Did you know the original name for Doom Patrol before it was Doom Patrol was the Legion of the Strange? That little factoid alone tells you most everything you need to know about Doom Patrol, the new DC Universe series based on the notoriously weird DC comic series, going in. I could throw a whole bunch of comic book history fun facts at you or let you in on some of the Easter Eggs you’re going to get to see in the pilot episode (or the second episode, which I was also lucky enough to have seen!), but the strange out there Grant Morrison-ness of it all is not why I almost instantly fell in love with Doom Patrol.
Let me be honest, everything I knew about the Doom Patrol going into the show came through the lens of Beast Boy. If you’ve stuck around for enough of my articles here on the site then you know what a Teen Titans fan I am. The Titans’ little green shapeshifter holds a very special place in my heart. For that reason, I was thrilled to see this new small screen Doom Patrol introduced to us via Ryan Potter’s Garfield Logan on Titans.
…this is all to say that I was no expert on DC’s weirdest team going in.
Let me be honest about something pretty personal—my father passed away when I was a teenager after a lengthy battle with an illness. That experience colors so many aspects of my life and definitely affects the way I consume media. Storylines about dads and kids always touch my heart and often push me to tears. It’s just a very specific way that I experience the world.
I bet that wasn’t what you were expecting to read three paragraphs into a Doom Patrol piece, but here we are—in it together!—just like the show’s team. Surprisingly, the show dips into the world of fathers and daughters thematically in a literal and metanarrative sense from the opening moments. I’m going to avoid spoilers, but I will let you know that the father side of the relationship evolves strictly around Robotman. He’s easily the most visually striking character—and often the protagonist of the Doom Patrol comic books—so it makes sense to me that the show would place him at the forefront as well. Before he was Robotman, he was Cliff Steele.
Cliff Steele had a daughter.
If you’re familiar with comics and dramatic narrative structure, then you can probably make an educated guess about the type of father Cliff Steele was. Through a series of flashbacks, we are constantly reminded of the mistakes Cliff Steele made.
Robotman, for all the shared grey matter, is not Cliff Steele. He probably imagines himself as something worse inside his metal body, but for my money, he’s 1,000 times the man he ever was covered in muscles and flesh. Robotman wallows in the guilt resulting from his human choices until he is introduced to Crazy Jane.
If you can’t extrapolate from the name, Crazy Jane is one of the most Grant Morrison-y Grant Morrison creations of all time. She’s a lot like so many of us nerdy girls were when we were younger. Jane’s angry and in pain, and has wrapped all of that up in an aggressive personality. I must confess, I was not taken with Crazy Jane when she first stormed across the screen. It was not until she and Robotman started spending some significant scenes together (with shots and dialogue lifted right out of DOOM PATROL #19 by Grant Morrison and Richard Case), that it clicked for me.
There is a ton of compelling, beautiful, well-acted and funny stuff going on in Doom Patrol. I think it’s a very special show, and I can’t wait to gauge the world’s reactions to it, but for me, it’s all about the evolution that is going to be taking place between this surrogate father and daughter. For me, that particular dynamic is so sacred—and not always well represented in popular media—that Doom Patrol has literally touched my heart right out of the gate.
What’s more, there is a larger family dynamic at play beyond the father/daughter dynamic. Larry and Rita could arguably be slotted into the father and mother roles for the larger team, with Chief as the frightening patriarch and Cyborg as…well…that might be getting into spoiler territory!
If you and I know anything about superhero stories, and I believe we both do, we can make a guess at where Robotman and Crazy Jane’s relationship is going to go. At this point I’m not quite sure who is going to be putting themselves in mortal peril for the other. What I am sure of is that I’ll be in tears whenever it comes to pass.
It turns out fathers and daughters can be found anywhere, even in the Legion of the Strange!
Doom Patrol debuts today on DC Universe. Not yet subscribed? Click here to change that!
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.