If Doctor Doom didn't exist, it would be necessary to create him.
I'm mangling a paraphrase of a paraphrase there, but you get the point, right?
A friend of mine once argued that since every appearance of Doctor Doom, to date, could be argued away as being an appearance by a Doombot, depending on whether the reader liked it or not (who says John Byrne doesn't have good ideas occasionally?), then, ipso facto, all Doctor Doom appearances have been Doombot appearances. He then compounded his heresy by saying that Doom did not, in fact, exist, but was instead a series of advanced androids created by a future Reed Richards, then sent back, Terminator-like, in time to create a machine colony for themselves, i.e. Latveria, from which to periodically launch attacks on the Fantastic Four in order to justify the team's existence. Hence the repeated failure of Doom's plans.
I argued vociferously against this, of course. The facts are plain, to my mind. While sentient constructs a-plenty exist in the Marvel Universe, Doom isn't one of them. His flaws alone bear that out. While Doombots do indeed exist, their AI is based on an all-too human template-that of Victor von Doom. How else can you account for their arrogance, their overweening pride, or nobility of spirit?
Well of course there WAS a von Doom, my compatriot replied. But, he died in the accident that supposedly scarred his face. In actuality, my friend continued, future-Reed Richards stole the DNA and brain-patterns of his deceased college rival and used them to construct a nemesis with an elaborate back-story in order to prevent the eventual persecution of his genetically damaged family. With Doom around, the Fantastic Four have a purpose. And, even better, the world has someone to be afraid of. Originally, Namor fulfilled that purpose, but once he married Sue Storm he quieted down immensely. Thus, Doom's continuing manipulation of the Sub-Mariner.
Hold on, I said. So your thought is that future-Reed sent the self-replicating Doombots back to unite the world through fear, provide a reason for the Fantastic Four to exist, AND to ensure that past-Reed got the girl of his dreams by screwing around with Namor's head on a regular basis?
As he nodded sagely, I took the opportunity to attempt to refute his arguments by bouncing a salt shaker off of his head. He replied with a napkin dispenser to my frontal lobe and we fell to intense scholarly discourse on the nature of heroism and sentient constructs in the Marvel Universe.
However, we never got the chance to finish our debate. Moments after I made an appeal to his spiritual side by squirting ketchup packets into his sinuses, we were asked to leave Burger King and never come back.
Such is the peril of academia.