Teen Titans #14, "Requiem for a Titan!"

TEEN TITANS #14; March-April 1968; DC Comics; George Kashdan, editor; 
featuring "Requiem for a Titan!"  written by Bob Haney and drawn by Nick  Cardy.

Review by Bill Henley

It's not often these days I get the  chance to buy and read a Silver Age
comic I've never seen before.  I  picked this one up at a comics show this weekend
though (for a mere buck  and a quarter for a reading copy), so I'll try
reviewing it even as I read it  for the first time.  I had seen the cover, however,
in DC house ads of the  period, and it's a striking one by Cardy (I've said I
didn't care much for  Cardy's cover work when he became DC's workhorse cover
artist for a while, but  his covers were just fine on the titles he handled
himself, such as TITANS and  AQUAMAN.)  A shadowed figure of Robin stands bowed
in a graveyard, as  ghostly figures of his three Titans teammates urge him
"QUIT, ROBIN....QUIT,  QUIT!" and the story title "Requiem for a Titan" appears
on a  tombstone.

The splash scene also takes place in a graveyard, but here  Robin trudges
toward an open grave presumably meant for him (dragging his cape  behind him, as
on the cover) as in the background we see tombstones marked "Kid  Flash",
"Wonder Girl" and "Aqualad".  And perched on a gnarled tree is a  living gargoyle,
asking the Boy Wonder if he is ready for their  "rendezvous".  Yes, he is,
says Robin.  "Then let it be done!   Let the last knell sound for the Teen
Titans!  HAH! HAH!   HAH!"

The Gargoyle orders Robin to toss his cape into the grave before  him, which
Robin does, and then his red tunic.  Robin again obeys-- "Like  whatever you
say, creep!"-- leaving him clad only in his green jerkin and  shorts.  But
Robin balks when the Gargoyle orders him next to remove his  mask, exposing his
secret identity.  "Shall I call back those who have  already gone beyond?", the
Gargoyle asks.  "You have no need of your secret  identity where you are
shortly to go!"  But when the Boy Wonder still  hesitates to expose his face,
ghostly figures of Kid Flash, Aquaman and Wonder  Girl appear, greeting him with
mocking words; ""Look at the kid, team!   He's rockin' with fear!" "Check,
Twinkletoes...he's really got the cold and  clammies!" "Not so high and mighty now,
eh Boy Wonder?  By Hera, let's play  chicken with the chicken!"  Faced with
the spectral anger of his former  teammates, Robin succumbs and removes his
mask, and the Gargoyle bids the ghosts  begone.  With a "mournful moan", Robin
says he is ready to "cross over",  and his bare face undergoes a strange Jekyll
and Hyde like transformation from  the normal features of Dick Grayson to a
more brutish and evil face.   "Excellent!  You are now prepared for the
journey!", says Gargoyle, and he  fires a beam from a ring on his finger that causes
Robin's body to "melt and  fade away", leaving only the remnants of his costume
lying in his grave.   "The Teen Titans are embraced by Limbo.... and in Limbo
rule I, the  Gargoyle!'

But how did all this happen?  For a clue, we visit Titans  Lair, which now
stands empty.  (On a bulletin board are notes such as  "Aqualad, stop tracking
water into the Lair", "Wonder Girl, your mother called,  says don't forget to
polish bracelets", and "Kid Flash, don't be late for next  meeting", along with
congratulatory notes from the Beatles, "from one fab four  to another", and
President Lyndon Johnson (who in real life by 1968 was not  exactly the toast
of the teenage set).  Earlier, however, the team was  present and engaged in
its usual playful banter, as Kid Flash proposes that the  Titans form their own
rock group playing hits such as "I Wanna Hold Your Cape  and Mask!"  Wonder
Girl demurs, "UGGH!  If you cats play like you  joke, it'll be one farewell
performance after another!"  But meanwhile, the  figure of the Gargoyle appears at
a nearby TV station and demands a spot on  "Titans Hookup", a TV show on
which people can appear to give messages to the  Titans.  (Can't they just use a
post office box, like the JLA?)   Despite his bizarre appearance the Gargoyle
insists he has just as much right as  anyone to appear on the show, and the TV
executives go along with it; "OK, put  Mr. Goyle on the tube!"  "Right!  He's
socko in un-living  color!"  During his five minutes of TV fame, the Gargoyle
claims that he is  an ex-convict who wears the weird disguise to hide his
identity-- and that he  served time in prison on a false conviction because one of
the Teen Titans hid  evidence that would have freed him.  Seeing the
broadcast, three of the  Titans angrily deny the possibility of any such wrongdoing,
but Robin wants to  hear more.  The Titans try to figure out if the Gargoyle
can be any of  their former foes in diguise, but conclude he is not fat enough
to be Ding-Dong  Daddy, too grammatical to be the Scorcher, and doesn't have
the right accent for  the Mad Mod.  As Robin remains mostly silent, the other
three become  suspicious, wondering if the Boy Wonder, the team leader who does
all the  detective work, could be guilty of hiding evidence.  The issue is put
on  hold as the Titans are called out on a mission, to stop an incipient riot
at the  Bijou Theater among teeny-boppers outraged because a rock star didn't
show  up.  But when the arriive at the theater, they find the stage and the
seats  empty-- except for the Gargoyle, who has laid a trap for the Titans.

In  part 2 of the story, Robin orders the other Titans to attack the
Gargoyle, but  they hesitate momentarily, and the Gargoyle exploits the pause by
charging that  Robin is sending the others into danger when Robin, and only Robin,
is the one  who deserves to be punished for sending him to prison unjustly. 
Each of  the other Titans wonders if Robin really is guilty and is exploiting
their  loyalty, but before they can resolve their doubts, Gargoyle fires a beam
from  his devil-faced ring which causes Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl to
vanish.  Gargoyle is chagrined that Robin didn't disappear as well-- "I 
should have known the noble, superior Robin would be the last to fall to 
suspicion!"-- but explains that the "doubt and suspicion" in his teammates'  minds
gave Gargoyle the power to send them to Limbo, the realm where he  rules.  An
outraged Boy Wonder uses his circus acrobat skills to pursue the  creeping,
leaping Gargoyle, but he is interfered with by the other Titans  appearing one
after another, in giant phantom form, to attack him.   "Destroy me--?  Why? Why?"
Robin pleads to Aqualad, and is told, "Because  that's our bag, Buster!  We
from Limbo hate all in the real world!"   Kid Flash chimes in, "Getting sent to
Limbosville was the best thing ever  happened to us-- and the WORST gig that
ever happened to YOU!"    Battered back and forth by his renegade teammates,
Robin is finally knocked  unconscious by a falling sandbag, but as the Gargoyle
prepares to rip Robin with  his claws, he is forced to flee by a fire
accidentally started during the  fight.  Disappearing along with his phantom Titans,
the villain leaves an  unconscious Robin to be found and rescued by firemen
called to the burning  theater.  "He must be the lone surviving Titan!" 

In Part 3, a  ragged and despondent Robin knows that his teammates are not
really dead, but  might as well be, existing in Limbo under the control of the
Gargoyle.   Returning to Titan Lair, he wonders "how I can go it alone--
fighting crooks and  creeps-- without the team!"  (He seems to have momentarily
forgotten that  he usually has another partner, name of Batman....)  But as he
enters the  headquarters, he finds that the Gargoyle and his phantom slaves have
already  claimed it for their own lair.  Gargoyle is amused when Robin dives
into a  laundry chute-- "How droll, since he is already washed up!"-- but the
limbo-ized  Titans know Robin actually has a secret escape route through the
chute.   Wandering the city streets, the Boy Wonder finally remembers his other
team-up--  "I could go back to Batman with my tail between my legs!  NO!  That
would mean the end of the Titans forever!  I've got to try it on my  own!" 
But alone and demoralized, the Boy Blunder loses one encounter after  another
with petty criminals, until at last he is left beaten and humiliated as 
police chase a gang he failed to stop.  "There's only one thing left to  do...."
and, as told in the first part of the story, he approaches the Gargoyle  to
admit defeat and join the other Titans in Limbo, which his state of despair 
qualifies him to enter.

But has Robin really given up?  Now in the  same oversized phantom form as
his teammates, he is at first greeted by them  enthusiastically-- "He got
smart-- knew he was beaten!"  "Now we can really  put the real world up-tight,
serving groovy old Gargoyle!"  But the Phantom  Boy Wonder suddenly attacks his
erstwhile allies, booting Aqualad to the other  end of Limbo with a dropkick, and
surprising Kid Flash with a judo throw.   Wonder Girl takes him on with her
Amazon strength, but Robin manages to stay  conscious until the Gargoyle
reappears to find out what's going on.   Unchivalrically punching Wonder Girl out of
the way, Robin takes on Gargoyle,  who is dumbfounded; "You tricked me! 
Somehow you entered Limbo without  becoming an evil servant of mine!"  "Batman
taught me how to be a totally  convincing actor!", Robin triumphantly explains. 
He faked his Jekyll-Hyde  transformation from good to evil in order to gain
access, via the Gargoyle's  ring, to Limbo where his teammates were trapped. 
Pointing out that  Gargoyle stripped him of his cape and mask but not his
Utility Belt, our hero  tries to use its weapons against the villain, but its
gadgets malfunction under  the influence of Limbo, and the belt itself is severed by
Gargoyle's claw.   Making a desperate leap to retrieve the belt, Robin wraps
it around his arm to  serve as a shield against Gargoyle's claws-- and with
the claws momentarily  stuck in the belt leather, Robin pulls out a tiny pair of
pliers and smashes the  Gargoyle's devil-ring.  Since only the ring gives the
Gargoyle the power to  remain in Limbo (we never find out for sure whether
Gargoyle is a real  supernatural creature or the human villain he once claimed
to be) he and Robin  are swept away out of the Limbo dimension.  Gargoyle winds
up who knows  where-- "guess his evil vibrations kept him stranded between
here and Limbo!""--  while Robin finds himself back on Earth, along with the
other Titans, who  remember nothing since encountering Gargoyle at the theater. 
Baffled by  the sight of four graves with their names on them-- not to mention
Robin's  semi-dressed condition without cape, mask and vest-- they demand an 
explanation.  "You'd never believe it, Wonder Chick!"

Not a bad  story in concept, but weakened by the pseudo-hip jargon and by the
other Titans  being too quick to become suspicious of Robin.  It represented
a change  from the earlier "superhero beach party" type Titans stories towards
the weird  and creepy.  The change was sidetracked by a move toward
"relevance" during  Dick Giordano's editorship, but the last few issues of the original
TITANS  series, edited by Murray Boltinoff and again written by Haney, moved
much  farther towards the then-popular weird genre.

Among the contemporary  comics spotlighted in house ads in this issue are
SECRET SIX #1, BATMAN  anniversary issue #200, and INFERIOR FIVE ("DC's New Brand
of Humor is Coming  YOUR WAY!")  The letter column features short snatches of
letters and I  don't recognize any familar letterhack names....one of the
readers calls for  Superboy to make an appearance with the Titans, to which the
editor replies,  "Only one thing wrong with that idea....Superboy is Superman
when he was a boy,  years before the Titans were born!"  (Wonder if Kevin
Honohan, then of  Charlestown, Mass., is still around to see Superboy join the
Titans at  last.....?)