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Amazing Heroes #2: Teen Titans History

Amazing Heroes #2: Teen Titans History
from Amazing Heroes #2, 1981 – An article by Tom Burkert
Reprinted in Best of Amazing Heroes #1, 1982

Origins and Early Years

The idea had been mentioned before, of course: if all the DC adult super-heroes could band together as the Justice League of America, why couldn’t their teenage sidekicks team up too?

Apparently, though, no one at DC had much faith in that idea. Nonetheless, it was evident that team-ups were popular with the readers, so the company obligingly turned over the pages of Showcase’s sister magazine, The Brave and the Bold, to team-ups: Green Arrow and The Manhunter from Mars; Aquaman and Hawkman; Sgt. Rock, the Haunted Tank, Johnny Cloud, and Mlle. Marie; The Atom and The Flash; and-who should be next? Well, why not the kid heroes? The idea was just different enough from the other team-ups that it might sell reasonably well.

Created by writer Bob Haney and editor George Kashdan for The Brave and the Bold #54 (July, 1964), the concept behind the Teen Titans has proved its worth many times since. Today, the series is one of only two created during that era being published in its own book (Dial “H” for Hero is the other one-see Amazing Heroes #1.) Since their inception, the Titans have battled crime in at least three distinct incarnations, weathering nine editorial changes and eight different writers.

As Haney rather modestly put it in The Comics Journal #50 (October, 1979), “It was no great, earth-shaking creative stroke, taking some already existing house characters and combining them into a team and building an ethos or world around them, but it did seem to work and did sell reasonably well in those now dear, dim days.’

More recently, Haney said that the Teen Titans were “very calculatingly aimed at a 12-year-old audience. We kept it very simple. We were not going for the Marvel readers.”

It was Marvel’s rise in popularity during the 1960s that would make DC rudely realize that an older audience for comic books really did exist. But it would be about five years before DC made a strong attempt to capture Marvel readers with the Teen Titans. That attempt, under editor Dick Giordano, would ultimately fall, but a more recent attempt, using expatriate Marvel writer Marv Wolfman and expatriate Marvel artist George Pérez, has catapulted the series to new heights of popularity among fans.

But the original concept was aimed at DC’s traditional, younger; audience. Perhaps the folks at DC would have been better off trying to lure away some of Marvel’s readers with a different Teen Titans concept-but then look at all the fun stories’ we would have missed.

The First Team-Up

Actually, they weren’t the Teen Titans at all in their first appearance, but merely a team-up of Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Robin. In that initial outing “each thought he’d been summoned to settle some typical ‘teen-age trouble’-never suspecting that they’d be teaming-up.” The story concerned a simplistic treatment of the classic confrontation that we’ve come to know as the Generation Gap.

According to the placards the teenagers and adults held at their respective rallies, the problem broke down to an elementary case of “Adults Are Square” vs. “More Chores, Less Play.” The conflict was spiced up by having Hatton Corners’ Mayor Corliss as the leader of the adults and his son, Eddie, as the teens’ spokesman.

The idea that all adults and teens think alike was further demonstrated by the way the adult heroes and their young partners took sides over the situation: Batman’s comment that “Those Hatton Corners teenagers are acting like spoiled brats!” prompted Robin to respond “Batman-You sound like an old square! The Hatton Corners adults just won’t listen to the kids there.” Flash couldn’t figure out why the Hatton Corners teens couldn’t “behave themselves,” but Kid Flash saw it differently and retorted, “like all adults, you forget that you were once a teenager, too!” Aquaman and Aqualad were similarly divided.

What appears even more anachronistic in retrospect is that each of the teen heroes first had to get permission from their partners before leaving on the mission! (Batman: “Well, I guess I can spare you for a while! Good luck-and hurry back! “; Flash: “It’s okay for you to go! “) Aqualad’s parting deprecatory remark perhaps summed up each of the junior heroes’ feelings: “Don’t worry Aquaman… I can take care of myself-even if I am just a teenager!”

As soon as the three arrived in Hatton Corners the real villain of the story appeared: the magic-staff-wielding Mr. Twister, a.k.a. Brom Stikk (magic staff, Brom Stikk, get it?). Mr. Twister’s control of’ the elements (air, earth, fire, and water) enabled him to kidnap the town’s entire teen population in order to collect on an agreement his ancestor, Jacob Stikk, had made with the town’s founders. According to that agreement, the Stikk family was to be paid an annual rent of one passenger pigeon feather for the town’s land or “forfeit one of [its] stalwart youths in [Stikk’s] service for that year!” Since passenger pigeons have been extinct since 1913, the town was in a real fix. Through the ensuing battles with Mr. Twister, the Titans taught the town’s adults and teens the value of mutual appreciation.

Titans and Teen Culture

The story demonstrates one of the reasons why those early adventures are interesting to look back on: for the way that teens and their lifestyles are depicted,. The early issues show us more what society or the writer thought teens were like than the way they actually were. “Appearance vs. Reality” and how it changed from writer to writer or editor to editor is one theme worth looking for when examining the Titans’ series. Keep in mind, though, that those changes were also affected by the revolution that had occurred in teen lifestyles over the past one-and-a-half decades.

DC was very cautious about adding new titles in the early 1960s, but the reception for this team-up must have been very good because a year later, The Brave and the Bold #60 (July, 1965) officially named them the Teen Titans and added Wonder Girl to the original line-up. Robin’s reason for the group’s existence was straightforward: “We respond to calls for help from kids anywhere-anytime!”

In that second appearance, the four Titans responded to a call for help from Tommy Holmes to clear the name of his father, Prof. Brian Holmes. The elder Holmes was in prison when the town of Midville was menaced by his creation, the Separated Man, a giant humanoid monster who could send various parts of his anatomy (eyes, mouth, hands, feet) to do his bidding. With the help of Midville’s teens, the Titans defeated the monster and revealed that it was actually criminal Jake Trask. In the end, the Titans and the local teens proved to the town’s adults that young people can be capable leaders.

Again, the Titans must have sold well, for they reappeared only six months later, in Showcase #59 (December, 1965). Two months later, the group won its own bimonthly title when Teen Titans #1 (February, 1966) hit the stands.

Origin of the Titans

The untold story of how Wonder Girl joined with the others to found the Titans was never explained until Teen Titans #53 (February, 1978) -and ironically, this was their last appearance in their own book for more than two-and-a-half years.

“In the Beginning…” revealed that DC’s five most prominent junior super-heroes (Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl, and Speedy) were first brought together to solve the mystery of why their adult partners had suddenly turned criminal. It turned out to be the work of Antithesis, an alien who forced the heroes to commit crimes in order to absorb “the energy created when [they were] successful in deeds of a criminal nature.” Afterwards, the teens decided to form a loose union in which members could participate when they wanted to.

For continuity buffs, the story helped explain an “untold” Titans tale featuring Speedy that appeared in #4 (August, 1966) which was set at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo-about the same time that Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad’s first team-up appeared and a year before they were first called the Teen Titans. That benefit from the tale, though, was unintentional, according to its writer, Bob Rozakis.

“As far as we (he and editor Jack C. Harris) were concerned, Speedy was a member of the group from the beginning,” said Rozakis. “I think he was a much more useful character than Aqualad.”

“We kind of felt sorry for him because we had done to him what had been done to Green Arrow in the early days of the Justice League: he was ignored. So, rather than let him be an also-ran, we established his presence as an original member of the group and tied it in with his attitudes and personality as they had been established in the Green Lantern drug issues.”

Nonetheless, Speedy was not an active member of the group for the first few years of the series. Why? No strong reason, apparently. Neither Haney nor Kashdan could remember, although Kashdan suggested that it may just have been that Green Arrow didn’t have his own strip at the time and therefore Speedy’s power to draw readers may have been considered negligible.

The Early Days

As for the Titans’ other early appearances, the Kashdan-Haney team quickly set about developing a pattern into which most stories fit. True to the Titans’ pledge “to help kids ,”the adventures almost always concerned some teens or a teen-related problem. There were stories revolving around a rock group and a scholarship fund (Showcase #59), the Peace Corps (Teen Titans #1), a teenage caveman and the problems of being different (TT #2), dropping out (TT #3), international friendship (TT #4), and trusting ex-reform schoolers (TT #5), to name but a few.

The stories almost always took place in some typically small-town American setting: Smedleyville, Harrison, Camp Lacklock, Lansford, Baxter Beach, Wildcat, and others. However, some stories were set in more exotic locales: Xochat an, Tokyo, London and, in one issue, Mt. Rushmore, Egypt, and outer space.

Most stories opened in the largely-undescribed “secret headquarters” or Titan Lair, as it was called in Titans #11. All we learned about it was that it was a “hillside headquarters ,” (TT #10) and looked like a smaller version of the Batcave or the Justice League’s first headquarters. It had a training room (with an atomic treadmill for Kid Flash and a salt water pool for Aqualad) and a recreation room (TT #14). The exact location was never decided upon, but it was hinted that it was somewhat centralized for easy access by all the Titans. Typical adventures would open with the Titans yukking it up while reading the mail and monitoring their ham radio for distress calls.

The first 17 stories, all under the Kashdan-Haney team, featured quite a few interesting characters but most were never seen or heard of again. Among them were Gain, the teenage caveman; Eddie Whit, a former teen criminal with amazing acrobatic skills who called himself The Ant in his costumed identity; and D.J. Deejay, the outer space disc jockey.

Many of the villains the Titans fought during that period were uninspired and deserved only one appearance, although a few certainly were humorous, such as Scorcher and the Bike Buzzards, DingDong Daddy Dowd, and Capt. Tiger.

The Batman Craze

Although it occurred purely by coincidence, the Teen Titans were just getting started when the – Batman craze hit. Teen Titans #2 appeared about the same time as the tv show’s premiere. Soon after, since anything that had even a remote connection with Batman or Robin was selling like hotcakes, Robin got special billing on the covers. From #5 through #10, the boy wonder was the only one of the four Titans to have his picture inset above the logo.

Unfortunately, along with the Batman show came camp humor and before long, the Teen Titans and almost every other DC series reeked of it. One villain, the Mad Mod, was probably the most blatant example of the trend. Mod was a criminal fashion designer who worked out of Ye Mad Mod’s Real Gear Garb in his first appearance (TT #7) and out of The Ungrotty Grotto Boutique In his second (TT #17). Fortunately, he hasn’t surfaced since.

Bob Haney maintains, however, that he did not consciously write the Titans to be camp. In fact, he said, he barely paid attention to the Batman TV show.

Hip Haney Dialog

From the beginning, Haney was concerned about getting the teenagers’ dialog to sound authentic,. In most cases, though, he went way overboard. While “cool” and “the most” may have been okay as occasional exclamations, who used lines like “All us cats decided to skip, until adults to the music get hip” or “Super-gear and ginchy, too!”? (The former, by the way, was used in a note and spotted by Robin as phony slang because “No teenager would use the word ‘music’ in a hip language message… They’d (sic) use the word ‘jive’!” Despite his own grammatical lapse, the boy wonder certainly had faith in his peers’ mastery of linguistic protocol.)

Before long, even the readers were complaining that they didn’t know anyone who spoke the way the Titans did. “All teens talk some slang, but the Titans are too much to stomach,” one reader wrote. Kashdan brushed off the criticisms by saying that the Titans weren’t just your average teens.

Haney claimed artistic license in the matter. His dialogue “was exaggerated ,” he admitted. But it wasn’t made up. Haney, who was and is a resident of Woodstock, New York, home of the famous rock festival, maintained that “the kids at the time were talking a bit that way.” In any case, he said, “people don’t talk the way they talk in books anyway. It’s an artifice.”
Titans Get Relevant

Clamor for More Members

Kashdan and Haney’s view of the Titans as ‘junior super-heroes probably best describes their treatment of the characters during that early period. As long as the book was selling well, they were hesitant to try any sort of radical change in their proven formula, and that included expanding the-membership by even one.

Although the letters page virtually overflowed with suggestions for new members-including Action Boy, Bomb a, Supergirl (too old and in college), Bat-Girl (retired; this was before the Barbara Gordon Bat girl), Janu, Miss Arrowette, Jimmy Olsen as Elastic Lad (at 22, he was too old), and the entire Legion of Super-Heroes–the only guest stars who appeared in any of the Kashdan-Haney stories were Speedy (TT #4 & 11) and the Doom Patrol’s Beast Boy (TT #6). Beast Boy wanted to join the group but was denied membership because he couldn’t get his guardian to grant him permission. (Haney and Kashdan apparently had strong beliefs concerning parental authority.)

One character Haney seemed to have some difficulty with was Aqualad. To use him to his full potential, nearly every story had to involve some body of water. Eventually, this became excessively contrived: an Olympic swimming pool in #4, a high-dive tank in #6, and sewers and broken fire hydrants in #8.

But for all their little faults, Kashdan and Haney, with artist Nick Cardy, did produce one of my favorite Teen Titans stories: “The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” (TT #13, February, 1968). This updated version of the Dickens classic had Mr. Scrounge and his Junk-O-Rama junkyard, Bob and Tim Ratchet, Jacob Farley, and the Titans as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The tongue-in-cheek treatment of the classic short story is a delight to read.

The Giordano Influence

In early 1968, two events occurred that would have lasting effects on the Teen Titans series. The first was the decline in popularity of the Batman tv show. Soon everything to do with camp and its unbearable cliches would be a disdained part of the past. The second was what amounted to DC essentially purchasing most of Charlton’s best talent: editor Dick Giordano, writers Denny O’Neill and Steve Skeates, and artists Jim Aparo, Pat Boyette, and Steve Ditko.

Suddenly there were editors, writers, and artists who needed books to edit, write, and draw. This led to the first shake-up of staff at DC since the 1940s. Kashdan was fired and Giordano took over as editor of the Teen Titans with #15 (June, 1968). Haney was removed as the writer after #17 and replaced by a string of others: Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, Bob Kanigher, and, finally, a five-issue run by Steve Skeates (TT #28-32).

Change was everywhere. The emphasis in the book switched from a junior Justice League solving teenage problems to, as one letter writer put it, an “internationally-flavored quartet of teenage super-heroes”

The Titans visited London, Stockholm, Berlin, Istanbul, and Venezuela. They teamed up with Starfire, the first Russian superhero, in an attempt to stop the French jewel thief, Andre LeBlanc, from stealing the crown jewels of Sweden. No longer was the original lineup sacred. With Teen Titans #19, Speedy became a regular member and Aqualad left. Lilith, a psychic, was added in #25 and Mal (his last name, Duncan, wasn’t revealed until later) was introduced in the following issue. The Hawk and the Dove (stars of a Giordano-edited series that had just been canceled) guest-starred in #21 before becoming regulars in #25. They even had a solo adventure in #31. Aquagirl (from Aquaman – another Giordano title) also appeared in a back-up story with Aqualad in #30.

At the start of Giordano’s tenure, the Titans as costumed heroes was the order of the day, but that would later change. In the meantime, his major influence on the series was the introduction of more mature storylines, the addition of continued subplots, and the tying up of plotlines left hanging (some of which didn’t appear so).

The most memorable such series concerned the aliens from Dimension X trying to invade Earth. Started in TT #16 (August, 1968) and continued in #20-22, this series also linked Dr. Michael Lamer, the creator of the robot Honey Bun (TT #8), with the Titans’ battle against the Scorcher (TT #10) and combined it all into one intricate story. It was a continuity freak’s delight!

WG’s Origin, New Costumes

Under Giordano, Marv Wolfman cleared up the confusion around Wonder Girl’s origin, gave her a civilian identity (Donna Troy), an apartment, and a roommate (Sharon Tracy). In that same issue (Teen Titans #22, August, 1969), artists Gil Kane and Nick Cardy also gave her a new costume. The original Wonder Girl stories had actually been about Wonder Woman when she was growing up – it was almost as if Superboy had joined the Titans!

The questions about her origin had been batted around in the letters column for quite a while before it was established that Wonder Girl was actually a baby whom Wonder Woman rescued from a burning building, “the others, presumably [her] parents, were dead.” Raised on Amazon Island, she was given her powers by the Purple Ray, the Amazon super-science cure-all. Prior to establishing her secret identity and getting an apartment, Wonder Girl had been living in the Titan Lair. But those were only the start of the changes wrought under Giordano’s editorial administration. In TT #25 (February, 1970) the Titans failed to prevent the killing of Dr. Arthur Swenson, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Their guilt over the failure was further magnified by the reactions of their adult counterparts in the JLA, who virtually accused them of the murder.

At that point, Mr. Jupiter, “the richest man in the world,” entered the Titans’ lives with an opportunity to absolve themselves of their guilt: he asked the Titans to give up their costumes and powers and to come to work with him “to challenge the unknown in man… the mystery of riots, prejudice, greed.” Robin declared he had a previous commitment to go to college “to find out for myself what I want to be” and so left the group.

The others-Wonder Girl, Speedy, Kid Flash, and guest-stars The Hawk and The Dove-left with the mysterious Lilith to undergo training in Jupiter’s survival course.

In the following issue, they were joined by Mal Duncan, the first black Teen Titan. But non-costumed, non-super-powered Titans were apparently too drab for the readers because by TT #28, the changes were partly reversed, with the costumes, Robin, and even Aqualad all returning.

In Teen Titans #29 (October, 1970), they fought the Ocean Master, the first costumed villain they had encountered since TT #19. A casual reader would have been hard pressed to notice that the events in the preceding four issues had ever occurred, although they did return to the jumpsuits they wore during their non-costumed adventures for the lead story in #30. Giordano’s view of what should have been happening with the Titans was clearly stated in #29’s letters column: “Today’s young people are interested in the quickly-changing world and its vast, complex problems.., The Titans will be a bit more concerned… more involved.”

It’s obvious that the team was going through its ‘relevancy period,’ and, thankfully, it didn’t last long. Just how boring and farfetched ‘Society vs. the Titans’ stories could be was epitomized by Steve Skeates’s “To Order is to Destroy” in Teen Titans #31 (February, 1971), in which a “Dr.” Pauling inserts computer circuits into the brain of virtually every student at Elford University in order to prevent student unrest.

Although from a fan’s point of view, many of the stories that appeared in Giordano’s Teen Titans were excellent, they generally did not sell well. Nor were things going too well for him at the office In an interview in The Creative Adventure #2 (July 1972), he told Klaus Janson, “I found I couldn’t do the things there that 1 wanted to do. ..1 thought I could help Carmine [Infantino, then DC’s Editorial Director] and National [National Periodical Publications, the company’s name before it was legally changed to DC Comics Inc.] more as an artist than editor since I was headed in one direction and they were headed in another direction, diametrically opposed in many cases.

Haney Returns

With Teen Titans #32 (April, 1971), Murray Boltinoff replaced Giordano as editor of the series and brought back Bob Haney to script. Boltinoff had been editor and Haney the writer for the Titans’ first two team-ups with Batman, in The Brave and the Bold #83 and #94. The latter (March, 1971), by the way, is one of Haney’s favorites. It’s a prophetic tale involving a high school student who builds an atomic bomb; in 1976, John Aristotle Phillips, a Princeton junior, would gain notoriety when the FBI seized and classified his physics paper: a design for an atomic bomb.

Those first two team-ups with Batman effectively showed how the Titans were better at handling many youth problems than the adult Batman. That theme was also used in the subsequent Batman-Titans team-ups, also by Haney (B&B #102, 149), both of which were admirable, effective stories.

By way of comparison, when Steve Skeates scripted a Superman-Teen Titans adventure for World’s Finest #205 (September, 1971), the group was anything but useful in defeating their adversary. When Mr. Jupiter sent the Titans to Fairfield to find out what small towns are like (a questionable mission in itself), they fell under the control of an “alien thought control unit” which dominated every action of the town’s inhabitants. When Lilith subconsciously notified Superman of their predicament, he arrived and saved the day. Little teaming-up actually occurred and the Titans came away recognizing that racism, male chauvinism, egomania, and blind belief in law and order are wrong-all things that presumably they already knew.

To their credit, Boltinoff and Haney didn’t try to return things to the way they were before Giordano’s editorship. Rather than ignore his addition to the Titans mythos, they built upon it in ways they felt would be improvements.

The main members of Giordano’s Titans stayed with the team: Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Mal, Speedy, and Lilith. Even Mr. Jupiter was kept. The characters of Mal and Lilith were strengthened and the roles they played within the group were amplified. Mal became more than just a token and Lilith became very important to almost every story. In fact, Lilith’s precognitions and the mysticism they inspired were an important element in virtually every story until the book was canceled with #43 (February, 1973). In #33, Haney introduced Gnarrk, a prehistoric teenager yanked into the present and educated in the ways of modern civilization by the Titans.

The two-parter in issues 35 and 36 probably best typifies the stories of this period. In it, Mr. Jupiter and the Titans travel to Verona, Italy to help open a branch of Jupiter Labs. After a run-in with Donato Della Logia, the head of the city’s most important family, the Titans proceed to act out a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet. The recreation of this classic is replete with Lilith ‘is Juliet and Della Logia’s son, Romeo, as-well, I’m sure you’ve guessed that one.

Unfortunately, by late 1972, the boom caused by the Batman television show had ended and titles were dropping like flies. The Teen Titans was one of the casualties.

The First Revival

Though gone, the series was not forgotten. The issues of DC SuperStars and Super-Team Family reprinting Teen Titans stories sold so well that Managing Editor Joe Orlando convinced DC’s new publisher, Jenette Kahn, that, the team deserved a second chance. In late 1976, the series resumed with #44 (November) featuring a story by Paul Levitz and Bob Rozakis.

The team consisted of Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Mal (as The Guardian) and, with #45, Aqualad. In the revival issue, it was revealed that the group had broken up when Mr. Jupiter “closed up shop.” (This was the new series’ only mention of him.)

As Robin stated, “those of us with individual careers had to pursue them.” The boy wonder had remained in college, Wonder Girl still lived with Sharon Tracy, Speedy had recovered from his addiction to heroin (Green Lantern #85-86), and the others had continued life as usual. The whereabouts of Lilith, Gnarrk, and The Hawk and The Dove were said to be unknown.

During the period the group was disbanded, Mal had checked weekly on the equipment that had been donated to the Titans by Mr. Jupiter. It was during one of those checks that the Titans’ emergency signal was activated and so brought the group together once again. The signal, it turned out, had been part of a trap laid by Dr. Light so that he could capture the Titans and use them as bait in a scheme to destroy the Justice League.

Mal Gets Super

‘With an exo-skeleton (first seen in Batman #192) and the original Guardian’s costume (both from the Titans’ souvenir collection), Mal became The Guardian. In his new super-heroic identity, Mal easily defeated Dr. Light and rescued his fellow Titans. This was a highly effective story. It reintroduced the characters and simultaneously rekindled interest in the series. By having the Titans battle a mainstream DC villain, Levitz and Rozakis gave the story a more realistic feeling as well.

With the next issue, Julius Schwartz took over as editor with Bob Rozakis, by himself, as the book’s regular writer. This series, the second reincarnation of the Titans and the fourth major editorial shift, emphasized characterization and continuity more than any series previously. This Is also the most maligned Titans sequence-unjustly so, I feel.

Teen Titans #45 continued to develop the characters, especially Mal. He was given a girlfriend, Karen Beecher, and a superpower of his own. In a battle with Azrael, the angel of death, Mal won the ram’s horn, or shofar, of the angel Gabriel. He was told that by blowing It he would become the equal of any opponent, but that he should use it only when the odds were against him.

In his first outing with the Titans, the Horn-blower (as he came to be known) helped to prevent the Wreckers, an adult street gang, from blowing up the Wayne Foundation building. Bruce Wayne’s reward was the financing of a new headquarters for the Teen Titans.

Heroes Galore

Teen Titans #46 was another notable story because it introduced the Joker’s daughter (from Batman Family), reintroduced the Earth-Two Fiddler on Earth-One, had a cameo by Jack Ryder (a.k.a. The Creeper) and further revealed that the new Teen Titans headquarters was slated to be a disco/restaurant in Farmingdale, New York (the hometown of writer Rozakis).

Each of the succeeding issues also added interesting details to the Teen Titans story. In #47, Martha Roberts (of the Freedom Fighters series) and Two-Face made cameo appearances. Two-Face was the biggest-name villain the Titans had yet crossed paths with. He was featured in the next issue, which also told the origin of Duela Dent. Duela is Two-Face’s daughter, but she called herself the Joker’s Daughter to repudiate her father. She changed her name after joining the Titans and, as the Harlequin, was the newest member. The Bumblebee (Karen Beecher) was also Introduced in #48.

In Teen Titans #49 (August, 1977), the Titans’ disco, Gabriel’s Horn, finally opened. Mal switched back to his identity as The Guardian, saying that “too many people know that Mal Duncan-alias The Hornblower-is a member of the Teen Titans” but secretly thinking that he couldn’t tell the others “the real reason for the change-that my horn has been stolen.” That plotline, though, was never resolved.

The next three issues (#s 50-52) made the Titans into a 20th Century Legion of Super-Heroes. The Titans East (Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Mal, Bumblebee, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Harlequin) met the Titans West (Hawk, Dove, Lilith, Gnarrk, Beast Boy, Golden Eagle, and Bat-Girl). Only The Golden Eagle (Charlie Parker) and Bat-Girl (Betty Kane) were new to the series.

The Golden Eagle had previously been featured in Justice League and Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl, decided to come out of retirement to handle an emergency (her senior partner, Bat-woman, had recently reappeared in Batman Family #10).

Beast Boy had been starring in a science fiction tv series, Space Trek, 2022 and Hank Hall (The Hawk) had joined the Navy. Don Hall (The Dove) already lived on the West Coast and Gnarrk stated that he and Lilith had moved to California to get away from the Titans.

But the budding plans for the Titans East /Titans West were nipped; #53 (February, 1978) was to be the final issue. As previously noted, it revealed the origin of the Titans and so did not follow up the theme of the two groups of Titans.

Len Wein has stated that Teen Titans #44-53 sold well but DC was too embarrassed about the book to continue it. Writer Rozakis said he felt management had decided that a book about junior super-heroes just wasn’t a good idea. Faced with the title’s imminent demise, Rozakis and new editor Jack C. Harris decided to do something special in the final issue.

“Every other book starts out with an origin,” Rozakis said wryly. “We ended the book with an origin.” The framing sequence for the origin tale also featured the break-up of the group. In Speedy’s words, “We’ve outgrown that Teen Titans shtick! We’re not a bunch of kids playing super-hero anymore. Someday we’ll have to replace the Justice League and we’ve all got to be ready… as individuals!”

The New Titans

Two years later, eyeing the success of Marvel’s X-Men, DC tapped the talents of recent arrivals from Marvel, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, to form the New Teen Titans under the editorship of another Marvel alumnus, Len Wein.

The definitive treatment of this new series is yet to come, but I feel safe in saying that as long as the same creative staff continues at their present level, the book will become one of the most entertaining comics around.

The new team, which debuted in an insert in DC Comics Presents #26 (October, 1980) features Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Changeling (Beast Boy), Cyborg, Starfire (no connection with the character in TT #18 or the female sword-and-sorcery character created by David Micheline), and Raven.

In the first ten issues, Wein, Wolfman, and Pérez have presented the readers with one spectacular adventure after another: the origin of Raven and the Trigon trilogy, the origins of Starfire and Cyborg, battles with Dr. Light and the Fearsome Five, the War-Drone, the Terminator, the Ravager, the Justice League, Goronn, the Puppeteer, H.I.V.E., and the stories behind Azarath and the Promethium Project.

Upcoming plans for the series include a battle with the Titans of Greek mythology and a hunt for the murderers of the original Doom Patrol.

It’s obvious the creators are having fun with their new series and their enthusiasm seems to have been caught by the fans, since The New Teen Titans is currently one of the hottest titles in the fan market.

Without exception, Wolfman and Pérez’s stories have been exciting and original. It seems the seed of Bob Haney and George Kashdan’s concept 17 years ago has finally come to fruition.

End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author