George Rears - 1980
By 1980, I was quickly outgrowing DC Comics. After the DC Implosion in 1978, I steadily lost interest in many of the DC books I used to love so much. In my opinion, when DC cut their publishing line, it seemed to really affect the quality of their books. They just didn't seem to have the heart or creative spark they had earlier in the 1970s.
Justice League of America was rolling along, Superman had Swan, and the Batman books still had Aparo, but books like Legion of Super Heroes, Flash, and Green Lantern felt like they were marking time.
Combine my growing appreciation for Marvel comics--specifically, The Avengers and Avenger-related titles like Captain America and Iron Man which I had been buying for two years now (due to the newly-narrowed line of DC Comics) along with a neighborhood full of Marvel Zombies, and it seemed inevitable that I was would soon morph into a Marvel guy.
I just started picking up X-Men, and really liked what I saw. On top of that, my new favorite artist was actually a Marvel guy: George Perez. His intricate work on The Avengers was amazing...and of course his attention to detail made him that much more appealing to me, as I was entering a phase that most new teenaged comic book readers go through, in which you try to distance yourself from "cartoony" artists and embrace the hyper–realistic artists. All in an effort to prove your maturity...by the way, it is so much fun to psycho-analyze yourself 38 years later.
My Marvel pull list was growing, and my DC list was still substantial, but the DC books were quickly dropping to the bottom of "read pile" after every comic purchase. With a looming price increase to fifty cents, it looked as if DC was on its last legs. Then little things started happening. Marv Wolfman, a long time Marvel writer, showed up on Green Lantern and George Perez showed up in my old favorite book, The Flash, drawing Firestorm.
I had no access to any fanzines, so I was completely stunned with what happened next. DC Comics Presents #26 introduced us to the New Teen Titans. I didn't know who half the characters were, but the artwork looked just like the Avengers! Turns out it was George Perez, working with Marv Wolfman--on a DC book! The dark ages were over! It didn't take long for Titans to become my favorite book (one month, to be exact--when issue #1 came out).
There were many reasons to love this book. The new characters allowed Marv and George (If I can call them that) to create well rounded characters with real personalities without violating any continuity. The personality "implants" for Robin (a strong tactician and leader) and Wonder Girl (noble and virtuous) made perfect sense for their characters based on their mentors.
There was no feeling of arbitrary personalities forced upon characters to make the stories interesting, as had happened a few times in the Justice League. As time would go on, I became less pleased with their handling of Kid Flash (since the Flash had always been my favorite), but eventually he left the team, and that issue went away.
The characters were all allowed to grow: Vic Stone started off in a very stereotypical manner as the angry monster character, but quickly became the heart and soul of the team. Gar Logan started as the class clown, but became the group's conscience. Well-rounded characters displaying organic growth in a DC comic was new for me, and I enjoyed it immensely.
It seemed within months, all DC comics started getting better...and within the next year and a half, the great Levitz run on Legion would begin, and Roy Thomas would introduce the All Star Squadron...DC was back.
I never thought of the New Teen Titans as DC's X-Men, as my Marvel friends always claimed. I had only read a few of the Claremont/Byrne X-Men when the Titans came out, but I felt there was a different vibe there.
The X-Men seemed to be young 20 somethings--kind of like the cast of Friends (except for Banshee and that Wolverine character), whereas the Titans seemed younger--kind of like the cast of Season 1 of Real World...the X-Men lived in an isolated corner of the Marvel Universe (until they got uber-popular and crossed over with everyone--including ROM), whereas the Titans seemed firmly routed in the DC Universe from the beginning, with the JLA appearing in the first arc, and the Doom Patrol having a major role to start the second year.
The tone of the X-Men seemed to be somber and pensive--the Titans seemed to be explosive and in your face. Even in the Titans issues with no villains, Perez made character interaction dynamic and exciting with his lush illustrations. I loved both the books. But they were very different.
The New Teen Titans stayed vibrant for about five years to me--only losing its "Top of the read pile status" when DC published the Crisis on Infinite Earths, another Wolfman and Perez collaboration. Ironically, when I was just hitting the same age as the Titans characters, was when I started to lose interest, however I think George Perez leaving the book was the real reason. To this day, George Perez remains my favorite comic book artist, and I still buy just about anything that has his name on it.