Bizarro Back Issues: The Teen Titans Are The Secret Olympic Heroes! (1966)
One of the best things about watching the Olympics is that you get to see athletes not only competing, but showing an incredible amount of respect and sportsmanship at the absolute highest levels of their craft. Seriously, as much as I love to see the thrill of victory, it's always the handshakes, high fives, and hugs after the whistle blows that are really nice to see.
But while the spirit of the Olympics is built on international friendship and good-natured competition, there are definitely villainous organizations out there trying to sabotage the games with the somewhat nebulous goal of turning us all against each other.
Or at least, that's what was going down in 1966, when the Teen Titans found themselves tasked with stopping a vaguely demonic criminal gang from destroying the Olympics --- something that was slightly less pressing than helping their pal Davey deal with his extremely grumpy dad.
"The Secret Olympic Heroes," a title that implies that there's literally any secrecy involved in Speedy showing up in his full costume to participate in the opening ceremonies, originally ran in 1966's Teen Titans #4, from the legendary team of Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. If, however, you're looking to find a cheaper version for yourself, it was also chopped up into a two-parter to run as backups in Action Comics #409 and #410 in 1972, a weird choice that resulted in a recap page where panels from the first half were shrunk down to near illegibility to catch readers back up.
Either way, our story begins in typically over-the-top Bob Haney fashion at a practice race for the upcoming olympics, where Davey Bradley, a hot prospect in track and field, takes first place... and then just keeps going.
This, it seems, is a big enough problem that superheroes need to be called in to solve it, and since it's a problem that involves a #teen, it's kicked down to the sidekicks.
What's really notable here is that it's Davey's father just Skypes into the Titans' clubhouse to talk to Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Aqualad, calling up on a direct-line video phone that, according to Haney's caption, everyone in the world has access to, as long as they're having teen problems.
With all the things that were explained to death in DC's Silver Age comics, you'd think that would've gotten a little bit more of a mention.
Anyway, a runaway runner is only one of the problems that the Titans have to face today. There's another, far more pressing concern that they learn about once their pal Speedy shows up:
Since Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, the Atom, the Elongated Man, the Blackhawks, Lois Lane, Aquaman and the entire Doom Patrol were apparently busy that day, the Olympics have gotten Green Arrow's sidekick to perform a feat of expert archery to open the ceremonies. The only problem is that someone's trying to engineer a disaster instead. Speedy's trick arrow, for instance, was replaced with one that was loaded with explosives, and when he tried to apprehend the culprit, he found that he wasn't just dealing with one man.
He was fighting... Diablo!
I really want to see the meeting among Diablo's founders where they were getting all their branding set up, and someone decided that the blazing symbol of a crimson fist raised in hatred and distrust wasn't quite enough, and that they should probably just throw in a little sans-serif D so that nobody got confused. Seriously, it's like what would happen if Cobra was founded by the company that made all those terrible Halloween costumes in the '80s.
Anyway, with two Olympics-related problems to solve, the Teen Titans leap into action, and their first priority is "finding Davey Bradley and getting him on the starting line for Uncle Sam!" This actually turns out to be pretty simple --- Wonder Girl stumbles across a clothesline in a suburban back yard with Davey's tracksuit and realizes that he's gone incognito by stealing a set of clean clothes, and then just as quickly stumbles across Davey himself.
You might be wondering why I specified that Davey was running around in clean clothes. It turns out that this is actually worth noting, since clean clothes are apparently such a rarity in the world of Bob Haney comics that the very sight of them sends a gang of hobos into a murder frenzy:
Even after Wonder Girl rescues him, though, it turns out that Davey doesn't want to go back. See, he's been trained for his entire life by his father, an Olympic hopeful whose dreams were shattered by a car accident, and Davey feels so much pressure to bring home a gold that he's worried that anything less will disappoint his father and ruin their relationship. Given Mr. Bradley's demands that Davey must compete, the Titans agree to keep him hidden in disguise, but they do bring him to the Olympics on their investigation, just in case he changes his mind.
Spoiler warning: He's going to change his mind.
Once they arrive, though, it's not long before Diablo makes their sinister plans known once again. First, it's a booby-trapped autograph pad...
...and then a bit of graffiti that almost kicks off a riot between the French and German contingents:
Their most sinister, plan, however, comes when they attack the Olympic flame itself, with gas that is both explosive and hypnotic!
To finally dispose of the Titans, the Diablo agents come up with a plan whose cruelty is rivaled only by the sheer complexity and the amount of things that could go wrong: They chain the Titans up to a massive statue of the Olympic rings, where Speedy is practicing his blindfolded trick shot that will set them all on fire, under the impression that Speedy will just burn his friends to death without ever noticing.
And they're pretty much correct.
In the world of Bob Haney, putting on a blindfold also means you can't hear people screaming at you from about thirty yards away.
With the Titans unable to free themselves even with Wonder Girl's super-strength, and Speedy apparently shooting arrows from within a sensory deprivation tank, it's up to Davey to save the day, running as fast as he can to knock Speedy's aim off course. He does it, and in the process, he rediscovers his love of running.
Unfortunately, he only takes the bronze the next day when the Olympics truly begin, but it turns out that that's more than enough to make his dad happy. So for those of you worried about getting your parents' approval, don't fret! All you have to do is foil an international terrorist plot, be the third-best runner in the world, and save the lives of at least five superheroes.