Thursday, January 31, 2013

Childhood Memories: Do The Mario!

Hey, Paisanos!

Back in the 80s, during my early childhood, there were certainly a lot of cartoons that I loved. Inspector Gadget, The Smurfs, He-Man, Thundercats, Silverhawks, Garfield & Friends, Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats, The Carebears, etc. Not to mention all the classic cartoons from Disney, MGM, Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, etc. that they used to play regularly on TV. It's safe to say I've always loved animation, pretty much all my life. As far back as three or four years old, I've also had an avid love of video games. In fact the two earliest games I can remember seeing or "playing" were Pac-Man and Dig Dug in the arcade. As it turns out, one of the earliest cartoons that I remember watching, was an early 80s Pac-Man cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera, something I'll surely give it's own blog at a future date. Given those two great childhood loves, it wasn't until I discovered the Nintendo Entertainment System (a bit later than most kids), and first saw Super Mario Bros. being played, that I went from love to childhood obsession. Super Mario Bros., and later especially Super Mario Bros. 3, really kicked off arguably my most passionate (of many) childhood interests. And so when I discovered there was a Super Mario Bros. based cartoon? It was automatically my new favorite cartoon of the time.

The Bros., hangin' with Sgt. Slaughter.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show first debuted on Monday, September 4th, 1989. It was developed and produced by animation company DiC, who were also responsible for other great 80s cartoons such as Heathcliff, Inspector Gadget, and The Real Ghostbusters. The show consisted of two segments. The first was a live action segment where the voices of Mario and Luigi, played by former professional wrestler and famous wrestling manager "Captain" Lou Albano and actor Danny Wells, also portrayed the characters in front of the camera, in comedic skits usually involving some kind of celebrity guest. These guests were typically people famous at the time, such as child actor Brian Bonsall of Family Ties fame, Wheel of Fortune personality Vanna White, Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson, disc jockey and voice actor Gary Owens, and even some of Captain Lou's old wrestling contemporaries Sgt. Slaughter and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. These live action skits would bookend the show, opening it with the setup that would end in a cliffhanger, and then once the cartoon episode for the day had concluded, the live action skit would come back and wrap up the show. The nice thing about these skits, was the chemistry between Albano and Wells, who you could tell genuinely got along, and really put themselves in the roles. Albano would reveal in interviews years later that he and Wells were never given a full script for these scenes, but rather a general outline of what was going to happen, and then the two of them would generally just ad lib their lines, in front of a live studio audience no less. Given that fact, it makes you appreciate these purposefully-silly segments even more, as much of the ad-libbed material Albano and Wells came up with was genuinely funny and entertaining.

"Mario, we ain't in Brooklyn anymore!"

As for the cartoon itself, for a young Mario fan, it honestly couldn't have been much better. Having just released in North America in October of 1988, Super Mario Bros. 2 was still very fresh on kids' minds, and as such, it served in some ways as the biggest influence on the show. The main protagonists of the show were of course Mario and Luigi, voiced by Albano and Wells, but they were also joined, in SMB2 fashion, by Princess Toadstool and Toad, voiced by Jeanie Elias and John Stocker. The primary villain, naturally was King Bowser Koopa, voiced by Harvey Atkin, but given the influence of SMB2, he often employed enemies and bosses from that game as his lackeys, such as Mouser, Tri-Clyde, Fry Guy, Clawgrip, Shy Guys, Sniffits, Cobrats, Beezos, Flurries, Albatoss' and Bob-Ombs, etc. In fact the only enemies from SMB2 never present in the cartoon, were Hawkmouth and the game's final boss Wart. The show also utilized concepts from SMB2, such as Bowser using magic potion bottles to create doorways and escape, or the Mario Bros. picking up and hurling objects such as vegetables and blocks at enemies. The show's producers even went so far as to use mainly sound effects directly from SMB2, such as the throwing, hitting, jumping etc. for effects in the cartoon itself. However, with all of this influence from the second game, there was still plenty of influence from the original Super Mario Bros. as well, such as the heroes frequently encountering and using Fire Flowers, jumping and breaking blocks, as well as Bowser's more traditional minions being frequently mixed in with the Mario 2 baddies, such as Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and even the occasional appearance of Bloopers, Lakitu and his Spinies.

"Koopa Pack, Attack!"

The general basis of the cartoon was the same as the games, seeing Mario and his companions fight against Bowser and his forces, who are trying to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. But in a twist on that theme, and most likely to give the writers more room to work and create variety, in the show Mario and his pals travel to different made up lands, which Bowser is inevitably also trying to conquer, where the heroes then have to thwart Bowser's evil (and often hilarious) schemes and save the day. Each episode basically had some kind of theme, and often the episodes would be homages or parodies of popular movies or fiction. For example, there were episodes based on Dracula and Frankenstein, James Bond, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Hercules, Indiana Jones, Mad Max, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Jack & the Beanstalk, Sherlock Holmes, and even Godzilla (naturally one of my favorite episodes). As seen in the picture above, Bowser and Co. would often adopt outfits or personalities fitting the theme of the episode (and concurrent land they're trying to conquer), with Bowser himself adopting various guises and nicknames, such as Koopenstein, Count Koopula, Koopa Claus, Koop-zilla, and even Robo-Koopa (a parody of Robocop). Inevitably, the heroes would defeat Koopa, which would usually send him slinking off to the next episode, often with the classic line "He who Koops and runs away, lives to Koop another day!"

"Does anybody have some spare ravioli?"

Now, one thing I should point out, for those of you who may have never seen these old cartoons, is the portrayal of Mario and Luigi themselves. As established in the show, Mario and Luigi (probably taking some cues from the series prequel of sorts, simply titled Mario Bros.), are natives of Brooklyn, New York, in the real world Earth. They were plumbers who accidentally found themselves sucked down a drain and wound up in the magical Mushroom Kingdom (which is also consistent with the NA booklet for SMB1). Because they're established as being from Brooklyn, they have heavy Brooklyn accents, and this is how I grew up with Mario and Luigi, a couple of tough New Yorkers. They were even (more or less) depicted this way in the infamous (and I argue still highly entertaining for what it was) Super Mario Bros. movie. Now somewhere along the line, when Nintendo decided to give Mario a bit of voice for Super Mario 64, they hired talented voice actor Charles Martinet, who in his audition, instead of going for the gruff NY accent, decided Mario should have a more stereotypical Italian accent. As history would have it, the NA Nintendo reps loved it, and that is how Mario has sounded ever since. Now mind you, I don't MIND the way Mario sounds now, it's grown on me over time, and I've accepted that that is how Mario is seen by most folks today. BUT, the Mario I grew up with was a pint-sized tough guy plumber from the mean streets of Brooklyn, voiced by Captain Lou Albano (and later by Walker Boone, but more on that later), and that's how I'll always prefer it.

"By the power of Grayskull....."

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one other element to this show, that pretty much put something that was already perfect, over the top. In it's original 1989 run, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show was broadcast in syndication every weekday. For the Monday through Thursday episodes, the show featured a Mario cartoon. But on Fridays, it would feature a special "The Legend of Zelda" cartoon, which would still be book-ended by live Mario Bros. Plumbing segments. During the M-Th episodes, right before finally wrapping up whatever zany situation was occurring in the live skit, they would have one of the characters say something along the lines of "While we find out what happened to Mario's pajamas, watch these scenes from the next Legend of Zelda!" (I don't think they ever actually said that one, but it's still funny). The Zelda cartoon itself, was very true to the games it was based on (with Zelda 2 also having just released the year prior in 1988 in NA), utilizing music and sound effects from the show, as well as having Gannon as the primary villain, with appearances by just about every enemy from the first two Zelda games at some point. The show still had a goofy tone, of course, but it was good entertainment. Though people who are aware of it today, are likely most aware of Link's catch-phrase from the show, where every time Zelda would get pissed at him for something, or crack a joke at his expense, he would exclaim "Well excuuuuuuuuse ME, princess!" (a line, by the way, I still use on my friends from time to time). While goofy or funny in tone, these episodes still managed to also retain a nice sense of epic fantasy adventure that really fit the games, and it was cool to have basically Nintendo's two biggest franchises represented in one show.

"Well Excuuuuuuuuse ME!"

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show's original run lasted from September '89 through December 1st '89, with 65 total episodes (52 Mario, 13 Zelda). To be completely honest, I'm not sure whether or not I actually caught the show when it originally aired, because it was continued in reruns until September 1991. And even beyond that, it was picked up that same month (and year) by The Family Channel, and would continue to air in some form until 1994. Regardless, it was one of my fav. cartoons of the time, and remains one of my favorite animated shows of all time. It's naturally great material for kids, but it also had really clever writing, and can easily be great entertainment for us "big kids" as well. One disappointing element of the show that was dropped upon later re-airings and in the DVD releases, is that originally, every Super Mario Bros. cartoon episode would feature actual hit songs from various eras of music, at some point in the episode to accompany the action. Some of these songs would include "Great Balls of Fire", "La Bamba", "Workin For a Livin'", "Kung Fu Fighting", and even Michael Jackson's "Beat It". But as I said, in later airings and for DVD releases, these songs were removed and replaced with stock music from the show, most likely due to royalty issues. Granted, it's more important that the show made great use of versions of actual music from the SMB1 and SMB2 games, but it was still just another cool little feature that the cartoons used real songs too.

So that about does it for one of my best childhood memories, when it comes to shows that I loved. The entire Mario episodes can be found on DVD, and the Zelda episodes are also available on their own separate DVD. Though sadly, while all 52 Mario cartoons are there, for some stupid reason not all of the live skits were included (though most are). It's a show I still think fondly of, and still get a big smile on my face when I pop in one of the DVDs from time to time. Quite frankly, it's an overused saying, but it's really true that they "just don't make shows like this anymore", because they don't. It was truly a one of a kind show, and it's really too bad that it's run only lasted one season, because more certainly would have been welcome. That doesn't mean that it didn't "live on" in a way, though, as it lasted in re-runs until 1994, but also because it would be followed up by a "successor" cartoon that at the time I loved just as much, which will be the focus of my next entry. So stay tuned cats and kittens, as there is more animated Mario goodness just around the corner!

Till then, I'll leave you with the most fitting way to end this particular topic that there is. Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Classic Comics: Beware the Creeper

Showcase #73, first appearance of The Creeper.

"The world has more than it's share of troublemakers, tormentors and terrorists! And perhaps not enough forces of courage, strength and justice to combat them. But now -- a new force against evil is about to make it's presence felt. A unique power, embodied in a remarkable character, and dedicated to the defeat of the destroyers. A man accidentally thrust into a dynamic destiny...and who accepts the explosive challenge. For it is he who will defy those destroyers, and make them Beware the Creeper!!!"

That quote is the first thing you read in Showcase #73, "The Coming of the Creeper". It's so awesome, I just felt that I had to add it. The Creeper was one of several properties that were created at DC Comics in the late 1960s by one Steve Ditko. Ditko is one of the most well known comic book artists of all time, along with the likes of Jack Kirby and Bob Kane, among so many others. Ditko had already made a name for himself by the late 60s, first with the Charlton Comics character Captain Atom (he would later also create The Question for Charlton, both of whom would become DC characters), and later more famously as the co-creator (visual designer) of both Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics. He left Marvel after a period of great success, and went to rival DC where along with The Creeper, he also created or co-created the likes of Shade the Changing Man and Hawk and Dove.

Story-wise, the Creeper wasn't all that different from many other hero characters of the time. But character-wise, he most certainly was unique. WHAM-TV show host and personality Jack Ryder, who in his first Showcase #73 appearance would offend a guest and be fired from that job, only to be hired by the studio as a kind of security investigator, wound up following an assignment to his strange fate. Getting mixed up with mob boss Angel Devilin and his thugs, he discovers the missing Dr. Vincent Yatz at a faux high society party, which is really cover for the mob to sell Dr. Yatz and his secrets back to very interested communist parties. It seems Dr. Yatz has invented such things as an "instant healing formula", as well as a "matter displacement device", things those evil communists would love to use as weapons. To sneak into the party, a costume party, Jack had to don some sort of costume for disguise, and as luck would have it, all the costume shop he stopped at had available, was one box of leftover junk. So he just threw together one of the weirdest outfits of all time out of what was there, and voila, you have the basic look of the Creeper, though it's all makeup and even a green-haired wig (as seen in the cover art above). Upon successfully sneaking into the party, however, he winds up getting himself near-fatally stabbed, and thrown into the same secret room as Dr. Yatz. Both to save Jack's life, as well as to keep his secrets out of evil hands, Dr. Yatz injects him with the fast healing formula, and sticks the small matter displacement dohickey in the wound while he's at it. The good doc gets himself shot dead for his trouble, but his legacy now lives on in the form of Jack Ryder, who would soon take on the monicker "The Creeper".

The Creeper, in his own solo-title.

That legacy turned out to be the unwitting creation of DC's newest, strangest super-hero. The healing serum seemed to give Jack permanent fast-healing ability, a power none-too-common in comics at this juncture (not to mention many years preceding the more famous Marvel character Wolverine), not to mention exponentially increasing his natural strength, stamina, agility, reflexes, and so on. The other side-effect of the good doctor's work, is that via a tiny transmitter device he would keep attached to his wrist-watch, Jack could now use the matter displacement thingy grafted into his body, to automatically switch to his Creeper form. Whereas he had originally donned random bits of costume, accompanied by a green wig and yellow makeup, these things were now permanent so long as the device was activated, meaning baddies couldn't just pull his wig off, etc. When he hit the switch, he WAS The Creeper, and he could turn back into Jack Ryder just as fast, which added another unique-for-it's-time element to the character. The final piece to the puzzle, was a conscious choice on Jack's part to start laughing maniacally and acting as "creepy" and otherworldly as possible when fighting criminals, using the element of fear to his advantage in a similar, and yet far different way to Batman. This aura of fear, combined with his "inhuman" physical abilities and fast healing, made most thugs he faced doubt that The Creeper even WAS human, but perhaps rather a ghost or something altogether different.

This served Mr. Ryder well, as he was able to mop up Angel Devilin and his gang. But in so doing, he also found himself on the wrong side of the law, as in initially escaping from the mansion where Dr. Yatz had been held, he unknowingly attacks a police officer, as he had just been fighting his way through thugs. So while he was a hero for beating the bad guys and saving the day, he was from the get-go also established a "wanted man", both by the city's criminal underground ($100,000 for his head, to be precise), as well as the police. His initial appearance in Showcase was well enough received to lead into the character getting his own solo-title, "Beware the Creeper", plotted by Steve Ditko, but also written (as his first DC assignment), by one Dennis O'Neil. Denny O'Neil would later become famous for his work on the Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic, as well as his now-classic Batman work (creating such memorable villains as Man-Bat and Ra's Al Ghul, among others).

The introduction of his most dangerous villain, Proteus.

In the first issue of "Beware the Creeper", Ryder would face off against a new threat, both to himself as well as the mob, a seeming vigilante calling himself "The Terror". He faced and defeated this threat, in what would present itself in a very detective fashioned story of "whodunnit", with Ryder trying to determine who out of several likely candidates is in fact the masked "Terror". By issue #2, readers would be introduced to his biggest and most enduring villain, a mystery man who can disguise himself as anyone he chooses (so it would seem), known only as Proteus. It seems that this mysterious Proteus turned up at some point in the recent past, and had strong-armed his way into control of the local mobs. In his very first appearance, Proteus takes the form of The Creeper, attacking the WHAM-TV production room, setting off an explosive that kills one of the crew, framing The Creeper for murder in the eyes of the public in the process. The primary focus of Jack's activities over the remaining issues (what few they were) of his first title's run, was trying to discover just who Proteus really is, as well as bringing him and the criminal underground down for good.

The final confrontation?

Sadly, "Beware the Creeper" would enjoy a run of only 6 issues. I would imagine that the sales were just not up to snuff, which very sadly has happened to a lot of great comic titles over the years (same with tv shows, etc). In the last article, about The Doom Patrol, I had to "spoil" the end of that team and their comic, for one thing because (to comic fans at least), their fate was already pretty well known, and for another, it was just something when dealing with that team and that title, that had to be discussed. However, when it comes to The Creeper, or at least his original six issue "Beware the Creeper" run (seven if you count Showcase #73), I don't really want to spoil the fun, so if you want to know the scoop on this Proteus guy, and juicy stuff like that, I'd highly encourage you to find yourself these comics and read them, as they're well worth it despite their number.

The Creeper would thankfully not be done after his title was cancelled though. In fact throughout the 70s and 80s he would go on to make numerous appearances in various titles, including The Justice League of America, Detective Comics (Batman), and many others. Some loose ends of his own title would be somewhat further explored in an "Super-Team Family" issue #2. He would, however, go on to be nothing more than a cameo type of character until the 90s, when he would eventually get his own comic for a time again. Though after the infamous mid-80s "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline, he was one of many characters to have their origins retconned (or in his case slightly tweaked), adding some rather silly elements to what was already a perfectly fine character. Overall, though his own comic was very short-lived, and his appearances over the years have been sporadic, he is one of many DC "second stringer" type characters that I have really come to love and appreciate in recent years.

He actually even enjoyed some minor appearances in both "The New Batman Adventures" in the 90s, as well as the early 2000s "Justice League Unlimited". His episode of Batman, entitled "Beware the Creeper", despite featuring a completely wrong origin for his powers (you'll have to watch to understand), is still a rather entertaining episode. His limited appearances in JLU, while cool, are actually just non-speaking background parts, but it was still cool that they thought to include him at all. He's certainly a character that deserves some love. So there ya go folks, go check out "Beware the Creeper", you'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Classic Comics: The Doom Patrol

Classic "Silver Age" comic greatness.

I am, among many other things, a huge fan of comic books, and most especially, super hero comics books. And like with most things that I love, I happen to have a much stronger affinity for the older, classic entries in the medium, more-so than the more recent, modern output. When it comes to comics, I have always been what you would call a "Marvel guy", meaning I grew up loving characters from Marvel Comics, most especially the X-Men. And in general, with the primary exception of Batman (because I loved the 90s animated series so much), most of the comics and characters I loved the most, and perhaps still love the most, came from Marvel, or more specifically, the mind of one Stan Lee, the legendary father of such heroes as the X-Men, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, The Avengers, The Silver Surfer, etc. etc. etc.

However, in as much as at one point in my younger days, I was a "Nintendo guy" but later came to also like and appreciate much Sega had to offer, I also was once decidedly a "Marvel guy", and for the most part, didn't get into or give much credence to most output from DC Comics, Marvel's biggest rival. But, much like my later appreciation for Sega, in later years I also grew up, and grew an appreciation for classic stuff from DC as well. In recent years, especially, I have made it more a point to explore and discover the many gems that DC Comics produced in years past. One of the greatest such gems, is a lesser known titled called "Doom Patrol". Seen above, is the very first appearance of this super team, in the pages of one of DC's many anthology books (comics that featured various different stories and characters), "My Greatest Adventure" issue #80 (1963). Several talents converged to create this, one of the first dedicated "super team" comics, but the main mind behind the Doom Patrol, was a man by the name of Arnold Drake, a veteran of the business known for, among other things, the equally somewhat obscure "Deadman" character for DC, and "Guardians of the Galaxy" for Marvel.

The first official, self-titled "Doom Patrol" issue.

Now, the Doom Patrol were a very unique, oddball group of characters, reminiscent in some ways of the earlier "Fantastic Four" (1961), and also the contemporary "X-Men" (1963). But even compared to those teams, Drake's creation took the cake for straight up weirdness, and perhaps even creativity (and I say that bearing in mind that X-Men and Fantastic Four are my two top fav. team comics of all time). The team consisted of four central characters: Dr. Niles Cauler aka "The Chief", Rita Farr aka "Elasti-Girl", Larry Trainor aka "Negative Man", and Cliff Steele aka "Robotman".

The Chief was, similar to the X-Men's own Charles Xavier, a crippled, wheelchair-bound man, who founded the team, and leads them on missions from his home base via radio communication. Unlike Xavier, or even his teammates, however, "Chief" is just that, a leader and strategist, with no super-human powers, only a brilliant scientific mind and inventive engineering ability, among other things. Elastic-girl, though her name would make you assume she stretches similarly to Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, was originally far more similar to Marvel's Ant-Man, as she had the power to shrink to near-microscopic size, or to grow hundreds of feet tall. Negative Man possessed perhaps the most unique powers of the bunch, as he was a former test pilot (and colleague of Hal Jordan, DC's own Green Lantern), and exposure to cosmic rays radiated and altered his physiology, giving him the ability to project an electrical "negative" of himself. While he used this power, his mind and consciousness traveled with the negative, while his body remained a vulnerable husk. And the most unique aspect of his character, was that his "Negative Man" projections had a time limit of 60 seconds, meaning if he stayed away from his body for more than 60 seconds at a time, he would fall into a coma and eventually die. Larry also had the misfortune, because of his radioactivity, to have to wrap his body in special bandages that helped contain the radiation and keep him together, which understandably made him bitter and isolated from others. But even given these handicaps, he was still arguably the most powerful member of the team, as his electrical negative could cause major damage. Last but not least of course, while Negative Man may have had the most unique powers, Robotman had the most unique nature. A former race driver, Cliff Steele got in a major accident, and would have died had it not been for Dr. Cauler's technology, which allowed his brain to live on in a metallic-ceramic body. Of course, feeling like a freak, Cliff hated this body, and had a hard time living with it (similar to the Fantastic Four's monstrous "Thing", Ben Grimm). But the robot body also afforded him near-invulnerabiltiy, super strength, near-limitless stamina, etc., making him the powerhouse of the team.

One of the best story arcs of this classic series.

The Doom Patrol naturally got into many incredible and strange adventures. Brought together and guided by The Chief, the core team of Elastic-Girl, Negative Man and Robotman would rush out in their jet plane to face all manner of threats, saving the world from various looming dangers. One of their greatest storylines, was a two issue crossover with fellow DC title "Challengers of the Unknown" (1957) . Challengers was the creation of one Jack Kirby, arguably the most famous (or infamous) comic book artist of all time, having worked on and in some cases co-created such characters as Captain America (back in his original WWII era debut), the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk with Marvel comics, as well as many others. Challengers specifically, featured a team of four non-powered adventurers, who were more explorers than heroes, who investigated all manner of science fiction and supernatural phenomenon, facing them off against all sorts of aliens, monsters, etc. Kirby would take some obvious key elements of this team with him when he left DC and moved back to what was by the early 60s called Marvel Comics (formerly Timely and then Atlas Comics), incorporating them along with Stan Lee into Marvel's first super team, the Fantastic Four, who were also a team of four adventurers who while heroes, often acted more as explorers. This crossover in particular was notable, though it only lasted two issues (one in each title), because it was one of the first ever crossover storylines between two separate, non-related titles.

Now the core cast of characters expanded a bit as Doom Patrol's run went on, eventually adding the teenage Garfield Logan aka "Beast Boy", whose green body could shift into any animal form he knew of, and Steve Dayton aka "Mento", whose self-invented special helmet enhanced his mental power, giving him telepathy and telekinesis, among other abilities. While these two weren't featured in every issue going forward, and the argument could be made neither were "official" members of the Doom Patrol, they were nontheless a part of the DP "family", and important characters. Mento was a rich, somewhat arrogant man, who originally created the helmet and donned the heroic persona to impress Elastic-Girl, though he would also eventually prove to be a reliable ally and hero. He and Rita eventually got married, and adopted the orphan Beast Boy as their own son.

Naturally, a superhero isn't much without threats and evil to fight, and the cast of Doom Patrol's "rogue's gallery" was no less unique and strange than the heroes themselves. The primary of these, were the immortal "General Immortus", who would be revealed to be responsible for the Chief's crippled body, the strange "Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man" who could change his body into just about any of those three categories you could imagine, and the most notable, the "Brotherhood of Evil". The Brotherhood, led by perhaps the strangest super-villain of all, "The Brain" (literally just a living human brain in a bottle), consisted of various nefarious types, the two most infamous of which were "Monsieur Mallah", an intelligent and speaking gorilla (who also happens to usually pack a machine gun), and "Madame Rouge", a French stage-actress gone bad, with the ability to twist and stretch her body into various shapes (ala Mr. Fantastic), as well as the ability to alter her appearance to disguise herself. It would be the Brotherhood that would wind up being the Patrol's greatest nemesis, and (SPOILERS), their ultimate downfall.

Perhaps the most shocking final issue in comic book history.

The irony, given their name, of the Doom Patrol, is also what they are (sadly) perhaps most well known for. By late 1968, sales on the title were lagging, and so DC decided to pull the plug. Now often throughout comic book history, especially super hero titles, when a title gets cancelled, there is often little real conclusion, as the decision is usually made as a last second sort of deal, not giving the writer and artist time to really come up with a fitting finale. Some have been lucky enough to tie up some loose ends and present readers with some sort of acceptable conclusion. Many others, however, were not so lucky, and would wind up ending abruptly, with no real "the end" at all, sometimes even right in the midst of an ongoing storyline. With the Doom Patrol, however, this was not the case. Arnold Drake had enough advance warning of his comic's impending cancellation, to allow him to plot out his team's final adventure, and going against typical comic industry practice (even to this day), he decided to do something that, for it's time especially, would be incredibly shocking and would continue to be remembered. In the final issue, #121, published October 1968, he scripted a series of events that saw the villainess Madame Rouge seeking revenge upon the Doom Patrol (who had once tried to rehabilitate her). Joining forces with a former Nazi U-boat captain who held a grudge against the Chief, she and her henchmen sent the Patrol a message, by attacking (and presumably destroying) her old colleagues Brain and Mallah. She then attacks the Patrol's secret base, ultimately informing them that a bomb has been planted both at the base, as well as a tiny Maine fishing village called "Codsville". Expecting them to choose to save their own lives, they are given the ultimatum to choose which bomb gets detonated. But in a surprising act of self-sacrifice, they choose to spare the innocent village, and their base is detonated instead.

So in the final issue of a comic, for the first time (and honestly something that hasn't been totally duplicated since), not only does the bad guy basically win, but the heroes are all (presumably) killed at the end. I guess you can't really get more of a dramatic and heroic end than that, sacrificing yourselves to save innocent lives. Of course, I would imagine that at the time, it was an ending few fans of the series were likely happy with. And while the issue itself featured letters from some of the staff urging readers to write in and demand the return of the team, the title never was resurrected, and the characters remained canonically dead for years. Beast Boy, who wasn't present at the end, would later go on to join a Teen Titans offshoot team called "Titans West", before later becoming more famous as part of the 80s comic "The New Teen Titans", under the new codename "Changeling". Mento even made a return as a temporary villain, having gone insane with grief over his wife's death. The Doom Patrol concept suffered various attempts to resurrect it, though the only character actually brought back to life was Robotman. The worst of this 80s reboot, was Grant Morrison's run, which typical for the writer's work, featured all manner of nonsensical storylines and dumb characters (in my opinion). Given that I am not a fan of Morrison's work, and that he basically ruined my favorite comic of all time (The X-Men), I'll just leave it at that, that he got famous in part by shitting all over what was once a great concept in the Doom Patrol.

All was not totally lost, however, as DC apparently re-rebooted (as they've been known to do) the title, this time bringing the whole original team back. I haven't read it, and don't have much interest, but at least those classic characters got another shot I suppose, even if their original death was tragically fitting. Of more important note, at least to me, is that the Patrol also featured in the final season of the cartoon series "Teen Titans" several years back, in the very first episode in fact. They completely omitted the Chief, and made Mento the leader of the team, which was odd, but otherwise, it was a great representation, and the Brotherhood (Brain, Mallah, Rouge, etc.), would go on to feature as the primary villains of that final season, in what was undoubtedly the second best story arc of that show (the first of course being the Slade/Deathstroke storyline). But even though the actual Patrol only got featured in one two-part episode, it was still great for the team to get mainstream exposure like that, and to have it do them justice (instead of ruining things as Hollywood so often does). That was good enough for me, and a nice surprise to boot.

So if you ever find yourself wanting to read some good classic comics, go hunt down the Doom Patrol, and give them a read. You won't be sorry. I highly recommend watching that two-part Teen Titans episode, "Homecoming", as well. Cheers!