Friday, May 28, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Don't be a Skater Hater and Superman, the Jerk

Doug: Hey, I'm back to check out Teen Titans #49, which is cover dated August 1977. The creators were Bob Rozakis on the words with Jose Delbo and Vince Colletta on the visuals.
An action-packed Buckler/Abel cover full of heroes and skateboarders draws us into a tale entitled, "Raid of the Rocket-Rollers!"

Doug: So you say, "Hmmm... sounds an awful lot like Marvel's Rocket Racer from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man!" You might be right, were you thinking that, as the Rocket Racer hit the newsstands only a month after this yarn. Coincidence? Well, it's been well-documented that the creators from comics' Big Two often had a beer together -- so who knows? All I know is that skateboards were a huge fad around that time, and I know I got one that summer!

Doug: If you've been following my coverage of the late-Bronze Age revival of Teen Titans, then you know I've been pretty hard on scribe Bob Rozakis. In fairness, I think most of us know that DC's editorial had an oft-heavy hand in story creation. So maybe what's been eating at me isn't all Bob's fault. And with this issue, I tried to approach it not only with that thought in mind, but also with a mind toward what we've all known to be true throughout most of DC's history: they were writing comics for 10-year olds. And, as I read this I tried really hard to put myself back in my bedroom as an 11-year old coming to this story for the first time. And guess what? I liked this story... for what it was.

Doug: I'll start off with a very cool, but impractical, splash page. I recall really loving this image; nevermind the fact that they're about to plunge to the ocean floor with fishbowls on their heads -- no oxygen, no pressure suits of any kind. 10-year olds, 10-year olds... OK, so no one knows what's wrong with Aqualad. Dude's not right, but apparently nothing is wrong with him. Aquaman goes all jerkface on Robin and Kid Flash, and that's about it. Back on land, Gabriel's Horn, the Titans new disco is opening to a large crowd. As I said last time, I'm thinking the term "disco" denotes records and a DJ, not a live band. Oh, wait -- 10-year olds, 10-year olds...

Doug: The evening is rudely disrupted by four guys on skateboards, calling themselves the Rocket-Rollers. They bust up the Titans and the building, then speed off to their hide-out. Turns out they're a bunch of high school/college-aged guys using technology designed by "Bryan the Brain". Seems Bryan's ticked because, due to his eggheadedness, he never got the chicks. So here's his revenge -- take out the cool kids, the Titans. After the initial butt-kicking the Titans regroup, welcome in Mal's lady friend who debuted the previous issue as the Bumblebee, and Mal himself tries out the gaudiest costume this side of Wonder Man's Christmas togs (c. Avengers #161). Another tussle with the Rollers ensues, and it's tilted more in the Titans' favor until two of the Rollers escape. And who should arrive to save the day but Aqualad -- who promptly collapses again.

Doug: The story concludes with Mal switching away from the Hornblower costume (thank the fashion police for that) and back into the Guardian costume he'd worn in issue #44. I forgot to mention that Duela Dent had changed her name from Joker's Daughter to the Harlequin -- it's a lot less clumsy of a moniker. And overall, this was a much better story than the previous two efforts I've reviewed. As I said at the top, while this wasn't great literature, it was tolerable and even a little nostalgic. Much better, Bob!

Karen: Today is a rarity: a double dose of DC! My selection for this round is DC Comics Presents #27, from November 1980. This title was Superman's team-up book, where he routinely encountered other DC heroes. I have to admit, I've never been a Superman fan. He always seemed too powerful, too perfect. When I picked this particular issue up as a teenager lo these many years ago, it was for two reasons: one, the Martian Manhunter was the guest star, and two, the awesome cover by one of my favorite artists, Jim Starlin.

Karen: Unfortunately, the interior art doesn't match up to the cover. Altho
ugh Starlin did the pencils, the inking is attributed to "Quickdraw", whom the Grand Comic Book Database states was Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, "and associates". Although one can still identify the work as Starlin's, based on the overall style and layout, the inks come across as heavy-handed and without subtlety.

Karen: The writer for this story is Len Wein, although I can't help but think that Starlin may have contributed here too, particularly with the creation of the villain, Mongul, who looks a lot like the love child of Darkseid and Thanos! This is Mongul's first appearance in the DCU. He contacts Superman and blackmails him into retrieving a crystal key for him, by threatening the lives of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Steve Lombard. Steve Lombard? I never knew he was that significant to the Man of Steel. Then again, I never read much Superman!

Karen: Superman heads off to the f
ifth planet in the Cygnus star system to recover the key. There he encounters J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, who warns him that the key will give Mongul control over Warworld, a planet-sized war machine (hmm, where has that concept been used before?).

Karen: Now here's the interestin
g part: Superman blows J'onn off! "I'm Superman, remember? So why don't you step aside and just let me handle this? Believe me, I know what I'm doing!" Great Caesar's ghost, what a jerk!
Karen: The usual super-hero fight ensues, but it's no contest - despite all his great powers, the Manhunter is no match for the Kryptonian Kreep! J'onn even resorts to using kryptonite-tipped missiles (!) but Superman uses his super-breath to deflect them before they can reach him. After pounding J'onn into the ground -literally - our Super-Egotist obtains the key and is then met by Mongul, in a gigantic spaceship. Mongul has pulled a Brainiac-like stunt, reducing Supeman's friends to bite-size and placing them into a glass cube. Superman has second thoughts about turning the key over to the hulking Mongul and just as it appears that Mongul will shrink the cube and crush those inside, his control unit suddenly shatters. The captives are freed, but Mongul blasts the supposedly invulnerable Superman and grabs the key. At this point, J'onn J'onzz reveals that it was he who smashed the controls, while invisible. He tries to stop the villain but to no avail. Superman is just about to grab Mongul when he abruptly teleports away, ship and all.

Karen: J'onn gives Superman a well-deserved tongue lashing. "I warned you that you were dealing with forces beyond your comprehension -but you were just too overconfident -too
egotistical -to listen!" A stunned Superman mutters, "I -I thought I could deal with it! After all, I'm Superman...aren't I?"

Karen: I'd never seen Super
man presented in such a manner before. I wish I had some idea of how the character was handled in the 70s and 80s -was he always shown as so supremely (over)confident? It seemed to me like whenever I read him -this would be mostly in Justice League, as I didn't read his main title - he did seem quite assured, but then usually, he was always in the right when he made a decision. This more flawed portrayal was just the sort of thing an old Marvel fan like myself could get into. Sadly, I never got the next issue to see how Supes would make up for his arrogance. Might have to pick that up one of these days.


MaGnUs said...

Oh my, Hornblower's costume is... groovy!

Edo Bosnar said...

Not a big Superman fan, either, Karen, but DC Presents was a title I followed on a somewhat regular basis. This issue actually started a 3-issue arc that's actually quite good - it has Superman & Supergirl fighting Mongul in the Deathstar, and then it gets all metaphysical with the Spectre...

Doug said...

MaGnUs -- "Hideous" might be more appropriate... :)

Edo -- I didn't own a single copy of DC Comics Presents. I never really dabbled in B&B, either. But Marvel Team-Up or Marvel Two-In-One... Those were for me!!


Terence Stewart said...

Those Teen Titan's were, er, certainly written with me in mind (I was 12 at the time)..BUT I still love the membership make-up. Three girls (unusual for a team at the time), and two black members (definitely unusual). I remember being very dissapointed when Wolfman, Wein and Perez revived the team three years later without Mal, Bumblebee, Harlequin and Lilith. Wonder whatever became of that revival?
That Superman sounds like Starlin wasn't very familiar with the character and was bringing in a Marvel sensibility - I don't recall Supes being much of a jerk in his own titles at the time.

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug - I loved all four of the Bronze Age team-up books; they were a usually a sure source of fun stories that didn't seem to depend too much on the "continuity" of the main Spider/Bat/Thing/Super titles as the case may be, plus no drawn-out sub-plots and, really vital to me in my early comic-reading phase, a good chance of "done-in-one" stories. For me, a real additional selling point for DC Comics Presents (and I know this puts me at odds with much of comic fandom) was that the artist was usually NOT Curt Swan, who was ubiquitous in the other Superman titles.

nyrdyv said...

TT#49 has got to be one of the most concocted stories from that period.


Steven G. Willis

Doug said...

Edo --

Interesting comment about Curt Swan. I think I know what you mean. For example, for a Hulk fan (which I never was), the Bronze Age "look" may have been Herb Trimpe, but it must have been a treat to see ol' Greenskin pencilled by John Romita or John Buscema.

But never by Gil Kane... :)

You know some artists just can't draw certain characters.


Karen said...

It still boggles my mind that when Kirby went to DC, Swan was brought in to redraw Superman's face on Kirby's artwork. They really wanted to maintain a uniform look, to an obsessive degree.

Not sure how much of Superman's behavior was influenced by Starlin or Wein. I hope to get the two follow-up issues. It may be that Supes 'bad behavior' was mainly a plot device to move the story in the desired direction.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Am I the only one who notices that Jim Starlin's Mongul looks an awful lot like his Lord High Papal from Dreadstar? Just asking ...

drivingovercanaan said...

@Edo: Fun indeed to see the stars AND guests in the teamup titles drawn by artists other than their regulars. Best of 'em all: maybe Gil Kane's black-suited Sub-Mariner in MTIO # 2, the Garcia-Lopez DCPs and the Byrne Spider-Man & friends in MTU.

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