Bob Rozakis Teen Titans Interview
An exclusive interview from titanstower.com; posted March 24, 2003
Teen Titans was revived with issue #44, November 1977, although less than two years had passed in the lives of the members during the hiatus. Published seven times a year and edited for the most part by Julius Schwartz during their second run, the Titans established a new base of operations under the guise of a restaurant/discotheque called “Gabriel’s Horn” in Farmingdale, Long Island. The membership roster became rather confused during this period, with new members including the Harlequin (formerly the Joker’s Daughter) and the Bumblebee, Mal assuming not one but two costumed personae as the Guardian and Hornblower, and several former and new members forming a short-lived California-based arm of the team called “Titans West.” As they had following their original cancellation, the Titans again decided to go their separate ways and disband the group when the book was dropped from the DC lineup a second time with issue #53, dated February 1978, the same issue in which the team’s origin was finally unveiled.
Bob Rozakis served as writer for Teen Titans #45-53. He was generous enough to take some time to chat about his Teen Titans tenure.
titanstower: The TEEN TITANS was canceled for two years and then revived in 1976. Can you tell us how that came about? Any reason why DC decided to revive the Titans?
Bob: It was determined that teams of heroes were hot, so why not bring back one of the more recognizable groups.
titanstower: How did you approach the book when you started writing it? It seemed to be influenced by the “Marvel” approach — a greater emphasis on personal dynamics, ongoing subplots and disagreements among members. Was that intentional?
Bob: I don’t know that I took a “Marvel approach” so much as a “current trend in the industry approach.” Certainly Stan Lee had paved the way with books like Fantastic Four and Avengers in terms of how the heroes got along, but by the time i was writing Titans, that had become the norm for such books.
titanstower: Speedy’s drug problem was alluded to in TEEN TITANS #44, but very briefly; Did you have any plans on touching back on that storyline?
Bob: I don’t recall; but it’s possible I would have brought it up again eventually.
titanstower: You grew up in Farmingdale, Long Island, where (not-so-coincidentally) the TEEN TITANS were based. Was there a club like Gabriel’s Horn located there? And familiar locales that showed up during your TITANS run?
Bob: There was a club that was the model for Gabriel’s Horn two blocks from my house. The building is still there, but it is an insurance agency now. That was the most specific of all the Long Island locales I used. And, actually, I grew up in Elmont, Long Island (as anyone who remembers my days as a letterhack can tell you).
titanstower: How did you decide on the team line-up?
Bob: It was pretty much decided based on the previous incarnation of the book. I added Karen Beecher (the Bumblebee) so that Mal would have a love interest.
titanstower: What were your plans for Mal? He changed quite a bit – from The Guardian persona, to Hornblower, then losing the Gabriel Horn (a plot point that didn’t get resolved during your run…)
Bob: The resolution of the horn plot was to have been that Mal had hidden it himself because subconsciously he did not want to be a superhero. The Guardian identity was introduced in the first issue — co-written by Paul Levitz and myself — but when Julie Schwartz took over as editor with he second issue, he decided to dump that plotline, so we came up with the Gabriel’s Horn identity.
titanstower: Were there any plans to have Wonder Girl become romantically involved with anyone? Speedy and Kid Flash were both vyying for her affections.
Bob: I had planned to have both of the guys chasing after her, creating a rivalry that would spill over into superhero team action from time to time. As to which one Donna preferred, I hadn’t decided.
titanstower: Was Joker’s Daughter always meant to become a Titan?
Bob: Initially, she was just going to be a villain in a couple of Robin stories. Once we changed direction on that storyline and turned her into a heroine, I told Julie I wanted her in the Titans and he agreed.
titanstower: What do you think of the current insane version of Duela Dent, who claims to be the daughter of multiple supervillains?
Bob: I got a laugh out of it when I first saw it, but I thought they wasted the character. I realize that Marv and company didn’t want her around any more and felt they had to explain her away because of continuity, but they could have just as easily ignored her.
Actually, I consider Harley Quinn to be a reincarnation of Duela.
titanstower: Did Speedy and Duela really hate each other, or would that eventually blossom into romance?
Bob: I think the friction between them might have led to a different type of relationship eventually.
titanstower: How did you come up with the idea for Bumblebee?
Bob: As I said, I had wanted to introduce a love interest for Mal and added Karen. Then we decided to make her into a superhero. And I had been planning to play with the concept that she got more and more into the idea of being a hero as Mal moved further and further away from it.
titanstower: So would Mal eventually give up super-heroing all together?
Bob: Yes, that was my plan…though at some point the Bumblebee would have gotten into some sort of situation that would have required Mal to be a hero once more.
titanstower: During your writing tenure, Aqualad had fainting spells that were actually psycho-sematic – induced by his own insecurities about being on the team. Was this a way to write Aqualad out of the series? Or did you have a particular storyline in mind?
Bob: It was more a way to write him out of storylines. Short of having the action take place in the ocean (or the Farmingdale High School swimming pool) there really wasn’t much need for him.
titanstower: Titans West debuted in TEEN TITANS #50, consisting of Lilith, Gnarrk, Hawk & Dove, Golden Eagle, Bat-Girl and Beast Boy. How did you decide on this line-up?
Bob: I took pretty much every other teenage hero that was available!
titanstower: Was there any issues with reviving the Bette Kane Bat-Girl, since Barbara Godon was established as Batgirl?
Bob: No. Since Barbara had been having adventures with Batwoman, it was only a matter of time before Bette (who was still Betty when I wrote the stories) was back on the scene as well.
titanstower: If the series wasn’t canceled, did you have further plans for Titans West?
Bob: Yes. I was going to remix the two teams and have adventures of both teams with occasional team-ups. Speedy and Wonder Girl would have moved to the West Coast team; Bat-Girl and one of the guys — I don’t recall which one — would have moved East. To play up the Speedy/Kid Flash/Wonder Girl triangle, Wally would have been running back and forth. And Bat-Girl’s presence in the east would have created a triangle with Robin and Duela.
titanstower: Triangle with Duela, Robin and Bat-Girl? Did you have any plans as to who would end up with the Boy Wonder?
Bob: I hadn’t made any decisions on that. It would have happened much further down the road…if at all. Keep in mind that I also had a romance between Dick and Lori Elton going on in the Robin solo stories, so that would have figured into it too.
titanstower: TEEN TITANS #53 [the last issue] featured an untold ‘first adventure’ with the team, establishing Speedy as a founding member. How did you come up with that story? Do you think it was an oversight that Speedy wasn’t originally a founding member on the team?
Bob: I knew it was going to be the last issue and suggested that we do a “secret origin.” I think Speedy’s absence from the first team was as much an oversight as Green Arrow missing the beginnings of the Justice League.
titanstower: Was the TEEN TITANS cancellation part of the DC Implosion? How was the decision reached to cancel the book?
Bob: It was part of the Implosion and like most of the books caught in that infamous period, it was not selling as well as the “powers-that-be” wanted.
titanstower: Some regard the 70′s revival Titans as goofy but fun – others think it was a bit too goofy; looking back, how do you regard your run on the book?
Bob: It probably was a bit goofy, but I was trying to tell entertaining stories. My feeling was that these are a bunch of kids with super-powers; if the world is about to end, they are not the first line of defense — that’s what the Justice League was there for. So I played them against lesser threats and against one another a bit more. If the readers enjoyed the stories, then I succeeded in my job — goofy or not.
titanstower: Any regrets from your Titans tenure?
Bob: Only that I didn’t get to play out some of the storylines that I had planned.
titanstower: Duela Dent seemed to be a favorite of yours; She appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS after TEEN TITANS was cancelled, but didn’t appear again until TALES OF THE NEW TEEN TITANS in 1984 (at Donna Troy’s wedding). Did you have further plans for her? Would you have liked to use her elsewhere?
Bob: I had planned on keeping Duela as a regular in the Robin series in BATMAN FAMILY / DETECTIVE. When that series was given to a different writer, Duela and my plans for her went away.
titanstower: Did you have future ideas for the TEEN TITANS? If so, what were some stories we would have seen if the series continued?
Bob: As I said, there would have been adventures of the two teams on the east and west coasts, with some team-ups. I had wanted to develop a villainous version of the Titans as well — after all, if the heroes could have kid sidekicks, why couldn’t some of the villains also have “adopted” trainees?
titanstower: Sounds intriguing! Thanks for taking the time to answer some Titans-related questions.
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