Friday, April 8, 2011

DP02-11 Beast Boy and Mal Duncan Part 6

.....[This post has been re-edited after May 4th, 2011 before original publication.]

.....As recounted in the Original Period reprint posts last year, Doom Patrol was one of several DC titles revived or created to run themed reprints briefly during 1973. Just prior to this the original run of Teen Titans was cancelled in the midst of an intense spate of experimentation with diversifying formats at DC. Three years later, just as the price of 32pp standard format comics was rising to 30¢ at DC they introduced two new reprint titles in their 64pp special format at 50¢ just before it was due to shrink to 48pp. Of special interest to this blog was DC Super-Stars #1 (03/76), reprinting Teen Titans stories. The cover was largely appropriated: two vignettes redrawn or reinked from the covers of the stories within; the four full-length poses (Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Speedy) that lined the left margin (in the same order) of every cover from #27 and #29 to #43; and the logo used from #19 to #43. There was also a blurb across the bottom announcing, "Extra-- Introducing The Teen Titans" followed by six faces: the five founding members and Lilith. And yet...

.....Between the reprinted stories is an unattributed article called "INTRODUCING THE TEEN TITANS"(N-1449). It's ostensibly narrated by the character Mr. Jupiter but probably written by editor E. Nelson Bridwell. It's only four pages of brief text pieces accompanied by appropriated spot illustrations, but... the characters profiled are the ten members of the group plus Beast Boy. There's no profile of the Russian teen Starfire or Joshua or any other character. Here's Mal and Gar's full text:
  1. "Mal Duncan grew up in Hell's Corner, a tough slum district. The Titans first saw him when he protected his kid sister from young hoodlums who'd wrecked her lemonade stand. Later they befriended him and he proved he had the strength and wits to be a Teen Titan."
  2. "Beast Boy (Gar Logan) was the son of a brilliant doctor. When the lad contracted a fatal disease, his father found a way to turn him into the one animal which could throw off the infection-- a Green Monkey. As a result, Gar has green skin and hair, plus the ability to turn into any kind of animal. He shared many adventures with the Doom Patrol and one with the Teen Titans."
.....Bridwell is credited with the closing text piece: "TALES OF THE TITANS" (N-1456) recounts the history of the group, noting the personnel changes on the team in chronological order and slipping in Beast Boy's one-time guest appearance, but again ignoring other potential team candidates Starfire and Joshua. Is it making too much of these filler pieces to suggest that there had been plans to put Beast Boy back into circulation with the Teen Titans as the means? The return of the Teen Titans title was still eight months off and the West Coast faction would not appear in it until a year after that when the New Doom Patrol made their debut in the revived Showcase. Bridwell did indeed have some hand in the Titans' title, but for a mere ten issues there's a surplus of editorial shifting around. The only consistent name is Jack Adler who began as Production Manager (#44-46), a position that was replaced with Vice President/Production (#47-53), also Adler. The first issue back (#44) was intended to be written by Nicholas Cuti (probably most famous as the creator of E-Man for Charlton) using a plot provided by Paul Levitz. It was eventually scripted by Bob Rozakis (retaining some of Levitz' dialogue), who stayed on for the whole series, despite also taking over for Gerry Conway's Corner on Secret Society of Super-Villains as of that series' #5(01-02/77) and sticking with his earlier gig on Batman Family.
[.....As a side note for trivia buffs: Conway himself had been editor of Super-Team Family for the first three issues when he announced on the letters' page that he was leaving that title so that Conway's Corner, his studio-within-DC, could put out SSSV. Replacing him on Super-Team Family as editor was Bridwell, who stayed for three issues and left just before Teen Titans returned.]

.....Aside from Adler in Production, there were two sets of credits regarding editorship. The nominal Editors were Julius Schwartz with Associate Editor E. Nelson Bridwell (#'s 45-50) and Jack C. Harris (who either didn't have or didn't list an assistant editor)(#'s 51-53). Rather than naming an editor, the first issue (#44) named Managing Editor Joe Orlando and Editorial Coordinator Paul Levitz. Their names disappeared for two issues but returned when Adler's position was changed to V.P. and all three of them stayed with those titles to the end. So Bridwell was only an Associate on the story that reintroduced Gar and only on the first of three issues. He might have thrown forward Gar's name at a meeting, but it could just as easily been Rozakis or Schwartz.

.....I wish I could say there was more consistency in the art than there was in edits, but the opposite was true. Only two issues (#'s 48-49) have the same penciller and inker team. There was a total of six pencillers and six inkers working in different combinations. The cover pencillers never did interiors, which was not uncommon at DC. Ernie Chua did covers to #'s 44-45 (inked by Vince Colletta) and Rich Buckler did #-s 46-53 (usually inked by Jack Abel). I am not certain which (if any) of these artists might have worked on the full page ad (L-510) that ran in Super-Team Family #7 (10-11/76) right after a reprint of Teen Titans #31(01-02/71). Most of the art from that page was shrunken and incorporated into the 'Daily Planet' motif editorial page a few weeks later (see the top left hand corner of this post). DC ran those Daily Planet pages weekly starting earlier in 1976 and that one was Volume 76, Issue 15, August 9, 1976. The ad copy that it excised from the original ad was:
".....You've seen THE TEEN TITANS as they were-- Now take a look at how they're gonna be! Robin! Speedy! Wonder Girl! Kid Flash! And introducing-- the Guardian! in "THE MAN WHO TOPPLED THE TITANS!" coming in the FIRST ISSUE of the NEW TEEN TITANS magazine! (Number 44, November-- on sale August 19th-- WATCH FOR IT!)"
.....The Daily Planet page added the second regular logo from the original run (from #19-43), even though all ten issues of the revival would use the earlier logo (from #1-15; the intervening issues-- 16, 17,18-- each had unique logos worked into the cover art). Since the Daily Planet page is essentially advertising, albeit in editorial form, why not just use the logo that would be on the newsstands a week later? After all, the editor of the Daily planet page was Bob Rozakis himself, the same person who wrote the series. It could have been a stylistic choice or a miscommunication between departments. On a practical level, the later of the two logos may be more legible after reduction, since the earlier logo utilizes a 3-D 'depth' effect (like the more famous Superman logo) that could get lost when shrunk. I don't know if anybody besides Todd Klein and myself care about these things, but the logos of comic books aren't printed in hand-crafted, stylized fonts by accident. If the fans' eyes didn't scan a sea of color for familiar shapes to pick out their favorite titles from chaotic convenience store racks in the pre-direct world of 1976, then publishers would have saved time and money by printing every series' title in the same font and in the same color on each issue.

.....The actual series ran on an irregular schedule. The cover dates were the even numbered months, plus November. The actual shipping dates were roughly three months ahead of the covers, meaning that the title was effectively bi-monthly with an extra issue for the summer in August. Some characters (Gnarrk) wouldn't appear again until Crisis, if then. Most would appear at Donna's wedding in Tales Of The Teen Titans #50 (02/85), which was cutting it close in terms of publishing if not continuity. Below is what I hope is the most accurate (to continuity) and comprehensive listing of appearances prior to Garfield chartering the NTT in 1980. Each of the Teen Titans issues will be reviewed in individual posts.
  1. Detective Comics #462 (08/76) Robin appears in the conclusion of a Batman 3-parter.
  2. Batman #279 (09/76) Robin appears.
  3. Batman Family #7 (09-10/76) Robin appears in an Elliot S! Maggin story with Batgirl (Barbara Gordon).
  4. Teen Titans #44 (11/76) Mal adopts the Jim Harper Golden Guardian costume, augmented by an exo-skeleton.
  5. Batman Family #8 (11-12/76) Robin confronts Duela in a different identity.
  6. Adventure Comics #446 (07-08/76) Robin makes a cameo in the Aquaman feature, calling by video-phone to locate Aqualad.
  7. Teen Titans #45 (12/76) Mal defeats Azrael The Angel Of Death and is rewarded by Gabriel with a shofar. He is told to blow the horn in order to even the odds in a fight. Karen Beecher is introduced on page 5.
  8. DC Super-Stars #10 (12/76) Robin and Wally appear in a story pitting Justice Leaguers against super-villains in a baseball game. If you ever hear cranky old-timers complaining that they don't understand why the Crisis reboot of 1986 was necessary, just show them this issue. Then hit them with it. Again and again and again.
  9. Batman Family #9 (01-02/77) Robin confronts Duela again.
  10. Teen Titans #46 (02/77) Robin brings Duela into the group. The Fiddler (from Earth-2) appears after All-Star Comics #63. When The Fiddler uses his violin's sonics to control rats and insects, Mal learns that Gabriel's horn can be used to wrest that control.
  11. World's Finest Comics #243 (02/77), Batman #285 (03/77)- #286 (04/77)and Batman Family #10 (03-04/77)- #11 (05-06/77) Robin only appears. He appears in two different stories in Batman Family #11.
  12. Teen Titans #47 (04/77)- #49 (08/77) After three self-contained issues, this is the first multi-issue arc and it has several concurrent plot lines. Most importantly relative to the Doom Patrol, Karen Beecher becomes Bumblebee. Initially she created the alter ego so that Mal (without his knowledge) could repel her staged attack and gain respect from his teammates. Instead, they defend Mal so fiercely that Karen is convinced that they already do respect him. Other lines include Aqualad becoming comatose due to a mysterious illness and is eventually taken to Atlantis for treatment. The team moves to a new headquarters in Farmingdale, Long Island, underneath a former restaurant which the team renovates into the nightclub they call "Gabriel's Horn". Mal wears a fan-designed Hornblower costume for one issue (#49). And weirdly, Duela is able to predict parallel crimes, claiming to have "a mental link with whomever planned" them-- that turning out to be Harvey Dent, Two-Face.
  13. Batman Family #12 (07-08/77)- #15 (12/77-01/78) Robin's feature continues. Kid Flash makes a guest appearance in #14.
  14. Teen Titans #50 (10/77)- #52 (12/77) This arc is the big one, the formation of Teen Titans West. Gar Logan, still called Beast Boy here, has not been used for so long that there seems to be some confusion about exactly how his powers work. In #50, when he transforms into an animal he retains a green head but his body becomes the natural color of that animal. In #51, he becomes completely green but still has a thatch of hair, even if the animal is not a mammal. The plot is needlessly confusing and centers on a villain named Mr. Esper who has managed to tap into the mental powers of the semi-retired Lilith. He uses those powers to cause chaos by levitating an ocean liner, turning a passenger train into a roller coaster and launching the Ferris building into the air, which are prodigious feats of telekinesis Lilith has never exhibited herself, before or since. Mal returns to the Guardian costume and hides from the others, including Karen, that he has lost Gabriel's horn. Aqualad returns, explaining that he must quit the group because his illness was psychosomatic and rooted in his feelings of inferiority within the Teen Titans. He stays long enough for a group photo of all fifteen combined members from both coasts.
  15. Secret Society Of Super-Villains #8 (07-08/77)- #9 (09/77) and Super-Team Family #13 (10-11/77) Kid Flash guest stars. For some reason, this appearance seems to have dropped of the radar of some of the more reliable data bases. That could be because, like much of 1970's DC stories, it causes too many conflicts with post-Crisis continuity. The only reason I was able to include it here is because, by chance, I personally own some well-worn copies of all three issues.
  16. Detective Comics #472 (09/77)- #474 (12/77) Robin guest stars in parts 4-6 of the Steve Englehart arc, remembered primarily for the Marshall Rogers art and the return of classic villains. #474 has a one panel cameo by Donna, calling Dick to an important meeting to take place in Teen Titans #53. There is also on that page a panel with portraits of Donna and Duela, but I'm betting that the panel of Donna on the phone by Rogers was the single reason George PĂ©rez kept her in the red unitard for most of New Teen Titans. These stories were reprinted in the mid-80's in the Baxter paper mini-series Shadow Of The Bat (not to be confused with the 90's ongoing series). They are more readily available as the trade paperback Strange Apparitions.
  17. Teen Titans #53 (02/78) The first and last page form a framing sequence in which Mal and Karen read a scrapbook containing the previously untold story of the Teen Titans' first adventure, a newly written and drawn story that makes up the rest of the book. The group started with a teaming of Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad in The Brave And The Bold #54 (06-07/64), but the name "Teen Titans" wasn't actually used until they returned in #60 (06-07/65), adding Wonder Girl along with the name and the logo they would eventually use on their own series. The story Mal and Karen are reading took place between the two and shows the boys and Speedy meeting Wonder Girl for the first time. She introduces herself as Wonder Woman's sister and claims she was sent by Hippolyta but the real story leading up to that scene would not be revealed until Donna's origin "Who Is Wonder Girl?" from New Titans #50 (12/88)- #55 (06/89). At the end of the frame sequence, the group again disbands (revealing the meaning of Donna's phone call to Dick in Detective Comics (above)). Roy tells Mal and Karen to "keep the books balanced". In lieu of a letters' page, a text page (probably by Jack C. Harris) discusses plans to use the various characters in the future. Mal and Karen were intended to appear in Secret Society Of Super-Villains, and that Bob Rozakis was supposed to be scripting it. Those plans never went forward.
.....And now, for what it's worth, the remainder of appearances prior to New Teen Titans:
  1. Green Lantern #100 (01/78) Roy Harper/Speedy appears.
  2. All-New Collector's Edition #C-56 ([3]/78) This was the tabloid-sized special better known as Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali. It had no month on the cover, but was advertised to ship December 12th, 1977, contemporary to March 1978 cover dated comics. The cover shows about a hundred real and fictional people drawn into the audience, including Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin, Speedy and Wonder Girl.
  3. Batman Family #16 (02-03/78)- #17 (04-05/78) Robin appears in both and with Duela and Betty Kane/Bat-Girl in #16.
  4. DC Special Series #11([5]/78) Also known as Flash Spectacular and advertised for February 20th, 1978, this contains a short chapter in which Wally West graduates and the Teen Titans attend in their civilian identities: Dick, Garth, Donna, Roy, Mal and Duella.
  5. Showcase #100 (05/78) Before COIE, before Secret Wars, this was a double-length one-issue story featuring nearly every character featured in the original run of Showcase (i.e., no Doom Patrol or Power Girl). That includes Hawk and Dove as well as Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin and Wonder Girl.
  6. Secret Society Of Super-Villains #12 (01/78) Robin guest stars.
  7. Karate Kid # 14 (05-06/78)- #15 (07-08/78) Robin guest stars; the story continues in Kamandi, but Robin is only mentioned in recaps.
  8. Batman Family #18 (06-07/78) and Batman #302 (08/78) Robin appears.
  9. Batman Family #19 (08-09/78)- #20 (10-11/78) Robin appears in both and with Duela in #19.
  10. Flash #265 (09/78), 266 (10/78) and 269 (01/79) Kid Flash appears.
  11. World's Finest Comics #251 (06-07/78) In the Green Arrow feature there is a review of Roy's career. Roy also appears in flashbacks in #254 (12/78-01/79) and 257 (06-07/79).
  12. Superman Family #191 (09-10/78)- #194 (03-04/79) In the Jimmy Olsen feature, Jimmy and the Newsboy Legion try to find the Golden Guardian (they all met during Jack Kirby's time on the series when it was called Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.) Because the Teen Titans had the costume in storage, Mal, Karen and Roy help Jimmy retrace its path.
  13. Detective Comics #482 (02-03/79) Dick is a guest star in the Batgirl feature.
  14. Adventure Comics #461 (01-02/79) The Wonder Woman feature retells Donna's origin story with Roy in flashbacks.
  15. Adventure Comics #461 (01-02/79)- #463 (05-06/79) Aqualad appears with Aquaman.
  16. The Brave And The Bold #149 (04/79) Batman is investigating a gang recruiting teenaged runaways and enlists Dick, Donna, Wally and Roy to go undercover.
  17. Detective Comics #481 (12/78-01/79)- #483 (04-05/79) These are the last Robin solo stories with Bob Rozakis scripts. Duela masquerades as the Card Queen.
  18. Flash #277 (09/79) Wally appears.
  19. Detective Comics #484 (06-07/79)- #488 (02-03/80) Robin solo stories scripted by Jack C. Harris begin.
  20. Wonder Woman #265 (03/80)- 266 (04/80) When Mr. Jupiter appears to have been murdered (it turns out to be a trick), Donna tries to investigate.
  21. World's Finest Comics #262 (04-05/80) and #264 (08-09/80) Aqualad appears.
.....And then one day DC Comics Presents seemed thicker than usual.

.....I'd like to say "...and that's it.", but of course things like this are never really over. There are always new stories being retroactively fit into earlier continuity, always minor cameos that escaped attention when lists like this are compiled and always little nuggets like this leaking out: although Mal and Karen didn't make it into SSSV, the throwaway villain Sizematic (from the Two-Face story in Teen Titans #'s 47-49) did, albeit in the unpublished issues #16 and 17. Also, when Hawk and Dove later appeared in The Brave And The Bold #181 (12/81) in a story written by Alan Brennart, they appeared to have aged considerably more than their former teammates concurrently appearing in New Teen Titans, by then a year into that series. As though to hammer home the point, the story title was a lyric from the Simon and Garfunkel song "Hazy Shade Of Winter", which not only dates back to their original series, but is a song about aging. They didn't appear again until Donna's wedding in Tales Of The Teen Titans #50 (02/85), where the continuity gaffe became the basis of an inside joke. On page 30 Donna introduces her new husband Terry to Hank and Don. Terry, who's aware of Donna's super-heroine activity, says, "Donna's often spoken about you, too. Funny, I got the impression you were older." Hank replies, "Yeah, lately everyone's been saying that." Mal and Karen at least paint a warmer picture. Talking with Donna, Terry and Lilith they seem happy to have put the Guardian and Bumblebee identities behind them after getting married themselves. Karen's taken up cooking and Mal had just published his first book. Mal then mentions to Lilith that he was sorry about Gnarrk, but the details of that go unsaid. It does indicate that however inactive they may have been that they weren't completely out of touch.

.....Speaking of out of touch, this blog has been buried in Teen Titans minutiae to establish background for Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher. Just as it reached the stories that brought them together, the current Doom Patrol series has been cancelled before Vox could be brought back into it. I'm going to have to touch on some of the other periods before going over the details of their Teen Titans appearances. And for once I'm throwing the floor open to suggestions. I have some seriously overdue music blogs to update. Another post for May is nearly complete here. After that? Without a current series, I'm open to suggestions. Any cryptic references from the past forty years you just haven't managed to decode? Any obscure characters you just can't place? Continuity qualms? Creator credit quandaries? If you leave a comment, it will alert me. That's intended for screening purposes, but it also grabs my attention, even after this post has aged. I'll know within 24 hours and I can respond much quicker than I can post something like the monster above. And, as always, if you have any additions or corrections regarding that monster then the comments section is an appropriate space for those as well. Enjoy.