TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 6: Thirty Years of DC's New Titans - A Tribute

NTT #1 (Nov. 1980)

Thirty years ago this month, the preview for a great new comics title, The New Teen Titans, came out in DC Comics Presents #26.  For fans like me, who picked up that issue at a plain old newsstand (I can still smell the cigarette smoke, chocolate and bubblegum in the store, which has long since closed), that preview and the issues that followed immediately stood out as something special.

I grew into adolescence reading this title as the 80s unfolded.  I read a lot of titles I'm sure my contemporaries would recognize: Atari Force, Alpha Flight, Amethyst, Legion of Superheroes, The Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants, and later Elfquest, Love and Rockets, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Sandman, as well as several others - including mini-series like Sword of the Atom, Cloak and Dagger and Hawk and Dove, and ground-breaking graphic novels and limited series like The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Watchmen.  But among all these great books, at its best, The New Teen Titans stood out, head and shoulders above the rest.  Maybe it's because the NTT captured the early-to-mid 1980s as seen from a youthful point of view so perfectly (the title had well passed its peak by the time the character Danny Chase was introduced in 1987).  The lineup of core NTT members is here.

Along with Claremont's revamped X-men from this period, the New Teen Titans are Generation X's superheroes.  There was something in the NTT title of a latchkey generation that felt (and still feels) forgotten, overlooked, misunderstood or dismissed by their elders.  At first Gen Xers, like their parents, were seduced by the glamour of 80s' high life.  But they were also the first witnesses of the private cost of that life within families.  Xers were compelled to survive in Brave New social settings and develop new values to cope in Postmodern and Post-Postmodern circumstances, while riding the economic booms and busts generated by their predecessors.  That's what The New Teen Titans was all about - and it was especially about building a family in a world where families had broken down.  Later Titans titles have picked up the same themes.  The Titans are a pop culture mirror held up to reveal the trials of a generation that has repeatedly absorbed the often unseen costs of Boomer-driven social change.  And for skeptics out there who don't read comic books and think they're just for kids - that's why this title is relevant. 

Every character fit a superficial Gen X stereotyped label endowed upon the cohort by the Boomers - but every character showed hidden depths that belied those labels. This is a big part of the Gen X experience - Xers were constantly being defined by Boomers, yet always knew in their hearts that they were something else. And so - Dick Grayson (the sell-out), Wally West (the Alex P. Keaton conservative), Donna Troy (the perfectionist), Gar Logan (the slacker), Victor Stone (the tech guy), Raven (the New Age wicca girl), Koriand'r (the anti-feminist sex bomb).

Beneath these Xer stereotypes, every superhero on this team was an anthropomorphized version of a specific archetype - an incarnation of a particular heroic value.  For years, Boomers have accused Xers of being cynical, ungrateful and nihilistic.  A close reading of this pulp fictional corner of pop culture can tell you at a glance how profoundly wrong they are.  Generation X's values are, however, very difficult for Boomers to perceive, let alone understand.  The bonds between the Titans represented how their heroic values played out as Xers struggled for years with a prolonged, misunderstood, cohort-wide introspection on behalf of their entire society. They also had to take on the legacies of their predecessors without compromising their own identities and convictions.

This is a tribute to the Titans as pop fiction icons that shows different ways that these superheroes reflected the Gen X experience.  That's before we even look to the obvious accomplishments of DC's creators: Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, John Costanza, Adrienne Roy, Len Wein and their immediate successors - including Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Eduardo Barreto and Phil Jiminez.

Titanic celebrities: Kory as swimsuit supermodel. ToTT #42 (May 1984)

Based in New York, the Titans initially confronted - and sometimes embodied - the high and low points of a Gordon Gekko 'greed is good' era of conspicuous consumption.  This was a glamorous team, whose main members were almost all fabulously wealthy teens, mixing with disaffected adolescent royals.  Kory, the alien princess, was a supermodel.  Donna, an adopted Amazon princess, was her fashion photographer.  The 1980s was one of the few times when Boomers and Gen Xers almost saw eye-to-eye.  Both generations were seduced by wealth, celebrity and power - for a time.

Titanic celebrities: Gar on the set of Spacetrek: 2022 Legends of the DC Universe #2 (Jan. 2000)

Gar was a Hollywood scifi star - a DC superheroic combined incarnation of River Phoenix, Corey Haim and Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher - and the adopted son of the fifth richest man in the DCU world (who was also another superhero).  Dick grew up in Wayne Manor as Bruce Wayne's ward, fighting crime as Batman's sidekick. Vic tragically owed his cybernetic body to his parents research, but inherited a private fortune from his parents' patents.  Raven was the daughter of a demon who ruled his own dimension - a dark princess of sorts.  Only Wally came from a comfortable middle class home in the mid-West.  And except for Wally, every member of the team was an orphan, from an abusive or broken home, or had somehow been separated from their parents and left to fend for themselves, alone in a tough world.  These were children, forced to live and act as adults, and forced to make a replacement family among their friends.  This gave the book a mature tone, especially as a parade of villains, driven by their own familial crises, stripped the gloss and glamour away.

Marvel and DC Present The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 "Apokolips Now" (1982)

Were the NTT DC's counterpart to Marvel's X-men?  As the above panel suggests, the teams were extremely similar in terms of powers and lineup.  But the underlying mood of the books was quite different. The X-men were already beyond the pale, labeled as mutants and ostracized from human society.  They lived in hiding at Xavier's school, albeit in gilded circumstances.  The Titans still moved back and forth across the lines between popular acceptance and alienation.  Sometimes they were adored celebrities in New York, and after the Terror of Trigon arc in 1985, the city threw them a parade. Sometimes, the city rejected them and they became outcasts.  The same held true for their personal lives.  Wally, Dick and Raven attended college during this Titans run, but they were always plagued by the fact that they could not lead normal lives.  As with Vic's friendships with Sarah Simms and Sarah Charles, and Gar's relationship with Jillian Jackson, usually their ties with normal people fell apart. The team's hot-cold engagement with the DCU public is also perhaps more true of the Gen X experience.  One minute they were up-and-coming golden children, the next minute they were outcasts. By the beginning of the 1990s, the team was in the same straits as Xers in the real world.  The recession left the Titans flat broke and the team had to move into a wing of Gar's dad's house.

Raven's inner torment. NTT #8 (June 1981)

In 1982, Marvel and DC cleverly featured a once-in-a-lifetime X-men/Titans crossover.  The teams were united and driven by two incredibly powerful women, Phoenix and Raven.  This crossover book came out as feminism reached its political high water mark.  Certainly by the 80s, these heroines moved a step beyond Sue Storm and Wonder Woman.  They seemed to represent that new level of women's emancipation. But comics have long been the domain of male creators and fanboys; Phoenix and Raven were regularly jeopardized by their own failures.  The message, of course, is that power in the hands of a woman is a dangerous thing!  The treatment of Raven over the next decades, which saw her embroiled in ever-worsening breakdowns, only to come back from the dead and try to be good again, has now reached the point where 'progress' has been defined by de-ageing her to adolescence (i.e. DC is trying to make her a Gen Y character), stripping her of her original redemptive majestic characterization, and replacing it with unsympathetic emo snottiness.  This hardly counts as progress, and it's a trend that may have been part of a misogynistic backlash that affected other female characters.  Certainly some of the female Titans have suffered from overtly misogynistic editorial mandates - most notably Terra.

Marvel and DC Present The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 "Apokolips Now" (1982)

In fact, the most important X-men and Titans stories revolve around how these heroines lost control of their immense powers and became tortured, genocidal and evil.  Fractured heroines reflected the conflicting experiences of Gen X women, who grew up with feminism, but who challenged many of the founding principles of feminism while still trying to break through sexist limitations.  Raven and Phoenix embodied those contradictions.  They are powerful yet compromised.  They are devoted to their teammates; yet when 'overly empowered,' they have sometimes moved into the realm of abomination.  The X-men/Titans crossover dealt with these themes as Raven and Phoenix encountered each other.  In this case, Raven was let off lightly - it was Jean who had gone off the deep end and was in full Dark Phoenix mode.  But Phoenix immediately saw Raven as a 'sister' and stated that Raven's evil rivalled her own.

Marvel and DC Present The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 "Apokolips Now" (1982)

Nevertheless, Raven's triumph over Phoenix (with Xavier's help) showed why Raven stood at the core of the NTT and what the Titans' heroism came to mean.  The Titans are a team that embodies emotional heroic ideals.  Raven's empathy at its best can save the most corrupt of souls.  This is what she did in the crossover, removing Phoenix's insane, planet-shattering rage, and replacing it with the X-men's love for Jean.  The encounter of these two great heroines reinforced classic Titans' themes: that even the most broken spirit can be saved through love, and that love can transcend death.  In addition, that unforgivable transgressions, such as the ones Raven was later to commit, could ultimately be forgiven because love trumps all.

The NTT's Classic Moments.

Illusions die hard: Deathstroke's revelation of Terra's espionage. ToTT Annual #3 (1984)

-The Judas Contract: The Defeat of Love.
What better way to shatter a team built on love than to turn that love inside-out?  The Judas Contract was a story about the death of love in families and the destruction of its proxy nakama substitues - all for the sake of money, power and revenge.  The Judas Contract is undoubtedly the biggest and most memorable of all the classic-era New Teen Titans stories, when one of the team's own members, Tara Markov, spied on them and betrayed them.  It's also one of the greatest comics stories ever written.  I've blogged about Tara Markov and the entire Judas Contract story, its origins, its legacy, and its often-undiscussed bigger context here.

ToTT #44 (Jul. 1984)

The Judas Contract featured the first appearance of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and of Deathstroke's son Joseph as Jericho.  While this is a hallmark moment, it is one of the features of the Judas Contract that is, in my opinion, unconvincing.  In an arc devoted to the willful destruction of a key female character, the narrative suddenly veered off into left field - to introduce two new male characters and give a sympathetic background of the villain Deathstroke, who was responsible for the contract ~?  Of course, that was the point. If Wolfman had intended to redeem Tara, the story would have been about Tara.  When the full narrative finally played out, the Judas Contract  was about Deathstroke and his family, and Terra was revealed to be a simple plot device to support several male characters.  The aftermath of this story saw Deathstroke dubiously built up as a creator-favourite, an anti-hero who even-more-dubiously took on a paternal role toward Dick Grayson and Gar Logan after Tara Markov and his two sons died (one son, Jericho, died by his one hand, with a little help from Raven's crazy inter-dimensional crises).

Because the Judas Contract was such a huge story, and held by the writer and editors to be 'un-retconnable' (although over time it has evolved and is being slowly retconned), the story became the watershed for NTT popularity.  Although some important stories followed, this was the NTT at their absolute height.  Unfortunately, the Judas Contract hinged on masterfully breaking the readership's trust, and just as the characters could not go back - neither could the fans, nor the creators. It was a harsh, irreconcilable message from Boomer creators to a Gen X audience that the world could and would shatter idealized love and heroism based on loyalty and truth.  The reaction on the part of fans was depression, then cynicism. It was a turning point, after which the title suffered a long, slow decline, from which it never fully recovered.  Even with top talent, the franchise never again reached the same mega-hit status.  The elusive idealism and bright sparks that drove the stories from 1980 to 1984 had been spent, in one Fourth Wall decision.  Again, the Judas Contract worked because it was so immovable, because it offered Terra no redemptive back story and no obvious return via her powers - but also because it freely spent the faith and emotional capital of the fanbase.  This was arguably a pyrrhic victory for the writer, Wolfman.  And the damage done to the title could not be corrected because the perpetual damning of the character Terra was artificially enforced, despite many plotholes.  It was a storyline that set the tone for many books in the Modern Age of comics, where characters were regularly sacrificed in the name of setting a grim mood.  This is a creative cul-de-sac that works for a time, but ultimately it leads to a dead end in the revolving door of death, which I've blogged about here.  As a result of these decisions, which began with the Judas Contract, the Titans soon became almost unrecognizable, unbearably distorted and torn apart by Jericho, then Raven.

In retrospect, however, part of the power of the Judas Contract derives from how much it still begs to be given larger context that would grant Tara Markov's character new dimensions; this would reset the story in a way that proved that Gar Logan's and Brion Markov's long period of mourning her was not in vain. Whether that should be done or not, the point is that the story still has a dramatic tension about it that presses for a long-delayed positive resolution.  That independent dynamic of the narrative tells us how intensely love tropes reassert themselves in story-telling.  The decades-long aftermath of the Judas Contract asks whether betrayal can be forgiven, and whether love can still at last triumph in the blank face of everything in the modern world that seeks to destroy it. Making Deathstroke the final victor or the anti-hero here is saying that love is an illusion.  That everything the Titans fought for really is worth nothing. Can love and forgiveness still prevail, even after decades of editorial mandates that insist that love was defeated in this story?  Only Tara Markov's hidden backstory could tell us for sure.

-The Recombatants: Finding the Meaning of Life in a Nihilistic World.
Published in the wake of the Judas Contract, this is a little gem of a story that fed into the darker mood of the title after Tara's death.  The Recombatants were youthful artificial life forms that had been created by Steve Dayton's lab boys.  This was one of the first signs that things were going to go seriously wrong with Gar's adoptive father and that troubling things were up at Dayton Industries. 

ToTT #48 (Nov. 1984)

The Recombatants (obviously a take-off on Blade Runner's Replicants - Ridley Scott's movie is a favourite of Gen Xers, who notoriously love cautionary sci-fi tales) were sentient creatures, basically organic androids, who understood that they would enslaved, or hunted down, and treated like lab animals.  They all had different super powers. The Titans were called in to subdue them when they escaped the lab where they were created.  After a fight, the Recombatants recognized the hopelessness of their situation, and committed group suicide by burning themselves to death.  As they died, they celebrated the tiny amount of life they had had - and warned the Titans of the perils of scientists playing God, which is an ongoing theme in the DCU.  It's a bracing, spirtual and philosophical message which reflects Gen X doubts about the Boomers' boundless enthusiasm for the Technological Singularity.

-Hawk Meets the New Dove: Finding Anti-Political Balance to Save the Universe.
The Kesels' run on Hawk and Dove (1988-1991) - first on a miniseries, then a full series - made the two reserve Titans into fan favourites.  Hawk and Dove were originally brothers who were on Lilith's old Titans West team.  When Dove died, Hawk - an avatar of Chaos - lost his counter-balancing influence and became more and more unstable.  He also became a haunted, lonely, bitter and remorseless character that foreshadowed his later, regrettable transformations into the villains Monarch and Extant.  During the initial difficult period after his brother's death, Hawk briefly appeared on the NTT roster in 1986.  He was almost completely out of control and on the verge of killing the Titans' foes.  Donna, acting as reluctant leader, could not calm him.  In the panel below, she's shown crushing Hawk's chest to subdue him.  Jason Todd, who was oddly the voice of reason on the Titans when he joined them on cases at this time, stopped her from killing Hawk.

Donna: "We've got to be so perfect they can't find fault with us." NTT Baxter series #20 (May 1986)

This was one of many episodes that made Donna - the Titans' perfectionist - a disaster as Titans' leader.  It also re-established Hawk as a Titan - but a Titan who could not join the roster without Dove.  He soon met a new Dove to replace his brother.  Where 'Hawk and Dove' had originally been a war and peace concept that first appeared in 1968, the 1980s' revision of Hawk and Dove made the new Dove a girl, typically turning a Boomer-era right-left political debate into a constantly impeded, percolating Gen X love story between avatars of Chaos and Order.  The Kesels gave Hawk and Dove a mystical back story that deepened their status as magical characters.

Hawk meets the new Dove. Hawk and Dove Miniseries #1 (Oct. 1988)

The pair's chemistry was undeniable.  The Kesels toyed with the will-they-or-won't-they trope, giving Hank Hall's tough, conservative character hidden depths.  And when no one was looking, Dawn Granger revealed to Hank that she was vulnerable and frightened beneath her self-assured exterior.

Hawk and Dove #3 (Aug. 1989)

On occasions when Hawk was beaten into submission by some villain, his empowered partner came to the rescue, which ramped up the romantic tension even more.

Hawk and Dove Miniseries #3 (Dec. 1988)

When a troubling DC editorial mandate saw Hawk rape and seemingly kill Dove and kill her boyfriend, Hawk was eventually killed off and the characters took a hiatus.  Hawk was revived with a female alter ego in Dove's sister; but she was soon killed off to bring back the original Hawk, whose travails in Brightest Day are still continuing. 

The White Ring depicts Hawk and Dove potentially bridging the barriers between them. Brightest Day #0 (June 2010)

One of the challenges of the Kesels' series, as well as Brightest Day, is whether Hawk and Dove will fulfill their destiny, which involves falling in love and thereby balancing the forces of Chaos and Order.  This is a great Gen X trope, where love has become translated into vaunted ideals, which when consumated, can save the universe.  There's little sense of 'Free Love' with Gen Xers - generally, an intense, passionate cohort that finds sex abstracted into thousands of different consequences and uncertainties.  This is true of these characters.  Even when things were going well with Hank and Dawn, they were terrified of crossing the platonic boundaries separating them, and resisted the compulsion to do so.  Making Hawk and Dove fall for each other in 2010-2011's Brightest Day is a tall order, since they now have a dark, violent and sordid past.  And the present isn't so great, either: Hawk in his Black Lantern form murdered Dove's sister; and the resurrected Hawk is not entirely alive. As a result of this mess, Hawk and Dove currently regard each other as partners and nothing more. But that Mulder-Scully set-up also appeals to Xer sensibilities.

The Titans square off against the JLA to protect Victor, whose nervous breakdown jeopardized the Earth and the Moon. JLA/Titans Crossover #2 (Jan. 1999)

-The Technis Imperative: The Super Nakama.
By 1998-1999, the Technis Imperative established that the NTT had built up a different legacy from the JLA.  Of course, the JLA first appeared in 1960 and was a superhero team crafted to appeal to the Baby Boomers.  The JLA were and are all about tackling the biggest possible crises and high-profile problems.  They're also preoccupied with hierarchy and status within the DCU - they are the preeminent team - and whatever their flaws, they call the shots.  Even if the heroes making up the team regard these problems differently as individuals, when they're together they consider themselves to be the beacon that all other heroes follow.  It's disappointing that DC has recently drafted a number of Titans into JLA ranks, and transformed the Teen Titans back into a junior-JLA team.  This move has turned several older Titans into JLA Boomer sell-outs (especially Dick, Donna and Wally), and transformed the Teen Titans into a hybrid Gen X-Gen Y team, with the characters Gar and Raven de-aged and weakened to try to make them into Millennials.  The fans are resisting this gambit though, and regard Gar and Raven as belonging to the earlier (X) generation.  The Millennialization of the Titans was inevitable, with the perhaps typical result that the TT team now emulates its Boomer predecessors in the JLA.  It also gives the current Teen Titans a very different mood.  When the Young Justice (Millennial) characters first appeared on the Titans' scene in 2003, they initially exhibited a shared sense of entitlement; in some cases, they showed ignorance of the past as well as condescension toward their immediate NTT predecessors.  They were 2nd, 3rd and 4th rank legacy characters who never challenged the JLA legacy, as the 1st generation legacy characters in the NTT had done.  But after seven wild years of editorial mandates demanding torture and death for the Titans, the Gen Y characters on the Teen Titans have become a bit more subdued.  Nevertheless, with the exception of the character Tim Drake, this hasn't led them to question the generational hierarchy in which they find themselves.  This has been a blow to a separate Titans legacy, which was firmly established in twenty years of NTT stories.

What did that separate Titans' legacy mean?  It was Wolfman and Perez who consciously moved the New Teen Titans away from the 'JLA sidekicks' casting that characterized the original Teen Titans team, first published in 1964. In so doing, they set the Titans up to appeal to the MTV generation by cultivating a new set of heroic values. The Titans defend love, friendship, loyalty, fellowship, forgiveness and trust - and they're willing to do so even when it overturns all expectations and conventions.  TV Tropes has labeled the Titans as the ultimate nakama, a quasi-family formed in the wreckage of traditional values, which thereby somehow preserves those values: "The reason that the 26-strong collection of Titans opposed the Justice League in JLA/Titans is that they refused to believe the League's idea that fellow Titan Cyborg had finally lost all his humanity and had completely become an uncaring machine. Even those mostly unfamiliar with Vic Stone, like ... Jurgens [Titans] team, took up arms on his behalf. This, after he had taken over the JLA's moon base, caused various disasters on Earth, and kidnapped/'collected' all the Titans in the first place ... justifying the JLA's desire to take him down. Given that level of loyalty, that's a Super-Nakama! ... A Running Gag in the JLA Watchtower/DC Nation Fan Verse refers to the Titans as 'the brand of crazy that runs naked into hell for a teammate,' a reference to a ... storyline early on where the players/writers took their own take on resurrecting Donna Troy before the comics did. Roy Harper got it in his head to challenge Hades, got about a dozen of the Titans to go in on it with him, and the rest is Exactly What It Says On The Tin."  TV Tropes neglected to mention that the Technis Imperative was also about Victor Stone just being lonely.  Having become a sentient mechanical organism that had lost most of his personal memories, his machine settings reasserted his essential humanity by regrouping his friends around him.

The Titans and Family.

The whole idea of legacies in the DCU is familial, based on the A-list heroes, hence there are families of heroes clustered around Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, etc.  Thus, Robin, Wondergirl and Kid Flash had superheroic family legacies.  But because the NTT was devoted to playing down the JLA connection, relations with Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash only affected these characters in the 1990s and 2000s.  In the 1980s, the focus was on non-JLA families. Much of the Titans' drama rested on the characters struggling with their individual, dark family legacies, which forced them to build their own family.  It's not hard to see how this would appeal to younger readers when divorce and broken homes were rampant.

Kory describes the warriors on Tamaran. Tales of the NTT #4 (Sept. 1982)

-Koriand'r and Blackfire: Sibling Rivalry.
Kory was the favoured younger daughter in the royal house of an alien warrior planet, Tamaran.  This enraged her elder sister, Blackfire, who treacherously betrayed their planet in order to get her revenge on Kory and her parents.  She collaborated with other alien races in the Vegan imperium to ensure that she would be installed as queen of Tamaran, which she felt was her rightful position.

NTT Annual #1 (1982)

This was toxic sibling rivalry brought to the verge of mutual homicide - all done for parents who were loving, yet had instilled the unfairness in the first place.  Despite almost killing each other in the NTT's 1982 Annual, Kory and her older sister have now reached the point where they can hold a civil conversation when they appear in DC's title R.E.B.E.L.S.

Being the favoured child isn't always so great.  Kory's parents several times asked her to sacrifice everything for the sake of their safety and that of their planet.  They sold her into slavery and later married her off (ensuring the eventual failure of her relationship with her one true love, Dick Grayson) for the sake of a peace treaty.  As a young adolescent, she was enslaved, tortured, raped for almost five years.  These trials are what made this character, who is superficially a sex bomb, a warrior first.  But her time on Earth made her a female character trying to find her individual voice in a strongly ritualistic, traditional society that demanded total individual sacrifice.

-The Doom Patrol Connection: A Family Curse.
Together, Keith Giffen and Matt Clark are turning their current run on the Doom Patrol into a sleeper hit.  The NTT stories about Gar, Dayton and Cliff are a branch of Doom Patrol lore often overlooked by DP fans. Gar was the original legacy character of this team, which was another factor that made the NTT a non-JLA-junior squad.  Gar's problems with family didn't stem from conflict, but from loss.  Many of the NTT arcs dealt with the fact that Gar, Mento and Robotman were the last survivors of a dead team.  Gar's story showed a character shouldering a family legacy, much of which had hidden traps and pitfalls, at an incredibly early age.  As the Titans' DP character, Gar was continually surrounded and haunted by death and, walking that dotted line between life and death, he continually confronted (and confronts) surreal tropes involving insanity.  On the surface he is a slacker, avoiding responsibility and caught up in a Peter Pan refusal to grow up.  In fact, he is immensely wealthy and has run up against the existential crisis imposed by extreme wealth.  He became a hero because he loved the attention of celebrity - but after many trials and errors, learned that fame doesn't offer much satisfaction, either.  More profoundly, he has chosen to be a superhero because he is on a search for higher, heroic meanings in life, although the writers rarely show this introspective side of the character.

Gar recounts his time on the Doom Patrol and Titans West. Tales of the NTT #3 (Aug. 1982)

Gar's connection to the DP brought the Titans new villains to fight.  Perhaps one of the most memorable NTT arcs is his killing of Madame Rouge in NTT #15 (Jan. 1982), which I have blogged about here.  He took on the burden of vengeance for the team's deaths, killing a villain at the young age of 16.  Both that arc and Gar's infamous entanglement with Tara Markov reflected the cryptic weight - or curse - of the DP legacy.  Gar also ran up against DP history in the Beast Boy Miniseries, where he encountered Madame Rouge's vengeful daughter, Gemini, who sees him as a villain (I blogged about that storyline here).  Gar had a telling line after he defeated Gemini, about the danger of losing one's identity within family legacies and how that loss of self can take one down dark paths: "Poor kid. I know how she feels. In a way, I guess I’m partly responsible. Losing a parent. Inheriting their legacy. Then, losing yourself. The pressure to live up to their example weighs you down so heavily, you wanna just throw in the towel and call it quits. But you can’t." (BB Mini #4 (Apr. 2000)).  Gar learned that unquestioningly accepting the expectations, demands or burdens imposed by the preceding generation can destroy you.

Gar's DP legacy brought the NTT up against the Patrol's old foes, The Brotherhood of Evil, who were an even darker family of freaks than the DP.  The leaders of the Brotherhood, Brain and Mallah, were a brain in a jar and his friend, a genius gorilla (priceless!).  Perceiving the DP's Chief as a maniac who was toying with the line between life and death, they believed the Patrol were the real villains.

The Brain and Mallah escape the DP and TT through the sewers of Paris. TT vol. 3 #37 (Aug. 2006)

As DP villains, the Brain and Mallah were typically philosophical; they were also convinced that they were not villains, because they had love on their side. 

-Roy, Jade and Lian: The Bad Boy Turned Single Father.
Roy is the Titans' bad boy, which, as we have seen in recent arcs, makes him an awfully tempting target for DC's bright ideas.  In the 1980s, this character was a recovered heroin addict.  He worked for the government to block the narcotics trade on the streets of New York City.  This storyline in the main NTT title led to Teen Titans anti-drug issues being specially published in 1983 as part of the Reagan administration's war on drugs.

NTT Keebler Drug Awareness Issue (1983)

Roy's past dogged him though, and nowhere more than his affair with the assassin Jade, whom he encountered on one of his undercover drug missions in China.  Their daughter Lian was a main Titans' supporting character until she was recently killed off.  For a time, though, Roy was an unusual superhero - a single father raising a child with the help of Titans when the pair lived at the Titans' HQ.  It was a rare example in comics that showed a troubled character taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood.  Roy's ambivalent attachment to Cheshire raised the question if Jade, a monstrous, genocidal agent, could ever be rehabilitated.

Roy meets his daughter. NTT Baxter Series #21 (June 1986)

Of course, this positive example didn't last.  Now Roy's a murderer with a cybernetic arm; he's back on the smack; Lian is dead and he's joined a villanous Titans team with Cheshire.  Together, Roy and Jade are planning to murder the team's leader, Deathstroke.  Addiction, criminality, deep despair and disillusionment will be some of many hurdles that Roy will have to clear in order to regain his heroic stature.

Family Secrets.

Dick and Donna keep hush about Kory's dead boyfriend. NTT #16 (Feb. 1982)

What's a family without some skeletons in the closet?  The Titans have some big ones.  Kory's brush with a H.I.V.E. spy was the first indication that Dick and Donna deliberately swept unpleasant details under the floorboards.  They even concealed information from fellow teammates.  In the panel above, Dick and Donna agreed not to tell Kory or anyone else on the team that Kory's boyfriend was a H.I.V.E. spy.  They did this to spare her feelings, but with typical Titans' focus on emotions, they made the critical error of not realizing that the team might be targetted by other H.I.V.E. spies, and the team could have done with a heads up.  Instead they kept quiet, and soon after, Gar was targetted by Tara Markov.  When that ended disastrously, Dick and Donna did it again.  They kept the fact that Tara had betrayed the team a secret and told her brother and the media that she died heroically fighting the Terminator.  Initially this seemed like a noble gesture, which Slade's ex-wife assumed, in the panel below.

The Titans did not inform other teams that they had been compromised by Terra and Deathstroke. ToTT Annual #3 (1984)

After Batman told Geo-Force and the Outsiders the truth about Tara, the Titans persisted in keeping secrets about the more frightening cases they dealt with, especially ones in which they were emotionally compromised.  During Deathstroke's trial following the Judas Contract, Gar implied that he would kill the Terminator if the latter used any of the information gathered through Tara's espionage and betrayal.

The biggest example of the older Titans' code of silence concerns what happens when Raven turns evil.  The Titans keep no written records of her lapses or of the horrific things they do during them. Part of this could be chalked up to Raven inducing blackouts and memory wipes, something she does to her friends whether she is in her good or evil form.  Nor are they all that forthcoming with information when they brief their Gen Y successors.  In the panel below, Kory is about to tell the former Young Justice members about Raven's history.  What she tells them is impossibly abbreviated, and even omits the fact that Raven helped to destroy Kory's home planet of Tamaran.  Whether this kind of secretiveness is typical of Xers, and whether Gen X is not telling Gen Y everything they know out in the real world is hard to say.

No records. TT #8 (Apr. 2004)

-Raven and Trigon.
Raven's good-evil motivations do not manifest in as clear-cut manner as fans assume.  On the one hand, she is genuinely a good person, the ultimate damsel in distress, who, aware of the terrible disaster she can unleash, has more than once sacrificed herself to prevent the earth's total destruction at her and her father's hands.

NTT Baxter Series #1 (Aug. 1984)

On the other hand, Raven can flip in a second into a malevolent seductress, a liar, who feeds off the emotions of those who love her.  I've blogged about how these problems appeared during her earliest conflict with Trigon here.  She may be evolving through repeated deaths and resurrections toward some terrible ultimate form. The panel below shows her transformation the first time she gave in to her father completely in the Terror of Trigon arc.

NTT Baxter Series #3 (Nov. 1984)

Raven also has inherited the ability to spin illusions, ensuring that whole story arcs may in fact be all or part fabrications generated by her out-of-control psyche.  This was especially in question in the second big arc that featured one of her meltdowns in the 1990s, The Darkening.  Rampant sexuality is one of the manifestations of Raven's defeat before her father's will.  When under her father's evil influence, she has likely had off-panel sexual relations with Dick and Gar and possibly Joseph and Kory.  The only on-panel sex scene ever shown with her under these terrible circumstances was with Wally. 

NT #130 (Feb. 1996)

But the biggest secrets that the Titans keep are the horrors that Raven dredges up when completely enthralled by her father, and whether or not she somehow involves them in those horrors.  The worst taboos in human society - cannibalism, incest, murder, genocide, rape - are featured or hinted at in these arcs.  This raises the question of what actually happens when Raven's father 'possesses' her.  At the very least, Raven and Trigon symbolize the kind of psychological and emotional torments endured in the most abusive kind of family.

The Greatest NTT Shipping Moments.

The New Titans have always been a very emotional team, and stories about them are full of soapy romance.  Partly because this was a very young team and the Comics Code still presided over early runs, romance was highly sanitized.  Often, intense romantic tension rested on a gesture, a turn of phrase, or a fleeting kiss.  Denial was the hallmark of Wally's and Raven's chemistry.  But this suited Gen X readers, who were idealistic about love.  Chuck Klosterman, who has written a lot about Gen X sensibilities, opened his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs with the claim that Xers are incurably idealistic about love: "they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living."(p. 2)  This was certainly the case with Garth and Tula.

Klosterman believes this idealism is due to Xers being bombarded by perfect images of sex, love and celebrities in the mass media.  As a result, they would rather have the fake, marketed or imaginary love they see on a screen or in a magazine than a real relationship which can never compare to idealized fictitious scenarios. And even when they engage in real relationships, there's always something missing.  The way in which Gar Logan remained perpetually attached to Tara, even after everything she did and after she committed suicide, is an instance of idealizing the beloved heroine (or villainess), based on a seductive fantasy that runs against all evidence the character confronts.  In the panel below, Gar concluded that he had been dealing with his own fantasies of Tara, not Tara, who was in any case, a fake person.  Klosterman himself couldn't have asked for a more typical Gen X stalemate, with one character (Black Lantern Terra) asserting the power of a fantasy, and the other (Gar) struggling against that idealized fantasy of the beloved, while still completely believing in it.

Blackest Night: Titans #3 (Dec. 2009)

Another reason why the NTT was a pressure cooker for love, which was usually resolved through emotional breakdowns rather than overt sexual catharses, was because of the mood of the times.  Recently, Meghan Daum of the LA Times discussed why Gen X's sexual experiences were so utterly different from that of the Free Love Boomers and sex-positive Millennials (via JenX 67's blog here).  In a way, it was a sexually dislocated generation.  Unlike the Boomers, who generated the message that love could free you, Xers were inundated from early adolescence with the message that love could kill you:
On the one hand, it's hard to believe that any Gen Xer, regardless of political stripe or religious principle, would think such a thing. If you were in your teens or 20s in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you had condoms shoved in your face as vigorously as the fear of HIV transmission was drilled into your brain. On the other hand, in those pre-AIDS cocktail days, the standard message was that there was no such thing as totally safe sex, protected or not, and that it was only a matter of time before the disease ravaged the non-IV-drug-using heterosexual population. The free-for-all that baby boomers had enjoyed was over; the sex-positive, "Girls Gone Wild" sensibility of the millennials was years away. People were still getting it on, of course. But somehow it didn't quite feel like a "getting it on" kind of culture.
Thus, it's more than just comic book censorship that lent this mood of frustrated love and sensuality to this book, and turned all that sexual energy inward, into torturous introspection.  Almost every NTT pairing one could choose from features some kind of emotional impediment, physical stasis or initial success followed by a rift or a death between the characters - Bette/Dick, Bette/Hank, Dawn/Hank, Karen/Mal, Terra/Gar, Kole/Joseph, Raven/Joseph, Jade/Roy, Kory/Karras, Kory/Phyz'zon, Tula/Garth; 90s' ships were prominent, especially Miri/Dick, Raven/Dick, Terra 2/Gar, Terra 2/Damage, Donna/Kyle, Pantha/Leonid; and later in the 2000s, we saw Dolphin/Garth, Donna/Roy, Bette/Gar, Cassie/Conner, Rose/Eddie, Rose/Bart, and Raven/Gar.  Despite all these problems, shipping was obviously the staple narrative of the title.  For the greatest NTT shipping moments, I picked the relationships that positively cemented the New Titans team early on, at its heart. Here are some of the most memorable moments from these critical Titans' relationships.

-Wally and Raven: Denial.
In a way, Wally and Raven were the original NTT couple.  Their match-up is akin to Scott Summers and Jean Grey, except that Raven was a much more isolated figure physically and mentally. In her 'good' form, she denied herself true intimacy.  She is the daughter of an interdimensional demon, Trigon.  She is an empath unable to feel any of her own emotions, only the emotions of others.  Physical love was Trigon's path to breaking through her and turning her evil, therefore off limits, except when Raven had huge breakdowns.  Raven's and Wally's liaison was seething with denial, off-kilter love at first sight, frustration and sadness.

An almost kiss. Flashback to Wally's and Raven's first encounter before the formation of the NTT. Legends of the DC Universe #18 (Jul. 1999) [Flashback]

The difference between Raven's time with Wally and her later boyfriends is that with him she was still in her original form.  Her humanity had not yet been compromised by her demonic father.  Raven still could be considered to be an innocent young girl with terrible problems.  After the Terror of Trigon, this was no longer the case.  This brought the potential between these two to an even higher pitch, because readers did not yet know what would happen if Raven's demonic side were to burst free.  It was easy to second guess her.

When Wally left Raven, her struggle with Trigon got significantly worse, and she gave in to her father's possession shortly after. This means that Wally's presence was a source of strength, comfort and a stability for Raven. He had unknowingly been preventing catastrophe, and unwittingly protecting the team from Raven's full-blown evil form. After he left, Raven tried other entanglements with other Titans men. But they never gave her the emotional anchor that Wally originally provided. He's the only male Titan who became involved with her who did not become seriously deranged for a time, although he did suffer problems with obsession and skewed perception; and his speed powers faltered.  This is a red flag with all of Raven's ships - every hero with whom she has had close emotional ties suffers a radical change in his powers and personality, which worsens as time wears on.

Raven is desperate for love and a seething mess of passion and demonic influences. A lot of her attachments build slowly behind closed doors, a development which runs against all the conventions of comic book romance, which is typically indicated simply by a Roy Lichtenstein-type kiss.  And because of Raven's powers and mixed motives, readers not only never know who has done what with Raven, but they don't know how far it's gone, or who is responsible.  A lot of off-panel stuff that has already happened sometimes gets an oblique reference when she has a meltdown. On top of this, Raven creates illusions - and readers can't be sure that some of the on-panel scenes they're seeing aren't illusions she's generated.  She uses her love interests in her battles with her father, and often erases their memories afterward.  She feeds off others' emotions as well as changing the emotions of others to her will.  Shipping arcs around Raven usually take an incredible 7-10 years to unfold, which ensures that the newer fanbase at any given time doesn't recognize the big, incredibly dark picture around this character.  Because of these snail-paced developments, in a monthly serial it's easy to lose track of what is happening with the character over time.  Any hero who gets involved with her takes his life in his hands.  I can't think of a character more emblematic of the so-called Prozac Nation.

-Dick and Kory: Passion.
Dick Grayson grew out of his Robin persona thanks to his long relationship with Koriand'r, princess of Tamaran.  He's always been a driven, ambitious, meticulous character, in control of himself, trained by Batman within an inch of his life.  When the Titans began, Dick was not so much repressed as out of touch with himself.  He focussed on the job, on strategy, on details, and on keeping the team coordinated and safe.  He was the guy who was trying to do it all: he was a multi-tasking genius, attending college, working as a private detective, running the Titans, and occasionally still heading back to Gotham to help out. When the Titans began, Dick and Kory shared a mutual attraction, but for two whole years of issues, he shut the exotic space princess out, declaring it bad for their teamwork.  This continued until Kory's evil sister kidnapped her and took her back to their home planet Tamaran.  Then Dick rallied the Titans and crossed the Milky Way Galaxy to get her back.  This was really one of the pivotal moments for Dick as a young hero and a young leader, who took control of a terrible situation.

Incredibly for a superhero with no superpowers, Dick battled his way with Vic and Gar through the imperial fortress where Kory was being held prisoner.  When he saw her tortured, broken body, he lost it and blew the guys' cover.  He jumped into the middle of a crowded throne room, killed a bunch of alien guards, embraced Kory - and the romance was finally on!  The panel below takes place as Vic is on the imperial platform holding the Vegan emperor hostage and Gar is the Titans' only muscle against an entire hall full of angry aliens.

NTT #25 (Nov. 1982)

With time, Kory broke through Dick's reserve and got to the guy underneath.  She helped him become more relaxed and at ease with himself.  He never regained the joking Robin persona, but he loosened up and became emotionally committed to the team. Kory's always been presented as an intensely emotional, powerful, sexy character, with a terrifying past as a slave and the occasional flash of regal arrogance.  Perhaps this meant that Kory understood Dick's Bat-conditioning and helped him transcend it.  But when Dick came under stress, he reverted to the cold, calculating model Batman had drilled into him.

NTT #29 (Mar. 1983)

By the time the Judas Contract began to unfold, the strain on the Titans' leader began to show.  In an ominous arc right before Tara died, Dick was brainwashed by Brother Blood, the high priest of a Baltic church that worships Raven's father.  At first, Kory was able to counter this increasingly malevolent influence, as in the panel below, where Blood had Dick poised to murder the Titans.  This was an incident that would haunt Dick and slowly draw him under Raven's sway through the next eleven years' worth of issues (1984-1995).

ToTT #41 (Apr. 1984)

For a time after Dick's initial brush with Brother Blood, Dick's and Kory's ship improved, especially after Raven disappeared for a bit following the Terror of Trigon

NTT Baxter series #10 (Jul. 1985)

The couple hit tough times when Kory was obliged to enter a stately marriage on Tamaran.  After this, Dick got mixed up with Raven.  He was tortured and brainwashed again in Blood's church with Raven's help.  These extremely disturbing arcs were the first sign that Raven was running through the Titans men, one by one.  Because of Raven's powers, it's hard to tell how far Dick's affair with her went; but a 'dark double' of Dick's showed up in the 1990s who did plenty of terrible things with Raven and helped her break up Dick's and Kory's wedding in the infamous NT #100 issue.  This was the main peril for a character who tried to do and have it all through hard work: he was on the verge of jeopardizing everything he had worked for under the strain. He lost the plot - and he made terrible mistakes as a result.

Titans vol. 2 #5 (Oct. 2008)

After Dick's and Kory's marriage failed, their ship continued on and off, well after breaking up.  But Dick became promiscuous, which was a far cry from his original staid character.  He also became involved with Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, and drew away from the Titans into the Batverse. Despite this new attachment, there is something going on with Dick himself.  He has repeatedly gotten engaged, but keeps stopping short of commitment through marriage.

Titans vol. 2 #16 (Oct. 2009)

Dick's and Kory's ship finally died in the latest run of the Titans.  Their last intimate moment was again overshadowed by problems strangely related to Raven.  Between Raven, the Bat Family, and Dick's hidden problems with commitment, it looks like the ship is done for the time being.  Kory has left the planet and Dick has become Batman, returning to the hyper-rationalized methods with which he grew up.  Some would call this losing oneself in a legacy, which Dick had spent years trying to avoid. The failure of Kory's and Dick's romance is a testament to giving in to familial pressure as well as the failure of passion in our dispassionate times (as much as it is to DC editorial policy about Bat characters). Dick's move was the 'practical' decision that 'made the most sense.' But for over a decade his abiding passion for Kory was the romantic ideal driving the Titans teams - in its time from the 1980s to mid-1990s, it worked.

-Donna Troy's Wedding: Can a Superhero Marry a Normal Person?
Donna Troy's wedding was a giant comics event that came off without a hitch.  It was also a needed breather and bright spot between the shocking and ugly Judas Contract and the hellish and frightening Terror of Trigon.  In these arcs, two female Titans were destroyed; neither Terra nor Raven ever recovered - their dramatic characterizations from 1984-1985 have persisted up to the present.  Donna's wedding was the antithesis to these two arcs; it was a story about changing priorities, overturning the expected, and marrying 'the other' - of bridging seemingly unbridgeable boundaries - in order to live happily ever after.

It seemed that when it came to romance, Donna, Kory and Karen had dodged the proverbial bullet and would live happily ever after.  Alas, it was not to be.  Yet for the moment, ToTT #50 was a comic book treat. It was very 1980s - cheesy, overdone and sentimental - but it was still touching.  All the major Titans and related DC heroes attended in their civilian identities.  No villains crashed the wedding. It was later revealed in a flashback that Superman circled the skies to prevent anything from going wrong.  It's probably one of the most archetypal wedding issues ever done in comics.  A lot of fans weren't keen on Donna's groom (who was a normal adult with a snarky ex-wife), but Wolfman put in a lot of effort to make the character sympathetic and compatible with his heroine.

Donna's wedding. Tales of the NTT #50 (Feb. 1985)

Thus, although Donna's husband was never a fan favourite, to some extent, Wolfman succeeded.  He broke the rule in comics that happy couples are doomed.  With some few exceptions, like Lois and Clark and (cough) the Dibnys, it also seemed that a superhero could not be paired permanently with a normal person.  For awhile, Wolfman overturned that convention too.  Terry was an everyday person who unusually entered the inner circle of the metahuman world.  He was a voice of normalcy and lent the title stability when things started to get weird, especially in the 1990s.  In that decade, he grudgingly hosted the time-tossed Team Titans in his house. When violence followed the Teamers home one too many times and Donna started adventuring again after having given it up, he divorced her and successfully got custody of their son.  Terry and Robbie were finally killed off under an editorial mandate, leaving Donna a single woman again with no children.

-Vic and Sarah Charles: Posthumanism and Virtual Love.

NTT #19 (May 1982)

Victor Stone owed his status as a superhero to a terrible accident brought about by his parents' research.  His half-destroyed body was refitted with cybernetic parts, and he lost part of his humanity.  To conceal his lack of self-confidence with women, he became a workaholic.  After his accident, he had two major relationships, both with women named Sarah.  The first, Sarah Simms, a teacher of children with missing limbs, was kidnapped by Deathstroke.  This incident led to Vic distancing himself from her in the panel above.  With both Sarahs, he wasn't a very attentive boyfriend! He tended to disappear for months on end without explanation, and often refused to answer their calls.  Although this was due to lurking, low-level depression, he usually chalked up his inaction to the excuse of the moment.  Eventually, his periods of inaction drove both girls to marry other men.

NTT Baxter Series #33 (Jul. 1987)

When Sarah Charles turned up (ToTT #57 (Sept. 1985)), Vic seemed to have hit upon a once-in-a-lifetime girl.  She was a S.T.A.R. scientist who studied his father's research, and she specialized in cybernetics.  She was hired to rehabilitate him as he went through a series of dangerous trials to improve his acceptance of his mechanical body and to restore a human appearance to his cybernetic parts.  Slowly Vic opened up to her and they had a long, loving relationship.  They also made love, which was a post-accident milestone for Vic, who at the beginning of the NTT was filled with self-loathing and rage so severe that it almost knocked Raven flat the first time she encountered him.  In addition to his disfiguring accident, Victor was plagued by grief: he had lost both parents by age 18.  His relationship with Sarah Charles was a love story about overcoming despair, looking past appearances in a superficial culture, and fighting physical isolation through self-acceptance.  Later arcs anticipated how people might love each other in a virtual era of Posthumanism.  One blogger has compiled 50 blog posts about cyborgs, prosthetics and cybernetics here, which shows how far we actually are from achieving the kind of tech that would make a cybernetic organism like Cyborg possible.  Vic's continuity is really a sci-fi story, dressed up in the Titans' soapy format, which obviously reflects the impact of the Tech Revolution on human relationships.

NTT Baxter Series #41 (Mar. 1988)

The first major speedbump Vic and Sarah hit was when she moved across the country to take a new job, a surprisingly mundane problem for a superhero comic (NTT Baxter Series #49 (Nov. 1988)), although it reflected the fact that long distance relationships are now common. It was a first indication of physical distance between them. 

Vic as the Technis entity. NTT Baxter Series #128 (Dec. 1995)

A series of combat injuries in the 1990s made Victor progressively lose his ability to function; his mind and human body were further destroyed, but not before Sarah worked desperately to save him.  Finally, Victor became a completely mechanically-based avatar of an alien techno-organic entity, the Technis. 

Sarah moved to Metropolis, prompting Vic to join Gar's LA team. Titans vol. 1 #20 (Oct. 2000)

Vic disappeared in space for a time, and after a difficult road back, mainly with Gar Logan's and Dick Grayson's help, underwent several physical transformations to slowly regain his lost humanity.  By the time he returned from his space travels, Sarah was already dating someone else.  But the real blow came when Victor received a cloned body, thus fully regaining his human appearance.  He searched out Sarah, and found she had moved away without informing him. Ironically, their relationship ended when Victor finally recovered his human physicality.

-Garth and Tula: Idealizing 'The One.'
More than any other Titans love affair, the relationship between the original Aqualad and Aquagirl was about finding 'The One' - and losing her - forever.  There was something achingly sad about Garth, a noble, distinguished and withdrawn character, and his pure attachment to Tula's sweet Mer-Princess.  Garth had worked on a few cases with the NTT, and Tula joined him in helping the Titans destroy the H.I.V.E. - a mission the team executed to avenge Terra's death.  Tula was killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9-10 (1985).  The panels below come from the Tempest Miniseries from the mid-1990s, in which the villain Slizzath created an avatar of Tula to siphon away Garth's powers. 

Tempest Miniseries #4 (Feb. 1997)

Garth was forced to destroy this duplicate Tula, which brought him some closure after over ten years of stories in which he was shown in deep mourning.  His closing scenes at Tula's grave are reminiscent of the Changeling's pilgrimages to Tara's grave, except that Logan was tortured by additional questions around Tara's sanity, her betrayal and her character.  Basically, he never knew whether Tara was even capable of reciprocating his feelings, let alone wanted to.  By contrast, Garth's and Tula's love was never in question.


Tempest stops waiting and says farewell to Tula at her grave. Tempest Miniseries #4 (Feb. 1997)

Tempest was killed in Blackest Night by a Black Lantern version of Aquagirl.  The scenes between them resembled Garfield's encounter with Black Lantern Terra, except that Logan, while admitting that he still loved her, tore Terra apart before she could attack him and survived.

Could-have-been Relationships That Never Happened.

Because the Titans title focussed so much on youthful emotions in an environment where every character had lost familial stability (including even Wally during the Millennium crossover in 1988), romantic relationships became a big part of the comic book's drama.  But the Titans also bonded through friendships.  Generally they became ersatz siblings to one another; but as the arcs developed and the characters matured, what had been intense camaraderie could always turn on a dime into romance.  In these cases, it never did.

-Dick and Donna: Brother and Sister.

Titans vol. 1 #21(Nov. 2000)

Dick and Donna are the core of the original Titans, first generation legacy characters following the steps of Batman and Wonder Woman.  They are 'softer' and 'kinder' versions of both A-list characters.  Their friendship is profound and emotionally intimate.  Wolfman toyed with the possibility of their romantic involvement, but up to now their story has always been about two orphans building a sibling relationship.

Tales of the NTT #3 (Aug. 1982)

Donna is a strange paradox.  She's considered a well-heeled girl-next-door - a classic young woman with unassailable virtues.  She's also supposed to be (but isn't always) thoroughly nice, warm and a confidante for her many friends. In short, she's popular - the Titans' All-American-Girl Greek sorority Prom Queen - if you will.  One of Donna's main character points is that she is a perfectionist.  She works incredibly hard at the image readers and characters see.  But beneath her efforts is her lack of identity.  She has had several conflicting Who is Donna Troy? treatments, variously involving other lives, Greek Titans and Amazons.  One of the best of these origin stories was the first one DC gave her, in NTT #38, when Dick used the detective skills Batman taught him to trace people from her past.

NTT #38 (Jan. 1984)

This was a story as much about Donna finding her origins as it was about Dick and Donna.  Dick's probably the only character who has ever called Donna on her perfectionism and forced her to question her obsession with being 'nice' and 'right' all the time.  In the panels below, he returned after Kory's first marriage and found that Donna had led the team to the verge of breaking up.  Kole had died on her watch. Donna was strangely helpless without Dick.  He took her to task for it, in a way that Batman would have taken him to task if he had failed so catastrophically. 


NTT Baxter Series #19 (Apr. 1986)

After this fight, a shaken Donna asked Gar about her leadership, showing that when she didn't have Dick to turn to, she turned to the other male Titans to stabilize her self-perception.  Despite the fact that she had just insulted him (then apologized), Gar was considerably easier on her than Dick.  In the panels below he reassured her, but in later panels in the same issue he questioned her poor judgment.  In the 2003 issue devoted to the Titans dealing with Donna's 'death,' Gar recalled this conversation.  He told Vic what he really thought - that her leadership had been a "total disaster." But he also told her that the team loved her because she wasn't perfect.  Yet in mourning her, Logan said that Donna was perfect and that was why he loved her.

NTT Baxter Series #19 (Apr. 1986)

This means that Dick is probably the only character who isn't taken in by Donna's perfectionism.  He won't sugar-coat things for her, and because he sees her as she really is, he has always served as the main touchstone for her identity.  Later, when Donna's quest for an identity became hung-up between Wally's and Roy's perceptions of her, Dick advised her in the panel below.

Dick counselling Donna to break up with Roy.  Titans vol. 1 #22 (Dec. 2000)

-Wally and Donna: Platonic Friends.
Donna was an old crush of Wally's; she had rebuffed him in the original TT series.  In the NTT, Raven forced Wally to love her, which manifested in a difficult, drawn-out attachment.  Despite this, Wally's concern for Donna persisted. In the panels below, he's shown casually eavesdropping on a conversation between Donna and her future husband about her lack of identity.

Wally overhearing Donna discussing her problems. NTT #20 (June 1982)

There were also moments in combat that showed the two of them together.

 NTT #20 (June 1982)

As Wally's problems with Raven got worse, Donna often was shown reaching out to him.  This was before Donna was presented as the 'den-mother' of the team, to whom everyone could turn to with their problems.  In the NTT she was usually shown as a nice but somewhat removed heroine, with a warmth saved for characters she was close to, mainly Dick and Kory.  Thus, when she hovered over Wally, it showed connections that went way back.

Dealing with Raven took its toll on Wally. Enter Donna. NTT #36 (Nov. 1983)

During the Terror of Trigon opening arc in the NTT Baxter series (so called for the high quality Baxter paper it was printed on), Raven gave in to her father.  Donna comforted Wally when he gave up all hope.

Trigon took over the Earth, leaving Wally in despair.  He had not saved Raven. NTT Baxter Series #5 (Feb. 1985)

By 1999, Kid Flash had taken on the mantle of his predecessor, the Flash, and had long left the Titans.  The team still popped up in his life when he struggled and lost his way, multi-tasking himself into oblivion and losing his sense of himself while he tried to live up to the namesake of his mentor, who had died during Crisis on Infinite EarthsHe suffered, as did Donna and Dick, from a 'loss of self' under the growing influence of their JLA mentors - each has now served as The Flash, Wonder Woman and Batman.  In a special issue devoted to the Flash from that year, the Titans engineered a fight with Wally to rein him in.  Donna fought with him in disguise, and later pleaded with him in the panels below.


Flash 80-Page Giant #2 (Apr. 1999)

Much later in the 2000s, Donna emerged from one of her identity crises and had to be reconstituted and recreated from Wally's memories and perceptions of her. 

Donna complains about her fraying identity. Titans vol. 1 #3 (May 1999)

Wally saw Donna as perfect and demure.  Eventually, in an arc already distorted by illusions, Wally addressed Donna's ambivalence about how he had rescued her and reinstated her back in their current reality.

Obscured by illusions of their younger selves, Wally reassured Donna about how perfect she is. Titans vol. 1 #16 (June 2000)

This 'perfect Donna' as remembered by Wally was someone that Roy spent a fair amount of energy dismantling.  Roy claimed Wally had never seen the bad girl in Donna, which (until recent arcs) goes for just about everyone else inside the DCU, and the readers too.  But this arc was extremely important, showing Donna's entire identity literally shaped by one male Titan - Wally.

-Gar and Kory: A Teen Crush Grows Up.
This is a big one.  For a long time, Gar was Kory's 'little brother' on the team.  He's the same age as her younger brother, Darkfire. Over time, Gar has grown up into something of a rival opposite Kory's boyfriend, Dick Grayson, the original Titans' leader. Gar's one of the few Titans who has also acted as team leader (others who have served as leaders for a length of time: Donna, Roy, Vic and Cassie).  He's not there yet in terms of rivalling Dick, but the two have a lot of similarities in terms of background; both are orphans, both were inducted as first generation heirs to DC's classic heroes.  Gar is three years younger than Dick, so he was always out of his league when it came to competing for Kory.  This is really about alpha couples and whether Gar would ever be part of that dynamic on the team; one of his problems in clinching leadership has been that he has yet to find a girl who would support him the way Kory supported Dick.  He's never been one half of a 'power couple.'

As Gar got older and Dick and Kory broke up, there was occasionally a never-happened quality about Gar and Kory. Gar's retained his open heart and sense of humour, unlike Dick, whose original joking Robin persona is now long gone. Perhaps it would give Kory pause, if she returns to DCU's earth, to encounter a grown-up Logan who reminds her of Dick Grayson as he once was, except more compassionate.  I don't know if I can imagine a Wrapped Around Your Finger scenario, where Logan, once the dismissed kid with the crush, might suddenly turn the tables and end up holding all the cards.  But I can see Kory and Gar crossing paths once in the future, probably under unhealthy circumstances.  At any rate, their friendship is one of many quiet corners of Titans lore, where there is more going on than meets the eye.

Tales of the NTT #3 (Aug. 1982)

When Gar told his backstory in Tales of the New Teen Titans #3, he and Kory seemed awfully friendly, lolling around in front of a campfire together; there was also a running gag about hot dogs, adding a sexual subtext.  This camping scene was a quiet interlude before tumultuous arcs involving both characters, first on Kory's home planet of Tamaran, then during Gar's heartbreak during the Judas Contract, and followed by Raven's breakdown in the Terror of Trigon

Death of the first spy to target the Titans' ranks. NTT #16 (Feb. 1982)

Before Kory and Dick got together, she fell in love with a H.I.V.E. spy, Franklin Crandall, who was set up to gather information about the team.  Crandall died at the hands of the H.I.V.E. when he tried to back out of his contract.  In hindsight, it's telling that Gar was conveniently not on this case. 

NTT #16 (Feb. 1982)

These plots lined Gar and Kory up in parallel with one another. Gar would soon find himself targeted as well, since Terra was ultimately a spy at the H.I.V.E.'s instigation.  Kory's broken romance foreshadowed what would happen to Gar, except that his love affair with a H.I.V.E. agent would be a thousand times worse.  In the panels below, Gar jokes around with Starfire a month after Franklin's death.  Notice that she responded to Dick and Gar differently in the aftermath.  She lashed out at Dick (above) but showed abject misery with Gar (below).  Gar ominously referred to the Titans becoming spies.  He met Tara Markov in an issue that came out eight months later.

Kory's heartbreak over a H.I.V.E. spy was a prelude to Gar's heartbreak over another H.I.V.E. spy. NTT #18 (Apr. 1982)

After Terra died by her own hand in the disastrous Judas Contract in a boiling mess of murderous metahuman espionage and betrayal, Gar used his latent telepathic powers to exact revenge on Deathstroke.  He stole his adoptive father's Mento helmet to create illusions, manipulating the team and sabotaging Deathstroke's trial.  In so doing, he ensured the villain would be freed and he hunted Slade down.  During this frightening period for the Changeling, Gar's old girlfriend Jillian showed up to comfort him.  Yet while using the Mento helmet, the first thing Gar did was conjure up an illusion of Kory (not Jillian, Donna or Raven).  The panel below shows the torch Gar held for her.

Gar manifests telepathic and telekinetic abilities in the period after Tara's death. He practices by creating an illusion of Kory. ToTT #54 (June 1985)

After the Titans came out the other end of this meatgrinder of huge stories, they returned full circle to the same camping spot in the Grand Canyon and reflected on what had happened to them. The whole period from 1982 to 1985 in NTT continuity was bookended by these two vacations, both with scenes that affirmed Gar's and Kory's light flirtation.

Kory's fangirl outfit and the hotdogs revisited. NTT Baxter Series #6 (Mar. 1985)

Below are some happier panels in the NTT, when the Titans still revelled in being young heroes. Gar and Kory are shown flying together over New York, with Gar flirting and Kory bantering with him.  Their repartee was a constant background feature in NTT stories, but usually depicted as Gar's one-sided crush, with Kory taking it as harmless fun.  And for all of Gar's suggestive talk with Kory, when it came to putting his money with his mouth was, and when there was even a hint that the 'fun' might become real, he became very respectful and emotionally conservative around her.  This is interesting, because Starfire is the most overtly sexualized Titan, yet much of her characterization led away from that and made her more complex.  This character setting resembles Power Girl, who draws in the fanboys for two obvious reasons, but still might leave them wondering.  For Gar, where Kory was concerned, the object quickly became the subject.  For example, Gar collected all her art calendars in which she had modelled nude and was pretty lustful about it.  But he was shocked to actually see Kory in the nude (ToTT #57).  This was also how he behaved with Terra: big talk, emotionally impulsive, but reserved and old-fashioned underneath.

Gar: "New York is like a sexy woman." NTT Annual #2 (Aug. 1986)

More banter. NTT Annual #2 (Aug. 1986)

The panels below come from one of the darker storylines in the 1990s, when all the Titans had lost their sense of identity, their powers were out of whack, and the whole team was suffering from a general, ongoing five-year meltdown.  More than any other Titans, Gar and Kory fell under under Dark Raven's influence.  This is probably because they are the two most emotional Titans.  Aside from Dick, they were the key characters involved in Raven's mega-massive 1990s' breakdown.  Starfire lost her memory and attacked the Titans, while Changeling shape-shifted into monsters and suffered blackouts.  The Titans captured Kory in space and Gar was forced to subdue her, which set them up in a rare, suggestive pose.  Who knew that Logan could single-handedly overpower the alien princess with a simple neck-twist head-bump?  This is one of those tell-tale panels that reveals that Gar's a far more competent combatant than he's normally given credit for.

Gar subdues Kory on the Titans' satellite headquarters. NT #112 (Jul. 1994)

Gar and Kory suffering under Dark Raven's influence. NT #112 (Jul. 1994)

After the 'death' of Donna Troy in the Graduation Day arc from 2003, both the New Titans and the Young Justice teams were shattered.  DC used the trauma to merge the two groups.  Dick and Roy retreated into depression, then founded a new, tough and cold incarnation of the Outsiders.  Kory despaired, having broken up with Dick and lost a best friend in Donna.  In Teen Titans Outsiders Secret Origins (2003), Gar convinced Kory to join him and Vic in mentoring members of Young Justice - the ironic aim was to prevent the younger new-new Titans from getting killed (in a 2000s decade that would be marred by Titans' deaths).  In the panels below, Kory doesn't respond to Gar's many advances, which seem to be jokes, but he does convince her, suggesting their friendship is a deep one.

Gar talks to Kory after Donna's death. TT Outsiders Secret Files (2003)

Gar convinces Kory to stay with the Titans and mentor a younger team. TT Outsiders Secret Files (2003)

The next time we saw the characters, they were mentoring former Young Justice members in a new Teen Titans run, which is the current series.  Kory joined this team at Gar's behest, and only left to help Dick on the Outsiders.  Thus, in the period between 2003 and 2008, Starfire acted as a critical support on both men's teams.  Initially, Gar horsed around with the YJ kids, provoking Starfire.  In front of the new members, he and Kory still sometimes fell into flirtatious jokes, which they had done for years.

TT vol. 3 #2 (Oct. 2003)

In 2004, an on-off relationship developed between Raven and Gar.  When Wally later came to visit the Titans, Raven hovered around her ex.  In the panel below, Gar was shown sulking in a corner, while Kory tousled his hair to comfort him. 

Wally makes way for the return of his JLA predecessor, Barry Allen. Flash Rebirth #1 (June 2009)

This chemistry between the characters likely also fueled Gar's recent antipathy towards Dick, and Kory's hostility to Terra during Blackest Night.

The final part of this tribute is devoted to great action shots.

Gar, Vic and Wally. NTT #1 (Nov. 1980)

Kory and Slade. NTT #10 (Aug. 1981)

Donna. NTT #25 (Nov. 1982)

Gar and Tara. NTT #28 (Feb. 1983)

Vic and Raven. NTT #35 (Oct. 1983).

The team at the start of the Judas Contract. NTT #39 (Feb. 1984)

The Judas Contract. Dick and Slade. ToTT #43 (June 1984)

Jericho and Trigon. NTT Baxter Series #1 (Aug. 1984)

Kole and Jericho. NTT Baxter Series #11 (Aug. 1985)

Mento going loco. NTT Baxter Series #14 (Nov. 1985)

Raven and Dick. NTT Baxter Series #37 (Nov. 1987)

Vic. NTT Baxter Series #40 (Feb. 1988)

Kory and Leonid. NTT Baxter Series #48 (Oct. 1988)

Garth. Tempest Miniseries #4 (Feb. 1997)

Gar. Titans Annual #1 (2000)

Wally as Flash. Flash Rebirth #1 (June 2009)
Dick as Batman. Titans vol. 2 #21 (Mar. 2010)

While the New Teen Titans was indisputably the run that made this franchise a hit for DC, the team has had several incarnations, listed here.  The 2000s have not been kind to the original NTT members, whose group is now broken.  A new creative team, J. T. Krul and Nicola Scott, are coming onto the Teen Titans at the end of this month, sparking hope for a Titans renaissance.  Except for Raven and Gar, that title is no longer an NTT book; that leaves fans looking to Eric Wallace's and Fabrizio Fiorentino's Titans to deliver some resolution regarding Deathstroke and an older Titans team as Brightest Day wraps up next year. 

One last panel, lest we forget: Lilith and Garth. Titans vol. 1 #14 (Apr. 2000)

The Titans, now a combined roster of Gen X and Gen Y superheroes, are completely in the hands of creative teams comprising four Gen Xers.  Whether these creators look at their characters from this generational angle or not, let's see if they take the Titans above and beyond the NTT's great 30-year history in 2010-2011.

For more on the New Teen Titans, see the top fansite on the Web, Titans Tower, here.



All DC and Marvel Comics stories, characters and the distinctive likenesses thereof are respectively Trademarks & Copyright © DC and © Marvel Comics. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

10 comments:

  1. Well written as always, but the fact that the Titans were meant to embody real world personality traits, for their generation or any other, is part of the problem in and of itself, and set them up for the fall. If not Judas Contract, then it would've manifested in some other way.

    Maybe it was when they decided Roy should shoot up in the first place. Or maybe it was when Stan Lee created angsty, vulnerable Spider-Man. Whenever and however it happend, what set the Titans--and all other superheroes--up for the fall was when it was decided to treat them as *flawed, vulnerable mortals* rather than larger-than-life characters that rose, overcame, and saved the day. In other words, *heroes*.

    Once they started being 'people' first and 'heroes' second, the clock was ticking. And everyone lost.

    So I put no faith in the Gen X writers now 'in charge'. They still answer to boomer generation publishers and Editors-in-Chief; and even if they didn't, they have been shaped by that world. The world that says that heroes die, and nobody cares.

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  2. Thanks Jay. I don't know how much Wolfman and Perez and their successors intended the Titans to 'be' Gen Xers. Nobody even called Gen Xers that until the 90s - because of Coupland's book. I think it's more likely that they were aware of what appealed to teens at the time and incorporated stuff as they went along.

    As for fallible heroes, I agree. Let's say that the Titans *aren't* the Xer stereotypes they are on the surface; and they *do* represent emotional values - love in spite of huge obstacles (Vic), friendship (Donna; Hawk and Dove), passion (Kory), trust (Gar), loyalty (Dick and Wally), devotion (Roy), emotional healing (Raven), etc. Then the question is why their biggest stories involve them failing catastrophically (rather than succeeding)? There are very few success stories - Who is Donna Troy? - is one of them; but it was quickly dismantled by subsequent origin stories for Donna that took power away from the original story about Donna and Dick. Why have all the Titans' relationships failed (while the current ones are hinted to fail)? Why aren't these heroes achieving victories - why couldn't Gar save Tara and Wally save Raven - right at the beginning? And so on ...

    I think it's because heroic values are crumbling and transforming everywhere, not just in comics. Part of this is due to the Boomers' deliberate attempt to wipe them out. They replaced old ideals intact at the end of WWII with new concerns; and to some extent what they did had to be done. But that process has now reached its end point.

    So I think what we're looking at is the failure of old ideals, and even of Boomers' newer values; and we live in a transitional period when new ideals haven't fully arisen yet. I'm writing another piece on the 'revolving door of death' during DC's millennial crossovers (pre Blackest Night) to see if there are signs of new heroism in the deconstruction of old heroism. In short, I think there will be a correction.

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  3. It is interesting to me that you see this as Boomers versus Gen X and/or Y. I see it as human nature, repeating itself, regardless of generation.

    We have already discussed how each of us became aware separately that certain Gen X comic book writers--Meltzer in my case, Krul in yours--are not interested in fixing the problems. I don't see how this bodes well for the future, nor do I dismiss these two examples as anecdotal.

    As usual, I hope my post does not antagonize.

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  4. It does repeat itself every generation, although people thinking of themselves in wide collective terms as 'a generation' is modern. I'm not up on how the JSA really greeted the arrival of the JLA in the original comics, since the JSA was the original team and for awhile the JLA were the Boomer-era upstarts. But it's obvious that in Titans, the Young Justice newbies were presented as Gen Y characters. Tim Drake mentioned it several times, as did Ravager, identifying the YJ characters with 'our' Millennial generation. The closest the NTT ever came to that was during the 1990s, but their experiences in books from 1990 to 2003 were as Gen X as you could get (running ouf of money in the 90s recession; deciding to sell out; some members raising kids for the first time; some getting married, some almost getting married; the Titans series from 99-2003 was the core 5 living through Gen X problems (minus the tin foil hats I hope!)). So although lots of fans wouldn't see these stories in a generational light, I took my theory for this blog post straight from the books themselves. But there are lots of other 30th anniversary angles one could pick, how the Titans grew up into being JLA (which I've said I don't like much); how they fit in the DCU; or a negative comment could have been made about how the team is now shattered.

    As for Meltzer and Krul, I just don't know. I still think they have a trick or two up their sleeves. And the reason I think this is because they grew up with these characters. They know them the way some Gen Y fans know Conner Kent. You couldn't write Last Will and Testament and not know the Markovs backwards and forwards. As for Rise of Arsenal and Blackest Night Titans, we haven't seen the end stories from those arcs play out yet. We also haven't seen Last Will and Testament play out yet.

    I'm hoping that in the next year or two they will start to correct the damage that's been and being done. But I concede that they and Johns helped cause some of the damage. So you may be right. And the damage may be so deep that it could take 15 years to correct. But I still think this is a process: DC has successfully trashed old heroic ideals. Now they could go either way - are they going to screw it up and keep going the low road down to the bottom pit of hell, or give us a new type of heroism and some new cause for hope? That's really the question. We've had 30 years straight of heroes losing and losing and losing. So we learned they could lose against villains; then we learned they could lose their ways; then we learned that they could lose themselves. Fine. DC's point is made. So the question is, does DC have the guts to show the heroes doing something that will restore the fans' faith and show the heroes come back and start winning, despite the fact that yes, the world is dark, violent, and terrible?

    And - your posts never antagonize!

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  5. And to add to the thought above, I'd say this 30-year heroic crisis under Boomer writers and editors at DC is a by-product of a larger crisis of faith that Boomers had in themselves as the 80s, 90s, 00s wore on. They started off with these idealistic goals; more than any other youthful cohort in modern memory, they wanted to change the world. They thought they could do, be, have it all. Then over time they got bogged down in failure, because no one could achieve what they thought they could. While outwardly reasserting their confidence, I think there was a creeping self-doubt.

    By the 80s, the NTT were a Gen X team, but everything that happened to them reflected Boomers' story-telling and editorial mandates, and perhaps Boomers' quiet generation-wide worry that they couldn't live up to their 1968 ideals.

    In the modern Titans' series, so far (with the exception of Johns's TT run) you see Gen X characters bogged down in a projected Boomer crisis of failure.

    I argued that began in this franchise with the Judas Contract. In what other story would you have a young female character fail so horrifically, and be sacrificed to build up male characters (although I think the net effect on Gar was negative, because as the hero in that story he could not save the girl). Over time, the creators convinced the fans to cheer on the destruction of a 16 year old girl and believe that all the blame could be laid at her feet? Then - *give the villain the chance to tell the moral of the story at the end*? And then convince the fans to cheer that on too? How? Why is that right? It was so deeply disturbing. I think some people blame the character for what happened to her (and so believe the line that her creators gave) and others blame the creators themselves, and so feel there's more to the story, because the outcome was so utterly hopeless. Either way the message was: welcome to the era of trashing heroic conventions.

    In other words, you can have creators who are masterful and talented, but their underlying intentions will play out in the stories. And imo those underlying intentions included a general sense that their generation somehow did not and could never live up to bright, shiny 1968 ideals.

    Gen X writers and artists who are coming up will reflect that problem at first. The question is whether Gen X ultimately has something different to say with these characters. Xers have said over and over they're not the depressed cynics that Boomers say they are. (That assumption fits nicely with Boomers' own creeping worries about themselves - failure begets failure.) In other words, themes in comics are part of a society-wide process of disenchantment and soul-searching, which Boomers don't like to admit they're dealing with. My question with this post was, can Gen X creators start coming to the table with a different set of values that could be the silver bullet? There's more than evil and failure in the world, even when people are intrinsically imperfect, and good sometimes triumphs, right? It's a LOTR type thinking. Insurmountable odds, everything looks hopeless, yet there is this sliver of a possibility that there is another way to find heroism and hope again.

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  6. Ah, well see, I AM a depressed cynic. Though in that sense I am exactly like my boomer father. The difference between him and me was on specific issues, not general outlook.

    What led me to be so was the circumstances of life I experienced. The death of Terra II was the death of my hope for comic book superheroes, or more accuratey, the death of the last of those characters I was holding out hope for. My political idealism died during the election of 2008, not after it's result. (I always knew Obama was part of the game. My despair came when the Libertarians nominated Bob Barr, a flat out Republican. I have no truck with the Tea Partiers for similar reasons).

    You discovered Krul didn't want to fix Terra; I discovered Meltzer liked heroes being broken. Wether he Gen X creators have different values than the Boomers is not really relevant, if their value are also bad.

    And think of this; if we DID get Terra back--mine or yours--she would, at best, wind up in the same place Raven is now. Even if we win, we lose.

    Your continuing optimism is admirable, but I wnoder how many brick walls it's going to run into before it burns out.

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  7. Don't get me started on what's been done to Raven! Oh god. The Terror of Trigon was one thing, because she more or less triumphed. It was a tight, neat, scary story that really worked. The Darkening was far worse, and nothing Johns did, no toon mashup, no superficial Gar-Raven ship could paper over the cracks created by that story; they just promise its continuation. In the Darkening, Raven did things that couldn't be erased by her 'triumphing over Trigon.' She had to atone for real crimes, and she has never done that. She could have been built up after 1985 as an amazing transcendent figure in the DCU; instead we had her brainwashing and torturing the Titans leader. A character with the potential to become one of the greatest superheroines ever created was turned into a cheap emo goth girl who's going to turn evil again. So you could be right about Terra. If restored in the past after the Judas Contract, she would likely been broken down or turned evil; the same goes for Lian Harper. They would not have been able to resist the evil mother's influence thing. This is a separate thing though - about why female heroes are degraded and why editors in the modern era of comics have destroyed ships - as with Spiderman and Mary Jane. I never really liked the idea of Scott Summers and Emma Frost either. But turmoil sells.

    Fortunately, I don't look to comic books as the main repository for social values (LOL). Maybe we need to pull back from particular characters and specific stories. The real issue is how the comics industry is changing and being merged with digitial, video game and film formats. Death, violence and sex are eroding heroism, but that's because they sell. The LOTR was an interesting case, because it was successful financially, but its message ran against widening the moral vacuum.

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  8. I dunno about social values. I DO know about heroes I was rooting for/Identified with.

    And speaking of LOTR, look at the absolute quagmire the attempted prequels have turned into.

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  9. Fascinating reading, and very well thought out. A couple of points though, if I may.

    Your analysis of the Judas Contract is most interesting, I'd always considered the "destruction" of Terra as more of a "culmination" (albeit a very negative one), it was how she was always meant to be and how she was always meant to end, after all.

    Your Recombatants mention is a little off, they weren't so much named after Replicants as they were a mutual injoke character exchange; they map perfectly to Eclipse Comics DNAgents (who were also artificial, genetically engineered superbeings) and appeared in the same month as Titans analogues "Project Youngblood" met the DNAgents in their own series, and met a similarly final end in the same issue.

    I also have to debate your description of Dick Grayson as promiscuous, that was certainly never a character trait in the 1980's and 90's. He was, at worst, serially monogamous and as far as we know has only had something like four bed-partners in his entire life (Kory, Babs, Cheyenne (during the deeply weird Bruce Jones run in the mid 00's) and a retconned in "first affair" in his Robin days first mentioned in Wolfman's run on the Nightwing solo title). Even factoring in pre-Crisis he had only a couple of apparently chaste girlfriend, and one vampiress seductress.

    All things considered (Looks, position, wealth) the kid might have been mainlining bromide! :)

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  10. Hi icon, thanks very much for your comments. Re. the DNAgents and Project Youngblood, yes others have mentioned it to me, and I remember it vaguely from the time.

    As for Terra, my opinion is that there were many, many hanging plot threads hanging around her. Subsequent writers even inserted some major ones in the Millennium crossover. I think they did that because people look at the Judas Contract one of two ways. They either think there are no more stories to tell about Terra, or they think there are more stories to tell. It depends whether you believe Wolfman's explanation or not. Some people do, some don't.

    Nightwing: I took that from comments characters made in the Titans 99-2003 series and from the Flash series when Wally was joshing around with Dick. Also there's a reference to him having loads of girlfriends and liaisons in Winick's Outsiders, IIRC - it may have been in the Titans series. Dick went to see Batman because his life was falling apart, and one of the things that came up in their conversation was his complicated love life.

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