An era long gone

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LEISURE - Perez KALEON RAHAN star2@thes­tar.com.my New Teen Ti­tans: Games Hard­cover (DC/US$25) Marv Wolf­man and Ge­orge Ge­orge Perez

There are some things in life worth wait­ing for ... even if it means 23 (long) years! Case in point, this week’s fea­ture. Not that the last 20 years have been bor­ing ones, es­pe­cially with mile­stone events in­volv­ing uni­verse-for­ma­tions (Im­age and Ul­ti­mate), deaths (Su­per­man, Johnny Storm), re­births (Barry Allen, Bucky and Ja­son Todd) and the Big Two’s an­nual main events. De­spite all the hul­la­bal­loo, the 1980s have al­ways been my favourite decade for comics – and its largely at­trib­uted to the creative teams and their ground­break­ing works. To me, the 1980s was sim­ply mag­i­cal.

Spilling over with sto­ries that mixed thought-pro­vok­ing an­gles and apoc­a­lyp­tic thrills, this was the era that kick­started re­boots and made the Grim reaper a wel­come pres­ence.

From the re­mod­el­ing of the DC Uni­verse ( Cri­sis On In­fi­nite Earths) to the re­con­struc­tion of he­roes ( Watch­men), the sto­ries were un­for­get­table.

Creative part­ner­ships like Clare­mont-Byrne-Austin, MillerJan­son/Maz­zuchelli, Moore-Bis­sette/ Lloyd/Gib­bons and Wolf­man-Perez were nat­u­ral crowd pullers and fan boy favourites. ev­ery char­ac­ter or ti­tle blessed by their pres­ence would have had a shot at comics im­mor­tal­ity.

While each creative team had their own spe­cialty and ap­peal, if I had to choose a “win­ner” amongst them – my choice would be Marv Wolf­man and Ge­orge Perez, cour­tesy of their New Teen Ti­tans and Cri­sis On In­fi­nite Earths work. While lit­tle needs to be said about Cri­sis, it’s their Ti­tans work that speaks vol­umes.

From de­thron­ing the JLA as DC’s might­i­est team to el­e­vat­ing the side­kicks (robin/Nightwing and Kid Flash) and pol­ish­ing rough dia- monds (raven, Starfire, Changeling and Cy­borg), the New Teen Ti­tans re­main a true test case on how great su­per teams should be moulded.

hence, it was pure joy to have New Teen Ti­tans: Games – a stand alone tale – fi­nally in print. This book is a good su­per team bench­mark or tem­plate for the mul­ti­ple Avengers and X-Men spin-offs of­fered to­day.

To ap­pre­ci­ate Games, it’s best I fill you in on a lit­tle his­tory con­cern­ing Wolf­man-Perez’s Ti­tans stint.

While both are not the cre­ators of the Teen Ti­tans, they still go down in his­tory for putting the word “New” in the Ti­tans. Their col­lab­o­ra­tion be­gan via an “in­sert” in the pages of DC Comics Presents #26 in Oc­to­ber 1980, which was fol­lowed by a reg­u­lar se­ries a month later, en­route to 50 is­sues of non-stop adren­a­line-pump­ing in­te­grated story arcs!

The strength of its story arcs flow from themes such as in­tro­duc­tions (Trigon, Death­stroke, Terra and Jeri­cho), (re)es­tab­lish­ing links with key teams (JLA and Out­siders) and rein­vig­o­rat­ing char­ac­ters (robin to Nightwing, Kid Flash to Flash, etc).

An­other beauty of the Ti­tans is that they con­tained all the won­der­ful team el­e­ments en­cap­su­lated in the best team books.

For in­stance, the “Johnny-Ben love/hate re­la­tion­ship” is ex­em­pli­fied by Changeling-Cy­borg. Ad­di­tion­ally the niches are cov­ered (Strat­egy = robin, Mys­tic = raven, Brute strength = Cy­borg, Gad­gets = Cy­borg, Wealth = “credit line from Bruce Wayne”, Beauty = Starfire and Donna Troy, Speed = Kid Flash, Alien her­itage = Starfire, Telepa­thy = raven, etc).

While on pa­per, the Ti­tans have all the right ingredients, the “Chem­i­cal X-equiv­a­lent” was cer­tainly Perez’s pul­sat­ing pen­cils.

I have lost track of how many “Best Cov­ers” and “Best Artist” ac­co­lades the man has gar­nered dur­ing his Ti­tans-stint, and I cer­tainly wouldn’t be sur­prised if Games grants him a few more.

In Games, we have one of those blast from the past “lost tales” that (sur­pris­ingly) did not make the cut (then) but is now worth re­vis­it­ing. For­tu­nately, it was not pack­aged as one of DC’s re­cent “retroac­tive” of­fer­ings. On its own merit, the 144 pages here de­serve the hard­cover treat­ment, es­pe­cially with Perez in vin­tage form.

Games is premised on a mas­ter strate­gist cre­at­ing a “fire sale” sce­nario to crip­ple key parts of the United States.

With the US po­lit­i­cal pow­ers in the shad­ows, the Ti­tans find them­selves caught in the mid­dle of try­ing to save the world while hav- ing their strings tugged by the menin-suits. To add to the drama, there are ca­su­al­ties, pres­sur­ing the team to re­strain from cross­ing the line be­tween he­roes and anti-he­roes (which is not en­tirely a bad thing).

King (not roy­alty but his real name) Fara­day, a govern­ment agent, as­sumes the pro­tag­o­nist role here. he is the link be­tween a group of su­per ter­ror­ists and the govern­ment. Ad­di­tion­ally King is also the go-to-guy be­tween the Ti­tans and by­standers.

Just like your av­er­age covert govern­ment “spook” , King is one big ques­tion mark but he also holds the an­swers. On the other hand, the Ti­tans are more ac­cus­tomed to vil­lains (Death­stroke, hIVe, Fear­some Five) who favour di­rect con­fronta- tions over mind games, mak­ing this a unique chal­lenge.

The pre­cise time­line of this event is un­known ... an ed­u­cated guess would place this some­where in the 1990s, fac­tor­ing Donna Troy’s still­mar­ried sta­tus, raven’s white-look and Chase’s in­clu­sion in the team.

As far as roll call is con­cerned, it would have been great to have Kid Flash’s in­clu­sion, while Chase’s sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion jus­ti­fies his in­clu­sion. Not­with­stand­ing that Wally and Terra’s “cameos” are fit­ting tributes.

While this is not Ju­das Con­tract or Trigon Saga equiv­a­lents, the fact that we have a clas­sic Wolf­manPerez re­union tops every­thing else.

Wolf­man shows no signs of rust as his story plots and pace on Games re­main as in­trigu­ing as his 1980s work. As for Perez, the man is sim­ply un­be­liev­able in terms of at­ten­tion to de­tail and panel magic.

While two-thirds of the con­tent on Games was done two decades ago, the fin­ish­ing touches cer­tainly did jus­tice in bridg­ing the decades. along­side Gil­a­mon Stu­dios and Pekomik’s finest will be part of the in­de­pen­dently or­gan­ised event. Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude book sign­ings, meet-the-fans, live sketch­ing and ba­si­cally, a net­work­ing ses­sion to get to know the good peo­ple in the lo­cal comics scene. Loads of mer­chan­dise and lo­cal/ main­stream comics on sale. For more info, call 03-78048380, email: (earth638@ya­hoo.com). earth 638 is lo­cated at 2nd Floor, Ke­lana Mall, Jalan SS6/12, Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor. Browse: (earth­638­comics.blogspot.com).

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