Friday, December 22, 2006

Teen Titans Go! #37

Teen Titans Go! #37, January 2007, DC Comics
writer: J. Torres
artist: Sean Galloway
letterer: John J. Hill
editor: Tom Palmer, Jr.

The cover of Teen Titans Go! #37 really spoke to me. Really. Silkie, Starfire’s caterpillar-like alien pet, donning the magical villain Mumbo’s enchanted top hat, is happily exclaiming, “Happy Birthday,” and, well, today is my birthday. I picked up this issue a few weeks ago in anticipation of reading it today, and I must say, as a superhero fan and a general viewer of the now cancelled Teen Titans animated series, this story was a pleasant treat. First of all, any avid readers of A Comic A Day must know by now that I’m a holiday nut, and this story is narrated in rhythmic rhyme akin to The Night Before Christmas. Secondly, when Mumbo’s hat blows onto Silkie’s head, and the heretofore mute slug utters his happy birthday proclamation, Starfire, even in the face of her glee, doesn’t actually acknowledge that it is her birthday. In fact, as it’s the day the after Christmas, such a plot device is highly unlikely. So, to whom is Silkie sending his best wishes? Hmm? Like I said, Teen Titans Go! #37 really spoke to me.

Yesterday’s read, the similarly holiday themed Justice League Unlimited #28, also appealed to my childlike sensibilities with its clever cover blurb, “Deck the Hall . . . of Justice!” The combination of the Christmas catchphrase and the old Super Powers reference was a synthesis of utterly guiltily pleasurable proportions. Further, these two issues read back to back offer an insight into the Johnny DC imprint, DC’s attempt to target a younger audience primarily through the franchises that crossover with successful television series, i.e. Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and their Cartoon Network anthology titles. These two issues feature single-issue stories, with little more than the readers’ interest in the characters as an incentive to drop in and out of the series.

Further, the artistic style utilized in these titles is sharp and distinctive, formatting the Bruce Timm standard into an expressionist explosion of graphic energy that only kids could follow without the scrutiny of a magnifying glass. The opening splash page of JLU #28 is a meticulous montage of Christmas paraphernalia, all in the wake of Clayface’s attack on the Flash. I didn’t realize the depth of this image until I reread the issue, and many panels throughout the issue offer similar detail. The artists’ use of varying line widths really emphasize the important elements in each panel, while conversely drawing the eye to the equally fervent but intentionally understated background. Teen Titans Go! implements a slightly different technique, actually experimenting with a rack focus filter, as if some particular panels were still-frames from a Teen Titans episode. Although the effect conveys depth, Sean Galloway’s minimalist but expressive art style is lost in the fuzz. Silkie could probably attest after his brief stint as a speaker, it doesn’t matter what you say if it isn’t spoken clearly enough for folks to understand.

Most importantly, cover blurbs and frivolous imprints aside, these issues have something else in common: both of them incorporate classical Christmas myths into the modern legend of our favorite animated heroes. In the JLU, the Phantom Stranger gives the Flash a Ghost-of-Christmas-Past-like tour of Batman’s troubled childhood, and in Teen Titans Go!, the magic top hat motif has Frosty the Snowman written all over it. One can only assume that some kid somewhere is experiencing these holiday mainstays for the first time, thanks to these issues. Each legend makes the other relevant, in their own charming, unique way. You know, when I purchased Justice League Unlimited #28, along with tomorrow’s Betty & Veronica holiday special, at Borders a few nights ago, the clerk smirked and asked if the comics were for me. I may be a year older, but I’ll never be too old for this stuff, even if Johnny DC speaks to kids. Hey, this time, he spoke to the kid in me. Christmastime can have that effect on people.

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