Monday, December 25, 2006
Brave and the Bold #54, DC Comics, June-July 1964
I said I was gonna talk about some Showcase Presents, and none have captured my imagination as much as the Teen Titans'. I mean, it's not my favorite team in the world. They were basically just the sidekicks of the Justice League, and later became the DC Universe's answer to the X-Men, but if there's one thing that I've learned thanks to other comic book blogs, it's that writer Bob Haney's stuff should be experienced first hand. I'd even go as far to say that Haney is his generation's Grant Morrison, except without all the postmodern bullshit (which I love, don't get me wrong). Where Morrison "comments" on comic book leitmotifs to bring out the absurdity, Haney plays it straight and manages the same. Where Morrison revels in silver age nostalgia, Haney IS the silver age. And should I mention here that Haney created the Doom Patrol?
But let's talk about the original Teen Titans, shall we? They first appeared in Brave and the Bold #54 (1964) as just Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, to be joined in their next appearance by Wonder Girl. After a couple of appearances in and there, they were awarded their own title, and the words I've most seen associated with it are "Mod" and "Fab". I guess it's a 60s thing, and Teen Titans were supposed to be "hip", "with it" and "groovy", three things which are no longer hip, with it or groovy. They are, however, hilarious! Haney was born in 1926, which makes him 38 by the time he wrote this... Was he really in touch with the teenager's idea of what was cool?
Showcase Presents Teen Titans contains the first 21 TT comics, and it's perhaps a testament to Haney's mad genius that flipping through this thing, not one villain was ever featured in DC's original Who's Who encyclopedia. Not even the Mad Mod, who has repeat appearances. And this is an encyclopedia that has entries for Detective Chimp and Kite-Man!
Case in point, the Titans' first villain: A guy dressed in Colonial apparel calling himself Mr. Twister, who uses an Indian magic staff with weather control powers. His unlikely real name: Brom Stikk. His even more unlikely scheme: His ancestor sold the land to small town Hatton Corners with a provision that the citizens had to give him one passenger pigeon feather a year, or he could take a youth from the town for slave labour. He died and they forgot all about it. Now Brom Stikk wants the town to pay up, but since passenger pigeons are extinct, he steals all the kids and makes them build a giant tornado out of bricks.
And along the way, we'll learn a valuable lesson about appreciating our parents. See, Hatton Corners is pretty much the town from Footloose, so the adults are unhappy because the kids "played the juke too loud", and the kids are unhappy cuz the town is imposing curfews. By the end, I'm sure Hatton Corners will be building them a big clubhouse, in no small part because of the responsible example of the teen superheroes.
These three are fast friends, despite the fact that Aqualad and Kid Flash are a little condescending to Robin for not having powers. Yeah, Kid Flash can pretty much do anything with his powers (Haney makes him fly, among other things), but Aqualad, if your role in the team is just to stand in a pond and shout encouragement, maybe you should take a long look at how Aquaman operates in the Justice League. Oh wait...
But in fact, Robin DOES have powers: Brains and leadership! He's Junior Batman, after all. He's the one who finds Mr. Twister's island work camp thanks to his knowledge of geese migrations, and later, he'll be the one to take down the villain from atop a fire engine ladder. Because of course, the villain never needs to go after the one with no powers.
And though I've been hard on Aqualad, he's pretty useful in this story. He discovers that the island's bottom has eroded so that it's just a thin stalk, so to get the kids away from Mr. Twister, he uses whales to detach it completely from the ocean floor and move it somewhere else. It's either a crime against ecology or physics, I'm not sure which, because we never see the island sinking. I think Brom Stikk's ancestor was a con man in more ways than one, because Hatton Corners has bigger problems. When Mr. Twister floods the town with heavy rain, Aquaman rides a narwhal to the rescue and makes it bore a hole in the middle of the street. Looks like the town is built over a big air pocket (and now an underground lake). How long before the ground collapses under their feet? That new clubhouse better be high up in a tree!
And that's it for the Titans' first outing, tackling issues like the generation gap when no other comic would. Oh, and I notice now that there's a Christmas issue included... I think I'll skip ahead and get back to you.