The comic book that will not die, the Doom Patrol, will once again be seeing a new volume from DC Comics. Anyone keeping track know which volume this will be? Me neither.
I don’t mean to hammer home the point that this title has seen more iterations than any other comic on the market but it just bothers me that DC is not really learning from their mistakes here.
Each version so far has almost entirely divorced itself from what came before and then introduced ideas that proved far too outlandish to include in a relaunch, then it has gotten canceled. From the fan favorite Grant Morrison absurdist run to the all but unknown John Byrne volume, each time the title has resurfaced it has looked drastically different. This may not be such a problem if the characters didn’t exist in continuity. And there’s also the pesky problem of the precious few fans who get excited by news like this only to be frustrated by the end result. Doom Patrol fans walk around with burnt fingers, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
All that said… this time sounds very promising. Star writer Keith Giffen and artist Matthew Clarke (very annoyed that his name was omitted in the NYCC announcement of the series this past weekend) are the ideal team to make this series work. Essentially a story of freakish victims of misfortune who band together because they have nowhere else to go, the Doom Patrol in its infancy was such a dynamic comic series that many feel it was mimicked by the X-Men at Marvel. Giffen seeks to return the series to its rightful oddball status and Clarke is anxious to begin the series he has waited his career to work on (if he can ever get over his rightfully hurt feelings).
In an interview with cbr.com, Giffen had much to say about the series, and laughed hysterically at one point when the interviewer referred to the Doom Patrol as a kind of ‘alternate trinity’ Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It takes skill to make Giffen laugh and I’m sure he appreciated it.
“There is the opportunity to tell almost any kind of story that you want to tell within the framework of the Doom Patrol book, as long as you realize that you are dealing with characters that have been published for years,” said Giffen. “This isn’t one of those things where I am going to go in and do ‘Doom Patrol’ my way and erase everything that’s ever happened. Everything that Doom Patrol has been through is part of their history. I just want to take that and push the group not so much a different direction but just not in the direction that they have been bumping up against for a long time now. And one of the things I think Geoff Johns does better than anybody else in the comic book business right now is he can take a character and find a way of making all of these events from the past work within the context of the story that Geoff wants to tell.
“So that’s definitely what we’re going to be doing with the Doom Patrol. We’re not going to just ignore what Grant did or what John Byrne did. They’ve got a history and that history will be acknowledged. But I am hoping if you pick up ‘Doom Patrol’ #1 and you’ve never heard of Doom Patrol before, you can get into the story.” (read the rest here)
Introduced in the pages of ‘My Greatest Adventure,’ The Doom Patrol was the brainchild of Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani. Featuring the pop idol race car driver Cliff Steele (reduced to a brain encased in a robot body due to a racing accident), test pilot Larry Trainor (wrapped in specially treated bandages to keep his radioactive body from infecting others and to keep the strange negative man from escaping) and starlet Rita Farr (made into a freak capable of changing size by inhaling unearthly vapors during a movie shoot), the team is lead by a man simply referred to as ‘the Chief’ (brilliant Niles Caulder who is confined to a wheelchair). Many readers see the incessant bickering that takes place in the pages of the Doom Patrol as being similar to Marvel’s Fantastic Four, but as writer Arnold Drake gleefully pointed out to me at a convention, ‘they hate each other and they hate themselves… they’re just miserable!’ It’s this kind of self-hated wrapped into a super hero that would make such a series commonplace nowadays in a world of comics like Ennis’ The Boys, but this was 1963!
The team made a big splash when they were featured in the pages of the New Teen Titans of Wolfman and Perez, causing a steady revival of interest that eventually brought the team back in print. More recently, the DP made an appearance on the small screen in the Cartoon Network series Teen Titans. I still avidly avoid the PIXAR film The Incredibles due to its shameless cribbing of the Doom Patrol and was not surprised at all to hear that a feature film was in the works… three years ago. No matter how you cut it, these guys have made an impact into the mass comic book psyche, yet they cannot remain in print for some reason.
Many creative teams have attempted to make their mark on the series, but none have really touched upon the genius that was so very visible on the pages of the original series. I was surprised to hear that Drake somewhat respected Morrison’s version but not at all surprised that he hated Byrne’s (which is actually worth reading I might add). This latest version of the comic has a lot going for it, but as writer Giffen has noted, a lot against it as well.
I wish this latest Doom Patrol series the best of luck… it’ll need it.