The first Doom Patrol consisted of super-powered misfits, whose "gifts" caused them alienation and trauma. The series was canceled in 1968, and Drake killed the team off in the final issue, Doom Patrol #121 (September-October 1968).
In the years after this story several subsequent Doom Patrol series were launched. Each series tried to capture the spirit of the original team, but the only character constant to all was Robotman.
The Doom Patrol first appeared in 1963, when the DC title My Greatest Adventure, an adventure anthology title, was being converted to a superhero format. The task assigned writer Arnold Drake was to create a team that fit both formats. With fellow writer Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani, he created the Doom Patrol, a team of superpowered misfits regarded as freaks by the world at large. It first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80, June 1963. Doctor Niles Caulder motivated the original Doom Patrol, bitter from being isolated from the world, to use their powers for the greater good. The series was such a success that My Greatest Adventure was officially retitled The Doom Patrol beginning with issue #86.
The Doom Patrol's rogues gallery matched the strange, weird tone of the series. Villains included the immortality-seeking General Immortus, the shapeshifting Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, and the Brotherhood of Evil led by the Brain, an actual brain kept alive by technology. The Brotherhood of Evil also included the intelligent gorilla Monsieur Mallah and Madame Rouge, who was given powers similar to those of Elongated Man, with the extra attribute of a malleable face, allowing her to impersonate various people.
When the popularity of the book waned and the publisher canceled it, Drake ended the series in a dramatic manner: he killed off the entire Doom Patrol. In Doom Patrol #121 (September-October 1968), the Doom Patrol sacrificed their lives to save the small fishing village of Codsville, Maine. This marked the first time in comic book history that a canceled book ended by having most of its cast of main characters die. Artist Bruno Premiani and editor Murray Boltinoff appeared at the beginning and the end of the story, asking fans to write to DC to resurrect the Doom Patrol, although the latter was supposed to have been Drake. According to the writer, he was replaced with the editor because he had just resigned over a pay dispute and moved to Marvel Comics. He finished the script only out of friendship for Boltinoff. A few years later, three more issues appeared in DC's short-lived attempt to copy Marvel's line of series reprint titles (as opposed to DC's anthology reprint titles). A Doom Patrol revival did not occur until nine years after the original's demise.
Some similarities exist between the original Doom Patrol and Marvel Comics' original X-Men. Both include misfit superheroes shunned by society and both are led by men of preternatural intelligence confined to wheelchairs. These similarities ultimately led series writer Arnold Drake to argue that the concept of the X-Men must have been based on the Doom Patrol.
Drake stated "...I’ve become more and more convinced that [Stan Lee] knowingly stole The X-Men from The Doom Patrol. Over the years I learned that an awful lot of writers and artists were working surreptitiously between [Marvel and DC]. Therefore from when I first brought the idea into [DC editor] Murray Boltinoff’s office, it would’ve been easy for someone to walk over and hear that [I was] working on a story about a bunch of reluctant superheroes who are led by a man in a wheelchair. So over the years I began to feel that Stan had more lead time than I realized. He may well have had four, five or even six months." (X-Men #1 debuted three months after MGA #80; due to publication lag times, Lee could not have known of the Doom Patrol when he scripted the first X-Men story unless he had been told about it in advance of its publication.)
However, others have noted that the Doom Patrol shares fundamental similarities with Stan Lee's earlier title, Fantastic Four. The original lineup of both teams included four members, who did not have secret/double identities; each had a headquarters that was a public building in the middle of a major city; each team had one member with stretching powers (Rita Farr of the Doom Patrol, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four), one member with flame or flame-like powers (Larry Trainor of the DP and Johnny Storm of the FF), a member with brute strength and a freakish body, with bitterness at being trapped in it (Cliff Steele and Ben Grimm) and a member who was invisible or stayed out of the public view (Niles Caulder and Sue Storm). Both teams quarreled amongst themselves, unlike most other teams published by DC/National. This has led to assertions that the Doom Patrol were created with the Fantastic Four in mind. One commentator has stated that “it is considered common knowledge that the Doom Patrol was inspired by The Fantastic Four”.
Writer Paul Kupperberg, a longtime Doom Patrol fan, and artist Joe Staton introduced a new team in Showcase #94 (August-September 1977). An Indian-born woman named Arani Desai, who called herself Celsius and claimed to be the wife of Niles Caulder, whom she believed to be still alive, led this team with the intent of finding him. This run also revealed the whereabouts of the Negative Spirit, which now possessed Russian cosmonaut Valentina Vostok, making her Negative Woman (although its presence did not render her radioactive, and she was able to transform her own body into its form rather than sending it out under control. It also revealed Robotman as the only survivor of the explosion that killed his teammates, his head, upper torso and one arm being left in one piece that could keep his brain alive and allow him to drag himself to shore. A man standing on that beach (appearing and later conceded to be Dr. Will Magnus of Metal Men fame) built him a new, futuristic robot body. This new version of the team followed its three-issue tryout with a series of guest appearances in various DC titles, such as Superman Family (in a three part arc in the Supergirl feature that was intended for the recently canceled Super-Team Family), DC Comics Presents (teaming up with Superman in a story which revealed that Vostok's powers had changed to match Larry Trainor's exactly) and Supergirl. Robotman also appeared as an occasional supporting character in the Marv Wolfman and George Pérez era of Teen Titans, where it was revealed that Changeling, formerly DP associate Beast Boy, had arranged for Dayton Industries technicians to recreate the Caulder body design for Cliff. His first storyline here had him and the Titans finally bringing the murderers of the original Doom Patrol to justice. The final member of this team was Tempest aka Joshua Clay, a Vietnam veteran/deserter. Tempest's power was energy blasts from his hands. In addition to a typical comic book blast effect, Tempest would use the blast to propel himself through the air.
After the first 18 issues (and various crossovers and annuals), Kupperberg was replaced by Grant Morrison, starting with issue #19. Kupperberg agreed to help Morrison by writing out characters Morrison did not want to use: Celsius and Scott Fischer died before issue #18—Celsius was killed in an explosion in DC Comics' "Invasion!" event, and Scott Fischer (already suffering from a recurrence of childhood leukemia) was the only known active superhero casualty of the Dominators' gene-bomb (also in "Invasion!"); Karma left the team as he was still on the run from the law (he would eventually become a member of the Suicide Squad and die on his first mission with them in the "War of the Gods" crossover event); the Negative Spirit left Negative Woman's body; and Lodestone plunged into a coma, where she would remain for the first half of Morrison's run on the book. Tempest gave up fieldwork to become the team's physician. Conversely, Morrison picked up a throw-away character from DP #14, who was slipped into the art on the last page of #18 to set up Morrison's use: Dorothy Spinner was an ape-faced girl with powerful "imaginary friends." The new writer introduced some new characters to the team, including the multiple personality-afflicted Crazy Jane; and sentient roadway Danny the Street.
Morrison used DC's Invasion crossover to restart the book. He took the Doom Patrol, and superhero comic books in general, to places they had rarely been, incorporating bizarre secret societies, elements of Dada, surrealism, and the cut-up technique pioneered by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. He also borrowed the ideas of Jorge Luis Borges and Heinrich Hoffmann. Morrison and artist Richard Case turned the title around, and the series quickly gained a cult following, but some derided it as incomprehensible. The original creator Arnold Drake, disagreed, maintaining that Morrison's was the only subsequent run to reflect the intent of the original series.
Over the course of the series, Morrison dedicated some issues to parody and homage. Issue #53 featured a dream sequence that mimicked the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four, specifically the Galactus storyline. Another special called Doom Force was released as a one-shot and was meant to mimic and parody the X-Force book by Rob Liefeld. Issue #45 parodied Marvel's Punisher in a satire called the Beard Hunter.
Morrison's approach to the book was also notable in that his villains were extremely unusual and strange, even by Doom Patrol's eccentric standards. For example:
In Morrison's final storyline, it was revealed that the Chief had caused the "accidents" which turned Cliff, Larry Trainor and Rita Farr into freaks with the express intention of creating the Doom Patrol. He then murdered Josh and unleashed nanobots onto the world, hoping to create a catastrophe that would make the world a stranger and more wonderful place. However, Caulder did not anticipate being decapitated by one of Dorothy's "imaginary" beings, a malign entity called the Candlemaker.
The first story arc of her run was called Sliding In The Wreckage. Cliff's computer brain started to malfunction, and he regressed into flashbacks from previous storylines. Dorothy was haunted by African spirits while dealing with living alone in the real world. The Chief was given a new body by Will Magnus, but to atone for his sins, Caulder ripped his head off the body and was kept in cryogenic storage. Meanwhile, the entire Earth had been suffering from random outbreaks of weirdness, contributed by the arrival of something called "The Book of Ice." A government agency known as the Builders, similar to the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., were trying to stop the outbreak, which was apparently linked to a race of shapeshifters known as the Teiresias. As the Chief was kept in cryogenic state, he appeared in the land of the Teiresias as a face carved in a mountain. They warned him that his arrival in this world was causing the craziness in the real world. Throughout the storyline, little people with backwards letters for heads had been seen altering people. These people were apparently older version of nanomachines, referred to as "nannos." At the DP HQ Builder agents attacked and in the craziness, two of the Teiresias approached Dorothy with a new brain for Cliff, but to insert it she needed the Chief's expertise. In the Teiresias world, nannos "repaired" the Chief so he could live as a severed head. After his awakening, the craziness seemed to stop, and Dorothy, Cliff, and the Chief each realized that they needed to be together.
The team relocated to Violet Valley's Rainbow Estates, a house haunted by ghosts of those who died in sexual accidents. There, three new members joined. The Bandage People, George and Marion, who were once two workers for the Builders but managed to escape; and the Inner Child, a manifestation of the ghosts' purity and innocence. Another later newcomer of the team was Kate Godwin, aka Coagula, one of the first transsexual superheroes. A one-time ally of the team called the Identity Addict, who could become different superheroes by shedding his/her skin like a lizard, integrated him/herself back into the team while using the False Memory identity to change the team's memories, until he/she was kicked out by Dorothy.
Villains that the team fought, besides the Builders, included the Fox and the Crow, two animal spirits whose feud Dorothy and Cliff were subsequently pulled into; the Master Cleaner, a being with a human fetus inside a bubble for a head who began "cleaning" the world by stripping it down to nothing and replacing the stolen items, including people, with a paper ticket; and a group of Hassidic healers who called themselves the False Healers and their leader, the Rabbi of Darkness.
Toward the end of the series, Cliff Steele's brain became entirely robotic, until Dorothy Spinner used her imaginary friends to "repair" it. The Chief would later die after trying to enter the Sephirot or Tree of Life.
A new artist, Ted McKeever, took over the artwork for the final 13 issues. Pollack continued writing the title until its cancellation with issue #87, in February 1995.
In December 2001, writer John Arcudi and artist Tan Eng Huat launched a new Doom Patrol series. The launch of this series also saw the return of the publication of the title from the Vertigo imprint back to DC Comics. The series lasted for 22 issues.
Arcudi's storylines revealed what happened to the previous team. Dorothy Spinner had had a mental breakdown and accidentally killed most of the members still with the team at the end of the Pollack run. She fell into a coma, but subconsciously created a new Robotman, who became a part of a new Doom Patrol. This Doom Patrol was a company-owned team by Jost Enterprises, owned and operated by Thayer Jost, for a while before working independently. Marvel used a similar theme several months later with X-Statix as a commercially run team.
Apart from Robotman, the team consists of Fast Forward, Kid Slick, Fever and Freak.
The Robotman that Dorothy created faded away when it realized what it actually was, but the other teammates searched for Cliff Steele, who became a member of the Doom Patrol yet again. They found his brain in a desolated area of the Smokey Mountains, buried under the rubble of the campsite where Dorothy's breakdown occurred. A prosthetics expert who had defected from Russia rebuilt Cliff's body.
Jost, meanwhile, learned that he could not own the rights to the Doom Patrol, since the man who signed the rights over to him was not actually Cliff Steele. Instead, he tried to obtain guardianship of the brain-dead Dorothy. At the end of the series, Cliff pulled her life support.
Fever later appears in the six issue limited series Infinite Crisis, in a multi-hero superhero mass held for missing and dead heroes. Among the attendees are some of John Byrne's Doom Patrol members.
In August 2004, DC launched a new Doom Patrol series after the new team debuted in JLA. John Byrne wrote and illustrated this series, with inks by Doug Hazlewood. Touted as "Together again for the first time!", Byrne rebooted the series, eliminating the continuity that dated back to the Silver Age.
This also retroactively eliminated Beast Boy's origins and numerous important Doom Patrol appearances, including the reunions of Beast Boy (then called Changeling) and Robotman in the 1980s New Teen Titans and the team's important role in JLA: Year One. It also angered some of Morrison's fans, but DC editors argued that the team's classic line-up should be supported, especially since attempts to continue the Morrison/Vertigo continuity had proven unsuccessful. Three new characters (Nudge, Grunt and Vortex) were introduced and utilized throughout the series run.
DC cancelled Byrne's series with issue #18.
This reboot was both controversial and short-lived. The events in DC's Infinite Crisis crossover saw the restoration of the Doom Patrol's full continuity, with the history of all previous incarnations.
DC editorial used the events of the Infinite Crisis crossover to restore the Doom Patrol's continuity. In escaping from the paradise dimension they had inhabited since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor created temporal ripples, which spread throughout reality, altering certain events, such as restoring Jason Todd to life.
In the reprinted edition of Infinite Crisis, additional scenes added to the collection showed Fever, Kid Slick, Ava, Nudge, Grunt and Vortex among a two-page spread of heroes.
While assisting the Teen Titans in battling Superboy-Prime, members of the Doom Patrol had flashbacks to their original history. Robotman and Niles Caulder regained memories of the previous Doom Patrol teams with which they had worked. This battle apparently undid some of Superboy-Prime's timeline changes, and resulted in a timeline incorporating all previous incarnations of the Doom Patrol, but with Rita Farr and Larry Trainor still alive. The Chief confirmed that Rita was indeed killed by Zahl's explosion. The Chief claimed that he later found her skull and treated it with synthetic proteins until her malleable body was regrown from it.
Steve Dayton is again using the Mento helmet and he is mentally unstable; however, he remembers his time as the Crimelord. The Chief appears to be manipulating the Doom Patrol members once again; he claims to wish to return them to normal, so "maybe one day [they] won't be freaks anymore." After the Doom Patrol encounters the Titans, the Chief tells them that Kid Devil should be a member of the Doom Patrol instead of the Titans, since his unique appearance and nature will always separate him from others. However, Beast Boy, Elasti-Girl and Mento all stood up to the Chief and forced him to step down as the Doom Patrol's leader, with Mento taking over that role.
Recently, while fighting the Titans and the Doom Patrol, the Brain claimed that he had been the Chief's lab assistant, that his body had been destroyed in an explosion Caulder caused, and that he was to have been the original Robotman.
Two former members of the Teen Titans were dramatically altered during the course of the Infinite Crisis. Mal Duncan, now code named Vox, and his wife (Bumblebee) now reside in the Doom Patrol castle headquarters.
The Doom Patrol later appeared in The Four Horsemen series (2007), with Caulder back in charge. However, according to Titans Issue #1, Beast Boy has recently become the Team Leader. Whether he will remain so now that the Titans have reformed has not been revealed.
Morrison's run has been compiled into six Vertigo trade paperback editions:
The Chief is absent in the series. Mento acts as the team leader.
Throughout the fifth season of Teen Titans, the team faces the menace of the Brotherhood, who wish to destroy all of the world's young heroes. The Titans gather these heroes, issuing each a Titans communicator and membership on the team. Finally, in a climactic battle, the Titans all work together and defeat the Brotherhood of Evil.