The Villain’s Safe Haven and its Real Life Equivalencies

January 11, 2003

By Avi Green

In the real world of today, there are many criminal factions such as the PLO, Cuba’s Castro, and even Syria and Saudi Arabia’s own dictatorships, who are internationally tolerated and given immunity and recognition by many of the world’s governments, and allowed to move freely within their countries.

Even years ago, in comics, there were criminals with many of the same statuses who enjoyed safe haven within an enemy country, or who even had immunity outside of them. And in this essay, we shall take a look at these comic book villains who’ve enjoyed their own share of immunity and haven within their own countries, the world, or even outside of it.

The Silver Age Lex Luthor

Back in the Silver Age of comics, Lex Luthor, then portrayed as a mad scientist, found a planet in the galaxy conveniently named where he was hailed as a hero, whereas his archnemesis Superman was considered a criminal. Many times, he would head over to reside there, where he had immunity from both the Man of Steel and the earth’s own justice system, and nobody could really get at him. He even had a wife there named Ardora and a son.

In 1983, however, about two decades after this idea first came up, Lex lured Superman to the planet, in hopes of killing his archnemesis, and accidentally destroyed Lexor, killing its entire inhabitancy, and his wife Ardora and son with it. Not surprisingly, Luthor, crazy madman that he was, put the blame on Superman for the destruction of the planet that respected him and his family, rather than see himself as the one guilty for the loss of those he’d held dear.

In the late-1960’s, there was an interesting similarity to the above example in the 174th issue of the Flash, in which the first Mirror Master, Sam Scudder, trapped the Scarlet Speedster in a mirror world he’d been building with his mirror technology, in which the Flash was thought to be a crook and the Rogues’ Gallery were thought to be the goodies. The writer behind that idea was John Broome, then one of DC’s most prominent writers on both Flash and Green Lantern.

Doctor Doom

Even more startling than the case with Lex Luthor of the Silver Age, the Fantastic Four’s leading nemesis, Victor Von Doom, long enjoyed not only his own safe haven on earth itself, but also diplomatic immunity within, if anywhere, the United States!

Doctor Doom’s origin was in a fictional country in Eastern Europe called Latveria, where he later returned to conquer the country as its monarch. This period of history in the Marvel universe bears a striking similarity to the case surrounding the PLO’s Yasir Arafat, who’s parents are said to have once lived on the Gaza Strip, and who later, under the shield of worldwide diplomatic immunity, returned to take over as the dictator of the Arab population living in the Judean desert and in Gaza. The demented Doctor’s world immunity also made it very hard for his archfoes, the Fantastic Four, to bring him down and to justice.

Years later, Doctor Doom left the planet earth and went to rule on a world called, quite conveniently, as with Lexor, Planer Doom, giving him even more shielding from his foes on earth.


Even the X-Men’s archnemesis, Erik Lensherr, Magneto, had his own form of safe haven for a time, that being first the Avalon space station, and later, when that was destroyed, he managed to get the UN to grant him not only immunity, but also sovereignty over the fictional island of Genosha.

I read this matter myself in 1998, in which, to the X-Men’s surprise at the end of “The Magneto War”, that the UN sends its representatives along to announce to Magneto his grant of rulership. Wolverine shouts out, “What! That’s giving him what he wanted!” As it was with the PLO, after all the horrific crimes they committed, not only against Israel and its citizens, but also against many other world countries and even against many Arabs themselves. Surprising? Not with the way the real life world thinks and acts.

Meanwhile, under Grant Morrison’s pen, so Magneto is seemingly killed by the attack of the forgettable villainess Cassandra Nova in a show of extremely poor artistic taste, and Marvel says he won’t be coming back. Yeah, right, we’ll see about that.

So there we have it, some very startling similarities to real life cases of international criminals who’re given immunity and even promoted to statesmen on grounds to which they have no national claim. And in the case of Doctor Doom, it’s almost like a prophecy! We can only hope that lessons can be learned from these examples.

Avi Green, who's waiting to see what Doctor Doom's soon to be return to menace the Fantastic Four again will be like, can be reached at

Copyright 2003 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

Home FAQ Columns Reviews Links Favorite Characters Special Features Politics Blog Comics Blog Food Blog