And we’re back! I’m sorry the weekly updates have fallen by the wayside for the past few months — blame a busy work schedule and general sense of funnybook fatigue — but I’m going to try to get things back on a semi-regular track going forward.
If you’re seriously jonesing for this type of content, you should head on over to Calamity Jon’s Gone & Forgotten, which was a direct inspiration for this feature. Even better, Jon has assembled an amazing compendium of half-baked superheroes (including a number NF alums) that should be essential reading for all right-thinking fans of Nobody’s Favorites.
(For the record, there will never be a Nobody’s Favorites book because I don’t wish to deal with the legal issues, too many of the gags wouldn’t work outside the hypertext format, and I’m lazy as fuck.)
With that out of the way, let us take another dive into the cat piss scented longbox of the damned.
The Wolfman/Perez relaunch of the Teen Titans didn’t help DC regain supremacy over Marvel, but it certainly helped to reverse the sense that the publisher had irrevocably slid into stodgy irrelevancy vis-à-vis its primary rival. With the New Teen Titans, DC finally had a viable “cool” superhero comic that was capable of going head to head with Marvel’s X-franchise juggernaut.
The stylistic similarities between the X-Men and the Titans have been a bit overstated, but both did represent an apotheosis of Bronze Age superhero team tropes — serious interpersonal melodrama and a (mostly implied) level of “mature” content centering around surrogate family dynamics and a fuck-ton of dialogue.
In truth, the Titans were rarely able to hit the highs that Claremont was able to sustain with the X-Men. The comics were enjoyable and had a contemporary sophistication which woefully eluded most of DC’s other top-tier superhero franchises, but were mainly notable for George Perez’s outstanding artwork (when it wasn’t getting mauled by subpar inking) and the fact that DC was publishing it. By Marvel standards of the time, the New Teen Titans would have been an indistinguishable mid-list offering.
In cases where you’re sporting a singularly compelling offering, general wisdom dictates that it should be nurtured and vigilantly protected — i.e. “don’t fuck with success.”
DC, however, couldn’t help itself when it came to the Titans. Having built up a solid reader base over three-plus years, the publisher got the idea to relaunch the title as a high-quality direct market offering with the existing wide-distribution series rebranded as Tales of the Teen Titans and transitioned into a time-delay reprints of the new flagship’s material.
That alone might have been manageable, but it was further complicated by the launch of Crisis of Infinite Earths, a maxi-series event intended to streamline the DC’s multiverse into something more aligned with contemporary tastes. DC tapped Wolfman and Perez to handle the creative chores, which made perfect sense. What better way to showcase the company’s new direction than the team behind its biggest-selling title?
The problem was that the scope of the project took priority over any single ongoing, and the Teen Titans were left in wheel-spinning limbo for the duration at the cost of its creative momentum. After Crisis wrapped up, Perez moved on to his problematic reboot of Wonder Woman and Wolfman was left issuing mea culpas in the Titans’ letter pages about the quality of the stories dropping off.
This isn’t a dig at Eduardo Barreto, who did absolutely fine work as the Titans’ go-to replacement artist, but the departure of Perez really drove home just how truly unexceptional the series was, especially in context of the post-Crisis aesthetic shift in general. (In fairness, this also applies in a way to Claremont’s X-Men, where my interest in the series was in direction proportion to the current artist.)
It was from that period of creative decline that the horrible Hybrid emerged….
…steeped in decades of convoluted continuity and reeking of the Next Big Throwaway.
The Hybrid were the minions of Mento, a rich industrialist who created a goofy helmet to grant him psychic powers so he could hand with the Silver Age Doom Patrol and try to get into Elasti-Girl’s pants. The proto-PUA scheme inexplicably paid-off, with Mento and Elasti-Girl eventually exchanging vows and adopting the orphaned fellow Doomer Beast Boy.
Then Elasti-Girl got blown to bits, Mento turned grumpy, and Beast Boy changed his name to Changeling and joined the Titans. After losing his marbles and use of his legs helping John Constantine during the Crisis, a deranged Mento decided Changeling was responsible for Elasti-Girl’s death. Taking advantage of tragic circumstances and the wonder metal “promethium” (number 181 on the Periodic Table of Plot Devices), Mento transformed a group of willing and unwilling subjects into a superhuman strike team with costumes and code names straight out of a second edition Champions RPG source book.
Did I mention this also involved a multipart crossover with Blue Beetle then-ongoing? No? Never mind then.
So you had a psychic dude in a wheelchair leading an team of freaks that included a surly brawler, a guy with deadly eye beams, a woman who could control the winds, a girl who could steal people’s energy, and a metal skinned fellow. GEE, I WONDER IF WOLFMAN WAS TRYING TO REFERENCE SOMETHING HERE?
The Hybrid (somewhat) reluctantly battled the Titans to a standstill twice across two isolated arcs spaced a year apart, a bit of pacing that seems so alien by today’s narrative standards.
In the end, Raven used her deus ex mystical powers to cure Mento’s madness. Taking pity on the man who mutated them into instruments of his psychotic rage, the Hybrid decided to stay with Mento and together find a new life in this crazy, mixed up world.
Though there were plans to bring the team back in their own series during the heady “shithose against the wall” days of the Chromium Age….
…the plan was shelved due to “royalty issues” (because it was was impossible to issue a check for .00000001 cents, I’m guessing) and the Hybrid following the same route as so many other bits of DC’s shared universe flotsam…
…which is to say “getting unceremoniously offed during one of Geoff Johns’ many, many ham-fisted attempts at evoking gravitas.”