Saturday, September 19, 2009

DP03-AA Kupperberg Period synopsis

(Many of the 1986 issues and storylines mentioned in this entry owe much of their chronological arrangement to research using the websites Grand Comic Book Database, The Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe and

Because Paul Kupperberg wrote the first New Doom Patrol story arc in 1977 (see DP02-AA) you will often see the twelve years preceding Grant Morrison entirely attributed to him. This is both unfair to him and misleading to the reader. The three new members he introduced back then had appeared in fewer than a dozen comics by the time Crisis On Infinite Earths began eight years later while the original group's sidekick Beast Boy (now Changeling) was appearing in not one but two monthly Teen Titans titles often with either original member Robotman or adoptive father Mento. These stories were almost always written by Marv Wolfman, who also wrote Crisis and was frequently his own editor. By beginning Kupperberg's Period after Crisis I am acknowledging that he was given the option of ignoring certain elements of the past and reinventing others to suit his needs. Where he does or doesn't choose to do so all become part of the canvas on which he writes his scripts.

Immediately following Crisis there were a number of scattered appearances that were more in the spirit of the Gypsy Periods but which have been included here because they were all released during the year that led up to the new series and would be part of DC's new coherent continuity:

  1. Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe - Numerous issues of this two-year series contain one- and two-page profiles of various members and related characters.
  2. The Official Teen Titans Index #1(8/85)- 5(12/85) and The Official Doom Patrol Index #1(1/86)- 2(2/86) - Both published by Independent Comics Group/Eclipse and have original cover art, including John Byrne on the Doom Patrol. Byrne also did some of the Who's Who profiles.

  3. New Teen Titans #18(3/86)- 19(4/86) and 22( 7/86) with Swamp Thing #49(6/86)- 50(7/86)- Tying up John Constantine's Defense of Heaven which was the culmination of a year-and-a-half long story Alan Moore (or Karen Berger) called "American Gothic" and which intertwined with Crisis. Mento played a key role. He begins creating super-powered characters he calls The Hybrid.

  4. New Teen Titans #24(10/86)- 27(1/87) - Mo' Mento, mo' Mento, mo' Mento.

  5. Vigilante #36(12/86)- 47(11/87) - Valentina Vostok becomes a supporting character. Marv Wolfman edited this title initially and wrote the first sixteen issues until Crisis began. After a two-parter by Alan Moore the rest of the series was written by Paul Kupperberg. Tellingly, Mike Gold takes over as editor as of issue #35 and the very next issue a member of the New Doom Patrol joins the cast.
  6. New Teen Titans #28(2/87)- 31(5/87) - Robotman was one of the supporting characters called in to rescue Titans from the church of Brother Blood.

  7. Teen Titans Spotlight #9(4/87) - Changeling and Robotman fight an old DP villain. Kupperberg scripted this issue.

  8. Teen Titans Spotlight #10(5/87) - Aqualad vs. Mento

  9. Teen Titans Spotlight #11(6/87) - The Brotherhood of Evil get their own feature.

  10. Blue Beetle #11(4/87)- #14(7/87) - Mo' Mento, mo' Mento, mo' Mento.

  11. New Teen Titans #34(8/87) - Mento has a nervous breakdown. Raven appears to heal him.

  12. Phantom Stranger #1(10/87)- 4(1/88) - Limited series written by Kupperberg with Valentina Vostok in a supporting role.

At this point the new series had already started. Kupperberg writes the first 18 issues (except for the Bonus Book supplement in #9) and three specials. At this point I'll simply point out what he didn't write. Also worth mentioning is that jack-of-all-trades John Workman comes on board as letterer for a stint that brings to mind Joe Sinnott inking the Fantastic Four or the Midget Butler character on the TV show "The Prisoner". Editors may come and go like 70's pencillers or The Village's Number 2's but Workman missed only eight issues in the 87 issue series, six of them during this period. When discussing individual issues later in the blog I'll point out some of his more colorful pseudonyms.

Changeling continues appearing with the Titans, of course, but Steve Dayton gives up his Mento identity as well as his ambitions to use cutting edge technology to custom create super-heroes. He rejoins their cast in the early 90's as himself as a regular supporting character. The Brain and Monsieur Mallah are seen coordinating paid assassinations for Phobia (of the New Brotherhood of Evil) in New Teen Titans #43(5/88). I will try to continue tracking their appearances but Phobia and the rest of the New Brotherhood were never created to be a part of the Doom Patrol mythos; in fact I can't recall any of them appearing in any nominal Doom Patrol comic book. Thus, I'll limit myself to the original group for the sake of focus.

Here then is the heart of the Kupperberg Period:

  1. Secret Origins Annual #1([8]/87) - Art by John Byrne; Robotman returns to the Midway City headquarters where he recounts the origins of both the original 60's and new 70's group unaware that Valentina Vostok is observing him in her capacity as a government agent.
  2. Doom Patrol #1(10/87)- 8(5/88) and Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad Special (no indicia!) - The first three issues reassemble the New Doom Patrol and reexamine the blast site where the original team disappeared. The next three issues relocate to Kansas City and add three new younger members and the recovering Larry Trainor. This leads directly into the DP/SS special, plotted by John Ostrander, and directly from there to issues #7 and 8. By the end of this stage the members (except Trainor) are assembled on the cover of #8 and all but Robotman (for obvious reasons) are wearing variations of the 1960's team uniform (as does Changeling in the Titans books, and always has prior to that).
  3. Doom Patrol #9(6/88)- 10(7/88), Superman #20 (8/88) and Power Girl #1(6/88)- 4(9/88) - John Byrne writes as well as draws the Superman title. This is when Kupperberg also begins writing Checkmate, as Vigilante ends.
  4. Doom Patrol #11(8/88)- 14(11/88) and ~Annual #1( [12]/88) - During a Power Girl guest appearance there are numerous shake-ups. Larry nearly kills himself, Valentina and the villain Reactron in an ill-conceived attempt to steal back the Negative Energy being from Valentina. He fails, but his body is unexpectedly healed. Karma, a 1987 recruit, leaves to escape an arrest warrant and we are introduced to Dorothy Spinner (who will later be brought back by Morrison).
  5. Doom Patrol #15(12/88)- 18(1/89) and Invasion! #1-3 (no dates) - The group finally lives up to its name. The Chief is finally forced to reveal his existence to the team forcing everyone to reexamine anything they have assumed was true up to this point. During and following an invasion by a coalition of alien species the team suffers numerous and varied losses: Celsius gives her life trying to cripple an alien outpost; Valentina and Larry both lose the Negative Energy being; Lodestone is in a coma; Scott Fischer dies suddenly, possibly from complications of leukemia or possibly from the alien gene bomb; the Kansas City headquarters is hit by a crashing flying saucer and the structural damage may make it beyond repair and Cliff's relationship with the Chief is beyond repair as well. The stage is set for Morrison's overhaul the following month.
  6. I'm not sure how but the Negative Energy being appears in a crowd scene of super-heroes in Blasters Special #1(1989). Valentina goes on to spend a year in Checkmate, starting in the "Janus Directive" storyline in #15(5/89), then a side trip to Firestorm #87(7/89) and then more Checkmate through #30(8/90). Karma was reportedly in Suicide Squad #58(10/91) and Valentina appeared again in Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #11(7/93).

This synopsis is sort of long for the time period involved but because this material has never been reprinted since it first appeared 20 years ago I wanted to make a 'quick' overview possible, even if it contains a few phrases that will be made redundant by the individual entries.

The next entry will be in two days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DP02-AA Gypsy Period 1 synopsis

(Much of this entry was previously posted in a slightly different form on my LiveJournal page as a part of the essay "Doom Patrol/Towards A More Precise Outline" on September 1st, 2009.)

02) Gypsy Period 1 - (1977-1985) Not counting reprints, the 1970's attempt to revive the Doom Patrol as an ongoing feature took twice as long as the original five year run of the 1960's series. Before finally bearing fruit as a monthly title in 1987 the Doom Patrol spent ten years as a bifurcated presence in DC continuity and only then to the few readers who managed to catch all of their widely scattered appearances. For new readers understandably unfamiliar with a title discontinued in 1968, trying to make sense of what the Doom Patrol was meant to be from one or two issues here or there becomes like a game of 'The Blind Wise Men and The Elephant'. Half the stories involved a new team and the other half involved the emotionally scared survivors of the first, with Robotman straddling both worlds. The two camps were generally written by Paul Kupperberg (and Gerry Conway) for the former and Marv Wolfman (with George Perez) for the latter. You may notice that the next section is named the Kupperberg Period despite him writing DP features going back to 1977. This is not meant to diminish his contributions. If anything it is out of fairness to him. Stories take on measurably different qualities when you can sustain a writer-artist-editor combination for more than three issues. You'll find for most of this period the cast barely has time to establish their identities to the reader, let alone develop an evolving group dynamic, which they certainly do once Kupperberg is ensconced in a regular title.

Oddly, although adjunct DP members Mento (Steve Dayton) and Beast Boy (Gar Logan) were not present at the bomb blast that ended the first group they, like the Doom Patrol, remained unseen until Beast Boy appeared in Teen Titans #50(10/77)- 52(12/77), concurrent with the DP revival. Possibly the key to the more successful post-Crisis Doom Patrol series was the inclusion of Gar Logan in the revamped, relaunched New Teen Titans (beginning in 1980 and transmuting thereafter). As of this new series he insists on being called 'Changeling' and is rarely absent from the Titans' various incarnations since. The Showcase stories reveal that Cliff's Robotman body survived the blast and was rebuilt by Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men. He returns to the headquarters in Midway City to find three new characters claiming to be the DoomPatrol. Later, in the Titans stories, Cliff is drawn into Dayton's search for the original team's killers and becomes a surrogate family member to Gar. These two storylines play out in fits and spurts in the issues below:

  1. Showcase #94 (8-9/77)- 96(12/77-1/78) The New Doom Patrol is introduced.
  2. Teen Titans #50(10/77)- 52(12/77) Beast Boy makes an extended guest appearance.
  3. Superman Family #191(9-10/78)- 193(1-2/79) A story teaming the New Doom Patrol with Supergirl that was intended for Super-Team Family #16 was instead serialized as a Supergirl story.
  4. From 1980-1982, putting closure on the first group became a significant ongoing subplot in Changeling's life in New Teen Titans. These stories not only reintroduced Mento and the Brotherhood of Evil, but introduced a whole new Brotherhood who became staple characters. Robotman appears but the three new characters do not.
  5. DC Comics Presents #52(12/82) Superman meets the New Doom Patrol; this is also the first apearance of Ambush Bug.
  6. The New Brotherhood of Evil resurfaces in New Teen Titans and grow distinct from the Brain and Mallah; I will be outlining why they will not be sharing their predecessors' link to the Doom Patrol.
  7. Daring New Adventures Of Supergirl #7(5/83)- 10(8/83) The New Doom Patrol battle Reactron with help from Supergirl.
  8. DC Sampler #2(9/84) Not a story but a two page article with original art about the Teen Titans.
  9. Why Red Tornado #3(9/85) is not a DP appearance, despite what you may have read elsewhere.
  10. Crisis On Infinite Earths and its many tie-ins and cross-overs including New Teen Titans and Swamp Thing

The next entry will be in two days.

Monday, September 14, 2009

DP01-AA Original Series synopsis

(Most of this entry has previously appeared in slightly different form as part of an essay titled "Doom Patrol/Toward A More Precise Outline" on my LiveJournal page on September 1st, 2009)

01) The Original Series - The Doom Patrol first appeared in issue #80 (6/63) of what had been an anthology title, My Greatest Adventure. The superhero revival that DC had been engaged in was proving to be more than a fad. Tentatively at first with a new version of the Flash in 1956, it escalated in 1959 with a rapid succession of reimagined updates of Golden Age heroes and soon Marvel and Gold Key joined with their own original characters. With titles like Showcase and The Brave And The Bold already running popular features this new group became MGA's regular ongoing feature immediately as of that issue. It was officially renamed The Doom Patrol beginning with issue #86 (3/64) and continued until the cancellation of the series with #121 (9-10/68). [An additional three issues, #'s 122-124, were published in the early 1970's but contained only edited reprints.]

This phase of the group's existence may also be referred to as the (Arnold) Drake/ (Bruno) Premiani Period, named for the principal creators of those issues. I would like to expand beyond those issues to include the very few appearances they made outside their own title. There were only three that I have ever heard of: Challengers Of The Unknown #48 (2-3/66), in a story that crosses over into the DP's own title, unusual for DC at the time; The Brave And The Bold #65 (4-5/66) teaming with the Flash, not Batman; and technically Teen Titans #6 (11-12/66) in which Beast Boy tries unsuccessfully to join the Teen Titans and the DP have a cameo.
Just before the series was cancelled DP writer Arnold Drake and DP editor Murray Boltinoff were both working on DC's 1960's version of Plastic Man . In issue #8 (1-2/68) they use The Chief, Niles Caulder, as a supporting character. The reason this isn't strictly part of the same continuity is that in the previous issue it is explained that this Plastic Man is the son of the 1940's Plastic Man. For the rest of DC's pre-1986 continuity, Plastic Man has, or is assumed to have, the same origin as the 1940's incarnation (that is, his unusual abilities were acquired/induced, not inherited). In a pre-1986 frame of reference he is an alternate version of the character on an alternate Earth and therefore so is the Caulder with whom he interacts. The best existing disambiguation of this I've found is spread across several entries on the following page (which has a pop-up ad I was able to close without harm):

Note that at the end of Doom Patrol #121 (9-10/68) the team appears to be killed in a bomb blast. Because they were presumed to be dead the group's appearances over the next nine years were limited to sporadic reprints. To the best of my knowledge there was no new retroactive material such as the flashbacks, period pieces, or time travel stories referencing the Original Series such as have occured occasionally since the late 1990's (see the Wilderness Years note following the Pollack Period as well as Gypsy Period 2). Any subseqent new material of this nature would be outlined in a hypothetical entry DP01-AP and reprints will eventually be listed in an entry DP01-AR.

The next entry will be in two days.