Friday, May 30, 2008

The Complete Works of Dr. K, Part 2

A couple of years after writing the letter to JLA, I was inspired to write a letter again, this time to Tales of the Teen Titans, the series that had previously been known as The New Teen Titans before DC launched a new series with that title for the burgeoning direct market. That change had caused me some consternation as a comic reader and a fan of the Titans because, living on a farm in North Dakota, I was a long drive from a comic shop where I could pick up the new Titans series, and I wasn't likely to get to one on a monthly basis. However, in 1985, I had just earned my driver's license (on the second try), so driving 30 miles to Fargo was within the realm of possibilities.

My complaint about the shift in comic sales from newstands to the direct market was not the inspiration for my letter, however. I was instead responding to a two-part story that ran in issues 51 and 52, focusing on the character Jericho and introducing his mother's detective agency, Searchers, Inc.

(Note that I got smart here and withheld my address to avoid the prison correspondence solicitations that the previous letter drew.)

The introduction of Searchers, Inc. had the feeling of a "backdoor pilot," to use the television term that makes me giggle--that is, we were being introduced to a group of characters only to have them spin off into their own series, the way Mork and Mindy spun out of Happy Days. However, Searchers, Inc. never did get their own series, and I don't even recall if the concept returned even in the Titans books. One of the Searchers operatives, Amber, seems little more than a Misty Knight knock-off:

Overall, this is really a nondescript letter where I'm, once again, trying to capture the typical voice of the comics letter page. At the end of the letter, though, I compare the story to a Robert Ludlum novel. At the time, I was voraciously reading Ludlum's spy thrillers, and I may have had a specific novel in mind when I was making this comparison, but I can't remember which, as most of them seem to run together in my memory nowadays (except for the Jason Bourne novels and The Holcroft Covenant, which remain my favorites). I do remember getting the sense, though, in this and other espionage-tinged stories that Marv Wolfman wrote, that they bore a striking resemblance to Ludlum's work, and I may have been implying a deeper connection in this comparison. Even the title of this story, "The Jericho Imbroglio," sounds like a bad Ludlum rip-off.

I also comment on the hints dropped that one of the Titans is Cheshire's baby daddy. In typical Marv Wolfman fashion, where subplots could be drawn out for years like a soap opera, the identity of the baby daddy wouldn't be revealed for a while, but we all know now that it's Speedy.

These issues also reveal how STAR Labs scientists uncovered a winged alien named Azrael under the Alaskan ice. Azrael had already debuted in the baxter Titans book, which was supposed to take place one year after the newsstand series:

(Cover image from The Grand Comics Database.)
My complaints about Azrael in my letter turned out to be completely justified. Azrael was a whiney emo alien, and his story simply petered out in the run-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths. This character was, for me at least, the point at which the series jumped the shark, and I soon quit buying what had once been my favorite series.

The revelation of Azrael, however, did provide this panel, which features a line that I try to work in to my daily conversation:

"I'll stake my doctorate on these tacos being delicious!"
"I'll stake my doctorate on the latest Bring It On movie being cheertastic!"

Up next: Dr. K uses SCIENCE!


Siskoid said...

Hey, I have this one too! It was in fact my first Titans comic.

Dr. K said...

Then you may own the Complete Works of Dr. K, Siskoid!