There are so many X-Men out there! You can’t walk round your private island paradise anymore without bumping into twenty mutants. But that raises a question which Shelfdust are going to try and answer! Who is the Best Mutant? We’ll be inviting some of the best writers in comics to argue their case!

By Brad Gullickson

I’ll be honest: I recoiled the first time I saw the Doop bouncing across the panels of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force #116. This was not how an X-comic should look or behave, I thought! This was a lark, a joke. There are so many other rad characters worthy of resin statues and action figures.

When Logan then hired Doop in Wolverine and the X-Men to stand guard as the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning receptionist, I thought it said more about writer Jason Aaron than anything else. Doop’s inclusion not only validated everything Milligan and Allred lampooned in X-Force and X-Statix, it instantaneously differentiated Aaron’s uncanny team from those that came before. 

Aaron desired a sour splash to pervert the usual flavor profile, thrusting relationship dynamics into unpalatable realms, and as such Doop seemed to be an unexpected, unwanted ingredient. He’s an avocado in a fruit cocktail. “What the hell is this doing here?” You spit him out, but he lingers. The taste haunts the mind, and as much as you balk against his involvement, you can’t shake his sensation. 

And now here I am, naming Doop the “Best Mutant”, which I know is a bit of an antagonistic jab. I’m inviting your eye-rolls, and I welcome your scoffs and dismissal. In that way, I’m a bit like my kidney-shaped friend: I accept and enjoy the scorn. Or, maybe, I’m merely defensive. Protecting myself from perceived ridicule that might never arrive. I anticipate the brush-off as a direct result of an opinion once held. Being a grotesque, irresistible oddity does not earn you the title of “Best Mutant.” Doop rises in the ranks of the X-Men because of the philosophical challenges he presents them. The jelly bean cannot be coded in cool.

Right now on Krakoa we have a merry band of marvelous weirdos: each one can easily mold to meet any reader’s predilections or kinks. But on an island of outsiders, Doop stands – er, floats – alone. He defies reason; a cartoon smudge on a squad of spandex toughs. His powers and abilities fluctuate depending on the needs of the storyteller. He’s Roger Rabbit, a self-aware trickster with a hammer, hacksaw, or Ultimate Nullifier hidden up his sleeve, always at the ready.

Wolverine and the X-Men #17 is Jason Aaron’s attempt to answer why Logan chose Doop’s assistance when taking charge of the school. The comic opens with Deathlok delivering his evaluation of the teaching staff, giving high marks to most while also acknowledging the stress of mixing superheroics and education. The undead cyborg is impressed by the faculty’s commitment but cannot bring himself to fathom Doop’s presence.

Cut to the blob’s introductory splash page featuring our comatose receptionist with a pornographic magazine propped on his belly, a half-eaten pizza splayed on his desk along with a bloodied yo-yo, a stack of cash, a pink bra, a submachine gun, a Tony award, and a six-pack of Devil Dinosaur ale. And, oh yeah, a woefully unprotected Ultimate Nullifier. All Wolverine cares to explain is that “Doop is here for a reason… He’s here because we need him.”

Aaron and artist Mike Allred (Doop’s co-creator) spend the rest of the comic joyously detailing the absurd antics Doop performs between the panels of your average issue. While Wolverine and his X-Men concern themselves with line-wide events like Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men, Doop is too busy wrangling humanity’s darkest forces, most notably The League of Nazi Bowlers and the fearful ignorants that sit upon the Westchester County School Board. The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning is under constant attack, and Doop prevents its destruction nine times out of ten. The tenth victory he leaves for Wolverine, his X-Men, and their headlines. Doop don’t need the print; his satisfaction derives from a job completed and keeping his bro Logan in business.

What does the rest of the staff see? A nearly incapacitated Doop who belches bowling balls during staff meetings. Where did it come from? They don’t ask, and they don’t care. Doop is just gross to them, but it’s in their disgust where my love blossomed.

As soldiers of the Mutant Metaphor (where Homo Superior acts as a proxy for whatever minority group), Wolverine and Cyclops kick ass against never-ending human hatred, and they look good doing it. What’s the hill they have to climb every morning? Oh, Cyke’s forever strapped with ruby sunglasses, and Logan feels an ouch every time he pops his claws. Wolverine and Cyclops may serve the wish-fulfillment purposes for the lonely kid reading, but the better mirror has always been the Morlocks.

For every groovy power involving flight or teleportation, some kid snots molten jam when he sneezes. They pulled the genetic short straw. Unable to blend with polite society due to mutant gifts that left their bodies malformed or simply unrecognizable to the conventional standard, the Morlocks made their homes in sewers. In the early eighties, Chris Claremont used “these unfortunates” to confront X-Men motivation. Who are they fighting for? Fellow pretty darlings, or the truly shunned?

In New X-Men, around the same time as Doop’s arrival within the Marvel Universe, Grant Morrison enrolled dozens of characters who formerly would have made ceilings out of manhole covers. Characters like Beak, Basilisk, and Glob exemplified notions of adolescent isolation. We poured ourselves into their experience, fully recognizing their path to breaking bad or overcoming justifiable outrage.

Doop is an extreme extension of this otherness. The character offers very few passageways to empathy. His shape is utterly inhuman. His language, while often understandable to his closest allies, is baffling to the reader. His conduct is crass and frequently offensive.

He’s begging for rejection, and he gets lots of it.

What we see in Doop is humanity stripped of its anatomical odds and ends, leaving little more than a face for us to hang onto, but a face is all we require to engage with humanity. The little guy puts everything out there on his mug. It’s not math; it’s heart.

Doop is total expression, and Allred supplies the goober with an elastic tenacity. The character broadcasts his emotions so loudly on his face that the reader is immediately tied to Doop’s perspective. When he’s angry, you’re angry. When he’s wiped, you’re wiped. When he’s victorious, you’re victorious.

Over the course of the issue’s twenty pages, we see Doop rescue the school from certain doom eight times, not to mention the numerous minor brawls with Gambit’s cajun cooking, She-Hulk’s roller derby, and the frat boy pranks of Bamfs. Each threat, whether mundane, demonic, or cosmic, is met by Doop on equal ground. The hateful nun on the messageboard forum is no less dangerous than the Robo-Barbarians from Dimension ZZZ. Their endgame is Jean Grey’s closure, and that’s a no-can-do for Doop.

To answer Deathlok’s question as to what value Doop serves, we should return to the “Previously On” page that kicks off the comic. There we meet a roster of twelve mutants and their positions at the school: Wolverine – Clawed Headmaster, Beast – Animalistic Intellectual Vice-Principal, Rachel Grey – Telekinetic Telepathic Teacher, etc. At the very end of the line is our li’l pal Doop. Under his name, no credentials, no purpose. He gets a big blank space.

Doop is.

Whatever you need him to be.

Wolverine and the X-Men #17 reveals the character as a critical champion who keeps the lights on. He completes the missions that demand more than a punch and a kick. He’s a screwball misfit; kinda creepy, kinda icky. He doesn’t adhere to the square-jawed theatrics that put other heroes on marquees and magazine covers.

Doop will always remain in the background. Maybe Marvel will toss him a mini-series now and again, but he’s the outsider’s outsider. As the best mutants should be.

 

Wolverine & The X-Men #17
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Allred
Colourist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

 

Brad Gullickson is the Senior Curator for @OnePerfectShot and a Weekly Columnist at Film School Rejects. He also saves his marriage every week as co-host of the Comic Book Couples Counseling podcast. Hunt him down on Twitter here.

 

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