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Amazing Heroes #50 [1984]

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>> SUBTLETY AND POWER: The George Pérez Interview
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SUBTLETY AND POWER: THE GEORGE PÉREZ INTERVIEW [July 1, 1984]

A Talk about Origins, Titans, Character, Missed Opportunities, and More…
Conducted by Michael F. Hopkins

I am driven from this world, alive. I come to this world, in dreams.
– Lorna Dee Cervantes

A fly interview with George Pérez, co-creator and co-editor of the ever-popular Teen Titans, would reveal the master illustrator’s ability to come boldly to the point where the subject of his medium is concerned. In our series of conversations, he came immediately to the topic of how a comic page works.

“Doing a comics page is like you’re storyboarding a movie. But you have to treat it as if you’re storyboarding a silent movie. As much information has to be relayed on the page in visuals, so that the dialogue can enhance-as opposed to explain-what’s going on in the artwork. The basic rule is that there should be at least one (hopefully more than one) establishing shot, giving the picture a sense of place so everyone knows where the characters are in relation to each other, in relation to their environment.

“There should be close-ups, to break up the monotony of having too many small shots of characters, and different angles. Downshots, upshots, imaginative angles, in order to make it something more than just mundane still life. At this point, it becomes a discussion of the storyteller knowing what the important parts of the story are.

Obviously, the more important a story element, the longer you want the reader to absorb it, the bigger the panel. The briefer the sequence, the shorter the panel.

“These are basic rules of thumb. From that point on, people adapt it to their own version of how a page is laid out. It can be anything from strict construction the way Jack Kirby does, to Frank Miller’s more flamboyant sense of storytelling. While one’s own artistic interpretation is always an element to measure, the same basic rules are in effect.”

George Pérez has been drawing since the age of five, attending conventions since his teens, and working as a professional for 10 years; beginning at Marvel with a two-page backup for Rich Buckler’s Deathlok series in Astonishing Tales #25. From the association with Buckler came other chances for Pérez to work at Marvel. He found himself pencilling series that nobody else wanted, like’ Man-Wolf and The Sons of the Tiger. Within six months he was offered the Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

Pérez comments, “Based on the fact that I had worked with Rich Buckler, who had worked on the FF, they (Marvel) had a strange rationale that I’d be good [laughs]. Thankfully, be Sinnott was still inking the book, and took care of a lot of mistakes. The Avengers, I had always wanted to draw. As it turned out at that point, I ended up getting The Inhumans, too. So I ended up getting quite a bit of work at the beginning of my career.”

With the Sons of the Tiger (a product of the martial arts films of the 1970s) came some of Pérez’s first outstanding work, particularly when the series closed on the escapades of comicdom’s first Puerto Rican super-hero. The White Tiger, who was a joint idea of Pérez and the writer of the series, Bill Mantlo.

“At the time, I was one of two Puerto Rican artists working in the business, and the only one working in superheroes. We felt like we should introduce the first Puerto Rican supercharacter, putting him in the South Bronx where I was born; the advantage being that I could understand the character better. Looking back, my style was pretty much Marvel house style; very large, thick characters, very muscle-bound, not very flexible. But I was learning to do layouts, and all of a sudden I developed a reputation. The subtleties I developed later were absent, but the power was definitely there. I was pretty satisfied with that.”

All the volumes of early work at Marvel, coupled with other problems of the time, resulted in Pérez burning-out and disappearing from the scene for a while. Then, in 1979, came the third X-Men Annual. When talking about the book, George touched upon the dilemmas which he had to overcome, and the work which would turn out to be a prelude to his current popularity. “Up until recently, I had considered X-Men Annual #3 the best work I had done, as far as my own artwork, the inking II had always wanted to work with Terry Austin), and just the pure dynamics of it.

“At this point, I was on the comeback trail, trying to get over a divorce and a few other personal problems. Trying to get myself up from the point of living off rolled pennies. Trying to find some decent income again. I was given the X-Men Annual because John (Byrne) didn’t want to do it, I had wanted to do it, and they mentioned this thinking I would not accept it. I did do it and that same year, I believe, I did the Fantastic Four Annual. Both those annuals ended up being well-received. My art style was still a little stiff, and the characters were still large, but there was a lot more feeling to them. I give credit to Terry because he gave it the finished look, obviously since he’d been working with the characters longer than I had.

“I did full pencils up to the last ten pages, then I went to layouts just to get the book finished fast. John Byrne inked one of the pages. If you ever look back at that book, there’s a scene where Colossus is flying this reptilian character or creature (page 37) that was inked by John. John saw it and wanted to take a crack at it. That’s the only time John Byrne and George Pérez have ever worked together on anything. [Laughs] Well, actually not the first; he was an uncredited helper in my first full-length story, the abomination called ‘Martian Genesis’ in Monsters Unleashed #8.”

Hand me my shadow.
– lshmael Reed

“DC was the company that really taught me subtlety,” Pérez continues. “At DC, I got back to my real roots Jack Kirby was a heavy influence, but Curt Swan and others like him were really the first influences I had. Marvel taught me power. It was DC who taught me subtlety. I look back at some of my early Teen Titans, and notice the difference between those issues and the current issues.

“Just the basic drawing for one thing; but the basic attitude of the characters has developed. How I have them relate to each other, how they stand; they don’t stand as super-heroically as they used to, they stand pretty naturally. The one thing I really approve is that the women no longer wear these gigantic, uh [laughs]. We no longer have these gigantic big-legged women, now the women are slimmed down to the point that, for instance, Raven is virtually flat chested in comparison to other girls.

“Also, I think the Titans helped strictly because they were the first characters I created who were really successful. White Tiger was not, to that degree; black-and-white characters just don’t go that far. The Titans gave me a real creative outlet, and it was a lot of fun doing. I think the art improved strictly because here I had something that bore my name on it along with Marv Wolfman’s; the first thing that I actually had a creative feeling for.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I was more than just an action artist. With tales like ‘A Day in the Lives’ and ‘Who is Donna Troy, the Titans have allowed me to prove that I can handle stories with characters and characterization, as opposed to always having slam-bang action. That’s where subtlety came in”

No finer example of the “New” DC can be found than the Teen Titans and their co-creators. The original Titans was a l96Os concept which, despite well-placed efforts by Wolfman, Len Wein, Gil Kane, and Neal Adams, remained a genre joke most remembered for Mod Squad-type teeny bopper cliches. The Titans’ third try at a series brought together a writer previously known for superb gothic tales in Tomb of Dracula and an action artist just coming out of an extremely traumatic sequence of events. DC gave Wolfman and Pérez a free hand at creating new characters and spinning their own conceptions for the tales. Many of them, including the co-creators, saw it as a long shot.

The Titans have gone on to achieve a place in the hearts of fans, enthusiasts, and pros alike that had not been achieved by a new DC book for many, many years. It wasn’t long before some would label the Titans as a surrogate X-Men; a claim which was, given the Titans’ roots in the Avengers-style teamwork of Roy Thomas, quite misplaced.

The keys to the Titans’ success lay in the balance achieved by its CO-creators (now its co-editors since the departure of Len Wein. It is a firm balance of the greater characterization suggested by Marvel in the ’60s, the social issues deeply focused on by Gardner Fox, Don McGregor, and Steve Englehart, and rollicking super-hero action, The result is a far-reaching series whose simplicity and involvement have attracted new fans and rejuvenated the interest of the old readers. It has hit the most jaded overgrounder and most stilted undergrounder alike.

The office of human drama is to exercise, possibly to exhaust, human emotions.
– Sir Laurence Olivier

George discussed the Titans, as well as how they are artistically-interpreted. Starfire, who is a particular fan favorite, is the free spirit of the team. She’s a contributing factor in the miraculous maturing of Dick Grayson. Koriand’r is nymph, stoic, and warrior laced into one being; a wild sexuality, gentle innocence, and samurai toughness which all combine into one of the most quick-thinking, authentically optimistic, and well-received characters in contemporary literature. The product of a culture where total honesty is the creed, the duplicity of human behavior is a constant wonder for her. She is each of us, without our troublesome masks and fears.

A standout of Pérez’s artistry is his ability to render such an emotionally rooted being without the traditional focus of eyes. “My one advantage, particularly here, is body language. I’ve been commended for that, and it’s been a gratifying feeling. It’s been such a subtle build-up that I hadn’t really noticed it, until other people were mentioning it. The characters move in the way the characters should move, in contrast to everyone having interchangeable poses.

“There’s also a little secret in handling Starfire, and it’s one that makes her face work. If you go back to the Blackfire storyline you’ll notice, since Kory is-in a lot of cases-very angry, her hairline is slightly higher, so her eyebrows can be seen. When she’s in that soft, demure, sad or happy type look, her eyebrows aren’t shown at all because the curls are so low and they curl upwards; thus making an ‘upward movement on the eyes right where they meet into the nose area to the forehead. Gives the eyes a slightly upraised, innocent look. So the curls end up softening her face, and they’re swept back any time I don’t want her to have the soft look.

“In working the character to that degree, no one notices it, because her face seems to work. Marv never noticed it until I pointed it Out. It’s those wonderful curls, basically a larger version of Dick Grayson’s old curls [laughs] which make up the soft look. The only thing the eyes lack is the fact that they just can’t show direction as far as where she’s looking. As tar as expression, it’s absolutely no hindrance. The fact that they’re so round gives her a feline look. which works for her.”

The story of Nightwing is one of the unique tales in the annals of the super-hero and an exciting new chapter in the life of one of DC’s founding characters. It transformed one of comicdom’s original kid sidekicks into an adult leader, changing the original Boy Wonder into an even more formidable young man. Gone is the pain-in-the-cape of the Burt Ward TV days, and with it is gone the confused methods of handling the character even while The Batman received massive narrative reinvestment from the likes of O’Neil, Adams, Englehart. and Rogers. From the first appearance of the New Titans, the dynamic change in Dick Grayson’s character has been a high point of the series, It’s a miracle which Wolfman and Pérez have accomplished in an especially unique fashion.

Most of the time with the super-hero, no matter what the identity, it’s the super-hero which comes first and the human being identity which comes second. Understandable when one remembers the super-hero is basically a dream projection of our fondest aspirations, an image of who and what we wish to be.

With Dick Grayson, the original Robin since his debut in Detective #38 over 40 years ago, this process has been wondrously reversed. The attention has been focused on the person behind the mask, showing that the costume he wears is a basic outpouring of the man, Instead of an escape from his humanity.

“Dick Grayson had no identity other than being the other part of Robin, and Robin was nothing but the bottom half of Batman, The biggest problem, as far as the Titans were concerned, was taking Dick Grayson, because much of what we wanted to do with the Titans couldn’t be done since Robin couldn’t be altered. So we were playing with Dick Grayson. Since he was never defined, it didn’t matter what we did with him. We couldn’t do the same thing with his alter-ego, because Robin had to appear with Batman.

“Gerry Conway, who was handling the Batman series at the time, had priority over Robin. Since he was the leader of the Teen Titans, it put us in a compromising position. Marv was being complimented on his characterization, I was being complimented on making Robin look like an adult at last. Yet we couldn’t do anything more than just maintain a certain facade; we’d just make a very virile Robin. but couldn’t do anything with his personality or his basic character. That was all the responsibility of whoever was writing Batman.

“It wasn’t until Gerry Conway said that he had no intentions of using Robin that we were given carte blanche. Then, there was talk that they wanted to give Batman a new kid sidekick, in order to bring back the father image of the character. I was called into a meeting, Doug Moench, Marv Wolfman, Len Web, myself, and Dick Giordano all sat down and talked about the new sidekick.

The one thing we suggested, but never thought we’d get, was to simply make Jason Todd become Robin. Give him the costume, make him the new Robin and just let Dick Grayson become someone else. We didn’t think they would really accept that; [laughs] at least, not readily, because Dick Grayson had been Robin for almost 43 years! Dick Giordano said ‘Let’s go with it!’ Since Dick Grayson has been established as being 19, and Batman has been established as 29 (the way Superman and all the other male characters are). suddenly the man-boy relationships between men 29 and 19 did not work; they were two men.

“They wanted to bring back the old formula. Doug was anxious to try the idea of the original Batman and Robin team again. The only suggestion I had was to establish Jason Todd as a blonde or a redhead; obviously, they’ve written their way around that [laughs]! But they gave up, they said okay.

“Dick Grayson, since he had no real identity before we got to him, now belongs to us. We’re even listed now as the creators of the character. Now he’s become Nightwing, a name that’s been used before, but not in the same character at all. I want to make him a swashbuckler, an acrobat, an incredibly good fighter. In many ways, he’s the Titans’ answer to Captain America.

“I want to make him happy-go-lucky, bring back the enjoyment of adventure that he had. One thing I liked that Marv did in issue #39 was how openly Dick speaks his affection to Koriand’r now, calling her ‘m’Iove’ and everything, making passes at her right in front of everybody with absolutely no worries anymore. The hang-ups are disappearing. He’s not going to be that morose character he had been in trying to find his identity. Now he’s found it. Now we’re going to use Dick Grayson the way we want to use him, utilizing both his detective and acrobatic skills.”

A seminal turning point in the Grayson affair was captured by Wolfman and Mike W. Barr in the Titans’ crossover with Batman and the Outsiders last year. ”It established that Dick is a very good leader. Batman is not a born leader; he’s never had to lead men. But Dick Grayson is a born leader. He has full control over the Titans, which Batman does not have over the Outsiders. That was a very good point which they’d brought out, what makes Dick Grayson different. As Nightwing, we’re going to have fun with Dick now. He’s definitely become a character independent and mature.”

The trees bring forth sweet Ecstasy
To all who in the desert roam:
Till many a City there is Built,
And many a pleasant Shepard’s home.
– William Blake

The situation of the empath Raven will finally be coming to a focus soon, Pérez has told us. The witch’s inner conflict between her pacifist upbringing, the vitalities and pratfalls of the world-at-large, and the growing control of her demonic father Trigon shall be resolved in the first four issues of the Titans’ Baxter book, the first two of which are now on sale. These first two issues feature Pérez inked by Pérez. Beginning with the third Baxter issue, Romeo,Tanghal returns as the Titans’ inker. In this long-awaited confrontation between Raven and Trigon readers should expect a major turning point in Titans history.

The character of Wonder Girl, Donna Tiny Hinckley, has been given a new lease on life by Wolfman and Pérez, a feat no less miraculous than the salvation of Dick Grayson. Before this series, Wonder Girl was always rendered as a super-strong airhead, an Amazonian valley girl, more a cheerleader and a preppie than a woman. The first thing done was to imbue Wonder Girl with a sense of character and dignity worthy of a martial race whose main faith is in the Goddesses of Love and Wisdom. The effort was a successful one, resulting in a being of knowledge, sensitivity, grace and beauty who has become the anchor of the Titans’ might.

There is no doubt that issue #38, the classic “Who is Donna Troy,” made Wonder Girl’s validity as a character quite irrevocable. While Grayson had to develop his identity. Wonder Girl had no identity to develop. She was originally created as a younger version of Wonder Woman co-existing with her adult-self. One of the original Titan series’ finest stories established Wonder Girl as an orphan and an amnesiac rescued by Wonder Woman and raised as her sister.

“When we did ‘Who is Donna Troy.’ we were determined that she was going to have a background of normalcy. She was not going to be the daughter of some villain. A minority of letters came in asking why we had not established who her father was, thinking that we were going to introduce some big villain as her father.”

Of course, the whole point is that Donna is illegitimate. “Exactly,” Pérez replied. “We couldn’t say that in the comic, but the point is that she was a bastard child. The father’s not there. The mother probably doesn’t know who the damn father is. Even if she did know, he’d be just an ordinary joe. That’s all he’d be.”

An especially touching point in the story is the introduction of the Evans household, the surrogate family discovered by Donna near the tale’s climax. “At that plotting session, we had such a wonderful time. When we finished plotting that book, we knew we had a hit on our hands. We had to decide ‘Is she going to find a family? Is it going to be happy or sad?’ We worked on making it happy at the end.

“The fact is that it became more than a detective story. It became a detective love story. Thanks to Marv’s handling of Robin (our joint idea) through the first person, it became a Robin story, too. A very important Robin story, virtually his signature story. One of the letters from our letters page brought up the interesting point that, while issue #39’s appearance of Robin is lust an excuse to have Grayson give up the costume. Dick Grayson’s last adventure really utilizing the Robin persona is in Titans #38. He was introduced in Detective #38! What a coincidence [Iaughs]”

A classic precedent-breaker in the history of the superhero is Victor Stone. Cyborg. His roots as a hero and as an adult were forged in the acute identity crisis Black culture has long faced from an oft-effacing Western technology. His major body systems switched from flesh, bone, and synapse to circuit, alloy, and cybernetics. Initially, Victor felt his metamorphosis to be a theft of his very being, a leeching away of his soul. This aptly reflected the dilemma still felt throughout countries of the Third World that in needing to utilize European systematics to be “modern,” they risk losing the roots of their own identity.

Further, in holding his father responsible for his half-mechanized state as well as the death of his mother, Victor showed us the timeless tragedy which occurs when old and new ways come into conflict through unwanted misunderstanding. This problem had already set father and son at odds before Vic’s mechanization, as the Titans’ 1982 mini-series revealed.

“Victor,” Pérez begins. “is probably the closest to my own history, because of the fact that he’s a ghetto youth. He had the disadvantage of being a smart kid in a dumb society. He ended up becoming a very warm person even though he’s very big, and very strong. He’s not afraid to be warm. He’s got a big heart.

“Since Marv was doing the majority of the plotting for the first year, and I was helping after the fact, he had more of an idea of what Victor would be. I was honing it up via body language and other character aspects, directing Marv into his interpretation. Marv always intended, from the very beginning, that those first issues where he came off as the stereotyped angry Black man was just the fact that he had a legitimate reason to be angry, which had nothing to do with being Black. Once he got rid of the reason-namely the resentment of his father over the death of his mother-he became a very warm individual. That was the first sequence that showed the warm side of the Titans, the death of [Silas] Stone, which led immediately into issue #8, ‘A Day in the Lives.’ We really were cooking by that point.”

Since then, the only anger Victor has shown has been borne from a point of insecurity, like the dilemma with Sarah Simms which culminated in issue #33. It would have been so easy to present the close White female friend of a Black male as the classic liberal fluff, and cop out on all sides. Wolfman and Pérez have avoided that, and have made the young instructor a very three-dimensional person, and her friendship with Victor a warm, straightforward, honest camaraderie.

“Also,” Pérez says, “we didn’t want to go into a valid criticism we heard about the usual Black-White relationship. Some use the cliche that, in order for a Black character to be legitimate, he must prove it by loving a White person. They could very well be lovers at any given time. But the fact is that they’re just very good friends. It’s not very often, and particularly the young fans don’t understand it, that we just have the concept of a man and a woman being very good friends without being lovers.

“I remember a couple of letters after Terry Long (Donna’s fiancée) was brought in; some hated Terry simply because they thought Donna and Dick were together, because they’re so close. ‘They’re just good friends’ as they say.”

Victor’s grandparents will play an important role in Victor’s future, and will be especially prominent in what could be one of the most relevant storylines to be tackled in any comic. Those who caught a quick glimpse of Victor’s grandparents in the first DC Sampler will note that Pérez modeled them after two renowned character actors: Scatman Crothers and the mother-in-law of the old Jeffersons episodes, the late Zara Cully.

“We’re introducing his grandparents to give Victor a familial light again. They’re very gregarious people, and are not much into self-pity. His grandmother is the type of little old lady who would say to Victor ‘You’re a big, strong super-hero, but you’re not so big that I can’t spank you.’

We want to do a storyline where Victor is given a chance to have his metal parts replaced with more human parts. Obviously, he’d be the prototype, just as he’s the prototype of the outfit he’s wearing now. The trouble is, it could be very dangerous, and it could kill him, It’s the whole point of the story. If it succeeds, all these children he’s been helping in the handicapped center would benefit from it. Basically, we’re bringing up the hero in Victor Stone. He has a legitimate respect and fear of dying. Yet he’s volunteering to do something that could very well kill him, taking the chance of being normal again just for the sake that others might get the chance.

“This is, again, to portray the power and drama, without having to go into superheroics. Dick became a real hero for helping Donna, not because he was a master detective, that’s how it worked, but because he loved her. It became such a big thing as far as people realizing what a good, heroic man he was; just the fact that he would go out of his way to such a degree to help a friend, Where the Batman has that streak of vengeance, Dick has that height of compassion. Some were considering the possibility of making them love interests, especially since Dick admitted that he did once feel that way about her, But the fact is that he was not enough of a man, and she was too much of a woman for him, He was never mature enough to take her, which is what he admires about Terry Long. Like that scene where he says ‘I always wondered what she saw in him. Now I know!’ Dick’s grown up a lot because of her relationship. He’s learning a lot. He’s seen the relationship between Terry and Donna, and obviously that’s influenced his relationship with Kory. Obviously their relationship has grown up a bit. He’s facing the same thing that Terry’s facing being married to someone who’s an overwhelming powerhouse [laughs]. Terry can do it; why can’t he.

“Of course, we swore that Terry Long was not going to be Steve Trevor [laughs]. We’re determined that when they do get married, they will have a happy, decent marriage. Not that they’ll be without disagreements, every marriage has them, but they’re very mature adults and they will deal with everything for the common good of the marriage and each other, And it’s about time. They’re not going to be endangered just for the sake of story contrivance.”

Time rides at a constant pace.
– Linton Kwesi Johnson

These points give a very important difference between the Titans and the X-Men, one Pérez is quick to point Out to those who endlessly try to pair the two series as mirror images. “One thing that Marv and I try not to forget, even though it is a personal book, that it is still a comic book, an adventure series. We must not lose sight of that pod meander on for ages on a single story element, or get so downbeat that it’s no longer fun.

“The ‘Runaways’ and the Terra storyline were there, okay, but we then did some straight supervillain stuff, ‘Who Killed Trident?’ The Thunder and Lightning stories. Of course, this was basically done so we could buy some time get our heads together on the book. This, and the fact that I was going to be missing a couple of issues. The one thing that I think the X-Men could have used is something like the ‘Who is Donna Troy?’ story, which could have been a very depressing story if treated a different way.

Instead, it became a very happy uplifting story, And issue #39, where two characters resign, was a very upward type of feeling. Dick is obviously grown up, he’s graduating school, basically. He’s leaving Robin because he’s now going to advance beyond Robin, Kid Flash has Francis Kane now, It’s not like he’s leaving the group and his life is over, He’s leaving the group because he has other things he wants to do, It’s upward mobility as opposed to emotion for emotion’s sake, It’s something that has to happen for the characters to work.”

This aspect becomes quite apparent when one notes the developments taking place with Garfield Logan, aka, Changeling. Originally a character with a Malcolm-X type of withering rage, Garfield is in the midst of an intense growing-up process. His sarcastic wit covers up a multitude of insecurities, All this along with the normal emotional anxiety of adolescence creates a highly charged character well worth exploring.

“His use of humor also reveals that the anger is still there, Now the weapon is different, Instead of anger, he uses humor, The character obviously has a lot to be bitter about. One point we’re taking advantage of is that he is a 16-year-old boy, The way a 16-year-old reacts is very, very unpredictable. In his case, he wants to belong so badly that humor is the only way of doing it. How many times, as teenagers did we do a lot of stupid things, say a lot of stupid things, like, make ourselves seem better than we are just so we can belong, In a sense, Terra is something of an exaggeration of that whole thing, but in a different way, Just how different we were shown in the third annual.

There is much sighing and ferreting
Into strongrooms, store houses and
The secret places of the most high.
– Kwesi Brew

Knowing the scene for what it is, when one has to make a stand, and facing what’s at stake was the watchword for one of the greatest losses suffered by both Marvel and DC, and that was the elimination of the JLA-Avengers special from any kind of scheduled release. A book that Pérez had always dreamed of illustrating, and a fandom desire for years, the process which led to this book’s premature death has become one of the ugliest controversies of recent years. It affected Pérez deeply, turning the amiable illustrator from one of the few who left Marvel with none of the ill will that some of its most recent expatriates have felt towards the company, into a figure of cold deliberative anger where this subject is concerned. Citing improper editorial procrastination by Marvel as the JLA-Avengers deathknell, it’s the only time that Pérez has publicly lost his temper. His reason is quite clear and focused, however, channeling the anger into constructive analysis.

It is this hearty analysis which has brought sharp attention to this matter; one which has not only killed the JLA-Avenger special, but the projected Titans/X-Men special by Wolfman and Pérez as well. “As of now, it’s without a creative team, as are the Titans/X-Men, obviously. They have to figure some kind of way wherein they can publicly acknowledge that Dick Giordano and Jim Shooter have kissed and made up, as it were.

“Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that but, basically, if the books are to be done… the only way I will work on it, is that an editor from both sides is picked to represent the companies and scripts have to be okayed in a one-day turnover. If a script is done, or a plot is done, the editor from Marvel comes to DC’s offices, reads it there, and a decision is made. No more waiting weeks upon weeks and getting no answer.

“The editors involved have to be other than either Dick Giordano or Jim Shooter; if Jim Shooter’s still involved, I will not be involved. In that, obviously to be fair, Dick will not be involved if the top editor of the other company’s not working on it. After all the incredible mix-up on Jim Shooter’s part, there is no way I was going to accept the assignment under the same conditions. Something has to be done to make working conditions a lot easier, wherein the political bullshit becomes something we don’t have to deal with, where we can just work on producing the best book possible.

“There are a few concessions that they have to make on my behalf. They gave me the option that, ill don’t want to finish the JLA-Avengers, I could have somebody else finish it and I’ll do the X-Men/Titans. But I’m not going to do the X-Men/Titans because I wanted to do the /LA-Avengers. If I don’t do the X-Men/Titans, they don’t want to do the JLA-Avengers. So basically, the decision is mine. I can bury it upon saying that I don’t want to do the X-Men/Titans, which means that neither of them get done. I either do both or I do none. If I do none, then none get done.

“I’ve given the company a year to get their act together, and all they’ve done now is get everyone antagonistic towards each other. Now people start acting like grown-ups, like professional business people, or… that’s it. There is no book. The fans are being ripped off by this type of behavior, they’re being cheated. I’m being cheated. Obviously, these books were part of my anticipated income for the year, and I did neither of them, as it turned out. I ended up missing two issues of the Titans, the Titans ended up skipping a month because of all this.

“Now if they want the book to go on, with me involved at least, they have to start acting like responsible editors realizing what they’re doing this comic for. For the money, granted. They’re also doing it for the fans. These are the books that the fans want. Let’s concentrate on that and forget the political garbage. It has no place in the situation and it’s just totally unfair to everyone involved.”

Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Pérez’s work on the DC/Marvel crossovers, he is far from being short of work. He is drawing both of the Teen Titans books that will be appearing until the newsstand Titans book goes into reprints in April of 1985. That amount of work would be plenty for most comics artists, but Pérez seems to thrive on being overworked. He is working with Len Wein and Wolfman on DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths; he’ll provide the pencilled artwork as Wein and Wolfman try to sort out DC continuity in the course of a single storyline. Pérez is also working on another regular series with Wein, details of which can’t be released until the contracts have been finalized.

Pérez’s work can also be spotted occasionally in alternative publications (such as Alien Worlds), work he tries to fit into his busy schedule because of the freedom and variety it provides in comparison to his regular work.

So, while fandom may have been cheated out of a Pérez version of the JLA-Avengers, it will not be short of other books containing his artwork. And his popular and fine work on the Titans continues to roll off the presses…


THE TITANS OTHER HALF [July 1, 1984]

Co-Creator and Writer of the Teen Titans: Marv Wolfman
Conducted by Michael F. Hopkins

The other half of the success story of the New Teen Titans involves writer (and now coeditor), Marv Wolfman. Like Pérez, he came to DC after doing very distinguished work for Marvel. Shortly after its preview in Dc Comics Presents #26, it was evident that the New Teen Titans were going to be a very big hit. And now the Wolfman/Pérez team has created another ripple in fandom, with the first issue of the baxter-paper Titans.

“It is a 100% sellout!” Wolfman says “I just came back from a distributor’s meeting in Montreal, and every single one of the distributors came up and tried to get more copies of New Teen Titans #1. We probably could have sold an extra 50 to 100 thousand. Mark Evanier called me up the day they came out on the West Coast. He was at the store when they were put out. There were riots because the guy didn’t get the full amount. People were grabbing 15 at a time, and the store owner finally said, “No, you cant do this…” and finally refused to sell the customer any more than three. People started fighting and arguing to get three each!”

“I loved the sales, but I would loved the orders to have been higher in the first place, so we could have run out of copies I’m delighted that DC has an absolute runaway success.”

After the first four issues, featuring the Raven-Trigon confrontation, the Baxter Titans future includes Starfire’s return to her home planet, the origin of Lilith (from the 1960s Titans) the Olympian Gods (from #s 11 and 12), and the long-awaited origin of Brother Blood. “Interweaving through all of it is a brand new character,” Wolfman says, ”for whom I don’t have a name yet, I just gave George an outline for it and he liked it. It’s a character who’ll come to culmination in next year’s annual.”

And what about this character in terms of powers, etc.? “The only thing I can say is, essentially, he’s an angel [laughs], It’s strange, but when I first came up with the character, I didn’t connect him with Brother Blood, I just came up with the thought of the character himself, how it works and all the various ramifications, Then, as I started weaving it in an overview of the Titans for the next 17 months or so, I connected it with Brother Blood, It worked so perfectly off the origin as we had it conceived and the storyline that was set up in issues #40 and #41; it was unbelievable, as if everything had been exactly planned. He’s an addition, but he meshes in perfectly.

It’s really complicated, how everything is connecting. The book is moving in real strange directions, stuff that I wouldn’t have expected. The Baxter book is, at long last, after four years, the Titans book as I would like it. We’re doing major stories, not just the Titans vs. Dr. Light. or whatever.

The story of Terra was far different than what many expected, and its shattering culmination in the third annual brought many interesting aspects to light. “George and I knew exactly where it was going. She was set up specifically to make the readers think that we were doing a Kitty Pryde story [laughs], and then suddenly switch it on them when it was revealed she was a traitor. Lead the readers to think that she was going to reform, as every person has ever done here. Then, of course, not only not have her reform, but have her die. The reader was, we hope, taken by surprise. You notice DC did no publicity whatsoever that she died.

“I enjoyed playing the game for two years,” Wolfman says. “Whenever anyone would ask “Is a Titan going to die?’ I said no. [laughs] And I was honest about it, because in my mind she was never a Titan, and she wasn’t even a traitor. She was a very sick person. At the same time, we knew we could sell 50,000 more copies if we had said a Teen Titan dies in the annual. We weren’t interested in that. We wanted the shock of the story.

“People did not know where it was going. Not even the diehard Titans fans who I see at conventions, who have magazines about the Titans that I read. All of them speculated that Terra was going to reform at the last minute and turn on the Terminator. Of course we had that in there, too, but for a totally different reason. The cover was created specifically to let you wonder which side she was going to take, not realizing that she was going against both.”

An aspect that’s particularly noticeable is the path that leads to Tara Markov’s emotional and physical suicide. The fact is, as the story states, she has no reason for being what she became. Yet it’s interesting to note a curious parallel between Terra’s roots and the roots of Wonder Girl, namely that they’re both bastard children. In exploring this, we see how simply and ingeniously Wolfman and Pérez have utilized traditional story devices while avoiding their cliched traps.

“What we didn’t want to do is state that because she was this or because she was that, she was evil,” Wolfman says. “There are people who are just not nice. They could be brought up in the best situations or whatever, it won’t make a difference. Wonder Girl was brought up in an identical situation, only she turned out good. There was absolutely nothing in Terra’s background that should have made her the type of character she was.”

With Slade Wilson. the Terminator, there is an interesting quandary. He’s a character who’s even more of an enigma now that his origin’s known, Add to this the fact that he’s an opponent who knows all the Titans’ alter-egos. And the result is full of potential for one of the Titans’ most powerful adversaries. ”It will seem as it we’re dropping it for a little while. But the story’s not finished,” Wolfman says.

“Gar has yet to except any of this. Not only because of Terra, but because the Terminator – only in a comic hook could you make this next comment – killed him. Only the death was temporary [laughs] For the next few issues it will seem that he’s gone crazy. He actually does; He starts beating up everyone in sight. He’ll calm down, at least as far as the Titans think. Where we lead from there is a whole other story.

“We’re building up right now, trying to pace it down so it doesn’t overlap with the first Baxter book, and also because I don’t want to do another Terminator story instantly. It’s being paced out so that everything will be OK for a few months, and then it will go bad again for him, because Gar will often not have his friends available. Vic has his grandparents coming in. Every character’s wrapped up in some personal situation at the moment.

It’s quite ironic that the demise of such a twisted character as Terra should also mark the debut of such an uncorrupted character as the newest Titan, Jericho. Joseph Wilson, the sole-surviving son of the Terminator, is quite an enchanting character and, as we see in the first Baxter book encounter with Raven and Trigon, one who is selflessly courageous. “Partially because he is mute, he has developed the ability. And the actual interest, to listen to people,” Wolfman says. “He is one of those types who, because of the kind of nature he has-a very easy, caring nature- people unload their troubles to him. There are people like that, and he’s one of them. The fact that he’s a listener, since he can’t talk, makes hint a very good person for people to care about. Raven finds that she is drawn to hint, because he’s one of the few people who has spent most of his life listening to people, as oppose to just hearing what they say. He likes people.

Joseph has the soul of an artist, a warm, loving, caring He does not harbor grudges, nor is he someone who enjoys the concept of fighting (though he will when he has to). He’s someone who’s inspired by a loving soul more than by anything else. He paints, is a musician, is into the Arts. He’s very bright, and not at all naive. He knows what’s going on; he’s just a person who very much believes that there can he good in people, sees good when there is, and does not necessarily hate people because they are not good. He knows the score, he just chooses to walk by himself in many ways, though he is with the Titans.”

One of the most promising upcoming events for Wolfman and Pérez is a projected storyline for next year, one which they will not only introduce a new set of characters, but will bring together Wolfman’s two great hero-writing achievements at DC, Superman and the Titans, pitting them against the new Brainiac.

Originally set for this year’s DC Presents Annual, it then became discussed as a graphic novel, or a mini-series in deluxe format a Ia Frank Miller’s Ronin. “I wrote a 41 page plot. We’re not quite sure of the story’s format. I’m leaning away from a graphic novel because it wasn’t written as such. What I’m leaning towards is for it to be produced as a one-shot book in the fashion of Ronin, on that paper. Just the one, to do the story as is. Then do a mini-series on the same paper, like Ronin, featuring the new characters.

“At any rate, this story will see print exactly as it’s been pIotted, with one or two minor exceptions simply because we thought it could be out before the end of the Terminator sequence, originally. It has Terra in it. It doesn’t have Jericho. So what we have to do is work out Terra and work in Jericho, which is easy. And then, let it rest, come back and do the mini-series at some point, when we have the story that fits rather than just expand something that’s no better than a 41-page story.”

Wolfman has also been affected by the apparent death of the JLA/ Avengers book, because he was stated as the writer for the follow-up Titans/X-Men comic. Wolfman says, “I’m sorry it happened. I’m not angry at anybody. I’m more sorry from a financial viewpoint that I am anything else, because the Titans/X-Men would have done phenomenally well. I would have loved to have pocketed the money. The only thing I’m really sorry about is that the companies didn’t talk to each other properly. I don’t know who’s at fault, I don’t get involved with politics. It doesn’t realty matter to me who’s at fault. I’m sorry because I would have loved to do the Titans/X-Men. I had worked out a real good plot. The week before it all fell through, Chris Claremont came over and typed in the next year’s worth of X-Men into my word processor so that I could work on it and know exactly how to fit it into continuity. We talked about a lot of stuff that would go into the book, Chris had given me some ideas; I had given him some ideas on the first one, I think it could have been a fun story.

“I hope that, someday, the animosity that was created vanishes and that the companies feel that they can get back together. At this point, the only one losing, finances notwithstanding, is really the reader.”

Wolfman and Pérez are also lending their magic touch along with DC editor/writer Len Wein to the upcoming DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths, a book that will attempt to straighten Out DC continuity as well as make permanent changes in the DC universe. The book was announced three-and-a-half years ago under the title History of Earth, History of DC, having grown out a conversation Wolfman and Wein had on the way to a convention.

Wolfman says, “We went crazy. We were coming up with all these ideas just because we’re fans of the stuff. Then we presented it to Jeanette [Kahn, DC President] the following Monday, and she loved it. So we found ourselves saddled with this monstrosity of a story.

“We hired Peter Sanderson to read every comic ever done. He took extensive notes, and we have just volume after volume of notes on the stuff. The note-taking’s finished, we’ve worked out all the problems, and now we’re actually in the plotting stages. We’ll be almost done with the plotting of Part One by the end of April, because we’re three quarters of the way through the first issue.

By the time we’re done, anyone who has not read DC before can understand what DC is about. It will be simplified. We’re going to get rid of an awful lot of characters that have been cluttering up the place. Not only minor, but very major characters, characters no one would expect. These are not temporary changes. No imaginary stories, no costume’s going to change for 8 months, then come back [laughs], nothing of that sort. All the changes that are being made are permanent ones.

“If we kill Character-X in the comic,” Wolfman says, “he will be killed. If we create a new hero – lots of characters will be created as well as being killed – they very well may be going on to their own book, mini-series or whatever, immediately upon creation in the book. If a hero has their own book, and that hero gets killed, that’s the end of the series. And we have the okay. We didn’t believe that we would be given the freedom that we have, so we came up with a list of some real major characters, and of course some very idiotic characters [laughs]. Some of them are characters that just don’t work, weren’t thought out correctly in the first place, some that don’t sell, some that do sell.”

As Jeanette said, we want to do a couple of characters that the fans are going to hate us about, just so it doesn’t look like we’re killing off only dumb characters. She wants a vital comic book. She doesn’t want you to feel that you can expect the expected at DC. She wants to shake up the company. This will do it!

“We’re probably going to get a lot of people angry,” Wolfman says, “because anytime you make major changes people get angry. Were probably going to get letters suggesting Jim Shooter’s behind the whole thing [laughs]. The funny thing was, when that whole ‘Big Bang’ theory was announced, several people asked me what I thought. I said if it’s done well, it’s fine. Marvel’s always, supposedly, been a company of change. What’s wrong with it?

“I’ve tried to point out, unsuccessfully to a lot of people, that when the Flash was introduced in 1956, he came only five years after the last appearance of the old Flash. That’s not that long. The old Flash ended his run in All-Star Comics with the JSA in 1951. Five years later, a brand new character is created. Everyone loved him. Same thing happened with Green Lantern.

“Nothing prevents you from going to your third generation, saying ‘Okay, we’ve taken this character and this personality as far as he can go at the moment. Let’s see how we can milk it for better stories now.’ Nothing’s going to be scared, and at the same point, we’re going to clear up all the problems that we can. I’m sure that we’re going to create some, we’re going to miss some points, obviously. Some of the screw-ups are going to be intentional. We’re going to simply state, in the beginning, that anything not covered in this book… does not exist. At that point, if we don’t want to acknowledge that something ever happened, it didn’t happen, according to current, accepted mythology. Mythology always changes, anyway.”

 


End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author