Written by Art Baltazar
Illustrated by Art Baltazar
It’s time to meet…the Squishy Titans! The pink blob Plasmus! The futuristic pet Proty! The stretchy Offspring! The diabolically dirty Clayface! Who’s the squishiest? Who’s the stretchiest? Join us as the Squishy Titans welcome a mysterious new member from the Orange Lantern Corps!
Before this series wraps up next month, let’s take stock of what we have in Tiny Titans. Click the cut for more.
One of the fundamental shifts witnessed in the last 20 years of comics has been the emergence of the young adult reader as the target demographic. Not to get all old man on you, but when I was a kid, comics were primarily a grade school/middle school hobby, and many of the books produced showed that.
Today, however, kids – well, kids whose parents don’t want them reading violent/sexual/mature material – are left with very few options to turn to for quality kids-centric comics. Tiny Titans has been the gold standard since launching as part of DC’s Johnny DC line. However, with the New 52, many, myself included, feared that Tiny Titans, what with its slew of dead/never existed/rebooted/wtf’d characters, would go the way of the Secret Six. And, next month, that sad prophecy will be coming true. So, between its coming cancellation and the upcoming birth of my child happening just a few weeks apart, I thought it would be a good time to explore an issue of Tiny Titans, to lament what is being lost and to look to the future.
Adults, when reading comics, think about things like continuity and consistent characterizations (some of us more than others). Kids, I suspect, simply enjoy things on face value far more. And so, when reading Tiny Titans #49, I tried to not care why Clayface and Plasmus weren’t villains, or other totally irrelevant matters. Instead, I laughed my ass off at the Legion cameos, enjoyed seeing Larfleeze done in the inimitable Baltazar style, and generally smiled the entire issue.
First of all, this comic is funny. Funny as a kids book, yes, but also funny in subtle, parent-grabbing ways. Robin and Aqualad discussing the New 52 is a joke clearly meant for the parents reading with their children, and although it lasts all of one panel, it’s a good joke. This, of course, isn’t the first time this team has tackled mainstream DC fare – recently, Pandora, in the pages of Tiny Titans, turns out to be the Ambush Bug under the hood. These little winks probably go over the heads of the kids reading, but these little touches make parents far more willing to sit with their kids and read these – just ask Pixar, who jam pack their “kids” movies with adult humor and subtext, and benefit financially and critically for it.
Secondly, the art is great. The characters all are easily recognizable, even if they don’t really look like their New Earth counterparts. Baltazar manages to capture the essence of each of these heroes, and then places them into mundane, kid situations. What kid couldn’t relate to starting a club with their friends? What child doesn’t jump around in mud? The characters in Tiny Titans don’t get the typical hero-worship treatment; instead, these are the kids at your school, and so who says you can’t be one of them?
Kids also have no sense of overkill – the more characters the merrier! And so, on the title page, there are no less than 28 characters represented – and these don’t even comprise all of the characters in this one issue. Kids love to “collect them all,” and I remember as a kid loving team books because of all the extra characters I got to read about per issue. So, basically, this is kid comics crack.
I am very sad that this is ending, but Franco and Baltazar will be writing both Superman Family Adventures (with art by Baltazar) and Green Lantern: The Animated Series (with art by Dario Brizuela), and so their irreverence will still have a place in DC’s publishing. Kids comics are an under-utilized tool for the big 2 right now, but with both launching new kids-centric TV enterprises (the DC Nation Block on Cartoon Network starts tomorrow), this could be the start of publishers again looking younger to build their audiences. Or, if not properly handled, the shift to television being the primary means for children encountering superheroes could continue to push kids out of comic shops.Continued below
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy