Doctor Faustus is a Marvel Comics villain. He has primarily been a Captain America foe, with some memorable clashes against Spider-Man on the side.
He’s big on mind games, manipulation and brainwashing.
This profile is the first in a chronological series. It covers the era from Faustus’ first appearance in 1968, to 1975.
We used to have a big Dr. Faustus writeup, but this now replaced with a series of shorter, easier to read, richer profiles. The series goes :
- Doctor Faustus (1968-1975) — this here profile.
- Doctor Faustus (1975-1983).
- Doctor Faustus (1987-1993).
- Real Name: Dr. Johann Fennhoff.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Anna Fennhoff (mother, deceased), unidentified father (deceased).
- Group Affiliation: None at this stage.
- Base of Operations: An office in New York City. The Lost Souls Asylum outside of Derby, Connecticut.
- Height: 6’6″ Weight: 321 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Red
Powers & Abilities
Doctor Faustus is a genius in psychology, psychiatry and mental conditioning. He’s able to relieve psychological conditions that ordinary doctors consider incurable. However, most of the time he uses his talent to destroy and brainwash.
His signature technique is to immerse subjects into a flawless reconstitution of past traumatic events and other key memories.
An important point is that the subject will have been made abnormally suggestible before the session, usually using chemicals. For instance, the stage might be bathed in a transparent, odourless gas that magnifies emotional reactions and lower the suspension of disbelief.
Faustus is a great orator, with superior charisma and a gift for persuasion. He can easily find and manipulate susceptible minds.
He excels at modulating his voice to draw strong emotional responses based on subconscious associations.
This writeup stops before Faustus starts employing more comic-bookish means of mesmerism, such as the hypnotic cigarette smoke used against Spider-Man in 1977.
Even later on, his techniques will evolve toward hypnotism and virtual reality immersion.
Man of many resources
Faustus appears to have both vast wealth, and an ability to recruit highly skilled contractors. Both assets might be derived from his medical talents. For instance he may have brainwashed multiple rich people into bankrolling him, and he might heighten the resolve and focus of his henchmen via psychological conditioning.
Thus, Faustus’ reconstitutions will feature excellent actors, costumes, lifelike masks, all the necessary props, chemicals, etc.. Super-tech such as androids are also deployed if necessary.
Likewise his hired muscle is highly determined and disciplined. If they have a “role” to play (such as pretending to be Nazi stormtroopers if Faustus is staging a WWII “flashback” for Captain America), some of them will give a credible performance.
The game stats section have detailed description of means employed by Faustus during this era.
Man of technology
Dr. Faustus employs some comic book technologies, but there’s no reason to assume that they haven’t been bought from suppliers.
However, Captain America assumes that Faustus designs his more distinctive tech. And later appearances show Faustus to be a capable engineer. Our game stats thus assumes that he already has engineering and design skills at this point, though not quite as strong as they’ll later become when we actually see him use them.
Man of girth
Doctor Faustus is a giant of a man. Though he doesn’t have great endurance or pain tolerance, his natural strength is way higher than a normal person’s.
Time after time
Dr. Faustus is another case of a comic book character who is tied to XXth historical events – in his case, the Anschluss. This means that the sliding time scale once again blows apart. As usual, we are going to use our publication date methodology.
(If you’re not familiar with these issues, see our Time and ageing in the Marvel Universe article for the straight dope.)
Amusingly, in this case the publication date approach leads to a mild case of… the opposite problem. It is established that he was very young in 1938, which means that by his first appearance in 1968 he would be but in his mid-30s. Which doesn’t match the art, which depicts him more like a man in his 40s or even 50s.
This is because his backstory was only established in a 1983 story, when a 1930s birth date worked fine.
A simple hypothesis would be that Faustus took great care to appear significantly older than he was, to look more respectable and authoritative. Since he also is known to manipulate his voice and has a great understanding of psychology and image, this is a low-key No-Prize Hypothesis .
Helpfully, Faustus does seem older in his earliest appearance but is soon drawn to look a bit younger. That he felt less of a need to look senior is more likely than having aged backward for a bit.
Johann Fennhoff was born during the early 1930s in Vienna, Austria. He was the only child of two highly educated and successful parents. During the Anschluss , the Fennhoffs used their wealth and connections to flee the Nazis and arrange for a swift exile to London.
It is likely that the Fennhoffs were Jews, and/or Communists, and/or Austrian nationalists who had publicly opposed the pro-Reich activists. Some in-story allusions (such as Johann’s relationship with his mother) resonate with Ashkenaz cultural tropes.
Life in wartime London was miserable, as the Fennhoffs had lost everything. Herr Fennhoff died during the Blitz, a broken man. Frau Fennhoff also fared badly, but she poured everything she had left into the education of her son. Johann would become a great doctor and a great man, and thus be his parents’ revenge against the Nazis.
Anna Fennhoff died, still bitter and vengeful, during the 1950s.
Johann Fennhoff did become a major psychiatrist, reputed for his practice and his research. He then emigrated to the US.
However, Anna had driven Johann far too harshly. None of his childhood or adulthood achievements would ever satisfy her resentful, toxic ambitions for him.
Johann eventually developed a condition where he was hounded by vivid hallucinations of his mother, always urging him to become more important and successful. During these schizophrenic episodes he could conduct entire discussions with his mother.
The hallucinatory Anna kept criticising his achievements, deflating his successes and reminding him of his failures. She perpetually refused him any chance to spin failures into more positive experiences. This drove Johann Fennhoff into proving his prowess in increasingly over-the-top ways.
Get Rogers, part 1
In 1968, Doctor Faustus attempted to destroy Captain America (Steve Rogers) to prove his might once and for all. The nefarious plot went like this :
- Replace Rogers’ bellboy with a criminal nicknamed the Ferret.
- Arrange to meet Cap during a panel show, and offer his services as a therapist (either to help Rogers adapt to the 1960s, or because the Ferret had started slipping drugs into his food).
- Give Rogers an increasing dosage of nightmare drugs as part of the “treatment”.
- Have Rogers run into actors with quick-change masks on the street, to convince him that he was hallucinating that passerbies were persons he knew.
- Trick out his medical office using revolving walls, movie-like sets and actors to suddenly immerse the drugged Rogers into staged “flashback hallucinations” during therapy.
- Slip a pill to Rogers that would age him to his chronological age.
- And finally break him by staging a reconstitution of Bucky (James Barnes)’s death, which had been the recurrent theme of Rogers’ nightmares. Bucky was played by a disguised Ferret.
Get Rogers, part 2
It all very nearly worked. But Cap realized that something was off as the plan was nearing completion. S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him a mask and glove that would make him seem aged after analysing the last pill, which Rogers hadn’t swallowed.
Pretending to be a valetudinarian, Cap then drew Faustus and his helpers into a S.H.I.E.L.D. trap. He downed the massive psychiatrist in one punch.
(The backstory for Dr. Faustus had this point was likely intended to be different. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent refers to Faustus as “an enemy agent”, and one imagines that *some* parallels with Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus were planned for the character when he was created.)
Get Carter, part 1
Still determined to destroy Captain America, Faustus further researched his biography. He found an obscure fact. For a few weeks during the war, Cap had been in a relationship with an American covert agent operating with the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur partisans. This agent, Peggy Carter, was code-named “Mademoiselle”.
Carters was rendered amnesiac by an explosion near the end of the war, and vanished. Relatives eventually found her in Belgium and brought her back to the US, but no doctor could restore her memory.
Dr. Faustus made strong progress in restoring Ms. Carter to herself. The final bit was to immerse her in a perfect reconstitution of her battle alongside Captain America. For this Faustus reeled in Captain America. Furthermore he kidnapped Peggy’s much younger sister Sharon, whom he dressed in replicas of what Peggy wore that day.
Along with preparatory treatments, seeing this scene with Cap and her own spitting image fighting Nazis shocked the older Carter sister in recovering her memories.
Get Carter, part 2
Faustus then employed phantoms and illusions, including the supposed ghost of Bucky, to delay Captain America and his allies so he’d have time to learn secrets about Cap from Peggy.
This didn’t work. Though Faustus’ gauntlet did stop Cap, the Falcon (Sam Wilson) helped the star-spangled hero overcome it. Faustus was soon stopped with Peggy’s help.
Faustus was apparently released shortly afterwards. There wasn’t much to accuse him of, and it had been done to cure a war heroine.
(Faustus’ cure of Peggy worked just fine, though it took more time for her to recover all of her memories than he had anticipated. After she adapted to the modern world following 28 years of amnesia, she eventually joined the Avengers’ “ground crew” experts).
During this general time frame, Faustus adopted one Karla Sofen as his young lover, accomplice and protégée. Years later, Sofen would become Moonstone, drawing liberally from Faustus’ techniques to supplement her super-powers.
See our Karla Sofen profiles for more.
A fiendish plane
Faustus’ next plan, in 1975, was less heavy on illusions and psychological shenanigans. It went :
- Locate a vulnerable employee among Stark Industries, and lean on him to procure an arsenal of advanced weapon.
- Assemble a force of hardened criminal gunmen by convincing them that his plan was flawless and highly lucrative.
- Charter a luxurious Boeing 747, fill it with the criminals and the Stark guns, and fly to New York City.
- Blackmail the city out of a large sum, lest Faustus’ army come out of nowhere and devastate the city.
- The main trick was that the authorities would assume that a force of hundreds of gunsels had to leave a large footprint, not realizing that they came from across the country in a large plane. This made them invisible, so to speak.
Through an incredible stroke of bad luck, Steve Rogers boarded the plane at the last second. He soon smelled a rat. During the brawl aboard the plane, a stray shot ruptured the hull and Faustus was sucked out at 15,000 feet, to his apparent death.
Cap took control of the plane, and the NYPD arrested the numerous passengers after landing (though they missed Sofen).
Dr. Faustus was believed dead, but he easily survived. To quell his phobia of flying, he had been wearing a concealed parachute under his suit.
Thus, by 1977 the good doctor was back. But his further nefarious exploits belong to the second writeup in the series, dear readers.
Faustus almost always wears tailored, 1950s 3-piece suits. At this point the designs aren’t dated and are thus less distinctive than they’ll later become.
As mentioned in the History, Dr. Faustus is driven by childhood neuroses. However that is not yet an overt part of the history.
He’s pretty good at convincing himself that his plan is working just right and he’s still in control even as things start going bad. This overconfident streak means he’s unlikely to call in reinforcements or attempt to retreat until it’s well too late.
Faustus can be played simply by making canned rants just like the quotes in the following section. What matters when deploying him, at this stage, is the diabolical scheme and its ruthless use of (and/or search for) psychological vulnerabilities.
Interestingly he doesn’t quite use brainwashing at this stage, though that’ll later become a big thing with him.
“Other men — lesser men — have attempted to defeat Captain America before — and all have failed ! But they did not know what I know ! Whom Dr. Faustus would destroy — he will first make mad !”
“Many men have tried to destroy Captain America through physical means, and I am not above that… but only Doctor Faustus can *also* strike through the mind. And because of that… Captain America is doomed !”
“My primal drive is to destroy your mind, Captain — but it’s not an overwhelming drive. I would have settled, reluctantly, for having my men destroy your body. Just as now, you force me to utilize a weapon instead of a theory — a weapon that will incinerate your BRAIN !”
“Though Captain America is one of the most superb fighters of this century… it amuses me to totally destroy him without the use of force… without leaving a single clue !”
“Quiet now ! I must read the ultimatum letter perfectly to impart *exactly* the psychological effect I wish it to have. For, we must cripple New York’s collective minds before we empty its rather depressed pockets.”
DC Universe History
At this stage, Dr. Faustus is to Captain America what Professor Hugo Strange is to Batman. Thus it might be simpler to amalgamate the two – or replace Strange with Faustus if that’s more your thing.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 04||Str: 05||Bod: 04||Motivation: Power|
|Int: 08||Wil: 07||Min: 07||Occupation: Criminal, psychiatrist|
|Inf: 06||Aur: 06||Spi: 06||Wealth: 008|
|Init: 018||HP: 035|
Bonuses and Limitations:
Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.
Charisma (Interrogation, Persuasion): 09, Charisma (Intimidation): 05, Gadgetry: 04, Medicine: 09, Scientist (Drawing plans): 05, Scientist (Analysis): 08, Scientist (Research): 06, Weaponry (Exotic, Firearms): 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Faustus’ Medicine Skill treats MIND damage and conditions, not BODY. However he can also attempt to treat SPIRIT damage and conditions, but at +1 CS OV/RV.
- Faustus’ Scientist (Analysis) Subskill can only discern psychological factors, not physical ones.
Genius (Limited to applications having to do with the mind), Language (German), Scholar (Psychiatry and psychology).
Underworld (Low), the Corporation (Low).
Distinct Appearance (Enormous size, presence, intimidating red beard), MPR (Slightly nearsighted), Traumatic Flashback (Hallucinations of his mother – though this Drawback isn’t apparent back then), MIF of Heights, MIA toward Overconfidence.
CONCEALED PARACHUTE [BODY 01, Gliding: 01, Miniaturization: 04]. Dr. Faustus apparently wears this often, to assuage his phobia of heights.
Faustus once produced, as a last resort, an energy pistol. Its ray builds up pressure within the target’s brain until it explodes [BODY 01, AV 07, Sonic beam: 08, Limitations: AV can only engage as many APs as double the APs of applicable Weaponry of the wielders; Sonic beam can only damage living target with a brain within a skull ; Sonic Beam is Killing Damage Only].
Building this weapon was really pushing the limitation to his Genius Advantage. Either the GM let him get away with it, or the gun was bought from a third party such as the Tinkerer or Madame Menace.
Doctor Faustus’ henchmen are highly determined, and perform very well. Use the “Spandex-Clad Henchmen” stats from our Stock Thugs article. One guy was named Cutler and another Sturges, if you absolutely want to bring the exact same blokes back.
When playing the role of Nazi soldiers, they had normal German WWII equipment such as Mauser 98 bolt-action rifles. One bloke had something that could conceivably be a Sturmgewehr 44 (treat as an assault rifle), and two had period flamethrowers.
Faustus also had an aide called Dr. Johann Wolfgang, who seemed capable as both a physician and Faustus’ XO. He had a knife hidden on his person.
The Lost Souls Asylum & Rest Home
This castle-like, isolated facility was built out of stout stone, and had the following notable characteristics :
- A squadron of well-armed henchmen (at least 16 men, working in fire teams of 8).
- Hidden security cameras — with Military Science (Camouflage): 08 since even Sharon Carter didn’t spot them (though she wasn’t as competent back then, obvs).
- A similarly-camouflaged energy cannons emplacement, which will likely Blindside. These have a 2-APs Area of Effect, and an AV and EV of 10 (the latter as Bashing Damage) within it.
- The Psycho-Pit (detailed below).
This is a large room saturated with a transparent, odourless fear-augmenting gas. Hallucinations are then projected, simply using masks, beams of light and recorded sounds. These are little more than floating giant heads in the room, but the gas-affected minds will fill in the blanks and make them full-featured, five-senses hallucinations.
There apparently was at least one level of pit traps, with gas and projectors at each level. Cap and his allies were shown illusions of a giant monster, the Red Skull, then Baron Zemo, MODOK and Agent Axis, then an accusatory undead Bucky (James Barnes).
The whole setup has Illusion: 10, and relies on people exhausting their Hero Points against imaginary threats while the successive falls eventually knock them out. APs of Sealed Systems and Systemic Antidote help resist the illusions, as the subject resists the gas. It is also possible that the gas was toxic over several hours of exposure.
The specific illusion may carry a -1CS to +2 CS bonus or penalty to the OV/RV. For instance the Bucky illusion got the bonus against Cap, but a penalty against the Falcon who had no guilt response keyed to the death of Bucky.
Stolen Stark weapons
Only two weapons were seen from the arsenal carried aboard Faustus’ chartered plane. They were from a stock built several years before, before Tony Stark stopped producing weapons and ammunition.
These sci-fi carbines were called sonic depressors, and had Mind Blast: 10, though it is likely that the Range was only about 04. They shut down brain functions, either temporarily or permanently, and Faustus said he had enough to equip his whole army.
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Helper(s): Dr. Piispanen, Eric Langendorff, Roy Cowan, Adam Fuqua, Darci.
Writeup completed on the 15th of August, 2016.