The World's Strangest Heroes!
February 19, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

With all the excitement in the air about Watchmen, let's take time to celebrate another team of heroes, a band of outcasts with unusual powers, brought together by a man in a wheelchair. Yes, of course, I'm talking about the Doom Patrol.

First launched in 1963 in the pages of "Greatest Adventure" – three months before the first appearance of the X-Men – the Doom Patrol was always set apart from more typical superhero fare (they were, after all, "the World's Strangest Heroes!"). While the silver-age DP adventures retain their ageless charm, it wasn't until Grant Morrison got a hold of the team that the series took a detour into surrealism and postmodernism. (Here's a PDF of the first Morrison issue. It got stranger, wonderfully so, from there.)

The Doom Patrol made several more appearances after the Morrison tenure, and another one is on the way with the recent announcement that Keith Giffen is resurrecting the team "in a very big way."
posted by jbickers (64 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, Mike Mignola quite shamelessly ripped off Doom Patrol. Heh.

"...the Brain, nothing more than a disembodied brain floating in a fishbowl, his assistant Monsieur Mallah, a machine-gun-toting gorilla granted genius intelligence and the ability to speak by the Brain..."
posted by Brocktoon at 3:49 PM on February 19, 2009


Morrison's run with Doom Patrol was all kinds of awesome. Coinciding with Vertigo's infancy and another of my fave surrealist comics, Milligan's run with Shade, The Changing Man. Good times.
posted by elendil71 at 3:50 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting. I think Giffen will do a much better job than Byrne did; Giffen's great at writing characters with, well, character and individual voices. Too bad he's got to step into those awfully large shoes that Morrison left. Giffen raised an interesting point about Doom Patrol; as outcasts they only have each other, and that's something that Morrison recognized, and something Byrne did not, to the title's detriment.

Mr. Nobody for President!
posted by lekvar at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


God I love the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol - it's pure condensed awesome right there on the page.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2009


I think Giffen will do a much better job than Byrne did...too bad he's got to step into those awfully large shoes that Morrison left.

I didn't really pay much attention to the Byrne run as it just didn't seem like my kind of thing. These days I feel sorry for Rachel Pollack, who picked up immediately after Morrison, very much wanted to continue in a Morrison vibe, and just ended up producing an awful plate of shit. I think she very much wanted to do the right thing, but no one was really going to like it.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2009


Oh, and let's not forget Doom Force.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2009


I was collecting the originals as back issues when they were $2 to $5 each. Some of the few comics I sold back in the "Going to Grad School Sale of '00" I wish I still had. They were good fun. At the same time I was buying Rip Hunter: Time Master and Sea Devils. At the time I was buying them (mid-1980's) it seemed like there was this whole bunch of second-tier oddball DC heroes that no one was interested in.

I've never read the Morrison Doom Patrols. I assume they have been collected in a trade paperback I'll have to add to my extensive to-read list of "comics I missed."
posted by marxchivist at 4:01 PM on February 19, 2009


I've never read the Morrison Doom Patrols. I assume they have been collected in a trade paperback I'll have to add to my extensive to-read list of "comics I missed."

Yup, Vertigo has a really really nice series of trades collecting this period, I want to say it's something like 6 or 7 books. They've done the same thing with other notable "mature" titles from that era (Alan Moore's Swamp thing is another one worth dropping some coin on). Notably, they have not yet given this treatment to the aforementioned "Shade: The Changing Man," which is a shame.
posted by jbickers at 4:03 PM on February 19, 2009


I actually liked the Pollack run, on the whole. It wasn't as great as Morrison's, but it was still pretty solid. Byrne's was a shitpile.

I remember being at Dave's Comics back in the day, buying Spawn and X-Force shit, and hearing the dudes there talk about how awesome Doom Patrol was. I picked up a copy, thumbed through it, and thought, Oh my god, this sucks. Fucking gibberish and the art's gay.

I also remember thinking that Morrison's run on Animal Man was gay, and that if that was the best DC could do, I'd stick with awesome folks like Rob Leifeld and Todd McFarelan.

Dear Teenage Self,

You were wrong and stupid.

Love,

Current me.
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on February 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Really nice Brian Bolland covers on the trades too.

Also suggested: Animal Man
posted by Artw at 4:08 PM on February 19, 2009


Tangentially related to Doom Patrol: Sadly, DC has declined to reprint the Flex Mentallo miniseries, despite Charles Atlas' trademark-infringement suit being dismissed. Doom Patrol/Morrison fans, and everybody else, you owe it to yourselves to read this miniseries.
posted by lekvar at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


They'd only really have to collect Shade up to 50, TBH.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2009


I remember being at Dave's Comics back in the day...
posted by klangklangston at 7:08 PM


Where was this Dave's Comics you speak of? Didn't happen to be in Royal Oak, MI, did it?
posted by marxchivist at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2009


Animal Man made me cry.

Actually for a guy who’s all about surrealism and chaos magic and detached weirdness Morrison sure does know how to go for the emotional gut punch.
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


When Marvel's New Universe launched, I always assumed that DP7 was a homage to/rip off of Doom Patrol.

I remember reading on USENET years ago that the first appearance of the word "fuck" occurred in the letters page of Doom Patrol during Grant Morrison's run.

Anyhow, not only was Morrison's work on the series great fun, he introduced me to the characters of Struwwelpeter - something my subconscious mind has gladly fed on for nearly two decades now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2009


Also, DP7 sounds like some sort of horrifying tentacle porn activity.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2009


Artw, I've read that Morrison wrote The Filth as a response to his cat dying. So yeah, no matter how weird he gets, he still writes from a personal perspective.
posted by lekvar at 4:21 PM on February 19, 2009


They'd only really have to collect Shade up to 50, TBH.

Yeah, Shade sadly got pretty lame near the end there. Far cry from Milligan/McCarthy's pure joyous psychedelic romps in the earlier issues.
posted by elendil71 at 4:24 PM on February 19, 2009


Don't forget Simon Bisley's covers, they perfectly signaled "We're gonna fuck with your head, boy, and you're gonna like it."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:38 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Danny The Street is my co-pilot.
posted by murphy slaw at 4:39 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Where was this Dave's Comics you speak of? Didn't happen to be in Royal Oak, MI, did it?"

Nah, it was the good ol' one upstairs in Ann Arbor, around the corner from upstairs Pete's Arcade. I never did make it to the one in Royal Oak, though they were all related (and if I recall correctly, the ones in Ann Arbor lived on after Royal Oak closed).

But with the death of Daves and Noir Leather in RO, there's really no reason to go there, is there?
posted by klangklangston at 4:44 PM on February 19, 2009


I never figured it out back then, so I might just as well ask: was Rebis the first hermaphrodite superhero?

Morrison, you bastard, you owe me so many fried braincells it's getting scary.
posted by Iosephus at 4:45 PM on February 19, 2009


Bona to vada.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:46 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am the invisible fire that works in secret.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:47 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doom Patrol sits in a little fiery egg at the back of my mind, cracking open and belching forth random phrases throughout the day. Those are the two it picks most often.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2009


And of course, THE SCISSORMEN from Orqwith, the City of Bone. (Why is there something instead of nothing?)
posted by eyeballkid at 4:51 PM on February 19, 2009


Nah, it was the good ol' one upstairs in Ann Arbor

Continuing with the Dave's Comics derail: I forgot about the Ann Arbor store, I moved from Michigan in 1983, don't think it was open then. I went to Dave's original location on 11 (12?) Mile Rd. and visited the swank downtown Royal Oak store when I came back to visit. Here's a pic I took of the back door of the original Royal Oak location.

Okay, one more, hadn't thought about Dave for a long time. One time we were hanging out and bunch of 10 year old boys came in all spastic with their ice cream and trashing the place. Dave said "This isn't the touch-me zoo, now get the fuck out of my store!" I think I popped an internal organ laughing at that one.

Yeah, Doom Patrol rocks. Gotta read those Morrison issues, thanks for the post.
posted by marxchivist at 4:57 PM on February 19, 2009


Good God! I am now having Danny the Street flashbacks! Oh, how wonderful it all is!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:21 PM on February 19, 2009


Fantastic. Thank you for this. "And in ran the great, long-legged scissor men..."
posted by chinston at 5:40 PM on February 19, 2009


Ah, Doom Patrol. I'll never forget that my first exposure to you was The Codpiece.

Such sweet, sweet times.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:50 PM on February 19, 2009


marxchivist, you're in for a treat. I started reading Doom Patrol after Morrison took over, and it will always be one of my favorite comics. It's not always the most coherent story-telling, but it sure is some of the most fun. And Crazy Jane is one of the best ideas for a superheroine ever - 60 or so highly dysfunctional personalities, each with its own superpower. The issue where Cliff has to rescue her by diving deep into her multi-layered self is brilliant.

The team's journey through the painting that ate Paris - now we're fighting villains in Cubism, now in Futurism - is fantastic, too. And Danny the transvestite Street. A cross-dressing city block that flits in and out of time and space in different cities, providing a haven for weirdos everywhere. And how about the one where the ape-faced Dorothy's superpowers meet her first period? Or the battle against The Quiz, who has every superpower you haven't yet thought of, so you have to fight her while yelling out superpowers so she'd lose them.

Should I go on?
posted by mediareport at 6:05 PM on February 19, 2009


Sign me up mediareport, that sounds great. I think I got a Border's gift card around here, which trade collection should I buy first?
posted by marxchivist at 6:08 PM on February 19, 2009


I once found 95% of Morrison's run of Doom Patrol on Ebay. Original issues, in good shape, for about 15 dollars. Best ebay score ever!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:12 PM on February 19, 2009


which trade collection should I buy first?

Morrison started with issue 19; the first trade of his stuff is called Crawling From the Wreckage. It starts after some big hoodoo bullshit genebomb DC universe thing, but who gives a fuck. I knew nothing about that when I started. It doesn't matter. The team's a mess and the Chief is putting it back together - now, begin. The second trade, The Painting That Ate Paris, is where things really start to go beautifully batshit insane. You'll know after that if you want to continue.

When you're done, ask me to borrow the Flex Mentallo spinoff 4-issue miniseries; it's without a doubt the most fucked-up wonderful meditation on sex, drugs and spandexed supers.

Now please tell me you've read The Invisibles...
posted by mediareport at 6:29 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Mr. Nobody is about my favorite character from anything ever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:38 PM on February 19, 2009


Oh, I should warn you that the art on Morrison's DP run isn't the best. Some folks really like Richard Case's work; I thought it was usually just ok, only occasionally really good and once in a while amazing.
posted by mediareport at 6:39 PM on February 19, 2009


Now please tell me you've read The Invisibles...

no...

I think the last comic I bought new was Xenozoic Tales #14, or maybe an issue of Hate. I always drop in the comic threads here and occasionally hear about something and think "that sound's cool," but this whacked out Doom Patrol stuff has me excited.

I guess for tonight I'll eat a bowl of ice cream and read my Berni Wrightson Swamp Things.

On preview: I think Case was doing Doom Patrol when I was still buying comics, that is probably why I shunned it. I'm more open minded now.
posted by marxchivist at 6:44 PM on February 19, 2009


The Candlemaker really was creepy as fuck.
posted by Artw at 7:03 PM on February 19, 2009


Oh, I should warn you that the art on Morrison's DP run isn't the best.

It doesn't wow you, but it serves it's purpose. I kind of think DP would be less good witha more showy artist.
posted by Artw at 7:04 PM on February 19, 2009


Alright...I've waited most of the evening... let's talk about Watchmen... 'cuz I'm going to the premier!
posted by HuronBob at 7:16 PM on February 19, 2009


The art on most Vertigo titles was pretty rough at the start. At best, it served its purpose and little else. Gahe, the first issues of Sandman were horrible, and I say that as a big fan of Sam Keith's later stuff. Same with Hellblazer and Shade. I suspect that the bean-counters at DC didn't really expect the titles to do very well and paid accordingly. This would give a lot of second- and third-tier talent a voice, experience, and creative freedom.

A good tradeoff, in my opinion.

And yeah, Shade was the shit. I still threaten to hang up the freshly-dug-up bones of my ancestors every Christmas. Damned kids these days with their store-bought, plastic bones. Tradition means nothing to them.
posted by lekvar at 7:58 PM on February 19, 2009


I loved the Punisher parody. The Codpiece was from Pollack's run, & hearing that she used to be a he makes it read even more oddly.

Uh, I'm incoherent but that seems kinda fitting.

I like Giffen, but I'll probably consider this a parallel version, with Morrison's issues in a bubble, unchangeable.

So how long do we have until editorial kills Giffen's DP characters after misreading them?

Oh: Morrison brought in tons of outside influences, but those who followed were influenced mainly by... Morrison.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:11 PM on February 19, 2009


Agreed on Shade's first 30 issues, give or take. An amazing story - *and* great art.
posted by mediareport at 10:01 PM on February 19, 2009


First launched in 1963 in the pages of "Greatest Adventure" – ...

posted by jbickers


Uh, not to be a Comic Pedant, but that should be "MY Greatest Adventure".

(Disclaimer: I am a Comic Pedant in real life.)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:23 PM on February 19, 2009


Did someone say... BEARDHUNTER?!?

Did someone say... an EXCERPT OF AN ABORTED SCRIPT FOR DP #45 AND COVER BY BRENDAN MCCARTHY?!?

Do I probably enjoy Doom Patrol more than is healthy? Yes. Yes I do.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:02 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Agreed on Shade's first 30 issues, give or take. An amazing story - *and* great art.

Wait, your cut-off point is Growing Pains?
posted by Artw at 11:29 PM on February 19, 2009


BEARD HUNTER

<3 <3 <3

quick! let's oil ourselves up so we can slip away from him!
posted by Pronoiac at 12:48 AM on February 20, 2009


The art on most Vertigo titles was pretty rough at the start. At best, it served its purpose and little else. Gahe, the first issues of Sandman were horrible, and I say that as a big fan of Sam Keith's later stuff. Same with Hellblazer and Shade.

Oh, but no. I've said before that Hellblazer ends for me when John Ridgway leaves (in like issue 9 of 200-some-odd), and that's...kinda an exaggeration, but only a small one. And the art was never Shade's problem (the writing wasn't either, until...yeah...after #50; I agree, there wasn't much reason to keep going from there).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:11 AM on February 20, 2009


While tripping my balls off one night, I read all of my Machine Man comics listening to Tangerine Dream. I thought I was in another universe. Ditko's Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer. Oh wow. The colors. Ah yeah, buoy!
posted by doctorschlock at 4:18 AM on February 20, 2009


Wait, your cut-off point is Growing Pains?

"Growing Pains" was amazing, and that ended at #35. I think I pretty much lost interest after "Season in Hell," which ended at #49, so anywhere in there. But damn, that run from 19-35 is beautifully bizarre stuff.
posted by mediareport at 4:38 AM on February 20, 2009


Grant Morrison is one of my favorite writers and the collection of Doom Patrol is probably been my favorite thing I've gotten from a comic book store in the last few years. While I don't like the first volume at all, I think what's amazing about the other ones is how Morrison basically created a new narrative style when writing Doom Patrol--a style that's more improvisational than world-building and one that reveals how realist and psychological most comics are. While it's become an internet cliche to discuss Morrison's alleged oedipal struggle against Alan Moore, I think it's interesting that Doom Patrol came out at the same time as Watchmen, Dark Knight, Maus, and Sandman; GM is parodying a separate type of comic popular at that time (the last issue of DP is a Rob Liefeld X-Force parody), but it's not hard to be struck by how earnest and humorless both Watchmen and X-Force, though on opposite poles of respectability, seem when compared to Doom Patrol's fooling around and vamping.

I've been struck by how much some of his recent comics, like Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, are willing to sketch in the edge of the DC Universe with Doom Patrol-like arbitrariness (cf. the pogo stick-riding superheros in the first issue of SS and the famous Tawny the Tiger jetpack scene in FC with Niles Caulder riding a rocket-powered lazy-boy recliner in the DP Kirby pastiche). A lot of comic fans get upset about GM because he's not as linear or continuity-minded as them, but a quick look at DP shows that it's silly to ask him to provide an explanation for anything; the opaque abrasiveness of Final Crisis is, in a way, not disconnected from the Dadaism of Doom Patrol

Anyways, if anyone is interested, I've written an essay on Doom Patrol in raintaxi
posted by kensanway at 6:18 AM on February 20, 2009


I always thought Morrison was mostly taking the piss. I remember a sign in one of his comics which exclaimed Eat Bobby Davro!
posted by fullerine at 7:06 AM on February 20, 2009


Actually for a guy who’s all about surrealism and chaos magic and detached weirdness Morrison sure does know how to go for the emotional gut punch.

Morrison's biggest strength is that, when he's on, he maintains a really good mix of crazy shit and emotional connection. People who can do either one (in any medium, really, but especially in Big-2 Comics) are uncommon, people who can do both are rare and amazing. And for my money, his Doom Patrol's probably his second-best extended stretch of being on (the best being All-Star Superman).

I didn't read it until well after 2000, but for some reason (probably the art) Morrison's Doom Patrol always makes me feel like it's 1990 and I'm going to go hang out with high school weirdos and listen to the Smiths.
posted by COBRA! at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2009


I'd agree with COBRA! that "when [Morrison]'s on, he maintains a really good mix of crazy shit and emotional connection"; when he's not, though, he tends to be a little too infatuated with his own cleverness. Whether you think Watchmen is "earnest and humorless" or not, it remains a much more effective work, on many more levels, than anything that Morrison has done, and yes, that includes The Invisibles.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:07 AM on February 20, 2009


I might agree that Watchmen is more effective than anything Morrison's done, but I don't think Morrison is as interested in creating discrete masterpieces in the same way Moore is. I can't think of anything Morrison has done that doesn't have a mistake in it (except maybe Superman, which I didn't like as much as everyone else), but I think that his body of work as a whole is more interesting than Moore's.
posted by kensanway at 8:14 AM on February 20, 2009


Morrison's biggest strength is that, when he's on, he maintains a really good mix of crazy shit and emotional connection.

And when he's off, you get wild, directionless shit like The Filth. Morrison's always been a bit hit and miss. I loved his Doom Patrol run, but The Invisibles lost me about halfway through and then found me and then totally lost me.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:57 AM on February 20, 2009


wow, this is awesome. those original books are like this atomic age picture-perfect example of the comics' joyful 4 color stereotype. I love it. I wish I'd known about this before.

must... download... cbr's...
posted by shmegegge at 9:56 AM on February 20, 2009


And when he's off, you get wild, directionless shit like The Filth.

Sure, but what the hell... usually when he fails he at least fails big.
posted by COBRA! at 10:10 AM on February 20, 2009


My first impression of The Filth was the same as yours, eyeballkid. But I just re-read it a couple weeks ago. It's a lot better than I remember. Give it a second chance.

Seaguy, on the other hand... I dunno. Fun but masturbatory.
posted by lekvar at 10:30 AM on February 20, 2009


The more often one reads The Filth, the tighter is gets, much like The Invisibles, which is impaired mostly by a lack of aesthetic consistency that'a far more jarring than anything in the story. The nearly incomprehensible penultimate issues wherein a bunch of past illustrators each do a couple pages bears this out - if there had been only one artist on the series, or one artist for each volume, I doubt TI would have the reputation it does.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:40 PM on February 20, 2009


but The Invisibles lost me about halfway through and then found me and then totally lost me.


I'm pretty sure that was the point.
posted by Sparx at 2:58 AM on February 21, 2009


Your sentence is up!

(TBH, though book 3 gets a bit Promethea/fiction suit I had no problem at all following 1 and 2. The revolutionary France bit, which apparently drove readers away in masses, seemed perfectly straightforwards to me though.)
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on February 21, 2009


heh.
posted by Artw at 8:32 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got one thing out of this: superhero comics could be cool when trippin'.
posted by Leper_Messiah at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2009


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