Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teen Titans #26

Teen Titans #26 (On Sale: January 20, 1970) has another great cover by Nick Cardy. I know that as a young man, I spent many a hour staring at Wonder Girls' butt on this one.

"A Penny for a Black Star" is by Robert Kanigher and Nick Cardy and continues from the dramatic events of last issue, where the Titans responsible for the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Arthur Swenson, gave up their costumes, vowed to not use their powers and joined Mr. Jupiter's top-secret project.

Continuing really from the cover, they enter into Mr. Jupiter's training facility, a kind of Titans version of the X-Men Danger Room, a gauntlet of lasers, fire and wind. When they come out on the other side, Mr. Jupiter gives them each a penny and tells them the next part of their training will be in Hell's Corner, the toughest neighborhood in the city, where they are to find jobs, a place to live and one other thing, something they will have to figure out on their own. Lilith says that the answer to the last enigmatic task will be found in Hell's Corner, but she knows know more than that.

Donna wonders what they can do with a penny each and Lilith says that perhaps they can "find... a black star," but once again, more than that she does not know. In Hell's Corner they find a young black girl selling lemonade for a penny and buy some, one to see the girl attacked by Storm and his gang, the Hell's Hawks. Don (Hawk) wants to jump in and pound the gang, but he is held back by Dove and the reminder of what happened the last time they went off one someone. Seeing that they won't fight back, the gang go after the girls, groping at Lilith and Donna. Suddenly the gang is attacked by Mal Duncan, the little girl's older brother and once the gang starts beating up on him the Titans do come to the rescue, without using their super-powers.

The gang runs off and the Titans thank Mal, who tells them that they don't belong there and should leave. But they don't heed his advice and continue on through the neighborhood. Donna and Lilith get jobs at a clothing store and the guys get work and room and board at the neighborhood boys club. where they help the kids with baseball, boxing and painting. That night they learn of a monthly boxing match where the youth of the neighborhood let off steam. A week or so later at the match, Mal is pitted against Storm and knocks him out in the ring. Later when the Titans go to congratulate him they find him being beaten by the gang. The Titans put a quick end to that. Afterward the celebrate and reluctantly Mal goes along, where mainly through the efforts of Lilith, he becomes part of the gang, the Titans realizing that recruiting Mal must be the unknown task they needed to perform.

They bring Mal to Mr. Jupiter where Mal learns that his new friends are actually the Teen Titans. Mal goes through the same danger room gauntlet as the rest of the team and over the next few weeks (months?) they all train (for some reason) for spaceflight. Eventually they are taken to a secret launch site where automated rockets are being prepped for a one-way unmanned trip to Venus. That night Mal sneaks out of the facility, though he meets Lilith on the way, and when the spaceship launches the next morning they find out Mal is on board. With Jupiter's help the Titans vow to take another ship to the moon to rendezvous with Mal and save him.

This was not the best of follow-ups to last issue's story, but I don't really expect much from Robert Kanigher. I'm not sure where Dick Giordano thought he could take the unpowered Titans, but he needed someone like Mike Sekowsky to pull this off and Kanigher just didn't qualify. This was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.


Sharon said...

DC was depowering several of its heroes around this time in an effort to make their characters more "Marvel-like" and relatable. So we had the famously depowered Wonder Woman; the Metal Men became human for a time; also, Green Lantern, Superman and Supergirl's powers were (temporarily) diminshed. But it was kind of silly to think that Wonder Girl and Kid Flash would dleiberately not use their powers in battle. (And DC missed the point: Marvel's heroes were relatable because they had human problems along with their powers; but DC made their characters literally more human by dispensing with the powers. A short-lived experiment.)

Anyway, in Teen Titans #23 Wonder Girl had received a makeover--new hairdo and costume a few issues earlier--and a few (bi-monthly) issues later in #26, she tossed away her cute new red costume for a drab Secret Six-knockoff. No wonder she's shedding tears! (Not to worry: in a couple of issues she and Lilith would sport minskirted versions of this utilitarian uniform.)

-Keller said...

And we guys were all the happier for those miniskirts!

I think the depowering of the DC heroes was less a thought of being more "Marvel-like," though I am sure that is how they sold it to upper-management, and more that power was given to a couple of artists, who as editors, were more interested in action/adventure than in super-heroes. I refer specifically to Dick Giordano and Mike Sekowsky.

In the case of Sekowsky the evidence is pretty overwhelming that after all those years on JLA that the guy didn't want to look a pair of tights in the eyes ever again. So he turned the Metal Men into humans, he turned Wonder Woman into a human, he created Jason's Quest and Manhunter 2070 and worked on the Maniaks and B'Wana Beast and the Phantom Stranger and anything but super-heroes. When he did go back to super-heroes he did Supergirl and did everything in his power to make her book as different from the standard DC super-heroes as possible.

Giordano at Charlton did not do super-heroes and at DC he did very few: the Teen Titans, the Ditko books, the Spectre and Aquaman being the odd books out. He did teen humor, romance, the Secret Six, the Witching Hour, All-Star Western, Hot Wheels, the Three Mouseketeers and Bomba. He felt much more at home away from the super-heroes.

Personally I loved the move to action and adventure, but with the Titans it was a really dumb idea. By next issue they are putting them in their costumes on the left border of the covers. I mean, it was never going to work and to their credit, they realized it pretty quickly.