Doom Patrol has a well-deserved reputation for being the strangest of the many television shows set in the DC Comics multiverse, yet it offers perhaps the most realistic view of how superpowers would work in regards to its villains. Most supervillains have abilities that make them into serious threats, but the villains of Doom Patrol have powers that range from completely useless to bizarrely situational.
While the DC Comics setting is full of a variety of alien races and mystically enhanced species such as Amazons and Atlanteans, most superpowers come about because of the metagene; a gene present in 12% of the human population, which can trigger rapid evolution in response to a traumatic event. The powers produced by the metagene are entirely random but usually relate to the trauma that triggered them, such as Mr. Freeze developing the power to survive sub-zero temperatures after being exposed to a lethal level of extreme cold. Despite this, the sheer variety of superpowers that exist in the comics and the fact that not all of them are inherently useful is rarely touched upon in television adaptations. The exception to this is Doom Patrol, which delights in showcasing the most unique aspects of DC Comics’ reality.
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The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man who lies at the center of one of Doom Patrol‘s many Easter eggs is a prime example. Steven Larson first appeared in the Doom Patrol season 1 episode “Puppet Patrol,” as a tourist who traveled to Paraguay in the hopes of getting powers from a group of Nazi cultists. As a result of the Doom Patrol attacking the Nazi lab while he was in the middle of being treated, Steve was left in his transformation pod for too long and was changed into an unnatural fusion of natural elements, with a second dinosaur head named Denise and a hand made of celery. Afterward, news broadcasts regarding Steven’s failed career as a criminal and Denise’s best-selling autobiography became a running gag throughout Doom Patrol‘s first two seasons, with the team being totally unaware of the role they played in creating this decidedly silly supervillain.
The Beard Hunter is another example of the variety that Doom Patrol showcased so well. While the original Beard Hunter of the comics was a parody of The Punisher, the television Beard Hunter was a metahuman who had telepathic and clairvoyant abilities that enabled him to know the minds of others as if they were his own and track anyone anywhere in time and space, even into other dimensions. Unfortunately, this amazing power did have one rather disgusting drawback; he had to eat the facial hair of a target before he could track them. This severely limited his viability as a soldier-of-fortune capable of hunting down any target and he was easily caught by the Doom Patrol after he broke into their home to get a sample of Dr. Niles Caulder’s shaving scum.
While the Beard Hunter and Steve Larsen are undoubtedly powerful, their abilities also offer hard limits that prevent them from being a danger to anyone but themselves. Given the random nature of the metagene, this sort of second-rate supervillain should be a much more frequent occurrence than the cool and controlled would-be world conquerors that are usually set up to antagonize superheroes. While that is the case in comic books, only Doom Patrol bothers to show off the super-zeroes of metahuman society.
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