A Tribute to the of

I suppose it’s sort of a logical progression to go from last time’s review about the debut of the new Kid Flash uniform along with mentions of Robin, Aqualad, Wonder Girl, et al to an issue of his super team, the Teen Titans. How often do you get to take a peek at an issue from the Silver Age that’s in the single digits? Such is the case with Teen Titans #6 from November/December of 1966, sporting a Nick Cardy cover with Gaspar Saladino lettering. Inside it’s a George Kashdan edited story titled “The Fifth Titan,” lettered by Stan Starkman. The art team seems to be under some confusion. Bill Molno is credited on pencils, but the fine folk at the Grand Comic Book Database don’t seem to know for certain if inks were by Sal Trapani or George “Inky” Roussos. Maybe one of our alert readers knows for sure. Speaking of Bill Molno,…I’d never heard of him. Lambiek.net, another wonderful online resource reveals the following:

William Molno illustrated crime, horror and romance stories for Story Comics, Ace Periodicals, Toby Press and Feature Comics in the early 1950s, before becoming a staffer at Charlton Comics in Derby, Connecticut. Between 1955 and 1977, Bill Molno worked on many of the company’s titles (mainly war and western), including ‘Hot Rods and Racing Cars’, ‘Fightin’ Air Force’, ‘Fightin’ Army’, ‘Fightin’ Marines’, ‘Fightin’ Five’, ‘Outlaws of the West’, ‘Strange Suspense Stories’, ‘Unusual Tales’, ‘Gorgo’, ‘Jim Bowie’, ‘Billy the Kid’ and ‘Submarine Attack’. In his later years he did watercolors and large oil paintings in his hometown outside New Haven, Connecticut.

I guess that explains my limited knowledge of Bill Molno. I’ve maybe read 10 Charlton Comics in my whole life. Let’s see what he and the rest of the creative team have to offer on this issue.

The splash page is a harbinger of things to come when we see the four official members of the Teen Titans (Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad and Wonder Girl) in a fix as they’re being harassed by the Doom Patrol straphanger, Beast Boy, under the direction of The Great Baltzer. The text says, “Guest stars anyone? We gave you Speedy (and he’ll be back) and now we bring you the kid like there is no other—the wildest, weirdest teenager who ever wanted to belong to anyone, anything, anytime…Beast Boy! This is the story of how the fabulous Teen Titans almost got clobbered forever by the crazy, mixed-up guy who just had to become The Fifth Titan.

So, first thing and we’re in the brownstone HQ of the Doom Patrol, where Beast Boy seems to be fixated on proving his worth to the team, but he goes about things in such a way that he manages to annoy and alienate himself from each member, one by one, from Robotman to Negative Man, to Elasti-Girl. The Chief himself is monitoring things and muses to himself that while he understands that Gar is trying desperately to prove himself a worthy member of the Doom Patrol, he cannot be admitted without the prior permission of his guardian, Galtry, who probably would refuse anyway. Caulder tries to summon Gar, but the crestfallen lad ignores him, deciding he’s not wanted.

Next thing you know, Beast Boy is arranging a rendezvous with the Teen Titans. They arrive on motorcycles (why is Kid Flash riding a motorcycle?) and he makes his pitch to join their ranks. He goes through a quick demonstration of his abilities to assume the guise of any animal he can imagine and tells them that he, Gar Logan, has been rejected by the Doom Patrol with the flimsy excuse that they’d need his guardian’s permission.

Robin explains that it’s not really a phony excuse and that each of them had to get similar permission from Batman, Aquaman, Flash and Queen Hippoyta, respectively. (So who exactly enforces this “guardian consent rule?”

Miffed, Gar transforms into a green-headed bird and flies off, ultimately finding a tractor-trailer emblazoned with “Baltzer the Beast Master.” Curious, Beast Boy lands and introduces himself. Baltzer isn’t phased in the slightest when a bird addresses him or when he transforms into his normal form, explaining via thought balloon that his experience with dangerous animals has taught him to never show surprise.

In Part II, Beast Boy is getting all the attention he can stand as Baltzer’s new featured performer at the circus, transforming rapidly from tiger to snake, both performing stunts and leading the other animals in them. Then, in an unexpected twist, he feels compelled to transform into a rare albino baboon. As it happens, Baltzer had secretly signaled Vorna, a hypnotist complete with turban to influence Beast Boy and causes the transformed Gar to gaze into the crowd in such a way that they are mesmerized and then begin to throw their valuables into the ring.

Continuing to use Beast Boy as a conduit, Vorna commands the crowd to disperse and loot the town, getting the attention of the police and by proxy the Teen Titans, who ride to intercept the crowd. With a little effort, they are able to release the people from their trance and then it’s on to the next phase; trying to discover what happened.

The Titans decide to go undercover and audition for the circus as the Masked Mazeppas acrobat troop. They are quickly hired and soon discover what’s going on at the circus, but before they can act, Baltzer manages to trap them in a steel box used by an escape artist where they’ve retreated to discuss their next move.

Part III hails back to the splash page when Baltzer is commanding an elephant Beast Boy to deposit the box in a tank of water. The Titans, however, have a plan and Kid Flash vibrates his way out of the box with Aqualad along for the ride. The partner of the Sea King then uses Robin’s mini acetylene torch to open the locks and free the other two members of the team.

Now it’s a showdown in the big top with the Teen Titans doing battle with a hypnotized Beast Boy who has made himself into a hybrid creature of a gorilla and a boa constrictor. To the crowd, it’s all part of the show, but the Teen Titans are battling for their lives against a formidable foe. Teamwork prevails, however and the wicked Baltzer and Vorna are taken into custody.

In the final panels, as we often see in these stories, Robin is reconsidering Beast Boy’s petition to join up. Aqualad responds with, “Suffering sunfish, Robin! Why don’t we put it up to our readers?” The Boy Wonder looks to the readers with, “Great idea Aqualad! What about it readers? If you think we should accept Beast Boy as a member, write: Teen Titans, National Periodicals, 575 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022! See you next issue!

Well, obviously Beast Boy didn’t make the cut and at some point became more involved with the Doom Patrol and of course Speedy soon became a member in good standing. In fact, the newly christened “Tell it to the Titans” lettercol had several readers weighing in on whether or not Speedy should be given a membership card, most in favor. The last one is of particular note:

Just as Green Arrow first appeared with the JLA in No 4, so did Speedy show up in Teen Titans No4. As if that wasn’t enough, Nick Cardy’s art was inspired.” -Mark Evanier, Los Angeles, CA.

Bob Haney’s story had some odd parts to it, some of which I pointed out earlier.

I love a good team-up and it was nifty to see the Doom Patrol in the first couple of pages, but I must be spoiled on the art of Bruno Premiani and Nick Cardy, because the art on the interiors looked pretty lousy to me. There were often little to no backgrounds and the quality just wasn’t there. It was a definite detractor and I’ll give this issue a middle of the road 5 on the 10-point scale. Mildly interesting is the best I can do.

If you love DC’s Silver Age as much as we do, you’ll be back on the 15th for the next installment of this ongoing feature. As always, feel free to drop an e-mail my direction with comments, questions or words of praise: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2014 by B.D.S.

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