The Many Lives of Terra
Two years ago, DC Comics announced that a new Terra series would be coming out, one starring a brand new character using the familiar name. This character debuted in Supergirl #12 and has shown up a couple of times since then, but otherwise has remained largely unexplored.
The series will finally be launching in November. It will be written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Amanda Connor. According to DC, the two-year delay has allowed more time to plan out the series and tighten up the stories. And the art has been given the change to be of a higher quality now.
As Justin Gray explained to ComicBookResources.com, "Time always helps and we try our best to have every project working well in advance. This kind of approach allows us to go back into scripts and tighten up and tie together all of the story elements. With Terra, it was a case of trying to have as much fun with the character and allow that to show through in every panel. Having Amanda with us allows for that to happen … the extra time gave Amanda and [colorist] Paul Mounts the most time to go in and add some extra juice to the book."
Of course, this new hero is the third person to call herself Terra. The first girl with that alias, Tara Markov, became famous when she betrayed the Teen Titans in the now-famous story "The Judas Contract." How will this past connect to our current character, who is noticeably more light-hearted and optimistic than either of her predecessors?
Gray explained, "The challenge has always been to find a way to connect this Terra to the previous and with a few twist I think we’ve done that. You can’t stick too heavily to existing mythology when creating someone new because that lessens them as a character. [The new Terra] needs to stand out as her own girl and she does that … We wanted her to stand in opposition of the existing anti-hero mold and especially from Tara Markov in terms of personality and drive."
Jimmy Palmiotti added, "It’s easy to do dark characters all the time … we wanted to go back to the seemingly old-fashioned values of classic super-heroes and update them at the same time. There is heavy stuff in the series but it is balanced out by the lighter stuff as well. The scenes between Power Girl and Terra, for instance, are light and yet very revealing between them."
Power Girl isn’t the only one who will guest-star in Terra. The new hero has a high level of knowledge of the world of super-heroes and will be running across folks like Doctor Mid-Nite and Geo-Force AKA Brion Markov, brother of the original Terra.
Gray elaborated, "The reason [Terra] knows so much ties directly into who she is and why she exists. The previous incarnation of Terra went a little crazy because she didn’t know everything about herself."
Palmiotti, Gray and Connor will also be working together on the all-new Power Girl ongoing series and have promised that the opening story-arc will serve as an introduction for readers who have not been following the character’s recent adventures or don’t know her whole history. The co-writers explained, "We are setting up her life as a civilian, as a super-hero, and the people and world around her that impacts her daily life."
So be on the look-out for the new Power Girl and Terra books coming soon.
And if you’re curious about the previous incarnations of Terra, keep on reading and we’ll give you the rundown.
Tara Markov was the illegitimate daughter of the king of the country of Markovia, and thus was half-sister to the super-hero and Outsider member Brion Markov AKA Geo-Force. The Markovs were born with genetic traits that gave them Earth-based powers. Tara herself could manipulate the earth and soil around her telekinetically and could tap into lava bursts.
Tara seemed to be the victim of a kidnapping when she was found by the Teen Titans. Claiming she had no place else to go, she joined the Titans under the code-name Terra. She seemed to be a naive yet sarcastic teenager, eager to prove herself to her teammates, who she claimed were her only real friends and family. She was also eventually introduced to her brother Brion, who was overjoyed to learn he had a sister.
But readers found out that Tara was not all she appeared to be. Having grown up hardened by her life experiences, Tara believed that meta-humans should have power over normal human beings. And worse, she was secretly working for one of the Teen Titans’ arch-enemies, the assassin Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke, the Terminator. Slade manipulated Terra, feeding her ego and fueling her beliefs. He also trained her to become deadlier with her powers and with her help, Deathstroke learned the movements of the Titans and their secret identities.
Despite the fact that she was only 15, Deathstroke engaged in a sexual relationship with Tara (ewww). When she was alone with the assassin, Terra displayed a psychopathic personality. She took great joy in how easily she manipulated Gar Logan (AKA Changeling) into falling in love with her and how well she was able to deceive him with her words of affection. She believed that emotions such as love,loyalty, friendship, mercy and altruism were weaknesses in other people who did not truly understand the world.
TARA MARKOV: "Damn [the Titans], Terminator. They’re sanctimonious do-gooders. I just wanna kill them all. How much longer do I have to play this game?"
Tara Markov and Deathstroke then captured the Titans, but the team was rescued by former member Dick Grayson (who had just taken on the new identity of Nightwing) and Deathstroke’s own son Jericho. Blessed with the ability to possess others, Jericho took control of his own father and then had Deathstroke attack Terra. Believing she had been betrayed by the one person who had understood her, Terra went insane and tried to destroy everyone, killing herself in the process. The Titans were shocked by how remorseless she was in betraying them and Gar Logan was heartbroken.
Despite her betrayal, the Titans built a memorial statue for Terra I to stand among other fallen comrades, perhaps in recognition that during her time with the team, she had still helped to save many lives, even if she hadn’t cared.
This first incarnation of Terra inspired the character of the same name in the recent Teen Titans animated series. In that show, Terra couldn’t control her powers very well and was terribly self-conscious about it. Deathstroke (known only by his name Slade in the cartoon) offered to train her. When Terra later suspected that Beast Boy had betrayed her trust and told the other Titans about how difficult she found her abilities, she ran away in shame and decided to take a chance on joining Slade. A later rejection from Beast Boy strengthened her resolve.
Eventually, during an attack against the TItans, Terra came to realize who her true friends were and sacrificed her life to save the team. The Teen Titans later honored her with a plaque which read: "Terra. A Teen Titan. A True Friend."
But back to the comics continuity.
Years after Terra Markov was dead, a new group called the Team Titans appeared. Apparently, they were from years in the future, by which point the Teen Titans had become large enough to include several different cells. In this possible future, the world was dominated by the evil Lord Chaos, the son of Donna Troy. This small group of Team Titans came back to prevent the villain’s birth by killing Donna. Fortunately, in just a couple of issues, they were able to figure out a way of preventing the corruption of Donna’s son without preventing his birth or killing his mom. After that, they made a home in the present-day, as they were unable to travel back into the future.
One of their members was a blond girl called Terra who had identical powers to the original. It was said that she was a normal girl in this alternate future who had been experimented on by Lord Chaos. The villain had manipulated her DNA to mimic Tara Markov, essentially transforming her into a clone and then intended to use her as a spy among the Team Titans. But unlike the original Terra, this girl was a true hero and when she and turned against Lord Chaos, joining the Team Titans for real. When the cell she was a part of found themselves stuck in the past, she did her best to continue protecting people. She also developed a genuine crush on Gar Logan.
This origin was definitely not what creator Marv Wolfman intended. In one interview, Wolfman specifically said "The old Terra was dead. She is. The new Terra in no way is the old Terra. She’s not cloned from the old Terra. Not her sister, relative or anything else. She had no connection with the old Terra."
But the Team Titans title didn’t do so well and it was decided the team would be scrapped during the crossover Zero Hour. As Wolfman explained, "They, DC management at the time, saw Team Titans as this answer to Rob Liefeld’s X-Force, and what we wanted to do was something more character-driven [and] self-aware, something more like Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. So from literally the first issue, it was a struggle editorially to the point that the book just fell apart on us completely, and a long-term story that we had planned got condensed to four issues. Then Zero Hour came along and undermined everything anyway."
In Zero Hour, it was revealed that the Team Titans came from a false timeline, one created by the time villain Extant. Forced to work for the villain if they wanted their timeline to survive, the Team Titans attacked Earth’s heroes. When Extant was later defeated, the Team Titans were all removed from existence, with the exception of the new Terra, her teammate Mirage, and Deathwing (an evil duplicate of Nightwing).
Terra II later learned why she, Mirage and Deathwing survived when she found an orb that had belonged to the Time Trapper, master manipulator and long-time foe of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Time Trapped appeared in the orb, revealing that Mirage, Terra II and Deathwing were actually not native to that alternate timeline Extant had created. They were three people from the present who the Time Trapper had manipulated, erasing their memories of who they truly were, so that he could have spies amidst the Team Titans and would be able to take down Extant if he needed to. With their new personalities in place, the Time Trapper had then sent them into Extant’s alternate timeline and manipulated events to have them join the Team Titans, waiting for the opportunity to use them.
After explaining who Mirage truly was originally, the Time Trapper said that he had found Terra II "moments befo-" and then Terra destroyed the orb, suddenly afraid of what he would say next. Later on, she visited Tara Markov’s grave and found it empty. Suddenly, she was terrified that she was the original Terra, somehow resurrected, which would mean that she had once been a psychopathic villain. She wasn’t sure she would be able to handle such a fact.
Concerning this story revelation, Wolfman said "The editor at the time [Pat Garhy] insisted we do that story … even though it was agreed on in advance the new Terra would not be related in any way to the old. I just didn’t see any reason to bring it up again. At about this time, I asked off the title. "
A couple of years later, a short story revealed that Geo-Force had DNA scans performed on Terra II and that they came out as a 100% match with his dead sister Tara Markov. Geo-Force thus believed that this was indeed his sister, but decided to tell Terra that the test came back negative, telling the girl that she could now go on with her life and not be held back by guilt and fear for past crimes. He also added that he would look after her as a brother and she gratefully accepted.
Of course, this little story didn’t make any sense since from the beginning Terra II was said to have been a girl transformed into a genetic match of Tara Markov. So the fact that her DNA test came out as a match is to be expected and doesn’t prove a damn thing. But apparently, none of the editors were paying attention, so folks let it slide.
Terra continued her career as a super-hero, helping out the Outsiders later on. During the series 52, Black Adam started "World War III" (the second story to use that title within ten years) and warred against Earth’s heroes. Despite his incredible power and deadly prowess, Terra joined the heroes and was ready to do whatever it took to stop the rogue super-human.
Sadly, she just wasn’t powerful enough and Terra was brutally murdered when Black Adam literally punched his fist through her chest. She was mourned and buried by Earth’s heroes (and by any fans she still had who were willing to forgive her for her cluttered continuity).
THE NEW GIRL
Appearing in Supergirl #12, this new dark-haired Terra seemed to have the same powers as the previous two. At the time, Supergirl was still going strong in her attitude that the life of a super-hero sucked, wondering what it was all really for and whether or not she really wanted to be pigeonholed into the life of a champion because she was Superman’s cousin.
The new Terra found this attitude bizarre. They had powers. Why on Earth would they not take the opportunity to help people? After all, it was the right thing to do and it was pretty fun.
Supergirl considered this message and the two defeated a super-villain. Terra then left, smiling and satisfied that she had done what heroes are supposed to do. And readers were left wondering just who this hero with the sunny disposition really was.
In November, we’ll finally find out. So be sure to pick up Terra #1, folks. Hopefully we’ll get a fun, new female hero in the DC Universe. God knows there aren’t enough.
Alan "Sizzler" Kistler will shoot anyone who tries to make Terra III a clone or a time-displaced person or an alternative universe "equivalent twin." He has been recognized by Warner Bros. Pictures and mainstream media outlets such as the New York Daily News as a comic book historian, and can be seen in the "Special Features" sections of the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. His personal website can be found at: http://KistlerUniverse.com. One of these days he’d love to write for DC, Marvel or Doctor Who.