Across the years, comicdom have seen plenty of strange superheroes come and go. Readers have practically seen it all at this point: weird powers, bizarre origins, out-there appearances. But there is only one team of unusual heroes that has truly stood the test of time: the Doom Patrol. Debuting all the way back in 1963, DC billed the team as the "World's Strangest Heroes," which this team strove to live up to. Featuring a roster comprised of the likes of an ape-faced little girl with super powered imaginary friends to a muscleman who can break reality by flexing, the Doom Patrol have valiantly served as DC's weirdest super team for a long time.
Now, the Doom Patrol are preparing for perhaps their most daunting adventure: their own TV show on DC Nation. After debuting in Titans, Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and company are stepping into the spotlight, with Doom Patrol gearing up to debut in 2019. But the Doom Patrol isn't quite like the Justice League or the Teen Titans, where every comic fan worth their salt knows their story. No, the story of the Doom Patrol is a little more obscure, and certainly a lot stranger. So join CBR as we bring you a definitive guide to the World's Strangest Heroes.
20 WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Let's face facts: Doom Patrol is a strange name for a superhero time. While comicdom has become more accustomed to the strange as the years have gone on, a name like "Doom Patrol" was pretty unique all the way back in 1963. But before the Doom Patrol was, well, the Doom Patrol, they almost debuted under a much more generic name.
When writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney were dreaming up DC's resident weirdos, the duo originally decided on naming the team The Legion Of The Strange. In fact, this name was even used in initial advertising for the team, but Drake and Haney apparently had a last minute change of heart, swapping the ho-hum Legion Of The Strange for the iconic Doom Patrol.
19 FROM SUCH HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Back in 1963, all-American heroes like Superman ruled the comic racks with an iron fist. Comic readers were starting to dip their toes into strange, as Marvel began to embrace the psychedelic weirdness of the decade with books like Silver Surfer, but even back in the 1963, the Doom Patrol stood out.
Debuting in My Greatest Adventure #80, the Doom Patrol, consisting of Negative Man, Robotman (originally named "Automaton"), Elasti-Girl, and Dr. Niles Caulder, were weird from the get-go, being billed as the "World's Strangest Heroes." Created in an attempt to revitalized the sagging sales of My Greatest Adventure, writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, along with artist Bruno Premiani were enthusiastic about the new team, but the Doom Patrol proved to be, well...
18 JUST TOO STRANGE
While Batman was busy battling the Joker and the Penguin, the Doom Patrol were contending with the likes of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man and Monsier Mallah, a super-intelligent French gorilla. Needless to say, the Doom Patrol's unabashed strangeness clashed with DC's standard superhero protocols, which, while initially helping the new team to stand out, also proved to be a detriment.
Turns out, DC wasn't quite sure what to do with the World's Strangest Heroes, as the company was unsure about having the bizarre team crossover with their bigger characters. As a result, in a decade littered with crossovers, the original Doom Patrol run saw just two crossovers, with the Challengers of the Unknown and the Flash. Ultimately, the lack of crossovers caused less exposure, which writers Drake and Haney speculated hurt sales on the title.
As Doom Patrol sales began to dip in 1968, the decision was made by DC's higher-ups to axe the title. But how should a comic like Doom Patrol end? Strangely, of course.
In Doom Patrol #121, artist Bruno Premiani and editor Murray Boltinoff appeared within the story as themselves, urging the reader to write into DC Comics to demand that the Doom Patrol be brought back. Then, in a bid to spur fans to write in, the story ended on a giant cliffhanger, with the Doom Patrol sacrificing themselves in a fiery explosion to save a small fishing town in Maine. While this ending was certainly bold, marking the first time a canceled comic concluded with all of the main characters dying, the stunt proved to be for naught, as the Doom Patrol disappeared from DC Comics for a long time.
Turns out, encouraging fans to beg for the return of a team while simultaneously blowing said team to smithereens wasn't the best marketing strategy, as this surprising ending ultimately didn't help the Doom Patrol to be brought back. After their memorable send off, it would be nine whole years until the Doom Patrol were seen again.
In 1977, longtime Doom Patrol fan Paul Kupperburg was given an edict by DC to revive the team, and a brand new iteration of the team would debut in Showcase #94. Eschewing the out-there stories of the OG Doom Patrol, this new team saw a now fully robotic Robotman lead a more traditional superhero squad consisting of Celsius, Tempest, and Negative Woman. Unfortunately, this new Doom Patrol failed to catch on, and the team would linger in obscurity for many years
15 A BEAST OF A DEBUT
You might best know Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy, as the wisecracking, shapeshifting member of the Teen Titans. While Beast Boy has served as a longtime member of the Titans, the green-hued smart mouth didn't get his start with the team. Rather, Garfield made his debut with the Doom Patrol.
After an incredibly-'60s origin story that saw Garfield contracting a virus that kills everything besides a certain species of monkey, and then being turned into said monkey species by his father utilizing a serum in an attempt to overcome the virus, the young lad developed shape-shifting powers, and found himself abducted by criminals. Garfield was subsequently saved from his abductees by the Doom Patrol, leading members Mento and Elasti-Girl to adopt the burgeoning shapeshifter, who joined the team and took the name Beast Boy. Garfield Logan may be one of DC's most popular teen heroes these days, but he got his start with the weirdos in the Doom Patrol.
14 CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE
After another retooling in 1987, the Doom Patrol found themselves languishing in a sea of generic superhero teams. It was decided that DC's OG strange heroes needed a shakeup, and who better to return the team to their bizarre roots than one of the strangest writers in comics, Grant Morrison?
Starting with 1989's Doom Patrol #19, Grant Morrison took the team in a bold new direction. In a storyline dubbed "Crawling From The Wreckage," Morrison made Robotman suicidal, introduced a new team member with a disassociate personality disorder (who has a different superpower for each unique personality), and turned Negative Man into an intersex cosmic entity (more on that in a moment.) This version of the Doom Patrol was a far cry from the generic superhero team the squad had become, and Morrison's bizarre new direction for the team is credited with saving the World's Strangest Heroes.
13 THE DOOM PATROL GETS COSMIC
Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, was one of the Doom Patrol's most memorable members. With his bandaged appearance and oddball power of projecting the "Negative Spirit," Negative Man a remarkably strange superhero. But then along came Grant Morrison, who promptly kicked Negative Man's strangeness up to eleven.
In Doom Patrol #19, Doom Patrol is left bed ridden in a hospital after a brutal helicopter crash. Here, the Negative Spirit reveals to Larry that it is actually a sentient cosmic entity, and that it intends to improve Larry. The entity then merges Larry with his hospital physician Dr. Eleanor Poole, giving birth to Rebis, comics' first intersex superhero. That's right; in his very first issue, Grant Morrison turned a longtime member into an intersex cosmic entity that sometimes leaves the team to give birth to a new version of itself. Talk about a way to make an entrance.
12 STRANGE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
While DC's standard super teams had members that had mastered kung-fu or gained enhanced strength through exposure to toxic waste or whatever the case, the Doom Patrol had no interest in being standard. The team quickly became a melting pot of the weird, the strange, and the just plain, head-scratchingly bizarre. This was a team with some seriously out-there members.
Over the years, the team gained members such as Crazy Jane, a woman with 64 distinct personalities and a unique superpower for every personality, to an ape-faced little girl who controls super powered imaginary friends, to a bodybuilder who can alter space and time by flexing (more on him later.) Yes, the Doom Patrol has set a high bar for strange rosters, but far and away, the team's most unusual member would have to be...
11 DANNY THE STREET
Sure, an ape faced little girl named after the protagonist of The Wizard Of Oz who can summon super powerful imaginary friends is weird, but Doom Patrol member Danny the Street is on an entirely different level of strange. After all, how many teams do you know of that have a sentient, galaxy-traveling, cross-dressing street?
This well-meaning stretch of roadway travels the cosmos, integrating himself into any sort of geography without disrupting the surrounding area. Danny is kind and always eager to help, and is quite open about his fondness for cross-dressing, dotting his length with macho stores such as gun shops and gyms, which are filled with frilly pink doilies and lace. Danny has since evolved into a full blown planet, but remains humble and committed to his friends on the Doom Patrol.
10 NOT YOUR STANDARD ROGUES GALLERY
When you've got a team as strange as the Doom Patrol, you need bad guys that can match their weirdness. Thankfully, the Doom Patrol aren't lacking in thoroughly out-there villains, having fought everything from a beret-clad gorilla to a team committed to irrationality via a European art movement.
In the early days of the Doom Patrol, the team battled Monsieur Mallah, the aforementioned french gorilla, and his lover, The Brain, a sentient brain in a jar. By the late '80s, Grant Morrison had the World's Strangest Heroes battling the likes of the Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E, a secret society dedicated to wiping out eccentricity, and the Beardhunter, a Punisher-esque vigilante who only hunts bearded men. But the Doom Patrol's most unusual villains would have to be the Brotherhood of Dada.
9 TOO STRANGE TO FIGHT
"Dada" was an early-20th century European art movement that trumpeted rejecting logic and reason in pursuit of art. Which is to say, this isn't the kind of movement you would expect someone to form a super villain group around. But this didn't stop the formation of the Brotherhood of Dada, who proved to be so committed to surrealism and strangeness that the Justice League wasn't sure how to even fight them.
Lead by the boisterous Mr. Nobody, who possesses the power to sap the sanity of those around him, the Brotherhood of Dada operated as logic anarchists, enacting schemes designed to show the world how absurd everything is. In one memorable instance, the Brotherhood trapped all of Paris inside of an absurdist painting. When the Justice League arrived to investigate the situation, the team found themselves befuddled as to how to approach the situation. Ultimately, the Doom Patrol were able to defeat the Brotherhood, and Paris was saved, providing that sometimes, you need to be weird to tackle a weird problem.
8 HERO OF THE BEACH
Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol didn't just result in some of the most bizarre stories ever published by DC; turns out, Morrison's Doom Patrol was responsible for landing DC in one of the strangest legal kerfuffles the company had ever seen. Which brings us to Doom Patrol member Flex Mentallo.
Dubbed the "Man Of Muscle Mystery," Flex Mentallo is the walking antithesis of "mind over muscle." When Mentallo flexes his muscles, a halo appears over his head reading "Hero Of The Beach," allowing the bodybuilder to alter realiy. That's right; Flex Mentallo can flex so hard that it changes the universe. Designed by Morrison and artist Richard Case as a send-up of a long-running ad commonly seen in comic books promoting a bodybuilding program from fitness guru Charles Atlas, the parody didn't sit well with the bodybuilder, and the Charles Atlas Company would file a trademark infringement suit against DC over the character. Ultimately, the court would rule that the parody character was fair use and Flex Mentallo was allowed to continue to exist, but DC nearly lost the right to use a character who can flex hard enough to break time and space. A weird legal battle befitting the Doom Patrol, to be certain.
7 CAN'T KEEP A WEIRD TEAM DOWN
After the untimely death via fiery explosion of the original Doom Patrol, the team wasn't seen for many years. But when Niels Caulder and company returned in 1977, this set off a chain of reboots, reimagining, and really-better-left-forgotten iterations of the team.
While Grant Morrison's version of the Doom Patrol might be the best known, the team briefly flirted with functioning as a generic superhero team in the early-'80s, was retooled into a teen-centric company-sponsored team in the early-2000's, had their history rebooted and rewritten in 2004, had their history reinstated in 2006, formed a new team operating out of the base of a former mad scientist in 2009, and was finally rebooted once again in the wake of the New 52. The Doom Patrol have had their fair share of shake-ups over the years, but thankfully, the current iteration of the team seems to be here to stay.
6 DOOM PATROL 'TIL I DIE
Over the years, the Doom Patrol roster has grown and shrank. Old members disappeared, new members were picked up, and the team went through numerous changes. But through it all, there has been one constant: Robotman.
Robotman, aka race car driver Cliff Steele, served as an original member of the Doom Patrol, joining The Chief's band of misfits and weirdos after having his body rebuilt following a terrible crash. Despite constantly grappling with his humanity (or his feelings regarding his lack thereof,) Robotman has remained a Doom Patrol bedrock, serving as both member and leader of every iteration of the Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol have endured their fair share of ups and downs over the years but only Robotman has been there to see it all.
5 FAMOUS FRIENDS
The core line-up of the Doom Patrol is traditionally understood to be Negative Man, Robotman, and Elasti-Girl. But throughout the years, the team has taken on a variety of new members. Some of these members were brand new heroes, but plenty of members made names for themselves before joining up with the Doom Patrol.
Various iterations of the Doom Patrol have boasted members such as Metamorpho, Elongated Man, and the heroic incarnation of Dr. Light. Later on, former Teen Titans Bumblebee and Vox would sign up with the team, after Beast Boy started a proud tradition of Titans joining the Doom Patrol. For a smaller team, the Doom Patrol have sure counted some famous faces among their number over the years.
4 THREE CHEERS FOR A SWEET REBOOT
In the wake of DC's New 52 shake-up, the Doom Patrol found themselves in limbo, regaining their previously erased history, but still operating like a pretty standard super team. But then Gerard Way, former lead singer of My Chemical Romance and all-around comic fan, launched the Young Animal imprint with DC, taking the Doom Patrol back to their strange roots.
Launched as a means of reimagining largely forgotten DC characters through an experimental approach, Doom Patrol served as the lynchpin to the Young Animal line. Way turned the weird all the way to 11, introducing elements such as a Disneyland-style Danny the Street and a villainous corporation that seeks to bring fictional people to life as a means of producing a cheap source of meat for their intergalactic burger chain. After a long, uneventful run as a generic super team, Way's return to the bizarre stylings of Doom Patrol served as a breath of fresh air for the team.
3 NOT NEW TO THIS TV THING
After appearing in DC Nation's Titans, the groundwork was laid for a show focusing on the Doom Patrol. Fan hype is high, as the World's Strangest Heroes prepare to make the judgement to the world of prestige television. But Robotman and the gang aren't strangers to the world of TV, having made several small screen animated appearances over the years.
First popping up in a vital cameo in a two-part story in Cartoon Network's popular Teen Titans, the team would later step into the spotlight in an episode of Batman: The Brave And The Bold, teaming up with the Caped Crusader to battle a reformed version of the Brotherhood of Evil. The Doom Patrol even briefly starred in a series of their own, receiving a string of episodes as a part of Cartoon Network's DC Nation animation block. As fans prepare for Doom Patrol, now would be the perfect time to revisit the team's previous TV outings.
2 WHO RIPPED OFF WHO?
It's a debate as old as time: when it comes to the Doom Patrol and the X-Men, who exactly ripped off who? X-Men fans are quick to point out that Doom Patrol bears a passing resemblance to Marvel's popular mutant team, while DC fans fire back that the X-Men are nothing more than a Doom Patrol knock-off. While the answer of whether the rip-off was intentional may not ever be solved, the fact is that the Doom Patrol actually predates the X-Men by three whole months!
There are plenty of conceptual similarities between the two teams: both teams are composed of societal cast-offs, both teams have a wheelchair-bound leader, and both teams have sworn to protect a world that hates then. Compound this with similar tag-lines (Doom Patrol being "the world's strangest heroes" and the X-Men being billed as "the strangest superheroes of all") and remarkably similar villains (the Doom Patrol's "Brotherhood of Evil" and the X-Men's "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants,") and it's easy to understand the rip-off accusations. But Doom Patrol co-creator Arnold Drake is willing to let bygones by bygones, conceding in his later years that the similarities could simply be coincidence.
When the Doom Patrol debuted, Dr. Niles Caulder served as the team's leader, lending his expertise and insight from the sidelines. For the most part, Dr. Caulder, or "The Chief" as the team tended to call him, sought to protect the team, all while helping the Doom Patrol to protect a planet that hates and misunderstands them. But it turns out, The Chief wasn't quite the hero he made himself out to be; in fact, he was quite the opposite.
During Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, it was revealed that The Chief hadn't simply taken these oddities under his wing; in fact, he had created them. Behind the scenes, Caulder had orchestrated the accidents that had affected the Doom Patrol's members, all in belief that greatness can only be achieved through experiencing great tragedy. The Chief would eventually push this radical philosophy too far, developing a gene bomb that would turn half of the planet's populations into "freaks," in hopes that the mutated humans would improve the human race, forcing the team he formed to take him down. It remains to be seen if this villainous interpretation of The Chief ends up in DC Nation's Doom Patrol, but fans will be waiting on baited breath to see if Dr. Caulder will show his true colors.