Deathstroke, Terra and the Titans are in the crosshairs in this EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Back Issue #102…
Michael Eury’s Back Issue #102 from TwoMorrows is out 12/20. The theme? Mercs and Antiheroes. On the DC side, coverage is dominated by Deathstroke the Terminator. On the Marvel side, it’s Cable and Deadpool. But there’s much more.
Check out the table of contents:
Lotta good stuff in there about good guys who do bad things, bad guys who do good things — and bad guys who do bad things.
Naturally, the Deathstroke retrospective covers his beginnings in The New Teen Titans, one of my all-time favorite titles. And as part of that, writer Doug Zawisza jumps into The Judas Contract — the most celebrated Titans story of them all.
Here is an EXCLUSIVE excerpt, featuring commentary by co-creators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez:
By DOUG ZAWISZA
New Teen Titans #39 (Feb. 1984), titled Crossroads, brings about some major changes with the Titans, with Wally West setting aside the Kid Flash identity and Dick Grayson declaring, “Robin’s going back to being Batman’s partner, and I’m giving up being Robin.” The issue also reminds readers that Terra isn’t as pure as she seems, despite winning over her teammates—and readers.
Monitoring Terra’s interaction with the Titans through super-creepy spy contact lenses in Terra’s eyes, sipping on a drink, Deathstroke proclaims to Wintergreen, “I tell you, old friend—she’s the best little sociopath I’ve ever known.”
In TwoMorrows’ Modern Masters: George Pérez, the co-creator of Deathstroke told Eric Nolen-Weathington, “With Terra, Marv came up with the idea that he wanted to bring in a new character—similar to how Kitty Pryde was brought into the X-Men—but he knew from the very start that this girl was going to be a traitor and that we were going to be killing this character off—killing her definitely and, as far as we were concerned, finally. We were plotting it always with that in mind, knowing the dramatic irony of every single thing that she said and did. We supplied all the clues logically, because we knew where we were going.
“Certain things we took chances on because we didn’t have to worry about the ramifications beyond that storyline. One of the primary things was that we had Deathstroke the Terminator have an affair with a minor—this is a statutory rape—and the fact that she is so sociopathic. Since we knew we were planning to kill her and have her meet her deserved end, we didn’t worry about what kind of moral lesson it was. She was going to be punished. Anyone who thought after seeing how truly bad she was that we would find a way of redeeming her was being a little naïve. We wanted her to be as much a viper in the garden as we could.”
That affair opens New Teen Titans #39, hitting readers as powerfully as though Tara Markov herself were blowing the second-hand smoke from her cigarette right into our eyes.
With a zig where there maybe should have been a zag, New Teen Titans became Tales of the Teen Titans in the middle of a Brother Blood two-parter. Tales of the Teen Titans #41 (Apr. 1984) set the stage for the most critical tale ever of the Teen Titans.
Tales of the Teen Titans #42 (May 1984) launches The Judas Contract, with another apparently mundane issue featuring a day in the life, but Wolfman and Pérez pepper the issue with television-screen-like panels that are freeze-frames of the Titans. Taken through The Eyes of Tara Markov, these images help Deathstroke complete his files on the Titans, enabling him to finally set his master plan into motion. The issue ends, ironically, with Deathstroke himself being monitored, by a lady who makes the declaration: “Slade, it’s been a long time. But not long enough for you.”
That lady turns out to Adeline Kane Wilson, and in Tales of the Teen Titans #43 (June 1984) we get a little bit about her background, and also meet her son, Joseph. In the issue, Adeline is trying to help Dick Grayson (still without a costumed identity) come to grips with the fact that the Teen Titans have been betrayed by one of their own—Terra!
Also in Tales of the Teen Titans #43, readers learn that Deathstroke is unnerved to realize that his influence does not necessarily control Terra’s actions. On edge, he gives up chasing Dick Grayson, who had fought the Terminator long enough to escape and frustrate the mercenary, leading to Grayson’s encounter with Adeline.
According to Wolfman, “Now he finds himself caught in a downward spiral; the Titans are not his enemy, but he still has to keep up the attacks, even though he doesn’t want to. Because he had never failed to fulfill a contract before he took on the Titans, Slade desperately finds himself disappearing into a deeper and deeper hole and doesn’t quite know how to stop. Slade always said his word was his bond. Now that promise is slowly destroying him.”
The rest of the Titans fall, one by one, leading to the final page. Deathstroke approaches the H.I.V.E.’s Rocky Mountains headquarters, declaring, “The Teen Titans are yours!”
Tales of the Teen Titans #44 delivers the penultimate chapter of Deathstroke’s master plan in a story titled There Shall Come a Titan. After revealing her former marriage to Deathstroke in the previous issue, Adeline spills the beans on everything from her own origin to the end of her marriage to Slade Wilson. The issue, noteworthy for the background information it provides on Deathstroke and his supporting cast, also includes the first appearance of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and Slade Wilson’s younger son, Joey Wilson, as Jericho.
Jericho, mute from a childhood encounter with an adversary of Deathstroke’s, signs his intent to Nightwing, and also shows Nightwing his ability—to possess others through eye contact. The duo head off to find Grayson’s allies, and Adeline is left behind, smiling. Tales of the Teen Titans #44 provides the origin of Deathstroke, elaborating on his previously mentioned military service.
The Judas Contract wraps in Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 (1984). With his contract to deliver the Teen Titans fulfilled, Deathstroke begins to plot his next move—Southeast Asia, or maybe Africa. To shake things up, Terra brings Nightwing and Jericho to H.I.V.E., much to Deathstroke’s surprise. Jericho possesses his father, and begins to trash the place, freeing the Titans and devastating H.I.V.E. Terra’s hairtrigger temper kicks in and she lashes out, attacking Deathstroke, losing control, and, in Deathstroke’s words, “Going crazy!”
With this story, as they did with New Teen Titans Annual #2, Wolfman and Pérez add to the Titans tapestry. In the aforementioned Modern Masters, Pérez shared his thoughts about ending with an Annual:
“DC’s Annuals were primarily collections. This was the first time that DC was doing Annuals of original stories, which was something that Marv took from working at Marvel. When Marvel did their Annuals they were new stories—sometimes they used reprints as a backup filler. But Marv was of the belief that—and I totally agreed with him—that these Annuals should be something special. They should give you something new for your buck, particularly with comics becoming more expensive.
“The one thing he did that was unnerving—but also smart, considering if you liked the Titans you had to buy the Annuals—was making them the climax of a story built up in the regular series,” Pérez said. “That in itself was a pretty gutsy move, saying, ‘Now you have to pay more money to have to see the end of this story.’ But it did well. Titans was on an almost unstoppable roll. The momentum was great and we were allowed to do things that were, in the spirit of the times, risky. Titans was so successful, DC was willing to try almost anything as long as it had the Titans banner on it. And then other books obviously followed suit. I think Titans did a lot to bring some of the innovations of Marvel to DC.
“Marv was bringing in ideas that he’d already seen be successful and saying, ‘Hey, it can work for us, too.’”
Back Issue #102 is due in stores 12/20, but check with your shop because delivery dates can vary. It’s also available directly from TwoMorrows. Click here.