How the Teen Titans saved DC Comics

DC Comics today is a massive juggernaut and has been now for decades. Since the 1980s it has been pushing the mainstream comics industry through works like Watchmen, Dark Knight, Sandman, Preacher and loads of other titles which have been critical, and sales, hits. But back in the 70’s, DC were struggling and if it were not for Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans then DC might not be here today.

After the DC Implosion, DC found themselves struggling again Marvel critically and saleswise. Attempts to revamp characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were long gone as the titles settled into a rut with creators who in some cases had been drawing for DC for decades who could match the popularity of hot new talents of the time like John Byrne.

Then in 1980, DC let Marv Wolfman and George Perez revamp the Teen Titans in their image.

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The Teen Titans had previously been at best, an average selling DC title (which back in the 1960’s meant it was selling over 50k copies an issue) to a title regularly in the top 5 or ten at least.

What Wolfman and Perez did was to transpose Marvel’s style at the time to DC, which had been tried previously with the likes of titles like Superman, Wonder Woman or JLA, but to limited or temporary success. This time around the creative team stuck on a title for a long, long time which meant sales were consistent and indeed, high at a time when Jim Shooter had shaped Marvel into a sales machine dominant like no other time in its history. The title was so successful it spawned a second title printed not on the newsprint familiar to us all for generations, but the new baxter stock,so better paper so DC could target the then pretty new direct market.

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This issue told stories a year in advance of the newstand edition which didn’t always make the most sense, and once the newsprint version caught up to the baxter version, it became a reprint title for all the stories which had been printed for the direct market. Confusion aside, it still maintained sales well through and past Crisis on Infinite Earths, and into the post-Crisis era of DC where DC were releasing critical and commercial hits on a regular basis because The New Teen Titans gave DC the foundations to do everything afterwards. Eventually the title was canceled, revamped, canceled, revamped and is now just the Teen Titans.

New Teen Titans led to DC looking for new talent which led them to look to the UK thanks to 2000AD and Warrior, that led them to get Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland over first with Gibbons on Green Lantern and Bolland on Camelot 3000, one of DC first efforts for the direct market. Then they got Alan Moore for Swamp Thing and the rest is history as they say.

Perhaps next time you’re reading or watching one of those horrendous YouTube history of comics videos that goes from Action Comics #1 to the MCU in five minutes, remember the stuff that actually built the industry and gave it what it has today.