Monday, February 23, 2015


Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Embellishers: Gene Day (#3) & Ernie Colón (#4)
Letterers: John Costanza (#3) & Todd Klein (#4) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: As he struggles to roast some hot dogs over a campfire, Changeling reveals his history to the rest of the Titans.

My Thoughts: It's interesting that, in this four-part series, three issues focus on the brand-new characters (Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven), while the fourth is dedicated to one of the pre-existing Titans. Though I suppose this makes sense, since Changeling has the least history of the remaining team members. Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl have all been around for decades at this point, while Changeling has existed only for around fifteen years or so.

Thus, with a somewhat known but still relatively new and underutilized character like Garfield Logan, Wolfman and Pérez get to put their creative spin on him as they've done with Cyborg and Raven, and soon will do with Starfire. I must remind readers, though, that I'm no expert on DC history, so I'm unsure where Changeling's official history ends and the contributions of Wolfman and Pérez pick up. I can guess though.

Changeling quickly recaps his time with the Doom Patrol and the original Titans, then we move into an extended sequence in which he spends some time acting in Hollywood and becomes the target of an old Doom Patrol foe called the Arsenal. Arsenal kidnaps Logan's girlfriend, condescendingly referring to him by his codename, Beast Boy, which eventually prompts the name change to Changeling.

Anyway, Changeling defeats Arsenal, who turns out to be his former abusive caretaker, and the story comes to an end. Interestingly, Wolfman seems to use Changeling to tie up a dangling plot from the original DOOM PATROL series -- the identity of Arsenal -- so kudos to him for doing that. I'm always happy when writers are conscientious enough to address long dormant continuity issues in creative ways.

But overall, Changeling's tale isn't terribly compelling. All of these stories suffer from A.) recapping facts we already know and B.) coming with predetermined endings since we're well aware the kids will eventually wind up where we found them in NEW TEEN TITANS #1. And Wolfman and Pérez just aren't making the journeys interesting enough to justify a full issue for each Titan's backstory.

That said, this is a nicely constructed issue, as we read the story Changeling is telling his teammates, filled with posturing and braggadocio, while Pérez's artwork shows us what really happened (hint: Changeling tends to embellish his accomplishments quite a bit). If nothing else, this keeps the story fun even when it's boring at the same time.

The Plot: The Titans prepare to leave the Grand Canyon, and the bright sun overhead prompts Starfire to explain her origin.

My Thoughts: Well, Starfire's origin is certainly... heavy. She was shipped from her home planet to learn the art of war, as were all children of Tamaran. Her jealous sister, Komand'r, went along as well, but was exiled for being too violent. So Komand'r made a deal with alien slavers and helped them conquer Tamaran. Starfire, as we know from past issues, was given to the slavers as ransom, and spent five years as a slave before escaping into the pages of THE NEW TEEN TITANS #1.

What we didn't know about Stafire's backstory until this point was the involvement of her treacherous sister (who I will henceforth refer to as Blackfire, since I know she will eventually adopt that name and it's easier to type than Komand'r). Blackfire as presented here is basically pure evil, jealous of Starfire from day one, murdering her beloved pet, beating her up, trying to kill her in a combat tournament, and of course, selling her into slavery.

We also learn that Starfire's powers aren't inherent, as I had always assumed. It turns out her ability to fly is a Tamaranian trait (though one not shared by Blackfire due to a birth defect), but the ability to be a "living solar battery" is something she gained later in life, when she was experimented upon by another alien race called the Psions. Blackfire was part of the same experiment, and gained the same power as her sister, but stronger.

Sadly, the artwork in "Starfire" is the weakest of the four TALES issues. Ernie Colón is too rough of a finisher for George Pérez, whose pencils practically demand a smooth, polished look. Colón's style might have fit the Changeling chapter, but none of the others.

But the main takeaway from this issue is the fact that Cyborg has the line of the book, presumably unintentional (though I wouldn't put anything past Wolfman): as Changeling pines for Starfire in the issue's opening scene, Cyborg informs him that she's interested in Robin by stating, "She only has eyes for Dick." I couldn't help chuckling at that, even if it seems a more apt description of the "New 52" version of Starfire, from what I've seen.

Oh, lastly -- Robin makes a random aside in the story about returning to college. Given that this issue is three months ahead of where we left off on the main NEW TEEN TITANS series, I'm curious to see if this is a development Wolfman has implemented in the contemporaneous stories, or whether perhaps this is something that came about in the Batman comics of the time, as I believe it was Wolfman (though it may possibly have been Len Wein) who dropped Robin out of Hudson University in the first place, a few years earlier.


  1. We also learn that Starfire's powers aren't inherent, as I had always assumed. It turns out her ability to fly is a Tamaranian trait (though one not shared by Blackfire due to a birth defect), but the ability to be a "living solar battery" is something she gained later in life, when she was experimented upon by another alien race called the Psions.

    Meanwhile over at the Marvel Universe: Lilandra's sister can fly precisely because of a birth defect (or genetic throwback thingy). Do these... Psions happen to lay eggs on some poor folks who'll then get taken over and transform into a Psion, with superpowers of the host creature should he have any?

    This ain't fun no more. Were Claremont and Wolfman living together at this point in a Swamp Thing/Man-Thing kind of arrangement?

    1. I don't know; it's also possible that whenever Wolfman yelled "SHAZAM!", he turned into Chris Claremont.

      As for the Psions, no -- they're nothing like the Brood. They're green humanoids with some semi-reptilian features. According to Wikipedia, Wolfman actually created them a decade earlier during his first stint working for DC.

    2. I was rather thinking it to be Claremont that mainly was the one getting the same idea in a bit modified some months later... the Brood thing was a not-amused pointer about how they'll very soon experiment on Carol Danvers making her gain a connection to the "white hole". Though, in many cases Claremont should have written his thing before TNTT issues had yet had chance to hit the racks, so any speculative foul play should, hilariously, be the sort of thing they claim happened between the Doom Patrol and the X-Men in '63.

      They used to both work for the monster side of Marvel books in mid-70's. I wonder how close their acquaintance was, could they perhaps have been doing some off-time supportive brainstorming together?

    3. I think everything after the Doom Patrol's death is Wolfman. Jillian actually debuted the same issue as Gar did (so did the salad insult). Wolfman does gloss over his original storyline, his initial meddling in the Doom Patrol's lives (actually a cry for help from his nasty guardianship) and winning Rita Farr's affections to get him adopted.
      In truth, Dick's quitting college originated in the last story of his solo back-up series in DETECTIVE COMICS#495 written by Jack C. Harris. During his brief run on BATMAN, Wolfman showed the consequences of his decision with Dick getting Bruce's disapproval, starting the estrangement between the Dynamic Duo. I suppose the return to college was part of Gerry Conway's plan to restore the good ol' days of the Duo- both Bruce and Dick returning to Wayne Manor/Batcave1, etc., and Wolfman decided to go with the a point.

  2. Ahh, that's what I was remembering from Wolfman's BATMAN, then. I read "The Lazarus Affair" a few years ago and I recalled friction between Batman and Robin over the latter's quitting college. I think my brain just misremembered that the actual dropping out occurred there as well.

    Speaking of "The Lazarus Affair", I would love to see DC collect it in a trade paperback. They just released a hardcover of Len Wein's full run from the eighties, but Wolfman's shorter subsequent run ties up some of Wein's story threads.