Showcase Presents the Doom Patrol volume 2


By Arnold Drake, Bruno Premiani, Bob Brown & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-85768-077-8

In 1963 DC/National Comics converted a venerable anthology-mystery title – My Greatest Adventure – into a fringe superhero team-book with the 80th issue, introducing a startling squad of champions with their thematic roots still firmly planted in the B-movie monster films of the era which had for so long informed the tone and timbre of the parent title.

That aesthetic subtly shaped the progression of the strip – which took control of the comic within months, prompting a title change to The Doom Patrol with #86 – and throughout a six-year run made the series one of the most eerily innovative and incessantly hip reads of that generation.

No traditional team of masked adventurers, the cast comprised a robot, a mummy and a 50-foot woman in a mini-skirt, who joined forces with and were guided by a brusque, domineering, crippled mad scientist, all equally determined to prove themselves by fighting injustice their way…

Spanning March 1966 to their radically bold demise in the September/October 1968 final issue, this concluding quirky monochrome compilation collects the Fabulous Freaks’ last exploits from Doom Patrol #102 to 121.

The dramas were especially enhanced by the superb skills of Italian cartoonist and classicist artist Giordano Bruno Premiani, whose comfortably detailed, subtly representational illustration made even the strangest situation frighteningly authentic and grimly believable.

As such he was the perfect vehicle to squeeze every nuance of comedy and pathos from the captivatingly involved and grimly light-hearted scripts by Arnold Drake who always proffered a tantalising believably world for the outcast heroes to strive in.

Those damaged champions comprised competitive car racer Cliff Steele, but only after he’d had “died” in a horrific pile up, with his undamaged brain transplanted into a fantastic mechanical body – without his knowledge or permission…

Test pilot Larry Trainor had been trapped in an experimental stratospheric plane and become permanently radioactive, with the dubious benefit of gaining a semi-sentient energy avatar which could escape his body to perform incredible stunts for up to a minute at a time. To pass safely amongst men Trainor had to constantly wrap himself in special radiation-proof bandages.

Former movie star Rita Farr had been exposed to mysterious gases which gave her the unpredictable and, at first, uncontrolled ability to shrink or grow to incredible sizes.

These outcasts were brought together by brilliant but enigmatic Renaissance Man Niles Caulder who, as The Chief, sought to mould the solitary misfits into a force for good. The wheelchair-bound savant directed the trio of solitary strangers in many terrifying missions as they slowly grew into a uniquely bonded family…

Firmly established in the heroic pantheon, the Doom Patrol teamed with fellow outsiders The Challengers of the Unknown in #102, battling murderous shape-shifting maniac Multi-Man and his robotic allies as they planned to unleash a horde of zombies from a lost world upon modern humanity in ‘8 Against Eternity’.

Meanwhile, multi-millionaire Steve Dayton – who had created the psycho-kinetic superhero persona Mento solely to woo and wed Rita, met the outrageous, obnoxious Gar Logan. It was disgust at first sight, but neither the ruthless, driven authority figure nor the wildly rebellious Beast Boy realised how their lives would soon entwine.

Whilst in Africaas a toddler Loganhad contracted a rare disease. Although his scientist parent’s experimental cure had beaten the contagion before they died, it left the boy the colour of cabbage and able to change shape at will. A protracted storyline commenced in #100 wherein the secretive, chameleonic kid revealed how he was now an abused orphan being swindled out of his inheritance by his guardian Nicholas Galtry. The greedy, conniving accountant had even leased his emerald-hued charge to rogue scientists…

Rita especially had empathised with Gar’s plight and resolved to free him from the unscrupulous Galtry whatever the cost…

DP #103 offered two tales beginning with the tragedy which ensued when Professor Randolph Ormsby asked for the team’s aid in a space shot. When the doddery savant was transformed into a rampaging flaming monster dubbed ‘The Meteor Man’ it took the entire patrol as well as Beast Boy and Mento to secure a happy outcome.

‘No Home for a Robot’, however, continued to reveal the Mechanical Marvel’s early days following Caulder’s implantation of Cliff’s brain into an artificial body. The shock had seemingly driven the patient crazy and Steele subsequently went on a city-wide rampage, continuously hunted and hounded by the police. Here the ferrous fugitive found temporary respite with his brother Randy but quickly realised that trouble would trail him anywhere…

Issue #104 astounded everybody when Rita abruptly stopped refusing the loathed Steve and became ‘The Bride of the Doom Patrol’. However the guest star-stuffed wedding was almost spoiled when alien arch-foe Garguax and the Brotherhood of Evil attempted to crash the party and murder the groom. So unhappy were Cliff and Larry with Rita’s “betrayal” that they almost let them…

Even whilst indulging in her new bride status in issue #105, Rita couldn’t abandon the team and joined them in tackling old elemental enemy Mr. 103 during a ‘Honeymoon of Terror’ whilst the back-up yarn ‘The Robot-Maker Must Die’ concluded the origin of Cliff Steele as the renegade attempted to kill the Surgeon who had imprisoned him in a metal hell… which finally give Caulder a chance to fix the malfunction in Steele’s systems…

‘Blood Brothers’ in #106 introduced domestic disharmony as Rita steadfastly refused to be a good trophy wife and resumed the hunt for Mr. 103 with the rest of the Patrol. Her separate lives continued to intersect however when Galtry hired the elemental assassin to wipe Gar Logan and his freakish allies off the books.

The back-up section then shifted focus onto ‘The Private World of Negative Man’: recapitulating Larry Trainor’s doomed flight and the radioactive close encounter which turned him into a walking mummy. However even after being allowed to walk amongst men again, the gregarious pilot found himself utterly isolated and alone…

Doom Patrol #107 began an epic story-arc which concerned ‘The War over Beast Boy’ as Rita and Steve started legal proceedings to get Gar and his money away from Galtry. The embezzler responded by opening a criminal campaign to beggar Dayton and inadvertently aligned himself with the Patrol’s greatest foes. Already distracted by the depredations of marauding automaton Ultimax, the hard-pressed heroes swiftly fell to the murderous mechanoid and Rita was dispatched to a barbaric sub-atomic universe…

Meanwhile the secret history of Negative Man continued with ‘The Race Against Dr. Death’ when fellow self-imposed outcast Dr. Drew tried to draw the pilot into a scheme to destroy the human species which had cruelly excluded them both, and the ebony energy being demonstrated the incredible power it possessed to save the world from fiery doom.

In #108 ‘Kid Disaster’ saw Mento diminished and despatched to rescue Rita whilst Galtry’s allies revealed their true nature before ambushing and killing the entire team…

… Almost.

With only Caulder and Beast Boy remaining, the exceedingly odd couple nevertheless pulled a off a major medical miracle to revive the heroes in time to endure the incredible attack of alien colossus ‘Mandred the Executioner’ whilst Larry’s ‘Flight into Fear’ at the comic’s rear proved that Drew hadn’t finished with the itinerant Negative Man yet…

DP #110 wonderfully wrapped up the Beast Boy saga as Galtry, Mandred and the Brotherhood marshalled one last futile attack before the ‘Trial by Terror’ finally found Gar Logan legally adopted by the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Dayton, but that was mere prelude to a titanic extraterrestrial invasion which began in #111 with the arrival of ‘Zarox-13, Emperor of the Cosmos!’

The cosmic overlord and his vanguard Garguax made short work of the Fabulous Freaks and with all Earth imperilled an unbelievable alliance was formed, but nor before ‘Neg Man’s Last Road!’ ended the origin of Larry Trainor as the alienated aviator again battled Dr. Death before joining a band of fellow outcasts in a bold new team venture…

Unbelievably, the uneasy alliance of the DP with The Brain, Monsieur Mallah and Madame Rouge as ‘Brothers in Blood!’ in #112 resulted in no betrayals and the last-minute defeat of the invincible aliens – and although no rivalries were reconciled, a hint of romance did develop between two of the sworn foes. At the back, untold tales of Beast Boy began as ‘Waif of the Wilderness’ introduced millionaire doctors Mark and Marie Logan, whose passion for charity took them to deepest Africa and into the sights of native witch-man Mobu who saw his powerbase crumbling.

When their toddler Gar contracted dreaded disease Sakutia, the parents’ radical treatment saved their child and gave him metamorphic abilities, but when they subsequently lost their lives in a river accident, the baby boy didn’t understand their plight and blithely watched them die.

Orphaned and lonely, the lad inadvertently saved the life of the local chief with his animal antics and was adopted… making of Mobu an implacable, but impatient enemy…

Doom Patrol #113 pitted the team against a malevolent mechanoid one-man army in ‘Who Dares to Challenge the Arsenal’ but the real drama was manifesting in a subplot which saw Caulder attempt to seduce the schizophrenic Rouge away from the lure of wickedness and malign influence of the Brotherhood of Evil. The issue also included another Beast Boy short as ‘The Diamonds of Destiny’ saw two thieves kidnap the amazing boy, just as concerned executor Nicholas Galtry took ship for the Dark Continent to find the heir to his deceased employers millions…

Issue #114 opened with the team attempting to aid Soviet asylum seeker Anton Koravyk and becoming embroiled in a time-twisting fight against an incredible caveman called ‘Kor – the Conqueror’ whilst in the Beast Boy segment ‘The Kid who was King of Crooks’ saw young Gar turned into a thief in Johannesburg until his faginish abductors had a fatal falling out, after which #115’s ‘The Mutant Master’ pitted the Patrol against three hideous but incredibly powerful atomic atrocities determined to eradicate the world which had cruelly treated them. Things might have fared better had not the Chief neglected his comrades in his obsessive – and at last successful – pursuit of Madame Rouge…

The comic also included ‘General Beast Boy – of the Ape Brigade!’ wherein a Nazi war criminal was accidentally foiled by the lost wandering Gar. The madman’s loss was the Galtry’s gain however, as his persistent search ended with the crook “rescuing” the boy and taking him back to safe, secure America…

The mutant maelstrom concluded in #116 as ‘Two to Get Ready… and Three to Die!’ featured the ebullient Caulder save the world from mutant-created obliteration and reap his reward in a passionate fling with the cured but still fragile Rouge.

The wheelchair-bound genius took centre stage in #117 as his neglect drove the team away and left him vulnerable to attack from a mystery man with a big grudge in ‘The Black Vulture’, but it took the whole reunited squad to deal with the grotesque madman ‘Videx, Monarch of Light’ even as the Brain challenged Caulder to return his stolen chattel Rouge. Nobody asked her what she wanted, though…

Tastes and fashions were changing in those turbulent late 1960s and the series was in trouble. Superheroes were about to plunge into a huge decline, and the creators addressed the problem head-on in #119 by embracing the psychedelic culture with a clever tale of supernal power, brainwashing and behaviour modification as the DP found themselves cowering ‘In the Shadow of the Great Guru’

An issue later they faced the furious Luddite ‘Rage of the Wrecker’ when a crazed scientist declared war on all technology – including the assorted bodies which kept Cliff Steele alive – before the then-unthinkable occurred and the series spectacularly, abruptly ended with what we all believed at the time to be ‘The Death of the Doom Patrol!’

Faced with cancellation, Editor Murray Boltinoff and creators Drake & Premiani had wrapped up all the long-running plot threads as the spurned Madame Rouge went off the deep end and declared war on both the Brain and Caulder’s “children”. Blowing up the Brotherhood, she then attacked the city until the Patrol removed themselves to an island fortress. Even there they were not safe and her forces ambushed them. Captured and facing death, she offered them mercy if they would abandon their principles and allow her to destroy a village of 14 complete strangers instead…

At a time when comics came and went with no fanfare and cancelled titles seldom provided any closure, the sacrifice and death of the Doom Patrol was a shocking event for us youngsters. We wouldn’t see anything like it again for decades – and never again with such style and impact…

With the edge of time and experience on my side, it’s obvious just how incredibly mature Drake & Premiani’s take on superheroes actually was, and these superbly engaging, frenetically fun and breathtakingly beautiful stories should rightfully rank amongst the very best Fights ‘n’ Tights tales ever told.

Even the mercilessly exploitative many returns of the team since can’t diminish that incredible impact, and no fan of the genre or comic dramas in general should consider their superhero education complete until they’ve seen these classics.
© 1966, 1967, 1968, 2010 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Brave and the Bold volume 2: The Book of Destiny


By Mark Waid, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1838-6 (hc)   978-1-4012-1861-4 (tpb)

The Book of Destiny is a mystical ledger which charts the history, progress and fate of all Reality and everything in it – except for the four mortals entrusted with its care at the end of The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck

The death-defying Challengers of the Unknown – cool pilot Ace Morgan, indomitable strongman Rocky Davis, intellectual aquanaut Prof. Haley and daredevil acrobat Red Ryan – live on borrowed time and were bequeathed the terrifying tome by Destiny of the Endless since their lives are not included within its horrifying pages…

After the staggering spectacle of the previous Brave and the Bold story-arc, here Mark Waid, George Pérez and inkers Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish are joined by co-penciller Jerry Ordway for a stunning sequel featuring most of the DC universe…

This compilation collects issues #7-12 of the high-energy, all-star revival of the venerable DC title and plays novel games with the traditional team-up format when a mysterious mage begins manipulating heroes and villains in a diabolical alchemical scheme to transform the cosmos forever…

Beginning with ‘Scalpels and Chainsaws’ wherein Wonder Woman and the ever-abrasive Power Girl rub each other the wrong way (oh please, what are you, ten!?) whilst tackling an undead invasion, the case takes a strange turn and the Princess of Power accidentally discovers the Caped Kryptonian has been brainwashed into trying to murder her cousin Superman

Their ill-tempered investigations lead to the fabled Lost Library of Alexandria and a disastrous confrontation with the deranged Dr. Alchemy, but he too is only a pre-programmed pawn – of a sinister presence called Megistus – who needs Power Girl to use the mystical artefact known as the Philosopher’s Stone to turn the Fortress of Solitude into pure Red Kryptonite…

Thanks to Wonder Woman’s battle savvy, the plot is frustrated and the stone thrown into the sun… just as Megistus intended…

All this has been read in the mystic chronicle by the Challengers and their fifth member Dr. June Robbins – whose merely mortal existence and eventual doom are tragically recorded in the Book. They rush off to investigate the universe-rending menace even as ‘Wally’s Choice’ brings the Flash and his rapidly aging children Jai and Iris West into unwelcome contact with manipulative genius Niles Caulder and his valiant Doom Patrol. “The Chief” claims he can cure the twins’ hyper-velocity malady, but Caulder never does anything for selfless reasons…

With no other hope, Wally and wife Linda acquiescence to the mad doctor’s scheme which relies on using elemental hero Rex Mason to stabilise their kids’ critical conditions. It might even have worked, had not Metamorpho been mystically abducted mid-process – consequently transforming the children into bizarre amalgams of Negative Man and Robot Man…

Worst of all, Flash was almost forced to choose which child to save and which should die…

Thinking faster than ever, the Scarlet Speedster beat the odds and pulled off a miracle, but in a distant place the pages of the Book were suddenly possessed and attacked the Challengers…

‘Changing Times’ featured a triptych of short team-up tales which played out as the Men that History Forgot battled a monster made of Destiny’s pages, beginning as the robotic Metal Men joined forces with young Robby Reed who could become a legion of champions whenever he needed to Dial H for Hero.

Sadly not even genius Will Magnus could have predicted the unfortunate result when crushingly shy robot Tin stuck his shiny digit in the arcane Dial…

Next, during WWII the combative Boy Commandos were joined by the Blackhawks in battling animated mummies intent on purloining the immensely powerful Orb of Ra from a lost pyramid, after which perpetually reincarnating warrior Hawkman joined substitute Atom Ryan Choi in defending Palaeolithic star-charts from the marauding Warlock of Ys, none of them aware that they were all doing the work of the malignly omnipresent Megistus…

The fourth chapter paralleled the Challengers’ incredible victory over the parchment peril with a brace of tales which saw the Man of Steel travel to ancient Britain to join heroic squire Brian of Kent (secretly the oppression-crushing Silent Knight) in bombastic battle against a deadly dragon, whilst the Teen Titans’ second ever case found Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash in Atlantis for the marriage of Aquaman and Mera.

Unfortunately Megistus’ drone Oceanus crashed the party, intent on turning Aqualad into an enslaved route map to the future…

And inCalifornia, the Challengers attempted to save Green Lantern’s Power Battery from being stolen only to find it in the possession of an ensorcelled Metamorpho…

As the Element Man easily overwhelmed Destiny’s Deputies, Jerry Ordway assumed the penciller’s role for issues #5-6.

‘Superman and Ultraman’ saw the natural enemies initially clash and then collaborate at the behest of an alternate universe’s Mr. Mixyezpitelik, who revealed the appalling scope and nature of Megistus’ supernal transformational ambitions, leading to a gathering of the heroic clans and a blistering Battle Royale in the roaring heart of the Sun…

With the fate of reality at stake and featuring a veritable army of guest stars ‘The Brave and the Bold’ wrapped up the saga with a terrible, tragic sacrifice from the noblest hero of all, whilst subtly setting the scene for the upcoming Final Crisis

With fascinating designs and pencil art from Ordway to tantalise the art lovers, this second captivating collection superbly embodies all the bravura flash and dazzle thrills superhero comics so perfectly excel at. This is a gripping fanciful epic with many engaging strands that perfectly coalesce into a frantic and fabulous free-for-all overflowing with all the style, enthusiasm and sheer exuberant joy you’d expect from the industry’s top costumed drama talents.

The Brave and the Bold: The Book of Destiny is another great story with great art, ideal for kids of all ages to read and re-read over and over again.
© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents the Doom Patrol Volume 1


By Arnold Drake, Bruno Premiani, Bob Brown & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-218-9

1963 was the year when cautious comicbook publishers finally realised that superheroes were back in a big way and began reviving or creating a host of costumed characters to battle outrageous menaces and dastardly villains.

Thus it was that at National Comics venerable anthology-mystery title My Greatest Adventure dipped its toe in the waters with a radical take on the fad and introduced a startling squad of champions with their thematic roots still firmly planted in the B-movie monster films of the era that subtly informed the parent comic.

No traditional team of masked adventurers, the cast comprised a robot, a mummy and an occasional 50-foot woman, who joined forces with and were guided by a brusque, domineering, crippled mad scientist to fight injustice in a whole new way…

Covering June 1963 to February 1966, this first quirky monochrome compilation collects the Fabulous Freaks’ earliest exploits from My Greatest Adventure #80-85 and thereafter, issues #86-101 of the renamed title once overwhelming reader response compelled editor Murray Boltinoff to change it to the Doom Patrol.

The dramas were especially enhanced by the drawing skills of Italian cartoonist and classicist artist Giordano Bruno Premiani whose highly detailed, subtly humanistic illustration made even the strangest situation dauntingly authentic and grittily believable as with the premier tale ‘The Doom Patrol’ scripted by Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, which saw a mysterious wheelchair bound scientist summon three outcasts to his home promising to change their miserable lives forever.

Competitive car racer Cliff Steele had died in a horrific pile up, but his undamaged brain had been transplanted into a fantastic mechanical body. Test pilot Larry Trainor had been trapped in an experimental stratospheric plane and become permanently radioactive, with the dubious benefit of gaining a semi-sentient energy avatar which could escape his body to perform incredible stunts for up to a minute at a time.

To pass safely amongst men Trainor had to constantly wrap himself in special radiation-proof bandages.

Ex-movie star Rita Farr had been exposed to mysterious gases which gave her the unpredictable and, at first, uncontrolled ability to shrink or grow to incredible sizes.

These outcasts were brought together by brilliant but enigmatic Renaissance Man The Chief, who sought to mould the solitary misfits into a force for good and quickly proved his point when a mad bomber attempted to blow up the city docks. The wheelchair bound savant directed the trio of strangers in defusing it and no sooner had the freaks realised their true worth than they were on their first mission…

In the second chapter ‘The Challenge of the Timeless Commander’ an incredibly ancient menace tried to capture a fallen alien ship, intent on turning its extraterrestrial secrets into weapons of world conquest, culminating in ‘The Deadly Duel with General Immortus’ which saw the Doom Patrol dedicate their lives to saving humanity from all threats.

My Greatest Adventure #81, solely scripted by Drake, featured ‘The Nightmare Maker’ combining everyday disaster response – saving a damaged submarine – with a nationwide plague of monsters. Stuck at base, The Chief monitored missions by means of a TV camera attached to Robotman’s chest, and quickly deduced the uncanny secret of the beasts and their war criminal creator Josef Kreutz.

A clever espionage ploy outed the Chief – or at least his image, if not name – in #82’s ‘Three Against the Earth!’, leading the team to believe Rita a traitor. When the cabal of millionaires behind the scheme were revealed as an alien advance guard who assumed the wheelchair-bound leader to be a rival invader, the inevitable showdown nearly cost Cliff what remained of his life…

‘The Night Negative Man Went Berserk!’ in #83 spotlighted the living mummy when a radio astronomy experiment interrupted the Negative Man’s return to Larry Trainor’s body, pitching the pilot into a coma and sending the ebony energy creature on a global spree of destruction. Calamity piled upon calamity when crooks stole the military equipment constructed to destroy it and only desperate improvisation by Cliff and Rita allowed avatar and host to reunite…

Issue #84 saw ‘The Return of General Immortus’ as ancient Babylonian artefacts led the team to the eternal malefactor, only to have the wily warrior turn the tables and take control of Robotman. Even though his comrades saved him Immortus escaped with the greatest treasures of all time…

My Greatest Adventure #85 was the last issue and featured ‘The Furies from 4,000 Miles Below’, monstrous subterranean horrors fuelled by nuclear forces. Despite having tricked Elasti-Girl into resuming her Hollywood career, the paternalistic heroes were pretty grateful when she turned up to save them all from radioactive incineration…

An unqualified success, the comicbook transformed into The Doom Patrol with #86 and celebrated by introducing ‘The Brotherhood of Evil’, an assemblage of international criminals and terrorists led by French genius-in-a-jar The Brain and his greatest creation, a super-intelligent talking gorilla dubbed Monsieur Mallah. The diametrically opposed teams first crossed swords after brotherhood applicant Mr. Morden stole Rog, a giant robot the Chief intended for the US military…

DP #87 revealed ‘The Terrible Secret of Negative Man’ when Brotherhood femme fatale Madame Rouge tried to seduce Larry. When the Brain’s unstoppable mechanical army invaded the city, Trainor was forced to remove his bandages and allow his lethal radiations to disrupt their transmissions…

An occasional series of short solo adventures kicked off in this issue with ‘Robotman Fights Alone’, wherein Cliff was dispatched to a Pacific island in search of an escaped killer, only to walk into a devastating series of WWII Japanese booby-traps…

All the mysteries surrounding the team’s leader were finally revealed in issue #88 with ‘The Incredible Origin of the Chief’, a blistering drama which told how brilliant but impoverished student Niles Caulder received unlimited funding from an anonymous patron interested in his researches on extending life. Curiosity drove Caulder to track down his benefactor and he was horrified to discover the money came from the head of a criminal syndicate who claimed to be eons old…

Immortus had long ago consumed a potion which extended his life and wanted the student to recreate it now that the years were finally catching up. To insure Caulder’s full cooperation, the General had a bomb inserted in the researcher’s chest and powered by his heartbeat …

Building a robot surgeon, Caulder tricked Immortus into shooting him, determined to thwart the monster at all costs. Once clinically dead, his Ra-2 doctor removed the now-inert explosive and revived the bold scientist, but tragically the robot had been too slow and Caulder lost the use of his legs…

Undaunted, the Man Who Lived Twice then destroyed all his research and went into hiding for years, with Immortus unaware that Caulder had actually succeeded in the task which had stymied history’s greatest doctors and biologists…

Now, under the alias of super-thief The Baron, Immortus had captured the Doom Patrol and demanded a final confrontation with the Chief. Luckily the wheelchair-locked inventor was not only a biologist and robotics genius but also adept at building concealed weapons…

In #89 the team tackled a duplicitous scientist who had devised a means to transform himself into ‘The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Menace’ and ‘The Private War of Elasti-Girl’ saw the Maid of Many Sizes use unsuspected detective skills to track down a missing soldier and reunite him with his adopted son before ‘The Enemy within the Doom Patrol’ saw shape-shifting Madame Rouge infiltrate the team and almost turn them against each other.

Issue #91 introduced multi-millionaire Steve Dayton who created a superhero persona solely to woo and wed Rita Farr. With such ambiguous motivations ‘Mento – the Man who Split the Doom Patrol’ was a radical character for the times, but at least his psycho-kinetic helmet proved a big help in defeating the plastic robots of grotesque alien invader Garguax

DP #92 found the team confronted by a temporal terror in ‘The Sinister Secret of Dr. Tyme’ with the abrasive Mento again saving the day whilst ‘Showdown on Nightmare Road’ in #93 saw The Brain’s latest monstrous scheme result in the evil genius being planted inside Robotman’s skull and poor Cliff transplanted into a horrific beast, until the Chief out-played the French Fiend at his own game…

Bob Brown stepped in to illustrate #94’s lead feature ‘The Nightmare Fighters’ with an eastern mystic’s uncanny abilities swiftly debunked by solid American science but Premiani was around to render the solo-feature ‘The Chief “Stands” Alone’ wherein Caulder eschewed his deputies’ aid to bring down bird-themed villain The Claw with a mixture of wit, nerve and weaponised wheelchair.

When The Chief attempted to cure Rita and Larry in DP #95 it resulted in switched powers and the ‘Menace of the Turnabout Heroes’, so naturally that would be the very moment the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man would pick for a return bout, whilst in #96, on ‘The Day the World Went Mad!’, the Patrol’s frantic investigations revealed that the global wave of insanity was caused by a deadly alliance of the Brotherhood, Garguax and Immortus, which they were helpless to counteract…

In issue #97 that sinister syndicate attacked Earth by transforming innocent citizens into crystal, spectacularly resulting in ‘The War against the Mind Slaves’, the return of Mento and a stunning showdown on the moon, after which #98 saw both ‘The Death of the Doom Patrol’ – a grievous over-exaggeration on behalf of transmutational foe Mr. 103, who was actually compelled to save Caulder from radiation poisoning – and the Brown-drawn solo-thriller ‘60 Sinister Seconds’ in which Negative Man had to find and make safe four atomic bombs in different countries within as minute…

Brown also handled both tales in Doom Patrol #99, starting with an old-fashioned battle against a deranged entomologist whose mechanical insects delivered ‘The Deadly Sting of the Bug Man’ and proceeding to the groundbreaking first appearance of shape-shifting juvenile delinquent ‘The Beast-Boy’ who burgled than saved the team with his incredible ability to become any animal he could imagine.

A vast extended storyline began with #100 and ‘The Fantastic Origin of Beast-Boy’ (illustrated by Premiani) wherein the obnoxious kid was revealed as orphan Gar Logan, a boy being slowly swindled out of his inheritance by his ruthless guardian Nicholas Galtry.

The conniving accountant had even leased his emerald-hued charge to scientist Dr. Weir for assorted experiments, but when the Patrol later tackled rampaging dinosaurs, the trail led to Gar who at last explained his uncanny powers.

Whilst in Africa as a toddler Logan had contracted a rare disease and his scientist father tried an experimental cure which left him the colour of cabbage but with the ability to change shape at will.

Now it appeared that Weir has used the lad’s altered biology to unlock the secrets of evolution… or had he?

Despite foiling the scheme the team have no choice but to return the boy to his guardian, but Rita is not prepared to leave the matter unresolved… The anniversary issue also saw the start of an extended multi-part thriller exploring Cliff’s early days after his accident and subsequent resurrection beginning with ‘Robotman… Wanted Dead or Alive’. Following Caulder’s implantation of Cliff’s brain into the mechanical body the shock drove the patient crazy and Steele went on a city wide rampage…

This first fantastic collection concludes with Doom Patrol #101 and the riotous romp ‘I, Kranus, Robot Emperor!’ wherein an apparently alien mechanoid had a far more terrestrial and terrifying origin, but the real meat came from the subtle war between Galtry and the Chief for possession of Beast Boy.

The tale ended on a pensive cliffhanger as the Patrol then dashed off to rescue fellow adventurers the Challengers of the Unknown – a tale for the next volume, I’m afraid…

There was still however the second instalment of the Robotman saga, saw the occasionally ration, if paranoid Cliff Steele hunted by the authorities and befriended by crippled, homeless derelicts in ‘The Lonely Giant’

Although as kids we all happily suspended disbelief and bought into the fanciful antics of the myriad masked heroes available, somehow the exploits of the Doom Patrol – and their surprisingly synchronistic Marvel counterparts the X-Men (freaks and outcasts, wheelchair bound geniuses, both debuting in the summer of 1963) always seemed just a bit more “real” than the usual caped and costumed crowd.

With the edge of time and experience on my side it’s obvious just how incredibly mature Drake and Premiani’s take on superheroes actually was and these superbly engaging, frantically fun and breathtakingly beautiful tales should rightfully rank amongst the finest Fights ‘n’ Tights tales ever told.
© 1963, 1964, 1965, 2009 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.