Doom Patrol #121 (last issue)

DOOM PATROL #121; DC Comics; Sept.-Oct. 1968; Murray Boltinoff, editor;
featuring "The Death of the Doom Patrol?", written by Arnold Drake and drawn by Bruno Premiani.

(This review by Bill Henley is a rerun of sorts. I reviewed this issue
years ago in the SAR list's pre-Yahoo days. That review was long ago lost in a
hard disk crash, but some interest was recently expressed in seeing this
unusual issue reviewed again, so I've pulled out my copy to reconstruct the

Traditionally, from the Golden through the Silver Ages, comic books and
ongoing series cancelled by the publishers went quietly, with no official
announcement to the readers and no attempt at "closure" for the series. (EC was an
exception in this as much else, as several of their titles featured
"farewell" notices in the last issues.) The remaining fans of a dead series might
become aware only gradually that it was gone, as a new issue failed to show up
on the newsstands for months....or as something else showed up in the slot of
a cancelled series (as with the experience that seems to have scarred Roy
Thomas' childhood, when he subscribed to ALL-STAR COMICS and received only one
issue before the title converted to ALL-STAR WESTERN featuring "a bunch of
cowboys and Indians" in place of his beloved JSA. ) This may be because when a
publisher decided to cancel a title or series, they immediately stopped
production of new stories, giving no chance to write an "ending"; or because the
publishers and editors didn't want to be bothered with complaints and protests
from diehard fans of a cancelled series.

However, during the Bronze Age and later, it became increasingly common for
publishers to announce in the last issue (or even before) the cancellation of
a title, and sometimes to produce some sort of wrap-up to the series. That
trend may have started with this issue of DOOM PATROL. The DP launched in
1963 (initially as a feature in MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, which converted to DOOM
PATROL keeping MGA's numbering) as a team of freakish, bickering superheroes
strongly resembling Marvel's Fantastic Four. However, the early issues had a
pleasing combination of DC and Marvel styles and carved for the series its
own niche in the Silver Age. Later, DP suffered from an overdose of "camp"
humor during the Batmania era. With "camp" waning, the DP stories got more
serious again, but sales declined nonetheless. But editor Murray Boltinoff
seems to have had a special fondness for the title, and decided to make an
unusual effort to save it. And so, we come to this issue.....

On the cover (signed by Joe Orlando) spectral figures of the four original
Doom Patrol members-- Negative Man. Elasti-Girl, Robotman and The Chief--
stand (in the wheelchair-bound Chief's case, sit) despondently amidst their own
tombstones and open graves. "Death" covers were common in DC comics around
this time, but this time they meant business. The blurb is, "Is This the

The splash page depicts story artist Bruno Premiani completing a panel of
the shocked DP members facing oncoming doom, and anxiously asking editor
Boltinoff, "It's true, Murray? They will die? You didn't tell me how to finish
this page? You're gonna kill our-- Doom Patrol?" Addressing Bruno but
pointing a finger directly at the reader, Murray Boltinoff replies, "I don't know,
Bruno! It's not up to me! Unless the 'Marines' send help, the Doom Patrol
will die after this issue! And you, jolly reader, YOU are the Marines! Only
you can save the Doom Patrol now-- and I KID YOU NOT!"

(Reportedly, this page was originally drawn to include writer Arnold Drake,
who had scripted every issue of DP, with help from Bob Haney on the debut
issue. But Drake was on the outs with DC management, possibly because of an
attempt to form a writers' and artists' union. Drake moved on to Marvel for a
while, and his image was retouched out of this story panel. Apparently, if
DOOM PATROL *had* continued, it would have been with a new scripter.)

Artist Premiani continues to lament the impending loss of the Doom Patrol;
Robotman, "tin man with a human brain"; Elasti-Girl, who gave up a movie
career for superheroics, "the biggest star role I ever played"; Negative Man, who
gained the power to control the super-fast energy being Negative Man at the
cost of being radioactive; "You win some, you lose some, Bruno!"-- and the
Chief, "greatest brain in the world!" Premiani again protests killing these
great guys off, but Boltinoff reiterates their fate is up to the readers; "Later
we'll tell them how they just MIGHT save the DP!"

As the actual story begins, a fiendishly grinning Madame Rouge-- the French
villainess with elastic powers who in previous issues had wavered in loyalty
between the Brotherhood of Evil and the DP's Chief-- prepares with her
henchmen to release a bomb on "Target Zero", an unassuming-looking house.
Meanwhile, her former Brotherhood of Evil colleagues, the disembodied Brain and the
intelligent gorilla Monsieur Mallah, wonder what Madame Rouge will do. Mallah
is pleased she has clearly turned against the Doom Patrol, but the Brain is
convinced she poses just as much of a threat to the Brotherhood. And he is
proven right sooner than he knows, since "Target Zero" is the Brotherhood
headquarters and the Brain and Mallah are literally blown sky-high by Rouge's
bomb. At Doom Patrol headquarters, the Chief learns of the apparent death of
their archfoes. Robotman and Negative Man are unfazed-- "There goes another fun
group!"-- but the Chief warns that the DP, and he personally, will be
Rouge's next target. "The only woman I ever-- loved-- is out to destroy me!"
Robotman scoffs, "Baloney! The Brain was probably knocked off by some other
criminal genius-- like the Kidney or the Lung!" Once again, Rouge proves him
wrong very quickly, as a car passing the DP headquarters rains machine gun fire on
the building. The DP members escape harm, but an innocent bystander on the
street is wounded. As Negative Man carries the man to the hospital.
Robotman gathers the spent bullets for ballistic analysis. But the Chief shouts a
warning, and Robotman shoves a "dud" shell under a sofa cushion just in time
to muffle an explosion. Knowing that the Chief would gather the bullets for
analysis, Rouge set up one as a "mini-bomb". "She knows all about us! Didn't
I generously take her into our little nest and teach her? GAAAAAD!"

Meanwhile, the remaining Doom Patrol member Rita Farr, aka Rita Dayton, aka
Elasti-Girl, is trying to spend some quality time with her husband,
millionaire Steve Dayton (an occasional DP ally, as the psychically-powered Mento,
but not a member). But between Dayton's financial dealings and college
teaching hobby, and Rita Farr Dayton's DP duties, the recently-weds don't get much
down time together. "Listen, sweetie, when are you gonna leave that gang of
far-out Boy Scouts!" "When they no longer need me, you know that!" And a
radio bulletin about the machine gun attack on DP headquarters tells Rita that
the team still needs her. As she puts on her DP uniform and rushes out,
Dayton gripes, "Marconi, drop dead!" Arriving at DP headquarters, Elasti-Girl is
startled to find Robotman and Negative Man aiming heavy guns at her. "Put
down those shooting irons!" "Not on your life! Madame Rouge just declared
all-out war! So if you want to sign up, this is the recruiting office!" But
a caption warns, "If you knew what was ahead, girlie, you'd burn your draft

As the story continues following a house ad for a "Lois Lane Wedding 80 Page
Giant", Rita learns how Madame Rouge is targeting her one-time lover for
death and confesses, "For the first time in the history of the Doom Patrol--
I'm REALLY scared!" The Chief tries to be reassuring; "As the youngsters say
today, don't lose your cool!" Then three mystery "blips" on the DP's
oscilloscope turn out to be helicopters dropping incendiary bombs on the DP's
mansion. Fortunately, the mansion itself is completely fireproof (I guess Rouge
didn't notice that when she was hanging out there) and two of the enemy choppers
are brought down by the DP's "hunter rockets", while Negative Man blows up
the third. But the attack leaves a scene of chaos in the surrounding
neighborhood; Negative man compares it to "London after the Nazi blitz", and Rita
thinks it resembles "Dante's nightmare of Hell", while to Robotman it just
reminds him of "my pal P. J. O'Mara's bar and grill after a Saturday night
fun-fest!" But the Chief is not feeling jocular and warns that Madame Rouge's
vendetta against the DP "endangers every living thing in the city!" Wilmer Boggs,
a representative arriving on the scene from the Federal government in
Washington DC, agrees, and delivers government orders for the DP to leave the city
and seek sanctuary until "the woman called Rouge can be hunted down!"
Robotman does not react well to the thought of running from a fight, especially
when Boggs threatens the DP with "deportation" if they don't leave voluntarily.
(Legally, of course, U.S. citizens can't be "deported", though they could be
arrested or placed in 'protective custody".) But Rita breaks up a
confrontation between Robotman and Boggs, and the Chief agrees for the team to
evacuate the city, much to Cliff's disgust. The disgust is increased when, as the
DP members board a plane, their adoring fans see them off with jeers and signs
reading "So Long Scared Patrol" and "Bye-Bye Cry Babies". But Robotman and
the others are mollified when the Chief reveals their destination-- not a
government hiding place, but an "impregnable fortress" on a Caribbean island,
previously prepared for just such an emergency, with its own nuclear power
plant and heavy weaponry, from which the DP can prepare its own counterattack
against Madame Rouge.

But once again Rouge-- and her new ally, Captain Zahl, a former Nazi U-boat
commander with his own longstanding grudge against Niles Caulder aka the
Chief-- seem to be a step ahead. They are lurking near the DP's new island HQ in
Zahl's submarine, and launch an attack before the DP can settle into their
new "fortress". A missile from the sub blows up the plane the DP just arrived
in. Zahl's frogmen from the sub attack on the beach, but are easily
defeated by an angry Robotman. But then Zahl surfaces the sub and launches a trio of
weapons specially designed to counter the DP's powers. A cannon blasts
Larry Trainor with irradiated sand, which at first seems harmless, but then Larry
finds "The sand blasted into your skin is completely radio-resistant! Your
Negative Man is imprisoned within you!" Elasti-Girl grows to giant size but
is trapped by a giant steel net which will not allow her to grow further and
which is too strong for her to break out of. (Why she can't *shrink* out of
the net isn't clear.) Robotman starts to free Rita from the net, but he in
turn is immobilized by a "magnetic charge" fired from the sub which
"permanently magnetized half of the tiny motors that activate you!" And so, with the
Chief helpless in his wheelchair, the Doom Patrol seems to be at the mercy of
Captain Zahl and Madame Rouge. But Zahl has a fate literally worse than
death in mind for our heroes....

The sneering ex-Nazi sub commander notes that what the Chief values most is
his reputation as a defender of common humanity. "You vould love to die for
'glorious mankind', ja? But vould you die for the smallest part of it? Vould
you die for a handful of stupid, ordinary men?" It seems that Zahl has
wired explosives to Codsville, Maine, "a small crumbling town in New England",
home to "14 useless fishermen! They die in two minutes-- or YOU do!" Zahl
holds one plunger which will blow up Codsville, and another which will destroy
the DP in their traps. The Chief must choose. Zahl fully expects which
choice the Chief will make, and then "Every vord we say is being broadcast to the
world! Ven you make der LOGICAL choice-- all vill know dot der great Chief
loves HIS skin first-- like any man!"

The Chief asks his DP comrades to share in the choice; shall they die for
"14 ORDINARY men-- STRANGERS to us"? "Strangers, Chief? Didn't you teach us--
ALL men are our brothers?", Negative Man replies. Elasti-Girl and Robotman
cite the Pilgrim Fathers and the "Hebrew children", once "ordinary men", now
figures of history and legend. And so the choice is clear. And now
dissension appears amongst the DP"s foes, as now Madame Rouge insists that the plan
was for the Chief, whom she once loved and perhaps still somehow does, to be
humiliated but not actually killed. Zahl is still convinced that the DP will
save their own skins, but he is proven wrong; "Here is our answer, Zahl!
FIRE AWAY!" "Fools! HEROIC FOOLS! So be it!" And, over Rouge's protests,
Zahl hits the plunger which causes the DP's island to blow up in a gigantic
explosion. Rouge screams, "You betrayed me! You killed heem-- a man who was
worth 100 of you!" "Stupid voman! What do I care for your childish love
affair! Even till der last minute he taunted me! But he vill not taunt me again!
Niles Caulder and his Doom Patrol-- are dead!"

Dead, perhaps, but not forgotten, as the news flashes around the world;
"Could all the super-deeds of this astounding group equal this single lesson in
courage?" The people of a tiny New England town agree, "Codsville is dead!
But our renamed village of FOUR HEROES, Maine, is just beginning! And we'll
make it one THEY could be proud of!" And the next day, Steve Dayton orders
his yacht close to the destroyed island despite the still "boiling ocean
floor", in order to drop a memorial flower into the water; "Goodbye, my love! This
is not your last resting place! Your shrine is within me!" And then Dayton
speeds away to begin a grim mission; "I'll spend every part of a billion
dollars to do it-- to destroy those who took her from me! NOT A SINGLE ONE
SHALL ESCAPE!" (Curiously, we don't see how the DP's one-time junior member
Beast Boy reacts to the loss. Perhaps it was thought at that point BB was a
better-ignored remnant of the team's "camp" era.)

The Doom Patrol seemed to react in an oddly passive fashion to the traps and
ultimatum of Zahl and Rouge. Certainly they had overcome worse dangers in
their career. And indeed, Boltinoff and Drake must have had some idea at
least vaguely in mind as to how the heroes could actually escape their apparent
doom. But whether they would get the chance, lay in other hands. For the
last panel, we return to Boltinoff and Premiani, as the Argentine artist asks,
"Then it IS true? They are dead? The Doom Patrol would never fight again?"
"It would take a miracle to change that ending, Bruno! A tougher job than
even the DP ever faced! And only you out there-- the reader-- could do it!
You always wanted to be a superhero didn't you? Okay, Charlie-- let's see you
try!" "THE END-- or IS it, CHARLIE?" This is followed by a truncated
half-page letter column. After a few comments on preceding issues, editor
Boltinoff addresses the readers again; "So where do we go from here, all you
disciples of the Doom Patrol? Do you believe that they must never be banished from
our midst, that theirs has been a soul-stirring, provocative, exciting and
unique contribution to comicdom, or do they perish with this issue, fade
ignominiously from the scene? Does it really make no difference, or will it feel
as if you suddenly lost five trusted friends? You, and only you and your
pals, have the answer, and that answer is in a sudden spurt in sales! So tell
your friends! Tell your enemies, even... to buy, BUY this issue.... or it's
bye-bye Doom Patrol!"

But if any readers respondied at the time, going out and buying multiple
copies of the issue or urging their buddies to buy copies, there apparently
weren't enough of them to make a difference. DOOM PATROL was cancelled and, for
the time being, stayed cancelled, and the DP members stayed apparently dead.
Almost ten years later, in 1977, a revived version of the DP started
appearing, in SHOWCASE and later in its own title, but Robotman (who was salvaged
and rebuilt by none other than the Metal Men's Doc Magnus) was initially the
only carry-over member. That revival series eventually mutated from a
conventional superhero series to a bizarre semi-absurdist series written by Grant
Morrison and others. I didn't really follow that series, but I gather that during
its course the Chief and the other original DP members were eventually
brought back to life, though in weirdly changed forms. Much more recently, the
Doom Patrol was "rebooted" by John Byrne, with the Chief, Negative Man,
Robotman and Elasti-Girl starting their careers over from the beginning, and the
original series, apparently including their "deaths", retconned out of DC
continuity. The new series wasn't a sales success (personally I thought it was
OK, and I didn't object to the retcon/reboot, but somehow it never quite
caught the spark of the original series) and was cancelled in its turn, but at
least the heroes survived the cancellation this time....