A Tribute to the of

When we last left the World’s Strangest Heroes, aka the Doom Patrol, everything seemed to be falling to pieces. So here we are with the conclusion with the December 1967 issue, namely #116 with the usual creative team, Arnold Drake on script, Bruno Premiani on interior art, Murray Boltinoff in the editor’s chair and cover art by Bob Brown. The name of the tale is “Two to Get Ready…and Three to Die!

You may recall that Madame Rouge is having a bit of an existential dilemma, being forced in part by Niles “The Chief” Caulder trying to influence her good side to win out while her colleagues in the Brotherhood of Evil are trying to keep her in their camp. The splash page shows the struggle where she is literally fighting herself, but as we flip the page the good part of her has triumphed. Granted, this is a bit of a recap of what we saw last issue, but the Chief immediately follows up via long-distance radio communication that he needs her help immediately to help the rest of the Doom Patrol. Cliff “Robotman” Steele, for example, is stuck in a snowbank while Rita “Elasti-Girl” Farr seems to have been kidnapped.

The Chief sends Negative Man to fetch Madame Rouge from her Parisian location and deposits her in the snowy Alpine mountains, but not before using his energy body to blast a hole in the snow, which allows her to s-t-r-e-t-c-h her arms down to rescue Cliff. Robotman is certain Rita is at the other end of the life-saving limbs, but is dumbfounded to find Madame Rouge at the top. She quickly reassures him that she’s been liberated by the Chief.

Next, Negative Man is back to transport them in their effort to find and neutralize the atomic mutants who are causing all the trouble. They are combining their powers to bring down a comet to destroy the earth and exact their revenge on the planet that has both created and rejected them. They’d relocated to the Himalayan mountain range and Negative Man has swiftly found them. He deposits Cliff and Madame Rouge to take on the odd beings and scoops up Elasti-Girl to take her back to HQ and safety.

A wild battle ensues and the duo of Robotman and Madame Rouge are taking their toll, but soon the mutants abandon the fight in order to finish their objective. Negative Man once again lends a lift and soon the entire Doom Patrol plus Madame Rouge are regrouping at HQ.

The Chief briefs everyone and despite the efforts of the Government to blast the comet that is threatening the planet, the warheads aren’t hitting the target. The gravitational pull of the heavenly bodies is causing some havoc on Earth however, with tidal waves and quakes and other natural disasters piling up.

In the best tradition of teamwork, the Chief dispatches Rita and Cliff to the mountains in Chile, again courtesy of Negative Man. Meanwhile, Mento and Beast Boy are deposited back to the Himalayas, where Mento manages to disturb an abominable snowman, bent on braining them with his stone axe. After a short melee, with Beast Boy becoming, by turns, a yak and then a bird, he ultimately soothes the savage beast with a token of his esteem. He gives him an Alfred E. Neuman button, telling him it’s a mirror.

A little comedy relief there, I suppose…

As it happens, the Himalayan range is where the mutants ended up, so one final attempt by Elasti-Girl to appeal to their common sense fails, when suddenly a flying saucer lands. Hey, why not?

Disembarking from the craft is the very same Galactic Gladiator depicted on the cover and he announces he is from the planet Selin, where everything is much, much better than here. He then proceeds to tell them that he’s been sent to bring the mutants to Selin, where they will be among the ruling class.

Abruptly, the leader of the mutants, Ur, decides he cares about the Earth after all, and flies to intercept the comet. The other two mutants follow and the trio fly directly into it, causing an explosion that destroys both the comet and themselves.

The Gladiator says he didn’t expect they’d have to sacrifice themselves. It is then that Rita exposes the Gladiator for the real man within: Niles Caulder. The Chief explains, “I feared the mutants would reject your approach! But if some space being threatened Earth, the small spark of love they had for the world they were about to destroy might come alive!” He then asks Rita how she found out his ruse and she said it was simple. The planet Selin is his first name, Niles, spelled backward.

The final panel shows Madame Rouge and the Chief enjoying a candlelit dinner with the rest of the Doom Patrol clandestinely looking on.

Is romance afoot? If so, it needs to kick into high gear, for the original Doom Patrol series was to end in a mere 5 more issues.

Despite my intense dislike for multiple issue stories (hence one of my biggest beefs with the competition), they did a pretty good job with this story and once again Arnold Drake shows his chops as a writer of material that really stands out from the other offerings of the day. I still hate it that after I contacted him he passed away before he got a chance to answer my interview questions on what would have been my first attempt. I still have the couple of e-mails we swapped. What might have been…

I’ll rate this two-part story a solid 8 for the unpredictable nature of it and the interesting subplot woven in. Drake and Premiani were really hitting their stride. More’s the pity that the Doom Patrol, at least in this form, didn’t go longer.

The webmaster and I will continue to explore our favorite age of DC comics right here at this very spot and as always we invite you to chime in at any time with feedback, questions or suggestions of your own. You can reach me at: professor_the@hotmail.com and I always reply.

Join us again the middle of December for the latest edition of this ongoing feature and, as always…

Long live the Silver Age!

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