Teen Titans Lost Annual 1 cover featuring art by Silver Age Titans artist Nick Cardy
In 2003, DC Comics was going to release the Teen Titans Swingin’ Elseworlds Special, a one-shot story starring the original Teen Titans and written by original Teen Titans writer, Bob Haney, who co-created the team with Bruno Premiani (Doom Patrol). The art for the 2003 story was provided by Jay Stephens (“The Secret Saturdays”) on pencils and Mike Allred (Madman Comics) on inks, and Laura Allred on colors, with the cover drawn by Nick Cardy, the artist who drew issues 1-43 of the original Teen Titans comic book series (1966-73).
The highly-anticipated book was, however, cancelled for undisclosed reasons. Among the rumors was that DC Comics considered the story too weird or perhaps, too anti-war in at time when war was popular (2003 and the invasion of Iraq); that the DC powers-that-be thought it would interfere with the (then) new Teen Titans series (Vol. 3), or that DC would publish this comic book when the Teen Titans were less popular. Bob Haney died in November 2004.
But God don’t sleep! The Teen Titans Swingin’ Elseworlds Special finally made its appearance in early 2008 as Teen Titans Lost Annual 1. Set during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, Robin discovers that aliens from the planet Ullustro have kidnapped President Kennedy and replaced him with a doppelganger. Robin leads Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Speedy to Ullustro to rescue the president. [Aqualad stays behind to “hold the fort.”] There, the teen heroes discover that the Ullustrians have brainwashed President Kennedy into leading them in their war against The Violators, the bestial race that shares the planet with them. Robin is determined to free President Kennedy and stop a global war, but the Titans’ mission is compromised when Wonder Girl falls in love with a Violator warrior.
THE LOWDOWN: Yes, Bob Haney’s story and script for Teen Titans Lost Annual 1 is weird. Everything about it is off, peculiar, bizarre, etc, even when the fight scenes and Haney’s anti-war messages manage to be entertaining. The Teen Titans didn’t appear in a comic book until after President Kennedy was assassinated, although that wouldn’t keep the teen heroes from meeting him in their own fictional universe. That little anachronism isn’t what makes Teen Titans Lost Annual 1 peculiar.
It’s the way the characters act. Robin is the only character in this tale that Haney portrays in a manner generally consistent with the character’s history. On the other hand, Haney plays Wonder Girl alternately as a lovelorn airhead ready to sleep with the enemy and as an aggressive warrior woman ready to throw down in the span of a few seconds; she just seems off. Haney uses Kid Flash and Speedy as little more than action figures or robotic, preprogrammed characters lacking personality and being no more than vessels for their powers and abilities.
The story’s anti-war leanings are clever and cleverly hidden amongst the general weirdness. This weirdness includes the strange aliens. Each Ullustrian looks like a green-skinned, purple-haired Ringo Starr clone, and each Violator resembles a cross between a hairy Jimi Hendrix and Michael J. Fox’s Scott Howard of Teen Wolf. Still, Haney’s messages about the futility of war, about how states that engage in ceaseless war can reap nothing but destruction, and about how war brainwashes the citizenry to the point that it doesn’t remember the how’s and why’s come through.
About the art by Jay Stephens and Mike Allred: Allred’s inks overwhelm Stephens pencils, so the art favor’s Allred’s style, which isn’t a bad thing. The composition of every page is dynamic and imaginative, and Stephens creates fanciful and inventive alien landscapes and settings. Laura Allred’s flat and sometimes garish coloring perfectly captures the pop-art sensibilities of Haney’s story and the art and sells this entire production’s odd vibe. It is interesting to note that the art also resembles what a Teen Titans comic book might have looked like if Jack Kirby had drawn the series during the time he was producing his New Gods comic book series for DC Comics.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Teen Titans fans.
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