A Tribute to the of

I wish Arnold Drake were still around. I think I’d thoroughly enjoy giving him a call and asking what he thought of this picture. Yep. By the time this edition of the Silver Age Sage hits the World Wide Web, we’ll have been exposed to the first episode of the Doom Patrol on the small screen. It will be interesting to see how it looks. I’ve noticed they’ve been referring to Rita Farr as “Elasti-Woman,” and apparently, they’re incorporating some later DP characters into the mix, like Crazy Jane. I may be accused of not being quite loyal enough, but I confess that while I’ve caught episodes of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, etc., none of them have quite been enough to hook me yet. Maybe the Doom Patrol will do the job.

It only seems right to mark this event with a review of a classic Silver Age Doom Patrol story, so I’ve chosen a short little 12-page back-up tale from Doom Patrol #103 with a publication date of May 1966 and on sale date of March 3, 1966. That wondrous cover touting the featured story “The Meteor Man!” [Sage #299] is by Bob Brown with Ira Schnapp lettering and interiors, of course, are by the great Bruno Premiani with Stan Starkman letters, editing by Murray Boltinoff and “No Home for a Robot” written by good old Arnold Drake.

Apparently, these “Robotman Unchained” or “Robotman-iac” stories are prequels, taking place before Cliff Steele became a founding member of the Doom Patrol. Furthermore, as is explained in the opening panels, Niles “The Chief” Caulder has discovered that when he saved Cliff’s life by placing his brain in the robot body, a critical connection came loose, causing Robotman to escape the hospital and given him a “criminal personality.” The Chief has decided that he’s responsible for this behavior and it’s up to him to find and destroy Cliff Steele.

Cliff, meanwhile, is being rousted from a park bench by a local policeman, but luckily Steele had the foresight to don a fedora and trench coat, so he isn’t recognized. He soon comes across a large wanted poster with his visage on it stating that he’s wanted dead or alive and lists his real name and Robotman alias.

Cliff soon decides to take the cop’s urging to “go home” to heart, thinking that he can go to his brother, Randy’s place. Soon he’s knocking at Randy Steele’s door and his brother is shocked to see what’s become of Cliff, but apparently, he’s also aware he’s a wanted man and urges him to move on. After all, he’s a family man.

Just then his wife, Helen, hearing voices, comes into the living room and somehow immediately recognizes Cliff, who had just informed Randy that when he finds the surgeon who put his human brain into this “sardine can” after what should have been a fatal burning in a racing car crash, he’ll kill him.

Helen and Randy have a disagreement about what to do with Cliff and Robotman makes the decision for them, taking his leave and deciding if his own flesh and blood won’t take him in, what’s the use? He ponders “taking a long step off the high bridge” when he notes a pair of suspicious looking characters in a parked car, casing Randy Steele’s home. It strikes Cliff that perhaps it wasn’t that his brother didn’t want him around, but maybe he’s trying to save Cliff from some trouble.

Robotman conceals himself behind a tree and notes that as Randy gets into his car, the other car soon follows. Cliff “borrows” another car on the street, removing the hood to hotwire it and soon finds himself at Randy’s place of employment, Davis Experimental Industries, where he’s a top research engineer.

Cliff follows on foot and notes that Randy escorts the two men past the guard with phony credentials in addition to his own security pass. Cliff follows, but uses a distraction to slip past the guard and then sees a huge hangar holding a prototype super-rocket bomber, but that’s not all. As they move through the facility, he notes a war tank that can fly, courtesy of jets on its undercarriage, a laser cannon, anti-aircraft thermal rays and a light absorbing device. While each is impressive, the men keep moving.

Finally, they get what they’ve come for in the form of some personal jet packs that will allow them easy escape from robberies. They’re merely crooks, who had Helen held at gunpoint by a confederate. Now that they have what they’ve come for, they call to order her release. That’s all Cliff needed to hear as he lunges for them, but the rockets on their backs quickly allow an easy escape while Robotman wonders why the surgeon didn’t include wings on his metal body.

Segue now to the office of the Mayor who is addressing Lieutenant Briar, who is being assigned the Robotman case. He is to destroy the menace of Robotman ASAP. Briar assures the Mayor that he has just the bait and isn’t afraid to use it.

As it happens, the Lieutenant’s plan is to publicize the identity of Niles Caulder as the creator of Robotman. Caulder hears the bulletin over the radio and immediately understands what’s going on. Cliff will hear the news item and seek his revenge. Niles hopes, meanwhile, that if he is confronted at City Hospital, he’ll have time to explain what’s happened and how he can fix things.

We soon see Cliff Steele perusing a newspaper with the headline “Dr. Caulder revealed as Robotman creator.” He swiftly lays plans, but first, he has to assist with a robbery. Cliff has learned that the crooks planned a heist at the Fifth National Bank and he reasons that if they’re captured, they’ll take down Randy as an accomplice, so Robotman will ensure they make a clean getaway.

The rocket packs are efficient, allowing the criminals to scoop up the loot and fly away, but an alarm has been tripped and the police are Johnny-on-the-spot. They have little hope of catching the high-flying felons, but as an insurance policy, Robotman creates a distraction, throwing a motorcycle at the police and then using a street lamp as a makeshift pole vault when Lt. Briar orders the men to forget the thieves and capture Robotman.

Their bullets ineffective against Robotman’s steel body, he runs away, joyfully singing, “I’m gonna wash those slugs right outta my hair…” Later, Cliff returns to the experimental factory, deducing that while they got the rockets, the thugs failed to get extra fuel, so they’ll be back. He plans an ambush, but ends up being on the receiving end when he enters through a window and is immediately hit with the laser, melting holes in his torso. When Robotman keeps coming, the crooks try the other experimental weapons, beginning with the heat ray, which is equally ineffective and then trying to squash him with the jet-tank, but the wily robot slips beneath it and jams his arm into an air duct resulting in an exploded tank. Finally, Robotman compels one of the crooks to call the Lieutenant and reveal where the loot is stashed and the fact that Randy Steele was coerced by them.

Finally, we find the metal man working his way to the entrance of City Hospital, determined to make Niles Caulder pay. As it happens, Briar and his men are waiting to ambush Cliff with the help of a metal detector concealed in the hospital’s entrance.

Inside, the Chief is aware of the goings on and has his own contingency plan. His radar scope alerts him to Robotman’s approach and racing his wheelchair across the room, he quickly slices a rope suspending a huge safe on a slide assembly. The safe falls out the window and onto the walkway of the entrance, startling Robotman and also alerting him to the trap and he runs away.

Later, Cliff returns to the home of his brother, Randy, who uses his skills and some equipment to successfully patch up Robotman’s metal body. As Cliff beats a retreat, Lieutenant Briar arrives, but the Steele’s assure him that they’ve seen no sign of their brother. “Yeah—I guess it was a wild notion! Whoever heard of a robot going home?

And that wraps up this prequel tale of Cliff Steele, alias Robotman.

Arnold Drake’s dialogue for his characters was always inventive and fun and Bruno Premiani’s artwork seemed like it was the ideal teaming assignment. I really enjoy these old DP stories and here’s hoping the series lives up to the legacy.

Join us again next time, readers, as we continue to do our twice-a-month silver mining. The next edition will hit this locale on the first of March. In the meantime, keep the communication up. You can reach me at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Join us then and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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