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Flamebird

Alias: Bette Kane
Formerly: Betty Kane, Bat-Girl

Titans Member
Joined:
Teen Titans [first series] #50 [1978]

Flamebird Quick Bio: An eager Robin fan, tennis pro Bette Kane adopted the Flamebird persona in hopes of meeting the Teen Wonder in person. A founding member of Titans West, it took some time for Flamebird to finally earn the respect of her Titans teammates.

Recent File Photo:


Archived File Photos (in chronological order):

Hero History


First Flight

In her very early teens, while visiting her aunt Kathy in Gotham City, Bette Kane learned the heiress’s secret identity as Batwoman, who was Batman’s female counterpart at that point in his career. Bette promptly designed herself a costume of red and green (the primary colors of Robin’s uniform), and became Batwoman’s junior partner, Bat-Girl.

As Bat-Girl, Bette used the acrobatics taught her by her aunt and criminology techniques learned on her own and from Batman and Robin, as well as an array of bat-weapons in imitation of Batman’s. While Batman and Robin were aware of the true identities of Batwoman and Bat-Girl, the heroines were not entrusted with the secret civilian roles of the male heroes. This did not stop Bat-Girl from carrying on a childish “romance” of sorts with the then-shy and inexperienced Robin.

ABOVE: In BATMAN #139 [April 1961], Bat-Girl arrived.
BELOW: In BATMAN #144 [April 1961], Bat-Mite plays match-maker for Bat-Girl.

After a series of adventures, Kathy Kane hung up her tights and retired from crime-fighting. Without a mentor, Bette resumed a normal life in the sun-soaked California. Fiercely competitive, she sought out other challenges, ones where her hard work and talent, not just the beauty she was born with, would make her a winner. Tennis, gymnastics, and swimming became her favorite activities, sports where she could compete, excel, and enjoy the cheers of an adoring audience. That attention helped her to ignore the fact that her aggressive nature was leaving her with fewer and fewer friends, as few had the energy to withstand her constant competitiveness.

Light A Fire

Finding herself without suitable peers and needing a new challenge, Bette chose her next goal: capturing the heart of Robin. Soon, she unveiled her own avian persona, Flamebird. She based her character’s style on her own athletic skills, now at an Olympics level, and added her own natural flamboyance to top it off.

Flamebird appeared briefly around California as a small-time solo crime-fighter, staying to pose for pictures and reap all the available publicity, but never managing to achieve her goal of attracting Robin to California. Frustrated, Bette threw herself back into her high school life, forsaking her now-professional athletic activities. Previously a poor student, she decided to approach school as another challenge, attacking her studies with the same spirit she’d previously shown for meets and matches, so she graduated near the top of her class.

Deciding she had no interest in college, she pursued her abandoned tennis career, making a stunning comeback at age eighteen. She was on top of the world, but she was bored. Nothing matched the excitement she’d experienced while playing Flamebird.

Titans West

While on tour, she came up with the idea she felt would be sure to gain Robin’s attention: forming a Titans club of her own. She zealously stalked and invited all youthful west-coast super-heroes to join her new “Titans West,” but despite Bette’s enthusiasm, personality conflicts and the long-distance commute made the club’s tenure a short one.

Flamebird’s history is detailed in SECRET ORIGINS
ANNUAL #3 [1989], which retells the origin of Titans West.

Although the Titans West did manage to meet the east-coast Teen Titans, Flamebird’s reception from Robin was a cool one and she was bitterly disappointed – yet not so much that she abandoned her pursuit. If anything, the short meetings with Robin (whom she now knew to be Dick Grayson) left her with a good excuse to keep in contact.

Bette was reunited with her Titans colleagues when Donna Troy married Terry Long in a lavish ceremony in Long Island. The would-be heroine tried to rally a reorganization of Titans West at the wedding reception, but none of her friends expressed much interest in the idea.

ABOVE: In a dreamscape, Dick Grayson witnesses the formation
of Titans West  in SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL #3 [1989].
BELOW: A photo flashback of Titans West, from HAWK & DOVE ANNUAL #1 [1990].

Undaunted, Bette held out hope that the West Coast Titans would one day be reunited. And that day did come, although the team reassembled only briefly. Titans West lived once more as S.T.A.R. Labs’ San Francisco branch discovered a mysterious portal that bridged life and death. Hawk, Dove, Flamebird, Bumblebee, Mal, Lilith, Golden Eagle and Chris King braved the portal and prevented a group of super-villains from returning to the land of the living. Flamebird implored the team to stay together one the battle was won, but her request was met with universal disinterest.

Flamebird was again called into action when an alien threat loomed – one that reunited the Titans of past and present. Having collected a planet-size assortment of technological debris, Victor Stone journeyed to Earth to turn its moon into a new Technis world and populate it with his Titans allies. The JLA and the Titans first clashed, then united, eventually freeing Cyborg from alien influence. Following this encounter, the original five Titans decided to rebuild the team, inviting five other members to join as well. Flamebird waited anxiously by the phone, hoping to be invited for membership. But ultimately, she but didn’t make the cut.

Pathetic! An anxious Bette Kane waits to be asked for membership …
and waits… and waits… in TITANS SECRET FILES #1 [1999]

A New Spark

When Beast Boy returned to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, he was implicated in a series of murders by the deranged Gemini. Flamebird sprung into action to help Beast Boy clear his name but unintentionally hindered Nightwing’s investigation in the process. This led to a rooftop confrontation in which Nightwing asked Flamebird to give up crimefighting altogether.

BELOW: Nightwing tries to talk Bette out of the hero game in BEAST BOY #3 [2000].

Seeing Nightwing’s disapproval as another challenge to conquer, a fire ignited in Bette that she hadn’t felt before. The rejuvenated heroine amped up her arsenal and adopted a more practical costume in an effort to step up her game. The all-new Flamebird quickly made her mark, mopping up the bounty hunters Fear and Loathing as Beast Boy exposed Gemini’s crimes.

After Flamebird helped exonerate Beast Boy, the two heroes became fast friends. Bette even moved in with Gar and his cousin Matt as she started classes at UCLA, majoring in sports medicine. Beast Boy and Flamebird later encountered an ancient evil in the Land of the Rising Sun, where they met Bushido, Japan’s new defender.

The revamped Flamebird makes her debut in BEAST BOY #4 [2000]

Later, Matt Logan took it upon himself to hold a makeshift membership drive for an all-new Titans West. Prompted by Flamebird, Beast Boy revived the California-based team, now christened Titans L.A. The two heroes were joined by Herald, Bumblebee, Terra, Hero Cruz, Captain Marvel Jr. and Bushido. But Titans L.A. was over before it even began, as disinterest quickly led to the group’s unceremonious dissolution.  Desperation was obvious when Beast Boy and Flamebird even tried to recruit the displaced DEO orphans as Titans L.A. members, but to no avail.

Titans L.A. Together! [from left to right]; Matt Logan, Bumblebee, Flamebird,
Captain Marvel Jr., Beast Boy, Hero Cruz, Terra and Herald [Bushido not pictured].
From TITANS SECRET FILES #2 [2000]

After Superboy’s tragic death during the Infinite Crisis, the Teen Titans faced a year of heartache and turmoil. Flamebird joined the team for a short time, but later quit. The group remained in constant upheaval until Robin returned and reorganized the Titans into a team.

Gotham Flights

Bette later transferred to Gotham University, where she was reunited with her close cousin, Kate Kane. Unknown to Bette, Kate had become a crimefighter herself as the mysterious new Batwoman. Bette was later kidnapped by the Cutter, a crazed serial killer who yearned to create the perfect women through stolen body parts. Batwoman freed her cousin, but also exposed her dual identity in the process. In turn, Bette revealed her Flamebird identity to Kate, professing a desire to become her crimefighting partner.

 

Powers & Abilities


Flamebird is an exceptional athlete, trained for strength and endurance. She has also trained in several forms of martial arts, with kick boxing as her specialty. Like Robin, Flamebird has a utility belt containing the following: grappling hook with line, gas grenades, gas mask, flares, flashlight, radio/transmitter, handcuffs, throwing discs, and an emergency medical kit.

Flamebird has amped up her arsenal to include electrifying bolas and gloves, tracking devices and flare-emitting contact lenses.

 

Essential Reading


Batman #139 [1961]: “Bat-Girl” – Betty Kane becomes Bat-Girl.
Batman #141 [1961]: “Batwoman’s Junior Partner”
Batman #144 [1961]: “Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl” The extra dimensional elf plays Cupid on behalf of Bat-Girl but Robin resists, citing the example of Batman, who had renounced “romance” while he was a crime fighter.
Batman #153 [1963]: “Prisoners of Three Worlds”
Batman #159 [1963]: “Prisoners of Three Worlds”
Detective #322 [1963]: “The Bizarre Batman Genie”
Teen Titans #50-52 [1977]: Titans West, comprised of Golden Eagle, Flamebird, Hawk, Dove and Beast Boy, is formed by Lilith; Captain Calamity/Mr. Esper battles the two Titan groups. First appearance of Titans West in issue #50. First appearance of Beast Boy, Bat-Girl [Bette Kane] and Golden Eagle as Titans.
Tales of the Teen Titans #50 [1985]: Donna Troy and Terry Long wed this issue. Appearances by just about every Titan, past and present. Bette mentions reforming Titans West.

Secret Origins Annual #3 [1989]: Written by George Pérez with art by a series of artists (including Tom Grummett, Kevin Maguire& Karl Kesel, Colleen Doran & Romeo Tanghal, among others). Dick Grayson’s dream are invaded by the Antithesis, who seeks to break Dick’s spirit so that he will remain in Limbo; Dick survives with the help of old and new Titans alike. The Special gives a post-Crisis history of the Titans, including some revamps and revisions. Includes: First Appearance of Flame-Bird (Post-Crisis ret-con of Bat-Girl);Includes Who’s Who entries for Flamebird, Golden Eagle, Bumblebee, The Herald, Antithesis, and Gargoyle.
Hawk & Dove Annual (second series) #1 [1990]: featured a brief reunion of Titans West. A mysterious note to Dawn Granger leads to Hawk and Dove teaming up with the old Titans West crew, with Hawk, Dove, Flamebird, Bumblebee, Mal, Golden Eagle and Chris “Dial H” King forming a rag-tag Titans West team. Flamebird suggested reforming the team, but no one was interested.
Beast Boy #1-4, January 2000 to April 2000: Flamebird re-invents herself.
Titans Annual #1 [2000]: Beast Boy and Flamebird encounter ancient evil in the Land of the Rising Sun, and meet Japan’s new defender, the warrior called Bushido. Nightwing, Arsenal, Troia, Flash, and Tempest soon race off to help their former comrades against a supernatural foe, but will Bushido pose an even bigger threat?
The Titans Secret Files #2 [2000]: It’s the debut of Titans LA in an astonishing all-new Special. Whether he wants it or not, Beast Boy finds himself saddled with a new West Coast branch of the Titans. But it may be the new team’s final appearance as well if Fear and Loathing and the madcap Harlequin have their say. First Titans L.A. Titans LA members include Beast Boy, Flamebird, Herald, Bumblebee, Terra, Hero Cruz, and Captain Marvel Jr.

Detective Comics #856 [2009]: Bette Kane moves to Gotham City to enroll in Gotham University and is reunited with her cousin, Kate Kane. Bette Kane established as Kate Kane’s cousin in this issue.
Detective Comics #861-863 [2010]: Batwoman hunts down a crazed serial killer known as the Cutter, who has kidnapped her cousin, Bette Kane. In rescuing Bette, Batwoman exposes her dual identity. In turn, Bette reveals her Flamebird identity to Kate, professing a desire to become her crimefighting partner.
Batman Inc. #4 [2011]: Kathy Kane’s history as Batwoman is explored, re-stating Kathy Kane as the first Batwoman and her niece, Bette, as Bat-Girl.

 

Bette Kane Chronology


In the 1950s, Frederick Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” offered a scathing look at comic books, citing Batman and Robin as repressed homosexuals. In response, DC Comics introduced Batwoman in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956). She was secretly Kathy Kane, a former circus acrobat who used an inheritance to fulfill her dream of imitating Batman. And in In Batman #139 (April 1961), Bat-Girl was introduced. She was Batwoman’s niece, Betty Kane, who emulated her aunt with hopes of winning Robin’s heart.

Betty Kane became lost in comic book limbo while Batman enjoyed national attention in the 1960s due to his live action TV show. In the third season, the series introduced Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon. That same year, the Silver Age Batgirl made her comic book debut inDetective Comics #359 [1967].

While Barbara Gordon became the most-celebrated Batgirl, it seemed like Betty Kane was destined to be forgotten forever. But writer Bob Rozakis revived the character in the pages of Teen Titans #50-52 [1977], which would featured Betty’s debut as a Titan as part of Titans West. Rozakis explains: “Since Barbara had been having adventures with Batwoman [in Batman Family #10], it was only a matter of time before Bette (who was still Betty when I wrote the stories) was back on the scene as well.”

ABOVE: Titans West forms in TEEN TITANS #50 [1977].
BELOW: Betty Kane Bat-Girl has plans for Robin in TEEN TITANS #52 [1978].

Rozakis had plans for Titans West – but the Teen Titans series was canceled before they reached fruition. “I was going to remix the two teams and have adventures of both teams with occasional team-ups,” said Rozakis. “Speedy and Wonder Girl would have moved to the West Coast team; Bat-Girl and one of the guys — I don’t recall which one — would have moved East. To play up the Speedy/Kid Flash/Wonder Girl triangle, Wally would have been running back and forth. And Bat-Girl’s presence in the east would have created a triangle with Robin and Duela.”

After the Teen Titans series ended, Bat-Girl made a brief appearance in Batman Family #16 [1978] before fading into comic book limbo once again. With the death of Batwoman, Bat-Girl apparently abandoned the idea of resuming her crime-fighting career. She attended the wedding of Donna Troy as Betty Kane in Tales of the Teen Titans#50 [1984].

A 1991 commission of Flamebird by Adam Hughes,
courtesy of Rich Bernatovech.

In 1985, DC Comics attempted to streamline and modernize their characters with the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Within the 12-issue mini-series, time and space twisted, forever altering the histories of various heroes in its wake. This gave DC an opportunity to go back and revise some of the more out-dated elements of the DC Universe – but it also introduced a host of unforeseen continuity problems.

Many Titans characters had their origins and histories altered. Most notably, Donna Troy, Dick Grayson, Lilith Clay, Mal Duncan, Duela Dent, Gnarrk, Betty (Bette) Kane, Charley Parker and Kole. In 1989, Secret Origins Annual #3 detailed the Post-Crisis history of the Teen Titans.

With Secret Origins Annual #3, Betty Kane was renamed Bette Kane, and her history as Bat-Girl was entirely wiped away. No longer the niece of Kathy Kane, Bette became Flamebird on her own as a way to impress Robin. In 2005, DC Comics introduced a completely different Batwoman named Kate Kane. In the pages of Detective Comics #856 [2009], Bette was established at Kate’s younger cousin.

After this bold new Batwoman had been firmly established, it was revealed that the original Batwoman also existed in DC’s ever-changing continuity. In Batman Inc. #4 [2011], Kathy Kane’s history as Batwoman was explored, reinstating Kathy Kane as the first Batwoman – and her niece, Bette, as Bat-Girl.

A 2004 commission of Flamebird by George Pérez.

 

The Birth Of The Batman Family


[information from Batman: The Complete History by Les Daniels, 1999]

Batman & Robin: Domestic Duo?[Frederick] Wertham’s general assertion was that readers would imitate the crimes committed in the comics, but in what remains the most notorious passage from his book Seduction of the Innocent, he leveled a special charge against Batman. Launching his longest attack on any comic book character, Wertham devoted four pages of his polemic to persuading his repressed 1950s audience that Batman and Robin were gay and that exposure to their adventures would send young readers down the same path to perdition. “They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases, and have a butler,” Wertham wrote.

“It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together.” What was more, Wertham asserted, “the Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies.” His only evidence for these claims came from “overt homosexuals” treated at the sinister-sounding Readjustment Center (Wertham’s clinic devoted to the psychotherapy of sexual difficulties), where some individuals occasionally imagined trading places with Batman. Despite the lack of any concrete cause-and-effect link between reading comics and “deviance,” such suggestions were dynamite in an era intolerant of nonconformity, especially in sexual matters.

Of course it is inherently absurd to speculate on what Batman and Robin might have been doing behind closed doors for the simple fact that, unlike Wertham’s patients, they had no lives off the printed page. Batman’s creators were evidently heterosexuals, and it would never have occurred to them that homosexual undertones could have been read into the stories they created. It’s highly probable that they were focused instead on the objections that would have been raised if Bruce Wayne were living with an adolescent girl, and that they were bending over backward to avoid even the suggestion of sex. In the process, they fell into the trap of depicting an all-male household that could be subject to Wertham’s lurid interpretation.

Still, what did it matter? Some say homosexuality is genetic, and some say it’s a matter of environment, but only Wertham would claim it was caused by comic books. Yet for most of the next decade, Batman’s writers, artists, editors, and publishers would struggle to prove that their comics were not inspiring a generation to become gay or juvenile delinquents, and by overcompensating so strenuously they produced some of the strangest Batman stories ever seen. Their strategies included a proliferation of new Bat-characters designed to create a faux family atmosphere, the introduction of science-fiction villains whose cosmic crimes could not be imitated, and incessant distortions of the image of Batman himself, as if he were obliged to wear a disguise while appearing in his own adventures.

Enter Batwoman

This character made her debut in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956), written by Edmond Hamilton and illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff. It seems clear that her introduction was part of a publishing decision to alter the ambiance of the series. Memories are vague on this point, but the responsibility may have rested with DC publisher Harry Donenfeld’s son Irwin. After Whitney Ellsworth moved to California to produce a Superman television series, Irwin Donenfeld was serving as de facto editor in chief. “He came in and he had a lot of things that he sort of threw at us,” recalled Batman editor Jack Schiff. Then again, Schiff himself believed new characters would bump up sales, and everyone seemed eager to provide Batman with some female companionship.

Initially, Batwoman was presented as something of an interloper. She was Kathy Kane, a former circus acrobat who used an inheritance to fulfill her dream of imitating Batman, and began showing up in answer to the Bat-Signal, catching crooks and even rescuing the Dynamic Duo. Even while fighting crime, however, she displayed signs of conventional womanliness. She carried a purse rather than wearing a utility belt, and armed herself with such “flashing feminine tricks” as a lipstick filled with tear gas and a compact containing sneezing powder. Sheldon Moldoff dressed her in bright yellow tights with little buttons down the front; her oversize mask, extending beyond her face to create the impression of a bat’s ears, was ingeniously designed but nonetheless suggested the matronly look of harlequin eyeglasses. Batman protested that by law no man in Gotham City but he could wear a bat costume, and she responded, “I’m a woman!” By the end of the story Batman had uncovered her identity and convinced her that battling bad guys was too dangerous.

Inevitably, however, Batwoman returned again and again over the next few years, even gaining superpowers on one occasion, until her appearances became a regular feature of the series. In another story, when Bruce Wayne was mistakenly jailed, she took over as Robin’s boss, and it wasn t much later that Dick Grayson had a story-length nightmare, immortalized on the cover ofBatman #122 (March 1959), concerning “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman.” The happy couple are depicted leaving the church arm in arm, while Robin stands on the sidelines and worries, “Gosh! What’ll become of me now?” Whether or not the creators were attempting to reassure everyone that Batman was heterosexual, this story may have succeeded in creating anxieties in boys about females being the enemies of friendship and loyalty.

By Batman #153 (February 1963), Batwoman responded to an apparently impending doom by pledging her love to Batman, and he reciprocated, only to declare his comments a white lie once the danger was past. Readers looking for mystery and adventure were beginning to wonder why they should put up with such soap opera, and why Batman wasn’t out at night wrestling with Catwoman instead.

The 1961 Batman Annual featured a pinup, drawn by Sheldon Moldoff,
of the entire smiling “Batman Family.”

Enter Bat-Girl

In Batman #139 (April 1961), Bat-Girl arrived. She was Batwoman’s niece, Betty Kane, who was such a big fan that she made her own costume and set out to emulate . . . well, the pattern was pretty clear by then. Although some time elapsed between each character’s debut, it’s apparent that nobody was expending much effort on originality. Still, a female companion for Robin had been introduced, and there were scenes of Bat-Girl kissing him while he blushed and sweated with embarrassment Of course while all this heterosexuality was being established, things couldn’t be allowed to get too passionate, and attempts to reach the proper compromise attained new heights of absurdity in “Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl” from Batman #144 (December 1961).

Here the extra dimensional elf plays Cupid on behalf of Bat-Girl but Robin resists, citing the example of Batman, who had renounced “romance” while he was a crime fighter. Then Batman and Batwoman show up to announce that Robin is too young to make such a decision and will therefore be obliged to endure Bat-Girl’s unwelcome advances while the adults look on approvingly.

If a comic book could actually turn people gay as Dr. Wertham had suggested seven years earlier, this one might have had the power to do it.

The 1961 Batman Annual featured a pinup, drawn by Sheldon Moldoff, of the entire smiling “Batman Family.” It looked like Batman and Batwoman were the parents, with Robin and Bat-Girl as the kids and Bat-Mite as the baby. Ace doubled as the family dog, with Alfred and Police Commissioner Gordon on hand as a couple of elderly uncles. Someone capable of taking this picture seriously might have concluded the vengeful Batman of yore had at last been healed and made whole, but the less fanciful fact was that the series had somehow taken a wrong turn, switching from super heroes to situation comedy.

The Batman book eventually switched focus to wild science fiction, and the ‘Bat-Family’ characters were soon forgotten. Bat-Girl had just six appearances in the Batman series.

 

Those 70s Titans


From Amazing Heroes #2, 1981
“Teen Titans History” by Tom Burkert

 

A 1976 house ad for the Teen Titans’ new direction.

The First Revival

Though gone, the series was not forgotten. The issues ofDC SuperStars and Super-Team Family reprinting Teen Titans stories sold so well that Managing Editor Joe Orlando convinced DC’s new publisher, Jeanette 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.

The Teen Titans, as depicted in DC’s 1977 calendar.

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.

The 70s Revival Line-Up.

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 Hornblower (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 (Charley Parker) and Bat-Girl (Betty Kane) were new to the series.

Titans West meets Titans East in TEEN TITANS #52 [1978].

The Golden Eagle had previously been featured inJustice League and Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl, decided to come out of retirement to handle an emergency (her senior partner, Batwoman, 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!”

Titans from both coasts pose for a picture in TEEN TITANS #52 [1978].

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 Teen Titans#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.

“Once Upon A Time”, a George Pérez Pin-Up.

 


Sources for this entry: DC Who’s Who Binder Series, The New Titans Sourcebook [Mayfair Games, 1990], DC Secret Files, supplemented by titanstower.com


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


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