anti-villain, or who knows what...
Surely, though, we can be confident that Dr. Doom was a villain, plain and simple, in the early Fantastic Four stories that introduced the character. Indeed, it seems clear enough that he is a villain, plain and simple, in many other stories. Stories such as Thor # 182-183 don't leave us in much doubt - or, in fact, in any doubt at all - that Thor is the hero of the narrative and Dr. Doom is its villain. This is a rather simple story, and even a young child would not be in any doubt that Doom is its bad guy.
Okay, so fine. It seems to be a true statement that "Dr. Doom is a villain within the story told in Thor # 182-83."
Let me raise a philosophical question about this, having reached this far. Is it a fact that Dr. Doom is a villain within the story told in Thor # 182-183? If not, are there true statements that are not facts? Or do you not wish to maintain, after all, that it actually is true that Dr. Doom is a villain within the story told in Thor # 182-183?
Should we say that it is true only according to something like a set of values or a method of reading, and that someone with a different set of values and/or method of reading might not be wrong to apply that instead, and deny that Doom is a villain? After all, even some literary critics are fond of producing seemingly perverse readings of texts, in the process exposing and challenging various assumptions that we (whoever, exactly, "we" are) normally make when we read texts. These critics are not naive or stupid.
Nonetheless, even if we relativise it, we seem to have a true statement that we can make, something like, "Relative to the widely-accepted values and reading protocols of readers in about 1970, Dr. Doom is a villain in Thor # 182-83."
But isn't there something odd about this? It sounds like a kind of sociological fact, but surely we don't go out and study courses in sociology, or conduct surveys, or do other kinds of sociological research to see whether Dr. Doom is a villain in this particular narrative. If the narrative is available to us, perhaps by subscribing to the Marvel Digital database, we can just go and read it and see for ourselves.
When I assert that Dr. Doom is a villain in this simple story aimed at kids and teenagers (as comics were then far more than now), I don't really expect anyone to disagree with me. It seems to be just true, even if it's not objectively true (e.g. the truth of it might have some kind of component that relates to us, and which need not relate to all rational beings in the universe - maybe an intelligent but malevolent bug-eyed monster from Mars could perceive Doom as the hero without making an outright mistake).
I'm interested in this at the moment because I keep getting caught up in debates - currently with Jerry Coyne if you look over at Why Evolution Is True - about what a fact is. It's interesting anyway: what makes judgments about who is a hero or otherwise in a narrative true? How do these sorts of judgments relate to the judgments that we make in real life about whether people are morally good or bad? Are any of these judgments objectively correct? If so, in what sense of "objective" or "objectively"?
To me, a fact is just a true proposition. Some people seem to think that a fact is some sort of state of affairs that could be conveyed by a true proposition. They might think that some true propositions are not statements of fact (e.g. certain mathematical or logical ones). Either way, though, "Dr. Doom is a villain within the story told in Thor # 182-83" looks like a fact, or a statement of fact if you prefer (something about a state of affairs in the world, including the story's words and images makes the statement true).
Perhaps it's a funny sort of fact that Dr. Doom is a villain, etc., but I suggest that if you read the story you'll be as certain of this fact as you are of most. The story doesn't really leave room for people like us to draw other conclusions unless we are trying to be difficult or perverse.
As I said, it may not be an objective fact. It may not be a scientific fact. But does anyone, after reading the story, really want to deny that Doom is a villain in it? We need to have an understanding of facts, truth, inquiry, science, etc., that is capable of coping with this situation.