Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 1 


By Neal Adams with Bob Haney, Leo Dorfman, Cary Bates & various (DDC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0041-1 (HC): 978-1-4012-3537-6 (2003 PB) 978-1-4012-7782-6 (2018 TPB edition)   

I’m doing this far too frequently, these days, but here’s a swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the sudden passing of one of our industry and art form’s last true titans. Neal Adams died on the 28th of April. As well as a creator and innovator who changed the entire direction of comics and sequential narrative, he was a tireless activist and advocate whose efforts secured rights for workers and creators long victimised by an unfair, stacked, system. A fuller appreciation and more comprehensive review will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

Neal Adams was born on Governors Island, New York City, on June 15th 1941. His family were career military and he grew up on bases across the world. In the late 1950s he studied at the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, graduating in 1959. 

As the turbulent, revolutionary 1960s began, Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. As he pursued a career in advertising and “real art”, he did a few comics pages for Joe Simon at Archie Comics (The Fly and that red-headed kid too) before subsequently becoming one of the youngest artists to co-create and illustrate a major licensed newspaper strip – Ben Casey (based on a popular TV medical drama series). His first attempts to find work at DC were not successful… 

That comic book fascination never faded however, and as the decade progressed, Adams drifted back to National/DC doing a few covers as inker or penciller. After “breaking in” via anthological war comics he eventually found himself at the vanguard of a revolution in pictorial storytelling… 

He made such a mark that DC chose celebrate his contributions by reprinting every piece of work Adams ever did for them in a series of commemorative collections. We’re still waiting for a definitive collection of his horror comics stories and covers, but will probably never see his sterling efforts on licensed titles such as Hot Wheels, The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. That’s a real shame too: the display a wry facility for gag staging and small drama… 

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams was the first of 3 tomes available in  variety of formats and editions featuring the “Darknight Detective” – as he was dubbed back then – and featuring every cover, story and issue in original publication order. 

Here then, ‘From Me to You: An Introduction’ gives you the history of his early triumphs in the writer/artist’s own words, after which covers from Detective Comics #370 (December 1967, inking Carmine Infantino) and the all-Adams Brave and the Bold #75 (January 1968), Detective #372 (February), B&B #76 (February/March), Batman #200 and World’s Finest Comics #174 (both March) serve as tasters for the first full-length narrative… 

The iconoclastic penciller first started seriously making waves with a couple of enthralling Cape & Cowl capers beginning with World’s Finest Comics #175 (April 1968): ‘The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads!’ Scripted by Leo Dorfman and inked by long-term collaborator Dick Giordano, the story detailed how an annual – and friendly – battle of wits between the crimebusters is infiltrated by alien and Earthly criminal groups intent on killing their foes whilst they are off-guard… 

WFC #176 (June) featured a beguiling enigma in ‘The Superman-Batman Split!’ – written by fellow newcomer Cary Bates. Ostensibly just another alien mystery yarn, this twisty little gem conceals a surprise ending for all, plus guest stars Robin, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Batgirl, with Adams’ hyper-dynamic realism lending an aura of solid credibility to even the most fanciful situations. 

It also ushered in an era of gritty veracity to replace previously anodyne and frequently frivolous Costumed Dramas… 

More Dynamite Covers follow: Batman #203 (July/August) leads to Brave and the Bold #79 (August/September); heralding Adams’ assumption of interior art chores and launching a groundbreaking run that rewrote the rulebook for strip illustration… 

‘The Track of the Hook’ – written by Bob Haney and inked Giordano – paired the Gotham Guardian with justice-obsessed ghost Deadman: formerly trapeze artist Boston Brand who was hunting his own killer, and whose earthy, human tragedy elevated the series’ costume theatrics into deeper, more mature realms of drama and action. At this period Adams was writing and illustrating Brand’s solo stories in Strange Adventures…  

The B&B stories matured overnight, instantly became every discerning fan’s favourite read.  

Covers for World’s Finest Comics #178-180 (September through November) segue sweetly into Brave and the Bold #80 (October/November 1968) where ‘And Hellgrammite is his Name’ finds Batman and The Creeper clashing with a monstrous, insect-themed super-hitman, again courtesy of Haney, Adams & Giordano, whilst #81 saw The Flash aid Batman against an unbeatable thug in ‘But Bork Can Hurt You!’ (inked by Giordano & Vince Colletta) before Aquaman became ‘The Sleepwalker from the Sea’ in an eerie tale of mind-control and sibling rivalry. 

Interwoven through those thrillers are the covers for World’s Finest #182 (February 1969, inking Curt Swan’s pencils), #183 (March, inking over Infantino), Batman #210 and Detective #385 (both March and all Adams). 

B&B # 83 took a radical turn (and is the only story herein without a cover since that one was limned by Irv Novick) as The Teen Titans try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’ (Haney & Giordano) but the next team-up was one that got many fans in a real tizzy in 1969. 

First though comes the fabulous frontage for World’s Finest #185 (June 1969) after which ‘The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl’ recounts a World War II exploit where Batman and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company hunt Nazi gold together, only closing that case 25 years later. 

Try to ignore kvetching about relative ages and which Earth we’re on: you should really focus on the fact that this is a startlingly gripping tale of great intensity, beautifully realised, and one which has been criminally discounted for decades as “non-canonical”. 

Detective Comics #389 (July), and World’s Finest #186 (August and pencilled by Infantino) precede Brave and the Bold #85. Here, behind a stunning cover, is arguably the best of an incredible run of action adventures… 

‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ unites Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, with Bruce Wayne being appointed as a stand-in for a law-maker whilst the Emerald Archer receives a radical make-over that turned him into a fiery liberal gadfly and champion of the relevancy generation: a remake that still informs his character today, both in funnybooks and on TV screens… 

Wrapping up this initial artistic extravaganza come covers for Detective Comics #391 and 392 (September & October 196), completing a delirious run of comics masterpieces no ardent art lover or fanatical Fights ‘n’ Tights aficionado can do without and confirming the unique and indisputable contribution Adams made to comics.s.
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2003, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. 

DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 1


By Neal Adams with Dennis O’Neil, Gardner F. Fox, Robert Kanigher, Howard Liss, Hank Chapman, Len Wein, Bob Haney, Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragonés, Joe Kubert & various (DDC Comics)
No ISBN: digital only edition

As the 1960s began Neal Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. Whilst pursuing a career in advertising and “real art” he did a few comics pages for Archie Comics and subsequently became one of the youngest artists to co-create and illustrate major licensed newspaper strip Ben Casey (based on a popular TV medical drama series).

That comics fascination never faded, however, and Adams drifted back to National/DC, doing a few covers as inker or penciller before eventually finding himself at the vanguard of a revolution in pictorial storytelling…

He made such a mark that DC have regularly curated and reissued his work in a series of commemorative collections. This is the first of a proposed series of eBook tomes extracted from heftier physical artefacts covering the artists’ minor efforts (those not starring Batman, Deadman or “Hard-Travelling Heroes” Green Lantern/Green Arrow) in themed original publication order.

Revisiting Teen Titans #20-22 and gatherings material from Detective Comics #369; Superman #254; Justice League of America #94; Our Army At War #182, 183, 186, 240; Star Spangled War Stories #134, 144; Fanboy #5 and Amazing World of DC Comics Special Edition #1 it cumulatively embraces November 1969 through July 1999.

Following a contextualising Foreword by Paul Levitz and Adams’ thoughts in his own ‘Superheroes Foreword’ the comic dramas commence with a tale of slinky sleuth The Elongated Man who solves a bizarre theft connected to the ‘Legend of the Lovers’ Lantern’ (scripted by Gardner F. Fox from Detective Comics #369, November 1969).

We then encounter a bold triptych from Teen Titans #20-22 (March/April to June/July 1969), written by Adams and pencilled by him and Sal Amendola with inks by brush-maestro Nick Cardy – one of the all-out prettiest illustration jobs of that decade.

Completing s a long-running plot-thread of extra-dimensional invaders by endowing everything with a counterculture twist, ‘Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho’ is a spectacular rollercoaster romp deftly blending teen revolt, organised crime, anti-capitalist activism, bug-eyed monsters and cunning extraterrestrial conquerors…

Symbolic super-teens Hawk and Dove briefly join the proceedings for #21’s ‘Citadel of Fear’ (Adams & Cardy): chasing smugglers, facing evil ETs and ramping up the surly teen angst quotient whilst moving the invaders story-arc towards stunning conclusion ‘Halfway to Holocaust’ wherein the abduction of Kid Flash and Robin leads to a cross-planar climax as Wonder Girl, Speedy and a radical new ally quash the invaders forever…

Excerpts from Justice League of America #94’s ‘Where Strikes Demonfang’ – specifically pages 1, 5, 20 and 22 – tie up loose ends from the Deadman saga seen elsewhere (in Strange Adventures of the Adams Deadman collections) before a modern pin-up of ‘Ra’s al Ghul’ brings us to a delightful treat scripted by Len Wein taken from The Private Life of Clark Kent backup series.

‘The Baby Who Walked Through Walls’ comes from Superman #254 (July 1972): scripted by Len Wein and deliciously detailing how even the mighty Man of Tomorrow is no match for a toddler determined to dodge her babysitter and go exploring…

Unpublished Superman pages and thumbnails culled from ‘Amazing World of DC Comics Special Edition #1’ (February 1976) segue into a selection of public service messages starring the Caped Kryptonian – specifically ‘Justice for All Includes Children 1, 2, 6 and 7’ – and are followed by a monochrome and a full-colour v ‘9/11 Tribute’…

Self-parody changes the tone as an excerpt from Fanboy #5 (July 1999) finds Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragonés joining the master of moody in an unlikely iteration of the Daft Knight…

A ‘Batman Sketchbook’ offers preliminary doodles for Robin’s new costume, Batman roughs and Joker redesigns, culminating in finished pin-ups of all before the tone twists back to hyper-realism and a ‘War Stories Foreword’ by Neal Adams begins a chronological excursion through the artist’s combat contributions to DC canon.

All recoloured in Adam’s lush modern manner, the lean sparse sagas commence with ‘It’s My Turn to Die’ from Our Army At War #182 (July 1967), with Howard Liss scripting the tale of an officer who’s reached his emotional limit, whilst ‘Invisible Sniper’ (Liss again from OAAW #183, August 1967) tracks an embattled GI hunting an infallible enemy with a killer gimmick…

‘The Killing Ground’ (Star Spangled War Stories #134, August -September 1967) is a Robert Kanigher moment from The War That Time Forgot, with PT Boat survivors striving against a succession of seaborne antediluvian atrocities, after which ‘My Life for a Medal’Our Army At War #186 (November 1967, by veteran scribe Hank Chapman) – holds a shocking lesson for a glory-hungry go-getter.

A visual triumph, Joe Kubert inked hot new penciller Adams on Kanigher’s ‘Death Takes No Holiday!’ (SSWS #144, April-May 1969) as another macabre death-dealing French aviator – dressed as a skeleton – terrorised and butchered Jagdstaffel pilots at will, forcing the Kaiser’s Enemy Ace Hans von Hammer into insane action to inspire his men and cure a young flier of fear-induced madness…

War takes a weird – and socially relevant – turn as we visit the future for our concluding clash in Bob Haney’s ‘Another Time Another Place’ (Our Army At War #240, January 1972) as an elite squad meet the enemy and get a sobering surprise…

Sadly short of Adams incredible canon of covers, we wrap up with only full ‘Biographies’ as a bonus, but this beautiful book still offers a look at less often seen gems that were in many ways more informative than all the big-banner achievements of a major force in comics. Now, if only DC would sort out his horror stories and truly lost gems like Jerry Lewis, we’d all be happy…
© 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1999, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

World’s Finest: Guardians of Earth


By Denny O’Neil, Mike Friedrich, Steve Skeates, Len Wein, Elliot S! Maggin, Dick Dillin, Joe Giella & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0178-3 (HB)

For decades Superman and Batman were quintessential superhero partners: the “World’s Finest team”. The affable stalwarts were best buddies as well as mutually respectful colleagues, and their pairing made sound financial sense since DC’s top heroes could happily cross-pollinate and cross-sell their combined readerships. This most inevitable of Paladin Pairings first occurred on the Superman radio show in the early 1940s, whilst in comics the pair had only briefly met whilst on a Justice Society of America adventure in All-Star Comics #36 (August-September 1947) – and perhaps even there they missed each other in the gaudy hubbub…

Of course, they had shared covers on World’s Finest Comics from the outset, but never crossed paths inside; sticking firmly to their specified solo adventures within. In fact, they never shared an official comic book case. However, once that Rubicon was crossed in Superman #76 (May 1952), the partnership solidified thanks to spiralling costs and dwindling page-counts. As 52-page titles dwindled to the 32, WFC permanently sealed the new deal and the industry never looked back…

The Cape and Cowl Crusaders were partners and allies from #71 onwards (July 1954), working together until the title was cancelled in the build-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. All that is, except for a brief period when the Man of Steel was paired with other stars of DC’s firmament.

This mighty compelling compendium re-presents those cataclysmic collaborations from the turbulent 1970’s (World’s Finest Comics #198-214, spanning November 1970 to October- November 1972), as radical shifts in America’s tastes and cultural landscape fostered a hunger for more mature, socially relevant stories. That drive even affected the Dark Knight and Action Ace – so much so, in fact, that their partnership was temporarily suspended: paused so Superman could guest-star with other DC icons.

After three years, another bold experiment reunited them as parents of The Super-Sons before the regular relationship was revitalised and renewed. With the World’s Finest Heroes fully restored, their bizarrely apt pre-eminence endured another lengthy run until the title’s demise.

Without preamble the action kicks off here by returning to a thorny topic which had bedevilled fans for years…

The comic book experience is littered with eternal, unanswerable questions. The most common and most passionately asked always begin “who would win if…” or “who’s strongest/smartest/fastest…”

Here, crafted by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, ‘Race to Save the Universe!’ and the concluding ‘Race to Save Time’ (WFC #198-199; November and December 1970) upped the stakes on two previous competitions as the high-speed heroes are conscripted by the Guardians of the Universe to circumnavigate the entire cosmos at their greatest velocities to reverse the rampage of the mysterious Anachronids: faster-than-light creatures whose pell-mell course throughout the galaxies is actually unwinding time itself and unravelling the fabric of creation. Little does anybody suspect that Superman’s oldest enemies were behind the entire appalling scheme…

Anniversary issue #200 was crafted by regular Robin, the Teen Wonder scripter Mike Friedrich, with Dillin & Giella doing the drawing – as they did for this entire book. ‘Prisoners of the Immortal World!’ (February 1971) focusses on college-student brothers on opposite sides of the Vietnam War debate abducted along with youth icon Robin and “Mr. Establishment” Superman to a distant planet where undying vampiric aliens wage eternal war on each other.

Green Lantern pops in for #201, contesting ‘A Prize of Peril!’ (O’Neil, Dillin & Giella) which would grant either Emerald Gladiator or Man of Steel sole jurisdiction of Earth’s skies. Sadly, all is not as it seems…

Batman returned for a limited engagement in #202 as the O’Neil-penned ‘Vengeance of the Tomb-Thing!’ sees archaeologists unearth something horrific in Egypt, just before Superman seemingly goes mad and attacks his greatest friends and allies. A superb ecological scare-story, this tale changed the Man of Tomorrow’s life for decades to come…

Current Aquaman writer Steve Skeates waded in for #203 as ‘Who’s Minding the Earth?’ pits Metropolis Marvel and King of Atlantis against parthenogenetic mutant dolphins attempting to terraform the polluted world into something more welcoming to their kind…

More ecological terror underpins O’Neil’s bleak warning in #204 as ‘Journey to the End of Hope!’ finds powerless former Wonder Woman Diana Prince and Superman summoned to a barren lifeless Earth. Here a dying computer warns that a butterfly effect will inevitably lead to this future unless they prevent a certain person dying in a college campus riot. Only time will tell if they succeed as the clash does indeed cost a life despite all their efforts…

Racism, sexism and the oppression of reactionary conservative values then get a well-deserved pasting in #205’s ‘The Computer that Captured a Town!’

Here Skeates deviously layers a Teen Titans tale with a wealth of eye-opening commentary after the team are locked into a mid-Victorian parochial paradise enforced by a dead man and alien tech, until the Man of Tomorrow wades in to set things straight…

WFC #206 (October-November 1971) was an all-reprint giant, represented here by its rousing Dick Giordano cover, after which #207 again reunites the true World’s Finest team as Batman returns to solve a murder mystery in the making and save the Man of Tomorrow in ‘A Matter of Light and Death!’, after which Earth-2 sorcerer hero Doctor Fate aids the Action Ace in thwarting the extraterrestrial ‘Peril of the Planet-Smashers!’ – both courtesy of Len Wein, Dillin & Giella.

Supernatural menaces were increasingly popular as a global horror boom reshaped readers’ tastes, informing (#209) Friedrich’s ‘Meet the Tempter – and Die!’ wherein Hawkman and Superman are seduced into evil by an eternal demon, whilst Elliot S! Maggin’s ‘World of Faceless Slaves!’ in #210 catapults the Caped Kryptonian and Green Arrow into a primordial magic kingdom to liberate the vassals of diabolical sorcerer supreme Effron…

The Darknight Detective returns again in #211, as O’Neil, Dillin & Giella devise a global manhunt for a ‘Fugitive from the Stars!’ Their target is a political refugee whose arrest is demanded by warriors who are a physical match for Superman, but happily, not Batman’s intellectual equals…

‘…And So My World Begins!’ in #212 is O’Neil’s thematic sequel to Justice League of America #71, which saw Mars devasted by race war and its survivors flee to the stars in search of a new homeworld. Here, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz seeks Superman’s aid to rescue the last survivors from life-leeching mechanoids, unaware that a traitor has sold them all out to predatory aliens…

Maggin drills deep into super science for #213 as ‘Peril in a Very Small Place!’ finds the greater universe endangered by a microscopic and insatiable Genesis molecule, demanding a fantastic voyage into the Microverse inside a phone line for the Atom and Superman before this compilation concludes with wild west weirdness from by Skeates, O’Neil, Dillin & Giella. Here Golden Age troubleshooter The Vigilante delivers the silver bullet necessary to save Superman when ‘A Beast Stalks the Badlands!’

With covers by Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Nick Cardy and Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, this book is a gloriously uncomplicated treasure trove of adventures which still have the power and punch to enthral even today’s jaded seen it-all audiences.

The contents of this titanic team-up tome are a veritable feast of witty, pretty thrillers packing as much punch and wonder now as they always have. Utterly entrancing adventure for fans of all ages!
© 1970, 1971, 1972, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superboy: A Celebration of 75 Years


By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, Bill Finger, Otto Binder, Robert Bernstein, Jim Shooter, Paul Levitz, Gerry Conway, Elliot S! Maggin, Geoff Johns, Karl Kesel, Brian Michael Bendis, Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, John Sikela, Curt Swan, Al Plastino, George Papp, James Sherman, Joe Staton, Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, Tom Grummett, Dusty Abell, Matthew Clark, Francis Manapul, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9951-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Superb Supercharged Stocking Stuffer… 9/10

Superman is the initiating act and spark that created the superhero genre. Without him we would have no modern gods to worship. However, less than a decade after his launch, creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster also devised a concept nearly as powerful and persistent: the sheer delight of a child no adult could dominate or control…

The ever-reinventing DC Universe has hosted many key entertainment concepts that have done much to bring about the vibrant comics industry of today. This stunning compilation – part of a dedicated series reintroducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of veteran DC icons and concepts – is available in hardback and digital formats and offers an all-too-brief sequence of snapshots detailing how one of the most beguiling came to be, and be and be again…

Collecting material from More Fun Comics #101; Superboy #10, 89; Adventure Comics #210, 247, 271, 369-370; DC Comics Presents #87; Infinite Crisis #6; Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233, 259; Adventures of Superman #501; Superboy (volume 2) #59; Teen Titans (volume 3) #24, Adventure Comics (volume 2) #2; Young Justice (volume 3) #3 and Superman (volume 4) #6, 10-11, and introducing the many characters who have earned the soubriquet of the Boy of Steel, the landmark moments are all preceded by a brief critical analysis by Karl Kesel, outlining the significant stages in their development.

It begins with Part I – 1945-1961: A Boy and His Dog …

After the Man of Tomorrow had made his mark as Earth’s premier champion, his originators took a long look and reasoned that a very different tone could offer a fresh look. What would it be like for a fun-loving lad who could do literally anything?

The answer came in More Fun Comics #101 (January 1945) as Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster crafted ‘The Origin of Superboy!’, fleshing out doomed Krypton and baby Kal-El’s flight and giving him accessible foster parents and a childhood full of fun and incident…

The experiment was a huge hit. The lad swiftly bounced into the lead slot of Adventure Comics and in 1949, his own title, living a life set twenty years behind his adult counterpart.

Cover-dated October 1950, Superboy #10 originated ‘The Girl in Superboy’s Life’, wherein Bill Finger & John Sikela introduced Smallville newcomer Lana Lang, who immediately saw resemblances between Clark Kent and the Boy of Steel and set out to confirm her suspicions…

Despite battling crooks, monsters, aliens, scandal and the girl next door, Superboy enjoyed a charmed and wonderful life which only got better in Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955), as Otto Binder, Curt Swan & Sy Barry introduced ‘The Super-Dog from Krypton!’ Although waywardly mischievous and dangerously playful, Krypto heralded a wave of survivors from the dead world and made Superboy feel less lonely and unique. Every boy needs a dog…

The next tale here is a certified landmark. Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) was at the cusp of the Silver Age costumed character revival, as Otto Binder & Al Plastino introduced a concept that would reshape comics fandom: ‘The Legion of Super-Heroes!’

The many-handed mob of juvenile universe-savers debuted in a Superboy tale wherein three mysterious kids invited the Smallville Sensation to the future to join a team of metahuman champions inspired by his historic feats. The throwaway concept inflamed public imagination and after a slew of further appearances throughout Superman Family titles, the LSH eventually took over Superboy’s lead spot in Adventure for their own far-flung, quirky escapades, with the Caped Kryptonian reduced to one of the crowd…

Before then though, Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) revealed ‘How Luthor Met Superboy!’ Siegel & Plastino united to depict how teenaged scientist Lex Luthor and Superboy became fast friends, before the genius became deranged when a laboratory fire extinguished by the Caped Kryptonian caused Lex to lose his hair. Enraged beyond limit, the boy inventor turned his talents to crime…

Robert Bernstein & George Papp then introduced ‘Superboy’s Big Brother!’ in Superboy #89 (June 1961) in which an amnesiac, super-powered space traveller crashes in Smallville, speaking Kryptonese and carrying star-maps written by the Boy of Steel’s long-dead father…

Jubilant, baffled and suspicious in equal amounts, the Superboy eventually, tragically discovers ‘The Secret of Mon-El’ by accidentally exposing the stranger to a lingering, inexorable death, before desperately providing critical life-support by depositing the dying alien in the Phantom Zone until a cure could be found…

Anybody who regularly reads these reviews know how crotchety and hard-to-please I can be. Brace yourself…

The next section – Part II – 1968-1980: The Space Age – concentrates on Superboy’s Legion career. That’s not the problem because those are great stories, well deserving of their own book, but they’re wasted here while the Boy of Steel’s adventures from this period are completely neglected. That’s work by the likes of Frank Robbins, Binder, Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, Bob Brown, Wally Wood and others we don’t get to see. Poor editorial decision, that…

Calm again, so let’s see how the Boy of Tomorrow fares one thousand years from now…

During this period the youthful, generally fun-loving and carefree Club of Champions peaked; having only just evolved into a dedicated and driven dramatic action series starring a grittily realistic combat force in constant, galaxy-threatening peril.

Although now an overwhelming force of valiant warriors ready and willing to pay the ultimate price for their courage and dedication, science itself, science fiction and costumed crusaders all increasingly struggled against a global resurgence in spiritual questioning and supernatural fiction…

The main architect of the transformation was teenaged sensation Jim Shooter, whose Legion of Super-Hero scripts and layouts (generally finished and pencilled by the astoundingly talented and understated Curt Swan) made the series accessible to a generation of fans growing up with their heads in the Future. Ultimately, however, as tastes and fashions shifted, the series was unceremoniously ousted from its ancestral home and full-length adventures to become a truncated back-up feature in Action Comics. Typically, that shift occurred just as the stories were getting really, really good and truly mature…

Here tense suspense begins with Adventure Comics #369’s (June 1968) and ‘Mordru the Merciless!’(Shooter, Swan & Jack Abel) as the Legion is attacked by their most powerful enemy, a nigh-omnipotent sorcerer the entire assemblage only narrowly defeated once before.

A sneak attack shatters the team and only four escape, using a time bubble to flee to the remote and archaic time-period where Superboy lived. With him come Mon-El, (freed from the Phantom Zone to become a Legion stalwart), Shadow Lass and Duo Damsel – the last remnants of a once-unbeatable team.

Mordru’s magic is stronger though and even the time-barrier cannot daunt him…

Disguised as mere mortals, the fugitive Legionnaires’ courage shines through. When petty gangsters take over Smallville, the teen heroes quash the parochial plunderers and opt to return to the 30th century and confront Mordru, only to discover he’s found them first…

The saga concludes in #370 and ‘The Devil’s Jury!’ wherein the band escape and hide in plain sight by temporarily wiping their own memories to thwart the Dark Lord’s probes. Against appalling odds and with only Clark’s best friend Pete Rossand Insect Queen Lana Lang to aid them, the heroes’ doomed last stand only succeeds because Mordru’s overbearing arrogance causes his own downfall.

Then, when the exhausted fugitives got back the future, they joyously learn that Dream Girl and benign sorceress White Witch have undone the deluded Dark Lord’s worst atrocities…

Since that time the fortunes and popularity of the Legion have perpetually waxed and waned, with their future history tweaked and overwritten, retconned and rebooted over and over again to comply with editorial diktat and popular fashion. After disappearing from the newsstands, the team returned as Guests in Superboy, before eventually taking over the title. Deju Vu, much?

From November 1977, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233, sees the Kryptonian join his teammates to thwart ‘The Infinite Man Who Conquered the Legion!’: an extra length blockbuster battle by Paul Levitz, James Sherman & Bob Wiacek, after which issue #259 (January 1980) drops Superboy and the… to become Legion of Super-Heroes #259, subsequently ending an era.

‘Psycho War!’ by Gerry Conway, Joe Staton & Dave Hunt sees the time-lost teen targeted by a deranged war veteran using futuristic trauma weapons, forcing his legion chums to mindwipe Kal-El and return him to his original time forever…

In the mid-1980s, DC’s editorial hierarchy felt their vast 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in such spectacular commercial success, those movers-&-shakers must have felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, many moribund and directionless titles were reconsidered for a radical revision. It didn’t all go to plan…

The background on a new Boy of Steel is covered in the essay and tales comprising Part III 1985-2006: Dark Reflection, which opens with two stories from DC Comics Presents # 87 (November 1985) by Elliot S! Maggin, Swan & Al Williamson.

In ‘Year of the Comet’ Superman of Earth-1 meets and mentors teen Clark Kent from an alternate world previously devoid of superheroes and alien invaders, after which ‘The Origin of Superboy-Prime’ exposes the crucial differences that would make Earth Prime’s Last Son of Krypton so memorable…

Events culminated in ‘Touchdown’ by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, inkers Andy Lanning, Oclair Albert Marc Campos, Drew Geraci, Sean Parsons, Norm Rapmund, Art Thibert, from issue #6 of mega event Infinite Crisis (May 2006). Teen Clark had evolved into Superboy-Prime – one of the most sadistic and unstoppable monsters in DCU history – but here he met his end battling another kid calling himself Superboy…

That hero gets his own out-of-chronology section: Part IV 1993-2019: The New Kid detailing how he grew out of another different publishing landmark.

Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman was stripped-down and back to basics, grittily re-imagined by John Byrne, and marvellously built upon by a succession of immensely talented comics craftsmen, resulted in some genuine comics classics.

Most significant was a 3-pronged story-arc which saw the martyrdom, loss, replacement and inevitable resurrection of the World’s Greatest Superhero in a stellar saga which broke all records and proved that a jaded general public still cared about the venerable, veteran icon of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

The dramatic events also provided a spectacular springboard for a resurgent burst of new characters who revitalised and reinvigorated more than one ailing franchise over the next decade, all exploding from braided mega-saga “Reign of the Supermen” which introduced a quartet of heroes each claiming the mantle of Superman (Don’t panic: the Real Deal Man of Steel returned too!).

The final contender for the S-shield cropped up in Adventures of Superman #501. ‘…When He Was a Boy!’ (Kesel, Tom Grummett & Doug Hazlewood) reveals the secret history of a brash and cocky kid wearing an adaptation of the Man of Tomorrow’s outfit and claiming to be a clone of the deceased hero, recently escaped from top secret bio-factory Cadmus.

After alienating everybody at the Daily Planet, the horny, inexperienced juvenile latches onto ambitious journalist – and hottie – Tana Moon, falling under the spell of corrupt media mogul Vinnie Edge. Soon the kid is fighting crime live on TV to boost ratings…

Blending fast action with smart sassy humour, the clone Superboy was a breakout hit running for years, and gradually infiltrating the established Superman Family. A key moment came in Superboy (volume 2) #59 – by Kesel, Dusty Abell, Dexter Vines – as a virtual ‘Mission to Krypton’ results in the clone finally earning a family name as Kon-El of the House of El…

In the build-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis crossover event, many long-running story-threads were all pulled together ready for the big bang. Crafted by Geoff Johns, Matthew Clark & Art Thibert ‘The Insiders Part 1’ (from Teen Titans #24, July 2005) reveals how Superboy’s belief that he was Superman’s clone is shattered after learning that half of his DNA comes courtesy of Lex Luthor.

Just as Kon-El is about to share the revelation with his Teen Titan team-mates, Luthor activates a deep-seated psychological program that overrides Superboy’s consciousness and makes him evil and murderous…

From November 2009, ‘The Boy of Steel Part Two’ (Adventure Comics volume 2 #2, by Johns & Francis Manapul) then offers a gentler moment as Kon-El, now living in Smallville as Conner Kent, enjoys a potentially romantic interlude with team mate Wonder Girl.

We then jump to May 2019 and ‘Seven Crises Part Three’ from Young Justice volume 3 #3, by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, Viktor Bogdanovic & Jonathan Glapion. Having skipped two universe-altering events (Flashpoint and Rebirth) the formerly erased-from-continuity Impulse has found his old friend Conner living on mystic Gemworld as part of his quest to put his old band back together. It’s fast, furious, heart-warming and hilarious. You should really get all of this tale in its own compilation – Young Justice: Gemworld – even before I review it next year…

Wrapping up this saunter in Super-kids’ shoes is the freshest take on the concept in decades. Part V 2016 and Beyond: Like Father, Like Son offers a too short glimpse at Jon Kent, the child of Superman and Lois Lane, inserted into the mainstream continuity after the New 52 Superman died. If this is making your brain hurt, don’t fret. It’s really unnecessary background for some truly exemplary comics yarns…

Superman (volume 4) #6, 10, 11 are by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Mark Morales & Christian Alamy, and firstly depict the ‘Son of Superman’ helping dad defeat evil Kryptonian mechanoid The Eradicator before settling into outrageous action comedy beside, with and frequently against, Damian Wayne: son of Bruce and the latest, most psychotic Robin yet. ‘In the Name of the Father: World’s Smallest Parts One and Two’ pits the junior odd couple against aliens, monsters, girls, but mostly each other. It’s unmissable stuff and you should expect me to wax delirious about the new Super Sons in the New Year…

Adding immeasurably to the wonderment is a superb gallery of covers by Swan with Stan Kaye & Abel, Neal Adams, Mike Grell, Dick Giordano, Eduardo Barreto, Jim Lee & Sandra Hope, Grummett, Kesel & Hazlewood, Mike McKone & Marlo Alquiza, Manapul, Doug Mahnke & Wil Quintana and Gleason with Alejandro Sanchez, Gray & John Kalisz.

Superboy has a long, proud history of shaking things up and providing off-kilter fun to offset the general angst level of Superhero storytelling. Even with my petty caveats, this compelling primer of snapshots is staggeringly entertaining and a monolithic testament to the inestimable value of a strong core concept matured over decades of innovation.
© 1960, 1964, 1969, 1977, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2005, 2011, 2018, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Outsiders by Judd Winick volume 1: The Darker Side of Justice


By Judd Winick, Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Tom Raney, ChrisCross, Alé Garcia, Carlo Barberi, Ivan Reis, & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8851-8 (TPB)

Once upon a time, superheroes sat around their assorted lairs or went about their civilian pursuits until the call of duty summoned them like firemen – or Thunderbirds – to deal with a breaking emergency. In the grim and gritty world after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the concept changed with a number of costumed adventurers evolving into pre-emptive strikers – as best exemplified by covert penal battalion and cinema darlings The Suicide Squad. Soon the philosophy had spread far and wide…

Following the break-up of Young Justice and the – of course, temporary – death of founding Teen Titan Donna Troy, a number of her grief-stricken comrades also changed from First Responders to dedicated – if morally contentious – hunters tracking down threats and menaces before they attacked… or indeed committed crimes at all…

This volume collects the initial storyline which introduced Judd Winick’s aggressive new take on edgy team-concept the Outsiders, compiling material from Teen Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2003 and issues #1-7 of the compelling and much-missed monthly comicbook that sprang from the first two…

Winick, Alé Garcia and inkers Trevor Scott, Marlo Alquiza & Lary Stucker subdivided the tale into ‘Invocation’, ‘Commencement’ and ‘Graduation Day’ as a really sexy robot arrives from the future just as juvenile superhero team Young Justice are getting on each other’s nerves and breaking up.

Her confused actions inadvertently release a deadly android stored at S.T.A.R. Labs, which neither the child heroes nor the Teen Titans can stop. In a cataclysmic battle both Omen and Donna Troy are killed. These tragedies lead to the dissolution of Young Justice, the formation of the covert and pre-emptive Outsiders and the reformation of a new Titans group dedicated to better training the heroes of tomorrow.

Even though a frightfully contrived ploy to launch some new titles, this tale is still a punchy and effective thriller from writer Winick, penciller Alé Garcia & inkers Trevor Scott, Larry Stucker and Marlo Alquiza.

In the aftermath of the deadly debacle, the surviving champions reformed the Teen Titans as a group dedicated to better training the heroes of tomorrow. However, CIA trained ex-Green Arrow sidekick Arsenal felt that it was not enough and convinced the heartbroken Nightwing to help devise a covert and pre-emptive pack of professionals to take out perceived threats before innocent lives were endangered. Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2003 contributed a brace of tales setting the scene, beginning with ‘A Day After…’ by Winick, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Mark Campos which peeks into the private lives of all involved whilst ‘Who was Donna Troy’ – written and drawn by Phil Jimenez, with inks by Andy Lanning – is a short, moving eulogy for the character set at her funeral with friends and guest-stars discussing her life and career.

The series proper begins with the 3-parter ‘Roll Call’, illustrated by Tom Raney & Scott Hanna. ‘Opening Offers’introduces new characters Thunder (daughter of original Outsider Black Lightning) and enigmatic super girl Grace, established player Jade, recently resurrected and amnesiac Rex Mason AKA Metamorpho the Element Man and, in a not particularly welcome, wise or team-building move, the futuristic fem-bot who had started the whole mess.

With her memory-banks scrubbed clean and desperately keen to redeem herself, Indigo adds eagerness and innocence to an embittered, but highly motivated and very determined team…

Their first mission catches them off-guard after a cruise ship is hijacked and an army of talking gorillas invades New York under the command of super-ape Grodd. However, the devastating actions of ‘Lawyers, Guns and Monkeys’ is quickly revealed to be no more than a sinister diversion as the Joker uses the chaos to abduct new American President Lex Luthor, leaving the team with the unwelcome task of rescuing one of the people they would most like to take out in ‘Joke’s on You’…

ChrisCross & Sean Parsons depict the Outsiders’ first true hunting party in ‘Brothers in Blood’: part 1 ‘Small Potatoes’ as, after a series of small-time busts (acting on information from a mysterious and secret source), the squad uncover a diabolical scheme by religious maniac Brother Blood to steal one million babies…

The cult leader activates hypnotised deep-cover agents in ‘Finders Sleepers’ and almost murders Arsenal, but even as the hero is undergoing life-saving surgery, the Outsiders – assisted by two vengeful generations of Green Arrow – rocket to Antarctica where Blood is attempting to free and recruit 1,600 metahuman villains incarcerated in maximum security super-prison the Slab.

As the battle rages and casualties mount, Nightwing is forced to choose between saving the infants or allowing Blood and an army of criminals to escape in concluding chapter ‘Pandora’s Box’…

This first collection ends on a powerfully poignant and personal note as Metamorpho at last discovers the shocking reason for his lack of memories and faces ultimate dissolution in the superbly downbeat and disturbing ‘Oedipus Rex’ (by Raney & Hanna)…

Adding extra lustre and clarity, information pages on Thunder, Arsenal, Nightwing, Jade, Grace, Indigo & Metamorpho by Winick, Jason Pearson, Garcia. Raney & Mike McKone, reveal all you need to know about the secret strike force…

Fast-paced, action-packed, cynically sharp and edgily effective, Outsiders was one of the very best series pursuing the “take-‘em out first” concept and resulted in some of the very best Fights ‘n’ Tights action of the last ten years. Still punchy, evocative and highly effective, these thrillers will delight older fans of the genre.
© 2003, 2004, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Titans: The First Rule of Pet Club…


By Art Baltazar & Franco with Geoff Johns & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2892-7 (TPB)

DC’s Cartoon Network imprint was a potent and fun bastion of children’s comics in America and consolidated the link between TV and 2D fun and thrills with stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Ben 10, Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and others. The comics line also produced some truly exceptional material based on TV iterations of their proprietary characters such as Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Krypto the Super Dog as well as original material like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! which was merely indistinguishable in tone and content.

Perhaps the imprint’s finest release was a series ostensibly aimed at early readers but which quickly became a firm favourite of older fans – and a multi-award winner too.

Superbly mirroring the magical wonderland inside a child’s head where everything is happily mixed up together, Tiny Titans became a sublime nostalgia-weaponised antidote to continuity cops and slavish fan-boy quibbling by reducing the vast cast of the Teen Titans animated series, the greater boutique of mainstream comicbooks and, eventually, the entire DC Universe to little kids and their parents/guardians in the wholesome kindergarten environment of Sidekick City Elementary School.

It’s a scenario spring-loaded with in-jokes, sight-gags and beloved yet gently mocked paraphernalia of generations of strip readers and screen-watchers….

Collecting issues #19-25 (spanning October 2009 – April 2010) of the magically madcap and infinitely addictive all-ages mini-masterpiece, this fourth volume begins on a romantic note with Deep in Like.

Art Baltazar and co-creator Franco (Aureliani) mastered a witty, bemusingly charming style of storytelling that just happily rolls along, with assorted characters getting by, trying to make sense of the great big world and just coincidentally having “Adventures in Awesomeness”. The method generally involves stringing together smaller incidents and moments into an overall themed portmanteau tale and it works astoundingly well.

After a handy and as-standard identifying roll-call page, ‘Imagine Me and You…’ finds scary blob Plasmus and tiny winged Bumblebee brighten up each other’s drab day, before a similar cupid moment affects the Brain and M’sieu Mallah even as diligent Robin (accompanied by faithful Bat-hound Ace) finds his earnest attempts to finish his homework disturbed by a succession of pesky young ladies including Starfire, Batgirl and Duella all caught up in a ‘Like Triangle’.

‘Dates’ sees Bumblebee and Plasmus inadvertently causing chaos during an afternoon movie monster mash – and even the ‘Intermission’ – after which a sly sight gag for us oldies highlights the company’s many Wonder Girls in ‘Jump Rope’.

The hallowed anthropoid obsession of DC is highlighted in ‘New Recruits’ when Beast Boy chairs a meeting of the Titans Ape Club before regular feature The Kroc Files depicts ultimate butler Alfred, roguish reptilian star Kroc and Plasmus each demonstrating ‘How to Enjoy a Lollipop’ in their own signature manner…

The issue closes with a word puzzle whilst the next promises to disclose The Hole Truth about Raven: beginning with a daybreak disaster at ‘Home with the Trigons’. Raven’s dad is an antlered, crimson trans-dimensional devil-lord – and a teacher at Sidekick Elementary – so when he oversleeps, his sorceress scion gets him to work on time by simply opening a few wormholes.

Of course, leaving those dimensional doors around is just asking for trouble…

Meanwhile it’s washday at Wayne Manor, but Alfred won’t let Robin, Beast Boy or Aqualad go down ‘To the Batcave’. Sadly, even the dapper domestic can’t withstand united pester-power and eventually gives in… and learns to regret it…

Following a perplexing maze game-page, the All Pet Club Issue! launches as Starfire and mean sister Blackfire write home for their beloved critters Silky and Poopu, so that they can go to the oh-so-secret social event, whilst can-do kid Cyborg actually builds himself a brace of chrome companions in ‘Pet-Tronics’…

With ‘Club Hoppin’’, the entire school gathers with their uniquely compatible pets and interview some potential new members – specifically tongue-tied and thunderstruck Captain Marvel Junior and his fuzzy pal Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny. With so many members, the club then has to find roomier quarters, leading to a painful tryst for Beast Boy and Terra in ‘Meanwhile, on the Moon…’

There’s a brilliant vacuum-packed bonus pin-up of the Tiny Titans in space from Franco before Hot Dogs, Titans, & Stretchy Guys! finds the kids back on solid ground and wrapped up with the DCU’s many flexible fellows as ‘Offspring into Action’ introduces Plastic Man’s excitably boisterous bonny boy.

In ‘Just Playing and Bouncing’ Bumblebee spends some time with the diminutive Atoms Family but loses control of their Teeny-Weeny, Super Duper Bouncy Ball and accidentally gets Plastic Man, Offspring, Elongated Man and Elastic Lad all wound up before helplessly watching it bowl over Principal Slade and Coach Lobo in ‘Coffee Dog Latte’.

Thankfully, Robin has exactly the right gimmick in his utility belt to set things straight, but can’t stay since he’s en route to his Bird Scouts meeting. Here potential new members Hot Spot and Flamebird are trying out for Hawk, Dove, Raven and Talon. Distressingly, when shiny Golden Eagle turns up, the girls want to make him the new leader…

The semi-regular ‘Epilogue’ page often supplies one more punch-line to cap each themed issue and this one leads directly into a convoluted and confounding Elastic Four pin-up/cover which in turn precedes a spookily uproarious tale of Bats, Bunnies, and Penguins in the Batcave! Oh My!...

It all begins in ‘Ice to Meet Ya!’ when Wayne Manor’s extraordinarily large penguin population get into a turf war with the house rabbits, displacing the Batcave’s regular inhabitants in ‘Driving Me Batty’. The conflict escalates in ‘All in the Batman Family’ before Robin gets a rather stern admonition from his senior partner to put things right or else…

Happily, ever-so-cute and capable Batgirl is willing to lend a hand – but (unfortunately) so too are the kids she’s baby-sitting (Tim and Jason: you’ll either get that or you won’t, bat-fans) and impishly infuriating Batmite…

With even Batcow helping out, things soon start calming down, but ‘Meanwhile, at the Titans’ Treehouse…’ not all of the fugitive Bat-bats have heard the good news…

Once your ribs have stopped hurting you can then enjoy a Tiny Titans Aw Yeah Pin-up by Franco before The All Small Issue! starts with assorted big kids accidentally drinking ‘Milk! Milk!’ from the Atoms’ fridge and shrinking away to nearly nothing.

Good thing the Atomic nippers think to call their dad, who’s with fellow dwindlers Ant, Molecule and substitute Atoms Adam and Ryan (another in-continuity howler targeting dedicated fans) for a Team Nucleus meeting…

That compressive cow-juice causes more trouble in the ‘Epilogue’ before a Blue Beetle puzzle clears the mind prior in advance of an outrageous ending in Superboy Returns! in a fairly cosmic crossover – with additional scripting by Geoff Johns.

When Conner Kent shows up, all the girls are really impressed and distracted, whilst across town Speedy is trading a lot of junk he shouldn’t be touching to Mr. Johns’ Sidekick City Pawn Shop and Bubblegum Emporium in ‘Brightest Day in the Afternoon!’

When Starfire and Stargirl then buy the seven different coloured “mood rings” from the shop, they and BFFs Duella, Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Terra and Shelly, are turned into Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, Violet and Indigo Lanterns!

Soon, the Tiny Titans are up in the air again and annoying the Guardians of the Universe and their Green Lantern Corps.

It all ends well though, first in an Emerald ‘Epilogue’ and a lavish pin-up of a passel of pistachio-painted interplanetary peace-keepers…

Available in trade paperback and digital formats and despite being ostensibly aimed at super-juniors and TV kids, these wonderful, wacky yarns – which marvellously marry the heart and spirit of such classic strips as Peanuts and The Perishers with something uniquely mired and marinated in pure comic-bookery – are deliciously hilarious tales no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly intoxicating. Go mellow out with some kids’ stuff, now, okay?
© 2009, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Titans volume 3: Sidekickin’ it…


By Art Baltazar & Franco with (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2653-4 (TPB)

The links between animated features and comicbooks are long established and I suspect, for young consumers, indistinguishable. After all, it’s just entertainment in the end…

DC’s Cartoon Network imprint was arguably the last bastion of children’s comics in America and consolidated that link between TV and 2D fun and thrills with stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Ben 10, Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and others.

The kids’ comics line also produced some truly exceptional material based on TV iterations of their proprietary characters such as Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Supergirl and Krypto the Super Dog as well as material like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! which was merely similar in tone and content.

Perhaps the imprint’s finest release – and one which has a created a sub-genre recreated at many different publishers – was a series ostensibly aimed at beginning readers but which quickly became a firm favourite of older fans …and a multi-award winner too.

Superbly mirroring the magical wonderland inside a child’s head where everything is happily mixed up together, Tiny Titans is a sublime antidote to continuity cops and slavish fan-boy quibbling (erm, uh… I think you’ll find that in…) by reducing the vast cast of the Teen Titans Go! animated series, the greater boutique of the mainstream comicbooks and (ultimately) the entire DC Universe to little kids and their parents/guardians in the wholesome kindergarten environment of Sidekick City Elementary School.

It’s a scenario spring-loaded with in-jokes, sight-gags and beloved yet gently mocked paraphernalia of generations of strip readers and screen-watchers….

Collecting issues #13-18 (spanning April to September 2009) of the magically madcap and infinitely addictive all-ages mini-masterpiece, this third volume begins on a petulant note with Pet Club at Wayne Manor.

Art Baltazar and co-creator Franco (Aureliani) have mastered a witty, bemusingly gentle manner of storytelling that just happily rolls along, with the assorted characters getting by and trying to make sense of the great big world, having “Adventures in Awesomeness”. The method generally involves stringing together smaller incidents and moments into an overall themed portmanteau tale and it works astoundingly well.

After a handy and as-standard identifying roll-call page, ‘Tough Cookie’ features Raven feeding the park critters but desperately striving to keep her hard-as-nails rep intact, after which bubble-headed Psimon goes to science club and gets caught in some uncool name-calling. The main event kicks off with the kids and their pets convening at Stately Wayne Manor and incurring the wrath of dapper, long-suffering manservant Alfred. The Penguins don’t help… no, wait, they actually do…

‘A Hot Spot’ then finds Raven and Kid Devil trading power sets with firestarter Hotspot and evoking the joys of being a Bird Scout, after which The Kroc Files shows ultimate butler Alfred and the roguish reptilian each demonstrating ‘How to Pick up the Dry Cleaning’, before the issue ends with a Tiny Titans Bubble Squares puzzle and a pinup of bird-themed champions Hawk, Dove and Raven.

Sea-themed issue #14 opens with a proudly shouted ‘Aw Yeah Titans!’ and class trip to Paradise Island. The boys just can’t understand why they have to stand on tables while the girls can run about freely wherever they like and play with the all the weird animals…

Back in Sidekick City, Cyborg’s vacuum cleaning invention runs amok while Beast Boy and infant Miss Martian stage a shapeshifting duel, even as on Paradise Island ‘Stay for Dinner’ sees Wonder Girl and the other Wonder Girl guests for lunch – as lunch – of Mrs. Cyclops.

Wrapping up affairs is another Kroc Files (‘How to Bake a Chocolate Cake’), a string of gags in Time for Jokes by the Riddler’s daughter Enigma plus a ‘Paradise Island Pet Club Pin-up!’

The next issue finds ‘Bunnies, Bunnies, Everywhere Bunnies’ and again opens at Wayne Manor, where Alfred has opted to stay home and watch the kids and their pets. Sadly, magician Zatara joins the fun and once more loses his magic wand to playful Beppo the Super Monkey. Cue rapid rabbit reproduction…

Elsewhere, Deathstroke’s daughter Rose lands her share of babysitting duties, and soon learns how to handle the Tiny Terror Titans before a ‘Tiny Titans Epilogue’ reveals a marvellous secret regarding one of those proliferating bunnies, before the issue concludes with more activity freebies: ‘Pet Club Mammal Travel’ and a bonus pin-up of Rose and those Tiny Terrors…

Issue #16 revisits a perennial puzzle of comics, specifically ‘Who’s the Fastest?!’ as Coach Lobo sets his heart on making the Sidekick Elementary kids ultra-fit. Part of the regimen includes a footrace around the entire world, and Supergirl, Inertia and Kid Flash all think they have it nailed…

Lesser-powered tykes find unique ways to cope with natural obstacles – such as the ocean – in ‘As the Race Continues…’ while the Coach takes a load off with coffee and comics and the Wonder Girls and Shelly trade costume tips. Down south, late starters Mas y Menos join the final dash to the finish where a non-starter surprisingly triumphs…

In the aftermath, shrinking-hero contingent The tiny Tiny Titans indulge in ‘One more Contest’ before an ‘Aw Yeah Pin-up’ of Supergirl and Kid Flash is preceded by a Tiny Titans Coin Race activity page.

‘Raven’s Book of Magic Spells’ starts as a play date but is bewilderingly disrupted when Trigon’s devilish daughter shows off her latest present in ‘Mixin’ it Up’: accidentally manifesting unlikely mystical heavyweight Mr. Mxyzptlk. And so, hilarity and impish insanity ensue…

Back in what passes for the land of reason, Robin, Beast Boy and Cyborg are tasked with recovering Batman’s cape and mask in ‘Battle for the Cow’ (if you read DC regularly, you know how painful a pun that is…).

Naturally, Starfire and Bumblebee have a sensible, pain-free solution to their woes, after which the Boy Wonder’s birthday party displays a fashion parade of alternative costumes in the presents giving portion of festivities…

Those tiny Titans go clothes hunting in ‘Shop Shrinking’ while Kid Flash, Robin and Cyborg ask ‘Hey, What’s Continuity?’ Wrapping up is another Kroc Files contrasting how butler Alfred and the lizardly lout cope with ‘Walking in the Rain’, topped off with Special Bonus Pin-up ‘The Return of the Bat-Cow!’

Concluding the juvenile japery is a fall from grace which can only be called ‘Infinite Detention’ as lunch lady Darkseid is demoted to Janitor for the Day and typically overreacts to boisterous behaviour in the hallways. With both good kids and bad suffering after-class incarceration, arguments ensue and the stern Monitor increase the tally for the slightest infraction. Soon the kids are facing days of detention…

Sadly for the Monitor, his nemesis Anti-Monitor has popped by with coffee and more stupid pranks…

One final Kroc Files reveals ‘How to go Bowling’ and Enigma offers another session of ‘Aw Yeah Joke Time!’ before the tome terminates with a selection of character sketches and studies repackaged as ‘Class Photos’.

Despite being ostensibly aimed at super-juniors and TV kids, these wonderful, wacky yarns – which marvellously marry the heart and spirit of such classic strips as Peanuts and The Perishers with something uniquely mired and marinated in pure comicbookery – are an unforgettable riot of laughs no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly intoxicating. What more do you need to know?
© 2009, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: The Silver Age Volume Two


By Bob Haney, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Nick Cardy, Irv Novick, Bill Draut, Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Neal Adams & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8517-3 (TPB)

The concept of kid hero teams was already ancient when the 1960s Batman TV show finally prompted DC to trust their big heroes’ assorted sidekicks with their own regular comic. The outcome was a fab, hip and groovy ensemble as dedicated to helping kids as they were to stamping out insidious evil.

The biggest difference between the creation of the Teen Titans and wartime groups such as The Young Allies, Newsboy Legion and Boy Commandos or even 1950s holdovers like The Little Wise Guys or Boys Ranch was quite simply the burgeoning phenomena of “The Teenager” as a discrete social and commercial force.

These were kids who could – and should – be allowed to do things themselves without constant adult help or supervision…

This quirkily eclectic trade paperback and eBook compilation re-presents the rapidly-evolving and ending swinging Sixties exploits from Teen Titans #12-24 plus a guest-shot from The Brave and the Bold #83 collectively spanning November/December 1967 to November/December 1967 1969.

With Bob Haney still scripting and the accent still heavily on fun, the action resumes here with twin contemporary hot-topics the Space-Race and Disc Jockeys informing whacky sci fi thriller ‘Large Trouble in Space-Ville!’ Illustrated by Irv Novick & Nick Cardy, the gang thwart aliens stealing Earth’s monuments after which Cardy flies solo for TT #13, producing a seasonal comics masterpiece with ‘The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol!’, a stylish retelling that’s one of the most reprinted Titans tales ever.

At this time Cardy’s art really opened up as he grasped the experimental flavour of the times. The cover of #14, as well as the interior illustration for the grim psycho-thriller ‘Requiem for a Titan’, are unforgettable. The tale introduces the team’s first serious returning villain (Mad Mod does not count!): the Gargoyle is mesmerising and memorable, and although Cardy only inked Lee Elias’s pencils for #15’s eccentric tryst with the Hippie counter-culture, ‘Captain Rumble Blasts the Scene!’ is a genuinely unique crime-thriller from a time when nobody over age 25 understood what the youth of the world was doing…

Teen Titans #16 returned to more solid ground with superb, scene-setting thriller ‘The Dimensional Caper!’ as rapacious sinister aliens infiltrate a rural high-school (and how many times have you seen that plot used since this 1968 epic?).

Cardy’s art reached dizzying heights of innovation both here and in the next issue’s waggish jaunt to London ‘Holy Thimbles, It’s the Mad Mod!’ (alternatively and uninspiringly retitled ‘The Return of the Mad Mod’ here). The frantic criminal chase through Cool Britannia which unfolds even includes a command performance from Her Majesty, the Queen!

Next up is a fannish landmark – and hint of things to come – as novice writers Len Wein & Marv Wolfman got their big break with a tale introducing Russian superhero Starfire (latterly redubbed Red Star) which set them firmly on a path of teen super-team writing. ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a cool cat burglar/super heist yarn set in trendy Stockholm, drawn with superb understatement by Bill Draut, and acting a perfect indicator of the changes in style and attitude that would become part of the Teen Titans and the comics industry itself in later decades…

Maintaining the experiments with youthful authorial voices, the entertainment continues with a beautifully realised comedy-thriller as boy Bowman Speedy joins the team full-time. ‘Teen Titans: Stepping Stones for a Giant Killer!’ (#19, January/February 1969) is by Mike Friedrich, with stunning art from Gil Kane & Wally Wood, and pits the team against youthful criminal mastermind Punch who plans to kill the Justice League of America and thinks a trial run against the junior division a smart idea…

TT #20 took that long-running plot-thread of extra-dimensional invaders and gave it a counterculture twist in ‘Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho’: a spectacular rollercoaster romp deftly blending teen revolt, organised crime, anti-capitalist activism, bug-eyed monsters and cunning extraterrestrial conquerors written by Neal Adams, pencilled by him and Sal Amendola and inked by brush-maestro Nick Cardy – one of the all-out prettiest illustration jobs of that decade.

Team-up vehicle The Brave and the Bold # 83 (April-May 1969) then took a radical turn as in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’, the Teen Titans (sans Aqualad, who was dropped to appear more prominently in Aquaman and because there just ain’t that much sub-sea malfeasance) try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in a tense thriller about trust and betrayal by Haney & Adams.

Symbolic super-teens Hawk and Dove briefly join the proceedings for #21’s ‘Citadel of Fear’ (Adams & Cardy), chasing smugglers, finding aliens and ramping up the surly teen rebellion quotient whilst moving the invaders story-arc towards a stunning conclusion. ‘Halfway to Holocaust’ is only half of #22; the abduction of Kid Flash and Robin leading to a cross-planar climax as Wonder Girl, Speedy and a radical new ally quash the invasion forever, but still leave enough room for a long overdue makeover in ‘The Origin of Wonder Girl’ by Wolfman, Kane & Cardy.

For years the series – and DC in general – had fudged the fact that the younger Amazon Princess was not actually human, a sidekick, or even a person, but rather an incarnation of the adult Wonder Woman as a child. As continuity backwriting strengthened its stranglehold on the industry, it was felt that the team-tottie needed a fuller background and this moving tale reveals that she is in fact a human foundling rescued by Wonder Woman and raised on Paradise Island where their super-science gave her all the powers of a true Amazon.

They even found her a name – Donna Troy – and an apartment, complete with hot roommate. All Donna has to do is sew herself a glitzy new costume…

Now thoroughly grounded in “reality”, the team jet south in #23’s fast-paced yarn ‘The Rock ‘n’ Roll Rogue’ (by Haney, Kane & Cardy), seeking to rescue musical rebel Sammy Soul from his grasping family and subsequently, his missing dad from Amazonian headhunters.

This volume, and an era of relative innocence, ends with ‘Skis of Death!’ by the same creative team which sees the adventurous quartet vacationing in the mountains and uncovering a scam to defraud Native Americans of their lands.

It’s a terrific old-style tale but with the next issue (and collected volume) the most radical change in DC’s cautious publishing history made Teen Titans a comic which had thrown out the rulebook…

Although perhaps somewhat dated in delivery, these tales were a liberating experience for kids when first released and remain a highly entertaining experience even now. They truly betokened a new empathy with independent youth and tried to address problems that were more relevant to and generated by that specific audience. That they are so captivating in execution is a wonderful bonus. This is absolute escapism and absolutely delightful.
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Titans volume 2: Adventures in Awesomeness


By Art Baltazar & Franco (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2328-1

The links between animated features and comicbooks are long established and I suspect, for young consumers, indistinguishable. After all, it’s just entertainment in the end…

DC’s Cartoon Network imprint was arguably the last bastion of children’s comics in America and consolidated that link between TV and 2D fun and thrills with stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10 and others.

The kids’ comics line also produced some truly exceptional material based on TV iterations of their proprietary characters such as Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Krypto the Super Dog as well as material like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! which was merely similar in tone and content.

Perhaps the imprint’s finest release was a series ostensibly aimed at beginning readers but which quickly became a firm favourite of older fans and a multi-award winner too.

Superbly mirroring the magical wonderland inside a child’s head where everything is happily mixed up together, Tiny Titans became a sublime antidote to continuity cops and slavish fan-boy quibbling (erm, uh… I think you’ll find that in…) by reducing the vast cast of the Teen Titans Go! animated series, the greater boutique of the mainstream comicbooks and eventually the entire DC Universe to little kids and their parents/guardians in the wholesome kindergarten environment of Sidekick City Elementary School.

It’s a scenario spring-loaded with in-jokes, sight-gags and beloved yet gently mocked paraphernalia of generations of strip readers and screen-watchers….

Collecting issues #7-12 (spanning October 2008 – March 2009) of the magically madcap and infinitely addictive all-ages mini-masterpiece, this fourth volume begins on a romantic note with Deep in Like.

Art Baltazar and co-creator Franco (Aureliani) mastered a witty, bemusingly gentle manner of storytelling that just happily rolls along, with assorted (sort-of familiar) characters getting by, trying to make sense of the great big world.

The method generally involves stringing together smaller incidents and moments into an overall themed portmanteau tale and it works astoundingly well.

After handy and as-standard identifying roll-call page ‘Meet the… Tiny Titans’ the pint-sized tomfoolery opens with ‘Ya Think?’ with transparent-headed Psimon deliberating over his checkers game with similarly glass-fronted The Brain… until Kid Flash and Wonder Girl start heckling…

Meanwhile, at school Starfire gets a text from her dad telling her to come home. Of course, she invites all her friends and two-and-a-half days later the entire class is wandering around alien planet Tameran…

Once they get back Robin convenes a meeting of his new avian themed ‘Bird Scouts’ only to find his alternate identities causing a little contention and confusion…

The issue ends with a Franco Tiny Titans pinup preceded by a return confrontation between Psimon and his hecklers in ‘To Get to the Other Side’. Sadly, once again his tormentors get the last word…

‘Report Card Pickup!’ finds the adult Justice Leaguers confronting Principal Slade (AKA Deathstroke) and substitute teacher Trigon over the grades of the little folk whilst introducing a new intake from Sidekick City Preschool ominously dubbed the Tiny Terror Titans…

Starfire gives Blue Beetle an unwanted makeover in ‘Happy Feeling Blue’ whilst Robin, Batgirl and Ace the Bat-hound get invitations to BB’s birthday party in ‘Joke’s on You’.

Elsewhere, the other Wonder Girl (the series plays extremely fast-&-loose with continuity so suck it up if you’re expecting serious logic, ok?) and tiny winged Bumblebee indulge their ‘Book Smarts’ until Beast Boy shows up even as, under the sea, Aqualad opens a meeting of ‘Pet Club, Atlantis’ until Raven and The Ant spoil things by breaking the first rule…

Concluding with a Puzzler page and a bonus Pinup, #8 gives way to a ninth issue and an inescapable predicament as the kids go ape because of ‘Monkey Magic’…

When Beppo the Super-Chimp gets hold of a magic wand at Robin’s Comic Book Party the attendees are soon reduced to hirsute ancestral forms. Thankfully Batgirl and Bumblebee are meeting with the size-shifting Atom family (The Atom, Mrs. Atom, Crumb, Dot, baby Smidgen and dog Spot) and initially missing the ensuing chaos.

The bad boys of the Brotherhood of Evil aren’t so lucky when Beppo flies over and suddenly Brain and Psimon are as simian and banana-dependent as their talking-gorilla comrade M’sieu Mallah and before long Starfire and Batgirl also get monkey-zapped…

Resolute, bureaucratic Robin then institutes the first meeting of ‘the Titan Apes’ but that only provokes the pesky Super-Chimp to really see what his wand can do and even after Raven’s magic sorts everything out, Beppo rises to the challenge…

Closing with another Tiny Titans Puzzler Page and pinup of the diminutive ‘Atom’s Family’ the animal antics carry over into the next month as ‘World’s Funnest!’ finds Supergirl entertaining Batgirl at ‘Tea Time’.

Tragically the Girl of Steel has forgotten to feed her pet cat Streaky and her guest has been equally derelict in her duties to Ace, forcing the powers pets to seek redress as the little ladies set out on a global jaunt, meeting annoying monsters Kroc and Bizarro…

A Tiny Titans Word Link Puzzler and Bonus Pinup of the eventually-reconciled stars wraps up the issue before the penultimate outing sees romantically declined Beast Boy in the throes of ‘Terra Trouble’.

The green Romeo’s intended inamorata is a feisty lass with refined tastes and in ‘Counting on Love Rocks’ she shows him the depth and density of her disaffection after which Robin greets visiting Russian student Star Fire and gets wrapped up in a tempestuous ‘Name Exchange’ dilemma. Terra meanwhile is not fooled by a viridian ‘Rock Dog’ and Beast Boy ends up with more bruises. Wiser, younger heads (mask, helmets, etc) just go to a carnival and leave them to it, whilst the lovesick loser escalates his campaign with a little ‘Rock Show’ whereas Aqualad and scary blob Plasmus just attend a monster movie ‘Double Feature’…

Agonisingly undaunted, Beast Boy decides on a costume makeover and new origin. Dressed like Superman he builds a ‘Rocket Box’ but yet again fails to kindle a spark…

Silent mirth then illuminates ‘Tiny Titans Presents… The Kroc Files: Changing a Lightbulb’ before another TT Puzzler and a ‘Super Bonus Pin-Up! of Alfred and the Penguins’ escort us smartly to the final outing in this smart and sassy trade paperback or eBook extravaganza…

‘Faces of Mischief’ concentrates on the school staff as ‘Morning with the Trigons’ sees the substitute teacher and demonic overlord called in on short notice. It’s ‘Monday Morning’ and as the Principal and Trigon goof off to a baseball game, Slade leaves cafeteria server Darkseid in charge. This is the chance the Apokolyptian Lord of Destruction has been waiting for…

With the adult slackers listening to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, the kids are forced to endure exams and their ‘Finals Crisis’ seems eternal. After apparent ages, Robin needs a ‘Hall Pass’ but is soon accosted by not just the official Monitor but also the diabolical Anti-Monitor (trust me, if you’re wedded to DC Lore and minutiae, this is comedy gold: for the rest of you, it’s still hilariously drawn…)

Finally, the dread day ends for the kids, but as Raven heads home with Slade’s kids Rose and Jericho, she hears something that could ruin her life and takes drastic steps to ensure ‘Our Little Secret’, just as their dads concoct a sinister do-over for the following week…

Bringing the graphic glee to a halt is a new silent ‘Kroc Files: Sending an E-Mail’, a TT Baseball Unscramble Puzzler and a pin-up of the entire nefarious ‘Sidekick City Elementary Faculty’.

Despite being ostensibly aimed at super-juniors and TV kids, these wonderful, wacky yarns – which marvellously marry the heart and spirit of such classic strips as Peanuts and The Perishers with something uniquely mired and marinated in unadulterated nerdish comic-bookery – are unforgettable gags and japes no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly intoxicating to readers of any age and temperament. What more do you need to know?
© 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: The Silver Age Volume One


By Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Nick Cardy, Irv Novick, Bill Molno & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7508-2

The concept of kid hero teams was not a new one when the 1960s Batman TV show finally prompted DC to trust their big heroes’ assorted sidekicks with their own regular comic in a fab, hip and groovy ensemble as dedicated to helping kids as they were to stamping out insidious evil.

The biggest difference between wartime groups such as The Young Allies, Newsboy Legion and Boy Commandos or 1950s holdovers like The Little Wise Guys or Boys Ranch and the creation of the Teen Titans was quite simply the burgeoning phenomena of “The Teenager” as a discrete social and commercial force. These were kids who could – and should – be allowed to do things themselves without constant adult help or supervision.

This quirkily eclectic trade paperback and eBook compilation re-presents the landmark try-out appearances from The Brave and the Bold #54 and 60 and Showcase #59 – collectively debuting in 1964 and1965 – as well as the first eleven issues of Teen Titans solo title, spanning January/February 1966 to September/October 1967.

As early as the June-July 1964 issue of The Brave and the Bold (#54), DC’s Powers-That-Be tested the waters in a gripping tale by writer Bob Haney superbly illustrated by unsung genius Bruno Premiani.

‘The Thousand-and-One Dooms of Mr. Twister’ united Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin the Boy Wonder in dire and desperate battle against a modern wizard-cum-Pied Piper who tried to abduct all the teen-agers of scenic Hatton Corners. The young heroes accidentally meet in the town by chance after students invite them to mediate in a long-running dispute with the town adults…

This element of a teen “court of appeal” was the motivating principle in many of the group’s cases. One year later the team reformed for a second adventure (B&B #60, by the same creative team) and introduced two new elements.

‘The Astounding Separated Man’ features more misunderstood kids (weren’t we all?); this time in the coastal hamlet of Midville and threatened by an outlandish monster whose giant body parts can detach and move independently. Wonder Girl was added to the roster (not actually a sidekick, or even a person at that juncture, but rather an incarnation of Wonder Woman as a child – a fact the writer and editor of the series seemed blissfully unaware of) but most importantly they kids finally had a team name: ‘Teen Titans’.

Their final try-out appearance was in Showcase (#59, November-December 1965); birthplace of so many hit comic concepts. It was also the first to be drawn by the brilliant Nick Cardy (who became synonymous with the 1960s series).

‘The Return of the Teen Titans’ pits the neophyte team against teen pop trio ‘The Flips’ who are apparently also a gang of super-crooks. As was so often the case, the grown-ups had got it all wrong again…

The next month Teen Titans #1 debuted (cover-dated January/February 1966 and released mere weeks before the Batman TV show aired on January 12th) with Robin very much the point of focus on the cover and most succeeding ones.

Haney & Cardy crafted an exotic thriller entitled ‘The Beast-God of Xochatan!’ which sees the team act as Peace Corps representatives in a South American drama of sabotage, giant robots and magical monsters. The next issue held a fantastic mystery of revenge and young love involving ‘The Million-Year-Old Teen-Ager’ who was entombed and revived in the 20th century. He might have survived modern intolerance, bullying and culture shock on his own but when his ancient blood enemy turned up the Titans were ready to lend a hand…

‘The Revolt at Harrison High’ in #3 cashed in on the contemporary craze for drag-racing in a tale of bizarre criminality. Produced during a historically iconic era, many readers now can’t help but cringe when reminded of such daft foes as Ding-Dong Daddy and his evil biker gang, and of course the hip, trendy dialogue (it wasn’t that accurate then, let alone now) is pitifully dated, but the plot is strong and the art magnificent.

‘The Secret Olympic Heroes’ guest-starred Green Arrow’s teen partner Speedy in a very human tale of parental pressure at the Olympics, although there’s also skulduggery aplenty from a terrorist organisation intent on disrupting the games.

TT #5’s ‘The Perilous Capers of the Terrible Teen’ finds Titans facing the dual task of aiding a troubled young man and capturing an elusive super-villain dubbed the Ant, despite all evidence indicating that they’re the same person, after which another DC sidekick made his Titans debut.

Illustrated by Bill Molno & Sal Trapani ‘The Fifth Titan’ then introduces Beast Boy (the obnoxious juvenile know-it-all from the iconic Doom Patrol). Feeling unappreciated by his adult mentors, the young hero wrongly assumes he’ll be welcomed by his peers. Rejected again he then falls under the spell of an unscrupulous circus owner and the kids need to set things right.

Slow and overly convoluted, it’s possibly the low-point of a stylish run, but many fans disagree, citing #7’s ‘The Mad Mod, Merchant of Menace’ as the biggest stinker. However, beneath the painfully dated dialogue there’s a witty, tongue-in-cheek tale of swinging London, cool capers and novel criminality, plus the return of the magnificent Nick Cardy to the art chores.

It was back to America for ‘A Killer called Honey Bun’ (illustrated by Irv Novick & Jack Abel): another tale of intolerance and misunderstood kids, played against a backdrop of espionage in Middle America, and featuring a deadly prototype robotic super-weapon in the menacing title role…

Teen Titans #9’s ‘Big Beach Rumble’ finds the Titans refereeing a swiftly-escalating vendetta between rival colleges on holiday when modern day pirates led by the barbarous Captain Tiger crash the scene. Novick pencilled it and Cardy’s inking made it all very palatable in a light and uncomplicated way

The editor obviously agreed as the art teem continued for the next few issues, beginning with ‘Scramble at Wildcat’: a rowdy crime caper featuring dirt-bikes and desert ghost-towns, with skeevy biker The Scorcher profiting from a pernicious robbery spree…

Wrapping up this initial outing, Speedy returned in #11’s spy-thriller ‘Monster Bait’, with the young heroes going undercover to save a boy being blackmailed into betraying his father and his country…

Although perhaps dated in delivery now, these tales were an incomprehensibly liberating experience for kids when first released. They truly betokened a new empathy with increasingly independent youth and sought to address problems that were more relevant to and generated by that specific audience. That they are so captivating in execution is a wonderful bonus. This is absolute escapism and absolutely delightful and you absolutely should get this book
© 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.