- The truth is, we're all struggling to figure out what kind of people we are. [...] Sometimes a person hurts so bad, all they can imagine is that everyone wants to hurt each other. But that's not true. You're not alone. I know you wanna be alone right now, but trust me, that'll pass. It always does.
- — 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, Vic, and Dorothy.
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.
The Car Crash
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 robotic body, which he worked on for several years before bringing Cliff to full consciousness in his new form in 1995. This body was built immensely strong and nearly indestructable, 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.
Dorothy and the Candlemaker
Powers and Abilities
- 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.
- 32 Appearances of Clifford Steele (Doom Patrol TV Series)
- 26 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)
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Doom Patrol member