A History of The Doom Patrol
Article Reprinted in Best of Amazing Heroes #1, 1982
The Doom Patrol Concept
The cover of their premiere issue foretold the group’s future: “Reborn out of disaster, four survivors rose again to form a legion of the world’s strangest heroes.”
Before the X-Men, even before the Legion of Super-Heroes appeared regularly, the Doom Patrol first earned the right to be called “The World’s Strangest Heroes!” The cover of that first issue, My Greatest Adventure #85 (June, 1963), lured an ancient man dressed In a quasi-military uniform, firing a ray gun which trapped a shattered silhouette of a Man Is beam. At the old man’s feet, a bandaged man in a green body suit lay helpless. Coming to the rescue of the fallen hero was a bronze-colored robot and at the robot’s left “ear” clung a small woman, in a similar green outfit. “You’re too late, Automaton!” the withered villain boasted. “In another second, your ally Negative-Man will be totally destroyed – unable to return to his human body!”
The first page of the story deepened the mystery of the three bizarre new heroes. Calling them “victims of a cruel and fantastic fate,” a red-bearded man in neat business suit, offered them “the chance to experience adventures more incredible than any humans have ever known.” All four were outcasts – and one by one, the bearded man spotlighted their pasts.
Rita Farr had been a beautiful and talented actress. While on location in Africa for a movie, she found herself captured and swept away by powerful river currents to a valley where odd vapors drifted from geyser-like holes. As a result of breathing those fumes, her body began to expand and contract uncontrollably. Ultimately, she learned to control her strange power, yet she withdrew from the film community and remained in a self-imposed exile – until the meeting organized by this curious red-haired man.
Larry Trainor, though nattily dressed in brown flight suit and white cravat, was bandaged from head to toe like a mummy underneath those clothes. Not for burns, but for something far worse. As a test pilot, flying the K-2F experimental rocket plane into a sub-orbital flight path, his craft skimmed through some of the then-uncharted radiation belts that encircled the Earth. As he crash-landed his jet, he spotted a rescue plane coming to retrieve him. But the craft’s landing gear was not fully opened, which meant it would crash upon landing. Suddenly, a strange silhouetted figure tore itself from Larry’s body, flew to the endangered craft, and pulled down its landing wheel. Yet the price for this mysterious duplicate was that it could not stay out of his body for more than 60 seconds or Larry Trainor would die.
Cliff Steele looked like a robot dressed in human clothes. Steele had been an adventurer who excelled at any event requiring physical prowess. Yet a curve on a European car racing track proved to be too much even for his fine body’s reflexes and in the crash that followed, it seemed as though death had finally won the race. Cliff didn’t die, but he would wonder for the rest of his life if death would have been better – someone transplanted the brain from his ruined body into a fine robot body. This fantastic body made him better than any human athlete. Better but different. An outcast.
The Chief was the mysterious bearded organizer of the group. He. too, was an outcast. As revealed several issues later, his real name was Niles Caulder and he was confined to a wheelchair because of General Immortus, the withered villain of that first issue. Immortus had financed Niles’s early research in return for the young scientist’s promise to analyze and duplicate the serum that made the General Immortal. But when Niles discovered the evil machinations of Immortus, he rebelled. Immortus responded by implanting a bomb in Niles’s chest that could be detonated at any time, but which could not be deactivated as long as the young scientist lived.
To escape the villain’s power, the daring scientist arranged to have himself shot by Immortus. Staggering back to his lab, he died, but not before commanding an experimental robot he’d invented to operate to remove the bomb and then revive him. The operation was a success, but a delay in the revival procedure damaged his nerves, leaving the Chief paralyzed from the waist down.
It was the Chief who had performed the surgery which had saved Cliff Steele’s life. Moreover, he had prepared a secret headquarters and communications nerve center beneath the small house in Manhattan where the group had gathered. He proposed they band together and use their peculiar talents for the benefit of others. And so was born – The Doom Patrol!
The team, Elasti-GirI, Negative Man, Robotman (referred to as Automaton for the first few issues), and the Chief proved to be popular enough that after six issues, they took over My Greatest Adventure, which changed its name to The Doom Patrol with #86 (Mar., 1964) (Some DC comics careened ads featuring the same cover but billing it as The Doom Patrol #1.) In all, the fabulous freaks starred in 42 issues (and guest-starred in two issues of other titles) of one of the most offbeat and bizarre series DC had ever published. Unlike DC’s other superhero series of the period, the Doom Patrol was ostracized by society. It was this theme – outcasts as heroes – that gave the DP its unique appeal.
The Men Behind The Doom Patrol
Yet the Doom Patrol was conceived as merely a means of saving a dying book. My Greatest Adventure had begun in February, 1955, presenting semi-fantastic tales about different men and the adventures they had. By 1963, the resurgence in super-heroes was overshadowing the experiences of these everyday guys, though attempts were valiantly made to compete (witness “I Was the Hunted Man-Bird of Mystery Mesa”). They weren’t enough, though, and declining sales figures threatened to cancel the book.
So veteran editor Murray Boltinoff asked writer Arnold Drake to develop a feature suited to the book. Drake remembers one Friday outlining the idea for the characters and the series to Boltinoff, who then asked for the finished script the following Tuesday. Drake decided he could use some help in meeting the deadline, so he turned to another DC freelance scripter, Bob Haney, for help in fleshing out the concept and writing the first story. As Drake recalls it, Haney contributed one of the male characters, “probably Negative Man, although it could have been Robotman, I don’t remember. Bob didn’t have an assignment for the weekend and I was overworked, so I went to him and said ‘let’s plot it together, then you write one half of the story and I’ll write the other.’ I believe he ended up writing the second half.”
Haney remembered an “almost 50-50″ involvement in the beginning of the series: “I am absolutely certain Drake and I jointly created the four characters, names, powers, appearances, hang-ups… Why am I so sure? It was a creative intense push, not a statistical event, that’s why.” But Haney never did get too enthusiastic about the series and left after “two or three or four issues. After I dropped out, he did a fine job,” Haney said of Drake’s work. Drake, however, remembers Haney being involved in only the first issue. “I think Bob may have been unhappy that I didn’t use him again ,~‘ said Drake. “Maybe I didn’t make it clear that I wasn’t offering him a partnership on the series. I just offered to split a paycheck.” Haney doesn’t remember being “unhappy that (Drake] didn’t use me again,” though. In fact, “I simply had enough work, wasn’t terribly thrilled with the property, and definitely sensed Arnold’s strong feeling that he wanted to run with the ball… In any case, Drake deserves all credit for the Doom Patrol era, beyond origin.”
Bruno Premiani had done some work for DC and was ready for more when the Doom Patrol assignment came up. During World War II, Premiani had been a notorious political cartoonist whose work got him expelled from his homeland of Mussolini’s Italy. He went to Argentina but was deported from there, this time by the Perons. Premiani was, in Drake’s words, “an extraordinary craftsman and draftsman.” Premiani’s book on the anatomy of the horse is still used as a reference today.
Premiani provided a definite European flavor to his superhero work. With the exception of a few fill-in issues by DC regular Bob Brown, Premiani would pencil and ink all of the DP’s adventures, applying a scrupulous use of perspective that gave the series a highly realistic tone.
At a time when Superman was making the artistic transition from Wayne Boring and Al Plastino to Curt Swan, and the Silver Age Flash was at its artistic best under the pencil of Carmine Infantino, Premiani’s art was atypical for DC. He had a meticulous approach to proportion “that was both his strength and his weakness,” said Drake. Because Premiani was so dedicated to accurately depicting proportions and perspective, he would have to be persuaded to employ such devices as forced perspective to lend dramatic impact to a scene. “He always used to say, ‘I will draw it, but it will be very poor,” Drake recalled. “I used to say he drew with an Italian accent.”
Matching Premiani’s artwork were Arnold Drake’s scripts. Drake has been described as a “literary Jack-of-all-trades.” Before scripting the DP, he had written such series as Superman, Batman, Space Ranger, Challengers of the Unknown, Mark Merlin, and Tommy Tomorrow for DC. He had also written several novels, in addition to writing for television, movies, magazines, and newspapers.
Cast of Characters & Series History
THE PRICE OF POWER
One of the unique aspects of the Doom Patrol was the price its members had to pay for their powers. Cliff Steele, Robot-man, would never find any measure of happiness with his robot body. He was alive, but his life was a mechanical parody of the life he had lived. Although he saved many lives as Robotman, he was a constantly angry, bitter man.
The theme of a man trapped within his own body appeared as early as in the DP’s second adventure, “The Nightmare Maker” (My Greatest Adventure #81, Aug. 1963). Throughout North America, bizarre monsters appeared out of nowhere, yet Robotman could not see them. At the DP headquarters, Cliff challenged the Chief: “You did this to me – the surgeon who transferred the brain from my shattered human body to this metal shell – and you botched the job!” The Chief had no explanation and Cliff continued to rage. “Look what your ‘genius’ got me – a robot’s body and a defective human brain! Why didn’t you let me die?”
It turned out that the mysterious monsters were radio-broadcast illusions, and that Cliffs shielded brain blocked the impulses that caused the monsters to appear to others. The angry man-machine with fiery red eyes slamming a metal fist into a table was to become a common sight throughout the series’ run.
Larry Trainor was as trapped as Cliff Steele. Although early on in the series it was explained that Negative Man was a being of radio waves, the secret of why Larry was bandaged was not revealed until The Doom Patrol #87 (May, 1964). In that story, the only way to sabotage the efforts of an army of radio-controlled robots was to interrupt the signals. And the only way to do that was to fill the air with radiation that would jam those control systems. Larry revealed that the terrible consequence of his sub-orbital flight was not just Negative Man, his silhouette radio-wave genie, but that his body had become dangerously radioactive. It was only with the bandages, treated with a formula concocted by the Chief, that Larry’s radiation was trapped and that he could walk the streets without endangering the lives of others.
Like her fellow freaks, Rita’s powers also exacted a price. In The Doom Patrol #95 (May, 1965), the Chief, with Rita’s consent, told Cliff and Larry that the weird gases that allowed her to contract or expand were slowly killing her.
In those first six issues, the DP twice battled the ancient, immortal villain depicted on the cover of their debut issue, General Immortus (in their second encounter, My Greatest Adventure #84, Dec. 1963, he took over Robotman’s body via remote-control). They also ran up against a renegade Nazi scientist who could broadcast very convincing illusions directly into people’s brains (My Greatest Adventure #81, Aug. 1963); a trio of aliens who planned to take over the earth (#82, Sept. 1963) (in that issue, the Chief and Rita are shown smoking cigarettes, although they do not practice that habit – rare for super-heroes – in any of the following issues); Negative Man run rampant (#83, Nov. 1963) (due to interference from a powerful radio source; the theme of an errant Negative Man was later picked up in the team-up of the Flash and the Doom Patrol in Brave and Bold #65, April-May 1966), and subterranean creatures whose body temperatures threatened to ignite the Earth’s atmosphere (MGA #85, Feb. 1964) (in that issue, Rita briefly returns to Hollywood; she nearly returns quite a few issues later, but under far different circumstances).
But these fantastic adventures were not enough. What the DP needed were villains as fantastic as ‘they and powerful enough to challenge them. They didn’t have long to wait. On the cover of the first issue to be called The Doom Patrol, (#86), the DP witnessed through their monitor screen what readers would soon learn was a human brain encased in a transparent globe and immersed in bubbling nutritive fluids giving orders to a gorilla armed with a submachine gun and a bandolier of cartridges. “This is the ultimate mission for which I created you – the destruction of the Doom Patrol! Summon the others!” said the brain’s electronic voice. “Yes, Master, I will obey!” replied the gorilla. This was the first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil.
To find the roots for this group, look to Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Arnold Drake had always enjoyed Doyle’s ratiocinative tales of the roman-nosed Holmes. Since the age of 12, when he had discovered the tales of the master sleuth, he had reread them many times. One of Doyle’s characters that particularly appealed to Drake was Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s brother. Disdaining physical activity, Mycroft opted to solve crimes at his home, exercising an intellect superior even to that of his brother.
Drake took the concept one step further and came up with a person of pure intellect, just a brain. While the Brain served as the mastermind of the Brotherhood of Evil, there were stories in which he did gain a “body”: Doom Patrol #93 (Feb. 1965), where he infiltrated the DP by transplanting his brain into Robotman’s body, #101 (Feb., 1966) and #107-108 (Nov.-Dec., 1966) as Kranus and Ultimax, two robotic foes of the DP, and in #110 (Mar., 1967) where he sported a body made of photonic particles. (Drake enjoyed the disembodied intellect so much that he parodied it in one of the other features that he regularly wrote for DC, Jerry Lewis: In one issue, Jerry was pitted against a mob run by Sidney the Kidney; after a car accident, all that remained of the gang’s boss’s body was his kidney – although that seemed to be enough to give Jerry a tough time.)
The Brain’s first creation and right hand “man” was the machine-gun-toting Monsieur Mallah. Mallah’s intellect was a consequence of the Brain’s experimentation and the gorilla was as intelligent as any learned scientist. With his animal strength he made a good foe for Robotman, so he and Cliff Steele would often tangle. Drake chose the gorilla, not because of DC’s well-known predilection for gorillas (common to the books edited by Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger) as much as because the gorilla is so close to man, yet retains its animal heritage.
Such a fun-loving group could not be complete without a woman, and in Madame Rouge, the Brotherhood could not have asked for a femme more fatale. Her initiation into the group, however, was not by her design. As we discovered in Doom Patrol #112 (June, 1967), Laura DeMille was an actress in the Paris theatre – young, popular, and well on her way to stardom. Yet a car crash changed her future: she survived~ but became prone to uncontrollable swings in her temperament. One minute she would be telling children stories and the next, she would stomp on their toys. She suffered from schizophrenia. Seeking the help of a specialist who claimed that he had successfully experimented with schizoids using a ray treatment to bolster the positive and reduce the negative sides of a patient’s personality, MIle. DeMille submitted to the treatment. But she had been tricked. The specialist was really Mallah in disguise, acting under the guidance of the Brain. The machine did just the opposite of what Laura DeMille expected – her negative side was enhanced and her positive side submerged. As a later issue would reveal, this conflict would sow the seeds for the final battleground of the Doom Patrol. The Brain was not finished with Mile DeMille, though. At first, she had no special powers, but in Doom Patrol #90 (Sept., 1964), he subjected her to a radiation treatment that altered her molecular structure. The treatment made her body rubbery – she could mold her features or elongate any part of her anatomy like Plastic Man.
ALLIES OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL
Another addition to the group was the green-skinned, Buddha-like Garguax. A huge figure of a man, the rotund alien sported star-like earrings and displayed a penchant for creating destructive androids. He first appeared in Doom Patrol #9.1 (Nov., 1964) as the master of the plastic men. His primary androids were of three types – a flying android, a missile android, and a strong android. By #96 (June, 1965), he had allied himself with the Brotherhood, helping to devise a mind ray that drove people crazy. In the following issue, he had a ray that would turn people into powerful crystalline slaves. In #109 (Feb., 1967) he created Mandred, his ultimate android. However, Garguax wanted to conquer Earth for himself and his master, Zarox-13. That plan forced a temporary alliance between the Brotherhood and the DP to head off the invasion threat.
Yet another DP foe allied himself, briefly, with the Brotherhood. General Immortus was in on the schemes in #96 and #97 that robbed people of their sanity, and was in on a plot to destroy Negative Man (B&B #65). Curiously, after these team-ups, Immortus never appeared again in the DP’s run. He would not be seen again until the birth of the New Doom Patrol in 1977.
Other miscellaneous allies of the Brotherhood of Evil included Giacomo the midget (#87), Videx (#118); the Yaramishi Rama Yogi (#119); and Mr. Morden (#86), who used one of the Chief’s own inventions, the giant robot Rog, as his initiation into the Brotherhood. Morden was never seen again, though, and when Rog reappeared in #93, Monsieur Mallah was at the controls.
As if the Doom Patrol did not have enough trouble with the appearances of the Brotherhood (who battled the DP in 18 issues: #86, 87, 90, 93, 96, 97, 101, 104, 107-112, 118, 119, 121 and B&B #65), they had more than their share of sundry villains. While these included Dr. Tyme (#92), the son ‘of the illusion-casting Nazi from MGA #81 (in Doom Patrol #94, Mar,, 1965), the Bug Man in #99 (Nov., 1965), and the Arsenal in #114 (Sept., 1967), the second most common villain was not an individual but a type of villain: a scientist transformed by the mysterious forces of nature. In #89 (Aug., 1964), the Doom Patrol had had their first encounter with the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Menace, a scientist who could assume any variation of those three forms, He appeared a second time in #96 (June, 1965) but a variation on the transformed scientist theme proved more popular.
In #98, the Doom Patrol battled Mr. 103, the atom master. A renegade scientist, whose experiments in teleportation gave him the power to become any one of the 103 elements known at this time, Mr. 103 battled the DP on several occasions. In his last conflict (Doom Patrol #106, Sept., 1966), he learned that his financial backing came from Galtry, the court-appointed guardian of Gar Logan, Beast Boy. Curiously enough, after gaining a measure of immunity from the sole weapon devised by the Chief to nullify his powers, Mr. 103 did not again appear in the remaining two years of the Doom Patrol’s run. Other altered scientists included Randolph Ormsby, who was transformed by the radiation of an interstellar meteor into the Meteor Man (#103, May, 1966), Anton Koravyk, a refugee from a Communist bloc country whose research with time travel instead devolved him into a Neanderthal caveman monster (#114, Sept., 1967), and Videx, an American scientist whose experiments with invisibility accidentally gave him mastery of all lightwave radiation (#118, Apr., 1968).
The Doom Patrol also had to battle outcasts like themselves. The three mutant brothers, Ur, Ir, and Ar, misshapen children of the atom, wanted to wreak havoc on the world responsible for their deformities. The DP actually extended a plea for an alliance with the trio – freaks Joining freaks. They refused, but in the end sacrificed themselves to save the Earth that they had finally come to love.
THAT POT-HEADED NUT
Drake found the Doom Patrol to be the ideal vehicle in which to do many things that had not been done previously in comics. “Our country was going through the 1960s and the revolution of youth was also liberating their elders,” he recalled. One of the things that he had wanted to do with a super-heroine was to establish her own sense of identity, her own need for a role. He did that with Rita Farr, Elasti-GirI.
Through several issues, Rita was torn by her desire to pursue a career in films or stay with the Doom Patrol. No sooner had she come to accept her role as both super-heroine and freak when she was faced with yet another role-choice: whether or not to become the wife of Steve Dayton, the world’s fifth richest man – and the superhero called Mento.
Mento was the Doom Patrol’s first ally, although it seemed at one point that he might have been a villain. Steve Dayton first appeared in Doom Patrol #91 (Nov., 1964), using telekinesis to dispose of a nitroglycerine bomb when the Doom Patrol could not. His power came from his helmet, which amplified his brainwaves. Rita was immediately drawn to the big-talking man – both out of curiosity and because Cliff and Larry would have torn him apart in another minute.
After a ride a speedy new sports car, Rita was able to gauge the apparent wealth of the grandson of one of America’s richest men. In a brief conversation with his butler, it was obvious that Steve worked at keeping his wealth. In apparent contrast, he was also a research scientist at Sills Medical College. He was a man who had seemed to have everything, but there was something else he wanted: Rita Farr.
By the end of that adventure (the DP’s first encounter with the alien android master, Garguax), when it seemed that Mento was a villain, Rita was still interested in him. Mento reappeared in Doom Patrol #97 (May, 1964) featuring the Brotherhood of Evil’s most ambitious plot, a scheme to turn everyone in the world into incredibly strong, diamond-skinned slaves. In that story, Larry Trainor tries to use Mento’s helmet but fails. Only Mento could activate the mechanism and Robotman concludes that Mento is ….. a freak – like the rest of us!” Since no one else ever used the helmet during Mento’s other appearances in the DP, that assumption may have been true, though it is more likely that Mento simply activated some sort of triggering mechanism.
However, the Chief subscribed to the “freak” hypothesis and on that ground, recognized Mento’s request to join the DP. Yet when the vote was taken, he was blackballed – by Rita! She explained that “he’d mean trouble for us! And the Doom Patrol comes first – for all of us!”
His third appearance was Doom Patrol #102, (Mar., 1966), featuring the Challengers of the Unknown and the DP’s green-skinned protégé, Beast Boy. The cover blurb, heralding Beast Boy and Mento’s first encounter, summed up their future relationship perfectly: beneath Beast Boy it said “That teen tornado, that junior juggernaut, that – ‘rotten kid-”‘ Mento interrupted. Similarly, Beast Boy added his own estimate beneath Mento’s blurb, “that mind-master, that psychic dynamo, that – ‘pot-headed nut.”‘
From then on, Mento appeared in nearly every issue, primarily because of his marriage to Rita in Doom Patrol #104 (June, 1966). In keeping with the unconventional tone of the book, the guy actually did get the girl. But not quite like he’d hoped. Rita’s devotion to the Doom Patrol and super-heroing did not diminish in the least after the wedding – much to Steve’s displeasure. So he began participating in the DP’s regular adventures – at least that way he could stay close to his wife!
Naturally enough, the Brotherhood of Evil did all that it could to prevent Steve and Rita’s union – and so did Larry and Cliff. For the occasion, Mento sported a new helmet and outfit (his first was rather unappealing, but this new one wasn’t really any better). Wedding guests included a representative contingency from the JLA, the Teen Titans, and Bob Hope’s “cool” Super-Hip.
Mento’s increased involvement must have driven his insurance agent to drink, as at least on one occasion (Doom Patrol #108, Dec., 1966) it appeared that the DP and Mento were indeed dead. However, the constant threat of death didn’t seem to bother Mento as much as the DP’s junior member, Beast Boy. And things got markedly worse when Steve and Rita adopted Gar Logan…
‘THAT ROTTEN KID’
With Beast Boy, Drake introduced a new twist to the school of kid super-heroes In a back-up feature pencil by Bob Brown in Doom Patrol #99 (Nov., 1965), the Doom Patrol first encountered Gar Logan. As the Chief astutely noted, he was a typical teenager in all things save one, though it took Robotman to point it out to the Chief: Beast Boy was lime green.
His complexion was a side effect from the source of his powers. In Africa, his father conducted many experiments on the local animals, hoping to further the limits of scientific knowledge. But, as a toddler, Gar contracted Sakutia, a malaria-like disease that only a species of green monkey could survive. Using his latest invention on his son, Gar’s father devolved the boy, changing him into a green monkey, thus saving his life. But when he was returned to his human state, Gar’s skin remained green. And he soon learned that the ray had caused a second side effect. He could now change himself into any animal form, although his face stayed green even as an animal. (When Gar was reintroduced as The Changeling in the New Teen Titans, his power was changed subtly: his entire body would remain green, even in its animal form.)
Tragically, Gar’s parents died trying to escape from a flood and the boy ended up in the hands of a guardian named Galtry. Galtry, however, did not have Gar’s best interests at heart. Instead, he connived to get his hands on the vast fortune contained in the trust fund Gar’s father had left him. Galtry was a Dickensian figure whose stinginess and greed made life miserable for Gar. Gar realized he was being used and so became bitter and was portrayed as obnoxious, argumentative, and sarcastic. It was in the Doom Patrol that Gar hoped to find the family he so sorely needed.
Drake summed it up: “. . . Beast Boy’s constant banter could be excused.. . he had just cause to be angry.”
DOOM PATROL TEAM UPS
As the Doom Patrol had foes of every twist and bend, so did they have allies with remarkable resources and powers. Perhaps due to the editorial policy in effect in the 1960s, where one editor’s characters did not appear in the books of another editor, the DP did not team up with the “mainstream” DC heroes, save for two occasions (although Beast Boy did guest-star apart from the group in Teen Titans #6, Nov.-DEC 1966, and later became a member). The DP’s first team-up was in Brave and Bold #65 (April-May, 1966), with the Flash. The cover was drawn by Bruno Premiani (who had first drawn the Scarlet Speedster in a cameo shot for the Teen Titans tryout story in Brave and Bold #54, June-July 1964). The story was scripted by Bob Haney and drawn by Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin. In that tale, the Brotherhood of Evil, Garguax, and General Immortus hatched a scheme to kill Larry by trapping Negative Man in a lead coffin for more than 60 seconds. But the Chief placed Larry’s body in a deep-freeze and got the Flash, whose super speed easily duplicated the mere lightspeed pace of Larry’s energy twin to impersonate Negative Man and fool the villains into thinking their plan had failed.
The Doom Patrol also teamed up with the Challengers in Challengers of the Unknown #48 (Feb. -Mar., 1966). This time their foes were their hosts’ old enemies, the Challenger Haters. The outcome was a standoff, but the rematch came the following month in Doom Patrol #102 (March, 1966) when the Challengers guest-starred in one of the most star-studded Doom Patrol epics, “8 Against Eternity.” In addition to the Challs and the DP, that single issue juggled alien robots, an undersea civilization, ancient races returning to life, and the first team-up of Beast Boy and Mento – all without overcrowding the story or detracting from the action.
The Beginning Of The End
The Doom Patrol’s final ally was their fatal friend. During the story in which the guardianship of Gar Logan was finally awarded to Steve and Rita, (Doom Patrol #110, Mar., 1967), the Chief learned that Madame Rouge was not entirely a willing member of the Brotherhood. By the end of Doom Patrol #112, (June, 1967), finishing an adventure that severed Garguax’s membership in the Brotherhood, the Chief became convinced that he might succeed in undoing the work of the Brain and draw away another member from the Brotherhood.
However, the Brain detected Madame Rouge’s change of heart (a change that had saved the DP’s life in Doom Patrol #108, Dec. 1966, when she turned down the power setting of a device that Garguax used against the DP) and took measures to keep her on his side. For the rubber-limbed woman, the conflict took place in a bizarre, tangible way: she literally split apart, into a fair-skinned “good” version and a red-skinned “bad” version. The evil twin died in their conflict and it seemed as if the DP had acquired another semi-permanent member (Doom Patrol #115-116, Nov.-DEC 1967).
The Brain did not give up his creations easily, though, and with the help of a “field operative,” the Guru Yaramishi Rama Yogi, he succeeded in wresting her from the DP (Doom Patrol #119, June 1968). The Brain’s efforts ultimately proved to be his undoing, however, as Madame Rouge claimed to be a free agent – and would settle for nothing but the death of both the Brotherhood and the Doom Patrol. In Doom Patrol #121 (Oct., 1968), she achieved both of her desires – or so it seemed until the recent New Teen Titans #14 (Dec., 1981). Allying herself with a disfigured Nazi war criminal, and an old foe of the Chief’s, Captain ZahI, Madame Rouge bombed the Paris headquarters of the Brotherhood~ apparently killing both the Brain and Mallah (they would not appear in a DC comic again until that issue of New Teen Titans).
Then she went after the DP. A gangland-style machine gun attack from a speeding car was only a warm-up for the three-helicopter napalm assault that followed. The heroes downed the copters, but the carnage was so great the group flew to an island arsenal the Chief had prepared, there to engage in the final confrontation without endangering innocent bystanders.
Surprisingly, Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl’s preparations proved to be too much for the Doom Patrol. They successfully neutralized the DP’s powers and trapped the three heroes while the Chief looked on helplessly from his wheelchair. Then with their words being broadcast to the world, ZahI made the Doom Patrol an offer – their lives in exchange for the lives of the 14 citizens of Codsville, Maine. Explosive charges had been set under both the DP’s island as well as under the small Maine fishing town. ZahI apparently expected the DP to save themselves and be humiliated before the entire world. But the four would not be cowed and with one voice, defiantly shouted “Fire away!” And so Zahi blew them up. For real.
Arnold Drake remembered why the series was allowed to end with the death of its heroes. “The primary reason was that the Doom Patrol was caught in a downtrend,” he explained. “Super-heroes were out and horror and mystery books were becoming popular. There was also a general drop in sales at National Periodical Publications, and the Doom Patrol got caught in it. When the book was faced with near-certain cancellation, I talked with Murray and we decided to try something new with the book. We’d let the readers decide.” At the end of the story, Boltinoff and Premiani challenged the book’s readers to decide the fate of the Doom Patrol.
(Drake had included himself in the script, but, according to Drake, DC Publisher Irwin Donenfeld ordered him removed from the story because Drake had left to work for Marvel after a dispute over his page rate with Donenfeld. Drake said he completed the script only out of friendship for Boltinoff. Even if it hadn’t been the DP’s final issue, it appears as if Doom Patrol #121 would have been Drake’s final issue.)
Drake also had an ulterior motive with this ending. “If this didn’t succeed, and as you know it didn’t save the book, killing the DP would have provided a lesson. In comics, the heroes don’t really die and that’s the wrong kind of a lesson for kids to learn. If the Doom Patrol was going to end, it would at least end by making a point about super-heroes” That issue certainly did. Save for some reprints of their earlier adventures a few years later, and a recent DP reprint digest, the Doom Patrol has not, to date, been revived.
The New Doom Patrol
Except for one member. In 1977, DC decided to once again publish Showcase, a title that in the 1960s had launched features like Green Lantern, the Atom, and the Metal Men. The first series to be featured in the revived book was the New Doom Patrol. The new series’ creators were scripter Paul Kupperberg and artist Joe Staton. This new DP had a decidedly international flavor. An American black named Tempest was joined by Arani (an Indian woman who could control heat and cold and called herself Celsius – and who claimed to be the Chief’s wife), and a Russian woman who could transform herself into radioactive energy – Negative Woman.
And a Robotman joined them. Cliff Steele, though his mechanical body had been shattered, had survived the explosion that killed his friends. A man who appeared to be Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, had provided him with a new robot body – one that looked as if it had been designed by John Byrne – and Cliff was ready to return to the society that called him “freak.”
Together, the four battled General Immortus, who sought a serum for renewing his immortality, and a Russian agent who wished to return the defected Negative Woman to the USSR.
The New DP also guest-starred in Superman Family #191-193 (Sept-Oct. 1978 – Jan-Feb. 1979), teaming up with Supergirl to battle two rival mad scientists who had developed antigravity weapons.
But the new characters lacked the most important element of the originals – the theme that they were freaks, outcasts in their own world. The characters of Tempest, Celsius, and Negative Woman might well have progressed on their own, but they just couldn’t measure up to the standards of originality, reader involvement, and entertainment set by the original Doom Patrol.
New Teen Titans Connections
Since then, the latest chapter in the Doom Patrol saga has been added by Mary Wolfman and George Pérez. When Wolfman and Pérez revamped the Teen Titans as the New Teen Titans, Beast Boy became a regular member (see Tom Burkert’s “Teen Titans” history in this volume) and began wearing a stylized variation of Rita and Larry’s Doom Patrol costumes. Having since publicly revealed that he is a shape-changer, he has abandoned the garish purple hood that he wore in his adventures with the DP.
Changeling, as Gar now calls himself while in costume, served as Wolfman’s stepping stone to resolve the fate of the killers of the Doom Patrol. Robotman, restored to his original robot body by scientists who worked for Steve Dayton, started making cameo appearances in New Teen Titans #10, as he kept in touch with Gar regarding his search for the missing Dayton and for Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl.
In a three-part story (New Teen Titans #13-15, Nov. 1981-Jan. 1982), Steve Dayton donned yet another badly-designed costume to become Mento once again. But he had been captured by Rogue and Zahl and it was only after the Titans had rescued him and returned his psychic-power helmet to him that they discovered he had been brainwashed and become a puppet of the DP’s killers.
Through Raven’s empathic powers, Dayton was freed from Rouge and ZahI’s control and joined the Titans to stop the evil duo’s latest scheme, the complete takeover of the small Balkan nation of Zandia.
But that wasn’t all. The Brotherhood of Evil was back – with more members than before. And there, over the bubbling. of nutritive fluids, was the Brain, directing Monsieur Mallah and his new cohorts: Plasmus, Warp, Phobia, and Houngan. The Brain was out for revenge against Madame Rouge for betraying the brotherhood and for her attempt to kill him.
But he did not achieve it personally. Both Rouge and ZahI were killed, but indirectly – by Changeling and Robotman.
In retrospect, the Doom Patrol, one of the most unheralded DC series of the 1960s, withstands the test of time better than some of its more well-known contemporaries. At its best, the practiced editing of Murray Boltinoff, the polished scripting of Arnold Drake, and the graphic artwork of Bruno Premiani on the Doom Patrol stands as some of the finest comics published by DC.
At no point during the DP’s 42-issue run, was the theme of outcasts as heroes misplaced. The characters of Rita, Cliff, Larry, and the Chief grew to a fullness sorely lacking in today’s comics. And with the addition of Steve Dayton and Gar Logan, the Doom Patrol had the best “family feel” of any of DC’s books of the period.
But the halfhearted efforts at a “new” Doom Patrol and the return of the Brotherhood of Evil in The New Teen Titans are best left ignored. That final, haunting issue #121, still stands as the best epitaph to the adventures of Elasti-Giri, Negative Man, Robotman, and the Chief – the one, the only, the original Doom Patrol.
Doom Patrol Solos
From the beginning of the feature’s run in My Greatest Adventure, a typical issue with the DP often included an eight- or nine-page back-up story. For the first few issues, the stories like “A Medal for Go-Buggy 3!” followed the general lines of earlier MGA fare. With #87 (May, 1964), however, those stories were replaced by occasional solo adventures of the DP members. With Doom Patrol #100 (Dec., 1965), Drake began scripting a series of stories devoted to the past of each of the DP members, not unlike the “Origins of the X-Men” series that ran in the back of X-Men #38-57
The first series lasted five stories and featured Robotman. In the “Robotmaniac” series, Drake wrote about the anger of one man. Cliff Steele was a competitor, a man who had known both failure and success, who sought freedom in his adventures. When his, luck played out and his high-speed racing car spun out of control, only the innovative and experimental surgery of a man in a wheelchair saved Cliff’s life. But when he came to, he went berserk. It wasn’t that Cliff was ungrateful. It turned out that the cause for his irrational acts was a physiological one – an incorrectly connected lead from his brain to his robot body. By the end of the series, Cliff had discovered the identity of his “savior” and received the surgery necessary to correct his defect. Yet the explanation did not match the actions of Cliff Steele, who seemed as interested in learning to accept his new identity as to hunt down his surgeon/savior.
Paralleling the popular TV show, The Fugitive, Cliff was pursued by a police lieutenant who was determined to get his “man.” In his search, Cliff met some “freaks” who had been born with their afflictions but had come to terms with their disabilities, and displayed brotherhood to the metallic “freak.” In another story, Cliff extricated his brother Randy from the clutches of gangster blackmailers who were after some of the top-secret inventions that Randy helped to build. Cliff learned that blood still binds, even if the circulatory fluid in his new body was clear.
A similar series starting in Doom Patrol #106 (Sept., 1966) featured Larry Trainor. Larry’s disfigurement had dangerous consequences for his fellow man. Even when wearing the bandages that trapped the deadly radiation emanating from his body, he could not come to terms with his change; he would not use Negative Man unless it was necessary. Curiously, Larry lived at home with his mother in a small two-story house. Larry would face the uninspired villainy of Dr. Death throughout his mini-series, but by the end of the series, he had come to accept his new state and was willing to join with other “freaks” to use his powers for the benefit of mankind.
The final back-up series began in Doom Patrol #112 (June, 1967), and highlighted the background of Beast Boy. Gar Logan’s past was fleshed out, as the events that led to his green skinned condition and how he was orphaned in the jungle at a very young age were detailed. He was taken under the wings of two opportunistic diamond thieves and then briefly served as a gorilla general in an anthropoid army run by another crazed ex-Nazi. However, Beast Boy’s fate was not as positive as Larry or Cliffs, for it was Galtry who ultimately found the boy.
A promised series on the background of Rita Farr failed to materialize before the series was canceled.
Who Came First: The Mutant or the Freak?
As is prone to happen among comic book fans, the question arises: who came first, the Doom Patrol or the X-Men? Both groups are similar, having a wheelchair- bound leader and being outcasts from their society as a result of their abilities. The simple answer is: The Doom Patrol. My Greatest Adventure #80 is cover-dated June, 1963, months before the first appearance of the X-Men. But it seems the tables were turned with the new incarnations of both teams: the New Doom Patrol appeared over a year after the New X-Men, and judging from the international makeup of the New Doom Patrol, there seems to be more than enough grounds to call the New DP a copy – and an unsuccessful one at that – of the New X-Men.
If that isn’t enough, consider the Brotherhood of Evil. At a New York Creation Convention in May, DC Scripter Marv Wolfman, who wrote the New Teen Titans trilogy which featured the search for the DP’s murderers, had this to say: “This is one of the strangest coincidences of all time. The same day that the X-Men came out, which featured a bunch of super- heroes led by a paraplegic leader, so did the Doom Patrol, about a bunch of super-heroes led by a paraplegic leader. One featured villains called the Brotherhood of Evil while the other featured villains called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. And there was no talking between the companies at that point.”
A little research shows that the first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil was in the first issue issue to be called The Doom Patrol, #86, March, 1964. The first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was in X-Men #4, also cover-dated March, 1964. Still, there is no evidence to indicate that it was anything but what Wolfman called “just an incredible coincidence.”
End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:
Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author