web stats

CSBG Archive

Five Goofiest Moments in the First Five Issues of Teen Titans

Every day this month will have the five goofiest moment from a five-issue stretch of a particular comic book run. Once a week it will be the ten goofiest moments of a ten-issue stretch. Here is a list of the moments featured so far.

Today we’re looking at the first five issues of the Teen Titans, by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, from 1966.

As always, this is all in good fun. I don’t mean any of this as a serious criticism of the comics in question. Great comics often have goofy moments (Kirby/Lee’s Fantastic Four is one of the best comic book runs of all-time and there were TONS of goofy stuff in those 100 plus issues!).

What’s interesting from these issues is how there is a relative LACK of goofiness in them. I mean, while sure, they have giant robot conquistadors…

and a guy named Ding-Dong-Daddy Dowd who runs an evil Hot Rod shop that makes custom vehicles for crooks (using high school drop outs for labor)…

but those seem to be pretty typical for comics of the era. Otherwise, these comics were pretty darn straightforward. It is surprising, because Haney wrote PLENTY of goofy comics. It is just interesting to note how straightforward these first few Titans tales are. Still, even with a relative paucity of goofy moments there are always some goofy moments!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Demonstration that comics don’t have audio…

This is less a note about Teen Titans as much as it is a general “complaint” about comics. The way characters refer to other characters by their initials. It works really well on the page, but if you try to say it out loud, it doesn’t sound right at all. No one would ever call someone named Green Lantern “G.L.” Just like they wouldn’t call Wonder Girl “W.G.” Hell, “W.G” actually has more syllables in it than “Wonder Girl” (4 to 3). And yet…

Robin and the Robinettes!

In #1, the Titans are offered a gig with the Peace Corps. Here is their reaction…

I just love the idea of Robin deciding for the whole group. And I like Wonder Girl’s logic in going along with it. “Eh, he’s normally right, so let’s let him make our decisions for us.”

A series of Wonder Girl vignettes…

Yikes, Aqualad!

This is more than a little overly harsh, no?

Imagine if there weren’t a dance called The Frug?

Then this Wonder Girl dialogue would really sound dirty…

Stay on target, Wonder Girl, stay on target…

While the rest of the Titans worry about the disappearance of an athlete, Wonder Girl has a different take on the situation…

Imagine other instances… “He’s cute, he could kidnap my heart just as well as he did those children!” “What a cutie! He can triple homicide me any day!”

5. Are you questioning the government? What are you, a commie, Robin?

Batman delivers an odd take on trust in the government in #3…

“Big Brother is watching out for you, Robin!”

4. Some Dark Knight Detective…

In #1, Batman’s detecting skills don’t exactly impress…

Also, you’re a millionaire, Batman! What, you couldn’t spring for the dime to at least buy a copy of the newspaper? “Eh, I’m really not all that interested in what Robin gets up to when he’s not around.”

3. The Third World nation of Paradise Island…

In #1, Queen Hippolyta has an odd reaction the news of Wonder Girl’s involvement in the Peace Corps…

I just love the idea of a bunch of young Americans helping the Amazons with, like, irrigation…

2. That’s some dedicated training right there…

You have to love that the Titans have a set “anti-robot defense”…

1. Worst blackmail ever?

In #5, the Titans investigate a graduate of a school for troubled kids who they fear has turned to a life of crime as the costumed criminal known as the Ant. We learn that he is, indeed, working as a criminal, but it is not of his own volition, he is being blackmailed into it by some bad guys who are holding the following over his head…

Yes, a picture of his younger brother hanging out with a known gang. For this, he’s become a criminal? Not too smart there, Ant!

48 Comments

Well, you did mention that having giant robot conquistadors around is pretty typical on that era, so it does make sense they have an anti-giant robot conquistador defense routine…

You had me at “written by Bob Haney”. Though I agree this scores low on the goofyometer. I think a five issue stretch of Haney’s 1970s runs on World’s Finest or The Brave and the Bold could turn up some of his goofiest gems.

Wow, this is way less goofy than I would have expected, especially for Bob Haney. Still some gems there though…

FYI — The frug was a dance craze back in the ’60s, so that reference only sounds dirty if you don’t understand what the word means.

FYI — The frug was a dance craze back in the ’60s, so that reference only sounds dirty if you don’t understand what the word means.

Right, hence “Imagine if there weren’t a dance called The Frug?”

I could be wrong, but the person who is doing up the Flintstone style newspaper on Paradise Island looks like a man, who of course shouldn’t be there.

At least by 50’s/60’s comic book definitions of such.

interesting that the original issues of teen titans even made this list since the goofiest is really tame compared to the others on this list.

I think Teen Titans got goofier as it went on, though it never reached the heights of Haney’s The Brave and the Bold. The funny part of Teen Titans isn’t how outlandishly absurd it is, but how desperately it tries to sound hip, which makes it as dated as it could possibly be now. It’s like Swing With Scooter, but with superheroes.

I agree with Imitorar, middle aged guys trying to write hip dialog is similar to having a white midwestern farmer writing jive dialog.

I’ve been involved in this hobby for about 40 years and one of the problems I see with fans is a blind spot for anything from their childhood.
I maintain that Bob Haney was the Ed Wood of comics. He was just a terrible, terrible writer and what’s worse, he clearly had no interest in the material. My favorite examples of this are from the first few Teen Titans stories from the Brave and the Bold. There was the Mr. Twister story in which we learn that the villain’s plan is… Well, on second thought, why give the villain *any* goal at all? And Haney doesn’t. Or the story where the bad guy knows what the heroes are up to because, of course, he is a giant who can divide his body and te heroes are overheard by … a disembodied ear, several stories high, that no one notices.
I”m sure some apologists will chalk that up to the times in which the stories are published (although it’s also a stark illustration of why Marvel was able to come along and blow DC out of the water….) but what I really find so unpleasant about these stories is that, apparently, during the Silver Age, the only requirement DC had for anybody who wanted to write about women and teenagers was that they hate women (Hi, Kanigher!) and teenagers. Oh, and that their scripts reflect that in no uncertain terms.

In that panel where Robin decides they’re joining the Peace Corps, Donna Troy looks exactly like Katy Perry.

Ha!

She really does.

I used to think that initials for superheroes was one of the goofiest things of the medium. I really couldn’t bring myself to call Captain Marvel Jr, “CM3″ for example.

And, then, I became a wrestling fan. And, names such as RVD and Y2J made a lot more sense to me.

Theno

The initial thing is goofy, but I know a few people who do this (gratingly, my mom) under the impression that it is “humorous.”

Speaking of Katy Perry looking like Donna Troy:

Even worse than the use of initials is Marvel’s tendency to have all the Avengers call each other Hawky and Mocky and Wondy, etc.

I hope all of this is leading to a Comic Book Writer Goof-Off Tournament.

My Final Four: Bob Haney, Stan Lee, Cary Bates and Robert Kanigher.

Championship: Haney vs Kanigher.

Winner of the Goofiest Writer Ever: Robert Kanigher, because nothing tops Egg Fu.

The image didn’t pop up, so let’s try it with a link instead. Katy Perry looking like Donna Troy:

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/194/99aw.jpg

I don’t think initials are universally bad. I could see someone using GL in real life. WG though I agree is too clunky to work.

My Final Four: Bob Haney, Stan Lee, Cary Bates and Robert Kanigher.

By Silver Age standards I wouldn’t include Stan Lee at all in top 4 goofy writers. I can think of a ton of Silver Age DC writers who are much goofier. Also, I’d include Roy Thomas among writers goofier than Stan Lee.

My top goofy writer would be John Broome though. I think he’s the gold standard of goofiness, even moreso than Bob Haney, since to an extent I feel Bob Haney was kind of being goofy on purpose and really just didn’t care in the least, yet with all the convoluted exposition and the way he serially abused real science concepts in ridiculous misapplications I feel John Broome was playing it a lot more straight.

The initial thing is goofy, but I know a few people who do this (gratingly, my mom) under the impression that it is “humorous.”

I work with a girl who does it with places and things rather than people, except she thinks its “hip” rather than “humorous.” I don’t know which is worse.

Like one day she said “Let’s hit up CPK.” And I was like “What’s that?” And she looked at me like I asked the dumbest question on earth and said flabbergasted “California Pizza Kitchen silly!” She does this all the time: uses a random abbreviation, then treats you like you’re the crazy or unhip one for not knowing what she’s referring to, then ends up using the full name anyway to explain it to people, which defeats the purpose of using initials to begin with.

WG doesn’t make sense, but GL does. The two letters flow together nicely.

Me and my friends used to use “GL” in conversation all the time. “WG” on the other hand? urgh…

But then again, you might want to place it in the context of the era. Addressing people by initials was pretty hip for a while in the sixties, used not necessarily as a time- and breath-saving abbreviation but just as a form of gesture of familiarity.

People have been known to call Warner Brothers “W.B.” on occasion, which at least is no shorter than the original.

CPK is an extremely common abbreviation.

@ T. –

By Silver Age standards I wouldn’t include Stan Lee at all in top 4 goofy writers. I can think of a ton of Silver Age DC writers who are much goofier. Also, I’d include Roy Thomas among writers goofier than Stan Lee.

I would basically agree with you, but it is strange how few people work in the Stan Lee style these days relative to the others that have been mentioned.

John Broome was certainly goofy, but he was trying to treat superheroes as a sub-genre of science fiction. There are still folks working in that mode, including Warren Ellis.

Bob Haney was really telling stories in his own micro-universe. He created characters, like Donna Troy, that have been a struggle for subsequent creators. There are secretly a ton of creators working in that mode, including Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis.

Roy Thomas treated old comics like they were history books. He never met an old concept that could not dust off and refresh. Geoff Johns is like that today, so are his buddies James Robinson and Jeph Loeb.

Robert Kanigher was really a guy that wanted to write and edit War Comics. He considered the superhero genre absurd and treated it that way. Garth Ennis is the most upfront about that attitude today, but I suspect that are more than a few others.

@ Cass:

Your Mom does a giant conquistator robot thingee.

Sounds like you have the coolest Mom on this planet!

DFTBA

@ Apodaca:

CPK is somewhat common, depending on where you live. i live ~5 miles away from 2 of them, but i haven’t heard it a ton. Some of my co-workers wouldn’t have a clue if i used it. But my wife TOTALLY would know as it’s one of her favorite places.

DFTBA

[by the way, i’ll go with anyone to CPK if they’re around San Jose]

Why’d you start with Teen Titans one? The first two tryout stories in Brave and the Bold are goofier than the rest of Haney’s TT stuff put together.

I know I’ll hate myself in the morning, but I can’t resist:

I just love the idea of a bunch of young Americans helping the Amazons with, like, irrigation…

I’ll bet a lot of college boys would love to get into the Amazon’s…uh…irrigation.

CPK means Creatine Phosphokinase. At least, where I come from it does.

The goofiest thing about the early Titans series is that it used a CHARACTER THAT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO EXIST- eg. Wonder Girl, who in Wonder Woman’s series was just a figment of Hyppolita’s imagination; she amused herself daydreaming about Diana having been a superhero as a girl (and even as a baby!) and even teamed up ALL of her daughter’s “selves” in her stories. I guess being queen of an immortal race of Amazons can get boring sometimes. :D The thing is, Haney HAD to know that Wonder Girl wasn’t “real” (not in the same context that the others were) he used to write Wonder Woman as well, so he just said screw it and used Wonder Girl anyway. With THAT kind of writing attitude, what can you expect of his stories?

And yeah, that man sculpting a stone newspaper for the Amazons on Paradise Island is hilarious!

I’ve heard lots of people use initials to refer to each other – if I said FDR, JFK, MJ, or even PAD you’d know who I meant (well, you might not know whether “MJ” was Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Mary Jane) and I’ve heard people use all of those in conversation, not just in print. Honestly, I’d think it’d get to be a little awkward calling Hal “Green Lantern” all the time, the same way that if a friend of yours joined the police it would feel weird calling him “officer.” Once you’ve seen someone drunkenly hit on Black Canary and get shot down, you can’t call him anything with more than two syllables; that’s just a social imperative. Personally, I’d probably go with just “Lantern” but “GL” seems perfectly reasonable.

My gut agrees that anything with a “W” in it would be too awkward to say out loud, but I actually have heard people refer to World War II as “double-you-double-you-two” in conversation which seems really counterintuitive but, as Jeff Goldblum would say, well, there you go.

In all honesty, though, if I were a superhero in the DCU, I would make a point of referring to every other hero by initials only, just to have an excuse to call Batman “BM” to his face.

I would basically agree with you, but it is strange how few people work in the Stan Lee style these days relative to the others that have been mentioned.

Strongly disagree. I think Stan Lee is far more influential than anyone else you mentioned. The problem with Stan Lee is that he’s SO influential that we don’t even notice it’s influence anymore because we take his influence for granted. For example, say someone told you to describe the room you were in, and what was in it. You would describe furniture, colors, the wallpaper, the coatrack, everything in it except for the most plentiful thing in the room…oxygen. Because oxygen is so ubiquitous and consistent and vital that we just take it for granted. We don’t even notice it anymore until it’s not there and we start choking. Stan Lee’s innovations are the oxygen of modern superhero comics.

Those other guys you mention stick out to you more as influential IMO precisely because they’re LESS influential and ubiquitous, so they’re harder to take for granted and more conspicuous. Things stand out due to contrast. People today who are influenced by Broome, Kanigher, etc. stand out because we can contrast them against people today who aren’t influenced by those same people. Since everyone who writes character-based superhero comics with distinct personalities is influenced by Stan Lee, there’s no one out there who is NON-Stan Lee influenced to contrast them against, thus being Stan Lee influenced is not as noticeable.

John Broome was certainly goofy, but he was trying to treat superheroes as a sub-genre of science fiction. There are still folks working in that mode, including Warren Ellis.

Yes, but Ellis is influenced by Stan Lee as well. At best I’d say Ellis is a post-modern blend of Stan Lee and Gardner Fox, who I thought was a better version of John Broome, since John Broome’s sci-fi was really, really implausible to me, even by superhero Silver Age standards.

Bob Haney was really telling stories in his own micro-universe. He created characters, like Donna Troy, that have been a struggle for subsequent creators. There are secretly a ton of creators working in that mode, including Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis.

I can agree with this, but you can say all the same things about Stan Lee. He was telling stories in his own microuniverse and creating/co-creating lots of characters. In the 1960s, the entire Marvel line was so small it qualified as a microuniverse even taken as a whole.

Roy Thomas treated old comics like they were history books. He never met an old concept that could not dust off and refresh. Geoff Johns is like that today, so are his buddies James Robinson and Jeph Loeb.

Yes, but Roy Thomas, Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Jeph Loeb all write a lot of character-driven storylines rather than being primarily plot driven. Their superheroes don’t have all interchangeable personalities to the point where you could switch around all their voice balloons and no one would notice. Their characters have a lot of human foibles to the point they often bicker and fight amongst themselves and have falling outs and making up. In short, Thomas, Johns, Robinson and Loeb are all highly influenced by Stan Lee. So is Grant Morrison when he writes the interplay between the characters in the JLA. So is Brian Michael Bendis. And every writer who engages in long-term consistent continuity across an entire line of comic books with lots of guest appearances that reference each other is influenced by Stan Lee.

After Stan Lee, you can no longer write a comic in a PRE-Stan Lee style anymore. It’s just impossible. If someone wrote a purely plot driven superhero story with everyone having interchangeable personalities and the heroes having no human foibles it would be an instant dud.

I really don’t see how you can say hardly anyone is influenced by Stan Lee yet Broome, Kanigher, Haney and Roy Thomas are more influential to today’s writers than Lee is.

@ T. –

I really don’t see how you can say hardly anyone is influenced by Stan Lee yet Broome, Kanigher, Haney and Roy Thomas are more influential to today’s writers than Lee is.

I think that we are talking about two different things.

You are talking about the influence that Stan Lee has had on the industry, which unquestionably huge. As a result of Stan Lee, superhero comics are more character-driven and their universes are vastly more inter-connected. You see his imprint everywhere and other mediums as well. No doubt. That is an effect.

What I am talking is the cause. Reading those early Marvels, it is hard to miss certain elements of his style that have gone entirely missing. They include:
1. An authorial personality in the caption boxes. Who was the last Big 2 comic writer to use distinct narrative voice? Alan Moore in SWAMP THING, maybe?
2. The use of deep casts of ordinary people to define the actions of superheroes. How many characters essentially do without their own non-super supporting casts these days? Doesn’t it seem like the super-people spend an awful lot of time talking to one another?
3. A willingness to play with (and occasionally mock) the conventions of the superhero genre.? Unless a title has ‘comedy’ in its mission statement, they tend to be treated as very serious business.
4. Trying a bunch of different things, keeping the good stuff and chucking the garbage. The garbage never goes away anymore. Everything is forever. As a result, everyone has gotten conservative. There is a Wolverine Family for Christ’s Sake! The big character find of the last five years was a new Batwoman!! If they instituted a three strikes law for failed series, how many ‘new launches’ from the last decade would’ve been allowed?!?
5. Stylized dialoge. Everything is trying for naturalism these days.

So, Stan Lee’s influence is everywhere, but his style has vanished.

My three thoughts while reading this post:

1. I agree with what some other people mentioned in that “GL” actually isn’t an awkward abbreviation. “WG” totally is. There’s numerous other instances of comic book nicknames that make way more sense on paper than as a spoken word, but of course I’m drawing a blank on them at the moment. Maybe that’s a future list or something for someone to post about.

2. Robot Conquistador is awesome. I would buy one if he were for sale.

3. I laughed out loud at your caption under the picture of Batman reading the newspaper. Not sure why it struck such a cord with me, but it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen/heard all day. And I even caught 10 minutes of a Louis CK routine earlier. That’s saying something.

Imagine that teenage Jim Shooter was writing superior teen stories in ADVENTURE around the same time.

The Amazons haven’t even invented pen and ink writing, much less the printing press. They totally need help from the Peace Corps. If the volunteers can’t install some IBM computers, maybe they can introduce this thing called “paper.”

And that sure looks like a young man inscribing the news. I thought men were forbidden on Paradise Island.

Isn’t an “emergency letter” a contradiction in terms? Has anyone ever heard of telegrams or the telephone? If a cry for help takes three days to arrive, can it really be an emergency?

That’s my explanation for why Wondy aka WG aka Wonder Girl aka Donna Troy aka Troia ignored the so-called emergency. She knew Robin was being unnecessarily dramatic.

I would have sworn that “Pieface” called him GL all the time.

I am not sure what’s the difference between influence and style here, Dean.

That Stan Lee worked with an interconnected universe is a influence, while Bob Haney telling stories in his personal micro-universe is a style? WTH?

I agree with T. Whatever you want to call it, more people follow Stan Lee than they do the other four together, even though a few of Stan Lee’s writing tics have vanished. Stan Lee and, to a lesser extent, Claremont/Wolfman/Levitz in team books are like oxygen, so common that people don’t notice it.

Though I will admit that Roy Thomas comes closest to be also included in this small collection of guys-that-defined-superhero-storytelling.

@ Rene:

There are five components of fiction: plot, character, theme, setting and style. Style relates to thing like the use of third-person narration vs. first person narration. Stan Lee used a very distinctive form of third-person narration. Modern comic writers rarely use the third-person at all. That element of Lee’s style is gone.

Style also relates to tone. Stan Lee tended to be a very playful writer. You saw that both in his tendency to experiment and to mess around with conventions of the genre. The dominant tone of modern superhero stories is extremely serious. Likewise, a key element of Lee’s style has been totally abandoned.

Another element of style is how the author achieves suspension of disbelief. Stan Lee did it through maintaining deep casts of ordinary people to frame the superheroes. Modern writers have narrowed the relationships considerably. They try to get suspension of disbelief through heavy use of cinematic imagery. Once again, a key element of Lee’s style had effectively no influence on modern writers. Same deal with his dialog.

What has persisted are the setting (the Marvel Universe) and characters (Spidey, FF & etc.) that Lee co-created. Obviously, those are huge legacies. They just are not stylistic ones.

With regard to Bob Haney, his legacy is essentially the opposite. The characters that he co-created do not exist in anything like their original form. The Donna Troy that Wolfman & Perez used had next to nothing in common with frugging Wonder Girl of Haney’s TEEN TITANS. Moreover, Haney worked in what was ostensibly the DC Universe.

However, his style endures.

If telling stories in his own micro-universe is a hallmark of Haney’s “style”, then telling very interconnected stories in all of his comics is also a hallmark of Stan Lee’s style. They both relate to issues of continuity and how you approach a shared universe, more than to issues of style.

And in any case, that Bendis or Morrison are also telling all his stories in their own micro-universes… it isn’t like they snapped his fingers one day and said “Hey, I will do like Bob Haney did!” It’s a coincidence between the way they work, nothing more. When you work with shared universes, it’s just natural for many writers to do their own thing no matter what title they’re working on. Anyone from Claremont to Englehart had tons of signature characters that no one else could get quite right. It’s not a “Haney thing.”

Same thing with Robert Kanigher. There isn’t anything uniquely stylistic about liking one genre and doing work in another more commercially succesful genre with barely disguised scorn. Tons of people have done it before and after Kanigher. It simply happens. And not just in the entertainment industry.

Now, I will concede the point that John Broome and Roy Thomas really created styles that have some elements that are mirrored to this day. But still more people and more elements of Stan Lee’s style are in vogue than both men together. Heroes with soap operatic lives are still very much with us, even though supporting characters of normal humans aren’t so in vogue. When Bendis’s New Avengers bicker and fight and joke and have lots of wacky domestic scenes together it’s all Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four.

@ Rene:

If telling stories in his own micro-universe is a hallmark of Haney’s “style”, then telling very interconnected stories in all of his comics is also a hallmark of Stan Lee’s style. They both relate to issues of continuity and how you approach a shared universe, more than to issues of style.

No. Telling interconnected stories in a shared universe is method primarily of plotting and secondarily of setting. Style is a different thing.

On the other hand, Bob Haney used the DC Universe as a setting and used the same circular method of plotting that DC employed throughout the Silver Age. How he differed was in his attitude toward that setting. Hence my joke about Haney using a “micro-universe”. That is a question of style.

And in any case, that Bendis or Morrison are also telling all his stories in their own micro-universes… it isn’t like they snapped his fingers one day and said “Hey, I will do like Bob Haney did!” It’s a coincidence between the way they work, nothing more. When you work with shared universes, it’s just natural for many writers to do their own thing no matter what title they’re working on. Anyone from Claremont to Englehart had tons of signature characters that no one else could get quite right. It’s not a “Haney thing.”

When someone snaps their fingers and says “Hey, I will do like Bob Haney did!” that is not influence. It is pastiche. A terrifying amount of Stan Lee pastiche has been written at both Marvel and DC. Stan Lee pastiche is generally terrible.

Influence is taking a little of this and little of that to make something new. Elements of Bob Haney’s style are everywhere. The whole attitude of “suspension of disbelief? … COMICS!” comes from Haney. Reinventing existing characters to suit your story? That is Haney. Tons of creators have attempted to apply Haney’s style to Lee’s method of plotting with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS being the prime example. That story, in turn, has been hugely influential on the current generation of creators.

Okay, I’ll agree to disagree.

GL totally works. WG not so much because of the W, but I could see it.

JC LEBOURDAIS

May 17, 2011 at 5:58 am

I would agree that Broome and probably Gardner Fox are the goofiest writers of the Silver Age. Just look at the first few issues of THE FLASH and THE ATOM to witness the craziest applications of comic book science.

love how the US gov’t sends a fax to Robin. In the Batcave.

Even knowing about the dance called the frug, it still sounds a little dirty the way she says it.

Why don’t they just call her “Donna”? Why does she have a code name at all? Unlike Diana she never had a civilian identity and everyone knows her name is Donna Troy, right? Alternately, since she appears to be intent on avenging her dignity upon Aqualad by upending a water-cooler carboy upon him, maybe a good nickname would be “dummy”. Although I kinda do like “hagfish” too.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives