Teen Titans #17 (1968)

Teen Titans #17 (September-October, 1968)
“Holy Thimbles, it’s the Mad Mod”
Script – Bob Haney
Art – Nick Cardy
Editor – Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.12

Now there’s a groovy cover, no?

Keeping with our impromptu look at odd-ball villains, let’s keep the ball rolling by checking in with one of the odd-est.  Or is that Mod-est?

We open at Buck House (that’s Buckingham Palace for all the squares), where Teen Titans Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqualad are present for the Royal Command Performance.  Wow, these kids have met the Queen of England and President John F. Kennedy!  Anyhoo, as the Royal Sceptre makes an appearance the gang wonders what might be keeping Robin.  Um, it goes without saying that the Sceptre gets stolen, right?

Of course it does!  And the fella behind the swipe is none other than… the Mad Mod!  The Titans leap into action… however, come up embarrassingly short.

As the kids are flat on their backs they think back to exactly how they got into this situation.  Earlier in the day, all four Titans were in their “spacious, gracious” hotel suite overlooking London.  There’s a knock at the door, and it’s their newly laundered and pressed costumes.  Guess the costumes they were already wearing weren’t quite up to snuff for hob-nobbin’ with the Queen Mother.  This might sound dumb, but trust me when I say… it’s integral to the story.

And so, the Titans have themselves a bit of a wardrobe change… not that any of us would have been able to tell had we not seen this scene.  Wally, Garth and Donna (who they refer to as Double-You Gee here, which takes longer to say than just “Wonder Girl”) head off to do some dancing at a discotheque while Robin decides to pursue some culture.  While Robin is getting his culture, he accidentally locks himself inside the Tower of London.  Whoops?

Back in the present, Wally is pursuing the Mad Mod…’s van.  Ya know, I’d figure the Mod would have a more fashionable ride.  That’s not really important… what is important, however, is that Wally’s having one helluva time keeping up!  It’s as though he’s lost his connection with the speed force!  And so, he heroically steals a motorcycle and continues his pursuit.

He follows the baddies all the way to a pub called The Chalk Charger.  He overhears that the Mod is planning to hold that “ruddy” sceptre for a king’s ransom.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Wally also overhears that the sceptre is stashed in a horse’s ear.  That’d be around the time my investigation would have hit the wall… but thankfully Kid Flash is a bit more up on all things English.  I’m about to let my lack of culture and worldliness show, but I guess there are giant chalk figures carved into hills over there!  Whodathunkit?  Well, probably most people who aren’t me.  Anyhoo, one happens to be a… horse!

And so, Wally heads out toward Westbury, and tries his hunch… and wouldn’tcha know it, he finds the sceptre!  Unfortunately, the Mod and Company arrive just in time to bonk him on the head and steal it right back.

Next, we join Wonder Girl and Aqualaddio in a helicopter over Loch Ness.  I probably don’t need to even say what’s eventually going to happen here, right?  We’ll get there… I promise.  First, however, we need to get Garth in the water.  After seeing a strange craft submerge, our Aqualad dives in to see what’s up.  What he finds is… the Mad Mod planting the sceptre in an undersea jug.

Garth grabs it, but doesn’t get far before the Mod snags him in a net.  He’s then taken to an old tower… where he’s hung (by his wrists).  The Mod somehow seems to know that Aqualad can’t be out of the water for over an hour.  Not sure why they didn’t just, I dunno… kill him?  Guess that’s why I’m not a supervillain.  Anyhoo… the Mod leaves, Garth uses his marine-life-communication hoo-doo… and suddenly, say it with me: The Loch Ness Monster!

With Garth saved by the friendly beast, we now join Wonder Chick as she literally watches the Mad Mod place the sceptre under Stonehenge.  She waits for him to leave… then fetches it for herself, though… has one heckuva time hoisting that rock.

Oddly, Donna’s feat of strength was witnessed by some local Druid’s (?), who mistake her for their Goddess.  They hoist her in the air and begin to chant.  It’s this ruckus that grabs the attention of the still-not-yet-fled Mad Mod.

The Mod rushes into the fray… and hits Donna with his, er… thimble fingers (first I saw them, I thought they were salt and pepper shakers!)?!  Having successfully reclaimed the loot, the baddies hop back into the van, and proceed to barrel through the mob of Druids!

The Titans then reconnoiter at a country crossroads to discuss their next move.  They spy a sign posted to a… er, post… advertising the Ungrotty Grotto… which just so happened to be what was written on the side of the Mod’s van.  The kids know they’re Cornwall-bound!

Along the way… Donna decides to change costumes, because why not?  Hopefully the boys gave her some privacy… though, it is a rather small helicopter.  The boys also change into their spare costumes and realize that… their powers are returning!  Looks like the Mad Mod must’ve gimmicked their gear! 

We rejoin the Titans (and the Mod) not just in Cornwall… but, haunted Cornwall.  The teens witness the Mod dropping a man attached to a ball and chain into the water.  A repowered Garth dives in to make the save… unfortunately before he can reach the body, a Killer Whale swoops in and gobbles the poor feller up.

Meanwhile, at the Mod Cave… Wally and Donna arrive to face off with the odd villain, who is rather displeased to see that they’ve regained their powers.  While Kid Flash beats up his goons, the Mod attempts to make an escape.  Wonder Girl gives chase, and winds up taking a rock to the side of her head for her troubles!

As the Mod flees though a maze of grottos, Aqualad finally catches up to the Killer Whale… and forces crushed pepper pods into its blowhole.  I dunno, that seems pretty mean, right?  Anyhoo, turns out (shocker) the body that was dropped was just a dummy.  Inside the dummy, however, is the Royal Sceptre!

We rejoin the Mod in a grotto that is rapidly filling with water.  Seems our fashion maven has forgotten what time the tides roll in.  Luckily, Garth is still in the area… and he swims in for the save.

The Titans return the Sceptre to the Queen before returning to their suite, where they find… Robin.  He reveals he’s been locked in the Tower of London for an entire day, wonk wonk wonkkkkkk.

We close out with the Titans debating telling Dick what really happened during the Command Performance.

So… the Mad Mod, eh?

It’s weird… as much as my head is telling me that I didn’t really dig this, I can’t help but sit here with a dopey smile on my face thinking about it.  This was just so silly… and, ya know… kinda dumb, but it was just what the doctor ordered.

Sometimes we (or at least, I) just need a silly superhero story, where one thing leads neatly to the next, and at the end of the day… everything is a-ok.

The Mod as a villain… well, he’s about as effective as his name would suggest.  But he’s fun!  This is a character that couldn’t work outside of this time period.  We saw him briefly pop up during the relatively-recent Titans Hunt (2015-16) miniseries… and boy howdy, did his Millennial makeover give me the dry-heaves!  Talk about a most punchable face for all the wrong reasons.

I think it was wise taking Robin off the table for this story… it’s not like a starched costume would make him less analytical, right?  Then again, he did get himself locked in a dungeon overnight.  Maybe that’s what they mean by “tourist trap”?

I’m not completely sold on Bob Haney’s “three-act play” format.  Many (perhaps all) of his Titan’s stories have three parts… and it gives the issue a sort of disjointed feel.  It facilitates “hopping around” in location, time, and character… but, really takes me out of the story.  We go from a panel with Wally getting bonked on the head immediately to a panel with Aqualad and Wonder Chick in a helicopter over Loch Ness.  It’s a bit jarring.  Perhaps if I read more any (non-comic) books, I’d appreciate this a bit more.

Overall, not a bad issue at all and I’d say most comics enthusiasts would definitely get a kick out of it!  I think this is the last we see of the Mod until the mid-1990’s too!  This issue has been collected a couple of different ways, including the super-affordable SHOWCASE Presents: Teen Titans, Volume One.  It is also available digitally.

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