Every once in a while I get the irresistible urge to dive back into my comic boxes and rediscover some of the stories that enthralled me oh so many moons ago. After some discussion here in the Comix Asylum office, it was agreed that it would be fun to take a look at some of the long lost story arcs from the past. We decided to examine why these storylines stood out from the pack, and continued to resonate so many years after they had been published.
After mulling it over for a bit, I decided to revisit one of the most influential series in comic book history, The New Teen Titans. Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, The New Teen Titans updated the roster of JLA teen sidekicks that had been featured in their own title during the sixties and then relaunched again during the seventies. The combination of Wolfman and Perez, along with the team’s revamped roster helped to make The New Teen Titans one of the hottest books on the shelves. It was a smashing success for DC Comics and the title’s popularity rivaled that of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men.
I had been eagerly anticipating the release of the long delayed graphic novel, The New Teen Titans: Games and something happened that I had never experienced before while reading a comic book: I experienced time travel. Reading Games transported me to the early 80’s when the comic book industry was being turned on its ear by Marv Wolfman’s and George Perez’ dynamite run on The New Teen Titans.
One of the reasons Games felt like I was back in the heyday of the Titans is due to the fact that the graphic novel took over 20 years to complete. The initial story and some of the artwork were conceived during the late 80’s but due to busy schedules and creative fatigue, production on the book was halted until 2004 when Perez and Wolfman began to work on completing the project. Even with the 16-year gap in production, the final product is quite seamless. Although some of Perez’s artwork in the book is over 20 years old and was inked by different inkers over that span, it’s difficult to notice any difference between which pages were completed recently and which ones were done in ’88 and ’89. It’s a testament to the talents of Wolfman and Perez and their working relationship that the story, characterization, dialogue and artwork comes together as well as it has.
Reading Games made me think of some the awesome issues and storylines that Wolfman and Perez crafted on Titans: the first appearance of Brother Blood, Starfire returning to Tamaran to battle her evil sister, Who is Donna Troy?, and of course The Judas Contract. Now due to the popularity of The Judas Contract (issues 42-44 and Annual #3 of Tales of the Teen Titans) it would be disingenuous to call it a “Lost Arc”. The Judas Contract’s popularity and importance to the legacy of the Titans is so great that it was to be chronicled in the excellent Teen Titans cartoon until plans for that were recently put on hold. While The Judas Contract is probably the arc that is best remembered by fans, there is another one that stands out for me. It’s the one that followed just afterwards that I remember fondly, not only for the incredible art and writing but also how it helped DC Comics change how the average fan read some of their monthly books.
After the Judas Contract, the Titans debuted in a new comic called The New Teen Titans, Vol. 2, which was published in a deluxe format that was available only through subscriptions or comic book shops. Those were the days when you could ride your bike to the local variety store to pick up the latest adventures of your favorite superheroes. I still remember plopping 40 pennies on the counter to pay for Captain America #241. The shopkeeper was not impressed. The New Teen Titans, Vol. 2 along with The Legion of Super-Heroes were published in a deluxe format and used high quality paper that allowed the richness of the art and color to come through. Wolfman and Perez had been upset for some time with the quality of the printing of the regular comic. As noted by Wolfman himself in the editorial page of issue #1, “At last! – George’s art would look like he drew it. DC agreed.” DC would publish the deluxe format for a year and then reprint the stories in the regular book, now called Tales of the Teen Titans for fans that couldn’t get access to comic book shops or didn’t subscribe.
I placed my order for The New Teen Titans #1 and checked the mail daily waiting for it to arrive. Needless to say I was not disappointed. Even after all of this time I still believe that that issue is the best issue ever drawn in the history of comics. This was George Perez at the height of his artistic ability. Drawn and inked by Perez, Wolfman’s script heightened the interactions between the Titans and is an example of two masters in perfect sync with not only their craft but also with each other. The deluxe format allowed Perez’s artwork to bleed to the edges of the page and in many ways was the forerunner of the way comic book art has broken out of the panels to fill entire pages. It revolutionized how artists were able to translate the scripts they were given.
The Terror of Trigon spanned the first five issues of the new title and featured the return of Raven’s demonic father, Trigon. The threat of Trigon’s return and his possession of Raven sent the Titans to Azarath in an attempt to save not only their friend but the Earth as well. Some of the highlights of the arc were watching the team consisting of Nightwing, Wonder Girl, Starfire, Cyborg, and Changeling rally around Raven, the return of Wally West, Wolfman’s dialogue and Perez’s art. As distinctive as Perez’s drawings were of each Titan, Wolfman’s dialogue imbued each character with their own distinctive personalities and its fun to read how he wrote them interacting with each other. The detail Perez put on each page is mind-boggling and due to the advancements in the paper and printing process at the time, Perez’s actual pencils are on display in issue 2 when the Titans cross dimensions and travel to Azarath. Another treat was seeing long time Titans embellisher, Romeo Tanghal’s inks grace Perez’s work in issues 3, 4 and 5.
While not as memorable to some as The Judas Contract, Trigon’s return in The New Teen Titans shouldn’t be over looked. It heralded several changes that were to come to the comics industry, had Wolfman and Perez at the top of their games and provided a rich story that provided fans with an opportunity to see their favorite characters in an adventure that highlighted the reasons why they were so beloved.
Readers of the Lost Arc is a regular feature in Comix Asylum Magazine. This article originally appeared in Issue 3 (August 2013).