Friday, March 12, 2010

Teen Titans #27

Teen Titans #27 (On Sale: March 12, 1970) has a cover by Nick Cardy. The full-body Titans down the side of the cover appear this issue for the first time in an act of extremely strange timing. We all remember last issue's cover where Wonder Girl says they will, "never wear their costumes again!" and the next issue they become a feature of the cover. I guess it could have been worse had these body-shots premiered last issue.

This issue we have "Nightmare in Space" by Robert Kanigher and Nick Cardy. Now, some people attribute the pencils on this one to George Tuska and Carmine Infantino (GCD even tells you which pages Carmine penciled), but all you have to do is look at the artwork to see that Carmine Infantino and George Tuska had nothing to do with this book. Also, Nick Cardy sure seems to think he drew the whole thing as noted in the checklist in The Art of Nick Cardy. I can see why people would want to take credit for this book though, as the artwork is wonderful throughout.

This story left me very conflicted in 1970 and I'll tell you why. First off, I was a grade A, number one space nerd. I watched every launch and reentry of every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission (my mother thinking it was better for me to see history happening than to read about it in school). I belonged to the "Space Club" at school and flew model rockets. I even designed my own model rocket LM (Lunar Module) that I actually got off the ground. My point being, I was very jazzed about all things that were space. But the "space" that I was jazzed about was very different from the "space" of comic books, what with Superman and Green Lantern and Hawkman zipping about all the time, just to name a few. Comic book space was always very different from real space and when they tried to do real space in comic books they usually goofed it up really bad. So where does this story fit into that scenario?

"Nightmare in Space" is maybe the most realistic portrayal of "space" I ever read in a comic book and the whole time I am reading it I am thinking, "Yeah, but if things go really bad they can somehow contact Superman or Green Lantern and they can fly out to save them!" which totally destroys the universe this story attempts to play in. The problem is the universe this story plays in is not the DC Comics universe. It is a hell of a great attempt at a real space story in a DC comic book and when it fails it is because it is a real space story in a DC comic book.

But for a space nerd in 1970, man was this something to read (and I don't often say nice things about Robert Kanigher stories)!

The de-uniformed Teen titans have been training with Mr. Jupiter and their newest member, Mal has done a Dr. Smith and stowawayed on board Jupiter's supposedly unmanned ship to Venus. The Titans and Jupiter have been working round the clock to get a rescue mission going and in a few day's time the Venus Chaser launches with the Titans as crew. On their way to the Moon the Titans lose contact with Mal but continue on their journey.

The mission is complicated. The first objective is to get to the Moon where Dove will stay in the Command Module (CM) while Speedy, Wonder Girl and Hawk take the Lunar Module (LM) down to the moon to check on experimental packages left by Apollo 11 and Kid Flash and Lilith man the Venus Probe Chaser going after Mal. Eventually everyone has to rendezvous above the moon with Dove in the Command Module for the return trip to Earth. The Cardy artwork on this stuff is just spectacular, particularly on the lunar landing.

The first real problem we have is with the lunar landing party. They land fine, but there is no sign of the equipment, or anything for that matter, left by Apollo 11. While Wonder Girl works on a bent landing probe rod, Speedy, and Hawk take a moonwalk scouting for signs of Apollo 11. They find nothing but when they get back to the LM they find Wonder Girl is missing.

Meanwhile on the Venus Probe Chaser they locate Mal's ship and though it is touch and go for a bit, including broken tethers and such, they are able to transfer Mal from the Venus Space Probe, which will go on with it's unmanned mission, to the chaser ship.

Back on the moon these glowing creatures (see the cover for details), show up with Wonder Girl in tow. They are alien creatures who crash landed on the moon and were using the Apollo 11 lunar packages as spare parts to try and repair their damaged ship. Wonder Girl has convinced them to put everything back the way it was and that the next Apollo mission will be there soon and will provide assistance to the aliens.

The Venus Probe Chaser docks with the CM and soon the three on the moon are blasting off in the LM to do the same. All goes well with the docking and the Titans head back for Earth. But at some point they all go mad and begin attacking each other but luckily Kid Flash notices that their is a malfunction in the oxygen mix and corrects their nitrogen intake, ending their hallucinations. This story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Thirty days after this issue hit the stands, on April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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