Pitchmas 2020, Part 8: Books of Doom

I think the pilot, “Falling For Thirty Minutes” focuses on Loki, both because his rise somewhat parallels Doom’s, but also because he’s already better established than most of these, and because I have a really fun idea where this takes place. We borrow a moment from Thor Ragnarok, Loki charging at Dr. Strange who portals him away. We find him falling through a black void, falling indefinitely. Only he realizes he isn’t alone at all- falling beside him (but also posed like he’s standing still with his arms crossed, his flapping cape the only indication he’s moving at all) is Dr. Doom. He tells him he has a proposition for him. Loki asks if it includes getting out of “here” and Doom says it does. He opens, without a sling ring, a portal beneath them, and Loki slams unceremoniously into a conference table inside a castle. Seated around it are people we’ll get to know over the course of the series: Namor, Justin Hammer (in Whiplash’s armor, modified to make him Whirlwind), Maximus the Mad, Baron Mordo, one of the Deviants (from Eternals), the Hood (I’d bring back Walton Goggins, and tweak the character’s backstory accordingly so his established character from Ant Man and the Wasp could fit into that character’s backstory) and Sebastian Shaw. Loki has a look around the room, then says, “No. You can take me back to my void, now.” We notice a character in shadow just beyond the candle light from the candelabra adorning the table who tenses, his eyes glowing purple- but this is very subtle. “I have no interest in joining your Injustice Legion of Doom.” Doom waves his hand, and the other guests, chairs, and tables disappear as made of smoke he wafted away, and Loki falls to the floor (the creature in the shadows doesn’t disappear, but remains so far back in shadows some viewers may not even notice him on first viewing).

Doom and Loki walk through the halls of Doom’s castle. Doom explains to Loki the world needs an Illuminati- an enlightened counterpart to the Avengers boorish brutes, sauntering in and trying to punch threats to death. “Doom is not a villain.”

“Then Doom may wish to consider a change of name, or at least to first-person.”

“Doom is a ruler, from a proud heritage. Doom is answerable to his people, who deserve better protectors than these,” he conjures an image of the Avengers. Loki’s tempted by the opportunity to do good while showing up his brother. But that also raises his skepticism. He says he won’t be used as a weapon against his brother. Doom laughs, and tells him he wants him for his knowledge of Asgardian magic and tech. From the way Doom speaks, he regards Loki almost as a protégé, a would-be ruler, whose mother taught him magics; their paths diverged when Doom succeeded to the throne, and Loki lost his. Loki realizes he’ll have to go back to the void, and Doom opens a portal for him, and he jumps down into it.

We stay on Doom, whose mind is consumed by his reverie, zooming into the bloodshot eye within his armor. We see Victor as a child. His mother is teaching him magic, telling him that with their strength, they can free their band of Roma from the Baron’s tyranny. But something happens; his mother’s eyes go red, and she looses an evil smile. She speaks with a voice that is several, layered over top, and Victor realizes she’s been possessed, and turns his magic to trying to free her. The demon that’s possessed her is too strong, and blasts him back. It taunts him, with his weakness, with his inability to save his mother, and blasts a hole through the wall and leaves. An injured Victor pursues, following a trail of blood and fire towards the village’s chapel. As he approaches, it goes up in flames, and screaming can be heard from inside. Victor tears his way in, half with magic, half with his bare hands. Since it’s a Disney+ show, I assume we should be coy about the carnage, but the village’s children, and many of its adults, have burnt to death. The flames do not touch a small bubble in the center, where his mother remains safe from the flame. Despite his youth, young Victor carries his mother outside, before dropping her in the earth, and collapsing with her, exhausted from the feat. He crawls to her, and shakes her, but she’s gone, and he cries out.

We cut to Infinity War, aboard the Asgardian ship filled with flames. A beaten Loki grins and proclaims, “We have a Hulk.” We watch, however, as Loki’s smile fades, as he watches Hulk fall to Thanos’ onslaught. Cut a few moments later, as Loki charges Thanos himself, only to be caught, and killed (we don’t need to linger on him turning blue, because this is a Disney+ show, damnit).

Loki wakes up, again in a black void. He asks if it’s the same black void. Doom is suddenly behind him, and informs him it is not. It was once Hela’s realm, but after her unfortunate collision with Surter, it’s been… under different management. He informs Loki that all fees have been rendered; subtly, in the background, we see a wagonload of Latverians being driven away by a man in a red suit, who tips his hat to the two of them. Suddenly, Loki gasps, and we’re in a different room, with the part of Loki now being played by Lady Sif. Doom explains that they needed an Asgardian vessel to house him; frost giants being eminently more accessible, he tried them first, but only an Asgardian would do, and it just so happened he’d come into the possession of Lady Sif some time prior to Ragnarok.

Later, a sullen Loki is plied with liquor, furnished, it seems, by Doom himself. Loki tells him he isn’t thirsty, but thanks him for the thought. The real Doom enters, takes a stein for each of them from the Bot, and sits opposite him. He tells Loki that he hoped they’d have a moment to talk, so he could pass his condolences to Loki for the loss of his mother. Loki’s surprised, both that he knows this, and at Doom’s gentility. Then he sees something in Doom’s eyes, recognizing a kindred spirit. “You lost your mother, too,” he says quietly. “But you brought me back…”

“Some monsters are easier to deal with than others,” Doom says. He sets down his stein, and we see his ale swirl as we transition to a cauldron. A now adolescent Doom is casting a violent spell that’s created a tempest in the stone room he’s in; we can see that the book he’s using is one of the chanied books from Kamar-Taj. Victor’s fighting just to maintain his footing, let alone continue throwing in reagents and properly speak the words. An explosion shatters his cauldron, sending Doom flying back into the wall. As the contents of the cauldron spill out, his mother, her eyes glowing red, climbs out of the sludge. She tears a bacon-strip starting from her collar-bone and ending along her jaw. The demon inhabiting her explains that he flays Doom’s mother nightly; that her torment is all the sweeter, knowing that Doom suffers just as much above as she does below- but that she made her pact, and she belongs to him, and there’s no magic than can sever her from him. Doom attacks anyway, only for his spells to rebound on him.

Back in Castle Doom, one of Doom’s handmaidens brings Loki a refitted costume, and she tries it on; it’s similar to his old one, but appropriate to Jaime Alexander, instead. She’s admiring herself in a mirror, only when she gets to her face, her smile fades, as she looks into her own eyes. Doom knocks at the door, and she tells him to enter. She doesn’t feel right, having stolen Sif’s body. Doom tells her that Sif should be dead- at the hands of Hela, that she was delayed in Latveria because she tried to reclaim an Asgardian artifact in his position- that subduing her left her unresponsive; it might be a fun conceit, as the series goes along, to have Loki Sif talk to Lady Sif inside their shared head, trying to get her to respond, her slowly becoming more conscious… even as he becomes more attached to being alive in her body. But he tells her that if Loki wishes to vacate her, he will do everything in his power to revive Lady Sif- provided Loki renders aid, first. Doom claims to have mastered human technology at a fairly young age, but that Asgardian technology and sorcery are an entirely new field- perhaps this time giving him enough power to free his mother.

Loki is surprised by that assertion; he thought Doom lived for Latveria. Doom agrees that he does- that he would sell himself and his mother into damnation for his country; but that he would happily damn himself to save his mother. “And if you can…” Loki says, clearly thinking of his own mother. Doom says he would happily share the knowledge with her, if he discovered that secret. Sif asks if he can’t just bargain for her mother. He says he can’t; intercepting a soul not in Hell is simple enough; prying one loose from its maw requires more power than even he has been able to amass… thusfar.

We go back to a teenaged Doom. His armor is cruder, closer to Iron Man’s cave armor and clearly hand-pounded. He blasts his way into a military base, mowing through soldiers until he reaches a rip in reality- a literal mouth opening into Hell. He steps through, and is immediately assailed by an army of monsters- and nearly as quickly repels them. He looses a drone that chirps, flying into the air, then moving in the direction of his mother. He flies after it, landing beside his mother, chained to a throne, where sits the red-eyed demon. It taunts him. Doom unleashes on the demon a truly spectacular amount of magical and technological mayhem, only for it to laugh. Last, Doom tries to snap the chain that binds his mother with his armored hands, to no avail. Collapsing from the exertion at her feet, his mother stands, her eyes glowing red, and punts him back through the rift. He lands badly, several of his bones broken, his armor so destroyed it’s falling off of him as he flees. A young Nick Fury picks up one of the pieces and watches as the kid runs.

We zoom back out of Doom’s eyes as a single tear slides from it, disappearing beneath his mask. We go to credits.

The series continues this way, each episode featuring a different member of his Illuminati, their travails in some way paralleling his rise. Doom would be recruited by SHIELD who would sponsor his formal education; he was bright enough that the super-scientists of the previous generation basically fought over him, Howard Stark and Hank Pym and anyone else we can think of taking turns teaching him to be even brighter; it’s also here that his rivalry with Reed Richards begins. However, once Doom’s inventions start paying off, a Latverian father comes forward, backed by the Latverian government, demanding the boy’s return. Doom is torn, at first, until Valeria, his childhood sweetheart, joins the entreaties, and Doom decides to return home. Once there, however, he’s placed under the thumb of the very same Baron his mother had tried to fight when he was a child. Only this time, Victor fights back, and between his magic and technology routes the Baron- but doesn’t stop there- at the urging of those who had long been held under the Latverian aristocracy’s thumb, Doom topples the entire nobility. His work done, he tries to return to his village, and Valeria, only for the people to insist that he lead their new country. At first, Doom is reluctant- his heart is in his science, after all. Thankfully, his dilemma is circumvented by a threat to the entire Earth- so he can go back to the US to join the international effort, while still faithfully serving Latveria. This is the space mission that Doom undergoes with the Fantastic Four in the 60s (see my pitch for that movie from last year). When he exits the portal, it’s a few years later. Latveria is once again at the mercy of the aristocracy; in his absence, Valeria attempted to rally her countrymen, and was executed. By now Doom doesn’t take off his armor; he’s scarred, and also disgusted by humanity. With relatively little urging from his countrymen, Doom embarks on a bloody coup, executing the nobility to a man by hand. When he notices that even his lieutenants aren’t up to the task of leading his armies or watching the country while he sleeps, Doom builds his army of automated Doom bots. Doom’s technological breakthroughs make Latveria, a once poor, agrarian nation, one of the wealthiest per capita in the world, and it is so highly sought after in the rest of the world that they sweep his atrocities and human rights violations under the rug (not so much in his own country, but basically anywhere that Roma or witches are being persecuted, he repays the atrocities a dozen-fold). It also means that despite his aggression against the Fantastic Four upon their return, he enjoys diplomatic immunity and is untouchable.

Depending on whether or not there’s enough there to last ten episodes, this entire series could be set up for a big confrontation with the Avengers in one of the movies, but there’s always the possibility of having the first 5-6 episodes be Doom’s intermingled origins, and the last 4-5 episodes be interspersed with what the Illuminati actually does once assembled. I would probably have their anti-Thanos plan basically be to try and redirect the energies of the Snap; that they plan to spare humanity by redirecting its murderous energies onto alien worlds, instead, using the combination of their various magics and technologies. They even have a backup for themselves, a prison within Latveria where they can redirect any Snap energy directed at themselves to convicts who would otherwise be put to death. Their larger plan fails (obviously), and their secondary plan partially succeeds, in that they’re able to save themselves… but it destroys both the prison and the surrounding city, as well, killing tens of thousands. I think part of their journey would also be a parallel attempt to get the Infinity Stones. Depending on budget, a pretty great season finale could be them tracking down and brawling with Thanos to try and wrest the gauntlet from him- it looks like he’s in fact going to lose, but at the last minute uses the Gauntlet one final time to destroy the stones. Half the Illuminati want to execute him- but Doom, understanding a man who would gladly die to complete his life’s work, insists they leave him in peace, since there’s nothing more to be done here.

Most of the Illuminati go home, dispirited. Save for Loki. He’s known Doom long enough to know that he’s never understood how to give up. So he asks him what the next phase will be, and Doom reveals he’s working on his own time machine- that they’ve been looking at the problems all wrong. Instead of undoing their losses, they can simply prevent them.

This could be set up for nearly anything; we could have a rollicking dual time-traveling adventure with the Avengers, we could do a version of the Doom and Iron Man in King Arthur’s Camelot storyline; it could even be a set up for some version of the Battleworld story, where Doom goes back in time and makes himself instrumental in every important event in Marvel history, so that he’s revered as its most important and central hero, likely twisting Marvel’s heroes in a Doomward direction, say by turning the Hulk into the Maestro, Iron Man into a Superior version, an Old Man Logan version of Wolverine (all of which could be set up for a new phase, where the heroes, once they’re returned to normal, have to work against what they now realize is a potential future of theirs, that Hulk could become the Maestro again)… until of course it all falls apart and things are set mostly right. I’d probably start small- do the King Arthur thing, but with Rhodey maybe, alongside of a version of Tony’s intellect uploaded into his armor’s AI so he can keep up with Doom’s inventing (but he gives it a different voice, we find out, because hearing Tony in his head was too painful… maybe the end reveal is his suit is catastrophically damaged, and can’t do the voice change anymore- so he has to say his real goodbye to Tony …), do a Disney+ TV Movie that’s riffing on a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, but the possibilities really are pretty limitless.

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