The Most Insane Moments of ‘Doom Patrol’
This week’s launch of “Doom Patrol” by Keith Giffen and Matthew Clark marks the return of comics’ strangest team in comics, and whether it’s the original “fab freaks” of the ’60s, Grant Morrison’s surreal team of the ’80s, or the (mostly forgettable) more recent revivals, there’s one thread that unites them all: They are bizarre.
So to get ready for the new series, ComicsAlliance and Chris Sims are taking a look back at the Doom Patrol’s Strangest Moments!1. Originally created in 1963 by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani (with a writing assist from noted Silver-Age madman Bob Haney), the Doom Patrol’s wheelchair-bound leader and status as outsiders in society bear a striking similarity to Marvel’s “X-Men,” who made their debut three months later. Although Drake later claimed that he was “more convinced that [Stan Lee] knowingly stole the X-Men from the Doom Patrol”…
2. …there are some commentators who claim that Drake himself was ripping off the Fantastic Four! Both teams had four members that included a super-genius leader, Larry Trainor’s “Negative Man” body bore a striking resemblance to the Human Torch, and both Cliff Steele and Ben Grimm resented being trapped in their freakish orange bodies!
And to complicate matters even further, Drake later worked for Marvel, scripting–you guessed it–the “X-Men.”
3. What set the Doom Patrol apart right from the beginning was that they faced off against menaces that were every bit as strange as they were, like the Nazi Nightmare Machine and–quite possibly the strangest super-villain ever created and perennial 20 Questions stumper–the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man!
4. Their most enduring foes, however, were the Brotherhood of Evil. After all, thanks to Julie Schwartz’s edict that apes on covers sold comics, evil gorillas — even talking evil gorillas — were a dime a dozen, but Monsieur Mallah, a talking evil French militant revolutionary homosexual gorilla who was in love with a disembodied brain in a jar? That’s something to write home about!
5. Much like the Metal Men (who will be appearing as a back-up feature in the new series), Robotman‘s body was frequently destroyed, with Elasti-Girl twisting his legs into a drill, General Immortus encasing him in molten lead, or Robotman ripping off his own limbs to fashion them into boomerangs to catch an escaped killer.
6. Unfortunately for the rest of the team, they weren’t quite as easy to rebuild, and when they sacrificed their lives at the end of their first series, according to Wikipedia, it “marked the first time in comic book history that a canceled book ended by having most of its cast of main characters die.”
As you can see on the cover, part of the story involved Bruno Premiani and Arnold Drake appealing directly to the readers to write in to save the team, but judging by the fact that it took nine years to see the Doom Patrol return, they weren’t able to generate the kind of fanatical loyalty that kept “Spider-Girl” going for 125 issues. Unlucky to the end, those guys.
7. The ’80s saw the return of the “Doom Patrol” under writer Paul Kupperberg, but the series didn’t really take off until Grant Morrison arrived with #19 and took the book into a surreal new direction that made the previous craziness seem downright restrained. First up, Morrison established a new team with Robotman that also included Crazy Jane, a schizophrenic woman with 64 distinct personalities, each with its own super-power.
8. Even stranger were the team’s new villains. The Brotherhood of Evil was replaced with the avant-garde art-criminals of the Brotherhood of Dada, featuring “bad guys” like the somnambulistic powerhouse Sleepwalk and The Quiz, who has every super-power you haven’t thought of, like the power to create escape-proof spirit jars. You’d be surprised how often that one comes in handy.
9. Another new villain (that has sadly never been seen since) was The Beard Hunter, a hilarious parody of Marvel’s Punisher in the form of an assassin with an intense and abiding hatred of facial hair and a penchant for ripping his clothes up and oiling his muscles during fights to look more “battle-damaged.”
10. Not all the new characters were villains, though. In Morrison’s run, the “Doom Patrol” gained allies like Danny the Street (a sentient teleporting avenue) and, most famously, Flex Mentallo, a muscle-man inspired by bodybuilder and comic book advertising staple Charles Atlas who flexed hard enough to turn the Pentagon into a circle. He even went on to star in his own four-issue miniseries by Morrison and “All-Star Superman” artist Frank Quitely that caused some legal when the Charles Atlas company sued over the likeness being used. The suit was dismissed thanks to the fair use laws protecting parody, but DC has still never reprinted the miniseries, even with the rest of Morrison’s run in paperback.
11. In one of our favorite bizarre moments of the series, “Doom Patrol” #53 saw Morrison take the team back to its controversial roots by not only recasting the Doom Patrol as “The Legion of the Strange,” clear analogues of the Fantastic Four, but also presented Marvel Super-Hero versions of other Vertigo characters, like John “Hellblazer” Constantine and the Phantom Stranger!
12. Finally, after the series ended, Morrison returned for the strangest and most hilarious moment of all when he and an all-start artist roster that included Keith Giffen, Mike Mignola and Walt Simonson created Doom Force, a vicious parody of Rob Liefeld’s “X-Force” that was barely disguised as a spin-off based around new characters like Shasta the Living Mountain and The Scratch, who might remind you of an obscure Marvel character called Wolverine.
There’s obviously no lack of completely bizarre moments in the history of “Doom Patrol”… What are your favorites?