In which I spend an overwrought paragraph explaining to readers of a comics blog how “comic collecting” works.

§ April 2nd, 2021 § Filed under collecting, teen titans § 8 Comments

So I was processing a few books I acquired from a collection on Thursday, and one of them was New Teen Titans #36 from 1987:

It has an October cover date, but according to this page it was out late June, so I’d just graduated high school, was about to start college, and was still a year away from entering the world of comics retail in which I am still fully ensnared.

I’d bought a copy of this issue of the rack at the time, most likely from my future place of employment. I’d come somewhat late to the New Teen Titans, the first issue of which I’d bought being around #27 or so of the initial series, where they’re fighting Brother Blood. I continued to read it after that, going into the bins for back issues (again, from my then-future place of employment) and picking up the new ones as they were released. Even rode out the whole “hardcover/softcovertransition was the series was weaned away from newsstand sales and put firmly into the Direct Market of comical-book shops.

What I’m telling you is that I read New Teen Titans for a while. Big fan, thought it was great. Still think it’s great, even if, like mentioned in our discussion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the art was usually beautiful (primarily by George Perez, but some of the other artists weren’t too shabby either), and the writing was…certainly of its time, but still readable. It was a Fun Book, essential reading if you were a DC fan (just as Uncanny X-Men was required if you were a Marvel fan). (Or hell, if you were just a comics fan, you probably read both.)

But when issue #36 came out…I mean, I bought it, I took it home, I read it. The more I thought about that cover, however, the more I came to believe it was, I don’t know, insulting my intelligence somehow. Like I saw the “IT FINALLY HAPPENS! STARFIRE KILLS” blurb for the somewhat tasteless pandering it was. I just plain didn’t like this cover, that blurb, and it put me off so much that I dropped the comic. (For a while, more on that in a second.)

I’m sure there was more to it than just a dumb cover blurb. While, as I said, many of the artists who came after Perez on the title were perfectly fine and enjoyable, they were usually in service to stories and scripts that just didn’t grab me. I don’t know if it was me, just having read enough Teen Titans for the time being, or if maybe without the magic partnership with Perez, Marv Wolfman’s storytelling was not quite as inspired, making the book no longer as compelling and vital as it once had been.

Ultimately, it was likely a combination of factors that caused me to drop New Teen Titans. It’s that blurb, though, that sticks with me, the marketing straw that broke this collector’s…long box? Sorry, the metaphor got away from me, but regardless, it’s just one example of how attrition occurs on longish-running titles, for on what the surface may be a nitpicky reason that serves as a blanket excuse covering the myriad of other issues involved in the decision.

And what did I say above about coming back? Why, yes, I eventually did…I skipped that whole brouhaha between 37 and 49 and popped back in when Perez returned for the revised origin of Donna Troy beginning in #50:

…and looking at this pic reminds me of how the gold ink on this cover never looked shiny and clean, even new off the shelf. Just…”give me your most dingy gold ink, my good man” said DC at the printer, and they were happy to oblige. But cover coloring aside, the story was…fine, a new convoluted revision to the ever-revising Donna Troy origin. As soon as it was over, I was off the book ’til 1990 and the release of issue #71:

…because I’m a sucker for extree-sized anniversary issues, and also because I do like the Titans and wanted to give it another shot.

And I picked a good time to start up again because hoo boy it felt like Marv Wolfman found his second wind on the title. It was a leaner, more exciting ride, aided and abetted by some of Tom Grummett’s best artwork, and it just kinda steamrolled along for a while. Surprises in each issue, no character felt safe, cliffhangers galore…the book had a manic energy to it that was just carried you along. For a while there New Titans was one of my favorite series.

Eventually everything peaked and the book settled back down to a more normal pace…still good and perfectly enjoyable, and I hung on ’til #100 (another extra-sized anniversary issue) and that, as it turned out, was my Teen Titans saturation point. When the long-awaited graphic novel Games was finally released in…was it really 2011? That late? Anyway, when it came out, as intrigued as I was at reading another Wolfman/Perez comic, and I had the book in my hands, looking at the front and back covers and thinking about it hard, I ended up not delving back into that world.

I did give my Titans run a reread about a decade or so ago, enjoying what would turn out to be a final run through the book before I opened my own shop in 2014 and gave up all my copies to fill back issue stock. It was a Good Comic, fun and exciting and dopey and beautiful and melodramatic and compelling in all the right quantities and I’m glad I read it. Even if I’m occasionally reminded of why I didn’t like it sometimes, as per that cover at the top of the post.

Occasionally I think about getting one of the many reprints of at least the early Wolfman/Perez issues, to have them on nice paper for future perusal (especially since on my last reread I noticed the paper and printing in the original comics having not really aged well). Honestly, though, I don’t know if I’d make the time to go back to read them, particularly at the moment when I’m still catching up on a backlog of comics. But it’s good to know it’s being preserved, and not just forgotten in the dusty back issue bins of comic book stores.

Now the Teen Titans cartoons? Those are great, too, but that perhaps is for another post.

8 Responses to “In which I spend an overwrought paragraph explaining to readers of a comics blog how “comic collecting” works.”

  • “…ensnared!”

  • Aaron B says:

    Man, that’s an awful cover for so many reasons. But I think my favorite detail is the Donna Troy pinata that is hanging from the invisible ceiling.

  • Scott Rowland says:

    I was pretty grossed out by that cover copy. I wouldn’t really want to associate with folks who were eagerly awaiting that event. . . .

    I bought the series throughout the entire run, but I think you made better decisions. As much as I loved Eduardo Barreto’s art, the end product didn’t achieve the alchemy that the Perez issues did. Grummett’s turn on the book and Titans hunt ramped up the excitement, but I had ceased to care that much about the characters, as they seemed to stop developing. After issue 100, things got dire, reportedly in part due to an editor who wasn’t well suited to the job.

  • Dave-El says:

    My journey with Marv Wolfman’s Titans began at the beginning and I think the book never re-captured the energy and passion of those early years with Perez on the book.

    The cover blurb “It finally happens – Starfire kills” is garish and reeks of desperation.

    Around that era of the Titans, I’ve read where Wolfman was struggling with writing the book. There were 4 or 6 issues (IIRC) where Paul Levitz scripted from Wolfman’s plots or solo wrote the book. It was not an easy time to remain a Titans fan.

    I stuck around until Titans Hunt and a round of comic budget cutting led me to no longer have Titans on my pull list.

    I did get the issue #100 in a quarter bin box. At 25 cents, I felt like I overpaid.

  • Chris V says:

    Whelp! It finally happened…we all knew it would happen eventually, and now it has…Starfire kills.

    I guess you have to give them credit for waiting an entire 36 issues before deciding to have Starfire kill.
    I don’t remember that being a big build-up in the book’s early stories, but I was never that much of a fan of the series.

    I guess to keep the momentum building, in issue #18, Starfire almost killed.
    You can see the gradual seeding. In issue #1, Starfire hardly kills anything. By issue #9, Starfire is regretting not killing anything yet.
    Bam! DC finally hits you out of nowhere…Finally, Starfire kills. It had to happen.

  • Thom H. says:

    New Teen Titans was amazing to me when I first read it — such a “Marvel” book for DC, and a great intro to the broader DC universe. Like the Legion, you got to watch the cast grow up, but with more angst and interpersonal drama.

    You can see Perez begin to stretch his artistic muscles as the series wore on, especially when the Baxter series came out. Those first couple of Baxter issues are incredibly detailed and just beautiful comics work. It certainly showed off the potential of the new format.

    He might have bitten off more than he could chew, though (especially with the pencil-only bits), because the quality of the art dropped off quite quickly after that. I still wonder what the first arc would have looked like if he’d had enough time to finish it to the standard of the first issue. What a fantastic package that would have been as a stand-alone story.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    For shame, Mike, that you missed out on the Titans $ell-Out Special!

    I did too, for that matter. Never even heard of it until now! Somehow I don’t think it will quite match the audacity of the Doom Force Special.

  • DK says:

    Yeah, Titans Hunt. I pretty much had never bought a Titans book before that and was on my conversion from a Marvel Guy to a DC Guy at the time.

    Pure “let me try this, I’ve heard of these characters, they are DC’s X-Men”

    Sold! At the time that was a really exciting run, you definitely had the feeling anything could happen. Anything DID happen, for like every issue for a year.

    They did Jericho dirty, though. Character with cool powers and a cool history, all he needed was a better wardrobe and a haircut.