Comics I Shouldn't Own, Part 3:
Deathstroke the Terminator #14:
TOTAL CHAOS! Part 1 of Godpleasekillme
Back in the early 1990s, when Marvel was still reeling from the loss of its most popular artists to the Image Emigration, DC Comics was... also publishing comics. Except, as mentioned earlier, I wasn't reading any of them. The one DC book that managed to break through my DC embargo around this time was Batman Vs. Predator, 'cause HOLY CRAP IT'S BATMAN VERSUS A PREDATOR. Pouty X-Men wannabes dressed in the height of 1970s fashion weren't going to cut it. This issue kicks off DC's stab at turning their Titans characters into a franchise, starting with what, by this time, was becoming standard operating procedure for the House of X: a convoluted crossover.
Initially the Teen Titans were characters with no real identity of their own, mostly sidekicks ("Hey, aren't you that smooth, young boy that hangs out with Batman?" "I'm his fucking ward, damn it!" Wait a sec... Burt Ward... "his youthful ward Dick Grayson"... Sergeant York!). Eventually, though, as the years wore on and Marv Wolfman wrote more and more comics, others such as Starfire, Cyborg, Green Boy, and Cloak Mistress started showing up. They built up an impressive cast of supporting characters, including Deathstroke.
Slade Wilson is Deathstroke the Terminator! Overbearing name, isn't it? And those flared boots? If I had to guess, I'd say he was designed by George Perez in the 1970s, along with a true favorite of mine, the Taskmaster, Man of Photographic Muscle Mystery!
Deathstroke #14 opens with a page one splash of... a bunch of crap. The Team Titans are there, as is some Las Vegas drag queen in golden Thor headwings called Lord Chaos, the regular-type Titans, and Donna Troy with her husband, the red-headed cousin of Norm Abram from The New Yankee Workshop. It says a bunch of shit about time travel and someone stopping someone from something, but honestly, who cares? Isn't this a book about an assassin?
We then see Dick Grayson aka Robin All Growed Up aka Nightwing sporting a fab goatee, wearing a natty brown suit, trying to look inconspicuous while standing next to a seven-foot-tall orange woman. To be fair, though, she's wearing sunglasses, so probably no one's going to recognize her, I bet.
This orange woman is Starfire, an outer-space princess purported to be a supermodel in the world of the DCU. I call no-fucking-way on that. Jade, daughter of Alan Scott, sure; she just looks like a white chick who happens to be green, much like Tyra Banks or Beyonce Knowles with her new, whiter nose. Starfire, though, has eerie orange skin, long kinky hair, creepy cheeks, and those ghoulish, dead eyes. Maybe the general populace are more willing to accept orange space princesses than I suspect, but I doubt it.
Garth Greenly aka Changeling aka Beast Boy aka Sweet Daddy Greenmullet remarks that he wants to see Wilson pay for killing his own son, some guy and I think former Teen Titan named Jericho, even though in real world time that happened, like, 12 years ago. Redstar, I think his name is, tells Greenjeans that Jerry was "possessed by supernatural forces beyond [their] control," and wanted to be killed "before he destroyed the world." Greenthumb thinks Slade should have found another way, even though Jericho captured and tortured Greenie himself. But Redstar knows Slade's anguish, having offed his own fiancee before she could destroy the world. Or the city. Or whatever. The point is, I've always figured if there were genuine superpowered people there'd be a hell of a lot more random destruction, but I don't expect everyone involved to be related, or even know two of the same people.
Slade Wilson is wanted by the CIA! They put out an A.P.B. for him, though I didn't know the CIA acted so police-y; always thought that was more the FBI's gig, but whatever. They want him, and his powers — just think Captain America with a gaudier suit, and holy shit, huh? — are failing him. I guess they didn't fail him good enough, because this series ran for FIVE YEARS. Wilson, wrapped in a tattered blanket, steals a suit from a conventiently placed men's shop that isn't open in the middle of the day, which also happens to have a duffle bag that he stuffs his costume and gear in. The kids who stole Princess Peach's purse a few pages ago zoom by Wilson and steal his stolen duffle bag. The duffle bag, I should mention, has a comically large, orange sheath sticking out of it. Nightgoat and Her Royal Orangeness see Wilson manhandling a girl in cahoots with the skateboarding bag-snatcher, so Dickyboy rips off his suit and proceeds to get knocked on his ass TWICE by Slade, an old man with failing powers who spends the whole bout talking about how Grayson can never understand him. Lots of that in these kinds of stories, and also on teenage girls' LiveJournals. Slade catches up to the kids who stole his stuff, faces off with some goons who are hassling the kids, and puts his mask on, having ripped the stolen suit off during his fight with Nightwing. No subtext there, I'm sure. ("OMG thet jurk nytwing toe2ly tore mi nu soot........ hell neva undaztan mi!!!!111")
Blah blah blah, Slade runs away, blah blah two pages of crap about Lord Chaos and the Team Titans (featuring an awesome Future-Nightwing wearing his yellow-accented disco suit BUT WITH SILVER SHOULDERPADS) blah blah blah Slade whines at his son's grave and then passes out in the sewer.
in the midst of the blah blah we get two pages right out of the Chris Claremont book of What to Do with Broads in Comics: Donna Troy and her husband talk about her long career in stupid costumes, and she vows to give up heroing after the baby is born, leading me to assume she's pregnant and attempting to fight crime or whatever it was heroes did in the early 1990s. Tsk. That's not good for you or the fetus, Donna. They walk past a glassed-in cell (where the fuck do these people live, anyhow?) containing Redwing of the Team Titans — not to be confused with the Vanilla Titans Nightwing or Redstar, though being from the future she might somehow be their offspring. Ew. She tells Donna she can't have the baby, and guess why? "HE'LL DESTORY THE WORLD!" Yawn. Donna responds by falling on the floor with an ever-expanding stomach, probably to give birth next issue. And a SECOND Orange Space Princess shows up, in her old outfit with what on an action figure could only be called "Orange-Tits-Hang-Out Action!"
This story continues in New Titans and the then-just-starting Team Titans. Man. Team Titans. When my girl and I met Phil Jimenez at an in-store appearance last summer, in addition to drawing a bad-ass King Mob headshot, he was practically apologetic about working on that book at all. I assured him it was okay, 'cause I hadn't read any of them. That seemed to come as a great relief to him.
Too many characters. A book completely hijacked by a crossover. And angst for miles and miles and miles. Sure, the art's not as ugly as the Lee and Liefeld clones left behind at Marvel, but it's nothing exciting, either. DC was trying desperately to tap into the franchise appeal the X-Men then held for so many readers, but all they had to do it with were their house-style artists and characters that still dressed like ABBA was cool. Did I mention this series ran for SIXTY ISSUES?
BONUS FUN FACT: If you think I read every word of this Marv Wolfman comic, please don't kid yourself. The best thing about this comic is the ad inside the back cover for "Martian Manhunter: American Secrets," because it reminds me how awesome Eduardo Barreto is.