|Date(s):||July 1964 to 1982|
|Tag(s):||Comics, Teen Titans, DC|
|Course:||“ENG 492H Honors Seminar in English,” Rollins College|
Making their first appearance in 1964, the Teen Titans were born out of a long history of a group of youths such as the Young Allies, the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, and others. In 1978, the original, and already once revived, Teen Titans comic series ran its final issue, number 53. Though the final issue ran the same year of the DC Implosion, the cancellation of the Teen Titans was not a product of the economic issues at DC, but rather the changes occurring in the comic book industry. The growing prominence of the direct market, the rise of the underground, and the maturation of the industry helped seal the fate of the Teen Titans. DC’s reported embarrassment regarding a book about junior superheroes did not help matters either.
The comic book industry did not mature overnight, and to understand the process that ushered in the mindset of the mid-Bronze age I turn to Denny O’Neil and Robert Crumb. O’Neil was one of the comic creators who had a distinct anti-authority superhero narrative post-Wertham. O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow series being the main vehicle through which O’Neil gave the population more socially conscious and mature stories with Green Lantern acting as the buddy of the authority where Green Arrow was the counterculture figure who knew what was going on. This is not to say that Teen Titans did not feature mature topics, one dealt with the accidental death of a peace activist during the Vietnam war, but Green Lantern/Green Arrow dealt with these issues with a different voice. I chose Crumb to represent the rise of underground, counterculture comics aimed at more mature audiences that were aided by the rise of the direct market in the 80s. Crumb’s work was not going for the same audience as O’Neil’s as evidenced by the fact that many underground comics, or comix, were sold at drug paraphernalia stores, but they represented the same process of maturation of the comic art form. The underground comix also represent the shift of comics from newsstand staples to special interest items to be found within specialized stores.
These factors combined to spell doom for the Teen Titans in 1978, but they also caused its revival two years later. One may venture to ask how the New Teen Titans emerged from the ashes of the old, and the answer is two-fold. Firstly, the New Teen Titans were a product of the power of star comic talent, a concept which had emerged during the O’Neil years with figures like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The two artists responsible for the creation of the New Teen Titans were new DC recruits former Marvel-men Marv Wolfman and George Perez. However, the Teen Titans mostly owe their revival to one group: The Uncanny X-Men. The overwhelming success of this Marvel title secured the idea that stories surrounding a multicultural group of teenage superheroes could be profitable, and money does a lot to alleviate embarrassment. The New Teen Titans and the Uncanny X-Men met in a crossover comic in 1982, thus cementing their link in the minds of many.
Revived by the forces that caused them to close shop, the Teen Titans are a case study in the desires of the comic book market.