Sunday, June 12, 2011

DP09-AP(e) Retro Stories During The Giffen Period

.....Barring cameos I haven't yet discovered or which may yet surface before the Flashpoint to-do plays out (we'll see how long DC's readers can sustain nostalgia for The Age Of Apocalypse, if at all), this was the last of the Doom Patrol appearances during Giffen's run that take place in earlier periods. During the most recent Doom Patrol title there were three issues which each focused on the history of an individual member, giving a coherent account of their passage through all the prior periods. I haven't included those because they'll be reviewed here in the context of the rest of the series at some far future date after the preceding periods have been reviewed.

.....The topic of this post is DCU: Legacies, a ten-issue limited series that ran #1(07/10) to #10 (04/11). Each of the first five issues covered a period of roughly ten years from 1935 to 1985 and the last five issues each covered a period of roughly five years from 1985 to 2010. Each issue has a serialized main story in which a retired policeman named Paul Lincoln recalls the history of DC's super-heroes and his occasional brushes with them (not unlike the photographer in Marvels). The chapters are written by Len Wein with short framing sequences drawn by Scott Kolins, but a different art team for the main body every two issues who also provide the standard cover. Each issue also has a short back-up story featuring a different group of related characters by yet a third art team who provide the variant cover for that issue. I mention this because Cliff Steele appears on the cover of issue #4(10/10), but only on the standard cover.

.....The Doom Patrol don't appear in the back-up stories, but their brief significant inclusion in issue #4 shouldn't be discussed without first mentioning something about #3. DCU: Legacies #3(09/10) "Powers And Abilities!" is the first of two parts drawn by José Luis García-López and inked by Dave Gibbons. The cover blurb, "The Silver Age Is Here!" pretty much gets the main point across with the standard cover being a white background and the sedately posed seven founders of the pre-Crisis version of the Justice League of America. Although Superman and Batman almost never appeared on the covers of early JLA comics, they had made cameos in the stories since the three trial issues in The Brave And The Bold #28(02-03/60)- #30(06-07/60). I say "almost" because they appear as chess pieces on the cover of Justice League Of America #1(10-11/60), as miniature background figures on #5(06-07/61), as Felix Faust's fingers on #10(03/62), as smoke in bottles on #11(05/62) and finally fully visible on the cover of #19(05/63), long after they had become fully active in the stories. However, that lack of visual presence translated into a total absence when the JLA's origin was reformulated after Crisis On Infinite Earths. One of the major effects of the Crisis is that after the surviving worlds and their respective histories were combined into a single synthetic Earth, Wonder Woman passed into legend, a final gift of the Gods when it became clear to them that they couldn't prevent her from being wiped from physical existence (and subsequently people's memories). The original Golden Age Wonder Woman became fictional in the post-Crisis Earth and was remembered that way by everyone. A younger, otherwise identical Wonder Woman emerged at the end of the Legends mini-series who didn't recognize any of the characters who had been her predecessor's teammates in the JLA. In the new scheme of things, Black Canary took Wonder Woman's place in JLA history and Superman and Batman were eliminated from the origin completely, joining a short time later. Similarly, Supergirl never existed in post-Crisis history (until several variant versions were later introduced) and so the Doom Patrol adventures with her in Superman Family #191(09-10/78)- #193(01-02/79) and Daring New Adventures Of Supergirl #7(05/83)- #10(08/83) would thereafter be remembered as having happened, but with Power Girl in the role of Supergirl. For DCU: Legacies #3 to return Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to the origin of the Justice League calls into question exactly to what extent these post-Crisis revisions are being dismantled. Did the story in Legends not happen? Did the Doom Patrol have adventures with Supergirl or Power Girl? Both? Neither?

.....DCU: Legacies #4(10/10) begins with the right half of an interlocking García-López/Gibbons cover, indicated only by the edge of Superman's cape and shadow. Even without the continuation of images, though, issues #'s 3 and 4 are clearly parts of a whole. The cover of #4 also has the white background, the parallel blurb "The Next Generation Has Arrived!" and seven heroes, in this case the five founders of the Teen Titans in c.1965 uniforms plus Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Robotman (Cliff Steele). Curiously, and I don't know if anyone else is disturbed by this and I don't know if it was intentional, but Aqualad's hair here is straight. Short, matted or tousled, but straight. It appears this way in the interior pages as well. In his earliest appearances in Adventure Comics beginning in 1960 his hair was not only straight but light brown. After Bruno Premiani drew the first teen sidekick team-up story in The Brave And The Bold #54(06-07/64), Garth's subsequent appearances with his peers were (a) drawn mainly by Nick Cardy, (b) under the name Teen Titans and (c) sporting black hair in thick curls. Actually, for much of the 1960's Cardy drew Garth in both Teen Titans and Aquaman. On Teen Titans he would even ink the pencillers who took over (Irv Novick and George Tuska) as well. When Jim Aparo took over the art on Aquaman's interiors, Cardy continued to draw or paint the covers. In the 1970's, Garth appeared less often in Teen Titans and Aparo continued Aquaman's feature in Adventure Comics (including covers) before following him back into his revived title which was closed out with Don Newton pencilling. I haven't seen Garth's back-up feature drawn by Carl Potts, which ran in Adventure Comics after the Aquaman feature vacated, but if it was anything like the various art teams that worked on Teen Titans when it returned in the late 1970's, it would have adhered to Cardy's thick, curly precedent. George Pérez certainly did for occasional New Teen Titans guest spots and the first Aqualad Who's Who page. In fact, Pérez added visual detail to individual curls and gave Garth's hair more of a perm or afro style. The thinking must have been that his origin (coming from an underwater civilization akin to Atlantis) would imply a look more common to Mediterranean cultures (Greece, Italy, Ethiopia) than the freckled Midwestern boy he resembled when Ramona Fradon drew him. As prolific as García-López was at DC since the mid-1970's, it isn't easy finding an example of him drawing Aqualad in a story. These two examples seem to have been prepared for promotional or merchandising purposes. They're both dated 1982. Note Garth's hair:

.....Garth's hair seems black and wavy. It's consistent with Cardy, if not Pérez. It's Aqua-Dondi. So why the change in the look for what is meant to be a period-specific portrait? I doubt that it's Gibbon's inks. Ten years earlier, during the "Silver Age" one-shot event, Gibbon inked Cardy himself on the cover of the Silver Age: Teen Titans #1(07/00). Garth's hair looks straighter than Cardy's ever drawn it, but still thick past the ears. But Pat Oliffe's interior pencils make him look more like his modern Tempest identity, short with small tight curls. Whatever the reasoning was for the look used on DCU: Legacies #4, it couldn't possibly have the same impact on Doom Patrol history as would restoring Wonder Woman to JLA history. By relaunching Wonder Woman in the 1980's, Donna Troy's already murky personal story became notoriously impossible to reconcile, impacting not only Beast Boy/Changeling from their time together in the New Teen Titans, but Robotman, Mento and both the new and old versions of the Brotherhood Of Evil, who returned to activity between 1981 and 1986 in New Teen Titans, Teen Titans Spotlight and other Titans related titles. Extraordinary hoops were jumped through to accommodate post-Crisis continuity without throwing out some of DC's best-selling work since the start of the Comics' Code Authority. By restoring Wonder Woman to the Silver Age it becomes necessary to sift through the dozen or so existing Donna Troy origins to find one or more that enable us to retain the 'Gar Logan on Paradise Island' subplot from 1981.

.....Before the DP actually show up there's a full-page illustration, page 6, with 37 villains representing the Silver Age and not one of them with a connection to the Doom Patrol (the giant gorilla in the back is Grodd, not Mallah). What's even weirder is that prominently in the foreground we see Mongul, who first appeared in 1980.

.....On page 11, panel 1, we see the Original Period Doom Patrol (Cliff, Rita and Larry) in their 1960's style uniforms battling the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. Cliff is tossing a lime green Volkswagon covered with a peace sign and numerous flower decals, for anyone who's been reading this far and is still not absolutely certain what decade this was paraphrasing. The accompanying narration tells us:
  • "But the Metal Men weren't the only ones inspired by the example of the Justice League... In Midway City, a group of super-powered misfits calling themselves the Doom Patrol made their presence known."
.....In a previous post, DP05-AB "The Wilderness Years", I list Doom Patrol activity between the end of the series under the Vertigo imprint and their relaunch by John Arcudi. Part of that activity was tentative reintegration into DCU continuity and a significant part involved long overdue looks back into the group's history before Crisis as seen through a post-Crisis lens. JLA Year One placed their formation before the JLA's in a story originally published in 1998, only to have that order reversed just two years later in a lowly text piece in Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000. It's hard to argue that this story is establishing anything other than consensus regarding who came first. And after this summer's Flashpoint reboot there's no telling what history will look like. And aside from tying into the Doom Patrol's guest spot on the animated television show, "Batman: The Brave And The Bold", I don't see the point of devoting two whole pages to reenacting the Original group's 1968 death scene. While pains are taken to get the name and population of the targeted fishing village correct-- Codsville, Maine and 14-- there are still goofs. Cliff is standing at the end, despite being depicted with the glowing halo of the magnetic charge that paralyzed the tiny servo motors in his legs. Madame Rouge is not mentioned and appears only as an indistinct figure in the background of one panel (page 21, panel 5), despite being instrumental to the original story. Finally, as seems to be the case increasingly, Zahl introduces himself as "General Zahl". He was actually Captain Zahl when he commanded the submarine that attacked the DP. He promoted himself to General Zahl while on land years later, some time between disappearing at the end of Doom Patrol #121(09-10/68) and reappearing in New Teen Titans #13(11/81)- #15(01/82). Even if someone didn't know that particular bit of trivia they ought to know that the title 'general' means nothing on a ship. Captains, admirals, ensigns (maybe) but not generals would be in charge of a ship. He might as well be calling himself 'pope' or 'your waiter for this evening'.

.....Closing out 2010 are DCU: Legacies #5(11/10) and #6(12/10). This time the interlocking standard covers are by George Pérez, depicting a chaotic moment during Crisis On Infinite Earths. Not that it's germane to the Doom Patrol, but I have to stop here to point out the cover to #5 is a scene that actually takes place in the comic book. On page 19 you'll see many of the same characters in the same poses and engaged in the same activities but seen from a different angle. Except for the two pages of framing sequence drawn by Scott Kolins in each issue, most of the serial chapter in #5 was pencilled by Pérez and inked by Scott Koblish. For #6, Pérez and Koblish split the inking chores on Jerry Ordway's pencils.

.....In the framing sequence of issue #5 narrator Paul Lincoln cites the death of the Doom Patrol as the catalyst that led to darker, grimmer moods in later metahuman adventures. On the splash page he holds up an old issue of Timeline Magazine with the DP on its cover. To bolster his point he cites the Joker's return to senseless murder, which was actually deemphasized while he had his own title in the mid 1970's. It was only after that title was cancelled that he became part of Englehart's and Rogers' return to classic villainy in Detective Comics. It's also worth finding his arc in the Huntress back-up feature in Wonder Woman a few years after that. It was in those appearances that the Joker was reestablished as a dangerous killer. More convincing is when Lincoln next refers to the Fleischer/Aparo Spectre stories from Adventure Comics. Those stories raised eyebrows and 'led to meetings', as they say. They are conveniently available as the trade Wrath Of The Spectre, which has been in and out of print but often offered both new and used. Lincoln is on to something; comics did get darker long before Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Unfortunately, as a character within DCU super-hero continuity he is uniquely unqualified to present the evidence that falls outside of that continuity. The early 1970's in comic book publishing were notable for sword & sorcery fantasy, horror and supernatural anti-heroes, jaded cosmically aware demi-gods, dystopian futures and black and white magazines not subject to the Comics Code Authority. All true, but nothing of which he would be aware. The death of the DP was certainly an unusual way to end a comic book series, but 1968 was practically a bloodbath compared to the "Summer Of Love" the year before. In fact, that issue would have been released in late July and still on the stands when protesters outside the DNC were brutally murdered. This was after the assassinations of MLK and RFK, as well as Prague Spring and the Situationist riots in Paris. The next few years were drenched in Altamont, Kent State, the My Lai Massacre, slum riots, prison riots and well-connected persons rigging the military draft so that the poor would die in their place. It's hardly fair to say that the 1970's began with a dark mood because the Doom Patrol made the ultimate sacrifice. It wasn't just comic books that became grimmer. Books, movies and music did as well. There was an over whelming sense that persons in authority were not only failing to guide civilization into peace and prosperity but were actually committed to preventing them. If Spiro Agnew sneering that he didn't have to pay taxes because he was better you didn't convince people of that, Richard Nixon ordering burglaries of his political enemies certainly did.

.....Of course, the Doom Patrol's story didn't really end in 1968 and the nine-year gap until their return becomes a one-issue gap in DCU: Legacies. Gar shows up without comment with the New Teen Titans on page 7 of issue #5. On page 10, he's with the slightly revamped (1984+) NTT, which is portrayed as contemporary with the debut of the New Doom Patrol. It's clear this is meant to be the Showcase #94(08-09/77), from General Immortus attacking in a one-man flying saucer to Robotman's temporary ROG-2000-esque body. It's especially temporary here, since it's drawn correctly in panels 2,5 and 6, but then reverts to a conventional 1960's head for an inset panel portrait. Also, Lincoln's comment "Yes, the Chief's widow had found the remains of Robotman and rebuilt him-- even as she gathered together a brand-new team of misfits." makes one wonder how much of the Doom Patrol's adventures is known to the public and how much is presumed. Cliff was rebuilt by Doc Magnus, not Celsius, but that information might be classified. The general public might assume otherwise or might have been told otherwise.

.....A very public event, the COIE, fills the end of issue #5 and the start of issue #6. Negative Woman passes through page 20, panel 1, while Gar manages to finally get a line in on page 21, panel 1. Both make the cover of issue #6, although Gar has switch from an elephant carrying Nightwing to a pigeon carrying the Atom in his barbarian warrior phase. Tempest appears as well. Only Gar appears inside though, in a recreation of the conclusion to Legends on page 18.

.....The whole DCU: Legacies series will be available as a hardcover trade this fall. Barring delays, it is scheduled for release August 24th, 2011. I'm debating whether to look to other media to cover all the other retro period depictions during the Giffen Period, such as the animated Batman team-up mentioned earlier or even action figures. As it is I'm going to collect my thoughts, dive into my comics and look for a new thread. Here's hoping all the links work!


  1. Thanks for a great post, pblfsda. I'm always amazed by the depth of your knowledge and your eye for details. I read Legacies and didn't like it much, despite the fact that I've always liked Wein. I felt that many parts of continuity were mish-mashed together without checking. I get the impression, like you, that this is a jumbled effort to line up Pre COIE, Post COIE, Pre Flashpoint and Post Flashpoint (whatever that will be) into one continuity. But I thought the device of using a civilian as a semi-all-knowing narrator was a bad choice. That character would not know the history of the DCU. But maybe that's what TPTB wanted - a superficial gloss of continuity, sloppily done, for people who don't know the continuity anyway. Your attempt to see where they are going with Supergirl/Power Girl, Wonder Woman /Donna is typical - this stuff does not bear up to careful reading. Frankly in the Didio era, I believe it's not meant to.

    Anyway, lovely review, I liked the reference to 'Gar Logan on Paradise Island.' And comments on Garth are always appreciated.

  2. Thanks. While trying to find out if the change to Garth's hair was arbitrary caprice or a deliberate hint I found that there were numerous 'retro' appearances by him as a teen in the last fifteen years, far more than I owned or could immediately access. I think one database mentioned him in the Elseworlds' JLA: THE NAIL, which wouldn't have any bearing on continuity but stood to illustrate how dramatically DC has changed since the nineties when a miniseries successful enough to spawn a sequel could be rooted in the very simple and ancient concept that "For the want of a nail..."; that we shouldn't take the details for granted because they could have ramifications far beyond what's immediately obvious.