Doom Patrol: The Silver Age: Volume One by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani (graphic novel review)

Considering the extent of my second comicbook collection, I only have 10 issues of Doom Patrol in my collection. Hardly surprising back then as the earliest stories were in ‘My Greatest Adventure’ before the title change and neither started off at # 1. I hadn’t realised until now that although I missed their first appearance, that I had the next four issues when I checked my comics list.

Even so, although I knew the basic continuity, I hadn’t read all the early stories and more familiar with their second incarnation. With the success of the TV version of ‘The Doom Patrol’, it was inevitable that a book release in colour of their 1960s adventures would be released.

The book cover here is the correct one not the dorky one being used on the long river website, although that might belong to the hardback version. This collected volume covers My Greatest Adventure # 80-85 and Doom Patrol # 86-95 with nary a sight of their appearance in Brave And The Bold # 65, although where it fits in the continuity depends on how you shuffle them. However considering that Rita Farr aka Elasti-Girl is shown enlarging her arm in the latter issues, it had to be around there.

Although comparisons have been made to the X-Men, simply because both have leaders in wheelchairs, the group format of bickering amongst themselves is more akin to the Fantastic Four which no one seems to have ever pointed out as far as I can tell. They didn’t even have most of their accepted codenames and were cited by the public as Elasti-Woman, Negative Man and Automation, although Cliff Steele did think of himself as a ‘Robot-Man’.

The Chief didn’t have a real name at the time and literally stayed in the shadows or rather a hidden basement, observing the action mostly by the camera carried by Cliff Steele. Oh and for many issues they wore green outfits until # 89, when Rita Farr gave herself and Larry Trainor the more recognised and more familiar red and white costumes.

I did have a vague memory of seeing Larry Trainor without his bandages and this happened in # 87 where it is revealed he’s highly radioactive with translucent flesh. He regularly gets new chemically treated bandages from the Chief and sleeps in a lead shielded room when he can shed them. Oddly, having now read ‘The Terrible Secret Of Negative Man’, you do have to wonder if he is bandaged under his clothes or costume.

The origin of the Chief in # 88 only mentions his real name once and it did make me wonder if their readers remembered it that well at first. Certainly, the loss of the use of his legs was his own fault although you do have to wonder, considering all the inventions he’s made, why he couldn’t come up with a solution to his own problem, more so when you read the last story in this collection where he wears a cyber-suit. It also links him to General Immortus, who name alone should indicate that he wasn’t short-lived.

By far the biggest co-incidence is the Doom Patrol’s adversaries ‘The Brotherhood Of Evil in March 1964 and that of the X-Men’s Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants in the same month and year. There is generally a 4 to 6 month delay before things see print, so it would be hard to pinpoint which team was created first but that’s the only similarity I could spot. If anything, the Doom Patrol were more of a grassroots group than the Justice League, often being called to rescue people from a natural disaster or equipment failure as going against villains.

I thought my memory wasn’t deceiving me, in Doom Patrol # 93, we finally get to see an illustration as to what Cliff Steele’s face was like and probably the only time it happened. In # 94, we also see a schismatic for the Robotman body itself. By this time, Cliff Steele has been through at least three of them. No doubt the Chief must have a production line of them to keep up, although the last issue here suggests otherwise. Mind you, the transition of the Chief being forever hidden behind the scenes and guest-appearing in a radio show with his Doom Patrol is never shown.

I’ve referenced the last issue here a few times and it is significant in that the Chief decides to attempt to cure Rita Farr and Larry Trainor but Cliff Steele interferes and their powers are flipped. Oddly, Rita doesn’t go radioactive. Of course, Cliff is damaged and the Chief uses a mechanised suit to step in his place against the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.

In many respects, Bruno Premiani’s art is fairly basic but his skill was in storytelling and it carries Arnold Drake’s stories. The Doom Patrol came out well defined and although never rose beyond being second tier in the day, it was hardly surprising as Marvel Comics was in ascendance. There was some element of continuity and they were certainly public-spirited.

I’m not sure how this compares to the version of ‘Doom Patrol’ currently on American television but will probably be pulling a DVD or blu-ray, subject to extras, when it gets a UK release later this year.

GF Willmetts

January 2020

(pub: DC Comics. 372 page graphic novel softcover. Price: I paid £14.79 (UK) for moe copy. ISBN: 978-1-4012-8111-3)

check out website:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.