"Tiny Titans" has quickly established itself as the most eagerly anticipated Johnny DC title, at least in my house. I have a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, both of whom enjoy the occasional comic book. My son's preferences tend toward the recent "Power Pack" comics, while my daughter adores all things Wonder Woman. They've sampled "Cartoon Network Block Party" and the recently canceled "Justice League Unlimited," but haven't been very impressed. My son enjoys "Teen Titans Go!" and "The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century," but those don't take any kind of priority over anything else in his life. He likes to look at them, eventually.
"Tiny Titans" is different.
My daughter can't read yet, but as soon as I brought issue #3 home, she spent ten minutes "reading" it aloud to herself, making up stories to go along with the pictures. And my son read it soon after (and the moment he saw it, he literally jumped up and down with excitement -- that's not something I've ever seen in reaction to a comic book. A video game, maybe. Not a comic). I asked my son what he liked about it, and he just said, "it's funny. It's so funny." And he was laughing out loud when he got to the end of some of the stories in the issue, so I have evidence to support his assertions.
And I think it's funny too.
"Tiny Titans" #3, like the previous two issues, contains several short, almost unbearably cute stories featuring a vast array of current and former Teen Titans. The first story, "Zoology 101," features Dr. Light as a befuddled science teacher at Sidekick City Elementary, while the second, "Sidekick's Superhero" shows the Tiny Titans talking about their secret origins and making fun of Robin, who is clearly more sidekick than hero. Robin's lame origin, "I used to be an acrobat," he says, "Then I became a superhero!" is the subject of much hilarity amongst his pals. Until Batman pulls up to the school in the Batmobile and Robin rides off in a cloud of Bat-smoke. "Man, I wish I was a sidekick," says Kid Flash. "Dude, I think you already are," replied Cyborg. "Sweet!" says Kid Flash.
The two other stories in the comic, "Li'L Bro Jericho" and "Batcave Action Playset" are equally entertaining, and writer/artist Art Baltazar does a wonderful job making fun of these characters and exploiting their potential for genial humor. This is not an edgy book at all, and it shouldn't be. It's a soft, sweet, ice cream sundae of a comic, full of innocent fun that uses the history of these characters for humor but doesn't rely on it. My kids have no idea who Jericho is, but seeing L'il Jericho use his powers to make Principal Slade dismiss school early is a delight for all ages.
These stories don't have any lessons or morals at the end. They are like the children's books of someone like Mo Willems (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog), funny without having to justify it. They are idiosyncratic, charming visions (look at the credits, by the way -- Art Baltazar and writing collaborator Franco do it all themselves), and "Tiny Titans" #3 is a great example of editor Jann Jones's vision for the new Johnny DC: gateway books for a new generation of comic book readers.
It's working, at least in my house. Aw yeah!