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!
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.