Comics · Queer

A to Z: Coagula

We’re delving into the obscure for our letter C: Coagula, a minor heroine from 90s Doom Patrol! While there are other trans characters in comics, some of whom I’ll be discussing later this month, Coagula, aka Kate Godwin, is the only trans superhero. She’s generous and level-headed, and when she got powers (the ability to dissolve and coagulate matter), the first thing she did was apply to the Justice League! Plus, those powers require a degree of creativity to use, which she’s got.

Trans sci-fi writer Rachel Pollack created Coagula when Pollack helmed the Doom Patrol comic in the 90s, and the biggest impact is the story is about KATE, not about others’ reactions to her. Kate speaks and feels for herself, and you can tell Pollack used her own experiences to make Kate a strong, sensitive character with realistic feelings. She’s also bisexual and unapologetic.

Coagula Doom Patrol
This panel sealed my love. Doom Patrol #74

There are problems, though. Coagula’s first villain was the extremely unfortunate Codpiece, and subsequent plotlines also directly related to sex and gender. I think it’s done well, and I like it when themes line up, but all too often LGBT+ characters ONLY have sex-related villains and plotlines. Plus Kate was a prostitute before becoming a superhero, and got her powers by having sex with the Negative Man. She, well, dies at the end. No surprise there. Pretty much everything in Doom Patrol is morbid, disturbing, and tragic, but the real tragedy is that she doesn’t come back. Even the guy who “died” in the exact same incident came back, but not her. Thanks, society and all-later-Doom-Patrol-writers… If anyone deserves a reboot and/or a dramatic comeback, it’s Coagula!

Recommended Reading: 

  • Complete appearances: Doom Patrol (1987-1995), #70-87To my knowledge, these haven’t been collected anywhere, so it may take some digging to find them on eBay or your local comic book store. All of them are available on Comixology for $2 a pop, though.
  • Essential reading: To save money, get the most Coagula content per issue, and skip Codpiece, just read #75-79. These make up the excellent Teiresias Wars arc. (CN: violent bullying flashback)

This series is dang confusing if you don’t know what’s going on… And pretty darn confusing even if you do. But all you need to know is the Doom Patrol is based out of a haunted house. The Bandage People are from the house — more information about them in Teiresias Wars. Dorothy isn’t from the house, but she’s a little girl born with an apelike face and rejected by her family, whose power is making imaginary friends come to life. The unfortunately-named Crazy Jane was a former Doom Patrol member whose many personalities each had a different superpower, and who was Robotman’s ex. Anything else was just as weird for the original readers!

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18 thoughts on “A to Z: Coagula

  1. Rachel Pollack’s writing on Doom Patrol was interesting. It was undoubtedly a thankless task to follow on from Grant Morrison’s lengthy, acclaimed run on the series, and Pollack’s work probably suffered from the inevitable comparisons among many readers. But I am glad she had an opportunity to work with these oddball characters, and her time on the series resulted in me becoming aware of her excellent prose novels.

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    1. Oh, I’m sure. No one seems to care about these later volumes, it’s all Grant Morrison all the time. And to be fair, I quite enjoyed those… I just don’t see them being that much better than these. 🙂

      I’ll check out those novels!

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  2. I’m sad to hear she died and didn’t come back. 😦 All superheroes deserve at least one comeback. That’s what makes them super! And YES, to your concern about LGBT+ characters’ conflict always being wrapped up in their LGBT+ness.

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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    1. Ha! I used to dislike the resurrections and I still think they can be overdone, but on the other hand, that’s something almost unique to comics that adds a certain layer of continuity and interest. Adds a whole new meaning to the typical villainous “I can’t kill the hero, then our relationship would be over…”

      Fortunately the LGBT-plots-and-villains problem isn’t as pronounced for most of the other characters on the list, especially the more modern ones, so I think there’s been progress!

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    1. Agreed. Really a lovey moment of her telling Robotman to get himself together… And all through the comic I love that she can empathize with others’ desire to define themselves, even if the details of their experiences are different. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. 🙂 Doom Patrol is sort of like a twisted X-Men. The X-Men only THINK they’re bizarre outcasts, compared to the Doom Patrol!

      I hate that I have to leave so many spoilers in these. It is a sad event though. 😦

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