SPECIAL BREAKING NEWS EDITION!!!!!
by KC Carlson
If push came to shove and I was forced to reveal my favorite DC title, it wouldn’t be any of the New 52 titles. It would still be the one that I’ve been raving about for years — Tiny Titans. Art Baltazar and Franco have a sweetly twisted version of the DCU — specifically, the sub-section of the DCU consisting of all things Titans (past and present). They are not afraid to tell tales about practically anything that the regular DCU does (notably, without the killing, bodily mutilation, icky sexual situations, and swinging dead cats that the regular DCU currently revels in) — albeit in a completely unique way, capable of being understood by readers from age 2 to 92 (and beyond). I smile every time I note that this book is rated E — for EVERYONE.
NOT JUST FOR KIDS
Anyone who tries to tell you that this book is for kids only obviously hasn’t read it. It has a cast that rivals the X-Men and the Legion of Super-Heroes (combined!) for sheer numbers. A typical splash page usually IDs at least 35 characters — including Bat-Cow. When the Super Pets show up (which is frequently), that just adds to the character count, as each Super Pet has his or her own unique personality as well. All of the Titans here are elementary school-age kids (thus, the “Tiny” part) — except for the newest Tiny Titans, such as Miss Martian and Kid Devil, who are infants.
The only adults in the book are the villains, who run the the Sidekick City Elementary School all the characters attend. The principal is Principal Slade (aka Deathstroke the Terminator), the coach is Lobo, and (in the best casting in comics) the lunch lady is Darkseid. Most of the adults in the series are only seen from the shoulders down, just like in the the old Tom & Jerry and Peanuts cartoons. (Although we can’t hear them — because comic books are silent — I’m pretty sure all the adults sound like muted trombones).
There are several wonderful, secret, silly rhythms to most Tiny Titans adventures — slyly acknowledging that the characters have a comic book history, with situations and relationships going back decades. Yet none of that is really important to the series (it’s kinda like frosting for fanboys), as it’s all played for laffs anyway. Every issue features a conflict (or three), but there is almost no punching or hitting. There’s frequent pointing and yelling, but when conflicts get too heated, they’re usually solved by either talking it out, being distracted by activity (frequently dancing or the occasional soccer game), or simply deflected by sarcasm or other clever kid-logic. (There’s a lot of Peanuts influence lurking about.) Sometimes, the last-minute arrival of food saves the day — the calming power of hot dogs or cereal is amazing. There’s also major emphasis on the moppet-sized battle of the sexes here (see Beast Boy vs. Terra), with lots of teasing, eye-rolling, and a lot of kid-level “who are these fascinating opposite creatures that I can’t figure out?” Of course, part of the joke there is that that question never gets answered…
The artwork and design by Art Baltazar is amazing. There’s such an incredible simplicity at work here that you don’t often notice that each of the characters has specific identifying characteristics beyond the obvious costume designs. They play around with the super-costume trope of frequently changing costumes as well. Such is the power of the character design that readers frequently don’t notice occasional pages don’t have backgrounds at all (once they’ve been established in the early panels). The bright, solid colors also play a huge role in the smile factor of the artwork. It’s such a unique vision for the characters/storytelling that you simply can’t imagine anyone other than Art illustrating Tiny Titans stories.
Another subversive thing about Tiny Titans is that each issue looks like it’s just a bunch of one-to-three-or-four-page gags told simply for young kids. In fact, these short features are all part of a much longer (book-length) story! Well, not quite book-length. Each issue also features a great puzzle page (Yay! There should be more reasons to write or draw in your comic books! Mint is for breath mints and after-dinner chocolate), as well as a regular letters page which features actual kids’ drawings of the characters or photos of the kids dressed up as the characters! Considering that all of DC’s lettercolumns apparently disappeared with the old DCU continuity, Tiny Titans has one of the few DC lettercols left.
Also, thanks to DC’s recent re-start of their entire superhero line, Tiny Titans is now the longest-running superhero title that DC publishes. (I don’t think that was supposed to happen, but that also makes me smile everytime I think about it.)
Recent Tiny Titans issues have included stories about the romance of Match (aka Bizarro Superboy) and Bizarro Girl (Bizarro Supergirl), the epic formation of the new supergroup “Just us Cows”, the mystery of the “Crossing Patrol of Doom”, and Batgirls vs. Robins. The school’s soccer team also took on Coach Huntress’ Secret Six team. (You gotta see ‘em to believe ‘em!)
OH YEAH… THAT “BREAKING NEWS” THING…
The most current Tiny Titans issue (#46) features the first appearance of the Tiny Titans version of the Protector (who first appeared replacing Robin in a classic 1983 Teen Titans anti-drug giveaway comic book — and you need this information to understand some of the jokes in this issue). More brilliantly, the Tiny Titans take on the New 52 (in a sweetly subversive way), as the mysterious “lady in purple” who appeared in all the #1 New 52 issues (and Flashpoint #5) also appears here — and her identity is revealed!!! I won’t give it away, but suffice it to say that the Tiny Titans crew have scooped the New 52 here. Whatever (and whoever) the “real” purple lady turns out to be — it probably won’t be anywhere near as brilliant as what Art and Franko have pulled off here. Kudos, gents!
In a recent interview with Newsarama, Art and Franco explain their method (and madness):
Art Baltazar: We thought we should have her in our book too! She’s been everywhere else but Tiny Titans.
Franco: We wanted to basically make Dan [DiDio] and Bob [Wayne] liars. They said that she’s going to appear in all 52 books, but we wanted to make them liars and make her show up in 53, in our book too. It’s 53, at least.
The interview also reveals upcoming issues of Tiny Titans will feature the “secret oranges” of Wonder Girl, an “all Red-Hair issue”, a special “squishy” issue (hope that one is printed on special paper stock), and in Tiny Titans #50, the guys give a most unique relaunch to Beast Boy.
KEWL TINY TITANS SPIN-OFFS
As many of you might know, there’s now a Tiny Titans kinda sorta spin-off series of young reader storybooks starring the Super Pets (who feature prominently in the comic). These are published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Press) and completely authorized by DC. Each 64-page book stars a different Super Pet, features a cameo appearance by their “owner” (a DC superhero), in conflict with a “bad” super-animal (occasionally a pet of a DC supervillain). Each book is written by a popular young readers author and profusely illustrated by Tiny Titans artist Art Baltazar. Each book features many full-page illustrations, as well as dozens of spot illos throughout.
Their have been three “waves” of six books each so far. Westfield has previously listed the first wave and are now listing both the second and third waves. (Note: the second wave of books has previously been released in bookstores, but they are just now being offered to most comic book outlets. Wave Three will be published in early 2012.) Here’s the rundown:
Attack of the Invisible Cats: Krypto and the S.C.P.A. (the Space Canine Patrol Agents) take on the invisible Phanty-Cats, who have escaped from the Phantom Zone. Written by former DC staffer Scott Sonneborn.
Backward Bowwow: Krypto needs the help of Ace the Bat-Hound, Streaky the Super-Cat, and Alfred, Batman’s butler, to return Bizarro Krypto to his Bizarro World home. Written by Sarah Hines Stephens.
Battle Bugs of Outer Space: Insectoid Green Lantern Bzzd gathers the Green Lantern Bug Corps to take on the Sinestro Bug Corps (one of whom is named Donald) when the bad bugs invade a baseball game on Earth, making it America’s Pest Crime! Written by Jane B. Mason.
The Hopping Hero: Hoppy the Marvel Bunny battles Sobek the Croc at the local circus. But Sobek has a secret slimy evil partner, which makes the super-bunny not very hoppy. Written by John Sazaklis.
Salamander Smackdown: The super-speedy Terrific Whatzit must not only stop super-slimy cyborg salamanders — he also takes on a giant robot that looks like Professor Zoom! Written by John Sazaklis.
Superpowered Pony: Mechanikat and Dogwood team up to take on Comet the Super-Horse — the only foal that can foil their evil plans! Written by Sarah Hines Stephens.
The Amazing Mini-Mutts: Krypto, Act, and the other Super-Pet pooches visit the Bowwow Boot Camp, a training camp for new super-dogs. Brainicat (an evil cyborg kitty from the planet Colu) shrinks the camp into a bottle, so the new recruits must step up and show their stuff to escape! Written by Donald Lemke.
Barnyard Brainwash: The evil Mad Catter has made all the cows go mad, and the roosters have all gone cuckoo. Only the Batcow can stop this from becoming udder madness! Written by John Sazaklis.
Candy Store Caper: After Tim Drake and his friends are overcome by an evil new candy store, only the Boy Wonder’s pet, Robin Robin, has a bird’s-eye view of the sugary crime. Written by John Sazaklis.
Sleepy Time Crime: Streaky won’t wake up from his catnap, and his friend Super-Turtle discovers something shell-shocking — an evil plan by Ignatius Iquana! Written by Sarah Hines Stephens.
Starro and the Space Dolphins: When Lobo’s beloved space dolphins go missing, Dawg and Big Red team up to track them, only to discover a bigger problem — they’re being controlled by the evil starfish Starro! Yikes! Written (and drawn) by Art Baltazar!
Super-Pets Showdown: While the Legion of Super-Pets is busy protecting the universe, the Kennel of Justice is attacked! Only Proty, the shape-shifting Super-Pet, is there to save the world! Written by Sarah Hines Stephens.
TINY TITANS COLLECTIONS
As for the comic book series, there are six volumes of trade paperback collections:
1. Welcome to the Treehouse (collects issues 1-6)
2. Adventures in Awesomeness (collects issues 7-12)
3. Sidekickin’ It! (collects issues 13-18)
4. The First Rule of Pet Club (collects issues 19-25)
5. Field Trippin’ (collects issues #26-32)
6. The Treehouse and Beyond! (collects issues #33-38) AVAILABLE SOON!
I also hope there will be a nice format (non-digest) collection of the great Tiny Titans/Little Archie crossover in the pipeline soon!
ONE TO GROW ON
Perhaps we won’t know this for sure for another decade or so, but Tiny Titans may turn out to be the most important comic book of this era that DC has ever produced. It keeps the comic book audience alive and growing. The little readers that this title captivates today will grow up knowing the magic of comic books that it took all of us all years to discover. Talk about keeping the dream alive for the next generation…
KC CARLSON will have more 10 Things next week. Promise.