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Comic Buyers Guide #1187: Jurgens & Pérez Talk Teen Titans

Together again for the first time Jurgens brings new heroes to ‘Teen Titans’
Comic Buyers Guide #1187 – August 16, 1996

Together again for the first time Jurgens brings new heroes to ‘Teen Titans’

By Matt Brady

As young super-groups go, The Teen Titans have been around the block a few times. They began as a story idea in Brave and the Bold #54 (June-July 1964), with a logo reading, “The Brave and the Bold presents presents Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin.” The group of sidekick super-heroes -Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl (who had actually never been Wonder Woman’s sidekick but was introduced to the group for its second appearance in Brave and the Bold #60 – graduated to their own title and slowly made their way from their mentors’ shadows. The original Teen Titans lasted from 1966 to 1973 and saw a relaunch attempt from 1976 to 1978.

It wasn’t until November 1980 that The Teen Titans finally shrugged of their ‘junior Justice League of America” plague and hit the big time with The New Teen Titans, co-created by writer Mary Wolfman and penciller George Pérez. The title was a critical and commercial success, running neck-and-neck with Marvel’s Uncanny XMen as the top seller for much of the ’80s. The series went through many changes, eventually dropping the “Teen” from its title. Titans was canceled last year with issue #130. Enter Dan Jurgens. the man responsible for the death of Superman, “Zero Hour”, and. most recently, a stint on The Sensational Spider-Man for Marvel. Jurgens will write and pencil the latest incarnation of The Teen Titans, a group of new teen characters.

This time around, The Teen Titans are a group of four teen-agers led by the now teen-age Atom. In the first issue, three of the teens are transported from Earth to a mysterious spaceship, where they find alien Psion scientists and another teen living in a fantastic virtual-reality world. The Atom, who stowed away in one of the youths’ clothing, is able to help the group escape. As a result of this first adventure, the kids learn that they all share a definite connection, and this connection may be linked to a threat to the entire planet.

Jurgens said, “I wanted something where the team members will have a deeper connection than just, ‘Hey, I wear a red costume; you wear a blue costume; let’s form a team!’ These kids have a common bond, and it will be the glue that really holds them together.”

For now, Teen Titans will focus on the five core members, but Jurgens said he feels that any teen hero in the DC universe is a potential member. “I see The Teen Titans much the same way the Justice League was in the ‘70s,” Jur-gens explained. “You had Superman, Badman, and all the rest, but you, knew that, from time to time, someone like The Phantom Stranger could show up. As I see it, Captain Marvel Junior, Impulse, Robin, and the others will have a loose affiliation with the group and can be brought in at any time, if their appearance makes sense and isn’t used as a sales tool. I do see the ‘Titans universe’ as more expansive than the five characters we’re starting out with.”

Jurgens said he plans to draw upon The Titans’ rich history to a degree in the new series. One of the threads that will tie this Titans incarnation to those of the past is the presence of the mega-rich Financier Mr. Jupiter. Previously, Mr. Jupiter had appeared in a handful of issues of the original Titans series in the early 7Os. These days. Jupiter is older and wiser but still has gobs of money.

“In this version. Mr. .Jupiter has aged.,” Jurgens said. “Also, while he’s no longer the richest man in the world. he’s certainly in the top 10. He still believes in a vision of what the world should he and he believes in youth being agents of that vision. He’s a little crankier and a little more domineering than in the past, and, while he does end up financing these kids, they’re more apt to tell him to get out of their faces, because they want to do their own thing.”

Additionally, Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and some old Titans will make an appearance in issue #4. “Dick shows up because there is a new team around claiming to be The Teen Titans,” Jurgens explained. “Also, Dick wants to know why the old Titans disbanded (which is a mystery we’ll be dealing with in the future) and he just wants to see who these kids are and if they deserve to even carry the Teen Titans name.

While Jurgens said he feels that having a series history to draw from can make the current story richer for older readers. Teen Titans won’t be a series that gets mired in its own history or requires the new reader to be familiar with 30 years of history. “If someone who has never read a Titans comic book before picks up a current issue, the whos, hows, and whys of Brother Blood, for example, really won’t matter, because I’ll be sort of presenting it for the very first time now,” Jurgens said “I don’t want to have to spend II pages of explanation telling the reader who everyone is. I want to present everything in such a way that it is new now, and everybody is getting in on the ground floor.”

As far as upcoming adventure go, the team will get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding their origins and realize the threat that it may represent. The teens will also learn that their own origins are linked to a couple of different secret organizations which have keen interest in whether the kids live or die. Additionally, they may run into characters for whom Jurgens holds a special fondness and may find themselves on a grand adventure in the process.

The group won’t he running in many big DC characters just yet since the kids will be off the planet’ during this fall’s FINAL NIGHT crossover, which is just fine with Jurgens. As far as he’s concerned, crossovers can wait. “We’re holding off on guest appearances and crossovers right now, because I want to build these kids as characters and develop some sense of popularity,” Jurgens explained.

Instead of using Superman as a quick sales tool, I want his appearance to be something that people ask for somewhere down the road. In terms of getting them really recognized on their own, the readers have to be exposed to them by themselves, rather than seeing them interact with Superman.”

Adding to the nostalgia of a new Teen Titans title is the presence of George Pérez on inks, adding his unique flavor to the finished art. Was getting Pérez signed on difficult? Jurgens and Pérez said it was a matter of happy coincidence. “We were just putting the comic book together, and I hadn’t even started drawing, when I dropped George an e-mail, which was basically a courtesy note just to let him know that I was doing the title,” Jurgens said. “George sent back a note saying that he’d love to ink the title if we hadn’t set an inker yet. Not being a total idiot, I called him and said, as far as I was concerned, if he wanted it, it was his.”

“That was it, basically,” Pérez continued. “I asked for it and I got it. I think both Dan and Editor Eddie Berganza thought it was a good marketing ploy, as well, because it appeared that I was giving my blessing to this new Titans title by doing the inks.”

Pérez, by his own request, will only ink the comic book. “On this one. I just want to work as a grunt,” Pérez said. “This is Dan’s baby. The credit for its success will, first and foremost, go to Dan Jur-gens. I’m here to provide a nice coating on his vehicle. Whatever he puts in front of me, I’ll ink.”

Whereas Pérez may take the stance of “just working here.” he reported that he’s having a great time working on the series and is happy to be back with The Titans in their latest incarnation.

Ultimately, Jurgens said he feels the title will stand or fall on its own merits, regardless of fan loyalty to The Teen Titans as a group or subtle tie-ins with past continuity. Jurgens said, “It’s my hope that readers will pick up this comic book solely based on its quality. By bringing in Mr. Jupiter and Titans from the past, we make the tapestry a little richer and more colorful for the older fans but we won’t be alienating younger fans by making Mr. Jupiter out to be an established character, that they know nothing about. It all comes down to if the stories are interesting or not. With the new Teen Titans, it’s my job to go out and show the neighbors that we can create something of worth”

Dan Jurgens on comics old and new

By Barry Duttor

CBG: What can you tell us about the new Then Titans series?

Jurgens: Just buy it! [Laughter.] Teen Titans is a project that DC and I had talked about for almost two years. We’re finally ready to go with the title. At this point, I have the first two issues done. I’m writing it and drawing it. George Pérez is doing the finishing inks, which look remarkable. Greg Wright who colored Sensational Spider:Man, Superman/Aliens, Superman/Doomsday, and “Zero Hour,” is the colorist.

Richard Starkings and Comicraft are lettering it. Eddie Berganza is the editor, and this is sort of his first big-time editorial assignment at DC. Everyone’s giving it their best shot.

CBG: Which characters are in this new series?

Jurgens: Starting off, we’re focusing on five characters: Ray Palmer (The Atom) and four new characters who are bound together by some mysterious goings-on that they won’t even be privy to when the series starts out. But they are Teen Titans again. The previous version of The Titans – Donna Troy, Dick Grayson, all those characters – aged well into their 20s. So we’re taking it back.

Primarily, what we have are four new characters who, as I said, have a bond that holds them together. Though they don’t know it in the beginning, this crew also has a connection to earlier versions of The Teen Titans. They represent, hopefully, diverse backgrounds in American society – and I don’t just mean racial. Economics and social differences will play a key role. But the idea, of course, is to take these five characters and create a real interesting blend. It’s hard for me to make that sound interesting right now, because I’m being rather secretive [laughter], so I apologize for that.

CBG: How did you come up with these four new characters?

Jurgens: I tend to approach a group title differently from a solo character. What I think of first are the personalities and their family and social backgrounds. I knew I wanted an interesting blend of personalities. I start by pulling various elements together, adding characterizations, then powers and talents. First, I create an individual personality, then fit that into the concept of a team comic book for an interesting mix.
There are a thousand comics out there right now that have young people with powers. You can pick them up by the dozen each week. I want us to be a little different by having more character-oriented stories; I want to create characters here that the readers are really going to become interested in.

CBG: What villains will they be fighting? Any old Titans villains?

Jurgens: No. Again, to start with, everything is going to be new. Earlier, I mentioned that there is this common bond that they all share, almost with some family aspects to it, that will keep these kids together. Part of that is a particular threat they face.

What we’re going to find out early on is that there is an alien race out there that we never heard of before, an alien race whose members are capable of dominating almost anyone, because they are so advanced even Darkseid avoids them. We also discover they’ve become interested in our little solar system, perhaps for longer than we’re aware of. We’re trying to build a fairly dense background for all this. It’s going to take some time for it all to play out and become revealed. But in terms of enemies and opposition, we’re going to be creating a lot of new villains and a lot of new characters, to really make this title feel as fresh as possible.

I want this to be a comic book people can pick up and feel as though they’re getting in on the first step. They will not have to have read a thousand other comics before it. They won’t need to read the entire run of Titans or anything else. Those who have will get their share of fun beats.

CBG: Will the first storyline in Then Titans be a big, multi-issue story arc?

Jurgens: I wouldn’t say a big story arc, per se, because that implies a story that never ends. We’ve created a backdrop that is a blend of some science fiction and heroics that will exist throughout the series But the backdrop is very important to who these kids are and to where this title is going. That will always be there. The first story – the first three issues – really are about these kids coming together and taking on the name “Teen Titans.”

CBG: Were you a fan of the original two Titans series?

Jurgens: Yes. It’s also the kind of comic book I’ve never done before, which is another reason I was very interested in it. I have done a lot of solo character stuff and I have done a Justice League run, which is the more mature group. It’s re-energizing as” creator to deal with new ” material.

CBG: What else are you working on?

Jurgens: still writing Superman. Earlier, we hinted that there was a city in a bottle out there. Of course, longtime Superman readers know that the bottled city of Kandor is an important part of Superman’s heritage. Pre-Crisis, it was a Kryptonian city shrunk and put in a bottle, and it survived Krypton exploding. We’re bringing back the bottled city. It’s different, in keeping with the idea that Superman is the sole survivor of Krypton. I hope it will be just as interesting and as big a contribution to our new Superman mythos. So that’s the big thing.

CBG: Have you finished your Sensa,tional Spider-Man run?

Jurgens: Yes, although I am drawing a few pages of a Spider-Man team-up ti-tie, issue #4, that George Pérez plotted. We kind of reverse roles on that one. It’s Spider-Man and The Avengers.

CBG: Were there plans for you to do more issues?

Jurgens: I actually did seven issues: issue #0 and then #1-6. When I took the assignment, I think we all hoped I’d be doing more. But from the day I took the assignment to the day I quit the title, there were dramatic changes at Marvel. Also, there were some things that just weren’t working out on the comic book itself~ It was probably the most strained creator-editor relationship I’d ever been in. At the same time, I felt that Marvel had lost a great deal of its focus on what was appropriate for the character and where it wanted to go as a publisher. That complicated things, as well.

So, all that said, as of issue #6, I just said, “You know, this is a relationship that just isn’t working out.” And primarily, at that time, it was because the editor and I did not have a functioning relationship in terms of creating a story. So it was best for us to go our separate ways.

CBG: Did you want to do the Peter Parker Spider-Man instead of the Ben Reilly Spider-Man?

Jurgens: Yes. From the first day I got there. From the first day there, I thought, “I don’t think we should mention the word ‘clone’ in these comic books again.” I very much wanted to get Peter back into the comic book and say that this is the one true Spider-Man. Always has been the one true Spider-Man. Because to say anything else, you are ripping off your readers. And we could have said the clone thing, at that point, was just a six-month storyline. But it didn’t work out that way. I think, even now, we’re at the point where Mary Jane has been pregnant for what? A year and a half now [laughter]? I wanted, from the day I got there, to resolve those issues.

I was told, “You are right. Those issues will be resolved. Here’s how we’ll do it.” I wrote a couple of plans, at one point, that were accepted or not. We straggled as writers with these issues. They struggled editorially with these issues. What happened, as a result, I think, was the worst thing of all: You start treading water.

To me, if you’re going to have a new character as Spider-Man and you’re going to commit to it 100% – you have to kill Peter Parker. Period. And you don’t leave any choice but to like what you’re doing. If you kind of do it, a halfway measure, so here’s Peter Parker over here, in his own series, and you have the Ben Reilly character over there – that’s neither fish nor fowl. You’ve already ripped off the readers. And I’m not talking about 40-year-old fanboys. What I’m talking about is the kid who went to pick up Todd McFarlane’s first issue of Spider-Man. If you tell him that wasn’t the real Spider-Man, you’ve just ripped off that kid.

CBG: Peter Parker is back in the comics, in a small role – but I think that storyline won’t be resolved until September

Jurgens: That sounds right. What did it for me, in fact, is that *e had billed the resolution to happen in April. We were going ahead with that, we had started the story that was going to do it. and, in the middle of the story, the word came down from on high that it was time to pull ‘back. That’s when I realized that Spider-Man and I, in that particular editorial situation, were just not going to get along.

CBG: Why do you think the DC Superman team works together so well?

Jurgens: I think because we started off a little smaller. When the comic books first started to fuse there, there were only two titles. And then it was three. And, through it all, you had Mike Carlin, who has a very clear idea of what,,he wants and a very clear idea of who Superman was, and he hired people who saw the character the same way as he did.

On Spider-Man, I got along with the writers on the titles great. Todd DeZago, Howard Mackie, Tom DeFalco, and I all had a great time working together. But there were other compromising factors, I think, that prevented us from being able to develop a cohesive, strong direction for the series. When you’re dealing with one character spread across a couple of titles, you want them all to have the same sense of forward momentum and direction and energy – a unifying voice. That’s what we did not have on Spider-Man.

CBG: Is there anything else you’re working on?

Jurgens: Let’s see – I’m writing a Spider-ManlBadrock team-up for Extreme Studios, which will be kind of fun, I think. It’s something that is definitely designed to be a real romp.

CBG: How many pages do you do a day?

Jurgens: Well, I mix it up a lot. It’s not like one day I might write, the next day I draw. It’s an evolving process. As I write a plot, I’m thinking visually. As I pencil it, I change the plot. I usually put in about 60 hours a week, which is not as terrible as it sounds, because I work at home – I have no commute! I’ve got a couple of small kids, so I try to keep the general hours of the rest of the world. Once my oldest son gets up and goes off to school, that’s when I get to work.

CBG: How has the comics industry changed since you started?

Jurgens: God, has it changed! Cover prices have doubled, in some cases, tripled. When I was coming in, creators’ rights were just beginning. Royalties were just coming into existence. Then we accelerated to where millions of copies of some titles were sold. Now, we’ve retreated from those lofty numbers. Every single person in this industry has taken a pay cut, from lower royalties to no royalties at all. The industry has downsized in a big hurry. In terms of the actual comics themselves, there is a greater variety of formats, including more adult material.

CBG: Have you ever thought of doing any non-super-hero work?

Jurgens: I hope to. It’s something I’d like to play around with. I like the idea of telling stories about people who can’t fly – which is not to say that I don’t love superheroes Lately, super-hero bashing has really fallen into vogue, and I can’t understand it. I enjoy writing and drawing stories about super-heroes. But I also have stories to tell about regular people. Creatively, I think it’s good to stretch.

George Pérez returns to Teen Titans

By Barry Dutter

After many years away front drawing DC team titles, George Pérez has returned, working with Dan Jurgens on the relaunch of The Then Titans In March. He discussed his return to The Titans, as well as other upcoming projects. This is an excerpt from that interview – look for more to follow in the coming weeks.

CBG: You’re back on Teen Titans. What’s the story with that?

Pérez: Well, actually, it was one of those serendipitous little accidents. On CompuServe. Dan Jurgens had sent me a private note as a courtesy to inform me that he was going to be doing The Teen Titans. I had heard the rumor, but this was his way of making an official announcement about it.

I responded, wishing him luck, and jokingly said, “If you ever need an inker, let me know, because I’d enjoy working with you again.” At the time, I was assuming that an inker had already been lined up. Dan’s response was basically, “Are you serious?”

And it just started taking off from there:I did the last cover of the last issue of New Titans, and now I’ve inked the first cover of the new – I think the comic book is called The Teen Titans again. So I’m back to doing Titans again! After all this diversifying, I’m back to basics!

CBG: How does it feel to back?

Pérez: Very nice. Part of my decision to do it was to get my name out into the mainstream again. As much as I would love to be able to do more pencilling, I’m not as fast as I used to be. This way, I’m involved with high-profile projects, working with major talents, and not having to commit myself to the nuts and bolts of having to come up with the story, actually laying out the page – all the things that require real thinking in a comic. Mine is more of a craft in the creative process. Dan Jurgens is doing layouts, as opposed to full pencils, allowing me some artistic input, which I requested.

I have no input beyond that, even though Dan has, as a courtesy, sent me overviews of the plot. I’ve read them, but I refuse to comment on them, because I don’t want to be creatively involved. I want to be a craftsman. I want to do what Al Williamson has been doing most successfully: He saves his creative juices for major projects, but he makes the bread and butter working on other projects.

I’ll be curious how fans greet the book and I wish Dan a lot of luck, because this is the first Titans incarnation that does not have Robin, or a variation of Robin, as the leader and the linchpin of the series. That’s not through Dan’s choice. I gather – I think he did want to use either Robin or Nightwing – but both characters are used by the Batman group. I don’t think he had much choice about using the person who, in many fans’ minds, is The Titans. Robin is the kid sidekick who started all kid sidekicks. I don’t believe any one of the new Titans – the four that are totally new, and the Atom, as well – none of them have ever been sidekicks to anyone, so that in itself makes it slightly different. No more Justice Little League!

CBG: You mentioned that you’re slower than you used to be. Why is that?

Pérez: I’ve become more reference-oriented. I used to be satisfied to fake everything. Now, if I’m doing stories set in New York, I like them to take place in New York. The reference needed for that takes time to do correctly. The same thing with anatomy. Before, I was content to fake it. -Now, I’m more concerned that it looks right. Mostly I’m concerned that if I draw too fast, I repeat layouts over and over again. Years ago, I was doing Fantastic Four and Avengers, there were a few fight scenes where I was using stock poses. There was one character that was blinded in one story and another with sand thrown in her face in a different story, and I used the same exact position in two different comics. The fastest way to draw for me was to rely on stock poses. After a while, I said, “I’m not learning anything.”

I think the biggest drawback was when I started inking my own work, because then I realized I was just as meticulous an inker as a penciller – and I understood why all my inkers hated me! I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the way my work looks in the finished version. I realized that inking is a very strict discipline – it takes a long time. I don’t expect everyone to ink the way I do, but to try to at least put some effort into it. Sometimes, if I take a long time pencilling a page, the inker doesn’t have enough time to do the same thing. He has to rush through it because he’s the last person on the chain.

I started to feel dissatisfied with my work, the way it would look. I didn’t want the inker to misunderstand my lines, so I spent a longer time drawing it clearer – basically I was inking with a pencil. And that slowed me down even further.

One of the things that also occurred in the industry in general, in the last few years when we had this enormous glut, a lot of us creators were paid a lot of upfront money for a change. But I always feel that when you’re paid so much for your name, you have no real reason to improve. Now, the work that I am doing for Titans – this will probably be the most amount of regular work I will have had in years, yet I’m being paid a good deal less per page. Which means that, in order to live the lifestyle that I’m used to, I have to do a lot more of it, but that’ll probably benefit the industry and benefit me. It’ll get me to pick up my speed and it will increase my recognition again, It’ll provide the comics readers with something they don’t get as much of any more, and that’s a feeling of steadiness, where they know that one issue after another will have the same creative team.

That’s something we have not had a lot of lately. I’m as much at fault as anyone. I don’t know if I’ve had a six-issue run on anything without a break, without somebody having to fill in for me, of late. I think it’s a good discipline for everyone. For me, I’m looking forward to the challenge of handling two monthly books again. I remember in the old days, I was doing three and a half books month when first started in the business. It’s good to be hungry again!

CBG: Have you committed to a year of the title?

Pérez: I’m definitely going to stay on for that first year, and, if all goes well, and if time allows it, I wouldn’t even mind staying on longer. At this point, a year, I think, is a good commitment.

CBG: As wrap this up, which characters in Teen Titans are you most looking forward to drawing again?

Pérez: I’d like to see Kory again. I kind of miss her. Of course, Robin and Nightwing. A lot of times, characters change so much, it’s hard to put a tag them. But Kory, with her big round eyes and full lips and big head of hair – she always be my character.

Who are these kids, anyway?

Atom (Ray Palmer) – This new team of Titans will be led by The Atom, who was de-aged by unleashed chronal energy m 1994’s “Zero Hour” and turned into a teen-age version of himself. While his past experiences are all intact, his memories are fleeting and ghostly. For example. while he can remember that he’s married and a member of The Justice League, any details beyond that are foggy. He still has his shrinking powers, which actually may be enhanced as a result of his revitalized youth.

Risk (Cody Driscoll) -The wisecracking daredevil of the group, Risk would break into a bank just for the thrill. Risk is addicted to thrills and is the best athlete in his school. Lately, Cody is roughly five times a normal teen: he’s five times as fast five times as strong and his senses I are far more acute.

Prysm (Audrey Spears) – Raised in a fantasy world, Audrey just wants to live a normal life and is somewhat naive in her dealings with people. When powered, Audrey appears to be transparent and can capture light and project it with devastating results.

Argent (Toni Monetti) – Toni comes from a wealthy family which has always given her everything she wanted except love. A trip to the mall came to replace her parents’ love. Toni can project silvery plasma bursts that appear as knives, apparently under her mental control.

Joto (Isaiah Crockett) – The most well-adjusted member of the group, Isaiah comes from a stable family environment and is, therefore, – one of the most stable members of the team and is dedicated to his family. Isaiah can project heat from his hands when he comes in contact with an item. Also. He can use heat waves as a kind of sonar that allows him to “see” inside objects. His name is Swahili for “heat.”


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