7 The Doom Patrol Review: The Superman Family
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The Doom Patrol Review


The Superman Family was a conglomeration of three lesser-selling Superman titles in the mid-seventies into a 100-page "Super Spectacular" edition. Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, and Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane all combined into one book, with each individual feature alternately took the main spot of the book with a new story, while the rest of each issue was comprised of reprints of older stories.

Even with the merger, the comic still had to dodge cancellation a few years later, but was one of the first two of DC's "Dollar Comics" (along with World's Finest Comics). The new Superman Family was made up of all-new stories of Superman, Supergirl, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Krypto, and Nightwing & Flamebird. The features changed occasionally, but the title hung on for another few years before it finally fell beneath the axe of cancellation.

The New Doom Patrol made one of it's very few appearances in Supergirl's feature, in Superman Family #191-193.

The Superman Family #191The Superman Family #191

"A Matter of Gravity"
Script by Gerry Conway
Art by Arvell Jones and Romeo Tanghal

SYNOPSIS: Supergirl returned to Santa Augusta after a brief leave of absence from her counseling work at the New Athens Experimental School. As she was relaxing in front of the television, a program was interrupted by a special bulletin saying that Professor Rudolph Clement, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, had become the victim of an experiment which destroyed his home. The news prompted Linda Danvers to head out the door, as she had gone to school with Clement.

At the same time, the four members of the new Doom Patrol were on a quiet vacation in London, when an explosion rattled the area they were in. After doing their best to rescue people caught in the blast, Robotman noticed a man in armor in the back of the explosion site, whom he and Tempest cornered in an alleyway. The man spouted a lot of hatred for Americans, and Rudi Clement in particular, and fired a Gravitronic Ray at the two heroes, crushing them to the ground.

Meanwhile, Linda Danvers had driven to the site of Clement's destroyed home, but was refused access by a police officer watching the grounds. Right after she arrived, the area was hit with a massive earthquake, and Linda changed into Supergirl to investigate a glow coming from the remains of the house. A beam of energy shot up and knocked the Maid of Steel for a loop, and Rudi Clements climbed out of the hole, clad in a suit of reddish armor and apparently very insane. He called himself the Gravitronic Man as he attacked Supergirl, and sped away at the speed of light. Supergirl speculated that he had harness the forces of gravity to break the light speed barrier, but that he also hadn't realized that doing so on Earth would cause a number of disasters as the atmosphere and everything on Earth would spin off the planet into outer space. This was soon evident as the effect began affecting the immediate area, with everything that wasn't secured to the ground beginning to rise up into the air. It also appeared to affect Supergirl, as she was unable to control her own flight, and was rising upward with everything else.

The Superman Family #192The Superman Family #192

"What Goes Up ... Can't Come Down"
Script by Gerry Conway
Art by Arvell Jones and Romeo Tanghal

SYNOPSIS: Through an act of willpower, Supergirl was able to regain control of her flying abilities and go to work on saving everyone who was falling upward and out of control (Unknown to Supergirl, a green blob of energy was allowing Clement's Gravity Disruptor to affect the Kryptonian).

In London, the inventor of the Gravitronic Ray, Clement's cousin Martin Tain, was working on his equipment, which he could use to "alter the fields of gravitational force around any physical body -- including the Earth". Tain's side of the family had a long history of poverty every since a family squabble during the Colonial days split the family and Tain's father had lost his fortune raising an army for King George, while Clement's family prospered in America. Tain and Clement eventually met at a scientific convention where they both unveiled anti-gravity devices. The family feud again broke out, with Tain swearing to destroy his cousin, even if he had to destroy the entire planet as well. As The Gravity Lord, Tain's device started having the same effect on London as the Gravitonic Man's ray did in Florida.

Supergirl began a journey across the Atlantic to try and track down The Gravitronic Man before the forces he unleashed destroyed the planet. In London, the new Doom Patrol reunited as the effects of the ray wore off on Robotman and Tempest, only to have them also begin falling upward as everything in the city became weightless. Meanwhile, The Gravity Lord and the Gravitronic Man were facing off above the waters of the Atlantic, where the effects of their powerful devices were tearing the ocean apart. Both, however, turned their energies on Supergirl when she arrived, so that she couldn't stop their battle.

The Superman Family #193The Superman Family #193


Script by Gerry Conway & Scott Edelman
Art by Arvell Jones and Romeo Tanghal

SYNOPSIS: Supergirl was tossed about by the combined forces of the Gravity Lord and the Gravitronic Man. The Gravity Lord raised the S.S. Titanic from the bottom of the sea and used it to attack Supergirl, who surprisingly felt the blow. The Gravitronic Man brought up a gigantic shark to devour the Maid of Steel, but she punched the creature away before it could swallow her.

Meanwhile in London, The Doom Patrol was doing its best to stay tethered to the ground. Celsuis recalled a clue in a diary that they had pulled from the wreckage of Martin Tain's lab that led them to Big Ben, where the vengeful Brit had his hidden lab and power source. Inside, they discovered a viewscreen that was monitoring the battle between both men and Supergirl. Robotman told Negative Woman and Tempest to fly out to help her, while he and Celsius stayed behind to try and figure out how to stop the machinery from supplying the Gravity Lord with his power.

The arrival of Negative Woman and Tempest (who was being carried by Negative Woman, even though he could fly on his own with his power blasts) caught the Gravity Lord off-guard for a moment, but he rebounded with a huge piece of rock from the ocean floor. Supergirl's heat vision destroyed the boulder before it could hit either of the heroes (whom she didn't know), and Tempest dropped from his friend's arms and landed on the back of the Gravitronic Man. He destroyed the villain's backpack, which rendered him powerless.

Back in London, the remaining two members of the new Doom Patrol were trying to decipher the controls to Gravity Lord's equipment. The high speed rate of information that Robotman's mechanical eyes allowed him to "absorb and comprehend" allowed him to push the right button to turn off the power (and apparently destroy the lab). Gravity returned to normal, and the two villains were delivered to the authorities in London, and Supergirl thanks the Doom Patrol and headed back to Florida, not knowing that the mysterious green energy creature was still planning her demise.

COMMENTS: As a Supergirl story, this tale was mediocre, even by the low standards I usually ascribe to Superman books. As a Doom Patrol adventure, this was a horrible piece of work, and easily the worst DP story I have ever read. The new Doom Patrol's appearances were few and far between the way it was, and it didn't help to have uninspired stories like this happen when they did show up. Gerry Conway is a writer I respect quite a bit, but he really dropped the ball on these three issues, falling back on the most basic of stereotypes for each of the DP's personalities (and failing to really do much even with those, beyond have Negative Woman say "da" instead of "yes", and have Celsius talk about Eastern religion in one panel), and either forgetting what they could do (Tempest not being able to fly) or giving them abilities we haven't seen in evidence before (Cliff's "mechanical" eyes and their ability to help his NORMAL human brain process information like a high speed computer, or at least like a 39 dollar scanner from Staples).

Fortunately, I doubt this tale is even in current continuity anymore, since Supergirl's major appearance with the Doom Patrol (the battle with Reactron in The Daring Adventures of Supergirl #8 & 9) was retconned into a team-up with Power Girl. There are enough major elements in the tale that are dependent on Supergirl and either her backstory or her powers that I don't think this story can logically be re-assimilated into the post-Crisis DC Universe. I think it was not mentioned in the Secret Origins Annual story for just that reason. Which, to quote Martha Stewart, is a good thing, at least in my opinion.

This story also marked the final appearance of Cliff Steele in his "Rog 2000-esque" robotic body, which is another good thing. It looked great on Rog 2000, but Cliff Steele is his own robot.

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