Zero Hour Strikes! Action Team Damage!

Bit of a hodgepodge of books this month, as Zero Hour Strikes tackles Action Comics #703, Team Titans #24, and Damage #6 (guest-starring the New Titans who didn’t otherwise tie into the event). Guess which one we thought was good? Are you sure? Only one way to find out. Press play!

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.16 Supplemental

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21 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Action Team Damage!

  1. Oh man, the Titans during this period …

    The Jensen/Jimenez run on Team Titans is a book that had a lot of potential but a faulty execution that was plagued by the dissonance between what the writers wanted to do and the fact that DC wanted their own version of X-Force. This particular issue was a huge disappointment, even when I first read it back in 1994. I have a feeling it was not only a rush job, but it shipped late and was meant to lead into the issue of Zero Hour where the Titans are “activated” by Extant and fight the heroes. In fact, it would have been cool to see an extended version of that fight in this issue instead of … well, what we got here.

    At least my friend and I got our names in the lettercolumn on this one. We’d been writing letters just about every month and right around the time issue #20 came out, we sent them a huge one that explained, in a detailed timeline, how Monarch could have possibly been the Team Titans’ leader despite the existence of Lord Chaos in 2001. I don’t know if I should be proud of that, but I kind of am.

    As for that Damage issue, there was an issue of New Titans around this time that leads into this one. In New Titans #114, the team ostensibly breaks up and Arsenal then gets some of them together to bring in Damage on behalf of the gov’t. He will join the Titans post-Zero Hour as way of avoiding jail time or something.

    Changeling’s transformations are part of a long-running subplot that began about a year prior. He’d stolen Steve Dayton’s Mento helmet as a way to possibly help bring Cyborg back from a vegetative state, and the Brotherhood of Evil used it on him. It fried his brain to the point where he started morphing into ghastly creatures and other horrors. He spent much of that time moping around and then encountered the evil version of Raven, who was wearing some dominatrix-style outfit made of leather straps and would kiss her victims so she could implant within them a “Trigon Seed.” Changeling gets kissed in issue #114 and within the next six months, he’s completely evil. He gets better by the time the series is canceled in late 1995, though.

    Great episode as always. Can’t wait for the next one!


    1. Tom, thanks for writing all of that so I didn’t have to. I was still collecting both Titans series, and woof, this was a rough patch.

  2. I did enjoy these “new” New Titans during the “Titans Hunt” arc which lasted for over a year. But once that was over, and the “old” New Titans were rescued, it started to fall apart. Those characters worked for a specific mission, but not for an ongoing series. So unfortunate.

    As for Team Titans, even though I was a regular reader, I didn’t understand this army of characters being introduced. It was like they were trying to create a new Legion of Super-Heroes, with so many code names and powers to track, and being from the near future. But some ranged from antiheroes to downright villainous. And DC already has the Legion so why create another one, just use Legion? I kept hoping the series would streamline the cast, but it kept going the opposite way, and not successfully.

    But I did like that Action Comics. The artwork was great, and the alternate Kents were fun to see. Lois at the end was surprisingly poignant. Good stuff.

    I didn’t read any of Damage’s comic, mostly I didn’t need yet another comic at the time. What I’ve heard is interesting, but not really selling me. But of course, I read his appearances in Titans and JSA. Maybe I’ll give it a try. Darn that DCU app!

  3. This episode didn’t automatically download until toward the end of my lunch break, so I’m commenting blind for now.

    I don’t think Action Comics got covered in First Strike! I bought the Superman Treasury rather than the Action one, not that I figure it was ever offered to me, but I know that I greatly appreciated a bunch of Superman stories rather than a sea of newspaper strip rejects. I assume Batman and Superman took prominence over the pater familas anthologies based on branding and focus, but imagine if DC had taken their highest quality slow creators and had them do the best 8-12 pages they had in them on a monthly title? Like Moore & Bolland or Ellison & Steranko or Brennert & BWS or Gerber & Art Adams? Could quality have at least paced if not outdistanced quantity on such an effort? That didn’t happen, of course, so Action was the cheaper looking book with the corny Air Wave/Atom/Aquaman back-ups that I skipped save for the ones with Ambush Bug strips.

    In retrospect, I cast a jaundiced eye at Byrne’s Superman reboot, but not so much at the Action Comics wing. DC Comics Presents rarely held a candle to The Brave & the Bold, and was among the last of the long-running team-up book to launch. I’m making a bold assertion here, but Byrne returning Action to its short-lived ’70s team-up format not only eclipsed DCP, but arguably even Haney/Aparo TB&TB. It was a consistently fun effort with such attractive visuals, taking advantage of Byrne’s fannishness and his rabble-rousing. Byrne has never been a substantial writer, and you don’t need one for this format. I just checked, and while I remember actively avoiding Superman #19, I’m not confident that I bought #16-18 new, so I may have quit supporting the Superman titles with Action Comics #600.

    I did buy a couple dozen issues of Action Comics Weekly from backstock in 1989, motivated by reasons unknown. I was creating a stockpile for that summer, only for one of my “friends” at school to steal them from me. That, and we had a break-in that was almost certainly my childhood friend from next door, so maybe a combination? Either way, may knowledge of that material is very spotty, but I flipped throigh them thoroughly and read enough to know it wasn’t up to the low bar raise of Marvel Comics Presents.

    By the time Action Comics returned to Superman-only under Stern & Perez, I was back to newsstand-only comics access, and it rarely turned up. They had it at a Safeway that we infrequently visited, but I never bought any. None of the Superman titles were appealing to me in that period, though I sampled friends’ copies here and there. I didn’t recommit until “Reign of the Superman,” which featured the least interesting option of the four by a creative team that was the most aesthetically challenging to me. I’m not a big Jurgens guy, but at least his title was driving the overall plot and was visually better suited to the material than Jackson Guice. I gave it three issues after the end of the arc and bailed without looking back.

    1. You are quite correct that Action didn’t tie into Invasion, as it was Action Comics Weekly at the time. When Superman went to space after Invasion, that’s when Action Comics returned to the fold.

  4. Damage came out when I was working overnight security, which meant I had the money and the free time and the gaping hole of existential despair that I tried to fill with more comics bought every week than at any other point in my life. I think I was averaging $40 a week, or $72 adjusted for inflation. There was a lady running the comic shop that I was frequenting that I would have fuzzy-headed early Thursday morning chats with after pulling a 12. I was looking for something new to try, and she recommended Damage, so I asked her to put it on my pull list until further notice. I remember its solicitation copy being tantalizing, with some big secret about his parentage that would rock the DC Universe, but I wasn’t yet invested in said universe. The first cover was lame, and the story was very much that off-brand Peter Parker flavor, but I thought it would be rude to dismiss her suggestion after just one issue. The storytelling was decompressed for its time and very action-oriented, so the first half-dozen issues take place over the span of a few days with few revelations to show for it. I thought Bill Marimon was one of the best artists DC had at the time, and the costume designs were nifty. I was very into the return of The Baron (sans Blitzkrieg,) and while I’m not sure I knew who Iron Munro was at that time, I dug him in the context of the book as a super-spy. It had a very ’90s aesthetic, but based more in the real world clothing and hairstyles of the time, not just Chromium Age nonsense. That said, Tom Joyner’s scripts were very much a Liefeldian hamster wheel, constantly adding new characters and conflicts without advancing or deepening any aspect of the book. I hung on until the New Titans appearance in #6, but I was rapidly tiring of that book as well…

  5. The Action Comics crossover is easily the most forgettable because I have read it at least four times now and the only thing I remembered off the top of my head before hearing the synopsis was the bit with Lois at the end. Usually I’m pretty good with this era of Superman but there are certain bits and bobs that just slip right through my memory. Once you went over the issue I mostly remembered it, which, again, still doesn’t speak to how good the story was.

    I don’t remember hating it. I don’t remember liking it. It’s like The Silence of comics I know it exists when I’m looking at it, but the moment I turn my back it’s gone.

    The bit with Lois at the end (again, the only thing that stuck with me) felt like she knew that this was the end and she knew that no one would probably ever hear this, but it’s either do what she knows best or just sit there and wait to die. It struck me as a very Lois thing to do. Or maybe she just believes that Clark and the other heroes will win in the end because they always do. It’s a fifty/fifty shot.

    In recent years stories like this have led to a small existential crisis for me. When a timeline is reset, does that mean that all of the people in that timeline died during whatever crisis was going on and then a new version of them exists in the new timeline or do they just blink into the new timeline when all is said and done? (I know I shouldn’t be pondering such things, but 2020 has been the year to consider what used to be only a dark scenario.) Going with that, did the Lois we see in this issue and have been following since Man of Steel (the good one) die here and the Lois we see after this is a new Lois with a similar backstory? Or did this Lois go from standing on the rooftop reporting on the end of everything to just living her life again and thinking, “Well I just dodged a major bullet,”?

    I know that Kurt Busiek played with this idea in an Astro City story, but it never really got me thinking until 2020. Weird.

    Anyway, fantastic show as always, gents. Glad to hear that you guys are still muddling through somehow in these trying times. Thanks for the shows this year and I look forward to the next episode.

  6. I listen to Views From The Longbox very irregularly, in part because when I did listen, they had a nasty tendency of taking on the entirety of meaningful events and volumes of ongoing series in a single episode. They did that once with Titans, and it may have been the episode that broke me. Admittedly, this was at a very temporary moment when I was being grossly underpaid and wasting my education on a lark Quixotic venture that served as a pointed reminder of why I got said education, but also afforded me lots of podcast listening time. So I’d listen to Michael Bailey and Thomas Dejay go for like three hours on Titans, and then I’d have a masters thesis rattling around in my brain until I could get home to try to dump it out into a comment, and I just couldn’t. It was too big, and I’m not as young and energetic as I used to be, so the commentator blue balls got to be too painful.

    But anyway, the short version.

    Teen Titans was an early example of DC trying to be Marvel without understanding what Marvel was, drawn by DC’s answer to Gene Colan but written like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis to near Dadaesque effect. The New Teen Titans was Marvel talent who understood the formula doing arguably the best knock-off of Claremont/Byrne when the All-New All-Different X-Men was in second-round Cockrum doldrums, but applied to milquetoast DC types who would never be as compelling as the O.G.X. Soul Glow Colossus, Muy Caliente Storm, Olive Phoenix, and, um, Beast Boy (?) intentionally checked the representation boxes X-Men only grazed in pursuit of an international Blackhawks flair, but never really developed the characters beyond types, despite their appearing in hundreds if not thousands of comics between them. I guess Raven eventually manifested greater complexity, but only after she went from quasi-Indian to literally the whitest girl chromatically possible. Anyway, I read the book occasionally beginning in 1982 due to a combination of modest regional distribution and circumstantial interest. Because I was typically newsstand dependent, the Baxter experiment was wildly unsuccessful with me, and I wasn’t satisfied with the crumbs of Tales of the Teen Titans and Teen Titans Spotlight.

    By the late ’80s, the Titans time had passed again, washed away by a raft of revisions of DC icons often produced by the very people that once charted their course. Marv Wolfman suffered his infamous Post-Crisis writers block where he damned well should have quit Titans, but instead held them in a death grip. In 1991, I think I might have seen some images and solicitation copy in Advance Comics for The New Titans, but it was a copy found at a mall bookstore that finally came home with me. The “Titans Hunt” storyline was nearly a year in and the big twist was spoiled on the cover of #78, but the art was fantastic and there was so much going on. The X-Titles were still in the midst of Mutant Genesis, and it was an extremely exciting time in comics. I’d largely neglected DC Comics for years, but this Titans book seemed to have the same energy as Marvel’s titles of that summer. For the first time ever, I began to consistently buy each new issue of Titans, in spite of the fact that the arc was just beginning to veer off into fill-ins and padding. I took advantage of the delayed Curt Swan drawn War of the Gods tie-ins to buy back issues of the Perez/McLeod and especially the Tom Grummett issues.

    I recognize that guys like Speedy and Aqualad are the established Titans equivalent to founding X-Men like Iceman and Angel, but never having seriously pursued the first volume, their appearances were novel. To me, the New Teen Titans felt more like the “old” X-Men that I mostly only tolerated in X-titles in favor of Shadowcat, Wolverine, Storm, Psylocke, etc. The old New Titans were tired as fuck, so I embraced all the dynamic and mysterious Titans Hunt…ers? I still hadn’t read “Judas Contract,” so I cheered for Deathstroke leading Pantha, Phantasm, and Baby Wildebeest. Red Star I could take or leave, but at least he was in flashier duds. Through the letter columns, I connected with the enthusiasm of young editor Jonathan Peterson, not knowing at the time how much of the Titans renaissance was down to him propelling a burgeoning franchise.

    The New Titans struggled for an identity after the “Hunt” ended, there were production delays that were made up for by guest creators/solo arcs, and #100 was looming. “Total Chaos” offered crossovers and spin-offs with a new family of titles. Things were a bit rocky, but we still had Tom Grummett, Al Vey, the ascent of Phil Jimenez, snazzy new costumes, and “The Darkening”…

  7. The second issue of New Titans that I tried in the summer of 1991 was #79, the debut of the group eventually to me known as the Team Titans. #78 was something of a talky breather issue, using a returning Donna Troy to orient new readers to the circumstances of “Titans Hunt,” reintroduce a vegetative RC Cyborg, and allow disparate parties to coalesce into something like a unit to address the Wildebeest Society. With two additional and out-of-style pencillers doing most of the heavy lifting on an issue that to some degree threaded water, it would have been easy to lose the aforementioned newcomer(s). Smartly, the issue introduced an entirely different team of heroes to maintain interest, and despite leading into a pricey annual drawn in a very Continuity Studios indebted (re: anti-Chromium Age) style, tapped into the period hunger for dynamic paramilitary forces with that superhuman “x” factor. The team may have been generic enough to be rolled up for a Champions campaign, but they had a rugged ponytailed Nightwing in a dystopian future. Coupled with the mysterious return of dead traitor Terra and Marv Wolfman writing a vampire again, a fair length of rope was purchased by their extended introductory adventure. Besides, I still liked Neal Adams knock-offs a lot in the early ’90s.

    Since I had missed the first seven parts of “Titans Hunt,” I wasn’t aggrieved by this obvious backdoor pilot, or the four issues of relative filler by often undesirable artists that stalled out the story until the three part “conclusion” that nonetheless had one necessary coda and a second optional one (to write out Deathstroke into his solo series.) Issues 85-89, the five issues bridging the end of “Titans Hunt” and the crossover event “Total Chaos,” had twelve different pencillers between them. Again, this could have been dispiriting, but I was buoyed by my enjoyment of the back issues that I was buying to catch up, endearing me to the new New Titans, and the teased potential of the Team Titans heading into their own series.

    I bought at most two copies each of X-Force #1 (to keep one sealed with trading card) and X-Men #1 (A to read and the glossy stock E for posterity.) Buying five copies of Team Titans #1 that each included 18 pages of new story for the same $1.75 cover price was vastly more generous than what Marvel had offered. Still, all those filler issues by lesser hands had an impact, plus there were so many other books in the offering each month during the boom, so I only pre-ordered the Mirage edition. “Total Chaos” was a pointless event with a poor story, but Pantha got a great line in one of those issues and it’s tough to turn away from Kevin Maguire art. I was still locked into buying all Titans titles, but the trials of my devotion began with #4. Maguire and driving editor Jon Peterson both quit at the same time to produce a creator-owned Bravura mini-series (before the bust, massive delays, and a late life move to Image made their effort an afterthought.) The next two issues were drawn by an inker with a sum total of six comics produced as the penciller. That story cut away to a couple or three other future Titans teams sent to the then-present, which is a wise choice in a book that had yet to feature the titular team in a single story on their own within their book. #6 was drawn by a less accomplished inker whose longest run was five early issues of Magnus: Robot Fighter when the only people Jim Shooter could get were retirees and Nintendo Power alumni.

    Blessedly, “The Darkening Night” began, taking the bait-and-switch cover artist Phil Jimenez and putting him on interiors when he was at his Perez-but-edgelord peak. It was four issues of spikes and nipple rings and statutory rape and blood sacrifice– everything a teenage boy could ask for! The parent title was going all-in on grimdark at the same time, with evil Raven lesbian raping Starfire with a demonic pregnancy at her aborted wedding with a murdered minister, all under a holofoil cover! It was perfect bliss, until the bottom fell out. Bill Jaaska lasted for three consecutive horror-themed New Titans issues before one of the single ugliest, most incomprehensible comic book arcs ever in a mainstream comic unfolded via letterer turned (rarely seen before or since) artist Nick Napolitano on “Terminus!” In 1992, I’d declared Brigade the worst comic series that I’d ever bought new at full price, and “Terminus” said to hold the beer that it had already drank as it pissed all over my prior lowered expectations and pants legs. Team Titans meanwhile had Gordon Purcell, near exclusively of bland licensor appeasing DC Star Trek comics, devoted to the 5 & Dime Voltron team from #4-5 returning for #11-12. 6% of the entire series starred Metallik.

    Phil Jimenez taunted us with four more issues of art, but only half were full pencils, and the other two very loose layouts for wretchedly inferior unknowns to work from. Worse, colorist Adrienne Roy had suddenly committed to a hideously drab color palette with broad, lazy monochromatic swaths. It looked like DC cut her rate in half and she was punishing the book with less than half of her previous effort. Terry Dodson took over the book, which sounds great today, but the still green artist was clearly overwhelmed and turned in the worst, most unintentionally minimalist work of his career. Somehow though, it was all made even more dire by Jimenez taking over co-writing chores from #13 with his buddy Jeff Jenson, then best known for magazine articles about stock or advertising or something similarly banal. I remember because it it read like it. Bryan Hitch, still the Phil Jimenez of Alan Davises, guested on #21 as a glass of ice water in Hell. It’s quality (and being mostly a Wonder Woman/Donna Troy issue) only set in relief how miserable the experience of following this book monthly had been. There were two annuals. They were both trash. I’d maybe derived genuine enjoyment of some form from less than half of the two year run. I’ve never hate-read a book that hard for that long. It was the closest I’ve ever come of having a comic book subscription become an abusive relationship. You guys read the finale. The only way in which it was an outlier was in being a marked improvement on recent issues with better realized and more exciting characters like Enforcer ( the analogue of the Robin analogue from the ’80s anti-drug comics, because The Protector himself wasn’t available.)

    Nearly thirty years on, I can still name the Team Titans, but mostly in the way you can also still name your most tenacious grade school bully. EMOrbius, more emo than even Morbius. Southwind, half-sister-by-incest of an Infinity Incorporator. Reddy Kilowatt, ironically named after the editor that had revived then abandoned the Titans. Shrek McCable, the grizzled team leader. Terra, the jailbait retcon find of 1982. And finally Mirage, who created a rape loop so toxic to modern norms that they wouldn’t even bring her back to be butchered in a Geoff Johns comic (even the one where they explained away Deathstroke’s raping a 14 year by his having mind-controlled her through IV injections and WAIT– WHAAAT!?!)

    I’d write their New 52 reboot in a heartbeat.

      1. The Titans in the Nineties were the equivalent of a show that was really great in its early years but had been lagging several seasons in, and after some cast changes/retooling, got a little better but ultimately wound up being canceled. The Outsiders was a syndicated show that some production company threw together to make a few bucks but is barely remembered as anything except for being an off-brand Baywatch.

          1. So I heard Siskoid say “Outsiders greater than Titans”, and stopped reading after that because winning!

    1. According to both Jimenez and Jensen (who had a much better career as a writer/editor for Entertainment Weekly during the 2000s, although I hear his graphic novel about the Green River Killer is worth reading), they had a solid year’s worth of stories plotted out and detailed when they came on, but DC editorial nixed that and made them compress it all into about four or five issues. They seem to look upon their time on the title fondly, at least in that it was a learning experience for a couple of “greenies.”

      The cover to issue #6 of Team Titans–with Terra II standing at the grave of Terra I–is still one of my all-time favorite Jimenez covers. Too bad the story is mediocre and Art Nichols’ artwork is pretty crap.

      1. Problem being that the last twelve issues of Team Titans were pretty much crap, so if a half-dozen were truncated, to whom at DC should I send the bouquet of flowers for the money and trauma I was saved?

        Not stepping on Siskoid’s joke, but New Teen Titans still has “Judas Contract” and a bunch of swell Terminator stories, that boss annual that introduced the Adrian Chase Vigilante, the original Doom Patrol revenge arc, “Who Is Donna Troy?”, and the 1984 Trigon arc. That’s without getting into the second act of New Titans with the entire 3+ year Grummett/Vey run (my favorite Titans artists, SNS).

        The Outsiders had Jim Aparo. Alan Davis, and Kevin Nowlan wasting their talents on Kobra material. Remember that great arc where hah, jk, there weren’t any.

        1. Frank, you just listed almost all the things I loved about the New Teen Titans. I might add their “Day in the Life” story, the first Brother Blood arc and the first outer space arc. After those, it began feeling like a chore, so I quit reading it. Others on this network have praised some arcs after that, but I wasn’t around to judge. When I saw what eventually happened to Beast Boy, Raven, and Cyborg, I was glad I didn’t stick around.

          I read the first several issues of BATO and never got invested, so I can’t compare it to Titans. I think a lot of fans in our age bracket have stronger negative feelings about where Titans ended up because we loved it so much in the beginning.

          Ironically, when I re-read both the Titans stories and the eighties X-Men that I loved as a kid, I still enjoy them, but I roll my eyes at all the angst just like a grumpy old man.

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