by Martin Maenza
At the heart of the chaotic fans, two groups of familiar young men fought. It was up to two heroes to break them up.
“Try not to hurt them, Hawk,” Nightwing ordered. “Some of them are just young teens.” The hero stepped between Randy Oakes of NBDTS and Michael Givens of Another Version. The boys tried to connect their punches, but Nightwing blocked them.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Bat-boy!” Hawk barked. “I know how to handle myself just fine without your help!” The red-and-white-garbed hero grabbed the arm of Nicky Ball and twisted it around his back. The young black singer dropped to his knees, unable to break the hero’s hold. “Now why don’t you just stay there for a while.”
Suddenly, two voices screamed a rallying cry. Jonny Squire leaped upon Hawk’s back and began to pound his fists on the hero’s head. The younger Gordon Squire latched onto Hawk’s leg, trying to bring the hero down.
“Hey!” Hawk exclaimed. He reached around and grabbed hold of brother Jonny. “What, you boys think you’re tough?” He tossed the handsome teen to the side and then reached down for Gordon. The younger boy dodged the first grabbing attempt but was soon pulled off by the hero. Hawk held Gordon up so his feet were off the ground; the boy still swung at the hero relentlessly but failed to connect. “You ain’t tough enough!” He then tossed the youngster on top of his brother, who was about to rise from the ground.
Nightwing shook his head in disgust as he took out Randy and Michael.
The two heroes took to the main platform. Robbie Devroe held little Jimmy McKinley, while Bobby Blue kept punching the boy. “Time for you boys to go back home to Momma,” Bobby laughed. He brought his fist back for another blow but couldn’t follow through. “Hey, man!”
As the singer turned to see who was stopping him, a red-gloved fist smashed him in the nose. “That’s what you get for being so cruel,” Hawk said as the young man fell to the ground in pain.
From the side of the stage, Ronnie Walton came to the defense of his fellow band-mate. “Let Jimmy go!” he yelled as he charged Robbie Devroe.
Nightwing thrust out his leg, tripping the young male singer. Ronnie tumbled uncontrollably forward, smashing into both Jimmy and Ronnie. The three young men landed on the ground in a massive heap.
“I’ve had enough,” Nightwing said with some disgust. “We need to get to the bottom of this now.”
Nightwing noticed the well-dressed man cowering behind some sound equipment at the back of the platform. “You!” the hero called out. “Who are you, and do you have any idea what’s going on?”
The man came forward, obviously shaken by the events that unfolded here today. “I’m Murray Starmaker,” the heavier-set man said. “I discovered and manage both these acts.”
“It looks like you need to some help in that latter department,” Hawk said.
Nightwing gestured to Hawk to back off. “Fine, Mr. Starmaker. Do you have any idea what might be making these boys behave so badly?”
“Uh, no clue,” the man replied. “The New Boys knew for weeks that Another Version was having this press conference. I arrived with the one band. Before we took the platform, we arranged for some tracks from the new album to be playing to get the crowd excited. We came out and started to take the platform when the New Boys showed up. Next thing you know, there’s a riot going on.”
“Hmm,” Nightwing said as he stroked his chin thoughtfully. He then turned to the sound equipment and pressed the power button. The music stopped blaring from the speakers, and those still up and fighting all looked up. A number of them had odd looks upon their faces, as if woken from a deep sleep.
The other heroes approached the platform area. “Man, I haven’t seen such musical rivalry since the one between the Woodworkers and Peter McCarthy’s Fliers,” Arsenal said.
“I hear that,” the Herald replied. “Now that was one weird case.”
Dove joined Nightwing and Hawk on the platform. “Did you guys find something?” she asked.
Nightwing turned back from the sound equipment. “Perhaps,” he said as he examined a cassette tape he had removed from the machine. It was an unlabeled black cassette with red dots on the casing.
After a quick return to the Titans Tower, Nightwing asked the Herald to join him in the lab. “I want to examine this mix tape carefully for possible clues, Mal,” he said.
“Sounds good to me,” his old friend replied. The two departed for the lab while the others hung out in the lounge to unwind after the action.
Suddenly the phone rang, and, being closest, Arsenal answered it. “Titans Tower,” he said. “Oh, hey, Donna, what’s up?”
On the other end of the line, Donna Troy related the events that had occurred at the New Jersey mall. “We’ve just wrapped up things here, so we’ll be heading back to the Tower.”
“That’s wild,” Arsenal replied. “We had our own little bit of musical madness today, too.” He quickly gave her the details. “Kind of too coincidental that they’d happen around the same time.”
“No doubt,” Donna agreed. “Tell Dick we’ll be there as soon as possible so we can compare notes.”
“Will do,” Arsenal said. He then hung up the phone and relayed the conversation to the others.
A few minutes later, Arsenal poked his head into the lab. “Say, Dick, just got a call from Donna,” he said. “Seems there was an incident at the Betty Gilson video shoot involving another singer. Turns out that second singer, Saks, is copping insanity. Though she has a publicly documented dislike for Betty Gilson, Saks is claiming she has no idea why she tried to kill Betty nor where she got the weapon from. She is saying she just knew she had to succeed in her attempt.”
“Too weird that we’d have problems with two sets of musical acts on the same day,” Mal said.
“Exactly what I was thinking,” said Arsenal. “Especially when Dove pointed out to us just now that both Saks and New Boys Down the Street just recently toured together.”
“Get out of town!” Mal said.
“Yep,” said Arsenal. “Definitely a link between those involved.” Arsenal turned to Nightwing, who continued to work the entire time while still listening to the new information. “Any clues with that tape, Dick?”
Nightwing looked up from the equipment. “How does some subliminal messaging grab you?” he asked.
That night at Madison Square Garden, a double bill concert was being performed. The latest line up of Latin-American teen heartthrobs to take the name Delgado completed the opening set with wild applause. A good portion of it was for young Nicky Martinez, the adorable youngest member of the group. If any of the group possessed star potential, it was the young singer/dancer.
Once Delgado left the stage, the main act came on. The Rockets were a Minneapolis-based family band consisting of seven brothers and sisters. Their infectious pop hooks and solid dance rhythms kept the audience on its feet for the entire set.
For the final encore, the Rockets invited Delgado back to the stage. The familiar music kicked in, and together the two groups performed a variation on the Rockets’ top-ten hit You Got a Crush On Me. As with every show on the tour, the number would culminate in a flashy display of pyrotechnics. But on this night, things got a bit out of hand.
The flash pots exploded brighter than ever before, driving the youthful musicians back toward the center of the stage. Another round of explosions launched off, this time firing projectiles to the large lighting scaffold above the main stage. The projectiles shattered the main rigging supports, and the whole structure tore loose. A mass of metal and multicolored lamps barreled down upon the singers and the band.
Suddenly, from the wings of the stage, a pair of individuals burst forth.
On one side, a huge emerald green gorilla appeared. It stretched out its arms in hopes to catch one end of the falling structure. “This isn’t my idea of a good back-stage pass,” Changeling said.
At the far end, Cyborg extended his cybernetic arms upward to catch the other end. “Hey, quit complaining, salad-head,” he told his friend. “At least we got to see the show for free; plus, I’m sure the band will be grateful for your help.”
The emerald gorilla smiled. “Really? Cool.” He eyed a couple of the pretty female singers.
From above, Arisia created a giant emerald winch to grab hold of the structure. “This should prevent it from falling further,” she said. It was a simple matter of her willpower that kept the emerald construct functioning.
“Good job, Arisia,” praised Artemis. “I think we had just the right people covering this situation.”
“Definitely,” the Green Lantern replied. “But how did Nightwing know there’d be trouble at this particular concert?”
Artemis smiled. “Nightwing and I go way back, to the early days of the Teen Titans when we were actual teenagers. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to detective work, Nightwing was trained by the best.”
Despite being tied up in the studio all day, V.J. VeeJay had been following the days events rather closely. The events at Record Tower and the New Jersey mall caused a great buzz at the RTV studios. The news staff scrambled to keep on top of the story, while the veejays altered the video rotation to include extra doses of those acts involved in the incidents.
It took every effort for V.J. to contain himself. When his shift ended, he gathered his stuff from his locker and headed out into the parking lot. Once outside, he allowed himself to smile with satisfaction and even chuckle a bit.
Despite the involvement of the Titans, things turned out pretty well, the man in the black shirt with silver polka dots thought to himself. He glanced at his watch. And right about now, there should be chaos at the Garden. He laughed to himself. Not a bad day’s effort, all considering.
He crossed the parking lot heading for his car. He started to whistle the Rockets’ hit tune.
“Going somewhere, pal?” a gruff voice called out from the shadows.
V.J. VeeJay stopped suddenly as Hawk, Dove, and Raven appeared from the shadows.
“We’d like to talk to you,” Dove said plainly.
V.J. VeeJay panicked, spun quickly on his heel, and began to dart back across the lot. Oh, no! Oh, no! he thought to himself. This can’t be good! It can’t!
His little sprint came to a halt when Nightwing, Arsenal, and Herald stepped out in front of him. “Hey, where’s the fire, sport?” the archer asked.
“Aaah!” V.J. VeeJay exclaimed. He turned to head back the other way but saw the other three heroes approaching him. Glancing back and forth, the man realized they had him surrounded.
“I’d suggest you not make this any harder than it has to be, David Johnson,” the Herald said.
“Its Victor Johnson now!” V.J. VeeJay exclaimed. “I was David back when I was a disc jockey, but no longer!”
“Yes, back when you went by the name of D.J. DeeJay,” Nightwing said. “Some of us still remember you. You were the first disc jockey in the world to broadcast live from Earth’s orbit. Today’s the anniversary of that event, isn’t it, Victor?”
The man dropped his head forward silently. After a moment, he said softly, “Yes. It’s been almost ten years since that day. It seems more like a lifetime ago. I was at the top of my career then, one of the most famous men in all broadcasting mediums. Here I was, making history by spinning stacks of wax while circling the planet. The world below was listening to my words between the tunes. I was reaching so many people that day.
“And when that alien tried to take over the planet, I stumbled upon his plans. Through the power of radio, I was able to use coded messages to reach help on Earth. Some of you Teen Titans were able to rescue me and drive the alien off. (*) For that brief moment, I was a superstar. I’d helped save the planet. Every talk show wanted me to be a guest. Every magazine put my face on their covers.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Large Trouble in Space-Ville,” Teen Titans #12 (November-December, 1967).]
“But that’s the nature of the business. One day you’re hot, the next you’re not. The offers stopped coming in as quickly as they started. And then the phones stopped ringing. My fifteen minutes of fame were up, and it was back to spinning discs for smaller-market stations. Then my life fell completely apart.
“I started having problems sleeping through the night. I didn’t want to go the prescription route; in my line of work, I knew first-hand how drugs destroyed too many brilliant careers. I ended up seeing a hypnotist who helped me counter my bouts of insomnia through self-hypnosis. It took a while, but I found I could treat myself and get to sleep at night.
“Once I was no longer a wreck, I tried to get back into the only business I knew. But radio was on its way out. Kids would rather see the artists that made the music on videos. That was the new cutting edge. ‘I want my RTV!’ They most certainly did.
“I knew that was the only way to continue to work with the music industry. I was forced to humiliate myself to get the smallest of jobs at the network. Through hard work, a willingness to do just about any job, and the fact that I had a few former fans in the higher-up executives, I was able to get a job on air.”
“But not before you spent time doing on-the-road interviews, right?” Nightwing said. “In fact, you covered quite extensively the recent tour for the New Boys Down the Street and their opening act Saks. You spent a lot of time in America’s malls over the last year or so.”
“I did,” V.J. admitted. “And it was during that time I became more jaded by the state of today’s music. It was more and more about the packaging and presentation. The artists were becoming so plastic, so manufactured, so fake. That made me very angry.”
“Angry enough to turn the youth of day into your own tools for revenge?” Dove asked.
Victor Johnson tried to speak but could not. Rehashing the events that had led him to this moment filled him with such conflicting emotions. His mind was racing as if it could no longer contain himself. The man dropped down to his knees and began to wail.
The six heroes stood by silently as they watched the man completely break down.
The next day, the members of both Titans teams tried to relax at the Tower over brunch. The events of the day before still occupied much of their conversation.
“How sad that he used hypnosis to make those talented kids do his bidding,” Karen Duncan said.
“At least with his confession on the record, those kids won’t be charged with any crimes,” Mal replied.
“If anything, the added attention will most likely fuel more sales of their records,” Kory offered. “The media often feeds upon this stuff.” The married couple nodded in agreement.
Across the way, Gar Logan went for the remote. “Shall I see if we made the news?” he asked as he clicked the channels.
“Nah, dude,” Charley replied. “Like, I’m kind of burned out on that stuff, you know?” He stopped for a second to catch the blurring images. “Whoa! Go back one, Gar!”
His friend clicked the button back, stopping on a women’s volleyball game on one of the cable sports channels. “Here?” The blonde surfer nodded, and the two plopped down to watch the action.
Hank and Dawn approached Donna Troy Long and Roy Harper. “So, isn’t Nightwing coming by this morning?” Hank asked. “I wanted to talk to him.”
“Hank wanted to apologize for being a jerk,” Dawn interpreted. “Right, Hank?”
“Well,” the young man started to say. “Let’s just say I had a bad judgment call.”
“Relax,” said Roy. “None of us is perfect. Not even Donna, here.” The dark-haired woman gave her old friend an odd look. “Oh, come on, now, Donna, and admit it. Years ago, you thought that D.J. DeeJay guy was fab.”
Donna put down her coffee cup. “Yes, true,” she said. “I did say that at one time. But I guess this just goes to prove that sometimes people can go from fab to bad.”