Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Mystery of Teen Titans #32

No, not a mystery in the story or about the story. The mystery is why the hell I bought it. Not that I hated the Titans or anything, but — well, let me start from the beginning.

The beginning, for me, growing up in England, was Justice League of America #30, the second half of the JLA/JSA battle with the Earth-Three Crime Syndicate. It was the first comic book I ever bought and I was instantly hooked. From that point on I bought as many comics from the PX — Dad was civil service on a U.S. base — as I could, though by parental decree that was only two a week. That partly explains my being a DC guy — I liked Marvel, I occasionally bought Marvel but it wasn’t practical to buy both of the Big Two regularly.

By the end of the 1960s, buying any comics had become impractical. Dad had jumped into his own business, money was tight, and there was none for me to buy comics with. In hindsight, that’s not entirely a bad thing. This was about the time that the Metal Men got human disguises, Wonder Woman got the white pantsuit, Atom got saddled with Major Mynah and Denny O’Neill took over the JLA from Gardner Fox. As I mentioned in comments recently, some of my dislikes at that age were the result of my bad taste but O’Neill’s stories really were crap. Not having this era in my collection? Small loss.

In 1969 my family moved to the Florida Panhandle, where my father returned to civil service work. It would be a couple of years before I resumed reading comics, and the first one I bought was Teen Titans #32, by Steve Skeates and Nicholas Cardy. The mystery is, for the life of me I can’t figure out why.

It’s not that I disliked Teen Titans in the Silver Age. By my childhood standards it was perfectly decent super-fare, and Bob Haney’s attempts at hip teen slang didn’t bother me at all. As a British pre-teen it seemed perfectly plausible to me that American college students did say things like “We’re wild, woolly and full of gumdrops!” But it didn’t capture my heart anywhere near the way the Justice League or Flash did, or Hawkman, Green Lantern or Atom. The Avengers, my main Marvel purchase in childhood, probably ranked higher too.

So why when I started picking up comics again did I go with Teen Titans? I honestly have no idea.

Cardy’s art is great but art wouldn’t have convinced me at the time. The story — Kid Flash and Mal change history and return to an altered present structured around knighthood and sorcery — isn’t awful (though Mal’s repeated dialogue reminders that he’s a black guy from the ghetto come off very heavy-handed rereading as an adult) but it’s not amazing either. Thinking about reading the issue I don’t remember it triggering any excitement, whereas I remember vividly how Avengers #106 hooked me on Steve Englehart’s run.

So why TT #32? I suppose it might have been that there was nothing else available that day, but I didn’t pick up Justice League of America or Flash until the following year, while I’d picked up two more Titans issues by then. Sure, JLA was pretty “meh” until Len Wein took over, but I loved the team and as a tween I still wasn’t that picky.

I’m pretty sure at this point I’ll never know. Which is of absolutely no significance to anyone but me, but as dog care (our terrier/chihuaha had knee surgery this week) and Internet issues kept me from posting anything more substantive …

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Nick Cardy, Gil Kane and Rich Buckler.


  1. Le Messor

    Maybe it was that cover?
    The Titans facing a monster while (Lilith?) watches on? That’s kind of cool.

    Unfortunately, my Silver Age Teen Titans omnibus doesn’t extend to this issue (and my Avengers run of most of the 100’s doesn’t include #106).

    Heh. Major Mynah. Lol!

  2. It is a cool cover (of course. It’s Cardy). Most of the Mr. Jupiter-era covers balanced the House of Mystery supernatural feel with the superheroics quite well (better than the stories, I think).
    Avenger 106 was in some ways a weird one to get me hooked. As I’ve mentioned before it’s very continuity heavy: the Vision grieving that (he thinks) synthozoids are incapable of love, Rick Jones appearing as Captain Marvel’s partner (I had only the vaguest idea who Mar-Vell was), Cap having flashbacks to an untold battle with Madame Hydra and Hawkeye looked so different from the Silver Age I didn’t even recognize him. But it worked beautifully.

    1. Le Messor

      I do really like the Englehart era. I’ve been slowly trying to take the ‘most of’ out of ‘I have most of Avengers 100s’.

      I never really had a problem with flashbacks to stories in other issues, not even as a kid. Looks like you didn’t, either. 🙂

  3. I was quite surprised reading “Thousand Trophies of Batman” in the Golden Age Omnibuses to realize how many of the references to the stories behind the Trophy Room were to real printed stories — reading it reprint in the 1970s, I assumed most of them were made up.

    1. I’ve read most of that era and it’s surprisingly fun. I don’t think anyone would have objected if she’d been a knew character but as a reboot of Wonder Woman, it was less satisfactory.
      On the other hand, it worked better as a Wonder Woman reboot than the Azzarello/Chiang did.

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