- I've been a shitty dad way before Parkinson's. Before becoming a dumb robot. I pulled shit when you were too young to remember. But I can't forget. I always wanted to be special, y'know? Wanted to be the man. I was so focused on being great... I forgot to be good. [...] But I know now that the only people I need to be special to are you and Rory.
- — Cliff Steele src
Clifford "Cliff" Steele is an angry and boisterous but kind-hearted member of the Doom Patrol. A former NASCAR driver, his body was destroyed in a car collision engineered by Niles Caulder, who placed his brain in a super-strong and nigh-indestructible robotic body. Despite being filled with fury at Caulder and misery for his condition, Cliff does try to be a better person, often acting as a father figure to fellow teammates Jane and Vic.
Cliff Steele was born May 23, 1956 to R.J. Steele, a poor excuse for a father who left Cliff's mother when he was young. He grew up to be a wealthy and successful NASCAR driver, with a wife named Kate (who he was cheating on with his daughter's nanny), and a daughter named Clara, who he pampered nonstop in an effort to be a better father than his own. Cliff also formed a close friendship with his manager, Bump Weathers. Thanks to these events, Cliff became arrogant, obnoxious, and often angry, prone to outbursts and often making inappropriate jokes at the expense of others. On a daily basis, Cliff left Clara in his car while he drank and had sex with strippers and he felt no shame.
In 1988, Kate discovered Cliff was cheating on her and, out of spite, began cheating on him with Bump, which she let him know over his microphone during a race, nearly causing him to die in a car crash, engineered by Niles Caulder as part of his immortality experiments. After the race was over, he attempted to make things up and start over with Kate. No sooner did they get on the road to start their new journey, however, did Cliff plow his car under a large logging truck with a low-hanging bed parked in the middle of the road by Caulder in a second attempt at his experiment. Clara was traumatized, but her injuries were not severe, while Kate was decapitated and Cliff's body was completely destroyed, with only the brain being salvageable. Caulder recovered the brain and brought it to his home, a manor house in Cloverton, Ohio.
Caulder engaged the brain to a special robotic body, which he worked on for several years before bringing Cliff to full consciousness in his new form in 1995. This body was a mix of robotics and magic, immensely strong and nearly indestructible, and mimicked Cliff's original voice exactly (albeit a bit less clear), but was slow-moving, lacked facial expression, and any physical sensation outside of sight and sound. Caulder, who would come to be known by Cliff as the "Chief", introduced himself as a kindly mentor, and hiding from him that he caused his accident.
Life at Doom Manor
Living with Cliff in the manor were two housemates, a flamboyant former Hollywood actress named Rita Farr, who was exposed to a special gas that made her cells unstable and gelatinous, and a quiet and guilt-filled former Air Force pilot named Larry Trainor, who was in a plane crash that bound him to a radioactive being known as the Negative Spirit, necessitating him to wear lead-lined bandages across his entire radiation-leaking body. The two were also the Chief's test subjects, though like Cliff, they has no idea. They helped him get adjusted to his new body, introducing him to his new appearance, and even teaching him to walk again. Cliff initially wanted to go find his family once he was fully accustomed to his new form, but the Chief was forced to tell him that Kate had died, as well as telling him that Clara was also dead. Completely devastated, Cliff found a room of his own in the manor and shut himself inside for years, contemplating his mistakes and his family's demise. In 2002, Cliff began focusing his energy on a new coping mechanism, a miniature toy race car track Larry had given him as a gift, even adding to it, making it larger and more expansive, and opening his room to Larry and Rita to show it off.
In 2019, another one of Caulder's test subjects, a woman born under the name Kay Challis, returned to the Manor after several decades of absence. Challis developed at least sixty-four separate personalities at a young age, the primary being a closed-off loner named Jane, and all of them were given unique metahuman abilities by the Chief's experiments, yet still none of them knew he had caused their abilities. Cliff was first introduced to Kay through her aggressive guardian known as Hammerhead, but once he met the Jane persona, the two began to form what would later become a close and complex relationship, with both being sarcastic, angry, and aggressive much of the time, but somewhat joking and teasing towards each other. However, even as they got to know each other better, Cliff learned practically nothing about Jane and her past. Shortly after Jane's return to the Manor, the Chief decided to leave on one of his regular expeditions, leading Jane to convince the others to come with her to downtown Cloverton in a bus Larry used for his gardening. While there Jane and Cliff decided to hang out together, and Jane told Cliff that his daughter Clara was still alive, and that it had been public knowledge for years. The trip then quickly devolved into a disaster, as Rita transformed into a giant blob creature and was sliding around the town, destroying things and causing panic in the process. Cliff was able to calm her down, and the four assembled themselves and went back to the Manor. Their chaos, however, caught the attention of Mister Nobody, the Chief's nemesis.
Caulder returned that night and bade the group leave to avoid Nobody's wrath, but Cliff convinced the group to use their abilities to face down the threat. The threat turned out to be a large albino donkey created by Nobody, which farted as a vortex opened in front of of the group, and sucked in Nobody, the Chief, and Jane.
Search for the Chief
Still in shock, Cliff chased after the donkey, unsuccessfully, until he was helped by the ambitious cybernetically-enhanced superhero Cyborg, real name Vic Stone, who had come to Cloverton after learning the Chief had vanished. After Cliff explained the bizarre events, the two began to argue about the ineffectiveness of the group until the donkey expelled Jane through its mouth. After returning to the Manor, Cliff tried watching Jane's interview tapes with the Chief to better understand her and try to ask her about what she saw. By watching them, he learned about the vast "Underground" in her head that contains all her personalities, making it dawn on him just how little he actually knew about his best friend. Even after learning all of this and calming her down, Jane hadn't seen anything, and the personas that saw the inside of the donkey were still unwilling to talk. Cliff and Jane went to the garden, where Vic, Rita and Larry were covered in the remains of the exploded donkey, having entered it to get answers about Caulder. Vic explained that they had discovered Mister Nobody to be behind it all, and he decided to stay in the manor to investigate further and recover the Chief, who was also his friend.
The team continued to search for clues about Caulder, and learned more about Nobody, but ultimately, it seemed hopeless until Willoughby Kipling came to the Manor searching for the Chief in an attempt to save the world from the Decreator, which had been summoned to destroy existence by the Cult of the Unwritten Book. The group was forced to work with Mister Nobody, who even briefly returned the Chief to them, to stop it, giving them hope for saving him. As part of the mission, Cliff and Jane traveled to the city of Nürnheim where they confronted Archons of Nurnheim, and with the help of Jane's Doctor Harrison persona, rang a church bell to summon the Recreator, a counter-entity to the Decreator, effectively saving reality.
After this mission, Cliff softened his rivalry with Cyborg into an unstable friendship by helping rectify Vic's relationship with his father in exchange for helping him connect with his daughter over Facebook. This allowed Cliff to discover that Bump Weathers had raised Clara, sending him into a blind rage. Soon after this, Cliff's body was sabotaged by Admiral Whiskers, a rat working for Mister Nobody. This caused him to have horrible hallucinations, and an emotional breakdown where he attempted to kill Cyborg, seeing him as Bump Weathers. When Cyborg took him down, Cliff realized what was happening and insisted on the group coming together for an impromptu therapy session to help the team, and Cliff in particular. Opening up about their problems brought all of them closer together, with Jane even willing to show the group a painting that the Hangman's Daughter, one of her personas, had made based on what she'd seen in the donkey: Cyborg standing over their corpses and crying while holding his father in his arms. But feeling as though she was ruining his chance at being a good person by disrupting the therapy session, Cliff angrily insulted Jane, causing her to storm out of the manor and lapse into a depression, feeling betrayed by her best friend.
Cliff felt terrible about how he'd treated Jane, and tracked her down to apologize. Her meeting with him sent her into a vegetable state, however, so Cliff brought her back to the manor where his mind was psychically connected to hers by Larry's Negative Spirit. He awoke in her Underground, and set off to find her, meeting several of her personalities such as Hammerhead, Penny Farthing, Karen, Black Annis, and more on his journey. This experience helped him learn more about Jane's inner workings, and even allowed him to discover that her personas had initially manifested thanks to her father's sexual molestation of her as a child. He was forced to truly confront just how badly his insult had hurt her, and to acknowledge that he wasn't the great man he thought he was and that he needed to grow into a better person. Once he found Jane, he apologized and tried to bring her home, but she wouldn't budge. Cliff eventually won her trust back by helping her confront her mind's representation of her father, sending it into the dark recesses of her mind for a long while, and starting Jane on the difficult path to healing. The two emerged from the experience, both changed for the better, and the search for Niles Caulder resumed.
The next few days saw the team invade the Ant Farm, a containment facility of oddities maintained by the U.S. government's Bureau of Normalcy to rescue a captured Vic, resulting in them freeing all the Farm's inmates. In the massive breakout, they met one inmate named Flex Mentallo, a friendly metahuman superhero who could alter reality in different ways by flexing different muscles. Once he recovered his memory, he proved to have a connection to the Chief, and the team took him to where Rita and Vic thought they had tracked down Caulder: Danny the Street, a sentient, teleporting street Larry and Vic had met during the Jane incident. When the team arrived, however, the Chief was nowhere to be found. Danny admitted that they knew that Mister Nobody was keeping Caulder in the White Space, the space between comic book panels, and Flex was able to teleport the Doom Patrol inside.
Once in the White Space, Nobody captured the group and forced them each into their own specific fantasies, illusions of the hours and minutes before Caulder changed their lives forever. He offered them each a second chance, a happy ending, but realizing just how much they had grown as people because of their accidents, they turned him down. Nobody then tortured them in front of the Chief until finally Caulder agreed to reveal to them the truth that he was behind their accidents as part of his own experiments. Satisfied that all of Caulder's allies were now his enemies, Nobody freed the group, who went on their separate ways, furious at the Chief for what he had done.
Eventually, the team was lured back to Doom Manor by Mister Nobody for a second revenge scheme, having kidnapped Danny and the Chief's daughter, Dorothy Spinner, a naive but powerful girl able to bring her imaginary friends to life, including a dangerous, potentially world-ending one called the Candlemaker. Dorothy had been the reason for Caulder's immortality experiments, wanting to outlive her to protect the world from the Candlemaker. Although he didn't want to, Cliff finally agreed to help the team save Dorothy and Danny. Cliff and the team managed to save Dorothy and Danny from a giant cockroach and Admiral Whiskers, but everyone except for Larry was reduced to inches. Eventually, they were restored the normal size by Willoughby Kipling, in exchange for Caulder's longevity talisman, leading him to finally begin to die.
When Cliff learned the Chief was dying, but that the group would have to care for and protect Dorothy if he did, he was filled with a mix of joy and fury. After a failed mission to save Caulder with continuinium from the time traveling Doctor Tyme, Cliff decided to reconcile with his own daughter, and traveled to Florida to do so. He told Clara, now pregnant, the truth of his accident, but she didn't believe him, sending him back to the manor angry and miserable. It was around this time he began developing Parkinson's disease, causing his robotics to malfunction, freezing up and shaking violently, thanks to their connection to his brain.
When he returned to the manor, the Chief attempted to reconnect with Cliff, giving him ecstasy and offering him a sense of touch for his senseless and now failing robotics, in exchange for help with Dorothy. Cliff accepted Niles' kindness, but he initially refused to help him. He was eventually forced by the Chief to chase after Dorothy in a spaceship when she ran away in a second ship after she thought the Candlemaker had killed Jane. When they finally caught up with her on a distant planet, Cliff bonded with her over their traumas, and through his newfound father-daughter bond with her, convinced her to come home. The Chief was grateful to Cliff, but on the return journey to Earth, ejected him from the ship into outer space in order to be alone to properly study the Candlemaker.
Cliff crash-landed on Earth, unharmed thanks to his indestructible body, and made the long journey on foot to the manor while planning many ways to kill Niles. When he finally returned to the manor, he found Clara, who watched videotapes the Chief had sent to her and knew the truth about Cliff's condition. Cliff and Clara spent the rest of the day together catching up and making up for lost time to make up for lost time. He was invited to her wedding, but was forced to miss it to help Dorothy and the Chief fend off the now unleashed Candlemaker.
When the group arrived at the fair where the Candlemaker had been released, they were forced to fight physical personifications of their imaginary friends. Cliff's friend, Jesus Christ, smashed his body and left him for dead. Dorothy managed to defeat the Candlemaker, but during the battle, the Chief passed away of old age. A week later, after Vic repaired Cliff, he met Caulder's ghost, and while the two didn't reconcile, Niles convinced Cliff to try again with Clara. With new hope, Cliff went to meet his new grandson, Rory, in the hospital, and promised to be the best grandfather he could be.
It was around this time that Cliff's Parkinson's disease began to take effect, causing him to freeze up and parts of his body to uncontrollably shake. Cliff tried to be a good grandfather, but often his hand would start to shake, so he promised Clara that he would find a cure for his possible Parkinson's disease. Cliff went to Codsville with Vic, Rita, and Jane to take a well deserved vacation. There, he met Garguax, an alien and former enemy of Niles, with whom Cliff formed a friendship because of their mutual hatred of Caulder. The team argued until they broke their friendship, but managed to reconcile until they were assassinated by Garguax's assistant, Samuelson. In the afterlife, Cliff was reunited with his father. The team was revived by Larry and the Dead Boy Detective Agency. The team was visited by Laura De Mille, a time traveler who has no memory of her past. The group temporarily turned into Zombies and helped Willoughby Kipling defeat Darren Jones and then return to normal.
To heal, Cliff started taking pills, but ended up high after taking several. The team went into the forest to find and stop the Sisterhood of Dada. Upon separating, Cliff met Sachiko, a Japanese and a member of the Sisterhood. Cliff managed to befriend her until by mentioning Laura De Mille, the team was defeated and driven from Shelley Byron's mind. Cliff started playing online games, selling his friends' things, and befriended Ginger, a stripper. For selling his records, Flit sent Cliff to Clara's house, where he lied that he was already cured. Cliff took care of Rory to try to be a good grandfather and managed to gain the trust of his daughter-in-law, Melissa.
Cliff took Clara's credit card to speak with Ginger until he and the team were transported to try to stop the Eternal Flagellation. The group failed to stop the flagellation and Rita was now working with the Sisterhood. Cliff was sent to memories of his past and switched places with his subconscious. By agreeing to truly love his family, Cliff gave up his wishes and helped Larry, Vic, and Jane out of their subconscious. Cliff talked to his subconscious self, and they had a discussion about his Parkinson's and how to be a better grandfather to Rory. When the Eternal Flagellation ended, the team was transported to the places where they were before and Cliff felt sad because he failed Clara for using his credit card.
Cliff received a visit from Clara. Cliff wanted to fix things with his family, but Laura showed up to kidnap Cliff. He met the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil, The Brain, who was just like him, since there were only two brains in cans. Cliff's brain was put into a jar while Brain's brain was put into Cliff's body. Cliff and Laura were thrown by Mallah into a forest. Cliff managed to get the body of a giant robot, which he managed to control after crushing Brain. He returned to the manor to apologize to his friends until his Parkinson's made him lose control until Rita managed to stop him. Cliff and the team agreed to become superheroes and as their first mission, the team went to the Suez Canal to stop some kind of testicle monster.
Powers and Abilities
- Driving: Being a former race car driver, Cliff possesses finely honed driving capabilities.
- Dancing: Prior to his accident, Cliff watched the movie Flashdance a total of 87 times, and as a result is familiar with a variety of dances.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Basic): Cliff has shown to possess moderate fighting skills, using his enhanced strength and highly durable robot body to his advantage.
- Technological Reliability: Cliff is just a brain in a robot suit, suffering from all the vulnerabilities and strengths that come with it.
- Restricted Senses: Because Cliff is now just a brain in a rudimentary robot-body, he's lost connection to his five basic senses, often longing for them. He also can't experience an orgasm.
- Restricted Mobility (Formerly): Cliff had to adjust to his robot body, requiring physical therapy with Larry over time to learn how to climb stairs again.
- Doom Bus
- This version of the character is exclusive to the continuity of the television series Doom Patrol and is an adaptation of Robotman (Cliff Steele). The original character was created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and Bruno Premiani and first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80.
- Cliff is voiced and portrayed in flashbacks by Brendan Fraser, and portrayed as on-set by Riley Shanahan.
- Another version of Cliff Steele, also voiced by Brendan Fraser but portrayed by Jake Michaels, had earlier appeared in the Titans episode "Doom Patrol".
- Though he has never taken the superhero name in the show, promotional marketing officially provided by DC Comics identified Cliff as "Robotman". He was also called Robotman a few times in the series by Mister Nobody, Jane, and even himself.
- 35 Appearances of Clifford Steele (Doom Patrol TV Series)
- 40 Images featuring Clifford Steele (Doom Patrol TV Series)
- 3 Quotations by or about Clifford Steele (Doom Patrol TV Series)
- Character Gallery: Clifford Steele (Doom Patrol TV Series)
- Doom Patrol: "Puppet Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Pilot"
- Doom Patrol: "Subconscious Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Evil Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Donkey Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Cult Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Paw Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Doom Patrol Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Therapy Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Danny Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Jane Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Cyborg Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Flex Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Penultimate Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Ezekiel Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Fun Size Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Tyme Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Pain Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Possibilities Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Sex Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Finger Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Space Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Dumb Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Dad Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Wax Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Vacay Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Dead Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Undead Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Dada Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "1917 Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Bird Patrol"
- Doom Patrol: "Amends Patrol"
- Doom Patrol | Robotman | DC Universe | The Ultimate Membership
Doom Patrol member