Everything DC's Doom Patrol Got Right About Superheroes

With so many superhero shows out there, it's hard to find a fresh take; Doom Patrol delivers.
Doom Patrol HBO Max
Doom Patrol: The Story of the World's Worst Heroes

Summary of Doom Patrol television series

Doom Patrol is a show about a group of outcast and downtrodden metahumans who are thrown into crime-fighting when their leader, a man known as the Chief, is abducted by an old enemy of his named Mr. Nobody.

The Doom Patrol is made up of Chief’s ‘strays’, as they are called by Cyborg. Each member has some form of superpower or superhuman ability, but due to their unpredictability and physical appearances, they are forced to live as outcasts rather than heroes. Chief protects and cares for them, and in return, gets to conduct studies and experiments that will hopefully advance modern medicine. 

Although the residents of Doom Manor are superpowered, they are also unstable, dysfunctional, and generally the exact opposite of what one would expect from a group of heroes. Even leaving the house results in catastrophe, which we see as early as the first episode. However, when the safety of the Chief is threatened, they are forced to work together as heroes to ensure his safe return. 

Doom Patrol aired in February of 2019 and has two seasons so far with 24 total episodes. It has been renewed for season three. This show was created by Jeremy Carver and is available to watch on HBO Max. 

Common Sense Media rates this show appropriate for ages 15+, but it’s truly intended for adults. There is lots of violence and adult language, as well as some nudity and sex. This show also has crude humor, which is not appropriate for younger viewers. 

List of Doom Patrol's main characters

1. The Chief - Niles Caulder

Played by Actor: Timothy Dalton (originally Bruno Bichir)  

Doom Patrol Chief Niles Caulder
Image Source: DC Database

Not much is known about the Chief, especially at the beginning of the show. He is introduced as a savior of sorts, using his scientific and doctoral abilities to save people who would otherwise have been left for dead or outcast from society. Doing so gained him immense loyalty from his ‘subjects’, but his morals and motivations are questioned at times, especially by Cliff.  He lies, manipulates, and uses those around him to reach his goals. He also keeps the Doom Patrol away from common society, which is arguably as much about protecting them as it is maintaining control over them. 

Overall, this is a character that cannot be trusted.

We know that the Chief has enemies, but it’s unclear exactly why this is the case at first. Most of his past, like his true motivations, is left a mystery to others and to the audience. 

2. Cliff Steele - Robotman 

Played by Actor: Brendan Fraser

Doom Patrol Cliff Steele RobotMan
Image Source: Looper

Before becoming RobotMan, Cliff Steele is a successful racecar driver who is unsatisfied and unfaithful in his marriage. Our first scene with Cliff reveals that he is having an affair with his young daughter’s nanny. When his wife confronts him, it ends in a horrible fight where it is revealed that she’s also cheating. 

After nearly crashing during a race, he calls his wife and promises to make amends to her. However, while driving home, Cliff gets into a horrible accident that results in her death and destroys his body. 

Chief acts quickly to save Cliff’s brain, but it is implanted into a robotic body that has no feeling. This is done without Cliff’s knowledge or consent. Chief also lies about the fate of his daughter, Clara, claiming that she died that night when she is actually considered the accident’s only survivor. This results in Cliff being the least trusting of the Chief throughout the season, causing tension among the rest of the Doom Patrol.

3. Rita Farr – Elasti-Girl (Elasti-Woman)

Played by Actor: April Bowlby

Doom Patrol Rita Farr ElastiGirl
Image Source: DC Database

Rita Farr was a 1950’s movie star who graced the silver screen, starring in films and making a career of her natural beauty and acting talent. Pushed into life from a young age, Rita learns quickly how to survive in the industry. She was ruthless when it came to her career. Unfortunately, this resulted in her treating those around her with callousness and contempt. 

During filming for a movie in the Congo, Rita fell into a body of water containing a mysterious chemical. The chemical reacted with her body and caused it to melt into a pile of slime. 

Rita does not have full control over her ability and chooses to live in isolation in Doom Manor. She hasn’t aged since gaining her powers and surrounds herself with posters and movies of her old career and faded fame, seemingly unable to move on from the past. 

Although she doesn’t want to be a hero, she proves herself to be loyal to her housemates and the Chief in times of need and goes to great lengths for them.

4. Jane – Crazy Jane

Played by Actor: Diane Guererro 

Doom Patrol Crazy Jane
Image Source: Entertainment Weekly

After going through severe, unknown trauma as a child, the character primarily known as Jane split into sixty-four ‘personas’, each with their own personality and superpower. These include super strength (Hammerhead), control over fire (Katy), and teleportation (Flit).

Jane was rescued by Chief from unknown scientific experimentation, which results in her loyalty to him. She comes and goes from Doom Manor, unlike Larry and Rita, who stay in isolation.  

Featuring a character with symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder as a protagonist with complex motivations and characterization, rather than a villain included for shock value, is an extremely important step to removing the stigma surrounding this mental illness. However, the accuracy and appropriateness of Jane’s character must be determined by mental health professionals and, more importantly, the members of the DID community. 

5. Larry Trainor - Negative Man

Played by Actor: Matt Bomer 

Doom Patrol Larry Trainor Negative Man
Image Source: Vulture

Larry Trainor was an all-American hero in the 1960s. An Air-Force test pilot, husband, and father, he had everything anyone could ask for. But he also had a secret- his affair with fellow airman John Bowers.

While testing a new aircraft for the Air Force, Larry encountered a mysterious being purely made of energy. The entity took control of Larry’s body, causing him to lose control of the plane and crash. Although Larry survived the explosion, he suffered serious burns all over his body, which he wears bandages to cover. 

Like Rita, Larry has not aged since his plane crash. This may be due to the entity still possessing him. In order for the entity to emerge, Larry must lose consciousness, resulting in a fight for control between the two. 

The existence of the entity makes Larry very reluctant to participate in any acts of heroism, feeling that his involvement may inadvertently make things worse. 

6. Mr. Nobody – Eric Morden

Played by Actor: Alan Tudyk

Doom Patrol Mr. Nobody
Image Source: Looper

Mr. Nobody, whose true name is Eric Morden, volunteered for scientific experimentation that was meant to enhance him by granting him superhuman abilities. It ended up fracturing his body and giving him the ability to manipulate people’s minds and the reality around them. In short, “the mind is the limit” for Mr. Nobody; a being with such great powers poses a massive threat to the Doom Patrol.  

In many ways, Mr. Nobody exists to shatter the fourth wall. He acts both as the main villain in the story and our narrator, addressing the audience and characters directly and making self-aware references about critics, viewers, and even Reddit. 

This character is a great analogy for the series itself; he ranges from crude, almost childlike humor like making a door out of a donkey to truly horrific, scarring experiences like forcing our main characters to relive their traumatic experiences for his own amusement. The balance between self-awareness, lighthearted humor, and seriousness works incredibly well to create a terrifying, oddly likable villain. 

7. Cyborg-Victor Stone

Played by Actor: Joivan Wade

Doom Patrol Cyborg Vic Stone
Image Source: DC Comics

This incarnation of Cyborg is the youngest to be seen in the live-action DC Universe. He’s just starting out at 21, five years after an accident in his mother’s lab that caused him severe injury and claimed her life. Cyborg, works with his father as a Detroit hero, aiming to save as many lives as he can and mold himself into a hero worthy of the Justice League.

Vic Stone is very much under the influence of his father, another morally gray scientist responsible for Cyborg’s creation. However, Vic is also loyal to the Chief, an old family friend. He joins the Doom Patrol in efforts to rescue the Chief, acting as the hero one might expect to see from the Justice League but with less experience, less patience, and less ability to lead. Still struggling with his past and unsure of his future, Cyborg has a long way to go before becoming the hero we know and love. 

Why Cyborg is included in HBO's Doom Patrol instead of Titans

Those who grew up watching the cartoon Teen Titans grew familiar with Cyborg as a major character, and his absence was a complaint about many Titans fans. 

Including Cyborg in Doom Patrol may seem like an odd decision, but here are the reasons why it makes sense: 

1. Cyborg’s backstory fits thematically with the other members of Doom Patrol- not the Titans

In Doom Patrol, a major theme connecting the characters is a tragic backstory behind their powers, resulting in the need for personal growth and accepting themselves, their abilities, and what those abilities represent. 

This version of Cyborg gained his abilities after an accident that he believes to have caused resulted in his injuries and his mother’s death. He must come to terms with what happened and find the truth behind that night before he can move past it and become a real hero. 

2. Cyborg’s physical appearance wouldn’t make sense within the Titan’s universe

In Titans, the characters need to be able to blend in with the ‘normal world’ and maintain secret identities. Several changes are made to character design: most notably, Beast Boy is no longer green and Starfire no longer looks like she comes from another world. 

Cyborg’s appearance makes him instantly recognizable. This doesn’t fit as well into the Titans as it does Doom Patrol, where a defining feature of the team is their inability to look ‘normal’. 

3. Titans is already a character-heavy show and including Cyborg would hurt rather than help the story

At times, Titans lean towards oversaturating their show with a multitude of characters. Doom Patrol has a smaller cast, allowing Cyborg a larger role that directly affects the plot and the overarching storyline. 

In an interview with DC, Jovian Wade talks about the differences between the Cyborg fans know and this incarnation of him. This version of Cyborg is much younger than what we see in the Justice League movie, and while his goal is to someday join that superhero team, he has a lot of work to do before he gets there. Much of this work can be better achieved in alliance with the Doom Patrol than with the Titans. 

Doom Patrol's Comic Book Origin Story

Doom Patrol Comic
Image Source: Think Christian

The Doom Patrol team originated, as most superheroes do, in comics. The characters first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80, which came out in June 1963. The comic took on a sci-fi feel which replaced its original, realistic adventure stories and was renamed for the team following issue #95.

Originally, Doom Patrol was written by Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, illustrated by Bruno Premiani. There have been several incantations since then. The television show draws inspiration from both the original incarnation and Grant Morrison’s run, which started in 1989. 

The 1960s were set right in the middle of the Silver Age of DC Comics, which is considered to run from 1956 (with the introduction of the Flash) up to the 1970s. This era also reintroduced the ‘Justice Society’ as the Justice League of America, which remains as such to this day and features some of DC’s most well-known characters: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. 

The sixties was an era that had seen its fair share of superhero stories. DC comics had been around since the creation of Superman in 1938, and after more than twenty years, it was time for a new kind of hero. The Doom Patrol existed, in many ways, as a deviation from Superman and other clean-cut heroes. 

Additionally, considering the shift in America from the Great Depression into the counterculture of the sixties, the shift in superhero stories from the impenetrable Superman to characters society deemed as outcasts and freaks makes a lot of sense. 

With all of these factors considered, it’s not surprising that Marvel released a very similar story only three months after Doom Patrol launched. X-Men was a comic following a school of mutants, set in a world where humans and mutants are at odds and mutant kinds are labeled a threat to ‘normalcy’.

In fact, these two stories were so similar that Doom Patrol writer Drake was convinced Stan Lee had stolen their idea. However, given the closeness of the two comic’s releases and considering the time it would have taken to produce an entire comic, this accusation is likely unwarranted. It’s far more probable that both companies recognized the need for change and were able to adapt to a new generation of readers. 

Why DCEU's live-action films aren't working

Justice League DC
Image Source: The Verge

DCEU was first created by Warner Bros. to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It followed Iron Man (2008) with the 2013 release of Man of Steel, and since then has featured characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam. It also includes movies based on villains: Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey (both featuring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn). 

The DCEU has not had as much success as the MCU, and many favor the latter. One of the reasons fans consider DCEU disappointing is its clear attempt to rival Marvel, following their trend of crossovers and rushing through storylines instead of focusing on originality and taking the time to develop their characters before putting them together in bigger movies like Justice League. 

Perhaps this is the reason DC tv shows like Doom Patrol stand out. With more time to explore each character and more space to explore original ideas, Doom Patrol delivers a fresh take on the superhero story that we haven’t seen before. The balance of humor and emotion succeeds where movies like Suicide Squad failed, and the grey anti-hero characters feel more dimensional than the Justice League.  

Everything Doom Patrol does right when it comes to superheroes

Doom Patrol HBO Max
Image Source: Forbes

Here are the major ways Doom Patrol stands out as an exceptional superhero television series. 

1. The characters in Doom Patrol are well-written and fully developed

In contrast with live-action DC movies, Doom Patrol takes the time to develop each of their characters, allowing them to exist in-between hero and villain with their own motivations, backstories, and relationships with each other and with their former families. The found family dynamic, mixed with humorous interactions between characters from different decades, makes this a fresh and interesting take on another superhero show.

2. The balance between humor and emotional moments is well-maintained throughout the series

In their earlier movies, DC struggled to include humor to offset the serious subject matter. Later, they overcorrected in films like Suicide Squad. Doom Patrol moves effortlessly between comedy and heartfelt moments, never focusing too long on either extreme. 

3. Doom Patrol is a fresh, self-aware take on "another superhero show"

With Marvel and DC's raging success and decades-long existence, it's obvious that superheroes have been around for a long time. But this show brings something completely unique and original that fans haven't seen before. It feels like watching an entirely new genre of show, rather than rehashing the same story we've seen over and over again. That originality makes Doom Patrol well worth the watch. 

Why Beast Boy isn't in Doom Patrol

Titan's Beast Boy Gar Logan
Image Source: The Vulcan Reporter

Doom Patrol was first intended to be a spin-off of the show Titans. The characters Rita, Larry, Cliff, and the Chief first appeared in episode four of the Titans, which introduced them as a family to Beast Boy. 

According to Titans lore, Gar Logan was rescued by the Chief after contracting an extremely rare disease in the Congo Basin. The ‘treatment’ altered Gar’s DNA, allowing him to become a tiger at will. He was taken in by Chief and grew up in Doom Manor. Unlike his housemates, Gar can maintain control of his abilities and interacts regularly with the ‘normal’ world. This leads to him meeting Rachel (Raven) Roth.  

In episode four of Titans, appropriately titled “Doom Patrol”, Gar brings Rachel back to his home and introduces her to the Doom Patrol. The episode ends with Gar joining the Titans, with his family wanting him to have a better life than they can. 

Despite this, it has since been confirmed that Doom Patrol takes place in an alternate timeline than the Titans episode shows.  

In an article posted on DC’s official website, showrunners Jeremy Carver and Sarah Schechter confirm that Doom Patrol exists within a different continuity than its introduction in Titans. This decision was meant to allow more creative control to the series, removing the confines of maintaining continuity within the Titans universe. 

There are notable differences between the two shows; Beast Boy does not exist, the Chief has been recast, and some of the characterizations are altered. 

With differences in continuity, as well as filming locations and the restraints of the current health crisis, a crossover episode has been deemed unlikely. Still, it’s not impossible, and more bridges between the two shows may be created in the future. 

The DC Multiverse; What it is and how it works

The discrepancies between Titans and Doom Patrol can be more easily explained when one considers the multiverse. 

Most fans of DC will be aware of the multiverse, which is widespread in all its media. It shows up in animated movies like Flashpoint Paradox, the existence of the Crime Syndicate in DC comics, and Crisis on Infinite Earths

In short, the multiverse allows for the existence of multiple Earths within separate, parallel universes that take up the same physical space but are separated by differing frequencies. This is why characters like Flash, who can use their speed to reach different frequencies, are able to pass through to other Earths. 

The CW confirmed the existence of the multiverse within their own television network. The ‘Arrowverse’, consisting of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, and Legends of Tomorrow, featured a special crossover event titled ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ that confirmed the existence of Titans on ‘Earth 9’ and Doom Patrol on ‘Earth 21’. 

The following video contains spoilers for ‘Arrowverse’ and references to major character death.

For a new and exciting take on superheroes, check out Doom Patrol. The show is available exclusively on HBO Max, along with DC's Titans.

A twenty-something writer trying to find her place in the world. I love my dog, mugs of hot tea, and all things make-believe.

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