The Doom Patrol is an odd team to give a show to. At this point, they’re probably best known in the popular consciousness for starting Beast Boy’s career and then dying. Repeatedly. But they’re kind of a big deal, both in continuity and as an artifact of comics history. Why? Well aren’t you glad we’re here to tell you!
The World’s Strangest Heroes are a dense, intricate bunch, but we’ve examined them closely and are happy to introduce you to them ahead of their arrival on DC Universe.
WHO IS THE DOOM PATROL?
Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani introduced the Doom Patrol in the pages of My Greatest Adventure in 1963. Titans did a surprisingly good job of summing the Doom Patrol up in the episode that introduced them. They’re the weirdos, the people with strange gifts whose abilities make them not international heroes like the Justice League, but a bunch of misfit freaks. Their tagline when they were introduced in 1963 was “…The World’s Strangest Heroes,” and it was accurate. This wasn’t a team of square-jawed supermen fighting for justice: it was a robot with the mind of a racecar driver and a guy who could shoot his radioactive soul out of his chest at the bad guys.
They were about as popular as you would expect: the team had their own series for a little more than 40 issues before being canceled. Drake, in what seems like a fit of pique at the books cancellation and its weird similarities to the X-Men (who arrived AFTER the Doom Patrol, it should be noted), killed off everyone. Everyone.
The book didn’t do much better the next two times it was trotted out: an almost entirely new team came out in the late ‘70s to no acclaim whatsoever, and again just after Crisis on Infinite Earths in the late ‘80s. It was two events in the ‘80s that kept the Doom Patrol in the public eye for the rest of comics history: Marv Wolfman and George Perez integrating Beast Boy, his Doom Patrol history, and some of his colleagues into the Teen Titans; and DC getting tired of another round of poor sales for a Doom Patrol relaunch and going in an extremely different direction.
Starting with issue #19 of volume 2 (the post Crisis edition), Grant Morrison and Richard Case took over Doom Patrol. This book, along with titles like Animal Man, Sandman, Hellblazer, and Saga of the Swamp Thing (among others) is responsible for the birth of Vertigo, the mature readers/semi-creator owned line of extremely influential DC books. Morrison’s run was as memorable as it was influential, and only its immediate follow up (by Rachel Pollack) and one relaunch attempt since has made any significant mark. In 2016, former DC Comics intern Gerard Way (whose claim to fame is being the lead singer of My Chemical Romance) launched Young Animal, a curated line of comics that included his and Nick Derington’s spiritual and in-continuity successor to Morrison and Pollack’s run.
WHO’S ON THE DOOM PATROL?
Your television Doom Patrol members include:
– Robotman – Cliff Steele, a racecar driver whose body was obliterated during the Indy 500. His brain was put into a robot body by the Chief, and now he has lots of varied robot powers, like self repair and super-strength.
– Negative Man – Larry Trainor, an irradiated test pilot who can shoot his radioactive soul out of his body. The radioactive soul can fly, cause explosions, go intangible, typical soul stuff.
– Elastigirl – Rita Farr is a gold-medal swimmer and actress exposed to weird volcano gases on a movie shoot that give her the power to grow or shrink. She thinks this makes her a freak.
– Crazy Jane – Kay Challis has 64 personalities, each of which has a different super power. She’s basically Legion.
– The Chief – Niles Caulder is a wheelchair-bound genius who’s also kind of an asshole.
– Beast Boy – Garfield Logan left the Doom Patrol to join Dick Grayson’s team in Titans, but before that he contracted a rare illness in Africa as a young child, and to cure it his father injected him with a serum that turned him into an immune monkey for a little while while the disease ran itself out. His parents later died. He’s probably better off.
– Cyborg – the only member of the upcoming show who has nothing to do with the Doom Patrol in any incarnation, Victor Stone had horrible damage done to his body by…different things according to which continuity (right now it’s a Mother Box accident), and he was turned into a cyborg by his genius scientist father. Vic is a Teen Titans mainstay, and since the New 52 relaunch, was also a founding member of the Justice League.
Other notable members include:
-Mento – Steve Dayton is uber wealthy, so he did what any rich guy might do: spent a ton of money on a weird helmet to give him psychic powers so he could impress an actress. Turns out it worked, though, and he eventually married Elastigirl and adopted Beast Boy.
-Dorothy Spinner – Dorothy has a physical deformity that makes her look like a chimp, so she wasn’t particularly social when she was younger. It was there that she discovered her power of making her imaginary friends real.
-Danny the Street – Literally a sentient street.
-Flex Mentallo – a 98 pound weakling who gained the power of Muscle Mystery, which let him rewrite reality if he flexed a certain way.
-Ambush Bug – Irwin Schwab is a teleporter who knows he’s a comic book character and is probably the most normal one from the “other notable members” section.
WHO ARE THE DOOM PATROL VILLAINS?
The main villains for the Doom Patrol are the Brotherhood of Evil. The Brain, a disembodied brain in a jar, is out to get revenge on the Chief for…well, it’s actually pretty justified. The Chief tried to kill the Brain so he could put the Brain’s mind in Robotman’s body. The Chief is pretty messed up.
He’s joined on the team by Monseiur Mallah, a supersmart gorilla with a huge machine gun and a beret; Madame Rouge, a shapeshifting stretchy lady; Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man, who can change any part of his body into anything animal, vegetable or mineral; General Immortus, a semi-immortal general with a grasp of tactics unseen by the world; and General Zahl, a former U-Boat captain.
Later incarnations of the Doom Patrol would fight variations on the Brotherhood like the Brotherhood of Dada, anarchists with insane powers who stole a painting that they then trapped the city of Paris in. They’d also fight Red Jack, a being with the power of God who thinks he’s Jack the Ripper and spends all day torturing butterflies in a hidden realm. They also faced off against the Scissormen of Orquith, who cut beings out of reality.
Listen to the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast discussion of Doom Patrol:
DOOM PATROL ONSCREEN APPEARANCES
– Titans of course. The weird team showed up a couple of times in DC Universe’s flagship series before it was announced that they were getting their own spin off.
– Teen Titans – The Doom Patrol was part of the inciting backstory for season 5 of the incredible TV predecessor to Teen Titans GO! The full Patrol crossed over with the Titans in the first two episodes of season 5, and the Brotherhood of Evil was that season’s overarching villain.
– Batman: The Brave & The Bold where the Patrol dies helping Batman fight off the Brotherhood of Evil.
– Young Justice: Outsiders. You really need to see this to believe it.
-inexplicably never in a video game, even though Negative Man is basically Noob Saibot and it wouldn’t have been that hard to make a stage in Injustice 2 Danny the Street. Or if they were really feeling ambitious, put a stage in the painting that ate Paris.
DOOM PATROL KEY STORIES
The Original Doom Patrol: The Drake/Haney/Premiani run is available as an omnibus edition or on DC Universe. This will give you a good foundation with the team, their world, and a taste of the weirdness that will come to define them. You can find that omnibus on Amazon.
Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison – this is where so much of their weirdness and influence comes from that it’s almost certainly the most important to read. Morrison and Richard Case introduce Crazy Jane, Red Jack, Danny, the Scissormen, the Beard Hunter, the Brotherhood of Dada, Mallah and Brain’s relationship, and more. This run is what defined the Doom Patrol for thirty years. The whole run is on DC Universe and you can also find it on Amazon.
Doom Patrol by Rachel Pollack – If you can find this, grab it. Pollack took the concepts Morrison introduced and went deeper into them. The issues are scanned and online, but not on DC Universe nor collected in print.
Literally nothing for 20 years after that – John Byrne and John Arcudi both tried to relaunch the book as a more traditional superhero book, but neither worked. The team has shown up a few times in the pages of Justice League, but those appearances tend to fit the tone of the crossover book rather than the spirit of the Doom Patrol.
Gerard Way and Nick Derington’s relaunch of Doom Patrol is very much in synch with Morrison and Pollack’s runs. It feels like a direct sequel, filtered through Way’s sensibility: hitting the same themes, but a little shallower and a little more bubblegum pop (as opposed to Morrison’s listening-to-someone-on-acid-play-the-sitar-style storytelling). Derington’s art is fantastic, though – definitely the best of the bunch. A chunk of it is on DC Universe and you can also buy it on Amazon.
Doom Patrol premieres on DC Universe on Feb. 15.