Comic Fodder

How Not To Write A Comic Book - DC Edition!

Okay, the day job asked me to come in early and then leave late, so the normal DC reviews didn't happen this week. But there was one that I just had to talk about, even if it was a little late in the weekly comics game.

A while back I focused an entire article on an issue of the Fantastic Four, because sometimes your only reason for existing is to provide others with an example of what not to do. Well, that time has come again. Besides the new focus features that highlight the best in comics, sometimes you need to shine the spotlight on the worst. The worst this week is Teen Titans.

Teen Titans 79

by Felicia Henderson and Joe Bennett

Problems start on the first page, with Cassie arriving for a sit-down discussion with Cyborg, and she calls him Cyborg. Except they're not in the field, and they're having a very personal discussion. She should call him by his first name, Vic. That's the least of the problems with this comic, because the conversation itself is about Cassie doubting herself as a leader. Or at least thinking that Vic has doubts about her. Since Beast Boy had a big highlight in moving from the Titans to the Teen group, much amateurish in-fighting has been going on about who is in charge. In one page, we reverse the last few issues, the whole point of which was to have Gar come over to help guide the young team. It's bad news when you contradict your entire direction on the first page of your new issue.

The next two pages are a huge mess. The rest of the group is working out, as Megan asks why Gar is checking his watch. We never see a watch. Bombshell decides that if Static isn't present to work out, "I don't either." She says this while she brings up her outer silver shell and kicking a punching bag. Here's a hint to the writer and artist: if the writer has a person saying one thing, don't show her doing the exact opposite. Static enters and declares he is heading to his home, Dakota, to handle a virus that has hit the town. Jaime suggests he wait for Cassie, but he says he's going now.

We cut to Static in Dakota already talking to his sister, who can't tell her where he's been and what he's been doing. Since Static hasn't been part of the DC universe that long, the writer really needed to give us some back-story. Instead, we are plopped down into an ongoing controversy between the siblings that most of us have never heard about before. Then we cut to the rest of the team, who spend an entire page discussing whether they should have gone with Static. This is part of the reason the title has gotten so boring: they already did a similar conversation last issue. It was idiotic then, and it's idiotic now. Veterans like Gar and Raven should have either treated it as a medical issue not worthy of further attention, or a serious issue that called for the team to support their friend. Since we don't have enough detail to figure it out for ourselves, we have to guess about how high the threat level is. The writer thinks this creates drama and/or tension, but all it does is make the entire group seem like a wishy-washy social clique who either don't support their friends, or over-react to every situation. Since we weren't given any insight into the situation yet, we won't know the answer until later. That's poor writing. Bonus bad writing: Gar saying, "I agree but... I don't agree, too." Just to contradict his own agreement/non-agreement, Gar is the final voice of authority to decide that they will go check things out. What are they checking out at this point? A cold? We don't know!

Joe Bennett is at his laziest for art. A picture of the Hawkins' home shows non-descript photos on the wall. In the old days, we would be given a much better vantage point to see exactly what those pictures were. These are generic stand-ins, to fool the reader into thinking the artist spent a decent amount of time on the surrounding environment, when he's really just phoning it in. Wait, let's cut back to the rest of the team. Cassie shows up just as the team is leaving. "Where's the fire?" she asks. Nobody is running or flying, they're all doing a pin-up slow-mo walk. Cassie asks why nobody called her about this virus thing, and Gar claims, "You weren't here. Somebody had to make the call." That's not what she asked. Do the Teen Titans not have communicators, or even simple cell-phones anymore? I've been in a couple of jobs in my lifetime, and one of the first things you do when there's an emergency is to call up the relevant people and at least make sure they know what's going on. Beast Boy has been a long-time hero, member of both the Doom Patrol and the Titans, and after all these years, technically he is slumming with the Teen group. But he can't think to call the official team leader?!? Worse yet, none of the other five members think to do it either?!?!?!?

Here's the worst part: once Cassie hears there's a virus, instead of continuing the discussion the way there, she tells everyone to go back to the briefing room. Beg pardon, but if you're trying to convince us you're a good leader who has the priorities straight, you want to move fast to help out your teammate with the virus, not waste more time delaying the entire team by holding yet another meeting. Folks, welcome to yet another installment of, "Teen Let's sit around the table and talk Titans."

Next we cut again to Static, who spends two pages attacking random people. There's a virus, that much we know, but he hits a guy in a convenience store with a gun, two gangsters trading gunshots on the street in their cars, a mob outside a hospital, two other guys who might have just been tying their shoelaces for all we can tell, because the sloppy art doesn't tie the scene together all that well. For like the third time, he goes back to his family's home as Virgil and insists on repeating that he couldn't call and still can't tell anyone where he's been or what he's been doing. Because us readers can't get the idea after the second time.

Cut again to the rest of the team, and even Bombshell is fed up with what they're doing. "Great," she says. "Another meeting." Hello!?! Get the (censored) out of the (censored) Tower and go help your friend already! Why are you wasting our time in a bad comic, having one of the characters in the comic reinforce how nonsensical you are making them act? Now we get to the part that increases the level of inconsistency and idiocy, all contained in one page.

Cassie announces that she was their leader, but she has been moping instead of leading. Then she declares she's "perfectly capable" of being a good leader. Excuse me, but point of order: if you admit you haven't been a good leader, then how "perfectly capable" can you be? To really convince us of how she has overcome her self-doubt from the first page when she spoke with Victor, she says, "Unless I hear objections." Well, that's a fine example of leadership! Announce you'll be an awesome leader after the mess you've made of things, and declare that's enough of complaints from everyone... unless someone wants to speak up and complain. Then she yells, "Let's go, Team Titans!" So evidently she's decided to change their name, too. There used to be a book called Team Titans, back in the '90s when comic writers thought ponytails were cool, but it didn't last long. If there was a good editor, or assistant editor, or a spell-checker, or a letterer paying attention, or a semi-decent writer... heck, if they would have just let a regular reader see it before it went to press, they could have caught that. How good a leader can Cassie be when she can't get the team name right? She just reminded me of a dozen 'dumb blond' jokes.

I can barely even talk about the nonsense the next time we see the team. Cassie apologizes for keep them waiting. She doesn't apologize for making the whole team tromp off to the meeting room, mind you. See, she had to change into her uniform, which is her red top and cute little jeans that are WAY different from the jeans she had been wearing. These have a little Wonder Girl symbol for a belt buckle! She wants to drive, but is told Gar is already up front, so she says, "Good. He's a better driver." Point of order? Why would she want to drive if she already knows Gar's a better driver. And by the way? They're in a jet. Jets have pilots. They don't have drivers. Who is worse here, the writer, or the editor? Oh, and we spend two panels to learn Megan has a migraine. Exciting!

Cut to Static: for the fourth time, he gets to tell someone that he can't talk about where he's been. Why, I can't remember the last time that happened! It's so lovely for them to keep giving us new, original material from Static. After he switches to his super-hero costume and then back again, he makes sure to talk about it a fifth time, too. The excitement just doesn't stop!

At the very end, Holocaust comes out of nowhere and punches Static, and we get a shot of him on the floor, eyes closed. Then we get a small insert of Static, awake but groggy, saying the bad guy's name for us.

Based on this sample, I hereby request that Felicia Henderson be fired, and never get to write another comic again. The editor, Rachel Gluckstern, should also be fired.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.