Doom Patrol

Unearthed: Doom Patrol: My Greatest Adventure #80

Thanks to the popularity of the Doom Patrol tv show, it’s time to take a look at the weird history of this weird series!

Until this issue (in 1963), My Greatest Adventure had been composed of somewhat mundane action. But with issue 80 it took a rather radical turn.

Here we have Niles Caulder — “The Chief” (played by Timothy Dalton in the tv show) — presiding over a clandestine meeting. It’s not clear why the other three are in the shadows, but we’ll meet them soon enough.

And MAN, Caulder hits ’em HARD! Apparently being in a wheelchair entitles one to look upon others with scorn. Also, he’s admitting that the only adventures he goes on now are all in his mind. Why does this make him an expert in ANYTHING?

Meet Rita Farr (played by April Bowlby in the tv show), a former movie actor. What the hell is Caulder saying here? Inside, she’s… GOING to have disaster? Usually when someone is MARKED, that means something bad is GOING to happen… but he’s actually referring to what’s ALREADY happened. Let’s see.

During the filming of her latest movie, Rita is lost to a freak accident, where she runs afoul of these “odd holes” with their weird gases. What comes next?

She’s become a giant! You can’t tell me this wasn’t inspired by the 1958 movie “Attack of the 50-foot Woman”, but gosh, it’s so much later than the debut of that movie that the writer must have just had some kind of secret yearning for this kind of thing.

Next, we meet Larry Trainor (played in the tv show by Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk), former jet pilot, covered in bandages head to toe. What’s HIS story?

He experiences a malfunction and jets into low orbit. So far so good…

He crashes and waits for rescue, but a strange energy being emerges from his body for no apparent reason.

“Unknown wave belts”. That’s some good hand-waving explanation, friends.

Okay, that raises the ante, dunnit? But here’s a question, Larry: HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS? You died once already, have you? CITATION NEEDED

And finally, perhaps the most recognizable of the Doom Patrol, Cliff Steele (played in the show by Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan). Later he’ll be known as Automaton, later changed simply to Robotman for some reason. I do like the fact that his face has a kind of permanent arch expression.

During a race, Cliff crashes and his body is damaged apparently beyond repair. But his brain is salvageable, so an expert is brought in for a delicate procedure. But Cliff’s brain isn’t being transplanted into another human body, oh no…

He’s now a naked brain in a robot body! Wearing clothes for some reason! But y’know, that lavender is quite nice against his orange skin.

So… Cliff can still feel and smell and taste in this robot body? What are the tolerances? How much pain can he feel? Surely he doesn’t need to eat, so why let him taste? So many questions.

It turns out Caulder here was the surgeon who transplanted Cliff’s brain. But did he also provide the robot body? We may never know.

And for some reason, everyone’s fine with being part of some weird adventuring team. ‘Cause why not, right? What else are you gonna do with your time?

Meanwhile, an outsider is eavesdropping on their conversation… a really, really old dude — which the caption calls “ageless”, which isn’t really the same thing — named General Immortus. What’s he general of? Nobody knows. Probably not even him.

And there we have it: the REAL reason Immortus listens in on people. He’s insecure.

At the start of their first mission, there’s some weird dissent. Did anyone actually listen to what the Chief said, or are we just making it up as we go along?

Also, I love that Cliff defends Caulder’s mind, then one second later he’s like “I’m gonna watch the game!”

Again: Cliff’s robot body can FEEL. So is he screaming in agony as they’re welding and soldering his back together?

And what, did they pause after their mission to talk to reporters? Who in the hell coined the term “Doom Patrol”, anyway? This issue skips over a lot of questions… but oops! We’re out of time! All that’s left to do is run a few ads:

4 Stout yeomen
8 Chartered accountants
12 Knights Who Say “Ni”
2 Captains of Industry
10 Knights In White Satin
8 Time-displaced Navy swabbies
6 Merry Men
10 Sirrahs

13 Howling Commandos… sorry, wrong comics publisher
6 Conscientious Objectors
3 Raccoons in an Army uniform
8 Major Minors and 3 Minor Majors
12 Field Marshal Mcluhans