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Coagula

Art by Scot Eaton from DP #70
Art by Scot Eaton from DP #70

The first time we see Kate Godwin she is picking out a party costume with her friend Jean for Jean’s birthday party later. Their conversation reveals that Kate is a freelance software programmer recently out of work, and she also has earned money from being a sex worker. Taking a break from shopping, they step into their regular bar, and at Jean’s request, Kate demonstrates her powers to coagulate and dissolve substances by solidifying beer on tap and liquefying a bottle.

Over drinks, Kate relates to Jean what she believes is the incident from which she gained these powers. A couple of years before she was working as a prostitute and picked up a strangely dressed trick. The trick was Rebus (formerly known as Negative Man/ Woman) whose entire form is contained by special bandages. At first Kate is fascinated by the duality of Rebus’s body possessing female and male sex organs. Her captivation continues until Rebus releases the negative being while they’re having sex. This event shocks and repulses her. Kate attributes this encounter with Rebus as the origin of her powers though they didn’t appear until much later, according to her. Kate relates that she tried out for the Justice League but was turned down for personal reasons, presumably her sexual orientation. A close up on a jacket button in the next panel shows it to read: “Put a [trans] (see footnote) lesbian on the Supreme Court.”

While the friends are commiserating in the bar, a villain named the Codpiece has begun his little rampage. You can read about the Codpiece here. Among the bystanders witnessing the destruction are Marion and George of the Doom Patrol. Their appearances are similar to Rebus in that their bodies are also covered with bandages. They try to contain the Codpiece but have no luck. Thankfully, Kate notices the action from the bar and decides to act. She quickly coagulates the villain’s phallic weapon and dissolves. This brings her to George and Marion’s attention. They invite her back to the Doom Patrol’s headquarters. Kate’s intrigued, partly by their resemblance to Rebus, and she accepts.

Kate and Niles Caulder, the Chief, get off to a really bad start when they met in the next issue. With little warning, he puts her through a test of her powers. Her clothes are shredded. Niles protests it was an accident and had no desire to see Kate’s breasts, but no one believes him. Kate also reveals she has another power, one that allows her to access different realities through computers. Kate changes into a costume that reveals a lot more of her body than her shredded clothes. She meets Cliff/ Robotman, and a friendship begins because she can somewhat relate to existential crises like Cliff is starting to have.

Caulder almost reveals to Cliff that Kate is trans when he muses aloud how to classify their relationship, something that really hasn’t developed on panel yet. (Issue #73) Kate and Cliff become closer when they share an adventure and she helps him put an end to his personal crisis in issue #74.

Kate’s ability to tune into alternate realities is highlighted when she views a world with people enslaved (issue #75). This reality plays a central part in the story arc titled The Teiresias War, which alludes to the blind Greek poet of the same name who was transformed into a woman for seven years. Cliff learns about Kate’s physical transformation from Marion after he remarks that Kate should be living a normal life – one where she’s married and has children – instead of being involved with the weirdness of the Doom Patrol. Cliff becomes upset and confronts Kate, which leads to a conversation about whether her once having a penis made her a man and what makes Cliff a man if he doesn’t possess one as a robot (issue #76). Cliff’s robot body is destroyed at the end of the issue, and in a scene in the next issue, Kate and Cliff have a talk about identity, sexual and otherwise, the practice of passing, and choosing to be different. He asks her to oversee Caulder to make certain he gets the new body of his choice.

One of the angelic beings from the Teiresias world crosses over, seeking to enlist help to destroy the “Builders” whose goal is to trap all matter in to various and individualized forms. Kate being trans, and Cliff not having a physical human body are chosen to merge into a new being which contains all the physical and non-physical aspects of them, thus propelling the new form out of our world of opposites to the Teiresias world. There they hope to summon the remaining Teiresiae. This story arc possibly warrants an in depth look of its own. (Issue #78)

In the conclusion to this arc there is a psychic flashback where we see some of the misunderstanding and violent bullying Kate endured before her reassignment surgery. As someone who has changed the shape of her body and grammar of identity (grammar being a theme in the story), it’s up to Kate to convince the Teiresiae to change and topple the Builders and their engine of “restriction,” the Tower of Babel.

Separated again, Kate and Cliff talk about the fear they each experienced before and during their time merged as one being. Ironically, they say the fear was just as strong as when they were made to separate (issue #80).

Kate and Cliff go in to town and stop at a small new age/pagan shop. Kate starts talking about goddesses with Linda, the clerk, and ends up making a date with her. This makes Cliff upset and jealous though he tries to act as if he isn’t (issue #81). While Kate takes part in the adventures in the remaining five issues of this volume of the Doom Patrol, her role is small and there are no significant developments or revelations before the series’ end.

It seems that author Rachel Pollack initially intended for Kate’s character to be both a trans woman and a lesbian regardless of her likely having had male clients at some point during her time as a sex worker. While there is indication that Cliff finds himself attracted to Kate, I’m not a hundred percent convinced that Kate was romantically attracted to Cliff.

Footnote: At the time when Rachel Pollack created Coagula’s character and while writing Doom Patrol that the term “transsexual” was accepted usage.

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