Editor: Glen Cadigan
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
EDITOR’S NOTE: Titans Companion will be released in stores on December 14 and can be ordered through Amazon.com, TwoMorrow’s own website or Diamond Distributing.
Ariel Carmona Jr.
Just in time for the mad Christmas holiday rush, TwoMorrows Publishing has a treat for comic book aficionados. Glen Cadigan’s Teen Titans Companion is a comprehensive examination of the silver age comic published by DC and made famous by the writer/artist duo of Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the 1980s.
Even though the version of the team most recognized by modern audiences is the manga-like version currently running on Cartoon Network, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Titans’ first “official” appearance in the Brave and the Bold and the 25th anniversary of the re-launch of the team in 1980. Cadigan’s book marks the occasion with an impressive retelling of the team’s origin boosted by rare commissioned sketches and artwork by (among others) Gerry Alanguilan, John Cogan, David Morris, and Joe Young.
The original Teen Titans started life as Robin, Speedy (Green Arrow’s ward), Kid Flash, Aqualad, and later Wonder Girl. The comic book boasted of great sales benefitting from pioneering Saturday morning cartoons but became especially lucrative during the Wolfman and Perez revival, sometimes even beating out Uncanny X-Men, Marvel Comic’s perennial sales juggernaut.
The book is chock-full of tasty tidbits starting with a roll call roster featuring every member of the team since 1965 to an extensive Q&A with long time Titans artist Nick Cardy. Other highlights include interviews with legendary DC writer and editor Dick Giordano, and writers Wolfman and Len Wein. Ever wonder why Robin “The Boy Wonder” prefers riding a motorcycle to driving a car? Or have you been confused by concurrent team-ups of Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman when she was supposed to be a younger version of the latter? Fanboys of all ages certainly do, and Cadigan’s 222 page treatment of the subject elevates it from mere pop culture phenomenon to an authoritative and fun assessment of the material, easily accessible to both comic book lovers and the uninitiated alike.
This volume also provides interesting revelations of what it was like to be an artist, editor or writer working at DC in the turbulent 1960s up to modern times. It reveals how editorial decisions and other considerations affected the titles (with special emphasis on Teen Titans, of course) and how the competition over at Marvel Comics and other companies like Gold Key kept the creators on their toes.
Other noteworthy chapters from Cadigan’s book include an interview with legendary DC artist Neal Adams, discussing prejudice in the comic book field and a controversial story which included an African American character at DC which never made it to print.
It was also a practice in the early days not to return original artwork to the artists and many of the original sketches and drawings would end up in the incinerators at the publisher’s New York offices. It is interesting to read about the efforts made by many of the artists to recover their work, or to try and save as much as possible from the flames, never, of course, anticipating the frenzied speculation which almost bankrupted the industry in the decades to come. This book is a must read for anybody who loves super hero comics in general, and the Teen Titans in particular.
“How about a series starring the kid super-heroes?”
Yes, there’s Robin/Nightwing, Speedy/Arsenal, Kid Flash/Flash, Aqualad/Tempest, and Wonder Girl/Troia. You might even be able to reel off Beast Boy/Changeling, Cyborg, Starfire, Jericho, and Raven, but can you name the 29 other Titans through the ages?
They’re all in here, along with interviews with all of their creators detailing the history of the Titans. It even includes a special introduction by the current Teen Titans author, Geoff Johns. It’s amazing to think that these creators could take characters designed to be merely sidekicks to the “real” superheroes, and put them together in a team title that would end up rivaling X-Men at the height of its run in terms of sales.
When you really think about it, though, it makes sense. The JLA was the best of the best, but for them the team was just another job they had to do when the threat became too large for any of them individually. The Titans, on the other hand, was a family, in a somewhat similar vein as the X-Men. These were teenagers who faced the same issues and fears, and together were able to bolster each others’ self confidence, fighting skills, and even emotional maturity.
As a family, the Titans evolved over time. Since these characters were sidekicks without solo titles of their own to worry about, the writers were able to change the characters as the times changed. The Titans Companion details how Bob Haney, with Bruno Premiani and then Nick Cardy, helped usher in the Silver Age for the Titans. The Companion then addresses how Marv Wolfman and George Perez brought in an entirely new era that rocked the comic book world.
The two aspects I enjoy most about the Companion are the personal interviews and the donated art pieces. The interviews cover such a broad range of what the creators were doing at the time, not just their Titans work, and allow the reader to really learn a lot about how each creator truly contributed to the DC Universe. The art pieces are truly unique in that most of them are from personal collections gathered at comic conventions, and they would never be seen by the public if a book of this nature did not exist.
The Titans Companion is a valuable tool that serves two purposes. First, it allows those unfamiliar with Titans lore to learn the rich history these fine creators have brought to the DC Universe. Second, it provides a wealth of information about each creator that even the most die-hard Titan fan may be completely unaware of. Combine these two aspects with the large assortment of donated art pieces, and you have yourself the perfect gift for any comic book fan.
This illustrated collection of interviews is a faithful and detailed unpacking of the first two decades of Teen Titans lore, from their Silver Age appearances in Brave and the Bold, to their early nineties spin-off title Team Titans. Writer Cadigan has worked hard to get a cadre of seasoned professionals to unearth their memories of long-gone stories and early epochs of a much-changed (and ever-evolving) comics industry. You really get the sense that they are speaking with unedited frankness, in their own words (which means Cadigan’s completely spot-on fanboy questions don’t always get the longed-for answers, but rather business-related doses of reality from the working men who churned out the issues). You also get a variety of commissioned and original art by the makers of the issues under discussion.
The book is organized chronologically, a helpful means of allowing the reader to follow the progression of eras for the tenacious team, as well as easily enabling one to tune into one’s own personal favorite run of stories.
I personally was aware of the Silver Age team before the mega-popular and definitive Wolfman/Perez rebirth in the 1980s, but mostly through reprints in the back of other books and guest star moments in seventies titles I read. I also had a few issues of the Bronze Age revival, purchased because at that point I was buying Batman Family, and wanted to see what else Robin and Flamebird and the Joker’s Daughter (i.e. Batman’s supporting cast of the time--remember when he had one?) were up to.
Unpacking the struggles of the social relevance stories offered by DC’s new generation of writers (yes, they had one in the seventies, just as Marvel did, if not given as much leeway to revamp the company) is fascinating reading, especially in the candid Neal Adams interview. Adams’ recollection of redoing a controversial story offered by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman (years before Wolfman would rise to some fame with Tomb of Dracula) is a time capsule tale where Adams plays both a mentoring and mediator role between the two sides of the generation gap.
Paul Levitz fills in some details of his goals from the abortive Titans revival in the late seventies (killed by the “DC Implosion” of the time). His story ideas and expanding cast read like a rough draft for the interpersonal dynamics he would soon bring to Legion of Super-Heroes. Inker Romeo Tanghal offers an intriguing point of view on the Wolfman/Perez collaboration that really set fire to the team for the 1980s, and this chapter also includes intriguing recollections from Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson (who did the Titans/X-men crossover).
The second chapter on New Teen Titans details the impact of the “Baxter book” expansion into the direct market from the early 1980s. Wolfman’s interview recounts mounting levels of stress for both writer and artist (that strange overlap period where simultaneous direct and mass market titles meant twice the monthly issues). He also shares the difficulty of recapturing a past success all over again for a new title. This is the period when the Titans ceased being Teens, Robin grew into Nightwing, and Donna Troy’s origin proved ever more problematic in the wake of Crisis (ironic, since that too was a Perez/Wolfman collaboration).
Able artists Eduardo Barreto and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez had their own contributions to make to the lore, in the wake of Perez’s burnout after so many years of commitment to the title. But diminishing returns had set in, and it never rose to its earlier heights even though Wolfman continued to write the title. His final of four interviews acknowledges a damaging writer’s block. Team Titans tried to expand on the concept, and though ultimately retconned out of existence, it did showcase current and future art stars Kevin Maguire, Phil Jiminez and Terry Dodson.
This volume doesn’t go on to discuss yet another round of revivals over the last decade, perhaps wisely. Dan Jurgens created a new team that ultimately reiterated ties to the earliest days, followed by an 80s-style reunion by Devin Grayson, and then by the current Geoff Johns team that folds in Young Justice and a newer generation of heroes. But those can wait for a planned second volume. The fascinating history recounted diligently in this organized volume is more than enough for hours of reading about the lives of beloved characters behind the scenes.
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