COMICS RETROSPECTIVE: Grant Morrison's Weird, Psychedelic, Trippy Run on "Doom Patrol"


Doom Patrol (1987) #19-63: Writer: Grant Morrison, Art: Richard Case and Various, Inks and Colors: Various, Letters: Various


Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol is arguably one of the weirdest, most psychedelic, trippy superhero stories of all time; and that's from the guy who brought Bat-Mite back into the mainstream. The Doom Patrol relaunched post-crisis (in DC continuity) in 1987 by Paul Kubberberg. After issue 18, the reins went to Morrison, and after axing a bunch of characters he didn't want, the rag-tag team of misfits was left with Cliff Steele, Dorothy, Rebis (Larry Trainor, Negative Spirit, and Dr. Eleanor Poole), as well as Danny the Street. Run by Professor Caulder, with help from Joshua, we have the Justice League on acid. Mixing mainstream superhero lore with Dadaism and the idea of normality as evil, Morrison gave the world one of the most bizarre, amazing, and memorable runs in DC history.



Mr. Nobody

Synopsis:

The Doom Patrol forms under Professor Caulder, a genius and the brains behind the outfit. Cliff Steele (Robotman) is an amputee whose brain is put inside a robot body; Crazy Jane has psychic powers and dozens of personalities; Dorothy has odd powers undefined but definitely strong; Rebis is a male/female/alien being that is arguably the strongest of the group; Danny the Street is a living street that manifests in any city in the world. Pretty trippy huh? The team is brought together by Professor Caulder to fight evil. Their main arch-nemesis is Mr. Nobody, a Dadaist who wants to see the world believe in nothing, really. But the deeper we dive into Morrison's run, the weirder and darker it gets. The bad guys are the U.S. government and secret societies, the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Men trying to keep normality the... norm, Scissormen, and a host of other villains who would make Darkseid look normal.


Throughout his 45 issue run, Morrison touches on subjects ranging from nihilism to the status quo, to "what is reality, anyway?" The Doom Patrol are there to save the day, but they aren't always the focus of the story; sometimes it's the villains and what they stand for that really take precedence.




Why it's good:

Many auteurs of comic book history will tell you that Morrison is one of the greatest writers of all time: from Animal Man to JLA, he's put his mark on so many creator-owned and DC/Marvel properties that it's hard to say what he hasn't written. Doom Patrol is arguably his opus (though he did do wonders on Batman). As I mentioned, it's not solely about the heroes in this book; it's about the themes. From Dadaism to what is normal? to really anything you've come to expect of the author. I always enjoy opening up to the first page of a Morrison book. Mostly because I know it's going to start off wacky as anything, but also because most of his best writing was done with DC/Vertigo, and the way those books were edited and laid out have no comparison. For 45 issues, the reader is thrown through streams of consciousness that aren't found in any other superhero book, and that's what makes Morrison a legend.


The art, of course, was a dealbreaker for most people. Throughout its run, Richard Case was on duty most of the time, but there are guest stars like a young Sean Phillips (known for his work with Ed Brubaker). In my opinion, throughout the run, the art is what makes this book great, just as much as the writing: it's wacky, zig-zaggy, and fun. I mean, look at Mr. Nobody: the negative space used to portray the character is indicative of the entire body of work; what are we looking at exactly? is a question you ask almost every single page.


The colors: so vibrant! So moody! As important as the art, the colors are equally vital. Whether we're in a surrealist painting in France, or in the bowels of the Pentagon, the color gives the story its mood, its tone, and its texture.


And the lettering: early DC/Vertigo books had, in my opinion, some of the best lettering. Especially on Doom Patrol, it never fit the mold of regular superhero books; it was as wacky as the story and art and that made it so much fun and easy to read.


I could sit here all day and dissect each issue, each volume of this series, but I want you to read it and decide whether you like it (you will), and what it all means.


You can find Doom Patrol on comixology.com (all volumes are part of Unlimited right now), or by asking your Local Comic Shop if they have any of the volumes in stock (we know they need us more than ever!)





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