Teen Titans #33 (May-Jun., 1971)

As discussed on this blog back in January, Teen Titans #32 ended with two of our young heroes, Kid Flash and Mal, trapped in a bizarre alternate reality following their inadvertently causing the death of a young caveman during a time-trip to the Stone Age.  Having been coerced by this quasi-medieval world’s version of their adult mentor Mr. Jupiter — here a wizard called Jupiterius — into being tested to prove themselves worthy of his assistance, the final page of the story found Kid Flash attempting to match or best “Trueshot” — this world’s Speedy — in an archery contest: 

Two months later, Teen Titans #33 picked up the narrative with a repeat of the previous issue’s final scene — though with a few details added that explained (sort of) how the teenage speedster had pulled off such an incredible — yea, one might even say impossible — shot:

The “right vibes“?  Since when does vibrating an arrow improve an archer’s aim?  I’d have bought “Flasher” guiding the arrow home with his own hand and then turning it, moving at such a speed that Jupiterius and company don’t realize he’s budged from the spot — but the explanation actually given makes little to no sense.  I gotta say, in these old comic-book stories, the super-speed abilities of the various Flashes often seem to work more or less like magic — or at least they do in the hands of certain writers.

The final panel on page 2 gives us the sole glimpse we’ll have this issue (also the last glimpse, ever, for whatever that’s worth) of Jupiterius’ knightly vassals — four rather bloodthirsty analogues of the Justice League of America’s Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Arrow.

We’ll take a moment here to make note of this issue’s creator credits.  The story is attributed to Bob Haney — the Titans’ co-creator and original writer — whose last official credit on the series had been for TT #24’s “Skis of Death!”; although, as discussed at length in our last Titans post, he’d actually scripted the last eight or so pages of issue #32’s “A Mystical Realm, a World Gone Mad!”, despite Steve Skeates being the only writer officially credited in that story.

The art, meanwhile, is credited to “Cardy and Tuska” — and it’s interesting that Nick Cardy is listed first, since, to my eye, George Tuska appears to have pencilled the entire issue, with Cardy present only as inker — save for the very next page, 4, a flashback sequence composed entirely of images cut-and-pasted (with minimal alterations)  from issue #32, which was both pencilled and inked by Cardy…

… and thus, in your humble blogger’s opinion, represents the best art in the present issue, by a considerable margin.  (Sorry, Tuska fans.)

Following the flashback, Jupiterius explains to our heroes that they can return to the Stone Age to restore their reality by drinking from the “Well of Time” (not to be confused with the “Well at the Center of Time”, mind you).  First, though, he changes the water in the well to crystals — for no apparent reason that I can see, save that it serves to set up a time limit in which the boys must succeed in their task:

Haney makes a point of identifying the caveman as a Cro-Magnon — apparently either unaware, or simply unconcerned, that Skeates had tagged him as a Neanderthal in the previous issue.

In the previous issue, Haney had made Mal make a joke about going “white with fear” — a statement this issue’s unnamed colorist briefly (and unfortunately) makes come true in the final panel of page 7.

At this point, our story radically shifts gears — the Titans’ time travel/alternate reality adventure is over, and the rest of Haney’s tale is a take on the “contemporary caveman” trope — which wasn’t exactly new even in 1970, although I’m not at all certain that I myself had personally encountered it prior to TT #33.

Before moving into that part of the narrative, however, we might want to stop and note one rather obvious problem in Haney’s wrap-up of the time travel plotline — namely, if the caveman’s death back in the Paleolithic period was responsible for changing history, wouldn’t removing him from his native era by time travel have the same result?

As you might guess, Teen Titans editor Murray Boltinoff got some letters from readers about that very question, a half century ago.  And in the letters column of TT #35, Haney offered his answer.  But since sharing that response now would prematurely give away the ending of “Less Than Human!?”, we’ll postpone discussing it until we’ve reached the conclusion of the story in our review.

Returning now to that story… After they get over their initial surprise, the Titans accept Mr. Jupiter’s challenge, with Mal opining that “maybe there’s kicks in it — real kicks!”  Lilith is the most enthusiastic of all of the Titans, relishing the opportunity they have to create “the most important, most complicated thing in the world — a responsible adult human!”  Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash are less gung ho about the whole thing, but agree nonetheless.  Even Robin — on break from Hudson University — turns up to lend a hand.  (And thereby makes his presence on the cover’s sidebar much less of a cheat than in most recent issues, in which the Teen Wonder has been conspicuous by his absence from the comics’ interior pages.)

First up, the Titans figure they need to give their new project a name — and since virtually the only thing he ever says is “gnarrk”, they decide — oh, you figured it out already.

Lilith’s ability to communicate telepathically with Gnarrk is a real breakthrough (although you have to wonder why he doesn’t bother to tell her his real name, when she addresses him mentally as “Gnarrk”) — still, as Robin notes, the big fella needs to learn English to communicate with the rest of them.  Rob’s solution is to use subliminal learning, playing tapes that Gnarrk can listen to on headphones while he sleeps in his cell:  “You can quickly cram a college education into human brains this way!”  Huh.  I guess Dick Grayson is just doing that four-year degree program at Hudson for the social experience, then.

But all this crammed-in book-learnin’ is too much for our caveboy (who, incidentally, is seventeen years old, according to “bio-correlates from the computer printout”).  He becomes agitated, and can only be calmed down by, you guessed it, Lilith:

Gnarrk is soon home and safe again among the Titans, but all is not well, because — as he tells Lilith telepathically — he was witness to some shady dealings while separated from his friends:

It seems unlikely that Gnarrk would have the faintest clue as to these two men were talking about, but I suppose we can assume he has a primitive instinct for “wrongness”, or something.  Anyway, Lilith and the other Titans grasp the significance right away; “Santa Claus” is the alias of “the mysterious Big Daddy of all the ghetto rackets” (in Mal’s words), and now they know he’s a city councilman.  Gnarrk is even able to identify which specific councilman he is from a photo — but for him to be able to credibly testify to his knowledge in a court of law, the Titans have to considerably accelerate the process of “civilizing” him.

After two weeks, our heroes decide Gnarrk is as ready as he’s ever going to be, and they take him to the District Attorney’s office.  After hearing their story, the D.A. promptly files charges against the councilman, Buckminster, and a trial date is set; but Gnarrk’s identity as the case’s star witness is reported in the press, putting his life in jeopardy.  One day, Lilith is taking him for a walk in the neighborhood, when her ESP warns her of danger from a passing truck…

That evening, Lilith and Gnarrk are hiding out in a van, parked in a desolate area outside the city limits.  She attempts to read his palm…

The Titans have arrived on the scene in the nick of time, thanks to a tiny tracer Mr. Jupiter had the forethought to insert under Gnarrk’s skin early on — but it’ll all be for naught if the big guy snaps this thug’s neck:

Lilith isn’t hurt badly, thankfully — in fact, when we see her, she’s not even bleeding — and so…

“Read ’em ever — miss ’em never!”  Even if Bob Haney’s name hadn’t been in the credits, an astute fan would be able to tell he was back thanks to the return of that signature phrase.

“Less Than Human!?” ends satisfyingly, if predictably, with a moral message that is, if not especially profound, still worth delivering, in your humble blogger’s opinion.  It’s a tidy ending, too, for the most part, leaving just one loose end dangling (though, admittedly, it’s a rather sizable one): How come Gnarrk’s removal from his native era didn’t screw up the timeline in the same way his “death” had?  As mentioned earlier, Bob Haney had a solution to that problem; and now that we’ve finished the story, I can share it with you, just as it appeared in the letters column of Teen Titans #35, without spoilers:

Got that, tigers?  It wasn’t Gnarrk’s death that changed the timeline — it was that he wasn’t able to fulfill his destiny of traveling to our modern era!  Easy-peasy, right?

“Wait a minute,” I hear some of you objecting.  “That’s not how it works.  How could Gnarrk’s destiny in the future affect events in the past?  Where’s the cause-and-effect?”  I hear you, faithful readers — but I suspect Bob Haney wouldn’t, were the late writer still among us.  For him, the medieval fantasy world Mal and Kid Flash found themselves trapped in doesn’t seem to have been so much the end result of an alternate history of the world that started at the moment of Gnarrk’s death, as it was a “parody world”, with “little reasonable logic to it”, which came into existence only when “destiny” was temporarily thwarted.  Steve Skeates, the outgoing TT writer who set the situation up in the first place, would almost certainly have resolved things in a different fashion; but as far as Haney’s completion of the story is concerned, you might as well ask for a rational explanation of how Jupiterius’ magical well-water crystals “work”, as look for a rigorous adherence to the laws of cause and effect.

From Teen Titans #32 (Mar.-Apr., 1971). Text by Steve Skeates; art by Nick Cardy.

But for those of you (OK, of us) who aren’t quite satisfied with leaving things at that, how about this:  Yes, Gnarrk was always “supposed” to travel to the modern era, have adventures with the Titans, help save the world, whatever.  But then, at some indeterminate future date, he was supposed to go back to the Stone Age, and do whatever “historically important” thing almost didn’t get done, due to his temporary, pre-time-trip “death” — whether that was to settle down with a nice cavegirl (maybe the one he almost killed Mal over in issue #32?) and raise some cavekids, or something else entirely.  That could work, right?  And, no, nothing like that never actually came to pass in the comics (as far as we know, anyway — more on this little notion later).  But you can’t really lay that one on Haney, whose last foray as the regular writer on Titans came in 1973.

Do you feel better now?  (I know I do.)  I hope so, ’cause we’re not nearly done with this post.  Rather, we’re about to take a look at what Gnarrk’s actual destiny in the DC Universe turned out to be:  Having escaped an untimely death-by-falling-off-a-cliff in in the Paleolithic era, our favorite time-displaced caveguy would end up buying the farm in the modern day — not once, not twice, but three times.

In 2015, after several years of steadily waning interest in DC Comics’ wares on my part, due almost entirely to my dislike of 2011’s “New 52” reboot, I found myself tentatively testing the waters of the company’s mainstream continuity once again, thanks to a couple of projects — The Multiversity (which actually began in 2014), and Convergence — which suggested that the powers-that-be at the company had, just possibly, come to the welcome realization that jettisoning over three quarters of a century’s worth of continuity hadn’t been such a great idea after all.

I therefore read DC’s solicitation information for Titans Hunt #1, the first issue of an eight-issue miniseries, with a feeling of cautious optimism:

CONVERGENCE is over, but the ripples are still being felt, especially by a young precog named Lilith. What are these visions she’s having of a Teen Titans team the world never knew? And why does she feel compelled to seek out Dick Grayson, Roy Harper, Donna Troy and an Atlantean named Garth and warn them that something dark and sinister is coming after them? Who are Mal, Gnarrk, Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, and what is their connection to the others—and to the fate of every soul on Earth? This is the Secret History of the TEEN TITANS!

It sure looked like DC was bringing “my” Titans back(with the notable exception of Wally West, the original Kid Flash, whose return would have to wait for the next step in the publisher’s continuity reclamation project, 2016’s Rebirth).  Not only Robin, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Speedy, but also Lilith, Mal, the Hawk and the Dove… and Gnarrk.  I resolved to pre-order the book — and was ultimately glad I’d done so.

As indicated in its solicitation info, Titans Hunt is based on the premise that something, or someone, has messed with the original Teen Titans’ minds so that they don’t remember each other.  Thus it is that in the first issue’s opening scene, when Roy Harper (aka Speedy, aka Arsenal) goes into a liquor store to buy a bottle of rye whiskey, he doesn’t recognize the big guy who rings him up at the counter — and vice versa:

From Titans Hunt #1 (Dec., 2015). Text by Dan Abnett; art by Paulo Siqueira and Geraldo Borges.

By the conclusion of the miniseries in 2016, the whole band had gotten back together, though their memories continued to be a tad cloudy.  From there, they moved into a new ongoing Titans series (where Wally at last rejoined them); though Gnarrk wasn’t a regular there, he did show up for a short run of issues, and I was glad to see him.  He was one of my Titans, after all.

More recently, when I realized I’d soon be covering Teen Titans #33 for the blog, I looked forward to refreshing my memories of its focal character.  Sure, it had been decades since I’d read any of the old stories Gnarrk had appeared in, but I knew that their plots would come back to me once I got going on my research.  What I discovered instead, to my considerable surprise, was that I hadn’t read any of the later stories featuring Gnarrk.  Not that there had been all that many in the first place, but I was sure I must have read at least a couple.  But… no.  Maybe I remembered reading about them, in old DC “Direct Currents” columns, or in fanzine articles; but the plain truth was that I had had no direct experience of the Titans’ resident time-displaced Stone Ager as a reader prior to 2015, beyond the two-part tale in TT #32 and #33 that had introduced him, back in 1971.

This experience has helped me better appreciate the fact that stories we first read a long time ago can frequently have had a greater impact on us than we realize.  I never would have guessed that good ol’ Gnarrk could feel so much like an old friend upon my meeting him again in Titans Hunt #1, when I’d only ever read one complete story about the guy, 44 years prior.  But that’s what happened.

And guess what?  I went ahead and did the research on Gnarrk’s history, just as I’d originally planned, and had a fine time learning all this new (to me) stuff — maybe even more than I would have had reacquainting myself with old stuff.  So, it’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.  Hopefully, you’ll feel the same way I did in meeting Gnarrk again — even if it’s for the first time.

“Does the saga of Gnarrk end there, Titanic ones?” Bob Haney had rhetorically queried readers in the closing caption of “Less Than Human!?”  “Only future issues of Teen Titans will tell!”  And so they did, though only one of those issues was penned by Haney, and appeared before the title’s cancellation in late 1972.

Gnarrk’s return came in TT #39 (May-Jun., 1972), in “Awake, Barbaric Titan!”, produced by the book’s regular team of Haney, Tuska, and Cardy.   Here readers learned that the education of the teen heroes’ new friend had continued well on past the conclusion of issue #33.  By this time, Gnarrk had acclimated so well that his speech had become positively erudite; he’d also learned to drive, and even gotten a job (apparently a fairly responsible one) at the Forbes Foundation, “an organization devoted to social research and the improvement of civilized life”.  (Exactly how he managed that without any kind of official ID or educational credentials wasn’t explained, but one can imagine that having the extraordinarily wealthy and famous Mr. Jupiter as a reference opened some doors.)  Also of significance, Gnarrk and Lilith remained close; indeed, they appeared to have taken their relationship to the next level:

But all was not well, for Gnarrk’s early, brief notoriety as the “ape boy” star witness at Councilman Buckminster’s trial had at last come to the attention of his employer…

(Apparently, even Mr. Jupiter’s influence has some limits.)

Haney offers a rather deft commentary on workplace discrimination here, with Gnarrk’s “background” as a prehistoric caveman standing in for any number of real-world situations.  Not the kind of thing one would necessarily expect from the author of “Alias the Bat-Hulk” — but there you go.

Gnarrk, who was already suppressing his “savage” side to the extent that he wouldn’t even use his full strength in a friendly arm-wrestling match with Wonder Girl, was thrown into a deep funk by the termination of his employment.  Hoping that a change of scenery might lift his spirits, Mr. Jupiter took him and the Titans on a field trip to the Southwest, where — after a convoluted sequence of improbable events — they found themselves being held captive by a lost tribe of native Americans, who were determined to keep their existence a secret from the outside world.  Even facing execution, Gnarrk refused to take action — until he saw Lililith threatened, at which point his inner caveman came to the fore.  Gnarrk quickly overcame their captors, but having lost all control (and, seemingly, even the level of cognitive ability he’d demonstrated when the Titans first encountered him), began to threaten Lilith, herself.  Luckily, the sound of his beloved’s voice restored him to his senses in the very nick of time:

At the story’s conclusion, our heroes, having reconciled with their former foes, resolved to keep the tribe’s existence a secret; and Lilith expressed gratitude to them for “Gnarrk’s cure of his complexes!  He knows now a real man has both brain and brawn!”  So, happy endings all around (save for Gnarrk’s presumably still being out of a job, that is).

That was Gnarrk’s last rodeo, so far as the original run of Teen Titans was concerned.  The series’ final issue was #43, cover-dated Jan.-Feb., 1973; final, that is, until its revival in 1976.  In their new adventures, mostly written by Bob Rozakis, readers found that the team had moved on from their association with Mr. Jupiter; also, that a number of members had decamped for parts west.  Indeed, there was ultimately even a Titans West team, a second unit parallel to the original outfit back east, whose members included the Hawk and the Dove, Beast Boy, Golden Eagle, the original Bat-Girl, Lilith — and Gnarrk.

Although, as his appearance in TT #51 demonstrated, Gnarrk wasn’t initially at all happy about getting formally involved with the Titans again, in any iteration; nor was he pleased with Lilith (to whom he was now engaged) being part of the team, either:

From Teen Titans #51 (Nov., 1977). Text by Bob Rosakis; art by Don Heck and Frank Chiaramonte.

As scripted by Rosakis, Gnarrk seemed to have regressed since the last time readers had seen him — or perhaps mutated would be a better word.  He’d started speaking in a manner reminiscent of Marvel Comics’ Ben Grimm (where did that come from?), and his aggressively sexist posture towards Lilith was worthy of, well, a stereotypical caveman.

Gnarrk would eventually come around, at least to the extent of participating in the first joint adventure of the two Titans teams.  But that adventure, which wrapped up in issue #52, was pretty much it for both Titans West and for Gnarrk, himself; Teen Titans was cancelled again with #53, and this iteration of our favorite former cave dweller wouldn’t be seen again.

Of course, that was hardly the end for the Titans; as virtually everyone reading this surely knows, the third time proved to be the charm for the team.  Launched in 1980, The New Teen Titans, scripted by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Pérez, quickly became the most successful version of the feature to date, as well as one of DC’s biggest hits of the entire decade.  And while this new series focused on a core group of Titans old and new, it also embraced the team’s history — making it inevitable, perhaps, that it would sooner or later get around to Gnarrk, at least after a fashion.

Tales of the Teen Titans #50 (Feb., 1985) was a special issue commemorating the wedding of Donna Troy (Wonder Girl).  As one would expect, virtually everyone who’d been a Titan was included on the guest list, and almost all of them showed.  But there was one who couldn’t, even if he’d wanted to — because he apparently wasn’t around any more:

If you’re wondering, those are indeed our old friends Lilith and Mal who’re speaking in the Wolfman-Pérez panel shown above.  (Also in view are Donna, her groom Terry Long, and Mal’s wife Karen, aka Bumblebee —  another former Titan, who’d made her debut in issue #45, during the series’ late;’70s revival).  We never learn exactly what happened to poor Gnarrk, either in this or in any later story; nevertheless, it’s probably safe to assume that we’re meant to think he’s dead.  (Although the idea your humble blogger floated earlier in this post — about him having to return to the Stone Age to fulfill his role in history — could work just as well, if you ask me.)  For the record, I did read this particular story, 35 years ago, though I’d forgotten all about its mention of Gnarrk until I began doing research for this post.  (In my defense, Wolfman and Pérez really packed a lot into this one.)

Actually, I should probably qualify that statement about us never learning the details of Gnarrk’s fate, because that’s only true in a “pre-Crisis” sense.  Following the continuity-altering events of 1985-86’s Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries (also by Wolfman and Pérez, of course), the Titans continued on without a break (as did almost every other DC series, with the notable exceptions of the Superman family titles and Wonder Woman).  But it was understood that the team’s history was now in flux in a way it hadn’t been, before.  And so it came to pass that, in 1989, Pérez and Wolfman decided to show us, finally, what had become of Gnarrk, years earlier — only this was the Gnarrk of the new, post-Crisis reality, rather than the one already familiar to longtime readers.

“More Than Human!”, which ran in New Titans #56 (July, 1989) was plotted by Pérez (who also drew the cover) and scripted by Wolfman, while Mark Bright and Romeo Tanghal provided the art.  The story is told mainly in flashback, as Karen Beecher-Duncan (Bumblebee) relates how, years earlier, the old Titans team (which, in this story, boasted a roster that closely corresponded to the combined Titans East and West teams of the late Seventies) became involved with a secretive S.T.A.R. Labs operation in Southeast Asia.  This operation eventually uncovered a caveman, frozen alive thousands of years ago, and bearing a glowing crystal embedded in his chest.  Only Lilith was able to communicate with him, naturally, thanks to her psychic link; for that reason, I’m not able to offer a comparison between the speech patterns of this Gnarrk and those of his predecessor.  You see, saving one brief utterance of his own name, the post-Crisis Gnarrk never got to speak in his own voice at all; rather, we only learned of his thoughts and feelings as reported second-hand by Lilith, as in the following sequence recounting his origins:

As in the earlier continuity, Lilith and Gnarrk fell in love, but their romance was just as doomed this time as it apparently had been pre-Crisis.  Pretty much from the moment he was removed from the ice, the big guy was dying; and when he got a couple of bullets pumped into him later during a brief break-out (the only time this version of Gnarrk sees any kind of action at all), he was left in even worse shape.  As related by Karen, Gnarrk was kept on life support for about a year, Lilith remaining by his side all the while, until…

This is a story I missed reading when it came out by about six months, as I’d dropped New Titans with issue #50; after following the series faithfully for most of the decade, I’d come to feel that the Wolfman-Pérez combo was, finally, running out of steam.  Reading NT #56 for the first time today, I’m reminded how I may have reached that conclusion — because “More Than Human!”, nicely drawn as it is, is an odd little duck of a story.  Frankly, despite including some nice touches for older fans,* it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of reason to exist.  Sure, it establishes Gnarrk in the history of the post-Crisis Titans; but it does so in a way that leaves no room for him to have ever had any actual adventures with them, past, present, or future.  The added detail of the crimson crystal goes nowhere, as well; though the story obliquely males reference to “a similar jewel — one that made two other cavemen immortal”; this apparent attempt to link Gnarrk’s origins with those of Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man was, to the best of my knowledge, never followed up on by any later writer.

And that was pretty much it for our Paleolithic pal, from 1989 all the way up to 2015 (with the notable exception of a few appearances in the Teen Titans animated series, circa 2005-06) — which, of course, is where I came back in, with Titans Hunt.

Like a number of other DC characters in the Rebirth era, the Gnarrk brought back in Titans Hunt doesn’t precisely conform to any earlier iteration.  He obviously has more in common with the pre-Crisis version than the post-Crisis one, considering that he was an active member of the old Teen Titans team; but there’s little evidence of his ever having had a romantic involvement with Lilith, and he also appears to have gone by the previously unknown codename of “Caveboy”.  His speech patters are probably closest to those of Gnarrk’s in Teen Titans #39, but are rather more direct and formal.

As already noted, Gnarrk’s participation in Titans Hunt didn’t carry over to a regular slot on the team in the new Titans series, though he did show up long enough (appearing in issues #15 to #18) to finally get something approximating a standard superhero costume:

Mal and Gnarrk in Titans (2016 series) #13 (Sep., 2017). Text by Dan Abnett; art by V. Ken Marion and Norm Rapmund.

Alas, as with his predecessors, readers would never get a chance to know this new/old Gnarrk very well.  Three years after his return in Titans Hunt #1, Gnarrk would be one among a number of heroes who’d meet an untimely and violent end in DC’s Heroes in Crisis miniseries.

Written by Tom King, Heroes in Crisis revolves around Sanctuary, a rehabilitation center for superheroes dealing with mental health issues related to their work, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  We readers learn in the first issue that a mysterious event has resulted in multiple deaths; over the nine-issue course of the miniseries, we see the past events leading up to the disaster, while, in the present, the surviving heroes investigate to learn who caused it and why.

Gnarrk takes center stage in issue #6, along with two much better known characters, Wally West and Harley Quinn.  Alternating pages depict this trio’s individual experiences at Sanctuary in the hours prior to the fatal event, as well as its immediate aftermath.  The first such page devoted to Gnarrk shows him enjoying a virtual reality simulation of his old life in the Paleolithic era (art for this and subsequent pages by Mitch Gerads):

Continuity-wise, this is presumably the same Gnarrk we saw in Titans Hunt and the follow-up Titans series; yet, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that Tom King gives us a new Gnarrk here, one unique to this story.  This Gnarrk speaks in a manner one might associate with “stupid”, or at least language-challenged, characters — he refers to himself in the third person, uses short sentences, generally exhibits poor grammar, and so forth.  Yet Gnarrk is obviously anything but stupid; in fact, he’s an intellectual, capable of quoting a John Keats sonnet from memory, as seen above, or of carrying on an extended internal debate over the merits of Thomas Hobbes’ and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s respective beliefs concerning the natural condition of humankind  — as he also does, over the course of this issue.  So is his “Gnarrk remember” speech pattern an affectation of some kind?  King doesn’t tell us, one way or the other; but it feels authentic, at least to this reader.

Towards the end of the issue, Gnarrk sums up his thoughts:

Has Gnarrk found the answers he was seeking at Sanctuary?  Perhaps, but judging by the expression on his face, I doubt it.  But we’ll probably never know for sure, because within a ver short time, he’ll find himself here…

…dying alongside one of the few Titans-associated superheroes even more obscure than himself, the Protector.

And that’s how Gnarrk died for the third time.

And it’s probably not even the last time, considering how frequently DC reshuffles its continuity.  Even if it was, this is comic books, right?  Seriously, who out there believed that Roy Harper/Speedy/Arsenal, who also bought the farm in Heroes in Crisis, would remain dead for more than a year or two?  (In case you haven’t already heard, he’s back.)  One way or another, Gnarrk will probably return one of these days — and for what it’s worth, I hope that he’ll be Ton King’s version, or at least have a whole lot in common with him.  I’d like to spend some more time with that guy, you know?  But, until that day…

Gnarrk, we hardly gnew ye.


*To cite three examples: the title is an obvious reference to TT #33’s “Less Than Human!?”; the name of a nefarious S.T.A.R. scientist, Roderick Buckminster, calls back to the crooked city councilman in that tale; and finally (this one’s my favorite), Buckminster at one point states that Gnarrk may be “some previously undiscovered species between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon” — thus effectively splitting the difference between Steve Skeates’ and Bob Haney.


  1. frodo628 · March 24, 2021

    Gnark, brother, I NEVER knew you.
    I’ve always known that I never read a single comic with Gnark in it (before Heroes in Crisis, at least), but I never realized before this post that his inclusion in the Titans covered such a large period of time. I just sort of assumed I’d missed a couple of issues here and there, but I guess it was more than that. I’m not really upset by that too much; the character seems pretty pointless and even Haney never seemed to know what to do with him or what he was for, but at least I now have the answer to the question that would plague me from time to time in thinking/discussing the Titans, “Who the hell is Gnark?”

    As for the coloring misfire of making Mal white on pg 7, it might be forgiven if it hadn’t repeated itself in two other places in the same issue, Mal’s hand in the first panel of page 2 and his neck in the panel right before the one you mention on page 7. I have no idea how coloring was handled back in the day and I know coloring errors were pretty common, but those seem pretty egregious. Not as bad as the “Soul-bro-speak” Haney saddled Mal with during his run, which was almost as bad as the cheesy “hip-teen-lingo” the rest of the Titans got stuck with (which weren’t mistakes at all, just bad writing), but close.

    As far as the over-all Gnark-arc (yes, I went there), it seemed like an awful long way to go, just to give Lilith a love interest. I’m sure there was some emo-goth kid with a couple of powers hanging around somewhere who’d be happy to go all “Harlequin Ellis” (see what I did there) on the Titan’s resident psychic/empath/whatever the hell she was. I think the main reason the “socially aware” Mr. Jupiter period of the Titans just never really worked for me, except for Cardy’s art, was the fact that the books were supposed to be “saying something,” but they seldom had any idea of “what” they were supposed to be saying. I think the main problem was that Haney, et al, were trying to write about relevant ideas without really understanding what made them relevant in the first place. I could be wrong on that, but that’s how it feels.

    Anyway, whether my thoughts are “relevant” or not, my last one is that, of course, in the real world there’s no way a displaced Caveboy with no ID and no birth certificate and no last name is ever going to be allowed to testify in court, or if he is allowed, the Caveboy thing is going to be completely torn to pieces by the Councilman’s attorneys.

    Thanks, Alan, for a look at a piece of Titan’s history that I wasn’t really aware that I’d missed. Here’s hoping we all survive long enough to get to look at the Titans/XMen crossover one day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · March 24, 2021

      Titans/X-Men crossover? Lessee, now, that came out in 1982… so I’d be blogging about it in 2032… you and I would both be 75 years old…

      Sure, why not?


  2. Steve McBeezlebub · March 24, 2021

    I always had a soft spot for Gnaark too. I’m also not surprised he was completely miswritten in Heroes In Crisis. I loved Miracle Man and Vision by King but, man, does he screw up characterization more often than not. Remember how Booster Gold went from stopping Superman from altering the timeline to blithely saving the Waynes in King’s Batman on a whim? He even spoke like a drug addled fool. From synopses I won’t buy a King book on a dare now) he’s doing the same sort of thing to sweet Alanna over in Strange Adventures. Out of the blue, I read she’s now a murderous evil mastermind!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · March 24, 2021

      The situation with Alanna over in King’s SA is actually a little more complicated and ambiguous than “murderous evil mastermind” — not that that means you’d like it any better, Steve. 🙂 I take your point about how he mishandled Booster over in Batman, but King still hits for me way more often than he misses. But, y’know, to each their own!


  3. Stu Fischer · March 24, 2021

    Earlier today I had a lot of great things to say about Mister Miracle #2, however regarding this issue, well my mother always told me that if you can’t think of something nice to say about something. . . I did want to chime in on your musing about when the Caveman in the Present Day trope came about. It definitely pre-dates 1970 because in the second season of the mid-1960s Sherwood Schwartz (“Gilligan’s Island”) series “It’s About Time”, the cavemen from the period where the present day astronauts landed in the first season, wound up in the present in the second season. I’m pretty sure that are other examples of this too before 1971 where someone was found frozen in ice or discovered on an uncharted island.

    Too bad for Gnaark that GEICO wasn’t doing commercials in 1971.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. sportinggeek157875814 · March 26, 2021

    Few points spring to mind…
    * Yes, those mouths are unmistakably Tuska pencils.
    * Man, with that skeletal caveman threatening Lilith, DC didn’t need an excuse to post another horror-themed cover during this period, did they?
    * Early 70s ‘relevant’ scripts (of which there were many, and as you say, Teen Titans featured a lot of these..) broadly fell into two camps: 1. ‘Angry Young Men’ like O’Neil, Skeates & Friedrich pontificating about pollution, rapping on racism/chastising Green Lantern for “Helping the green people… etc”, or reflecting any other issue of the day. Let’s face it, there was a lot of social and political upheaval: a perceived fragmentation of society (generation gap/campus riots), Watergate, Vietnam, political assassinations, economic downturn, a general comedown from the swinging 60s’ optimism.
    2. Crusty, square middle-aged DC writers attempting to be hip, like a geography teacher with elbow patches on his corduroy jacket trying to be ‘down with the kids’ and ‘dad-dancing’ at the school disco. Guess which camp Bob Haney fell into?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve McBeezlebub · March 26, 2021

      Yet I wonder how many people (like me) cringe at Hard Travelling Heroes and the like while still enjoy some Haney whimsy. Over at CBR Brian Cronin has just looked back at the Avengers issues featuring Red Wolf, Sons of the Serpent, and Lady Liberators and it’s almost funny how casually offensive the attempts at relevance were.


      • Alan Stewart · March 26, 2021

        I blogged about the Lady Liberators myself (you can find the post at https://50yearoldcomics.com/2020/10/10/avengers-83-december-1970/ ), but not the Red Wolf or Sons of the Serpent Avengers issues, as I didn’t buy them. I’ll have to check out Brian’s take.


      • sportinggeek157875814 · March 27, 2021

        Agree, Steve. Read today they seem overwrought. I’m sure O’Neil (former journalist) on Hard Travelling Heroes and Thomas (former teacher) on those Avengers issues meant well and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by classing those two fine comics writers as liberal or left of centre.
        I absolutely love Haney on my brother’s early 70s Brave & Bolds with Aparo: they seemed to bring the best out of each other and I think both were still around when I first bought B&B in late 70s. I suppose like anyone first trying something new, e.g. writing relevant/hip storylines or dialogue, it’s easy to foul up. It could look bad whether written from O’Neil’s over-earnest or Haney’s middle-aged mod different angles.
        Others following you, building upon your work and not making your mistakes, have an easier ride.

        Liked by 1 person

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