These days, it seems like no one can keep the name of one of the ultimate villains of the Marvel multiverse out of their mouths – I’m talking about Mephisto, of course! But of all the familiar Marvel characters, there is perhaps only one who has the mettle to stand boot-to-hoof with the Prince of Lies and steel their will well enough to tell the tale: Doctor Victor Von Doom!
In today’s Mephisto Monday entry, The Beat considers a pair of tales that see virtuous and villainous Victors alike facing off against the Crown Prince of the Underworld… and, good or evil, the outcome ends up looking kind of the same either way!
Astonishing Tales (1971) #8
In the third story included in Astonishing Tales (1971) #8, “…Though Some Call it Magic!” (referred to as “Some Call It – Witchcraft” on the cover) by Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, and Jean Izzo, the foundations of Doom’s conflict with Mephisto are revealed… and it’s all about Victor’s mother, Cynthia Von Doom.
Cynthia practiced witchcraft, and according to rumors passed around by a crowd of Latverian citizens who gather outside Castle Von Doom on Midsummer’s Eve, she died “unconfessed.” With the mortal sin staining her soul, she’s been consigned to eternal damnation.
(What’s that’s line Agatha Harkness says in the series finale of WandaVision? Oh, right: “Same story, different century. There will always be torches and pitchforks for ladies like us, Wanda.”)
Unable to accept this state of affairs, each year on Midsummer’s Eve, Victor (aided by the loyal Boris) summons Mephisto and struggles with him, attempting to win the freedom of his mother’s soul.
However, the annual ritual perpetually ends in defeat for Victor… although he swears he will continue the struggle each year, until his goal has been accomplished and his mother’s soul has been freed from the clutches of the Dark Lord.
What If…? (1980) #22
If you’re going to start something with Mephisto, then the Master Builder #22 is a great way to hedge your bets with numerology (and as Victor himself can tell you, when you’re going up against Mephisto, you’ll need all the advantages you can get).
And frankly, when a heroic Victor fights Mephisto in What If…? (1980) #22 by Don Glut, Fred Kida, Dave Simons, Gaff, and Orzechowski, “a stunning saga of an alternate reality,” we learn what would have happened if Victor had become a hero… and as revealed by the cover, it turns out that “he would struggle with Mephisto – and he would suffer… as no man has suffered before!” This sounds a lot like what happened in Astonishing Tales #8 so far, but let’s she how the showdown shakes out in this timeline.
Perhaps the most notable difference is the fact that Victor succeeds in freeing his mother’s soul from the clutches of Mephisto. Victor goes on to marry his lady love, Valeria.
But Victor has really cheesed Mephisto off! To balance the scales after Victor stole one of his precious souls away from him, Mephisto needs a brand new soul… and he wants either Victor’s, or the soul of the only one who Victor loves as he loves Cynthia: the soul of Valeria.
To force Doom’s hand, Mephisto traps the whole of Latveria within a snow globe. He then offers Victor an ultimatum: surrender his soul or surrender Valeria’s.
Doom determines that the world cannot go on without him, and so surrenders Valeria’s soul. The What If? tale ends with Victor in nearly the same position as we saw him trapped within in the panels of Astonishing Tales: spending every Midsummer’s Eve wrestling with Mephisto’s minions for the soul of someone he loves…
Except in What If?, his helmet isn’t nearly as cool as Doom prime’s.
According to “The Watcher Knows,” a column on the letters page, there is a specific relationship between “Satan, Hela, Mephisto, and Pluto.” According to the Watcher, “All of the rulers of the nether-worlds are separate entities, existing on their own specific dimensional nether-worlds with their own spheres of dominion. Satan and Mephsito operate from tangent spheres of existence.”
Interesting stuff! Maybe this means we’ll be getting Into the Mephisto-Verse before too long…
Beyond Doom & Evil
If you’re wondering whether or not the connection between Doom and Mephisto continues to the present day, fear not: like all Faustian pacts, this one has staying power. Behold a page from the recent Wastelanders: Doctor Doom (2022) #1 by Torunn Grønbekk, Julius Ohta, Bryan Valenza, and Cory Petit, which shows a possible-future version of Victor being tormented by a vision of his mother in the clutches of the looming Mephisto.
It seems that no matter what the broader circumstances, when an immobile object such as Victor Von Doom meets an unmovable force like Mephisto, conflict is inevitable…. And whether Victor is a hero or a villain, Mephisto can generally look forward to being preoccupied with Victor’s persistent efforts at exerting his own will year after year.
What’s your favorite story of Doom coming into conflict with Mephisto (or any of the other dark rulers of their respective nether-worlds that were mentioned by the Watcher)? Let The Beat know, either here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat!