TEEN TITANS #13 February 1968
Nick Cardy original artist
|Call me a Scrooge if you like, folks, but this is undeniably one Dickens of a lame comic book. Still, back in the winter of 1967, it was pretty much all we super-hero fanciers had, seasonally speaking, so...|
|While I was growing up, y'see, there was
no shortage of special holiday editions of
a whole score of popular humor characters,
some of which were even issued on a yearly
basis--Little Lulu, Archie and the gang,
DC's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the
Disney ensemble, Bugs Bunny and friends,
Dennis the Menace, why, even Alvin and his
Chipmunk associates merited a giant Christmas
comic! But what I don't recall EVER seeing
between December of 1961 right up on through
the release of this ice-breaking but nonetheless
flawed classic was an adventure title--ANY
adventure title!--tackling the Winter Holidays!..
Not that the Teen Titans foray into the Festivus Season was an unprecedented move by any means. Subsequent reprints have clearly proven that Superman, Batman, various Simon and Kirby creations, and even Will Eisner's justly revered Spirit, all had their brushes with Santa Claus and similar seasonal plot devices during the Golden Age of the forties and fifties, but for some reason left unexplained, December 25th was left exclusively the province of the funny funnybooks come the sixties. That all stopped with TEEN TITANS #13, however, and soon a flood of individuals donning brighter--and I daresay, gayer--apparel than even ol' St. Nick his jolly ol' self found themselves up to their jingle bells in holiday themed escapades. But that would be later. First we all had to endure editor George Kashdan's rewrite of the immortal Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol", scripted by the ever so "hep" Bob Haney...
Frankly, I had abandoned the Titans title awhile back after about a half dozen issues, fed up with the ersatz hip dialog that just made my actual teenage ears cringe. Somehow, Stan Lee could pull off this sorta stuff, but as far as I was concerned, NOBODY at DC in those days could--or even come close, for that matter. Both Haney and Arnold Drake--another scribe who attempted, unsuccessfully, to tune into the mid-sixties youth-oriented gestalt--were competent plotters, and knew how to move a story along, but the words they fed their fictional charges-- let's just say, in the spirit of the season, it was ho-ho-hopeless!
The plot? Hey, what do YOU think? There's this mean old owner of a junk yard named Ebenezer Scrounge, dig, and he works his sole employee--one Bob Ratchet--to the bone. Bob puts up with his miserly boss's ways so as to buy his handicapped son, Tiny Tom--who, inexplicably, is in NO way tiny--a new electric wheelchair. There's all sort of complications thrown into the plot when a crook named Mr. Big slinks into the picture. Tiny Tom brings in his fellow teens, the Titans, to help straighten things out, and after an initial scuffle with the assembled doppelgangers--including a certain (live) Jacob Farley--the Titans regroup on the bottom of page 11, and Robin has THIS to say:
"Haven't you characters begun to dig it yet? Ebenezer Scrounge...Jacob Farley..Tiny Tom here...?" he asks, attempting to lift the fog surrounding his clueless colleagues craniums.
You can almost see the three others slapping their foreheads in unison!
"YOW!...I dig!", exclaims Aqualad. "Scrooge...Jacob Marley...Tiny Tim...It's just like Dickens "A Christmas Carol"!"
"Merciful Minerva--it IS!" sayeth Ya-Gotta-Wonder Girl..
Leaving the ever reliable Kid Flash with the last words on the subject, "Well, I'll be..."
Somehow, the phrase "Duh" never makes it's way into the conversation, much to the disappointment of readers everywhere. Well, given the impetus by this set of amazing coincidences, our Not-So-Fab Foursome endeavor to pull the wool over Scrounge's eyes with that old three ghosts routine, each spirit being a disguised Titan. (...well, as they say, "Duh...")
Everything ends on a positive note, natch--Chuck D. wouldn't have it any other way--and the old junk dealer turns over the proverbial leaf, with the inimitable Tiny Tom bringing the proceedings to an all-too predictable conclusion with these words:
"Best wishes to all--for a swinging and groovy New Year--and bless us everyone!" (..God not then currently a member of the DC Universe, apparently--this was WAY before Vertigo, please understand...)
Like I said, silly. But the artwork by Nick Cardy? NOT so silly. In fact, it was downright swell--and this might've been the very first time I actually realized the extent of the man's talents. Y'see, neither the Titans nor AQUAMAN, his other long-standing assignment, were ever particular faves of mine, so I inadvertently thought of him as little more than a second tier artist due to my prejudices towards those characters. Not my brightest move. This book came out mere months before the artistic triumph of "Bat Lash", as well as his work on the reinvigorated--and more mature--Teen Titans under the eventual editorship of Dick Giordano. You can tell by some of the new-fangled techniques--both in layout and in illustration--that Cardy used in this story, that the day when Carmine Infantino was about to free his fellow cartoonists from their editorially imposed straight-jackets as he ascended into a position of artistic control was right around the corner! Yup! In fact, it's a darn shame Cardy never actually drew a straight-on adaptation of this oft-told Dickens chestnut! He'd've certainly done a memorable job--and maybe even given my old pal, Joe Staton, a run for his money! (But he didn't Joe, so worry not--I still love your CLASSIC ILLUSTRATED version best! At least, best of all the ones that didn't feature a near-sighted protagonist whose voice sounded eerily similar to a cast member of "Gilligan's Island", of course!...)
A technical note on my redo: The original drawing has no triangular tree shape framing the Titans, as that was applied after the fact with a color overlay. (A color, I can't help but complain, that I've always found way too dark--a brighter green would've made for a far more festive cover! Bah, humbug, and all that...) Faced with this complication in trying to duplicate the original in my own wacky style, I ultimately decided that it was necessary to add some lines to mimic the unappetizing olive hued border area--which is exactly what I wound up doing. Hey, who SAYS background information has to be interesting?!?..
Well, that's it for this topic. Enough about the holidays. That's right, friends--I've finished my Christmas rapping!!...
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