Doom Patrol Has A Confusing Place In The DC Universe

"Doom Patrol" is a rare comic book adaptation that subverts expectations on almost every level. The HBO Max show, which has been renewed for a fourth season, is filled with lively characters that make for an unconventional superhero team. Before being picked up by HBO Max, the show was originally a part of a shared universe of sorts on the DC Universe streaming service alongside "Titans" and "Swamp Thing." Taking a page out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those shows were all meant to take place in the same world.

Unfortunately, the DC Universe streaming service did not last long, as it was converted to a comic-based subscription app with all of its streaming titles either canceled or moved over to HBO Max. "Titans" and "Doom Patrol" were among the series that found a second life on the new streaming service, but their connection to each other is rarely acknowledged; other than the "Doom Patrol" backdoor pilot episode in the first season of "Titans," the shows have never referenced each other or crossed over. Let's take a look at where "Doom Patrol" stands.

Differing versions in the same continuity

Executive producers Sarah Schechter and Jeremy Carver talked to the official DC Comics website about the continuity and interconnectivity of "Doom Patrol," with Schechter giving an example from TV history that serves as a parallel to what happened with these characters:

"Laverne was on 'Happy Days,' but then she became a different Laverne on 'Laverne and Shirley.' And I'm sure there's like 1,000 more recent references that would resonate more with your audience than that, but that's the one that popped into my head."

While the reference isn't exactly the most timely, it still makes sense. The episode of "Titans" that featured the Doom Patrol showcases an entirely different version of the characters we meet later in their show. The actor who plays the Chief is literally different in "Titans," played there by Bruno Bichir before Timothy Dalton joined "Doom Patrol" as the Chief. The designs of the characters, specifically Negative Man (Matthew Zuk), were also changed for the main "Doom Patrol" series. The show has always prided itself on its belief in "story first," with showrunner Jeremy Carver worried more about its characters and story quality than any sort of interconnectivity.

The restraints of interconnection

In that same interview, Schechter spoke about Carver's dedication to story:

"When you start building out that whole world, you have to start from scratch. And also, it's a different show. Jeremy [Carver] had to make it his own thing. You can tell that this show is so out of the particular alchemy of his brain. If he was constrained by the Doom Patrol as a side trip on 'Titans,' it would limit him and we have to take those handcuffs off of him to feel free to create."

"Doom Patrol" continues to be a testament to the true potential of comic book adaptations when not constrained by studio demands or the need to be connected to another property. The show harkens back to a time when a comic book adaptation's sole concern was telling a story with its own characters, as opposed to setting up "the next big thing."

Carver elaborated on the continuity of the show for those fans who want some solid grasp on the DC multiversal timeline:

"They're in the same world, but we're asking fans to come to this version of the show knowing that it is the same world, but it's a different continuity. While there are elements of 'Titans' and the show's introduction of our team, not all characterizations are the same, and it's best just to come into it with a fresh look."

The showrunner isn't concerned about overlap or crossovers. Instead, his concerns lie with characterization.

It's always character first

"Doom Patrol" has a confusing place in the DC Universe, but it's important to note that the inconsistency in continuity has no negative impact on the quality of the story. Time and again, "Doom Patrol" has been critically lauded for its relevant messages and intimate character moments (between all the world-ending threats and giant cockroaches). The Marvel Cinematic Universe may rely on its interconnected stories and synergy with other properties in its Disney+ series, but shows like "Doom Patrol" prove that interconnectivity isn't the only thing superhero shows need to survive. 

While "Doom Patrol" hasn't followed up on the original connection to "Titans," that doesn't mean the two HBO Max originals can't crossover at some point. For now, the incredible character work and storytelling of "Doom Patrol" is in its own little pocket of continuity. The time hasn't yet come for the show to acknowledge the existence of other DC properties, but we can trust that if "Doom Patrol" does ever attempt a crossover, it will be one that is driven from a place of character, not corporate synergy.