Diamond Age 75 (18)
July 14, 2019
One in a series of posts about the 75 best science fiction novels published during the genre’s Diamond Age era (from 1984–2003, according to HILOBROW’s periodization schema). For Josh Glenn’s complete Diamond Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s Doom Patrol comic (1989–1993).
“Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées/Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer,” laments Baudelaire, in “L’Albatros.” “Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,/Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.” The Doom Patrol, as the superhero team first appeared in DC’s My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963), could relate. The Chief, a wealthy, paraplegic, brilliant scientist-inventor; Robotman, a former daredevil and race-car driver turned cyborg; Elasti-Girl, a former athlete and actress who can expand or shrink her body at will; and Negative Man, a former test pilot who can release a negatively charged energy being from his body — they perceive their so-called gifts as a curse, dooming them to a life of alienation. Scottish comic book writer Grant Morrison, part of the far-out British Invasion of American comics that included as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, took over the relaunched Doom Patrol series in 1989; DC stopped submitting the title to the CCA for approval around that time. The resulting run — from issues 19 through 63 — was wild. The Chief (whom, we will later discover, may have had something nefarious to do with the origin stories of his comrades) leads Robotman (a brain, remember, trapped in a body without nerves), Rebis (a queer, transgender, transracial entity combining Negative Man, his energy spirit, and Eleanor Poole, a black doctor), Crazy Jane (a victim of sexual abuse; each of her 64 alternate personalities has a different super-power), and a monkey-ish psychic named Dorothy against the Scissormen — metatextual, Struwwelpeter-like inquisitors who worship a god that exists at the crossroads where realities meet, and whose cut-up dialogue reads like Dada poetry. Ultimately, the Doom Patrol’s weirdness proves to be the key to its effectiveness: They often team up with so-called villains in order to combat the neo-fascist, Foucauldian forces that police sexual identity and gender norms. Richard Case’s trippy artwork is simultaneously engaging and nightmare-inducing.
Fun facts: The last line of Morrison’s run quotes the Smiths’ “Asleep”: “There is another world/There is a better world/Well, there must be….” It’s a beautiful statement of revolutionary optimism for an era that had largely abandoned utopian idealism.
DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: William Gibson | Bruce Sterling | Margaret Atwood | Ann Nocenti | Frank Miller | Alan Moore | Octavia E. Butler | Iain M. Banks | Grant Morrison | Neal Stephenson | Jonathan Lethem | Charles Burns | China Miéville.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.