Dr. Steel vs. Dr. Horrible: Mad Scientist Showdown

Intellectual property is an ever-raging discussion here in The Age of The Internet. Often the lines between inspiration and imitation are blurred but today I give you an interesting case. You decide!

Long-time mad scientist Doctor Steel has, over the course of many years, made himself an infectious image. To do this he’s combined vintage war propaganda aesthetics, catchy tunes and an image of an asylum escapee who plots away in a secret lab and seeks to improve Earth with toys and total world domination. Through his website he’s pulled together an entire army of fans called Toy Soldiers, who organize events and distribute various Dr. Steel propaganda.

Left: Doctor Steel. Right: Doctor Horrible

Now there’s come along a Doctor Horrible. Produced by Joss Whedon and starring Neil Parick Harris, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” is a website dedicated to video blogs starring a 30-something mad scientist who sings and wants to take over the world. In the site’s Master Plan, Whedon invites fans to spread the word, offers propaganda-style banners and promises a DVD release later.

Similarities beyond the singing mad doctor character include aforementioned propaganda-inspired banners, shiny gloves, goggles and an “Ask Dr. Horrible” segment – not unlike these “Ask Doctor Steel” videos. There is also the matter of the title itself : “Sing-Along Blog” is reminiscent of Doctor Steel’s Read-A-Long album.

Doctor Steel feels slighted by this endeavor and is rallying his troops in retaliation. Now that you’ve seen the evidence it’s time to cast your votes. Personally I’d like to see a bit of Doctor on Doctor boxing, shiny gloves and all.

128 Responses to “Dr. Steel vs. Dr. Horrible: Mad Scientist Showdown”

  1. Zoetica Says:

    Good to see the shirtstorm still a-brewing! Keep it up, kids. On a related note, I, curious and with an open mind, tried to watch Dr. Horrible and couldn’t even get through the first episode in its entirety. If asked, I’d call it “dull” and “corny”. Sad, I was prepared to be entertained and everything.

  2. delira Says:

    I totally agree with your interpretation of Dr. Horrible.
    I just watched Dr. Steel, and i’m afraid i see no connection.
    Okay, its a coat wearing mad scientist who wants to take over the world who sings.
    We get it.

    But the thing behind Dr. Horrible is the personality.
    Deep down, he’s not that horrible, doesn’t really want to take over the world.
    And is in love with Penny.

    I don’t see that depth in Dr. Steel. He’s just blabbering on about the utopian playground, and honestly, i don’t like his music much.
    I’m more of a fan of the corny music of Dr. Horrible.

    Also, we got to see more character depth explored in Dr. Horrible, as in more characters. Dr Horrible seems like a proper mini-tv show, with drama, as opposed to Dr. Steel’s music video cum propaganda film.

    And that, is for me, the attraction that drew me to Dr. Horrible.
    Especially the way even at the last minute of her death, Penny had faith that Captain Hammer would save them.

    Call me corny, but whatever.

    (Just to state, i’m not a Whedon fan, I’d never heard of him until i watched Dr. Horrible today. I’ve heard of Firefly and Buffy, but have never watched them. Never heard of Angel or whatever it is. Until i wiki-ed.

    So this isn’t just a rabid fangirl’s defense. Call it a corny, ignorant girl’s defense if you will.

    Also: just to state, i didn’t watch all of Dr. Steel’s videos, just some.)

  3. SL Says:

    *gasp* delira, you just spoiled the ending to a whole bunch of people! *pets you* I know you might’ve not meant it, but you got to watch that kind of thing, a lot of people have yet to see it (it just got out after all)- I know that if I haven’t seen it, this would’ve totally blew it for me (I still feel the shock I did when it happened, some might say best/worst part, for me it was a ride. NPH’s face – that made it for me!). *blush* Sorry, I got carried away. I wonder though if someone here can spoiler/hide what came after the “last minute”?

    And like many said, if Dr. Steel (who I’ve first heard of when his army started spamming and trolling everywhere – not the best introduction, not to mention when he spoke so strongly to rouse his soldiers then edited his words to sound less inducing and more approving) or if any of his followers had tried the smart way – you know, something like “Oh, Dr. Horrible? He looks like Dr. Steel in the clothes department and didja know they both sing? You should really check out our leader’s site, he will blow you mind!” or whatever, anything better than scathing words and “missions” to ruin the experience of many fans at the convention. When I first saw all of that, first words into my head was “Scary” then after consideration “Childish”. Sorry if I offend any of his fans with my words, but it’s honestly how I truly view all of this.

  4. she_who_filks Says:

    I am not a hard-core Joss fan. I am not a fan of Dr Steel. I am a fan of kitty cats though. Love all the images shared!
    People–we live in a big, BIG, really Big Universe!
    It is so mind-boggling big that… nevermind, let’s say there’s room for every musical mad scientist with hordes of henchmen and fans.
    I do not subscribe to the Highlander principle (There can be only One!). I believe in infinite combinations–the more the merrier.

  5. Dioxin Says:

    What next? Are Dr Steel fans going to start attacking Halloween costume makers that release “goggle + gloves + lab coat” mad scientist costumes? Or are they going to start denouncing Captain Hammer as copying Jesus of Jesus Christ Superstar fame, that other carpentry related singing superhero?

    I’m still waiting for Dr Steel’s apology to Mary Shelley for stealing her idea.

  6. Viktor Frankenstein Says:

    If I might have a word?

  7. Alice Says:

    I have to agree with Miss Zoetica up there…I was quite let down by Dr. Horrible’s video–couldn’t even watch the complete first episode! And I really did go into it with an open mind and expecting quite a lot better from such a popular camp…

  8. Tuesday Says:

    Archetype. Been around for decades. Calm the hell down.

    Besides, it’s totally different kinds of music. I mean, if Dr Horrible had more techno-rap beats in it, then there might be an argument, but it’s mostly showtune-type ballads and one rock number.

  9. Tuesday Says:

    Not to mention to all the people who are saying that “Joss gets all the money for this!” He financed the ENTIRE Dr. Horrible thing on his own dime and put it out for FREE on the internet. Yes, NOW it’s only available through paid download and the eventual DVD, but he himself said that it’ll take about a year for this thing to get into the black.

  10. Trevel Says:

    All I have to say is …

    Anyone who thinks that the Media Moguls will be TURNED OFF by the fact that “Hey, look, it’s been done before and everyone loved it” has NOT paid attention to media for the past oh say 2000 years. Right now, someone in some boardroom is saying “We need something like Doctor Horrible, and we need it NOW!”

  11. Neil Hunt Says:

    Meh. The look they share is echoed all the time in other mad scientist works. It’s done constantly in Girl Genius, for example. The singing villainous Dr. guy thing is the key point of similarity here, and I just don’t see it being that big. Dr. Steel isn’t so big that the Dr. Horrible creators have to have heard of him, (I certainly hadn’t) and it’s not like the idea couldn’t have been arrived at organically. I tend to believe that the Dr. Horrible team is telling the truth that they didn’t know about Dr. Steel.

  12. Miss Zahrah Says:

    I think the initial reaction of Dr. Steel fans was of an over-zealous nature, feeling the pinch of ‘too close for comfort’ when a big-named producer makes a show that in many ways does mirror Dr. Steel’s. That is not to say that Joss Whedon ripped him off, most of the elements are nothing new, but to put them all together in a similar fashion does raise the eyebrows.
    But that’s neither here nor there. I doubt Joss is a theif.
    Really now, there’s room enough on this big old planet of ours to enjoy BOTH mad scientists, and I figure there will be a lot of cross-over fans who love both, or who personally prefer one over the other.
    That’s human nature – to have a preference.
    So while hasty words and mis-applied zeal may have been the initial reaction, I think most everyone realizes that there is no need for any sort of ‘fan-war’ over this. Growing pains, and nothing more.
    Be that as it may, Dr. Steel will always be my first love – … Mind Control Cookies… mmmmmmm..

  13. Mer Says:

  14. Tequila Says:

    @ Mer… :D

  15. Me Says:

    If any of the Dr. Steel fans actually tried to watch Dr. Horrible, they’d see that it’s not going to be stealing Steel’s thunder. It’s a three episode story, not a music video. It’s even a totally different type of music. It’s show tunes, catchy, fun.. but it’s not an image or whatever Steel is trying to be.

  16. Lefthandedgamer Says:

    I have read here that Dr. Steel feels that he will not get any support because of Dr. Horrible. Oh no, history has proven the exact opposite. Remember Star Wars was once implicated in infringing on Star Trek. However, Star Wars only reinvigorated the genre. And then came BSG, who Lucas claimed infringed on Star Wars. I love, love both good doctors. I believe however that fans of Dr. Horrible will start to look for similar content in other places and they will fall squarely on Dr. Steel. This is his opportunity to pump it up. We will all be happy for that Dr. H and Dr. Steel fans alike. Dr. Horrible is the press kit that Dr. Steel could only wish for.

  17. Sam E. Says:

    Dr.Steel was featured in th first issue of CoilHouse magazine

  18. Saint Says:

    No- Doctor Steel all the way!! Aaaallll the waaaay! Though this reminds me very much of the whole incident between Charlie huston’s work (Already Dead, Half the Blood of Brooklyn etc) and that horrible tv show Moonlight. Much of Charlie Huston fan’s felt that whatever producer, scriptwriter, etc stole Huston’s idea and fused it with Anne Rice and other crap and came along a show about vampires that was supposed to be “new”. Of course Charlie didn’t make a big dead out of it- suggesting it was a zeitergeist thing….That’s all I got to say- But Doctor Steel has my vote.

  19. drea Says:

    though the two are similar, in that they are both mad scientists, they dont really look similar and their personalities are completely different so I dont think we really need to worrry about one winning out over the other. also dr. steel is a bonafide recording artist where as dr. horrible seems to be selling his entire show plus dr. steel is more interactive (to the point of almost being a role playing game) and dr. horrible is just something to watch, like a TV show.
    while I personally prefer dr. steel I can admit that dr. horrible is amusing and, as far as the whole plagerism thing goes, I suppose it is possible given that the concepts are similar but I wouldnt worry about it too much because, as I said, I dont see one as being a threat to the other. I also really hope that the similarities are just conicidence as I have always had great respect for Whedon as an artist.

  20. Mary Shelley Says:

    Hey. Chillax.

    I love cats (cute pics).

  21. rhonan Says:

    As both a Browncoat, and a Toy Soldier, as well as a long time student of science fiction, I can assure you at they both ripped-off the same treasure trove of mad scientist archetypes. So, you Browncoats that are dissing Dr. Steel, chillaxificate… and you Toy Soldiers that are calling Joss a rip-off artist, just how are you advancing the goal of world domination by pissing off possible recruits?

    Really, we all just need to have a drink, and work on something we can all agree on, laughing at folks who watch reality TV.

  22. Shadesiren Says:

    Is there no world where two vaguely simliar mad scientists cannot exist simultaneously? Can there be ONLY one Mad Scientist character in the world/on the net?

    They are NOT the same – and I’m a fan or BOTH. Honestly, I’m really a Captain Hammer fan (well.. Nathan Fillion Fan), but it’s all good. I met Dr. Horrible first, and through my brother, Dr. Steel BECAUSE of his complaint.

    And now I understand – his REAL mad plan was to make us all aware of him, who were not before! I certainly hope he has the grace to say I’m right (i.e. let this go), otherwise, I’d find my admiration for him sadly tarnished.

  23. FireCloud42 Says:

    I’m going to have to go with Shadesiren

    I’m a fan of Nathan and Felicia Day which is the two biggest reason’s I Love Dr. Horrible. And I’ve never heard of Dr. Steel till now (I did go to his site though) anyway to my point he’s not the only artist to try and build an army…I’ve been members of alot of bands that state there trying to take over the world…Heck thats one of the goals for Bungie too, are you going to get upset at Bungie for trying to take over the world too. No your not…I understand that It has a Mad Scientist in the flick but really don’t see them the same, for one, there 2 different genres of music and reach different crowds.

  24. badluckshadow13 Says:

    Oh me, oh my… all this arguing.
    What really disappoints me though is the attitude of some of my fellow Toy Soldiers here.
    While it is true that I dislike Dr. Horrible and would, of my own free-will, give my life for Dr. Steel, I don’t see the point in all this mudslinging.
    I guess though, my two-cents in all this is that Dr. Steel and Dr. Horrible are two entirely different people. Dr. Horrible, for better or for worse, is an entertainer and Dr. Steel is a philosopher who uses music as one of his many methods of reaching the masses.
    As a Toy Soldier, I understand the anger at what we perceive as stealing, or perhaps simply as enterprising on the following another artist is finding in reviving an old genre, because the Doctor has taught us the importance of imagination and individuality. All the same though, we have to realize how important creating is and how little would ultimately come from the destruction of Dr. Horrible.
    Whether or not we agree with Dr. Horrible, we should embrace his desire to create and try to make friends rather than rivals of his fandom. Together, perhaps we can be allies in building our Utopian Playland!

  25. LarryXA Says:

    Thx, this has definitely made my day!


  26. MinionThirteen Says:

    I am loyal to the good Dr Steel, some of you would have the opinion that because of this, i am blind or foolish, even brainwashed but my mind is my own, and i chose to use it as and when i wish too.
    The actions of some of my fellow T.S.U. members were naught but hurt, we have worked hard for a great while, and found joy in an idea, a dream that is inspired, maybe crazy, but inspired none the less.
    I would ask if any of you none T.S.U’s have ever engaged the Good Dr Steel in conversation? I found him to be a most delightful and intelligent man, but above all he was kind and thoughtful, and he took the time to listen and respond when i spoke. He is a good man and he works very hard to ensure that each and everyone of his supporters are treated with respect, even when he is making his music or creating something new, he takes the time to respond to whoever chooses to write to him.
    I believe he will last and will eventually benefit from this in a positive way.
    Just remember that we all have one thing in common, we all obviously love evil mad scientists, music, and creativity.
    I took the time to read every comment on here, and i feel like a certain positive element is being ignored, the fact that several people are more than happy to embrace both.

    I definitely recommend that anyone who is interested in Art, Music, Fashion, Humour, and Fun to check Dr Steel out, give the guy a chance to show you who he is and what he has accomplished over the years, with the support of his loyal fans and supporters. let them welcome you into a world filled with creativity and curiosity, a place where you are encouraged to enjoy yourselves, and share that enjoyment with others.

    Unity is a solution.

  27. Truenonymous Says:

    I realize that this debate is moot, what with Dr. Steel “retiring” and Dr. Horrible (Which honestly, never heard of it before finding Dr. Steel and I’m- err- was a Whedon fan at the time it came out. Hadn’t heard of Steel by that point either oddly enough.) passed like a blip… But I noticed something missing from this discussion that I think should have been a major talking point; Dr. Steel’s lyrical content and the overt and underlying messages therein.

    Sure, on the surface Dr. Steel is an eccentric & eclectic mad scientist bent on World Domination via building a Utopian Playland… Underneath though there is much, much more. It goes well beyond a man portraying a character as a career and a Hollywood big shot creating a similar character and webseries at the peak of the former’s career.

    A large portion of Dr. Steel’s lyrics reference conspiracy theories and spiritual science. Bohemian Grove, Skull & Bones, Illuminati, manifest destiny, the Fibonacci sequence, the singularity, trans-humanism, ascension, chemtrails, breaking cognitive dissonance, human conditioning… all things that were being suppressed in the media at the time. (And to a point, still are being suppressed with misinformation.) from the general public.

    Now, it seems a stretch to think that some mammoth group of shadowy figures that really run the world would be bothered to squash a relative peon like Dr. Steel… but who is Dr. Steel… really? What is Dr. Steel’s real name? Who was the man in the coat with the goggles and the beard? The tone of his lyricism to me sounds like it’s coming from someone who knows his time on Earth is growing shorter so he’s decided to put it all on the line before finally embracing his end. (The songs “Childhood (Don’t) A Go-Go” and much of the songs on “People of Earth” especially.)

    He creates this whimsical character so he has a way to share his knowledge and his message without drawing too much attention to his personal life keeping the people he cares about separate from the Dr. Steel persona. Then the Dr. Horrible situation pops up and we see a watered down/slightly different version of Dr. Steel from a major Hollywood player. The Dr. Steel Show had 3 webisodes, Dr. Horrible had 3 webisodes. Even the name “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” seems like an insult aimed at Steel, poking fun at his schtick.

    Almost a sort of “Ha ha, we found you. It was a good try, but go away or bad things will happen to your family.”. Now, to me that would explain the change in his rhetoric towards Dr. Horrible. And correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it shortly after this whole fiasco that Dr. Steel “retired” and just abruptly disappeared with only a vague letter to explain things? …Or it could just be a guy who was getting older and because of all the bullsh-t lost the love of his craft and wanted to go back to a normal life. I like the conspiracy angle better though… don’t you? Especially since we don’t really know who the man was.

    Just a thought.

  28. Ruben Says:

    Could it be possible that Dr. Steel was forced to “retire” because of copyright claims? If not by Doctor Horrible, maybe by claims by people who have the legal rights to some of the audio fragments Steel uses in his songs. I think this is the most logical explanation for his sudden forced disappearing.

    Fucking copyrights…