Greatest Adventure #80 / Doom Patrol #66 / Doom Patrol #1 (current run)  All images DC Comics

 THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #2Daniel's Comic Book Column # 4, February 2002
by Daniel P. Dern (ddern@world.std.com)

Editor Ern asked me to spend most of a given column on one topic, as I ended up doing last month, so this month's focus is DC's THE DOOM PATROL. But first, some short stuff:

CURRENT COMICS WORTH BUYING:

Issue #2 of The Dark Knight Strikes Again is out. The art may be a bit crude in places -- I suspect there's a lot of YMMV (Your Mileage May Very) here -- but the plot's a hoot, the supporting characters delightful, and this is overall hysterically funny in (intended) places. Recommended, of course. You might want to borrow somebody's copy, if you were ambivalent about Issue #1 -- you can always go buy one if you like it.

Justice Society of America (JSA) #32, the prelude to the five-part "Stealing Thunder" arc, and, due out late Feb, part 1.

I have a feeling that this title has edged out the Justice Society of America as for "high-energy must-read team book" for the moment. This is a good place to start on this title -- buy or borrow #32, so that #s 33-37 make more sense.

Amazing Spider-Man #40 J. Michael Straczynski continues his run on your friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN! 
This issue: Peter and Aunt May have a long overdue frank talk.

Comic(s) to Watch for:
(Not yet out and I haven't read them yet)

Hawkman #1 Writers James Robinson and Geoff Johns, who've been bringing us the JSA, and artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair, do the newest incarnation (literally) of Hawkman. Dunno what this will be like, but worth considering.

FOCUS ON: THE DOOM PATROL

1963 saw the creation of one of comics' more unusual group -- societal outcasts, each with special abilities, brought together by a brilliant man in a wheelchair, and quickly to face an enemy with words like "Brotherhood" and "Evil" in its name.

No, not the X-Men -- although this group, over at Marvel, made its first appearance in a similar timeframe. (Coincidence, not copying, my reading of discussions suggests -- the reality of the timing, relative to the time it takes in the comic industry to propose, create, make and produce a new comic, makes the latter infeasible.)

I'm talking about The Doom Patrol, over at DC Comics -- in its original incarnation, founded and led by Professor Niles Caulder, a.k.a. "The Chief" -- the brains of the outfit, of course, with labs, inventions and information sources galore, and initial members Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl, Elasti-Woman) -- she could get smaller or much, much bigger, Cliff Steele (Robotman), a race car driver whose body was destroyed in a crash, leaving only the brain, which The Chief put into a robot body, and test pilot Larry Trainor (Negative Man), changed by radiation to house an "energy being" which he could send out of his body for up to a minute (but no longer). (Larry, as we "discovered" recently in the JUSTICE LEAGUE: YEAR ONE mini-series, knew Hal Jordan, who was also a test pilot when he became Green Lantern.)

The stories started in MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, issue # 80; by issue #86, the Doom Patrol got the name of the title, continuing MGA's numbering. (This was back in the naive days before publishers seized on every opportunity to have Valuable, Collectible First Issues!) The Doom Patrol's members never set out to be heroes; fate threw them curves, and the Chief gathered them to use their new abilities to help people, investigate weird stuff, help people, deal with the Chief's nemesis (General Immortus).

You'll be able to read the Doom Patrol's first ten adventures (MGA #80-85 and Doom Patrol 86-89) later this year, in Doom Patrol Archives Volume One (224 pages). Amazon.com lists it as available in April 2002 (and will let you pre-order the $49.95 book at 30% off).

Like far too many of our favorite heroes/groups, the Doom Patrol went through its ups, downs, changes, deaths, and title cancellations, including where the Chief, Rita and other team members were in theory killed in the original run's final issue. (They let themselves be blown up to let innocent bystanders be spared.)

During the 1990's revival -- except for, so far, Rita, the DP'ers turned out to not be as dead as originally thought -- Grant Morrison was put at the writing helm, and turned it into one of the hot titles to read, full of headbending weirdness. Crazy Jane, the Scissormen, Red Jack, lots of dada.

Morrison's first arcs (issues 19-25) got collected in a trade paperback, DOOM PATROL: CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE -- buy or borrow it if you can (and try to borrow the rest of his run, too). Then go find Morrison's work on Animal Man, his INVISIBLES series, the Flex Mentallo mini-series (still not yet collected), and read what he's been doing lately over in X-Men.

After Morrison, Doom Patrol writing was taken over by Rachel Pollack, who did a, well, idiosyncratic approach, with art to match. These issues made more sense -- and I liked them better -- when I semi-recently re-read them over a day or two, rather than trying to follow them month to month. Tres weird -- and coming on the heels of what Grant Morrison did, that's saying a lot.

 DOOM PATROL#5Recently, perhaps more to the point, DC's restarted the Doom Patrol yet again, with John Arcudi at the word helm, and Tan Eng Huat doing the art. 

The writing and plot are good, the art is striking; it's nice to see Cliff (Robotman) back again, and to see the DP around in a somewhat less overwhelming situations (i.e., not the end of the world or reality as we know it, bleed-throughs from other realities, and extremely weird stuff).

 I bought the first issue or two out of loyalty and hope, but wasn't sure; however, by issue 3, they've got my attention and interest, and I'll keep buying.

FYI, a quick Googling turned up some interesting/useful Doom Patrol links, including:

And that's it for now. Boskone 39 is a week away, as I write this, with guest of honor none other than Neil Gaiman (the Sandman, etc.), and and special guest Marv Wolfman (Crisis of Infinite Earths, among other things).

Daniel P. Dern

Daniel P. Dern is a free-lance technology writer. He was previously Executive Editor of Byte.com. He can be reached at:  ddern@world.std.com /(www.dern.com)

2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu