For whatever reason, Ed’s Coins and Stamps seemed to have a much greater variety of old DC titles than he did Marvels, and so much of what I bought from him on this first trip followed suit. This issue of DOOM PATROL was among them. I had never seen a copy of DOOM PATROL before this, though I’d encountered the group previously in SUPER-TEAM FAMILY and the like, and was already a fan of them. Ed’s had a pretty good assortment of issues, so being a kid, I bought #100–already, I had realized along with my small comic book reading crowd that centennial issues tended to be more valuable for some reason. That wasn’t really the case with this one, which doesn’t do a thing to even acknowledge the occasion. But that’s why I selected this issue rather than some other issues.
This particular issue focused heavily on the origin of Beast Boy, a character that the creative team of Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani has introduced the previous month, and that clearly they were excited about. He’d eventually go on to bigger and better things as Changeling of the New Teen Titans, but that process would take many years. Their intention with the character was to create a teenager who was a bit more like the teens they knew in real life. Which is to say, a bit of a disrespectful punk. Beast Boy’s skin was freakishly green, and he could transform himself into a whole menagerie’s worth of animal shapes. But he was a minor, and a huge annoyance to the Doom Patrol, even as they were sympathetic to his situation as a freak like them.
Bruno Premiani was an interesting artist. He had fled his native Argentina after some editorial cartoons he had done came to the attention of the dictatorial government. He was a consummate professional who worked on a ton of war, weird and western stories, but who did few super hero titles. And part of the reason for that, perhaps, was that he approach d the work in the antithesis of Jack Kirby. Premiani’s comics were always almost obsessively “matter of fact” in their presentation of what was happening, no matter how outlandish. He never exaggerated for affect or impact. I feel like his work lost a step when the size of the original art boards was reduced shortly before this issue was produced, as did so many artists, particularly the DC stalwarts. But he always made the Doom Patrol distinctive and unique.
A quick pause here for Patrol Postscripts, the title’s letters page as orchestrated by editor Murray Boltinoff. Boltinoff had a habit in his letters pages for years of filling out the back half of the page not with full letters but a sampling of bits from assorted correspondents. As a reader, I didn’t love this, though as it got more readers’ names and thoughts into print, I’m sure that others didn’t mind. There’s a certain wit in play in the replies as well, though it still maintains the standard DC editorial distance, as opposed to the undignified Stan Lee elsewhere.
And a half-page ad for an upcoming 80 Page Giant, which is the format that replaced the DC Annuals. The 80 Page Giants were most often numbered as a part of a given title’s run, though they would see print usually in the same month as the new issue of the series, so it was like a little bonus release. This one carries a theme of Batman’s colorful villains.
The story itself involves a criminal scientist who is unleashing dinosaurs on the world, but the real heart of the matter is the ongoing situation with Beast Boy. Here, we discover that his name is Craig–this will soon change to Garfield Logan, either because Drake forgot the name he’d first given him or for some other aesthetic reason. Anyway, beast Boy’s father was a scientist working on a process of hyper-evolution. But when the young Gar came down with a Malaria-like disease, his dad exposed him to the evolution ray to transform him into a specific breed of green monkey that was immune to the malady. This saved the boy’s life, but left him with green skin and the ability to change himself into any animal. Shortly thereafter, Beast Boy’s parents perished in a flood, and he was given over to the custody of Galtry, a miserly sort who would attempt to profit off of him. So it was that Gar was lent to a Dr. Weir, who was able to gain access to the secrets of his father’s process and use them for his own criminal ends.
Armed with this information, the Doom Patrol is able to track down Dr. Weir despite him also posing as his own assistant and bring him to ground, vanquishing a bunch of dinosaurs along the way. However, Beast Boy can’t remain with the team–as a minor, he must return to the custody of his guardian, no matter how awful the guy happens to be. When in action with the team, Beast Boy would wear a weird purple full face mask that would conceal his green features, so that his identity wouldn’t be known. It’s a strange conception all around–a green-skinned kin who turns into non-green animals (apart from their faces) and who hides his distinctive pallor from the world when in his super hero guise. But Drake was a thinker like few others. At the end of the story, there’s a blurb about an upcoming crossover between the Doom Patrol and the Challengers of the Unknown. This sort of cross-title appearance was still a rare thing for DC heroes who weren’t Superman and Batman, and so this seemed especially exciting.
This issue also includes a house ad for the next upcoming issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, which at the time was a rotating team-up series that paired to separate characters from across DC’s publishing line. Batman hadn’t yet become the regular star of B & B, so this next issue featured Supergirl and Wonder Woman, and represented their first meeting. You can see that, even here in 1965, DC’s older editors were trying their best to come across as hip and swinging and with-it, even though they clearly were anything but. So their attempts are typically painful, but they’re a fun kind of painful.
Speaking of attempts, Arnold Drake was one of the few at DC to see and understand just what Stan Lee and his compatriots were doing over at Marvel in terms of their approach to super heroes, and to see merit in it. While Drake was never able to really convince anybody else at DC of the rightness of his position, he did attempt to infuse DOOM PATROL with some of that same spirit. And towards that goal, this issue inaugurates a new back-up series, one set before Niles Caulder had formed the Doom Patrol. It winds up having some of the flavor of The Fugitive, in that it’s about the early days of Cliff Steele after his body was destroyed in a car crash and his brain was transplanted into a robot body by Caulder. There’s a sop to something having gone wrong in the transfer process that leads to Robotman going berserk and running wild. But really, who wouldn’t behave that way if they found themselves in that position?
Steele is on a crusade to hunt down the man who performed the transplant, and Caulder needs to bring him in alive so that he can correct the imbalance that has caused Robotman to run wild. And so that’s the thrust of the back-up series: Robotman on the run and attempting to remain one step ahead of the authorities until he can find and kill the Chief. So it has a very Marvel flavor to it, with a supposed good guy on the run from the law and driven by his own anger and tragedy to lash out at society. The series only lasted for about five installments before making way for a similar series about Negative Man’s experiences before the Doom Patrol came to be. Elasti-Girl, sadly, never got such a feature.
And what the hell, one more ad closes out the issue, so here that is. It’s just for a random issue of BATMAN, the one numbered immediately after that earlier 80 Page Giant. This was still before the BATMAN television series had premiered, but folks at DC may have been priming the pump for it–or else, Julie Schwartz’s reinvention of the Masked Manhunter had really paid off.
6 thoughts on “BHOC: DOOM PATROL #100”
“Bruno Premiani was an interesting artist. He had fled his native Argentina after some editorial cartoons he had done came to the attention of the dictatorial government.”
You’re conflating a few things here. Premiani was not a native of Argentina — he was born in Trieste, which was part of Austria-Hungary at the time, but was part of Italy by the time Premiani got expelled from the country for anti-Mussolini political cartoons.
He emigrated to Argentina, and eventually, as I understand it, got in some hot water there with the Peron government, which led to him moving to the US for a while, and working for DC, for Simon & Kirby and others. But he moved back to Argentina in the early 50s. And then back to the US in 1960, and it was during that stretch he co-created the DP.
Later, he returned to Argentina for the remainder of his life.
I was one of those letter writers that Murray Boltinoff at first just printed snips of, then eventually I’d get most of a letter, in Brave & the Bold in the mid-70s. I for one am grateful, it was a thrill for me as a teenager.
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Me too, though I never got one in a Boltinoff book.
What I meant to say here is that Boltinoff printed my name for the first time in a comics letter column in Brave & Bold 116, a team-up suggestion.
Got it. You made it into print way sooner than I did — I think my first was in Marvel’s Doc Savage B&W magazine.
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I loved adding Beast Boy to the mix — I was very much not a disrespectful punk but reading DP made me think I’d like to be (never managed it though).
As you say, the premise of Robotman Unchained that his brain/body connection was defective never really came across. He’s just pissed that he woke up a robot.
The B&B with Supergirl and Wonder Woman was sooooo sexist (all superheroines want is to wear pretty clothes and date handsome men!) but Supergirl’s line to her cousin “You don’t know anything about what women want — just ask Lois Lane!” made me laugh.
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