Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Titans, Legionnaires, mutants: scenes from different Silver Age team books

Teen Titans #11, “Monster Bait,” by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, is a standard yarn for the series in the Silver Age. With school out for the summer, Speedy shows up to hang with the other super-teens and gets to join them on their latest adventure.

Which is? Glad you asked. They’re out to help Willie Gregson, a teenage science nerd working for the summer in genius Dr. Finlay’s lab. Crooks with proof Willie’s father is an ex-con — it’ll destroy his reputation and his business — have forced Willie to steal Finlay’s work for them; can the Titans find a way to help him fix things? As Haney would put it, don’t break a sweat coolest ones, it’s all gear!

Two moments in the comic jumped out at me as I reread the story. First, this opening page:I love the fan mail from LBJ and the Beatles. Then there’s this scene:No matter how hokey Haney’s concept of teen life got, Teen Titans gives me the impression that Haney likes kids. Lots of his generation of comics writers seemed to have a Kids These Days view of the younger generation. Haney seemed confident the kids are alright, even when they’re screaming their love of the latest pop star, dancing the frug, drag racing or otherwise acting like, well, teenagers.

As someone who was way nerdier as a kid than he was hip — which can also be said of me as a teen and for that matter an adult — I really dig that Haney’s approval extends to kids who are into science. Not only that, but to suggest there are lots of them, rather than lonely nerds like Peter Parker — I find that cool.

Now, the Legionnaires. “The Legion Chain Gang” (Jim Shooter, Curt Swan) from Adventure #360 was part two to a story I blogged about last month. In Part One the new Earth president disbands the Legion of Super-Heroes, then they’re outlawed and end up either imprisoned or on the run. In this issue it turns out the president is really Universo, manipulating events to destroy the LSH while he consolidates his control of Earth. It’s a solid story and I like that Universo uses his super-hypnosis strategically rather than just dominating his targets with it.

What struck me rereading it is a scene mid-story in which Universe confronts his son, Rond Vidar. Knowing Rond is immune to his powers, Universo’s locked him away and I clearly remember the villain getting pissed about it.What I didn’t remember, even though I’ve read it multiple times, was the previous page.That bit has a very different feel to it, much more like a father who really wants his son’s love and approval. It doesn’t make Universo good or even a good dad, but it does make him slightly more complex. Was I able to pick up on that now because I’m more analytical doing this Silver Age reread? Because I’m older and have a better eye for nuance? Or that because I’m older, even though childless, I have slightly more appreciation for the father’s perspective?

Either way, it’s a neat scene.

Next up, this panel from Doom Patrol #115, by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani. The DP battle a trio of evil, or at least extremely angry mutants.They are, without question, the freakiest mutants either the DCU or the MU gave us during the Silver Age.

#SFWApro. Titans art by Cardy. Legion by Swan, mutants by Premiani

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