Teen Titans #53 (February, 1978)
“In the Beginning…”
Writer – Bob Rozakis
Pencils – Juan Ortiz
Inks – John Fuller
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.35
Here’s a cover that’s haunted my collection. If you look above, it kinda looks like I just took a bad picture of it (which, if you’re familiar with my “photography” probably isn’t much of a surprise to you)… but, nope… this one was just cut wrong, severing the price/number “box” in the process.
It’s always the worst for me when I can’t see the issue number at a glance… it’s the same reason I’ll pass up the Whitman “variants” I come across… those leave the issue number off the cover completely!
Anyhoo… we’re left with a cover that looks like something your mother would try convincing you into “trying on” when you’re back-to-school shopping at the outlet mall. Weirdly cut… and the colors aren’t quite “right”. I mean, check out Wally’s hair. Maybe they’re just paying homage to that 1967 cartoon?
Yeah, probably not.
Oh well, without further ado… let’s wrap up the first volume of Teen Titans!
We open with Mal and Karen happening across the Teen Titans Casebook. Well, it’s not like they hadn’t seen it before, that just never actually stopped to read the thing. With the Titans on the brink of breaking up… what better time than now? They open it up to the very first “official” case for the team, which falls sometime after the Mister Twister incident… but before the group hits the ground running.
This first entry was written by Robin, and recounts his earliest memories of the formation at the start. Ya see, he was on a routine patrol tailing what he believed to be a cat-burglar. He’s as shocked as you might imagine when he discovers it was actually a… bat-curglar… er, burglar.
There is a struggle between the dynamic duo… with Batman getting the better of it. After they swat each other’s ‘rangs out of the sky, Batman just kayos the kid… and makes off wit’ da jewels.
Next stop for the Boy Wonder… Metropolis! If Batman’s gone batty, maybe Superman can help! While Robin loiters around the outside of the Daily Planet, he is approached by… Aqualad! He’s also here to see Superman, because… get this, Aquaman has become a pirate!
Garth tells the tale… Aquaman sent his pet octopuses on board a cruise ship to steal all’a da jewels.
But, that’s not all… next thing we know, Kid Flash and Speedy are rushing up on the scene! Their mentors have also gone bad!
And finally, the boys meet the newest teen hero on the block… Wonder Girl! This is their first meeting… and nobody really has much of a clue what to make of her. Anyhoo, she reports… the same thing as the others, her mentor has also lost her mind.
Robin hatches a plan… and it has to do with our brand-new team of teens… splitting up! First we’ll join the original three… Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash, as they attempt to apprehend Wonder Woman, who is currently trying to hijack a plane from the outside. She’s able to take the boys out with ease… until… Robin “binds” her. Ya see, he’s done his Bat-Homework and knows Wonder Woman’s weakness is being bound by a male.
Next, we join Wonder Girl and Speedy as they try and corral the Flash. After a few unsuccessful attempts… Donna is able to, get this, “bind” the speedster using her lasso which she vibrates at the same super-speed frequency that Barry is moving in!
At this point, I’m guessing Mr. Rozakis realized he was running out of pages with which to tell his tale… so, we get one panel each of the Titans taking down both Aquaman and Batman. If ya believe it, seems the easiest way to take down Batman is with a boxing glove arrow.
The not-yet Titans then head into the Justice League’s headquarters, where they happen across the “Big Bad”… he is Antithesis! And his power intensifies whenever anyone under his control (like say, the Justice League) does his bidding. With all but Green Arrow “bound”, he’s not nearly as strong as he might otherwise be.
While the Antithesis and the Titans chat… elsewhere, Aqualad and Kid Flash are neutralizing Green Arrow with ease. This causes the big bad to fade away. Easy peasy.
After the dust settles, the kids unbind their mentors… and decide it might be a good idea to form a “Junior Justice League”. Donna suggests adding a bit of pep to their team name, and thus, the Teen Titans is born. Roy ain’t keen on going “all in”, but says he’ll hop in and out.
We wrap up this issue… and volume of Teen Titans back in the present… where all of the members decide to go their own way. In the words of Roy Harper, they’ve “outgrown this Teen Titans shtick”. If you only knew, pal.
Out with a whimper!
The ol’ DC Implosion rears its ugly head and takes out the Teen Titans in one bite. Not the best story to go out on… feels terribly stock, and reads more like a fulfillment of a contract than anything else. Can’t really hold it against them… but, it’s still pretty disappointing.
I guess the main takeaway here is retconning Wonder Girl and Speedy into the Teen Titans as “founding members”… which, is fair enough.
If you’re a newer reader to the Titans, and this story gave you a bit of deja vu… there’s a reason for that! This singular issue was adapted and stretched into a six-issue miniseries around a decade ago… in Teen Titans: Year One. Remember folks, there is no such thing as decompression nor “writing for the trade”. It’s allllllll in our heads.
Really not much more to say. The art was… again, an afterthought. Just a “job” to be done. Can’t fault ’em… but, I don’t have to like it either. I think the bit about this issue that tickled me the most was the “Where are they now?” section in the Tell it to the Titans letters page (included below, click to embiggen). It fills the reader in on where they might find their favorite Titans characters now that their own book is a-goner.
Overall… I’d say this is one for Titans Completionists only. If you come across it on the cheap… you could do far worse. This is a weird one, least in my neck of the woods… I’ve seen it in the cheap-o bins… and also behind glass with a double-digit price tag. I’d definitely suggest not paying more than a couple bucks. Doesn’t look like this one’s been made available digitally… which isn’t much of a surprise. It has been collected as part of Teen Titans: The Bronze Age Omnibus, so if you have an extra Benjamin laying around…