Monday, January 19, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Inkers: Pablo Marcos (issue 6) & Romeo Tanghal (issue 7)
Colorists: Jerry Serpe (issue 6) & John Drake (issue 7)
Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Trigon returns to his dimension with Raven. Upon their arrival, Trigon executes a young girl for calling him a monster, then destroys a world with which he is at war.

Meanwhile, the Titans convince Raven's mother, Arella, to lead them to Trigon's dimension. There, the group goes in search of Raven but finds Trigon instead. He easily defeats the Titans, but Arella escapes and rescues Raven. While Trigon fights Arella, Raven frees the Titans. The entire group then combines their powers to defeat Trigon, banishing him to a nether-realm between dimensions. But Arella sacrifices herself to live forever in that realm as well, keeping Trigon trapped there.

My Thoughts: As can be gleaned from the above synopsis, this is another issue featuring characters getting shuffled around in all different directions for little real purpose. Maybe I harp on this too much, but it's just such a weird storytelling mechanism that I feel it's worth noting.

Otherwise, this is a decent conclusion to the Trigon saga, complete with an X-MEN-esque denouement which features all the Titans (save Changeling, who is involved in his own side skirmish) combining their powers to stop Trigon. Arella's fate is easy to predict, given the big to-do made of her leaving Azarath, but it nonetheless adds some nice emotional impact to the finale.

My major question after reading the issue, then, is: how did some of this stuff make it past the Comics Code? Granted, the CCA had become a bit laxer by 1980 than in decades past, but nonetheless, this story features the on-panel murder of a small child, plus Arella's backstory, which includes a Satanist cult, attempted suicide, rape, and what appears to be a close-up of Arella's face mid-coitus! Yes, much of this would've gone over the heads of younger readers, but I'm still slightly astounded. No Marvel comic I've ever seen from this vintage has gone quite so close to the boundaries of Code approval.

(And with regards to the death of that little girl -- that's the sort of thing which turned me off of DC books as a youngster. DC comics, with their swear words ("damn" and "hell" and the like) and things like this just felt too dark for me. You'd occasionally get stuff like this in Marvel titles too -- there was a Peter David SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN where a kid was gunned down by SHIELD, for example -- and those were among my least-liked Marvels, as well. The stuff was too "grown-up" for me. And I should note that as an adult, I still don't think it's appropriate material for a mainstream superhero comic book.)

The Plot: The Titans return to Earth and Kid Flash departs to sort out his thoughts on becoming a superhero again. Meanwhile, Psimon, banished to another dimension by Trigon, appears to the rest of the Fearsome Five and pleads with them to rescue him. They agree and he sends them to the only place with a device which could restore him: Titans' Tower.

Soon after, the Titans return home and are ambushed by the Fearsome Five, who have Cybrog's father, Silas, prisoner. It seems Silas used his S.T.A.R. Labs resources to construct the tower as a way to support his son's superheroics. Psimon is freed but the Fearsome Five are defeated.

Silas reveals to Cyborg that he's dying, and Cyborg makes amends with his father. Father and son spend Silas's final months together, until the day Silas passes away.

My Thoughts: Wolfman has been using these early issues to slowly fill us in on the Titans' origin stories. We saw Starfire's in issue 2, and got Raven's in a couple installments during the Trigon saga. Now it's Victor "Cyborg" Stone's turn, and to say his origin is a little silly would be underselling it. See, Silas and his wife were brilliant scientists who developed a portal to another dimension. As they celebrated their achievement by making out right in front of it, Mrs. Stone brushed the controls and opened the portal, allowing a blob-like creature to come through and kill her. Victor stumbled into the room in time to see this, then the blob came for him next. Silas shut down the machine and the blob disappeared, but Victor was grievously injured and Silas turned him into a cyborg to keep him alive.

So... there's that.

Beyond the above, this is a standard-issue fight between the Titans and the Fearsome Five. But where the Titans previously lost to the Five due to fighting the villains separately one-on-one, here they use teamwork to take their foes out. It's a nice touch showing that the team has matured via their conflict with Trigon.

I am confused about the timeline of these stories, though. Titans' Tower appeared in issue 3, which as I recall was explicitly one week after issue 1. I find it laughably hard to swallow that anyone, even the ultra-advanced S.T.A.R. Labs, could design and build the place so quickly after the Titans' public debut. Unless maybe it's a prototype for a pre-fabricated building or something (which just happens to be shaped like a "T").

But then, after the series' seemingly ultra-compressed beginning, Wolfman goes super-leisurely, cramming three months into this issue's final pages. I've commented previously on the pacing problems which plague these early NEW TEEN TITANS installments; this is just another instance in the trend.

Lastly, I need to comment on something which has been bugging me since the first issue. Why does George Pérez make the artistic choice to constantly draw Robin with visible pupils in his mask? The character looks much better with the same blank white eyes as Batman, but for whatever reason, Pérez only goes that route in extreme long shots. Otherwise, Robin always has these little beady eyes staring at you from behind his domino mask. They're very distracting and never cease to irritate me. Curt Swan drew Robin correctly for his fill-in, and the blank eyes looked so much better there. But perhaps this is an opportunity for DC! The time is ripe for a NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS: PUPIL-LESS ROBIN EDITION. A version of these books in which every shot of Robin has his eyes whited out. I know I'd buy it!


  1. Well, Wolfman already handled the combination of satanism, sex (in a scene where Dracula and Domitia are clearly doing it), and (off-screen) infanticide toward the end of his TOMB OF DRACULA run. And I think AVENGERS#200 was on the newsstands that year (although that was an accident). But yes, it is very explicit here. DC Comics seemed to have gotten away with a lot in those days. I remember a 1980 LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (pre-Levitz-Giffen) where Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl wake up in bed, and its clear they ain't got a stitch on. I found it funny this panel didn't seem to raise a few eyebrows (unlike a similar scene in a future NTT comic). Also, in the same comic, the colorist was trying to tone down the risque clothing of Shadow Lass and Princess Projectra (Dave Cockrum-Mike Grell designs) by coloring the skin parts.
    You make a point that despite the angsty Marvel, the brighter DC Comics had its rougher side as well.
    As for Cyborg's reconciliation with his father, I don't quite understand the reason. One would think Vic knew his origins (Earlier he mentions the accident that killed mom and got him this suit). I suppose the difference is that Vic finally realized that his father's reason for making him a cyborg had nothing to do with scientific research but genuine fatherly love. The mortally ill revelation also helped.
    I never really had a problem with Dick's pupils. It made Robin look more badarse with his stern glare. The only time it bothered me was the cover to SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL: TEEN TITANS, with the sliding heads of Dick as Robin- Boy Wonder, Robin- Teen Wonder, Nightwing, and Dick staring at you. Rather discomforting.

    1. I've wanted to read TOMB OF DRACULA forever. I've heard so many great things about it. I bought the first ESSENTIAL volume years ago, but I only read the first few issues. Marvel released some Omnibus volumes of the entire series, but I passed on those. I should go back and try to find the remaining Essentials, since Gene Colan's artwork looked really good in black and white.

      Interesting about the LEGION scene, considering -- as you say -- that there was a big hullabaloo about Nightwing and Starfire sharing a bed years later. Maybe LEGION just fell under the radar somehow.

      "You make a point that despite the angsty Marvel, the brighter DC Comics had its rougher side as well."

      Funny thing is, I never thought of DC as brighter. Maybe I just looked at the wrong DCs and the right Marvels, but Marvel felt much more "four-color" to me than DC when I was a little kid. Part of it was the swearing; Jim Shooter had outlawed all curse words in Marvel comics, around 1980, while DC characters kept on using them.

      But DC in general just felt darker and grittier to me. I distinctly remember an issue of SUPERMAN or ACTION COMICS where, I assume in a dream sequence or something, Superman punches his hand into Lex Luthor's chest. That freaked me out. And I think I've said before around here that I was practically traumatized by "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorow", which disguised its carnage with kid-friendly Curt Swan artwork. Then there was "A Death in the Family", featuring Robin beaten to death by a crowbar-wielding Joker... and it just went on.

      I swear, somehow every DC comic I looked at as a child made me feel dirty and ashamed. But then, maybe I was just -- as Aunt May might say -- "a sensitive boy." Heck, even "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge", published years before I was born, gave me the creeps!

      (For reference, these were all things I read when I was between the ages of eight and ten years old.)

      ...Moving on: I think Cyborg's reconciliation with Silas was more out of guilt than anything else. He finds out his dad is dying and he's spent the past however many months ignoring the guy who raised him and saved his life. Then when this bomb is dropped, he realizes what a dick he's been (no offense, Robin) and makes amends.

      As far as Robin's pupils go, I think it's just a matter of "to each their own". I just find them very distracting and not nearly as cool looking as the blank whites. I think pupils can be very effective in small doses. John Byrne gave Wolverine pupils once or twice, and they worked extremely well. Neal Adams had done the same with Batman years before. I think Robin's eyes should be blank the majority of the time, with the pupils only showing up for special occasions.

  2. I too remember raising an eyebrow at the Trigon material in issue #6 in a "wow, they got away with this back then?" kind of way when I first read it a few months ago.

    Curiously, it seems like the general consensus amongst comic fans is that DC (at least until the 90s) was always the brighter, sunnier, more kid-friendly book, relative to the more gritty and streetwise Marvel (ie Spider-Man had a dead uncle and dead girlfriend; Green Lantern, meanwhile, had to stay clear of yellow light...). Then, of course, everything went nuts in the 90s and 00s, and now DC has the head-rolling, arm-slicing, needlessly-trying-to-prove-"we're not kids books!" reputation as the more gratuitously "dark" company. I've admittedly not read much Bronze Age DC (I started with DC until the 90s, when the entire industry was changing; I didn't know, for example, that Bronze Age DC had actual swear words) so I can't speak to the difference personally, I've just always gotten the impression that the zeitgeist, at least once upon a time, thought DC=bright, Marvel=dark.

    Like you said, it could just be the DCs you encountered that tipped your impression the other way. That certainly is a litany of intense issues you listed off. The first toe I dipped into the DC waters regularly was "Knightfall", which of course climaxed with Bane breaking Batman's back. That probably would have been traumatic to me at some point, but I was easily a tween the first time I read it (well on my way to becoming a jaded teen), and had been reading 90s-era Marvel for a few years before that, so I was more "kewl!" than horrified.

    As for issue #7, I think I enjoyed that one just for being the issue where Cyborg finally gets the enormous chip he's been lugging around since issue #1 off his shoulder. I found the character hugely insufferable up to that point, and while I still wouldn't call him a favorite, at least after issue #7 he becomes readable.

    1. I basically ignored DC in the nineties because of my limited experiences with them in the eighties. The only DC I read regularly, as I've noted several times before, was BATMAN ADVENTURES. I looked at a friend's "Death of Superman" and "Knightfall" issues, but they didn't really make me anxious for more. I've still never read a single ongoing monthly DC comic on a regular basis, and considering that I've basically given up on modern comics, it's unlikely that I ever will. I generally got my DC fix from the Bruce Timm cartoons and various mini-series and trades of major story arcs.

      Which is why I'm trying to fill in all the holes in my DC knowledge via reprints nowadays. There are many runs I want to read: Wolfman/Perez TITANS, Byrne Superman, Perez WONDER WOMAN, DeMatteis/Giffen JLI, and, though they seem unlikely to ever be collected in full, all the pre-CRISIS Batman stories from Gerry Conway and Doug Moench.

  3. There is also the Levitz/Giffen LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and the Barr/Davis Batman stories.

    1. I've heard a lot of good things about the Levitz/Giffen LEGION, but the Legion has never really appealed to me as a concept. Nonetheless, DC is releasing a trade paperback of their "Great Darkness Saga" next month, and while I didn't pre-order it, I might pick it up eventually for a sampling of the run.

      As for Barr/Davis Batman, I've already read that and I even wrote a couple posts about it!