Sunday, December 9, 2007

Old School: Doom Patrol

So, comic books. That glorious ages-old-ish form of writing where you also get some pretty pictures along with it. It's pretty awesome. If you're reading this, if you're STILL reading this, I assume you have at least a cursory familiarity with the form, even if you aren't a die-hard fan. Well, Old School, the title of this post, is me doing my duty to give you a run-down on some older comics that you may, or may not, have heard of, but you should know about.

Today, we'll be going over Doom Patrol, by Grant Morrison. It has been hailed as one of the best superhero comics ever well as one of the most overly-confusing, complex, and bizarre ones. It's all fair, and since Doom Patrol will be getting an appearance in DC Legends, I thought that people could use a small refresher course.

From Wikipedia: "The first Doom Patrol consisted of super-powered misfits, whose 'gifts' caused them alienation and trauma."

And that's the problem I had with the whole concept. The original Doom Patrol were pretty standard superheroes. The stretchy girl who looked perfectly normal otherwise. A robot. Beast Boy. A dude in a wheel chair. This doesn't exacly scream 'tragic' or even 'misunderstood', huh? Yes, they had bizarre, awesome villains, like the...interestingly named Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, but that was the extent, it seemed, of the weirdness.

Then Grant Morrison took over. The character he didn't want to use were killed off or gotten rid of before his run began, and some new ones were introduced. The Negative Man, formerly a pilot exposed to radioactivity, became Rebis, a hermaphroditic negative energy spirit perpetually bandaged up. Robotman's tragic existence was explored more fully, and new characters like Danny the Street, Flex Mentallo, and Crazy Jane were introduced into the team.
Their threats got weirder, too. Rather than fighting supervillains, they often dealt with bizarre aspects of reality gone wrong - a sentient book that is absorbing our reality, a group of scissor-people dedicated to eradicating 'non-fictional people', and a painting that ate Paris...and almost the world.


The super-villains they did fight became equally odd. Largely abandoning the traditional foes of the Doom Patrol, the Brotherhood of Evil, Morrison created the Brotherhood of Dada, a group of super-powered individuals convinced that they were 'saving' the world from the dull and mundane.

They became a team that was dedicated, yes to saving the world...but more than anything, to regaining their sense of humanity. It had been stripped from them, and throughout the story, they try so damn hard to get it back. The characters grow and change, and even the villains, you find out falling just a little in love with, as they make almost the opposite journey.

Does any of that seem like your sort of thing? Because, as good as it is, as well as it's's not for everyone. The art is expressive and interesting, and while it does begin to look dated, the overall quality still shows through. Most importantly, the artist isn't afraid to go with the flow and provide us with astonishing visuals to some of the most unimaginably bizarre concepts.

It's a wonderful story, and if I have to give it a grade, I would say it's a 97/100. Doom Patrol is a great many things. It's bizarre, sometimes almost to the point of incomprehensibility, but never to the point where it isn't fun. Doom Patrol is a series for the ceaselessly creative, the people who don't mind a slip-up now and again in the interest of trying something new. Not for everyone, I think...but certainly worth giving a shot.

So, I hope you enjoyed that. I hope you learned something about the Doom Patrol. It's a strange, strange world, the DC Universe, and Morrison makes it weirder. Well, I hope I inspired you to give it a shot. Or, at the very least, when you open your packs of DC Legends, I hope that you now look at this motley assortment of heroes with a little more understanding, if not respect.

Rock out, and have fun with your life.

Reading List
Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol is pretty legendary, at this point.

Alternatively, you can go a little more old school...

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