The Teen Titans debuted in 1964 as a way of teaming up the various teenage sidekicks, allowing them to shine outside their mentors’ shadows. Their series was cancelled twice in the ‘70s, and then they received the X-Men treatment.
Writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez reinvigorated the Titans franchise when they created The New Teen Titans, bringing together three old-school Titans from the classic sidekick mold (Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl), a reworked Doom Patrol kid (Beast Boy, now Changeling), and three new characters (Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg). Like the X-Men, much of the series’ fun came from the interactions of its diverse cast of well-developed, interesting characters, each coming from a unique background. And the superhero action was pretty great, too.
Issue #20 serves as a good introduction to everyone. Ironically, the story is told from the point of view of perhaps the blandest character in the lineup, the one with the most straightforward, least interesting backstory—Kid Flash (Wally West, several years before he became the Flash for a long time). Wally is a reasonably well-adjusted 19-year-old who comes from a good home and has had the opportunity to be his hero’s sidekick. Not a fountain of angst there, just some basic indecision about what path to take in life and the standard-issue romantic confusion involving a teammate who once controlled his mind.
Wally writes a letter to his parents, and that frames the entire issue. In it, he details the Titans’ encounter with a young villain who is desperately trying to win his father’s love, and along the way we see how Wally is growing up a bit, realizing that whatever problems he has, other people, whether friends or foes, have it worse.
It’s an excellent lesson in empathy, and merely one of many great Titans issues from the Wolfman/Perez era.
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: George Perez
Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; The New Teen Titans vol. 3 (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 9 and up