A unique group of heroes like the Doom Patrol requires equally strange adversaries. For a time, the Brotherhood of Evil reigned supreme when taking on that responsibility, largely due to one of their leading members—Madame Rouge, an actress turned femme fatale. Madame Rouge makes her live-action debut today in the highly anticipated new season of Doom Patrol played to perfection by Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez. In the series, Madame Rouge is a time traveler who has no idea who she really is. Of course, we didn't want you to have the same problem, so whether you’re new to the weird world of DC’s strangest heroes or a longtime fan, it's time to get to know this remarkable—if occasionally deadly—woman.
What Happened to Laura De Mille?
Madame Rouge made her comic book debut in Doom Patrol #86. However, we don’t get her origin story until Doom Patrol #112. Before becoming Madame Rouge, Laura De Mille was a French stage actress on her way to stardom until she was involved in a car accident. Laura survived but realized she was experiencing some extreme personality shifts, which led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and caught Brotherhood of Evil leader the Brain's attention.
Laura agreed to the experimental procedure the Brain claimed would reduce the side of her that found joy in destroying children’s toys right in front of them and, in turn, would allow the more positive side of her personality to thrive. Unbeknownst to Laura, however, the Brain wasn’t the one to perform the procedure. Instead, the highly educated and well-spoken gorilla known as Monsieur Mallah handled the proceedings. The discovery went from bad, to worse, to the likes of finding out it’s Monday and not Friday since it was all a ruse and the procedure actually destroyed her positive side and effectively inflated her instinct for evil.
Joining the Brotherhood of Evil
Laura ultimately decided to join the Brotherhood of Evil, but really, who wouldn’t after learning a gorilla performed brain surgery on them? (By the way, a procedure created by a living brain in a fishbowl on top of that? Exactly. There is no explaining that to your medical insurance claim officer.) Thus, Madame Rouge was born, a great codename paired with some Louboutin red bottoms. As Madame Rouge soon evolved into one of the leading members of the Brotherhood of Evil, she became a master of disguise.
The Madame’s first encounter with the Doom Patrol was a full-on production with an award-winning performance. She assumed the identity of Mademoiselle Soulett and played her part in an elaborate scheme involving a pilotless plane and a passenger in need of saving. After the Doom Patrol came to her rescue, Rouge carried out her plan to seduce Larry Trainor. However, it wasn't him the Brotherhood of Evil wanted. They were after the cosmic being that lives in Larry’s body. Madame Rouge successfully fooled Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl) while in her best performance wig, but she and the Brotherhood still weren’t slick enough to pull it off because the Chief and Larry were on to them from the start.
A Second Experimental Procedure
After the Brain’s lawyer succeeded in getting her released from police custody, Madame Rouge agreed to yet another experimental procedure performed on her by Monsieur Mallah. This time around, the Brain promised her the process would give her abilities similar to that of Elasti-Girl. However, unlike Elasti-Girl, who has to grow or minimize her entire body, Madame Rogue's powers allowed her to stretch one single part of herself, as well as change her face and physical features, transforming her into the ultimate master of disguise. At one point, she memorably impersonated Elasti-Girl’s fiancé, Mento, almost causing a war between him and the rest of the Doom Patrol.
The Tale of Two Madame Rouges
Eventually, Madame Rouge discovered that the Brain’s initial procedure to rid her of her remaining goodwill was either a lie or never actually worked, and she began to show flashes of the sound personality she thought was destroyed.
As a result, when the Brain threatened once again to end the entire world, Madame Rouge and Monsieur Mallah chose to ally with the Doom Patrol to put a stop to the Brotherhood. In the process, the Chief learned of her true origins and wondered if she could be reborn again as her old self. In typical Niles Caulder fashion, he took it upon himself to do some experimentation on her, using a ray planted in Madame Rouge's room at the Brotherhood of Evil’s headquarters to start treatments that would restore her mind as it were before.
While the Chief may have had good intentions, it was still incredibly creepy and a violation of her trust, making him no better than the Brain, who started refresher treatments to keep Madame Rouge’s evil side dominant. In the end, both scientists effectively tear this woman’s mind apart, and there is no Tylenol strong enough to combat a massive headache caused by men with egos of this size.
Instead, Madame Rouge splits into two, her evil side manifesting into a body of her own. Fortunately, Laura defeats her corrupt side and joins the Doom Patrol shortly after, as that was the Chief’s plan for her all along. The two develop a romance, but it doesn’t last long.
Master of Her Own Fate
Sick and tired of both the Brain and the Chief controlling her life, Madame Rouge chose to take matters into her own hands after her mind reverted once more to its wicked state (or more so the form of a scorned, severely mistreated woman). Madame Rouge subsequently teamed up with Brotherhood member General Zahl to help with her plans of revenge and she was successful, or so it seemed.
Years later, Robotman teamed up with the Teen Titans to track Madame Rouge and General Zahl down. The encounter subsequently resulted in Rouge's death at the hands of Beast Boy. Madame Rouge's daughter, Gemini, surfaced some time after her demise and took her mother’s place in the Brotherhood of Evil. Rouge has also made a couple of minor appearances as a zombie since her death.
Now she'll be getting something of a reintroduction to the DC Universe, but this time around on the small screen. It will be exciting to see what an actress as talented as Gomez brings to a character who is just as complex as the rest we’ve seen in the Doom Patrol television series. It won't be surprising if Gomez's iteration of Rouge is closer to her comic origins given the actress's history of playing characters with more than one distinct personality (see The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina). Also, Madame Rouge's introduction to the HBO Max series looks like it’s paving the way for an appearance from the rest of the Brotherhood of Evil, which means we'll get another scientist who can compete with Chief for the title of "Most Insufferable."
Doom Patrol kicks off its news season with a three-episode premiere today on HBO Max. Not yet a subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.
Stephanie Williams is the co-writer of the upcoming Nubia and the Amazons and writes about comics, TV and movies for DCComics.com. Check out more of her work on Den of Geek, What To Watch, Nerdist and SYFY Wire and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Instagram at @steph_I_will.