Are the inmates of Arkham Asylum running wild in the streets? Call Batman. Is Darkseid declaring war on Earth? Bring in the Justice League. But what is one do when, say, an ugly piece of artwork has just swallowed Paris, France? There’s only one group of heroes that are bizarre and jaded enough to stand tall against the threats to the order and logic of our world: the Doom Patrol! A motley team comprised of societal pariahs, the Doom Patrol’s conflicts with the weird to the outright disturbing have delighted comic book fans for years, but their disappointing omission from The New 52 is something that needs to be changed!
Who Are The Doom Patrol?
Before the Doom Patrol became the heroes feared and despised by the people they were sworn to protect, each of the three founding members once lived a charmed life prior to the secret machinations of their insane wheelchair-bound leader: Niles Caulder (a.k.a. the Chief). Cliff Steele, Robotman, was a renowned daredevil burned in a horrific race car accident orchestrated by Caulder, his brain later transferred into a robotic body. Actress and Olympic swimmer Rita Farr became the pliable heroine Elasti-Girl when Caulder exposed her to a transformative gas. And lastly, hotshot U.S. Air Force pilot Larry Trainor was transformed into a disfigured being of lethal energy when Caulder, after fiddling with Trainor's plane’s guidance system, caused it to fly through a radiation belt—turning him into Negative Man.
Plagued by the bitter truth that a normal existence was forever a mere flight of fancy, Caulder gathered these deprived few and presented them with the proposition he had planned from the start: use their newfound powers and channeled frustration to save the world as the Doom Patrol. From that day forward, the mopey misfits combated one bizarre threat after another, unbeknownst at the behest of the same man who had ruined their lives in the first place. After the team’s supposed death after valiantly sacrificing themselves to save the citizens on the small island of Codsville, sole survivor Robotman ended up joining a new and larger incarnation of the Doom Patrol, facing new enemies and threats that went from bizarre to the stuff of nightmare that beggars description.
Why They Deserve Their Own Series
Since the beginning of DC’s New 52 initiative, it’s been pretty clear that the publisher is eager to explore the darker and twisted side of their universe given titles such as I, Vampire and Dial H, as well as the integration of their Vertigo title Swamp Thing into the DC Universe proper. And alongside their habit of filling in the voids left behind by canceled titles to maintain the count of 52 books per month, it’s only a matter of time before the Doom Patrol makes their triumphant return. And over the past year there’s been the appearance of characters from the series showing that this can be done. Namely the introduction of a modernized Robotman within the pages of the My Greatest Adventure limited series and the Doom Patrol’s antithesis—the Brotherhood of Evil—menacing the Blue Beetle in his titular series.
Of all the macabre New 52 titles, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. seems to be loosely based on the concept of the Doom Patrol: unconventional heroes facing the darker and stranger side of the DCU with a dash of black humor. But, as we've said before, this is yet another example of a publisher dancing around the demands of the fanbase by publishing a series that somewhat satisfies what they were asking for, but not quite. While the attempt to popularize an obscure character like Frankenstein was admirable, but Doom Patrol may have been a better choice—especially when the overshadowed series has tried a few times in the past to find an audience since the end of its run under the Vertigo imprint.
It's a shame that DC never considered publishing a relaunched Doom Patrol series from the get-go. Because unlike most other paint-by-numbers, cliche origin stories, that of the Doom Patrol is incredibly tragic and provides an excellent hook for readers: the lives of the Doom Patrol were ruined to satisfy a madman's ambition to create a group of heroes conditioned to undertake missions that no other hero would. For the late '60s this was heavy stuff, and with comic book writing only growing more sophisticated, Doom Patrol can become a substantial masterpiece in comic book tragedy.
Would you read a Doom Patrol ongoing series?