Saturday, November 09, 2013

Comic Book Beard: DC's The Chief

Ready for action (again) in Doom Patrol (Volume 4, #1) by John Byrne.

Justice League:
The Nail
by Alan Davis.
Justice #1 (2005)
by Doug Braithwaite
and Alex Ross.
You can't keep a good (albeit occasionally psychotic) super hero mastermind down... especially one with as cool a beard as Doctor Niles Caulder, more affectionately known as "The Chief." Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Chief's bearededness is that it is part of his consistent characterization since the teams beginnings. The Chief, along with the group he organized, the Doom Patrol, first appeared in DC Comics' My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963). The Doom Patrol has since appeared in multiple incarnations by some of the industry's best talent including Grant Morrison and (a personal all-time fave) John Byrne. All along the way Chief's appearance (other than an occasional shift in age and color from ginger to grey and back) has been the beard--like most instances of facial hair in comic books, his bear has not always been indicative of a transition to "craziness," but a rather a symbolic of his role as the rock of the team. (Note: The Chief has had a descent into madness--but what "hero" hasn't?)

Reaching the comic stands in advance of Marvel Comic's X-Men, Doom Patrol had some conceptual similarities with Marvel's X-team from the onset, the most obvious being that both the Chief and X-Men's Charles Xavier, were wheelchair bound "big brains."  Though Professor X was bald and a mutant psychic, the Chief was gifted with a genius-level intellect crowned by a fantastic head of hair and matching beard. The Chief motivated the original Doom Patrol, misfits who's individual circumstances made them bitter from being isolated from the world, to use their powers for the greater good. Caulder then used his scientific knowledge to develop numerous inventions and innovations that have made him wealthy.
The Chief Pin-up
by Richard Case.

Doom Patrol (Vol 2) #87
by Tom Taggart.
It is Caulder's genius that allowed the team members to survive (e.g., designing Robotman's body, devising Negative Man's medicated bandages), and helped grant their freakishness and amazing abilities. Much like the appeal of the X-Men, it was their status as outsiders which I found appealing as a young fanboy.

Like many, it was Morrison and Nick Cases' seminal Doom Patrol (Volume 2) run which began with the "Crawling from the Wreckage" storyline starting with issue 19 that really brought me to the team for the long run. Prior to this run, the Chief had always had a level of aloofness about his character, but from that point forward he began a fascinating spiral into straight-up kookiness. Demonstrating the truth in the adage that "nothing gold can stay," eventually this second series came to end. While there have been numerous other attempts by DC at a profitable Doom Patrol series, one has yet to take. Rest assured when they give it another shot (and rumor has it New 52 DP is in the works) the Chief will be front and center.

Wikipedia: Chief entry

No comments: