New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special (1983)
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Penciller – Ross Andru
Inker – Joe Giella
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Dave Manak
Special Thanks – Bruce Miller & Stephen Jacobs
Cover Price: $1.00
There’s another one???
Here in Phoenix, we have a number of comic shops. Perhaps we are a bit lucky, as many of these shops offer whole discount areas (even suites) in which all of their overstock is sold at a buck or less. Too often this is where the shop owners attempt to unload the 1,000 copies of whichever Marvel Star Wars book they overbought in order to procure that one bright shiny variant cover (that is still sitting on a shelf at a mid-three-figure price point), however, there are times when you strike gold… at least insofar as “something interesting”.
Yesterday I found myself with some time to kill in a neck of the woods I don’t get to all that often. Figured I’d pop in to the buck-n-below shop and see if I couldn’t fill in some holes. While combing through the “T” books, I found no less than twenty copies of the New Titans drug PSA I discussed last week… however, about halfway through the pile I came across this one.
Initially, I figured… like everything else in the shop, it was just a variant cover. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that Ernie the Keebler Elf was nowhere to be found here. Curious, I opened it up, only to find a completely new (to me) story inside. “There’s another one?” I thought to myself, though I’ll concede I may have said it out loud…
Well, as it turns out, there are another TWO (three in total) New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Specials. None of them bear an issue number, however, for the sake of assuaging any confusion I will list this as “#2”. The first was sponsored by Keebler, this one was sponsored by the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), and the third (which I now must track down) by IBM. I guess I didn’t realize how big a push this promotion was given. Upon doing some further research, I was able to come across a 1984 commercial that covers the concept as well.
For this issue, Titan’s legend Marv Wolfman stay on, however Ross Andru (who I remember for his work on Amazing Spider-Man) takes over the art chores. Can Marv keep up his normal Titanic level of quality under the watchful eye of the National Soft Drink Association? Let’s find out…
This issue opens with the Titans and Protector (they are rather straightforward during this issue in stating that Protector is not a Titan, just an associate) following up on a tip… staking out a drug-drop, seemingly a continuation of the previous Drug Awareness issue. They’re at a small amusement park, and it is clearly after hours. Once they witness the drop the team springs into action.
This time the Titans team features Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Raven, Starfire, and Changeling with Kid Flash taking the place of Speedy as the auxiliary member. The team makes short work of the drug pushers, with Protector acting especially brutal in the beating he dishes out… throwing a couple of thugs through a plate-glass window.
|Jeez Pro, what the hell?|
After a brief chat with authorities, Protector asks Kid Flash for a private chat. Ya see, Pro’s cousin Ted Hart has recently moved to Wally’s hometown of Blue Valley. Teddy’s a recovering addict, who very nearly let his drug abuse cost him his life. Protector asks that Kid Flash maybe keep an eye on him, just in case he needs a hand-up, or a shoulder to lean on. Wally, being the swell cat he is, says he doesn’t mind playing babysitter to a perfect stranger…
… and so, the next day Wally heads to the Hart house and introduces himself to Ted. They walk together to Ted’s school, and on the way he confides in Wally in regard to just how far gone he was before he fully embraced his recovery. When they arrive, Wally introduces Ted to a girl called Amy King. As they become acquainted they overhear a nearby couple arguing about one members frequent drug-use. Confident Teddy’s in good hands, Wally excuses himself so that he can make it to his own school.
We follow Ted as he navigates his way through the apparently drug-dealer riddled hallways of (what I assume is) Blue Valley High. Here Ted speaks with Brian, the fellow who was part of the earlier argumentative couple. He’s a drug-user who offers Ted a good time… Ted tells him flat-out that he’s clean, and Brian appears to be cool with it.
|Brian’s just happy he doesn’t have to share… for now.|
They pass the cliche drug-dealer, leather and shades clad Adam who is conducting “business” before class. Adam’s main squeeze is the girl with the coral colored haired, whose name is… well, Coral. She’s upset that Adam isn’t all that fun anymore… being all high and stuff. As Ted passes, she makes eyes at him. In class, Ted is the perfect student… attentive, and intelligent. As he and Amy leave class together, the scowling Coral looks on.
The next several pages feature vignettes of the next several weeks. Ted and Amy grow closer by the day, and the Titans are keeping the streets clean from would-be drug-dealing scums. For all of their progress, the team is still unaware just who is behind the shipments.
Time passes, until one fine day… Ted is leaving school for the day and notices that his buddy Brian is hanging around bad-boy drug-dealer Adam. He’s looking to buy a “gram of snow”. Shortly, Brian and Ted are lounging on a hill. Bri is partaking as Ted’s just enjoying the beautiful day, when they are approached by the covetous Coral.
She’s got herself some dope that’s laced with angel dust… she doesn’t screw around, does she? She offers a toke to Teddy, who refuses until she questions his manhood. He ultimately gives in and sucks it down. In the distance, Adam is looking on… not sure if he’s upset his girl’s gone, or happy he’s got a new customer.
Another month passes, and Ted’s personality begins to change. He snaps at his steady girl Amy, he’s acting like a complete tool in class and one day he storms out of the school. Amy, Brian, and Brian’s gal Linda give chase.
The girls head over to the West house to check in with Wally. They explain what’s going on, and Wally knows he’s gotta pass the info on to his buddy Jason Hart, the Protector.
Kid Flash zips across town to find the Pro facilitating a Parent/Child Drug-Support Group. Wally sits in and waits, observing a tiny little fella discuss his past drug indiscretions… which clearly stunted the poor boy’s growth. I mean, this kid is itsy-bitsy!
|I can fit five of this stone-cold junkie in my pocket|
After the meeting Kid Flash spills the beans, and the two head out to confront the terrifying teen, the scary sophomore, the leather lothario… Adam, who as it just so happens was in the middle of conducting business with our boys Ted and Brian.
|Yup Brian… the cops. The brightly colored cops.|
The geeks flee as the Protector swoops in (on a line that’s affixed to.., well, your guess is as good as mine) and dropkicks Adam. The two fools run directly into the path of an oncoming truck, and if not for the presence of the Titans, would have been so much roadkill. Pro goes into lecture mode and tries level with the jerks, but they blow him off.
|Protector trying out for a Twizzler’s gig.|
Later on at the Hart house, Teddy is confronted by his worried parents. They see that he’s slipped back into his old ways and want to assure him that he has their complete support in his recovery. Teddy knows that parents just don’t understand… so he shoves his dad out of the way and leaves home.
Ted intends to bury his troubles (and his head) in the bosom of cordial Coral, only he overhears her telling Adam that she was just using him to make her inattentive jerk-man jealous.
|That’s cold, Coral…|
This is too much for Ted to process. He barges into the boys room to find Brian about to do a line. Ted’s got lust in his eyes for that smattering of snow, and the two tussle until it’s scattered all over the filthy, disgusting, brutal bathroom floor. The fiends don’t seem to care as they press their faces to the ground and snort up just as much as they can. How gross is that? I don’t even like the soles of my shoes touching the floor in a public toilet. There’d have to be quite a bit of money on the table to get my face anywhere near the floor.
Not satisfied with their foul feast, the boys beeline it to their main man Adam… only problem is, they don’t got the green to buy the green. Adam tosses them an aged and nasty looking joint, that probably consists of whatever Adam skimmed out of the cat pan this morning.
The pair of clowns realize they need money, and they need it quick. That night, they plan to hold up a local convenience store. Unfortunately for them, these geeks (literally) brought a knife to a gun fight. They attempt to shake down proprietor Sam Waterman with a lousy little knife. Sam ain’t amused… he blows a hole in Brian’s gut without a second thought. Ted, being the man that he is… runs like a chicken, ultimately collapsing outside of Amy’s house (I’m sure her parents loved that!).
Back with the Titans (remember them?), the team is watching yet another drug drop. Whodathunk Blue Valley was such a hotbed for drugs? The team, once again, makes short work of the pushers. Raven suddenly feels the pain of another, and teleports to Brian’s side as he’s being loaded into an ambulance.
Later on at the hospital, Teddy and Brian are sharing a room and pledge to get their heads right. They are joined not only by the Titans, but by their respective parents and significant others as well. Ted promises that from this point on he’ll be a hero by staying drug free. The Titans walk straight off the panel, satisfied with a job well done.
Well, um… I’m kind of at a loss here. On one hand… it was a good (if not a tad overbearing) story, on the other… where were the Teen Titans? It feels as though they hardly appear in this book, and when they do… all they’re doing is watching a drug-drop and beating up a bunch of thugs. Considering just what this book is, I suppose I really can’t complain too much. It definitely could have been far worse. For what it was, I guess I enjoyed it well enough. Marv Wolfman is always a treat to read, and the Ross Andru art was very nice as well.
While I would have preferred Perez (say that a bunch’a times fast), Ross Andru certainly had a few tricks up his sleeve. Of particular note, I really enjoyed the changes in Teddy’s face as he spiraled deeper into his addiction. Andru made him appear more and more haggard the farther gone he’d become. Certainly a welcome bit of detail. On the other hand, I think Donna Troy had about a half-dozen different haircuts during her very brief appearances in this issue. In one panel it’s down to her waist, in the very next it’s barely touching her shoulders.
Having some experience in addiction treatment and group-facilitation, I’d have to say Marv clearly did his research in crafting this tale. While it may all appear very cliche… and it is, it’s become that way for a reason. I especially enjoyed Protector’s discussion on the psychological aspects of addiction. It’s a very powerful (and comparably ignored… or at least downplayed) piece of the addiction puzzle. I was pleased to see it mentioned here.
I guess to sum up… this was fine. I must admit that I enjoyed the first (Keebler) Drug Awareness Special far more… although I can’t really put my finger on why. I’d honestly recommend this simply for its novelty value. While it feels like a very 1980’s piece, if we were to add some smartphones and contemporary fashions, it could just as easily be made current. There is a timelessness in stories of this type, and while it may seem passe or trite in 2016, it’s still all too relevant.
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