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October 08, 2006


Martin Wisse

That "fifties as standard for normalcry" obsession? I blame the Baby Boomers. That's the period of their generation's earliest childhood, the period they rebelled against and since US/western culture is still dominated by the baby boomer generation, that's why the fifties are still in play.

In leftwing mythology the fifties are the symbol of the hypocrisy and failure of the American Dream.

In rightwing mythology the fifties is the golden age of American strength, just before the hippies ruined everything.

It's going to be some decades yet before this will disappear, especially since popular culture tends to reinforce these cliches even for people born long after the boomers, because once it has a cliche in its teeth, it stays there.


I don't disagree with your central thesis -- this is precisely the point at which I dropped Morrison's Doom Patrol, but since I ended up taking a multi-year break from all comics shortly thereafter, I was never sure if that had anything to do with a weakness in this series or just an early warning of my temporary disaffection with the whole medium -- but I quibble with a couple of small points.

I took Mr. Jones as a satire on the horrible world of sitcoms, not any sort of commentary on alleged 1950s middle class values. You and Martin are absolutely right about the misreading of the Fifties in popular culture and political discourse (well, so I assume, I wasn't there either) but it's really the sitcoms of the Sixties with their canned laugh tracks replacing live audiences that we see here. If anything, I'd think Morrison's intent was closer to Martin's comments above: to say "look at the rigid denial of reality represented by this man who lives in a totally illusory world of conformity he imagines reflects the real world of the past."

And Danny the Street -- the real gold here is the basic idea of a sentient street that moves from place to place. I just find that immensely inspiring. And if Danny represents a zone of shelter for the misfits of the world, depicting him as an aging drag queen serving as a surrogate aunt/uncle to protect others is not such a bad metaphor. But the "transvestism" is just an added flourish; the concept isn't meant to be taken as some kind of serious statement on gender identity issues (issues which Morrison covered thoughtfully in The Invisibles).

But it was around this time that the narrative in DP got mushy and overwhelmed. I think these two were simply two more good ideas that Morrison didn't present as well as he might have done.


I think we read Mr. Jones more or less the same way, RAB, but that critique was tired long before Morrison got his hands on it. Yes, of course the fifties weren't as idyllic as Mr. Jones imagines--but that hardly needs saying.

I thought Danny came into his own once Morrison started making more use of his mobility. Mr. Nobody hijacking him was good for a laugh, and "Krystalnacht on Danny the Street" was a classic Stan Lee moment of heroic self-sacrifice. The Danny the Planet evolution was great, too--the perfect counterpoint to the flattened affect that grips Cliff and Jane in those final issues.

But the first couple issues focused mostly on the transvestism, and that always seemed to be gilding the lily--a sentient teleporting street wasn't already odd enough? No, it wasn't a serious statement on gender, and given the concept I don't think it could have been; just an attempt at stealing a little subcultural glamor.

Greg Burgas

Part of the problem of Mr. Jones and the fake men from NOWHERE (as you point out and as I think I pointed out in my post, but I wrote it a while ago and can't be bothered to go back and look) is that Morrison is using that whole "conformity vs. individuality" thing far too unsubtly (if that's a word). Later, as I know I pointed out, he makes much better use of it with the fall of the Doom Patrol itself. As long as the DP were agents of normalcy themselves (which they were, even in the early, blow-the-old-stuff-away issues), the series couldn't really take off, even though I enjoyed the early issues. I get the feeling you don't like the Pentagon horror (which is fine), but it does begin the paradigm shift from the DP as defenders of the "real" to the DP as foes of it. I think the early DP issues (and even these issues) are necessary in order to set up the issues where the normal begins to turn against the DP and take them down. So even if they are weak (and I still think the War in Space is the weakest story, but you're right - this is close), these issues definitely serve a purpose within the greater whole.


Actually, I liked the Pentagon Horror quite a bit--that was the story that got me buying the title on a regular basis, so it gets a special dispensation. And it gave us the origin of Flex, which gets it another, and it dovetailed perfectly with the Robert Anton Wilson kick I was on at the time. But looking back, I have to admit that it's as flawed as the other stories of the middle run. Did we really need half an issue of Major Honey explaining the whole plot to Washington? Were the Ant Farm or the phone avatar nearly as terrifying as they were built up to be? It's another case of the ideas, creepy though they are, overrunning the rest of the story.

But it does set up the final stage, and you're right, the DP's transformation from defenders of status quo to enemies of it was pretty interesting.

Jess Nevins

Plus the storyline induced me to write a ham-handed and obvious loc analysis of the story, which actually saw print in the book. (Shakes head).


All sorts of interesting names pop up in those pages. Cameron Stewart has a letter there, too.

Just think--you could have gotten the book instead of Rachel Pollack!


I can agree with several of your points, particularly how well-tread the themes are, but I thought it worked if you took it as a chapter in a broader story. For me, the simplicity of the conflict between Mr. Jones and Danny the Street, and the themes they obviously represent, makes the eventual triumph of conformity and the destruction or exile of most of the benevolent oddities Morrisson introduced all the more bitter.

I'll be honest, though: "The Doom Patrol" is my favorite story by my favorite contemporary author in any medium. So maybe convincing me of its flaws is like turning a Jesuit into a Protestant.

Dave Intermittent

I've always thought that the little two/three page horror teasers that precede some of these issues were really effective; it's those bits that got me reading the book when I started to look at Vertigo style comics.

It's interesting to look back at the early Morrison work and see how his themes have matured, and profitted from that maturation. The simplistic squares vs. normals themes he trots out in this portion of DP, the labored hipness of Kid Eternity, and the turgid mythologizing of Arkham all point to his possible future, but he could just as easily have wound up, I don't know, J.M. Demaitas. Which potential fate is why, I suppose, Morrison is so aggressive at retconning his past.


To put my review in context, these two issues are just a bump in an otherwise outstanding run--still one of Morrison's best. When he was firing on all cylinders, which was more often than not, Doom Patrol was a lot better than freaks vs. mundanes (and its freaks weren't always so appealing). The sheer imagination of those issues is all but unrivalled in superhero comics, yet Cliff Steele was always ready with a wry, weary comment to keep the book from taking itself too seriously. I don't think Morrison could have become J.M. DeMatteis.


The point is simple. Danny La Rue = Danny The Street.


The point is simple, undisputed, and largely beside all the other points.

Peli Grietzer

Right on the money, I think. I wonder what you make of "Kill Your Boyfriend", though. On the surface it's plagued by pretty similar problems, but something about it kind of works -- maybe the brutally simple narrative structure makes the brutally simple yet rich in relatively complicated overtones social commentary seem like a choice rather than a limitation.

Chris Laffoon

Man, so much talk about Doom Patrol. I've seen a couple people discussing these recently. Maybe I should have gotten into it back in the day. I think I have issue #41 of the Morrison run and that's it. I just couldn't get into it.


Issue 41 would be a pretty uninspiring place to pick up the book, although I came on board not long after. Although what really made me want to read Doom Patrol was the text page in #37 (an otherwise dismal issue) that said the Doom Patrol had fought a painting that ate Paris. I knew that was the comic for me.

You know, Peli, I've never read Kill Your Boyfriend. Perhaps I'm destined not to; at one point Christy picked it up on Ebay, but the book never materialized. Phil Bond art, right? I ought to take a look at that...


I've somehow never gotten around to reading the middle stretch of Doom Patrol, but I've always thought "Kill Your Boyfriend" was by far Morrison's weakest story, precisely because it's such a straightforward "beautiful freaks versus the awful squares" narrative. While there's glimmers of humor in it here and there, there's not really enough to rescue it from its sense of self-righteousness, which is made all the worse by being put to work for a cliche.

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