Friday, May 17, 2013

That Zany Bob Haney: Teen Titans 4

Teen Titans #4 (August 1966)
"The Secret Olympic Heroes"
Bob Haney-Nick Cardy

Doug:  We've seen numerous times how zany Bob Haney was in the Bronze Age; today let's trip back to the Silver Age and check him out.  I picked this issue for the following reasons -- it has a cool Nick Cardy cover, as well as interior art, and given that its cover date is August of 1966 it is highly likely that this would have been on the stands the month I was born (June).  I will be using the Silver Age Teen Titans Archives volume 1 as my resource.  Let's go!

Doug  For those who make note of such things, this is Speedy's first appearance in the Teen Titans.  As Haney puts it on the splash page, the mail clamoring for the Boy Bowman reached up to DC's 7th floor offices, so they gave in.  I'm sure that's just a bit hyperbolic, but I have no doubt there was excitement to add young Roy Harper to the fold.  This is an "untold tale" of the Titans -- which is indeed problematic as Speedy had no prior history with the team (hey, we're living on Earth-Haney) -- and actually takes place two years earlier during the 1964 Olympic Trials and Olympic Games.  We pick it up at the Trials, where Davey Bradley wins his heat in what must apparently be the 400 meter dash; or would it have been 440 yards back then?  But instead of claiming his gold medal, Bradley runs right out of the stadium (which looks an awful lot like a track at a small rural high school rather than a major-college track & field venue.  Anyway, Davey's dad calls after him, but it's to no avail.  The next day the Teen Titans read about it in the paper.  Of course Wonder Girl says something stupid:  "Ooh!  He's darling-looking!  I hope he runs my way!"  Thank goodness the writing of female characters improved in the Bronze Age.

Doug:  The Titans mull the situation, when suddenly the special television frequency used for emergencies comes alive.  It's Davey's dad, imploring the Titans to find his son; he also implies that the kid must compete in the Olympics.  But before the Titans can agree to take the case, their intruder alarm goes off.  Man, some morning!  The young heroes mobilize, and Robin's effort to lasso their bad guy is met only with a green arrow shot through his batarang -- fired by Speedy!  With his typical bravado, Speedy greets the team and then tells them his real reason for infiltrating their HQ.  It seems Speedy has been requested to perform a trick shot at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (by the way, if you didn't know, the '64 Games were held in Tokyo).  However, while training out in the middle of nowhere (literally), Speedy spies a shady character swiping arrows out of his quiver.  Turning to face the guy, Speedy's knocked down.  Once up, he notices that an arrow tipped with TNT had been substituted for the trick arrow he was to have used.  And, the crook left a clue -- a dropped ring with a red letter "D" on it -- the mark of Diablo, the criminal organization dedicated to hate and distrust.  What the??  Oh wait -- Earth-Haney.

Doug:  Of course the Titans want to deal with this cadre of weirdos, but finding Davey Bradley is their first priority -- thick plot here:  missing person and a secret society!  "Wonder Chick" takes to the air while the boys search the ground (Aqualad -- useless again).  Wonder Girl sees a track suit on a clothesline and swoops down to investigate.  The lady of the house is outside.  When questioned on the uniform, she says she doesn't know how it got there, but that some of her own son's clothes are missing!  Back to the skies, Wonder Girl sees a bright red shirt (the color of a shirt missing from that clothesline) and flies lower to check it out.  Yep -- it's Davey alright, about to meet his maker at the hands of some toughs in a "hobo jungle".  I don't make this stuff up, kids; Bob Haney does.  Wonder Girl dispenses the feet of justice, so to speak.  Later, at an abandoned farm house, Mr. Bradley comes quickly at Robin's call.  But Robin doesn't tell him where Davey is.  Frustrated, Mr. Bradley says again that they must find the boy, that he has to compete in the Olympics.  Robin says that maybe Davey doesn't want to compete, and Mr. Bradley goes nuts.  Turns out that he was in line to compete in the Games as a younger man, but a car accident ruined his chance; Davey has to carry on!  But Robin knows why Davey has to compete -- so the old man can live his own dreams through the kid!  Mr. Bradley storms away, and Robin steps inside the house, where Davey was of course hiding.  Later, the Titans fly a commercial airliner, in costume no less, to Tokyo.  Davey is along, too, in disguise.

Doug:  As the Titans exit the plane they are besieged for autographs by Japanese teenagers.  Stopping to sign, Robin suddenly flings a notebook high into the sky and orders Speedy to shoot it -- it explodes high above the crowd.  Robin says he felt the book begin to heat up once he's committed pen to paper.  It can only be the work of... Diablo!  At the Olympic Village, which looks somewhat like a POW camp, the Titans (and Davey) are practically knocked over by Kravik, a runner who Davey says would have been his greatest rival.  As the kids move around the camp, they come to a barrack -- oops, apartment complex -- where someone has written "Cheaters Live Here" on the roof.  As the two teams assigned to the building begin to tussle, the Titans intervene.  Wonder Girl again takes to the air, and as she flies above the boys, Speedy utters, "Shivering shafts!"  I'll bet...  She flies a short distance and then bursts through the wall of another dormitory to find some Diablo agents with a projector -- they'd been shining the "Cheaters" message onto that other roof.  WG captures the nasties, and Robin remarks that if these guys are going to infiltrate the village disguised as athletes, stopping them isn't going to be easy.

Doug:  Later, Davey steals away from the Titans and begins to run around the track.  Kid Flash catches up to him and cruises alongside while Davey (still in disguise) runs a lap in what would be an Olympic record.  For whatever reason, Davey's dad is on the track -- apparently he went to Tokyo even though the athlete he was coaching did not? -- and calls after the runner.  But due to Davey's disguise, one Clark Kent himself would have been proud to have worn, Mr. Bradley apologizes for the confusion and says he thought the guy was his son -- the quitter.  Sheesh -- I'll tell you, I am going to do you a favor as a blogging professional by finishing this review.  Speedy suggests that Davey could train if he wants, in the Olympic stadium after hours while Speedy practices his trick shots.  Davey agrees.  Elsewhere, Aqualad decides to check out the pool, because you know he hasn't had anything else to do.  Of course you could see this coming -- three Diablo agents are sabotaging the pool.  Aqualad moves in and smokes the first two, but because he's Aqualad and somewhat lame, he gets dusted by the third saboteur.  We learn that the goon Kravik is in league with Diablo, and that they are quite an organization -- Kid Flash and Wonder Girl put the kibosh on a team trying to mess with the Olympic flame.  Robin is attacked, too, while timing Davey's training.  Soon the four main Titans are trussed to the Olympic rings in the stadium.

Doug:  Speedy, meanwhile, is in the middle of the stadium and apparently totally oblivious to all the action.  He's got his bow and arrows, and is blindfolding himself to practice shooting a flaming arrow through the rings, alighting the first one and subsequently the other four.  Well, with the blindfold on his ears are also covered (you'd better thank me when I'm done with this), he doesn't hear his teammate shouting at him.  He fires the arrow and it's looking like barbecued Titans for dinner!  Davey, also completely clueless, is still running around the track.  Kravik tries to run him down, but Davey outraces him to get to Speedy.  Unmasked, the archer realizes what he almost did.  But Diablo now attacks en masse, hurling shots, a discus, hammers, etc. at our youthful heroes.  Speedy of course has an arrow to stop each projectile, and does.  Davey metes out some justice as well.  So the Titans get down, the baddies are suppressed, the Games open, Davey ends up competing and wins a bronze medal.  And Davey's dad -- actually acts like a human being at the end of the story.  All's well that ends well -- no matter how zany!

Doug:  Of course I didn't think this was nearly as entertaining as the Brave & the Bold stories we've looked at.  This one was just dopey, and Haney's dialogue is painful throughout.  I'd also add that comic book writers don't generally "do" sports very well (Mr. Claremont?).  The solution?  If you don't know something, ask someone who does.  Pretty simple.  Instead we get painfully off words and pictures.  Part of this conundrum may have been the relative newness of the Teen Titans, but I'm thinking that it was more likely due to editorial's attitude about its readers.  If the average Silver Age DC was written for a 10-year old fan, then who would this mag have been written for -- an 8-year old?  I mean really -- this was on the newsstands the same month as Amazing Spider-Man #39 and Fantastic Four #53.  And this is what DC was competing with?  Now that is zany.  I'll close with a note on Nick Cardy's art.  I'm usually a big fan, but here the interiors are very uneven.  There is no inker credited, and if Cardy inked himself he did himself no favors.  Some of the embellishment is quite heavy, with no hint that it appears that way as shading.  I've seen better work from Mr. Cardy.


david_b said...

A big Haney/Cardy Titans fan here, I'd agree with most points presented..

The cover art nor interiors were Cardy's best by any means. Not sure who inked this, but Cardy's stylish shading and soft facial expressions are missing here. The story concept to introduce Speedy had a good idea going for it, just looked rather phoned in.

The dialog's usually a bit more smoother on the hip colloquialisms in other issues, Haney unabashingly trying to be hip, and always failing hysterically. 'Course that was a big part of the charm for early Silver Titan issues.

Not one of the best efforts, it's like that post last year on the 1966 Batman series and only showing the video of the King Tut/Batusi schitck. The Haney/Cardy team did a much better job on most early Titan issues, so personally I wouldn't use this issue as a good representation of their Titans stint.

Aqualad useless..? Eh, not all the time. Speedy did replace him in ish 19 because writers were having difficulty pitching ideas which included water in each story. I actually believe Aqualad added a bit of charm to the team; when he left, a sense of innocence was lost. Granted this was also when Neal Adams and Bob Kanigher came on board as well and wrote more dramatic stories, changing the mod mood and flavor entirely.

Not too successfully, I may add (Mr. Jupiter, anyone..?).

So even though Aqualad may not have always shining moments, his absence was clearly felt.

Karen said...

I'd like to commend my partner for getting through that review. Sweet Christmas, that must have taken all of his reserves of strength to force himself to read that AND then write the thing up! Good for you pal!Kick back and enjoy the weekend!

Doug said...

At your service -- all of you!

Karen is right on, in that once I got into that I was not the most jubilant of comics readers. I wrote this up back on April 18th, in a hotel on a rainy night in Chicago (jeez, that makes it sound better than it was!) after dinner with some of my mates from the USHMM. We were in town for a 3-day Holocaust education Summit. This is the diversion in the midst of "those conversations" all day long.

Even if not many people leave us a note, we do hope you enjoy the comics reviews!


david_b said...

My distinquished hosts, color me lost..:

If you didn't want to review TT ish 4.., why did ya..? You could have picked a better TT issue by Haney/Cardy.

Just curious.

Doug said...

Great question, David.

Couple of things (from my perspective, not speaking for Karen).

As I said, I was intrigued by the cover (which is eye-catching), the artist, and the cover date. I always read a book straight through before setting out to write about it. So I'd already invested around 20 minutes. I don't think it's bad to review books we don't necessarily like. Sometimes that blows up the nostalgic factor, which should be enough fodder for discussion. In the case of this mag, I was looking for an older Haney script and chose this book. I'm not sorry I read it. If nothing else, it confirms many of the prejudices I hold against Silver Age and Bronze Age (some, not all) DC comics.


Garett said...

I like the cover. I haven't read these earlier Titans comics, only the Perez era. I liked Cardy's art on Bat Lash, along with the good stories, but really haven't been drawn into any other series with his art. What is considered his best art/series, David B or other Cardy fans?

I see on Wiki that Cardy's now 92. Wonder if he's still drawing.

Off to face Diablo in the Hobo Jungle...

david_b said...

I liked Cardy Silver work best on Titans and Aquaman. Favorite TT Cardy issues..?

Mine are issues 11, 13, 14, and 16.. Issues 22, 24, 25 and 28 are the best later issues.

As for great covers, all these noted, especially 22 and 28 are among the best Silver Cardy covers ever.

MikeS said...

I have that story as a 70's reprint. I was a bit young for comics when those "checkerboard" issues originally came out. Not a huge fan of those stories but - they exist! And it's always great to see reviews of old DC comics. I was always mainly a DC guy (except for Spider-Man).

Anonymous said...

"I don't make this stuff up, kids; Bob Haney does."

Ha! Love the reviews, Doug - even if not necessarily the book.


Unknown said...

Blazes! It's Bob Haney! For the best of the Haney/Cardy era, try "The Inter-Dimensional Caper". I think it's issue 15 or 16. It's no less ridiculous, but Haney's breakneck pacing is up to B & B standards here. Aqualad also gets a cool moment.

I loved the Titans when I was a kid. Partly because I was young, and partly because they'd just been canceled when I started reading.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, I read some of these Silver Age Titans stories in a few of DC's ubiquitous digests of the early '80s, and if not great, they weren't bad, either. Like others have noted, if nothing else they have a goofy charm. Certainly better than the briefly revived Teen Titans series from the mid-'70s (o.k. I only had a whopping two issues of it, but I recall being pretty unimpressed with it, and back then I was pretty easy to please).

Doug said...

Edo --

Being a long-timer around here, you may recall that I reviewed a few issues in the Titans revival. You are spot on in your assessment of them. I agree -- this Haney-scribed stuff has a certain "it's going to be goofy but I know what I'm getting into" charm to them; the Bob Rozakis-penned stuff from the late '70's was trying to be a late Bronze Age comic book and fell pitifully short.

For our newer readers, you can access all of our reviews from the link at the top of the main page.


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, yep, read all the earlier Titans reviews. In fact, you even reviewed one of the two issues I had (#45). As I recall, you were as unimpressed as I was.

WardHill Terry said...

Where's the ref? I think Doug could be penalized for piling on. Maybe someone will defend this issue as great comics (not I), but to compare it to two of the greatest issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four is not fair! This was on sale at the height of the costumed hero boom in comics. Archie Comics had 6 covers featuring masked-and-caped characters this same month. And what else could one choose from Stan Lee's pen? The X-Men took on Count Nefaria...and The Porcupine. Daredevil faced The Gladiator. And Millie the Model was chasing spies. I think the only true response to Marvel's books from DC was Jim Shooter's Legion stories. This month saw the first part of the story that introduced Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Nemesis Kid, and Ferro Lad. Thanks to Mike's Amazing World for the info!

david_b said...

Wardhill, you make a refreshing point about those naysayers who mock the lessor points of the Haney's early Titans..

Seeing that the publication date was only months after the Batman TV series premiered, AND a few short years after Batmite, Bathound, outer-space Batman, ...ugh.

Collectively speaking, along with your topical examples.., comics in general (from either company..) didn't have all that much to BRAG about.

Besides, we're talkin' Silver Age Haney here, not that high-brow intellectual and sophisticated Bob Haney of Bronze Age B&B's.

Fred W. Hill said...

Hmm, and this came out only about a year after Hawkeye joined the Avengers by brashly breaking in and tying up their butler! Of course, Hawkeye was a villain wanting to reform and become a genuine hero while Speedy had been a heroic sidekicck for over 20 years but via the magic of fantasy was still a teen-ager, just like his good buddy and inspiration, Robin!

Unknown said...

Here's how my complete post was supposed to read (dang iPhone).

Blazes! It's Bob Haney! For the best of the Haney/Cardy era, try "The Inter-Dimensional Caper". I think it's issue 15 or 16. It's no less ridiculous, but Haney's breakneck pacing is up to B & B standards here. Aqualad also gets a cool moment.

I loved the Titans when I was a kid. Partly because I was young, and partly because they'd just been canceled when I started reading. There was a certain mystique to them. Back issues were so hard to find, there wern't too many reprints, and you never knew who the heck would be in the Titans. Also, I loved Cardy's art. Now, do they hold up? Of course not. Even then, I knew that 60's Marvel held up much better.

James Chatterton

Doug said...

Wardhill Terry --

I'm unsure about your post. Are you taking me to task about the competition comment (forgive me, as electronic communication, as we all know, sometimes doesn't transmit as we think it does)? If so, I'm going to defend myself; if not, then ignore what comes next and have a great weekend!

First off, I like the Gladiator.

Second, the whole comment about DC's "inferior" (my assessment) mags on the same racks as Marvel's "superior" mags is certainly made with the lens of history at our disposal. While I could imagine myself being quite giddy had I read either ASM #39 or FF #53 off the spinner racks, they are classics now. While TT #4 is an historically significant issue, and would have been in 1966 due to Speedy's inclusion, the story itself keeps it from being on par with a lot of what the House of Ideas was pumping out. So if I'm "piling on" and making an unfair comparison, I really don't see that as my fault -- it's National Periodical Publications' fault.

I would suggest for any of our readers who would like to delve further into this Marvel vs. DC competition idea, that you head to our long list of blog labels and search for Side-by-Side (there should be about 25 of them!). We ran the series back in 2011 on the Silver and Bronze Ages, showcasing year-by-year the output of the Big Two. There was a lot of feedback at the time, and they are among Karen's and my favorite series that we've done.



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