Any fan of Teen Titans GO! can tell how Beast Boy can straight up turn into an animal… but what was he like in his FIRST appearance? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Doom Patrol #99 awaits!
Writer: Arnold Drake
Penciler: Bob Brown
Inker: Bob Brown
Letterer: Stan Starkman
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $550.00
Previously in Doom Patrol: Cliff Steele: A human brain trapped in the body of an automaton. Larry Trainor: A pilot whose body is home to a radioactive phantom. Rita Farr: Once an actress, now a size-shifting monument to body horror. Under the leadership of The Chief, Niles Caulder, they are The Doom Patrol, outcasts who fight for justice against the worst that Silver Age DC Comics had to offer. They’re known for how their series ended, but before all that, they met a young man who would eventually love waffles and dancing and ‘The Night Begins To Shine.’ And it all started with the evil menace known as… BUG-MAN!
The cover of this issue bills him as ‘The Fantastic Bug-Man’, which given the date of this issue, is almost certainly a reference to the Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Comics new success story. Weirdly, the story begins with the “fabulous freaks” of the Patrol performing for a crowd, but even the cheers of an arena full of people don’t overcome their anger and internecine squabbling. The Chief interrupts the fight long enough to point out that the villain is clearly targeting them specifically, leading to a long battle against mechanized mantises, automatic ants and steel sandworms. The villain is routed, leading to our second tale, wherein mysterious animal prints are found on the grounds of Doom Patrol HQ. The investigation turns up the footprints of a lion, but tusk fragments from an elephant and even the tell-tale fur of a gorilla. What in the world is going on?
Why, an angry teenage hipster, of course! What else would it be? The boy proves able to transform into multiple animal forms (all the while maintaining a green, quasi-human head, mind you), and proves fast enough to out-maneuver Elasti-Girl, smart enough to overcome Negative Man and even strong enough to give Robotman a run for his money.
Gar Logan’s ability to turn into bright green animals is weird, yes, but the depiction here is downright chilling, especially that little human head on the catfish body. It’s body-horror in all the worst ways, and it makes this issue a strange melange of Silver Age silliness and Cronenbergian nightmare. The new kid is finally caught, and reveals that he’s come to join the team, as his green skin marks him, too, as an outcast. (It’s actually a cute moment when The Chief doesn’t actually notice his skin color, playing up the absent-minded professor archetype.) The team agrees to let him join, with Robotman dubbing him Beast Boy, When criminals attack the annual Pioneer Day Parade, it’s a new four-person Doom Patrol that answers the call.
Well, in theory, it’s a four-man team, but it quickly turns into the Beast Boy show, as he takes center stage in bringing down the criminals with his amazing transformations and a heaping bowl of sixties-style kid jargon. I tend to think of Haney’s Teen Titans when I remember the swingin’ wonder chick word salad nonsense, cats, but Drake is ready to give him a run for his money.
The issue ends very abruptly, almost manking it seem like Beastie is leaving the team, but he returns in issue #100 and apparently, the letters from the fans convinced the creators to tell his origin story, explaining how an experimental treatment for a rare disease called Sakutia gave him the power to shape-shift into animals by turning him into a monkey with a resistance to the plague.
Either way, Doom Patrol #99 is kind of an anticlimax for anyone hoping to find out more about Beast Boy and it’s a little bit incoherent even by the standards of Silver Age DC, with Brown’s art never quite getting past okay and occasionally hitting on terrifying hybrid monsters, ending up earning a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. This comic is an example of what I percieve as DC trying to capture Marvel-style lightning in a bottle and not quite understanding the formula that made it great. It’s nonsense, but agreeable nonsense.
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DOOM PATROL #99
He's not quite ready to check out his kitty meow, but this first appearance makes for an interesting experience. It's not great, but it's not bad, either.