In four years and 50-plus issues of “The New Teen Titans,” Marv Wolfman and George Perez set a high standard for the former Silver Age team of superhero sidekicks. Although they finished their run with the wedding of Donna Troy and the ultimate defeat of the interdimensional demon Trigon, “The Judas Contract” is undoubtedly the pinnacle of that era.
With the announcement at Comic-Con International of an animated adaptation of “The Judas Contract” — 10 years after the first such announcement, not that it matters — it’s a good time to revisit what made that storyline so memorable.
Published originally in issues 42-44 and Annual #3 of “Tales of the Teen Titans” (May-July 1984), “The Judas Contract” is a pretty straightforward story. During a transitory period for the team, new member Terra betrays almost everyone into the hands of some deadly foes, namely Deathstroke and the H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination, but you knew that). Nightwing and new recruit Jericho mount a rescue and the team escapes. However, Terra dies during the battle. It’s efficiently paced: Issue 42 sets out the character dynamics, Issue 43 shows how each Titan is taken, Issue 44 provides some additional backstory, and the Annual is the final confrontation. It should adapt fairly well into a direct-to-video animated movie; we’ll get into those specifics later.
Nevertheless, “Judas” is probably appreciated best within the series’ larger context. Its first paperback collection also included issues 39-41, three issues that featured Kid Flash’s retirement and the Titans’ first mission with a costume-less Dick Grayson. Moreover, Terra had been part of the book since Issue 26, and had been a Titan for more than a year by the time “Judas” started in earnest. Finally, it’s hard to overestimate the role of comics culture generally in the buildup to “Judas” (not to mention its aftermath). In the mid-1980s, fans and comics professionals communicated largely through snail-mail letter columns, fanzines and convention encounters. While Wolfman and Perez had introduced Terra knowing exactly who she was and what she would do — even toying with fans’ expectations by teasing both her innocence and her possible ulterior motives — the vast majority of “Titans” readers had no idea what was going to happen prior to each issue.
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