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Issue 74: "Bootleg Steele"

Cover Date: January, 1994

Rachel Pollack - writer
Linda Medley - penciller
Tom Sutton - inker
Stuart Chaifetz - colorist
John Workman - letterer
Lou Stathis - editor
Bob Fingerman - cover artist

The story opens with Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula, playing a video game called "Robotman: The Game", which is based on Cliff Steele's adventures with the Doom Patrol. The object of the game is to find Crazy Jane, but first Robotman must defeat a series of monsters, including the Candlemaker. (The game is loosely based on issues 57, 58, 59, 60, and 61.) When the real Cliff Steele learns of this game, he is outraged that someone would try to turn his life into a video game, and he and Kate set out to find the game's creator.

They eventually discover a warehouse in Violet Valley that is the headquarters of S.U.R.E., Steele's Universal Robot Emporium. Once inside, they find several dozen robot bodies in various stages of completion and an assortment of robot spare parts laid out on an assembly line. Suddenly a disembodied voice shouts, "This is Cliff Steele! Get out of my body!" and they are attacked by hoses that spray scalding steam and by animated cables that descend from the ceiling, but these weapons prove to be no match for Kate's ability to coagulate and dissolve matter and Cliff's brute strength.

They then meet the proprietor of S.U.R.E.--a bespectacled bald little man whose name is not revealed in this story--who explains that when Niles Caulder downloaded Cliff's consciousness onto a computer disk after the Candlemaker destroyed Cliff's human brain (issue 58), the nameless little man was somehow able to acquire a copy of the disk and has now made further copies which he is selling on the black market. Not only was Kate's video game powered by one of these disks, but so is the warehouse in which S.U.R.E. is headquartered. In other words, the building is sentient and thinks that it is Cliff Steele. That's why it attacked Cliff and Kate, because they were invading its body.

Cliff and Kate return to Doom Patrol Headquarters and ask Niles Caulder if he can use the Doom Patrol's computer to access all the copied disks that S.U.R.E. has distributed and infect them with a virus.

Meanwhile, three children--Rick, Alice and Tom--have purchased one of S.U.R.E.'s disks and have created their own Robotman with spare parts from a junkyard. Rick has also created a hand-held remote control unit that inputs data directly into the robot's consciousness. He has used this device to convince the robot that he, Rick, is Niles Caulder, that Alice is Crazy Jane, and that Tom is Larry Trainor. The robot, of course, thinks that it is Cliff Steele, but Alice tells the robot that it is merely a copy of Steele. The robot steals the remote control unit from Rick, and, in order to determine whether or not it really is Cliff Steele or just a copy, it uses the romote control unit to input random data into its own consciousness. The random data creates a series of bizarre hallucinations. Eventually Alice uses the remote to stop the hallucinations, and the robot tries to describe to her what it experienced. But suddenly the lights in the robot's eyes flicker out and in a dead, toneless voice it repeats the name, "Jane... Jane... Jane... Jane..."

Niles Caulder has succeeded in infiltrating all of S.U.R.E.'s copied disks and infecting them with his virus, and copies of Cliff Steele everywhere are mindlessly repeating the name, "Jane... Jane... Jane... Jane..." In fact, some of the robot bodies at the S.U.R.E. warehouse burst into flame, and these fires are still blazing when Cliff, Kate and Niles arrive at the warehouse and confront S.U.R.E.'s proprietor. When the little man asks Cliff why he isn't affected by the virus that has destroyed all of Cliff's copies, Cliff says, "They're machines. And I'm not."

NOTE:

Dorothy is absent from this story, which probably takes place during her trip to Free Country in Doom Patrol Annual #2.

The little man who runs S.U.R.E. is a dead ringer for Captain Marvel's nemesis, Thaddeus Bodog Sivana.

Summary written by Tom Hartley.
Email: rlripley at yahoo.com
Website: Bullwinkle's Eyes

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