WARNING: The follow article contains spoilers for the Doom Patrol Season 1 episode "Puppet Patrol," streaming now on DC Universe.
Despite being told the first season of DC Universe's Doom Patrol would introduce some of the weirder characters from the 56-year history of the world's strangest heroes -- the sentient roadway Danny the Street, the facial hair-obsessed Beard Hunter -- viewers still may not be prepared for the debut of a classic, and undeniably bizarre, foe: the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.
If his image doesn't necessarily spring to mind, or his name doesn't exactly roll off your tongue, don't feel bad. It's a cumbersome, if descriptive, alter ego, to be sure. But once you see the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, you're unlikely to forget him.
See? Introduced in 1964, in The Doom Patrol #89, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man was Swedish scientist Sven Larsen, who accused his former teacher Niles Caulder of stealing his plans for an anti-decay ray. When Larsen falls into a vat of chemicals (a surprisingly common occurrence in the Golden and Silver ages of comics), he emerges with the ability to transform any part of his body into -- wait for it -- an animal, mineral or vegetable, sometimes simultaneously. That explains his classic depiction, with a second, dinosaur head, and (literal) tree limbs.
So, how does that origin, and visual depiction, translate to live-action television? Surprisingly, and delightfully, well.
"Puppet Patrol" sends Cyborg and the Doom Patrol on an ill-conceived road trip -- on the team's school bus, naturally -- from their home outside Cloverton, Ohio, to the little village in Paraguay where Mr. Nobody received his powers, in hopes of finding the missing Chief. The two-week journey is cut short, at least for Cliff Steel and Larry Trainor, when one of Crazy Jane's personality suddenly teleports them the rest of the way. There, they encounter an excited, and excitable, man named Steve (Alec Mapa of Switch at Birth and Ugly Betty), who's waiting on the bus to ferry him to Fuchtopia, and his new life.
If you haven't already guessed, Fuchtopia is the legacy of Sturmbanhfuhrer Von Fuchs (the always-delightful Julian Richings), the ex-Nazi scientist -- sorry, village cobbler -- who in 1948 turned Eric Morden (Alan Tudyk) into the villainous Mr. Nobody. Sixty years later, an accented, Stepford Wives-like staff promises to grant superpowers to those who can afford to pay the price.
Steve confides that he had been saving up for "the Morden," but "I just couldn't wait." Asked by Larry what the Morden is, he concedes, "I don't know, but it's supposed to be freakin' amazing."
"I mean, Mr. Nobody, right?" Steve adds "But who has those kind of ducets? So, I'm getting magnet feet instead. ... So I can walk up walls."
Naturally, Cliff, Larry and Jane also board the bus for Fuchtopia, where with Steve they endure a three-hour puppet show that regales the audience with story of Von Fuchs (Nazi past and all), before revealing that Caulder had ruined the scientist's plans, and maybe killed him. Being a mad scientist, he isn't really dead, of course, but instead living in an iron lung contraption while controlling the every move of Fuchtopia's staff.
When the Doom Patrol is exposed, all hell breaks loose, leading to death, dismemberment, and the fiery destruction of Fuchtopia. But amid the flames, a surprisingly affable Steve emerges from a chamber -- "Guys? Guys? Was I supposed to be in here so long?" -- but not with magnet feet. No, he sports a crystalline left leg, a tree-like right arm and leg, and a dinosaur head protruding from his left shoulder.
"Cool," he exclaims before breaking out into a maniacal cackle. Because what else should you do when you're the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man?
Streaming on DC Universe, Doom Patrol stars Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele, Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor, Diana Guerrero as Crazy Jane, Alan Tudyk as Mr. Nobody, April Bowlby as Rita Farr, Joivan Wade as Vic Stone, and Timothy Dalton as Niles Caulder.