So, which came first....the mutant or the freak?
One of the great Unsolved Mysteries of Comics* has to be "Who inspired who in the creation of DC Comics' Doom Patrol and Marvel's X-Men?"
*Okay, admittedly, we don't have that many Unsolved Mysteries to begin with...but work with me here.
Though they ultimately went on to tell very different kinds of stories, the similarities between the fundamental concepts of The Doom Patrol and the X-Men are startling...and, as I initially thought, most likely due to one publisher copying the other.
However, a closer examination of the timeline casts some doubt on that theory.
My Greatest Adventure #80, featuring the debut of the Doom Patrol, had a cover date of June 1963, three months before X-Men #1 hit the stands.
Hey! Mystery solved, right? Not so fast.
While it was certainly possible, the odds of Stan Lee and the Marvel gang being able to (1) Check out DC's Doom Patrol, (2) get clearance and financing to publish a knock-off and (3) actually produce, print and distrubute the comic book in three months' time was a real stretch.
Granted, Marvel was a young, hungry, up-and-coming publisher with speedsters like Jack Kirby, working for them...but still....that's crazy fast...and somewhat unlikely.
Still... what are the odds of two comic book publishers, unknown to the other, simultaneously coming up with a team lead by a mysterious, wheelchair-bound benefactor?
Both teams composed of outcasts who protect a society that hates and fears them?
Both teams characterized as "the Strangest Heroes"?
Both teams battling a "Brotherhood of Evil"?
Indeed, the odds against the "creative synchronicity" theory are pretty steep, and it's not likely the X-Men were rushed to market following the Doom Patrol's debut....so what does that leave? Something much more devious? The late Arnold Drake, creator of the Doom Patrol, seemed to think so:
"...I’ve become more and more convinced that (Stan Lee) knowingly stole The X-Men from The Doom Patrol. Over the years I learned that an awful lot of writers and artists were working surreptitiously between (Marvel and DC). Therefore from when I first brought the idea into (DC editor) Murray Boltinoff’s office, it would’ve been easy for someone to walk over and hear that (I was) working on a story about a bunch of reluctant superheroes who are led by a man in a wheelchair. So over the years I began to feel that Stan had more lead time than I realized. He may well have had four, five or even six months."
So did Marvel actually have a mole at DC Comics....or did DC just have a snitch working for them? Who knows?
Further muddying the waters of the "who copied who?" question is something I haven't seen discussed: How much did Arnold Drake borrow from Marvel Comics in the first place, specifically The Fantastic Four?
It's no secret that by 1963, DC had noticed how popular Marvel's groundbreaking "dysfunctional heroes" dynamic had become with comic book fans, and Drake's quirky, quarrelsome Doom Patrol certainly seemed to be a response to that. In fact, maybe it's just me, but some of the Doom Patrol members themselves seemed to have visual or personality traits that mirrored Marvel's famous Foursome.
Robotman's gruff personality (not to mention orange coloring) remind you of someone? How about demure Rita Farr? Any visual overlap between the Human Torch and the Doom Patrol's Negative Man? Definitely food for thought.
So...which came first? The Freak (the Doom Patrol) or the Mutant (the X-Men)? Or was it corporate espionage...or simply a crazy, cosmic coincidence?
What do YOU think?
Does someone out there have any additional facts or insights that could shed some light on this decades-long mystery? I'll be sure to post them as an update to this post if I receive any.