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What We Have Learned: The Grand Finale

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This week I've had confirmation of a date for the Viva for my PhD, on December 10th. For those blissfully unaware of the workings of UK PhD examinations, that's the session where I sit down with three examiners and we have a discussion to make sure it's a Proper Piece Of Research that I've actually done myself- in other countries it's called a "defence" as that's pretty much what it is. Once that's done I either pass, pass with some amendments required (minor or major) or don't!

It's all quite exciting as, apart from any amendments required, that'll be pretty much the end of this whole process. There'll still be a confirmation of the result (if the result is good!) and then in theory a graduation, but once the Viva's over I've finished, and can go off an do something else if I want to! I'm hoping to carve up the final thesis into several chunks, notably a chapter about Periodising The Marvel Age, an Academic Book about my method of evaluating transmedia character coherence, and possibly also a slightly non-academic (i.e. broadly comprehensible) one about Doctor Doom as a character during the period covered. The last one will probably be based on this very blog!

The timing coincides rather nicely with the fact that we've now reached the end of the corpus of texts on this blog. There will be occasional updates here, when things get published or other stuff happens (including the unleashing of my full datasets for public consumption), but today's blog, looking at what it was all about overall, will be the last regular one. Let'd dry our eyes and get on with it!

Obviously the main thing it was all about was Doctor Doom! When this all started I thought that we'd be looking at all sorts of different interpretations of Doom as a character that would vary all over the place, especially when he appeared in other media, but to my great surprise this was not the case at all. Doom very quickly gets into a groove of - to use a techinical term - Doctor Doom-ness - so that within a year or so after his creation he is very much the same character as will appear throughout. This is even more clear in other media where, apart from occasional slightly different cloak clasps, he always looks pretty much the same, with very similar origins (occasionally removing Reed Richards) and motivations.

The only real differences occurred in comics, notably in the 1960s where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tried to evolve the character, turning him from the noble villain he became around Fantastic Four Annual #2 into a raving lunatic despot given to cackling self-deception. For a time there were two versions of the character running side by side, until around the early 70s when he reverted to the noble version and has pretty much stayed that way ever since. I found this fascinating, as the only people whose version of Doom deviated from the one set up by his original creators were ... his original creators!

The big exception to the above happens in the mid-1980s, where Doom becomes a lot more changeable. This is almost entirely due to the way he's presented in "Secret Wars", where many of his characteristics were changed. A lot of this was part of the story itself - Doom gaining cosmic power, curing his facial injuries, and becoming the saviour of the universe were all occurrences that came about because of, and drove, the plot, with the idea that things must be really bad if Doom is the universe's last hope. However, some of this was also due to the inarguable fact that "Secret Wars" was utterly terrible, with many characters behaving weirdly and the whole thing knocked off at high speed. As mentioned on several ocassions, I hated it!

Apart from that, Doom's constancy and cohesion showed (to my great relief) that he was indeed a good example of an early transmedia character, and proved to be a really good case study for looking at character coherence. I haven't really talked about this a lot on the blog, but character coherence is really the focus of the PhD which this all fed into. I ended up devising a model for how this could be assessed and mapped over time using a thirteen-dimensional model which... well, which I'll be talking about in more depth in the thesis! As I say, I'm hoping to publish this one way or another in the future, so I'd suggest waiting for that to come out, or possibly the movie adaptation!

All in all then, this has been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend four or five years of my life. There have been bumps along the way, notably trying to get through "Secret Wars" and also "Not Brand Echh", but for the most part I've been delighted to find that a lot of these comics are really good, and some of them are amazing. Many texts in the corpus needs you to squint a bit to take account of the times they were produced in, but there were a lot of stand-out moments which I would never have uncovered otherwise. I definitely wouldn't have watched the "Amazing Spider-man" cartoon or read the similarly named newspaper strip, and those were great!

So, that's your lot for now - more will come as I (hopefully) get some of this out into the wider world, but until then thanks again and, as Stan would say, Excelsior!

posted 8/11/2021 by Mark Hibbett

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We'll miss you, Mark. Looking forward to the book!
posted 14/11/2021 by Andrew Atkin

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DOOMBOT FILTER: an animal that says 'to-whit to-whoo' (3)

(e.g. for an animal that says 'cluck' type 'hen')

A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett