There are so many streaming and monthly subscription services in the marketplace right now, so it makes sense that some get lost in the shuffle. DC Universe, a monthly service that provides access to DC's catalog of movies, TV shows, and comics, was one of them.
DC Universe didn't have the most enthusiastic launch, mostly because there wasn't a lot there for people who weren't hardcore DC fans. If you wanted to do a Batman: The Animated Series rewatch or wanted to read the comics' catalog, then the service might've been appealing, but there was next to no original content, or anything you couldn't get elsewhere. Sure there was Titans, which ended up being a decent show, but the marketing and "fuck Batman" backlash didn't do it any favors.
Months later, DC Universe is still that niche service, but thanks to some more high-quality original content it now has that more universal (no pun intended) appeal. It now has three original shows that reach out to different demographics. The aforementioned Titans lives off the back of the highly successful cartoon Teen Titans and as such, is more for a teenage or young adult audience. Swamp Thing, which debuted this month, is getting rave reviews across the board, especially for horror fans. Young Justice Season 3 is giving a lot of fans the closure they deserved when the first two seasons ended abruptly.
However, the service's original content strategy, and why you should consider investing in the service, goes back to the third show: Doom Patrol, an adaptation of DC's oddest super-powered team that proves to not only be one of the best superhero shows to come out in 2019, but might be one of the best shows to come out this year so far.
Doom Patrol, which debuted in 1963 is probably most famous for being DC's version of the X-men. They're a dysfunctional team of misfits that relunctantly take on the responsibility of superheroes while being led by a wise leader in a wheelchair. Luckily the similarities end there with the makeup of the team itself and the overall tone of the show. Here we have Robotman, Elasti-Woman, Crazy Jane, Negative Man, and, fresh off a lackluster Justice League movie, Cyborg, who all have to deal with their past trauma before even thinking about saving anything.
Doom Patrol's ability to straddle the line between heart-breaking realism and some of the most mind-boggling creations in genre history shouldn't work.
It's a classic story foundation: in order to save the world, they have to save themselves. However, these aren't the issues that can be fixed in 90 minutes. Robotman, a.k.a. Cliff Steele (voiced here by Brendan Fraser, who has been a missed presence in film and television over the past decade), was once a successful racecar driver, but an accident left him with a brain and little else. Not only does he have to adapt to his new body, but accept that the mistakes he made in his past might not be fixable. Rita Farr, a.k.a. Elasti-Woman (played by April Bowby) was once a old-Hollywood diva before she came into contact with a lifeform that made her body malleable, but uncontrollable. The allegory is a bit obvious — a vain woman known for her beauty now has to deal with a monstrous version of ugliness — but Rita still has to come to terms with her situation, and become a better person to make a best of it. Larry Trainor (Negative Man, voiced by Matt Bomer) has to deal with his own self-loating about his sexuality while Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero) struggles to handle the 64 personalities that inhabit her body.
The core team could be a solid superhero team, but their unstability and mental health problems prevent them from going outside themselves. This is extremely unhelpful when they go up against Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk, who is just having a blast here), who looks to exploit their insecurities so he can get revenge on the Chief.
The reluctant superhero story isn't new — the Umbrella Academy show, which is also about a team of reluctant super-powered misfits, came out the exact same week as Doom Patrol — but the writing manages to make Doom Patrol seem exciting by focusing on the characters and putting spins on their origin stories. The show even gives new life to Cyborg's narrative. He's arguably the most well-known of the Doom Patrol members thanks to the Teen Titans cartoon, so his backstory is familiar to many viewers, but faced with people less capable than him, he takes on the leader role. However, lingering issues with his father, who helped to create him, and not being able to trust that his memories are real, create a tension that goes byond just typical father/son drama.
The show always manages to surprise the audience. This is especially true with some of its most memorable setpieces, which vary in degrees of importance to the plot, but all manage to cause either outright glee, horror, or a combination of both. Mr. Nobody can break the fourth wall, so there are plenty of moments where he talks directly to the audience and makes fun of them (at one point he burns up a poster of the show while wearing a Doom Patrol T-shirt). The show also lives in a world that isn't afraid to go beyond the absurd. Whether it's a Nazi hivemind, walking butts, or a donkey with a hole to another dimension in its stomach, something always manages to make the viewer do a double-take.
Checking out Doom Patrol, a show that is equal parts hilarious and emotionally resonant is reason enough to try out a DC Universe subscription.
Doom Patrol's ability to straddle the line between heart-breaking realism and some of the most mind-boggling creations in genre history shouldn't work. It should create extreme mood whiplash, but it somehow works. It sets up the absurdness of its world early, opening up with a narration by Mr. Nobody about the show itself (and why you the audience kind of suck for watching it) and then jumps into all the character beats you'll come to expect over the first 15 episodes. And it still manages to surprise you at least a few times an episode because there's a lot to explore in its cuckoo comics world and it doesn't hold back on showing you.
Checking out Doom Patrol, a show that is equal parts hilarious and emotionally resonant is reason enough to try out a DC Universe subscription, but with Swamp Thing and Titans also in the mix, the service has finally been able to separate itself from the bunch. It might not have the most original content, but it has some of the most unique. Here's hoping it can continue that with a second Doom Patrol season, maybe?