Monday, January 31, 2011

DP02-06 Beast Boy and Mal Duncan Part 3

[Apologies for the delay, but this had to be rewritten a few times. Big chunks that were extracted from this, mostly to make it manageable to edit and read but also for the sake of maintaining coherence, have been distilled into a much more practical 'reading list' for a future post. Likewise, the Part 4 post about Mal has been rewritten into a similar list of appearances so that the more ambitious essay I wanted to write will be easier to understand (and shorter).]

.....Putting aside the encapsulations typical of the Who's Who and Secret Files publications DC has done at different times (for now), Garfield Logan's origin story explaining how he turned green and gained the ability to change into animals at will has also been retold several times within the comics he's graced. I've found detailed origin stories in the following issues:
  1. Doom Patrol #100 (12/65) "The Fantastic Origin Of Beast-Boy"(8pp) and "The Origin Of Beast-Boy Part 2"(8pp). In the main story, Gar's legal guardian, Galtry, refers to him as "Craig" throughout. At no point elsewhere in the story does anybody else refer to him by any name, except for Doom Patrol members calling him "Beast-Boy", hyphen included. Bizarrely, in the four page origin flashback his parents Mark and Marie (no last name) call him "son", "boy" and even "the child" but never give him a name. In the previous issue (his first appearance) he was called merely "Gar" exactly once and by a female classmate. In the following issue he's called Gar by both Galtry and the DP. The misnaming in this story is therefore commonly dismissed as a clerical error or (if a writer is in a mood to tie up loose ends) explained as evidence of how unconcerned Galtry is about Gar's welfare, that he doesn't even bother to get his name right and Gar has given up on correcting him. For the record, he gets the last name Logan in issue #102 (03/66).
  2. Doom Patrol #112 (06/67) "Waif Of The Wilderness"(10pp). The first installment of four back-up features explaining how Gar came to be under Galtry's supervision. At first glance it looks as though much of the four page flashback from #100 was reformatted with some new panels added, but in reality the story was newly redrawn with those same scenes (complete with paraphrased dialogue) integrated into an expanded story. Both versions were drawn by Bruno Premiani and written by Arnold Drake. An important detail added was the location of Mark Logan's research lab: Upper Lamumba. Because he healed and befriended the local King Tawaba, Gar was adopted by Tawaba when the Logan's died and is legally a prince of Upper Lamumba.
  3. Doom Patrol #113 (08/67) "The Diamonds Of Destiny"(8pp). Crooks Kurt and Stokes arrive in the village to loot the tribe's diamonds from an underground cavern. A struggle with Gar leaves the boy unconscious and the cavern caving in. Unable to take the diamonds in time, the crooks kidnap the boy.
  4. Doom Patrol #114 (09/67) "The Kid Who Was King Of Crooks" (8pp). Kurt and Stokes teach toddler Gar to steal gold and diamonds in Johannesburg. Bored, Gar decides to play a joke on them and hides the loot while they're out of the apartment. The joke backfires when each return separately and suspect the other of cutting out with the goods. When they find each other a shootout leaves both of them dead; Gar has lost his third 'family'.
  5. Doom Patrol #115 (11/67) "General Beast Boy-- Of The Ape Brigade!" (8pp). Now on his own, Gar is kidnapped while in the form of a gorilla by neo-Nazis rounding up gorillas and brainwashing them into becoming an army. Gar changes shape before the processing takes place, observes the scheme and helps the yet unprocessed gorillas overthrow the Nazis. At that point Galtry finally catches up with Gar's trail. Galtry was aware of Gar's inheritance and needed to have physical custody of the boy to secure power of attorney (and the access to the money that goes with it).
  6. The New Teen Titans #10 (08/81) On page 5, Gar (now called Changeling) narrates a truncated version of his pre-Titans life to relatively new teammate Cyborg (Victor Stone). It correctly recalls the name of the disease sakutia responsible for his father resorting to the drastic experiment that saved his life by inducing the animal transformations that we know as Gar's super power. That incident and his parents' deaths (from Doom Patrol #100) are mentioned but the details of the backup stories (in #112 to 115) are omitted. I'd concede they're unessential for a one page sequence, but Galtry isn't mentioned at all and he claims that when his parents died "I was about ten at the time" and "a year later, I was found by Niles Caulder". Given his behavior and speech in his first appearance, it sounds about right that he would be eleven or twelve years old at the time. The problem is that he was obviously much younger when his parents died, both in the first version (#100) and expanded version (#112). Also, he sought out the Doom Patrol and repeatedly begged to go on missions with them in his early appearances. Caulder didn't 'find him', and initially balked at having Gar join them. At the end of this issue Gar receives a potentially lethal attack from Deathstroke, prompting Wonder Girl to take him to Paradise Island in the hopes that the Purple Ray could save his life. When he emerges from a coma in The New Teen Titans #13 (11/81) his powers have expanded to include changing into extinct and mythological creatures, not just animals he has seen. In a way, that parallels his origin story which an emergency medical procedure results in a super power.
  7. Tales Of The New Teen Titans [LS] #3 (08/82) [no title] In this four-issue mini-series, Gar and the three new characters created for the 1980 New Teen Titans series each get a spotlight issue featuring their origin. The framing sequence that links the series has original members Dick, Wally and Donna camping in the Grand Canyon with Gar, Vic, Koriand'r and Raven as a bonding experience. It takes place between issues #20 and 21 of the regular series. This is now the fourth formal retelling of Gar's origin that I could find, and in each case Gar is narrating them. In Doom Patrol #100 he told the story to the DP; in #'s 112-115 he told the story directly to the readers (and a dictation machine); in The New Teen Titans #10 he told the story to Vic and here he tells it to the rest of the team. With 25 pages to work with all the salient details of the previous versions are included: Upper Lamumba; sakutia; becoming a mongoose to save his mother from a black mamba; his parents dying in a waterfall; King Tawaba; Kurt and Stokes (unnamed here but described) and finally Galtry. This version adds the detail of him being eight years old when Galtry found him, meaning that he couldn't have been ten when his parents died. It then mentions his girlfriend Jillian Jackson, who had appeared briefly in Doom Patrol #99 and 108 before her role expanded in #118, just before the end of the series. This is so that, after a two-page spread depicting the DP and Titans West (from 1977), Wolfman and PĂ©rez can fill in the gap between the cancellation of Gar's TV series, "Space Trek 2022", and the formation of the NTT with a new story in which Galtry kidnaps Jillian disguised in the armor of an old DP villain, Arsenal, demanding a ransom. Gar defeats him, but Jillian is unsettled by the violence in his life and their relationship temporarily ends. For what it's worth, Mal and Karen appear in the two-page spread.
  8. Tales Of The Teen Titans #55 (07/85) On page 7 Gar narrates his life story yet again, this time to himself. This time the events are described in generalities, not specific names: "taken to Africa"[not Upper Lamumba]; contracted "some damned tropical disease"[not sakutia]; "adopted by an African King"[not Tawaba]; "kidnapped by criminals"[not Kurt and Stokes]; and "a thief became my guardian"[not Galtry]. It hasn't escaped me that Marv Wolfman has at this point done not only one full issue devoted to Gar but two pages like this that dutifully check off each of the few solo stories he's had in a twenty year career with one exception: the Nazi plot to brainwash gorillas into forming an army. Too silly? For a company that's made talking gorillas its own meme, brainwashed gorillas can't be that much of a stretch, can it?
  9. Legends Of The DC Universe 80-Page Giant #2 (01/00) Gar once again ruminates on his origin story for two pages of "Passenger 15B", a 10 page lead in to the four-issue mini series Beast Boy, also by Ben Raab and Geoff Johns. It really functions more as a hasty introduction to the character. It does add odd details I couldn't recall seeing elsewhere, for example: "I'd always wanted to be a superhero. Ever since I saw The Flash in Central City." I don't know if that is meant to be a call-back to some post-Crisis event, but I haven't found any stories with flashbacks to the time between Galtry taking custody of Gar in Africa and keeping him a virtual prisoner in the States until Gar finds the Doom Patrol. Seeing The Flash on TV is more plausible, but seeing him in action in Central City before becoming a costumed hero himself seems improbable. In fact, during the Legends LS Gar and Wally are the only active Titans. Wally has only been wearing the red Barry Allen costume for a few months since Crisis and is agonizing over whether he's made the right decision. At no point does Gar ever mention that Barry was his inspiration for being a hero. Gar passing up an opportunity to comfort a grieving friend is unlikely; Gar passing up an opportunity to talk about himself is inconceivable. I'm reluctant to believe this little bit of trivia until I see some kind of flashback or period story corroborating it. The first issue of the LS explains the source of his powers again (on page 13), but it falls short of being even a capsule origin story. The LS also introduces Matt Logan (Gar's previously unmentioned cousin) and Gemini (Madame Rouge's previously unmentioned daughter).
  10. Teen Titans #13 (09/04)- #15 (11/04) "Beast Boys And Girls", the story that lent its name to the paperback containing these three issues and the four issue mini-series mentioned above but for some reason omitted the "Passenger 15B" lead-in story. Here some major liberties are taken with the origin, adding Dr. Samuel Register to the Logans' tiny Upper Lamumba lab. He even replaces Mark Logan in a panel redrawn from the 60's stories. In this version the Logans are doing research funded by a grant, but in the original Mark raised the money by selling patents before he even went to Africa. According to the story, Register went on to become a S.T.A.R. Labs abnormal disease specialist obsessed with duplicating the accident and treatment that gave Gar his powers. While working with mutations of the sakutia virus he became infected gained the same animal-based shape-shifting powers, but turned purple rather than green.
.....The scarcity of post-Crisis origin stories could be attributed to an increased reliance during the late 80's and 90's on text pieces. The Teen Titans Spotlight issue featuring Changeling doesn't give an origin sequence, nor does the 1987 Secret Origins Annual featuring the Doom Patrol or the 1989 Secret Origins Annual featuring the Teen Titans. The ongoing series covered Hawk and Dove, Nightwing, Speedy and even the Titans Tower-- yes, the building they used as a headquarters gets its own origin,-- but not Changeling. Actually, with the 60's stories in B&W Showcase Presents formats and everything before 1985 in Archive format there's little impetus to retell the story yet again. If anything, fans will probably be referred to an online database in the future.

.....If you were to click on the comments section below you'll see that the shout-out for corroboration about the Flash incident in "Passenger 15B" was answered, and much faster than expected. ToB [Tamaran or Bust; now that's a Titans call-back] found a scan on a fan-site devoted to Gar and maintained by Lady Timedramon. I not only followed the link to the scan, I zipped around the rest of the site and it definitely rates a link for "Following History" on the left of this blog. I've recommended ToB's own blog before and it's worth your time to follow her icon to "Histories Of Things To Come" and add yourself to the 'follow' board while you're there.

.....The story in question was from Secret Origins #50 (08/90) "Flash Of Two Worlds" by Grant Morrison and Mike Parobeck, a post-Crisis retelling of the story by the same name from Flash #123 (09/61). The original was the story that first posited the theory that the DC universe was made of alternate, parallel worlds where the Golden Age heroes have aged and in some cases retired. In the earliest appearances of the Barry Allen (or Silver Age) Flash, he's seen reading comic books of the Jay Garrick (Golden Age) Flash's adventures. As Allen grew in visibility, he inevitably caught the attention of people who were aware of the original and prompted demand that the two meet. This became a critical point in the company's direction; they could say "screw continuity, this will be popular" and have Jay show up out of the blue, ignoring the fact that they had established that he was fictional to Barry; they could have said "that horse has left the barn" and ignored the requests; but instead editor Julius Schwartz stood by his life-long dictum, "pseudo-science is always the answer!" and the established science fiction premise of parallel worlds was introduced to comic books with explosive consequences. It's difficult to overestimate the impact this one story has had on pop culture. Not only has the cover been parodied repeatedly (including on Dark Horse Presents and The Overstreet Price Guide) but a copy of the issue was the coveted object of a wager on an episode of the TV series "The Big Bang Theory".

.....In the original version of the story Barry is entertaining children for the Picture News Orphan Fund Group. While vibrating he hits a sympathetic harmonic and is transported to Earth-2. After Crisis OIE, there not only wasn't an Earth-2, but there never was one. A New Earth was created with a synthesized history in place, incorporating parts of various alternate Earths but not the totality of any of them. In the Morrison rewrite, Barry senses the tone while he's vibrating and follows it to the source: Jay's hometown of Keystone City, hidden for years by The Fiddler, The Thinker and The Shade (the same villains from the original story) who keep it out of synch with the rest of the world with a giant vibrating violin. The whole story is told by a young Gar Logan on three-ring binder stationary, drawn in crayon and signed "Garfield Logan age 8". The conceit here is that Gar (pre-sakutia) is on summer vacation while his parents are in Africa and he's in the audience of orphans. There's no indication of whose custody he is in while he's in the States, or why he's with a group of orphans while his parents are still alive. What this story really establishes is that Gar's infection and transformation and all the known events leading up to his meeting the Doom Patrol would have to take place between the ages of eight and ten. This is only plausible if the dialogue in the 60's stories (especially Doom Patrol #'s 112-115) is radically different. However, in the "Beast Boys And Girls" story Gar is only six when he's infected. Where's Jonni DC when you need her?

.....Of course, I can't go without pointing out that a story in which a boy tells his own story using hand-drawn comics is a device Grant Morrison has used several times. At least two examples, Cliff Baker's Kannibal Kid in Animal Man and Wally Sage's Flex Mentallo in Doom Patrol, were published roughly contemporaneously to the story in Secret Origins.

.....[END ERRATA; any further additions or corrections are always welcome in the comments ]

.....Next up, where to find Mal.