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Comics Scene Magazine #8: Writes of Passage

Writes of Passage: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez are raising the Teen Titans to adulthood.
[from Comics Scene Magazine #8, 1989 – By Daniel Dickholtz]

When Marv Wolfman first moved The New Teen Titans into their glittering New York headquarters, he saw only a future for the young adventurers as bright – as the sunlight glinting off the Titans Tower’s steel frame. Yet years later, even Wolfman will admit that there have been times when the band of heroes seemed less eager to strive for their full potential and their tower less likely to glitter in the distance, and like any dismayed and distraught parent, the writer faults only himself.

“If Titans was hurting for a while, it’s because I wasn’t doing as many stories about the people,” Wolfman admits. “Until I got out of my writer’s block, I was doing more adventures of the Titans. It was much easier to just come up with plots and plug the characters in. That hurt the book, and I wasn’t happy with it. Also, I got off it for several months because I just didn’t like the direction in which I was going.

When I came back, I started doing more people-oriented stories, and they were successful because those stories are the ones that you care about. You don’t care, at least I don’t, who’s going to take over the world this issue. I don’t know if the fans care, either-not when there are 300 other books with people taking over the world as well.”

Reunited since New Titans #50 with series co-creator George Pérez, Wolfman has already begun work on restoring the Titans to their former stature. In the coming months, the Titans, a team of teens no longer, will have to face not only the return of the wily Wildebeest, who ‘comes back in a very bizarre fashion,” but the coming of responsibilities long ignored and a maturity long held at bay.

“It has been a real effort to not only make the book work again, but to get back to where the characters should be and then proceed from there,” says the scribe. “They’re really good characters, and their personalities work well in tandem. But when we sat down and created them, we made them as real as we could, and therefore they still have all these dimensions that we haven’t even come close to exploring yet.”

And so Dick Grayson, for example, will begin reinvestigating himself after a case alongside the Darknight Detective causes him to reexamine the facts of Batman: Year Three (now on sale]. However, the only solution he can see to this personal mystery will hardly be one unsuspecting readers would deduce.

“Dick is quitting,” the writer reveals, “based on what happened with Jason Todd. You can’t have a character like Jason killed in the way he was without affecting everyone down the line who’s connected in one way or another to Batman.”

Grayson’s resignation from costumed crime-fighting will unfold over the course of “a five-part crossover with Batman. What occurs in the pages of this is fairly monumental. George and I are co-plotting it. George is drawing the three Titans chapters, and Jim Aparo is drawing the two Batman chapters. More than that, I can’t say.

At press time, one of Grayson’s last official acts as both Nightwing and a Titan was to arrange Danny Chase’s removal from the group and, to their great relief, the readers’ eyes.

“Danny was fired essentially because Jason Todd [Robin] died. Dick decided he didn’t want a little kid in the group, especially one who doesn’t listen; Jason didn’t listen and he died.

“And just in case any of the fans say, ‘Oh, George finally got Marv to do it,’ George will be the first to admit it was my concept to get Danny out for a few months,” Wolfman remarks. “George has asked me several times when I want him back, and I want him back when the story warrants it. Danny will grow up. When he comes back, he won’t be so changed that people will suddenly love him. He’ll still be obnoxious because that’s part of his personality, but he’ll be a slightly different character.”

The usually cheerful Changeling has also found his crime-busting career curtailed somewhat since he was forced into taking up a different sort of challenge, one that doesn’t require him to expend his animalistic energies. Rather than fighting fiends, he’s hitting books. ‘His grades have gone to hell, and his father’s not putting up with it anymore,” the scribe explains. “He does have to go to school. The others have excuses; they’re adults. But when you’re 16 or 17, you have no choice.

“Meanwhile, Raven is going to begin a search for her mother, which she hasn’t done at all since they came back in the first five issues of the offset book. That means for 55 issues, or four-and-a-half years, her mother has been circulating and she hasn’t found out where. So, we’ll be dealing with that.”

Fans, though, will have to contend with what they’ll soon be learning about Jericho when they make contact with a side of him that, Wolfman warns, will get under their skin as readily as the hero himself can slip into an opponent’s, body.

“We’re doing a lot of fun stuff with him, where you start seeing more of the type of person he actually is, and some of it may not strike people as the nicest. He never intends anything less than being nice, but just because of the kind of person he is, things will happen around him that some readers, namely some of the female readers, may not like.”

The wondrous Donna Troy has, of course, already undergone a major transformation, becoming the far more powerful Troia, but a much more traumatic transition could be in store for her dear friend, Koriand’r, the princess of Tamaran.
“Starfire may or may not be in the group within a year if we proceed with certain plans,” Wolfman explains. “We don’t want a status quo on the title. We want to keep making changes and alterations, and we’re still playing around with some of them.”

And as for Cyborg, the gadget-ridden gladiator will become one of the most valuable players in a series of Games in which the Titans will have little choice about participating. Ironically, it was discussing the strategies they would use in this project, a graphic novel not due to reach store shelves for at least another year, that proved to be what drew artist George Pérez back to the series he helped develop.

“It’s hard to explain the graphic novel. It’s one of the strongest superhero stories we’ve ever done, but it also goes from humor to science fiction to horror to so many subjects, it’s unbelievable. It’s really impossible to describe,” stresses Wolfman, outside of the fact that Pérez will paint it himself. “It was the first time we got back together after a while, and it was like all the energy we had had previously was in that meeting. I had a rough idea, but when we sat down together, it just kept growing. It’s everything we ever wanted to do with the Titans. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be, but George rough laid it out at 120 pages. When we were finished with it, we were absolutely exhausted, and I think working on that is what prompted George to do the book itself because we found the chemistry is still there.”

The individual elements, however, are no longer mixed together in quite the same proportions. When Wolfman and Pérez began their partnership, the writer preferred to do all the plotting himself, but upon discovering what “a phenomenal character person George is,” the pair began to more evenly share that chore for the remainder of their run.

“These days, George is slightly more responsible for the specific plotting,” Wolfman confesses. With the exception of Comes and this year’s annuals (Wolfman will permanently eclipse the Children of the Sun in one, while Pérez reveals the Secret Origins of the group in another], “we discuss the direction of the characters and the overall concepts that we want to do, and then George takes it and plays with it. I’ll go through it and say, ‘No, I think it should be a little bit more this way,’ and I’ll write it that way, or I’ll follow what he does. So, right now, we’re working it where I come into New York a couple of times a year, we work out the next five or six issues, how we want to change it, any high points we want to do, and then George [who also supplies the page breakdowns] worries about the little stuff.”

One detail that has yet to be worked out is just which of the two will ultimately handle the Titans’ twin title, Titans West.

“We’ll probably do the first issue together whenever that finally comes about. Then, depending on George’s schedule, he may take over the book.

“I didn’t want another young superhero book,” Wolfman notes. “The concept that I had come up with was more of a rescue group-not another bunch of policemen running out and stopping crime-working out of San Francisco. Just before George returned, I set up the San Francisco branch of STAR. Labs as a place where they’re testing super-people. We had Red Star and Thunder and Lightning out there, and some other characters that we were going to introduce. When the Titans West, or whatever it’s finally called, is formed, they’ll operate out of that, and there will be positive charter in the helping in disastrous situations.

“Now that I’m coming back as a writer in my mind after a couple of years where I wasn’t too pleased with everything, I don’t want to overdose on Titans. I want to really enjoy what I’m writing so that each issue, when I sit down, I can approach it at the strongest, as opposed to saying, ‘Oh, no. Another Titans story.’ So, if George decides at some point not to write Titans West, at least it’ll be so completely different from Titans that I wouldn’t be bored.”

Nor, promises Wolfman, will the title’s followers be bored with all the unexpected upsets in the lives of the established group’s membership. Yet, with even more dramatic alterations to follow the Games that Wolfman and Pérez insist the Titans play, some may wonder if the co-plotters, along with penciller Tom Grummett and inker Bob McLeod, are tampering too much with what first set the series apart from the throngs of other team books.

“At first, fans probably won’t like anything. Of course, people like the status quo, but at the same time, if we do what we’re going to do well, they’ll like it. Also, we’re not changing the book’s tone. It’s not like the last time we changed it, and made the book real heavy and dark and defeatist in attitude. The New Titans is not going in that direction.”

Says Marv Wolfman, “Titans is still going to be the title I hope people will like and have been coming back to and are discovering is good again.”


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