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CSBG Archive

Abandoned Love: Mal Duncan as the New Guardian

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at Mal Duncan’s extremely short-lived tenure as the new Guardian.

(I did this as a Comic Book Legend awhile back, but I think it works well here)

In 1976, after a multi-year hiatus, the Teen Titans returned in their own title.

As you can see from the cover of the first issue….

one of the things the issue meant to do was to give Mal Duncan, the non-superhero member of the Titans, an actual superhero identity….

However, while Joe Orlando was the editor on the first issue of the reboot, Julie Schwartz took over with the second issue and he hated Mal as the Guardian, so the VERY NEXT ISSUE, the identity was dropped…

and Mal got a new superpower, the use of the powerful “Gabriel’s Horn”. Check out how he won the weapon…

And here it is in action…

It took awhile for Mal to get an actual superhero name, though, so he still went by “Mal” for awhile.


Man, it would have been awkward if Mal had walked in and Dr Light was “pulling an Identity Crisis” on the Titans, huh?

Morrison must have seen this for the Manhattan Guardian, right?

Speedy was so sorry about being mean to Mal there that he offered him his best needle to share.

DAMN, son, Mal gets punched in the nuts by an angel and pretty much shakes it off with “Foul Blow!” No wonder he won the horn! Shofar, shogood!

Cool stuff, but yeah, that’s a quick turnaround on “no, that’s not a good idea” (with the Guardian stuff).

Mal went by “Mal Zedong” for awhile, but it didn’t go over well.

I had no idea that Mal Duncan was so hot tempered. It seems as though the guy would throw down with anyone at any time and for any reason.

I am with Travis Pelkie. It is impossible for me to see Dr. Light anymore without assuming his primary motivation is rape. All things considered, I am a little shocked that Donna Troy didn’t come to Mal’s defense when Speedy started mouthing off. Add the prospect that Speedy was high during that entire era and those issues play very differently all these years later.

Travis Pelkie everyone! He’s here ’till Tuesday. Try the veal!

That angel of death stuff is still one of the most awesomely dumb origins I’ve ever read in a comic.

So, wait, he wore the exoskeleton OVER HIS CLOTHES, and then the Guardian costume over everything?

Seems legit.

I can at least still think of Doctor Light from the animated Teen Titans, to drown out some of the badly plotted mess that was Identity Crisis.

I can’t remember if Identity Crisis came out when the Teen Titans cartoon was airing. I want to think it did, that DC had him as a recurring goofy ineffective villain in a popular kids show while retconning him into a rapist villain in the comics.

So I’m guessing this wasn’t a coincidence with what happened in the latest Young Justice episode? It was pretty cool how Mal went about it this time. Though not that cool that Despero was so mindless in this version.

I don’t understand how speedy can criticize Mal. His whole schtick is ripped off of someone else’s costume and “powers”

Given Hawk’s costume used to magically appear whenever his powers manifested, how did it end up in the Titans storeroom?

The angle on that horn when he’s blowing it looks suspicious.

Also good timing with the Young Justice appearance.

I don’t understand how speedy can criticize Mal. His whole schtick is ripped off of someone else’s costume and “powers”

Here’s the way to understand it – Speedy was a dick back then. ;)

Mal is on “Young Justice” now? Awesome. I’ve been wanting to watch more of that show. The few I’ve seen were great, and it definitely seems like they have a lot of reverence for fans.

Mal has been a reoccurring background character for a while now. In the first season, Superboy and Miss Martian went to high school in their secret identities, and met Mal and Karen. They even had Snapper Carr as their teacher, which makes me wonder if, in this Invasion storyline, he will gain his teleportation powers. Anyway, they had a one year or so jump in time, and Karen is now Bumblebee, and the Atom’s teenage sidekick (which I can’t help but feel was a clever idea), and Mal is working on eternal monitor duty, wishing he could do more for the team. Well, at least until this weekend’s episode…

Here’s the way to understand it – Speedy was a dick back then.

Back then? When has Speedy NOT been a dick? Maybe in the original ’40s comics?

I had no idea that Mal Duncan was so hot tempered. It seems as though the guy would throw down with anyone at any time and for any reason.

All black characters had to be angry in the 1970s, it was a rule.

“Add the prospect that Speedy was high during that entire era” >> Speedy was cleaned up when this new era started. His whole drug abuse arc took place between TT #43 and the hiatus, until TT #44.

In TT #44, they even reference the drug abuse, albeit subtly.

Nice nod to this Mal-as-Guardian bit in a recent episode of Young Justice.

I love the fact that they merely picked up the previous numbering on Teen Titans when reviving the series. Needless to say, it would have been yet another #1 if it happened today.

Dr. Light has become a bit of a joke, but this guy used to be pretty powerful!

By the way, Speedy has as big a mouth as his mentor.

Mal battling Azrael the Angel of Death was just weird.

All black characters had to be angry in the 1970s, it was a rule.

While this is true, when I read 1970s DC comics, everyone was uncharacteristically snarly with each other and ready to throw down at the drop of a hat. My theory is that as Marvel began taking the lead, DC tried to incorporate some superficial elements of Marvel comics to help sales but went overboard, so you suddenly started getting over the top bickering and infighting that was like Marvel but even more over the top and it just felt unnatural for the DC characters. Even in the JLA isues I read from the era everyone just seems to have a hair-trigger and ready to jump down each others’ throats over nothing.

Interesting one. And seems like someone remembered that little tenure of Mal as the Guardian, because they do pay homage to that in Young Justice (Season 2 Ep11 – Cornered).

Not just a nod – he went on a mission as Guardian in last weekend’s episode. He seems to be officially part of the field team now, as opposed to running the HQ.

“Mercy Sakes Alives, Good Buddy…” so while Mal was a typical angry black 70s character, he could still quote CB lingo a la C.W. McCall while checking out the costumes in Titans storage.

Let’s just suppose Hawk needed to shower at one point and took off his costume. under the calming influence of a massaging shower head, he reverted to Don Hall, yet the costume stayed behind. Next time he said “Hawk!”, or hocled a loogie, he had a new costume.

Or come to think of it, what about all those magic costumes, like Hawk & Dove’s, Captain Marvel’s et al. Were they ever meant to be removed?

This finally explains to me why the DC Heroclix original Guardian figure was black. I always was like, isn’t Guardian white, why is this a black guy? Now I know.

And man, Death is a low down dirty fighter I mean really, a nut shot. Low.

That’s actually a whole other character, Ebonyleopard.

That’s the Manhattan Guardian.

Here’s a little bit about him: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2006/12/04/31-days-of-seven-soldiers-day-4-the-manhattan-guardian-1/

In an abandoning of the abandonment, in issue 49, he returned to being the Guardian after the horn is stolen (I didn’t read the issues after that, so I’m not sure of the circumstances).

Having a horn to blow seems not so great for a hero. Maybe they should have let Mal stay the new Guardian really.

Since when did Dove have actual wingy wings?

Herb Clerecidge

August 24, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I always liked the appearance of Mal and Karen in Donna Troy’s wedding story; when someone asks them about “the Guardian and Bumblebee,” Karen just sort of dismissively replies, “Oh, we QUIT all that when Mal and I got married.”

Mike McAllister

July 4, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Without going through my “Teen Titans” comic books, here’s the general idea — Mal Duncan took the exo — skeleton and the Guardian’s costume on an emergency basis and used them to rescue his friends . When the Teen Titans returned at the beginning of the next issue, Mal took off the exo — skeleton and the Guardian’s costume and left . He fought the Angel of Death and was given Gabriel’s horn, as depicted here . He fought side — by side with the other Teen Titans in the next couple of issues, and then he put on a really dorky white and blue costume and became “the Hornblower” . It was as corny as it sounds . I thought “They couldn’t let him be the Guardian ?” . An issue or two later, Gabriel’s horn was either lost or stolen, and he had to go back to the exo — skeleton and the Guardian’s costume . I thought the folks at DC Comics wanted to experiment with him and find the right weapon, costume, and identity for him, took a wrong turn with the Hornblower, and soon realized that being the Guardian worked better for him . At one point, Mal’s girlfriend Karen said “I liked you better as the Hornblower !” . I thought “Oh, Karen, you have to be kidding !” .

Mike, I think you’re misremembering with that “Hornblower” bit. Unless I’m wrong, that blue-and-white costume and the Hornblower name was only retconned in many years later. In the actual issues, when he had the horn he was still just Mal and dressed the same way he does here in his non-Guardian scenes.

Mike McAllister

October 5, 2015 at 12:44 am

No, Dan, I hit the nail on the head . The Teen Titans returned, were kidnapped by Dr . Light, and Mal Duncan borrowed the equipment to become the Guardian in “Teen Titans” # 44 from November 1976 . In “Teen Titans” # 45 ( December 1976 ), Mal fought the Angel of Death and was given Gabriel’s horn . In “Teen Titans” # 46, 47, and 48, Mal fought side — by — side with the other Teen Titans wearing civilian clothes . He first debuted the “Hornblower” costume in “Teen Titans” # 49 ( August 1977 ) . Brian Cronin covered this situation in his “Comic Book Legends Revealed” series ( http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/03/30/comic-book-legends-revealed-360/ ) . In the “Comments” section, somebody asked why there wasn’t a picture of Mal’s “Hornblower” costume, and he described it with an “M” on the chest even though he now had the “secret identity” of “Hornblower” . Somebody else responded and said “That wasn’t an M on Mal’s costume . It was the astrological symbol for Aries the ram, to represent the ram’s horn he carried .” . If you check out the “Mal Duncan” section of the “Titans’ Tower” website ( http://www.titanstower.com/mal-duncan/ ) and scroll down far enough, you can see Mal Duncan’s “Hornblower” costume . When it came time for Mal Duncan’s history to be retconned, the Gabriel horn was a device he invented, and he took the identity of “the Herald”, as in “Hark, The Herald Angel Sings” . For the record, I got my information about Mal Duncan’s history from the “Grand Comics Databsae” website and “The Teen Titans Index” .

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