Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tangled Titans

The Teen Titans that you've met before were all sidekicks or individual heroes on their own...

...but, the Teen Titans were soon to introduce members that were all theirs!

That is, members who were introduced in the Teen Titans book, and were reflective of the times....

Mystery Girl

First off, there was a problem.  In Teen Titans #25 (January-February, 1970 by Robert Kanigher and Nick Cardy, the Titans (with newest members Hawk & Dove), failed to save Dr. Arthur Swanson (a noted peace activist), and were left crushed; and after a meeting with the Justice League of America (their mentors), decided to give up their costumed identities, going to work for philanthropist Loren Jupiter (who used Lilith Clay, a go-go dancer at his club) to recruit the teens.

A go-go dancer joins the Teen Titans?  Well, not only was Lilith athletic, she had the power of ESP, which gave her the ability to read minds and see glimpses of the future.  But, at her hard, she was a red-haired orphan girl, looking for her parents (as revealed over solo stories of her past in Teen Titans #36, #38, #41, and #43,  from when she found out her abilities at 13, to joining the Titans).  Lilith served the team well, including one meeting with Batman in Brave and the Bold #94 (February-March, 1971), and Superman in World's Finest Comics #205 (September, 1971), even working alone with Robin (in Batman #241 & #242 in May and June of 1972), and meeting the love of her life, Gnarrk (more on him later),  until the team first broke up after a problem on the Manning case (in Teen Titans #43 of January-February, 1973).

Lilith didn't return to the Titans when they reformed soon after, instead enjoying the peaceful life on the west coast (the Titans were based in New York), but disaster followed her there, and she and her abilities were needed again (and Lilith helped form Titans West, using other teen heroes, like Beast Boy, Golden Eagle, the original Bat-Girl and Hawk & Dove) to defeat the cross-continental thread of Mr. ESPer and Captain Calamity in Teen Titans #50-52 (of October thru December, 1977).  The new team of Titans didn't last (as Gnarrk was none too pleased to see his fiance risk her life with super-heroes).  Lilith next popped up at Donna Troy's (aka Wonder Girl) wedding (in Tales of the Teen Titans #50 of February, 1985), talking of the death of Gnarrk.

Lilith stuck around with the Titans as Donna went on her honeymoon (and Lilith met the winged mystery Azrael as well). It's a good thing Lilith stuck around, as she also helped the Titans against Raven and her demon father, Trigon (in New Teen Titans #1-6 of 1985), and finally found her origin, that of being the daughter of original Olympian Titan goddess, Thia, during the course of New Teen Titans #7-10 of 1985, thus allowing Lilith to sit out the Crisis On Infinite Earths.

But, as the Crisis changed Donna Troy's history (which led her to be a disciple of the original Olympian Titans, and Donna then changed her name from Wonder Girl to Troia), Lilith lost her origin (as we saw her again, still searching for both parents in Secret Origins Annual #3 of 1989).  Lilith even helped to briefly reform the Titans West (in Hawk & Dove Annual #1 of 1990) and helped warn the New Titans of Troia's trouble in the War of the Gods (and in New Titans #81 of December, 1991).

Lilith's next return could have been seen as a bad Omen, and was with a whole new batch of Teen Titans, again led by Loren Jupiter, for Teen Titans #1-24 of October, 1986 to September, 1998.  During this series, Lilith also demonstrated some additional powers like teleportation and more spellcasting, as well as a more mysterious nature (saying she had met her mother, but not who she was, and that she also found out of her father, who was Loren Jupiter).  Lilith then fell into a "Raven wannabe" mode, wherein she was used instead of Raven, missing the uniqueness of Lilith...she was used to recruit villains for Tartarus (a villainous version of the Titans) by Vandal Savage, and helped the Titans a few more times, until her death at the hands of a Superman robot in The Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day 3-issue mini series of 2003.  Lilith even returned twice after that (in Teen Titans #30-31 of January and February, 2006 manipulated by the new Brother Blood, and in the 2009 3 issue mini-series Blackest Night: Titans, as a Black Lantern), leading legions of undead Titans against the current team (and less will be said about the new, villainous Lilith Clay of the New 52).   

Fixit Man

Mal Duncan first appeared and joined the Teen Titans in Teen Titans #26 (March-April, 1970 by Robert Kanigher and Nick Cardy), and Mal was just an angry kid amateur boxer protecting his younger sister, Cindy, from gangs in Hell's Corner in Harlem.  Still, Mal proved his worth, and joined up with Jupiter's Teen Titans, and was very important to the team (though mostly in taking care of the headquarters and similar duties, lacking any super powers or gimmicks).

Mal did meet Superman in World's Finest Comics #205 (September, 1971) and Batman in Brave and the Bold #102 (June-July, 1972), and was even able to prevent Titan foe, Gargoyle, from re-entering our dimension on his own in Mal's only solo story in Teen Titans #35 (September-October, 1971).

Mal was even the most loyal of Titans, staying to take care of the systems of the Titans Lair after the team broke up for a time.

Mal's patience was rewarded, as when the Teen Titans came back, he took on the super-hero identity of the Guardian (after the evil Dr. Light dismissed Mal as "the janitor"), borrowing the costume of the original Guardian and an strength exo-skeleton of a foe of Robin's (from Batman #192, June, 1967). Mal didn't keep that identity, instead picking up a mystical horn that had non-specific magical powers, and becoming Hornblower, for the majority of the Teen Titans return (and where he fronted a new HQ for the team, that of Gabriel's Horn, a restaurant that he owned); at least until the horn disappeared and he was back to being Guardian again (as he needed an edge to not lose, for if he lost any battle, he would lose his soul....).

Mal seems to not lose his soul, was there for the high school graduation of Wally West (Kid Flash) and even married Karen Beecher (his girlfriend, more on her later) as the pair attended Donna Troy's wedding.  Mal even showed up at a funeral for a friend in the 12th issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths.

The Crisis also changed Mal; instead of becoming Guardian or Hornblower, Mal found a computerized musical instrument and became the Herald to defeat Dr. Light.   This was all part of a scheme to aid a pair of old Titans' foes (as revealed in Secret Origins Annual #3 of 1989).  Mal was mostly retired as a hero at this point (though he did show here and there for support, like aiding the Titans West, and participating in a meeting of the members of the Titans and JLA, even fighting Dr. Light again...

...and being part of the space team in Infinite Crisis).

Herald returned from the Infinite Crisis merged with his weapon, which he called the Gabriel Horn, merged into his body.  Mal took on the identity of Vox, and joined the Doom Patrol for a time (mostly Teen Titans #35-37 in 2006 and Secret Six #4 of October, 2006), where their leader, the Chief, was suppose to help find a cure for him...

...though that didn't seem to be working out as, last we heard, Mal was no longer with the team (or his wife).

Cave Boy

Gnarrk was just a simple cave boy, living in pre-historic times, until Mal and Kid Flash came and ruined his life in Teen Titans #32 (March-April, 1971 by Steve Skeates and Nick Cardy).  Gnarrk ended up coming to modern day in Teen Titans #33 (May-June, 1971, by Bob Haney and George Tuska).  In that issue, Gnarrk formed a special bond with Lilith, and began to slowly learn modern civilization and vocabulary.

Gnarrk returned in Teen Titans #39 (May-June, 1972), thinking of joining a lost tribe of Indians, just so he'd better belong.  It didn't work out, but Gnarrk and Lilith got engaged between this issue and Teen Titans #50 (when Lilith returned forming Titans West, appearing in Teen Titans #51 and #52).  Gnarrk even helped the team a little, and posed with the group at the end of the adventure (though never sure if this was enough to consider him a member....then, it was revealed at Donna Troy's wedding Gnarrk was dead.

Dead, and wiped from existence almost, no less. 

Gnarrk appeared in New Titans #56 (July, 1989) after the Crisis On Infinite Earths, in an adventure set after the reunion of Titans (and formation of Titans West).

This was the first time the Titans met Gnarrk (wherein he did form a bond with Lilith, but she watched him die at S.T.A.R. Secret Origins Annual #3 of 1989 explained, Lilith was originally attracted to Dove as Titans West formed, making poor Lilith more tragic...and abandoning Gnarrk to a footnote in history...).

Neglected Girl

Bumblebee is the next Titan being covered (and she's a little bit of a jump ahead, but that's because she's Mal's girlfriend and then wife!).  Karen Beecher first appeared as Mal's girlfriend in Teen Titans #45 (December, 1976), upset at how he feels neglected by the other Titans, and with Teen Titans #47 (April, 1977), Karen decided to do something about it.

Karen appears first as Bumblebee in Teen Titans #48 (June, 1977 by Bob Rozakis and Jose Delbo), attacking the Teen Titans (and a cover dominated by Two-Face and the Joker's Daughter)!  She did this to show Mal his worth to the team, and joins in Teen Titans #49 (August, 1977), thanks to her super-suit, which gives her the ability of flight, a sonic attack mode and stingers (which, originally fired out of a strange place, later changed to eye-beams).  Karen was a part of the east team during the introduction of Titans West, and (along with Mal) was there when the origin of the Teen Titans was related in Teen Titans #53 (February, 1978) as the team disbanded for a time.

Bumblebee next popped up at Donna Troy's wedding in Tales of the Teen Titans #50 (February, 1985), married to Mal, and the both of them enjoying not being a part of super-heroics out on the west coast (with Karen now working for S.T.A.R. Labs).  When Mal briefly returned to being Herald, Karen soon followed suit to help the Titans with the problem of the Wildebeest (and the Titans needed a scientist they could trust, as the Wildebeest had infiltrated S.T.A.R. Labs and took over Cyborg, as detailed in New Titans #57-59 in 1989).

Bumblebee (as well as Mal, Golden Eagle and Flamebird, and title stars Hawk and the new female Dove) were also there for a Titans West revival in Hawk & Dove Annual #1 (1990), dealing with villains in hell (deceased villains like the original Icicle, Electrocutioner, the Iron Major, the second Clayface, el Papagayo and the Top).  Karen (along with Mal and many other ex-Titans) were kidnapped by the Wildebeest Society during the Titans Hunt (which lasted from New Titans #71-85), but no effects from that adventure were ever revealed.  Bumblebee was a leader of a group of Team Titans in Team Titans #22 and #24 in 1994 (before Zero Hour wiped out the timelines of most of the Team Titans), and also participated in the gathering of Titans and JLA members recorded in JLA/Titans #1-3 at the end of the 1990s, and was part of the gathering of ex-Titans by Beast Boy and Flamebird in Titans Secret Files #2 (October, 2000).  Bumblebee was also one of the heroines who responded to Wonder Woman's call for assistance to help save New York from Circe in Wonder Woman #174-175 in 2001, and was involved in a case with the Birds of Prey (which included guest-star Vixen) in Birds of Prey #70-73 in 2004.

Bumblebee came together with most of the Titans to face Dr. Light in Teen Titans #22-23 (May and June, 2005), which eventually led to her and Herald being part of Donna Troy's outer space team of heroes to help fight in the Rann-Thanagar War during the Infinite Crisis...which changed Karen into a lady more like a bumblebee, and stuck at six-inch size (which was revealed in 52 #5 of August, 2006).

Dealing with her (and Mal's change into Vox) proved tough for the couple, though they were together in the Doom Patrol for the early part of their treatment, the couple separated soon after Teen Titans #35-37 of 2006 and Secret Six #3-4 of 2006, with Karen staying with the Doom Patrol for most of it's 21st century run 22 issue run, still dealing with being pint-sized.

In spite of all their problems, these Titans did their best to hold it together....and inspire more Titans in the future!

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