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That Time That Robotman Didn't Know He Wasn't Supposed to Be Alive

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Yesterday, I wrote about Metamorpho's long history of coming back from the seeming dead. One of his resurrections occurred in the pages of John Arcudi and Tan Eng Huat's Doom Patrol series from 2001. I noted that it was clever how Arcudi really played up the whole silliness of superhero resurrections by making a point to not reveal HOW Metamorpho came back. Whenever someone would try to figure it out, the topic was avoided. The final straw came at the end of the team-up of the new Doom Patrol with the even newer Doom Patrol that had Metamorpho on its team. It occurred in Doom Patrol #5, and Robotman (Cliff Steele), the only longtime member of the Doom Patrol still on this new team, outright goes to ask Metamorpho how he is alive now. Instead, Metamorpho cuts him off and asks Cliff how CLIFF is still alive, as the Justice League noted that Cliff died a few years earlier! Cliff then vanished!

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I noted at the time that I would get to that clever plot point eventually, but reader Wayne W. did not want to wait! He wrote in to ask, "Okay, I'm asking – what was the clever plot point about Cliff? Please get into it in another article!"

Fair enough, Wayne, here ya go!

The Doom Patrol was formed in 1963 by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani, who became the creative team on the series for the rest of its original stint at DC. Robotman, Cliff Steele, was a race car driver whose life was saved by having his brain put into a robot's body...

Cliff was a stalwart member of the Doom Patrol until their new adventures ended in Doom Patrol #121 when they were, well, you know, killed...

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As it turns out, though, brains in robot bodies are hard to actually kill, so Cliff was brought back as part of a NEW Doom Patrol a decade later...

Eventually, that whole team was mostly killed, as well (including a bunch of new additions) and Cliff was once again left to start a brand-new Doom Patrol...

Therefore, when a brand-new Doom Patrol was formed in 2001 by John Arcudi and Tan Eng Huat, it made perfect sense for Cliff to be the one constant between them and the previous incarnations of the Doom Patrol...

This new team was a corporate-sponsored group and the head of the corporation convinced Cliff to join the team as their new leader and to also license him the trademark for the Doom Patrol so that the new team could be branded as such...

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Things were going well until they quickly went poorly, as they split from the corporation (these corporate-sponsored teams rarely last). So Jost, the head of the corporation, used the license that Cliff gave him to form his OWN Doom Patrol made out of veteran superheroes, including Beast Boy, a former junior member of the original Doom Patrol...

But then we come back to the moment I shared in the beginning, where Cliff tries to find out how Metamorpho came back to life only to be informed that HE is supposed to be dead, at which point he vanished...

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