February 5, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #400: The Brotherhood Of Dada

There was a supervillain team whose whole purpose was to create art to expose the meaninglessness of existence.

Here I am at the big #400.  I asked in the Gabbing Geek bullpen if anyone had any suggestions for the big anniversary.  Jimmy said something about a character called Alpha that he almost did as a fill-in for a week when I was on vacation…back in 2015.  Wow.  I need more vacations.

I wasn’t really sure who Alpha was, aside from the obnoxious robot on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

Watson suggested the Savage Dragon, but that was because he didn’t know Erik Larsen is still writing and drawing that book.

Anyway, I took those into consideration and decided instead to do a really, really weird one that I maybe should have done a long time ago, but only just got around to because something about these guys seems tailor-made for a column like this.

I give you the Brotherhood of Dada.

So, how to explain the Brotherhood of Dada.  Well, Dadaism was an artistic movement that came out after the first world war that posited the world was basically meaningless, so why not create art that reflected that lack of meaning?  I think.  Art history is not my forte, and I am far too lazy right now to look it up.  Regardless, the Brotherhood of Dada were artistic supervillains that opposed the Doom Patrol.

This was during their Vertigo years under writer Grant Morrison, whose work routinely put the Doom Patrol into adventures that made no sense to anyone, including themselves.

However, the Brotherhood of Dada was the successor to the Doom Patrol’s original archenemies the Brotherhood of Evil.  The original Brotherhood had a lesser member named Mr. Morden.  He put himself through some kind of experiment and became Mr. Nobody, a being with vaguely-defined godlike powers that looked more like a graffiti silhouette of a man than an actual man.  He decided to bring about the Apocalypse or something using a special painting that ate the city of Paris with his original Brotherhood of Dada there to help.

The original Brotherhood consisted of:

  • The Fog, a man who could transform himself into a sentient psychedelic cloud that basically absorbed people, trapping their consciousness inside of the Fog and adding voices to his head
  • Frenzy, a man who wore bike wheels on his back that could turn into a living cyclone
  • Sleepwalk, a British woman who possessed superhuman strength, but only while she was sleeping, so she took sleeping pills and listened to Barry Manilow on headphones to sleep as much as she could
  • The Quiz, a Japanese woman with an extreme fear of dirt who wore a question mark-covered suit from head to toe, she possessed every superpower you couldn’t think of

Now, Nobody aside, this first Brotherhood actually has what looked like conventional superpowers that the Doom Patrol could have maybe defeated in a fight.  Yes, the series at the time was an early spin-off for what would become the Vertigo line and superhero battles weren’t really a thing in them, but this looks like a team the Doom Patrol could have overpowered.  Nobody’s powers were vague, Crazy Jane actually got spit out of the Fog because all of her alters made the Fog crazier than usual, and I would think the Quiz would go down if you just named two powers, namely the ability to have superpowers and the ability to win fights.

But that was something else, and eventually, the Patrol and the Brotherhood had to work together to stop the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a plan that was successful as the Patrol and the city of Paris were expelled from the painting while the Brotherhood stayed inside of it…and they liked it in there, so that was no problem.  The only real sign anything happened was an old fashioned wooden hobbyhorse was the only thing that came out because the Brotherhood made even the Four Horsemen meaningless in the end.

Now, that by itself would be enough, but after a while, Nobody got himself out of the painting and decided to not only form a new Brotherhood of Dada, but also to run for President with a plot to spread the whole meaninglessness of everything concept through politics, and he was using LSD inventor Albert Hoffman’s bicycle to spread the message.    If anything, this second Brotherhood was even more meaningless, and none of them seemed like traditional supervillains.  They were:

  • Agent “!”,a man with a particularly garish outfit and what looked like a birdcage for a chest who could never surprise anyone, allowing him to literally fit in anywhere without anyone wondering what the weirdo with the giant exclamation point over his face was doing, but also allowing him to do things like easily trip people.
  • Alias the Blur, a broken mirror possessed with the spirit of an elderly German actress that could suck the youth and life out of anything that looked into the mirror
  • The Love Glove, a young man obsessed with the 60s, one night he dreamed of a tree with gloves for leaves, and when he woke up, his arms were gone and the Love Glove was attached to one shoulder via valentine hearts, but he could put on any other glove over his nonexistent left hand to grant himself a wide variety of superpowers
  • Number None, less a person than a concept, also known as the Secret Identity, this is anything or anyone that causes things to go a certain person’s way, so anytime something went Nobody’s way for no clear reason, he credited Number None
  • The Toy, a woman who seemed to be more of a traditional supervillain, only her one defining attribute is she always shows up late for stuff

Anyway, what happened to the second Brotherhood?  The American government got involved.  First, a female agent seduced the Love Glove to try and bring down the Brotherhood, and when he found out and went to warn Nobody, was shot in the abdomen and eventually died.  The government also released a superhero named Yankee Doodle Dandy, an Unknown Soldier secret agent type, who managed to take out most of the Brotherhood.  Using a disembodied head, he turned Nobody back to a normal person, shattered Alias the Blur, and took out Agent “!”.  Number None may not exist, so who knows what happened there, and the Doom Patrol was unable to stop Dandy from doing what he did.  The only survivor was the Toy, and that was because she showed up late…as in, she arrived just as soon as the battle was over and asked about Mr. Nobody, having missed the entire storyline up to that point.

Now, I could point out that Mr. Nobody is apparently still around, something that happens when he gets his Morden facemask off and becomes, well, that again, going by the name of Mr. Somebody at one point and later forming the Brotherhood of Nada, but that’s not my concern.

Now, there is a live action Doom Patrol series, originally on DC Universe and now on HBO Max, and they did do something with some of these characters.  Mr. Nobody, as played by Alan Tudyk as a fourth wall-breaking, all-knowing baddie, was the villain for the first season, and the third saw the rise of the fairly harmless Sisterhood of Dada, a group that was made up of members of both incarnations but was more inclined to leave people alone as long as they got to create their art to largely entertain themselves.  They also had a connection to the Brotherhood of Evil in that one disgruntled member of the Sisterhood, Madame Rouge, tried to join the Brotherhood, but Monsieur Mallah and the Brain weren’t much interested in her.

For what it’s worth, that season showed the Brain’s big plan was to put himself into the Robotman body.  Since the season-long storyarc involved time travel, he and Mallah had been living in a senior citizens community as retired baddies for years by the time he pulled that off, and apparently, he and Mallah had recorded an album at one point.  As such, the culmination of the Brain’s plan was…to dance around in the Robotman body and romance women at the old folks community center while playing his old album.

See for yourself with this little earworm:

Point is…maybe I should just stop here before it gets really weird.

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