By @Kimota1977 — Here’s something I thought I’d never write—I just finished watching Season 1 Episode 8 of the Doom Patrol which introduces Danny the Street—an actual living, queer, sentient street that can teleport anywhere in the world and enjoys cross-dressing.
As a lifelong fan of the Doom Patrol, this new show continues to blow me away by incorporating the strangest elements of one of the weirdest teams from the one of the oddest corners of the DCU. I first discovered the Doom Patrol comics in the “Daring New Adventures of Supergirl,” when they teamed up with the titular character to defeat Reactron. This oddball assortment of characters stood out as unique from the start. They seemed less a team and more a collection of damaged psyches that did not really care for one another personally. A family as dysfunctional as any real world version.
Of course–this REALLY intrigued me.
In 1987 Paul Kupperberg (who wrote that same Supergirl run) was handed the reins on a straight forward superheroic Doom Patrol relaunch. This began my true obsession with the team. I have since read and collected almost every appearance by the Doom Patrol. Now with volume seven making its way to stores this summer and a show that’s somehow on TV, let’s take a look at some classic runs featuring the team that just flat out refuses to die.
Even when they actually die.
Silver Age Doom Patrol Comics
The Doom Patrol was created in 1963 by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani (with suggestions by editor Murray Boltinoff). Dubbed the "World's Strangest Heroes" the original team included The Chief (Niles Caulder), Robotman (Cliff Steele), Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr), and Negative Man (Larry Trainor). They were a group of heroes whose super power-inducing traumas also made them cast-offs of society. First appearing in My Greatest Adventure #80 to battle the evil General Immortus who was after a secret elixir that would grant immortality.
This team was like nothing else DC was producing at the time. Marvel (and the always incredible team of Stan and Jack) were already creating heroes that were more human and fallible. DC was still existing in that nebulous early Silver Age that still gave us more “Hey Kids It’s Comics” type of stories. The Doom Patrol was anything but that. Suffering from events that gave them their powers, this group fought with each other almost as much as the unusual villains they would meet.
The main group went on to include associations with Mento (Steve Dayton) – the world’s fifth richest man who wore a helmet to increase and focus his telepathic powers; and Beast Boy (Garfield Logan) – who later changed his name and joined the New Teen Titans as Changeling.
The world’s strangest heroes needed to fight the world’s strangest villains and they surely had the most eclectic rogue’s gallery I have ever seen.
A small selection of notable Silver Age Doom Patrol villains:
Animal Vegetable Mineral Man – able to change any part of his body into any variation of any animal, vegetable or mineral
The Brain and Monsieur Mallah – a disembodied genius brain in a vat of amino acids and a surgically/chemically enhanced gorilla who was both the Brain’s creation and later – his lover. These two led a team of very odd villains called the Brotherhood of Evil.
Dr. Tyme – the mad scientist who wore a clock shaped helmet that could speed up or slow down an objects personal time.
Mr. 103 – able to change any part of his body into one of 103 known periodic table elements of 1965.
Garguax – A rotund alien despot who was deposed from his throne and turned his attention to conquering Earth with an army of plastic soldiers.
This weird collection of heroes and their villains appealed in many ways because of their primary aesthetic - dysfunction. Despite their handicaps and limitations on having normal lives, they risked everything time and again to save the day, the world or even a single life.
Originally created as a concept to save My Greatest Adventure from cancellation (and proving popular enough to change that titles name to Doom Patrol at issue 86) their popularity began to wane and the title once again ended up on the chopping block in 1968.
Doom Patrol #121 saw the story titled "The Beginning of the End!???" but it should have been called “The Death of the Doom Patrol”. The team was lured to a small fishing village by Brotherhood of Evil member Madame Rouge and her associate Nazi war criminal General Zahl. There they were defeated and trapped by the criminal duo and presented with a choice.
They could save their own lives if they renounced heroism and allowed the small village of fisherman and their families to die in their stead. Naturally the team – consisting at this point of only the original four members – chose their own death over that of the innocent families nearby. Thinking they would shame the Doom Patrol into saving their own lives and realizing the heroes would still claim victory in defeat; General Zahl and Madame Rouge destroyed the tiny island the team were held captive on.
Despite their shortcomings and infighting they were heroes until the very end.
NOTABLE APPEARANCES & MUST READS
My Greatest Adventure #80 – First Appearance of the Doom Patrol, Robotman (called Automaton), Negative Man, the Chief, Elasti-Girl and General Immortus
Doom Patrol #86 – First Appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil, Monsieur Mallah and the Brain.
Doom Patrol #89 – First Appearance of Animal Vegetable Mineral Man
Doom Patrol #91 – First Appearance of Mento and Garguax
Doom Patrol #99 – First Appearance of Beast Boy.
Doom Patrol #121 – The death of the original Doom Patrol members consisting of the Chief, Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-Girl.
Bronze Age Doom Patrol Comics
Of course this being comics, you can never keep a good team of superheroes down long. Introducing the New Doom Patrol in Showcase #94, writer Paul Kupperberg, a longtime Doom Patrol fan, and artist Joe Staton brought us a revival of the “World’s Strangest Heroes”.
This revival brought us only one familiar team member – “Robotman” Cliff Steele. His body mangled and destroyed by Zahl and Rouge – he was rebuilt by leading robotics expert Dr. Will Magnus (of Metal Men fame). Returning to his old base of operations he discovers there is a new group of people taking over the team’s headquarters.
Celsius (Arani Caulder) - Claiming to be the wife of Niles Caulder, she possessed the natural ability to emit bursts of heat and cold from her hands. She claimed her metagene was triggered when Niles gave her an immortality serum (the same one General Immortus was looking for way back in the Doom Patrol’s first appearance).
Tempest (Joshua Clay) – A rare DC Comics “mutant” who was born with the ability to generate and radiate powerful blasts from his hands.
Negative Woman (Valentina Vostok) – A Russian fighter pilot whose plane crash-landed at the spot where the original Doom Patrol had perished. She was fused with the same negative energy being that once inhabited the body of the Larry Trainor - Negative Man. Vostok’s abilities were different than Trainor’s as she gained the ability to transform herself into the being as opposed to sending it out of her body.
The new team gets very little time to coalesce (or do anything beyond a quick superhero fight and some origin stories) before being attacked by General Immortus searching yet again for Niles Caulders’ immortality serum. After his subsequent defeat, the three-parter ends with the Russian government retrieving Vostok as a defector and the New Doom Patrol racing away to save her.
This team did not resonate in the same way as the original (likely as they were standard superheroes without the same level of weirdness) and there was no follow up series. The team had several team up stories over the next eight years; most notably with Supergirl and Superman leading up to the seminal universe wide crossover title - Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The most memorable story from this period was in the New Teen Titans and featured the surviving members of the original team (Robotman, Mento, and Beast Boy) as they seek those responsible for the death of their teammates. Robotman and Mento had avoided searching for the killers as they did not want to involve the young Beast Boy on their mission of vengeance.
However, when Beast Boy (now calling himself Changeling) joined the New Teen Titans, the two adult Doom Patrol members decided it was time to track down the killers. The two were quickly defeated and Mento was tortured into insanity while Robotman was left deactivated and hung as a warning to trespassers outside their headquarters.
The New Teen Titans helped repair Robotman and joined him to defeat Rouge and Zahl. Surprisingly the heroes were aided by the Brain and Mallah and their new version of the Brotherhood of Evil. Paying the ultimate price for the murder of the Doom Patrol, both Rouge and Zahl died while fighting Beast Boy and Robotman.
After Crisis, the team got a whole new launch and the most memorable, strange and unique stories of their long history. The list below has every appearance of the New Doom Patrol up to and including their roles in Crisis On Infinite Earths.
NOTABLE APPEARANCES & MUST READS
Showcase Presents #94-97 – First Appearance of the New Doom Patrol, Robotman (in a new ‘70s funk era inspired body), Negative Woman, Celsius, Tempest and the return of General Immortus.
Superman Family #191 – 193 – Not only the New Doom Patrols first team up (with Supergirl) but also their first appearance after Showcase Presents as they failed to gain an ongoing.
Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #8-9 – Featuring a team-up with Supergirl and the introduction of Reactron who is an important link to Joshua Clay’s past.
DC Comics Presents #52 – This story changes Negative Woman’s abilities to match Negative Man’s abilities. I know – it does not sound like much – but it has much farther reaching implications.
New Teen Titans #13-15 – Robotman (returned to his original body) teams up with Beast Boy to search for the Doom Patrol’s killers. This is frankly one of the best stories of DC comics of the era. Ending with the New Teen Titans and Robotman joining forces with a new Brotherhood of Evil to bring General Zahl and Madame Rouge to justice.
Crisis On Infinite Earths #5, 9 and 10 – Featuring every DC character they could jam into the series the New Doom Patrol gets pulled out of mothballs to take the fight to the villains of the DC universe.
Join me next week as we cover the “new New Doom Patrol,” which will include more of the “World’s Strangest Heroes”, the Hero of the Beach, and everyone’s favorite street, Danny!
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