new teen titans

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 91: Titans Together?

Episode 91 Website CoverWith the new Titans show availble through DC’s streaming service, it’s time to take a look at some of my all-time favorite issues of The New Teen Titans!  Join me as I cash in on this brand new show and look at issues #28, 29, 30, and 31 of the original Wolfman-Perez series. You’ll hear me talk about my Titans fandom, my opinions on the relationship of Donna Troy and Terry Long, and how this all ties into “The Judas Conntract.”  Plus, I have listener feedback and the most ’80s-tastic soundtrack that anyone could ask for!

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And here’s a link to Professor Alan’s Dr. Doom Sketchbook:  Relatively Geeky Network

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Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 14 — PSAs

80 Years Episode 14 iTunes LogoBe a good citizen! Don’t do drugs! Understand the dangers of unprotected sex and fight the stigma of AIDS. These are all part of various DC Comics public service announcements over the company’s 80-year history. In this episode, I tackle citizenship by looking at a classic one-page Superboy PSA; fight the war on drugs by looking at not one, but all three New Teen Titans Drug Awareness giveaways; and I contribute to AIDS awareness by looking at one-page PSAs featuring the DCU’s best and brightest as well as the mini-comic Death Talks About Life.

This episode is dedicated with heartfelt condolences to Mr. Shawn Engel, whom the TTF family recently lost. My thoughts go out to his family and friends in this difficult time.

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

From Zero to Breakup

MORE THAN ZERO: ZERO MONTH 20 YEARS LATER

In 1994 DC Comics published Zero Hour, a five issue mini-series designed to not only serve as a major summer crossover but also fix some of the continuity problems that had plagued their universe after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Some have suggested that Zero Hour caused more problems than it fixed but at the time it was the dawn of an exciting new era for DC. To kick off this new age DC followed Zero Hour with Zero Month. As the name suggests all of the main DC books were rolled back to zero though each one had a different approach to the idea Some books featured a new origin. Some contained tweaks to the existing origin. Some contained brand new versions of old characters. All of them served as a jumping on point for new and old readers alike. To celebrate this new era (or perhaps to bury it) some of us in the comic book blogging community have banded together from remote galaxies to discuss how the characters we cover were rebooted/revamped by looking at the solicitations of our character’s zero issues as well as delving into the Wizard Magazine Zero Hour Special, which was a magazine published around the time of Zero Hour to promote the series, what was coming next and the history of DC in general.

I have been struggling for days to figure out some sort of simile or metaphor to use as a way to represent what the post Zero Hour Titans books were like. I figured it would be easy–I am, after all, a sports fan and have seen more than my fair share of lineup changes that were both beneficial and detrimental. But for some reason, I keep coming back to the first two weeks of July 1996 and what amounted to the last gasp of a dying relationship.

Kate was … well, I can’t say that she was a nightmare or anything, but it was the first relationship that I had ever been in where things lasted longer than a couple of nights or a couple of weeks. But by the time i was making my way through my freshman year of college, we both were slowly discovering that our high school romance wasn’t compatible to my being away at school. We spent the summer breaking up, getting back together, and fighting for various reasons–I knew she was cheating on me, I was getting some, we had concert tickets–and I am sure that we would have been done way before I left for school in August had it not been for that week in July when my parents were away and we, for some reason, were getting along. Of course, I would later find out it was because the guy she was hooking up with behind my back was also out of town, but ignorance proved to be bliss.

When Zero Hour hit, The New Titans and Deathstroke were both at that point. Deathstroke had been spinning its wheels with one-off action yarns after a very solid “World Tour” storyline in 1993 and the Titans was literally sputtering. W hole issues would go by where it seemed like nothing was happening, there didn’t seem to be any actual villains to fight (the Terraizer, really?), the team never felt like an actual team, and with the exception of a couple of really good Rik Mays-penciled issues, the art by Bill Jaaska was downright terrible. Enter new editor Pat Garrahy, who was assigned, much like Jonathan Peterson four years earlier, to do something, anything to keep the titles afloat. Zero Month, it was decided, was the perfect time to do that since Team Titans–the title I though twas the better of the three–had been cancelled, Nightwing was being given back to the Batman books, and the various other members of the group were sent packing in one way or another except for Arsenal and Changeling, who had given the team to the U.S. government and were somehow going to find new members.

Unfortunately for the readers, the new direction chosen was more of a complete dismantling of both books rather than a refocus. The solicits promised new and exciting things as Previews put a spotlight on the bold new direction that each book was taking:

 

ZM Solicits - Deathstroke #0
ZM Solicits - New Titans #0
The menaces that began to ravage characters in both books seemed to come out of nowhere. Yes, there was a lead-up to the Titans having an affiliation with the government, but the Deathstroke assassination plot and the Crimelord were simply dropped in, and by the time that Garrahy was let go from the title in late 1995/early 1996, the supporting cast of Deathstroke would be mostly killed off and Marv Wolfman would be given five issues to end his sixteen-year run on New Titans with at least some semblance of dignity.

I can’t tell if it is hindsight being 20/20 since I have read interviews about how displeased Wolfman was with his last year and a half on the title, but when I now read the features in the Wizard Zero Month special, I think I can already hear the disdain, or at least noncommittal:

Beyond Zero Hour New Titans Beyond Zero Hour Deathstroke
Take a look at the last lines of each of those features and you see what seem like non-comments or at least prefabricated talking points:
The book has gone under a lot of changes in the past few years, but all were evolutionary … heroes died, new heroes replaced them, tempers flared, and because they were young, mistakes were made.  That is the way life is.  But now we begin with a new group.  A revolution, so to speak.  New heroes, all with their own lives, hopes and desires.  This allows us to create a very different Titans book.
I think Slade’s ambiguous nature as well as not being sure what he’ll do next makes him someone you want to follow … His relationship with his ex-wife, his friends and co-workers is more than another ‘Man on a Mission’ comic.  He’s not out to stop the mob.  He’s not out to stop evil.  YOu hire Slade, he does his job.  Unofrtunately, his own life gets in the middle of things and mucks it all up.

I can’t remember if I found this all enticing, because prior to issue #0 of both titles, I was already a committed fan. I will say that the idea of a new artist on Titans was enticing and the conspiracy plot in Deathstroke at least had me interested and the way a “Titans Universe” was being cobbled together using Green Lantern, Damage, and The Darkstars was a draw, especially since I was already reading those titles. So I guess it worked on some level.

Unfortunately, the internal strife among the creators and editors contributed to the titles’ ultimate downfall. In interviews, Wolfman had said how quite a number of the plots from issue #0 onward were not his own and dialogue was completely rewritten and he went as far as to threaten to quit if Garrahy was going to continue. This new era lasted through a lengthy Deathstroke story involving the Crimelord, who was revealed to be Steve Dayton, and a Titans story where Raven was an evil soul-sucking dominatrix before everyone headed off to space in a forgettable four book crossover called “The Siege of the Zi Charam.” At a DC office party late in 1995, Wolfman was given notice about the titles being cancelled and eventually negotiated to have Garrahy removed from the book and began “Meltdown,” a storyline that more or less restored all of the characters that he loved to write to some semblance of normal.

Kate and I had our Zero Month … well, Zero Week, where everything was great and we remembered what worked, but after a while, we were left to look at the mess that was being ignored and had to make a decision to clean things up or walk away. One day, we decided it was over and haven’t spoken in nearly twenty years. And this is where the simile kind of falls apart because I would be back with the Titans a year or so later with Dan Jurgens’ Teen Titans book and then would follow them through The Titans, Teen Titans (the Geoff Johns title), and Titans before finally ending my relationship with the book when the New 52 was announced.

But that’s another breakup story.

A big thanks to Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor of From Crisis to Crisis for having me be part of this crossover. Be sure to check out the links below to find out how other characters were treated during Zero Month.

80 Years of DC Comics, Part One: A Comics Life in Moments

80 Years Episode 1 Website LogoPresenting the first episode in an all-new podcast miniseries from Pop Culture Affidavit, 80 Years of DC Comics. Throughout these twelve episodes, I am going to be taking a look at the various genres of comic books that DC Comics has produced in its 80-year history. For my first episode, I start off easy by talking about superheroes. More specifically, I go through 10 moments in DC Comics published during my lifetime that have I’ve enjoyed or that have had some sort of impact on me. So while it doesn’t necessarily cover all 80 years of the company, it’s a personal look at DC, company I’ve been very loyal to since I started seriously collecting comics more than two decades ago.

Of course, you can download the episode from the same iTunes feed used for every episode of Pop Culture Affidavit, or you can listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Presents 80 Years of DC Comics, Part One:  A Comics Life in Moments.

Below are scans of the ten moments I talk about, in brief, in the episode (btw, some of these are spoilers for the stories they are from).

1. Batman Confronts Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #475):

Silver St Cloud2. Donna Troy Reunites With Her Adopted Mother (The New Teen Titans [First Series] #38):

Donna Troy Reunion3. Ordinary Citizens Reacting to Merging Earths (Crisis on Infinite Earths #5):

Crisis 5 Old Couple4. Bruce Wayne Has Some Bad News (Detective Comics #620):

Detective 620 Last page5. The Atom and Green Arrow Kill Darkseid (JLA #14):

JLA Death of Darkseid6. Batman meets … Batwoman? (The Kingdom:  Planet Krypton):

The Kingdom Batwoman7. Rose Wilson Chooses Her Family (Teen Titans #1/2):

Rose Wilson Ravager8. Darkseid and The Infinity Gauntlet (JLA/Avengers #2):

Darkseid JLA Avengers9. “Superheroes.  Kill.”  (Final Crisis #3):

Final Crisis 3 final page10.  Danny Chase’s Sacrifice (The New Teen Titans: Games)

Teen Titans Games Danny Chase

Fear the Future (My Life as a Teen Titan, Part Thirty-Seven)

Deathstroke 51If there is any one good thing that came out of Deathstroke having his own series in the 1990s, it’s that he had unknowingly fathered a daughter, Rose, who would eventually go on to become The Ravager during Geoff Johns’s run on Teen Titans.  But in 1995, Rose was still in her early teens and under the care of the latest version of the New Titans.  She’d just survived an ordeal where The Ravager (the Wade DeFarge version) killed her mother.  The climax of that storyline was earth-shattering, as most of Deathstroke’s supporting cast was dead and Adeline was revealed to not only have gone completely nuts but had also inherited some of Slade’s immortality.

So where do you go from there?  Well, apparently, you go into the future.

Deathstroke #51 and 52 are a two-part story where after she gets knocked out in a training exercise by Damage, Rose has a dream.  But it’s not a dream, it’s a vision of the future and one where her father’s immortality has  helped him achieve some sort of world domination, or at least be a Doctor Doom type of villain.  His main enemy is Hawkman, or the latest version of Hawkman, and Hawkman fights with Deathstroke in some sort of virtual reality world.  There’s  a hint that maybe somehow Steve Dayton as The Crimelord had somehow possessed Deathstroke but Rose wakes up from her vision before we can really see who he is in the future.

And then in the next issue, Deathstroke and Hawkman team up to stop a villain named Ebrax, even though the two of them spend most of their team-up time griping at one another.  There’s some implication that the possibility of Slade becoming some sort of huge villain and fighting with Hawkman will come to pass and perhaps they will become enemies as the series goes on.  But with only eight more issues to go in the series, Hawkman is never seen again and this doesn’t really go anywhere.  In fact, the only thing that does sort of go anywhere is Rose’s burgeoning precognitive powers, which are still around when she is The Ravager, although she’s not so much predicting the future in that role and simply has good anticipatory reflexes.

This two-parter, to me, has not only come to represent the beginning of the end of this series but its lowest point.  Two stories that feature Hawkman and set up one confusing, dangling plot thread were also two stories that I barely cared about in 1995 and kind of suffered through when I was rereading for this blog.  Looking at what’s ahead, there are a couple of issues that I barely remember reading, one issue that I didn’t actually own until years after the series had been cancelled, and while things slightly improve in the last few issues of the series, you can tell that unless Deathstroke is going to go back to its roots and become a series about a mercenary who is also an action hero, it’s going to wind up being cancelled.  The science fiction aspects are clunky, especially anything with “virtual reality,” which clearly dates these issues.

Next Up:  The Titans go into outer space and get involved in an intergalactic civil war.

Deathstroke: The Hunted (My Life as a Teen Titan, Part Thirty-Five)

Deathstroke 0The 1990s take a lot of crap from comics fans and in all honesty a lot of that crap isn’t fair.  But there are times when the effects of the era’s attitude are clearly seen and seen for the worst, which is when an established character undergoes some sort of transformation to make him or her “edgier” or “extreme” or “more exciting.”  Post-Zero Hour, this happened to The New Titans, which had a new lineup and a whole slew of storyline and character changes that were mainly the result of interference from a new editor (though the title’s writer, Marv Wolfman, obviously shares some of the responsibility for how the book eventually crashed and burned) and this bled over into the other Titans-related comic of the time, Deathstroke: The Terminator.

Prior to the 1994 crossover event, Deathstroke had been chugging along and probably faced a fair amount of declining sales (I haven’t been able to find the actual sales figures) since its debut, or at least through most of the latter part of 1993 and into 1994, even though the title had been a pretty consistent read throughout its run.  But with Zero Hour came a new editor, Pat Garrahy, and therefore came a new direction because Garrahy, much to the chagrin of Wolfman and quite a number of fans (especially in hindsight) was obsessed with the idea of “shaking things up” to the point where he didn’t seem to care about getting anyone upset or completely contradicting that which had come before (read: the Terra origin).  In fact, I remember hearing a story about how he was once at a signing or convention and pointed out to a fan all of the characters he had killed … and seemed pretty proud of it.  Granted, this story was something I heard on a message board back in the early 2000s and is more than likely not true, but it is indicative of the attitude of many an editor and many a company in the early 1990s:  do something shocking or crazy so that your readers are sure to pick up the book.

Like I said, for The New Titans it was a lineup change; for Deathstroke: The Terminator, it was a new art team, a new direction, and a title change to Deathstroke: The Hunted.

Starting with issue 0, Sergio Cariello took over on pencils and stayed with the book for the better part of a year and a half as he and his brother Octavio took Slade to Hell and back and dismantled much of the book’s supporting cast in a drawn-out storyline that involved two mystery villains and several major deaths.  Garrahy had Wolfman writing in higher octane mode than he already had (read: now EVERYONE WAS YELLING ALL THE TIME BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT COMICS DIALOGUE WAS IN THE 1990s!  EVERYONE!  HAS! TO!  YELL!) and the Cariellos drew with a very fast-paced style that sometimes lent itself well to the storyline but other times seemed rushed, much like the issues that came out.

Deathstroke 45“The Hunted” is a Slade-on-the-run storyline that starts in the Zero Month issue with Deathstroke being chased by the United States government because he is wanted for the murder of a Senator, even though he knows that the person he killed was actually a terrorist disguised as the Senator who was going to blow himself up at a public appearance and the real Senator had been murdered by agents of the Crimelord, who is now in charge of the nation of Zandia, the former home of Brother Blood.  The Crimelord is a villain shrouded in mystery.  He talks to his operatives via video chat using avatars and sits in shadows smoking a cigar and petting an owl (because when you’re an international criminal supervillain you need to be petting some sort of animal), so we don’t know his identity and that is something that will be some sort of huge reveal at one point or another.

It takes a while to get to that point because the six issues that make up “The Hunted” are the “Deathstroke on the run” and “We’re going to destroy everything” part of all of this that is quite formulaic.  The Zero Month issue establishes the story and it’s kind of jarring because there’s very little connection between issue #0 and issue #40, which was a run-of-the-mill action yarn.

So, Slade is on the run from the government.  He gets captured.  He gets rescued.  The Crimelord acts behind the scenes and manipulates a lot of things.  There’s also a mystery villain who will come to be known as The Ravager (the third Deathstroke-related character with that name) and Slade’s ex-wife Adeline is completely insane and obsessed with killing her husband.

Wash, rinse, repeat. (more…)

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 17 — Return to the Valley of the Geeks

Episode 17 CoverIt’s the one year anniversary of the Pop Culture Affidavit podcast and I’m celebrating in fine style with coverage from the 2013 Baltimore Comic-Con!  I attended on Saturday, September 7 and you’ll get to hear me talk about the con as well as talk to some comics creators I met, including Art Baltazar and Franco, Michael Golden, Rob Kelly, and George Perez!

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Pictures are located after the jump, but I did want to share some links to things mentioned on the podcast …

The Baltimore Comic-Con:  I obviously want to provide a link to the official page of the con and offer my thanks once again to the organizers for giving me a press pass.

Hey Kids, Comics!:  Rob Kelly recently wrote a book and I had the privilege of speaking to him about it at the con.  Look for an extended interview with him on the next episode!

Healed:  A comic from Homeless Comics that I didn’t buy at the con but checked out online and it, or at least issue #1 is really good.

(more…)