The New Teen Titans: Who Is Donna Troy?
Poor Donna Troy. She’s had so many names — Wonder Girl, Troia, Darkstar — costumes, and origins over the years. Somehow, she’s still managed to develop a dedicated fanbase, and The New Teen Titans: Who Is Donna Troy? should have been the retrospective she deserved, leading to more fans discovering her.
Unfortunately, the publisher instead decided to use it to plug their next big crossover, as though there weren’t enough comics already tied into that mess. The uncredited introduction begins by declaring that “the stories in this volume… are all leading up to something epic. Donna may very well hold the key to the INFINITE CRISIS [sic] that lies ahead…”
Once again, the character is misused as justification for someone else’s pet cause, shoehorned into a story that I’m expecting to be ill-suited to her. This could have been a perennial collection. After all, people have been talking about the first story it reprints, the one that gave the collection its name, since Marv Wolfman and George Pérez first created it twenty years ago. But good stories done by talented creators aren’t enough any more; we’ve got to be sold this book based on promises that she’s going to have a future in the DC Universe, that she’ll be “an all-new and important figure in the DC Universe!” (The repetition of that phrase is theirs, not mine. And if she’s going to be “all-new”, why should a new fan bother reading this collection?)
I just can’t get past the stupidity of the cover copy and introduction. Here’s another ill-thought line: “Reprinted here are arguably their most important works to date.” Doesn’t that ignore the existence of a little Wolfman/Pérez title called Crisis on Infinite Earths? And doesn’t ignoring that contradict all the latest news about how Infinite Crisis follows on directly from it?
Ok, ok, I’m moving on to actually talking about the comics now. It’s a nice, substantial collection on thick paper with good reproduction. The art shows its age a little, with design elements that remind me of the 80s, but that’s part of the charm… and it goes along with the over-dramatic dialogue and narration. (“Now, years later, I know I did love her, more than I ever could if I were only her lover,” thinks Robin.)
These weren’t art comics; they were just very good superhero reads. They aimed to be the best of what people thought comics were at the time, stretching to tell a more meaningful story.
Donna Troy doesn’t know much about her past. She was rescued as a child from a fire that orphaned her and taken to Wonder Woman’s home of Paradise Island, where she was raised as an adopted Amazon. She’s about to be married (to writer Wolfman’s stand-in Terry Long), but she’s concerned that she knows nothing about her parents. Her close friend Dick Grayson (Robin) sets out to find out what he can.
That’s only the first story, a packed tale with all kinds of discoveries for Donna. Following that comes the extra-sized issue that shows her wedding. There are a ton of characters that attend, as you’d expect, and several of them get enough of a focus to make this sensible for those unfamiliar with the wide Titans cast and their friends and families.
After that, a text page explains that after Crisis, Wonder Woman became younger, so she couldn’t have been the one to save Donna years ago. That leads into “Who Is Wonder Girl?”, a five-chapter storyline that was only the first redefinition of the character. At the end of a complex battle involving the Titans of Myth, Troia debuted with a new, more complicated origin. If either it or her costume had been simpler, perhaps they would have stuck, but simplicity isn’t what Wolfman or Pérez are known for.
Once it’s been done once, others think that redefinitions are open game. Thankfully, John Byrne’s misogynistic tweaks to the character are ignored in this book. The last story is Phil Jimenez’s eulogy to the character after her brief death at the hands of a Superman robot (and yes, it was as silly as that sounds). The dark colors and grim expressions throughout not only suit this story; they also symbolize the difference between what artists today aim for contrasted with the happier, older tales.
As a result, the book is an interesting piece of comics history that extends beyond the reprinted material. It’s a shame that so many people have tried so hard with the character over the years. Her story and the ways she’s been changed have become that of the superhero comics genre in many ways.
The thing I like about “Who is Donna Troy” is that while it is a good Donna Troy story, it’s an even better Dick Grayson story: we see him using the detective skills taught to him by his mentor, his thoughts and feelings on his teammates, etc. It’s one of those stories that not only moves Donna’s story ahead, but Dick’s as well.
Whenever I reread this story and relive Dick working for hours on what could be unimportant evidence, I feel a sense of loss. Had the story been done today, Dick would have had Oracle do all the detective work, and at the end, Dick would have had to kick Deathstroke’s butt before the end.
I guess I really miss the character-driven plots that used to show up from time to time. Super-hero weddings without villains crashing the party, detective heroes detecting, thought balloons.
I know what you mean. The market’s changed, though — now, if someone wants to read a character-driven plot about, say, preparing for a wedding, they can read that without the superhero overlay. So superhero stories have become more limited in what they do because there’s a lot more choices available overall.
As someone who pretty much ignores any mainstream or continuity-DC (when opting for DC super-hero fare, I choose All Star Superman, Seven Soldiers, Batman and the Monster Men, etc.), I picked this up as part of the on-going collection of the 80’s Teen Titan collections. As part of that, it was a good read and useful.
Now, although I’ve sunk money into all the collections already, how about DC releasing a in-order color reprinting of the Wolfman/Perez Titans in this format? (Teen Titan Visionaries if you will.) Although I’ve been enjoying seeing what I missed in the 80’s (never read DC supers back then (other than Watchman and TDKR – mostly Marvel then First, Comico, and others when I gained access to direct market stuff), I’m frustrated that I can’t make heads or tails of their timeline – and I’d love to read the complete run from the first issue to the last, no matter how good the collected story arcs are.
I suspect they’d think that it would cut into their sales of the Archive edition.
Well, I kinda understand that, but seems like they’re still losing out – I’m not a big enough fan to buy a pricey edition like that, but interested enough to buy a softcover version. Certainly there are others out there like me, but maybe not.
Heck, I won’t buy the pricey editions of material that I’m a huge fan of (Amazing Spider-Man – I get the essentials of it). I make good money, but both DC’s and Marvel’s archive editions seem to be made for people with a LOT more dispendable income that me.
That’s a long-standing discussion, about whether the publishers should do paperback Archives. I guess you could hope that Barnes & Noble is interested in doing their own print run (which is how we got paperback Masterworks exclusive to that chain).
The paperback color Batman & Superman historical trades don’t directly replicate the Archives, because they arrange the stories chronologically instead of just by title. (What is the name of that series? I’m blanking.) I don’t think you could do something similar with the Titans, because in the time period we’re talking about, they were only running in one title.