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: 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.