Tiny Titans #17
Tiny Titans is analogous in a lot of ways to Mini-marvels. Big-headed child versions of your favorite heroes involved in comedic adventures, with continuity references sprinkled about in just the right amount to entertain hard-core geeks without alienating everyone else. It’s such a winning formula you wonder why Marvel and DC haven’t remade their entire line over in its image. (I’d sure like to see it applied to 100 Bullets, for example.)
Given the similarities in concept and execution, though, it’s impressive how different the books actually are in practice. In the art, for example, Chris Giarrusso on Mini-Marvels is relatively sick — it looks like it’s influenced by newspaper strips, maybe. The drawings are imaginative (the tiny hands on venom are a favorite bit, for example) but not especially stylish or distinctive.
Art Baltazar’s drawings for Tiny Titans, on the other hand, are really kindergardeny (ahem); theyr’e messier with thicker lines and less background detail — more expressive. I think I prefer them more to look at; in this sequence, for instance, I like the way Mxyzptlk resolves from out of the squiggles; it’s sort of like you’re watching him being drawn.
For the story, though, I definitely prefer Mini-Marvels. It’s probably partially because it seems pitched at slightly older kids…but it’s also because the writers seem to feel able to do more. There’s lots of nutty verbal humor and weird gross out gags (Wolverine cuts up a piece of French bread with his claws and everyone’s horrified because he just used the claws to hack up zombies); and the continuity jokes are bizarre and hilarious (Galactus being the giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk, for example.) The things just chock full of side gags and glancing nonsense and silly unexpected patter. The gag below, for example, is a damn fine Peanuts riff:
(uck; apologies for the colors on both of these. My scanning technology is limited.)
Tiny Titans on the other hand is much more sedate…and dare I say, boring. No gross out humor, no verbal sparring; just one mildly silly situation per story. Battle for the Cow, in which the cow has Batman’s cowl, is entertaining, and the cow is cute…and it’s fun reading the “Mooo! Crash! Mooo!” as the cow beats up Beast Boy. But that all takes four pages…and the denoument is totally squandered (starfire just wanders in and rescues the cowl…I guess because she’s a girl? It’s definitely got that sitcom trope where the girls are more competent.)
Again, it’s probably aimed at a younger demographic…but Mo Willems does great verbal rhythms and well-timed slapstick and even some absurdist nonsense, and he’s aimed at even younger kids. I think the writing is just mediocre, is the conclusion. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it get be loads worse, and I’d rather read this than the Berenstein Bears, or Thomas the Tank Engine books…or than loads of stuff. But I wouldn’t seek it out on my own…whereas, if another Mini-Marvels collection is published, I want it.