Monday, October 22, 2012

My Greatest Adventure #81

This is the second MGA issue featuring the Doom Patrol. As you can see, the "freaks and outcasts" theme that Arnold Drake was copying from Marvel is still underway:
They also carry on the bickering in the Marvel style.  Incidentally, Stan certainly didn't invent the concept of heroes arguing amongst themselves; in fact that predates the comic books entirely.  I'm not sure if it goes back earlier, but Doc Savage's two lieutenants, Ham and Monk fought constantly.  Note as well that Cliff is referred to as "Automaton"; that didn't last long as he was redubbed Robotman shortly afterwards.

While rescuing a trapped submarine, the Doom Patrol learns of the major plot point in this issue:
Rita destroys the monster as shown on the cover.  But curiously, Cliff didn't see the monster. This seems like just an oddity at the time, but when they battle a snow-giant we learn that it is significant:
To Neg-Man and Rita's irritation, Cliff fails to help them defeat the monster. What is wrong with him that he cannot see what is so obvious?  Cliff blames the Chief for somehow messing up his brain when he transferred it to the robot body.  The next clue comes via big-screen TV:

A guy with a monocle and a Van Dyke beard named Dr Janus.  I'm guessing he's the villain of the piece.  He claims that living beings (intended to be the first wave of the invasion) were discovered in a meteor several years ago, which everybody remembers except Cliff:
The newspapers confirm the existence of the living beings.  But despite this, the Chief suddenly has a brainstorm.  What if, instead of being the only crazy person, Cliff is the only sane one.  Suppose something about his robot body is preventing him from having the hallucinations that are afflicting the rest of the populace?

And sure enough, when we check in with Dr Janus, we find that is the correct explanation:
The plot point of an escaped Nazi war criminal was a very common one in popular culture during the 1960s.  In fact, I covered a Lois Lane story with that exact theme less than a year ago.  And, no coincidence, that villain also wore a monocle.

The Doom Patrol heads to the town with the Meteor Crater, which is now a ghost town as the local mine had petered out.  But in the abandoned newspaper office:

Yep, Janus somehow managed to plant fake file copies in all the newspapers in the world.  But the poster gives the Chief an idea.  What if he drew a fake beard on an old picture he has in a photo album?  Sure enough, it reveals that Janus is actually the escaped Nazi.

Meanwhile, the media have arrived along with Janus, who promises they will see another invader.  Sure enough, a giant dragon appears.  But this time Cliff walks up to where the hallucination supposedly is confidently.  Realizing his mistake, Janus changes the hallucination to show Cliff being killed by the dragon.  Forgetting that it's all an illusion, Rita goes giant-size and attacks the dragon.  Of course:
But he manages to escape from her grasp and uses a high-voltage wire to interfere with Janus' broadcast, breaking the spell.  Neg-Man captures the Nazi, and Automaton destroys the hallucination machine.

The backup story is fairly entertaining, about some explorers who eat the fruit of a tree which regresses their evolution so that they become the "missing link".  Rather than delve through the plot entirely, I thought I'd just show some panels by Alexander Toth:

Toth's artwork is highly prized by collectors, something I'll have to remember if I ever put this issue up on ebay.  Personally, I prefer his detailed Golden Age work to the more loose Silver Age style.


Kirk House said...

Alex Toth's work on the 1950s "Zorro" comic from Dell has been collected in book form, along with his grumpy remarks on being required to work to a certain style and be limited by the TV show's appearance, rather than given an opportunity to spread his wings on the character. It's till lovely work, though, and a change of pace from the superhero approach.

Jim Kakalios said...

You neglected to mention WHY Cliff was immune to the broadcast hallucinations! It was because his human brain was encased in a metal shielding! Cliff's Robot body makes an effective Faraday Cage, and would thus protect him from external mind control!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Physics Professor,

Jim Kakalios