This week, the first issue of Terra featuring the most recent take on the titular Earth elemental character. For today’s Flashback, we’ll take a look at The New Teen Titans #26 from 1982, and the first appearance of Terra.
The story actually wasn’t billed as presenting a new powered character. Instead, the cover focused on the other part of the story, featuring a group of teen runaways.
The team is just getting home from outer space, where they fought Starfire’s sister. After a brief sexual tension-filled scene in which both Dick and Kori are showing far too much leg, we get some setup as three kids leave their homes, running away due to various fights with their parents.
The majority of the rest of the story features our heroes interacting with the various runaways, while working to foil a drug running plot. There’s a three page interlude, however, that’s the focus of our look.
Gar, at this point calling himself Changeling, is alone at Titans Tower on monitor duty (see: playing video games), and gets an alert that something is going down at the Statue of Liberty. When he investigates, he finds a lone girl in brown and gold atop the colossus. After some nice misogynistic talk (“Hi, Honey – What’s the Problem? Lose your Boyfriend?”), she cryptically talks of her mission and how she doesn’t want to have to kill him. She jumps off the Statue, and as she falls, brings a column of rock up to slide down fireman’s-pole style, while introducing herself as “Terra – That’s as in EARTH POWERS!” A wall of earth prevents the police from apprehending her, and becomes a monster, poised to attack. Terra is in tears as she begs them not to make her kill them. After Dinosaur-Changeling crushes the rock monster, Terra launches herself out of a mini-volcano, flying far from Liberty Island.
That’s all from Terra for this issue and even the next- she makes her first big return two issues later. The initial appearance was meant to tease and create an air of mystery around the character, and it certainly did that. Wolfman’s dialogue in the issue seems a bit off by today’s standards (and certainly wasn’t politically correct), but it’s fun and captures the style of the time pretty well. George Pérez’s art is mostly pretty fantastic, though there are a couple of weird marks, where a boy looks very girly and such. For the most part, though, he was turning in the same expressive faces and action he’s still doing now, albeit with much less detailed backgrounds. The initial costume of Terra’s was decent aside form that crazy Dr. Polaris-meets-LockJaw-headgear. Reading this definitely made me want to know more about Terra, and really her appearance made the rest of the Runaway story glaze over. I wanted more of the mystery girl, and wanted to know just why she was crying.
Terra, of course, would go on to join the Titans, reveal herself as the traitorous statutory (maybe THAT’S why her first appearance was on a Statue…) girl-toy of Deathstroke, and die in the famous “Judas Contract” storyline, and come back, but maybe not be her, and die again, and have another Terra show up, who may actually also share genetic identity with the original. Still, she’s been a tumultuous and mysterious character since the very beginning, so at least that hasn’t changed.
What are your memories of Terra? Do you want this new one to actually be the old one? Can she ever be more than “the traitorous girl who slept with Deathstroke?” Sound off!
Terra #1 by Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner shipped this week. New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 4, featuring the original character’s first appearance, hits stores in a couple weeks