A Tribute to the of

So the missus and I were enjoying a quiet evening at home the other night, watching Guardians of the Galaxy on a Blu-ray DVD when it suddenly struck me that I’d only recently learned that the great Arnold Drake had scripted the original incarnation of the Guardians in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, cover date of January, 1969, with art by the immortal Gene Colan. It was a completely different lineup than what we saw in the popular movie, but all the same in got me in the mood to explore another Arnold Drake story, he of the Alley Award, Bill Finger Award and Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

We’ve tried to give Mr. Drake his due here at the Silver Lantern and indeed if you explore the archives you’ll see several reviews of Doom Patrol stories, to include their team-up with the Flash in the pages of the Brave and the Bold and a great crossover story with the Challengers of the Unknown, not to mention that Alley Award winning Deadman tale from Strange Adventures. [For your convenience: Sage #s 23, 71, 118, 167, 236, 246, 299, 350 and 351.]

This time up we’ll revisit the World’s Strangest Heroes in issue #87 of the Doom Patrol from May of 1964 (actual sale date was March 5th of that year) when we learn “The Terrible Secret of Negative Man!” Scripting was, of course, by Arnold Drake with a cover by Bob Brown, interiors by the wonderful Bruno Premiani and editing courtesy of Murray Boltinoff.

The tale kicks off with some tension when an aircraft that has been circling the airport is about to run out of fuel because the pilot has lost consciousness and a blonde woman speaking in a French accent is attempting to handle the controls with the help of the tower. Just then, the Doom Patrol arrives and Negative Man (Larry Trainor) gives Robotman a boost up to the cockpit where Cliff Steele, aka Robotman, takes the controls. Unfortunately the aircraft promptly runs out of fuel, so Rita (Elasti-Girl) Farr uses her abilities to grow her body to a 60-foot stature to snag the plane in mid-air and bring it and the passengers down to safety.

Once on the ground, Mademoiselle Gabrielle Soullet is anxious to show her gratitude to Larry Trainor, since each time he goes into Negative Man mode he is risking his life if he cannot return to his body within 60 seconds flat. She mentions she’s staying at the Wellington Motel and Larry accompanies her in the taxi while Rita fumes about the “peroxide-haired French poodle.” Inside the cab, Gabrielle reveals a confidence to Larry and pledges to help her out of her trouble and to keep her secret. She busses his cheek, but not long afterward we discover the blonde hair is as phony as the name when Madame Rouge of the Brotherhood of Evil doffs the wig and contacts the leader of the criminal organization, the Brain. Plans are hatched, and the Brain reveals that another agent will be joining her shortly and will be recognized by the password, “Death to the Chief!”

We then shift scenes to DP HQ where, behind closed doors, the Chief is re-bandaging Trainor with the specially treated bandages, allowing him another 30-day time period where he won’t be destructive to those around him.

When Larry emerges, Rita suggests dinner, but he begs off, saying he’s taking Mlle. Soullet out as she’s a stranger in town. Rita is unhappy, but Cliff offers to buy her meal and soon Larry and Gabrielle are at the deserted and decaying International Exposition grounds from 1950. Soullet tells Trainor that her father was a famous physicist who had developed an electronic system for elasticizing cloth, but upon his death his papers were stolen and his patents removed. Gabrielle’s ace in the hole, however, is the time capsule buried beneath the exposition grounds, which included an early model of Professor Soullet’s device. It’s up to Negative Man to fly down and gain photographic evidence, which he does, in less than 60 seconds.

Later, as Madame Rouge again checks in, the Brain reveals that he’ll be joining her shortly. He is then smuggled out of Orly Airport outside Paris in the company of a disguised Monsieur Mallah, the intelligent Ape who rounds out the Brotherhood of Evil.

A few days elapse when Trainor and Soullet are meeting in a nearby park. Larry departs after a date is made for 4 p.m. Just then a young girl skipping rope utters a sing-song piece to accompany the skipping that ends with “Death to the Chief!” Madame Rouge then recognizes both the password and the disguised midget agent, Giacomo.

Unbeknownst to them, they’ve been seen by a spying Rita Farr, who realizes that despite the embarrassment, she’ll report what she’s seen.

Back at their temporary HQ, the Brotherhood of Evil begins to work on their nefarious plan. It turns out the photos secured by Negative Man included that of a ray that allows them to enlarge radio-controlled toy tanks and other weapons to use against the local Federal Reserve Bank and the Doom Patrol.

A little later, as Larry meeting up with Gabrielle with the intention of issuing a sworn statement about her father’s inventions, the car has two unexpected passengers: Elasti- Girl and Giacomo, who has a pistol trained on her. Rita tells Larry that she intended to blow the whistle on the Brotherhood of Evil, but she was caught before she could warn him. Trainor informs her that he and the Chief were onto her and had a plan of their own.

Now Negative Man has no choice but to follow the instructions given him to place the toy tanks inside the wall of the Federal Reserve Bank. A helicopter operated by Mallah has the ray and expands them, ending Part I.

On the page right before Part II’s “The Toys of Terror!,” the “Patrol Postscripts” lettercol is filled with accolades from fans and apparently a contest is going on, too. “In 25 words or less, tell us who your favorite character is—and why: The Chief, Elasti-Girl, Robotman or Negative Man. Authors of the best replies will be awarded original pages of DOOM PATROL art by artist Bruno Premianai.

Aaarrgghhh! Where did those pages go and how many were (shudder!) colored or disposed of by parents? Oh, the humanity…

Okay, back to the story. Not content to enlarge the toy tanks, the chopper is also dropping parachute-equipped toy soldiers, which are also promptly enlarged to help break into the bank.

Thanks to the massive monitor at DP HQ, the Chief and Cliff have received a news bulletin about what’s happening at the bank, so the Chief dispatches Robotman to help.

Back at the scene of the crime, it appears the Brotherhood of Evil will get away with twenty million in cold cash, but as the tanks rumble away, Larry Trainor decides on a desperate play. Reasoning that the tanks are radio-controlled and despite being highly averse to exposing his face in front of Rita, he unwraps his head of the chemically treated bandages, revealing closely-cropped blonde hair and transparent skin, so that his skull features are clearly visible. More importantly his radio-active properties are exposed, which successfully interfere with the radio signals from the helicopter.

The soldiers and tanks now run amok, but before they can do any more harm, Robotman arrives and he and Elasti-Girl successfully subdue the overgrown toys, even though in a desperate gambit, Rouge and Giacomo use gas on the team, which, of course, does not affect Cliff Steele. Rita and Larry quickly revive and observe as the enlarged toys disintegrate. It seems the technology from the ray had a defect, which resulted in the decay of anything enlarged by the ray.

In the end, both Rouge and Giacomo are captured, but the Brain and Mallah have escaped. Meanwhile, Rita and Larry are on friendly terms again and she explains that his revealed secret doesn’t really matter.

Another 17-page adventure wrapped up as nicely as Negative Man’s bandages and as a bonus, the book holds a solo, 8-page adventure of Robotman: “Robotman Fights Alone!”, by Drake and Premiani. Another great value for your hard-earned 12 cents and I rate this classic tale from the Silver Age with a 7 on the 10-point scale. Doom Patrol adventures are always engaging and well-drawn and I look forward to getting into more as this ongoing feature continues its run.

That, my friends, takes care of our entries for January, but never fear as there will be more entries as 2016 rolls along. If you’d like to be a part of things, by all means, drop a line to my handy e-mail with suggestions. The webmaster and I like to think of this as at least somewhat interactive, so let us hear from you: professor_the@hotmail.com.

So keep reading, keep writing and of course…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2016 by B.D.S.

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