Nobody expected The New Teen Titans to be a hit. George Perez took the job on the condition he would get the art duties on the JLA after New Teen Titans was canceled in a few months. Marv Wolfman used it as an excuse to ditch writing duties on DC Comics Presents and when this new series was presumably canceled by issue 6 he could go to work on something else.
But it wasn’t cancelled. It was a massive hit. In fact, for several years in the 1980s, the top 2 comics based on monthly sales were the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans.
“…a lot of fans at the time thought we were copying the X-Men. I kept saying, “No, we are not copying the X-Men.” I was not an X-Men fan. I said we were copying the Fantastic Four. (Laughter) I wanted a family book. I didn’t want the Justice League or the Avengers, which was just heroes coming together and then they go off on their own. The beauty that we had was that all the characters were exclusive to this book. Even Robin was no longer in Batman at that particular time so we could control it.” – Marv Wolfman
This is the story of this fantastic comic series and its origins.
I didn’t expect this to be so large of an article that I needed to split it up into parts, but that is what happened. So Part 1 will concentrate on the characters and their beginnings.
So how did it all begin?
The Old Teen Titans
The Teen Titans had existed previously and mainly featured the superhero sidekicks of the main DC characters. Of these legacy teen heroes, Wolfman and Perez used the following:
Dick Grayson (Robin) was a circus performer along with his parents in a trapeze act called The Flying Graysons. A crime boss named Tony Zucco kills Dick’s parents as a threat to extort money from the circus that employed them.
Bruce Wayne took Dick as his ward and trained him to be his partner Robin after revealing that he was Batman to the boy. After several years as Batman’s partner, Dick left Batman and went out on his own.
Wally West (Kid Flash) was the nephew of Iris West, girlfriend to Barry Allen (the Flash). When visiting Barry at the science lab at the Central City Police Department the exact same accident that gave Barry the powers of super-speed happened a second time and Wally was given these same powers.
After the accident, Barry gave Wally a costume of his own and the pair fought crime together for several years.
Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) was an orphan rescued by Diana Prince (Wonder Woman). Diana took her to Paradise Island and used the Purple Ray machine which gave Diana the same powers as Wonder Woman.
Garfield Logan (Changeling) lived in Africa with his scientist parents, who were working to develop a process to reverse evolution as a means to bring back extinct creatures. While there Gar contracted a rare and lethal disease called Sakutia. To save his life, his father used an experiment to transform him into the only known creature that was immune to disease, a West African green monkey for 24 hours so that the virus could die out.
The experiment had an unforeseen side effect. His skin, eyes, and hair turned green and he gained the ability to metamorphose into any animal he could think of. His parents later died in a boating accident leaving Gar an orphan.
Gar was left under the care of a court-appointed guardian, Nicholas Galtry, who embezzled money from the Logan estate. Afraid of being exposed when Gar reaches adulthood Galtry put out a contract on his life, which was thwarted by the Doom Patrol, a team he eventually joined. Elasti-Girl and her husband Steve Dayton adopted Gar. After he joined the Doom Patrol Gar took the codename Beast Boy.
After the Doom Patrol was killed on a mission Gar was on his own. He used both his green skin and shape-shifting powers to play an extraterrestrial character on a science-fiction television series, Space Trek: 2020.
“I think to make them the Teen Titans, the smart move was having the established characters in there. It provided the continuity it would have lacked otherwise if you just created these totally new characters. You can concentrate on doing the new stories with these new characters but with the anchor and the familiarity that the fans can grab on to with characters like Robin, who was the first sidekick, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, who was supposed to be Wonder Woman’s sidekick before that all got kind of messed up. The new characters provided fresh new material, but the whole idea of the sidekicks coming of age and growing out of their roles, that’s why you needed the originals there.” – George Perez
The New Teen Titans
However, they needed to come up with some new characters to fill out the team (not unlike the X-Men in 1975). They came up with the following:
Raven’s mother, Angela Roth was a depressed and directionless teenager who fell in with a Cult that worshiped the demon, Trigon. She was cajoled to participate in a secret ceremony to appeal to Trigon, who was to manifest in the Earth-plane. Although she knew Trigon was a demon, Angela believed his handsome human form was real. After she married him Arella saw Trigon’s true form. After raping her he sent her back to Earth, and Arella soon learned she was pregnant.
Arella attempted to commit suicide with sleeping pills in an alleyway. Instead of dying, however, she was taken to the Temple Azarath, located on another plane of existence. It was here that she was taught pacifism and changed her name to Arella.
After giving birth to Raven, she gave up her to Azar, the high priestess to train her tele-empathetic abilities. The main objective of this was to control the influence of Trigon on Raven as her demonic powers would facilitate his ability to conquer the Earth.
After Azar’s death, Raven discovered her demonic heritage as she met her father face-to-face for the first time. This caused her to leave Azarath and take residence on Earth where she sought the aid of the JLA, who rejected her based on Zatanna sensing evil within her. Her only choice would be to gather the other heroes that would become the New Teen Titans for the purpose of battle with Trigon.
“One of the things I think was important was that the original Teen Titans all felt like they were 12 to 14. Our characters, for the most part, all were 17 to 19, and when you start with a point of view that the characters are that age, you’re talking about people who back then could have been drafted. These 18- and 19-year-olds could have been drafted. That’s when you get your car license. That’s when you become an adult. You can get married, you can do all that stuff.” – Marv Wolfman
Victor Stone (Cyborg) was the son of Silas Elinore Stone, scientists who used him as a test subject for various intelligence enhancement projects. Victor’s intelligence increases to genius levels, but he resents his parents for this treatment.
Victor’s life changed radically when he visits his parents’ lab where inter-dimensional experiments are performed. When Vic entered the lab, an aggressive gelatinous creature came through and Victor’s mother was killed by it. It then turned on Victor and he was gravely injured by its attack before his father was able to send it back to its native dimension.
Maddened by the death of his wife and the near-fatal mutilation of his son, Silas was driven to take advantage of the medical prosthetic research he had access to in order to treat Victor. After the extensive artificial limbs and implants were installed in his body without his consent, Vic regained consciousness. Horrified at the discovery of the new, metallic components on his body, Vic wished he would have died rather than become a robotic monster.
Koriand’r (Starfire), was a princess of the planet Tamaran in the Vega system. When her older sister, Komand’r (Blackfire), developed a disease in infancy that robbed her of the ability to harness solar energy, which would allow her to fly, and by extension, she lost right to the throne. Because of this, Koriand’r became the next in line to the throne. Because of this a bitter rivalry formed between the sisters.
This rivalry continued and intensified when the siblings attended warrior training with the Warlords of Okaara. During a sparring exercise, Komand’r attempted to kill her sister. As a result, Komand’r was expelled and swore revenge.
“I figured based on the description, was Red Sonja in outer space, so she ended up having a visual cue from that. When Joe Orlando passed by and saw the character sketches he suggested that maybe her hair should be longer. That I took to the ninth degree and gave her the Mighty Mouse contrail.” – George perez
That vengeance was delivered when Komand’r betrayed her planet by providing detailed information about Tamaran’s defenses to the Citadel, their enemies. With little effort, the Citadel conquered Tamaran, which resulted in the abdication of the king, Myand’r. Koriand’r was now a slave.
When Koriand’r learned that Komand’r was her slave master she killed one of her captors. When an unexpected attack by the alien race the Psions occurred the sisters were captured.
While performing deadly experiments on the sisters, the Psion were attacked by Komand’r’s forces. Koriand’r managed to escape using her newly developed starbolts, obtained from the Psions experiments. She freed Komand’r, who was still being experimented on. Komand’r immediately betrayed Koriand’r’s generosity and gave her to the Godanians, a race of reptilian slavers aligned with the Citadel.
She eventually escapes the Gordanian slave ship, Q’ST’R in a small spacecraft, which she managed to steal. She heads to the nearest inhabitable planet, Earth.
“George’s (character) designs were perfect.” – Marv Wolfman
Triangles and Conflict
In 1998, Marv Wolfman wrote the following for the Preface of The New Teen Titans Volume 1.
“I’m often asked how we came up with the New Titans, The answer is both simple and very complex. It is my belief that the best characters have strong, traumatic origins that you can revisit and find new wrinkles to play with…Starfire was an alien Princess whose weak-willed father, Myand’r (meander) sold her into slavery in order to save his planet from destruction. Raven’s mother was an Earth woman raped by a demon. In order to save Vic Stone’s life, his father had to turn his son into a living Cyborg.
Are you sensing another pattern? The Titan’s origins all stemmed from parent/child differences. The theme for the Titans began and remained young versus old. Son and daughter versus father and mother.
There was more. I believed the Titans needed to be emotionally at odds with each other even while they needed to be friends. To facilitate this I set up two theoretical triangles, one for male characters, one for the female. For example, put Wonder Girl at the top of the woman’s triangle. Donna Troy came from an Amazon race who believed not only in peace but were also warriors. On one corner of the triangle put Raven, whose interdimensional society were extreme pacifists who would never fight, not even to save their lives. On the other corner put in Starfire, who comes from a pure warrior culture. Three sides of the same coin, so to speak with enough in common so they could be friends, but with enough differences that would keep them at odds. This fundamental concept, one hoped would create good stories.
Also, take a look at them emotionally: Raven was shy and introverted and found it difficult to confide in others. Starfire was outgoing and pure, lusty emotion. Winder Girl, once again was directly in the middle.
The same kind of triangle was created for the guys. Robin, later Nightwing, was the level-headed capable leader who, because he was kept on a tight lease by Batman, often felt inadequate for the task at hand. He also had a need to prove himself to Batman. Because everyone in his life had died on him, Changeling believed he had very little to offer anyone and covered it up with an outward bravado. Cyborg was a logical scientist type who rejected that approach to become an angry young man. Nightwing’s logical approach to life and anger toward his “parent” was shared by Cyborg while his feelings of inadequacy were shared by Changeling. Cyborg and Changeling were both physically altered by their parents, and that helped bring them together.”
To purchase the early issues of the Wolfman/Perez run on The New Teen Titans Click Here.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll pick up with how DC Comics Presents #26 came to be and go from there. If you liked this article and would like to read more comic related content then check out the links below.
If you want to read up on the lamest retcons in Marvel history Click Here
For a behind the scenes look at the making of Tim Burton’s Batman Click Here
We did a countdown of the 25 best LSH covers from Curt Swan’s run and you can check it out Here
To check out a list of the top 10 Batman artist Click Here