Friday, June 28, 2013

Remember the Titans - extended version

I know that you expected to find the post about NEMI next but the past few days other things have been on my mind and I have learned that it´s futile to try to write about other things when outside forces point you in a certain direction. And with certain direction I mean the Teen Titans or like I knew them during my childhood : Junge Giganten.

Now the reason for that are twofold : the first being that I finally got volumes two and three of the NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS and the second that I found some issues of the Teen Titans in one of my brother´s comicboxes that are scattered throughout the house right now.

I know I shouldn´t waste so much time and energy bringing order to my brother´s comic collection when it would be much better applied to my own comic collectabilia but I just can´t help it. Now I don´t know if I have mentioned it before ( and if it must have been in one of my earliest posts so I´m not sure if anybody but my most faithful readers know it ) but my brother has always been a practicer of the old pile file system. And with that I mean he puts all his comics on huge piles, first on his table, when the table is full on the space surrounding the table and lastly all over the floor and on every empty surface. When the room is finally full with piles and there is no room to walk the comics are thrown into boxes and that´s that. And when I say thrown I´m not talking about putting them in order according to the series or any of that fancy stuff. No, since the piles accumulate over months they are usually unsorted and just the new comics that he receives each month on top of the ones from last month.

Which would be a tolerable system if there weren´t the piles of unread comics here and there and which land atop of the other comics when they are finally read ( sometimes years after the series has ended ) or the piles which fall down and are assembled in no particular order. And I´m not even talking about the instances when my mother wasn´t in his room to clean and didn´t just cram all the comics she could find into boxes. So whenever I have the chance to delve into his comic collection without having to jump into a huge comic pile I take it.

Okay, here comes a small confession : one of my pet peeves is putting comics in order. There is a little bit of Monk in me that just can´t stand it if comics are just thrown around in piles and all over a table. And it´s not just that I want to read them and it´s difficult if they are not in order.

No, even when I have no intention of reading them I still have this urge to put them right. So Yesterday as I had nothing more important to do I sorted through all the comics that were in this blue comic box and some of them were issues of the various TEEN TITANS books ( we´ll come to that in a moment ). My, you should have seen the delight on my other brother´s face when he came home from work Yesterday and found all the comics scattered all over the sofa. But anyway, I spent most of Today reading some of the issues from my brothers collection because I still have some gaps in my own collection.I thought that by getting the omnibus hardcovers I could finally read them all in order but thanks to DC´s weird selection for those collections that ship seems to have sailed.


Now for those readers who are not so versed in the pitfalls of comic collecting I should explain why it´s so difficult with the TEEN TITANS.

I mean, most comics have various incarnations - which we card carrying comic freakis call volumes - which start with a new number 1 in most cases but with the TEEN TITANS most of these volumes start under a different title. And then there are the Baxter issues. I already explained the whole deal with the Baxter issues in this post but for all those who are too lazy to go back to the old post here comes the short version.

In 1985 DC offered deluxe editions of their six bestselling titles : INFINITY INC, LEGION OF SUPER - HEROES, THE NEW TEEN TITANS, THE OMEGA MEN, THE OUTSIDERS and VIGILANTE. Not only were these series printed on high quality paper ( the so - called baxter paper ) which made the colors look better but instead of the usual 23 pages of comic they offered 28 pages. Most comics were printed on cheap, low quality paper although there were some limited series and reprint titles that also got the Baxter treatment. Beside the fact that the price of the Baxter issues were twice the regular price - 75 cents - they could only be found in comic stores.

To someone reading comics right now this may not sound like a big deal but back then it sure was since deluxe editions were not as common and the Baxter issues sure had some nifty bonus stuff. Another reason why the Baxter issues are so special is just becoming apparent now to all comic readers who happen to have such issues in their collection, especially in those that are not available as a reprint : the apparent absence of decay. Every collector of american comics is faced sooner or later with the problem that no matter how carefully he keeps his comics over the years they begin to deteriorate until it is almost impossible to read them. Which is doubly painful when it´s one of your favorite series.

When the Baxter issues hit the comic market the book was " split into two " with the inexpensive version called TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS and the deluxe edition, which started with a new number 1 under the name THE NEW TEEN TITANS and later changed it to THE NEW TITANS. The cheaper TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS continued for a while with new issues but later on started reprinting the Baxter issues until it was canceled in favor of the deluxe series.

So now you have two series with three different titles and different numbering. As an example : issue 87 of TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS is the same as issue 27 of THE NEW TEEN TITANS but issue 42 of TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS is the continuation of  the regular series. And to make matters worse, there is also TEEN TITANS SPOTLIGHT which features solo stories of Titan members or affilates or even enemies which sometimes are an important part of the story.

So the publishing timeline is issue 1 to 40 of THE NEW TEEN TITANS, then issue 41 to 58 of TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS. Issue 59 of TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS is a reprint of DC COMICS PRESENTS 26, which was the first appearance of the new team. Now the book splits into two formats, with the cheaper one continuing on to issue 91 and the more expensive one going from issue 1 ( which has the same content as issue 61 of the cheaper version ) to 31. Here the cheaper TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS is cancelled so you have to continue with issue 32 of THE NEW TEEN TITANS. And that book goes on until issue 49 under the old title and changes into THE NEW TITANS with issue 50. It´s all rather simple.

Now from a logic standpoint it´s easy to see which way is the best to take since the Baxter issues are the more robust and if you don´t want to invest too much in the hardcover omnibus - or can´t get them cheap from amazon as I did - it´s a good idea. But you can´t always find the Baxter issues and some collectors might prefer the cheaper versions or want to get both versions because some of them have really great covers by people who don´t make that many covers anymore like this wonderful Starfire cover by Brian Bollard.

Now you might ask, what if somebody doesn´t want to buy back issues ? For the longest time there was no other way to read the classic issues because the only trade that was available was THE JUDAS CONTRACT which contains New Teen Titans 39 - 40, Tales of the Teen Titans 41 - 44 and New Teen Titans annual 3.

It´s without a doubt the best story of the legendary Marv Wolfman / George Perez run and one of the first trades I ever possessed but apart from that you had to get the back issues if you didn´t want to buy the expensive archive editions which were at 50 bucks each. Later on DC released the trades TERRA INCOGNITO which contains New Teen Titans 28 - 34 and New Teen Titans annual 2 and THE TERROR OF TRIGON which contains Tales of the Teen Titans 60 - 64 of issue 1 - 5 of the new Baxter series. There is also the WHO IS DONNA TROY trade that collects New Teen Titans 38, Tales of the Teen Titans 50, New Titans 50 - 55 and part of Teen titans / Outsiders Secret Files 1. Which might explain the strange selection for the DC OMNIBUS.


Okay, at this point some of my readers are probably going : What´s a Teen Titan and why are they new ? So I guess some explaining is in order. I think it all goes back to DC´s teen sidekicks and Robin.

In April of 1940 Batman´s sidekick Robin debuted in issue 38 of DETECTIVE COMICS to attract young readers to the title, which was a huge success since readership of the Batman family titles doubled.

Soon other series wanted to get in on that action so Flash got Kid Flash as his sidekick, Aquaman got Aqualad, Green Arrow got a sidekick in the form of Speedy ( which later got many drug related jokes because of the name and his bouts with drug abuse ) and Wonder Woman got Wonder Girl as her younger sister which later became one of the biggest retcon - continuity desasters because somebody read a story wrong. But let´s not open that particular can of worms unless there is a real reader demand.

Speaking of reader demand, while teen sidekicks were never a big thing at Marvel after what happened to Bucky, it was still very popular at DC so someone had the idea to get those teen sidekicks together first unofficially in 1964 as a " junior Justice League " in BRAVE AND THE BOLD 54 that featured Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad. Later on Wonder Girl joined, Speedy replaced Aqualad and they took on the name Teen Titans.

I never read the book so I can´t say why it only lasted 43 issues but I think the appeal for young readers would definitely be there. Especially if you don´t focus so much on the superhero missions and more on the part of teen sidekicks hanging out after a " hard day at work ", drinking root beer, listening to some bebop music and maybe trying to hit on Wonder Girl. Man, she was the only girl in that group. That´s something I would like to read if it would be anything like the stories Mike Allred did for his SOLO issue ( click here for an interview about the issue ). Now that would have been a groovy NEW 52 title.

Anyway, the Teen Titans that got me going were the third incarnation of the team that was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the 80s although it would take me a bit to get there.

Which brings us to the beginning of the post and Die Jungen Giganten. When Ehapa decided to publish Teen Titans in Germany the new series by Wolfman / Perez was already a hit and it would have made sense to either start with this brandnew series or go back to the first Nick Cardy series.

Well, if you know anything about the history of american comic publishing in Germany you know that it never made any sense, doesn´t make sense and never will make sense. So instead of going with either of the popular series Ehapa decided to start this new collection with a real stinker, namely the second Teen Titans series that started in November 1976 and continued the numbering from the first series. The team got new members like Mal ( finally I know where the black dude in the Young Justice show comes from ), Duela Dent, Bumblebee and even a whole new team as Beast Boy, Golden Eagle, Hawk, Dove, Lilith and Bat - Girl formed Teen Titans West. Now this Bat - Girl was not Barbara Gordon but Bette Kane, who was the niece of the Golden Age Batwoman ( yes, the one with the purse ) who later on simply vanished from the Teen Titans roster when Crisis on Infinite Earth wiped out the Betty Kane Batwoman.

Anyway, while the series brought many new members to the roster it only lasted 10 issues and only the gods know why Ehapa insisted on starting with material from the book. To add another wrinkle to it I´m not sure if they released it in chronological order since SUPERMAN PRĂ„SENTIERT JUNGE GIGANTEN SUPERALBUM 1 has the cover for issue 52 while the second installment sports the cover for issue 47 and contains issues 47, 48 and 49 ( I couldn´t find any info about the contents of album 1 ). 

In the third installment we finally get some Marv Wolfman / George Perez material, namely issues 3 and 4 of the NEW TEEN TITANS or better parts of it. Yes, the german reader gets thrown into the new team with just a short caption : " They banded together following the example of the Justice League. Today in a new lineup ! Tierboy ( BEAST BOY ), Cyborg, Blitzkid ( KID FLASH ), Rabe ( RAVEN ), Robin, Starfire and Wunderteen ( Wonder Girl ) they are - ( dramatic pause ) -  JUNGE GIGANTEN ! "

Boom ! There you have it : new lineup, no introductions, deal with it.

And as I said, the german version contained parts of it. As a german reader you had to get accustomed to some pages being left out to fit the german comic format and in album 3 page 13 of issue 3 was cut as well as the final page of issue 4. Now I don´t want to get into detail what was cut out, changed, miscolored, which swastikas got erased and which went overlooked because that could be a whole series of posts. For those who are interested and can read german you can find the horrendous details of JUNGE GIGANTEN 7 on this link by Ralf H. It´s the issue guest starring the Doom Patrol or like they were called in Germany Die Retter ( The Saviours ) which is a pretty loose translation to put it mildly.

Now you may ask yourself why I choose the title according to the movie DR. STRANGELOVE if the german issues were butchered in this fashion and I can tell you that in this instance ignorance was bliss. I didn´t know about the missing pages, the miscolouring or the butchered translation with Ehapa´s awful machine lettering without the original issues.

I mean, even if I would have had the original issues at that time I couldn´t have read them so I had to rely on the german versions anyway.

In any case, all I knew was that this was an exciting new series ( much better than the first two issues of Junge Giganten ) with gorgeous art by George Perez who I probably hadn´t seen that much of before. I know there was some Justice League / Justice Society crossover in a SUPERMAN TASCHENBUCH but I´m not sure if that was published before or after JUNGE GIGANTEN. And I also didn´t care to be thrown into it in the middle of the story. For one - again - I didn´t know, and second, back then you weren´t as fixated on linear storytelling as Todays readers.

I don´t want to repeat myself, but readers nowadays want to get in at the ground floor, they have to start with issue number 1 or they don´t start a new series at all and they want to be spoonfed with everything. Back when I started reading we couldn´t care less. For one, starting with issue 1 was near to impossible because all of the series were in the 100 or 200 issues. So you either started reading with issue 148 or you didn´t start at all. Second, some comics weren´t numbered continuously like in America but instead got numbered according to the year. For instance SUPERMAN / BATMAN issue 25 / 1977 or ROTER BLITZ 11 / 1979 and so on.

Another aspect was that - as with most of the Marvel books before they were published by Williams - german publishers often released the issues out of order skipping some issues as well as jumping forward and back.

On top of that even IF there would have been a new series that started with issue 1 and was published in chronological order you had no guarantee that you could get it at your local stationery shop which was the comic outlet of that time. If you had a stationery shop in your village.

Now I don´t want to make it sound that back then we comic readers were tougher ( that´s for the following generations to decide ) but you had to be more of a hunter. It´s nothing you chose but something you had to develop out of necessity. Reading comics and especially reading comics in Germany at that time was catch as catch can and you didn´t care about issue numbers, chronology or completeness of your collection. You just were happy if you got some good issues and for me reading comic series from issue 1 up to the following issues was always the exception. Even much later when I finally found some american issues of THE NEW TITANS during my military service in Munich it was with issue 56, right after the WHO IS WONDERGIRL ? storyline and right before the Wildbeast Hunt.

I just got all the issues I could get and started looking for previous issues later on. This then brought me to the JUDAS CONTRACT trade that would fill some gaps and I added some issues here and there over the years.

I also followed the book through the following volumes, even if sometimes it was pretty hard. Now some people may think it´s mainly nostalgia but there are just too many people out there who consider the run by Marv Wolfman and George Perez one of the best written and illustrated comics of all time so there might be something to it. I always said that you keep buying the same comics over and over again, in most cases comics that are special to you and most often than not fall into the category of classic. Which makes total sense because there´s a reason why there are classics. Those are comics that stand the test of time and which you still can read decades from now.

Which I tend to do more in the collected format lately. I have to say, at first I just bought the first volume of Planeta´s spanish edition of NUEVOS TITANES because it contained all the issues I was missing. But after I had held it in my hand I just had to get the second volume which was sadly the last one published before Planeta closed down business. Now, two years later I finally have gotten the following issues with volumes 2 and 3 of DC´s hardcover omnibus editions ( and now I also know that the reason why the spanish version was only half as expensive is that it´s also only half the size ) but I still have some gaps in my collection of that period.

But it´s much too late to get into that since it´s once again time to wrap things up. Boy, that was one long post and I just hope all that talk about the german editions and comic collecting in my youth wasn´t too boring. I tend to ramble a lot and my biggest problem has never been what to write about since once I start I can usually go on for hours shooting off on one tangent after another. Anyway, at least I managed to get my posting quota up this month with seven posts for June. Yay me !

In the next part - which won´t be up for a few days so my readers can appreciate this marathon post - we will get to the snafu or not on DCs hardcover collections. Any excuse to post gorgeous George Perez art.

I know, you´re anxiously awaiting the video at the end of the post so let´s get to it without any further ado.  Since it has one of the best known covers here is a video of THE NEW TEEN TITANS issue 13.

And here´s a video I wanted to post for quite some some time now, the greatest team up of all time : Batman and Space Ghost. Enjoy !

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

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