Sunday, February 27, 2011

DP02-07 Beast Boy and Mal Duncan Part 4

.....After the Doom Patrol were killed (in 1968, our time) Beast Boy was shelved for a few years. He eventually found a new family in the Teen Titans when they reconfigured in 1980. In the meantime, future DP'ers Vox (Malcolm Duncan) and Bumblebee (Karen Beecher) had their start in the Titans. Fans of the current series may want to know why Mal never made it from the Geoff Johns 'pilot' to the Keith Giffen 'series'. It's something to which old-time TT readers are quite accustomed, however.

.....To show Mal Duncan appearances pre-Crisis, I want to provide context. The simplest way is to show all of the Teen Titans' appearances and show where he does and doesn't join them. I'll limit myself to the 1970's on, picking up where Part 2 left off in November:
  1. [No Mal] Teen Titans #25 (01-02/70) The start of an unprecedented (for this title) five issue arc and a radical change in direction for the second half of the original run. The regular cast of Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Speedy are joined by Hawk and Dove, whose own series had recently been cancelled. The six fail to prevent an assassination and are upbraided by the JLA. They seek out a girl (Lilith, her first appearance) who predicted the tragedy and learn that she is a precognitive who is taking part in a government program to train teenagers with rare talents to use them for civic benefit. The program is run by a wealthy philanthropist named Mr. Jupiter (also first appearance). He convinces them to abandon their costumed identities and approach problems on their own terms, rather than trying to force every situation into the mold of a super-hero paradigm (i.e., if your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail). All but Robin agree; Jupiter is an associate of Bruce Wayne and Dick couldn't reveal his own identity without jeopardizing Batman's. He claims that he could become more valuable to society by enrolling in college (technically true; he began attending college at this time). This is the first of three Robert Kanigher scripts (#'s 25-27).
  2. [No Mal] Detective Comics #393 (11/69)- #401(07/70) After one 'last' case with Batman before college (in #393) and a three page teaser in Batman #217 (12/69), Robin moves his solo back-up feature to Hudson University. The feature began in #386 followed by a reprint in #387. Then every two issues would alternate Batgirl (#388-389, 392-393, 396-397) with Robin (#390-391, 394-395, 398-399) two-parters until someone got the bright idea of pairing them in the same story (#400-401). These Robin back-ups were written by Frank Robbins, but when Mike Friedrich took over he would work in appearances by other Titans. Since there were none in any of these, Mal's absence isn't significant. Besides, Robin hadn't met Mal yet.
  3. Teen Titans #26 (03-04/70) Without Robin, the remaining five members and Lilith are sent to the Hell's Corner neighborhood where a young boxer named Mal (first appearance) helps them fend off members of the Hell's Hawks gang. Although he doesn't have super powers he exhibits the characteristics Mr. Jupiter's program tries to emphasize, so they recruit him. They also meet Mal's younger sister Cindy (who only ever appears in this issue and the next and then is never heard from again). Mal and Cindy aren't given last names here. In fact, Mal will not have a last name until the 1976-1978 revival. Once he learns that the other program members are super-powered, Mal feels a need to prove his worth by riding an experimental rocket. This sense of self-doubt is something that every future writer grapples with when approaching Mal as a character. Because he is seen so infrequently, each new writer must establish early on if they are going to write Mal's part as regressing to this self-doubt or over-compensating for it. By the time they've brought him to a point where he can believably put it behind him, they're no longer writing the character. It's little wonder that Mal seems happiest when he's retired, playing music or managing a nightclub. It's probably a reflection of the writer realizing he's found a way to avoid devoting reams of dialogue to dealing with his microbaggage.
  4. Teen Titans #27 (05-06/70) The Teen Titans retrieve Mal from the rocket. Curiously, although the team is no longer wearing uniforms at this time the cover has full-body poses of Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Speedy in costume in an inch-wide margin along the spine. Robin, remember, is not in the book anymore. These portraits continue for the rest of the series except for the next issue, which has the team in costume for the cover art.
  5. [NOTE: The famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-ups begin publishing at this time, with Green Lantern #76 (04/70), but their impact on Roy Harper's life are not discussed during the original run of the Titans' title.]
  6. [No Mal] Aquaman #49 (01-02/70)- #52 (07-08/70) Aqualad has been helping Aquaman in his fight against Ocean Master. Every issue from #40 (07-08/68) to its cancellation with #56 (03-04/71) was written by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo but had Teen Titans regulars Dick Giordano editing and Nick Cardy doing the cover art. So, Aqualad (and Steve) chased Ocean Master into the Titans' title.
  7. Teen Titans #28 (07-08/70)- #29 (09-10/70) Steve Skeates briefly becomes the regular scribe. Aqualad trails Ocean Master to the surface. Naturally, the first people he turns to are the Teen Titans, but their HQ is abandoned. He is only able to find Robin (at Hudson). Robin explains to him the situation with Mr. Jupiter. He convinces his teammates to return to their costumes when they learn that Ocean Master is allied with alien invaders. Mal is practically furniture in this story. #28 is almost an Aqualad solo story in which Mal appears visible in one panel and in silhouette elsewhere, with no dialogue at all. Part of that may be that he was the focus of the previous two issues but mostly I think it's due to the fact that with the return of Robin and Aqualad the team has nine members for these two issues.
  8. [No Mal] Detective Comics #402 (08/70)- #403 (09/70) Speedy guest stars in #402 in the Robin back-up feature, which moves to Batman #227 (12/70)- #231 (05/71), except for #228.
  9. Teen Titans #30 (11-12/70) Three stories are in this issue. The new core team (Wally, Donna, Roy, Lilith and Mal) protect a criminal informant; Wally in a text story; Aqualad and Tula subdue a patient crazed by an experimental drug.
  10. [No Mal] Flash #202 (12/70) Wally returns to a back-up feature for the first time in four years, written by Steve Skeates until the Titans' series is cancelled in 1973. He also scripts Garth in Aquaman #55 (01-02/71)- #56 (03-04/71), the end of that series.
  11. Teen Titans #31 (01-02/71) The new core foils a mind control scheme on a college campus. (This story will be a large part of a later post.) Hawk and Dove are in their own back-up feature, then disappear for a few years. The characters became the source of a lot of tension between Giordano and Skeates when they worked together on the earlier series. Since the team swelled to an unmanageable size in #'s 28-29 I guess removing them meant... killing two birds with stone?
  12. [No Mal] Flash #204 (03/71), #207 (06/71) and #209 (09/71) More Wally features. With Wonder Woman in her martial arts/detective phase, Donna is no longer connected to a 'parent' figure title. Likewise Garth, regarding Aquaman's cancelled title, and Roy, considering that Green Arrow has figuratively moved from crashing on the JLA's couch to crashing on Hal's. Only Dick and Wally have larger established titles that can accommodate back-up features for them. Coincidently, both are edited by Julius Schwartz, who had never edited Teen Titans.
  13. Teen Titans #32 (03-04/71)- #33 (05-06/71) Murray Boltinoff begins as editor. These two issues are the last scripts approved by Dick Giordano, except for a three-page Aqualad story (also written by Steve Skeates) that surfaces in #36. #32 is Skeates' last full issue. Bob Haney concludes the story and remains writing until cancellation. Mal features prominently in this story. He and Wally are stuck in pre-history due to a defective time-travel experiment. They inadvertently cause the death of a teen Cro-Magnon, altering history so that when they return to the present date the world is stuck in the medieval European period, including the Justice League. They return to pre-history to correct their mistake and do so, but return to the present of their appropriate timeline bringing the cave-teen, Gnarrk, with them. Returning him to the past is judged to be risking greater catastrophe than allowing him to remain in the present, and so they accept him as the latest member of Mr. Jupiter's group. He falls in love with Lilith. Haney brings back Robin as well, absent since #29 yet on every cover. Mal, who has been in every issue since #26, makes his first cover appearance on #32, a year later. He will not make the cover again for another year. I should also point out that this story (#33 was entitled "Less Than Human") was retroactively removed from continuity due to the events of New Titans #56 (07/89) (which was entitled "More Than Human").
  14. [No Mal] The Brave And The Bold #94 (02-03/71) Batman confronts 'rebellious youths' Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Lilith. In a scene taken from the movie "Wild In The Streets", the cover shows adults being herded into a barbed wire enclosure already containing Batman. The sign above the door reads, "Concentration Camp For Adults Only", while Robin lectures, "Every grown-up will suffer, Batman-- because you lied to us!". Published shortly before the two issues mentioned above, it can be forgiven for not featuring Gnarrk, although Lilith appears without Mal. Presented by the Titans' team of Boltinoff (editor), Haney (writer) and Cardy (art and cover), it's a grim indication of the direction of their own book. (It turned out to be worse-- Cardy was at that time being taken off pencils in favor of George Tuska, with Cardy inking instead.) I don't have a copy of this myself, but I'm guessing it's condescensational!
.....I should cut off here and post the rest later. This is about a quarter or third of Mal's pre-Crisis history. Most, if not all, of these stories have been reprinted in black and white in the Showcase Presents format, but precious few have been reprinted in color. Happy hunting and I'll be continuing soon.