When you’re dealing with a team as strange as the Doom Patrol, it’s a sure thing that their villains will be just as freaky -- and Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man is as nutty as they come! He’s got a wacky name, a crazy look, and an outrageous power set. If you saw him make his live-action screen debut at the end of Doom Patrol episode 3 “Puppet Patrol”, you may be wondering who he is and where he came from. Let’s dive into his history….
Dr. Sven Larsen was first introduced in 1964's Doom Patrol #89 (written by Arnold Drake and penciled by Bruno Premiani). Larsen was a former student of the Chief, who felt that his former teacher had stolen one of his inventions from him. Despite this, he pretended to be on good terms with the Chief and invited him and his Doom Patrol to a scientific demonstration. Larsen claimed that he had created artificial life, and found the link between animal, vegetables, and minerals.
During the demonstration, Larsen fell into a vat of his own chemicals and crawled out as a paramecium. The paramecium went on a rampage through the city, and when the Doom Patrol attempted to stop it, it transformed into a bird, ivy vines, and more. The Doom Patrol realized that Dr. Larsen had been transformed into an Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.
When Negative Man visited Dr. Larsen’s lab, they discovered that the accident during the demonstration had been faked. Dr. Larsen had transformed himself into the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man a month earlier and was using the accident as a pretense to rampage through the city. The Chief quickly deduced that Larsen had never forgiven him for the perceived “theft” of his invention years earlier.
During the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man’s rampage, he transformed into a swarm of gnats, dandelions, and a dinosaur. The Chief used his Anti-Decay Ray, the same invention Larsen felt was his, to freeze the transformations and capture their foe.
The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man returned for a rematch in 1965's Doom Patrol #95 (written by Arnold Drake and penciled by Bruno Premiani). Vines of ivy were growing out of control, and when the Doom Patrol arrived to investigate, the plant transformed into a giant octopus. Dr. Larsen was back!
The Doom Patrol attempted to stop Larsen, but they were uncoordinated in their maneuvers since a lab accident had temporarily switched their powers. Larsen took advantage of the chaos and attacked the team as a flock of birds, living bright lights, and a brutal caveman. Thankfully, the Doom Patrol finally got their act together, and used the Anti-Decay Ray to capture Larsen again.
Dr. Larsen remained imprisoned for years, until General Immortus broke him out in 1988's Doom Patrol #15 (written by Paul Kupperberg and penciled by Erik Larsen). The Chief had gone into hiding, and General Immortus was hoping that Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man could draw him out by attacking the Doom Patrol. Larsen happily agreed since he had been dreaming of revenge during his years behind bars. Just as Immortus predicted, Larsen attacked the Doom Patrol, and the Chief showed up within minutes to surrender.
By 1988's Doom Patrol #16 (written by Paul Kupperberg and penciled by Graham Nolan), Larsen began to regret his alliance with Immortus. He wanted to kill the Doom Patrol, but Immortus wouldn’t let him due to their agreement with the Chief. Larsen also wanted to strike back at the Chief, but Immortus wanted to keep him alive so he could deliver the formula for eternal life. Larsen grew impatient and decided to go after the Chief anyway. The Chief took out a squirt gun to defend himself, which only amused Larsen, until he realized it was filled with chemical retardant. One quick squirt, and the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man was defeated yet again.
In 2019's Doom Patrol #7 (written by Keith Giffen, penciled by Matthew Clark and Cliff Richards) readers caught up with Dr. Larsen when he was seen fighting law enforcement agents at a diner. It turned out Larsen had been on the run, and just wanted to be left alone. After the diner skirmish, a group called the Front Men arrived to recruit Larsen. Although he wasn’t much of a team player, Larsen was tired of life on the run, so he accepted.
The Front Men were a corporate group of metahumans, who were trying to discredit the Doom Patrol. Since the Doom Patrol were already considered freaks by most of the general public, the task wasn’t too hard. Larsen became the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man again and manipulated a situation to make it appear that Elasti-Woman had attacked him unprovoked. During the battle, Larsen transformed into a dinosaur and tore Elasti-Woman in half, revealing that her new form was a boneless protoplasm.
The Front Men continued their campaign against the group, until 2011's Doom Patrol #22 (written by Keith Giffen and penciled by Ron Randall), when the team had their final showdown. This time, when Larsen turned into a giant plant, Robotman crawled inside his head and attacked his circulatory system -- until the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man fell once more!
After the reality-altering events of 2011's Flashpoint, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man was reimagined as a security system for the Chief in Ravagers #11 (written by Michael Alan Nelson and Tony Bedard, penciled by Diogenes Neves and Geraldo Borges). This version of the character appeared to be artificial life, rather than a transformed human, and it gave the Ravagers a run for their money when it attacked. The group combined their forces, and the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man crumbled into dust.
The Dr. Larsen version of the creature was seen again in 2018's Justice League of America #23 (written by Steve Orlando and penciled by Neil Edwards), where he was quickly defeated by Aztek and the Ray.
2018's Doomsday Clock #7 (written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Gary Frank) revealed that Dr. Larsen had been recruited as a member of India’s super team, the Doomed. The Doomed had gone after human traffickers in Calcutta, where the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man horrified reporters...by eating the slavers!
The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man first appeared on screen in the Batman: Brave and the Bold episode “The Last Patrol”. Here, the Doom Patrol’s enemies sought to draw the retired team out, hoping to reunite them for one final battle, and Dr. Larsen’s role was to attack Negative Man at the carnival where he was then working. Luckily the Caped Crusader and Negative Man made quick work of him. The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man did get a bit of revenge, as he was on a nearby boat when the Doom Patrol blew up (adapting their fate in Doom Patrol #121) at the end of the episode.
Alec Mapa is currently portraying the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man on DC Universe's critically acclaimed live-action Doom Patrol. And based on how surreal the show has been thus far, it’ll be plenty interesting to see what they do with this timlessly freaky villain.