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Title: The Sign of the Skull
Release Date: February 1976
Cover Price 30 cents
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Penciller: Bob Hall
Inker: Don Perlin
Letterer: Denise Wohl
Colorist: Don Warfield
Super-Villains: Dr. Doom, The Red Skull, and a poor manipulated Submariner
Those Blasted Heroes: Captain America, the Shroud

This comic book is old. Well, older than me anyway. I picked it up at a flea market for 75 cents. Not bad for a 26 year old piece of paper. The storytelling is very over the top, almost to the point of parody. This is also one of the few comic book series that featured supervillains as the title character. The rotating nature of the Marvel Team-up format allowed for fresh villains every couple of months, but all the issues I have uncovered feature the insidious Dr. Doom and his conflicts with heroes and villains alike.

So what happens?

Poor Captain America is having a bad day. Seems some one has been messing with the Avengers and Cap wants some answers. He fears the worst, a team-up of two of his greatest foes. As he battles his way through the automated robot defences of the Latverian Embassy in New York, he recounts the attacks. Seems that Atuma and the Submariner, super powered residents of undersea Atlantis, had a superweapon they intended to use to enslave the surface world. The Avengers fought the duo back to their undersea hydro base, where they found Dr. Doom himself attempting to steal the weapon. They stopped Doom, who in turn fled, but Cap was suspicious. It was too easy. While mopping up, the Avengers found a spy ship watching them. The ship, once destroyed, gave Cap the clue he needed, an ornate sceptre bearing a troubling sign. Bursting through a booby-trapped door, Captain America stands face to face with Dr. Doom, sitting unconcerned in his throne, goblet of wine in hand.

Dr. Doom:
"Would you care for some wine, or is this a business call?"

Captain America, clearly startled:
"DOOM! But I thought..."

Dr. Doom:
"Did you Captain? How interesting. When we last chatted I detected no such predilection in you!"

Cap confronts Doom about the sceptre, which he seems to know nothing about. It is undoubtedly from Latveria, the country Doom rules with an iron fist, but it bears a swastika and skull insignia. It seems that the Red Skull has taken advantage of Dr. Doom's absence and used Latveria for his own purposes. Doom is not amused.

Meanwhile, deep beneath the surface of the ocean, the Submariner surveys his damaged home. He had been manipulated into helping Doom, who promised to help wake the sleeping residents of Atlantis, who were poisoned by nerve gas canisters carelessly dumped in the sea. Namor rages about his unfortunate position as monarch of a city of the living dead, when suddenly, an earthquake shakes Atlantis. Seems the surface dwellers are causing more trouble, and Namor is going to vent some emotions on them.

Undersea miners are ripping up the ocean bed. When the Submariner appears, the workers are shocked. They assumed he would be off fighting the Avengers at Attuma's side. The Savage Submariner starts to clean house, demanding answers.

Namor, the Savage Submariner:
"It is Namor you face! The Sub-Mariner of legend! And I will wipe clean your presence from the seas as easily as I rid the waves of this metal toy!!"

Namor pauses to toss a thirty-ton bulldozer tank over his shoulder and continues:

"You are worth nothing to me surface-swine, save as a source of information! Now speak or I'll open you faceplate to the sea and watch as the water replaces the air in your fragile lungs!"

He quickly gets his answers. They where sent by a man called Orbiter, from some small third world country called... Latveria!

Cut to the hall just outside the throne room in Dr. Doom's Latverian castle. The Shroud and Rudolpho, deposed crown prince of Latveria are battling with palace guards, aided by loyalist peasants bearing pitchforks and torches. Rudolpho is disguised as Dr. Doom, but foolishly removes the hot iron mask for a breath of air. The guards see he is an impostor and a wild battle begins. Leaving the battle to the angry peasants, Rudolpho and Shroud overpower the remaining guards and burst into the throne room. The chair is facing away from the door, but it is occupied. The chair spins around, and it's occupant, the Red Skull, shoots Rudulpho in the chest with a blaster. Seems the Skull isn't ready to give up his new residence.

Streaking through the sky, Doom and his new ally, Captain America, race back to Latveria to confront the usurping Red Skull. Unfortunately, Doom must now face his own defences. Cap and Doom fight a dizzying dogfight with the Doom-drones that try to blast them from the sky, but the most deadly evades their defence: the dreaded Rainbow Missile! The jet is hit with a dazzling blast of multicolored light and disappears.

Back in the throne room, the Red Skull confronts the Shroud, exposing his ultimate plan:

"Pitiful, misguided American! The past is gone! Soon all men shall raise their hands to a new order! A Fourth Reich! And proclaim the Red Skull fuehrer over all!"

NEXT: Salvation, thy name is Doom! Whatever you do... Don't miss this one!

Thanks to Jet-Poop for the comic book synopsis template

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