The Beard Hunter may be the single weirdest super-villain in the history of super-villains. And that’s saying something given some of the weirdos that the Doom Patrol fought back when Grant Morrison was writing the book in the early 1990s. Conceived as a parody of The Punisher, Ernest Franklin waged a one-man war against facial hair, killing men with beards and shaving their corpses.
Why? It was never really explained during the Beard Hunter’s first (and only) appearance in Doom Patrol #45. It was said that Ernest had a hormone deficiency that left him chemically unable to grow a beard and forever jealous of those men that could. It was also suggested that Ernest was a bit of a closet-case (he collected muscle magazines along with comic books) and that he was trying to make every man look more like the bodybuilders he lusted after.
“Hair Patrol” introduces Ernest Franklin into the world of the Doom Patrol show and updates him for the modern world. This Beard Hunter is a stereotype that is more socially acceptable to make fun of – a wannabe soldier-of-fortune, who lives in his mother’s basement and unironically wears a battle harness with dual katanas. Wade Wilson, he ain’t, but he is uniquely qualified to hunt Dr. Niles Caulder – leader of the Doom Patrol and owner of one magnificent beard – on behalf of the Bureau of Normalcy.
Unfortunately, this is far more amusing on paper than it is in practice and the writers decide to up the ante by giving Beard Hunter a rather disturbing superpower that aids him in hunting his quarry. I won’t spoil what it is here but I will stay that only the stoutest of souls will be able to watch the scenes in which he infiltrates Doom Manor without looking away or flinching. Also, I wouldn’t suggest eating while watching this episode.
So what of Dr. Caulder himself? Strangely, he is the centerpiece of the show’s other subplot, which reveals an untold chapter of his life and how he came to devote his life to defending those who are strange and unusual. And it all came about because of his forbidden romance with an immortal cavewoman after he became stranded in the frozen wilderness.
I suspect this wouldn’t work nearly as well if it weren’t for Timothy Dalton’s playing Dr. Niles Caulder. Dalton has been in some truly strange works, from Flash Gordon to the new series of Doctor Who, yet I think his performance in this episode may be the weirdest thing he’s ever been involved with.
Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t quite come together and I think this may be the weakest episode of Doom Patrol to date as a result. It’s still good, mind you. The subplot with Beard Hunter depends more on gross-out humor than the more surreal comedy we’ve come to expect of this show and there’s little sense of drama since the events of this episode take place at the same time as last week’s episode, so we know Cyborg and Elasti-Woman survive their encounter with Beard Hunter unscathed. By contrast, the whole section with Dr. Caulder, while well-acted and well-presented, doesn’t really gel with the rest of the episode as it is largely played straight and the only weird thing about it is the implication that Dr. Caulder made love to a missing link.
Ah well – what happens in the tundra stays in the tundra.
Doom Patrol – Episode 10, “Hair Patrol”, airs Friday, April 19, on DC Universe.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.