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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 4.1 - The Anti-Robin: Terra in the 2010s

Image Source: Media Comicbook.

The 2010s

(This post is backdated to be part of my 2010 blog series on Terra, written on 4 April 2017): Request from a reader: "Are you going to review the Teen Titans Judas Contract DTV movie? Because it and its ending actually changed/fixed a lot that was wrong with the portrayal of Terra and Slade and their dynamic, so it looks like FINALLY there are people at DC who are willing to look at a revered past story with some scrutiny. Regards."

I had had it with Dan DiDio's DC, and what they did to the Titans so they could de-age their A-listers. They turned the Titans into a Marvel youth brand, a New Mutants lite, rather than thinking through DC's legacies. I settled in for the Long Wait until DiDio retires. IMO, you would need new, radical people, probably in the 2020s, to recover the older Titans characters to their full, edgy potential.

Blackest Night: Titans #1 (October 2009). Image Source: DC Database.

I still feel the older Titans would have done better as adults in a Vertigo series, where there was a lot of leeway to explore the characters and their dark backgrounds, away from the mainstream DCU and endless crossover events. I thought that Raven should have become John Constantine's protégé. I also believe that Gar Logan should have become a much more substantial character. He is the heir of Steve Dayton, one of the wealthiest men in the DCU, and is supposed to end up running Dayton's insane biotech empire. Logan is also an elemental superhero, representing the fauna kingdom. Tara Markov is an elemental earth princess! John Constantine and Swamp Thing should have mentored these younger Titans years ago.

DC started to consider elemental realms in Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and the New 52. I'm not sure what they are doing with elementals in Rebirth. As far as I could see, the big event in Rebirth was a price increase in September 2016. The Watchmen angle of Rebirth is interesting, although blaming Doctor Manhattan Dan DiDio's reign of Fourth Wall suck is not fair. You can see the in-story explanation summarized here.

DC remains a company trying to tell us its very biggest story, while keeping its franchises on simmer and marketing (often at cross purposes) Batman as a public attention grabber. It's not working well. This may be because DiDio can't reconcile the grand and simplistic. In 2016, DiDio admitted that DC had, "lost its way" on many books after receiving harsh criticism. I think DiDio actually means well and wanted to become Jack Kirby 2.0, leaving a great mark on DC with a huge, sweeping epic. This epic was supposed to change how we think about comics. To do this, the whole DC line had to be rebooted, and rebooted, and rebooted again. They tried to bring in talents like Grant Morrison to make the epic work.

But you can't force lightning into a bottle, especially when all you care about are sales figures. The background ideas remain fascinating - time shifts, multiple dimensions, multiverses dying and being reborn. I understand and sympathize, because it is a lot easier to criticize these efforts than to try to create the masterful narrative effect DiDio wants. I have recently been impressed by Avatar Press (Providence is one of the best comics series I have ever read), Image Comics (Aphrodite IX, here; Fatalehere; and Jupiter's Legacyhere), and Dark Horse's Elfquest Final Quest. Graphic India's 18 Days featured some of the best concept comic art ever done by Mukesh Singh, for Morrison's retelling of the Mahabharata. But I still retain a primary loyalty to DC, because at its best, it is the only pulp house that can pull off the ultimate effect. The only one. For example, Jupiter's Legacy works because it is a masterful tribute to what DC was at its best and what it should be now.

DiDio and his team forget that most pulp stories now considered classics were originally seen as offbeat and in danger of cancellation at any minute. Perez and Wolfman pushed the boundaries on their rebooted Titans in 1980 because they did not expect the title to last. The real path to epic immortality, as Alan Moore understood with DC's Watchmen, is not with big superheroes as brands and the superhero universe as an evolving brand, but the anti-brand, the D-listers, the forlorn beings whose extra-human powers arise through trauma and uncertainty. This is what Batman used to be, the A-lister who worked the Underground. The best stories of superhuman achievement happen on the margins, where we are not looking. This is what the Titans used to be: lost children, forsaken by their Justice League mentors, who raised each other. The Doom Patrol was their better model. DiDio tried to force that Doom Patrol/Titans narrative onto DC's A-listers, while downgrading the Titans, and the results were awful.

Geoff Johns, who seemed to understand the Titans twenty years ago, goes unforgiven! The same goes for DiDio himself, who churned out some of the worst Judas-Contract-related writing ever and almost destroyed Brion Markov as a character. Marv Wolfman keeps revisiting Raven and I wish he wouldn't (the first version of Raven was the best one, sorry). I think creators like J. T. Krul or Eric Wallace or Scott Lobdell never had enough editorial space and time to work the Titans formula out and take it to the next level.

This is probably because DC's editors now view the Titans as a subsidiary of the Bat franchise; for over a decade, they have pushed Batman as their primary hero. You can't find DC under their mountain of Batbooks. From this perspective, the Titans are 'Robin's team,' but in a skewed way, as though the entire Titans franchise is a Bat spin-off, which it is not. Even then, when you understand that Tara Markov was conceived as the Titans' anti-Robin, and Deathstroke as the anti-Batman, you can see that DC's people do not now dig deeply enough into the lore of their own company to write the stories they could and should write.

So. I follow the 2016-2017 Titans Rebirth series from a distance, which is to say, I read the online reviews once every three months. It took them eight issues to put the team in New York? Come on. Just put them in New York. To be fair to DC, I was glad to see the original team revived, haven't read the Rebirth Titans, and will probably read the TPBs.

Tara and Gar in the New 52 series, Ravagers (2012-2013). They first reappeared together in Superboy Vol. 6 #8 (June 2012) and Teen Titans in the same summer. So close, yet so far: DC shipped the characters but did little with them. Image Source: pinterest.

But no way will I get fooled again by a cover like 2009's Blackest Night or that jaunt with Red Beast Boy in the New 52. I read that New 52 material. I'm not going to review it, because it went N.O.W.H.E.R.E. As usual, DC did not bother to explore the Doom Patrol connection closely enough, even though the Ravagers storyline involved DP characters. The reason those covers and teasers drew in the fans and left them wanting - with no resolution to threads left hanging for decades - was because the Judas Contract story is not done. DC's writers still have not finished it. They only think they have. This is why they keep compulsively retelling the Judas Contract in different ways, every three or four years. No matter how many times you rework the Judas Contract and the Deathstroke-Tara-Gar triad, unless you follow through, the story is not done. They could have done it with Terra 2 and failed in 2007. They could have done it during Flashpoint in 2011, when Terra reappeared with the Amazons. They didn't. They could have done it in the Ravagers in 2013. They even could have dealt with it in other timelines in 2013. Nope. Doppelgangers, Triplegangers, Quadruplegangers. Only the guys who made Tiny Titans seemed to understand these characters, which is a pity.

Image Source: Smash Mexico.

This brings us to today. DC Animated Universe debuted a Direct to Video film, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract on 31 March 2017 at WonderCon, with general release dates, 4 April and 18 April 2017. You can buy it on Amazon here. The film is directed by Sam Liu, with Slade voiced by the late, great Miguel Ferrer, who is sadly missed. It's terrific that Christina Ricci is voicing Tara Markov. At first glance, I think Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, looks and sounds suitably grotesque, horrifying and creepy. Blood is one of the most dangerous and venomous villains developed at DC in the 1980s. He is under-used - have we really not seen him since just after Flashpoint?

Blood was a major part of the Judas Contract, something I did not consider at length. One of the main reporters in New York who constantly misreported on the Titans was a Blood acolyte. Brother Blood was almost as important as Deathstroke in the lead up to the Judas Contract, although Slade got all of the attention. That is an interesting reminder, especially when you consider how Blood later messed with Raven and tangled with the Wilsons. It is a storyline that could be developed.

Image Source: IMDB.

Image Source: Coming Soon.

The team line-up is different; I'll comment on that in my review once I've seen the film (see below). And Gar Logan, well, Gar can't get a break from DC. This storyline was one of the biggest developments for this character. After the Judas Contract in the mid-1980s, DC could have made the Changeling (or Beast Boy) as big as Spider-Man, who was developed in the same time period at Marvel. When you consider that, you realize how DC dropped the ball.

No, no, no. Image Source: The Outhousers.

The Judas Contract story was about Garfield trying to grow up into a romantic hero, maybe following in Nightwing's shoes, but with a huge, open heart, and tragically failing. This was not Nightwing's and Kory's story, and DC have brought in material from much earlier in the NTT series to ship those characters here, rather than Gar and Tara. Instead, we have Gar de-aged, in pointed ear elf mode, texting about eating pizza in the opening of the film. This is gross, if you know what that means. Dear DC: why can't Garfield Logan get any respect? He's the Doom Patrol legacy character!

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) - Trailer Debut. Video Source: DC via Youtube.

Teen Titans The Judas Contract Trailer #2 2017 Animated Movie HD. Video Source: DC via Youtube.

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract | Syfy Wire. Video Source: DC via Youtube.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Producers on Miguel Ferrer (Wondercon 2017) | Syfy Wire (1 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Review of Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016)
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (6 April 2017)

Contains spoilers.

The 2017 Judas Contract film was skillfully done, entertaining, and fairly well animated, in line with DC's other animated output. It should be watched on its own terms, separate from the 1980s' comic book arc. DC's animators are trying to bring in fans of the animated Teen Titans television series from 2003 to 2006, and from 2013 to the present. The fans from the 1980s and 1990s - not so much. As other reviewers have said, the film stands up if you look at it as entertainment made to appeal to younger fans who only know a few beats from the original story and are more familiar with the softer, animated TV version of the Judas Contract from the early 2000s. I'll also refer to the previous Liu-helmed film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans (with Jon Bernthal voicing Trigon! Ooh.) as it affects this sequel.

The Judas Contract has a lot of action, beautifully coloured and reasonably well-drawn sequences. The most effective parts of the film are the character development between Kory and Dick and the Brother Blood subplot. I wish that they had just done a Brother Blood animated Titans film instead and left the whole Judas Contract out of it. That is the best material here, and it would have made much more sense.

I wanted to see more of the animated portrayal of Blood and Mother Mayhem, their diabolical church, and the church's crazed followers. Brother Blood's sacrifice of a reporter who asks the wrong questions - and the bath the evil high priest later takes in the reporter's blood - is fantastically disgusting. Scantily clad serving girls dousing him with water after the blood bath! Dark circles under his eyes! Those hollow cheeks! Tip-toeing around a graveyard and murmuring to Deathstroke that every corpse always has a shred of life in it left to exploit! The only thing missing here was Blood getting Mayhem pregnant. If you have seen recent horror films like The Neon Demon (2016), or followed the music videos and conspiracy theories on the Internet, you know that Marv Wolfman's 1970s' cult and occult background for Brother Blood could come back to life - just the way Blood does - and deliver now in a big way to a new audience.

What they should have done was looked at the final version of Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, expanded the Brother Blood story, and edited out the Judas Contract material and saved it for a separate film, because the Judas Contract is really hard to do properly. Of course, DC can't do that these days because of the way they market their products. Blood has a long continuity in the Titans' books. The Titans couple which mirrored Blood and Mayhem was Raven and Nightwing. They could have brought together all the Titans' Brother Blood arcs in one film, along with the Starfire-Nightwing-Raven triangle.

One of Geoff Johns's most skillful retcons in the early 2000s was that he dedicated the Brother Blood church to the worship of Raven's father, Trigon. You can see how if director Sam Liu had expanded this theme into a Teen Titans: Brother Blood film, it would have followed on his Justice League vs. Teen Titans film and worked really well. As it was, they tried to pack a lot in and the connection between Blood and the H.I.V.E. was not explained. Deathstroke's and Jericho's involvement, connection, and motives are feeble here. You don't know why Deathstroke has even bothered with Blood's project, other than the cash and some murky rambling dialogue between Deathstroke and Damian. Slade's offer to Terra that he wants to set up his own league of assassins with the contract money, and her at his side, proves unclear later when he double-crosses her. His double-cross of Terra is logical plotwise, but we don't get an emotional barometer of Slade. We don't see anything of his soldier's code, such as it is.

As for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract honouring the history of the actual Judas Contract story line, this film does not do that at all. As usual, DC will not give Garfield Logan a break. The moment in the film when he kisses Tara and should talk about his past, his dialogue is cut. The shipping subplot focuses on Dick and Kory, which, in a film called the Judas Contract, is not the point.

I don't know why DC won't seriously develop Beast Boynew fans take forever to find out his complex, fascinating history with the Doom Patrol. The last time anyone tried to build up Gar was in Johns's first Beast Boy mini, a long time ago in 2000. Not even Johns's second story arc from 2004 helped much. Above all, the Judas Contract is about Gar and the Doom Patrol legacy, while Terra brings in the covert Batman legacy.

The Titans, as Gar says at the end of the film, are about family. But what he describes here is the shallow group hug version of Titans family that the DiDio-era has worked so hard to push and undermine. It is a superficial formula, disconnected from the Titans' biggest stories about family struggles. The film definitely toyed with the idea, with Jaime alienated from his parents and volunteering at a local soup kitchen. But considering that the central story about Tara and Gar was missing so much, this did not help. The Kory-Dick arc in the film was well done, and this is why I think it would have been better to use that arc with the Brother Blood material to make a separate, non-Judas Contract movie. As for the team shake-up, Jaime was an OK stand-in for Victor. But without Donna, Wally and Roy, there's an emptiness to these characters. The film lacks their closeness and their heart.

Every family has its failures, curses and secrets. The Titans titles were at their best when writers understood that members of this team were the wards of the A-list Justice League. After the first half of the first series, the Titans were never supposed to be a mini or junior Justice League. They were an anti-Justice League, not because they were rebellious, but because they were like the latchkey superhero kids who worked out the Justice League's dirty laundry behind closed doors. This is what legacies and family are about in the DCU, and that should resonate in today's narcissistic and materialistic world. Imagine the shiny A-listers, hogging the limelight, oblivious to the messes they left behind. The Titans were forgotten wards, who dealt with the emotional fallout of superheroism, which the League did not even know it had generated.

For example, if it was ever creepy that Batman liked to adopt orphaned wards and turn them into his little super-soldiers, Marv Wolfman explored that with Deathstroke and Terra, because he could not say it outright about Batman and Robin. Given today's rumours about élites compromised by child and sex trafficking, the film could have dealt with that and struck a chord with the Internet generation. The film at least make Deathstroke creepier than Wolfman did. But Liu stopped short of having Tara sleep with Deathstroke. If you are going to deal with just how frightening and heart-breaking this story is, you have to include that. Just to have a sense of how misguided and misogynistic the initial conception was, Wolfman later regretted the sex between Tara and Deathsroke because it made Deathstroke look bad. If I recall correctly, Deathstroke seduces Tara when he is in his 40s and she is 15 years old, and then he blames her for it. And the narrator (aka the writer, Wolfman) in the original comic books asks you to accept Deathstroke at his word, making him Tara's victim, not the other way around.

For this reason, I was grateful when the people at TV Tropes summarized my continuity for Terra on their site in relation to the Judas Contract:
"Unfortunate Implications: During her time with the Titans, it's revealed Terra's having a sexual affair with Slade, and the story's creators have confirmed that the purpose of this was to shock the readers at what a slut she is, never mind that nothing indicates she's ever slept with anybody else, she actually seems to think Slade loves her, and Slade might be committing statutory rape. When the time comes to betray the Titans, they try to reason with her and fail, and she dies while trying to kill them, destroyed by her own powers. The story becomes quite Anvilicious at how evil she is. She's explicitly called evil, the Narrator informs us that she's both completely insane and completely responsible for her actions (a contradiction in terms), even Slade later says her evil scared even him. Her death is essentially a teen suicide (in a series that was about, and originally intended for, teens) where everything is being blamed on the teen. And as for Slade, her boss and lover, the man who's decades older than her, a multiple murderer, who created the Evil Plan she was following, whose own stated intentions with that plan was to murder all the Titans, he is (comparatively speaking) Easily Forgiven by the Titans afterwards, and is treated by DC Comics as an Anti-Hero for the next several years. He's even treated as a father figure by several of the Titans he was trying to kill! This storyline exonerated the adult in this murderous partnership while trying to blame everything on the 16 year-old girl. The blogger tamaranorbust has a thorough, multi-part study on Terra, covering her appearances, her background, how she's referred to, the characters she affected, the histories of her two later namesakes and the implications of her story."
At least in Liu's 2017 Judas Contract, Deathstroke comes across as a ruthless creep, which I found refreshing. The director evidently didn't want to get into that too deeply, and so Tara's madness and suicide at the end don't really line up with her earlier snotty defensiveness. One minute she's snarky, the next minute she's dead. Nor is Deathstroke's familial mess explained, although Jericho appears. In general, the film does not explore Tara's personality smoothly, even though Liu tried to remain faithful to the main beats of the original story and he gave Tara flashbacks and nightmares, which are consistent with shock, trauma, and abuse.

The film did hint at, but not consider deeply enough, why Tara and Gar are drawn to each other, beyond the villains' larger plots. If there was one team in the 1980s which should have been honoured above all others in the DC Universe, even above the League, it was the misfit Doom Patrol. They were the only DC team that died in the Silver Age, in Doom Patrol #121 (September-October 1968), to defend good against evil. When you think of the Judas Contract, don't imagine a young hero like Dick Grayson. Grayson's A-list mentor, Batman, has a giant personality which overshadows everyone and everything around him. By contrast, all of Gar's family and mentors from the Doom Patrol were dead, missing, or crazy.

Just as Gar Logan (invented in November, 1965) should have been DC's answer to Spider-Man (developed in August, 1962), it is important to see other parallels with Marvel's more successful character. Readers found Gwen Stacy's death in Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 (June-July 1973) so shocking that these issues actually ended the Silver Age in comics. The only character at DC who had endured a similar scarring was Peter Parker's contemporary, Garfield Logan. Therefore, it was only fitting that Gar Logan should have a girlfriend he loved who would die in some horrific way. Wolfman and Perez obviously could not repeat the Gwen Stacy shocker. But they took elements of that, incorporated bits of the Kitty-Piotr romance in the X-Men, and then added DC's legacy mess.

To connect the Doom Patrol background properly to Tara would have taken a lot more consideration and time in producing this film. It was great that Liu included a few flashbacks of Markovia, but they removed Tara's royal past, which diminished her characterization.

Best-selling author Brad Meltzer famously described how the Judas Contract devastated him when it was first published. I am his Generation X contemporary, and I have to say, having experienced the story in a similar way, to date, Meltzer is the only writer to revisit the Judas Contract and do it any justice. And I think I know why.

I remember reading that Meltzer said he once talked about this story with Marv Wolfman. When the latter explained his deeper intentions, Meltzer finally accepted the Judas Contract's conclusions. I don't know what they discussed, and to my knowledge, Meltzer never publicly elaborated. Given the Nazi sympathies of the Markov royal family in the Outsiders books (later retconned and reversed), I always wondered if the Judas Contract was a warning parable about the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. I know from reading the history of that region that one of the most devastating pre-Holocaust trends was the way non-Jewish people hatefully turned on the Jews, who had previously been their neighbours, co-workers, friends, and lovers. It was that widespread and real, historic, senseless, murderous betrayal, well before the actual genocide, which I believe Wolfman may have wanted to reveal to a 1980s' generation. That was the reason I also accepted the conclusion of the Judas Contract and have tried so hard on my blog to come to terms with Wolfman's and Perez's story about Tara Markov.

If you read the Doom Patrol arc in New Teen Titans #13-#15 (1981-1982), which was a prologue for the Judas Contract, you'll notice that Wolfman gives the German and French villains a lot of dialogue about Nazism and racial supremacy, while Robotman and Changeling (Beast Boy), the remaining Doom Patrollers, are still combating these ideas. In the final pages of the Judas Contract (1984), Tara is spouting similar racist rhetoric about superhumans being superior to ordinary humans. The reason she disdains Garfield is not because of some teen angst dating thing, or even Slade running romantic interference (as in the 2017 film). It's because Gar doesn't see himself as superior to normal human beings, even though he has super powers. One glance at the spread of neo-Nazism on the Internet confirms that this aspect of the Judas Contract is even more relevant today and DC should consider and continue this story much more carefully.

I keep thinking about the live action 2000s' X-Men film adaptations and wondering why they were so much more successful and faithful to the mood of the 1980s' stories. Maybe it's because they stayed true to the characters and did not try to update them or change the team. When it came to heavy subtexts, like Nazism, you will notice the X-Men films squarely faced them. DC is gun-shy about heavy themes like Nazism, or incest between Trigon and Raven in Justice League vs. Teen Titans. DC skirts the sub-themes, while Marvel faces them head-on, and Marvel has better results. DC also updates their classic teams and characters beyond recognition, rather than keeping the characters in place who made the original stories work.

A related element in the Judas Contract which was ignored in the 2017 film is also important today, after the recession, when we see a growing gap between the super-rich and the precariat. In the 1980s, DC's comics contained covert class messages, which I'm sure DiDio's DC are eager to play down. While Marvel's Peter Parker had trouble paying his rent, DC's Garfield Logan lived in a palace in the Hamptons. In watching the film, I found myself missing the 1980s' context of the original Judas Contract and its themes of 1980s' wealth, conspicuous consumption, and worship of royals and celebrities. Kory was a supermodel and princess. Donna was princess. Dick had been adopted by a billionaire. Raven's father ruled several planets. No wonder Wally West, the team's lone conservative from the Midwest, was traumatized about being plain old middle class. Many of DC's Gold and Silver Age superheroes were royals or extremely wealthy, back when it wasn't a badge of shame. This was part of what made Gar Logan who he was - a teen Hollywood star, adopted by a glamorous Hollywood movie star step-mother and a billionaire step-father. Tara Markov was a disowned princess. If you don't know about the attitudes from this time period, and don't understand this part of the Judas Contract, the message about Terra's heart of stone and her powers over the material world will go right past you.

When I think of the Judas Contract, I always think of the French ballad from 1978, Le Monde est Stone. Cyndi Lauper did a 1992 cover, The World is Stone. The song is very sad. It's about people becoming hard-hearted, tough, disconnected from themselves and defined by materialism and money. They lose their ways, lose their souls. They learn not to care in order to protect themselves, to survive at any cost and get ahead. This is why, at that time, Garfield Logan's attempt to help Tara Markov in this story was so important. The whole Judas Contract was about his effort - against the advice of his best friends - to overcome the harshness of the world with friendship and love, to become a true blue romantic hero. In Wolfman's telling of the story, Tara, the hero's love interest, is so cold-hearted that she scares even the villain. Thankfully, in Liu's 2017 film version, at least Tara has a heart in the end.

DC Universe: Young Justice: Outsiders (season 3; 2019)

Young Justice Season 3 Episode 1 (Cat Grant News Report) (10 January 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

DC explored Markovia in an animated television version earlier this year. Thanks to a reader who summarized the plot of this animated version, here. Review to follow in this space.

Review of Tales from the Dark Multiverse: The Judas Contract #1 (2019)
DC's Darker version of a Dark Tale: Batman's and Robin's Secrets Revealed in a Mirror Female Character (backdated to 29 May 2010; written and added to this post on 12 December 2019)

Image Source: DC via Batman News.
In 2019, DC initiated a Tales from the Dark Multiverse series of one-shots to retell some of its greatest dark stories with even 'darker twists.' I haven't been following the company's escapades because I am waiting for DiDio and Co. to retire. But I keep an eye on Titans-related developments, and this issue was significant enough to merit an addition to my blog series on Terra.

DC ended the 2010s - probably the worst decade in Titans' story-telling - with an alt-version of the Judas Contract. This one-shot, dating from December 2019, reinforces the worst aspects of the story, particularly Tara's crazy-insane, insane-crazy insanity and the fact that she Had To Die.

In the original story, Tara died and everyone else survived. The character was revived in the 1990s and 2000s in two unsatisfactory alt-versions. The character who matters is the original one. DC at least focused on Terra 1 here, and the dark twist in this one-shot is that she survives and everyone else dies.

It's not much of a spoiler to write that. The plot of the one-shot simply states that if she hadn't died, she would have been even crazier, more murderous, more out of control, and more intent on becoming the lone member of a superior, Nazi-esque super-species. She again rejects Gar Logan on that basis: he's too weak to be worthy of her. It is this issue's only nod to the Doom Patrol's background story to the Judas Contract. The other aspect, sadly neglected, is the elemental trope. It gets shallow treatment in that Tara invents a second superego for herself: Gaia. But the writers, Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom, go nowhere with that.

Because DC was obsessed with Batman during 2010s, the part of Tara's story that made her an anti-Robin persists in this issue. This was always a cloaked element of Tara Markov's characterization. Perhaps now - with elite pedophile scandals reaching Buckingham Palace - it is the one aspect most worth reviewing. You can't understand the Judas Contract unless you know that Wintergreen is the anti-Alfred; Tara is the anti-Dick Grayson; and Deathstroke is the anti-Batman. This issue hammers this point home, while still being veiled about it.

In the original Judas Contract, Gar Logan's persistent kindness launched Tara's descent into madness. Her karmic bond with Gar set her off. Here, Dick ignites Tara's craziness. She goes batty because she is Robin's buried self, his 'subterranean' alter-ego. For decades, DC has used and abused this female character to tell Batman's secrets. That is no small thing, given that during the 2010s, DC promoted Batman above Superman. Batman became DC's most important character.

It's unfortunate that Tara's story is partly Gar's story and partly Dick's story as legacy characters; and her story is also partly Deathstroke's story, because she was used to make him into the anti-Batman. Terra has always been used as a female adjunct character to build male characters. She has not been meaningfully developed as a female character in her own right. Here, DC exploits this Titans' classic to reveal obliquely that the Batman-Robin subtext was sexual, and that it began when Dick Grayson was underaged.

In this issue, Dick states that he has been wearing the same costume since he was eight years old. Subtext: that's when Batman's abuse started. That is when Robin became the "back half" of Batman. Batman's sexual abuse turned Dick into a 'female.' That alter ego female is Tara Markov.

Of course, DC can't say that about Batman. So the company uses this marred female character to reveal what it cannot state about its most promoted male character. Dick's first name has always been a plain enough. Even his last name, Grayson (gray son) symbolizes that there is something about the original Robin that descends into Fifty Shades of Grey, murky areas, the veiled, the unexplained, the secret. It is even possible that what DC is really hinting at (in the most cryptic way) is that Batman's sexual abuse split Dick Grayson's personality, and Tara is one of his buried alters.

In that case, the whole Judas Contract would actually be a fantasy, playing out in Dick Grayson's unconscious. Spoilers: this would make the Judas Contract into a version of Fight Club, with Tara replacing the Tyler Durden character and Dick playing the Narrator. Tara reveals Dick's responses to the Batman-Robin relationship and his emergence as an adult superhero named Nightwing.

Nightwing doesn't emerge in this version of the story; instead Tara becomes all-powerful and all-destructive. It is a speculative exploration of how Dick Grayson's buried alter egos might rise or fall, and what might happen to the Titans and the whole DC Universe in consequence.

DC's mainly male creators from the past decade have adored grimdark death and gore, but boy, are they squeamish when it comes to being honest about Batman's dirtiest secret. I wonder how many of DC's writers and editors, who are charged to retell the Judas Contract every few years, actually understand their job. Do they know why they are being asked to tell this story again in exactly this way, with Tara blamed, over, and over, and over?

Do new writers bother to find out that Marv Wolfman originally conceived Deathstroke and Tara in this subversive light, as shadow versions of two of DC's greatest heroes: Batman and Robin? One hint about Deathstroke is his missing right eye. He is a Left Hand Path character, implying black magic or occult (hidden) meanings.

Greta doing the left eye thing. Image Source: Twitter/i-D/VICE/Vigilant Citizen.

The left eye, so favoured by today's celebrities in countless photo shoots, represents the left eye of the Ancient Egyptian god, Horus; from Occultopedia:
"The origin of the Eye of Horus 'Horus, the sun of Osiris and Isis was called ‘Horus who rules with two eyes'. His right eye was white and represented the sun: his left eye was black and represented the moon. According to the myth, Horus lost his left eye to his evil brother, Seth, who he fought to avenge Seth’s murder of Osiris. Seth tore out of the eye but lost the fight. The eye was reassembled by magic, by Thoth, the god of writing, the moon and magic. Horus presented his eye to Osiris, who experienced rebirth in the underworld."
The left eye thus refers to someone who has been violently awakened (possibly through abuse) to secret spiritual truths. It also symbolizes non-logical, intuitive, creative right brain function, which views the world through the left eye. Deathstoke's injury also equates him with a slang term for the penis, 'Old One Eye.'

When you read the Judas Contract this way, Tara's murderous rage makes much more sense. It is not a story about a crazy girl. Tara's desire to rip apart Deathstroke, Wintergreen, the Titans, all heroes on earth - and then the entire planet is a male child-victim's primal fantasy of violent revenge on his pedophile abuser.



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


  1. So wait, "The Judas Contract" was supposed to be a Nazi allegory? If that's so, then no, I don't accept the conclusion since that makes no damn sense. Hardly anyone who has even read that story is going to walk away thinking of Nazis, only that mentally ill teenage girls are trouble.

  2. Hi Anon,

    The Judas Contract absolutely had Nazi themes in it; but that has been removed in the past 25 years.

    Read Terra's whole continuity on this blog, because I explain it and give you scans from the old issues. Go back and read the original Doom Patrol comics, read NTT #13-15, the hunt for the Doom Patrol. Read the original Outsiders comics, which tied the Markov royal family to Nazis, much later retconned to say they fought Nazis. But originally they were pro-Nazi. There was a whole arc in the Outsiders about this, summarized here.

    Check the supervillain General Zahl (his name means 'Number' as in concentration camp tattoos ). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Zahl

    These stories were written in the 1960s-1980s when WWII was much closer in living memory. That understanding of WWII has faded a lot, especially since 2000. Later retellings of the Judas Contract scrub this element. So the original built-in reasons why Terra kills herself are missing a crucial aspect.

    But if you recall that element, it suddenly makes sense why Terra (in the original JC) is ranting right before she dies about being a superhuman and superior to normal humans. So she wants to be with Deathstroke because she feels he ruthlessly accepts his superhumanism and all it entails. She looks down on Gar because he still cares about normal people. This was Wolfman's big reveal, the core of her madness. I don't feel he pulled it off very well. It doesn't work. The problem with this story is - unlike X-Men and Magneto - the Holocaust theme was not front and centre and not clearly acknowledged.

    Because Wolfman intended Terra to die, really the Judas Contract is not about her. It's about Gar Logan as a legacy character - and you have to ask yourself, what is the Doom Patrol legacy? In NTT #13-15, it shows Gar and Robotman fighting General Zahl and Madame Rouge; they're fighting a resurgence of Nazi ideology. This story was the prologue to the JC.

    The JC is also about serious, hidden problems in the Bat legacy, but that is a separate issue. Again, if you understand that Terra was, in Wolfman's mind, a non-character or a means to an end, you realize he was just trying to use her as a plot device to develop Gar and Dick - and Deathstroke (ugh). The story wasn't supposed to be about her, and you can see that in his dismal writing after, and other DC writers after, who kept trying to scrub her out. But Terra as a character was much more substantial than he or other writers bargained for.

    Gwen Stacy was a plot device too - a girlfriend character who was a means to an end, to teach the hero a lesson and drive home a point *about Peter* not about Gwen. But again, there were problems with using a female character so transparently like that, as a perpetual victim-ghost, in Gwen's case; or, in Terra's case, a mouthpiece for an idea.

    1. Terra was a non-character to George Perez too, but I cut Perez some more slack because at least he also understood exactly who Deathstroke was, what kind of a person he was, and as soon as Perez left the title following the Terror of Trigon arc, Wolfman ran loose with his own (mis)interpretation of the character.

      Seriously, if you have the Judas Contract DTV Blu-Ray, check out the bonus feature on Deathstroke. You have Perez correctly pointing out that he is a villain who justifies his evil deeds to others and in his own head to get around that they are in fact EVIL deeds, and saying how he had wanted to just end the character in the Judas Contract arc and never expected him to continue on to the point of still being around today.......and then you have Wolfman, who is saying the most asinine things like outright admitting that he never saw Deathstroke as a villain but as a victim of circumstance and that he's so honorable and that he's caught in a situation he doesn't want to be in and can't get out of it, like he has no choice. Oh, and wording his relationship with Terra as if SHE was seducing HIM, and the real tragedy is how low it's bringing HIM.

      I credit how good the New Teen Titans was mostly on Perez now, Wolfman disgusts me that much.

    2. Actually, he's been singing that tune for a long time. Here's a quote from a magazine interview:

      “Actually, I never thought of Deathstroke as a villain or bad guy. I thought of him as someone who was put into a bad situation and couldn’t find a way out so he kept getting deeper and deeper into the hole he was digging around himself. I think one of the best Deathstroke stories was one I did in Titans called ‘Shades of Gray’ where he and Changeling go to a diner and just talk. I think that showed who Deathstroke was. I’m not comfortable with him being a mega-villain. As for how he acted after Terra—well, he was in the early process of redeeming himself. I think of Terra as the manipulator, not Deathstroke. She was his means of getting out of the HIVE quagmire he was in. He was her means at getting revenge against the world.”

      At the risk of sounding cliche, I just can't with this.

    3. I agree that Perez over time had much more integrity wrt those characters than Wolfman. Wolfman kept working on the Titans much longer than he should have, with the result that he spent the late 80s and 90s ruining his earlier work. The series should have been handed to different creators around 1987, with Wolfman's best work intact. I agree about that Wolfman's view of Deathstroke was misguided. He made unfortunate decisions with other characters. Wally and Raven. Steve Dayton. Dick Grayson and Koriand'r (not entirely his fault because the Bat editors had a say in that). I appreciated how in Wolfman's worst years, when he was ruining all the other Titans, somehow Roy Harper got a break. But DC made up for that later in that horrific mini a few years ago, followed by Deathstroke's Titans.

      As a writer myself, the JC and Wolfman's other decisions were lessons on how to create incredible stories and characters, followed by caveats, a warning on how a writer could ruin his/her own story. As a creator, I agree overall that Perez had a lighter touch and treated his characters with more care. I still think his Wonder Woman revamp was wonderful and own that whole run.

  3. From what I've been reading from other people's reaction apparently DC nowadays says that The Judas Contract happened...but to the original 60s team instead of TNTT, so Gar was never a part of it. N52 TT probably isn't even canon at this point (Tim Drake has never met anyone named Conner and I don't think they ever bothered to explain why BB went from red to green). DC refuses to knowledge TNTT but Raven and Cyborg have apparently always been good friends according to Metal, although in Cyborg's solo series in Rebirth he has clearly never met Beast Boy. Does Gar even have a connection to the Doom Patrol? Or anything of his character aside from being comic relief? But I wouldn't worry, I'm sure things will improve for the Titans! Especially now that 4 of them have been killed in...the first issue...of Heroes in Crisis, AKA completely-not-Identity Crisis II, which we all know is just gonna end with Harley Quinn saving everyone or something.

    1. And this is why I stopped reading DC for the past few years. The continuity shakeups and endless crossovers are too insane and gimmicky for me. I don't like the lack of respect for continuity and characterization, to the point where they swap out the original character and replace him or her with a completely different person (or people); or they erase a character's whole continuity. Then they make money off fan relief when they revert back to the original status quo. It's a bait and switch, and DC does not deserve money for resorting to rudimentary fourth wall tricks.

      In the 80s, DC clawed its way back from bankruptcy by hiring new writers who were given a free hand to rework and update the characters, while staying true to the characters' core personalities and histories. It worked really well. Little editorial interference, actual creativity. Today, you would have to stop the crossovers. Stop the continuity BS. Restore the core DC universe. Stop focusing so much on the trinity and especially Batman, and revive the C-list characters and give them more depth.

      Good luck with that. I'm not sure DC will manage it in my lifetime. I'm serious.

  4. Terra is alive in the new continuity though,it seems.So maybe she has a shot. Though with the directions the old Titans(even the originals...)have taken...apparently they made Wally West the murderer(!)in Heroes in Crisis.A mass-murderer of heroes,some of them(Gnarrk(revived just to be killed,almost makes me laugh honestly,in a weird way),Hotspot,even Roy Harper is dead)Titans.Dick now goes by Ric and has amnesia.Gar and Raven are de-aged,Donna Troy has two new origin stories,and so on.
    I already shared my thoughts on your continuity on another post.I agree about your conclusions with the Judas Contract,and in fact you highlight a lot of the problems that JC adaptations face:they don't build up Terra enough.The 2003 cartoon Terra was barely on the team,this one had the same problem,and her relationship with Beast Boy wasn't explored much either.
    And about Gar Logan and him being a ''legacy character'',well,he has the worst of it,I think.All legacy characters are non-existent or demoted,but I think Logan has some of the worst luck,because unlike Dick Grayson or Wally West he isn't connected to a major DC hero,but to the Doom Patrol,a DC team that's not that well-known or major sellers.So if those characters are demoted,then Logan was for a long time not even connected to the DP.Now it has been resolved,I think,but even then,I doubt it's going to be explored in depth.It doesn't help that he's been absent from that team for a long time...I still think that if Gar had gotten out of the Titans in the late eighties or so and went back to the DP when Grant Morrison was writing the title,then maybe it could have been explored more,I don't know.Anyways,it's nice to find a fellow fan,BB seems to be one of the least popular Titans of the 80s NTT lineup.A shame,really.

    1. Hi Kuno, Thanks for your remarks on this and other posts. I wonder if the only way to deal with these neglected characters is in new media, where they may be more freedom, television, animation, video games and so on.

    2. Iron Man used to be a B-tier Marvel character. Now he is the main character of the biggest franchise in the history of Hollywood. Now Tony Stark is one of the faces of Disney's ever-growing conglomerate, alongside the likes of Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader and Homer Simpson, as weird as it sounds. Spider-Man's new movies are about Peter Parker dealing with Iron Man's legacy.

      But this leads to a few questions: If millions of fans across the world cried when Iron Man sacrificed himself in order to stop Thanos' genocidal plans making Avengers Endgame the highest grossing movie in history, then... why does the Iron Man ongoing series only sell 30k units per issue?

      Unlike his movie counterpart, comic Iron Man will never "die", and even if he does, he will just get resurrected in two years or so. Are comicbooks an inherently niche medium or is there something seriously wrong with Marvel and DC's strategies?

      And since Kuno mentioned DC's treatment of Beast Boy, did you know he was one of the few characters showcased on Cartoon Network's 25th anniversary bumper, where he turns into Jake The Dog from Adventure Time? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7xHpEmwwVI) Therefore, does Beast Boy belong more to Cartoon Network than DC Comics? Legally he doesn't, but to the general audiences, maybe he does.

    3. Thanks for the link Anon. Some characters fit non-comics media better, maybe because of the nature of the character, perhaps because production processes are different. The Titans look pretty good in video games and the television show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yz0c6EEd1Io

  5. Just an observation- Greta is covering her right eye, not her left...

    1. Yes, the idea is that the right eye is covered to expose the left eye alone. Google 'left eye symbology' and 'left eye club' or 'black eye club'- Kinnigan on Youtube discusses the latter.

    2. Hello! First I want to say I'm a big fan of your writings on Titans continuity and what a mess DC has made of it and the characters for the past couple decades.

      Second, if someone hasn't mentioned it already, I highly recommend you check out the Rebirth Deathstroke run (recently wrapped up at #50) by Christopher Priest as well his own personal blog posts (http://lamerciepark.com/wp/) and interviews on the series (This is a good, recent one involving Terra : http://www.multiversitycomics.com/interviews/priest-interview/) He discusses the frustration he had with people forgetting Slade is a villain with a lot of the things he's done in the past, including the whole Terra situation which he goes into more detail on how he wanted to handle it and how much DC would let him. Priest makes it clear he doesn't see Terra as innocent in that even before meeting Slade she was a killer, but also acknowledges her as a victim and believes letting Slade off for what he did to her is stupid and destructive. Using mainly Wolfman's work as inspiration, Priest managed to write a Slade Wilson who while is a complicated man who loves his family deep down, he is still ultimately a villain and he doesn't sugar coat it. I don't want to spoil too much as it an interesting run with so many details to list, but he does bring in Terra during the Defiance Arc (basically his take on a Dark Titans team. DS Vol 4 "Defiance" & vol 5 "Fall of Slade" tpb). A Judas Contract-like event does happen following similar beats of Slade recruiting Terra to infiltrate the Titans and avenge Grant's death, but Terra gets to walk away alive and lead a life of her own afterwards. Slade/Terra is still there, but it's more honest in Slade being the manipulator here. I don't think I can adequately summarize the run especially the handling of Terra, but it is worth checking out for more material for your blog. I'm also happy to add that the series reminds everyone the importance of the Wilson family as whole and does more with them besides killing or villainifying the non-Rose members for Slade's angst. The biggest problem is DC's continuity for Titans is still a mess and we didn't see important moments of Terra interacting with Gar in Rebirth yet in the final issue of Heroes in Crisis, Gar has a session where where he says he misses Tara. From what I've seen of HiC, continuity is a big mess with all the characters and references featured. Supposedly there's yet another reboot in the wings, because of course DC.

      See also The Lazarus Contract a crossover of Deathstroke and the two Titans titles at the time. Terra isn't present (iirc Priest did originally want her there) but it shows us a deal that Slade and Dick Grayson came to that did help lead to Terra not dying.