presents

"Where do dreams end and nightmares begin?"

With these ominous words, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez begin their preview and teaser of the New Teen Titans.  And the world was never the same...


You'll notice on this image a couple uses of the word free; this cover was not itself an exterior cover to a comic book, but was instead an interior "free" story within another comic called DC Comics Presents #26 which has the cover date of October 1980.  In their efforts to raise interest for the new series, DC Comics was seeking to get word out that this would be a different Titans team than the recently failed reboot.  You'll note the word "New" is even highlighted in a bright green.  "Trust us, it is new and different. Please give us a chance."  According to Wolfman, in the financial straights that DC was currently facing, they tended to cancel every new series after 6 issues.  Thus, no new series was surviving and ultimately the company was trending downwards.  Pérez especially seemed certain that this series would not last, but he figured it would at least get his DC work underway.

And under this cloud of impending doom, the first appearance of the team which would ultimately take over DC's sales hits the shelves.  The company was obviously attempting to give it a more than fair chance, showing some support of the quality herein. I have no idea if this preview was a key means of their eventual success or not, but herein, I will discuss this 15-page preview along with the characters presented, new and old.

Dreams of Things to Come:

Opening up with a sentence mentioning dreams and nightmares probably gives the reader of this little story a fake impression of what is to come.  It will end with the line "Where do nightmares end and reality begin?"  Yet if this little adventure of foretelling was supposed to induce Philip K Dickesque questions of truth and perception, it fell well short.

Wolfman frames his introductory story as a piggyback ride for the audience on the shoulders of Robin the Boy Wonder (the most recognizable character of the bunch) as he experiences a bizarre step into his future to witness a new team of Teen Titans, three of which both he and the reader have never met.  Robin is utilized as the Alice of normalcy in a little Looking-Glass adventure, Robin's questions being shared by the uncertain reader.

Throughout the story you feel the page limit: this thing is fast.  No time to spare, so we have your traditional wonky dialogue explain-aways of what they cannot fit onto the panel.  The initial police blockade scene is rather silly if you sit back and think about it, but it is familiar and the reader should throw out the disbelief as soon as we show them shiny new characters.

But really, the purpose here is to create questions.  How did this team come together?  Who are these new people?  Why is this mysterious Raven lady bringing Robin to witness his future (I am afraid this is a question we are not supposed to ask, and they are just never going to answer it, because the reason really is because it was the necessary plot mechanic of our preview; we shall see)?  The ultimate gauge of a successful work by Wolfman and Pérez is if the reader wants to return to this world, these colorful characters.

Did they succeed?  Well... I feel like more is still dependent on connection one might already have with the returning characters, though they do stir up my interest in the characters of both Raven and Cyborg.

I am finding myself overwhelmed with things I would want to communicate, and am realizing that it would be best to space some of the material out, so I think I am going to round out the post with a super brief team roster, some brief notes, an ongoing character ranking, and a final numeric review.  I will hopefully establish a better system of this all as I move forward, but especially on the front end it is a bit of an overload.

The Team We See:

I hope to do more detailed bits on each of these characters as we move on, but I need to move on...

Robin, the Boy Wonder.  Sidekick, acrobat, college drop-out (apparently), aversion to pants.  Founding Titans member.  Real name: Richard "Dick" Grayson.

Kid Flash, fanboy of the silver age Flash; so fanboy he recreated the accident that made Barry Allen the Flash and gave himself speed powers.  He is also Barry's nephew by marriage.  Seems to have a thing for Raven.  Founding Titans member. Real name: Wallace "Wally" West.

Wonder Girl, orphan rescued by the Amazons of Themyscira, given Amazon powers by a purple ray... her origin will get rewritten as many times as the DC Universe resets.  Former Titans member.  Real Name: Donna Troy.

Changeling (formerly: Beast Boy), as a child he was cured by medicine from a green monkey... Ever since he has been able to change his shape into any animal.  Former Doom Patrol Member.  Former Titans West member.  Real name: Gar Logan.

Newly introduced characters:

Cyborg, tells the reader that he is half-man, half-robot.  Of the newbie's you learn more about him than any other, which is simply that his father saved his life by building him his robot parts.  He appears to be super strong, can project sound as a weapon.  The extent of his name revealed, last name: Stone.

Starfire, extraterrestrial, flies, shoots energy, absorbs energy, seems to have a liking for Robin, needs more clothes.  Real name: not revealed.

Raven, mysterious, can project her astral image which apparently is also her soul, teleports, travels in time, mysterious, convenient plot mover.  Real name: not revealed.

Notes:

Possibly my favorite panel is immediately after seeing all the dynamic and exciting ways his teammates are scaling a tall building to fight Mr. Protoplasm (not the menace's name), the panel eye cuts to Robin running up a flight of stairs...  That's just pretty fantastic.

• Robin's position of being carried by the female alien Starfire seems to be an intentional gender role reversal here as well.  Maybe if you put on pants people would treat you like an adult, Robin.

• I feel like the greatest mystery you get left with is who is Raven and what are her powers.  Probably the biggest hook for me.

• That and the reveal that Cyborg would rather he was dead than made alive through the machine provides some draw to the character.  Perhaps he isn't fond of his father's design.  I wouldn't call it exactly flattering.

•  Doctor Stone, who brings about the onset of the extra-universal proto-plasmic menace, follows a rather similar to Babel/Pandora event that creates the Anti-Matter universe in DC Comics, an event Wolfman and Pérez would revisit with far grander designs for the sake of the Multiverse shattering event Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Foreshadow...

•  The wrap-up of the police siege story in 'present' time is full of holes... but they ran out of pages.

•  Comics usually have a penciller and an inker and often these are two different people.  For this preview issue of Teen Titans Pérez is the penciller and Dick Giordano is the inker, and his inking really stands out to me.  Pérez is best inked with really tight precise lines, and at least for this issue Giordano's inking is fat and imprecise.  It really does not complement Pérez's strengths.  Thankfully, a quick flip through the beginning of the series proper brings Romeo Tanghal into the inking duties and he far better compliments Pérez's style.  I do not know if Giordano was rushed for this job; I do know he is a longtime and accomplished comic book artist, but at least in this book, the combination of Pérez and him do not make for a good product, knowing what can and will be later produced.  (more on Pérez to come, I hope)

Character Ranking:

I will attempt this continually update ranking based off just what I am seeing in these comics, but it will be impossible not to bring in outside experience with these characters even if they are from other mediums.

1. Raven - she is the most intriguing to this point.

2. Cyborg - his wanting to be dead seems a bit overly dramatic, but he seems competent and capable.

3. Robin - even having no clue where he is, he steps in to lead.  And all of this without wearing pants.

4. Kid Flash - he doesn't get much work here, Wolfman is probably banking on what people already know.  But I have liked Wally.  Oh, wait, that isn't supposed to count.

5. Wonder Girl - Another one who doesn't get too much spotlight due to her pre-existence.  She appears to be an important part of the team.

6. Starfire - She seems a powerhouse but her costume...

7. Changeling - I want to like him, but so far his jokes are flat.

I suspect this will move more early on in the series.

Final Rating:

Let me quickly introduce my rating system: it is a -5/+5 rating scale.  -5 is the lowest, 0 means it is a generally neutral affair or the positives are washed away by the negatives, and a +5 is as near to perfect as I can imagine.  In my mind most things should average to around a 0.  A 0 is not a bad story.

Rating of DC Comics Presents #26: Teen Titans Preview:  0

It is not a bad comic, it successful introduces characters without actually telling their coming together.  Why this all happens may never be resolved, but the purpose is to sell The New Teen Titans #1, not as much to make sense.

+ Doesn't ruin the beginning, but incites some curiosity of what is to come.


There is so much lacking in this, for example I have yet to speak of Pérez's art, but I am beginning to see the scope of what I have proposed to undertake.  I will hopefully begin to round these things out, and polish my presentation (hopefully with more images as I find availability) but this whole thing is intended to be a growing endeavor.  It is your own dang fault if you read it.

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