FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: DC’S SILVER AGE teen TITANS ARCHIVES VOL. 2
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Silver Age teen Titans Archives Vol. 2 HC
by Robert Greenberger
The concept for teaming the teen sidekicks made best sense as DC Comics sought new titles during the super-hero flourish of the Silver Age. After the successful appearance of Robin, kid Flash, and Aqualad in The brave and the Bold, they soon received both wonder girl and their own title. Under writer Bob Haney and artist Nick Cardy, the teen Titans was a solid, commercially successful book that had little impact on the rest of the line.
Instead, the odd hip language employed by Haney coupled with the evolving artwork from Cardy verified influential to the next generation or two of writers and artists. Looking back, this was a dated but fun series that burrowed deep into our hearts. Me, I came in a little late, just in time for the stories collected in the forthcoming Silver Age teen Titans Archives volume 2. here is when Cardy shone as an artist, his work growing a lot more interesting to watch, coupled with some strong color and memorable stories.
The collection begins with the November/December 1966 cover dated issue #6 and ends with #20, coincidentally dated November/December 1969. As a result, we have an interesting time capsule for a particularly turbulent period for the title and the company. “George [Kashdan] was the editor, while Bob was the preliminary writer,” Cardy told John Coates in The Art of Nick Cardy, “though they both plotted out and wrote the book. I remember we always tried to relate to the changing moods and clothing styles of our audience.”
Glen Kadigan noted in Titans companion volume one, “Also significant was Haney’s ‘Titans Talk’, a combination of actual and imagined slang that the teenagers engaged in. Words such as ‘gear’ and ‘ginchy’ were commonplace as were nicknames for the members such as ‘Twinkle-Toes’, ‘Wonder Chick’, and ‘Gillhead’. Haney would later remember, ‘The teen Titans was very caluculatingly aimed at a 12-year-old audience. We kept it very simple’.”
Cardy added, “Corny as it may have been, [the dialogue] need to have worked because that book was a solid seller. I took pleasure in drawing the book because of the challenge in drawing children. If you recall, the characters were meant to be fairly young, in the pre-teen years. children can be tough to draw because you run the risk of having them look like small adults, instead of children. You have to remember that at that age, a child’s body is not proportioned correctly. There all these changes going on with their bodies, often not all at the same rate! You have to illustrate that delicately to be effective.”
The writer left his mark on the DC continuity by introducing Robin’s use of a motorcycle, the “Bat Bike” in issue #10 while Cardy gave Aqualad curly hair to differentiate him from Robin and kid Flash.
The stories were one-off tales with nary a repeat villain, although the mad Mod, one of their earliest foes, would appear in two of the stories reprinted here. None of the rogues from the host titles every made it to these pages and the other teens in contemporary titles were normally used as the occasional guest star, such as Beast Boy, borrowed from Doom Patrol in issue #6 and Speedy, from the moribund green Arrow backups in #11.
Instead, the stories were a wild mix of oddball problems, villains and teen troubles such as issue #8’s look at xenophobia. things really got interesting with issue #13, the oft-reprinted “A Christmas Happening” where Haney and Cardy cut loose with their adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol mixed with Titans action. The tone then shifted abruptly to the darker following issue, my personal favorite in the bunch. Here’s what Kadigan had to say about it:
In it, an adversary from the Titans’ past appears disguised as the Gargoyle and accuses a member of the team of committing an injustice against him. His ultimatum: unless that member confesses, the villain will take his revenge out upon the group. nearly instantly, Aqualad, wonder Girl, and kid Flash suspect Robin, reasoning that he could be the only one to commit the deed. When the Titans confront the villain, the trio’s self-doubt and suspicion makes them prone to the Gargoyle’s ring, which then transports them to the other-dimensional realm of Limbo, a place where they exist only as wraiths. The issue plays on the self-doubt and insecurities felt by all teenagers, as well as the alienation that comes from being turned upon by one’s friends. Although the Gargoyle’s true identity is never revealed by Haney, by story’s end, it is Robin who defeats the villain by continuing to believe in himself and through sheer strength of character.
Creatively, the book also shows the company’s artistic evolution. early on Cardy’s covers were altered with Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris supplying the Robin artwork to be consistent with the Batman titles. Additionally, today we fondly recall Cardy’s lovely, lush artwork, but although he never missed a cover, he did get a lot of interior help. Charlton mainstays bill Molno and Sal Trapani did some moonlighting with issue #6 while Irv Novick and Jack Abel drew #8 and Novick pencilled #9-12 for inker Cardy. There’s some discrepancy if Frank Springer pencilled #14 or it was all Cardy but Lee Elias certainly did issue #15.
“When I ink over another artist’s pencils, I would add my style to theirs. It’s not that I would intentionally try to, but that’s just the way I draw,” Cardy explained to Coates, describing the overall consistent look to the title for a lot of of the run.
During the run, though, change was in the wind. First, Moldoff and Paris were off the covers with #11 and Kashdan was gone after #17. In came former Charlton editor Dick Giordano, who kept Cardy on the covers, but started using a new generation of talent on the interiors beginning with tyros Len Wein and Marv Wolfman writing #18, drawn by veteran bill Draut and introducing the Russian teen hero Red Star. Letter hack turned pro Mike Friedrich took #19 and was backed by the charming art of Gil Kane and Wally Wood. Also, Giordano added quick as a fulltime member of the team.
The final story in the volume is the controversial #20, the Jericho story that Wolfman intended to be about race and which corporate dictated be rejected. Neal Adams, then a rising influential star, attempted a compromise story which is what saw print, written and partially pencilled by Adams with finished pencils by Sal Amendola, inked by Cardy.
Batman teamed with the Titans on many occasions, beginning with 1969’s The brave and the bold #83, written by Haney and drawn by Adams, it is an interesting hybrid of the changing fortunes for the team and the company.
Silver Age teen Titans Archives Vol. 2 HC