The DC Universe is a vast and varied place, encompassing scarred cowboys from the past, teenagers from the future who won’t lay off the practical jokes and various squads suicidal.  They’ve even got TWO teams called The Outsiders!  But few of the denizens of the reality that Superman spawned are quite as unusual as Niles Caulder’s original team of freaks.  Are you ready for the first appearance of The Doom Patrol?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of My Greatest Adventure #80 awaits!

mygreatestadventure80MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #80
Writer: Arnold Drake/Bob Haney
Penciler: Bruno Premiani
Inker: Bruno Premiani
Letterer: Stan Starkman
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $700.00

Previously in My Greatest Adventure: With the new iteration of the Doom Patrol in stores now (with creative oversight by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, no less), I wanted to link back to Retro Reviews of early Patrol stories, only to discover that I have only done the tale of their untimely death!  This will not do, Faithful Spoilerites!

Your first question is probably “Hey, why is this first appearance issue #80 and what in the world is a ‘My Greatest Adventure’?”  Back in the 1950s, superheroes had not yet become the dominant genre in comic books, and so DC published westerns, science fiction and other books, including this book, an anthology of adventure tales featuring no super-powered types at all.  As the tastes of the readers changed, MGA transitioned into being a science fiction book, until a new wave of superhero interest (coinciding with the rise of upstart Marvel Comics, it must be noted) changed things up again.  Thus, we find the mysterious Chief assembling three shadowy figures in his secret underground lair…

mygreatestadventure801

Many people have wondered about the timing of this issue, with a wheelchair-bound genius assembling a group of characters hated and hounded by regular humanity, with this issue hitting the stands three months before the mutant menace debuted at Marvel, if the street dates of the issues are to be believed.  Frankly, given the extremely short lead time, I’m inclined to think it’s mere coincidence, but regardless, these heroes are stranger than the kids in Westchester by leaps and bounds.  First up, gorgeous matinée idol Rita Farr, whose beauty hides strange morphing powers…

mygreatestadventure802From the get-go, she’s more than just a pretty face, doing her own stunts in crocodile-filled waters and referencing her Olympic gold medals in passing, but the strange chemical vapors gave her powers she simply can’t control.  Then, there’s ace pilot Larry Trainor, who barely survived the crash of an experimental aircraft…

mygreatestadventure803People who want to see an X-Men “ripoff” in these pages should note that Larry’s origin is, essentially, that of the Fantastic Four, leaving the atmosphere to be bombarded with gawd-knows-what radiation and given strange abilities.  The final member of our trio is Cliff Steel, race driver, daredevil and all-around thrillseeker…

mygreatestadventure804The Chief explains to his reluctant would-be heroes that, while he is unable to go into the field and stop disasters himself, his mind has allowed him to figure out a way to do so, using their uncanny abilities as his proxy.  Using a network of communications arrays, he will oversee and guide them in their attempts to protect humanity.  Before he can finish the sales pitch, a new bulletin comes through of a hidden time bomb, placed by unknown subjects to terrorize the city.  Larry Trainor is talked into sending his Negative Man to search…

mygreatestadventure805With the bomb isolated and returned to Doom Patrol Headquarters (!!), it’s Elasti-Girl’s moment to shine, using her shrinking abilities to defuse the explosive…

mygreatestadventure806While she works, Robotman uses his metal form to shield the others in case of explosion, but the explosion never comes.  The Chief’s plan worked, and the three “freaks” are convinced that, together, they are a force to be reckoned with.  Unfortunately for our nascent Doom Patrol, The Chief isn’t the ONLY one with a network of telecommunications devices that spy for him…

mygreatestadventure807Meet General Immortus.  An “old friend” of The Chief’s, he intends to capture the alien ship seen in Caulder’s footage and use its technological marvels to his own nefarious ends.  (I also really love Premiani’s depiction of him as so wrinkled he is barely visible through the shadows, another example of the way this book draws as much on sci-fi comics as it does superheroes.)  Once in the field, Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-Girl (because it’s still 1963, and Elasti-Woman does sound pretty unwieldy) quickly find out how dangerous hose alien weapons are…

mygreatestadventure808The one-two punch of Larry’s energy distraction and Rita’s massive physical strength (something else that I appreciate this book for, as there aren’t many women doing the heavy lifting in Silver Age comics) proves equal to the task of the freaky eye-tank…

mygreatestadventure809…but there are other weapons in reserve.  (Another aspect of the book that has gained great mockery is Rita’s tendency to wear dresses in battle, especially with her size-shifting powers.  I’ve always found that to be a charming quirk of the character, and sort of hate it when the writers make fun of the trope or when she is given a traditional jumpsuit instead.)  With his friends encased in ice, Robotman steps in, using his inhuman mechanical body to great effect.

mygreatestadventure8010The second tank explodes, thanks to Cliff using his limbs as corks, and the heroes make their way inside the alien ship, where they discover the most terrible weapon (an atomic converter, whatever that is) inside.  Before they can scram with the goods, Immortus arrives and traps them inside the ship.  Robotman tries to engage him and falls, then Negative Man takes his shot…

mygreatestadventure8011While Immortus prepares to torture Negative Man to death by capturing his energy form, Elasti-Girl escapes from Robotman’s shell and deactivates the device holding Cliff down.  Robotman returns the favor by hitting Immortus directly, saving Negative Man seconds before he would have died from separation…

mygreatestadventure8012That is not, by the way, the end of General Immortus, as the name might indicate, as he returns multiple times to plague the team, even engineering the deathtrap that kills them a few years down the line.  (But, come on… They’re called The Doom Patrol, you knew that was coming, right?)  Returning to The Chief’s lair, even the recalcitrant Negative Man agrees, they make a formidable fighting force…

mygreatestadventure8013There’s something charming about DC’s tendency to crowd-source opinions on their new features, as seen in that final panel, and apparently things were positive enough for the Doomsters to take over ‘My Greatest Adventure’, which would be retitled ‘The Doom Patrol’ in a mere five issues.  The current iteration of the Doom Patrol, from the Young Animal imprint is actually Volume SIX of the team’s adventures, and they’ve been active during every decade since the 1960s, going through some serious changes on the way.  (And that’s even by the notoriously wacky standards of comic books.)  My Greatest Adventure #80 feels like a labor of love for the creators, rather than a paint-by-numbers adventure, and the unusual nature of these heroes is at least 20 years ahead of their time, with chraming old-school art earning a very impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If nothing else, Premiani, Haney and Drake created a premise that was elastic (and compelling) enough to keep coming back in new forms, year after year, an impressive feat in itself.

Post-script, apropos of nothing: If you look at the cover of this issue, General Immortus calls Cliff “Automaton”.  This is actually editorial error, as that was the original working name for the character before being dubbed “Robotman.”  And now you know… The Rest Of The Story!

The DC Universe is a vast and varied place, encompassing scarred cowboys from the past, teenagers from the future who won't lay off the practical jokes and various squads suicidal.  They've even got TWO teams called The Outsiders!  But few of the denizens of the reality that Superman spawned are quite as unusual as Niles Caulder's original team of freaks.  Are you ready for the first appearance of The Doom Patrol?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of My Greatest Adventure #80 awaits! MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #80 Writer: Arnold Drake/Bob Haney Penciler: Bruno Premiani Inker: Bruno Premiani Letterer: Stan Starkman Editor:…
Strange science fiction tinged story, attractive old-school art and the launching of a premise lasts. What's not to like?

MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #80

Writing
Art
Coloring

Strange science fiction tinged story, attractive old-school art and the launching of a premise lasts. What's not to like?

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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