For some fans, Doom Patrol feels like the least likely DC Comics property to find its way to the small screen. The heroes who make up the team's ranks are strange and enigmatic, and their adversaries even more so. But with the success of other little known or often maligned heroes and villains getting their own highly lucrative live-action adaptions, the misconception that comic books are unfilmable is rapidly eroding. Studios are now willing to take bigger risks in bringing strange properties to life. Films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Aquaman, and television shows like Preacher and Happy!, have solidified the fact that no comic book is untouchable.
The DC Universe streaming service might be pushing this theory to its limit with the upcoming Doom Patrol. Not only will the series' heroes feel a bit strange for most audiences (with the exception of Cyborg, who has received a lot of exposure over the last few years), the lead villain, who showed up in a teaser spot recently, is arguably one of the weirdest antagonists to grace a comic book in the last 30 years. That villain is the twisted, avant-garde menace Mr. Nobody.
Actor Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) will be portraying Mr. Nobody through motion capture and voice performance. This is by no means outside the realm of Tudyk's expertise. He's played many eccentric characters throughout his career both in front of and behind the camera, but his role as Mr. Nobody is so much more than a sassy robot or a sweet, bumbling spaceship pilot.
The origin of Mr. Nobody began in the Silver Age, in Doom Patrol #86 back in 1964. This version of the character was a far cry from what viewers will see in the television adaptation. The villain originally appeared as a would-be member of the Brotherhood of Evil, named Eric Mornden. After a falling out with the leader of the Brotherhood, the Brain, Eric fled into hiding. For decades, that was all we heard from the character.
Grant Morrison and Richard Case took over the second volume of Doom Patrol in 1989, revamping the team roster after most of the original lineup was either killed or put into a vegetative state. Their take on the property had a postmodern edge and was filled with pop culture references from every decade of the 20th century, as well as plenty of metaphysical and existential musings (you know, 'cause comics are for kids and whatnot). The series was frantic and engaging. Each story arc was more bizarre than the last and often felt disconnected. However, outside of the core team, Mr. Nobody was something of a constant for Morrison and Case's run, essentially bookending it.
Eric Mornden's long absence from Doom Patrol was due to self-imposed exile and subjecting himself to a series of experiments at the hands of an ex-Nazi scientist. Those experiments gave him the ability to drain the sanity from people, but the process also drove him mad. With his newfound powers (and fractured psyche), he took the moniker of Mr. Nobody and recruited a gaggle of other bizarre characters to form the Brotherhood of Dada, a team of supervillains who look to rewrite the idea of normalcy.
The team's name was in reference to not only the Brotherhood of Evil, but also to Dadaism, a European art movement from the early 20th century that rose to prominence in response to the horrors of World War I. Oh, and we forgot to mention, the whole ordeal left Mr. Nobody looking like a two dimensional ink sketch with a question mark for a head (please, stick with us).
The aesthetic roots of Mr. Nobody weave into sources as disparate as Betty Boop cartoons from the '30s and political satires of the '80s. Much like most of Grant Morrison's work, there are layers upon layers for each original or revamped character he brings to the table, and Mr. Nobody is no different. But what makes the villain appealing to broad audiences is his overt, fantastical nature. If you have no point of reference for the inception of the character, you can still enjoy him at face value. Mr. Nobody's actions are as frantic and hyperbolic as his appearance. His power to drain sanity from the people he's around leaves a lot of room for impossibly strange stories to unfold.
As unorthodox as the vast majority of Doom Patrol members are, having a reoccurring villain like Mr. Nobody is quite appropriate. His meta-contextualization has been toyed with by writers from time to time over the last few decades, most recently by Gerard Way and Nick Derington, who took the character back to his postmodern roots. Mr. Nobody may not be for everyone, but when he does eventually make his way to the small screen, he'll make the heroes of Doom Patrol seem... well, normal. Well, as normal as a guy who underwent an entire body transplant can seem.