Doom Patrol #94 (March, 1965)
“The Nightmare Fighters”
“The Chief ‘Stands’ Alone/Master of the Killer Birds”
Writer – Arnold Drake
Art – Bob Brown & Bruno Premiani
Letters – Stan Starkman
Editor – Murray Boltinoff
Cover Price: $0.12
Now… how’s that for a cover?!
One’a those that really makes you wanna read the story… also, one that I’m surprised hasn’t been homaged skatey-eight hundred times by now!
We open with the Doom Patrol introduced as guests of the television show “Open Mind” by host Kenneth Devine. Along with the Doomies, we’ve got the author of best-selling book Illusion and Reality, Dr. John Radick… and the Eastern Mystic Rama Kara, who has come to share photographic evidence of the “Spirit of Osra”. Cliff yuks it up, and accuses the mystic of being drunk. The host appeals to the Chief for his opinion… and he thinks it’s a bit of hogwash too. later that night, the Doom Patrol jokingly toast to ol’ Osra. They seem kinda mean, don’t they? Anyhoo… should go without saying that… that very night, the Spirit of Osra shows up to wreak some havoc.
The Spirit destroys a warehouse… and Rita and Larry spring into action (Cliff is suddenly “away” on special assignment). They wonder how a “ghost” could cause actual structural damage… and Rita suggests Larry send the Negative Man out to try and nab the spirit. Unfortunately, he winds up flying right through it! Seconds later, “Osra” vanishes!
Shortly, the police already have Rama Kara in custody… and they’re questioning him about the event. The Mystic pleads ignorance… he hasn’t the foggiest idea what’s going on himself. The cops ain’t buyin’ it… but, the Chief believes there might be something to his story. The cops aren’t buyin’ that either.
Back on the street, Osra has struck again… this time the spirit is riding a chariot in the sky. Rita and Larry witness him crashing through another wall… which, ya know… ghosts ought not be able to do, right? Rita decides to grow up… up… up… up… up… and snaps a wrecking ball off of a nearby piece of construction equipment. She begins swinging it (Argentine-style), but before she can strike the spirit… it vanishes.
Later on, we rejoin the team back at HQ. By this point, Cliff has returned from “special assignment”. The Chief is curious as to whether or not Cliff would be able to see this spirit… since the last time they messed with someone using illusions, Cliff wasn’t fooled because of the steel alloy that surrounds his brain.
Steel alloy? I think we’re going to need to take a better look at that. Lucky for us, the Chief produces the schematic for Cliff’s Robotman body! After taking a peek, the Chief wonders if Dr. Janus might be the one behind the “illusions”. Cliff chimes in to remind Niles that Janus bit the big one in prison (I didn’t even know he was sick!).
Then… a news bulletin! Osra’s back, and taking names… at a nearby tractor plant. The Doomies hit the streets… and upon confronting the Spirit, Cliff is shocked to realize… he can see it! The Chief (who is watching via monitor), begins to question everything he’s based his life on. Just wait till you meet folks like the Spectre… and the Phantom Stranger…
Back at the plant, Osra has inhabited a tractor, making it appear to have come to life (and boy, does it look ticked!). The Negative Man battering rams Cliff into the thing to destroy it. When the dust settles, Professor Radick (thought he was Doctor Radick?) approaches, claiming to have found Rama Kara creepin’ around outside.
The Mystic will not allow himself to be searched, so Larry does the next best thing… he unwraps his face, and gives Rama the ol’ radioactive once-over. Looks like the fella is clean. At the same time, Cliff gives Radick a rubdown… which, I’d assume would be weird with feeling-less robotic fingers. I suppose they didn’t want Rita rubbing the Doc. Back at HQ, Niles has a plan… and it looks like he’s really laboring over it!
Just then, the Doom Patrol (and their “guests”) notice the tractor coming back to life. They all see it… except Cliff! All he can see are multicolored flashing lights popping around it… and deduces that this whole thing’s gotta be the result of “radio-illusions”. And with that… not Rama Whatshisface, but Doc/Prof Radick runs off! Looks like the Doomies might’ve been barking up the wrong tree all along!
Cliff chases the Doc/Prof into a Metal Processing Room… and is immediately nyoinked by a crane… and dropped on that Press ‘n’ Punch from the cover.
Rita grows big and rips one of the bars off the machine to save her partner… who then uses his freshly-pressed legs to whack Radick in the back! It’s probably not “Argentine-style”, but it’ll work in a pinch!
Then, one Robotman-body-swap later, they investigate Radick’s… uh, corpse? I mean, he’s laying awfully still… and there’s no mention of his going to jail or anything. Anyhoo… they discover that Radick has a robotic arm where he concealed his radio-image transmitter. Later, we learn that Radick was actually Dr. Janus’s son… and the reason why Cliff was able to see the “Spirit” was due to improvements made to the illusion-technology. The Chief explains that his “last ditch” effort was to increase a signal-thingie in Cliff’s leg. We’ll just go with it.
We’re not done though… it’s time for our second-feature, the kinda cruelly-titled The Chief “Stands” Alone. Get it? Ohboy. Anyhoo, we open with the Doom Patrol about to lower themselves into an active volcano, that’s just about to blow… the Chief watches via monitor, knowing that as soon as they enter Monapula, he will lose contact with them.
Down in the hole, the Doomies reach the volcanic threat… and send Larry’s Negative Man entity out to take a look. No sooner does he vacate their air-conditioned capsule than he’s “attacked” by wild radio waves. Larry summons him back into his body before he gets taken out.
Next, Cliff decides to test his luck with the volcano. He climbs out of the capsule and attempts to perforate the walls, to provide some ventilation. Naturally, his fist melts into the wall. Gotta wonder just how many Robotman bodies/replacement parts the Chief has laying around?
Turns out, punchin’ holes does the trick. Rita grows her hand real big and POPs Cliff’s robotic arm-stub out of the volcano wall. Job well done, they head back to HQ… only to find the Chief, missing!
And so, we jump into flashback-land… as earlier that day, the Chief was testing out his brand-spankin’ new “Wheelchair Fortress” the Action Chair! This baby’s come equipped with all sorts of shenanigans that’ll (in theory) make him more useful on the “front lines”.
Around the same time… a bird robs an armored car.
This is the work of the villainous… Claw! I’m tellin’ ya, this fella… goofy gimmick that he is, has a pretty awesome costume. It’s too bad this is his one-and-only appearance! The Chief watches a news broadcast, and decides this might be the perfect opportunity to test out his new Action Chair. He, uh, doesn’t know about Claw though… I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s just going out to fight a pair of birds. Okay, okay… he probably knows about Claw too.
Back at the bank, one of the officers uses a special weapon lent to them by the Doom Patrol to combat the birds. From the looks of it, seems like the Chief let them borrow his hair dryer?
Then, Claw sends the Chief a riddle of sorts… which, I think we’re supposed to try solving. See if you’re as smart as the Chief (I’m not, by the way). Then again, it is a pretty bad riddle.
Okay, guesses in? Time to reveal the answer… as the Chief rolls up to Cardinals Stadium at 8 o’clock. Upon arrival, he’s attacked by Tonka and Meena… those damned birds! And get this, they’re wearing adorable little metal helmets! Time for the Action Chair… to launch into, well, action.
Back at HQ, the Doomies crack the code. Ya see, Claw mentioned a red bird… and Henry Tudor… which naturally means, Cardinals Stadium at 8 o’clock. Cardinals are red… and Henry Tudor was King Henry the VIII of England! Don’tcha all feel so smart right now?!
Back at the Stadium, the Chief is faced off by Claw… and the Action Chair really makes the baddie look like a goofball.
So, Claw steps back and… get this… throws a baseball at the Chief’s noggin! This actually manages to kayo Niles… or at least it seems to. Lookit that pitch! Claw’s got some nice form!
Then, Claw comes closer to finish the Chief off with a “karate chop”… only to learn that Niles was “playing possum”. Looks like Claw’s got a glass jaw, because one punch from Caulder is all it takes to put him down. The Doomies check in with the Chief, and they call it a day.
Well, that was a couple of super-fun Doom Patrol stories! It’s funny, whenever we discuss the Silver-Age there isn’t always much more to say than that. More often than not, “This was fun” just about covers it! I have this entire era of Doom Patrol in collected edition… but, as I prefer reading them in singles, I’m fairly certain this is my first time reading this particular issue.
I’m happy that the press ‘n’ punch scene from the cover actually happens inside the issue. It probably speaks to my jaded nature as a “current year” comic fan, that part of me was sure it wasn’t going to happen. It was just a single page, and didn’t have much to do with the story itself… but, it happened!
I mentioned in the synopsis… just how many extra Cliff-parts does the Chief have? I mean, we’ve got two stories… and poor Cliff needs two completely different repairs! After the run-in with the press ‘n’ punch, the Chief replaces most of Cliff’s body in record time! Like, one-panel later, he’s good to go again!
Let’s talk about Claw (from the second feature). Man, what a cool character design… so familiar too! It’s hard to believe this was his only appearance. I’m thinking… DC must’ve used this design again, right? Am I thinking of the Court of Owls, maybe? I dunno… whatever it is, I really dig this look! I like that he controls birds to rob banks too… I mean, just the image of a bird flying in and out of an armored car, stealing sacks of money each time… that’s kinda what comics should be all about.
The art here is pretty great… I actually had to confer with several sites to confirm the creative teams, and was pretty surprised to learn that these two stories had two different artists. Premiani and Brown really complimented one another, and didn’t look jarring in the slightest (to me, anyway).
Overall, if you’re a fan of the Doom Patrol, I’m sure you’ll really dig this issue. It has been reprinted a number of times, including Doom Patrol Archives, Volume 2… SHOWCASE Presents: Doom Patrol, Volume 1… and Doom Patrol: Silver-Age Omnibus. It is also available digitally.