Robotman with his new teammates, visiting the old ones and carrying some discardable baggage. Artist: Joe Staton.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1963
Creators: Bob Haney and Arnold Drake
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In the early 1960s, there was a trend at DC Comics for old 1940s superheroes to be revived in new forms — The Flash and Green Lantern were already …

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… starring in newly-launched comics by the time the decade opened, and they were followed by Hawkman and The Atom. DC's fifth superhero revival didn't make as big a splash as those, and apparently the revival aspect of it was pretty much an afterthought.

The 80th issue (June, 1963) of DC's My Greatest Adventure, formerly a title without continuing characters, introduced The Doom Patrol, a group of decidedly oddball superheroes whom many see as an answer to Marvel's X-Men (except the two came out too close together for either to have been a response to the other). One of them was a man whose brain had been transplanted into a metal body. At first he used "Automaton" as his superhero name, but that was quickly replaced with the more euphonious (and easily understood) "Robotman", echoing that of an earlier DC hero whose adventures had run in Detective Comics until 1953.

This Robotman was Cliff Steele, who had been an internationally famous sportsman until a near-fatal racecar crash brought on the extreme surgery that left him more a machine than a man. After that, his powerful robot body deemed unfair competition, his sports career was over. At first he went on a destructive rampage, but soon settled into a new life as a bitter outcast. He came out of his funk gradually and reluctantly, after the surgeon who had performed the operation, Dr. Niles Caulder (aka "The Chief" — his real name wasn't revealed at first), brought him and a couple of other super-powered outcasts (superhero names Negative Man and Elasti-Woman) into his newly-formed adventuring team.

The Doom Patrol and its members were co-created by writers Arnold Drake (Deadman) and Bob Haney (Metamorpho). The artist was Bruno Premiani (who also drew the first Teen Titans story). The editor was Murray Boltinoff (Tomahawk), which may explain the radical differences between this and earlier revivals — those had all been handled by editor Julius Schwartz, whose approach to superheroes was more traditional.

Robotman continued as a Doom Patrol member, without stepping out into adventures of his own, as long as that group lasted. In the 121st issue (October, 1968), they were all killed in an explosion on a remote island, and the series ended.

In 1977, DC revived The Doom Patrol with mostly new members. They opened the story with Robotman, his super-tough body badly damaged but still mostly functional, dragging himself ashore after years of struggling. The others remained dead, but Robotman fell in with a new group calling itself The Doom Patrol and claiming continuity with the old one. Transferring himself into a new and improved robot body (made by robot expert Will Magnus, who built The Metal Men), he began adventuring with them again. (Note: This Robotman wasn't related to the Robotman who appeared in records, children's books and newspaper comics during the 1980s.)

Since then, The Doom Patrol has had a continuing but not very steady presence in the DC Universe, sometimes in print and sometimes not. Many members have come and gone. In all its many incarnations, the one character who remains most reliably a part of it is Robotman.


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Text ©2004-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.