Comic Book: Doom Patrol

Robotman desperately attempts to make sense of this issue's plot.

Tempest: You shot your imaginary friends? With what?
Dorothy Spinner: An imaginary gun! What else?
The Doom Patrol

In 1963, DC Comics published a book with a new kind of superhero team: the Doom Patrol. They were loners, misfits, mistrusted by the public, and led by a genius in a wheelchair. Despite obvious similarities, this team actually came out several months before X-Men was published by the distinguished competition, which has led to accusations of plagiarism. The entire series was written by Arnold Drake and pencilled almost entirely by Bruno Premiani. The Patrol first appeared in "My Greatest Adventure" #80 (June, 1963) and continued appearing in subsequent issues. With #86 (March, 1964), the book was renamed after the team. While the X-Men eventually flourished in the 1970s, initial sales of Doom Patrol died down and the original series ended quickly when Drake decided to go out with a bang and kill them all off. The last issue was numbered #121 (September-October, 1968).

It didn't quite stick. Over a decade later, the team was relaunched, with all new characters reminiscent of the older ones... and it turned out Robotman survived because he was everyone's favorite anyway. The second version of the Patrol appeared in "Showcase" #94-96 (August-December, 1977), written by Paul Kupperberg. Sales were not good enough to get them a new title, but they went on to become regulars of the DC universe, receiving guest appearances in Kupperberg-written titles featuring Supergirl, the Teen Titans, and Superman.

"Doom Patrol" vol. 2 was launched in October, 1987. Eventually, most of original team was revealed to have been resurrected in some way or alive all along, and the new book added a number of other characters which colored within the superhero lines and didn't quite set the world on fire. Then came Grant Morrison, who dedicated them more specifically to fighting "weird" crime and disasters. His first Story Arc, "Crawling from the Wreckage", built up the weirdness of the comic to extremes and delved into some adult subject matter. There were scissormen from imaginary worlds, the Brotherhood of Dada, the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E and a friendly "transvestite street" named, well... Danny the Street. Just in case you were wondering, he dresses like a boulevard. No, really. And then it got even weirder. He left and, with the switchover of the book to Vertigo Comics, Rachel Pollack, more well known as a tarot expert and prose fiction writer, took over. She had much the same approach, but the book did not retain its popularity and it got cancelled. The title ended with issue #87 (February, 1995).

Since then there have been a few subsequent revivals which reverted the series back to a traditional superhero comic. John Arcudi wrote an unsuccessful series turning them into Corporation superheroes for a couple issues before entangling them in schemes involving corporate manipulation, a soul-stealing demon and Chinese sorcerer spirits. John Byrne did a Continuity Reboot that was ill-fated to begin with and downright ignored by other DC books of the time. It eventually ended with the Crisis Crossover Infinite Crisis, which undid most of Byrne's changes and restored the team's history. Byrne did finally manage to bring original member (the only one who had yet to return) Elasti-Girl Back from the Dead , though. After an appearance in the Teen Titans comic and Animated Series, their popularity resurged enough for them to get their own new series in 2009, written by Keith Giffen (of JLI fame) who was practically begging for the position. This time, the original team were employed as a policing force of sorts on Oolong Island, the haven for mad scientists from 52.

The Doom Patrol became regulars on the last season of Teen Titans, since Titans member Beast Boy was a Doom Patrol alumnus. The team got A Day in the Limelight in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, fighting Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man and General Zahl. They also got their own series of shorts on DC Nation.

Tropes in this comic book:

  • A God Am I: The team briefly encountered a dapper entity called "Red Jack" that insisted it was also God and created the universe. Since it was clearly insane almost nothing it said could be taken at face value, though, except for the fact that it needed pain to live (so Jane freeing all his pinned butterflies starved him of pain to feed off of, destroying him).
  • All Just a Dream: Used as a Framing Device during the Grant Morrison run to introduce an Affectionate Parody (Pastiche, really) of '60's Fantastic Four.
  • The Anti-God: Decreator, also known as Anti-God, the first shadow cast by God's light. Once awakened, it will unmake all existence. However, Crazy Jane points out that it's a reflection, a vibration...and therefore, can be interfered with like any other wave-form. With the help of Rebis and an occultist they manage to set up a counter-vibration that almost completely cancels out the Unmaker so that it's now only unmaking the universe very, very slowly.
  • Artificial Limbs: Cliff Steele, his entire body has been replaced with robotic parts.
  • Back for the Dead: Arani Desai, Negative Woman, Karma and Scott Fischer of the early-80s Kupperberg era showed up in the New 52 Forever Evil event purely to be killed by Johnny Quick and Atomica.
    • Though it's later revealed in Justice League that Celsius and Tempest actually faked their deaths and have gone into hiding just to get away from Caulder, while Karma, Scott Fischer, and two unseen members called the Negative Twins are dead.
  • Banana Peel: The cover of Doom Patrol #34 showed a heavily armed gorilla (Monsieur Mallah) walking along the street pushing a baby carriage and about to slip on a banana peel.
  • The Blank: The Fact and Yankee Doodle (both parodies of The Question)
  • Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome:
    • The whole point of the original field team; each had a horrible disfigurement, or some other way in which their powers were supposedly as much a curse as a blessing. The problem is, this wasn't really true of Elasti-Girl; Word of God says this is the reason she was the only member of the original team not brought back for Morrison's run.
    • Morrison's run actually made this a primary element, particularly surrounding how none of the team could function in society.
  • Blob Monster: The Keith Giffen series reveals Rita can degenerate into this. She's become so elastic that prolonged periods without seeing/picturing her original form (like while asleep) result in her becoming an amorphous mound of... stuff.
  • Brain in a Jar: Monsieur Mallah's partner, The Brain, of course. Cliff, too, as he's just a brain in a robot body. Niles eventually is just a head on a tray.
  • Brain Uploading: This happens to Cliff after his original brain is crushed by the Candlemaker.
  • Breakup Breakout: Beast-Boy was introduced in this comic, but it was after the original Patrol was (almost) entirely killed off that he got tied up with the Teen Titans.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final arc of the 2009 series is "resolved" when Ambush Bug tells the villain of the arc that the book is being canceled to make room for Flashpoint tie-ins.
  • Captain Ersatz: Willoughby Kipling is one for John Constantine.
  • Compensating for Something: Oh, dear God, the Codpiece!
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Subverted in Rachel Pollack's run. In #83, the False Memory gave Coagula fake memories of being joint-raped by her "husband and his friend". Kate spends the rest of the issue trying to figure out when it happened until Dorothy manages to bring her back to her senses. Kate is outraged that the False Memory believed she was giving Kate's life more "meaning" by making her think she was sexually violated when she was a teenager.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Flash Forward is soon nicknamed Negative Man by his teammates for his icy temperament.
    • Likewise, Beast Boy. Yes, that Beast Boy. He made his debut here.
    • In Grant Morrison's stint as writer, Robotman.
  • Deconstruction
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Celsius, who periodically showed that she had a human side despite her obsession with finding the Chief.
  • Demoted to Extra: Tends to happen to them. Often lampshaded at the end of their newest guest appearance in some other hero team's series.
  • Disability Superpower: Everyone, basically (except perhaps Rita Farr, though they tried to imply it in the original). Negative Man can never take off his bandages, Robotman doesn't even have a real body anymore. Crazy Jane has multiple personalities.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The would-be cosmos destroyers in the Cult of the Unwritten book were led by the Archons of Nurnheim —- i.e. a couple of Punch And Judy puppets.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Kate was killed in flashback by Dorothy, accidentally in the Arcudi series. Nudge and Grunt are killed and run away respectively in the first issue of the Giffen series, with poor Nudge getting Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: General Zahl forces a Sadistic Choice on the Patrol - save their own skins, or save a dinky fishing village off the coast of Maine with a population of only thirteen people, a sacrifice that's not likely to be remembered. The Patrol grins and makes their choice:
    The Patrol: Fire away!
  • Dysfunction Junction: Practically every version of the Doom Patrol is this trope.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Many, the two most notable probably being the Decreator and the Candlemaker.
  • Eldritch Location: Danny the Street operates like this, but is actually quite nice, possibly the most well-adjusted member of any incarnation of the Doom Patrol.
  • "End of the World" Special: This seems to be what happens at the end of Morrison's run, with Danny the Street expanding to become the magical Danny the World for Cliff and Jane.
  • Enemy Mine: The original Doom Patrol was forced into this situation with the Brotherhood of Evil on more than one occasion, usually to avert
  • Fanservice: Elasti-Girl. Her gigantic upskirts and wardrobe problems.
  • Follow the Leader: At one time the Patrol acted as a school... for young mutants. The two groups debuted within months of each other, however, not nearly long enough for one to be based on the other. That being said, there are also some very clear parallels between the original Doom Patrol and the Fantastic Four, who came first by a much wider margin. They have also shared writers; Arnold Drake, Grant Morrison and John Byrne have all written for both teams.
  • Fluffy Tamer: An early issues showed Rita in her giantess form cuddling lions and tigers at the local zoo like they were housecats. Little wonder she was so good raising a child who can shapeshift into any creature he can think of.
  • Genius Cripple / Evil Cripple:
    • The Chief, he is stuck in a wheelchair but still orchestrates the creation of the Doom Patrol.
    • Also the Brain (who can't even move on his own in some incarnations) and General Immortus (who is immortal, but not unaging).
  • Genius Loci: Danny the Street is a sentient transvestite street. (Imagine gun shops with pink curtains in the front windows, and fire hydrants that are painted yellow because bright crimson would be too gauche...)
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: How Cliff starts Morrison's run, both in the sense that most of his friends are dead or comatose, but also that his robot body limits him to sight and sound — he literally bashes down a cement barricade with his head to demonstrate how this doesn't hurt but is driving him insane.
  • Happily Adopted: Garfield ends up adopted by Rita (Elasti-Girl) and Steve (Mento). And while his relationship with Steve is sometimes troubled by Steve's copious mental health issues, Gar loves Rita dearly and even got into acting to follow in her footsteps.
  • Happily Married / Happy Marriage Charade: Rita and Steve, Depending on the Writer
  • Hermaphrodite: Rebis is literally a merging of a man and a woman.
  • He's Back: As of Issue 11 of Giffen's run, Mr. Nobody, now evolved in terms of his philosophy, and calling himself Mr. Somebody.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Cliff Steele
  • Imaginary Friend: Subverted in that Dorothy Spinner's imaginary friends are made real by her mind. Brutally real, as evidenced by the Candlemaker.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • Chief
    • Mento falls here, too, especially if he's in one of his less-than-sane periods.
  • Intangible Man: Negative Man (later Rebis) can make their "negative spirit" leave their body and do things. Except it can't leave for more than a minute, or else they will die.
  • Kill 'em All: Almost every version of the Doom Patrol ends with almost all of the main team dead, in a coma, etc., as a way to make room for the next writer to do what they want. (Grant Morrison did not do this, however. Aside from the Chief, who had died already, everyone just walked into the sunset, so to speak.)
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Candlemaker, who, even in light of the many instances of mass character death and a truly wild Rogues Gallery, remains one of series' most horrific villains ever.
  • Knights and Knaves: The expansion of Orqwith can only be stopped by the solution to one of these puzzles.
  • Legion of Doom: The Brotherhood of Evil (Mallah, Madame Rouge and the Brain) recruit General Immortus, Garguax and his plastic army into an expanded organization, in a Wham Episode of the original series.
  • L Is for Dyslexia: Inflicted by a big Government Conspiracy on a whistleblower who's writing (or, rather, trying to write) an exposé. All his typewritten pages contain gibberish.
  • Losing Your Head: The Chief spends Rachel Pollack's series as a head on a tray of ice.
  • Magic Floppy Disk: Cliff's whole personality and memories apparently fit in a couple of floppies.
  • Menstrual Menace: Dorothy Spinner's first menstruation causes her imaginary friends to try to force her to wear "red, bloody shoes." The comparisons to The Wizard of Oz are all intentional, too.
  • Mindlink Mates: Coagula and Robotman
  • Mind Screw: All of Grant Morrison's and Rachel Pollack's runs.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Crazy Jane. Justified in that she has 64 separate personalities with 64 separate powers. Not all the personalities are nice, either. One of the Doom Patrol's enemies, The Quiz, also has "Every power you haven't thought of," literally, so in order to fight her, people have to constantly think of and/or shout out a long list of all known superpowers. Unfortunately nobody can ever think of every superpower so the Quiz has yet to be defeated in a conventional battle (that we get to see).
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Doom Patrol is normally on the side of Good Chaos and opposed to (kind of) Evil Chaos (the Brotherhood of Dada) and Evil Order (the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.) However, when the Brotherhood of Dada returned, though, the Doom Patrol didn't try to stop them.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In one issue, Larry figured out that the putty-like Madame Rouge was impersonating the Chief when "he" called Rita Elasti-Girl — "the Chief would NEVER call Rita by that freak name!"
  • Parental Incest: The more traumatic part of Crazy Jane's origin.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Every incarnation, but most notably Fever, Kid Slick, Freak, and Negative Man II, who were relatively normal but faced difficulty working as a team.
  • Rape as Backstory: Crazy Jane was sexually abused twice in her lifetime by two different men. Her father, when she was 5 years old and before her personalities manifested (at which point she was still Kay Challis). And again years later, after the Miranda personality took over. Miranda was attacked and raped by a homeless man in a church on Easter, which resulted in Miranda's death and the emergence of the other personalities.
  • Reality Warper: Dorothy Spinner. She has little control of her abilities and they terrify her.
  • Retcon: All over the damn place.
    • One of the wilder, and more famous, examples is the recontextualization of the group's origin by Grant Morrison at the end of his run.
    • A species of Retcon yet to be assigned taxonomy, inverting Remember the New Guy and related to Multiple-Choice Past, in which Rachel Pollack retcons Crazy Jane out of existence through the introduction of a character called "The False Memory", who displays Crazy-Jane-like powers plus the ability to create false memories, and who instructs the protagonists to "remember me in the Doom Patrol all these years". The reference to "false memory syndrome" appears to express Pollack's disgust with Jane's Dark and Troubled Past. This was such a widely decried dick move that Pollack denied that this was her intent. This move was so unpopular that it is apparently Canon Discontinuity nowadays, or rather DC has only limited it to Vertigo while Morrison's stuff is still in main DCU continuity. Keith Giffen certainly reintroduced Jane into the book, along with Danny the Street (now Danny the Bungalow).
    • John Byrne's run retconned the entire Doom Patrol history and rebooted the series. Keith Giffen then retconned the Byrne reboot so all versions of the Doom Patrol, including Byrne's (and Pollack's, the only run that actually ran under the Vertigo imprint), were in continuity.
  • Rubber Man: Elasti-Girl. Also their enemy, Madame Rouge.
  • Serial Escalation: Especially Grant Morrison's run.
  • Shout-Out: Danny the Street is named for Danny laRue (Rue is French for "street").
    • Crazy Jane's name comes from WB Yeats's poems. Her "manager" personality is named Driver 8, after a R.E.M. song.
  • Signature Sound Effect: Negative Man's distinctive "crackle". Drake and Premiani often represented radio waves, Drake's Applied Phlebotinum of choice, with "CRZZZZZZ".
  • Signs of the End Times:
    • As reality begins to merge with Orqwith -
    • In Barcelona, when the Cult of the Unwritten Book starts to summon the Decreator -
      • A bus full of teenagers was possessed by the Unquiet Face and driven through the Corridor of Hallucinations
      • The Needle Children, who cannot be seen through glass, laid pointless siege to an old folks' home in the suburbs.
      • At 11:30 there was an outbreak of spirit skywriting which continued for an hour and a half.
      • At midnight the word 'harmony' disappeared from the vocabulary of everyone in the city.
      • At 12:30 the Embryo Stains invaded the marrow of a nightclub owner and forced him to compose terrifying poetry.
      • Everything blue became temporarily invisible.
      • The rain forgot how to fall.
    • When Flex Mentallo tried to turn the Pentagon into a circle
      • People saw God, and thought he looked 'kind of shifty'.
  • Sizeshifter: Rita Farr, alias Elasti-Girl.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Elasti-Girl was the only woman in the original team.
  • Social Darwinist: The Chief turns out to be one of these by the end of Morrison's run.
  • Something Person:
    • The original team was made up of these: Robotman, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man and later Negative Woman. As time when on, though, Cliff (who hated being called Robotman anyway, since he wasn't technically a robot) just went by his real name.
    • Not just Cliff; Rita and Larry despised their noms de guerre too. Larry always referred to Negative Man as a separate entity, giving him orders (maybe Crazy Jane wasn't the only one with multiple personality issues?).
  • Split Personality:
    • Crazy Jane has 64 of them.
    • And yeah, Larry, Eleanor and the Negative Spirit do go through a bit of the same when they turn into Rebis. One scene shows him reading When Rabbit Howls.
  • Stepford Smiler: Elasti-Girl is given this trait in a team-up story with The Flash. We're told that since she used to be a glamorous movie star, being turned into a "super-powered freak" was especially hard on her, and she smiles constantly in order to "look pretty" and keep others from being afraid of her. She has no idea that it actually has the complete opposite effect. This isn't brought up again in any other DP story; Word of God says that it took place during the team's early days (post-Byrne reboot) when Rita was still getting used to her new life.
  • Superpower Lottery: The Quiz has "every superpower you haven't thought of." She's basically able to do whatever she wants as long as you aren't thinking about it.
  • Surreal Symbolic Heads
    • Several of Dorothy's imaginary friends and enemies take this form, particularly Damn All's family - his own is a newspaper with multiple eyes, Darling-Come-Home has a portrait of a light bulb, and Flying Robert has the head of a balloon.
    • There are also several examples in the Cult of the Unwritten Book. The Weeping Blades are flayed, beheaded corpses with the heads of blades, and the assassin group Fear the Sky all have the heads of celestial objects.
  • Take That: Towards the end of his run, Morrison put out a one-shot Doom Patrol special entitled "Doom Force." It highlighted every trope of the Liefeldian Dark Age had to offer, from the artistic failings to the horrible characters. It ended with one member of Young Blood Doom Force dead, and the remaining members declaring him a creep, walking away in an Everybody Laughs Ending.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    • Rebis, who is a combination of Larry Trainor and a nurse. Cliff still refers to him/her as "Larry," even though Rebis denies being Larry Trainor anymore.
    • Roughly played with in the Giffen series, which reveals Larry has been dead since the accident that turned him into Negative Man. Since then, it's been the N-Man entity in a variety of clones. But the N-Man isn't sure he's not Larry sometimes. Or something. The whole thing is sorta fuzzy for now.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The False Memory in Pollack's run. She started out as just one of the many personas belonging to the chameleon-like Identity Addict. When she came back in #83, she spends her time walking around giving people fake memories, eventually trying to insert herself in the Doom Patrol by manipulating their memories to her favor, such as making Coagula think she was raped as a teenager by her husband. Only Dorothy rejects the fake memories immediately and manages to snap her teammates back to their senses.
  • Transsexual: Coagula
  • Transvestite: Danny the Street (his male-geared stores, like gun shops, are covered in pink lace and the like), and a number of people who live on him.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The original team, with Robotman and Negative Man as the two guys and Elasti-Girl as the girl
  • Up to Eleven: Relative to the rest of the DC universe, the Doom Patrol and their foes step into this territory frequently.
  • Welcome to the Real World: It is heavily implied that the final issue of Grant Morrison's run takes place in the real world. Aside from the fact that this world apparently has no superheroes, it also has the same colour scheme as the last issue of Morrison's Animal Man, which explicitly takes place in "our" world. (Unless the Animal Man story was just a peyote trip.)
  • What Have I Become?: Most of the leads experience this at one point or another after their transformations.
  • Word Salad Horror: Grant Morrison's run was completely full of this. Word salads are used as magical spells, as utterances from mad demonic creatures like scissormen, and so on.