The stage was set as far back as Teen Titans #4-5. The two-part stories featured a variety of guest stars: Supergirl, Captain Marvel Jr, Nightwing and Robin. It also introduced a tragic man-monster, whom Prysm named “Fringe.”
Writer/artist Dan Jurgens noted, “As I see it, Captain Marvel Jr., Impulse and Robin [...] will have a loose affiliation with the group and can be brought in at any time, if their appearance makes sense and isn’t used as a sales tool.”
Teen Titans #5 also launched a ‘vote-for-new member’ campaign. From the letter column: “Hoookay, as Cody would say, in this issue we featured a nice variety of guest stars for all of you who have been asking us why so-and-so isn’t part of the Teen Titans. But if we know you fans, you’re still not satisfied. Soooo, with this issue we open the polls for you – yes, YOU – to pick the next member to join the Teen Titans. The only requirement is that they be young. Characters like Flash and Green Lantern have graduated to JLA status, so we suggest characters who are in the Robin, Impulse and the Spoiler league instead. Hoookayy? Send the ballot below.”
The team seemingly broke up following events of #16. Following that issue, a number of one shots spotlighted individual members. Teen Titans #17 featured a membership drive, and new members Fringe and Captain Marvel Jr. joined the team. Former Titan Arsenal also joined the supporting cast.
The letters column of Teen Titans #17 revealed the winner to the contest: “Holy Moley! [We]hope you like the addition of Captain Marvel Jr. to the ranks. He was the winner by a landslide of the vote for a new Titan, It was pretty interesting that neither Robin nor Impulse (guys both Dan and the editor thought would be the favorites) got as many votes as Freddie. And some of the other candidates you voted for will also be making appearances here soon. So stick around!”
The Teen Titans #18 letter column revealed more of the outcome: “As for the winner of the new member vote, it should be obvious by now that it was Captain Marvel Jr. Our runners-up were Spoiler, Terra and Damage. Surprisingly, Robin and Impulse gave a very poor showing, which is strange because during the days when this book got started, all we heard was how you wanted those guys in the Titans. Oh, well.”
These new members didn’t generate much new excitement. Captain Marvel Jr. spent most of his panel time mooning over Argent. Meanwhile, Fringe went through various man-monster tropes. In short, the membership shake-up did little to invigorate the title. It seemed readers didn’t accept these new characters as “Titans,” and the title was canceled with issue #24.
Dan Jurgens on New Teen Titans Members
[courtesy of Titans Companion 2, from TwoMorrows Publishing – 2008]
TTC: Five issues in, you announced a contest whereby the readers could vote for a new member of the team. What was the rationale behind that?
DJ: I think we just wanted to have the readers feel a little more involved.
TTC: So if Superboy or Robin had won, would you have had the authority to add them to the team?
DJ: I wouldn’t have had the authority. What we certainly would have done had that happened is gone to DC and said, “Hey, this is what the readers of this title have voted for, therefore we’re gonna assume this is what they want to see, which is good for sales in the long run. Let’s try and work this out.”
TTC: That’s when Captain Marvel, Jr. became a Titan.
DJ: Yes. And I gotta tell you, it came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. One of the things I’ve always felt happened – and I think I’m right about this – is somehow, in the formative years of how the Internet related with comic publishers, somebody mounted a helluva write-in campaign for Captain Marvel, Jr., [and] they got their way.
TTC: Who did you expect to win?
DJ: Quite honestly? I thought it was gonna be Robin or Nightwing.
TTC: Wouldn’t Nightwing have been too old?
DJ: Not in my book, no. I think one of the more successful aspects of the X-Men is that you see a great mix of ages within the groups.
TTC: So how did you approach incorporating Captain Marvel, Jr. into the team?
DJ: I think the toughest thing, whenever you have to try and take anyone from the Marvel family and work them into any kind of DC continuity, is how the hell do you make it really try and make sense? To me, that’s the toughest one of all, and I’m not sure that, in retrospect, I ever felt comfortable with Captain Marvel, Jr. occupying that slot for us. You can try all the explanations of talking worms and tigers and everything else that you want, but there’s just a barrier there. I have always felt this. There’s just a barrier there that makes it very difficult to make it work.
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.