BONUS BOOK – New Teen Titans (1980)

BONUS BOOK – New Teen Titans (October, 1980)
“Where Nightmares Begin!”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Pencils – George Perez
Inks – Dick Giordano
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein

I had planned to cover a different book today… considering it’s my… yeesh, 40th Birthday.  I think I remember there being an issue of Green Arrow where he deals with the fact that he’s approaching/approached middle-age…

But, ya know what?  I’m just not feeling it.  There’s no need to malaise over the fact that time moves forward… because, heck… being old enough to turn 40 definitely beats the alternative, doesn’t it?

Anyhoo, today we’re going to continue looking at “Bonus Books” or “Insert Previews” or whatever we wanna call it… I use the terms interchangeably.  Today, we’re going to look at the Insert that kicked ’em all off… the first appearance of the NEW Teen Titans from 1980.

This insert appeared in DC Comics Presents #26 (October, 1980), and was one that eluded me for quite some time.  It was actually one that I flat-out just assumed I’d never get.  Online speculation, CGC slabbing, and ridiculous streaming-TV tie-ins have really done a number on many collect-ability aspects of the hobby.  Folks who never gave a second thought to comics are suddenly “buying in” on whatever they assume the latest “hot book” is gonna be.

Hrmm… in my now advanced age, I could swear we already went through something like this… and barely made it out the other side.  Ah, I’m probably just talkin’ nonsense.

Anyhoo, I said all of that so that I might say this… earlier this year (April, 2019) I actually came across a copy of this very issue at a record store!  In near perfect condition (I don’t use terms like “mint” because, c’mon… that’s subjective as hell)… for ONE American Dollar… and Ninety-Nine American Cents!  A buck’99!  I nearly fell out.

So yeah, I now have this issue… so, it’s fair game to actually talk about.  Only problem there is, I kind of already discussed this story when I looked at Tales of the Teen Titans #59 (November, 1985) where it was reprinted!  Oh well… there ain’t no rules to none of this… and, let’s face it… barely anybody reads this blog anymore as it is… so, chances are, this is new-to-you!


We open with Robin stood before S.T.A.R. Labs being filled in by a couple of police officers about a terrorist stand-off going on inside.  They’re threatening to detonate a bomb if their demands aren’t met… and so, Robin goes to rush on inside… only, he’s overcome with a most strange sensation.  He suddenly finds himself stirred back to “reality” by Wonder Girl… and he’s now stood before the… never before seen – Titans Tower!  He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on… and I’d wager most of the folks reading this at the time felt the same way!

They head inside, where Dick is reunited with Beast Boy (now going by Changeling) and introduced to a couple of brand-new faces: Starfire and Cyborg!  Dick hasn’t ever seen these people before… but they definitely know him.

Wally speeds on to the scene a moment later, and Robin’s just happy to see another familiar face.  Everybody looks at Dick like he’s got three-heads… because he really shouldn’t be this confused.  After all, they’re teammates!

Finally, Raven arrives.  This is another brand-new face to both Dick and the original readers of DC Comics Presents #26.

She comes with the dire news that a certain scientist managed to open a portal into another universe.  Now, if you think that sounds like a really bad idea… you’re right.  From this portal oozes a gelatinous beast that overcomes the scientist.

The Titans (?) decide to hop-to and see if they can’t topple this terror.  Gar attempts to rally the troops by doing a little Titans-Rah-Rah.  The best he can come up with is… “Titans–Let ‘er Rip!”, which I’m sad didn’t catch on.

The team heads out, and finds the Flan-Beast atop a high-rise building.  Raven sends her soul-self into the monster… and finds herself immediately separated from it.  Even in her first appearance, Raven was so over-powered that she had to be kayoed within the first couple of beats of battle!  Worth noting that Wally is particularly protective of Raven… which is neat, considering their upcoming arc.

The rest of the Titans try and take the fight to the Pudding-Horror, however, all of their offense proves to be ineffective.  Then… Robin “wakes up”.  He’s back outside S.T.A.R. Labs, where one of the Police Officers informs him that he had to shove him down out of the way of a terrorist bullet!

Robin shakes off the weirdness, and decides to attempt to infiltrate S.T.A.R. Labs via his “rocket grappler”.  No sooner does he scale the building than he is thrown back into that other reality… where he’s battling the Custard-Critter!

The Titans fight the monster for a bit longer… not gaining much in the way of ground.  Then… after Cyborg is able to wound it using some heavy-duty decibels the thing finally attempts to flee.  At this point, Robin has an idea.  He’s certain that the Wobbly-Wicket is heading back to its “point of origin”, and he has a sneaking suspicion that place is somewhere inside S.T.A.R. Labs.  Upon arrival, Cyborg is none too pleased to head inside.

Robin rushes inside and chats up that scientist that called the thing here in the first place.  He informs him that there’s no way they can beat this baddie… and their only hope is to send it back from whence it came.  Since this things primary attack is converting Oxygen to Methane… they realize they’re going to have to get this Whopper into an air-tight room.  Starfire volunteers to act as a lure, since she doesn’t need to breathe Oxygen anyway.

Then, they do the thing… and everything’s hunky-dory.

As the dust settles, Cyborg has words with the scientist… who we learn is actually his father, Silas Stone… also, the man who created Cyborg’s mechanical body (though, if we’re being technical, he also created his organic one).  It’s clear that there’s no love lost between the Stone men.

Suddenly… Robin “wakes up” again.  The Officers thank him for ending the terrorist stand-off without a single loss of life.  He hasn’t the foggiest idea what any of them are talking about.  Then, he’s approached by a most grateful Dr. Silas Stone… which ups the confusion all the more!

We wrap up with Robin heading off, questioning just about everything that just went down.  He ultimately writes it off as a dream/nightmare and decides to just sleep it off.  Raven is nearby, however, to inform him (and us) that this was no dream… the New Titans are his (and our) future!

Unfortunately, it’s pretty damned difficult to just “forget” everything that happens after this… and treat it like the (in some cases “literal”) brand-new thing that it was when it appeared in DC Comics Presents #26.

I’d love to be able and go back to experience this one the way it was meant to be experienced.  It’s just such a strange way to introduce, not only brand-new characters, but a whole new concept for an existing property.  I wonder if there were people who were annoyed by this… if there were any readers who felt this besmirched the “sanctity” of the Teen Titans.  If only I could find USENET posts going back all the way to 1980 (the earliest ones I’ve found are around 1984)!

The story we get here… uh, I guess you could say it’s a bit difficult to follow, perhaps hindered more by our current-day familiarity with the Titans.  Robin not knowing any of the newbies puts us in this strange “is it a dream/nightmare/twilight zone?” mindset which is kind of difficult to shake off, ya know?  That’s probably why I usually skip this issue anytime I did a New Teen Titans “re-read project”.

I never felt like it added all that much… though, if we can squint enough to view it as a sorta-kinda “flash-forward”, there are things to dig here.  We get (some of) the skinny on the tension between Cyborg/Silas.  It’s made pretty clear here that Wally and Raven have some sort of connection.  Beast Boy now goes by Changeling.  All things that we will know to be true sooner than later.

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8 thoughts on “BONUS BOOK – New Teen Titans (1980)

  • Grant Kitchen

    I got into the Titans around 1994 when I was almost 13 so when I bought this issue ($13 I think) I was sort of able to enjoy it the way it was meant to be since I was still relatively unfamiliar with the team. What confused me was Starfire saying she didn't need oxygen to breathe. I don't recall this being said again in Marv's run and I specifically recall during Total Chaos (I think) she flew into space then fell back to earth because she ran out of air so which is it? And Raven was playing pretty fast and loose with Robin's life. What if that cop hadn't been there to push him out of the bullet's path?

    • Chris

      Unfortunately, my first exposure to this story was in the era I collected "last" in my Titans dive. I always placed lesser emphasis and importance in the "Tales of the Teen Titans" run… I assumed they were ALL reprints when I started up. So, when I finally got around to reading this, I was far too familiar with the team to "receive" it the way it was intended.

  • Walt Kneeland

    In digging for some other issues, I found my original "stash" of DC Comics Presents last night. Sadly, this was NOT an issue in that bunch…though NOW being aware of this preview being in it, I realize WHY it was never one I had…I'm sure it was way more than the $2-5ish that would have seem reasonable for a comic to me pre-2000s.

    I ran into this TYPE of issue a couple years ago with Savage Dragon. Apparently in Savage Dragon #101 or so, Larsen ran a preview for some unknown guy named Kirkman and his then-upcoming new title Invincible.

    And apparently running a few pages from some other actual issue is considered a first appearance. (I mean, TECHNICALLY, I get it, yeah…but I don't count the PREVIEW, I count the actual issue).

    That said…seems that this New Teen Titans is more than just a "preview," it's an actual story that preceded their series…so (not having the issue myself and going off what you've shared) I'd say I can see this as the rightful first appearance.

    I may have to start checking The Exchange again. And as I type, I'll be darned if I can think of much in the way of current comics that I'm looking forward to for early 2020…but I'm definitely interested in a bunch of "back issues" and such from pre-2000s as well as "finally" tracking down some comics I've wanted since I was a kid.

    Time shall certainly tell!

    • Chris

      I'm with you on the nebulous nature of "first appearances" as it pertains to these previews. I'm not quite sure where I stand with it. Sometimes we *count* things like previews… sometimes we count cameos… sometimes we count a bloody fist! That was one of the "softer" rules of comics that I was never comfortable with.

      Did Wolverine first appear in Hulk 180… or 181?
      Did Doomsday first appear in MoS 17… or 18?
      Was Cable's first (adult) appearance New Mutants 86 or 87?

      I always felt like it just depended on which issue the folks at Wizard Magazine owned more of!

    • Walt Kneeland

      Not knowing any differently offhand nor having anyone next to me to say otherwise… quantity of issues Wizard folks had on hand sounds like a reasonable explanation for choice of one over the other.

      Interesting to think about on the examples you list. I believe I've always seen/heard of Hulk 181 as the first appearance, and gone with that, never having (offhand*) been exposed to #180 (*I might have read it if it was in a magazine I'm thinking of, but I honestly don't remember if it had that AND 181 or just 181 reprinted).

      I think because of the "hammering fist" being part of the leadup to the actual Doomsday story, and there still being "subplots" back then that we don't seem to get now, AND those pages got reprinted in the collected edition, I've generally gone with MoS 17 as the "first appearance" but 18 as the first FULL appearance. But being a kid at the time, I never gave it MUCH thought. Now I'd probably split hairs and say that the character was clearly hinted at, but count MoS 18. (THOUGHHHHHH it certainly helps that I own multiple copies of each and have snagged 'em in 25-cent bins, so it doesn't MATTER in the same way).

      I'm not sure if I've actually read those New Mutants issues yet; though I imagine that'll get changed this year as "homework" (much as I finally read Weapon X for the first time).

      I do feel like modern day stuff is a lot different, though, somehow…perhaps the influence of sites like BleedingCool stirring the pot on speculation, and that social media can spur relatively large groups of people (anecdotally, anyway) to pursue a given issue AS a first appearance or to get it "in case" it's "decided as" the first appearance or such.

      C'est la vie for the moment, I guess…

    • It's funny, thinking about current day speculation. I ran into a fella at the comic shop who was using a "Comics Speculation App" to decide his new-book purchases! It was absolutely ridiculous! He was asking the poor register-jockey all sorts of questions based on possible first appearances and what-not in books that came out *that day* just on the word of this app!

  • Captain Blog

    I read this new as a teen and loved the concept and the execution. Didn’t have to be spoon-fed the idea, we just accepted it. Nothing to be upset about as it was giving us a glimpse of something coming that seemed pretty neat. I collected Titans up to issue fifty or so when girls took me out of the game.
    Give us old guys a little credit for not needing or wanting to be upset with an idea.
    It was fun. That’s all.

    • Chris

      Haha, I've read enough early 80's USENET to know that even the old guys would get their undies in a bunch anytime it came to changing their favorite characters and properties!


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