In the 1980s, The New Teen Titans was one of the most popular books being published by DC Comics. It’s popularity (for me, at least) was due to the fact that there was more to the book than just super powered derring-do.
As I’ve said before, Marv Wolfman and George Perez (co-creators and writer and artist, respectively) made the Titans (and their supporting cast) come across as relatable, three dimensional people. Many of them just happened to have special abilities.
Because we got stories about people (who happened to have super powers), we also got character pieces like “Who is Donna Troy?”, cover dated January 1984. Plotted by Wolfman and Perez, inked by Romeo Tanghal and edited by the late, great Len Wein, the story finds Robin (Dick Grayson), leader of the Titans, investigating the past of one of his closest friends, Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) at the behest of her fiancé, Terry Long.
Long tells Robin that Troy, who was rescued from a burning building as a toddler by Wonder Woman, has been trying to find out the identity of her real parents.
Where did the surname Troy come from? My understanding is that back in the 1960s incarnation of Teen Titans, Wonder Girl, who grew up on Paradise Island, just came up with the name “Donna Troy” as a civilian identity.
“She feels it would make a difference in our marriage, but it wouldn’t change anything for me,” Long says. “I’d love her no matter what.”
Still, knowing how important it is to her, he asks Robin to investigate. He agrees, so long as Troy is okay with it (Long knows that Troy is Wonder Girl, but not the identity of her coworkers, which is why he approaches Robin and not Dick Grayson). Troy tells Robin it’s not worth his time, since she’s turned up nothing in her own investigations, but agrees. She relates what little she remembers from her rescue and says Wonder Woman tried to find out who she was, but reached a dead end. Apparently the apartment Troy had been in wasn’t rented and no one lived there, according to the landlord at the time.
Robin and Wonder Girl start by investigating what remains of the apartment building. Using blueprints he got from City Hall, Robin finds a box in a coal bin. Inside, he finds a scorched doll.
Troy can’t remember where or when she’s seen the doll, but hugs it and cries.
A visit to the landlord’s widow turns up a dead end. Troy is ready to give up, but Grayson (who’s doing this as an engagement gift) isn’t. He works on identifying scraps of fabric found in the box. After several hours, a computer program comes up with the phrase “Hello, my name is Donna.”
Work on the doll turned up the name of an “Uncle Max” in Newport News, VA. Grayson goes there and finds Max. He repaired the doll, along with several others, free of charge, for a Mrs. Cassidy, who ran an orphanage (he signed the dolls “Uncle Max” so the kids felt there was someone who cared). He also reveals that the orphanage was closed about 15 years earlier due to a child slavery scandal.
Cassidy was found innocent, while her lawyer was sent to prison. Grayson’s search for her leads to a nursing home in Florida. He arranges to go down there with Troy. She’s nervous about meeting someone who knew her from before the fire.
The head of the nursing home reveals that Cassidy hasn’t spoken a full sentence since she arrived a decade earlier. However, seeing the doll snaps her out of it. She reveals that Troy’s birth mother (who gave her the doll) was dying of cancer and gave her daughter up for adoption. A couple named Stacey adopted the baby. Troy says the name rings a bell.
Troy is ecstatic at having learned about her past, but Grayson wonders why Mr. and Mrs. Stacey died in a room that wasn’t rented. Still, the case would seem to be solved.
Back in Newport News, Troy insists on driving through town and down a certain street. She stops in front of a particular house, which she recognizes as her childhood home.
She also makes another realization.
Fay Stacey, now Fay Evans, reveals that after her first husband died, she had no money and few skills. She also says the attorney associated with the orphanage told her the state wouldn’t let her keep Donna if she was bankrupt. She agreed to give Donna up to another couple who could support her.
With these revelations, Troy remembers this other couple, who she says weren’t nice to her. She also realizes they’re the ones who died in the fire.
Grayson leaves Troy to reconnect with her lost family and to get answers to a few lingering questions. As Robin, he visits the attorney in prison and encourages his cooperation by suggesting word could leak out that the man is a stoolie, if he doesn’t. The man reveals that the other couple hadn’t adopted the baby, just posed as her real parents until she could be sold.
At the climax of the story, Troy leaves a wreath at the grave of her birth mother, Dorothy Hinckley, and Grayson presents her with her doll, restored to new condition by “Uncle Max.”
“Who is Donna Troy?” is a moving story that both Wolman and Perez have cited as being among their favorites.
Interviewed in The Titans Companion (page 107), Wolfman said “Who is Donna Troy” is one of his favorite stories because it’s such a small and personal one.
On page 121, Perez said he and Wolfman put their personal stamp on the story.
“It was just a labor of love,” he said. “We absolutely knew we had a strong story there, and since fans had been wondering about Donna Troy, it was something that we knew fans wanted to see.”
In subsequent years, Donna Troy’s origin would be changed (to varying degrees) as a result of various DC Comics reboots, but “Who is Donna Troy?” remains a high point of The New Teen Titans and one of the reasons that book was such a success.
Copyright 2017 Patrick Keating.