Teen Titans, Retro Style.
For the past week I have been working my way through the impressively GIANT “Silver Age Teen Titans Omnibus.” It’s from a time when comics did not know how to “be cool” they just were what they were. The stories are amazingly positive…sort of about the power of young people to overcome negative expectations, and to do good things if given a chance.
They are also so profoundly dated it is incredible. At one point the Titans join the Peace Corps, in another they are called in to clear the good name of a popular boy band. There’s no angst, not a lot of the “inner conflict” that seems to drive a large amount of modern storytelling…and everything is wrapped up in a single issue. It’s pretty substantially different from the comics of today.
Wonder Girl appears, with no explanation, as part of the team in the second issue. Wonder Girl is a character that is quite literally a walking continuity problem, but at this point in DC comics history, it just doesn’t matter. Her costume, which she retains for some time before adopting her more well know one, is actually profoundly practical, especially when we consider what female superheroes are supposed to wear.
She’s basically dressed for gym class. She has a pair of shorts, a tank top with her own logo on it, and sandals. Heck…she wears her hair in a pony tail so that is won’t get in the way. This is a kind of practicality that was rarely seen in superhero design of the time, and even later.
Although her bracelets are like Lynda Carter’s…tiny. In the eighties, we saw the indestructible bracelets turn into full on forearm guards, but in the sixties…you NEEDED both super speed and serious talent to deflect bullets with those things.
I wanted to try my hand at drawing the retro Teen Titan because I’m enjoying the book, but also because of recent internet debate. J. Scott Campbell recently got himself in a lot of trouble as the result of an image that he drew of the new iron themed Marvel character, Riri Williams. The piece was taken as “overly sexualized” and I can’t say that the critics were wrong as such. Riri is supposed to be fifteen, and this spurred activity on the hashtag “#teenwholookliketeens.”
It’s a tricky proposition, given how our entire culture DOES objectify young people, and make them sort of objects. I have a serious beef with that, actually….being a teacher. Bevause of the kinds of ads, the pop culture that surrounds us, the young people I see every day feel the need to conduct themselves in a way that fulfills that set of expectations, instead of perhaps their own.
I think that Wonder Girl up there came out okay. She looks happy, fit, healthy, and ready for gym class. Which is fine by me, because an unusual number of my students fail gym class.