Teen Titans #5 (September-October, 1966)
“The Perilous Capers of the Terrible Teen”
Writer – Bob Haney
Artist – Nick Cardy
Letterer – Stan Starkman
Cover Price: $0.12
It’s been awhile since I covered the Titans, and figured finding a (really rough-looking) copy of this issue was as good a reason as any to revisit the kids.
I found my copy in a dollar bin… and it looked like the cover was all scraped up… bits of color are missing… just looked a mess. When I opened it up, I discovered that the color hadn’t been rubbed off… it seems as though somebody was using this issue as a surface to paint something on! It should go without saying that the cover image I’m using here isn’t my own.
Lord only knows what kind of toxic substance I just touched… if I don’t post again, just assume it was lead poisoning that did me in!
After our spoilery-Silver Age splash, we open with Wonder Girl trying out a few new hairdos… which amounts to her just piling all of her hair atop her head. Aqualad thinks this looks ridiculous, which… it kinda does, and teases her a bit. In turn, she grabs the water cool jug and dumps it all over him. He thanks her because, well, he’s Aqualad… and he was probably just seconds away from doing that to himself anyway! Robin chimes in to inform the gang that “fun and games” are over, and it’s time to get down to the important business of… answering their fan mail! The first letter comes from their sometimes-running-buddy, Speedy, who makes a bunch of arrow puns and says he looks forward to their next adventure. The next letter comes from Dr. Paul Turner from the Lacklock Camp for juvenile delinquents. He’s got a problem, and he requests an audience with the Teen Titans… and so, off they go in a shoddy jalopy driven by “the guy who fed Paul Revere’s horse”. I wanna mention that the fellas refer to Donna as “W.G.” here, which… while I’m sure is just there to aid in the lettering, really sounds awkward if you were to say it… not that awkward dialogue is altogether alien to Mr. Haney… but actually say W.G. out loud… double-you-gee. My mouth doesn’t even wanna contort that way!
At Camp Lacklock, the Titans are swarmed by fannish campers. They just love their teen-age heroes! Dr. Turner arrives and brings the team into his cabin. Along the way we get a bit of history on the camp. It’s called Lacklock after a tribe of… no, no it’s not… it just doesn’t have any locks. It’s an open-air juvenile rehabilitation center, basically. Turner takes great pride in the success of his methods… however, it now appears that one of his “grads” might have returned to criminal activity. This is Eddie Whit, who Doc Turner believes might be the “master criminal” the Ant!
Turner claims that of all the Lacklock grads, he had the most hope for Eddie… and if it’s true he’s gone bad, he might have to reconsider all of his therapeutic methods, which could lead to Camp Lacklock… getting locks! Well, we can’t have that! The Titans agree to look into it. On their way out they pass a group of teen-agers discussing the Eddie-hub-bub. It appears that even the resident campers’ confidence is shaken. If Eddie can go bad, what hope is there for anybody else! In case I haven’t made it clear, Eddie Whit is held in pretty high regard ’round these parts.
Now, this being a Silver Age story, you might imagine that the Titans run into the Ant on the very next page… well, you’d be right. The Ant has just robbed a bank and is escaping by… climbing a nearby building. I wanna mention we’re getting a ton of wacky exclamations here… it’s like every other panel has a “Suffering Sappho!” or “Jumping Jackfish!”, it’s pretty great. Anyhoo, Robin gives the orders, and Double-You-Gee is on her way upwards to lasso the insect. It doesn’t go all that well.
Somehow in the, I dunno, five seconds that took… the rest of the Titans have made it to the top of the building. Robin repels down to get the drop on the bug… but that doesn’t go all that well either. The Ant swings him around a few times before tossing him back atop the building. We should note that although the Ant is dangerous… he isn’t looking to kill anybody.
Seeing that he’s surrounded by Titans, the Ant jumps off the side of the building, pulls some acrobatics around a conveniently-placed flagpole… and lands flat atop a train as it barrels through a tunnel. Not a bad showing! I need to pay more attention to flagpoles when I’m in the city… if comics have taught me anything, it’s that every building has at least a dozen of them attached.
Well, with the man himself miles away, the Titans decide to go a different route… visit Eddie Whit’s home. Rather than knock, Robin suggests they make a “cool entrance” via the fire escape. Remember that folks, that’s how you make a cool entrance. Anyhoo, inside they meet Danny Whit, Eddie’s younger brother. He’s excited to see a group of costumed teen-agers breaking in through his bedroom window and decides to share with them his life story. Ya see, he and Eddie’s parents were killed in a train wreck… Eddie turned to unnamed bad stuff and wound up in Camp Lacklock, while Danny was sent to an orphanage. Eddie finally arrives… though Robin mentions (to Kid Flash) that he didn’t hear the elevator. Wally heads to the roof where he finds a little storage shed.
He vibrates through the door and finds… (duh) the Ant costume! He returns to Robin and gives him the “bzzz bzzz”. The Titans ask Danny to wait outside so they can begin their interrogation. Eddie doesn’t take being confronted all that well, and just starts whuppin’ the team! Even going so far as to dropkick Robin out the window… which, ya know, might have killed him… if not for the conveniently-placed clothesline, his acrobatic prowess, and the aid of the pony-tailed chick from Paradise Island. In the distraction, the Ant gets away… his thoughts reveal that there may be more to this situation than meets the eye.
As the Titans recuperate, Danny Whit reenters the room. He doesn’t want to believe that Eddie’s the Ant, but knows the Titans never lie (I think that’s line item 3 in the official Teen Titans handbook). He gives them a bit more info on Eddie, including his current employer Zenith Caterers. And so, the Titans (and Danny) head out to perform some hi-tech surveillance. We overhear that Eddie’s bosses at Zenith have set him up to be the Ant via blackmail. They’ve got some goods they threaten to spill to the police if he refuses to comply. Eddie agrees to do one more job… and it’s going to be the biggest one yet! Keep that in the back of your mind… earlier today, the Ant robbed a bank… wait’ll you hear what Zenith’s got planned.
The Ant is to… rob a charity picnic. Okay, ya get it? Ants… picnics! Har har har. But seriously, wouldn’t robbing a bank be a bit more lucrative (not to mention dangerous)?! Oh well, Kid Flash splits off from the team to chase the Zenith goons (and the Ant) to the park. I mean, c’mon… the heist is going down at the park. That’s just adorable. The Ant leaps out of the caterer’s pot, swipes the… picnic basket… full of dosh, and takes off!
When the Ant hops back in the Zenith van, he is shocked to find that the driver is… his brother Danny (who is probably too young to be driving… but whatayagonnado?)! Kid Flash runs alongside the van and vibrates into the cargo area. It’s here we get the juicy details of the blackmail. Eddie is the Ant because the Zenith goons have information on… his brother Danny! It seems that while Eddie was in Lacklock, Danny fell in with a bad crowd… but, don’t worry, they never broke any laws. Ya see, Eddie’s been hornswoggled into being a costumed criminal all to protect his little brother (aww!). Kid Flash overhears the whole thing, and suggests he might be of assistance in returning the funds to the picnickers.
To aid in the Whit brothers’ escape, Wonder Chick pulls the ol’ switcheroo on the Zeniths by placing a detour sign on the road. It seems like this wouldn’t work, as the Zenith van was mayyyybe two van-lengths behind the Whit van… but, I guess we’ll allow it.
That night we join some Zenith geeks as they descend on the place they’re sure the Whit’s are hiding out… yup, Camp Lacklock! Well, of course they are… but they’re not alone. The Teen Titans have their backs! After a brief skirmish, we wrap up with the Zeniths being tied to a pole, like so many baddies before them. Eddie spills the beans about his Ant-iness, and Doctor Turner assures him the only punishment he’ll get is more time at Camp Lacklock! I guess it’s back to the orphanage for Danny… but why let that ruin an otherwise happy ending?
Man, what a silly story. Let’s do it the great disservice of breaking it down!
Let’s look at the Ant. If I didn’t know any Titans history, I’d swear they were setting him up to be a new recruit to the team. I mean, dude’s got crazy skills, and a moral code (of sorts). I was surprised that he really doesn’t make any future appearances… outside of a flashback and in the Tiny Titans-verse. When the Titans are first informed that Eddie might be the Ant… they’re all like “yeah, that dangerous criminal… we’ve heard of him!” which begs the question, why hadn’t they already gone after him? I mean, how many banks does a costumed criminal need to rob before getting the attention of the Teen Titans?
We get a bit of nebulous characterization in that the Ant wouldn’t let Robin fall from the side of a building… but had no problem drop-kicking him through an upper-story apartment building window. Unless Eddie didn’t know his own strength… or was sure Robin would grab the clothesline… but that’s just silly. Hell, if he was that confident in Robin’s acrobatic ability, he’d have let him fall from the building… at least there was a flagpole he could grab on the way down, right?
Now… the picnic. I know I probably joked about this enough already, but… c’mon, a picnic? For his big “final” heist for the Zenith folks, the Ant is going to rob a pic-a-nic basket’s worth of cash from a charity event in the park? Just hours earlier, he robbed a freakin’ bank! It’s so silly I can’t even get mad at it!
I enjoyed the way the Titans interacted with each other. It really felt like (a middle-aged man’s approximation of) teen-age camaraderie. The Titans razz one another every now and again, get distracted by things like hairdos and fan letters, but when push comes to shove, each Titan fills their heroic niche. This is a team you can’t help but want to follow.
Overall, this issue was a silly Silver Age romp and I had a blast reading it. This is available digitally, and has been reprinted several times, including SHOWCASE Presents Teen Titans, Volume One, the Silver-Age Teen Titans DC Archives, Volume One and the recent Teen Titans Silver-Age Omnibus. Worth checking out.