The newsreader turned to the camera. She'd said some pretty strange things in order to keep her very lucrative job, and this wasn't in the top ten, but this report was about someone who she innately … was pretty worried about.
"In the third month of The Big Three Car dealerships being bought out and merged by Victor Von Doom, controversial Ruler of Latveria, the new Latverian Motors have announced the imminent unveiling of their latest model; an SUV that gives one hundred miles per gallon."
A thin man appeared on screen, captions stating he was C.O.O of Latverian Motors.
"While the Grasshopper, our three-hundred mile per gallon hatchback has met with considerable success worldwide, we understand there is a market niche for the larger, more powerful vehicle. Like all our products, it conforms to our strict safety and performance standards."
The newsreader was back on screen. Okay, this was a prime-time shill for a man who once fought superheroes on a regular basis. But now he waded into the American business world, saved the motor industry, and along with a whole bunch of ultility companies, private hospitals and other fixer-uppers, bought very large blocks of advertising on this network.
"Latverian Motors' self-imposed manufacturing standards, being far higher than any other commercial vehicle company, is just another of their selling points. The projected sales from the yet to named new car have led Latverian Motors to create another four thousand jobs in the United States.
"In other news, the Dow Jones rose again due to the recent boost in consumer confidence …"
The armoured figure motioned towards the door.
The large wooden doors in the castle wall swung open, to admit a second metal-clad figure in gold and red.
"Come to pay homage to your new master?"
Stark stabbed a red finger at Doom. "You're no master of mine."
"The heroes of America have formally registered as servants of the state, you foremost among them. I legally control your Congress, your Senate, your President and both major political parties. The chain of command seems quite clear."
"Your company's PACs contribute to Republican and Democratic campaigns, along with soft money donations - that does not make you their master."
The Monarch of Latveria leaned back on his throne. "You are aware of the modern business world, Stark?"
"You watch yourself."
"And you obey your President, who states quite clearly 'Doom is a friend of America'."
Iron Man lowered his hand.
"This ... this wasn't your usual tactic."
"Which was why I adopted it. Men of Power craft individual Strategy and Tactics for their enemy's defeat, not employ the same actions as worn, familiar tools."
The monarch abstractedly waved his hand in the air. "Obvious, really. Over the years, since Nixon and Regan, Governments have released their hold on business, and slowly become swallowed up by the institutions they once controlled. Armies, Navies, proud states and nations slowly became subservient. All that remained were the heroes, independent and powerful - until Stamford, and your efforts to enforce Registration."
Doom stood, walking over to the balcony, overlooking Latveria's rolling fields. "Privatisation. One further clue to the world government's madness; giving away your assets? Your utilities? And with each failed third world privately owned essential service, every tale of a hospital or health insurance turning away a destitute child because of a petty claim, the time ever ripened for a benevolent man of vision to swoop in, and save the day. And I obtained those failed institutions for a bargain price. Now Doom, who was more feared than Castro, Hussein and Bin Laden, enjoys higher approval ratings than your President."
"You couldn't conquer the world, so you bought it."
"I grew tired, Stark. Weary of playing games with you and your ilk. When one can solve the world's economic woes with the same effort that a normal human invests in adding up his weekly food purchases, an economic takeover was the obvious means of stable, long term domination."
Doom turned back towards Stark, and slowly walked forwards. "You were an entertainment, Stark. You and every other hero. Interesting challenges, a series of amusements for Doom."
Stark leaned forwards. "Which means you lost. Every grand scheme you ever had, it meant nothing. You lost."
Doom didn't react - or not enough under that mask of his.
"You are right Stark. In all of the conflicts I have had with America's heroes, you were victorious."
Stark wasn't sure how to take this, as Doom walked back to his throne, and gracefully reclined back into his seat of power.
"Your prize is a brand new car. Just take one from any of my dealerships."
Stark stalked out of the throne room, commanding his audio filters to tune out the mocking laughter behind him.