It seems postively unimaginable given the steamroller success of the X-Men brand (which has had 18 films and 68 animated series by last count, along with a chain of theme restaurants), that back in the age of Chris Claremont, the Uncanny X-Men Golden Age when many of the truly landmark storylines played out and core characterisations were chipped into stone tablets, that Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’ New Teen Titans gave the mutants of Westchester a run for their money.
Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss DC’s Teen Titans as a bunch of embarrassingly conservative sidekicks, especially compared to the bold storytelling innovations of Claremont’s X-Men, but both books trod similar ground and are both regarded as definitive by fans. Grand cosmic dramas and relationship crises, tragic back stories and battles with angry space-gods, struck a perfect balance for this bold new era, and fittingly even had a crossover in September 1982 in which Chris Claremont treated his DC opposites with as much respect as his own characters.
A lovely meeting though that was, we’ve been denied a full fanboy face-off (although some X-characters and Teen Titan-affiliated folk traded blows in the lukewarm DC Versus Marvel miniseries), so we threw open the battle to Twitter and weighed up the challengers, both plucked from their series at their iconic Eighties peak, in order to do battle for our amusement.
The ultimate clash of the nigh-on infinite demigods, Phoenix (Uncanny X-Men) is an immensely powerful cosmic entity guiding/possessing the telepathic Jean Grey, powers including flight, energy manipulation, a brilliant green/yellow costume and turning evil (and changing costume to suit) with little provocation, while Raven (New Teen Titans) is the daughter of a otherworldly demonic entity with powers of flight, teleportation, telepathy, astral projection and vaguely defined sorcery, oh, and turning evil (and changing face colour to suit) with little provocation.
The face-off would seem to favour Phoenix, she’s the most obviously powerful – just how many X-Men comics have ended with the ensemble cowering from the enormous flaming silhouette? – but while both are prone to mental instability, fainting and being ‘untouchable’ figures of unrequited love, Raven’s control of emotions, most critically her ability to numb them, gives her the ability to effectively disarm the all-powerful Phoenix Force and finish things off with a dainty headbutt.
You said: “Phoenix is at her most powerful when consumed by strong emotions, Raven absorbs emotions, Jean doesn’t stand a chance.” @sebacancinos
The Knight: Cyclops versus Nightwing
The stalwart, long-suffering team leaders – the square-jawed jock who is inevitably paired up with the cheerleader. Both Scott Summers (Uncanny X-Men) and Dick Grayson (New Teen Titans) are heirs to a daunting legacy – for Cyclops, it’s that of Professor Charles Xavier, the brilliant mutant rights activist who founding the X-Men, and for Nightwing (or Robin if you prefer, but it’s less dignified and that’s even taking into account the disco collar) it’s that of Batman, the world’s greatest detective and caped scourge of the underworld. Both are constantly battling with their self-esteem too, Cyclops has to deal with Wolverine/Angel sleazing up Jean Grey, and Nightwing as to deal with the fact he’s basically just an acrobat in a team of world-cracking supergods.
While both are allegedly strong leaders and master tacticians (we don’t get to see a lot of either ability in the Eighties, they mostly just argue with their girlfriends and constantly threaten to quit), it’s Nightwing who can’t help but come out of top. He’s a good all-rounder, trained by one of the DC Universe’s greatest detectives, martial artists, and clown hunters, whereas Cyclops basically just shoots lasers from his face and that was very difficult to somehow duplicate when you were playing X-Men in the school playground.
You said: “Nightwing. Nobody wants to vote for a guy with eye beams from the punch dimension.” @Quigonphil
Both steel-clad gentle giants, Russian farm boy Piotr Rasputin (Uncanny X-Men) can transform into a metal-skinned behemoth, with superior strength and endurance, while Victor Stone (New Teen Titans) was cybernetically augmented by his scientist father when he was severely wounded by a lab experiment gone awry.
Despite radically different back stories, they’re both largely patronising stereotypes, with the young Soviet being a literal ‘Man of Steel’ (a la Stalin) from a collective farm and sharing the surname of the mad monk, while Vic Stone is a former athlete turned “angry black man”, the sort of character that the late, great Dwayne McDuffie constantly raged about.
With his superior intelligence and various Swiss Army Knife attachments, like his oft deployed sonic cannon, Cyborg appears the obvious victor (olol), even though he’s he lacks the sheer physical prowess of his mutant counterpart. At Wolfman’s New Teen Titans peak though, Cyborg was at by far his most troubled, bitter at his parents and half-machine fate, the mild-mannered Colossus on the other hand is a more stoic figure, with the sheer dogged perseverance and focus to keep the fight going to the end and pound Vic Stone to his constituent parts.
You said: “Colossus. Simply due to the fact that Cyborg is a wimp! Prone to viruses!” @safcinexile
Initially a very close run thing, while both have the off-the-rail generic superhero power-set of super-strength, flight and endurance, Rogue’s (Uncanny X-Men) mutant ability is to actually leech someone else’s memories and skills, those archetypical powers actually having been stolen from Ms Marvel. As a kindly tweeter pointed out, one touch and bam, Wonder Girl’s (New Teen Titans) out cold.
Donna Troy’s training is what gives her the battle though, an expert hand-to-hand fighter, having been raised and trained by the mythical Amazons. Rogue’s one-touch power is no use if she’s unable to actually make contact, plus, Rogue spends much of the Eighties worrying about not fitting in, having only recently defected from the Brotherhood Of Mutants and Mystique’s adopted motherhood, while Wonder Girl is very much the mature, calm centre of the Teen Titans.
Perhaps later when Rogue becomes the sultry Southern Belle that caused many a sexual awakening during the Saturday morning cartoon… sorry, can’t actually remember when I was going with that.
You said: “Wonder Girl EASILY. Eighties Rogue is too love-lorn. Modern Emo-Rogue could probably take her, but not Eighties version.” @IcebergInkScott
Winner: Wonder Girl
It’s become very clear at this point that the deciding factor isn’t power level, but mental stability and a well-rounded skill-set. Despite Wally West’s (New Teen Titans) prominence in the DC canon and his future destiny as the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash himself, roll back the clock to 198-whatever and Kid Flash is actually a bit of a jerk.
Sure, he can run fast, and arguably faster than Nightcrawler (Uncanny X-Men) can teleport, but despite his demons (literal and metaphorical), Kurt Wagner is a sensitive swashbuckler with a hard of gold, whereas West is a temperamental right wing reactionary who’ll probably get distracted by possible Communists or a woman driving a car without her husband present.
You said: “Nightcrawler, of course. He can teleport and Kid Flash can just run fast. Teleporting is way better.” @PageCirillo
Ah, I know what you’re thinking: Storm (Uncanny X-Men) is truly together, a proud and haughty weather goddess, and on top of that rain easily douses fire, so she trumps this game of superhero rock-paper-scissors. That may well be, but at the peak of the Claremont era of Uncanny X-Men, Ororo was just as tortured as the rest of them, certainly on a par with the passionate, easily enraged Starfire (New Teen Titans) who frequently charges into combat without thinking, just firing off energy blasts in all directions like an impulsive garden sprinkler from the volcano planet.
Even in spite of her issues, perhaps because at this period both of these easily angered elementals are about as hot-headed as each other, Storm is clearly the queen of the skies, bombarding Starfire with lightning, dampening her furious charge with harsh winds and hailstones, and besides, she got herself sassy mohawk while Kory had to make do with by far the worst comic-book haircut until Superman got a mullet, Nightwing got a ponytail and Superboy borrowed his fade from Vanilla Ice.
You said: “Mohawk Ororo, each and every time!” @AbnormalsComic
I don’t think we really need to diginify this with any sort of a debate, do we?Garfield Logan (New Teen Titans) is green in every sense of the world and turns into different zoo animals, usually for comedic effect. Logan is a Adamantium-clawed living weapon who fought the Incredible Hulk to a standstill long before the X-Men came a calling.
Frankly Beast Boy, the only way this could end in anything other than finely diced chunks of green meat, is if you turned into a little green penguin and Wolverine was just so embarrassed that he walked away from the whole thing.
You said: “Wolverine wins everything, always, even against himself. He is a force of nature, not a mutant.” @IcebergInkScott
Overall winner: The Uncanny X-Men, what do you reckon? Leave a comment and let us know.