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cover: (unknown)
29 Jun 2004
Pantheon Books


Includes Brad Meltzer's 9-page essay called "How I Spent The Summer With the Judas Contract", describing his puberty experience with Tara Markov from the Teen Titans (he was 14 at the time).

How I Spent My Summer Vacation With The Judas Contract
by Brad Meltzer, originally published in Give Our Regards to the Atom-Smashers.

I was fourteen. She was sixteen.
I had a long, shaggy bowl cut (feathered on the sides, natch). She had a blond Dutch-boy hairstyle.
I was at the height of puberty. She was far more experienced.
I was an innocent. She was, too (or so it seemed).
Her name was Terra (aka Tara Markov). And she was the first girl to break my heart.

Simply put, she lied to me. And Im not just talking about the standard grade school lies (Youre definitely my best friend, or I never told Julie Lerner you were fat.). Im talking something far more sinister. Terra betrayed me. She deceived me. She shoved a knife in my belly and sliced upward all the way to my heart. And at fourteen years old, I loved every minute of it.

To back up a bit, and to give a little background in the hope that, when my mother reads this, she wont feel the parental guilt that will cause her to spend the next year of my life asking, Whos this Tara Markov, and how come you didnt tell me about her? heres a quick primer. In December 1982, New Teen Titans ..26 was published, introducing Terra, a troubled fifteen year-old who became the first new member of the Teen Titans. Let me make one thing clear: this was a big deal to me.

In 1982, New Teen Titans, written by Marv Wolfman, and drawn oh-so-exquisitely by George Perez,, was easily the best book on the market (thats right, I said it--and yes, smart guy, Im well aware that Byrne-Claremont X-Men was being published at the same time). Made up of the junior superheroes of the DC Universe, the Titans brought together such mainstays as Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, with new characters Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Changling (a young, green (yes, green) fifteen year-old class clown who could change into green animals (yes, green, and yes, animals). As I type those words, Im reminded that comics always suffer in the re-telling, but take my word for it, the alchemy between Wolfman and Perez created a vehicle for stories that redefined what comic-book characterization was all about. Sure, the Titans beat on the bad guys, but the book was first and foremost about the relationships between these young kids who were saddled with enough power to knock down a mountain. And you thought your puberty was tough.

Which brings us back to Terra. At the time she was invited to join, the Titans were a family. Seven members. And now there was an eighth. As I said, it was a big deal--imagine Ringo telling the other Beatles, Hey, blokes--I got a great fifth to play tambourine! Still, it was accepted without much fuss. Lets not forget, thats how superteams work. Members leave . . . members join. Even Batman and Robin parted ways (the original Robin, fanboy). There are no Beatles in comics.

As Terra spent time with the group, there were definitely a few doubters. Would she fit in? Was she joining the team with the right intentions? But me? I was like Changling--simply smitten.

I’m not ashamed. I was twelve when she first appeared. Wonder Woman was far too old, and Wonder Girl was mature enough that she was dating a guy with a beard. Dammit, where were the teenage girls who’d like insecure, loud-mouthed boys wearing Lee jeans like me? And then, out of the George Perez blue sky, comes this fifteen year-old fast-talking blond with super powers who could control the Earth itself. You better believe the ground quaked beneath my feet. Sure, she was trying to blow up the Statue of Liberty, but that was only because terrorists were threatening to kill her parents if she didn’t take Lady Liberty down. She didn’t want to do it, though--remember her words? I dont want to do any of this! Look at the back issues. There were tears in her eyes as she begged Changling to stay away. Don’t make it harder on me, she begged. Please!! No question, this was a girl who needed help. She needed someone to come to her aid. She needed me.

Fast forward to issue twenty-eight. Terra was robbing a bank. Like before, her heart wasnt in it. She even apologized to Changling as she attacked him. . . . Im really sorry I have to do this And again, there were the tears. Curse those tears! They melted my pubescent heart like Fire Lad tonguing a Klondike bar. Dammit, world, cant you understand shes only doing it to save her parents!?

Of course, the Titans understood, and helped her track down the terrorists, only to find that her parents were already dead(!). Raging out of control, Terra screamed for revenge, gripping the terrorists in an enormous fist made of rock. As the villains begged for mercy, my girl squeezed them tighter. The Earth was shaking. She was so powerful, she started an earthquake. My young eyes went wide as the stone fist tightened--I couldnt believe it--she was really gonna kill em. But like all true heroes, as Terra peered into the abyss, she didnt like what she saw. Crumbling to her knees, she showed the villains the mercy never given to her parents. Again, my heart plummeted--Terra was fifteen and all alone in the world. Didnt anyone hear what she was saying on the final pages? I . . . feel so alone. And then, Changling looked into those sad, newly-orphaned blue eyes and said exactly what my twelve year-old brain was thinking: You dont have to be, Terra. Im here. (Emphasis not mine, but man, it couldve been.) The teaser on the cover of the issue said, Introducing Terra! Is She Friend--or Foe? Friend! I shouted. Friend!

I have to hand it to Wolfman and Perez. They knew what they were doing. Preying on the knight-in-shining-armor gene thats inherent in every male comic fan (oh, cmon, why do you think we read this stuff in the first place?), they conjured the perfect young lady in distress, then stepped back to watch us put our legs in the metal trap. The first step was done. By introducing her as a victim, they made us feel for her. But then they raised the stakes. Sure, she was in pain, but she was far from helpless. In fact, when Changling tried to come to her aid, she not only refused it, she actually punched him in the face, called him a nerd, and flew away. Think about that a moment. Do you have any idea what a strong female character like that does to a thirteen year-old psyche? No? Then let me back up even further and explain.

In 1981, in the heart of New-York-accent Brooklyn, my biggest social dilemma was deciding between Karen Akin and Ananda Bresloff. The slam books (aka, popularity ratings that were passed around to decide our social fates) were clear: given the choices Good, Fair, and Yuk, both Karen and Ananda had ranked me as Good. Even in fifth grade, Good was a good sign. Now the ball was in my court. How would I rank them? Sure, we had traded slam books at the exact same time, but only a fool ranks someone before they see how that person ranks them. Make no mistake, I mayve been dumb enough to think my knee-high tube socks were cool, and even insecure enough to want to wear a gold Italian-horn charm around my neck even though I was Jewish, but I was nobodys fool. And so, I handed Karen and Ananda their respective slam books.

Did you do the chart? they asked.
Of course, I said.

But when they checked inside, heres what they saw:
Girls -- rank them Good, Fair, or Yuk
Darlene Signorelli - Fair
Randi Boxer - Fair
Danielle Levy - Fair
Ananda Bresloff -
Karen Akin -

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    News: Brad Meltzer, Fan Turned Pro

    Sun, 17 Sep 2006 00:43:42 CST [ submitted by Vu ]

    SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2006 (20-23 Jul 2006) - San Diego, California
    DC: Fans Turned Pro (MP3 Direct Link)
    8/23/2006 5:54 pm

    Fans Turned Pro: Johns, Meltzer, and Winick- As kids we read comics and dream of one day making them. These fans in particular are now living that dream and have become some of the best talent working in the industry today. Join Stephen Wacker, Geoff Johns (52, Action Comics, Green Lantern, Teen Titans), Brad Meltzer (Identity Crisis, the upcoming Justice League of America), and Judd Winick (Green Arrow, The Outsiders) as they discuss how they got where they are and what they plan on doing next. Listen in as these MVPs give us their take on DC's amazing characters! Recorded live on July 22, 2006 at Comic-Con San Diego, CA. Brought to you by



    (5:06) Brad Meltzer: In terms of what I love when I grew up. The best book as far as I'm concern, bar nothing, was Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's Teen Titans. And Marv Wolfman is here, and that is -- (claps).

    I mean, that -- I thank you, sir. That book was -- I can't even tell -- my novels are so affected by that writing -- my comics are affected by that writing. And Identity Crisis is affected by that story. Just from the Judas Contract alone and the idea of a surprise in a comic that I couldn't guess.

    As I felt, as we all get older, we can all guess the endings. Now I can tell you where I was sitting when turned that page and I saw Tara talking to Deathstroke. And going, and there was no internet, no Previews, no nothing. And I just remember thinking, 'No, it's impossible!' And I really felt that affected me forever.

    And that idea of surprise your reader, but not with shock values, but with character. Character! Character! Character!

    That Day in the Life story, was one of the greatest story ever. We pay homage to it in Justice League. But those stories were my bread and butter...

    News: Isabella Reviews 'Atomsmashers'

    October 04, 2004 06:53 pm
     From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1598 (Nov 2004)
    TONY'S TIPS: Finding Justice in Comics
    written by Tony Isabella
    published in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1598 (Nov 2004)

    Pantheon Books

    Contemporary authors write about their favorite comic books in Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers! (Pantheon, $24.95), edited by Sean Howe. The 17 essays range from discussions of Little Nemo in Slumberland to Jim Woodring with stops along the way that include Tintin, Reuben Flagg, Adam Warlock, NoMan and Steve Ditko.

    In effect, this anthology might be the most erudited comics fanzine of all time.

    My reactions to the essays generally depended on two things: how well the authors' love for the comics they were writing about came through and how much I shared their love. Johnathan Lethem, whose novel The Fortress of Solitude made use of comics tenets tells of childhood friendships in relation to the comics his friends and he read. I could relate to that; even with comics fanzines, conventions, and online forums, I have never been able to recapture the excitement of talking about the new comics of my youth with a few and special friends of mine who also loved them.

    Steve Erickson writes compellingly of American Flagg! and Gary Giddins does the same for Classic Illustrated. Brad Meltzer tells of his love for the doomed Terra in The New Teen Titans, making a case, however unplanned, that his Identity Crisis can be blamed on the childhood trauma he suffered at the hands of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez.

    (I'm just kidding. I think.)

    [ Read more in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1598 (Nov 2004) ]

     July 05, 2004 06:07 pm | Brad Meltzer's Essay in Atomsmashers
    From Vu (email)

    Brad Meltzer wrote a 9-page essay on GIVE OUR REGARDS TO THE ATOMSMASHERS called "How I Spent The Summer With the Judas Contract", describing his puberty experience with Tara Markov (he was 14 at the time).

    Meltzer is a successful novelist who, as it turns out, a big fan of comics. He's currently writing novels as well as comics. His latest project is IDENTITY CRISIS... and as far as I know, have had rave reviews (although, from what I've seen, most women were unhappy about the choice of the victim).

    The chapter frontspiece has George Perez's art of Tara in her makeup & smoking from TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #42 (May 1984).

    The book is edited by Sean Howe and is currently only available in hardcover with a retail price of $24.95. It is a little expensive, but it is worth checking out if you're in a book store.


    Pantheon Books
    by SEAN HOWE (Editor)
    List Price: $24.95
    Hardcover: 240 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 8.75 x 0.75 x 6.50
    Publisher: Pantheon Books; (June 29, 2004)
    ISBN: 0375422560

    From Publishers Weekly
    As we always knew, 1950s scaremongers were wrong: not only does overindulgence in comic books not dissuade young readers from prose, but some very famous writers grew up addicted to comics. Howe has lined up a remarkable bunch of essayists, including Luc Sante, Greil Marcus, Jonathan Lethem and Brad Meltzer, to write about their favorite funny books. Many revisit the comics of their youth with amused distance—the Marvel vs. DC rivalry, the wonders of Jack Kirby's cosmology and Steve Ditko's crabbed mysticism. A few analyze specific series: Steve Erickson takes on Howard Chaykin's boundary-pushing '80s title American Flagg, and Gary Giddins traces how Classics Illustrated celebrated a part of the literary canon that was dying. Some of the most striking contributions, though, are very personal pieces by self-consciously comics-obsessed writers: Glen David Gold recounting his tormented attempts to buy original comics art from a dealer who'd have nothing to do with him; Sante explaining the power of the "clear-line" style of Tintin cartoonist Hergé on his boyhood self; and Meltzer (who's now a comics writer and novelist) discussing his near-sexual fascination with a mid-'80s New Teen Titans story line. The book includes some of today's most elegant writing on comics, a worthy companion to Lupoff and Thompson's All in Color for a Dime (1997), the previous standard in the field.
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