Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Doom Patrol #121

Doom Patrol #121 (On Sale: July 16, 1968) has a very dramatic Joe Orlando cover that says it all: "Is this the Beginning or the End of the Doom Patrol?" For many years this was the end, as in a startling final issue, Doom Patrol creator Arnold Drake kills them all!

In "The Death of the Doom Patrol?," by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani, the Doom Patrol is destroyed. Striking back at all her former allies, Madame Rouge returns and apparently destroys the Brotherhood of Evil. She then launches a series of devastating attacks against the Doom Patrol in their own headquarters. To safeguard innocent bystanders, the team retreats to an island base prepared by the Chief for emergencies, unaware that they are being tracked by Madame Rouge and her new ally, Captain Zahl, an ex-Nazi foe of the Chief.

Immobilizing the three heroes, Zahl issues an ultimatum: either they allow him to blow up the island and destroy them, or he will cause a similar blast to destroy a tiny fishing village of fourteen inhabitants. The Doom Patrol members heroically vote to sacrifice themselves, and Zahl detonates the island over Madame Rouge's protests. The world mourns the loss of the Doom Patrol, and Steve Dayton vows to find and destroy the murderers of his wife.

Talk about an ending! From day one the Doom Patrol was Arnold Drake's baby and when the book ended he took his baby with it. Elasti-Girl, Negative Man and the Chief all die in this issue. Robotman, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah all appear to die as well, but survive as revealed in Showcase #94 (1977) and New Teen Titans #14 (1981). It appears that this ground-breaking issue has never been reprinted.

In a 1999 interview with Katherine Keller (no relation to me), Arnold Drake spoke of his beloved Doom Patrol:

Murray Boltinoff the editor, came to me one day, or I went to him one day and he said, "We're having a lot of trouble with My Greatest Adventure, it's starting to lay an egg. The era of the superhero has taken over completely. My Greatest Adventure has ordinary heroes. We need some kind of superhero to punch it up." So I said okay, went out and came back a couple of hours later with the basic idea about the man in the wheelchair who is the great brain, and runs this group of superheroes who hate being superheroes. That was the new aspect. That was the thing that made Doom Patrol different, these people hated being superheroes. And they were a little bit self-pitying, just a little bit, and the chief was constantly telling them, "Stop crying in your beer." That made them something that wasn't around at the time.

I enjoyed that experience, not only because it was a fresh idea, but also because I did 48 issues, and this gave me a chance to develop the characters and to get into ever more complex relationships, and so on. That's why I really liked it, because I controlled it. I could make it do what I wanted it to do. In most magazine houses, I would write a character for 3-4 issues, then somebody else would come in and write it. And then someone else would come in, and that's grown even worse today, it's even more so today. The result is there's no real continuity, everybody's making up his own little universe. Everybody's got his own Batman or his own Superman. And I think that probably weakened it, made them less real.
Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

1 comment:

B Allen Krauz said...

Drake & Premianis' DOOM PATROL, as a complete series, is probably the highest point product ever produced by DC,... period...
It has a beginning, middle, & end. What came after, in the 70's, does not even count one tiny bit.