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Alias: John Gnarrk

Titans Honorary Member
Teen Titans [first series] #33 [1971]
Related Links: Lilith Clay

Gnarrk Quick Bio: A gentle Caveman out of his own time, Gnarrk bonded with Lilith Clay before his tragic death.

Recent File Photo:

Archived File Photos (in chronological order):

Hero History

Dream Of The Future

Gnarrk’s bizarre story began thousands of years ago, when the nineteen year old Cro-Magnon grew fascinated by the lights in the skies. One night, a comet crashed before him, imbedding a chunk of crystal into his chest. Somehow, this caused a transformation in him, expanding his mind, and his understanding of the universe. Soon, a volcanic disturbance threatened Gnarrk. The jewel in his chest protected him, though, encasing him in ice.

Centuries passed, and Gnarrk remained in his ice tomb. During that time, his mind still worked, and Gnarrk dreamed of a better world. He had the ability to cure disease and control the forces of nature to benefit mankind.

Lilith bonds with Gnarrk in NEW TITANS #56 [1989].

A Love That Transcends Time

Based on psychic flashes from Lilith, the Teen Titans traveled to Southeast Asia, where they eventually located Gnarrk in a frozen block of ice. He mentally called out to Lilith, introducing himself as Gnarrk. Lilith was dating her Titans teammate Don Hall at the time, but nonetheless found herself attracted to the unique neanderthal. The Titans brought Gnarrk back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where it was established the curious caveboy was dying. A group of S.T.A.R. scientists wanted to dissect and study him, but the Titans prevented them from doing so.

Sensitive to the confused Cro-Magnon’s plight, Lilith used her powers to establish a mental rapport with Gnarrk. During that time, she discovered his true origins and noble intentions. Now bonded, the two sensitive teens fell in love through their fleeting yet deep psychic connection.

Gnarrk remained on life support for almost a year, as Lilith visited him continually. Eventually, Gnarrk’s light in his chest faded, and he died with quiet dignity.  When S.T.A.R. scientists performed an autopsy, they found the crystal no longer had any special properties. Whatever abilities the stone possessed vanished upon Gnarrk’s death.

Lilith stays with Gnarrk until his light fades in
NEW TITANS #56 [1989].

Powers & Abilities

Being a Cro-Magnon, Gnarrk possesses greater strength, dexterity and endurance. The Post-Crisis version of Gnarrk possessed additional abilities: When a comet imbedded a chunk of crystal into his chest, it caused a transformation in Gnarrk – it expanded his mind, and his understanding. The full range of his expanded mental abilities were uncatalogued.


Essential Reading


Teen Titans #32 [1971]: . An experiment of Mr. Jupiter’s in time travel explodes, hurling Mal into prehistoric times, and Kid Flash travels into the past to save him. Gnarrk’s first appearance; named in issue #33.
Teen Titans #33 [1971]: Mr. Jupiter gives the Titans the task of training Gnarrk, as the Cro-Magnon is christened, to become a civilized present-day man. Gnarrk becomes a part-time member of the Teen Titans, learns the Teen Titans’ secret identities, and begins a romance with Lilith in this story.
Teen Titans #39 [1971]: Gnarrk runs wild, smashing an Aztec Indian tribe, and finally menacing even Lilith, until the sound of her voice brings him back to his senses.
Teen Titans #50-52 [1976]: Lilith and Gnarrk revealed to be engaged after having moved to California. 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. Last appearance of Gnarrk; revealed as having died at the time of Donna Troy’s Wedding in Tales of the Teen Titans #50 [1984].


New Titans #56 [1989]: Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher recall an old Titans case from the past. Based on psychic flashes from Lilith, the Teen Titans travel to Southeast Asia, where they eventually find Gnarrk, still encased in ice. First appearance and origin of Gnarrk post-Crisis.


Crisis Conundrums

Crisis Conundrums

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, which has remained more or less intact since then. In the same year, New Titans #50-55 told Donna Troy’s new origin with the Titans of Myth. And New Titans #56  featured a flashback tale with Titans West, which completely revised Gnarrk’s back-story.

Gnarrk arrives in the present
in TEEN TITANS #33 [1971].

Gnarrk Pre-Crisis History

Essential Reading:
Teen Titans (first series) #32-33, 39, 50-52

Accidentally transported back to prehistoric times by an invention of Mr. Jupiter’s, Teen Titans Kid Flash and Mal Duncan unintentionally brought a young cave-dweller back to the present. Thrust into an overwhelming future world, the confused Neanderthal nearly trashed Jupiter Labs upon his arrival. The Teen Titans caged the caveboy as Mr. Jupiter tasked the heroes with domesticating the young brute.

After repeating the phrase “Gnarrk!” several times, the Titans decided that was his name. Lilith and Wonder Girl provided the hirsute Gnarrk with a shave and a haircut, revealing a surprisingly rugged young man underneath. Robin returned to the ranks to help out, only to learn that Gnarrk’s education had taken on an added importance, since the caveman had witnessed a payoff between underworld figures and a respected city councilman. Subsequently, Gnarrk had to be trained quickly to become a believable witness in court.

Lilith teaches Gnarrk the ways of
the world – in TEEN TITANS #33 [1971].

Seeing through his savage facade, Lilith established a psychic rapport and discovered a quiet beauty beneath the beast. But as romance blossomed, a group of gangsters hunted Gnarrk to prevent him from testifying. Gnarrk went berserk when Lilith was wounded, but the Titans arrived to soothe the savage beast. Ultimately, Gnarrk abided by present-day law and his testimony resulted in the conviction of the crooked councilman. Lilith and Gnarrk solidified their relationship, as the boy from the past looked toward a brighter new future.

Adopting the civilian name of John Gnarrk, the cleaned-up caveman later secured a job at the Forbes Foundation, but was terminated when his past as a rehabilitated Cro-Magnon became known. This reopened old wounds, prompting Gnarrk to run wild on an Aztec tribe and even menace his beloved Lilith. But the gentle sound of his lover’s voice snapped Gnarrk back, reverting him to his civilized senses.

Lilith dotes over Gnarrk in TEEN TITANS #39 [1971].

After a series of adventures both super-heroic and supernatural, this incarnation of the Titans disbanded, as members elected to pursue school and other interests. Loren Jupiter closed shop on his youth program, inciting Lilith and Gnarrk to create their own life in California, where they became engaged.

But soon, Gnarrk’s relationship with Lilith was sorely tested when Mr. Esper used his mental helmet to cause disasters on the California coast. This spurred Lilith into action, organizing a West Coast branch of the Teen Titans to stop him. With his Neanderthal nature resurfacing, Gnarrk objected to Lilith’s role on the team. In truth, the lovable lunkhead feared for her safety.

Titans West was a short-lived endeavor, allowing Lilith and Gnarrk to stop squabbling and resume wedding plans. Sadly, that day would never come. For when Lilith attended Donna Troy’s wedding, she announced that Gnarrk had died under unrevealed circumstances.


Those 70s Titans

From Amazing Heroes #2, 1981
“Teen Titans History” by Tom Burkert
Reprinted in Best of Amazing Heroes #1, 1982

New Costumes

In Teen Titans #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.

The Teen Titans get real in TEEN TITANS #25 [1970],
where they relinquish their costumes and join Mr. Jupiter’s program.

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 Teen Titans #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 Teen Titans #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.”


From TEEN TITANS #28 [1970]: The Titans don their costumes
but keep their vow, much to Aqualad’s dismay.

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 I wanted to do… I 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.

Lilith’s mysticism inspired many stories, including the Titans’ encounter
with demonic moonlings in TEEN TITANS #43 [1972].

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 as 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. Teen Titans was one of the casualties.

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.



 Titans In Love: Lilith & Gnarrk

She was a mysterious teen psychic in search of her past. He was a gentle cave-boy thrust into the future. And together, these two crazy kids found love. It all began in Teen Titans #33 [1971], where the Teen Titans attempted to domesticate the time-tossed cave teen. Lilith was able to reach Gnarrk telepathically, and she sensed a warmth and kindness in him despite his gruff exterior. When the confused cave-boy fled Jupiter Labs, Lilith found her “poor, bewildered frightened baby.”

Gnarrk reappeared in Teen Titans #39, where Lilith’s soothing influence cooled Gnarrk’s cro-magnon rage. By that time, it seemed Lilith and Gnarrk were a solid couple, as Lilith cooed, “He’s a real cool civilized cat, my Gnarrk is.”

ABOVE: Lilith teaches Gnarrk the ways of the world – in TEEN TITANS #33 [1971].
BELOW: A happy ending for Gnarrk and Lilith in TEEN TITANS #33 [1971].

Gnarrk did not reappear until years later, when the Teen Titans encountered the new Titans West group in Teen Titans #50-52 [1977]. In that tale, it was revealed that Lilith and Gnarrk were engaged to be married. Although Lilith was a member, Gnarrk was not considered a part of the West Coast based team. He actually objected to Lilith’s involvement in the group altogether. “You coulda gone to the cops instead of hooking up with this bunch, ” Gnarrk snarled. “How many times I gotta tell ya I don’t want my fiancee playin’ like she’s Wonder Woman? You coulda been hurt bad!” Lilith countered, “But I wasn’t — and I helped save a lot of people. Stop being so overprotective!”

The only former Teen Titan who did not attend the wedding of Donna Troy and Terry Long (Tales of the Teen Titans #50 in 1984), Gnarrk apparently died under unrevealed circumstances sometime after his last appearance.

Gnarrk’s death is revealed in TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #50 [1984].

When the Titans’ past was altered by the history-shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths, Lilith and Gnarrk’s story was altered as well. Gnarrk’s revised origin was told in New Titans #56 [1989], where Lilith used her powers to establish a mental rapport with a mysterious cave-boy encased in ice. The two fell in love through their psychic link, even as Gnarrk remained in stasis at S.T.A.R. Labs. Within a year, the mysterious light in Gnarrk’s chest faded and he died.

Continuity glitches aside, Lilith and Gnarrk’s original love story remains one of the sweetest courtships in Titans’ history.

Romantic Reads:
Teen Titans [1971] #33, 39
Teen Titans [1977] #50-52
New Titans [1989] #56

Lilith bonds with Gnarrk in
NEW TITANS #56 [1989].

Sources for this entry: The Official Teen Titans Index [published by ICG in 1985], The New Titans Sourcebook [Mayfair Games, 1990], supplemented by

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