Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

The Doom Patrol Rides Again

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Doom Patrol: The Silver Age Vol. 2
Written by Arnold Drake, Art by Bruno Premiani and Bob Brown
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1779500984

Doom Patrol, the original Doom Patrol comic from the 1960s, was decades ahead of its time. This team of misfit superheroes brought the concept of a dysfunctional psuedo family of heroes in a world where people react to them naturally to comics long before the great wave of surrealist British comics writers tranformed superhero comics forever.

These are the adventures of Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-Girl, all working under the direction of the wheelchair-bound Chief, Niles Caulder, and alongside their allies, Mento, the world’s fifth-wealthiest man (equipped with a helmet that gives him psychic powers) and Beast Boy, a teen with green skin, who can turn into different animals.

Before Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, there was Arnold Drake. Drake was a mainstay of DC comics, but he proved with Doom Patrol that, given free reign, he could out-Marvel Marvel. Drake, working with a full script, created wild and bizarre adventures that rival (and possibly inspired some of) the work of Stan Lee at Marvel.

Unlike Lee, who took credit for plot work done by the artists under the “Marvel Method,” Drake crafted his tales on his own, pacing the stories and writing all the dialogue before sending the script off to his main Doom Patrol collaborator, Bruno Premiani.

Premiani brought those scripts to life with a fine, illustrative style that, while lacking the dynamic quality of Jack Kirby, perfectly suited Drake’s stories of a team that fought among themselves as much as they fought their enemies.

The Team was made of up three people who, due to different twists of fate, were turned into freaks with amazing powers. Brought together by The Chief, who was intrinsically tied to their mishaps, they did battle with a rogues gallery unlike any other. With an evil immortal, an alien warlord, a disembodied brain, a super-evolved speaking (with a French accent) ape, and a man with the powers of all the elements, all of them hell-bent on world domination, and all them willing to work together to kill the Doom Patrol, the stories in this volume take you on a wild ride, indeed.

This is the second paperback collection of Silver Age Doom Patrol stories, and if DC holds true to formula, in about two years we should see the final volume in this series. They are also collecting the later versions of the team, all of which are used in the streaming TV series.

In Doom Patrol: The Silver Age Vol. 2 we see the introduction and origin of Beast Boy. We also get a three-part crossover with DC’s Challengers of the Unknown, and a team-up with The Flash. That’s in addition to the wedding of Elasti-Girl and Mento, and short stories that tell us about Robotman and Negative Man before they joined the Doom Patrol.

There are adventures under the sea, on the edge of space, and all sorts of weird locations, and their enemies employ mind control, zombies, dinosaurs and even embezzlement to wreak havoc on the planet.

These stories, from 1965 and 66, put the lie to the myth that DC was just publishing staid, traditional superhero comics during the heyday of Marvel. Doom Patrol, which had an obvious influence on Marvel’s X-Men, holds up a lot better than many of Marvel’s lesser titles, and at times rivals the work of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in terms of pure imagination.

This collection presents issues 96 to 107 of Doom Patrol, as well as a crossover issue with Challengers of the Unknown and an issue of Brave and the Bold. All the scripts are by Drake, with Premiani drawing the bulk of the stories. The underrated Bob Brown fills in on a few stories and covers, and draws the crossover issue of Challengers, for which he was the regular artist. The team up with The Flash is drawn by Dick Giordano and Sal Trapani. It’s over 350 pages of great, unorthodox comics.

The Doom Patrol (Spoiler Alert here) were killed off in the final issue of their comic a couple of years after the stories collected here. It was nearly a decade before DC resurrected the team, with only Robotman surviving from the original team. The revived team, originally written by Paul Kupperberg, went through a few changes and reboots until the early 1990s when Grant Morrison took over writing the adventures of the team, and managed to out-weird the original run.

The TV series, which debuted on DC Universe and will soon begin a second season on HBO MAX, is based on parts of all three eras of the Doom Patrol, but the core of the personality clashes between Robotman, Negative man and Elasti-Girl, are found in the original series.

A lot of the roots of modern superhero comics can be traced back to the Doom Patrol. This collection is a great sampler. An earlier volume collects the first third of these stories, and I hope that DC comes through with a third volume ahead of schedule. My only complaint is that the final issue collected in this volume is the first half of a two-part story, and ends with a big cliffhanger. I don’t want to wait two years to see how it all turns out (and I don’t want to have to buy the original comics).

These comics were among the first I remember ever reading as a young child, and they’ve stuck with me for more than five decades. I can’t recommend them enough. You can order Doom Patrol: The Silver Age Vol. 2 from any bookseller using the ISBN code, or get it from Amazon at a considerable discount.

1 Comment

  1. Steve

    I’ve read the first 2 soft cover black and white versions they put out; I really enjoyed them. I love the quirkiness of the whole series; the sub-plot of Gar and his conniving guardian, the arguments of the members, the goofy villains. I’m also glad you didn’t go down the rabbit hole of X-Men/Doom Patrol “who came first” speculation. For me, Doom Patrol is the first Silver Age DC comic that hit the mark with “superheroes have problems” motif that Marvel had already been doing.

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