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The Doom Patrol Review


Secret Origins Annual #1Secret Origins Annual #1 starring Doom Patrol

"The Secret Origin of the Doom Patrol"
Script by Paul Kupperberg
Art by John Byrne
Cover by John Byrne

SYNOPSIS: Cliff Steele, Robotman, returned to the Doom Patrol's original headquarters, a mansion in Midway City, only to find that the security system didn't recognize him. Apparently when the members of the Teen Titans had rebuilt him, that had messed up the code circuits in his hand that gave him access to the building and it's controls.

The building's automated butler, Waldo, gave him tentative access to it, based on his voiceprint and photograph, but asked him to prove his claim of being Cliff Steele by sharing information for comparison with it's databank. The building was actually under the control of Valentina Vostok, who was working for a government agency and was stalling for time as an attack squad moved into position.

Cliff related to the computer how he had been an adventurer and had been driving in the Indy 500 when his car hit an oil slick and crashed and burned. Cliff's next days was clouded with images of a very short doctor, and he awoke to find that he had metal hands, and a robotic body. He went on a mad rampage through the city looking for the short surgeon, and eventually found him, Dr. Niles Caulder, better known as the Chief.

Waldo continued to press Cliff for information, so he detailed the history of the Chief, from his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Calcutta, India. It was there that he met Arani, the woman would he would later marry and who would later become the new Doom Patrol member known as Celsius. After his marriage, Caulder, returned to the United States to continue his research into immortality, which was being funded by an unknown benefactor. The man with the money turned out to be General Immortus, an ancient villain who was losing his own immortality and was desperate to get it back. He kidnapped Caulder and forced him to continue to work for him by implanting a bomb in the scientist's chest, which he would remove if Caulder succeeded. Caulder did come up with a plan to stop Immortus: He let the villain kill him, getting shot as he attacked Immortus while he slept. A robotic surgeon he created retrieved his body and removed the bomb while Caulder was technically dead, but the operation did cost Caulder the use of his legs. Caulder destroyed his lab and notes and went into hiding, not coming out until he saved Cliff Steele's life by transplanting his living brain into a robotic body.

Waldo the Butler next asked about Larry Trainor, who became known as Negative Man. Larry had been a civilian test pilot for the Air Force, and had been testing the X-19 experimental jet orbiter when it was affected by sunspots and radiation. Larry managed to land the jet but he was confined to an isolation room for months. When he was finally close to losing his mind, the government officials told him he had to stay in the room for the rest of his life, as he was highly radioactive. Much later, a man (who insisted on anonymity, but was later revealed to be Caulder) developed some specially-treated fabric with which to wrap Larry's body, so that he wouldn't be a hazard to anyone, allowing him to move about like he used to do. Unfortunately, his new appearance inspired a lot of fear in people, and Larry began just wandering the streets, and living in a shack at the trainyards. One day, after some kids had graffiti'ed the hovel, one of them got caught in the tracks in the path of an on-coming train. Larry discovered that he had become the host for a Negative Energy Being that he could project out from himself, moving at the speed of light and only stopped by lead. He used the Negative Energy to save the boy, and decided to use his power for good.

Waldo said that Cliff had fulfilled its security requirements, and Cliff continued reminiscing when he got to Rita Farr's room. Rita had been a glamour girl and movie star, and her last film had been filmed in South America. She was a former Olympic swimmer, but during one take, the river's current got her and she was pulled many miles down river, coming ashore in a marshland filled with strange gas geysers. The gas apparently endowed her with the ability to grow to giant sizes and to shrink to very small sizes. She couldn't deal with not being perfect anymore, and became a virtual recluse, retiring from Hollywood.

Cliff also remembered how the three of them met The Chief, offering them a chance to make a difference in the world as the Doom Patrol. The team had battled many strange menaces, including General Immortus, the Brotherhood of Evil, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, and Garguax, and had also met several good friends, including Mento (billionaire Steve Dayton, who later married Rita) and Beast Boy (Garfield Logan, who was adopted by Steve and Rita, and later became a member of the Teen Titans), and also recalled how the original team met their ends at the hands of Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl. The two villains had captured the Doom Patrol on a small island and broadcast his ultimatum all over the world: They could either save themselves or the inhabitants of a small fishing village in New England. The team opted for the fishing village and Zahl blew up the island, apparently killing Rita, Larry, Cliff and the Chief. Cliff survived the explosion, and was found by Dr. Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, who designed a new robotic body for him (which Cliff soon abandoned for his old model).

Cliff's reveries were interrupted by the appearance of a quartet of exo-skeletoned and armed men, who claimed to be Government representatives and placed Cliff under arrest. He laid into the men, while Valentina watched from her seclusion. Valentina recalled her own transformation into Negative Woman, having defected from the Soviet Union in an experimental jet fighter, which crashed in the Caribbean near the spot where the original Doom Patrol died. The Negative Energy that had been a part of Larry Trainor moved and inhabited Valentina, transforming her into Negative Woman. She flew to America and researched the Negative Energy, which led her to the mansion in Midway City, where Arani Caulder had already set up operations. Arani had been left in the care of monks in the Himalayas after her marriage to the Chief, where she developed her mind and discovered she had the ability to created intense heat and cold. She had remained there until news of the Doom Patrol's death reached her, prompting her to head to the United States. She fervently believed that her husband survived the explosion, and was going to find him, forming a new Doom Patrol along the way.

Negative Woman joined with Arani, who took the name Celsius, and then went after their next prospective member. Joshua Clay was a troubled kid who was sentenced to military service for his crimes. In Vietnam, Josh witness the massacre of a village of innocent civilians by his combat-crazy commanding officer. The stress triggered previously unknown power within him, which manifested itself in powerful blasts of energy from his hands. He deserted the Army and headed back to the States, where he was eventually found by Negative Woman as he was living on the run. Josh took the name of Tempest and joined the new Doom Patrol.

The new team had just gotten together when the rebuilt Robotman walked into the Midway City mansion. After a brief scuffle and some explanations (though Cliff never did fully believe that the Chief had married Celsius), the mansion was attacked by General Immortus, looking for the immortality serum that had been used on Celsius. Soon after they stopped the madman, they had to battle the robotic Cossack, and also joined Power Girl to battle the menace of Reactron. Superman assisted the team when Negative Woman's powers began to run wild and she went on a rampage, forcing her to adopt the same shielded bandages that Larry Trainor had worm as Negative Man. Soon after, the new Doom Patrol broke up, with Cliff heading off with Beast Boy (now called Changeling) and the Teen Titans to bring the murderers of the original Doom Patrol to justice.

Valentina had renounced the use of her Negative Woman powers while working for the government (her job was to monitor the proliferation of super-heroes in the country), and ordered her men to stop the attack on Cliff, revealing herself to her old friend. She did not answer any of his questions before breaking contact, and Cliff left the now heavily-damaged mansion, telling Waldo to pack up what was left and ship it to him in California.

COMMENTS: This is a great story to give to the fledgeling Doom Patrol fan, even though you have to warn them about the weirdness that was to come years later (ala Grant Morrison and Rachel Pollack). This issue at least one important post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity clarification, with the fact that the Doom Patrol fought Reactron with Power Girl instead of Supergirl. It also didn't even mention or show the Doom Patrol's appearance in Superman Family, so at least at the time of this story that adventure probably didn't happen.

John Byrne did a very nice job on the artwork for this story, drawing an especially fine looking Cliff Steele.

This issue also features "The Secret Origin of Captain Comet" by Roy Thomas and Ron Harris, which is another recommended story for any Silver Age fan.

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