DOCTOR DROOMMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1961
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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The Fantastic Four in 1961, writer Stan Lee (whose prior credits include The All Winners Squad and Millie the Model) and artist Jack Kirby (Challengers of the Unknown, Fighting American) set the genre on its ears, defying conventions and creating reader interest in it that hadn't been seen since the debut of Superman himself. Everybody with even the slightest knowledge of comic book history knows that.
Except — the superhero creations of Lee and Kirby didn't start with The Fantastic Four. Five months earlier, in the back pages of one of the typical monster comics they were doing at the time, they introduced their least well remembered star. Doctor Droom (no relation) debuted in Amazing Adventures #1, dated June, 1961. Droom didn't wear the usual superhero skin-tights, but he had super powers and fought evil, and that's close enough. Aside from the Lee and Kirby credits, the story was inked by Steve Ditko, who later co-created a similar but less obscure character, Doctor Strange.
Dr. Anthony Droom started out as an American physician, charitable and kind-hearted and not nearly as money-grubbing as some of his colleagues. At his own expense, he heeded a call for help from a Tibetan lama who, it turned out, was not really sick — he was looking for a successor to carry on his lifelong battle against the evil occult forces that constantly threaten the human race. He tested Droom for purity and faith, then touched Droom's hand and, with his dying breath, transferred his powers to their new wielder. The most amazing part of the process was Droom's transformation into an Asian with funny eyebrows, apparently because the Western body type wasn't capable of being anywhere near inscrutable enough for the role. The lama's disciple (not named) went with the deal, and thereafter served as Droom's mystic sidekick.
Doctor Droom never appeared on the cover of Amazing Adventures (which was reserved for such terrible menaces as Manoo (no relation) and Monsteroso) but, skipping only one issue, he lasted as long as the title did. That was no great achievement, however, as the title was changed with #7 (December, 1961) to Amazing Adult Fantasy, and the format changed with it — no more monsters and no more Doctor Droom, just a full comic each month of little fantasy stories by Lee and Ditko. The final issue, re-titled again to take the word "adult" out, introduced Spider-Man.
And that would have been the end of Doctor Droom, but at Marvel, no superhero is left behind. In Weird Wonder Tales (one of several Marvel titles that reprinted those old monster comics) #19 (December, 1975) they launched a brief series of reprinted Doctor Droom stories — only he'd been re-named "Doctor Druid". Also, leaving all background and supporting characters the same, his figure had been re-drawn de-Asianized (he was rebooted as a Celtic mystic) and with a bright, red superhero suit. Later, he became an ordinary enough superhero to have adventures with The Avengers, which began in that group's 225th issue (November, 1982). For a while, in fact, he was actually a member.
Doctor Droom/Druid is currently dead, murdered by The Son of Satan. Perhaps, unlike many other Marvel characters, he'll remain so.