The Chief. Art by Tony Daniel.
|First appearance||My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963)|
|Created by||Bob Haney
|Alter ego||Dr. Niles Caulder|
|Team affiliations||Doom Patrol|
|Abilities||genius-level intellect, skilled manipulator|
The Chief, real name Niles Caulder, Ph.D., is a fictional character from DC Comics and the leader of the Doom Patrol. He first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963). Co-creator Arnold Drake has confirmed in an interview that his inspiration for The Chief was the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, specifically Sherlock Holmes' elder brother, Mycroft.
Fictional character biography
Dr. Niles Caulder is a paraplegic gifted with a genius-level intellect. Caulder uses his scientific knowledge to develop numerous inventions and innovations that have made him wealthy. Caulder founded and organized the team called Doom Patrol to protect the innocent and fight crime, and to teach humanity to accept others who live as ostracized "freaks," who have been radically transformed from terrible accidents. It is Caulder's genius that allowed the team members to survive (e.g., designing Robotman's body, devising Negative Man's medicated bandages), and helped grant their freakishness and amazing abilities.
Caulder developed an interest in creating better life at a young age. Proving at a young age to be both a brilliant inventor and engineer, Caulder received funding from a mysterious benefactor. Thanks to the funding, Caulder succeeded in creating a chemical capable of prolonging life. Ultimately, it was revealed that the benefactor was a man called General Immortus, who hired Caulder to create a chemical to replace the one that had been prolonging his life for centuries but was now failing. When the young scientist discovered the truth about his employer, he refused to continue the work. Immortus responded by implanting an explosive device in Caulder's upper torso, which he could set off remotely, and any attempt to remove it while Niles lived would also detonate it. Caulder eventually devised a plan to get the bomb out, but it cost him his ability to walk. The incident inspired and reminded Caulder that a better life may come from surviving a tragic event, such as his own. Another general and another explosive device seemingly obliterated the Doom Patrol team but Niles and most of the others came back from that as well. 
Caulder's back-history seemingly remained intact following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths; however, when writer Grant Morrison took over the Doom Patrol title (starting with vol. 2, #19) he reimagined him as a cold, detached and somewhat mysterious individual. Near the end of his run, Morrison even revealed that Caulder had been responsible for the "accidents" that caused the original Doom Patrol members to gain their powers, since his personal philosophy is that true greatness comes through overcoming tragic events.
In the early years of the Patrol, Caulder not only kept his true identity and appearance secret from the public; even his team knew him only as the Chief. In issue #88 (June 1964), their third battle against Immortus forces him to tell the rest of the Patrol his back-story and real name, which suddenly and with no explanation becomes common public knowledge for the rest of the original 1960s series (even two "flashback" miniseries that ran in the back of the comic, detailing how Cliff Steele and Larry Trainor became "freaks" and were recruited by Caulder, casually used the name).
In recent years, in keeping with the above retcon that he manipulated the original Doom Patrol's transformations, it has been revealed that Caulder had also experimented on other characters in the world who would both benefit and destroy humanity. The most noted are a bitter group called the Brotherhood of Evil, a group of people who also live like "freaks" led by the Brain. The Brotherhood exists as an elitist paramilitary organization involved in terrorist acts around the world such as the destruction of the American city Blüdhaven, occasionally attempting global control of humanity, and the death and destruction of Niles Caulder for causing their tragic transformations.
Towards the end of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run, Caulder is discovered working on a nanotechnology bomb that will destroy half the world and replace it with humans transformed into freaks of nature — his theory being that from the destruction would rise a better human race. He murders the original Tempest, Joshua Clay, to protect his secret but the Doom Patrol succeed in stopping his plans.
During these events, he is decapitated by a creation of Dorothy Spinner's known as the Candlemaker. Doctor Will Magnus of the Metal Men builds a new body for the Chief, telling him that he should try helping the Patrol to make up for what he did. Becoming suicidal with guilt, the Chief states that he can never do enough to make up for his actions, and uses his new body to rip off his head. Magnus is able to save the Chief by getting the head to a cryogenic chamber, but after this the Chief exists solely as a severed head in a bucket of ice, subsisting on milkshakes. He expresses remorse at his actions and rebuilds the Doom Patrol to continue their efforts in the war against weird crime.
In the final issues of the series, the Chief had combined himself with Alice Wired-for-Sound, one of the SRS (Sexually Remaindered Spirits), who powered the DP Teleporter, as a means for more mobility. During the last story arc, Imagine Ari's Friends, the Chief died entering the Tree of Life, the Sephirot.
During the Doom Patrol's Blackest Night tie-in storyline, Caulder is attacked by his former wife Celsius who had been revived as a member of the Black Lantern Corps. During her attack, Celsius is only able to detect avarice as the dominant emotion in Niles' body, his entire emotional aura colored orange. Using her temperature control powers, Celsius freezes and shatters Caulder's legs. She then goes in for the kill, aiming to rip out his heart. Caulder is saved by the intervention of a man with a black hole for a face, who imprisons Celsius in an energy bubble. Unable to defeat the Black Lanterns, Caulder utilized a warp gate to send them all to the Justice League, in hopes that they will be able to deal with the problem. However, at last beaten by the excruciating pain of his destroyed legs, he gives in at last and appears to fall unconscious.
Caulder later gains the body of a Kryptonian, and successfully duplicates the ability to absorb yellow sun radiation into the cells from it, transforming himself into a "Superman". Caulder then attacks his team, before setting out to do their job himself. He steals every missile on the planet and dumps them in Antarctica, and attacks the United Nations in his attempts to make "a better world". He is only stopped when his laboratory computer, "Millicent" transmits a sequence of lights through Robotman's eyes and into his own, neurologically shutting down Caulder's brain. His comatose body is then placed in storage in Oolong Island. Afterwards, the Doom Patrol discover that someone has broken in and stolen Caulder's comatose body.
The New 52
In The New 52, DC Comics' 2011 reboot of their universe, a young and healthy Niles Caulder is introduced in issue #4 of The Ravagers. Operating a deep underground science & engineering facility located beneath Los Angeles, he provides headquarters and combat training for the team in their campaign against the organization of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Infiltrating the compound, Caulder is captured along with the rest of the Ravagers by Deathstroke on the behest of Harvest.
In other media
- Chief (alongside Doom Patrol members Negative Man, Robotman, and Elasti-Girl) appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Last Patrol!" voiced by Richard McGonagle. In this version, he remains stoic. Though he is slightly annoyed about how the media continues to harangue him about the Doom Patrol when watching it on TV. Just then, he is attacked by Brain and Monsieur Mallah until Batman arrives and helps Chief to fight them off. Batman and Chief deduce that they should get the Doom Patrol back together if old enemies of the Doom Patrol are targeting the other members. They find Elasti-Woman at a seaside mansion where the Mutant Master and his minions attack. Then the Chief and Batman end up finding Negative Man at a carnival where Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man attacks. Finally, Robotman was located near a car testing site when Arsenal attacks. After Arsenal is defeated, Batman and the Doom Patrol are attacked by knock-out gas launched from a ship piloted by General Zahl. When on the ship, Chief admits to Batman on General Zahl's request that the Doom Patrol broke up because they were unable to save the life of a woman that General Zahl had at gunpoint in France. When General Zahl ends up using detonators on two islands with the event being telecasted, Chief told the Doom Patrol to make their own choice in this after Batman breaks free. The Doom Patrol sacrificed their lives to stop the detonator on the island while Batman knocked out the villains that General Zahl assembled.
- Chief (alongside the other Doom Patrol members) was featured in issue 7 of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comics.
- Beatty, Scott (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 109, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Chief", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 81, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Wallace, Dan (2008), "General Immortus", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 136, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #4 (January 2010)
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #5 (February 2010)
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #14-15 (November-December 2010)
- Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #22 (July 2011)