Tag Archives: Doom Patrol

Dissolving Barriers: DC’s Coagula

(Editor’s note: In the months to come, proprietor Dean Compton and I hope to share with you the thoughts on an increasingly diverse array of comics from even more fellow lovers of that most Unspoken of Decades! If you would like to be one of them, head on over to The Unspoken Decade’s Facebook page and send us a message! In the meantime, enjoy this look at DC’s Coagula from new contributor Lee! – ES)

Hi, Legions of the Unspoken! You can call me Morbius95 (aka Lee). That’s all you get for now! As you will probably be able to tell, this is my first time writing on a professional level. I decided I wanted to write because I have a voice that can possibly help someone through my writing. (Plus it’s fun!) I was born in the 90’s, so I guess that makes me a perfect fit to write about this unspoken decade! My first tastes of comics came in 2003 when I acquired The Demon #22 for my 8th birthday from a cousin of mine. I have been in love with comics ever since, with a special fondness for the 90’s despite not collecting till the 2000’s. Doom Patrol became one of my all-time favorite groups when I first acquired, you guessed it, Doom Patrol #70. I became infatuated with these outcasts because I felt like one my self.Image result for coagula doom patrol

Kate Godwin (aka Coagula) made her debut in that issue of Doom Patrol, published in September of 1993, and quickly made an impression as one of the first ever transgender characters in DC comics history. Created and written by the amazing Rachel Pollack and penciled by Scot Eaton, Coagula’s appearance stood out in a landscape where LGBT issues in comics had been limited to very few events, such as Marvel’s Northstar coming out in Alpha Flight #106 (1992) and DC’s Pied Piper coming out in The Flash #53 (1991). Appearances from transgender characters were practically nonexistent in the Big Two –that was until Coagula showed up.

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Really ahead of the whole steampunk trend.

To start off in Doom Patrol #70 we meet a man not named yet who has a troubled psyche about his, ahem, small genitalia and how he hates others because of his problems, especially, shockingly, women. This guy gets rejected repeatedly, and every time this happens he believes it’s because of his size. So after some pity over his life he decides, he has had enough and decides to get back at society by making a gigantic codpiece to make up for his lack of size. (Yes, that is his name too. Really.)

We first meet our super-heroine picking out a mask for her friend Jean’s birthday party, a fairly realistic looking frog mask. They leave the scene and head to a bar,  where we learn about her powers, which are she can coagulate liquids and dissolve solids. We find out that while working as a prostitute she gained her powers from sexual contact with Rebis, a radioactive hermaphrodite formed by the original Negative Man Larry Trainor and Dr. Elanor Poole, who are forced to merge by and with the Negative Spirit that had left and then returned to Trainor.

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Why you get the money up front.

Next we find Kate in a bar showing off her powers for her friend. She also discusses trying out for the Justice League, who liked her powers but didn’t like the way she was. At first we think she’s about to give up, but boy are we wrong.

Codpiece is seen walking up to a bank, which he proceeds to blow away part of with his, well, codpiece. He then drills a hole in to one of the vaults with the piece, which is basically like a Swiss Army knife with all its attachments. The police try to stop him, but that goes as well as you would expect, and Codpiece knocks one out with a boxing glove from, well, you know where by now.

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And he wonders why he doesn’t have more luck with the ladies.
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George and Marion finding Coddy while on their stroll

I haven’t said much on who else is in this story mostly because I wanted you guys to know how great Coagula is, but yes, there are others in this story as well. Like the couple that come to help the cops  take on big old Coddy, George and Marion of the Doom Patrol! Earlier in the story they decide to get out of DP HQ and go out on the town to have some fun. They invite Cliff (aka Robot Man), but he refuses. (We’ll discuss that at a later date.) They encounter Coddy as he unleashes bombs from his piece and conks two officers out cold with some technical prowess. They throw everything they can at him but to absolutely no avail. He stops them at every corner, and when all seems dark for our heroes someone takes notice of the scene, and that someone is…Coagula! Kate had an official costume at one point but got rid of it because she didn’t think heroing was her calling. Then she remembers the green frog mask from earlier and puts it on.

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When the lady in the frog mask is the most normal looking person around, you know things have taken a turn.

Immediately you can tell he is distracted by this seemingly normal woman who’s just wearing some costume mask, but boy is he in for a huge surprise, folks.

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Pictured: every man’s worst nightmare.

After is all said and done, George and Marion are very impressed with the abilities Coagula showed off, so much so that they offer her a spot on the Doom Patrol. She accepts their offer to go with them, thus turning into one of my personal favorites of the Doom Patrol. This was ground breaking for the time to see a transsexual lesbian in a comic. (She later turns out to be bisexual, dating Cliff Steele.) When I first read it, it honestly blew my mind, especially for the decade it came from.

I just wanted to thank Dean for giving me this opportunity to write something I’m very passionate about and hope to write more in the future. The reason I’m passionate about LGBT issues is because I myself am bisexual and genuinely care for my community. I had problems as a child thinking something was wrong with me, and these comics helped me through some tough stuff in my life. Thanks for letting this manic depressive have a shot where most wouldn’t give me one.

 

 

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Dainel Clowes’ “Eightball” — A Personal Reminiscence : Part Two

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What were your comics reading habits like in 1989? I was still in high school, but man — was I ever in the mood for something different. At that point, Watchmen was hardly the distant memory it seems today and the reverberations of what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had done were still being felt far and wide across the mainstream super-hero landscape. Yes, the superficial trappings of that already-seminal-by-then  work had been effectively cheapened and co-opted by “The Big Two” almost across the board — most books were suddenly much “darker” and “more realistic” — but by and large it seemed like DC and Marvel were in the early stages of trying to figure out “okay, where do we go from here?” now that their entire formula had been so successfully deconstructed right in front of everyone.

I would argue, in fact, that they’re still trying to answer that question some three decades later. Grant Morrison was doing his level best to respond to it in Animal Man (and would soon do the same with Doom Patrol),  while Neil Gaiman was successfully building upon the classical- literature foundations of Moore’s prose in the pages of The Sadman, but for the most part it seemed like no one was willing to pick up the gauntlet Moore and Gibbons had thrown down. Vertigo was still just a pipe dream in Karen Berger’s mind and the publishers still had nothing like a firm grasp on what a “mature readers” comic really meant even though they’d just published one that, essentially, blew the doors open and should have resulted in a veritable onslaught of genuinely good and interesting titles.

Rather than embrace this new reality fully, though, DC and Marvel opted to do what they pretty much always do — batten down the hatches, keep pumping out more of the exact same shit they’ve been doing for decades, and hope to dumb everybody back down to the point where predictable dross seems normal. Sadly, it worked — and it continues working to this day.

Fortunately, there was a burgeoning “alternative” comics scene that started to blossom in the early ’80s,  thanks in large parts to the efforts of brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (and, early on, third sibling Mario) in the pages of their magnificent Love And Rockets, and these guys felt no need to tap into the current zeitgeist of superhero comics because, well — they just plain didn’t give a fuck. Soon, their ranks were buttressed by the likes of former Weirdo editor Peter Bagge, who unleashed his first “solo” series, Neat Stuff, in the middle part of the decade,  and one Daniel Clowes, whose early “professional” work saw print in Weirdo (among other places —including, would’ja believe, Cracked, during the legendary editorship of Mort Todd). This new generation of “non-mainstream” cartoonists was far more influenced by the likes of Robert Crumb and his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, as well as by Kim Deitch, Mary Fleener, S. Clay Wilson, and assorted other underground luminaries, than they were by, say, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, or any of the other (sorry, but it’s true) second-rate, highly-derivative superhero comics creators of their youth. You know who I’m talking about — the guys who drove the bus into the ditch that Moore and Gibbons had just tried to pull out of.

Weirdo gave these artists and others (like Clowes’ good friend, the criminally-underappreciated Rick Altergott) the chance to rub elbows, metaphorically speaking, with a number of the great just-referenced underground cartoonists of years past  by putting all their work side-by-side in the same magazine, but by the late ’80s many were certainly looking to spread their own wings a bit further than a standard multi-creator anthology series would allow. The Bradley family had proven to be popular characters in Neat Stuff, and Bagge soon sent eldest brother Buddy off on his own to join (and in some cases to invent significant parts of) the nascent “Generation X” or “slacker” scene just underway in Seattle in his own solo book, Hate, while Clowes created Lloyd Llewellyn, a magazine-sized series starring a perpetually-disinterested, “too-cool-for-school,” proto-aging-hipster named — well, you guessed it.

It went just about nowhere. After seven issues its publisher, Fantagraphics Books (pretty much the “go-to” publishing house for independent cartoonists at the time, with Drawn + Quarterly still a few years away from bursting onto the scene), lowered the boom on poor old Lloyd citing poor sales, but head honchos Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, who had maintained a somewhat tight editorial control over the just-failed series, were amenable to giving their writer/artist more free reign with his next project. He’d played things their way and it didn’t work. What harm could there be in trying things his way this time?. Forget commercial considerations, Clowes figured, they’re hardly relevant in the world of marginally-selling indie comics, anyway (or at least they weren’t at the time). If he was only going to get one more crack at this whole thing,he was going to do what he really wanted to do .

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What he really wanted to do, as it turns out, made its debut in Eightball #1, cover-dated August of 1989, and it was a book with no real set “format” — just a loose collection of stories that were in no way affiliated with each other apart from coming from the same mind and pencil (and, okay, pen). Clowes’ intentions were clear — he’d  be making it up as he went along, following his own muse, and the publishers could either take it or leave it.

They took it, and we should all be damn glad they did. In the first issue alone we got the opening salvo of the surreal David Lynch-ian nightmare that was “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron,”  we met uber-stereotypical “young hotshot” comics creator Dan Pussey (and his boss, an octogenarian sleazeball named Dr. Infinity who was obviously based on Stan Lee), we were treated to the Jack T. Chick-on-crack religious fanatacism of “Devil Doll?” (later reprinted in  traditional tract format for inclusion inside a Jello Biafra spoken word album), and hey — Lloyd Llewellyn even made a brief return appearance to help bridge the gap.

It was amazing. It was astonishing. It was every other time-worn superlative my brain can’t think of right now. And you know what? It still is.

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Oh, sure, Clowes didn’t invent the single-creator anthology by a long shot — there were, in fact, several others running at the time — but he absolutely got the balance exactly right here. The long-form narrative grounds the book and ensures readers will be back for more. The shorter works take aim at easy and popular targets (Christian fundamentalists, the comic book industry) with as much flair and panache as they do well-deserved venom. Toss in a couple of one-or-two-page gag strips to keep the old-school underground fans happy (I particularly loved the visual adaptations of interviews with nursing home patients that Clowes cobbled together from David Greenberger’s Duplex Planet ‘zine), and you’ve got a winner.

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Okay, make that a modest winner. Eightball #1 wasn’t exactly the talk of the comics world when it hit, but it sold out its initial run of something like 5,000 copies and went back to press no less than five times. Good luck finding a first printing at anything like a reasonable price these days (still got mine! Hah!) No earth-shaking tremors reverberated out of it, by any means, but   it definitely went some way towards cementing the idea that, while the mainstream was definitely moribund on the whole, there were interesting things happening in comics at the margins. And they were about to get exponentially more interesting pretty quickly.

I talked in our first segment about the four creative “phases” Eightball went through in its 15-year history, and “phase one” began right here. For lack of a better term we’ll call if the “Velvet Glove Phase,” and we’ll take a nice, long look at the story that was at the heart of it in our next segment. Hope to see you all back here then!

On the Street Where You Live…-By Angel Hayes

Welcome back, lovely readers.

Last time we spoke there was blood everywhere and cheesecake on the corner. Now I implore you to follow me in the way-back machine from 1994 to 1990.

Follow me to meet up with our ever ostracized….Doom Patrol.

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Welcome to where all that you can think you may will into existence

Doom Patrol (v2) #35 – Down Paradise Way – 1990 – Vertigo Comics

The covers of Doom Patrol V2 comics are a singular art. If you thought my passion for holographic covers were impressive (and/or unnerving), we have only just begun.

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The Carpenters know that life is just entropy. Much like the Doom Patrol.

There is nothing quite like Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol.

Much like the way breezes feel best in the spring and rain doesn’t bother you if your day has no obligations, it can only be experienced not explained.

The grotesque but colorful covers give way not to a magical land, but one of pure will. Imagination is not king here. He is God. Gruesome, uncaring, and ultimately what all beings are capable of.

Phew. Let’s take a breath.

We open on a rather plain looking lady for the cover we’ve just be traumatized by.

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She looks like LADY SCIENTIST or LADY WRITER off of the flash cards from Careers the Board Game.

She’s searching for Danny. And as luck would have it, Danny appears!

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We can all identify Paradise by hobos with booze in their hands.

What an amazing splash page.

Featuring literal subtext (a true weakness of mine) as Danny responds with, “Hello, Sara.” Amazing choice of colors by keeping mundane elements such as the concrete and brick their normal colors. It makes the surreal fantasticism pop out and right into our already charmed hearts.

I starred at this page for no less than eight minutes when I first encountered it. Drinking in the lines, the focal points, the curves of the light posts, the unexpected joy brought to life via whimsy in the bittersweet atmosphere of a back alley city street.

We continue as Sara and Danny catch up much like old friends tend to do…except with Danny, it’s way more fucking badass.

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Danny is the ultimate texter.

Welcome to Danny.

A being whom I consider to be one of the most wonderful things ever willed into existence. The nostalgia of walking where you had once been. The melancholy that follows when the places your memories were made have been destroyed. All of this makes perfect sense with Danny. Much like Lovecraft’s The Street, he sees all and feels all. He experiences it with you, just like the sadness you feel for lost and forgotten places can permeate your mind.

Also, Berlin is always Divine.

We now switch from the fabulous Danny. To our homegrown outcast heroes, the Doom Patrol themselves.

They’re moving out, and like everything and anything in Doom Patrol stories Robotman, Cliff Steele, just doesn’t get it.

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Kids who want two front teeth for Christmas have nothing on Cliff.

Robotman is a straight man’s straight man. So straight even his skin is steel (rimshot).

He’s our human throughout Doom Patrol even though he’s a robot….I PROMISE IT WILL ALL MAKE SENSE.

The chief (who is like professor X with no need for mental abilities because he has a gun and beard that could kill bears) decides it’s time for the Doom Patrol to swap HQs. He has important beard-related/destroying-the-world-sometimes-saving-the-world things to do, and this old warehouse isn’t cutting it.

Cliff is understandably pretty angsty and upset about his metal can body that he is continually being promised an upgrade for. Sounds like he’s stuck in the cell phone contract cycle.

The next page features Joshua Clay (Tempest) and a small extra from Planet of the Apes known as Dorothy.

We see a setup room to test her abilities ala danger room (X-Men rips off of the Doom Patrol a lot. They just decided Scott Summers was better than a robot who was a race car driver – tsk tsk.)

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 Dorothy makes Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends look terrifying.

Dorothy’s special abilities allow her to take beings from her own mind and pull them into reality. She has difficultly controlling the manifestation of them. The Good, the Bad, and the 3am Acid Trip all come out.

Let us get out of this nightmare and move on to a dream.

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I told that you’d know Paradise by the booze in the hobo’s hands

This is the beauty of Danny the Street. A sanctuary for the lost, one with opinions and an understanding of the human condition. Danny swept up the downtrodden and provided them with happiness. Paradise is reached when the ones who have nothing can be happy and healthy. Danny the Street is paradise for all of those who find him.

Now that you’ve got your smiling faces on just like Doom Patrol I’m going to slap that smile off your adorable face with a shift in tone.

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Don’t we all want that button in our kitchens? Never mind – Do NOT Want.

First of all, what a shift in tone (feeling that slap?). Our surrealistic focal points and dancing hobos have no place here. Rigid lines and flat colors rule the panels here making the oppression complete. Normalcy is the only thing allowed here.

Also bonus points if you figured out that he stabs her with a stylized heretic’s fork.

This is something Doom Patrol pulls off like no other. These are the events so weird no one else wants to even look upon it.

Let us meet the benefactors of our strange events that will come to pass.

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Oh, that’s where I left the surrealism…in the basement, of course.

Mr. Jones introduces us to The Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

Mr. Jones has already proved to be easily provoked and full of terrible. Surely, those that follow him would look like evil K-9s with elf shoes and purple trench coats.

These guys gave me many a nightmare as the series went on. They are exactly what I would destroy first should I ever will them into existence.

Let’s check in on our philanthropic outcasts, shall we?

groupsupportA alchemist’s dream, a robot, a man in a wheelchair, a split personality disorder patient, and an ape girl….Well, I tried to make a joke but this is the saddest group therapy ever.

Doom Patrol is getting out their feelings and trying to figure out where to go from here. Rebis (formerly Negative Man) is chill and Crazy Jane can’t decide what she feels in between all the turmoil inside her.

We go over the plans; Dorothy needs to pee. Moving on.


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This is what I imagine all normal suburbanite dinner parties that I don’t get invited to are like.

The Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s speaking patterns are horrifying. You can hear them being telegraphed out. Horrible thoughts gargled with cruel intentions, words of hate pumped out with ease.

Not even wifey’s googly eyes can ease the terror and that is what googly eyes are for.

Something about the nonchalant mixing of the transmitted hate speech and yellow wallpaper with tulips makes the back of my spine contort. It also makes me not trust all bed and breakfasts.

Back to my family and yours, the Doom Patrol.

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These are really just here to show off Crazy Jane’s Amazing Room. Hence why they’re small.

Crazy Jane is helping Rebis indulge in vanity, and Cliff, well, he just wants something to happen.

Back to Mr. Douchebag Jones

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I can’t overstate how amazing it is that Danny the Street is a Transvestite. 

So like most things angry privileged “normal” people can’t stand, Mr. Jones aims to destroy Danny the Street.

Let’s talk about that amazing and foreboding last panel.

Not only do The Men look intimidating the color contrast of that evil laughter and the misaligned placement of it. Gives me the willies. The overbearing shadows they cast and the perspective of them looming over us is enough to make me want to close my eyes. The shadows they cast are weapons just as powerful as the dark thoughts they stir in my mind. The steam rises off of them to show they are not just weapons of hate, but purely logical machines of it.

Phew. Let’s turn on the lights.

Things cheer up over the next two pages to show Danny the Street’s Perpetual Cabaret!!!

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Phantom Limb’s Uncle. Complete with Shiny Suit.

Every is well with the cabaret until someone is said to have been killed. KILLED ON DANNY THE STREET! Our only sanctuary is desecrated.

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My heart breaks. 

Sara, our resident lady scientist/writer, needs to find out who shattered her world. Wandering out to protect Danny she finds what we all fear.

The niggling doubts that say we are different and our differences make us weak. That normal is the only acceptable route for existence and life.

The force of doubt and hatred that is

THE MEN FROM N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

Doom Patrol V2 #35 - Page 23Nothing cute or witty. Just terror.

Their intimidating words, the looming figures like boogeymen who never leave our closets or our panicked late night thoughts.

We see them face to face. With all the industrial terror behind them ready to replicate.

 

They appear to try and destroy Danny the Street. The being of benevolence, the lonely place we stumble upon when we are trying to find ourselves, his lights always shining through our darkness.

Sara manages to warn Danny while escaping their ill-aimed shots. He must quickly try and escape; however….

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This is normal for the Doom Patrol.

Where is a street to hide?

-Angel Eena