New Teen Titans #38 (January, 1984)
“Who is Donna Troy?”
Marv Wolfman & George Perez – Plot
Marv Wolfman – Script
George Perez & Romeo Tanghal- Art
Ben Oda – Lettering
Adrienne Roy – Coloring
Len Wein – Editor
Cover Price – $0.75
This is a somewhat topical post. Odd to say, when discussing a book from 32 years and several continuities ago. I just read the latest issue of Teen Titans (v.5 #16, March 2016) and was surprised to see that the next issue would begin the story of “Who is Wonder Girl?”. By my count, this is the fourth time DC has gone to this well, though I admit I may be mistaken. If I am correct, the last time they ran with this was during the “Who is Troia?” story line during the first volume of Titans around the turn of the century (issues 23-25). Before that was “Who is Wonder Girl” that ran from New Titans 50-54 in the late 1980s. Going back even further brings us to the book I want to discuss (and hope I can do justice to) today, New Teen Titans #38 “Who is Donna Troy?”.
Donna Troy had a convoluted backstory to the point that she was actually created out of a continuity error. I may be mistaken, but I believe she was originally a de-aged version of Wonder Woman. When assembling the first group of Teen Titans, this teenaged version of Wonder Woman was added with a certain amount of tweaking. This tweaking has been going on for half a century, and even as of this writing no one can answer with any certainty, “Who is Donna Troy?”
The wedding of Donna Troy and Terry Long is approaching. Terry Long is a milquetoast college professor with terrible curly red hair. He is a divorcee with a daughter. He sucks the oxygen out of every panel he is in. This is a relationship that I never really “got”. I suppose that could be due to my thinking that Donna and Dick Grayson should have gotten together during this time, however, hindsight tells me that it’s better that they didn’t. This issue really exhibits the brother/sister dynamic between Donna and Dick. They truly care for, and love one another… just not romantically.
There is a scene where Robin watches Terry and Donna together and says:
“I’d always wondered what Donna saw in such an ordinary man as Terry Long. But at that moment–I knew.”
I suppose that proves that Dick is a great detective, because I’ve read this era of Titans several times over and I still don’t know what Terry brought to the table.
After a very cinematic opening sequence, Dick and Terry have a meeting at the beach. It is still jarring to see Dick Grayson wearing his short-pants Robin outfit in this era. Terry wishes to hire Robin to help Donna find out about her past… who she is, where she came from.
Robin’s internal monologue questions why it is he never thought to help Donna. After all, he is a Batman-trained detective… it stands to reason if anyone could help Donna, it would be him. So why hadn’t he though to try?
Dick agrees and visits with Donna. He asks her to tell him everything she can remember. She remembers the fire she was caught in as a young child. She remembers the building she lived in burning… the smoke… the bodies. She remembers the one who rescued her–Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman pulled her out of the wreckage and brought her to Paradise Island. On Paradise Island Donna was granted a small amount of power from each of the Amazons via their Purple Ray.
Dick and Donna visit the now condemned building she remembered. Donna tells Dick that they would not likely find anything there… she had “sifted through this rubble a dozen times.” Dick, however, has the building’s blueprints which shows that this building had several hidden rooms.
In one such room, Dick is able to locate a box… inside that box is a scorched doll. Donna claims that seeing the doll makes her feel strange. They are onto something. Dick also found some scraps of fabric in the box, which when pieced together and affected with chemicals in his lab featured the phrase “Hello. My name is Donna.”.
Dick applies a chemical compound to some faded writing on the fabric on the doll, and after a time he finds another clue. The name of the toy store that made/sold the doll.
Dick flies to Newport News, VA to visit the doll maker, and is told of an orphanage he used to repair toys for… the Willowbrook Orphanage, which had closed down fifteen years earlier due to a child slavery scandal.
Dick is able to make contact with Elmira Cassiday from the orphanage. No worries, she had nothing to do with the slavery scandal… that was all her lawyer’s doing. Elmira is in a nursing home, and hasn’t spoken a full sentence in over a decade. Seeing Donna shakes her, and she finally speaks.
She tells Donna about her mother. A very young woman who had cancer. She left Donna at the orphanage to ensure she would be taken care of. Elmira’s story continues, Donna was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Stacey who she believed died in that fire.
Now knowing where she came from, Donna wanted to drive through the town she had apparently lived in as a child. She is drawn to a neighborhood… and then a house. She has found her adoptive mother, Fay Stacey (now Evans). Dick and Donna are invited inside, where they learn the next chapter of Donna’s adolescence. Fay’s husband, Carl Stacey passed away on the job leaving her with very little money. The lawyer from the orphanage took Donna back, claiming that the widow Stacey would not be able to properly care for the child.
Donna was readopted, as part of the child slavery ring by a terrible pair, who as she put it “seemed to hate kids”. It was their bodies Donna remembered from the fire. Dick leaves Donna with her family, and she is treated with photo albums. She is finally able to see her past.
Dick dons his Robin gear and decides to pay a visit to the orphanage’s lawyer, the imprisoned Mr. Harrison. After a bit of tough talk, Harrison comes clean… Donna was never readopted, the awful couple were only pretending to be Donna’s parents and were going to “sell the kid for twenty grand”.
Before returning to the Tower, Dick and Donna stop at the cemetery where Donna’s birth mother, Dorothy Hinckley is buried. Donna talks to her mother’s headstone and Dick gives her back the doll they had found, repaired good as new.
Okay, yeah… this story has its share of convenient moments, and plot devices to get from point A to point B, but it has enough heart to it that I can let that slide. “Who is Donna Troy?” is the story that made me fall in love with this series. After reading this, I felt like I knew these characters a little bit, and wanted to know more. Regardless of who is running around the current DC Universe, this is Dick Grayson and Donna Troy.
Such characterization in superhero comics is rare. This is Wolfman and Perez at their absolute best. Even though I have spoiled the entire thing for you, read this book. This, for me, is one of those “never look at comics the same way again” books, and despite it having been wiped from existence is still a must-read. I have bought several copies of this issue to give to friends (sadly, it… like many DC books of this vintage, is a 50 cent bin book). If you know anybody who is even remotely interested in following comics… this is the one to give them.
Score: 9/10 – Perhaps some of the moments were a little too convenient to keep this from a perfect score
|I always loved seeing the new Saturday Morning Cartoon ads that would appear in comics. This one’s “Got the Jazz!”|
I cannot for the life of me remember there ever being Superman peanut butter, although my local Half Price Books has that reprinted Action Comics #1 behind glass for $50.
Donna: “What I remember can be fit onto the head of a pin–and still have room left over for an infinite number of angels.”
Donna: “The Batman was more like your father. Wonder Woman seemed like my sister…”
Dick: “Donna’s voice quivered as I remembered when we first teamed up. I could have fallen easily in love with her then. Now, years later, I knew I did love her, more than I ever could if I were only her lover.”
Robin: “The Batman and I have many enemies in this prison. If it should leak out that you are my stoolie…”