New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special #3 (1983)

New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special (1983)
“Problem Child”
Story – Marv Wolfman
Script – Joey Cavalieri
Pencils – Adrian Gonzales
Inks – Joe Giella & R. Villigran
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Dave Manak
Special Thanks – Joyce Nalepka & Stephen Jacobs

Well, it’s been a long time coming… but I finally came across the final New Teen Titans Andtidrug PSA comic.  Last year we discussed the first (and I thought only) one, as well as the shocking second one!  Let’s get right down to rounding out this trilogy!

Just keep in mind, like I said last time, these aren’t numbered.  I’m listing this as “#3” just for my own sanity when it comes to cataloging.  This one is courtesy of the IBM Corporation.

We open with a Lois Lane-emceed assembly at an unnamed… high school… maybe junior high school… dunno, the kids look pretty young.  Anyhoo, the assembly is to discuss the fight… against drugs.  She introduces the Teen Titans… and the Protector.  So, again… Pro is an associate of the team rather than a member… although, later on they will refer to him as “leader”.  It should come as no surprise that during this very event there are several youngsters outside the auditorium toking up… this ain’t just weed tho… this crop’s been dusted, ya feel me?  Um, it’s angel dust… that’s what’s in the pot.  

Bad boy Jesse got the stash from his big brother Dave. Knowing that assembly is going to be… ya know, pretty lame… he inhales a few times, then heads in to the auditorium… where he almost immediately starts heckling the super-powered teen-agers on stage.  Like a true hero he lays down a few “choice” one-liners, then when confronted his eyes well up and he charges out of the building.

The Titans give chase… which is to say, they abandon the assembly event.  Okay, it’s just Changeling that follows… anyhoo, Jesse runs all the way through town… through a field… and to the very edge of a cliff that overlooks the water.  Just how long has be been running?  Knowing he’s got the kid cornered, Changeling, who up until now has taken the form of a bird… transforms into a rhino.  Yeah, Gar… that’s really the way to let a kid know you’re not there to hurt him…

Back at the school, the Titans chat with Jesse’s parents.  They tell the teens that Jesse looks up to his older brother David… who “was always a bit of a rebel”.  These parents seem completely clueless on how to deal with their own kid(s)… lucky for us, the conversation is interrupted when Raven is overcome by her empathic powers.  She begins to feel Jesse’s emotions, and understands that she needs to be with him immediately.

Back at the cliffside, Gar is pleading with Jesse to let him be of service… keeping in mind that he is still currently in the form of a large horned beast.  Jesse, who is hopped up on angel dust and fear at this point begins to stagger… and he falls off the cliff.  Fortunately (?), Raven’s soulself is close enough to rescue him from his plummet.  She absorbs the boy into herself… causing him to settle his tea kettle just a bit, at which point we get to see him have a “chat” with his “brother”.

Raven lets Jesse out, and he’s a changed man… er, boy.  At first he thinks the entire thing was a trick, but he quickly comes around.  Inside the soulself, he saw the physical manifestation of what his brother was doing to himself… he saw the ugliness and loneliness of addiction.  Jesse allows Raven to take away his feelings of pain and anxiety… and so she does.  However… in so doing, she also (somehow) draws his drug-addled perceptions into herself as well.  It is suddenly as though Raven herself… is stoned.

Raven teleports the trio back to the Titans, after which she just starts running amok due to her bad-trip.  She is flying around like a lunatic… until Starfire is able to catch her in a sort of avian headlock.  Raven slumps to the ground.  Starfire picks her up and takes her to the hospital.  At this point, Jesse embraces his parents and promises to be drug free from that point on.  He then goes the extra step and decides he’s going to try to get his friends to clean up their acts as well.  C’mon pal… one step at a time.

At that very moment, his stoner friends are hanging out nearby… ya know, by the trees… where they’re always hanging about.  They overhear their “hook up” turning over a new leaf… and immediately write him off as a “narc”.  The scurry away like cockroaches before he can turn them all in.

Later on… the assembly continues… whaaa?  I gotta figure that these concerned parents and students have just been sitting in this auditorium while Lois Lane does her best stand-up act.  Either that or they watched her paint her nails, or take notes.  Anyhoo… we get to hear a bit from the peanut gallery.  One man talks about injuring himself while he was in the service.  He was given a drug to take away the pain… and he got hooked.  We hear from an absolute dolt of a mother who just figures that all kids do drugs these days as a “rite of passage”.  Oh-ho… the Protector will now educate you… in fact, he will educate us ALL!  Get a load of this panel… it would make Chris Claremont furrow his brow and say “that’s a bit much”.

Elsewhere, we finally meet up with dangerous Dave.  He’s trying to get an advance on his “junk” from some “big-time” pushers.  He pleads with them that he’s good for it… after all, he’s gotten the entire junior high hooked on the crap.  They call him a deadbeat, and tell him to hit the skids.  When he hesitates, he gets socked in the mush and thrown through a table.

Back at the school, the parents are giving the Titans some guff… claiming it to be their responsibility to keep the drugs outta their kids’ bodies.  At this point, Lois pipes in… she’s all… “Um, maybe you should act like parents”.  Hell yeah, Lois.  Anyhoo, at this point, the Titans roll out… their destination, Dave’s dilapidated digs… a shack by the cliff side.  I should mention that here Starfire asks the “leader” where they are headed… and it’s Kid Flash who responds before Protector… so maybe for this mission, Wally’s leading the charge…

At Dave’s dump, the kids… including a heavyset kid with curly red hair (hmm, might this be our stout pal from the first Titans PSA?  Continuity, maaaaaan.), spill the beans about Jesse turning into a no good rat-fink.  Dave’s all “I got dis”… and he proceeds to, ya know… run away.

Unfortunately for him, this is when the Titans arrive.  Donna lassos his car, which causes it to open like a can of tuna fish.  Dave decides to hoof it… but does so directly into Vic.  Starfire explodes a tree to let him know they mean business… and then they… let him go.  Yeah, that’ll learn ‘im.  Luckily, Vic had enough sense to slip a homing device on him before letting him slip.

Now… back at the schoolyard, Jesse is being held up against the tree by the tubby carrot-top… who looks a lot less tubby here.  Maybe he had cut some Hydroxycut into his last joint.  Anyhoo… he tells Jesse that if he wants to prove he’s not a rat… he’s gotta take a toke.  I mean, seriously now… back in high school, the ‘heads didn’t let anybody in on their stash… and this fool is damn near pushing it down poor Jesse’s throat.  Jesse pushes the ginger away… gives a rousing speech about not having to do drugs to prove he’s a “friend”… and then, and I’m not making this up… he gets a round of applause by his classmates.  Yeah… back-slash, that happened.  Oh, and of course, at this point… the red-haired boy decides he wants to get off the junk too.

Meanwhile… the Titans have tracked dungaree Dave to a warehouse.  We know it’s a warehouse… because the building says “Warehouse”.  Why, it’s where the big-time druglords are hanging out… and dimebag Dave just led the Teen Titans right to their front door.  So, yeah… battle time.

It’s a fairly pedestrian fight… which ends with the Titans saving dirty Dave.  Our titanic tale wraps up with Dave lying in a hospital bed… vowing to be clean.  Lois Lane gives us the “go home”, and we are out.

Well… it seems as though our Teen Titans PSA’s have fallen to the law of diminishing returns… this one wasn’t so hot.  When comparing that to what came before, that’s really saying something.  This entire issue feels like a slapped together “gotta fulfill the contract” affair… and the only thing that it offers that the previous two didn’t was the younger sibling emulating the older one… though, we kinda had that in the first one with Anina’s dead brother… but still…

It feels like this one wasn’t taken as seriously as the other two… Marv Wolfman didn’t do the scripting, and Gonzales, while talented, isn’t a George Perez nor a Ross Andru.  I think I might have a thing where if I see Joey Cavalieri’s name in the credits, I think it’s a book that DC doesn’t care much about… or is limping into its cancellation.  It seems like he did a lot of “final issues”.  Kind of like a Ben Raab for the 1980’s.  And of course, I mean no offense to either man… just my observations, with perhaps just a freckle of pith.

So, this entire issue is framed by an event being emceed by Lois Lane… which, is all well and good… but, it just seems as though these assemblies are just taking place constantly in whatever town this story takes place in.  What’s worse… the parents are portrayed as absolute boobs.  “Well, duhhhh… we thought dat all da kids did da drugs!”  It isn’t until Protector “educates” them that they realize that they can positively affect the lives of their children.  Well, gee thanks Pro!  It feels like this story is trying to have it both ways… we’re seeing that parents should talk to their kids… a staple of early Teen Titans tales… while at the same time promoting that there is a need for a team of superheroes to impart such wisdom on the parents!

We get that witty for all the wrong reasons scene where Jesse tells off the drug pushers at the school yard, and is then regaled with actual applause from his classmates!  I mean, there are whole subreddits dedicated to mocking “totally $100% true” stories which “totally happened” that end just like that.  It’s a missed opportunity in my opinion… it could have been handled with a measure of subtlety that would have made it seem more realistic.  I mean, let’s face it… as neat as it would be for a kid to get a round of applause for “just saying no”, that’s not likely to happen in the real world.

Otherwise… it was just a sub-par issue of New Teen Titans.  Thankfully that makes it still quite a bit better than it could have been.  Like I said in the past two PSA reviews… could’ve been better… but, damn sure could’ve been a ton worse as well!  The story flows… decently… I mean, there’s a purpose… and a resolution.  The dialogue is… clearly not Marv… and the art is serviceable.  Not Perez, not Andru… not other Titan legends Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praise be his yadda yadda), nor Eduardo Barreto either… but, serviceable.

Despite my misgivings, and opinion that this was mostly a missed opportunity… I would still recommend nabbing it if you come across it at a decent price.  I was able to procure it for a shiny quarter… though probably would’ve paid up to a few bucks just for the novelty of the thing.  For fans of the New Teen Titans of this era, just think of it as a “missing chapter” that occurs while Robin is away working with Batman.  Give it a shot.

Well, we’re three DC in the 80’s PSA comics down… only one left to find!  One’a these trips I’m bound to find that issue where Supergirl teaches us how to drive safely!

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