Doom Patrol (vol.2) #70 (September, 1993)
“The Laughing Game”
Writer – Rachel Pollack
Pencils – Scot Eaton
Inks – Tom Sutton
Colors – Tom Ziuko
Letters – John Workman
Assistant Editor – Julie Rottenberg
Editors – Tom Peyer & Lou Stathis
Cover Price: $1.95
Hey gang… we’re going, uh, a bit Mature today. Reader discretion is advised, and all ‘at.
We open with a young man trying to chat up a classmate in High School. He’s such a nobody that she’s barely even paying attention while she turns him down… she tells him he’s not “big enough”, and while she was referring to his height… he took that to mean he was small in… another area. This one incident seemed to send him on quite the troubled path… so fearful and ashamed was he of his small… well, ya know… that he wouldn’t be able to relate to women, without his package-baggage coming up. And so, what’s a fella to do? Well if you answered, become a phallic-themed supervillain and attempt to exact revenge… you’d be on the right track!
We shift scenes over to Rainbow Estates, where George and Marion (the Bandage People) are getting ready for a day out shopping. They invite Cliff and Dorothy to accompany them… however, the former is worried they’ll be stared at, and the latter is too busy playing with her super-creepy Charlie McCarthy doll. That thing is the stuff of nightmares, ain’t it? The doll may or may not allow Dorothy to remember things from her past while she holds it… she offers him over to Cliff for a bit, but he wants no part of it… and I can’t blame him!
Next, we head over to a costume shop and meet a woman named Kate Godwin. She buys a frog-head mask, and it’s alluded to that she’s been away for a little while… her friend, Jean, thanks her for returning in time for her birthday.
From here, they head to a bar for a demonstration of Kate’s powers… because, she has some! They have the barkeep flip on a tap… and Kate makes the beer coming out of it coagulate. For her next trick, he dissolves a bottle sitting on a table.
Once the performance has concluded, Jean and Kate find a table. Kate spills the beans on how she (believes) she got her powers. Just think, a couple of years earlier they could’ve just said “Gene Bomb” and been done with it… nowadays, it’s a bit more complicated. Ya see, Kate used to be a lady of the evening… and one night she was approached by a rather peculiar client… Rebis! She claims that while they… ya know… a “ghost” was discharged from the client’s body… and the next morning she woke up next to a Russian stacking doll.
Her powers would emerge some time later, and Kate would try becoming the superhero “Coagula”… hell, she even attempted to join the Justice League! She says they liked her powers… but just “couldn’t handle” her. It’s here that we learn (or, can at least assume) that Kate is a transsexual woman.
From here, we rejoin our phallic-friend Codpiece… he’s attempting to rob a bank with his… cod-piece. Funnily enough, all of the women present are absolutely taken by his… cod-piece! Gotta figure that that’s a dream come true for this fella! He proceeds to blow his way into the bank regardless.
Inside, we see that his cod-piece is of the Swiss Army variety… he can attach all manner of weaponry to his groinal-area. He drills his way into the vault and heads on in… just then, the police arrive. He takes them out with some… I can’t think of a punny way to say it, so I’ll just say it straight… sonar. He shoots sonar out of his cod-piece.
He ain’t done yet though… from here he fires a bunch of missiles, which blows up the police cruisers. It’s here that we see him in silhouette… which is probably the most risque panel in the book because you wouldn’t be able to tell just what that “mass” he’s packin’ really is.
Nearby, the Bandage People are out having a time. A snot-nosed kid notices that they’re… ya know, covered in bandages… and assumes they’d be invisible underneath. And so, he does what any jerk-ass kid might do… he tries to unwrap poor Marion. This doesn’t work out all that well for the boy… and he winds up wound up (winds up… wound up) in bandages. The kid’s mother (I assume) wishes she had the ability to do that. Might wanna call Child Protective Services, you guys.
George and Marion continue on their merry way, until coming across a crying woman named Alice. She rushes up to them and applauds their bravery for being in public while looking like mummies (fashionable mummies, but mummies nonetheless).
Just then… there’s an explosion! The Bandage folks take Alice to safety before deciding to get involved… after all, they are “super-thingies” now. The threat is, of course, Codpiece… who’s Swiss Army Crotch is currently punching a cop in the face with a boxing glove. Ollie Queen wants his royalty check… you can, uh, keep the glove though.
The Bandage folks get into position and bombard the baddie with bandages. Codpiece panics and proceeds to unload a salvo of… man, why can’t I come up with any puns this morning… a salvo of… missiles, I guess. The explosions catch the attention of our new friend, Kate.
By this point, Codpiece has a giant pair of scissors sticking out of his crotch (either that, or he’s just glad to see us)… and is hacking away at the bandages. Marion decides it’s time to unleash “the spooks”… these are humanoid insects that apparently live inside her purse. They aren’t super-effective.
Just then, a frog-masked woman appears on the horizon. Codpiece isn’t impressed. Then, Coagula uses her powers to first… coagulate the cod-piece… then, dissolve it. That sounds like the start of a pretty bad day for our baddie.
With Codpiece in custody, George and Marion decide to extend an invitation to Kate to join the Doom Patrol. She ain’t sure what the Doom Patrol’s all about, but decides to go along anyway.
We wrap up back at Rainbow Estates, where Cliff’s curiosity has finally gotten the better of him… and he picks up the janked-out Charlie McCarthy doll. It speaks to him… and sends him back to his childhood, where he is being bullied by a pair of goofs. He is then approached by a rather debonair Fox, who offers him great powers. Ruh-roh.
Heckuva fun issue!
It’s going to perhaps sound weird… but, ya know that intangible element in comics we sometimes discuss… the “heart” of a comic story? This issue, despite being about a fella with a phallic arsenal, actually has heart… at least, to me. There’s this weird “goodness” to this story… an altruism. Now, I’m not talking about our man Codpiece of course, but the rest of our cast… they just feel like good people here.
Now, where to start? I guess we can get my thoughts on Coagula out of the way. Now, her being a transsexual woman is a sensitive subject, and honestly one that I’m probably not qualified to opine on. All I will say is I’m happy she’s here, and I really appreciate her depiction as just a person trying to live their best life. She’s not shown as a novelty or an outlier (no more than the rest of the Doomies, anyway)… she’s just a woman who wants to do good. Back in ye old 1993, this was a pretty brave move. Hell, today it’s still a risky gambit! I’m honestly surprised we haven’t had Kate reappear in more recent years!
Speaking of characters I’m surprised we haven’t seen again… Codpiece! This dude is just “funny, ha-ha” enough to pop-up again (now the puns happen!). I appreciate his origin stemming from a misunderstanding. I think a lot of people speak without thinking… and don’t really pay much mind to how their words affect those around them. In simply dismissing the teen-age Codpiece (we never learn his real name) as being too small (meaning short), she unwittingly planted the seeds for a villainous career (which wound up being just as short as he was!).
When some people are told their “too small”, they go the Charles Atlas route… others, as we see here… become phallus-focused and attempt to exact revenge on a world that looks down on him! I’m assuming there is something symbolic in his… coagulatory castration of sorts… but, I’ll just leave that in the ether.
The Bandage People, George and Marion, are a hoot. They don’t seem to realize (or care) that they look the way they do. Cliff is depicted here as rather self-conscious over his appearance… which, the B.P.’s can’t really wrap their head around (wrap… head… ay yai yai). Later, that woman Alice calls them brave for being out in public… and they really don’t get that either. These are fun characters… and they’ve got that intangible “heart” to ’em.
The one thing I didn’t much like… was the Charlie McCarthy doll… and that’s the whole point, I reckon. I’m not supposed to like that cursed thing! It’s supposed to make my skin crawl (and it kinda does!). There’s such a disquieting on the page when the puppet’s there… and the fact that only Cliff seems to be skeeved out by it makes it all the more anxiety-inducing. I hate looking at the puppet… but, I’m glad he’s here to creep me out.
Overall… this issue probably won’t be for everybody. I enjoyed it a great deal… but I’d understand if people did not. It’s a bit crass, to be sure, but if you’re open-minded and comfortable with seeing a villain lead with his crotch, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll dig this as well. This issue is available digitally.