I have to confess that I only ever intended to buy this trade when DC started reprinting the Wolfman/Perez Titans because while I have owned all of these issues for more than twenty years, I know that they’re pretty valuable and since I have a few of them signed by Marv Wolfman, I don’t want to take them out of the bags and risk wear and tear. I mean, it’s not like I expect my copies of those books to pay for anything expensive one day, but when I think about the comics I own that I absolutely want to keep, the Wolfman-Perez Titans are at the top of that list.
Okay, so that’s my justification of the purchase. Was it even worth it?
When it comes to quite a lot of the New Teen Titans/New Titans comics, I’m not going to have to do a lot of plot synopsis because these are comics that I covered quite a while ago on the Pop Culture Affidavit blog. And these especially are well-known stories: the formation of the team, the fight against The Ravager and Deathstroke, a confrontation with the JLA, The Fearsome Five, and the first battle with Trigon. All of that over the course of seven issues with the eighth being the famous “A Day in the Life” story.
Just like I said about “Silent Interlude” in my most recent G.I. Joe post, a lot has been made about “A Day in the Life” From New Teen Titans #8, as it’s one of those rare (for the time) “stop all the chaos and spend time with the characters” stories, a story type that Wolfman and Perez would return to from time to time and be mostly successful at. Coming on the heels of what is really a frenetic set of opening stories, it’s a nice breather, but most importantly, it actually does what it people say it does, which is elevate this book and this team into the realm of “Something Special.”
Prior to my original run-through of reading my Titans books (back in the late 1990s), I didn’t have any of the original series’ books, so as far as I knew, Teen Titans was a series that had existed and finished up years before this one began. I didn’t realize that it was all of two and a half years since Teen Titans #53 and only eighteen months between The Brave and the Bold #149 and DC Comics Presents #26. Yes, in kid time, that’s a long time; in adult time, that’s last week, and in the comics atmosphere of today a reboot of the team might garner a “we’re doing this again …?” reaction.
I can’t gauge what fans were saying in 1980, and I can’t tell if DC felt they were taking any huge risk by putting this book on the stands. All I know is that it works right out the gate because Wolfman and Perez give us new members who are not as goofy or wayward as, say Gnarkk, Lilith, Joker’s Daughter, and Mal; and even if Bob Rozakis tried his best to give us an ongoing storyline, that seemed to feel like one supervillain bleeding into the next as opposed to what we have here, which is an establishing storyline with a team that is on shaky ground and doesn’t quite gel until they finally have to face the existential threat that is Trigon.
Speaking of which, a lot has been made that when Trigon first appears and attacks Earth, it’s Curt Swan and not George Perez who handles the art chores. I’m not sure why Swan had to do a fill-in (check that–I’ve probably read it in an article or the Titans Companion but don’t remember off the top of my head), but I am inclined to agree that it makes Trigon’s first appearance underwhelming. While Swan is a classic artist and I do enjoy his Superman work, this feels way more stiff than the dynamic work that Perez was bringing to the book (and Perez put way more into the backgrounds as well). It doesn’t totally ruin the story, though, because the climactic battle takes place in issue #6, which is again Perez and really well done. Plus, the team doesn’t so much destroy the threat as put him into a prison, and one that isn’t completely solid, because the lingering threat of Trigon coming back through his daughter will permeate the book all the way to the beginning of the Baxter series (and a storyline that I count as one of my all-time favorites).
But this, as well as some of the other aspects of the first seven issues of the series, feel like solid superhero fare, but much better than the goofy mishaps of previous Titans incarnations. We even get a schematic of Titans Tower in the middle of an issue, something that in later years would have been saved for a pinup page or Who’s Who entry. Had issue #8 not appeared, this would have been like another X-Men-type book with some character beats coming between the latest threat (although Claremont’s dialogue would have been 7x more dense). And even if issue #8 does have Terry Long, it’s still outstanding, because for once, the Titans feel like they’re real people.
I think what helps, by the way, is that at this point most of them are barely teenagers anymore as it is. Changeling is sixteen, yes, but I think that all of the others are eighteen or nineteen, which means that in telling their stories, Wolfman and Perez don’t have to dance around the “kids playing superhero” aspect of the original group, and they can simply give them lives as people who are living in Eighties-era New York City. They also try not to lean too far into the pop culture of the time, or at least show some restraint when it comes to slang and hip dialogue, another thing that made Haney’s Titans kitschy at best and cringe-inducing at worst.
I believe this is one of those trades that is readily available, and it very well should be because these were books that were hard to come by when I was collecting in the early Nineties but were often talked about. The reprinting is outstanding because by using matte paper and not modernizing the coloring the way DC and Marvel have done from time to time. Yes, they have remastered it a little bit to reflect the way the characters ultimately looked through most of the run (i.e., changing Raven’s cloak from black to blue), but I don’t mind it. The panels pop off the page and are vibrant, and make this not just a refreshing read compared to the Bronze Age stuff, but an exciting one as well.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Keeping the trade for reading. The individual issues are staying in my collection.