When I started my chronicle of the Silver Age, there were many chapters I was looking forward to posting. One of these was the Doom Patrol.
DC’s My Greatest Adventure wasn’t much different from any other sci-fi comic of the time, except that all the stories were in first person (hence the title). But in the 80th issue, that changed. Julius Schwartz talked its writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney into creating a superhero team for the comic. Drake came up with the Doom Patrol to keep the sci-fi theme. Bruno Premiani was hired as the artist.
The Patrol’s leader is Dr. Niles Caulder, or “The Chief”. He is a paraplegic, but possesses a highly scientific and strategic mind that has been honed by studying various sciences.
The rest of the members have freakish powers and appearances. Larry Trainor is a test pilot who is exposed to radioactivity while flying too high into the atmosphere. After crashing, he is consumed by negative energy. He became able to manifest a negative version of himself that can fly, create explosions, and become transparent. He has no control over this form, and must wear bandages to protect others and himself. He became Negative Man.
Rita Farr was an Olympic swimmer and actress. While filming in Africa, she is taken by a waterfall and exposed to gases. She is able to shrink and grow to any size, and her limbs are flexible. She becomes Elasti-Girl.
Cliff Steele is a daredevil. He crashes his car, and his body is damaged beyond repair. However, his brain is transferred to a robot. He became Automaton, but later the name is changed to Robotman. By #86, the comic was renamed Doom Patrol.
The team’s main enemies were the Brotherhood of Evil, led by The Brain (a literal disembodied brain). Other members were every bit as strange as the heroes. These others were Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man (a shapeshifter who can change into any animal, vegetable, or mineral), Monsieur Mallah (a hyper-intelligent gorilla), and Madame Rouge (an evil counterpart to Elasti-Girl who can also change her facial features).
In later issues, two more members were introduced. One was inventor Steve Dayton, who has a helmet that increases his mental prowess and gives him psychic powers. He becomes Mento, and marries Elasti-Girl. Garfield Logan is able to change into any animal, and becomes Beast Boy. He is adopted by Steve and Rita.
Despite the change, Doom Patrol’s sales waned. Arnold Drake left DC for Marvel over a pay dispute (and ironically wrote for X-Men, which he criticized as a rip-off), and the team was killed in #121 in 1968. However that was not the end of the team. Beast Boy joined the Teen Titans in 1980. The team was revived in name only by Paul Kupperberg in the 70’s, with Robotman being the only member from the original team, and the rest being new characters. A more full-fledged revival came in 1987, under writer Grant Morrison and artist Richard Case.
Next: Iron Man