Sunday, February 27, 2011

Doom Patrol: Then and Now..........

Being a reasonably long-time Doom Patrol fan, I often find myself reflecting back on the original team, in comparison with their current, modern versions.

Robotman: Back in the original run, I found Cliff to be almost interchangeable with the Thing (from FF), in terms of his personality, speech patterns, and general behaviour. I don't see him as a rip-off of the character - moreso just a character created in a similar vein, with a headstrong personality and a big metal heart.

Nowadays, whilst his speech pattern is more similar to the Thing's, he's branched out as more of a 'human' character. He makes mistakes, he says/does the wrong thing (as does any character infused with human traits) but behind it all, he really is an everyman, and always willing to stand by his friends. I've never been a fan of the 'tough guy' stereotype in comic teams, but Cliff is different. He's been through a lot, and is still willing to save the day.

Negative Man: I was never particularly drawn to Larry in the original run. He was different, a bit odd, quite aloof, but still inherently likeable. I was impressed by his later incarnation of Rebis, although one could argue that they didn't share any common traits aside from the bandages.

The modern Larry is one of my favourite characters ever. By turning up the personality of the original version, and maintaining his affection for the other members, Larry has become the team clown, who just can't stop joking. I see elements of the Human Torch in the original version, and possibly Spider-Man in this incarnation, which is befitting of a guy who is made up of several bodies and personalities (over time).

Elasti-Woman: In previous appearances, Rita was usually the damsel in distress, and there wasn't much to differentiate her from other females at the time. She was a likeable character, though I never really understood her attraction for the arrogance of Mento.

Modern Rita is a flawed, human, emotional character who has five times more depth than most of the female characters in comics. She has been through a lot, and is not afraid to reflect that in her personality. Whilst she is finally learning to hold onto the family that she has, Rita still has a way to go in being happy with the 'person' that she is. Her spotlight issue is always a pleasure to re-read.

How does everyone else compare the original versions with the modern incarnations?


  1. I disagree with your assessment of Silver Age Rita. I didn't ever see her as the damsel in distress type. She was definitely the peace-maker on the team and spent lots of time smoothing the ruffled feathers of the other characters, but at the same time, she was also a real career woman... where the Doom Patrol was her career. In those first six or seven issues, she's not interested in romance, she's interested in keeping the team together. She puts the interests of the team ahead of her own. Even when Mento enters the picture, she keeps him at arm's length so that the Doom Patrol will stay together and to establish herself as a heroine first and foremost. I think she's a pretty well-rounded character, when you consider what the rest of the female characters were like in the sixties. Rita, although she had her moments of being a flighty stereotypical female, was just as often portrayed as an independent woman who stood up for her convictions.

  2. Murray's definitely right about context, especially at DC, where not only was Lois Lane constantly day-dreaming about marrying Superman, but I distinctly remember a Sekowsky-drawn JLofA story in which Wonder Woman was serving refreshments at a team meeting. Really? Wonder Woman? Can you imagine how that conversation might more realistically go? "You want coffee? I don't understand, are your legs broken? Would you prefer them to be?"
    But more seriously, a half year after Doom Patrol was introduced, Sue Storm suddenly developed the ability to create force fields, whereas she only used to be able to disappear prior to that. The rest of 1964 saw the introduction of more female villains at Marvel: Scarlet Witch and Black Widow (who both later became heroines), Princess Python and the Enchantress. This was happening right before Warhol's pop-art effect or the Batman TV series was turning broader attention to comics. There was a desire on the part of regular comics readers, who were turning steadily to super-heroes in the early sixties, to see more capable females. Typically, Marvel responded to the public demand and DC stuck to the formulas that worked in the fifties. Until the Charlton crowd showed up, only Drake was taking a character-driven approach.

  3. Yes, SA Rita seemed quite the woman.

    I was going to try a compare and contrast on The Chief, but it seems he's always been a mixed bag of nuts. I expect that next time we see him he'll have calmed down and be the master manipulator, rather than a semi-villainous loon, again.