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Teen Titans 10
"Scramble at Wildcat!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND July-August 1967; DC Comics; George Kashdan, editor; featuring "Scramble at Wildcat!" with script by Bob Haney, pencils by Irv Novick (according to Murray Ward's TEEN TITANS INDEX) and inks by regular Titans artist Nick Cardy.

The cover presents a wild motorcycle chase down the side of a mountain, with a grinning figure in blue jumpsuit and red fire helmet in the lead, closely pursued by Robin on his "Bat-Bike" (actually more of a Robin-cycle, yellow with an "R" insignia) with Wonder Girl hanging on for dear life and both of them in danger of falling off the edge; farther behind, Aqualad is falling off his cycle (I suppose he doesn't get a lot of biking practice undersea) and Kid Flash brings up the rear on foot (oddly enough; a kid who can outspeed light in THE FLASH ought to be able to keep up with a motorcycle). The blurb is, "SCRAMBLE! The SCORCHER Is Making the Scene!"

In honor of the new TEEN TITANS cartoon and my realization, mentioned in an earlier post, that though the characters in the show come from the '80s New Teen Titans the "feel" of the show owes more to this lighthearted original Titans series of the 60's. I picked up a cheap reading copy of this previously unseen issue to review. On the splash page, The Scorcher, looking remarkably pleased with himself, informs us, "I'm the citizen who cooled the Titans for good!" as he stands over their inert bodies sprawled over a pile of rocks. "Hear those hot dogs humming? Smell that oil burning? Feel that wind whipping your 'wigs"? Make no mistake, cool ones, you're off with the fab Teen Titans on their roaringest adventure ever! So grab your leather boots, button on your crash helmets, and go-go-GO to the big SCRAMBLE AT WILDCAT!"

Our story begins with Robin the Boy Wonder revving his spiffy new Bat-Bike, roaring past a couple of "square" adult motorists, and leaping off the road and down a hill, leading the observers to think first that he has crashed and then that they imagined him. But Robin speeds into the Teen Titans' cave lair, where he impresses his teammates with his new wheels-- "As I live and breathe H2O! 'Tis Robin the Boy Wonder himself!" "Dig the fiery steed he rideth? A MOTORCYCLE!"-- and then announces that he has been invited to judge "the first annual Sand Scramble by the Wheeler-Dealers, a teen bike club out west!" And he's invited to bring three friends. "Love scrambles-- whatever they are!", Wonder Girl declares, and loading the Bat-bike onto the Titans helicopter, the Titans emerge from their lair (with its entrance camouflaged by a billboard for the Batman TV show) and fly out to Wildcat, site of the "Scramble", which proves to be a Western ghost town. They meet Wildcat's sole remaining permanent resident-- Al Farnum, an oil prospector who remained, convinced that vast resources were still hidden under the town, when the rest of the oil seekers departed; and then the Wheeler-Dealers arrive, led by his grandson, Flip Farnum. Flip expresses some disdain for his grandpa-- "He's an oddball! A nice old kook-- probably filling you with wild tales about gushers and black gold!" and Robin, ever respectful of his elders, chides Flip for being ashamed of his progenitor. Then a rival bike club, the "Bike-Buzzards" arrives, led by the grinning, arrogant Scorcher. "Man, I'm wild and wooly and full of fleas! Don't get in my way or you'll end on your knees!" They weren't officially invited to the event, but they don't care, and after Scorcher punches out Flip the rest of the Wheelers conclude "we've got to include them in the Scramble-- or they'll ruin the whole event!" As Wonder Girl waves the starting flag, Robin accompanies the pack on his bike (apparently in his capacity as judge) and the rest of the Titans decide he may need help keeping the Buzzards from starting trouble. Kid Flash sets out on foot, Wonder Girl glides, and Aqualad (who seems very much out of his element out here in the desert) follows in a "flivver" loaned him by Al Farnum. The trouble feared by the Titans quickly materializes, as one Buzzard runs a rival biker off the road, another pushes a competitor into a cactus, and the Scorcher himself fishtails his bike up a sand dune, blinding the bikers behind him in the backwash of sand. But Robin grabs a gas mask out of his utility belt and keeps going on Scorcher's trail.

Time out for the letters page, which includes Brian Padjen of Spring Grove, Ill. urging, "Why not put the Titans on TV?" and the editor promising, "While we're not ready to make any announcements yet...we have plans!" Right, and they'll only take three and a half decades to come to fruition. (Actually, that's not really true.... the Titans showed up on the SUPERMAN-AQUAMAN cartoon hour the next year, though there were only three Titans segments made, and they featured Speedy in place of Robin, whose licensing rights were presumably tied up with the Adam West TV show.) Another letter by Harry Riedler of Brooklyn N.Y., offers an explanation for the mystery of Wonder Girl's existence; after Wonder Woman left for "man's world", Queen Hyppolita on Paradise Island got lonely, so she created another child-statue and the goddess Aphrodite again brought it to life to create a "sister" for WW. The editor endorses this explanation, but when the book finally got around to giving WG an origin in a story, it was, of course, different (WG turned out to be an orphan from "man's world" rescued by WW to be raised on Paradise Island and given Amazon powers).

As we return to the "Scramble" in Part 2, the Scorcher leads Robin on a zigzag chase through a clump of cacti and then across a gorge bridged by a thin plank-- which Scorcher kicks away behind him, leaving Robin jumping the gap in midair-- "Holy no-visible-means-of-support! He's really playing rough now!" Barely reaching the cliff edge, Robin's bike nearly falls back, but he lassos a handy cactus with his Bat-rope and pulls himself to safety. "Scorcher, that was an easy one! Can't you think of anything tougher?" Eager to oblige, Scorcher leads Robin into a narrow canyon-- "The name of this game is Follow the Leader and Die!"-- and then starts a landslide behind him with a well-placed gunshot. As the Boy Wonder is apparently buried in the falling rocks, Scorcher revs on his way, boasting, "Like, who killed cocky Robin? Man, Scorcher did!" (Personally, I wouldn't be so thrilled with myself, Scorchy, considering that if you're right you're going to be paid a visit very soon by a most extremely P.O.'d Batman.....) Meanwhile, Wonder Girl is in the air (thanks apparently to cooperative desert air currents) observing the rest of the race and noting that the unsportsmanlike Buzzards have driven out all the rest of the competitors except Flip Farnum. She stops four Buzzards including Scorcher who are trying to run down Flip, but Scorcher is unbowed; "You're for me, babe...Scorcher digs rough livin'!" WG is unimpressed; "Any more funny business from you, grotesque and gruesome, and I'll give you a love tap you'll never forget!" When Flip points out that Robin is missing, Scorcher claims that he suffered an "accident" through no fault of Scorcher's and WG demands that Scorcher lead her to the supposed site, a mine shaft that Robin supposedly fell into. Robin didn't, but Wonder Girl does, after Scorcher attacks her from behind. As she lies unconscious at the bottom of the 300-foot shaft, Scorcher gloats; "That cools the chick, cats! Now to clobber the other two Titans!" Kid Flash is in pursuit of three of the Buzzards, but instead of catching up to them, he smashes into a rock wall, too fast to stop or vibrate his molecules through the rock; it seems he is in "Mirage Mesa" whose strange atmospheric conditions cause h im to see the bikers where they aren't. Meanwhile, Aqualad is frustrated to br ing up the rear in Farnum's ancient auto-- "Suffering sting-rays! I can SWIM five times this fast!"-- until Scorcher appears and leads him into a trap. Attacked by a whole flock of Buzzards, Aqualad "fights like a cool catfish", but with no fish on hand to help him, he is overwhelmed by numbers. "That does it-- the Titans are all freaked out-- because Scorcher is the most!"

In Part 3, with the Titans apparently disposed of, the Bike Buzzards turn into an outlaw gang looting the hotels, mining offices and cattle ranches of the desert country, and using the ghost town of Wildcat as their base. But meanwhile, Flip Farnum has located and dug out Robin and his cycle (both of which are miraculously unhurt) and they set out to locate the other Titans. Seeing a weird mirage of Kid Flash floating in the air, they track it to find the real KF, lying on the ground but also largely unhurt thanks to the "elastic strength" of his costume. Wonder Girl has escaped the mine shaft and discovers Aqualad, tied up and about to expire for lack of water. (The Buzzards must be as fast as Kid Flash himself, in order to commit all those crimes in the hour it would take Aqualad to die from dehydration.) He thinks he is doomed since there is no water in the desert, but WG finds him some; "From a cactus, sweetie! On Paradise Island I was a Girl Scout, Amazon class....and they know stuff like that!" Reuniting, the Titans and Flip head for Wildcat to settle their score with the Buzzards Finding that the Buzzards have Al Farnum tied up and helpless, the Titans realize they need a diversion, and it happens when the town's abandoned oil well suddenly emits a gusher. While the Buzzards are distracted, Kid Flash rescues Farnum, and Wonder Girl seizes the Buzzards' bikes in her lasso. Refreshed by water, "Aqualad's surprise attack breaks the Buzzard's fighting formation", and, mounted astride a pair of cycles, Robin joins the fray to further discombobulate the Buzzards. Scorcher tries to light an oil fire to help him escape, but Kid Flash keeps the town from blowing up while Scorcher finds himself trapped by his own blaze and begs for rescue; "Please, like, man, I'm too young, too great, to go this way!" "Oh, brother, dig him...scorched ham!" As Kid Flash finishes extinguishing the fire, Wonder Girl captures the Scorcher with her lasso, and Al Farnum rejoices that his longtime dream of a big oil strike at Wildcat has come true. "Yeah, granddad, just think of all the hot Hondas you can keep geared up with all that slick stuff!" "Check, gang--" Robin chimes in-- "and before we become known as the Teen Oilers, we'd better slide out of here-- and on to the next titanic adventure!"