The Titans have certainly come a long way. They were once a junior version of the Justice League and now they’re one of the most important pillars of the DC Universe. In the wake of the Justice League’s breakup (see Dark Crisis), the Titans have taken on the role of the world’s premier superhero team—something that’s explored in the brand new Titans #1, out today from Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott.
The Titans might be an inspirational team now, but they sure didn’t start out that way. In fact, we have to imagine that the Titans would much prefer it if you didn’t bring up some of their earlier adventures. However, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE never forgets. So, let’s celebrate the Titans by embarrassing them a little with these six things from their past they probably hoped everyone forgot.
1) The Titans Chose Some of Their Missions Based on Fan Mail
While the Justice League were busy going on intergalactic missions that threatened all of reality, the Teen Titans sat around their headquarters picking their missions based on fan letters. Seriously, fans would write to them about their problems and the Teen Titans, if they deemed them worthy, would solve them. They were glorified advice columnists with capes!
Some of these early missions were really low stakes as a result. For example, the Titans were asked to help a group of teenagers keep their clubhouse (1964’s The Brave and the Bold #54), help another teenager with his summer job (1967’s Teen Titans #11) and help two rival colleges settle a dispute (1967’s Teen Titans #9). In fairness, sometimes a super-villain would secretly be behind the problem they were investigating, but this was still an odd way to run a team.
2) They Had the Goofiest Villains
The Titans have fought some of the deadliest villains in the DC Universe. There’s Deathstroke, the master assassin, and Trigon, the demonic god. Yet, while these villains are scary and iconic, the Titans’ earliest foes were absolute doofs. There was Ding Dong Daddy, a car thief with one of the worst monikers ever seen in a comic book (1966’s Teen Titans #3). There was also the Mad Mod, a clothing designer who dressed and spoke like Austin Powers (1967’s Teen Titans #7). One time, the Titans even dressed up as ghosts to scare an old man based off of Ebenezer Scrooge (1968’s Teen Titans #13).
Look, we all did regrettable things as teenagers, so I imagine the Titans are just as embarrassed about this as we are.
3) Everyone Was in Love with Wonder Girl and Had a Hard Time Handling It
During the Teen Titans’ early days, Donna Troy was the only girl in the group and the boys had a hard time handling it. Wonder Girl was a strong heroine in her own right and capable of handling herself. However, this didn’t stop her male teammates from embarrassing themselves as they fought over her attention.
In 1969’s Teen Titans #21, Hawk and Speedy angrily argue over who gets to be with Wonder Girl when they split up. In 1976’s Teen Titans #44, Kid Flash angrily storms out of the team headquarters because Speedy got to kiss Wonder Girl before he could. There are plenty more examples, but suffice to say, the teenage boys had a tough time handling their hormones. Luckily, they grew out of it.
4) The Teen Titans Required Signed Parental Permission Slips
Do you remember when your teacher used to send home permission slips for your parents to sign? Well, the Teen Titans used to have the same requirement for their roster. According to 1966’s Teen Titans #6, you couldn’t join the team unless you had a signed permission slip from your parent or legal guardian. (This rule would’ve disqualified so many heroes that would end up joining the team later. Do you really think Deathstroke would’ve let Rose Wilson join, or that Trigon would’ve signed Raven’s permission slip?)
Plus, as unbelievably lame as this rule was, the Titans also had a very loose definition of the word guardian. Kid Flash said he had gotten permission from the Flash, but the problem with that is Barry Allen wasn’t Wally’s guardian. At the time, Wally was not an orphan. He lived with his parents, who were unaware of his double identity. Heck, Barry Allen wasn’t even his uncle yet. He was just the boyfriend of Wally’s aunt. Barry’s lucky that Iris didn’t dump his scarlet keester as soon as she found out.
5) After Giving Up on Permission Slips, the Titans Pretty Much Let Anyone Join
At a certain point, the Titans got rid of their stupid permission slip requirement, but once that rule was off the books, they pretty much let anyone join. In 1970’s Teen Titans #25, the team visited a nightclub and a go-go dancer named Lilith approached the team saying she wanted to become a member. In 1977’s Teen Titans #48, a woman named Karen Beecher suited up as Bumblebee and attacked the Titans. This was to prove some elaborate point about how the Titans didn’t appreciate her boyfriend, Mal Duncan. Guess what? The Titans responded by giving her a spot on the team.
In Batman Family #6-9, a criminal known as the Joker’s Daughter attacked Robin and committed a series of “harmless crimes.” She then revealed that she was Two-Face’s daughter (this was a lie) and wanted to join the Teen Titans. Robin ignored all of these red flags and agreed to let her join. Forget security and secret identities, the Titans had no vetting process at all. They were practically begging for a super-villain to infiltrate the team, which is exactly what happened years later in The Judas Contract.
6) They Let a Caveman on the Team
The Teen Titans were so desperate for members that they actually let a caveman join their team. He didn’t even have any superhuman abilities—being a caveman was pretty much all he had to offer. In 1971’s Teen Titans #32, the team accidentally brought the Cro-Magnon in question to the present day after a time traveling adventure. They named him Gnarrk because that was the only thing he was capable of saying. And yet, despite their ability to travel through time, the Titans decided that it would be too dangerous to send Gnarrk back to his home and family, so he joined the team. He even had a romance with Lilith. No crossover with Captain Caveman, though, unfortunately. But one can always dream!
As fun as it may be to laugh at these early adventures, it’s important to remember that the Titans wouldn’t be where they are now without these learning experiences. And where exactly are they? They’re taking on the biggest threats the universe has to offer. World-ending threats. The sort of thing that would convince most heroes to pack things up and head home. But the Titans never will, and I suspect you know why.
If you can get over fighting someone named Ding Dong Daddy, you can survive pretty much anything.
Titans #1 by Tom Taylor, Nicola Scott and Annette Kwok is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.