The subject of this week’s post may be a little obscure compared to the likes of traditional superheroes but the oddities and idiosyncrasies that make up the superhero group known as Doom Patrol are the exact reasons that make these characters lovable and relatable. For some context, Doom Patrol is a super-group created in the 60s that were instantly dubbed “World’s Strangest Superheroes”. Hearing this you’re probably thinking “how bad could it be?” Well let me describe some mainstays of the team over the years. The one resounding constant in any iteration of the team is Robotman. Robotman is exactly what he sounds like, a conscience human being (pretty much just a brain) that is enclosed in a robotic body. Another fairly consistent member is Larry Trainor aka Negative Man. He is infected by radioactive energy which allows him to manipulate the world around him using negative energy (I didn’t think it was a real thing either, it’s not just to be clear). His backstory is later changed to having the “Negative Spirit” as an alien that takes control of him when he becomes Negative Man (I guess when you embrace weird it can only go one way). Some other characters that have been introduced in the last few iterations of the team include Jane – a woman whose mind is composed of 63 different personalities (take about never getting time to yourself) – and Danny – a sentient street (no, that is not a typo).
With characters as strange as as these you’re probably thinking how has anyone been able to build compelling stories around these characters. Well its happened, 6 times no less. The most recent iteration of Doom Patrol is written by My Chemical Romance front-man Gerard Way under the Young Animal imprint the strange corner of the DC Comics Universe. Way has been able to craft a story with these characters in a world that is just as colorful as they are with very profound themes ranging from mental health and disabilities to being true to yourself. Doom Patrol is a wacky kaleidoscope of colors and characters that is still able to hold the reader’s attention in the moment.
My greatest takeaway from the Doom Patrol Vol 1: Brick by Brick, is that being true to yourself regardless of your circumstances is the first step to becoming a real life hero. One of the best examples of this in the volume is with Casey Brinke. We are first introduced to Casey as an ambulance driver with a quirky and bubbly personality. As a reader I found it extremely endearing that over the course of the first few issues Casey took everything in stride. Her roommate is being a dick and gets blown up, she gets a new roommate in Terry None. She witnesses a robot emerge from an exploding burrito and get knocked into many pieces, she just picks up all his parts and puts him back together. The reader eventually finds out that Casey is in fact a comic book character created by Danny would has become a real life hero (an extremely literal example of my takeaway, but that just makes my life easier). While Casey is realizing all of this about her self, the reader is taken back to the present where Casey is imprisoned in a cell and all of a sudden her one foot disappears. The way that Way glosses over how she got this disability and how Casey later still finds a way to get back to her friends and save Danny sends a very profound message: Don’t define yourself or let others define you by your weaknesses. While Casey and Doom Patrol are unconventional and quirky, they are unequivocally heroes in my eyes. They are the kinds of heroes that we should all be striving to be.