Is There a Doctor in the House? You Say Your Name Is Doctor Death? Um… Never Mind.

28 Comic Book Doctors, with Notes on Whether They Actually Earned the Right to Call Themselves “Doctor”

Like “Captain,” “Commander” or “Baron,” “Doctor” is one of those titles that a lot of comic book characters seem to really like when choosing their nom de guerre. But how many of the fictional doctors out there hold actual doctorates or medical degrees, and how many of them are just pretentious losers? Let’s find out.

1. Doctor Alchemy
He was one of the Flash’s earliest villains; starting his career as Mr. Element, he changed his name after stealing the element-transmuting Philosopher’s Stone from his ex-cellmate’s house. (The other guy told him he had a “lucky rock” and somehow that was enough for Alchemy to realize it was the legendary stone. Things like that just kind of happened all the time in Silver Age Flash comics). He’s no more a doctor than some schmuck who finds the Holy Grail in a box of Cracker Jacks. Next!

2. Doctor Bedlam
A scientist on Apokolips who specialized in devising new ways to torture and terrorize, Bedlam must have been really good at it to earn his title; I mean, it’s Apokolips, the planet where everyone chooses Advanced Torture and Terror as their college major. Then again, I don’t recall any stories focusing on the hellish planet’s institutes of higher learning, so maybe he’s not an actual doctoral graduate. You can bet whatever school he went to isn’t accredited.

3. Doctor Cyber
Introduced during Wonder Woman’s kung fu fighting days, Cyber was a secret agent and would-be world conqueror, two career paths you generally don’t think of as requiring any kind of post-graduate work. Let’s be generous and assume she has a degree in something; it takes a certain amount of brain power to come up with an earthquake machine and brain-swapping gizmo while keeping your minions busy sending bomb-filled toys to politicians’ children.

4. Doctor Death
One of Batman’s first-ever super-villain foes, Death probably went into the super-villain business after ill-advised forays into pediatrics and oncology. Later, Al Pacino played him in an award-winning HBO movie. He had all the trappings of your average doctor — white coat, genius intellect, a large East Indian manservant at his command — so let’s give his title a thumbs up.

5. Doctor Demonicus
He was your average brilliant geneticist who wanted super powers for himself, so he exposed himself to the same experimental radiation he was using to create mutated monsters. Ended up with skin cancer and horns on his head instead. Earned the title and our pity, in that order.

6. Doctor Destiny
One of the Justice League’s earlier foes, Doctor Destiny started out as a criminal scientist who invented an anti-gravity device and, proving that most super-villains suck at seeing the marketing possibilities in their workshop projects, went on to invent a machine that turned dreams into reality. Later, in one of those ironic twists, his own inability to dream caused his body to shrivel and his face to appear skeletal. So while he probably has a Ph.D. in engineering, it’s safe to assume he’s not scoring any undergrad tail with that Skeletor mug of his.

7. Doctor Doom
As the story goes, he was expelled from his grad program for blowing up his college lab while trying to contact the netherworld. And he probably meant to go back and finish his thesis someday, but you know how it is: you go to Tibet, get a snazzy outfit, conquer a tiny nation, build a few dozen robots in your likeness, try to destroy your hated arch-rival a few times and whoa, where does the time go? Is it class reunion time already? Lucky for him he has an “in” over at Latveria A&M; they don’t give out honorary degrees to just anybody over there.

8. Doctor Double X
The saddest thing you can say about Doctor Double X is he once saw a partnership with the Rainbow Raider as a positive step in his super-villain career. The second-saddest thing: he was a research scientist who accidentally discovered a way to generate an energy duplicate of himself and could think of nothing better to do with his incredible discovery than pull on some tights and give Batman’s knuckles a five-minute workout. Possibly a doctor… not that it seems to have mattered much.

9. Doctor Druid
Medical degree from Harvard: check. Successful psychiatry practice: check. Affinity for capes, Van Dyke beards and communing with ancient Celtic ancestors: check. Yeah, he’s certified.

10. Doctor Fate
DC’s Who’s Who series from the ’80s listed Doctor Fate’s occupations as doctor and archaeologist, so he earned that goddamned title, people. There have been other Doctor Fates over the years, but nobody cares.

11. Doctor Faustus
There have been enough villainous psychiatrists in comics over the years to make you wonder if comic writers are trying to tell us something about their own experiences with mental health practitioners. After first testing his mettle against Captain America, Faustus ably filled the role of “mind-frakking a-hole” whenever one was needed in a Marvel story. Educated, definitely — but I can’t imagine he worries much about keeping his medical licence current.

12-13. Doctor Light
Long before certain comic writers made him all rape-happy, the first Doctor Light started out as a physicist who discovered a way to peer in on other planets and plunder their advanced alien technology… which he then used to become a costumed super-villain who got his ass handed to him on a regular basis. The second Doctor Light was a Japanese astronomer who lucked into her own light-based powers… but somehow thought adopting the same name and costume design of a ten-time loser was a good idea. So doctors yes, Mensa candidates… meh, not so much.

14. Doctor Manhattan
Still trying to get his glowing blue wang out of your mind? It’s okay, I can wait. Now, then. Long before events in Watchmen, Manhattan started out as a nuclear scientist who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time — the wrong time being “the start of a nuclear experiment” and the wrong place “a research lab where someone forgot to install a #%?!! off switch for their intrinsic field subtractor.” His doctorate hardly mattered much after he became omniscient, but it was enough to get him started on the road to irradiated frontal nudity.

15-17. Doctor Mid-Nite
Doubt me if you must, but there have been no less than three superheroes over the years to call themselves Doctor Mid-Nite (or Midnight, as the case may be). All three were accomplished medical doctors, all three suffered the loss of their eyesight, all three gained superhuman vision powers, and all three decided that was enough of an edge for them to go kick bad-guy butt. Insane? Yes! Stretches credulity beyond belief? Absolutely! But all three were actual doctors, so there.

18. Doctor Occult
At first, I was all prepared to say, “Aw hell, no.” He started out as a private dick who got more than his share of supernatural-tinged cases (think Sam Spade crossed with the Scooby gang in one of their lesser direct-to-DVD outings), then a few years back he was turned into some high-ranking magical muckety muck  in the DC universe. Oh, and he timeshares his body with a woman named Rose Psychic. But that’s not the weirdest part; according to his Who’s Who entry, he earned a doctorate in… well, something before becoming a supernatural detective. Look, I don’t care if a future story reveals he once interned as the Spectre’s left thighbone; bottom line, there ain’t no graduate programs in ghostbusting, and he ain’t no doctor to me.

19. Doctor Octopus
We’re just not going to make fun of Otto, a’ight? He was a genius nuclear physicist, he had one of the best looks of all the classic Spidey villains, and Alfred Molina flat out nailed that role. Plus, as we learn from the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, his robotic arms are lined with “lamb’s wool padding,” so you know the man appreciates his comfort.

20. Doctor Phosphorus
Before his career as a hideously irradiated mass of ambulatory phosphorus, he was a wealthy physician living in Gotham City, so his title checks out. Hard to imagine he’s still board-certified, though, what with the “he burns everything he touches” and “walking around with only a pair of fireproof jean shorts covering his nether regions” aspects to his personality. His given name is Dr. Sartorious, which sounds so awesome as a super-villain handle you have wonder why he even bothered with anything else.

21. Doctor Poison
Like Doctor Death, Poison has pretty much screwed herself on the “keeping pediatrics as a backup” front. Poison first appeared in Wonder Woman comics during World War II, when she used hoods and bulky clothing to make people think she was a man. You wouldn’t think the evil leader of a Nazi spy ring and master of all poisons would have to struggle with gender discrimination, but that’s the Nazis for you: you’ll notice they never called themselves the mistress race, the jerks. Anyway, “doctor”: sure, why the hell not?

22. Doctor Polaris
He’s listed as being both a physician and a physicist, so he and Doctor Fate probably spent a lot of time in school swapping Red Bull and methamphetamine tips. He’s one of Green Lantern’s recurring villains and a master of magnetism, but I always forget that last part and think the “polar” part means he’s a Mr. Freeze knock-off. Not much of a profile, considering how long he’s been knocking around, and it’s definitely not helped by Galactus stealing his signature tuning fork-helmet look and making it his own.

23. Doctor Psycho
Boy, that’s a name that inspires confidence in your therapy skills, huh? Psycho (real name Edgar Cizko) first appeared back in early issues of Wonder Woman, when he was a medical student framed for theft by a handsome rival for his fiancee’s affections. Years in prison left him with an insane hatred of all women, and he got his revenge by killing his rival and hypnotizing his ex-fiancee to be his love slave. And hey! Wouldn’t you know it, she just happens to be a medium for summoning other-dimensional ectoplasm that Psycho used to fashion and animate human forms around his misshapen body, creating a new career for himself as a handsome fake psychic with a following of millions. I defy anyone to read that last sentence and understand what the hell I just said.

24. Doc Samson
He’s a psychiatrist but — brace yourself — not an evil one. He is, however, someone who knows a good thing when he sees it; originally slight in appearance, he gained his rippling physique thanks to a handy infusion of radioactive mumbo jumbo blah blah blah he got mixed up in the Hulk’s business. Bottom line: there are perks to being Bruce Banner’s therapist. A shame the gamma rays didn’t result in a correlating super-enhanced fashion sense. Green hair, yellow boots and a red T-shirt with a lightning bolt, Doc? Puh-lease.

25. Doctor Spectro
The “doctor” in Spectro’s name is as fake as everything else about him. When Air Force pilot Nathaniel Adam lucked into phenomenal quantum powers courtesy of a secret military project, military brass concocted an elaborate back story for their new “Captain Atom,” right down to a list of archenemies he supposedly fought while operating in secret. Tom Emery discovered the hoax and decided to blackmail the U.S. government by bringing one of the fake super-villains to life. He lasted about as long as you would expect a tarted-up Lite Brite board to last against a guy with a nuclear-powered punch.

26. Doctor Strange
We all know the story: gifted surgeon suffers injury to his hands, seeks help from ancient mystic, ends up Sorcerer Supreme of this dimension. Cut to him defending the cosmos from malevolent forces, crusty demons, power-mad warlocks, etc. There’s not much else to say: he rocks the ‘stache, lives in a sweet Greenwich village brownstone, and can wipe the floor with pretty much any superhero you can throw against him. But what of his current medical certification? Does he dutifully fulfill the licensing requirements that all practicing surgeons must regularly meet to retain their title, or does that paperwork just magically update itself every year? You know, in the same way that Professor Xavier’s bank accounts always seems to mysteriously end up with more cash every time he takes a ride down Wall Street.

27. Doctor Thirteen
He wasn’t a real doctor; his main gig was travelling around the world and debunking supposedly supernatural phenomena. But his real name actually was Thirteen. Serious. Mr. Terrence Thirteen of the Thirteen clan. That almost demands a “doctor,” don’t you think?

28. Doctor Tzin-Tzin
Oy. So here we have a Chinese-American gangster doing his part to keep the stereotypes alive by gussying up all Fu Manchu-like and using his super-rad hypnotic powers to deceive his enemies and manipulate the rubes. He debuted in the Batman books during the ’60s, and he probably should have seen the writing on the wall around the time he was shipped off to the Supergirl stories to give her someone to kick around between costume changes. Granted, his hypnotic powers were formidable — he once convinced all of Gotham City to forget Christmas, allowing only Batman to remember why December 25 was a big deal —  but… you know what? I’m done. I’m bored just finishing this sentence. The only vaguely interesting thing about him is typing “tzin” into Google Translate to discover what possible English translations pop up. So far, I’ve gotten “prince of milk,” “investments” and “painted purple condensate.”  I would totally pay money to see Batman fight the Prince of Milk.

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2 responses to “Is There a Doctor in the House? You Say Your Name Is Doctor Death? Um… Never Mind.

  1. You forgot Dr. Bong…from Howard the Duck and She-Hulk ‘fame’…

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