Are you looking for a superhero comic book series of a different mold? Then you should give ‘Doom Patrol’ a try. Part of the new DC Universe streaming service, ‘Doom Patrol’ chronicles the tale of a dysfunctional family of misfits who band together to, well, for the most part, just survive in a world that has rejected them.
‘Doom Patrol’ is a very character driven series as is apparent when you watch the very first episode. These aren’t popular comic book characters. They are a bit obscure except for the most well-versed of comic book readers. Let’s take a look at the main players to give you a better idea of what the show has to offer.
Niles Caulder, also known as The Chief, is the founder of the Doom Patrol. Played by Timothy Dalton, he seeks out individual members who have been scarred by unusual tragedies. Though he leads this group, he has a lot of secrets that he keeps close to his chest.
Crippled for life because of an accident in his past, his machinations inadvertently lead the Doom Patrol on its many adventures, at least for season one. He masks his cold and manipulative nature with a pleasing demeanor that can let your guard down. Don’t let him fool you, though. He’s as shrewd (and as dangerous) a character as they come.
Cliff Steele aka Robotman is played by Brendan Fraser. The youngest member to emerge, though not the youngest in appearance, Cliff died in a car crash with his family. His brain was rescued by The Chief and placed in a robot body (hence the nickname Robotman).
One of the funniest characters in the series, Cliff’s seeming immortality comes with a price. Aside from his sense of sight, he really has no other human senses. He can’t eat, smell nor feel; and it’s both sad and hilarious to see him try to compensate for his lack of humanity. The loss of his family constantly lingers in his mind as the story progresses.
April Bowlby plays Rita Farr aka Elasti-woman. Rita was once a famous actress of the silver screen until she fell into a river during the making of the film ‘Forbidden Congo’. While in the river, she was exposed to a a toxic gas that changed her cellular structure.
As a result, she has trouble holding her human form, and oftentimes turns into a pile of sludge. Her deformity also allows her to stretch her body. She is very motherly, but can sometimes seem like a prima donna. She is very classy, but also very damaged just like the other members of the Doom Patrol.
Ace Pilot Larry Trainor of the US Air Force (portrayed by Matt Bomer) was exposed to negative energy during one of his flights. In the same flight, he crashed his plane, but survived. Nicknamed Negative Man, Larry’s body is now inhabited by a negative energy being.
Covered in bandages to hide his mostly irradiated body, Larry tries to come to grips with what he perceives as the monster he has become. Larry is also gay (unbeknownst to his family and the military). One of the most melodramatic characters in the series, Larry can be quite moody, but is an essential cog to the dynamic of the Doom Patrol.
Diane Guerrero plays Crazy Jane. Arguably the most powerful character in the current group and the youngest in appearance, Jane has 64 different personalities. Each of these personalities has a different super power. Yes, you read that right: 64 different superpowers. So far in the series, not all of these have manifested. Among the powers her personalities have are super strength, mind manipulation and teleportation.
Jane had a traumatic childhood, which is probably what led to the formation of these personalities. They all live in her mind in this place called ‘The Underground’, and she has little control over who manifests. It’s more of a shared ownership with Jane in the driver’s seat. It’s just a matter of letting everyone else take a turn at the wheel… for the most part, anyway.
The characters above are the regular members of the Doom Patrol who live in Doom Manor with The Chief. However, there is one other character who isn’t a part of them, but appears to be on the fence of joining them.
Cyborg aka Vic Stone is played by Joivan Wade. An accident in the past caused Vic’s father Silas to replace parts of his body with biotechnology, resulting in Cyborg. Though he is technically not part of the Doom Patrol, he has the damaged past to fit right in. He is the only hero who actually calls himself by his comic book name. He hates what his father did to him, and distrusts him. Vic blames himself for his mother’s death. He can be overbearing at times, especially when interacting with Cliff and the rest of the Doom Patrol; but he has proven to be important to the show’s narrative.
Speaking of narrative, it’s time to introduce the big baddie, the self-proclaimed narrator of the series…
Mr. Nobody is portrayed by Alan Tudyk. The villain. The arch-nemesis of Niles Caulder. And, most importantly, the storyteller of the series. Mr. Nobody stands unique as a supervillain with his narrative powers. He holds a huge grudge against The Chief, and the Doom Patrol are in the path of his revenge. His origins are more keyed to Niles than the rest of the Doom Patrol, but he is an antagonist to all. He makes an excellent first villain for this weird group of superheroes. On a side note, I’ve been a fan on Alan Tudyk since his days on the ‘Firefly’ series and the ‘Knight’s Tale’ movie. His role as Mr. Nobody fits him to a narrative tee.
So, there you have it: the main characters of ‘Doom Patrol‘. This is a series that takes a lot of its cues from the Doom Patrol Grant Morrison run in the early 90s. It is Vertigo Comics storytelling at its finest translated to the screen. Fans of Grant Morrison’s run will encounter characters like Danny the Street and Flex Mentallo.
Of course, since it is taken largely from Grant Morrison’s writing style, you can expect it to be weird…ALWAYS. That’s not to say that only comic book enthusiasts will enjoy ‘Doom Patrol’. The storytelling is crisp, and the series tackles a lot of social issues. The character-driven stories are very relatable in spite of the science fiction landscape. There is enough gore, macabre and dark humor to go around. However, in the end, ‘Doom Patrol’ is still a superhero comic book series. Give it a try. It will be worth your while.