All of us are drawn to the DC Universe for different reasons. Some people do it for escapism, others do it for the extraordinary artwork, nostalgia, or a combination of various reasons. For me personally, I enjoy long-running serialized narratives. Others read comic books because they admire the characters and wish they had the strength and wisdom of their favorite superheroes.
Dorothy Spinner falls into that last category. If you’ve been watching HBO Max’s Doom Patrol, then you might have an idea about some of the problems Dorothy has recently been facing. With its fourth episode, “Casey Patrol,” the series took a break from the Buttpocalypse storyline (if you know, you know) to catch up with Dorothy, Maura Lee Karupt and Danny the Ambulance. The episode was an interesting character study on Dorothy and the relationship she has with her favorite comic book character, Space Case.
Space Case is the superhero alias of Casey Brinke, a character who was introduced in Gerard Way and Nick Derington’s mind-warping Doom Patrol run. In the comics, Casey was a paramedic whose life was turned upside down when she discovered that she was actually a comic book character who had somehow entered the real world. Naturally this led to some existential trauma. “Casey Patrol” marks her live-action debut and while it takes a few liberties with her story, most of what we see is pretty faithful to the page, including her costume.
When we catch up with Dorothy, she is in a funk. She is living inside Danny’s pocket dimension, closing herself off from the world. She only rarely comes out of her trailer and spends most of her time reading Space Case comics. Dorothy feels detached, pushing away friends like Maura Lee and Danny, but when she meets Space Case, she can’t contain her excitement.
Well, she’s as excited as you can be when all of your neighbors are being transformed into brainwashed cyborgs. If you get a chance to rewatch the episode, pay attention to Dorothy’s body language every time Casey speaks.
As the action unspools, it starts to become clear why Dorothy is drawn to Casey. Dorothy has not fully processed the death of her father Niles and has unresolved feelings about the way he raised her. At first, Dorothy tries to hide this by telling stories. She creates a fantastical tale about how she and the Candlemaker stole a trinket that allowed her to commune with her father’s spirit. In reality, this was a Dead Boy Detectives adventure and she was too scared to use the trinket.
Casey, on the other hand, doesn’t fear adventure. She doesn’t need the Dead Boy Detectives or her imaginary friends to go on heists for her. Casey’s archenemy Torminox is a mutated version of her father and Space Case has no anxiety about facing him.
Seeing something here? Everything that is hard for Dorothy comes easy for Casey. No wonder Dorothy admires her.
However, as the episode progresses, we realize that Casey has more in common with Dorothy than it initially appears. Once Space Case realizes she’s in the real world and her actions have consequences, she begins to lose her confidence. She’s afraid to face her father, fearing that she might destroy him and lose him forever. As Casey confesses her insecurities, it dawns on Dorothy that both of them must face their fears, especially when it comes to their fathers.
I thought about the parallels between Casey and Dorothy, and there are few more that the show didn’t explicitly point out. Both of them grew up away from the real world, sheltered and isolated. Niles forced Dorothy to hide away in Danny, fearful of what would happen if his daughter ever entered the real world. Casey spent her early existence as a comic book character. Once she enters the real world, she struggles with the concept of mortality, much like Dorothy did in Doom Patrol season two.
Perhaps there is something to the link between these two characters. Is it possible that all of us have more in common with our favorite DC superheroes than we realize? Is that why we’re drawn to them? Unfortunately, Green Lantern or Firestorm won’t be popping out of a comic book to share their personal traumas anytime soon, so we won’t be able to test the theory the way Dorothy did. However “Casey Patrol” does have me wondering if there is something under the surface of our relationships to our favorite characters.
Think about your favorite DC hero and ask yourself what you might have in common with them. Maybe we’re drawn to the Doom Patrol because we’re all weirdos and freaks. I may not be Brendan Fraser’s brain in a robot body or a mummified man with commitment issues, but all of us can relate to feeling different. Maybe we’re all a lot closer to the colorful characters we love and follow on adventure after adventure than we realize.
The first six episodes of Doom Patrol's fourth season are now streaming on HBO Max. Have you seen any sentient walking butts exhibiting strange and unusual behavior? Visit our official Doom Patrol series pages to report them.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.