If comic shops were KFCs, Marvel Essentials would be bargain buckets. Cooked up using The House of Ideas' Secret Recipe, these cheap black and white bricks are the value purchase for hungry comic historians.
Every volume retails for around a tenner or less and they all reprint 20+ classic issues. I've gorged myself on quite a few down the years and still have plenty sitting on my shelves which I've only dipped into.
They're all tasty, but my favourite flavour is undoubtedly Essential Super-Villain Team-Up Volume #1.
It's a mighty tome collecting stories from 30 different comics and featuring art from the likes of Wally Wood, Gene Colan, John Buscema, Herbe Trimpe, George Perez and Carmine Infantino.
While a galaxy of Marvel's greatest villains appear in the book, Doctor Doom is the anchor point. He appears in all the stories and rightly so - I think we can all agree that bad guys don't come much more A list than Doom. OK, so perhaps the Joker or Lex Luthor are a rung or two ahead of him on the ladder of villainy, but in Marvel terms? Nah...Doom is THE man.
Being a high ranking villain, our boy doesn't get much time to kick back and relax. Taking over the World is a 24-7, 365 days a year kind of job. And don't forget, while he's working his steel balls off to bring the rule of Doom to rest of the planet, Victor still has to keep a tight reign on his own country, Latveria.
As anyone who has read Essential Super-Villain Team-Up will know, that's not as easy as it sounds. Some super-powered Z lister or wanabee monarch is ALWAYS trying to get their hands on the peaceful principality.
Take this knob for example...
Rightful ruler my arse. Prince Rudolfo is a whining loser who is still bitter that his father was too weak to stop Doom taking over his crummy country in the first place.
Like father like son: Rudolfo soon gets shafted when Doom tricks him and his bitch ass disciples into thinking they have taken over Castle Doom.
Just as the foppish pretender is settling in to life in the throne room, Doom activates a vibration machine that demolishes the castle and sends Rudolfo running for the hills like the sissy he is. Ha-Ha. Owned!
It's another easy victory for Doom, but one which leaves him temporarily homeless. Thankfully a heartfelt appeal on national television touches the hearts and minds of Latverians everywhere...
The populace are soon queuing up to offer their help in rebuilding the Royal residence...
No need to be so down folks, the ever benevolent Doom has already done all the planning leaving you Latverians with the relatively simple task of rebuilding Castle Doom.
With things well in hand, Doom decides against holing up in a Latverian B&B and instead jets off for a well earned mini-break in the South of France.
Notice how light he packs, just the armour and a gun.
This is Doom's first holiday for many years and you get the feeling he finds it hard to let his hair down. I mean there aren't many nicer spots in the world for an eligible young monarch to hang out than the French Riviera, yet Doom can't get out of super-villain mode and chooses to shun flip-flops, shorts and a relaxing cocktail by the pool for a stroll down the beach in his armour...
Pausing from his righteous railing against the pampered aristocracy of Western Europe, Doom checks into the Riviera's top hotel. He isn't expected, but the staff are only too happy to free up a room for such an esteemed guest.
Pack your bags Queen Elizabeth, Doom is in town...
Sadly he's clocked by a couple of unscrupulous locals...
...who wait until nightfall to don their burglar outfits (a small mask in the case of the clever one, a full on spandex number for the muscles) and attempt to rob the jet lagged Doom
This lunk is clearly deluded. Selling Doom's armour on the open market would be impossible. He might be able to get rid of it on the quiet by selling it to some rich private collector like Superman or Batman both of whom are known to collect Super-Villain curios. But the open market? No way. Doom would be on his case before the auctioneer's hammer hit the gavel.
Not that he gets anywhere near the armour anyway.
Aaahh look at Doomy all tucked up in his pyjarmour. What a cutie. But he's not just a pretty face as our foolish burglar soon finds out
ZZIRRRR! Eat Repulsor ray shithead! And get the fuck out of Doom's room...
That deals with the crooks, but after such a rudely interrupted night's sleep it's no surprise that Doom is a bit cranky at breakfast the next morning...
What's the matter with these people? Haven't they ever seen a man in full battle armour at the breakfast table?
Doom's mood is made even worse when the gimps at the local casino get antsy about him letting his hair down at the roulette table...
What impudence! Victor wouldn't take that kind of shit from Magneto or Prince Namor let alone these two simpering swines. You can't blame him for throwing a Doomtrum.
It's a sad conclusion to the holiday, but after being gaped at by clods, attacked in his own room and refused the chance to partake in a little nightlife is it any wonder that Doom decides enough is enough and checks out?
And so ends a brief break in the sun for Earth's number #1 super-monarch. When he returns to Latveria he finds that the Red Skull has mounted a takeover and that his helpless subjects are all marching about in jackboots and talking German.
The ensuing battle between Doom and the Skull is a jaw dropper. One day LLC shall document it. For now it is enough to know that Doom wins again. As long as he's not fighting Super-heroes he always does.
All panels taken from Essential Super-Villain Team Up Volume #1. Originally printed in Astonishing Tales #1, #3 and #4.