Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Return of The Doom Patrol!

One of my favorite DC Comics superhero teams, The Doom Patrol recently returned to the DC Universe. The Doom Patrol first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963).
The team was created by writer Arnold Drake (who also wrote the screenplay for the awesome film WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR?) and artist Bruno Premiani. Some have noticed that a few similarities exist between the Doom Patrol and Marvel Comics' X-Men. Both teams first appeared in 1963 (X-Men #1 debuted three months after the Doom Patrol), both feature misfit superheroes shunned by society and both are led by men confined to wheelchairs.The first Doom Patrol consisted of three super-powered rejects: Robotman (Cliff Steele), Negative Man (Larry Trainor), and Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr). The Chief (Dr. Niles Caulder) assembled the team to use their powers to combat evil. The series was such a success that My Greatest Adventure was retitled The Doom Patrol beginning with issue #86. Beast Boy, later a Teen Titan, was a junior member of the team and his father, Mento also became part of the mix.The series was eventually canceled in 1968, and Drake chose to kill the entire in the final issue, Doom Patrol #121 (September 1968).Writer Paul Kupperberg, and artist Joe Staton introduced a new team in Showcase #94 (August 1977). It was revealed that a woman named Arani Desai, had married Niles Caulder previously and when she found out that was killed, she recreated the Doom Patrol. New members were feisty Russian cosmonaut Valentina Vostok, who became Negative Woman; and Tempest aka Joshua Clay. It turned out that Robotman was the only survivor of the explosion that killed his teammates, and Dr. Will Magnus of Metal Men fame built him a new body. This new team followed its three-issue Showcase run with a series of guest appearances in various DC titles.In the early 1980s, Robotman appeared in the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez New Teen Titans series, where he joined Beast Boy (now known as Changling), and the Titans in finally bringing the murderers of the original team to justice.
Comics superstar John Byrne drew Secret Origins Annual #1, published in 1986, which retold the origins of the two teams.
The series was soon relaunched, by Kupperberg and artist Steve Lightle. The team now included new members: the magnetically-powered Lodestone; psychic powered Karma, and a dude named Scott Fischer. After issue 18, Kupperberg left the series and an up-and-coming writer named Grant Morrison on the task of writing the poor-selling title.Celsius and Scott Fischer died before issue #18; Karma left the team to become a member of the Suicide Squad; the Negative Spirit left Valentina's body; and Lodestone was placed into a coma, where she would remain for many issues. Tempest became the team's physician.Morrison took a throw-away character from issue #14, Dorothy Spinner, an ape-faced girl with powerful "imaginary friends" and made her a member of the team.Other new characters included the multiple personality-afflicted Crazy Jane and Danny the Street. Morrison's Doom Patrol incorporated bizarre secret societies, elements of Dada and surrealism. With all this weird stuff, the series quickly gained a cult following. Issue #53 was a wonderful homage to the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Morrison left the book with issue #63, and Rachel Pollack took over as the series became part of the publisher's more adult Vertigo imprint. One story featured a sexist supervillain character called The Codpiece who had a deadly device implanted in his crotch area. Characters in Pollack's run included Cliff Steele, Niles Caulder (now a disembodied head kept on a tray filled with ice) and the lovable Dorothy Spinner. New characters included The Bandage People, the Inner Child, the Identity Addict and the transsexual hero called Coagula. Pollack continued writing the title until its cancellation with issue #87, in February 1995.After appearing in a crossover series called The Silver Age, writer John Arcudi and artist Tan Eng Huat launched a an all-new Doom Patrol series, as the title returned to the DC Universe for 22 issues starting in December 2001.It was revealed that Dorothy Spinner had a mental breakdown and accidentally killed most of the team members. After falling into a coma she created a new Robotman, who became a part of a new Jost Enterprises-owned team. The team also consisted of new members Fast Forward, Kid Slick, Fever and Freak. Cliff Steele eventually returned and became a member of the Doom Patrol yet again.
In August 2004, DC launched a yet another new short-lived Doom Patrol series! After debuting in JLA, John Byrne controversially rebooted the series, eliminating ALL the previous Doom Patrol continuity. Retroactively eliminating Beast Boy's origins and all Doom Patrol appearances in other DC titles. Three new characters (Nudge, Grunt and Vortex along with JLA recruit Faith) were now part of the team along with the original four members. DC cancelled this series with issue #18.Thankfully, the events in DC's Infinite Crisis crossover were able to restore the Doom Patrol's full continuity, with inclusion of all previous incarnations. Two former members of the Teen Titans: Mal Duncan, now code named Vox, and his wife (Bumblebee) became members of this new Doom Patrol team.
Writer Keith Giffen's current revival of Doom Patrol promises to focus on the core members Elasti-Woman, Negative Man, Robotman and the Chief. Bumblebee is now eight inches tall. Nudge was killed in the line of duty and Grunt took off afterwards. No word on the whereabouts of Fast Forward, Kid Slick, Fever, Freak, Vortex, Faith or Vox. The current team operates out of the Oolong Island, a popular resort town in the DC Universe.

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