The Teen Titans, with their weird version of “hip” speech and teenager-centred tales, made their debut during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look, and were an instant sensation. Well established sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad were joined by a brand new, and completely unexplained, Wonder Girl as they moved through Brave and the Bold and Showcase into their own book. Bob Haney scripted the tales, and though Bruno Premani did the art on the first, and some of the other, tales, it was Nick Cardy who really defined the look of the period. Speedy and Beast Boy would make guest appearances, but it has to be conceded that the villains during this era were on the weaker side.
Brave and the Bold 54 features a story which is, retroactively, the first appearance of the Teen Titans. But the Bob Haney, Bruno Premani and Sheldon Moldoff tale never uses that term. It was just another team-up story, bringing together three teen sidekicks, Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash. Each one is seen with their mentors, Batman, Aquaman and Flash, at the start of the tale, having been invited to the town of Hatton Corners, where the kids are having problems with the adults. The older heroes see the kids as the problem, but the teens are more sympathetic to their fellow youth. Arriving, they find the kids clubhouse destroyed, and all the children vanished. It turns out that they have all been kidnapped by Mr. Twister, whose real name is Brom Stikk. He can create and ride small tornadoes, and has other limited control over the weather, and is able to hold off the three young heroes. They learn that he is the descendant of one of the founders of the town. By law, he is entitled to passenger pigeon feathers in payment for the land. But those birds were already extinct by this time.
Laughed at by the town's authorities, he vowed revenge. Mr. Twister is forcing the kids to build a massive stone tower in the shape of a tornado. There is no specific purpose for this, as given in this story, though the recent Titans Hunt miniseries would develop the tower, and the reason for it. Kid Flash helps the kids complete the tower, but this just angers Mr. Twister even more. He launches further attacks on the town, a dust storm, and then a flood. In each case, one of the three is able to save the city. Kid Flash and Aqualad both get struck by lightning from one of Mr. Twister's storms, but Robin manages to get his magical broomstick away from him, rendering him powerless. The end of the issue does refer to the three sidekicks as being a new team, but does not name them, or even hint that they will return. Mr. Twister appears next in the Teen Titans book a few years down the road, but in the guise of the Gargoyle.
The Teen Titans get their first official story, which also introduces Wonder Girl, in Brave and the Bold 60. I wish it were a better tale. It's not. The story centres on giant ugly body parts that are wreaking havoc in the town of Midville. This takes place on the day that the teenagers are allowed to run the city for a day, and the boy taking the part of the mayor is the son of a scientist with a criminal past, believed to be the Separated Man. The boy contacts the Teen Titans, and we see then with their mentors again. Kid Flash's costume seems to have gone through the wash poorly, as the colours are wrong throughout.
Batman, Flash and Aquaman each see off their sidekicks, and Wonder Woman and Queen Hippolyta are there as Wonder Girl leaves. Who is this Wonder Girl? No explanation is given. Up until now, the Wonder Girl who had been appearing in Wonder Woman (visually identical to this one), was Wonder Woman as a teenager. But this is clearly a different person. It was a shameful amount of years before they finally got around to explaining who she was, and even longer before it got detailed how she joined the Teen Titans. So Wonder Girl joins Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad as they deal with the giant bothersome body parts. Once combined, the Separated Man proves not to be the scientist after all, but rather his former cellmate, out to create as much trouble for everyone as he can.
The Teen Titans make an appearance in Showcase 59, a few months after they were brought together in the pages of Brave and the Bold. But this really cannot be considered a tryout issue. The story centres on a band, the Flips. Two guys, one on a motorcycle and one on a surfboard, plus a baton twirling girl. Or, as they put it "we're just a babe, a board and a bike." The Flips are the "coolest, grooviest group," and Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl are all so in to them that they are neglecting their crime fighting responsibilities. Batman, Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman appear in cameo, and even Mera and Queen Hippolyta are around for this. Things turn bad for the band when robberies start happening, committed by a trio of youths who look like the Flips, and even use their special gimmicks. The Teen Titans are sure the band are innocent, and go into action to catch the real thieves.
But when they have a run in with the bad guys, and capture and unmask them, they turn out to be the Flips. But the band still protest their innocence, claiming to have been knocked out and left at the scene. The Teen Titans prove themselves really loyal fans, still believing the band. So they lay a trap for the thieves, having Aqualad, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl disguise themselves as the Flips, and then taking out the trio of thieves when they attack next. The reason I say this was not a real tryout issue is that the Teen Titans move into their own book the following month. This was more of a launch than a tryout. The Flips do appear again, although I'm not sure where. But I'm pretty sure it was something that came out in the late 90s. I remember reading it, and catching the lyrics "a babe, a board and a bike," and recognizing the line. Just can't recall where I read it.
A month after their Showcase tryout (more like a preview), the Teen Titans move into their own book. Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl remain the line-up of the team, in a story by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. This issue is notable, as it is their first issue, but not really memorable, which is a bit of a shame. The government calls the Teen Titans to Washington DC, and want them to help out with a strange situation taking place in the South American town of Xochatan. The Peace Corps is already operating there, and the government insists that the kids register as members of the Corps. One might think this is so that they can proceed undercover, but they do not actually bother to do that, so it's a bit of a puzzle as to why they are forced to join that organization in order to take part in the mission. Their mentors get cameos, and all are very proud to see the Titans are now in the Corps. It seems more like a promotion for the organization rather than a needed part of the plot. Batman, the Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman all cameo, as do Hippolyta, Mera and Aquababy. The scene on Paradise Island appears to include a male scribe, which must be a mistake.
So the Teen Titans head to Xochatan, and wind up dealing with a giant robot which looks like a Spanish conquistador. Oddly, the locals think this is an old god come back to life, even though the figure is clearly of a Spanish man. After the Titans defeat the giant robot, really weird, more supernatural creatures begin to emerge from around an old pyramid, causing them more troubles. But again, this is nothing the Titans cannot handle. The Peace Corps is building a dam that will flood the pyramid, but no one seems to care except the villain, who is the major land owner in the region. He built the robot, and evoked the spirit animals, in an attempt to hold off construction of the dam. The story feels very Scooby Doo, which is kind of remarkable, as that series had not yet come into existence. It's also kind of strange that none of the good characters care about the destruction of the pyramid.
Teen Titans 2 sees the team deal with a couple of teenage caveboys, frozen until the present day. Though neither of these characters appear again, the concept would return later in the run, with the introduction of Gnarrk. This story, which also briefly shows the Titans Lair, their hangout, has Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl called in to help Garn, a fairly normal looking blond boy, who is trying to integrate into modern society, but who is being menaced by his old caveboy enemy Akkuru. It's Akkuru who s going on destructive rampages, but Garn is getting the blame. The whole story is fairly ridiculous. We are meant to believe that Garn thawed out and just went on to try to join society really quickly, and though the other kids tease him, no one was particularly blown away by having a caveman now living among them. Garn has a girlfriend who believes in him, and who is the one to call on the Titans. They help Garn defeat Akkuru, and clear his name with the townspeople, who decide that Garn is ok after all, and go back to being content about having a caveman in their town.
Ding Dong Daddy may not be a great villain, but the name is so evocative of the era, and the weird pseudo-60s slang that the Teen Titans spoke in, as written by Haney. Cardy's art is always superb, and Teen Titans 3 is no exception. Batman gets a small role at the top of the story, as he and Robin chase a bank robber with a car that is even more high tech than the Batmobile. The crook gets away, and then Robin gets ordered to come to Washington DC with Aqualad, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl. This time around, they are asked to help deal with the problem of high school drop outs. We get to see the Teen Titans helicopter in this issue. The Titans head to a small town where all the high school dropouts are getting hired by Ding Dong Daddy, who runs a car repair shop, which is a front for all manner of criminal activity. It doesn't take the Teen Titans long to determine that Ding Dong Daddy was also the bank robber than Batman and Robin were chasing early on. The Titans go undercover, pretending to be drop outs in order to infiltrate Ding Dong Daddy's circle. and wind up with enough evidence to bring him down. The drop outs are so upset to find out how they have been used that they all decide to return to school, implausibly enough. Although Ding Dong Daddy never returned, another character by that name appeared in a Titans story a couple of years ago.
Speedy guest stars in Teen Titans 4, but does not join the team the way his mentor, Green Arrow, joined the League in Justice League of America 4. Still, this is probably the best Teen Titans story so far. Speedy joins the team as they head to the Olympics, which are being threatened by an evil organization called Diablo, whose goals are far from clear. Robin, Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Kid Flash, as well as Speedy, have to stop Diablo from sabotaging the games, but are also determined to help an American boy who has lost his nerve to compete. The two plots work together, as Diablo is actively trying to keep the American runner from winning. The cover sequence is the big showpiece of the tale. The Titans get captured and placed into the Olympic rings, while a blindfolded Speedy is practicing his shot to set the rings aflame. Cardy executes this scene so well, and it shows off how Wonder Girl is the muscle of the group, bending her ring to get away from the fire and free the others. The Titans enlist the aid of the runner in defeating Diablo, which gives him the confidence to run the race, which he, of course, wins. At the time this story was released, Green Arrow's series in World's Finest had already ended, and Speedy had not been seen in two years. His character proved popular in the Teen Titans book, and his next appearance would be back with the team the following year.
The Teen Titans face the first masked opponent, the Ant, in Teen Titans 5. At the top of the story Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl are hanging out in Titans Lair when they receive a letter from Speedy, referencing the events in the previous issue. Then they get asked to look into the possible return to crime of a boy who had been sentenced to Camp Lacklock, a progressive institution for juvenile offenders. Eddie Whit has more strength and agility than most kids his age, but nothing super human. He had done his time, and been released, and was now taking care of his younger brother. The brother insists that Eddie has not returned to crime, but the Titans find his Ant costume, and wind up chasing him, and fail to stop him. This failure puts Camp Lacklock itself in danger, threatening its reputation, and dispiriting the kids who are currently there. In the end, it turns out that Eddie has been manipulated into becoming the Ant again, by hoods who have tricked Eddie into thinking his younger brother has also turned to crime, and are blackmailing him about it. A good, solid story, with all the fun patter and great art.
The Doom Patrol's Beast Boy meets the Teen Titans in issue 6. Doom Patrol members Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and the Chief get small roles at the top of the story. At this time, Beast Boy was not yet a real member of that team, as his guardian, Galtry, refused his permission. Beast Boy hangs around the Doom Patrol headquarters, but just winds up pissing everyone off. So Beast Boy heads to a television station, and broadcasts a message to the Teen Titans. Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Aqualad come to meet him, and are impressed with his animalistic shape changing powers. But once again, it turns out he needs permission to join the team. We find out that Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash all had to sign permission slips for their sidekicks to join the Titans. Feeling completely rejected, Beast Boy runs off and joins the circus. He becomes a star there, but is not aware that the ringmaster and his animal trainer are using him, hypnotizing him into adopting a white monkey form that can hypnotize the audience, allowing them to rob the patrons.
The Teen Titans wind up coming to investigate the robberies, and adopt masked identities, passing themselves off as an acrobatic troupe. Their true identities get exposed, and the ringmaster forces them into battle with a mind controlled Beast Boy. This makes for the most impressive battle yet for the Teen Titans, and harder for them as they do not want to injure the shape changing boy. They manage to break him free of the spell, and together they take down the ringmaster and his men. The story ends with Robin making a plea to the readers, to see if they want Beast Boy to join the Teen Titans. It must not have been a popular idea, as Beast Boy never returns during this run. But it did lay the groundwork for him to become a member of the team later on, and Beast Boy, who continued appearing in Doom Patrol, would next be seen with the Titans in the 70s, as a member of Titans West.
The Teen Titans get their first recurring villain, the Mad Mod, in Teen Titans 7. The story centres on a British rock musician, Holly Hip. Wonder Girl is a huge fan of the guy, and is thrilled when the government asks her, Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash to accompany Holly on an American tour. He is suspected of being connected to a smuggling ring, which the teens are sure cannot be the case. At first the evidence does not look good for Holly, but further investigation proves that the real mastermind is the Mad Mod, the guy who designs Holly's clothes. His stage costumes are being used to carry rare chemicals, but without Holly's knowledge. There is a lot of action as the Titans try to take down the Mad Mod and his gang, and the designer has a variety of useful outfits of his own, as the chase goes from sea to land to air. A lot of what makes this work is Cardy's art, and the overall lighthearted nature of Teen Titans stories from the period. It's really a very simple tale at the core of it. The Mad Mod returns the following year.
A murderous machine known as Honey Bun is the threat in Teen Titans 8. Foreign exchange students, and racism against them, are at the root of the story in this issue, which takes place largely a small town, which seems to consist of a military factory, and a university. Honey Bun is a deadly looking machine that has been developed for jungle fighting. It goes wild, and the evidence points to one of the foreign students as being behind the theft of the machine. Robin, Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash have to fight both Honey Bun and a local vigilante group that is out to get the suspected student. It turns out that he is guilty, but that he only stole Honey Bun in order to try to keep it away from an evil spy from his home country. Robin saves the day by using sand to mess up Honey Bun's operating system, and clears the student of suspicion.
We get to see the exterior of Titans Lair in Teen Titans 9, as they fly their helicopter out, the entrance concealed by a billboard for the Batman tv show. The Titans have had their presence requested in Baxter Beach, which is the site of an annual brawl between students from two rival universities. Both universities have asked the Titans to be on their side, and sent them t-shirts. Wonder Girl creates her own Teen Titans t's so they can be neutral. They get between the students, and manage to get them all working together to build a jetty to restore the eroding beach. The pirate guy, Captain Tiger, rams his submarine right into the jetty. The story needed someone for the team to fight against, since they were being peacemakers with the kids. And it allows for all the rowdy college kids to join the Titans in the big final beach battle against Captain Tiger and his men. For protecting the town, and building the jetty to restore the beach, the townspeople of Baxter Beach also decide the college kids aren't so bad after all.
Teen Titans 10 goes the biker route. Robin gets what I think might be the first of the motorcycles he will drive through the 60s and 70s at the top of the story, and eagerly shows it off to Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl at Titans Lair. Robin has been invited to be a judge at a teen bike rally at a western town, Wildcat. It's a ghost town, inhabited by one older man, who is still hoping to find a big oil strike. The rally gets crashed by the Scorcher, who leads a band of outlaw bikers, and who picks off the Titans one by one as the story goes forward. The Scorcher's gang, the Bike Buzzards, want to take over Wildcat and make it their base. But before that happens, the old guy hits oil, and some careless smoking by the Scorcher almost kills him and everyone else. Scorcher willingly gives up as long as the Titans save his life. It's kind of odd, because, to me at least, his hat looks very much like a fireman's helmet from the time. A number of issues down the road we, and the Titans, will find out that the Scorcher was working for a crime boss, the Fat Man.
The Teen Titans continue in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!
Teen Titans: Brave and the Bold 54, 60 (June/July 1964, June/July 1965)
Showcase 59 (Nov/Dec 1965)
Teen Titans 1 – 10 (Jan/Feb 1966 – July/Aug 1967)
Next up – the Green Glob!