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The Doom Patrol was the team that just wouldn't die, even when they died...


Doom Patrol #19 00a.jpg



First appearing in the 1963 The Doom Patrol was made up of people who, through accident of fate, had ended up with powers, but were no longer "normal" and who could, for the most part, not live normal lives.

(The actual reason for their existence was that the title they were introduced in "My Greatest Adventure" was shifting from an adventure anthology title to a superhero one, and writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, with artist Bruno Premiani, were tasked with combining the two concepts so they could keep using the name without it being completely at odds). And so they created the oddest superteam to date. (Similarities to the X-Men are rife, but let's not dwell on that too much)

Cliff Steele was a race car driver who was in a horrific crash, from which only his brain could be salavaged. He was permanently installed in a superstrong, durable, entirely mechanical body and was generally known as "Robotman".

Larry Trainor was an air force pilot who, following a meeting with an unusual radiation cloud whilst flying, gained the ability to project an energy form (containing his consciousness) composed of jet black energy from his body, whilst his body lapsed into a coma. He could fly and had energy powers, but needed to return to his body within 60 seconds or he would die. He also had the problem that his body was now so saturated with the weird radiation that he looked like a living X-Ray with a glowing skeleton and had to wear protective bandages at all times over his entire body.

Rita Farr was Elasti-Girl, a famous actress who fell into a river whilst on location and as a result of strange chemicals in the water gained the power to shrink or grow to any size... This did not go down well in the sort of image conscious circles she moved in though ostensibly normal (and indeed, conventionally beautiful) basically lost her career.

They were gathered together by Niles Caulder, a reclusive wheelchair-bound genius known as "The Chief" and together they fought the likes of General Zahl (a leftover Nazi), the immortality seeking Immortus, the alien despot Garguax and his army of plastic robots, the Brotherhood of Evil (about whom more later), the element shifting Mr 104 and the magnificently named Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man who could take the form of... well, you can imagine.

Other members were added, like Steve Traynor the millionaire industrialist who fell in love with Rita, and designed a psionic amplificaiton helmet so he could become a hero worthy of her and took the name "Mento" They eventually married, and adopted another anciliary member of the team, an orphaned kid who (following an emergency blood transfusion from a rare green monkey to counteract his exposure to an exotic disease) had the power to change shape into any animal he could imagine, with the limitation that, in any form, his head would always be green, and thus Garfield Logan, Beast Boy, came to be in the DCU.

After several years of heroic service and angsting self-consciousness, they (minus Beast Boy and Mento who were not on that mission) sacrificed themselves to save the handful of townsfolk left in a dead-end fishing village in Codsvillem Maine that was threatened by their old foe Zahl and were blown up in a magnificent, heroic display of absolute humanity.

In 1977 a new team was formed by writer Paul Kupperberg which was almost as weird. Arani Desai, an Indian woman (as in sub-continental India, not Native Ameircan) woman claiming to be Niles Caulder's widow who possessed the powers of fire and ice, using the codename Celsius, recovered Robotman's body which had mostly survived intact and repaired it. A Russian cosmonaut appeared to gain the now freed Negative Being and so Valentina Vostok joined the team as the Negative Woman with the same powers as Larry, but who didn't need the bandages for some reason, and lastly Joshua Clay aka Tempest, an African-American medic who had deserted in Vietnam after witnessing atrocities there and who had the natural mutant power to project force blasts from his hands

The team was relatively low key and didn't last very long, with the team eventually breaking up and going their separate ways.

But the concept refused to die, and so in 1987 Kupperberg brought along ANOTHER incarnation, with much the same cast as the last one but adding a New Mutants type trainee team, consisting of three young people;

Rhea Jones, a sideshow act who could harness Earth's magnetic field to boost her strength as Lodestone. She was interested in the paycheque Arani offered, but did enjoy her powers.

Wayne Hawkins, known as Karma, a fairly obnoxious and self-serving, street punk with the psionic power to cause anyone trying to consciously cause him harm to harm themselves instead (so punches would miss him and maybe hit a wall, and no one aiming a gun at him could hit him, but the gun might misfire and hurt themselves)

And, my personal favourite, Scott Fischer (who would have used the oodename Blaze, but despite him being the most eager to become a superhero it wasn't used much), who was exposed to toxic chemicals at an early age, which meant he not only developed the power to generate incredible heat from his hands (requiring him to wear gloves at all times), but also developed leukaemia, which was at least a more natural side effect of exposure to toxic chemicals. He was in remission for most of the series, but his power was growing more unstable and it appeared that more was to come from that plot, but it never quite came to be.

The series had art styles ranging from Steve Lightl's smooth lines to Erik Larsen's.... more Erik Larsen-y look), which did reveal that, amongst other things, Larry Trainor (now without powers) and Niles Caulder (working as a shadowy figure invetsigtaing weird stuff for the President) had both survived the explosion too (leaving Rita the only actual casualty of the original explosion) and Karma had to flee following the teams discovery he was on the run from the Police.

After eighteen issues of serviceable, if not exactly massively memorable stories later the series underwent a massive shake up thanks to the massive DC event known as "Invasion".

No title was more changed as a result than the Doom Patrol. Celsius was killed in a mission against the alien attackers and following the detonation of the gene bomb (this being the story which introduced the concept of the metagene to the DCU) Rhea was left in a coma, and Scott, whose immune system was already weakened by the return of the leukaemia became the only DC character to outright die as a result of the gene bomb exploding.

So the decks had been cleared for the introduction of a new team with up and coming new British import Grant Morrison (whose previous work had included the UK's Zoids comic, Zenith for 2000AD and of course, the start of his seminal run on Animal Man).

So with distinctive artwork from Richard Case we got a new Doom Patrol which was unlike anything we'd seen before (though it IS the one which Arnold Drake said most shared the intent of the original series)

Doom Patrol #19 01a.jpg
Doom Patrol #19 03a.jpg

And we can see that things are not off to a good start. Cliff has checked into a mental institution to try and deal with some of his issues.

In a hospital we meet another future member of the team... sort of.

Doom Patrol #19 04a.jpg

Believe it or not, that cleaner is important, sort of... but not right now...

Meanwhile in the old base which the DP had used, Niles Caulder and Josha Clay are overseeing it's closure.

Doom Patrol #19 06a.jpg

Given the death toll, it's not hard to see Joshua's point, even with Caulders then stated intent to start investigating the more interesting, outre sort of mystery which crops up in the likes of the Weekly World News...

And back in the hospital, Larry and Dr Poole are discussing his condition...

Doom Patrol #19 10a.jpg

Things are about to get REALLY odd....

Doom Patrol #19 11a.jpg

Will Magnus, who built several of Robotman's bodies has come to see Larry and try to talk him out of his depression, it's not going well. Cliff knows that Magnus is a good man, and that he genuinely cares, but Cliff just doesn't give a damn...

And then we get a description of the sort which highlight why Morrison was a good fit for this book and make it clear it was going in new directions.

Doom Patrol #19 12a.jpg

Robotman as "full body amputee" is so obvious, but had never really been addressed.

Back at the hospital, Larry wants to know why the Negative Spirit is talking, when it never had before.

Doom Patrol #19 14a.jpg
Doom Patrol #19 15a.jpg


There's an explosion of light and strangeness as the Negative Spirit announces "NOWWEARETHREE NOWWEAREONE!" though we won't quite find out what that means right now...

Back at the Institute, Magnus is finally losing his patience with Larry's self pity and whining, and decides to show him that he is NOT the only one with problems, and so we meet one of the more remarkable characters from this book. Her real name is Kay Challis, but nowadays she normally goes by "Crazy Jane".

She was abused as a child by her father, viciously, horribly so, and to survive the experience something unusual happened.

Doom Patrol #19 18a.jpg

Doom Patrol #19 19a.jpg

Crazy Jane is very much based on the real life Truddi Chase, a woman with dissociative persoanlity disorder whose multiple selves refused to integrate, as they felt their individual competentices (one allowed them to function very well in the real world, whilst protecting the core personality who had been "asleep" within her for many years and whose autobiogrpahy "When Rabbit Howls: By The Troops, for Truddi Chase" was published in 1987 and makes fascinating, if perhaps not 100% reliable, reading.

The idea of "multiple personalities with different powers" wasn't exactly new. The Golden Age "Rose and Thorn" (Who was one person with two personalities, one of which had powers) was an early example, but of course the comics go-to comparison is David Haller aka Legion of the X-Men/New Mutants.


Doom Patrol #19 20a.jpg

We then cut to a crime scene where a car has crashed and the driver staggered out, dying but being burned alive with a black flame, and clutching a book, a book with completely black pages. The book is recovered from the corpse and the police note that this is the sort of case that always ends up being investigated by Niles Caulder.

And so ends the first issue of Morrison's Doom Patrol. If you've read this far, congratulations!
 

Date: 2017-05-01 10:38 pm (UTC)
alicemacher: Lisa Winklemeyer from the webcomic Penny and Aggie, c2004-2011 G. Lagacé, T Campbell (Default)
From: [personal profile] alicemacher
"Come in out of the rain."

I love the friendship between Cliff and Jane. Without it, Morrison's run on the title would for sure still have been entertaining (the Brotherhood of Dada, Flex Mentallo, Danny the Street), but it was that friendship which gave all the strangeness a relatable emotional anchor.

Date: 2017-05-02 12:33 am (UTC)
beyondthefringe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] beyondthefringe
I've always considered Jane to be one of the most fascinating and poignant characters from Morrison's run... and her friendship/relationship with Cliff was a definite highlight.

Date: 2017-05-02 03:00 am (UTC)
beyondthefringe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] beyondthefringe
Mainly because she's as deeply damaged and profoundly weird as everything else in his run.

I was thrilled to see her return in the new series, though I'm still not entirely sure about the title as a whole.

Date: 2017-05-02 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] strejdaking
Can't wait till I get to this. Started reading Doom Patrol last year, wanted to prepare myself for their appearance in New Teen Titans and ended reading their entire Silver Age run. Most recently, I read their Secret Origins annual but I'm currently having a break from them, trying finish dozens of other stuff. I always gotta read like fifty things at the same time.

Date: 2017-05-02 12:53 pm (UTC)
mrosa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrosa
"Come in out of the rain." That sentence is repeated by Cliff to Jane in issue #63 just before they walk back into Danny the Street, the most perfect end to a comic book run I've ever read.

Grant Morrison created the team as freaks in a world that doesn't like freaks. I wonder if that premise still works nowadays. Pop culture has come a long since the time it enforced a rigir model to abide by; instead it now encourages people to be weird and out of the box (or at least think they are), and rebel, and different. People love freaks and outsiders these days.

I love Morrison's run because of its big heart: Cliff and Jane had a great relationship, but we also had good moments with Danny the Street, Dorothy and Josh, and the others. I find that missing from Gerard Way's new run; like so many modern comics, it's steeped in cynicism, it's too self-conscious, loathes displays of emotional vulnerability and it's suspicious of authentic feeling, replacing it with goofiness and hipster one-liners.

It's also formulaic, using the tired trope of the "normal" character who guides the reader through the strangeness. I expected a title legendary for breaking the mold to be more daring. With Morrison, you never knew what was coming each issue.

I also get the impression that Way mostly consumes comics; what I also loved about Morrison (and Alan Moore) is that they've always used comics to show off their vast non-comic book knowledge. I've discovered lots of marginal but fascinating poets, novelists and thinkers over the years thanks to them. I was reading the Doom Patrol TPBs as they were coming out during my college years, and they led me to far more interesting authors than the boring stuff my teachers assigned me. So far Way's run has done nothing to enrich my life like that.

Date: 2017-05-03 08:27 pm (UTC)
quatoria: An extreme close-up of my eye, with the blade of a knife just barely touching the bottom edge of my pupil. (Default)
From: [personal profile] quatoria
"People love freaks and outsiders these days."

Yeah? Try being one. Try being visibly trans.

Date: 2017-05-02 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gtrout
So delighted to see this recap, and I hope you'll keep working your way through the run. Morrison's work on DP blew my mind and I will love it forever. (Rachel Pollack's run was also great, imho, once she found her way out from under Morrison's shadow, and it was criminally underappreciated.)

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