Thursday, November 8, 2007

Teen Titans

I can hardly believe I've been keeping this blog so long, and not yet given the Teen Titans a proper mention. I was very happy the other day, when I had a moment to slide this early issue from its plastic and give it another read. Being one of my earlier issues, Teen Titans #40 from July-August 1972 is easily one I've read hundreds of times...and it shows some. But how nice to revisit this old friend.

Being the early seventies, there's a real counter-culture feel to the story (or maybe its just that Bob Haney wrote it...whatta guy; his must be an interesting story). Even though they are in Scotland for this story, they're still riding around in a VW minibus with Peace and Love written on the sides of it (did they ship it overseas? Get it at a rental place? The T-Jet of today must be so much easier), and they refer to each other as "Flasher" and "Wonder Doll", which is fun in a silly sort of way.

Anyway, our story opens with the Titans (in this case, Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl and Mal Duncan, with their mentor Mr. Jupiter) on board a fishing boat on a Scottish loch, investigating reports of a deadly sea monster...and as you can see, before long, it appears.

Quickly, our heroes discover it is a gigantic metal robot operated by salmon poachers, but the mystery deepens when they see a ghost dancing on the loch waves and learn that Robin and Mal were attacked by water breathers while they were diving below. A second dive brings the water-breathers back, and after they've murdered the Titans' Scottish fisherman guide ("Gillkrankie" can't make this stuff up...but Haney could!)Robin announces with his usual flair for the dramatic that Aqualad was one of the attackers.

Outrage, shock, and drama follow before a quick investigation reveals that Aqualad is actually attending college classes in Scotland and they track him down, finding him in a kilt, with a new girlfriend, Nirka, draped on his arm(Despite the girl, the kilt just makes him seem more gay than usual...).

He offers his assistance, and quickly it is discovered that he's in Nirka's thrall and also that she is the daughter of the Black Earl of Moray (the earlier mentioned ghost), who raises his sunken castle from the depths of the loch once a century in hopes of trapping new souls upon whom he make practice his dark arts.

Here's Nirka and Garth out of their kilts, where we learn just what it is that she's offering to attract Aqualad to the doom offered by her father. Apparently, its her lips he wants, he needs, her lips that he must have. (Jeez, Garth, get your own. Sure, it'll be years before collagen injections and botox are all the rage, but surely you could suck on a blowfish or something and get your own voluptuous pair...)

Of course the Titans are able to rescue their friend and the story wraps up with him remembering nothing. Which is probably for the best.

I must have really enjoyed what I saw here(plus, "now only 20 cents!"), because I only waited a few months before picking up my next issue of Teen Titans, this one #43 (shame I couldn't get consecutive issues, but fortunately both of these were done-in-one stories), in which we get a slightly altered team here.

Mr. Jupiter and Mal are nowhere in sight, and now Lilith (the psychic/witch) has joined the team. They are on the craggy coast of New England and as this story opens, they are entreated by an old man to rescue his helpless grandchild from a quartet of demons who are playing catch with the child.

I won't go into as much detail about this story, which actually, isn't a bad take on the Titans going head to head with supernatural forces (or as the cover cries, "Whiz Kids VS. Witchcraft"). The art team for both of these issues was Art Saaf and Nick Cardy and looking back, I'm really pretty impressed with their work. There's a reasonable amount of detail, people look as they are supposed to (well, except for that kilt...but it IS Scotland, after all) and I really enjoyed it.

Issue #43 also includes a Lilith solo feature, in which she is crossing the country looking for her mother, and discovers a likely candidate on death row. Never able to resist a mystery and eager to reunite with her mother, Lilith reveals the true murderer, freeing the woman...who's real daughter appears to take her mother away from prison. Sad for Lilith.

I was always sorry we didn't see more of her when the Titans reunited in the eighties...and sadder still that when she did finally return to the team in the 90s, she was not only way younger than she should've been, but was killed so quickly by a rogue Superman robot.

We are not very kind to our minor characters.

And how could I talk about the Titans without discussing their rebirth as a team in 1980, at the able hands of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Here's New Teen Titans #1, in which the mysterious Raven brings some of the old team together (Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash) with some new members (Cyborg, Beast Boy/Changeling, Starfire and herself) and the long run of fun had begun.

I think this might've been the issue that actually turned me into a mad collector for a while. After all, I bought it for 50 cents and within a few years, it was valued at $30 or better. I think the market's since leveled out and even if this one is still worth more, it's probably not representative of my overall collection, because the comic companies began glutting the market with so many issues, variant covers and so on.

Once we've completed the move, I'll have to begin the next part of the project for my collection, which will be doing some research into the over-all value of the thing, which is--in all honesty--immeasurable to me, anyway. But I'm also looking forward to a few lazy winter days, sitting by the fireplace and re-reading all those old Wolfman-Perez issues, which were so amazing.

In an interesting sidebar, I had already planned today's post when I read this morning at Newsarama that Judd Winick will be reuniting that classic team of the eighties in a new Titans East series. Should be interesting.

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