Look Back: When DC Squashed Their First African-American Superhero

This is "Look Back," a brand-new feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every weekend (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first weekend of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second weekend looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third weekend looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth weekend looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

This week, we look at Teen Titans #20, which came out in January of 1969.

After leaving Marvel Comics, Steve Ditko at first devoted himself full-time to Charlton Comics, creating a whole line of superhero comics for them. However, when that line of books didn't exactly set the sales world on fire, Ditko found himself wooed over to DC Comics by Carmine Infantino, who had recently been named Editorial Director of the company. Ditko was given the star treatment from Infantino, who was trying to revamp DC Comics to make them better able to compete with the upstart Marvel Comics. That treatment extended to Ditko being allowed to bring over his Charlton editor, Dick Giordano, to DC. Ironically, one of the reasons why Ditko's stint at DC was cut short (on top of some health problems he had at the time) was conflicts that Ditko had with Giordano!

However, while Ditko was gone from DC Comics within a year, Giordano was there to stay, eventually taking over the top editorial gig himself. One of the things that Giordano was most interested in at the time was bringing in new blood on DC's series. It is pretty funny to note that Giordano was in his mid-30s and yet at DC at the time, that practically made Giordano a teenager! Most of DC's biggest editors at the time were in their 50s. Joe Orlando was in his 40s at the time and he, too, like Giordano, was open to younger creators. Two writers in particular that got their big breaks at DC Comics through Giordano and Orlando were Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, best friends who were 19 and 21 at the time, respectively.

After a few issues working with Bob Haney (the creator of Teen Titans), Giordano replaced Haney with younger writers, beginning with a story by Wein and Wolfman for Teen Titans #18 that introduced a Soviet superhero known as Starfire (later Red Star). After a Mike Friedrich story for #19, Wein and Wolfman were back in Teen Titans #20 with a fairly mundane story about a new superhero known as Joshua, who wanted the Titans' help in stopping a group of young people from getting caught up in crime...

And sure enough, one of those teens turned out to be the brother of Joshua!!

The bad guys are defeated and there ya go. Neal Adams and Nick Cardy drew the book (with a small assist from Sal Amendola on one page).

Again, pretty typical stuff...or was it?

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