Armagideon Time

The New Teen Titans was one of DC’s bona fide hit titles at a time when the company was getting steamrolled by Marvel’s mutant-powered success. Taking a cue from Chris Claremont’s X-Men stories, troche Marv Wolfman and George Perez took a property that had been quaintly goofy at best (in the 1960s) and unrelentingly awful at worst (the 1970s) and transformed it into a profitable mix of soap opera and superheroics.

Though the stories from the first few years of the run haven’t aged quite as gracefully as their Marvel counterparts have, they are still fairly entertaining reads. The are pretty much my baseline for competently done, modestly sophisticated storytelling in the genre. Things quickly went south for The New Teen Titans, however, when both Wolfman and Perez were tapped to write and draw DC’s massive inventory taking via “event” comic, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It was all downhill from there. Perez left, and Wolfman staggered along on a trajectory established by the inertia of a declining, yet still-popular series, with old plots and concepts getting a superficial facelift before getting passed off as new. As the team had drifted away from it’s original (unconvincing, at best) “teen” focus over the years, Wolfman decided to freshen up the demographic appeal.

Meet DANNY CHASE!

Oops. Wrong image.

Meet DANNY CHASE!

There you go.

The resemblance between the telekinetic teen super-spy and The Brady Bunch‘s Cousin Oliver goes deeper than the haircuts and John Denver glasses. Both characters were later season additions designed to freshen up the mix, thereby prolonging audience interest, in properties that had passed their rightful sell-by date. Neither effort was a success.

Danny made his debut in 1987′s New Teen Titans Annual #3, in which he enlisted the team’s help to rescue his super-spy parents from the clutches of Godiva, a villainess of the “psychotic bimbo” school of genre cliches. (You know the type, I’m sure. The one who flirts with an opponent before shooting him in the face, then delivers a post-kill double entendre? “Ohh, I love a man who plays rough! BLAM! You don’t want to cuddle?” Not actual dialogue, but close enough.)

At the predictable end of the predictable (and overlong) story, the Titans offer Danny a spot on the team. He accepts, but no before offering a taste of his signature teen-a-tude.

Watch out, world! This kid is sassy!

These attempts at demographic pandering rarely end well, but under Wolfman’s direction, Danny was not so much a character as a red wine stain on a white pile rug. Wolfman’s efforts to calibrate Danny’s characterization towards something more acceptable to Titans fans only succeeding in making the readers hate the character even more. During his tenture with the team, Danny veered wildly between unappealing extremes, from hyper-competent Mary Sue to snivelling shit to obnoxious fanboy turned sour.

While perhaps true to the behavior of the fans Danny was intended to vicariously represent, it only illustrated how ill-conceived Danny’s addition to the roster was, and spotlighted the problems with the Titans franchise he was intended to alleviate.

Disturbing “imaginary girlfriend” subtext aside, the character of Kitty Pryde — another young teen hero — was worked organically into the X-Men by Chris Claremont during one of his better plot arcs, and he was careful about letting circumstance and time put her on even footing with the rest of her teammates. In contrast, Danny Chase was shoehorned onto the Titans during a pedestrian annual story, and his character’s development never rose above the ulterior “meta” motives of the writer.

The “teen” pretense was eventually dropped from the series, which rebranded itself as The New Titans with issue #50. With it went Danny, who was unceremoniously booted from the group in issue #55…

Wolfman made another go at selling the public on Chasemania during the incomprehensible “Titans Hunt” storyline. A more traditionally superheroic version of the character, rebranded as the hockey mask-and-rags-clad “Phantasm,” was presented to the readers. The readers refused to bite, however, and the character was killed off to much applause during the conclusion of the arc.

So ended the story of Danny Chase, the Cousin Oliver of the DC Universe, and most certainly nobody’s favorite.

Related posts:

  1. Nobody’s Favorites: Muddying the teen pool
  2. Nobody’s Favorites: Beyond the law
  3. Nobody’s Favorites: What ill was done

18 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: The ill of the chase”

  1. Dave Lartigue

    Nightwing: “You think it over, Danny. I’m gonne get back to Kori here in the back seat.”

  2. philip

    Perhaps part of the problem was due to him being drawn to look like he was 10 years old. Although that may have just been a symptom.

    Poor Robbie Rist.

  3. Bully

    And that little boy grew up to become The Anti-Monitor.

  4. Kincsem1874

    Thank you for identifying cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch. That photo could have driven me crazy for days trying to remember.

    Another of Danny’s problems was he looked almost as much like an homely girl as an homely boy.

  5. Kincsem1874

    (Having just read AT related post Nobody’s Favorites: Not a Good Look, I’d like to clarify that Danny Chase “homely” is not 1980′s music-video chick “homely.”)

  6. Bill D.

    But the real question is, who was the worse addition to the Titans cast… Danny Chase or Terry Long?

    Because although he was never really part of the team, Terry was around an awful lot, and loathsome in every. single. panel.

  7. Sallyp

    Good God, a character even more obnoxious than Snapper Carr! I didn’t think that was possible! In fact, in comparison, Snapper is starting to look…almost…good!

  8. Jer

    But the real question is, who was the worse addition to the Titans cast… Danny Chase or Terry Long?

    Oh that’s easy – Terry Long by a mile. Danny was merely “Scrappy-Doo” levels of annoying. Terry Long was creepy. And his creep factor hasn’t diminished over time – if anything it’s worse now.

  9. bitterandrew

    Terry Long is the platonic ideal of Nobody’s Favorite. The only thing that has kept me from adding him to the list of potential candidates is that his loathsomeness has already been described in detail on several other sites.

  10. MrJM

    bitterandrew: “Terry Long is the platonic ideal of Nobody’s Favorite.”

    Absolutely correct!

  11. SirPalinDorme

    I am wondering if you were reading the Titans back when these issue were released. I know at my comic shop and in the letter page it was the belief to that Phantasm was the bomb. It wasn’t until his identity was relieved that hatred resurfaced.

  12. bitterandrew

    Indeed, like when I try to slip my dog his meds in a bit of cheese.

    He’s all gung-ho about his prize…until he catches wise to the con and spits the pill out onto the carpet.

    Then he begs for more cheese.

  13. Steve-O

    I clicked over here from Progressive Ruin expecting a post on Terry Long, actually. Apparently the Titans have had more than a few terrible characters!
    Nice post, Andrew. I’m sure this is gonna be a great series.

  14. falcon7

    Scarry thought that occured while reading. DANNY CHASE~! = The illegitimate love child of Terry Long.

    The red hair would be a family trait. …sleep tonight with that knowledge! I DARE you!

  15. Martin Wisse

    I liked Terry Long….

    And still can’t read the wedding issue without choking up.

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  17. i cant think of a name

    you know I kind of liked the character don’t get me wrong he is extremely annoying but what annoys me even more is that the characters didn’t give him enough of a chance to really let him become a character its like people take one look at him and hey decided they hated it and some people hate him just because it was popular to hate him and all though he isn’t my favorite he’s a close friend of mines and might have liked him if they got more into his character and back ground but they new got to do that because everyone wouldn’t give him a chance and decided that they didn’t want to like him and back to it just being popular to dislike him there’s people out there that didn’t even give him the slightest chance because everyone bating it it’ like a kid refusing to eat brussle sprouts because they taste terrible without never having tried them so I’m not saying you can’t hate him because I hate plenty of them but it’s like you refuse to give him a chance

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