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Comics Scene #24 [1991]: “Of Titans & Terminators”

Of Titans & Terminators: Marv Wolfman deals out surprise fates & deadly futures
By KIM HOWARD JOHNSON [From Comic Scene #24, February 1991]


Titans, a Terminator and a Tomb have been occupying veteran writer Marv Wolfman’s time these days, but he’s doing exactly what he enjoys.

Variety and change is what keeps him interested after all these years, he explains. Tomb of Dracula is the revival of a title he worked on in the ’70s, Deathstroke the Terminator has just earned its own series (see separate article) and The New Titans is undergoing a major shake-up.

Recent events have seen the Titans membership undergo a radical change, with plenty of others promised. New members are joining, old members are dying. and there will even be another Teen Titans title in mid-1992.

One of the problems the Titans have had for many years was playing to the status quo.” says Wolfman, “We weren’t doing anything. I was bored with it. And so were the readers-we just weren’t pushing.”

New editor Jonathan Peterson was instrumental in pushing for changes. When Peterson took over the book, Wolfman says artist Tom Grummett, inker Al Vey and outgoing editor Mike Carlin got together for three days to come up with the current storyline that has them all excited again.

“I was really thrilled,” says Wolfman. ‘Occasionally, I like my characters so much that I never want them to go through any major problems, and of course, that’s what makes the stories interesting. Jonathan kept at us, and we kept coming up with new characters and a new direction. We couldn’t believe how well the new stuff tied in to everything we had been doing for 11 years on Titans.

“The status quo was becoming stale, not the characters. We were following the same type of stories that we had been doing. Mike Carlin and I had been talking about changes. too, but we never got to work on it to the degree we wanted. Jonathan was Mike’s assistant, so he knew of all this and was gung-ho to make the changes.

“We all sat down and came up with the ideas together. We were able to bring in things from the first issue and have them tie in precisely with what we wanted to do, so nothing came out of left field. Everything actually functions within things that have happened before, yet it’s actually all brand-new. That’s what makes it really exciting for us. We could have come up with anything, but this actually ties into continuity, and we very clearly set it up years ago!”

One of the best examples is Jericho, who betrayed his fellow Titans when he became the leader of the Wildebeest Society “The stuff with Jericho very specifically ties into the first five issues of the second version of the Titans, when he tries to cure Raven after she has been taken over by Trigon. Jericho tried to enter her and was horribly repelled. The ending of that particular story made the whole changeover into what we currently have. Also, the very first real storyline in Titans in years ago was a Raven storyline – why Raven assembled the whole team. So in a way. it goes right back to their origins.” Although Wolfman says he obviously didn’t plan the current events a decade ago, he was surprised at how many plot seeds were planted.

“We were able to pick up on threads we had left,” he says. “When a writer is in this mode with continuity stories, he leaves things behind specifically unsettled, even if he doesn’t know it. I’ve had too many situations in the past where I’ve been able to tap into things and go. ‘Why did I leave this here?’ and it was obviously an unconscious thing to be picked up on later.

“This stuff was clearly set up. Jericho’s personality had drastically ~ changed over the last few years anyway. Granted, that wasn’t tied in with what we were doing, but it certainly leaves it open to be interpreted as retro-continuity; you could explain some of it because of what we’re doing now. I (lent think I’ve ever been in a series of meetings where so much was accomplished that it shocked us. We knew where we wanted to go, we knew we wanted to shake things up.”

Readers may be shocked as well, though Wolfman says that wasn’t their primary goal.

“The shocks are only to let the readers know that things are changing. We weren’t specifically sitting down and saying, ‘This issue we’re going to shock everybody.’ With a few points, we did, of course-the revelation of Jericho, the introduction of new characters, the deaths of a few characters. Those were designed to shock, but also to let people know this is important. They’ve seen hype-we can’t tell the reader that it’s good, that they’re going to be surprised-they’ve got to be surprised.”

Death won’t be taking a holiday from the Titans. There’ll he further fatalities in the current three-part storyline, says Wolfman, though he declines to he specific.

“It’s not to shake things up,” he says, “outside of Golden Eagle’s death. He was a useless character in many ways-nobody was using him, and he was replicated elsewhere. It tells the reader that nothing is sacred. That first death may have been tenuous, but the future ones aren’t- this is the direction it had to go once we set the story in motion.”

Along with the deaths, Wolfman has introduced new team members Phantasm and Pantha in the last storyline. ‘When the dust has settled, there will he a slightly different group of Titans. I don’t want to pinpoint the competition, but unlike other books, those characters are not going to come back, with the status quo maintained and the exact same group they began with. Some of these characters are gone for good because they’re dead! We’ve been very careful in The New Titans-when we say they’re dead, they’re dead!

“Now, that brings up Terra!” laughs Wolfman. The one-time traitorous Titan was killed years ago, but has turned up alive in the current storyline-or has she?

“All I can say is that this is somebody named Terra who has similar powers, though not identical. She looks the same, and answers to that name, but it’s very clearly said in the last Titans Anneal that this is not the same Terra. The explanations for all that are coming at some point-I’ve got them roughly worked out. It is not Tara Markov, [the Terra] who was killed. What she is and why she answers to the name Terra, how she got her powers and why she looks the same is all part of the story. Titans fans may get angry at things, but we we never lied to them.”

There still won’t be a solid Titans membership roster. Instead, the team will vary.

“That’s one thing I like about the current set-up,” says Wolfman. “Not all of the characters are going to be there. Cyborg is currently brain-dead. How long that will last hasn’t been worked out. There’s going to be a two-part Cyborg story appearing in DC Showcase at some point that puts the final kibosh on his easily getting back his brains. We don’t have that resolution timed out-it’s a long-range story, but right now, he’s little more than a robot. Troia will be out of the group. Raven and a couple of the others are pretty much out. The only ones we know for sure are Nightwing, Starfire, Changeling, Phantasm and Pantha – but I may he wrong at this moment. Those are the characters who are technically supposed to stay.

“[Readers] first reaction was, ‘How dare you do this? How dare you get rid of the characters that we’ve grown to love for 11 years?’ Slowly, everybody saw that this was a major change, and they started to become interested in the book. Now, the reader reaction is 98 percent positive. incredibly so. People don’t know where we’re going, and they want to read it. We’ve done exactly what we wanted to do, and now we have to maintain that by continually shaking up the status quo.”

Wolfman is enthusiastic about his Titans collaborators. “It’s a different type of relationship than I had with George Pérez, when we sat down and created the thing,” he says, “But right now, we’re trying to re-create it. George and I lived within walking distance of each other, so we used to get together for lunch and talk things out. The current relationship isn’t as close on a personal basis, because Tom [Grummett, artist] lives in Canada, and Al [Vey, inker] lives in Milwaukee, so we only get to see each other a couple of times a year. Al is totally crazy-I love him. He’ll come up with the wildest concepts.

“Tom is a little bit quieter than Al; he’ll come in with these little things that sound real good-he’s the type of person who’s fairly quiet, and then will come in with exactly the right thing. Jonathan Peterson] has been phenomenal. I’ve never worked with an editor who has been more involved and enthusiastic. He has maintained that love for the stuff that many other editors get jaded by and lose interest. I’m having a ball working with Jonathan.”

Meanwhile, a spin-off Titans title which fans got a preview in the summer 1991 annual, is also in the works. The book will be called either The Teen Titans or Team Titans, and Wolfman says the Titans/Armageddon 2001 Annual explains what the new team from the future is all about.

“They’re one of several hundred groups in the future, all of whom have been sent back to the present for one purpose-to kill Troia,” he says. “And to prevent her son, the villain in the annual, from being born. Unfortunately, he’s back in the past, too, as revealed in issue #80. They’ve all come into the past. including this godlike character, because he’s the son of a Titan, but unlike Troia, he was not trained and the powers drove him crazy, as revealed in issues #50-#54, the origin of Wonder Girl.”

In it, one of the Titan gods’ “seeds” (beings given godlike powers but without memory of those powers origin, then returned to their home planets) somehow maintains the forbidden memory and goes totally crazy. “The memories of all the others were removed,” says Wolfman. “This is what I mean by picking a thread from the past and using it in the present. Donna was converted into a god by these Titan gods, and very clearly established that if they had maintained their memories, they would go crazy. Now, she’s having a baby. All the power of the gods is inside her-she has been trained to use the power well, but the baby has no such training. The power of the gods enters the baby, which instantly ages itself and is totally mad. Now, it’s back in the past. His goal is to preserve Troia, his mother, until she actually gives birth, and then kill her. The Teen Titans are assigned to destroy her before she can give birth, and our Titans, in a sense, have to take the side of the mad god who’s going to destroy their entire planet later, because they must preserve her. That’s our next storyline, which eventually leads to the Teen Titans’ own book next May or June.”

Although the new title will deal with one team, Wolfman says there are potentially hundreds of groups that could appear in the book.

“As revealed in the annual, there are many groups in the future. This mysterious person from our time period brought together hundreds of these people and kept them all separated. They cannot know who they are, so in case they’re captured they can give no information whatsoever. They’re all different teams, they all have different orders and they’re all designed for various things to create a brand-new future for themselves. So, we have a major storyline with hundreds of new characters added as we need them. Some of them we may never see-we get a hint of it in Titans #80.”

However, the stars of the new comic will still be the team introduced in the annual. “The major group will be the one we’ve seen: Nightrider, Killowat, Redwing, Mirage. Prester John and Terra. But there are other groups, and, if we need to, we may just center on them for a storyline. We can play with the entire DC Universe, play with history, and keep things fresh by not having to worry about centering on just one set of characters.”

One of the current team members-Troia-will move over to become a supporting character in the new Teen Titans, and won’t be appearing in the regular book, says Wolfman. Although Nightwing was the new group’s leader in the Titans Annual, he won’t be anymore.

“Because that’s an alternate future, and because that was Nightwing’s story, he had to be that character,” Wolfman says. “We have to play a little bit fast and loose, and the readers will have to work with us on it, because it is an alternate future that may or may not come about. Consequently, once it was no longer Nightwing’s future, that same situation existed, minus him. However, when the characters do come into the present and Mirage sees Nightwing, she will have the same romantic feelings for him, which will provide a conflict between her and Starfire.”

Wolfman isn’t content with the two Titans books – he’s planning a mini-series starring one of the most popular team members. “Nightwing could certainly carry a full series, but why try to get one out every month? His stuff is very complicated. The storyline is going to cross three generations: Batman, Nightwing and Robin.”

Additionally, there may be a third Titans title involving a hot young talent currently working on a Marvel Comics bestseller.

“They’ve been talking about a mini-series with Rob Liefeld,” Wolfman says, “but I don’t know what the final thing is.”

Games, the long-anticipated Titans graphic novel, will still happen. Wolfman promises it will be worth the long wait.

“It’s about 120 pages, and George Pérez has drawn 80 pages of it,” he says. “When be finishes it, I will dialogue it, and I sure hope it’s soon! It’s going to be a flashback now; after George is done, he’s going back to add a beginning and ending section with the new characters, because it’s not the same group now. It’ll be the only time that George has done the new characters, and it’ll also be the last time we’ll see the old ones. It’s a great story. I can’t wait-the first 80 pages are gorgeous! It’s some of the best work George has ever done.”

With all of his Titans projects, the runaway success of Deathstroke, the Terminator and the various mini-series and one-shots, Marv Wolfman does feel he’s overworked, “But I always feel that way,” he laughs.

His fans will be happy to hear that his workload won’t cause him to drop any titles.

“I may not pick up other stuff, or do all of the connected series,” he says. “I’m not writing the Cyborg two-parter, though I did sit down with Len Wein and work out the story’s parameters. I see no need to drop anything. I’m doing exactly what I enjoy,” smiles Marv Wolfman. “When I have my cerebral hemorrhage, then I’ll think about it.”

 


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