After being cancelled in 1972, the Teen Titans made a couple of appearances in Brave & Bold as its members went their separate ways. However during the 52 and 100 Pagers, several of their stories were reprinted, most with that gorgeous Nick Cardy art. After sales and letters of DC Super-Star #1 and Super Team Family #1 and #7 came in, DC was convinced to give the Fab More-Than-Four another shot, reviving the series with #44 (N'76).
They reunited Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy and Mal, supposedly not seeing each for two years. And not being with Speedy since his drug addiction from Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (S-N'71), despite their early 70s Teen Titans and B&B adventures! Kid Flash and Speedy immediately start rutting as soon as they see Wonder Girl who plays along. Mal is upset that he's been tending to the Titans HQ all by himself even though he volunteered to do so! He namedrops Lilith, Gnarrk, Hawk and Dove as "whatever Happened To...".
But their reunion was all a trap by DOCTOR LIGHT whose weaponry (and dumb luck, to be honest) allows him to capture Robin and Wonder Girl and escape. This causes the other three to snipe at each other and split up.
Doctor Light tortures them to get the coordinates of the Justice League Satellite (of Love) so he can destroy it with a giant, orbiting magnifying glass (no, seriously!) then captures Kid Flash and Speedy separately, gathers them up and polishes off the Flash way too quickly.
Mal, angry about being left behind, goes through the other Titans' trophy cases and gets a super-strength giving exo-skeleton (from Batman #192) and the costume, helmet and shield of the Golden Age Guardian, thus becoming the Guardian II (or III, depending on the Golden Guardian from Jimmy Olsen). He flies the Titans' mini-rocket to the JLA Satellite, distracts Doctor Light, frees the other Titans and saves the day. The Titans decide to stay together!
The story was uneven and the art was rough. No one looked good here. Kid Flash and Speedy were more concerned about scoring with Wonder Girl, Wonder Girl keeps forgetting that she has super-strength, no way Robin tells any of this to Batman and Mal...
Well, I liked Mal as Guardian but it took him two years to realize that he needed to step up his game to hang with the Titans? Really?
Mister Jupiter gets referenced but Aqualad does NOT!
The text page was interesting as it mentions Beast Boy though he wasn't a member. And hints that Hawk & Dove may have retired.
Next: Just Call Me Angel of the Mourning! OR Blow It Out Your Ear!
#51 (N'77) As the West Coast heroes gather as a diner, Lilith who popped up in one panel last issue turns into "Bossy Betty" and clams that they are all being manipulated. The others bring up her other premonitions about a flying train and a burrowing plane as "false alarms" but the Sultry Psychic is positive that a skyscraper in Coast City will "launch like a rocket"! Hawk and Beast Boy have heard enough and leave (presumably so Hank Hall won't get listed as "AWOL"). The other three (Dove, Bat-Girl, Golden Eagle) stay with Lilith with Golden Eagle hoping someone else will pick up the bill!
At that time, the sinister MISTER ESPER who once fought the Batman boasts on how his "super-sonic whisper" will tap into Lilith's mental powers!
As Beast Boy flies the Hawk back to his ship, the two discuss the return of the Teen Titans back in NYC. Hawk says that he wasn't asked to rejoin and wasn't about to ask them either. At that moment, the Ferris Building begins to launch into the sky! Beast Boy turns into a giant GREEN gorilla to hold the building down as the other arrive to help Hawk evacuate its occupants! Hawk shows some leadership skills as Lilith is able to mentally "turn off" the building but collapses from exhaustion! Suddenly former caveman "JOHN" GNARRK arrives, extremely angry! He's wearing a mechanic's outfit and talking like Ben Grimm and it's Clobberin' Time! Grabbing Beast Boy high in the air, the Transforming TV Star turns into a green bear but Lilith awakens and stops any fight! Gnarrk says he and Lilith moved to California to get away from super-heroes (this implies some dissension with the Teen Titans) and is being super-over-protective about his fiancee! The others are about to leave when they learn that Lilith's other disasters happened on Long Island and decide to go there to investigate!
MEANWHILE, back at Long Island at the buried plane, Captain Calamity is captured by a five-way attack by the Titans (Bumblebee uses her wings, Mal throws his shield, Harlequin spits out gimmicked bubblegum, Speedy uses his bow like a club and Robin strikes acrobatically!) The villain and his men are captured!
On their way back, Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy decides to go to college in California while Wally (Kid Flash) West lays his cards on the table about his feelings for the Alluring Amazon...and is immediately shot down! Ironically he either moved too fast or too slow! They and the other Titans return to Gabriel's Horn where they are reunited with Aqualad who resigns from the team! He says that he was never sick with hydro-asian flu, instead he suffers from a debilitating inferiority complex that caused his fainting. He feels that he is useless to them. Speedy, as ever "Mister Sensitivity", is disgusted, conveniently forgetting his own personal problems that led to his drug addiction!
Suddenly they see Martha Roberts' report that the Throg's Neck Bridge has been torn in half and Long Island is floating off to sea! (Where's Hercules when you need him?) Suspecting Captain Calamity is behind this, despite his arrest, they are confronted by their Californian counterparts (How did they get there so fast???) with Lilith saying that she is responsible!
I always thought that Beast Boy turning into all green animals began in New Teen Titans but it started here! But his animal forms are still cartoony!
Also he doesn't seem to be younger than the other Titans as he would be in NTT.
Next: Torn Between Two Villains OR What Are We Going To Do With FIFTEEN Titans?
Beast Boy started turning into green animals when he was introduced in Doom Patrol #99(NOV65).
Wasn't just the face that was green at that point in time, though? And human-looking too, IIRC?
Short of pulling out my Doom Patrol Archives, I was going by memory. Thanks for clarifying it.
Even with all the raiding of the Kirby Kupboard going on at DC during that time, Mal's Guardian remains an oddity: The SSOSV Manhunter was a continuation of the Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter (which was based on Kirby's original Manhunter), while Kirby's new Mark Shaw Manhunter may have hinted that his earlier Paul Kirk was connected to it, but kept it vague enough to avoid any continuity glitches. The rest of the New Gods related stuff post-Kirby were continuations of the original Fourth World mythology, even as they tried to fit them into more of a super-hero mold. While Bridwell eventually managed to hot glue Mal's Guardian to the DNA Project's Golden Guardian, there wasn't a hint of that in this run of Titans, and still leaves a lot of questions. When the cloned Guardian was introduced in Jimmy Olsen, we were told that the original Jim Harper had only recently been killed by Intergang--if Roy Harper's father had a living brother at the time Roy was orphaned, why wasn't Jim given custody of Roy instead of a complete stranger like Oliver Queen? Yeah, I know, there was an interim guardian in there so that Roy could be a ginger AND a Sioux warrior, but some of these family tree transplants really hurt my head. If Roy had no relationship with his Uncle Jim, why would he have inherited his Guardian gear--and if that gear was being stored in the Titans Lair since Jim's murder, where did the Golden Guardian's come from? How many indestructible golden shields can a beat cop own? The fact is, in this run, there was no indication that the Titans knew much of anything about the old Guardian except that Mal liked the costume, and it's hard to believe that, if Roy knew that Mal was running around in his Uncle's old clothes, he wouldn't have made some snotty remarks about beyond "someone else's costume".
Again, I rather like Mal as the Guardian, and considering that both Morrison's Manhattan Guardian and the CW's Jimmy Olsen Guardian owe more to Mal Duncan than to Jim Harper, this was probably one of the most lasting legacies of this run, along with Bumblebee & Titans West, it's just the sheer laziness of the way it was introduced that bugs me. As presented in #44, Mal is clearly the one most invested in there even being a Teen Titans, so one would think he would have spent some of that time "minding the store" developing his own super-hero identity to be ready when the team came back together, but apparently it never occurred to him. Considering that the multiple strange editorial choices during this run largely center on Mal, nothing about him as a character is fleshed out. I can see why Lilith & Gnarrk would want to go off and pretend to be "normal" somewhere, because their lives have been so strange for so long (altho that's just my head canon), but why does Mal want to be a Titan so bad (even if he's apparently unwilling to put together a heroic persona of his own), and what else is going on in his life? It's nice that he found a girlfriend, but did he have a job besides keeping Titans Lair in working order? Was he still working for Mr. Jupiter? Whatever happened to his kid sister, Cindy? Was she still living with their parents? Did he/they still have living parents? it's not like we'll ever get a "Who Is Mal Duncan?" story arc anywhere. sigh.
Philip Portelli said:
I'll get to Wonder Girl with my next review.
Thinking about Mal becoming the new Guardian made me wonder about the timing. By 1976, JACK KIRBY was winding down at DC and would return to Marvel. Around the same time, many of his characters would either be revisited or revised. Kirby himself would create an updated Sandman while Manhunter was already brought back to great acclaim and would be included in Secret Society of Super-Villains. And after the King's departure, both New Gods and Mister Miracle would be back on the schedule and the Demon would come back as well.
Though Jack had brought back the Guardian with his reimagined Newsboy Legion, modernizing the concept as a new character fits this pattern.
In story, it would have been interesting if Mal asked his patron, Mister Jupiter, to help him get some training for his new role. Maybe they could have involved the Ant, Wildcat or the original Guardian.
Mal was easily the Titan with the most room for character development and growth at the time.
It is indeed sad that he did not receive very much.
Especially since all the editorial fiats in this run seemed to focus on Mal, making him seem like the central character of this run, yet he remains mostly a blank space as a character. Looking back at this run now, I never realized before that Mal's Guardian costume looked pretty different with every art team that drew it, with all, none or some of the exo-skeleton visible, and no one sure if he'd inherited Jim Harper's yellow trunks or not.
Likewise, it's a shame that the whole concept of the Horn of Wonder making Mal the equal of any opponent never got a fair shake. Personally, despite the baggage this particular "power" came with here, the idea was brilliant, and something that would be really handy for super-team story telling, since having a character around who's whole gimmick is to be as good as whoever he's fighting would spare readers the mental gymnastics of figuring out why the more powerful members of the team seem to be holding back their powers to make the others feel better about themselves, or how the "lesser" members even survive attacks calibrated to the more godlike heroes. If he'd worked right, the Hornblower could have gone toe-to-toe with General Zod one issue, but still get beat up by someone as lame as the Wreckers in the next because of his power instead of despite it. Still, the versions of Mal we got here were still better than Vox....
I haven't read these comics, but am enjoying the thread. Mal's horn sounds like an original idea (gasp!) that should have worked better. The editors, writers and artists playing musical chairs probably was why it didn't work.
The Titans West storyline was, far as I know, the first apperance of the idea of a superhero franchise ever.
It was also a clear display of appreciation for DC's continuity and the variety of characters that it brings. Given that the writer was Bob Rozakis, that is perhaps to be expected. He is, after all, The Answer Man.
I just now realize that, as so much else, Beast Boy has changed discreetly yet significantly since we last saw him. He is now as tall as Hawk, and his mask, which IIRC was previously implied to be cowl-like and disguise his green skin, is now functionless - he is just as obviously green skinned wearing it as without it, and I must assume that he no longer has the secret identity that served him so crucially back in 1967's Doom Patrol #110.
Meanwhile, starting with Showcase #97, published between Teen Titans #49 and #50, the New Doom Patrol of Val Vostok, Tempest and Celsius is introduced, bringing back Robotman with it. Robotman will go on to interact with Beast Boy (later Changeling) off-panel at some point, and he and shortly later Mento (Beast Boy's adoptive father) will meet the New Teen Titans in about four years time (New Teen Titans #13-15 IIRC) in a story that revisits most of the dangling plots from the previous Doom Patrol.
In a way it is a good example of the positives and negatives of the creative choices of this run. It is great to revisit characters with so many intriguing stories to tell such as most of the Titans West, but ultimately Rozakis isn't doing much more here than reminding us that they were once published regularly and are still available for DC to use.
For instance, I don't think that either Lilith or the story itself even mentions that she was seeking her origin and parents when we last saw her. It is an unresolved and unmentioned plot. Nor does Beast Boy make much of a mention of the Doom Patrol or how things stand with his adoptive father Steve Dayton (Mento). This story is about reintroducing the characters of Titans West, but not about learning much at all about who they are.
Bat-Girl may well be the one who has the most to say about who she is and what she intends to do now, and since it is to reestablish herself as a rival Bat-Girl to the far better known Barbara Gordon Batgirl, it does not sound like something likely to bear fruit.
Come to think of it, I assume that Marv Wolfman read at least some of these issues not too long after they were published and felt a lot of untapped potential in these characters and concepts. He would go on to make good use of Robin, Kid Flash, Beast Boy and Wonder Girl three years in the future, and it would not be too long until he revisited this story as well.