A Titans Is Born
A seemingly ordinary young resident of “Hell’s Corner” in Harlem, Mal Duncan possessed no special powers beyond his quick wits and pugilistic skills he had developed as an amateur boxer. Mal first met the Teen Titans in his tough inner-city neighborhood, where they witnessed the racist gang known as Hell’s Hawks hassle Cindy Duncan, Mal’s kid sister. Mal and the Titans drove the thugs away, forming a fast friendship in the process.
Despite his initial feelings of unworthiness, Mal was recruited by the team and joined Mr. Jupiter’s special program, figuring prominently in subsequent Titans cases in which the group relinquished their costumed identities. But once the Titans resumed their super-powered exploits, the powerless young man felt out of place.
ABOVE: Mal defends his sister from a group of thugs – and
meets the Titans – in TEEN TITANS #26 .
BELOW: Mal joins Mr. Jupiter’s program in TEEN TITANS #26 .
On one occasion, while the Titans were off on an overseas case, Mal fiddled with the Titans’ new computer and accidentally released the Gargoyle, an old foe of the Titans, from Limbo. Although Mal drove him back to the strange dimension, the Gargoyle had already put a computer program into the Titans’ mainframe that would give Mal the knowledge to construct the Gabriel Horn. Unfortunately, the program was also designed to open a rift from Limbo to Earth each time Mal used the device.
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.
Mal defeats the Gargoyle, who plants the seeds of the Gabriel Horn,
as detailed in SECRET ORIGINS Annual #3 .
Beautiful Music Together
During the first period of Titans inactivity, Mal was selected to keep watch over the group’s headquarters and equipment until such time as they should resume operations. It was during this period that Mal met Karen Beecher, a brainy and beautiful New York librarian. Together they developed the Gabriel Horn, a spacial-distortion device that would enable Mal to one day confidently rejoin his super-powered colleagues. Working closely on this project, the two teens feel head over heels in love.
Soon after, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy and Mal Duncan were lured to Titans Lair by a false distress signal engineered by the deranged Dr. Light. Seizing this opportunity, Mal made his debut as the Herald, utilizing the dimension-opening Gabriel Horn to dispatch with Dr. Light and rescue his teammates.
Mal unleashes the Gabriel Horn to become Herald, as his origin
is recapped in SECRET ORIGINS Annual #3 .
Karen still felt the Titans did not appreciate Mal, so she decided to change that with a high-tech super-suit of her own design. Donning a winged costume equipped with bee-themed gadgets, Karen broke into the Titan’s Lair as the Bumblebee and feigned a surprise attack. Her plan was meant to give Mal a chance to flex his powers and look good in front of his teammates. But Bumblebee recognized the folly of her scheme when Mal’s friends quickly rallied to his defense. With that, Bumblebee fled, realizing she has miscalculated the entire situation.
Later on, Karen revealed her identity to Mal and the Titans and apologized for her actions. Eventually, the Bumblebee joined the Teen Titans, as the team set up a new headquarters at Gabriel’s Horn, a discotheque in Farmingdale, Long Island. The disco was actually a cover for their secret underground headquarters. Through Gabriel’s Horn, Mal was afforded an opportunity to have a steady gig in Roy Harper’s rock group, Great Frog, in which he played the trumpet.
Ultimately, this incarnation of the Teen Titans didn’t last long. Soon after an adventure with the Titans West team, the Titans disbanded once more.
ABOVE: Mal doubts his place on the team – but Karen has
a plan – as seen in TEEN TITANS #45 .
BELOW: Karen Beecher becomes Bumblebee to bolster
Mal’s standing in TEEN TITANS #48 .
Go West, Young Titans
When the Titans split up, Karen and Mal married and retired from super-heroics. The couple relocated to the San Francisco where Karen pursued her college degree in engineering and later accepted a position at S.T.A.R. Labs as a research assistant for non-lethal weapons development. Karen also dabbled in freelance writing, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. Meanwhile, Mal became a novelist as well as the owner of a West Coast version of Gabriel’s Horn, a nightclub located on trendy Lombardi Street. Occasionally, Mal would entertain his patrons by playing the trumpet.
Mal and Karen were reunited with their old friends when Donna Troy married Terry Long in a lavish ceremony in Long Island. Beside their most colorful colleagues, the couple still seemed content with their more mundane civilian lives.
Semi-retired, Mal and Karen attend Donna’s wedding in
TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #50 .
But as any former Titan can attest, things never remain mundane for long. Mal later discovered the drawback to his Gabriel Horn, as the Gargoyle’s long-term plan came to fruition. Years ago, the Gargoyle had corrupted the Herald’s computer-programmed device, so that each time Mal used it, the fabric of limbo would be slightly torn. The cumulative effect would break the barrier between limbo and earth and free Gargoyle and his evil ally, the Antithesis. The Titans discovered the ruse, prompting Mal to destroy his Gabriel Horn and thwart the evil pair for good.
Mal learns the terrible secret behind the Gabriel Horn in SECRET ORIGINS Annual #3 .
A short time later, Titans West was briefly reassembled when 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.
Karen donned her Bumblebee identity again to aid the Titans in a case involving the wily Wildebeest, who had hacked into Cyborg’s circuitry to turn him against his own teammates. Bumblebee and the Titans rescued Cyborg, although the Wildebeest escaped their grasp once again. Mal and Karen were later abducted by the Wildebeest Society, which had been commandeered by a demonically-possessed Jericho. The couple was liberated by their Titans allies and resumed their normal lives.
Mal and Karen were 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. During the battle, Victor recreated a virtual version of Mal’s Gabriel Horn, which enabled him to become the Herald once again.
Vic Stone fashions a new Gabriel Horn
for Mal in JLA/TITANS #2 .
As Gabriel’s Horn closed its doors, Mal opened up a small restaurant and coffee house called The Buzz. Both Mal and Karen turned down a request to join the newly reorganized Titans on the East Coast, but were coaxed into attending a makeshift membership drive for a new Titans West. Prompted by his obnoxious cousin Matt, Beast Boy revived the California-based team, now christened Titans L.A. Its members included Beast Boy, Flamebird, 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.
When Donna Troy gathered together a team of heroes for a space mission during the Infinite Crisis, she recruited Herald and Bumblebee. But during their mission, Karen and Mal became irrevocably transformed. Herald’s sub-sonic weapons blew up in his face, which required his vocal chords and lungs to be replaced with circuitry. Unable to speak, Mal assumed the codename Vox and found his dimension-opening Gabriel Horn was now a part of him. Meanwhile, Bumblebee was irradiated with a strange kind of energy which caused her to shrink down to six-inch height. Trapped at this size, the diminutive heroine must take special meds to keep her tiny heart from going into cardiac arrest.
Mal’s transformation into Vox is explained in
TEEN TITANS (third series) #36 .
Bumblebee and Vox may not have survived their transformations without the intervention of the Chief, the mysterious genius who founded the bizarre super-team known as the Doom Patrol. Rescued from near-death, Bumblebee and Vox elected to join the Doom Patrol and stay at Dayton Manor in Prague.
The team eventually relocated to Oolong Island, which had become a haven for mad scientists and unorthodox thinkers. But both Mal and Karen had trouble adjusting to their new mutations. It eventually drove a wedge between the two lovers, who agreed to a trial separation. But after a short time apart, Karen called Mal just to hear his voice – perhaps taking the first tentative steps toward reconciliation
Powers & Abilities
Herald constructed the Gabriel Horn, with the help of Karen Beecher (Bumblebee). The horn is able to open portals through space. Herald is also skilled in hand-to-hand combat.
When a horrible accident fused Mal’s sub-sonic weapons to his body, the attributes of the dimension-opening Gabriel Horn became a part of Mal himself. Unable to speak, Mal’s bionic circuitry can control sound and open space portals by speaking through his cybernetic implants.
Teen Titans #26-27 : Mal joins Mr. Jupiter’s training program and learns the Teen Titans’ secret identities in this story. After training in Mr. Jupiter’s survival course, the former Titans are assigned to a field exercise: to survive in “Hell’s Corner,” a tough inner-city neighborhood. Mal is recruited by the Titans and joins Mr. Jupiter’s program, but feeling unworthy, tries to prove himself by stowing away aboard an experimental rocket flight. The other Titans undertake a space flight and retrieve Mal. Malcolm “Mal” Duncan’s first appearance in issue #26. Mal joins the Titans.
Teen Titans #35 : Second Story: While the Teen Titans are on an overseas case, Mal is minding Titans’ Lair when the Gargoyle is accidentally released from his banishment in Limbo; Mal proves himself a hero by sending the Gargoyle back.
Teen Titans #45 : Mal receives Gabriel Horn and becomes Hornblower. Mal, after an argument with the other Titans, is caught in a blast set by the Wreckers and finds himself in a contest for his very life with Azrael, the Angel of Death. He believes this to have been a mere hallucination until he awakens to find himself in possession of a mystic horn given him by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel’s horn, when blown, gives him unspecified powers to use whenever the odds are against him in battle. First appearance of Karen Beecher, Mal’s girlfriend.
Teen Titans #48 : First appearance of Karen Beecher as Bumblebee.
Tales of the Teen Titans #50 : Donna Troy and Terry Long wed this issue. Appearances by just about every Titan, past and present.
Secret Origins Annual #3 : 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); First Appearance of Herald (Post Crisis ret-con of Hornblower and Guardian); First Appearance of Golden Eagle’s new costume; Includes Who’s Who entries for Flamebird, Golden Eagle, Bumblebee, The Herald, Antithesis, and Gargoyle. First Post-Crisis version of Mal Duncan.
Hawk & Dove Annual (second series) # 1 : 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.
The Titans Secret Files #2 : 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.
Teen Titans (third series) #34-37 : One Year Later, it’s “The New Teen Titans!” A new year of exciting adventures begins with the “new” Teen Titans and the bizarre Doom Patrol. Bumblebee and Vox first seen as members of the Doom Patrol in issue #35. Their transformations are explained in issue #36.
Doom Patrol #2 : Bumblebee reveals she and Mal have separated.
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.
Mal Duncan Continuity Clarification
Mal Duncan, Pre-Crisis:
1. Received the mythical Gabriel’s Horn from the Angel Gabriel, and became the costumed hero, Hornblower.
2. Assumed the costumed identity of The Guardian for a time.
Mal Duncan, Current Continuity:
1. Developed the Gabriel Horn with his technical-minded girlfriend, Karen Beecher – and became the Herald.
2. Never assumed the costumed identity of The Guardian.
Mal becomes the Guardian in TEEN TITANS #44 .
Mal Duncan Pre-Crisis History
Mal Duncan [Pre-Crisis] is also known as
The Guardian and Hornblower
First appearance: Teen Titans #26
Origin: Teen Titans #26 (as Mal);
Teen Titans #44 (as Guardian);
Teen Titans #45 (as Hornblower)
A seemingly ordinary young resident of “Hell’s Corner,” a tough inner-city neighborhood, Mal Duncan possessed no special powers beyond his quick wits and the pugilistic skills he had developed as an amateur boxer when the Teen Titans first encountered him while on a mission under the direction of Mr. Jupiter. Despite his initial feelings of unworthiness, the black youth was recruited by the team and joined Mr. Jupiter’s special program, figuring prominently in subsequent Titans cases.
During the first period of Titans inactivity, Mal was selected to keep watch over the group’s headquarters and equipment until such time as they should resume operations. It was during this two-year period that he met and became engaged to Karen Beecher. When the reassembled Titans were captured by Dr. Light, Mal used a strength-increasing exoskeleton and the costume once worn by Speedy’s late uncle to take on the identity of the 1940s super-hero, the Guardian, and to rescue his teammates.
ABOVE: Mal receives a magical horn from the angel Gabriel in TEEN TITANS #45 .
BELOW: Mal becomes the Hornblower in TEEN TITANS #45 .
Soon afterward, he was given a magical horn by a being calling himself the angel Gabriel, which bestowed unspecified mystic powers upon him when blown. He briefly assumed a second costumed identity as the Hornblower using this weapon, but dropped this role when the magic horn mysteriously vanished, and when it became known that Mal and Hornblower were one and the same. Resuming his Guardian identity, he remained active with the Teen Titans until they disbanded for the second time.
Sometime after this, he and Karen helped Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion determine the fate of Jim Harper, the original Guardian, and learned how the former hero’s uniform came into the possession of his nephew, Speedy. Mal, as the Guardian, has teamed with Karen, in her identity as the Bumblebee, but both eventually retired from super-heroics.
A 2005 commission of Mal as Guardian
by 1970’s Teen Titans artist, Rich Buckler.
Bob Rozakis on Mal Duncan
From an exclusive interview with titanstower.com:
titanstower: How did you decide on the team line-up?
Bob: It was pretty much decided based on the previous incarnation of the book. I added Karen Beecher (the Bumblebee) so that Mal would have a love interest.
titanstower: What were your plans for Mal? He changed quite a bit – from The Guardian persona, to Hornblower, then losing the Gabriel Horn (a plot point that didn’t get resolved during your run…)
Bob: The resolution of the horn plot was to have been that Mal had hidden it himself because subconsciously he did not want to be a superhero. The Guardian identity was introduced in the first issue — co-written by Paul Levitz and myself — but when Julie Schwartz took over as editor with he second issue, he decided to dump that plotline, so we came up with the Gabriel’s Horn identity.
titanstower: How did you come up with the idea for Bumblebee?
Bob: As I said, I had wanted to introduce a love interest for Mal and added Karen. Then we decided to make her into a superhero. And I had been planning to play with the concept that she got more and more into the idea of being a hero as Mal moved further and further away from it.
titanstower: So would Mal eventually give up super-heroing all together?
Bob: Yes, that was my plan… though at some point the Bumblebee would have gotten into some sort of situation that would have required Mal to be a hero once more.
Bob Rozakis on Mal Duncan [from The Titans Companion, 2005]
TTC: In the first issue with Julie Schwartz as editor, Mal stopped being the Guardian. Why did that happen?
BR: Julie hated the idea of using the Guardian costume and just making him a retread of a ‘40s character. Which was rather amusing, considering that Julie invented the Silver Age based on doing retreads of a bunch of ‘40s characters. But he decided he wanted to do something different with him, and that’s where we came up with the Gabriel’s Horn thing.
TTC: That issue had some pretty heavy topics in it for a quote unquote “kid’s comic.” The whole scene with Mal fighting the Angel of Death wasn’t exactly your standard super-hero fare.
BR: No, not really. [laughs]
TTC: You didn’t cut Mal much slack during your run. If he lost a single fight, he was dead!
BR: Well, that’s true. But I guess it made him tougher, right? What doesn’t kill you makes you tougher?
TTC: How were you going to resolve the mystery of Mal’s missing horn?
BR: He had hidden it himself. Subconsciously he did not want to be a super-hero. He did not want to be Hornblower. And as I remember, that costume that got designed for him was downright ugly, and who would want to be seen in it? But the resolution was going to be that he had hidden the horn himself, but he didn’t realize that he had done it.
TTC: Where did the idea of giving him Gabriel’s Horn come from, anyway?
BR: That was something Julie came up with.
TTC: He eventually ended up becoming the Guardian again, so I guess Julie must’ve changed his mind by then.
BR: I think Julie may not have been the editor by that point. It might’ve been Jack Harris by then.
A 2011 Bumblebee and Mal Duncan commission by Tim Fish.
Titans In Love: Mal Duncan & Karen Beecher
A brainy and beautiful New York librarian, Karen Beecher met Mal Duncan after the first group of Teen Titans broke up. In Karen’s first appearance in Teen Titans #45 , she tries to counter her boyfriend Mal’s feeling of inferiority. In an effort to bolster his reputation on the team, Karen became the Bumblebee to make Mal look good in front of his teammates, attacking them before being revealed as Karen Beecher (Teen Titans #48).
The newly engaged Mal and Karen discuss their future
in SUPERMAN FAMILY #191 .
Both Karen and Mal remained members of the Teen Titans until the book’s end with issue #53. In that same issue, Speedy remarks, “And if you don’t invite us to the wedding, it won’t be cupid’s arrows you’ll see flying!”, indicating the pair was already engaged. The letter column of that same issue confirmed this: “The Guardian/Hornblower/Mal will continue to run Gabriel’s Horn with the aid of his fiancee, Karen (the Bumblebee) Beecher.” The actual wedding was an affair that occurred off-panel, as the now-married couple attended Donna Troy’s wedding in Tales of the Teen Titans #50 . Living in semi-retirement, Mal and Karen relocated to the West Coast.
Karen and Mal touch base in New Titans #59 .
The happy couple returned to aid the Titans on various occasions (Secret Origins Annual #3 , New Titans #56-59 , Hawk & Dove Annual (second series) # 1 , JLA/Titans #1-3  and The Titans Secret Files & Origins #2 ), but remained content with their more mundane lifestyle. The pair ran a West Coast version of Gabriel’s Horn for a time, and later opened up a small restaurant and coffee house called The Buzz. Through it all, Mal and Karen remained the strongest, happiest couple it Titans history.
Thing began to unravel when Donna Troy led a space mission during the Infinite Crisis, recruiting both Herald and Bumblebee. Transformed by strange energies, Bumblebee became trapped at insect size while Mal’s Gabriel Horn was fused to his chest (Teen Titans #35-37 ). The couple found refuge with the bizarre Doom Patrol, but these new mutations eventually drove a wedge between the two lovers. In Doom Patrol #2 , Bumblebee revealed she and Mal had separated. But after a short time apart, Karen called Mal just to hear his voice – perhaps taking the first tentative steps toward reconciliation (Doom Patrol #13 ).
Teen Titans  #45-53
Superman Family  #191-192
Tales of the Teen Titans  #50
Secret Origins Annual  #3
New Titans  #56-59
JLA/Titans #1-3 
Titans Secret Files  #2
Teen Titans  #34-37
Doom Patrol  #2, 13
A 2010 Bumblebee and Mal Duncan commission by Caanan Grall.
Those 70s Titans
From Amazing Heroes #2, 1981
“Teen Titans History” by Tom Burkert
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 ,
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 : 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.
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 .
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.
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 .
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 .
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: The New Titans Sourcebook [Mayfair Games, 1990], Secret Origins Annual #3 , DC Secret Files, supplemented by titanstower.com