by Alan Kistler
At age 22, Niles Caulder gave up a promising career in engineering to concentrate on experiments meant to prolong life. Funding for these experiments came in the form of a $2 million grant from a mysterious patron, with the stipulation that once Caulder was successful, the patron was to be the first to receive the experiment's benefits. Without worrying about the identity of his benefactor, Caulder accepted the money and went to work. After some time, he developed an energy ray that restored life to a dead rabbit.
But eventually Caulder got curious and discovered that his benefactor was a man named General Immortus, head of an international crime syndicate. Immortus revealed that he had been alive for at least several centuries now due to a life-extending potion he'd discovered. But the potion was running out and not even the best chemists could figure out a way to reproduce it. Caulder's experiments were his new hope of maintaining longevity. Upon learning this, Caulder angrily refused to give Immortus the benefit of his life ray. Immortus then had his men overpower Caulder and knock him out. Working quickly, his minions operated on Caulder and planted a small bomb in his chest, powered by Caulder's own bio-electricity. The bomb could not be safely removed while he lived. Immortus then released Caulder to return to his experiments, satisfied that the scientist was entirely under his control.
However, Caulder had plans of his own. Making a display of attempted resistance, Caulder forced Immortus into giving him a mortal gunshot wound. Making his way back to his lab, Caulder ordered his robot RA-2 to operate on his body only after he'd been dead for 30 minutes. RA-2 complied and was successful in removing the bomb and the bullets. But because Caulder had misjudged the time lapse after his death, the ray was not fully successful in restoring him to life. The nerves in his legs were left dead and Caulder was now a paraplegic. Not wishing the secrets of his ray to fall into the wrong hands, Caulder destroyed all of his equipment and even RA-2.
Caulder became obsessed with his work and continued some of his experiments in immortality, developing a serum similar to General Immortus's. He married an Indian woman named Arani and tested this serum on her. After losing his legs, he'd become focused on the study of how people reacted after catastrophes that completely altered their lives. His chosen test subjects were: actress Rita Farr, test pilot Larry Trainor, and wealthy sportsman Cliff Steele.
Sometime later, race-car driver Cliff Steele's car crashed. The resulting fire burned his body beyond any hope of recovery. Dr. Caulder then "by good fortune", arrived upon the scene and used a radical untested surgical technique. Working quickly, he transferred Cliff's brain into a robot body of "ceramic metal" he'd designed. But upon awakening, Cliff was horrified by his new physical condition and went on a rampage. Dr. Caulder soon realized that one of the cables connected to Cliff's brain had not been properly connected and thus had resulted in temporary insanity. Wishing revenge upon Caulder for placing him in a robot body, Cliff confronted the scientist. But Caulder pleaded with Cliff and persuaded him that he could use this new handicap to help others, just as he had used his own handicap to become a better person. After fixing the loose connection in his brain, Caulder then recruited Cliff Steele to his company.
Test pilot Larry Trainor was flying an experimental rocket plane through the radioactive Van Allen Belt surrounding the Earth. Upon undergoing tremendous radiation exposure, he blacked out, barely recovering in time to bring the craft in for an emergency landing. Trainor's body now emitted deadly radiation and his flesh and muscle had turned transparent. When a rescue plane came, a malfunction prevented one of the landing wheels from full deploying. Instinctively, Larry Trainor found himself releasing a "secondary being" from his body, an energy entity who moved at the speed of light and obeyed his wish to aid the plane.
Upon returning to civilization, Larry was forced to live within a lead-lined chamber. When a camera was placed in the cell, he deliberately obscured the picture so as to hide his freakish appearance. Later, however, he was met by Dr. Caulder. Caluder told him that he'd devised a new form of plastic bandage able to block out radiation. The bandages were applied to Larry, who was thus enabled to leave his cell and rejoin the world, his appearance now concealed from public eyes. He found he could control this "Negative Man" which he could release from his body. But when he did so, he would fall into unconsciousness and would die if the Negative Man did not rejoin him within sixty seconds.
Rita Farr was a familiar face in Hollywood. But during a shot on location near a volcano, she was exposed to strange volcanic gasses which were released into the air. As a result of this exposure, Rita found her entire form now uncontrollably altering in size and mass. She was rejected from her co-stars and associates due to her now freakish nature. Soon afterward, Caulder found her and recruited her as well.
The three worked under the Caulder's guidance, learning to accept their conditions and how to control their new physical states. During their time, the three "freaks" quickly dubbed Caulder with the nickname "the Chief" and soon they adopted their own code-names. Due to her ability to alter in size and mass, Rita called herself Elasti-Girl. Taking a nod from a Golden Age cyborg hero, Cliff dubbed himself as the second Robotman. Larry never took a code-name really, but always referred to his secondary energy being as Negative Man. The group soon began operating in public, combating menaces that threatened humanity. Their most frequent enemies were General Immortus, the Brotherhood of Evil, the alien conqueror Garguax, and Captain Zahl. Since they had all been forced into their roles by catastrophe, they were dubbed the "Doom Patrol." The Doom Patrol was in operation for a couple of years before the later debut of Superman inspired a new wave of modern-day super-heroes. Later on, Chief revealed to them how he'd first met General Immortus and how he'd lost his legs. However, the Doom Patrol members were still unaware that he had, in fact, orchestrated their individual accidents and had prepared their equipment (Cliff's ceramic body and Larry's bandages) before he even met them.
Sometime later, the Doom Patrol encountered a new costumed figure who called himself Mento, able to fire telekinetic beams from a helmet that enhanced his brain power. Mento was not interested in joining the DP, but was instead insistent on romantically pursuing Elasti-Girl. Primarily out of curiosity, Rita accompanied him to learn more. Mento turned out to be Steve Dayton, an athletic psychologist who was also a multi-millionaire. But despite his alluring qualities, Rita would not leave the Doom Patrol for him.
As time went on, Mento would occasionally show up and accompany the Doom Patrol on several missions, still determined to win over Rita. Later on, Elasti-Girl told Larry Trainor that she was beginning to consider Mento as too egotistical and thus she was giving him the brush-off. However, Robotman believed that the two would make an excellent couple and decided to take matters into his own hands. Just as Mento was considering giving up on his quest to pursue Rita, Robotman pushed into his mansion and persuaded Dayton to ask her out again by holding him by the neck over the mansion swimming pool. Mento agreed.
Finally, Mento petitioned the group to admit him to the Doom Patrol. A while later, the DP encountered Garfield Logan, a teenage metahuman called Beast Boy. Gar was an orphan and wanted to join the Doom Patrol because, like most of them, he couldn't hide his inhuman state since he had green skin. After a while, Beast Boy was admitted to the team and would join them on various adventures. Steve Dayton adopted him and gave him a home and later, Steve and Rita finally got married.
Later on, an adventure against General Immortus wound up with the original DP getting caught in a stalemate. General Immortus was in a position to remotely destroy a nearby town but told the DP he would spare it if they allowed themselves to be killed instead. The founding members of the Doom Patrol, Robotman, Larry Trainor, Elasti-Girl and The Chief, all agreed to the decision. They made no effort to save themselves as the ground beneath them erupted in a massive bomb blast.
Upon hearing of the DP's end, Beast Boy later joined the New Teen Titans as Changeling (he had served with an earlier group called Titans west for a brief period). Changeling and Mento, along with the recovered Robotman, later brought the DP's murderers to justice.
Steve Dayton later went insane and formed a criminal group known as the Hybrid, which would combat the New Teen Titans.
But this was not to be the end of the Doom Patrol. Larry Trainor had survived, but was in a coma. And Robotman's damaged body washed ashore, where he was found by Dr. Will Magnus, creator of the heroic band of androids known as the Metal Men. Magnus temporarily gave Cliff a new, slightly less humanoid body. Afterwards, the repaired Cliff Steele (no longer wishing to be called "Robotman") was mysteriously summoned to the Chief's old mansion. Meeting him there were Josh Clay, who had energy-based powers and called himself Tempest, and former cosmonaut Valentina Vostok, who during a recent test flight had been infused with the same negative being that had once inhabited Larry Trainor. Apparently, the negative being had left Larry upon his slipping into a coma and had sought out a new host. Valentina was now called Negative Woman, as a result.
It turned out that it had been Arani Caulderwho had summoned these three together. She explained that she was the Chief's widow and had been given an immortality serum. Because of this, General Immortus was currently pursuring her and so she had recruited this new Doom Patrol to protect her. She also revealed that a side-effect of the experimental serum had given her powers over heat and cold. Calling herself Celcius, she led the team against Immortus. Afterwards, the team intended to go its separate ways but then reformed when Arani wished to search for her husband (the Chief's body was never found). During an early adventure against the villain Kalki, they discovered Larry Trainor emerging from his coma. Apparently, Kalki had found him and captured him. Upon joining his friend, Larry found himself growing more ill as a result of losing his bond to the Negative Being. But Valentina refused to give up her powers.
During the next few months of the team's tenure, Valentina would make secret phone calls to report the DP's activities to her secret employer. Meanwhile, General Immortus was told by his intelligence agents that Dr. Niles Caulder was alive and well in Washington.
The Doom Patrol took on three new members: Rhea Jones (Lodestone), Scott Fischer and Karma. Lodestone had gravity and magnetism-driven powers. Scott's hands could melt most substances. Karma, a punk, had the mental ability to make people "miss" him if they tried to shoot or hit him. Unbeknownst to the DP, he was a thief wanted for manslaughter after a cop had tried to arrest him and fell to his death. Karma soon left the Doom Patrol, and later died on a mission with the Suicide Squad.
Wishing to cure himself of his illness by any means possible, Larry Trainor went to Belle Reve (a prison specifically meant to maintain super-villains). Larry got the radiation villain Reactron alone in a lab. He claimed that he wanted to run some tests in a search for any clues that might lead to a cure for his sickness. But instead he immediately placed an explosive to Reactron's chest and offered him a deal. He would help Larry regain connection with the Negative being and in return he would gain his freedom.
At the same time, the villain Garguax had captured Cliff. As the DP were leaving to help their teammate, Valentina snuck off to her room to make another secret phone call. When she finished, Reactron burst into her room and attacked her. The others arrived, but not before Reactron could escape with the Negative Being inside him. Reactron then met with Larry, but could not control the Negative Being. It exploded out of him and bonded with Larry.
Finding himself regaining his strength, Larry then activated Negative Man and flew around. But he the Negative Man felt continually drawn to Valentina, who was in the hospital. Realizing he would not be able to survive when the Negative Being left his body again to rejoin with Valentina, Larry commandeered an airplane and headed for the stratosphere. One there, in mid-flight, he released the Negative Being, causing himself to go unconscious at the controls. The Negative Being then returned to Earth and rejoined itself with Valentina.
Suprisingly, Larry did not die but awoke on earth. It seemed that the Negative Being had saved his body from the plane before returning to Valentina. Remarkably, when the Negative Being had chosen to leave him and reconnect with Valentina, it had caused his body to be cured of all lingering radiation sickness. Alive and healthy again, he enthusiastically reunited with Cliff (though Valentina assaulted him for his actions).
During some of her computer investigations, Arani came to the conclusion that the Chief may be alive, though Robotman and Tempest were quite skeptical. Ignoring their attitude, Celcius then took the Doom Patrol to Washington in search of her missing husband. They were soon confronted by Gen. Immortus's forces, though, and Celcius confronted Negative Woman with the fact that she knew Valentina had known the Chief was alive and had been making reports to him. Before the battle was over, the Chief arrived on the scene.
General Immortus told Caulder that he wanted a cure for a degeneration effect that was threatening his immortality. The Chief agreed to help him on the condition that the Doom Patrol be released. As the DP was released, Dr. Caulder stated emphatically that Arani was not his wife and he didn't know her.
The Doom Patrol retreated to the HQ of the government task force known as Checkmate. Celcius refused to even speak of her marital status, as the Checkmate agents stormed Immortus's agents and rounded them up. Soon afterwards, the Chief was rejoined with his old teammates Cliff and Larry. He explained that he had been able to save himself from the blast and had gone into hiding afterwards because he feared Immortus would find him if it was known he was still alive.
The Chief stayed with the Doom Patrol for the next few months. Eventually, Earth was attacked by the Alien Alliance. This invasion included a coalition of various alien races joining forces for a mass invasion. During one of the many battles that ensued, the Doom Patrol and the Sea Devils were aboard one of the alien ships. When things turned sour, the alien commanders aboard the ship decided to fire the ship's engines, thereby killing the Earth army that was aboard. One of the Sea Devils noticed that the engines were starting and everyone evacuated the area everyone but Arani, who decided to try using her temperature powers to cool down the engine cowlings to keep them from firing. These efforts were useless though, against a ship which was built to withstand the freezing vacuum of space. As a result, Arani was killed when the engines finally went off.
The Doom Patrol were given a hero's welcome in Kansas City, but this was darkened by the fact that they now had to bury their comrade. Suddenly, Garguax's forces attacked. In the course of the battle, Negative Woman was struck by a strange ray and suddenly found her powers were gone. Larry attempted to take off in a helicopter but was injured. Garguax was then killed when the Chief used a laser satellite to destroy his ship.
Later, the Alliance detonated a "Gene Bomb." This bomb was meant to attack all those on earth who possessed the meta-gene, the genetic anomaly which allows humans to develop superhuman powers if their bodies undergo severe trauma, such as radiation or chemical tampering. Doom Patrol member Scott Fischer, already weakened by leukemia, was the first to die from the gene bomb's effects. Although Earth's heroes later undid most of the effects of the Gene Bomb and finally defeated the Alliance, Rhea Jones was still in a coma as a result of the bomb.
Months later, things had changed. Without her Negative Woman powers, Valentina had retired. Larry Trainor was enjoying his new human state. And Cliff Steele was seeing a psychiatrist to help him with severe depression. He seemed unable to do anything but wallow in self-pity over his inhuman state.
Will Magnus visited Cliff and vowed to make him a new body. Cliff demonstrated his disenchantment with his metal body by ramming his head into the wall and emphasizing that he could not feel pain anymore.
Psychiatrist Eleanor Poole and Larry had a run-in, when suddenly the Negative Being showed up and merged them into a new creature. Meanwhile, Will introduced Steele to Kay "Crazy Jane" Challis, a mutant who suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder -- and each persona was gifted with a different power. He also met up with Dorothy Spinner, who could psychically create beings from her imagination. These apparitions increased in intensity whenever she was experiencing her period (though Will Magnus later falsely blamed it on lunar movements).
Eventually, events came into play that forced a new Doom Patrol to form. Steele, Larry, Crazy Jane and Dorothy joined to investigate matters that were too bizarre for normal law enforcement agencies to figure out. The Chief would also be regularly involved with the team. But after several months things started going to Hell. And during a drastic adventure, the Chief murdered Josh Clay and revealed to Steele his true nature. He revealed that he had secretly orchestrated the events that led to the original Doom Patrol's formation. What's more, he revealed that during the island explosion years ago, he'd actually had the opportunity to rescue Elasti-Girl and had simply chosen not to. He wished to extend his catastrophe theories to the world at large now, but in the end his schemes were stopped and he ended up decapitated.
Dr. Magnus was able to revive Niles Caulder's brain, making him a new body, and discussing the ethics of his actions. Magnus eventually explained that after all he had done, the Chief should help his former colleagues. Caulder disagreed, stating that he could never do enough to repay what he did, and to make his point, he ripped his own head off using the body that Magnus made him. Magnus worked quickly and was able to preserve Caulder's head.
When strange things involving alternate universes began happening, Cliff decided to investigate. With Dorothy and the Chief, who was now a head sitting in a kitty-litter box full of ice cubes, he re-formed the Doom Patrol yet again. The team went on for a few months before finally going their separate ways. The current whereabouts of the various members are unknown.
This article is © 1999 Alan Kistler.
All characters are © DC Comics
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This piece is © 2002 by the author listed above.
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