A Tribute to the of

So close.

I was so very close to having a real scoop for you readers, coming swiftly on the heels of my telephone interview with Gaspar Saladino, but unfortunately I wasn't able to pull it off.

I'd had the great good fortune to be put in touch with Arnold Drake, who has a very impressive pedigree from the Silver Age, having created Deadman, and the Doom Patrol, and scripting for Tommy Tomorrow, Superman, Batman, and the Fireman Farrell story in the first issue of Showcase, The Adventures of Bob Hope, and on and on.  Arnold had agreed to an e-mail interview, but fate kept intervening.  My first contact with him was in January.  He wrote me back on the 10th explaining that he was recovering from a fall that broke a bone in his back.  Well, a man in his early 80's, who among other things had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, deserved every courtesy, so I waited awhile before inquiring again on the 30th of January.  He said he was improving a great deal, was back on his feet and was planning to attend the "Javitz show," or the New York City comics convention to those of us unfamiliar with the Empire State.  He also told me he had about 40 pages of the prequel story to the Doom Patrol he was working on.  He said that was about the halfway mark.  I was excited to learn more, but waited awhile until the 21st of February to check in again.  He asked me to re-send my questions.  I gladly did so, paring them down as I'd gone a little nuts on quantity.  His response, "Good questions.  I'll get back to you soon."

Sadly, he never did.  At the end of February a neighbor found him conscious but collapsed in his apartment and he was hospitalized with a "touch of pneumonia" and evidence of some cardio difficulties.  On the 5th of March it appeared he was doing well, but on the 12th, a mere 11 days after his 83rd birthday, he passed away.

I was disappointed, of course, but saddened more so.  He seemed like a fascinating gentleman who'd seen and done a lot over the years.  I was really looking forward to getting to know him.  I'd gone so far as to purchase a get well card and had scanned and printed out a page of Justice #10 in case he hadn't seen Alex Ross' take on the Doom Patrol.

So, without further ado, I dedicate this edition of the Silver Age Sage to Mr. Arnold Drake.

I've selected Doom Patrol #104 from June of 1966 containing "The Bride of the Doom Patrol!Arnold Drake, of course, did the script with a Bob Brown cover and Bruno Premiani interior pencils and inks.  Murray Boltinoff serves as editor.

The splash page shows a very unique depiction of Larry (Negative Man) Trainor.  Now I'll be the first to confess I don't have an extensive collection of Doom Patrol stories, but in my limited experience this is the first time I've seen him unwrapped.  Beneath those protective bandages is a full complement of jet black hair and his skeleton is visible through translucent skin.  At any rate, he is in the midst of testing a new device created by Niles (the Chief) Caulder that allows him to focus his radioactivity into a laser-like beam.  Rita (Elasti-Girl) Farr has popped into the room where Trainor is conducting his tests to see if he's up to accompany her to enjoy the day, but he's obviously busy.  Next stop, another room in Doom Patrol HQ to see if Cliff (Robotman) Steele is available, but he is also busily engaged testing his new electro-magnetic feet.  Finally she checks with the Chief, but he is similarly tied up at a control bank isolating some unidentified radio signals.

Rita takes a seat and muses to herself that while she enjoys being a member of the team, sometimes she'd like to just be a girl.  Her lonely lament is interrupted by a sudden shaking of her body followed directly by her floating right out the window.  Larry deploys Negative Man to try and bring her back to Earth, but he smacks straight into an invisible barrier of pure energy that is transporting his teammate.  It soon occurs to the Chief where she's headed and he instructs Robotman to load him into the car so that he can lead them there.

Rita, meanwhile, is about to arrive at said destination; the mansion of Steve Dayton, the fifth richest man in the world that also goes by the alias of Mento.  She is soon introduced to Dayton's latest device, a transformer that magnifies his brain power and has been designed to lift an object weighing 118 pounds, precisely Rita's weight.  Elasti-Girl is less than impressed with this display of devotion, referring to Mento as a "Donut-domed dimwit."  Right about then, Cliff arrives and proceeds to mangle the device.  Mento uses his helmet to mentally manipulate the metal man, suspending him in mid-air.  Steele is a bit more resourceful than that, however, and he removes one of his hands and bounces it off Mento's helmet, smashing one of the circuits and coming back to ground level.  For good measure, he plants his feet into Dayton's torso.  Soon Larry arrives and the two men begin to give Steve what for when Rita interrupts, telling them in no uncertain terms to stay out of her business.  The boys beat a hasty retreat, to Dayton's delight.  He tries to plant one on Elasti-Girl, but she then slaps him soundly. 

The men on the team have departed and while Cliff and Larry say that Rita can do what they want, their thoughts betray their disdain for Mento.  Indeed when they soon encounter a bank robbery and spring into action they continue to imagine what they'd do to Steve Dayton.

When they return to HQ they find Elasti-Girl there.  She accuses them of behaving "like a pair of juvenile apes" and says that until they apologize to both her and Mento she'll have little to say to them outside of official duties.  There is little time for further discussion, however, as the Chief receives notice of another disaster.  The Doom Patrol immediately responds to a mine cave-in where seven men have been trapped.  Robotman removes the bed off a dump truck while Negative Man stretches himself into a slender figure and proceeds to punch multiple holes in the bed.  Rita then expands to giant size and uses the hastily created strainer to scoop the earth and rocks from the mine entrance and sift it, revealing 3 of the missing men with the first load.  Soon the mission is complete and Rita returns to her frosty silence while Robotman mutters that they'll soon be known as the "Mute Patrol."

Later that night there is a large social affair with Steve Dayton and Rita Farr in attendance.  The couple leaves in his convertible and Dayton says he's soon leaving for the Greek Isles to work on a manuscript based on psychological research.  He then invites Rita along to be married.  She replies that she isn't surprised at the proposal, but won't answer immediately.  He then kisses her and is surprised that he wasn't slapped.  Obviously Elasti-Girl is pondering matters deeply.

The next day, the Doom Patrol is off again to try and draw "Killer" Keller out of his hostage situation in a private residence.  Elasti-Girl has a plan and when Keller retrieves the newspaper from the front stoop, she emerges from between the pages and apprehends the felon.  Larry congratulates her on the collar, despite her current status as a "goofy, lovesick dame with her mind a thousand miles from here."  She replies that he's just helped her make a decision and that night Cliff sees the headlines in the evening news:  DOOM PATROL GIRL TO WED WORLD'S FIFTH RICHEST MAN.  Larry advises Cliff not to worry as the wedding will not be taking place.

The morning of the wedding, Larry dispatches a messenger with strict instructions that the note must be delivered in precisely 20 minutes to Miss Farr only.  Trainor then gloats to Steele that he wishes he could see Mento's face when he learns of the message.  Cliff responds that it's too bad they won't be there, but…there won't be a wedding anyway.

At the site of the nuptials, the Chief expresses regret to Rita that the other members of the team aren't present.  Meanwhile, back at HQ, the duo is having some regrets of their own and decides to abort their plan.  They arrive just as the messenger does and try to intercept the message, but Rita gets it and reads that M.B.M. studios, partly owned by Steve Dayton, are going broke and have asked him to do anything, to include marriage, to get her back to her former movie producer.  Larry immediately interjects that it's a phony letter, created by he and Cliff to abort the wedding.  Rita says that while she likes Steve she won't marry him now since she now knows who really cares about her, the two men who were willing to give her up just so she'd be happy.  Back at HQ they're in full celebration mode as Part I closes.

Part II opens with a very dejected Steve Dayton, still wearing his wedding tux, wandering about while a nearby newsboy hawks papers with such flattering pitches as, "Doom-gal chucks Dome-boy!"

Returning to Doom Patrol headquarters, the boys are trying to cheer up their teammate by showing off a little.  Cliff is utilizing his magnetic shoes to walk the ceiling via the steel girders.  Larry says "Big deal!  Neg Man's becoming a pretzel-man for you, Rita!"  There is a slight goof there as it shows up as a thought bubble.  I guess even letterers can goof every so often.  Elasti-Girl expresses her appreciation, but claims she doesn't care if she ever sees Mento again, despite her thoughts earlier that she had no choice and will always love him.

We then join Mento at a tailor's shop where he's getting a new uniform to complement his new psycho-kinetic helmet that more closely resembles a crash helmet, but purportedly has five times the power of the old one.  He also realizes that Robotman and Negative Man tricked Rita into turning him down, so now its war.

The next day he stands at the entrance of DP HQ and calls them out.  Cliff and Larry are more than happy to oblige, but soon discover that the newly equipped Mento is substantially more powerful when he blows a foot off Robotman and blasts a hole through Negative Man.  A disgusted Elasti-Girl emerges and rebukes Dayton, expanding to giant size to teach him a lesson, but she receives a burst of eye-blinding energy and collapses, falling on Cliff in the process.  A little later with repairs effected, Robotman pays a visit to Steve Dayton's house and proceeds to do a little interior decorating.

Later, under examination by the Chief, Rita's optic nerve appears to be damaged, but he cannot tell the entire extent.  Dayton has returned home to find the carnage, meanwhile and is spitting mad.

It wouldn't be a real Doom Patrol adventure without an appearance by Garguax and the Brotherhood of Evil, would it?  The next panels show Garguax at his dark side of the moon base along with the Brain watching the arrival of a rocket ferry with Madame Rouge aboard.  She reports that her mission was successful, using the ability provided by the Brain to alter her features into an exact duplicate of Mento, using technology from Garguax to mimic his powers and effectively putting Mento and the Doom Patrol at each other's throats.

Back at headquarters, Niles Caulder has, with the aid of his machine, discovered the precise ray that harmed Rita and therefore is able to supply the antidote.  The procedure is successful and when he goes back to examine the results he is stunned to learn it was from an element that doesn't exist on the Earth.  He had only discovered the element from his analysis of a star far away.  He quickly issues a message to the team to alert them to take no action until he briefs them, but things are already in motion as the Doom Patrol closes in on Mento on a suspension bridge.  Unbeknownst to both adversaries is the imminent arrival of a space ship bearing the Brain, Monsieur Mallah, Madame Rouge and Garguax.

Mento starts things off by suspending Cliff in mid-air and then dropping him on Larry, causing limbs to fall off the former and unconsciousness in the latter.  Elasti-Girl, pulling up the rear, confronts her former beau about blinding her and destroying her teammates.  Dayton tries to protest, but she expands, removing his helmet and crushing it and then dropping him into the drink.  She then heads for her fallen comrades, but is snared in a strong plastic trap that is air tight, thwarting her ability to expand.  Robotman begins crawling toward his leg and explains that she blew the plan engineered by the Chief to stage a battle and draw out the Brotherhood of Evil.  Unfortunately they've already arrived and the skirmish is on with Madame Rouge doing a maneuver that would make Plastic Man proud, stretching her arm into a snake-like vise around the helpless Rita.  Before she can do any damage, however, a large mechanical claw grips her.  It is attached to the Chief's "Action Chair."  He arrived after seeing the proceedings on Robotman's TV unit.  Mallah is about to attack Caulder, but Cliff has reattached his arm and improvised a leg with a piece of a nearby tree and sends the gorilla flying.  Then, just as it's begun, the battle is over as Garguax's ship swoops down, allowing Madame Rouge to grab hold with her stretching ability and in the process providing ductile legs for Garguax and Mallah to grasp and use to escape.

A repentant Rita has retrieved Mento from the water and apologized profusely for doubting him and he seizes the moment to again propose marriage, which is gleefully accepted.  Wasting no time (three hours hence, to be precise), the wedding begins again, with a rather impressive cameo guest list to include Beast Boy, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Superman, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Robin and a patented Arnold Drake touch; from the Adventures of Bob Hope comic that he also wrote, his own creation of Super-Hip in his only appearance outside the Bob Hope title.

The final two panels show the new dynamic now that the ceremony is complete:  "That's it, honey-girl!  We're finally man and wife!  Now you can say goodbye to your Doom Patrol days and settle down to—" The Chief then receives a message that a bomb scare aboard a plane landing at the airport requires their attention.  "Yes, Dear!  I'll do anything you say, dear!  But we can't let that plane blow up!  See you later!"  An exasperated Mento replies, "Oh, boy!  I sure did show her who's boss, didn't I?  I love my wife—but I can't stand my freak brothers-in-law!"  The final text poses the question:  "Is this the end of the fabulous freaks?  If Rita is Mento's bride—can she still be Elasti-Girl?  Wait and see the next blast!  We mean like—Kapowww!"

I'm not sure how things went from there, as my Doom Patrol component is pretty sparse, but I've gained a new appreciation for the team and will remedy it one day in the future.

Since this is a tribute to Arnold Drake's creative genius and the fact that this issue contained some nifty elements, to include the appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil and Garguax along with cameos by the Justice League, Teen Titans and even Super-Hip, I'm inclined to call it a classic and rate it with a 10.

Before I leave you, it is my privilege to share a remembrance of Arnold Drake by one of his friends, Clem Robins, who was kind enough to put me in touch with him:

Arnold Drake, arguably the best writer this medium ever had, and without any doubt whatsoever the best writer DC had during the Silver Age, died on Sunday night. 

He was a brilliant, funny, and generous man. And, for what it's worth, he was also the author of the first story I ever got to letter, a gazillion years ago. We have all lost a great talent, and a great friend. 

If you've never read the original Doom Patrol series, and particularly the last two years of its run, you'd be well rewarded to check these stories out. It's for writing like this that the medium has earned the right to be taken seriously. There was one story arc, in which the deliciously evil Madame Rouge was held hostage at Doom Patrol headquarters (#112), and she attempted to seduce the Chief. It is an absolute classic.

Drake had it all: economy, pacing, a sure ear for dialogue, humor, and the ability to invent characters you believed in and cared about. He also had a great partner in the late Bruno Premiani, who could draw absolutely anything.

He also had a long run on DC's "Jerry Lewis" book, where he got to demonstrate his macabre sense of humor. There was one issue (#95) that parodied "The Great Escape", in which a summer camp's inmates attempt to bust out from under the watchful eye of the head counsellor, Uncle Hal, who dressed in a Gestapo uniform and whose sexuality was extremely questionable. It was all pretty risque for 1966, but it was almost unbelievably funny.

He was all over the place at DC, working for various editors on various books. He wrote Superman for Mort Weisinger — about whom Drake has said that absolutely everything you have ever heard about him is true. He created Deadman in 1967 for Jack Miller, and in one stroke invented the adult comic book, while somehow managing to write about drug peddlers without the Comics Code noticing it — four years before Stan Lee put Harry Osborne on heroin on a Spider-Man book released without the Code seal.

But Drake's best work was done under the wonderful Murray Boltinoff, who hired talented people and had the good sense to let them do whatever they wanted.

Drake did with his characters what Boltinoff did with his freelancers: he let 'em do whatever they wanted to. In the case of Doom Patrol, his ensemble of heroes were real people — flawed, sympathetic, and occasionally great. They bounced off of each other in quirky and unpredictable ways. He often referred to his characters as his children, and he clearly loved them. Even when those children were adopted by other writers, and taken in directions that he would not have chosen, he found it delightful that they continued on in comics and other media.

DC disposed of him in 1968, when he attempted to form its freelance writers into a guild. He moved on to other publishers, mostly Marvel and Gold Key.

He was in the process of writing a Doom Patrol prequel story for DC, and I was hoping to get to letter it. I guess this will not happen now. Nobody could ghost-write Arnold.

All of us work in his shadow. Arnold Drake was the best there ever was, and he will be deeply missed.

You'll want to be sure to catch our next review in about two weeks when we celebrate the seventh anniversary of this feature!  Feel free to contact me in the interim with your comments, questions and accolades at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

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