It almost goes without saying that many boys scribble humorous comic books when they're young, poking fun at various things and often using extremely crude and tasteless artwork. The Teen Titans are Asses (TTAA) series is, for the most part, little more than a spiffy variant of these. However, it transcended the usual puberty/maturity barrier because of the sheer number of things in the superhero comic book industry that even (and especially) now can still be made fun of.
Before TTAA started, Kent, Kirby, and Reed only had a few “experimental” attempts at satire. Kirby drew one called “The Dead People's Court,”, a twisted fusion of “The People's Court” and “Teen Wolf” (the animated series, not the movie!). However, at the time Kent and Kirby were concerned with elementary school handbooks and comic books (for example, “Friendly Police Officers” ) that really did nothing but insult young kids’ intellects. In particular, The New Teen Titans “Problem Child” had prompted Kent to bust on them.
“Problem Child” was written by Marv Wolfman and published by D.C. Comics in 1983 and starred the New Teen Titans of that era. The leader was a real dork of a superhero (the first major blow to the success of the comic) called “The Protector”; he didn't even have real superpowers! We later learned they had substituted him at the last minute because they could not get the rights to use Robin, Batman's sidekick. Second, the artwork was limited, as it turned out that George Perez, the regular artist of the NTT series, took a “sick day” from this issue (strike two). Finally, the plot was incredibly simple and uninspiring. It consisted of the Teen Titans “curing” a young teen named Jesse from drug addiction, and in turn, Jesse helps the Teen Titans save his older brother Dave from a similar fate (the Teen Titans usually cajole information out of potential witnesses by making friends with them). (Strike three.)
Kent figured even his fifth-grade art skills would be more creative than what he
just read, so he proceeded to doodle on the comic, creating a humorous modification of the comic which would eventually be considered the first issue of the TTAA series (1-1). He would later do the same with a second drug awareness issue “Plague,” which would become the first issue of the second TTAA series (2-1). For example, here is a scene from 2-1, where the Teen Titans learn the location of a massive drug shipment from a small boy, Teddy O'Hara.
Reed later encouraged Kent to draw an entire issue (“They're Asses!” [1-2]) as a satire of 1-1. This was well-received by all of Kent and Kirby's friends at school. Kent later incorporated some of their friends into further issues of Dave and Jesses' exploits, and he had reached 1-8 at the end of grade school. By this point, it was more than just an isolated epidemic regarding drug comics...Kent proceeded to pick on all sorts of things.
There are four distinctive periods of style in TTAA, each one determined by Kent's mood and drawing ability (with help later from Kirby) at the time. Every issue up to 4-6N (that's short for Fourth Series, Issue 6 ‘New’) was drawn on copy paper, whereby a stack of blank 8.5” x 11” paper was cut length-wise into 4.25” x 11” strips. 99.9% of the pages were drawn in three-panel format, effectively simulating the “Garfield” comic strip. Starting early in the fourth style, some single-panel pages were introduced. FINALLY, by 4-6N, the three-panel format was officially retired. Pages were still 4.25” x 11”, but borders were introduced, and there were no restrictions on layout.
Alec Jones at a coworker's funeral in “The Computer Masters of Metropolis Strike Back!”
The First and Second series were the beginning years of TTAA, and hence used the first style. This series is characterized by a cruddy drawing style, which is not surprising since he was drawing these in sixth grade, and he ain't no Da Vinci. At least there was an honest attempt to draw well (better than stick figures, at least!). But, note that it's the humor of TTAA that's more important, and it is in these years where Kent's humor is arguably at its best (although we feel that the fourth drawing style is beginning to match, if not surpass, the humor in these early years). Plus, many of these issues are actually in color! In terms of plot, the issues generally have the same theme of “Dave, Jesse, and friends running away from the superheroes,” but the ideas were much more fresh than in the “limbo” years which followed.
1-1 “Problem Child” (drawn by D.C. Comics®)
1-2 “They're Asses” (46 pp.)
1-3 “Their Revenge” (42 pp.)
1-4 “The Computer Masters of Metropolis Strike Back!” (32 pp.)
1-5R* “Addicts in Space” (36 pp.)
1-6 “B.C. Follies” (50 pp.)
1-7 “D.C. Follies” (66 pp.)
1-8 “Revenge: Unanimous” (80 pp.)
2-1 “Plague!” (drawn by D.C. Comics®)
2-2 “The Other Side” (36 pp.)
2-3 “The Meet” (60 pp.)
2-4 “Generations” (84 pp.)
2-5 “The Leftovers” /Quotable Quotes (84 pp.)
*(“Addicts in Space” was an issue lost shortly after completion, and was redrawn later, in second style.)
Dave and Jesse about to be attacked by Sojourner Truth in “D-Day”
Another typical scene during the Second style (“Kiss My Ass Goodbye”, now a defunct issue.)
A different drawing style developed during the time of the Trilogy Series (fully by the third issue but having its beginnings as far back as “Generations”), which we call the “limbo” years. Kent drew issues in two-weeks' time, resulting in characters never drawn from the shoulders down (“limbo”), backgrounds never being completed, sloppy lettering, and so forth. The reason is that Kent wanted to rush through each scene as quickly as possible, before he could forget ideas for upcoming scenes (against the advice of his older brother, he didn't bother writing out the plots in advance or doing quick sketches and going back over them more carefully). Thus, in a real sense, issues marked by this style are more like sketch books. It was difficult to understand scenes that were drawn in five pen strokes (Kirby, who colored a few issues of TTAA, gave the finger to these issues)!
Although one-half of TTAA was drawn during this time, some of these issues were the worst ever conceived. The plot again had the general overlying theme of “running away from the Superheroes,” but the way in which the protagonists usually outfoxed the Superheroes was getting very stale and had to be dropped. This change, plus a method to bring back dead characters pretty much whenever Kent felt like it, came about early in the Third Series and changed forever the basic format of the plot. Humor was also weakened somewhat. The majority of issues of this time were updated in later periods, and only about half of the second style remains in TTAA canon. Those that remain still have potential, however, if they were tweaked.
The S.E. Trilogy Series:
Tril-1 “D-Day” (58 pp.)
Tril-2 “S.E. on Top?” (60 pp.)
Tril-3 “Nothing Can Stop It Now” (60 pp.)
Tril-4 “S.E. and Hell” (grouped with Trilogy series) (60 pp.)
3-1 “The New Era” (68 pp.)
3-2 “No Way Out” (66 pp.)
3-3 “Duh...The Foes Fight” (2 parts) (92 pp.)
3-4 “J.J. Brown and the Superheroes of Gloom” (50 pp.)
3-5 “And Then There Was One” (~80 pp.)
3-6 “Home...Sweet Home” (70 pp.)
Series Four (old):
4-1 “Being High (on Nicotine)” (54 pp.)
4-2 “Kiss My Ass Goodbye” (70 pp.)
4-3 “But the Superheroes Came Back, the Very Next Day” (82 pp.)
4-4 “The Finale” (56 pp.)
As the ideas for plots ran thin, Kent's quick-drawing style finally came to a close. No longer did Kent draw issues that were essentially devoted to Dave and Jesse running away from the Superheroes. New concepts and touch-ups were being toyed around with. Under some influence from Reed, things adopted a serious tone. Both the [children of the previous] Superheroes and the protagonists became “smarter,” and they developed various new tactics to defeat each other. Plot originality definitely improved under this new style. Unfortunately, although the drawing was ten times better, the good 'ol slapstick humor had died. This is partially the result of Kent moving at a slower pace to draw each scene; spontaneity had drifted off. Although this third style started with 4-4, it became most obvious with a remake to “And Then There Were None” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Asses,” an add-on to the Third TTAA series, and it continued through the end of the Fifth and final series.
3-5R “And Then There Was One” (revision) (94 pp.)
3-7 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Asses” (84 pp.)
5-1 “The Interim”/“The Restoration of S.E.” (100 pp.)
5-2 “I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm NOT Going To Take it Anymore!” (38 pp.)
5-3 “The Quest for Data Central” (56 pp.)
5-4 “Armageddon” (134 pp.)
5-5 “Cleaning-Up”/Quotable Quotes (190 pp.)
A scene of Henry Catlin and a famous model in the sentimental favorite “Problem Teens”
Reed visits the computer world in the Fifth Series story “Tron Bust”
The TTAA series was supposed to have ended in 1991. However, Kent and Kirby were motivated in revisting Tril-IV (“S.E. in Hell”), having just read Dante's Inferno in 1994. Kirby, who had only drawn a few scenes in TTAA up to this point, began to take a more active role. The experience of re-doing this issue, in turn, inspired Kent and Kirby to revisit “Home...Sweet Home” (3-6), arguably the worst issue of TTAA at that time. Then, upon receiving the missing Drug Issue in 1995 (kudos to the power of the Internet), they recreated the entire Fourth Series, save one issue.
Now, we work on an issue meticuously, penciling scenes before inking. Later issues diverge from the 3-panel format in an effort to make them more comic-book like. The scripts to the issues are written and refined in advance. Some humor is embodied in the script, but we also allow spontaneous elements to occur in the story as it's being penciled. Of course, these requirements mean work proceeds at a snail's pace. The current attention to quality does pay; for example, “Problem Teens” has been declared the best of all TTAA comic books by the chief editor, Reed.
We also have recently decided to replace the too-intellectual Fifth Series, to help improve writing and artistry in the advent of a commercial quality comic book series. We already produced one issue of such, hoping to distribute it one day! In the pipeline is a ‘Sixth’ series single issue which will also be drawn in true comic book format.
Tril-4N “S.E. in Hell” (grouped with Trilogy series) (232 pp.)
3-6N “Home, Sweet Home” (150 pp.)
3-5RN new ending to “And Then There Was One” (78 old+16 new pp.)
Series Four, updated:
4-1N “Battle!” (drawn by DC comics®)
4-2N “Hart to Heart to Hart” (96 pp.)
4-3* “Being High (on Nicotine)” (54 pp.)
4-4N “The SHC Bites” (114 pp.)
4-5N “The Rope to Infinity” (134 pp.)
4-6N “Problem Teens” (108 pp.)
Series Five (projected update):
5-1N “Children of the Corn(y)”
5-2N “Tron Bust” (90 pp.)
5-3N “A Minor Tempest”
5-4N “Record of Snuffers' Corps” anthology:
From Roger With Love
S.T.A.R. Labs Does It Again
The Ass and the Hole
The Highest American Heroes
And additional unplaced T.T.A.A. stories:
Xmas “It's a Wonderful Ass”(18 pp.)
Final “Crisis of Infinite Reboots” (also referred to as ‘6-1’)
*(“Being High” was 4-1 in the old Series Four numbering scheme...it is not actually a new issue or revision)
Go here to check out Reed's ratings of most of the 39 TTAA issues drawn so far.
© 1997 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last modified: June 17, 2007