Negative Man. Art by Bruno Premiani
|First appearance||My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963)|
|Created by||Bob Haney|
|Alter ego||Larry Trainor|
|Team affiliations||Doom Patrol|
|Abilities||Radioactive "soul-self" is capable of flight, intangibility and can generate minor explosions upon contact with positive energy, temporally astral projection|
Negative Man has appeared in numerous cartoon television shows and films. He made his first live-action appearance as a guest star on the DC Universe series, Titans, played by Dwain Murphy and voiced by Matt Bomer. He is a main cast member on the spin-off series, Doom Patrol, with Matthew Zuk taking over the role from Murphy. Zuk portrays Negative Man's physical form, while Bomer lends his voice to the character and portrays Larry Trainor in flashbacks and his burnt up body.
I left [editor Murray Boltinoff's] office and bumped into Bob Haney in the hall. Bob was a real good friend of mine ... I asked him if he got an assignment from Bob Kanigher. He had this routine where he'd come up from Woodstock once a week and stay for two nights and get a couple of assignments from Kanigher and then go back home and write them. He said he didn't get an assignment from Kanigher, and I told him I had this assignment that I was about two-thirds through with, but I needed another character and maybe between us we could come up with something. We sat down and came up with this notion of a guy who has gone through a cloud of radioactivity and is bandaged from head to toe with these specially treated bandages that keep the radioactivity within him so he isn't injurious to others. The most novel aspect was Negative Man, the character who lives inside him who can only be outside of him for 60 seconds - and don't ask me why 60 seconds.
Fictional character biography
The original Negative Man, Larry Trainor, is a founding member of the Doom Patrol, along with Elasti-Girl, Robotman, and The Chief. Like the rest of the Doom Patrol, Trainor sees himself as a victim as much as a hero, and his superpower as an affliction rather than a blessing.
Trainor's career as a superhero begins when he is accidentally exposed to a radioactive field in the atmosphere while piloting a test plane. This experience leaves him radioactive, but also gives him a strange superpower: the ability to release a negatively charged energy being from his body; the being, also referred to as Negative Man, or, later, as the Negative Spirit, can fly at high speed, cause solid objects to explode, and pass through solid materials. It resembles a shadowy silhouette of a human being, surrounded by a bright glow. The being is under Trainor's control and appears at first to have no mind of its own. Unfortunately, Trainor is weak and defenseless while the being is separated from his body; he can only risk sending it forth for 60 seconds at a time without risking death. After his accident, Trainor resembles the Invisible Man; he is forced to wear specially treated bandages over his entire body to protect bystanders from his radioactivity.
Sales of Doom Patrol had waned, and the creative team chose to kill off the entire team, including Negative Man, in the final issue, Doom Patrol #121 (September–October 1968). The Doom Patrol sacrificed their lives to Madame Rouge and General Zahl (who pushed the actual kill button) to save the small fishing village of Codsville, Maine.
Later, it was revealed that Larry Trainor somehow (never explained) survived the explosion. He turned up alive, permanently separated from the radio energy being, but still radioactive, bandaged, and weak in its absence.
Larry Trainor and Valentina Vostok
In Showcase #94 (Sept. 1977), the Negative Spirit reappears when it possesses a Russian cosmonaut, Colonel Valentina Vostok, who becomes Negative Woman. Initially, Vostok could transform herself into a radio-energy form, possessing the same capabilities as Trainor's "partner." Later, as with Trainor, it would emerge from her leaving her physically weak but in control of it and requiring her to wear special bandages just as Trainor had. After Trainor's return, he gains strength from being in Vostok's presence and pleads with her to return the negative being to him. He later breaks Reactron out of Belle Reve Penitentiary and after fitting him with a regulator, uses him to successfully draw the negative being out of Vostok. During an encounter with Garguax, the negative being is disrupted and returns to Vostok, but saves Trainor and in the process heals Trainor completely removing all radioactivity from his body. After this, Trainor works with the Patrol in a support capacity but occasionally enters combat using high tech weaponry.
Trainor has since been reunited with the energy being and is an active member of the current incarnation of the Doom Patrol.
Recently, Larry has exhibited the ability to cover himself in the negative energy that's inside him instead of releasing it, thus gaining the same powers that the negative spirit has shown. Larry's inner monologue says that it's making him feel a "burning sensation" (Doom Patrol vol. 5 #9).
The Negative Spirit later reveals itself to be amoral, intelligent, and capable of speech. Trainor pleads with it to leave him alone, but it forcefully merges itself with both Trainor and his physician Dr. Eleanor Poole. Together the three entities form Rebis, a divine intersex person, who, again, must wear special bandages. Rebis has all of the memories of all three beings, and is as such a compound being, frequently using "we" when speaking of itself. Rebis has a larger range of powers than those of either Trainor or Vostok; Rebis can fly, is psychic, is extraordinarily intelligent, and, most significantly, is immortal. Rebis' unique life cycle is based on an event called the Aenigma Regis, in which it throws off its old body and gives birth to a new version of itself; in describing its paradoxical existence, Rebis often likens itself to Russian dolls, and to an ouroboros.
Rebis temporarily leaves the Doom Patrol to mate with itself and complete the Aenigma Regis; part of this process involves working through the significant trauma and inner turmoil caused by the death of Trainor and Poole's separate identities. At some point during this absence, Rebis also has intercourse with Coagula, giving her superpowers. Rebis's old body is killed by the Candlemaker, but Rebis' new, presumably harmonized body soon returns to see the Candlemaker defeated.
In 2004, the Doom Patrol was rebooted in a JLA storyline and new Doom Patrol series, both written and illustrated by John Byrne. In this version of the Doom Patrol, which ignored previous continuity, Trainor is once again Negative Man (although his negative-energy form now has the appearance of a black skeleton instead of a shadowy humanoid shape). After this series was canceled, the miniseries Infinite Crisis explained that this alteration had been caused by Superboy-Prime's attempts to escape from the extradimensional "heaven" he shared with Alexander Luthor and the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-Two. When the Doom Patrol joins other heroes in fighting Superboy-Prime, Negative Man and the other Doom Patrol members (including former member Beast Boy) begin recalling their previous lives; all previous incarnations of the Doom Patrol are now in continuity, although the exact details of what this means are not yet clear.
Larry Trainor is once again a member of Doom Patrol. The negative energy being can now exist apart from Trainor's body for much longer than 60 seconds. During the Blackest Night, he fights against Black Lantern Valentina Vostok, pitting his Negative Spirit against the corrupt Black Lantern version and starts convulsing in pain after absorbing both entities. Managing to take control of them, he sends them into Valentina, overloading her and destroying her ring. However, when he recovers, he cannot repeat the same attack against Black Lantern Cliff Steele before Black Lanterns Celsius and Tempest attack. Robotman comments that the combined form of both entities is partially similar to Rebis.
It is revealed that Larry’s original body was destroyed in the Codsville explosion and that the “Negative” is in fact Larry (Mind, consciousness, and soul); when he found himself without a physical body, Larry took solace in Valentina Vostok, but only temporarily, until The Chief cloned him a new body. When one of the bodies expires, Larry takes residence in a genetically altered, brain-dead donor body. In the transaction Larry obtains the memories and experiences of every host and the experience can be maddening to him, so Larry constantly reminds himself that he is Larry Trainor.
The New 52
While part of Caulder's second wave of the Doom Patrol, Negative Man and the team went on a mission to capture the Ring of Volthoom which had attached itself onto a woman named Jessica Cruz. Their mission put them in opposition to the Justice League. However it was revealed by Lex Luthor that Niles caused Larry and every one else on the team's respective accidents, forcing them to lose morale and give up.
Some time later, Larry was mysteriously beamed to what was known as "The Negative Space" and separated from his negative spirit Keeg Bovo. After being sent back to Earth, Larry was reunited with his fellow former Doom Patrol member Robotman and contacted by Keeg Bovo, who invited Larry to return to the Negative Space for trial. Trainor, Bovo, and Robotman went to the Negative Space and, despite Trainor being sentenced to continue being connected to Bovo, Robotman talked the council out of their decision, stating it was only fair for Larry to decide if he wanted to continue the connection or be normal. Larry chose to continue being Negative Man and accepted Bovo, knowing that in this way he could continue helping people. As a parting gift, the council modifies his abilities so that whenever the Negative Spirit is released and Larry is unconscious he experiences an entire normal human lifecycle, as a way to allow him to have the chance to feel normal. Many different negative spirits are seen at the trial.
In other media
- Negative Man appears in the two-part Teen Titans episode "Homecoming", voiced by Judge Reinhold. Accompanied by the other Doom Patrol members, he has a direct and sarcastic attitude similar to Raven's. Though no specific "soul separation" time limit is mentioned, he does say that he should not spend too much time separated from his body. Negative Man does just that while the Doom Patrol is helping the Titans fight the Brotherhood of Evil, and the negative being is unable to immediately return to his body, leaving him temporarily in a comatose state.
- Negative Man appears in the 2010 Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Last Patrol!", voiced by David K. Hill. Since the team's break-up following an accident in France, Negative Man has held a job as a carnival entertainer, and is ridiculed by guests and the carnival barker until Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man attacks. When Batman, the Chief, and Elasti-Girl arrive, Batman convinces Negative Man to rejoin the Doom Patrol and help fend off Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. He and the other Doom Patrol members sacrifice their lives to stop the detonator that General Zahl places in Codsville.
- Negative Man appears in the "Doom Patrol" segments of DC Nation Shorts, voiced by Clancy Brown.
- Negative Man appears in the 2018 episode "Doom Patrol" of the DC Universe series Titans, portrayed by Dwain Murphy and voiced by Matt Bomer.
- Negative Man appears in the 2019 Titans spin-off series Doom Patrol, portrayed by Matthew Zuk and voiced by Matt Bomer, who also portrays the character in flashbacks as Larry Trainor. This version of the character is a career Air Force pilot during the 1960s who is married with two children, but who is also having an affair with fellow serviceman John Bowers. While flying an experimental aircraft in the Earth's atmosphere, Trainor is exposed to negative energy and crashes. He survives, but his body is badly burned and radioactive, and inhabited by a negative energy being. Much of the character's storyline centers on his self-acceptance of his homosexuality parallel to his acceptance of his new powers. Gay actor Bomer stated that he was attracted to the role because it creates a "gay male superhero" without being a stereotype of gay men.
- In Justice League: The New Frontier, a pilot in the climactic aerial fight scene has the name tag "Trainor". This is a cameo of Larry Trainor according to the commentary track.
- Browning, Michael (July 2013). "The Doom Patrol Interviews: Arnold Drake". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (65): 38–41.
- Beatty, Scott (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 109, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Doom Patrol Volume 2 No 19 "Crawling from the Wreckage Part 1
- Doom Patrol #11 (August 1988)
- Doom Patrol #12-13 (September-October 1988)
- Irvine, Alex (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 61–63, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #4
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #5
- Doom Patrol (vol. 6) #4
- Cecchini, Mike (February 28, 2018). "Titans TV Series Doom Patrol Adds Negative Man". Den of Geek. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (October 3, 2018). "Doom Patrol: Matt Bomer To Star As Negative Man In DC Universe TV Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
- Crittenton, Anya (February 14, 2019). "Watch Matt Bomer play a gay superhero in this new DC series". Gay Star News. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
- Pulliam-Moore, Charles (March 8, 2019). "Doom Patrol's Nuanced Reimagining of Negative Man Adds Depth to the Show". io9. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Jackson, Dory (February 27, 2019). "Matt Bomer Says Gay Doom Patrol Character's Sexuality Doesn't 'Define Who He Is'". Newsweek. Retrieved September 12, 2019.