left in a state of permanent indecision, hence the reliance on an outside medium to determine his actions.  Because he cannot decide for himself good or evil, he is left in a world where the rules of right and wrong no longer apply.

Instead of this conflict between two opposing forces being a natural extension of himself as was the case with Sinestro and Dr. Doom, Harvey’s dichotomy was forcefully applied from an external source.  As a result the manifestation of this duality is more pronounced and vulgar because of the unnatural rectification that his mind needs to cope with the trauma of living in contrasts.

Whether we like it or not, we all live between opposites.  As human beings it is our contribution to the universe.  With most of us, the dichotomy lies within the realms of rationality and illogicalness.  The simplest yet most poignant example of our capacity for rationality is that 2+2=4.  This is irrefutable fact that relies on our senses and physical prowess and capability to see it.  Emotions such as spite, love, lust, and fear surmise our capacity for illogicalness.  A phobia is defined as an irrational fear, something that is proven to normally not cause fear, yet for some unexplained reason does.  Spite, to hurt oneself in the pursuit of doing so to another completely defies one of the two most crucial aspects of biology, of preserving the bodily integrity of the self.[2]  I need not explain what the feelings of love and lust do to us….that’s just a given.

The point is though that everyone in some way or another can relate to the idea of dichotomies and dualities.  There is a dichotomous break in most things in life.  What you want to do and what you ought to do is the prime example.  To be human is to be stuck between many choices, feelings, ideas, people, outcomes, or whatever.  We can’t nor should we be one singular thing.  That’s what makes Sinestro, Dr. Doom, and Two-Face so human, granted they are villainous and murderous where most of us are not, but the principle is the same: although they are fictitious and superhuman they still in a world that we all live one, which is one of  dichotomies and logical irrationalities.


[1] During the Emerald Twilight story arc, Hal was possessed by Parallax and decimated the Green Lantern Corps.

[2] This is but one goal in the theory of the meaning of life that scientists hypothesize.  The other is producing viable offspring.  In a roundabout way I guess you can say hybrid animals are an affront to science, sorry Hercules.

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