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The 'Nightwing and Starfire Sharing a Bed' Outrage That Really Wasn't

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and thirty-seventh installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

This time, it's a Dick Grayson-themed week! Here is the first legend.

NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I'll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!

COMIC LEGEND:

There was considerable outrage over New Teen Titans depicting Nightwing and Starfire sharing a bed together.

STATUS:

Apparently False

The romance between Dick Grayson and Starfire, in a lot of ways, began with a kiss in New Teen Titans #2 (by George Perez, Marv Wolfman and Romeo Tanghal)...

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After Starfire fell in love with a HIVE agent in New Teen Titans #16, the agent decides to betray HIVE and is killed. She wants his murderers dead and Dick tries to stop her. We see that their relationship is beginning to get a little complicated...

(Ultimately, she decides not to murder the guy who murdered her boyfriend).

Then Starfire is kidnapped by her own sister and taken into outer space. Dick and the Titans go after her to save her and along the way, like in New Teen Titans #25, the others wonder whether Dick has more feelings for Starfire than he is willing to admit...

They ultimately rescue her and she and Dick share a moment...

She still has to defeat her sister, though, but once that is finished in New Teen Titans Annual #1, you can tell that things are going a certain direction with her and Dick...

On the way home to Earth in New Teen Titans #26, Dick admits his feelings for her and they vow to take it slow...

Weeks later, though, they're dating pretty steadily...

When Dick decides to quit being Robin in New Teen Titans #39, he attributes a lot of his growth directly to his relationship with Starfire...

This leads us to New Teen Titans #1 (they started a new Direct Market volume of the series in 1984), where Jericho is shocked to see the coming of Raven's father, Trigon, and it wakes up the rest of the Titans, including Dick (who is now Nightwing) and Starfire, who are sharing a bed...

This was a rather novel thing at the time and the various comic book magazines (Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes, etc.) made a lot of hay about it and in the years since, it has been looked at as a really controversial moment.

However, as it turned out, a lot of that controversy might have been so overblown that it really wasn't the issue that people believe it to be.

The always amazing Heidi MacDonald interviewed George Perez in 1985 for Fantagraphics' Focus on George Perez book, and Perez had a surprising revelation about the actual fan reaction to the scene...

MacDONALD: The first time I ever saw Baxter paper, I think it was the white that was most impressive. Let me ask you now about the famous, or infamous panel. Whose idea was that, the panel of Dick and Kory?

Pérez: Oh, that was mine.

MacDONALD: Uh-huh. And…

Pérez: Well, the simple reason that Dick is 19 years old. I was married at 19. And, Kory’s age is indeterminate. Equivalent of an Earth 18-year-old, but their mores are different, and for her it was a totally irrelevant as far as the fact that she was at that age. Marv didn’t want to go into a controversy on the letters page, but as far as we’re concerned, and particularly as far as I’m concerned, they’re both at the age of consent. Dick is not a fool, and if there were any chance of them regretting the action later, they would have taken any preventive deeds necessary, but they are both consenting adults, and no matter what – the title says Teen Titans – at 19 years old, those two are legally adult.

MacDONALD: Yeah, I was going to say, Robin has killed. I should say Dick. And there’s more hullabaloo than when he’s killed someone.

Pérez: They’re worrying more about the fact that he’s gone to bed with someone whom he’s deeply in love with. And the fact that when he kills someone, it was also protecting this same woman, it’s like everything he’s done that’s been out of character for him up till now, has always been because of her. Since a storyline is coming up wherein they go back to Tamaran, and I believe the jist of it – great of Marv not to take to hemming and hawing about it – is the fact that she’s going to abdicate.

She has absolutely no desire to return to Tamaran. She wants to stay with Dick, and we have to give her, as far as the readers were concerned, a full reason to stay on Earth. It has to be shown that Dick is not giving her a hard time, that it’s unrequited. The fact that they are lovers gives her a legitimate reason to stay with Dick. Otherwise, it would be an insult to the Starfire character if she said, “I’ll abdicate my throne,” without us being really sure that it was worth abdicating. She does have duties, but the Tamaranians are creatures of emotion, too. And, that one panel, which I did as tastefully as I could, there was no nudity involved, nothing was shown of the act, it’s just the fact that she was in what was established as being his bedroom, because I’d drawn the bedroom before. It’s the bedroom set I have. And, make no question about it, they were in bed together, and…

MacDONALD: And it wasn’t because her bed had disappeared.

Pérez: It wasn’t because her bed had disappeared, it was because of the fact that his bed was recognizable. I wanted to use a familiar room, so that you know that she was in there with him. As opposed to any vagueness as to whose bed that is. It’s his bed, there’s no question about it. It’s established. And there were much fewer letters than everyone made it out to be. It got exploded totally out of proportion.

MacDONALD: Oh, then there wasn t a great swell of outrage?

Pérez: No, Marv got a few letters. Enough to say that he had to print one, because he couldn’t ignore it, but not in direct proportion to the amount of letters we get. It wasn’t a fifth of our mail.

As Perez noted, though, Wolfman DID make a point to print the few letters they DID receive, and as my pal Joshua Lapin-Bertone correctly noted, it was likely the way that Wolfman presented those letters in the letter columns of New Teen Titans that made people think that there was a bigger controversy than there actually was...

In those days, for many fans, the letter column was the only way they would ever know if there WAS a controversy or not! So it makes sense that it all seemed like a bigger deal than it was.

Thanks so much to Heidi and George for the information! And thanks to Joshua for the excellent point about the letter columns.

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