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The Surprising 'Little House' Influence on Teen Titans' 'Runaways'

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

I had been meaning to do this as a Comic Book Legends Revealed, but honestly, there's not quite the direct connection that I typically like for stuff that I do as a Comic Book Legends Revealed. The connection here, while interesting, is slightly more indirect, so it wouldn't work as a legend, but it's too interesting to not talk about it period, so here we are!

Matthew and Patrick Laborteaux are brothers who were both adopted by Ronald Laborteaux and Frances “Frankie” Marshall in the mid-1960s. Both children had severe problems as infants that led doctors, at the time, to believe that neither child would ever live productive lives.

In the cast of Patrick, who was adopted at nine months old in 1966, he was termed by the doctors and nurses as "psychotic." His mother later recalled, “…he was so high-strung he couldn’t keep food down. When we got him he was suffering from malnutrition and was exhausted. He would break out in a cold sweat when anyone tried to touch him. With a lot of love and a firm, gentle hand, his symptoms had disappeared in a couple of years.”

Matthew was adopted at ten months in 1967 and he had a hole in his heart. Luckily, it healed, but the doctors believed that he was severely autistic and that he would ultimately need to be institutionalized. It turned out that it was instead a problem with his body and its inability to process sugar (the hole in the heart was a legit issue, of course, but it healed fine).

Frankie Marshall was an actress, and so she got her children involved in acting, as well, as a form of therapy. Matthew, for instance, would have fits when anyone but Frankie would hold him but the toddler then suddenly responded to direction when he would audition for commercials. The two young boys became prolific commercial stars.

Matthew was first case in Little House on the Prairie as a young version of Michael Landon's Charles Ingalls.

Later, Patrick was cast as young Andy Garvey, the son of a friend of the family, Jonathan Garvey and his wife, Alice (Jonathan was played by Merlin Olsen - he was there to take over for the departing Victor French as Charles' best guy buddy for the many plots on the show that needed Charles to have another adult male to work with).

Matthew as then cast as Albert, a young boy who the Ingalls ultimately adopted. Albert, Andy and the other star of the show, Melissa Gilbert's Laura Ingalls, all were thick as thieves (oddly enough, Melissa Gilbert was ALSO adopted).

As they grew up on the show, they became popular teen stars...

Matthew was a gifted video game player and he was involved in any celebrity video game related stuff. He was on the cover of Marvel's short-lived magazine about video games, Blip...

In 1981, the brothers founded the Youth Rescue Fund, a not-for-profit organization designed to help runaway youths. As Matthew noted at the time, “We want to show our gratitude for the kind of home and parents that Pat and I have. The best way to show how much we care is to try to help others who aren’t lucky enough to have a home and parents like ours.”

This, of course, led directly to the famous New Teen Titans story arc...

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