These were the strangest heroes of all, their leader was a scientific genius confined to a wheelchair. The team was made up of misfits and outcasts, rejected by society. I’m talking about the famous formula that made the X-Men such a huge hit, right? Wrong. The above is a description of a book published several months before the first issue of the X-Men ever hit the newsstands. I’m talking about none other than DC’s the Doom Patrol.
Think of it as the best book you’ve never read. According to Arnold Drake, who created the team with the help of longtime collaborator Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani: around 1962-3, while working as a freelance writer for DC, he learned that the ‘omnibus’ multi-story books, i.e. House of Mystery, Strange Adventures, My Greatest Adventure, were in trouble. The super-hero was back in fashion and DC wanted a super-hero presence to help lift the sagging sales of My Greatest Adventure. It wasn’t long before Drake came up with the basic idea for the Doom Patrol and the rest, as they say, is comic book history.
Made up of Niles Caulder, known as ‘the Chief’ who was the groups brilliant but morally flawed leader, Rita Farr an ex-athlete and Hollywood actress who was granted powers to change her size and henceforth called: Elasti-girl. Larry Trainor, a one-time test pilot for the US air-force whose exposure to radiation disfigured him while also giving him the power to project an energy form out of his body. Trainor becomes known as Negative Man. And finally, Cliff Steele, a daring sportsman, undergoes a terrible race car accident leaving his body mangled beyond repair. Once Caulder transfers Steele’s brain into a robot body of his creation it leads to Steele becoming: Robot Man and completing the team’s original line up.
The best part of the Doom Patrol was the group dynamic. Caulder’s secrecy, Trainor’s unrequited affection for Rita, Cliff’s self-pity. Every issue featured the group going on suicide missions and simultaneously learning to solve both internal and external problems. DC Universe recently announced that a live action Doom Patrol series may happen. This has the potential to be a good thing if done right. It may also draw people’s attention back to the original Doom Patrol comics, which is always a good thing.
This one has it all. The origins of the team members, the introduction of long time antagonist General Immortus, and a crash-landed alien space craft. Everything that made the Doom Patrol unique is featured here. The squabbling, their mistrust of each other and, most of all, the overcoming of that mistrust leading to a sense of camaraderie when the team realizes the good they can accomplish by working together. At the time of its publication this was a runaway hit, and apparently it was read by Stan Lee since the X-Men would appear a few months later. If you hate Silver Age stories, the early issues will take some getting used to since they are of their time. Once you give them a chance, you’ll find that they reward the effort. This comic is a DC Silver Age key and will cost you a fair amount of money to own in high grade. An 8.0 graded copy has a fair market value of $1,350.00. This issue has shown strong returns over the last few years in almost all grades and there’s no reason why that trend should reverse anytime soon.
Larry Trainer was in love with Rita Farr but his beautiful partner ended up marrying billionaire Steve Dayton. Dayton wins her over by inventing a helmet that gives him special powers and transforms him into becoming: Mento. Larry (or ‘Old Mummy Face’ as Cliff rudely calls him) was none too happy about Rita marrying Dayton, but eventually he learned to accept their union. Later on in the comic’s run, Rita and her husband adopt an orphan boy named Garfield Logan. This is the first appearance of the green skinned hero known as Beast Boy, later a central member of the New Teen Titans. Not as out of reach price-wise as My Greatest Adventure #80, this comic is nonetheless another expensive purchase in high grade, a mid-grade 5.5 copy, on the other hand, will cost around $290.00. Returns are consistently strong on this key.
This is the last issue in the original run and features the death of the group. As their missions progressed the team would fight many dangerous villains but none were more central antagonists to the Doom Patrol over time than the ‘Brother Hood of Evil’. In particular, one member of the Brotherhood, Madame Rouge, would end up being the proximate cause of the death of the Chief, Larry and Rita (Cliff and Logan would survive). Joining with an outlaw called Captain Zahl, Rouge forces the Doom Patrol to choose between their own lives or those of 14 people they’ve never met in a small town in Maine called Codsville. They die like true heroes sacrificing themselves for the 14 strangers. This is a classic and can be found in low grade for affordable prices. A 9.6 copy sold on Comic Connect in 2013 for $547.00, this signaled a downward trend in prices which was reflected in the price of lower grade copies. Now would seem to be a great time to buy this comic.