Teen Titans #13
December 17, 2012
There's more of gravy than of grave about this comic.
(Open on Harvey Finevoice walking out into the room, when suddenly...)
Ghost of Christmas Present (G. Lovhaug (Lewis' brother)): Hello, Mr. Finevoice! (Harvey jumps back, letting out a startled yelp) Did my appearance startle you?
Harvey: (irritably) No, I just like to yelp in surprise all the time! Geez!
Ghost: Oh, I'm sorry, I just have a habit of being here!
Harvey: Yeah, I take it you're the ghoul of Christmas present?
Ghost: That would be me!
Harvey: (facepalming himself) Look, I'm not really in the mood for all this mumbo-jumbo, so why don't we just skip it, okay?
Harvey: (surprised) What, no argument?
Ghost: Well, what's the point in arguing? I can't force you to do anything.
Harvey: Okay, then... take me back to my hotel room.
Ghost: I would, but I'm not the one who brought you here.
Harvey: What? What are you–
Linkara: (wearing a Santa hat over his normal hat) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall...
Harvey: (startled) Criminy!
Ghost: Yeah, I don't think we should interrupt.
Linkara: So, like I said back in the "Brave and the Bold #54" video, next year, I'm going to do a retrospective on my favorite era of the Teen Titans. But we should also do something other than just their origins; in this case, talk about the Fab Five: the original five team members. And what do you know? In the original run on the Teen Titans comics, they had a Christmas issue!
(Cut to a montage of shots of past Teen Titans comics, showing this Fab Five, which Linkara will talk about, starting with Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash)
Linkara (v/o): You're all probably familiar with Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin from that previous video, but what about the remaining two?
(Cut to a closeup of another Titans comic showing the remaining two members: Speedy and Wonder Girl)
Linkara (v/o): Well, first up is Speedy. I bet you remember him, don't you? He was the Teen Titan who bravely overcame his heroin addiction...
(A montage of Speedy's life is shown)
Linkara (v/o): ...had a wonderful daughter... who was then killed in a miniseries that had nothing to do with her... and he had his arm cut off... then he got a cyborg arm, got addicted to China Cat, became a villain for really stupid reasons, saw a zombie ghost of his dead daughter, and now, that daughter never existed because of the dumbass reboot.
(Cut to a montage of shots of Speedy in "Justice League: Cry For Justice")
Linkara (v/o): What's that? I should be happy that "Cry For Justice" never happened in the reboot? (laughs) Yeah, it's kinda hard for me to feel happy about that when, instead of Roy Harper being an interesting, unique character as a single father, he's bumming around with Jason Todd, never shutting his gob, and wearing a stupid frickin' trucker hat.
Linkara: What's that? You want me to do a proper review of "Red Hood and the Outlaws"? Well, by this point, everyone should know my complaints. I read the first nine issues, and I find the characters unlikeable, the artwork weak at best, the plots irritating, and did I mention Roy Harper's stupid frickin' trucker hat?!
Linkara (v/o): If you like the book, good for you. I gave it a shot, and I think it blows, much like 90% of the 2011 reboot.
(Cut back to the shot of the cover showing Speedy and Donna Troy)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and speaking of reboots, let's talk about Donna Troy. Yes, the final member of the original five Teen Titans.
(A montage of Troy's life is shown)
Linkara (v/o): We've talked about her before, back in the "Countdown" reviews, but it's time for a refresher course. Donna Troy, the original Wonder Girl, was created completely by accident. Bob Haney, the creator of the Teen Titans in general, and the writer of the original "Brave and the Bold" story we covered, expanded the group to include two more teenage characters to round out the "Junior Justice League" idea. Speedy was a given, but Haney didn't really read "Wonder Woman". However, he did see a cover that featured Wondy teaming up with Wonder Girl and figured it was Diana's teenage sidekick; the problem being that, well, she wasn't.
Linkara: You see, the Silver Age was kind of insane. And no, I don't hate the Silver Age, I'm just saying it like it is. The Silver Age was frickin' nuts!
Linkara (v/o): And Wonder Girl is a perfect example of this, for you see, Wonder Girl is not a separate character, she's a time-traveling, younger version of Wonder Woman, and not only did Wonder Woman team up with her, but also the time-traveling toddler version of Wonder Woman named Wonder Tot. And yes, this was perfectly normal during this era of comics.
(Cut to a cover of the "Bat-Baby" comic)
Linkara (v/o): Need I remind you of "Bat-Baby", wherein a mad scientist used an evil ray of science that turned Batman into a baby...
(Cut to a comic called "Super-Baby", which shows Superman as a baby)
Linkara (v/o): ...or the sitcom antics of "Super-Baby".
(Cut a collage of shots of covers for Teen Titans comics that all prominently display Donna Troy)
Linkara (v/o): But anyway, yeah, Bob Haney created Wonder Girl as her own character, and it wasn't until a few years later that they actually gave her a proper origin story.
(Cut to a shot of a Christmas-themed comic with the Titans)
Linkara (v/o): And that brings us to where we are now: a Teen Titans comic that's also from the Silver Age, but it happens to be Christmas-related.
Linkara: (sourly) You know, one of these days, I'll actually be able to get back to reviewing comics that aren't older than I am. (cheerful again) In the meantime, though, let's dig into (holds up comic of review today) "Teen Titans #13".
(Title sequence plays; title card has "Merry Christmas...If That's Okay" from Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing on it; cut to a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): Like "Superman's Christmas Adventure", I'm reading this one from the "A D.C. Universe Christmas" trade paperback, so no cover analysis. Before we get to the comic proper, I should probably explain some weirdness concerning the trade version versus the original comic.
(Cut to a montage of shots of versions of covers of this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Now, of course, for a modern trade collection of older material, they'll buff up the colors and make them look nicer. However, after reading some descriptions of the material and seeing reference to stuff that wasn't in the trade, I went and hunted down scans of the original comic itself.
(Cut to a shot of the comic "Christmas with the Superheroes")
Linkara (v/o): Well, here's the thing: the trade is not the first time this comic has been reprinted. In fact, it's been reprinted a few times, but in particular for two "Christmas with the Superheroes" specials, one in 1975 and again in 1988. While I can't find scans of the 1975 reprint...
(Editor's note: "Why does Robin only have one boot?")
Linkara (v/o): ...the 1988 version seems to be based on that version...
(Cut to the teaser page of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...and subsequently, so is the one in the trade I'm reading from. What's different? Well, mostly, the colors. They completely altered the colors in a lot of spots, for better and for worse.
(A comparison of colors from both versions is shown; the older one has a more yellowish tint to it and more snow in the backgrounds)
Linkara (v/o): For example, the original opening teaser page, I think, is actually a lot stronger and more visually interesting than the updated one, whose colors are, well, a bit sillier and lacking the moody snow background and coloration for the four characters.
(Cut to a shot of the original second page of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): However, the big change is that page two of the original comic is completely missing. The page is admittedly rather pointless and feels more like a glorified ad for other comics, but it's still a part of the comic; it's no reason why you shouldn't reprint it. As such, I'm going to talk about it once we get to it, although, for the most part, we're going to stick to the reprint version because that's what I've got in my hands. However, I will try to let you know if something important is altered from the original.
(Cut back to the teaser page)
Linkara (v/o): The teaser page starts us off with some guy who needs a comb [Mr. Scrounge, a stand-in for Mr. Scrooge] pleading on his knees while surrounded by three guys in purple robes and... another person wearing a rather low-cut for them to show off their legs. Nice gams, though.
Scrounge: Oh, Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future...
Linkara: (as Scrounge) And Ghost of Christmas Pantyhose, I guess.
Linkara (v/o): So... wait, they're supposed to represent the ghosts of all time periods? Man, budget cuts must have hit them hard if they're all dressing in the same robes.
Ghost: We want you to undo all the wrongs you've done, you old skinflint, or we'll haunt you out of your grotty mind!
Linkara: (as ghost, holding up hand) I am the Ghost of Vocabulary Past!
Narration: Charles Dickens has been long dead...
Linkara: (scoffs) Well, clearly, you've never seen the movie The Riddle, wherein we learn that Charles Dickens is an immortal, murderous hobo.
Narration: ...but his great books, his fabulous characters, live on!
Linkara: Well, except for Sydney Carton, but that's kind of a given.
Narration: In fact, his stories are so alive today that they keep on happening! So join you here that fantastic foursome, ye Teen Titans, for a holiday "happening" inspired by the immortal pages of the greatest yuletide tale of them all!
Linkara: "Greatest yuletide tale of them all"? Ha! Somehow I doubt that this comic was inspired by Santa with muscles.
Narration: Yes, deck yourselves with boughs of holly...
(Linkara looks confused, but then shrugs and takes some holly and literally decks himself with it)
Narration: ...and park under the mistletoe most marvelous...
Linkara: Make out with a random stranger instead of reading this.
Narration: ...as we begin... The TT's Swingin' Christmas Carol!
Linkara: I shall now refer to the Teen Titans as the TTs from now on.
Linkara (v/o): We begin with that page that was cut out of the reprints.
Narration: Two days before Christmas--and the silent snow falls secret over a hillside in the country...
Linkara (v/o): And on that advertisement in the back for the Adam West Batman series. Nice.
Narration: Inside the hill, four famed figures, like everyone else, wait breathlessly for Santa...
Linkara: (checking his watch) Gee, Superman sure is taking his sweet time flying Santa around everywhere. He should've been here hours ago.
Linkara (v/o): And what are they doing while waiting? Well, before "Plants vs. Zombies" was invented, people read stuff like comic books! Weird, right? And that's what the team is doing: reading comics, aside from Robin, who is reading "A Christmas Carol". (dramatically) The others are unimpressed!
Kid Flash: Hey, Robin-- how can you read that corny old tale? It's like nowhere!
Linkara: Yeah, Robin, you've gotta read more modern stuff, like that Superman comic where he shoots rainbows out of his fingers that form into miniature versions of himself.
Aqualad: Check, Boy Wonder-- get with it! This Aquaman is cool, wet and wild!
Linkara: Oh, the 1960s, where everything you say sounds like a porno.
Aqualad: And the kid with him... he's dynamite!
Linkara: Clearly, these are not the actual Teen Titans, but a bunch of cosplayers who are taking it way too seriously.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, this does raise an interesting point. Both Marvel and DC have shown that within their own universes, they actually do have comic books printed about the heroes. Mind you, if their identities aren't publicly known, the writers within the universe make up their own origins, but it's really kind of weird and meta-textual like that. Wonder if they have merchandising rights for this stuff and get income from it?
Robin: Very funny, gill-head...
Linkara: (laughs) Oh, Robin, you racist!
Robin: ...but I enjoy old stories about Christmas! Charles Dickens was quite a writer!
Wonder Girl: But that story's definitely ungroovy these days!
Linkara: (as Wonder Girl) Unlike us. We'll never become dated!
Linkara (v/o): And yeah, "A Christmas Carol" is completely ungroovy. That's why it's had dozens of adaptations in various forms, critical analysis, parodies, and it's stood the test of time, whereas you guys got a cartoon that, while very good and enjoyable, had to rip off anime cliches to try to get "hip" with the then-modern audiences.
Linkara: And no, I'm not insulting the animated series. I liked the animated series! I'm just saying, it's kind of stupid to insult "A Christmas Carol" for being "ungroovy" when your series isn't even five years old!
Wonder Girl: Who could believe in such uncool characters as Scrooge--or Bob Cratchit--all that old jazz?
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, people being evil are completely unrealistic. Say, who was it you fought against in your inaugural issue? An asshole who enslaved children with his magic weather staff? Yeah, Scrooge is the unrealistic one! Anyway, that argument is enough to convince Robin to put down the book and pick up a Batman comic. Good to see that Bruce has instilled a love the classics in the kid.
Narration: Yes, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is just a dusty, corny old classic...
Linkara: Yeah, because ghosts, the fear of death, an in-depth character piece, and social commentary are (makes "finger quotes") "corny"! (slaps himself in the head)
Narration: And like it couldn't happen today...or could it?
(Cut back to Harvey Finevoice and the Ghost of Christmas Present)
Harvey: (arms crossed) Ugh, tell me about it.
Ghost: Look, you're obviously upset. Let's break for a commercial.
Harvey: Commercial? What the hell are you talking about–
(The screen suddenly goes black as we go to commercial; upon return, Harvey is stunned)
Harvey: What the hell just happened?!
Ghost: A necessary evil to sustain our livelihood.
Harvey: It felt really cold.
(The comic review resumes)
Narration: In this Christmas of 1967, are things and people-- the spirit of the season-- really any different than they ever were?
Linkara: Damn right! Treatments for various diseases that existed at the time are totally the same as in the past.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to a junkyard owned by "Ebenezer Scrounge". I know it's supposed to be a play on "Scrooge", but we once again follow the tradition of supervillains having a name that sounds like something. Dude is named Scrounge, so he owns a junkyard. Brilliant. And of course, because this is their telling of "A Christmas Carol", our Bob Cratchit is "Bob Ratchet". Subtlety, thy name is "Teen Titans comic". Naturally, Bob Ratchet wants Christmas off, but Scrounge says it'd be a waste of his time and money.
Ratchet: But...But sir...everyone celebrates Christmas!
Linkara: Except for, you know, all the people who don't celebrate Christmas.
Linkara (v/o): Still, Scrounge says he can have Christmas if he keeps at the books, and Ratchet thinks to himself that he needs the job for his family.
Ratchet: (thinking) My kid, Tiny Tom...
Linkara: (incredulously) You actually named your kid "Tiny Tom"??
Ratchet: (thinking) ...needs that automatic wheelchair for Christmas, so he can get around and have a little fun!
Linkara: That's admirable, but there's a reason why Tiny Tim was sickly in the original version, and not just wanted a better cane, you know.
Linkara (v/o): Scrounge sends Ratchet home early as some crooks arrive, and Ratchet is all too happy to leave. However, it seems his son decided to pay his father a visit at work. In his wheelchair. In a snowstorm. Forget the automatic wheelchair, Ratchet, I think you might want to invest in a new brain for your son. Not seeing his father in the office, Tom rolls around to the back and spots Ratchet making a business deal for some of his junk. After Ratchet leaves, he spots one of the goons using some kind of ray gun that shoots pink energy at some wrecked material and – get this – transforms the junk into brand-new material.
Crook: Mr. Big sure has a good thing going here... importing "junk" from overseas and then turning it back into brand-new expensive stuff that he can sell at big profits, without paying any duty! It's foolproof!
Linkara: You have a device that changes broken stuff into new stuff? And you haven't patented the hell out of it?!
Tiny Tom: (thinking) WOW! They're smugglers...
Linkara (v/o): Um, no, they aren't! There is nothing illegal going on here! This is no different than somebody buying something used, fixing it up, and then reselling it. The only difference is that they have a magic gun that does the fixing. This isn't smuggling, this is what normal people do all the damn time! Tom manages to hurry back to his dad and tell him what's up. He says they should go to the police, but Ratchet thinks that Scrounge should explain himself first. So he goes to the guy, and Scrounge naturally doesn't give a rat's ass what they're doing as long as they pay him. Scrounge threatens Ratchet to not tell the police or he's fired, and what's more, tells him that he will work on Christmas just to keep an eye on him. And so he takes his son home... Geez, this kid must have frostbite by now, considering how long he's been out in the cold this evening... and tells him he can't risk losing the job.
Ratchet: How could I buy that electric wheelchair for you? I promised your mother before she died...
Linkara: You promised your wife on her deathbed to get her son an electric wheelchair? I think she'd understand, dude!
Linkara (v/o): Fortunately, Tiny Tom has help he can call. Yes, the premise of the Teen Titans series at the time was that they would get called up by teenagers who were having problems and needed help, kinda like a teenaged, superpowered A-Team. And of course, as we learned in the "Brave and the Bold #54" review, all teenagers share a hive mind, wherein they have the exact same opinions and way of speaking. As such, of course all teenagers everywhere know how to get in contact with them. And so the four Titans arrive. Yeah, no Speedy in this one, so sadly, no more jokes about his dead daughter or his goofy turn to evil. The four stow away on a truck that the, quote-unquote, "crooks" are using to transport the material. The "crooks" dump the junk in the middle of an open field for absolutely no reason, but are suddenly attacked by a shadowy figure who beats them up. After forcing the goons to run, the shadowy figure makes his escape, and the Titans follow. Said shadowy figure arrives at Scrounge's house and knocks on his door. The figure starts yelling for Scrounge, who recognizes the voice.
Scrounge: Jacob Farley!
Linkara: (clutching his forehead in pain) "Jacob Farley"? You know, when Doctor Who did "A Christmas Carol", the Doctor was deliberate in trying to recreate the story. This is so unlikely that I'm starting to think the Infinite Improbability Drive is somewhere in that junkyard.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and Jacob Farley is dressed in stereotypical striped prison wear. Of course he is. Farley attacks Scrounge, wanting revenge for some wrong he committed, but the Titans storm in and intervene. Farley explains that the two used to be partners and had sold some defective material that ended up killing someone. As a result, Farley had the sole blame put on him. Scrounge, being a dick, decides to call the cops to throw them all out of his house, and in the commotion, Farley escapes.
Robin: Come on, Titans! Bug out--!
Linkara: (confused) Uh... Okay, Robin. (puts down comic and uses his fingers to pull up his eyelids, widening his eyes)
Linkara (v/o): Robin points out the absurdity of the situation, in that everyone resembles a character from "A Christmas Carol", and instead of questioning the metaphysical aspect of this, and the possibility of their lives being nothing but a work of fiction, they instead hit upon the idea to continue the story and get Scrounge to get his ways. On Christmas Eve, after Ratchet is sent home, Scrounge sticks around in case the goons show up again, but instead, he's visited by Kid Flash wearing big purple robes and claiming to be the Ghost of Christmas Past. He shows Scrounge a photo of him in his younger days... Where the hell did they get that? ...including his former lover, who left him for another man. Aaand that was it, apparently: show Scrounge a photo and then leave. Brilliant strategy!
(Cut to a well-used clip on this show, that of the title character from Patton, who does his usual thing)
Patton: (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Scrounge flees into the night, but is stopped by another Titan in the exact same robes, this time as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Come on, guys, you didn't even try to make the spirits look distinct. You guys are really half-assing this. Anyway, they show him Ratchet digging around in the snow for components to fix his son's wheelchair, pointing out that the low pay wage is his fault.
Ghost: It's your fault his father must work on Christmas Day--and can't afford the new electric wheelchair so Tom can move about like other children!
Linkara: Uh, that's not what an electric wheelchair does, you know. Or do all the kids have electric wheelchairs?
Linkara (v/o): And finally, we have Wonder Girl, showing up as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Being a mere girl, she had to show off her legs and not get the purple cloak, instead wearing a Santa-style robe. They play the sounds of people talking about Scrounge dying and no one caring, save for Tiny Tom, who says there's good in him.
Linkara: You know, just because there's good in him, doesn't mean he isn't an asshole.
Linkara (v/o): However, the group is interrupted by the crooks, who are apparently accompanied by Mr. Big himself.
Linkara: Why is "Mr. Big" always the default criminal gang boss name? I mean, I know "Mr. Tiny" isn't going to be very intimidating, but you could always just go with another name.
Linkara (v/o): The crooks shoot at Wonder Girl and apparently graze her, which is enough to knock her out and send her plummeting to the ground. The crooks reveal that she's a Teen Titan, and Scrounge realizes he's been tricked. The other Titans arrive and attack the crooks.
Aqualad: Howling hogfish...
Linkara: Aqualad... (shakes head) hogfish don't howl.
Linkara (v/o): In the storm of the battle, the junkyard's many pieces of, well, junk scatter all around the place.
Robin: Wonder Chick--she'll be buried!
Linkara: Robin, she has super strength; I think she'll be fine. Well, actually, a mere winging by a bullet knocked her out cold, so what the hell?
Linkara (v/o): While Kid Flash deals with the junk pile, an electromagnet is activated that lifts Wonder Girl up to it by her bracelets.
Aqualad: Suffering sticklebacks!
Linkara: (angrily) AQUALAD, STOP SHOUTING CATCHPHRASES!!
Linkara (v/o): Donna finally wakes up as she's dropped into a car compactor.
Wonder Girl: Merciful Minerva!... Give me strength!
Linkara: YOU CAN FLY!
Linkara (v/o): Mr. Big activates some kind of anti-trespassing device for the area, and no, I have no idea what the hell the thing is. It just suddenly attracts the Titans into a big pile of junk and gets them trapped inside it. Nearby, Tiny Tom pleads with Scrounger [sic] to stop Mr. Big, while Aqualad gets sucked into the junk pile as well.
Aqualad: Moaning mackerel!
Linkara: ANNOYING ATLANTIAN!
Linkara (v/o): Tom tries to intervene to save the Titans, but they just pull him from the wheelchair and wreck it for good measure. After witnessing this, Scrounge has a change of heart and saves the Titans, who quickly attack and kick the asses of the goons, knocking them into the junk pile.
Scrounge: Your "visits," as the three spirits, made me see what I was really like-- made me see what a miserable old miser I've become!
Linkara: (as Scrounge) I've learned that I can be an asshole, but still have a rich social life. Out of my way, losers!
Linkara (v/o): He says he'll give Ratchet a big raise and he doesn't have to come in on Christmas. Plus, he'll try to get Farley's sentence reversed.
Scrounge: And so your dad won't have to spend his hard-earned money, I'll use Mr. Big's secret junk transformer to make your old wheelchair into a nice, new electric model!
Linkara: What exactly is the setting for that? You know, setting from (pretends to turn a knob) "wheelchair" to "electric one"? Is that on the turny-knob dial thing for the device?
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with our heroes all gathered together with Ratchet and Tiny Tom while speaking how Bob Haney thought teenagers talked.
Tiny Tom: Check, Titans! Best wishes to all--for a swinging and groovy new year... and bless us everyone!
Linkara: (as Tiny Tom) I know the quote is "God bless us everyone," but (shrugs) God has nothing to do with this. (closes comic and holds it up) Yeah, this comic sucks... mostly.
Linkara (v/o): Looking past the goofy dialogue or the like, the main problem is the adaptation of "A Christmas Carol". The ghosts are just really done with so fast that you'll wonder why they even bothered. Hell, they go out of their way to have everyone have close to the same names as the original... but apparently it didn't take much for Scrounge to turn good. And what the hell was the deal with the so-called "smugglers"? THEY WEREN'T DOING ANYTHING WRONG! However, while the story problems really drop this thing into "sucks" territory, I can give a huge positive to the original art and colors. While there was the occasional place where the revised additions' coloring was better, for the most part, the original artwork was a hell of a lot moodier than the revised version, which helped the atmosphere of the story. The revised colors, like making the cloaks purple*, are just bizarre, and in some cases, they swapped the colors of two characters side-by-side from the original version for no reason at all.
- NOTE: The cloaks in the original are yellow.
Linkara: Well, Christmas is next Monday, and hopefully, it'll be a lot groovier than this comic.
(Cut back to Harvey Finevoice and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Harvey's arms are crossed)
Harvey: Geez, the kid sure knows how to pick 'em.
Ghost: Your kid?
Harvey: The kid.
Ghost: Mr. Finevoice, where do you think you are right now?
(Suddenly, Harvey clutches at his own face and stumbles away, as howling winds are heard and the room turns white; cut to the end credits, with the MST3K gang in the background singing their Christmas song "Merry Christmas...If That's Okay")
So why did Jacob Farley just decide to randomly attack the crooks in the woods?
You know... Tom's not actually that Tiny. In fact, given how they're only changing people's LAST names in the story, I think Bob Haney actually thought that in the book, Tiny Tim's first name WAS Tiny.
Also: Wonder Girl got the stupid legless Santa outfit in the original comic, too. Did they think that women's legs don't get cold in winter?
And yes, I'm aware of Lian being in the Young Justice cartoon. That's very nice, but I don't watch it. And a TV show and the comics are not the same thing.
(Stinger: The final panel is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): Okay, why the hell does Bob Ratchet look like Gerald Ford in the final panel?