Titans: Scissors, Paper, Stone
April 13, 2015
Teen Titans Go! ...somewhere else, since this really has nothing to do with you.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. We end our four weeks of Patreon-sponsored episodes with something that thankfully doesn't involve vampires!
(A montage of past DC comics Linkara looked at is shown, starting with "Superman: Distant Fires")
Linkara (v/o): No, in fact, this is one I probably should've looked at a year or two ago, when I was on a Teen Titans kick. You see, we've spotlighted a lot of Elseworlds stories on the show before...
(As the montage continues, Linkara mentions the stories in passing)
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an issue of "The New Teen Titans")
Linkara (v/o): But today, we're looking at something unique: a Teen Titans Elseworlds. As far as I know, this is pretty much the only Teen Titans Elseworlds story...
(Cut to the cover of another Elseworlds story featuring the Titans)
Linkara (v/o): ...aside from an annual issue that reimagined the Titans in a fantasy setting, but it's hard to count that one among the stuff I've reviewed before since it wasn't an original story pitched to the company. All of DC's annual issues at the time were doing an Elseworlds theme.
(Cut to another Titans comic: "The New Teen Titans Games")
Linkara (v/o): The closest to another one is "The New Teen Titans Games", but frankly, I tend to think of that one as being canon, despite a few continuity hiccups.
Linkara: Well, I say "canon", but the universe that story took place in was, like, three or four reboots ago, so who the hell knows?
Linkara (v/o): And isn't that bizarre? With as popular as the Teen Titans have been in the last twenty, thirty years, you'd think there'd be more, but this is it.
Linkara: I guess they were too busy trying to think of stuff like "What if Batman was Freddy Kreuger?" or something.
Linkara (v/o): It was made by writer and artist Adam Warren. While Humberto Ramos from "Crimson #1" was compared to a stereotypical manga style of artwork...
(Cut to shots of Warren's comic series for Dark Horse Comics, "The Dirty Pair")
Linkara (v/o): ...Warren's artwork really does match up more, quite frankly. His artwork really does tend to look like it was made in Japan. I think it's the hair and the eyes, mostly. Warren got his big break in comics by creating an English comic version of the manga "Dirty Pair". It's kind of like how America will sometimes do their own version a British TV show, except in this case, it's comics and manga.
(Cut to shots of yet another comic series by Warren: "Empowered")
Linkara (v/o): He did a lot of writing for the comic "Gen. 13", but these days, a lot of the work he's done has been on an original project called "Empowered". It's about a superheroine whose outfit is made of a very thin, skintight material, so it's prone to being ripped apart.
Linkara: And while this may sound like the beginning of a porno, it's actually apparently meant to be a deconstruction of the tendency of superheroines in comics to wear revealing attire and for their own outfits to be strategically ripped and reveal fan service– I mean, skin.
Linkara (v/o): A lot of people have asked me before what my opinions are on it, and I don't have any because I've never read it. I'm sure it's good. I've seen plenty giving it praise, particularly for the main character, who tries to continue fighting evil in the face of adversity and ridicule by both other heroes and villains alike. It's just that I've always found the concept a little iffy, since it seems like it's trying to be a deconstruction while at the same time, just doing the same thing that it's trying to take apart. But hey, that's just me, and I'm in no position to judge it. No, instead, we're back to our odd beast of an Elseworlds story, which I can't seem to find any information about why it was created, other than it originally being proposed for an annual issue of "New Titans".
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Titans: Paper, Scissors, Stone" and find why this story got to be the sole Elseworlds effort for my favorite team.
(AT4W title theme plays; title card has "Hooked On Polkas" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is a bit crowded. We've got this girl [Jamadagni, AKA Witchie-poo], whom I presume to be Sailor Mercury, given that symbol on her forehead, front and center and the only one we get a decent look at. And what a look it is, what with her boob socks and her trusty armored chastity belt. The thing isn't even attached to her straps. Is it just clinging to the fabric, or are her thigh muscles just really that strong? The boob socks thing really confuses me when the blonde girl [Gabrielle, AKA Prosthetic Lass] has a more sports bra appearance to her clothes. Also, her chest reads "AKWATIK GIR". I'd say she misspelled "aquatic", except the fact that it says "GIR" pretty much explains away any spelling errors.
(Cut to a clip of Invader Zim)
GIR: (bursting out of a turkey) It's me! I was the turkey all along!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): We can pretty much only see her upper body, which seems to be having a slight skin problem, given that it's disintegrating away. The other two people on the cover are hidden by rocks... or by lens flares, in the case of the guy up top [Dead Pretty Boy]. The remaining guy [Alec, AKA Captain Thug] you probably wouldn't even notice at first glance, since the colors just make him look like he's blending into the rocks. At the bottom of the cover are these cute chibi versions of Robin, Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg. And really, all this is doing is making wish I was reading "Tiny Titans" right now.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with... uh, the sun exploding.
Linkara: You know, I joke about that all the time in these reviews; it's just really weird to see that actually happening for once.
Linkara (v/o): These four are observing it with a mixed reaction of brooding indifference, brooding indifference, dull surprise, and...
Linkara (v/o): You know, whatever the hell reaction "AIYAAAA" is. And now I can finally get a good look at whom I presume to be our Teen Titans. And they look nothing like any of the Titans. I know that that's the idea of the Elseworlds, put familiar characters in unfamiliar settings, but there's nothing familiar about them. I mean, maybe to that "Team of Titans" book that had EXTREEEEME characters, but just from a glance, I couldn't tell you who these people are supposed to resemble. Oh, except for the blonde girl. With the "AKWATIK GIR" shirt, you could probably guess that she's Aquagirl.
Linkara: Spoilers: She's not Aquagirl.
Linkara (v/o): Also, her falsies seem to be falling out of her shirt. So it's actually not the sun exploding, but something teleporting in. What's arriving?
Dead Pretty Boy: Products of Baroque Meatgarden Polycorp. One minor Nirasawa-class warrior Clade. Five semiautonomous subunit Clades share multiplexed consciousness. Clades vatgrown for low-intensity warfare on medium-tech cultures nanoassembled with only grav, energy, gauss and biochem weapons.
(Cut to a clip of Pulp Fiction)
Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson): (to Brett) English, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!
(Back to the comic again)
Dead Pretty Boy: Could be worse. Could be Demogorgan-class warrior Clade.
Linkara: I'm just gonna assume you said something about multimodal reflection sorting and move on.
Linkara (v/o): It's hard to even describe what we're looking at anyway. It seems to be some kind of Zerg Overmind from StarCraft launching out creatures with lots of glowing neon paint on them. Well, whatever they are, they begin attacking the nearby city and causing widespread destruction.
Witchie-poo: But...But I was expecting something smaller... and easier to handle...
Captain Thug: Get serious, Witchy-poo [sic]. This is a classic "superhero scenario."
Linkara: (as Captain Thug) Right alongside "women tragically dying to advance the stories of the male heroes" and "one of our teammates betraying us". It's classic!
Captain Thug: Big, dumb, slavering monsters are wreaking havoc on your city. And only you can stop them.
Linkara: So, basically, (points to screen) are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?
Captain Thug: So strike a dramatic pose, grit your teeth, snarl something stirring and memorable... then go kick some.
Linkara: Ah, I see he's been reading the guide to '90s superheroes. (points to screen) The snarling part is really important.
Witchie-poo: Well, you heard our genuine superhero, Eduniki. These Clades certainly look tough, but we can take 'em. Remember, superheroes never lose.
Linkara: Oh, dear, they seem to be drawing inspiration from superheroes made when the Comics Code was significant.
Linkara (v/o): The blonde girl suddenly charges forward, contorting her body in a way not dissimilar to that horrible "Catwoman #0" cover. We cut to Saraswati, a "humanocentric educlave and research institute", or in not-made-up words, a big asteroid full of buildings and stuff to help "baseline humans" deal with the diaspora of the human race into outer space. It's apparently a flashback where we see the blonde girl from earlier, Gabrielle, meeting Alec, the redhead, and the black lady, who goes by Jamadagni. And I'm pretty sure I'm mispronouncing that. Jamadagni and Alec used to date, and she's come here because she has a favor to ask Gabrielle.
Jamadagni: I really, really need your help. More specifically, I need your body.
Linkara (v/o): Gabrielle is naturally a bit floored by that statement.
Linkara: (as Jamadagni) Don't worry, I only need it for sexual purposes.
Linkara (v/o): Also, because this is the future, Alex's [sic] jersey apparently can rotate through different images of anime and manga characters. I don't recognize the first two here, but the last is clearly Ryoko from Tenchi Muyo.
Linkara: Ryoko, my favorite member of the Teen Titans. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): Jama reveals that Gabrielle's original body had been destroyed in a fire storm, but one of her mothers had some pull with her company to have her brain installed into a decommissioned combat prosthesis, meaning Gabrielle is basically a cyborg.
Jamadagni: I'm a wizard, Gabrielle.
Linkara: Are we sure this isn't an Elseworlds for Harry Potter?
Linkara (v/o): Jama says that the body resembles a human to the finest detail.
Jamadagni: Your prosthesis eats, sleeps, sweats, even menstruates in perfect imitation of your original body.
Linkara: (as Gabrielle) Yeah, I'm just so happy my mom included that detail with this body.
Linkara (v/o): Jama wants to restore her combat capabilities. Also, Jama's forehead image keeps alternating, sometimes resembling non-English characters, other times just being random symbols. She talks about all the things Gabrielle's body is capable of: enhanced strength and speed, built-in combat skills...
Jamadagni: ...and your fake digestive system could easily produce plastic explosives, you know!
Linkara: (as Jamadagni) Don't even get me started on what comes out of your nose!
Linkara (v/o): Gabrielle claims that her soldier mode can't be activated because of a software lock, but almost immediately, she gets an email with a code to disable the software lock, one taken from a deep black military program.
Alec: Jama wasn't kidding, Gab. She really is a wizard, an honest-to-Ghod "Nietzschean Genemage"!
Linkara: (confused) When you stare into the magic, the magic stares into you?
Linkara (v/o): Jama gives a demonstration of her powers, summoning up a giant green fireball.
Jamadagni: The theory is, "magi" of my tradition inherit a giga rare genetic trait that allows them to, quote, "alter the very structure of reality," unquote... somehow.
Linkara: Or in other words, it's magic; I don't have to explain it.
Linkara (v/o): She tries to further explain that it's a combination of her genetics and sheer force of will that allows her to make the space-time continuum roll over and play dead. Further, she can empower and utilize...
Jamadagni: ...almost any pre-existing "mystical" belief system, however bizarre or ridiculous or blatantly false it might be.
Linkara: So she can make "Marville" not suck? We stand before a goddess!
Linkara (v/o): What's more, it's not just about belief systems, but rituals that can take on a more literal meaning or power. And if you stretch the definition of "ritual" a bit, games can be considered rituals of a different sort, and Alec points out that Jama can do amazing things with "scissors, paper, stone"; hence, the title of the book. Gabrielle, a bit overwhelmed by this, isn't really interested in unlocking the military potential of her body... and we cut away from the flashback to her having, well, unlocked the military potential of her body to slice a monster apart. She even encounters two of her friends, who are shocked and horrified to see that she's a cyborg.
Linkara: There must have been some kind of war with cyborgs or something, since if I found out my friend was a cyborg, my reaction would be so far from disgust that you would think it was a (reaches arm out) cyborg extend-o-arm.
Linkara (v/o): More monsters attack and Gabrielle vomits up some explosives. I'm not even kidding. Unfortunately, she's then swallowed up by some sort of KIRA monster as we go back into the flashback. It's time to meet the black-haired member of the team, named... Edunuki? Or possibly Hikarimono. The problem with trying to determine stuff like this is that the book has already thrown out a crap-ton of made-up slang.
Linkara: And if 2090s Kid were here, I'm sure he would say that that's "so totally sewing machine of them."
Linkara (v/o): Alec says that his friend wants to talk to him about xenophysiology, but he denies any knowledge of the subject. However, Jama suddenly teleports in behind him and floats above the water.
Hikarimono: JEEZUS RICE--!
Linkara: (confused) So, in the future, Christianity has become about rice? Are there holy wars between white rice and brown rice?
Linkara (v/o): Jama says that Hikarimono is full of it. He's host to an alien life form and the research biology lab is researching him. Later, he explains that he's being possessed by a being made of pure energy and that it's scrambled his brain a bit, in particular, his language centers. He has trouble speaking pronouns, which kind of makes him sound like he's putting on a Russian accent. He says the life form is laying dormant in him because it needs to be in an energy-rich environment to move around. Thus, the only way to remove it is to move him to the galactic core. However, Jama sees things a little differently, that he's capable of access the energy creature's own abilities and fling energy blasts.
Linkara: Um, if the energy creature is starving from lack of energy, doesn't that mean accessing its powers and using up energy would be killing it?
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of dead things, it turns out that the energy life form can only possess dead beings, so he was dead at the time he was possessed. Ah, zombie superheroes. Back to present time, more fight scenes, as Hikarimono blasts through some more creatures in some admittedly rather beautiful shots. This is four pages, too. Excessive actions scenes? Maybe, but as busy as they are, I actually rather like 'em. But let's move on to the next part of our origin story, wherein Jama wants to shove a computer chip into the back of Alec's head, because the Matrix is apparently still a thing 6,000 years in the future. She explains that it contains an "illegal personality construct" of a superhero, with skills and knowledge that might be useful to them. Alec reluctantly lets her do it since he trusts her.
Jamadagni: Maybe you shouldn't, Alec.
Linkara: Oh, come on, you're just overriding his own personality some random superhero using illegal technology and magic that involves shoving a thumb drive into (feels behind his neck) the back of his neck. This can only end in good! (gives a thumbs-up)
Linkara (v/o): I'm guessing they're gonna end up with Captain Tax Time inside of that thing. But no! Want to know who is inside of it? Batman. Even in an Elseworlds that has nothing to do with him, somehow, they needed to bring friggin' Batman into it. It's a pretty grouchy Batman at that, who figures something is going down, since he only gets downloaded like this when a disaster is about to happen.
Jamadagni: ...A giga clysm's about to happen, and I'm recreating the mythic pattern of a particular team of superheroes, the "Titans," to combat it.
Linkara: (mock surprise) And yet, no recreation of (image of the following appears in the corner...) Hornblower?
Jamadagni: I've already lined up a tormented cyborg and a token alien...
Linkara: Okay, show of hands: what's more disrespectful to Starfire's character, her appearance in "Red Hood and the Outlaws #1" or being described as a (makes a "finger quote") "token alien"?
Linkara (v/o): Bat-Alec gathers that Jama is the Raven of the group, the sorceress, based on all the different magic symbols on her walls.
Alec: (speaking in Batman's voice, as he does throughout the rest of the comic) So how do you reconcile all these contradictory systems of magic?
Jamadagni: Oh, I can't reconcile them, since they're all Badnano and I don't believe in any of them. But I can still use them, nonetheless. So there.
Linkara: Okay, you're not the sorceress of the group, you're the resident bullcrap shoveler.
Jamadagni: Anyway, I've gathered three of the four superheroic archetypes I need to recreate the Titans' pattern. To complete the team, I need--
Alec: You need a dick.
Linkara: Keep talking like that and you will, too.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, he means they need a Dick Grayson.
Alec: That's the "secret identity" of Robin, or Nightwing, whatever. He's your fourth archetype. A good-natured thug lacking superpowers, but well-armed with a positive attitude.
Linkara: (as Alec) Preferably, he should be twelve years old and amenable to painting things yellow.
Alec: I'll play his role for you, assuming that this "clysm" of yours is real. I'm sure Dick would be amused.
Linkara: (as Alec) Joke's on him! I got to be a computer program in the future!
Linkara (v/o): When he mentions how he'll try to keep her boyfriend's body undamaged, Jama corrects to say he's her ex, but then realizes that he has access to Alec's memories.
Jamadagni: A-All of his memories...?
Alec: That's right... "nummy-muffin."
Linkara: This whole book was worth just to have Batman say (makes a "finger quote") "nummy-muffin".
Linkara (v/o): Back in the present, Bat-Alec saves Jama from green gas unleashed by the attackers. It's some kind of agent that affects the brain and drives people berserk, which is what's now happening to civilians, so he quickly goes down to deal with them.
Alec: I'll handle them. You can go alakazam some monsters.
Linkara: (as Alec) But don't go to mega-alakazam. We're saving our mega-evolution for Gengar.
Linkara (v/o): So he proceeds to beat up some people, even at one point picking up a blonde woman and using her body as a club. Before you think that means he's using her whole body, no, I mean he's swinging her around and using her legs to kick people in the face. We go back in time again, but this time, they're all gathered in preparation for the cataclysm that day. Jama says that according to her premonitions, it'll somehow involve the summoning of some sort of demon or monster. Hikarimono theorizes that it might have something to do with the creature that's being imported into the xenobiology department: "a bioengineered living chemical factory". Jama then explains what the hell she's hoping to accomplish by having them resemble the Titans in the most superficial of ways: a form of sympathetic magic based around the idea that by making them embody superhero archetypes, her magic will cause them to actually become those full archetypes and thus win a battle of good vs. evil. She's recreating the Titans in particular because of how they first teamed up, or rather, how the new Teen Titans formed up fighting Trigon... who didn't fight them in their first battle. Or does she mean how the very original Teen Titans got together post-crisis when they fought Antithesis? Unless fighting Mr. Twister counts as "a demon summoning", although Cyborg, Raven and Starfire were not part of that. But whatever. She's quoting from long-lost myths here, so things are bound to get a bit screwed up. While the writing on this is kind of dense, I actually rather think the ideas here are interesting, that representations of things take on a new reality like that. Sure, it's getting a magical push, but it's still pretty nifty and kind of original for an Elseworlds story. Anyway, Jama suggests that they need codenames of their own to continue the resemblance.
Linkara: (as Batman, pointing around) Robin 1, Robin 2, and Orpheus. Orpheus, your job is to die in a terrible crossover event and never be mentioned ever again.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the more logical path, especially as an Elseworlds, would be for them to take on the names of the heroes they resemble, but nope, Jama has her own names: Alec will be "Captain Thug", Gabrielle will be "Prosthetic Lass", and Hikarimono will be "Dead Pretty Boy".
Linkara: (makes a "finger quote") "Pretty" is not the first word that comes to mind when I think "walking corpse".
Linkara (v/o): Captain Thug decides to name Jama.
Captain Thug: You'll be... "Witchy-poo."
Linkara: Yyyyeah, I'm pretty sure they got the "ASBAR" version of Batman by mistake.
Jamadagni, AKA Witchy-poo: Well, another critical element of legendary superheroism was the wearing of hilariously garish costumes, clothes that totally contravened contemporary societal norms...! As in eyegouging and outre fashions, which were invariably either skintight or skimpy as could be imagined...!
Linkara: I would use the MST3K clip of (makes a "finger quote") "Sure glad I don't look stupid in this," buuut she just admitted she's supposed to look stupid. (points to camera) Well played, comic. (nods)
Witchy-poo: Well, I've always thought that all those tight and/or scanty outfits were some kind of sexual display thing.
Linkara: They usually are. For the artist, anyway.
Captain Thug: At least you didn't find about the capes...
Linkara: That reminds me, I'm still waiting on my vampire cape from last week.
Linkara (v/o): Witchy-poo... Ugh! ...says that if they recreate the Titans' patterns accurately, they should have nothing to fear.
Witchy-poo: You see, all "superhero mythology has one charmingly naive concept*... that, in the end, the "good guys" never, ever, ever, lose!
- NOTE: Witchy-poo actually "precept", not "concept".
Linkara: The future has really bad mythological records.
Linkara (v/o): And back to the battle, where Witchy-poo... Sounds dumber every time I say it. ...is using her magics in the fight, including a demonstration of the "rock, paper, scissors" magic, wherein she casts the spell and one of three effects happens, in this case, stone, which basically smashes one of the monsters away. Unfortunately, she's starting to feel the psychological effects of this.
Witchy-poo: And I thought being a superhero would be...fun, sorta... but this was just...just terrifying! Not like a simulation at all!
Captain Thug: See? There's more to "superheroism" than playing dress-up, after all.
Linkara: (as Captain Thug) There's also the constant vigilance against rock 'n' roll music, although, according to your boyfriend's memories... you finally eliminated that! (gives a thumbs-up) Kudos! There's also warning children away from downed power lines and berating people for warming their houses with ovens.
Linkara (v/o): As the two continue to talk, however, a monster sneaks up behind them, and Captain Thug blocks Witchy-poo with his body, taking all the hits for her. Prosthetic Lass manages to save them, although her clothes have burned off in the process. Because of course they have. And Witchy finishes off the monster with "Scissors." And of course, Bat-Alec is now dying.
Captain Thug: Sorry... Witchy-poo... couldn't save your boyfriend's body... He's gone...
Linkara: (as Captain Thug) So... does this mean... you're available now?
Linkara (v/o): He asks if they won and she confirms it.
Captain Thug: Good... s'per... heroes... generally do win... but teams... always... lose a member... sooner... or later... A lil' tragedy... s'part of... the mythology...
Linkara: (as Captain Thug) Just wait 'til you guys get to the part with clones! That's always fun!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Witchy-poo disconnecting the flash drive from his neck, saying goodbye in the process.
Witchy-poo: I chose this stupid mythology 'cause it was so bright and happy and silly... That way maybe no one would get hurt...
Linkara: (incredulously) Dear Lord in heaven, you really knew nothing about the Titans when you conceived this plan, did you?!
Witchy-poo: ...but in the end, everything just turns out glum and tragic... and still silly, somehow.
Linkara: Insert your own joke about "The New 52" here.
Witchy-poo: Superheroes suck.
Linkara: Um... you suck! It was your own stupid plan! (closes comic) As for this comic... (holds it up) I don't know, I want to say it sucks, especially with the unnecessarily dark ending, but it's got a lot of interesting ideas. It's a bizarre enigma.
Linkara (v/o): The story doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. If it's meant to be a deconstruction of superheroes, well, fair enough, but that only seems to come in the last few pages. The idea behind trying to create representations of superheroes and perform magic to turn the ideas behind them into reality is really quite fascinating. But instead, the positivity is forgotten. There's only the barest of character development on display. It feels like this was meant to be the start of a series that never happened, but this ending would have probably put the kibosh on any future stories, since it's unlikely they'd want to be superheroes if they all felt so bad about it. However, the artwork is pretty damn good, and while a very strange sort of book, I can't really say it's awful. One thing I didn't like was the constant use of future slang when we only have the barest hints of what the hell they're talking about. And the few bits of characterization we did get were mostly banter.
Linkara: I don't agree with its ending message, and why this is a story around the Titans of all things is a mystery, but it's definitely worth a read, if only for curiosity's sake. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
It would have been much easier for Jama if she had just patterned her team after Youngblood. Every member would be identical!
When you think of about it, of COURSE this situation was going to end with someone dying because Jama didn't have the accurate details of the way the Titans first gathered together, so it would naturally go wrong.
(Stinger: A panel showing Prosthetic Lass after the battle is shown)
Linkara (v/o): So, when Prosthetic Lass is injured, her skin turns into bubble gum?