The Doom Patrol has been DC Comics’ best known group of oddball metahumans since 1963. But the so-called “world’s strangest heroes” really came into their own when Scottish writer Grant Morrison took over their title in 1989, and turned the entire concept of the team on its ear. He created a psychedelic tone that not only set the standard for the Doom Patrol going forward, but that greatly inspired the amazing live-action series currently on DC Universe, soon to air its second season on HBO Max.
Here are some of the best Doom Patrol stories from Morrison’s 45-issue run to catch up on, all of which inspired the amazing streaming series in some way.
“Crawling from the Wreckage” (Doom Patrol, Vol. 2, #19-22)
This was the first of Grant Morrison’s storylines after he took over as series writer, and was first published in Doom Patrol #19-22 in 1989. Drawn by artist Richard Case, the story found Morrison exploring what the group was after many members of the team were killed or incapacitated during the DC crossover event Invasion!. “Crawling from the Wreckage” marked an instantaneous shift from the previous, more traditional superhero team dynamic and art style.
In this four-issue reboot, team leader Niles Caulder, recently returned from from the dead, convinces Robotman to reform the team. Not an easy task as the mechanical hero has checked himself into a psychiatric ward to cope with his recent trauma. He’s soon joined by Rebis, an intersex version of Negative Man, and new member Crazy Jane, a fascinating new character with 64 different personalities, each of which bearing their own super power.
The story finds the Patrol battling the Scissormen, who emerged from a “philosophical location” that has seeped into reality and threatens to tear it all apart. If that sounds weird, it very much is. And it only gets weirder.
“The Butterfly Collector / “The House that Jack Built” (Doom Patrol, Vol. 2, 23-24)
Morrison’s second story arc introduces the Doom Patrol to another bizarre villain, and this one actually claims to be God. Yeah, that God. Also going by the name of “Red Jack,” this would-be deity claims he has been stuck in an endless prison for the horrible crime of creating reality itself. Now stranded in a house with no beginning or end, he is sustained by the pain of the millions of butterflies he has pinned to nearly every wall. (That imagery is as creepy as it sounds.)
Red Jack kidnaps the comatose Doom Patroller Rhea Jones to be his new bride, and the team must venture into his surrealistic realm in order to rescue her. When he claims to be allowed to leave this reality only once every hundred years to feed on human suffering, the team discovers that “Red Jack” was once known as none other than Jack the Ripper. Red Jack is set to appear in season two of the live-action series, so reading this story would be a good primer for his eventual appearance.
“Going Underground” (Doom Patrol, Vol, 2, #30)
This one-off issue finds Crazy Jane in a catatonic state after a previous adventure, so Robotman takes a journey into her mind in an attempt to reach her. He does this by disconnecting his human brain from his robot body, and soon encounters the Jane personality called “Driver 8,” which controls the various personalities that reside within her mind.
While inside what is referred to as the Underground, he dodges various personalities of Jane’s like Spinning Jenny, Flaming Jenny, and Baby Doll. Eventually, Driver 8 guides him into the painful memories of Jane’s childhood sexual abuse that caused her mind to fracture into so many different people at such a young age. This one issue inspired the terrific season one episode of Doom Patrol called “Jane Patrol.”
“The Painting That Ate Paris” (Doom Patrol Vol. 2 #26-34)
Things go from weird to outright surreal in this story, which finds the Patrol facing off against one of their most bizarre adversaries: the omniscient reality warper Mr. Nobody (played by Alan Tudyk in the live-action series). Instead of the old and generic “Brotherhood of Evil,” Morrison’s team encounters Nobody’s Brotherhood of Dada, whose psychedelic members include the Fog, Frenzy, Sleepwalk, and the Quiz.
After the Brotherhood acquires a strange unnamed painting with seemingly endless levels, they use it to absorb the entire city of Paris, France. Soon after, the team enters the painting for a truly surreal adventure. This storyline extends into the Doom Patrol facing off against an ancient being known as “The Decreator,” which was formed in the very first moments of creation, and whose sole purpose is the end of all existence.
“Musclebound” (Doom Patrol, Vol. 2, issue #42)
This issue also proved a big influence on the live-action series. The “Hero of the Beach” Flex Mentallo was introduced in issue #31 of Doom Patrol as a parody of world famous body builder Charles Atlas. In issue #42 of the series, his full story is told. This issue provides an origin for the Flex, explaining how back in the ’50s, a young man received a book called Muscle Mystery for You. The book showed him how to activate his special abilities, including a power that allowed him to affect reality just by the flexing of a muscle, and this ordinary “Mac” finally became a “Man.”
Morrison loved the character so much that he later gave him his own four-part mini-series in 1996. Back in the day, ads for Atlas’ program for how to “muscle up” ran in almost every comic book, targeting meek young men who didn’t want to be bullied, which served as Morrison’s inspiration for Flex Mentallo. Ultimately, Flex starred in one of the live-action show’s most memorable episodes, which found him using his Flex power in a very interesting way.
All of these fantastic Doom Patrol stories and more are available now, collected in trade paperback, or on the DC Universe streaming service.
Featured Image: DC Comics