A Tribute to the of

As long-time readers of this space already know, "The World's Strangest Heroes" aka The Doom Patrol made their debut in the "My Greatest Adventure" anthology book in June of 1963 [Sage review #23].  They immediately became the feature up through issue #85 when the title was renamed "The Doom Patrol" in issue#86 from March of 1964.  Writer Arnold Drake's creation proved to have legs and The Doom Patrol continued along for 36 issues, introducing us to such fascinating menaces as Mr. 103, The Animal-Mineral-Vegetable Man and Garguax to name a few.  Probably the arch nemeses of the Doom Patrol, though, was the Brotherhood of Evil, which was founded by The Brain, literally a preserved brain, with a shifting roster of accomplices to include the intelligent ape, Monsieur Mallah, Madame Rouge and later General Immortus, Garguax and Mr. Morden.  Let's take a peek at that first issue of The Doom Patrol as they claimed lead status in "My Greatest Adventure" in a 2-part story with Part I titled, "The Brotherhood of Evil!"  The story was written by Arnold Drake (as were all Doom Patrol stories) with art from the pencil and inkwell of Bruno Premiani, who was Arnold's co-collaborator through nearly all the Doom Patrol stories as well, with edits by Murray Boltinoff.

The place where you'd usually see a splash page introduces us to each member of the Doom Patrol, explaining both their origin and their abilities beginning with Rita Farr, aka Elasti-Girl who gained her abilities to shrink or expand her body after inhaling "strange volcanic fumes."  Next is Larry Trainor, host to Negative Man, whose flight in an experimental aircraft exposed him to "unidentified solar rays" that left his body in a radioactive state, controlled only by special bandages that make him look like a mummy.  He can send the radio-energy being Negative Man forth from his body, but for less than a minute or Larry dies.  Cliff (Robotman) Steele is the name of the former daredevil whose horrific racing accident left only his brain intact.  It was implanted into a robot body.  Finally Niles (The Chief) Caulder, leader of the World's Strangest Heroes, with a brilliant scientific mind, the very mind, in fact, that saved Cliff Steele by putting his brain into the robot body, but who is confined to a wheelchair.

As we flip the page we find the Chief rolling through the hallway of the secret DP HQ looking for the three heroes, but no one is answering Caulder's cries.  We then see Larry Trainor sending Negative Man off on a mission to retrieve a stone from the Great Pyramid of Gizen.  Trainor falls into his weakened and helpless state as Negative Man flies forth.  Luckily for Larry, Neg Man can travel at the speed of light and is quickly back with the stone.  "Now I can start on my little gift!" Rita Farr, meanwhile, has left a jewelry store and has shrunk herself down to personally engrave a custom tie clasp.  Switching over to Cliff, he is in a conundrum as he tries to figure out what to do with only his "clumsy metal hands."  So what gives?  We soon find out as the next day the members of the Doom Patrol surprise Caulder with a birthday cake, even though they don't know when the actual date is.  Niles apparently keeps that and all other details of his life under wraps.  The gifts come forth, first with Trainor's pyramid stone carved into a scale model of the Sphinx and then the tie clasp from Rita engraved with writing so small it requires a magnifying glass:  "Courageous, Heroic, Intelligent Exasperating Fighter."  That spells C-H-I-E-F.  Cliff then describes how he took a lump of coal down into a hot spring and using his mighty metal hand and the heat squeezed it into a diamond.  Unfortunately he squeezed a bit too hard and ended up with a handful of diamond dust.  All the same, Niles is touched by the gesture and his thoughts betray that amazingly enough, it is in fact his birthday.

A little later, Rita sneaks a peek into Trainor's room remarking that she's never seen it and notices the walls are lined with metal.  Larry acknowledges it, chuckles and bids her goodnight.  As he calls it a night he thinks to himself that if she knew the reason for the walls or what was under his bandages she'd never want to look at him again.  Hmmm…

The final pages of chapter 1 shows a scene at a military depot where two sealed rail cars have been uncoupled from a train and the Colonel states that the secret cargo could threaten the world with living nightmares.

Back at Doom Patrol HQ the Chief briefs his team on the development, referring to their mission at the Astro Base (back in My Greatest Adventure #82, according to Boltinoff's note).  The one machine they didn't see is now a threat and Caulder himself designed it for use on the moon.  The final panel shows a massive metal claw reaching for vehicles speeding along a suspension bridge.

Part 2 is titled, "The Trail of the Terrible Titan!" and shows a massive mechanical robot with a man controlling it in the clear domed head of the machine as it begins to tear the suspension bridge asunder.  "ROG," the robot/machine continues its rampage of destruction and a few days later, on a tip, the Doom Patrol arrives at a dam site and sure enough, ROG is there.  The DP recognizes the man at the controls as Mr. Morden a so-called one-man crime wave.  The question remains as to what his motives are as thus far he has only used ROG to randomly destroy.  Not much time to ponder matters, though, as Morden uses the eyes of ROG to deploy a thermo ray that melts the Doom Patrol's plane.  Swiftly, Negative Man is deployed to wrap his body around ROG's head and neutralize the rays while Elasti-Girl expands to be the same size as the robot.  Morden scoops up Trainor and Steele and warns her off.  Rita agrees to let him escape if he will release her teammates.

Shifting scenes to an exclusive Parisian girl's school, Madame Rouge is teaching a course when she is summoned by the Brain.  Entering his sanctum through a hidden entryway in her private study by tilting a statue on its side (eat your heart out, Adam West) and escorts a blindfolded Mr. Morden in to the presence of the Brain and Monsieur Mallah.  Morden is fascinated by the appearance of the Brain and even more so that of Mallah, the intelligent ape and has presented the Brotherhood of Evil with ROG as a token of his desire to join with them.  They then plot the demise of the Doom Patrol.

Speaking of the World's Strangest Heroes, they are busily studying data fed into their computer to try and deduce the next move of ROG.  The machine is able to discover that ROG's recent activities were designed to impress and gain entry to the Brotherhood of Evil, but it also came up with three potential future crimes.  The question is, which one will be committed?  They decide on a contingency plan, placing each member in one of the locations to stand watch.

Next morning, Robotman is found at New York Harbor and suddenly spots ROG traveling through the water with two motor launches acting like water skis.  Objective:  The Statue of Liberty, which will be stolen for ransom.  Rita and Larry are quickly called to assist Cliff.  Negative Man arrives to "blind" ROG as before while Robotman places plastic explosive on the giant robot's foot.  Unfortunately it causes minimal damage and Negative Man must return to Larry.  Meanwhile, Rita parachutes in and promptly kicks in the "eyes" of ROG to take out the thermo-rays.  Morden uses the robot to bind Rita in her own parachute rigging and tosses her into the harbor, but you can't keep a good woman down and she recovers quickly, hurling a sea buoy at ROG's back and knocking the automaton into the dirt.  Just then, Monsieur Mallah bursts forth from the robot's control center and the battle begins between the ape and Robtoman.  Above, Rita does a pretty impressive body slam on the massive robot, disabling it.  Morden cries that he's planted a bomb at the base of the Statue of Liberty.  She plucks it up and calls to Cliff, who smothers it with his metal body, but…no explosion.  It was simply a diversion to allow Mallah and Morden to hop a jet boat and escape.

The final panels show the Chief explaining to Cliff and Rita that Larry nearly expired from having Negative Man outside his body too long.  Rita helps him to his quarters and chides him, saying that she doesn't know what she…they would do without him.  Larry thinks to himself again that she'd sing a different tune if she understood his special bandages and "metal cage."  Foreshadowing for another story, contained in the very next issue, in fact, as this adventure reaches its end.

The Doom Patrol was a title I was vaguely aware of if at all when I was a kid and more's the pity.  It was truly an original concept and Arnold Drake's creations made for some interesting adventures, helping to freshen up the landscape a bit.  Bruno Premiani was a masterful artist as well and as I researched his body of work my suspicions were confirmed in that he didn't work on very many titles over the course of his career.  As a matter of fact, I could only find credits beyond the Doom Patrol for the Teen Titans, Cave Carson, the Challengers of the Unknown, Pow-Wow Smith and a very brief stint on the Sea Devils.  He did do a few issues of Black Magic for Simon and Kirby's Prize Comics, but other than that it was a narrow niche, often with the same collaborators of Arnold Drake and Bob Brown, who incidentally did the cover for this issue and also worked on the Challs during this time period.  I don't know if it was just the desire of editor Murray Boltinoff to hire these folks or what, but thank goodness he did.  For quite a few issues, they made some memorable stuff, and I'll give this issue an 8 on the 10-point rating scale for originality, superb art and superior characterization.  I'll always regret that Arnold Drake didn't get to my interview questions before he passed away.

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