Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 (2008)

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 (March, 2008)
“President Kennedy Has Been Kidnapped!”
Writer – Bob Haney
Penciller – Jay Stephens
Inker – Mike Allred
Colorist – Laura Allred
Letterer – Gaspar Saladino
Editor – Adam Schlagman
Original Editors – Dan Raspler & Steve Wacker
Sketches – Nick Cardy
Cover Price: $4.99

Well, here’s a weird one that’s been lingering in my library unread for far too long… a post 2000 Bob Haney Teen Titans story!  I didn’t even know they made those!

We open with the Titans go’est-ing to the Titan’s Gotham City area lair, which looks a lot like the Batcave.  They have been summoned there by Robin who has dire news… President John F. Kennedy has been kidnapped and replaced with a “cunning” shape-shifter!  I mentioned this was a (turn of the century!) Bob Haney, right?

The Titans think that their fearless leader’s pulling their legs, but he insists that it’s true.  He shares with them a story of visiting the President at the White House to conduct an interview for the magazine the Teen Titans were planning to publish (would love to get my hands on that!).  After Jack shares some old war stories, he and Robin retire for the evening.  Robin, lucky cat that he is gets to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. 

That night, a “strange aura” overtakes the White House… and all of the secret service men freeze.  Robin feels the weirdness, but is not affected by it, and so he decides to investigate.  What he finds is President Kennedy being apprehended by the “moddest” of aliens.  One alien stays behind and takes the form of the Prez.

Robin watched as they loaded Kennedy onto a spaceship bound for Ullustro.  The following morning he finds that the doppelganger didn’t miss a beat, slipping right into the Presidential role.  He considers telling the Bat-Family… and realizes that they would have laughed at him for sharing such a wild story.  Gotta wonder why he didn’t think about Superman… I have a hard time thinking he’d mock the lad.  Anyhoo, the way he sees it, the Teen Titans are the only folks who would take this seriously.  Well…

… maybe not.  Robin pleads with them to believe him, and they finally come around.  It’s not like Robin has ever led them astray before.  They trust him… and his story.  They agree to join him on his recon-mission to Ullustro.  Well, all except Aqualad… ya know, somebody’s gotta mind the store while the others are away!

And so, the Titans hop into the Quantum Leap accelerator (where did they get one of those?), and vanish!  In mere moments they find themselves on Ullustro, surrounded by several of those mod-aliens… all of whom are packin’ heat.  Kid Flash rounds up the weapons with the quickness, but Robin advises him to give them back… this way, the mods will know they are on a mission of peace.

Robin drops to one knee and pleads his case.  He wants to know why they kidnapped the President.  To answer this question, he must be taken before… Gwynnet.  What’s a Gwynnet, you ask?  Well… it’s a brain in a jar, basically.  The Titans kneel before it, and it shares its story with them.  Ya see, Gwynnet was at one time the leader of the Ullustrians, and looked just as moddy as they did.  They were (and are) embroiled in a war that never ends (nor can anyone remember how it started) with the Violators… one of whom managed to get the drop on ol’ Gwynn, decapitating him for great justice.

The Ullustrian scientists were able to save his brain… and hook it up to the trippy device we see before us.  The team learns that they had enlisted the aid of President Kennedy as they saw him as the only leader who might end this conflict.  Robin’s like, that’s all well and good… but we’ve got problems of our own on Earth… unfortunately, the discussion is interrupted by attacking Violators!

And, boy howdy are these Violators weird looking… I could make a comment about some of them looking like hippie-alien Terry Longs… but, I think I’ll save that observation for later.  The Titans see this as an opportunity to show the Ullustrians that they are on the same side… so they launch into battle, and do pretty well for themselves.

Wonder Girl and Robin break away to try and locate Kennedy.  Double-You-Gee drops the Boy Wonder onto the spacecraft Kennedy is holed up in.  It’s here that we learn President Kennedy has no memory of his former life… all he knows is the endless war between the Ullustrians and Violators.

We rejoin Wonder Girl as she enters into battle with one of the Violators.  They are evenly matched, though Donna does manage to overtake him.  Then, they kiss.  I can probably make that Terry Long joke now.  It still won’t be funny… but it’ll fit!  Anyhoo, the Violator introduces himself as Zora and claims that he’d seen Donna in his dreams, and expresses hope that she hasn’t fallen for the Ullustrians’ propaganda.  Hmm… the plot’s about to thicken.

She takes Zora to the Kennedy-craft and deposits him to plead his case for calling off the war.  I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “plead” as much as I have today.  Unfortunately, ol’ JFK ain’t hearin’ none of it.  He’s got a job to do, and he intends to do it.  This war can only end in “total victory” for the Ullustrians.  Donna tells Zora that he is her prisoner for the moment… to which he agrees… but then, almost immediately dives out of the ship!

He dives unto Ullustro City below… and it’s weird.  They refer to it as suicide… but I’m not sure if they mean he’d have gone out fighting Ullustrians… or just went splat on the pavement.  Either way, it’s moot… Donna is able to swoop down and grab him by the ankle… at which time the kiss, and… get this, discuss getting married.  Ay yai yai.

This is a conversation that was overheard by a super-speed-eavesdropper, who reports back to Speedy and Robin.  I thought Robin was with Kennedy?  Maybe he has a shape-shifting doppelganger too (no, no he doesn’t).  Anyhoo, Wally shares the story of Donna’s apparent betrayal, just as they peep Donna and Zora fleeing the scene.

Robin ain’t got time for any of the blibbuh blabbah, so he… warps back to Gotham?  That’s awfully convenient, no?  He changes into his civvies and hops his motorcycle bound for Washington, D.C. where he meets the doppel-Kennedy just standing on the lawn of the White House greeting passers by.  I know a lot has changed since the early 60’s… but has the President ever been this easy to just walk up to?  I mean, earlier in the issue reference was made to the Secret Service, yet here we’ve got none in sight!

Back in Ullustro, Kennedy is conferring with Kid Flash and Speedy.  They discuss Donna’s defection, and agree to “deal with” her.  I gotta say, the way Kennedy’s office/ship/whatever it is is depicted… looks super cool.  He’s surrounded by these window-looking monitors… it’s just really neat looking.  I’ll go on more about the art later, but suffice it to say, me likey.

After the chat, Robin returns… and he brings with him… a hat?  Well, if you recall when we started this story, Robin was visiting with President Kennedy.  During that visit, Jack shared several war stories with the Boy Wonder… and this hat held a special place of honor among his wartime souvenirs.  How Robin was able to smuggle something out of the Oval Office I’ll never know… but, we’ll allow it.  Anyhoo, he hands the cap over to Kennedy and insists he wear it.  Kennedy, affable dude that he is, agrees.

Moments later another barrage of battle ensues.  We get some close ups of Kennedy… and it would appear that his tone has changed a little bit.  Not much… but there’s something different for sure.  It’s as though he’s begun looking at the Violators not as beasts… but as people fighting for a purpose.

We shift over to Speedy who is locked in combat with… Wonder Girl!  He’s actually sky-surfing on a big arrow… it’s super cool.  He initially proves to be little threat to her… she punches his “entrapment arrow” back at him, causing him to be ensnared.  As he falls, he takes one last shot… firing his bow with his feet!  How cool is that?  Such a fun fight scene!

This last arrow had a blobby resin in it, which overtakes Donna.  As she plummets encased in goop, Zora swoops in and smashes the resin with his blade.

At this point, it’s time for Robin to enact part two of his “Bring JFK back to his senses” plan.  He boards a nearby spacecraft… which is conveniently empty… and proceeds to crash it into Kennedy’s… repeatedly.  This is a reenactment of an event from Kennedy’s time in war… and Robin is hopeful this might jog his memory.

And, whattayaknow… it does!  Kennedy pulls himself from the wreckage of the ship (just how hard was Robin colliding into it anyway?) and commands that the Ullustrians stand down.  He wants to initiate peace talks… immediately!  Thanks to Robin’s plan, Kennedy remembers who he truly is.

After some peace-chatter and thank you’s, Wonder Girl returns to the team… revealing that Zora told her she’d make a wonderful wife… number four!  Whoops.

After getting the peace-ball rolling, the Titans and Kennedy warp back to the Titans-cave.  We’re gonna guess that we’re in… I dunno, November, 1963.  Upon arrival, Aqualad shares with them some news most dire… while they were gone, you guessed it… President Kennedy was assassinated!  Dang, they went there didn’t they?  Not missing a beat, Kennedy asks the Titans to send him back to Ullustro!  He figures that it would cause too much of a panic if he were to return… he’s probably right, though, you’d figure he’d at least wanna let his family know he’s okay.

Our terrific tale ends with JFK fighting the good fight alongside some aliens… gotta wonder if he’s still out there somewhere…

Well, that was weird as all hell.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this… but it sure as hell wasn’t a story about President John F. Kennedy.  I guess the little “Presidential Guest-Star” blurb on the cover might’ve tipped me off… but whattayagonnado?

I really wasn’t sure about the origins of this issue… I thought for a minute this was written by “Bob Haney”, as in somebody affected his zany style for the gestalt of the project.  Turns out this li’l story has quite the tumultuous backstory.  According to Titans Tower dot com, this story began life as a graphic novel called the Teen Titans Swingin’ Elseworlds Specialand was supposed to be released in 2003… and was actually written by Bob Haney… and it was shelved for half a decade, unfortunately coming out after Mr. Haney’s passing in 2004.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the story… and, man what a story it was.  I’m not going to think too hard on any political commentary that might have been in play here… because, honestly, I’m not sure there was any!  Warring factions who’d forgotten what they were even fighting for goes back millennia… so, it’s possible it was just written as the trope that it is.

I can’t say I was surprised to learn the Ullustrians weren’t quite on the up and up… any aliens with those haircuts can’t be all good.  It was also no surprise that the Violators weren’t really the bad guys… they just looked like primal hippies… which I suppose might be enough for some folks.

It’s hard to look at a story like this critically, because it is so whacked out.  I mean, I can go on about Robin hanging out at the White House… why he didn’t try and tell Superman about the Kennedy abduction… how he was able to steal the President’s cap from the Oval Office… but, really… why?  This was a fun story that doesn’t rely on overthinking things.  Being the jaded post-Crisis heathen that I am, I can’t help myself… but, really, this is just a story to take in and be entertained by.  By the way, I see no Elseworlds in the title… so, I’m taking this one as gospel.  The DC Universe JFK is most assuredly in space fighting alongside aliens, even as I type this.

As crazy as this story got, I gotta say… I was taken aback when they referred to that day in Dallas.  I mean, it facilitates a happier ending… but really didn’t think they’d “go there”… boy, I hate it that I just typed “go there”… twice.

The only bit of the story that didn’t quite work for me was the weird Donna Troy romance.  I suppose it took her off the table for the Ullustrians… and facilitated some fun fight scenes, but overall… it just came off as forced, weird, and kinda gross.  I guess Terry Long isn’t the bottom of Donna’s barrel after all!

The art here… super cool.  Jay Stephens has an awesome neo-retro style, and paired with the Allreds, it’s just amazing.  Everything is super colorful and really pops off the page.  There’s a sorta Darwyn Cooke’ness to it… it’s really a perfect blend of Cooke and Allred, and suits this story brilliantly.

Overall… amazingly fun (and far-out) book here.  While this issue isn’t available digitally on it’s own… it is available as part of the Teen Titans 100-Page Spectacular (October, 2011) which is!  I’d say this is definitely one fans of the early Titans (and Bob Haney) ought to check out.


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