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Chip Zdarsky on Marvel's 2099 and the disastrous reign of Doctor Doom
80 years into the future of the Marvel Universe, Dr. Doom has conquered the world and rules above all with a tritonium fist. At least that's the way it's looking right now in Marvel's 2099 series.
Time travel in comics is an age-old tradition, but it was unprecedentedly grim in 1993, when Marvel's original 2099 series debuted. Sparked by an idea Stan Lee initially called "The World of Tomorrow," the 2099 series plunged the reader a little more than a century into a future in which evil corporations like Alchemax had taken control of the world (turns out they overestimated how long that would take).
2099 painted a grim future for the Marvel Universe. Against the backdrop of a cyberpunk future, the masses are under constant surveillance and control by mega-corporations through drugs, technology and their own police force (the Public Eye).
Fighting to save this future were new versions of the Punisher, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the X-Men... and then there was Doom. One of the longest-running titles of the 2099 line, Doom 2099 followed the original Victor Von Doom after he was displaced 100 years into a hostile future. In the original series, Doom played a central role in shaping what was left of the Marvel Universe. Over the course of 44 issues, he was able to regain his broken kingdom of Latveria, finally take control of America, and even team up with Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099) to save humanity from the Phalanx by sacrificing himself.
Chip Zdarsky, who is writing the new version of Doom 2099, was an avid reader of the original series.
"I really dug that a whole new world was created between each series," Zdarsky told SYFY WIRE last week. "A 'shared universe' when it's essentially our world with superheroes is one thing, but collectively building a future world added a whole new layer."
Almost 28 years later, Marvel has taken another look into the future of 2099 with a major arc in the Amazing Spider-Man and several one-shot 2099 books. Within this return to the 2099 universe, Doom is again at the center. Zdarksky talked about his upcoming Doom 2099 one-shot, spoke about what makes Dr. Doom tick and teased what could be the inevitable future of the Marvel Universe.
"I was about fifteen, sixteen, when the original line came out. I fell in love with Spider-Man 2099 and Doom 2099 right out of the gate," Zdarsky said. "The really interesting thing about the 2099 line, both original and today, is that the mandate is to create new characters that have the same classic hero name instead of just putting the characters we know into the future. The one exception in the original line was Doom, though you weren't sure at first."
When pitching Doom 2099, Zdarsky said he wanted to stay true to those roots. In the original series, Victor, along with the readers, remained unsure if he was the one true Doom until issue #25. More recently, in the 2099 Alpha one-shot, we see that Doom has been very busy. Ever wary of usurpers, he can be seen tapping into the universal power of the Watchers to monitor any threats.
A fan of Victor Von Doom from John Byrne's Fantastic Four run and, more recently, Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars, Zdarsky said he's been looking forward to returning to the character after writing him in Marvel Two-In-One in 2015.
"I love writing Doom," he said. "I had the chance to tackle the Invincible Iron Man version in Marvel Two-In-One, so it was nice to come back to the character here. My favorite kind of comic book story has the hero stripped down, trying to work their way back up, so this is me doing it with a villain."
When it comes to writing a good villain, Zdarksy said, it's all about complexity.
"You can't help but agree with them on some level when written well," he said. "[Doom's] incredible intelligence hampered by his ego is the main thing. Also, he's so pompous, which is really fun to write."
When taking on the future version of Dr. Doom, Zdarsky said he wanted to pay homage to the original run, which was written by John Francis Moore and Warren Ellis, and bring back the mystery surrounding Doom's identity.
"That mystery! Is the Doom of the story the genuine deal? And if not, does it even matter? It was a really interesting examination of identity, and the idea of the 'fresh start.'" he said. "I wanted to tap into that feeling here."
Dropping "little Easter eggs here and there" to help fill in the blanks of why the world of 2099 became what it did" was also a highlight for Zdarsky, who said out of everyone in the Marvel Universe, he'd most like to see a take on Captain America in the year 2099.
"Well, in keeping with the idea of a new character inhabiting the role, I'd love to see Captain America 2099," he said. "A reflection of what America should aspire to in the future would be interesting."
As for Dr. Doom's ultimate plans in 2099, Zdarsky said, "if Doom's going down, he's taking people with him."
Check out a preview of Doom 2099 below, available from Marvel Comics on Dec. 11.