The concept of the sidekick, at least for DC, goes back to April of 1940, just shy of a year beyond the debut of Batman in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939. Eleven issues later, Robin, the Boy Wonder was unveiled to great fanfare. Batman creator Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger came up with the idea for Robin (the name, based on Robin Hood, was supplied by Kane's assistant artist Jerry Robinson) as someone that the younger readers could more readily relate with and his hunch bore fruit as sales doubled following his introduction. Robin also became a moderating figure in the Dark Knight mythos, giving Batman some balance and perhaps even a bit more humanity. The idea of a junior partner didn't really take off until many years later, though, as the decision was made to try and capture a new segment in the demographic, the ubiquitous teenager. In 1960 both Aquaman and The Flash were given understudies in the form of Aqualad and Kid Flash. Green Arrow, who was modeled after Batman, had Speedy, too and it was only a matter of time before these youthful heroes would ally themselves, much like their mentors in the Justice League of America. Speaking of the JLA, they were given a youthful sidekick in their first published adventure. To learn the details of how Lucas "Snapper" Carr joined the team follow this link.
The original Teen Titans were a threesome consisting of Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash and they first teamed up in Brave and the Bold #54 in 1964. Later, Wonder Girl, kid sister of Princess Diana or Wonder Woman, if you prefer, joined the mix as one of the members in good standing. Let's take a look now at how four teenage heroes interact with themselves and the world around them as we review the third appearance of the Teen Titans from Showcase #59, the November/December issue from 1965. The title of the story is "The Return of the Teen Titans" and it was written by Bob Haney, the same hipster who gave you the dialogue I "loved" so much from Brave and the Bold #67 with Batman and the Flash that I reviewed several months ago. Nick Cardy penciled and inked the cover and interior art. George Kashdan served as Editor. It becomes obvious in a hurry that this issue is geared heavily toward the teenaged audience as it opens at a riotous rock concert featuring The Flips, who are performing that unforgettable tune, "We're just a Babe, a Board and a Bike." The song is apparently inspired by their on stage personas as an acrobatic baton twirler, a surfer on a board that moves under it's own power and a motorcyclist on the popular Honda of the day. The performance is being televised, too and we get to see each of our teen heroes taking it in under the somewhat disapproving eye of their mentors. I got a particular kick out of seeing Aqualad watching them on a monitor partially covered by a large clamshell down in Atlantis and Wonder Girl's television, exhibiting equally great reception on Paradise Island, being supported by a Greek-style column. Each of the junior partners are quite taken with the band while their elder partners compare the performance to a herd of singing shrimp, an invasion by banshees and good old-fashioned "noise." The generation gap is alive and well.
Our story then fades to a small town called Clarkston where some overjoyed teenagers have discovered that The Flips have agreed to do a benefit concert to fund some scholarships in their town. Unfortunately, however, the band seems to be doing a little crime spree in the city where they've just completed their performance. After successfully eluding the authorities, they make an appearance at police headquarters the next morning, claiming innocence. Their alibi is that a strange driver was at the controls of their limousine after the concert and ditched them in the country where they were forced to make their way back on their own. When the Mayor of Clarkston received word of their apparent crimes, he puts the kabosh to the concert, making the local teens unhappy indeed. The youths decide to enlist the aid of the Teen Titans. The foursome responds and come to Clarkston to vouch for The Flips to the authorities so that they can still perform, albeit in an out-on-bail status. As part II opens, Robin explains to the band that he and the police chief will be standing guard outside their rehearsal room while Aqualad watches over their motorcycle, air powered surfboard and gyro-balance baton to make certain no one can get to them. As final precautions, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl go on patrol in the city. Kid Flash takes the ground and Wonder Girl flies through the sky. Unfortunately for our heroes, their efforts go for naught as it's soon discovered that the band has vanished from their room and there's a large hole in the wall of the room. Aqualad has been distracted from his post, meanwhile and the props are gone. Wonder Girl spots the trio and as she goes after them she is stymied by the gyro-baton. The motorcyclist and board rider have gone on to the town bank and blown a wall out with a grenade and despite Robin and Aqualad showing up they shake them. When Kid Flash and Aqualad try to continue the pursuit, they, too are foiled. In the final panels of Part II, Wonder Girl discovers Jack and Jill, two of the Flips, unconscious in a field on the outskirts of town.
Part III begins with some pointed interrogation by the police. Once again, the confused band members profess their innocence and tell what happened to them in the rehearsal. A strange gas came into the room, knocking them out and the next thing they knew, they were being brought back by Wonder Girl. Joe, the surfer in the trio, wanders in moments later to confirm their tale, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that they have been the perpetrators of the robberies. They are summarily locked up and the concert is canceled.
Needless to say, the teen populace of Clarkston is devastated and despite all evidence being to the contrary, the Teen Titans are not convinced of the band's guilt. Robin says he has an idea and the story then segues to the Town Hall where a protest is in full swing. The Mayor soon comes out and announces that the concert will go on as planned and the pleased crowd breaks into applause. Moments before the benefit concert is to begin, a duplicate trio of Flips breaks in on the band and imprisons the original members in a basement room of the theater. The bogus bandmembers then grab the cashbox with the gate proceeds and start to make a break for it, only to be confronted by the original Flips. After a short melee, both sets ofbandmembers are on the stage, the victorious and the vanquished and Robin calls for silence from the stunned crowd as the bogus flips are unmasked revealing professional criminals masquerading as the band. Following that, the other bandmembers remove their own masks showing that they are Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Kid Flash.
So, the real perpetrators are captured, the band is exonerated and the show goes on. Everyone lives happily ever after. The End. To be frank, this story, and the Titans in general, did precious little for me. The story was fluff and as far as I'm concerned the concept, while pretty much a marketing decision, just comes off as JLA-Lite. Unfortunately while the "less filling" aspect fits right in, the "great taste" portion fails. No satisfaction at all for this reader and the rating is a 2. Despite that the Titans have, somehow, survived and continue in print in one form or another even today. I'm guessing the story lines got considerably better. With the bar set this low, the writers could hardly miss. The usual invitation for feedback applies and I'll be happy to respond to your comments at email@example.com. I appreciate your stopping in and invite you to join me in roughly two weeks for another installment of The Silver Age Sage.
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