In this column I will dive into times, throughout superhero history, that comics got political. There seems to be a constant debate if political discussion has a place in the medium. I hope to show that politics and superhero comics go together. This time we look at Danny the Street and gender in Doom Patrol.
Doom Patrol is currently on the DC Universe streaming service. The recent episode brought us the live action debut of Danny the Street, and I think this is something to celebrate. The show has already shown some real depth and understanding of mental health, and LGBTQ issues and if you are enjoying the diverse community here at On Comics Ground you most likely would enjoy this series.
Gender in Doom Patrol
Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol explored themes and concepts that few other mainstream book dared to touch. In many ways this is a book that was way ahead of its time. This run hit at the tail end to the 1980s into the early 1990s and many things it tackled were taboo. Morrison took the group of outcast superheroes and connected them with more progressive issues. While, I have argued that comics have always been political there were certain issues surrounding sexuality and gender that traditionally were left out of the discussion. Most times when anything other than someone being straight and cisgendered was displayed in a comic (and media in general), it was done so as a warning or our playing up those aspects as “villainy.” That is not what the creative team did with Doom Patrol. Sexual orientation and gender fluidity were examined through the protagonists rather than shown as a deviancy of the antagonists. One character, Rebis, was a combination of the former Negative Man (male), his physician (female), and the spirit inside them. This made an intersexed superhero that became a self confident badass. This idea was taken to the next level with Danny the Street.
Danny the Street
Danny the Street’s name is a play on famous cross dressing icon Danny La Rue (which translates to Danny the Street directly in English). Danny is a sentient street that does not abide gender norms. On the street will be a stereotypically “masculine” store, like a gun shop, but it would be decorated with frill and lace. Danny travels all over the world appearing in different cities, just looking to spread joy. Often people who feel outcast from society find a home in Danny and finally feel welcome and at peace. He is essentially a traveling safe space for those in need. When he is introduced to the Doom Patrol there is a moment of confusion, they are meeting a sentient street, but at no point is Danny’s gender fluidity or hints at sexuality seen or shown as anything other than something to be accepted.
“Normalcy” vs “Deviancy”
The way Grant Morrison and Richard Case drive the point of acceptance home is with their villain in the Danny the Street arc. The villains here are The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and their quest to preserve normalcy. They find Danny as being a deviant and something to destroy in order to protect society. This has direct analogs to what you would hear from televangelists, and most politicians at the time this comic came out. Gay marriage was still seen as an impossibility world-wide and transgender rights were essentially nonexistent, with very few caring to take them seriously. Morrison flips the narrative here as the people trying to “protect” society are shown as the real deviants. One of leaders that is trying to promote normalcy is a wife abusing sociopath. He is shown as the “All American” husband white, clean, and traditionally handsome. His home even has laugh track buttons in order to make his household seem like it is part of some strange sitcom. Basically normalcy is shown as being dark and oppressive, while the freedom to express yourself (as Danny the Street allows) is shown as the real positive force. The common horror trope of the transgender serial killer going after innocent people is completely flipped here. At one point in the comic The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E.are directly called out for being far less “normal” than anything that occurs on Danny the Street. I can see this comic as being a very uplifting tale for anyone who feels like the traditional gender and sexual roles of society are placed onto them unfairly. The real villain is anyone who tells you what “normal” is, and everyone should find what makes them happy and fulfilled in life regardless of the expectations. Danny the Street is the roving safe space that won’t judge you and is always ready to have a great time and help you find yourself.