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Comics Scene Yearbook 1: Teeming With Heroes

Teeming with heroes, Marv Wolfman
introduces a legion of new (& old) Titans

By Kim Howard Johnson [from Comics Scene Magazine Yearbook: Volume 1, 1992]


The next generation of superheroes is about to invade the DC Universe in Team Titans. These newest Titans are the first of many new supergroups to leap from the mind of Marv Wolfman in this ongoing companion title to The New Titans, as the two teams cross over, exchange members and try to make peace before killing one another.

But, unlike the original Titans, these teenagers from the future are warriors as much as superheroes. “When we began the series, they were obviously more superheroic,” says Wolfman. “They remain super-heroes, but they’re from a world totally taken over by Lord Chaos.”

Wolfman explains that numerous Titans groups are arriving from the future, all emerging at slightly different moments, but the team’s core will be Mirage, the shape-shifter; the electrical Killowat; Dagon, the vampire known as Nightrider; Redwing, who has predator-like speed, vision and agility; Prester John, brother of Redwing, who inhabits an organic computer; and the all-new Terra. When Terra exits to join the New Titans, she is replaced by the bloodthirsty Battalion. Donna Troy leaves the New Titans, and will be a regular member of the Team Titans cast.

The writer calls Battalion “the drill sergeant from hell” and says, “He’s the one who put them all together in the future. He and Donna Troy are at war over control of the group.”

The first three issues of Team Titans cross over with New Titans and Deathstroke, the Terminator (which Wolfman discussed in CS #24) in a nine-part story arc called Total Chaos.” That resolves the Donna Troy-Lord Chaos tale, directly affecting some of the new team.

“Several of the Team Titans have been raised in incubators, essentially to be warriors who will fight for Chaos. Along the way, they realized that Lord Chaos was actually destroying the world,” Wolfman says. “The characters who weren’t raised by Chaos and his war machine were raised to destroy Chaos and his war machine! So, they’re not crimefighters like the original Titans. They’re superheroic characters used to fighting in a military machine against goals.

“The Team Titans aren’t just out to stop the latest supervillain, but to stop super-terrorist activity. Team Titans isn’t military in a G.I. Joe sense; it’s more of an action superhero book. These characters are not limited to stopping the guy who robs the corner drug store. They have goals and missions from their world in the future.”

Introduced last year in New Titans Annual #7 as a team from an alternate future ruled by Lord Chaos, the Team Titans are sent back to our time to kill Donna Troy before she can give birth to Lord Chaos. They end up working with the New Titans when Chaos travels back to our present.

“We discover in Team Titans #2 that the machine which brought them back to our time is serving as a doorway for Lard Chaos’ warriors. He’s sending many people into the past as well,” says Wolfman, who adds that the Team Titans won’t be like Deathstroke, the Terminator or The Punisher. Once the initial nine-part Titans Universe cross-aver is finished, Wolfman’s three books will all have a very different feel.

“Deathstroke will be a realistic type of action book, without the superhero crossovers. New Titans will be very much the book it has been- with superheroes concerned about being kept out of New York. They have to go underground and are on the run,” he says.

Wolfman points out that the many teams introduced in the new title won’t be much alike, even if their goals are similar.

“Each Team Titans group is slightly different. They’re much harder-edged, and won’t be wearing the same costumes that we’ve seen them in. One of their goals is to stop Lord Chaos’ troops in the present, but it’s not a one-note book-they’ll be going after other situations, too.”

Since the futuristic groups were all formed in honor of the original Titans, Wolfman says one of them will look exactly like the original Teen Titans from the 1960s, with Speedy, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Robin.

“What that group looks like, and what that group is, are two different things. The only difference is, this Robin is the Robin of today. Except for Robin, they aren’t the sweet little kids they appear to be-they just happen to look like the original Titans,” Wolfman says.

The initial three issues of Team Titans resolve the “Total Chaos” storyline, as Donna Troy’s baby is born; Donna becomes ultra-powerful and faces off against Lord Chaos, with the Titans caught in the middle. Issue #4 sees the team try to improve their public image as a result of the Titans Sell Out! one-shot with the New Titans. In issue #5, they attempt to acquire a private life by enrolling in school – without secret identities. The other Titans teams, as well as Battalion, will begin showing up in these issues. In addition, Killowat’s best friend becomes the commander of the forces of Lord Chaos, and they must battle the Team Titans to ensure Lord Chaos exists in their world.

“It may sound complicated,” says Wolfman, “but I’m keeping track so that new readers can come in on a regular basis.”

When the current Team Titans were created for the 1991 New Titans Annual, Wolfman says he had no idea that the group would get their own title. Editor Jonathan Peterson suggested that the annual feature Nightwing leading a Titans group in the future.

“I didn’t just want to have him lead a group fighting Monarch, and I realized it would be more exciting to develop a parallel story,” says Wolfman. “Rarely can you come up with many characters all at once that work, but in this case, all the characters and their origins jelled quickly. It was very much like when I did the original Teen Titans group. They came one right after another. The Team Titans were all designed by [artist] Tom Grummett, and we realized we had more than an annual story. There was immediate interest at DC, because the characters worked. So, we figured out a way to bring these characters back into our present.”

After a pilot issue in New Titans #81, in which the regular New Titans don’t appear, the response was so strong that DC decided to publish Team Titans monthly.

One of the more controversial elements of the newest team was the inclusion of Terra, patterned after the character who died several years ago in Titans.

“I always swore that the original Terra would never come back,” Wolfman says. “The power is a good power, but I thought it would be interesting to make Terra work in a logical fashion, yet not be Terra.”

Since most of the records involving the original Titans have been destroyed in their alternate future, and since the current Titans never told anyone that the original Terra was a traitor, Lord Chaos created a new Terra to infiltrate the Titans. “The idea was to come up with something that worked logically within all current Titans mythology, yet brought back, in a sense, a strong character that the readers liked. This Terra isn’t a psychopath. and her powers aren’t as great.

“I also liked how she could upset the apple cart in the present: What it does to her relationship with Changeling, what it does to Deathstroke-who had a 16-year-old kid for a lover for a brief time, back when he was a little more vicious; what it does to everything! Terra is a wild card, because even she doesn’t know some of her own programming, or who she was in her time period. I was pleased with the character’s addition from the shock value to the readers to making it work correctly without bringing back the original Terra or making her [the Outsiders’] Geo-Force’s daughter. This uses everything.”

The first issue was published in five different versions, but unlike variant cover gimmicks, all five are double-sized while selling for the regular price. Although all contain a common story-part three of the “Total Chaos’ crossover-each also includes a different full-length origin story for a group member.

“It’s a lack-of-sales gimmick,” Wolfman quips, “because the amount of work to do that first issue is more than any returns could ever be! It’s much easier to slap a new cover on a book, as was done for X-Men or even Robin-to me, that’s a sales gimmick. If people want to spend $1.50 for a new cover, that’s their problem, but I think it’s stupid.

Jonathan Peterson came up with the idea that, since everybody is doing this and really taking advantage of the fans, why don’t we show them that DC is willing to eat some money, because this stunt does cost more than it could make. Readers are getting two full stories for the price of one. There’s a different cover on each issue, because there’s a different story in each issue.”

The Terra origin story is by newcomer Phil Jimenez and inked by George Pérez. “It’s unbelievable-people are going to think George re-did everything, because of the detail work, but it’s Phil’s-George was very honest to the pencils,” Wolfman says.

Mirage’s origin is pencilled by Gabriel Morrissette; the full-length Redwing story is by Adam Hughes and Karl Kesel; Nightrider’s origin is by Mike Nassar and Pérez, and the Killowat story is by Kerry Gammill and Al Vey. “There’s really great art on all of these stories, and on top of that, the cover and the regular ongoing story is by Kevin Maguire,” he says.

Wolfman promises some special features in each different book: “As I developed the origin series, all of them became major, major characters in my mind. I think Dagon – Nightrider, the vampire-is a very strong character. Jonathan has worked on the origins very carefully. He’s a very strong, very hands-on editor. Filtering [the material] through the two of us and through the artists made for some very strong origin stories,” he says.

Each of the Team Titans is getting their own full-length origin story, except for Prestor John, Redwing’s late brother who has become part of an organic computer. Half of Prestor John’s origin, including how he got his powers, is in the Redwing solo story, while the other half is revealed in the Killowat tale.

“All we ever see of him is that little computer tube, because he no longer has a body. Because he’s Redwing’s brother, it didn’t make sense to replicate Redwing’s origin for him, so I only showed what I needed to show to reveal how he got where he is today. So, in those five first issues,” Wolfman promises, “you get six different origins!”

Team Titans will be introducing several different Titans teams from the future to keep the books interesting, moving, and different, says Wolfman. Readers, however, won’t be deluged with too many new groups at once.

“I don’t want to create endless characters that don’t work, just to fill up the book,” he says. “Although they came fast, I spent a lot of time thinking of the origins, emotions and powers. The origin stories are very complex for all of them-I think they’re far better thought out than the original Titans origins, and those have sprung stories for the past 12 years!”

To make a group book work, not only must each character be carefully thought out, so must their function within the group.

“If the characters don’t function so that they bring out all the elements of all the other members, the group isn’t functioning correctly. That’s part of fiction, and part of making a situation like this work. They can’t all be whiny, complaining characters, or whatever. You have to figure out what emotional stuff each one can bring out, so that they work in balance and you don’t have 12 of the same character. You also have to make sure that they can continue to spring off stories based on who they are and their backgrounds,” he says. “As I can come up with new characters and reasons for these new groups, then I’ll come up with more new groups. That’s the only way to do it!

“I like to think that each of those new groups will be good enough for their own series. That’s the thinking process that must take place before I’m going to release characters-there are too many characters today to turn out more bad ones.”

Wolfman says he plans to stay with Team Titans, New Titans and Deathstroke, the Terminator, but won’t take on any other ongoing series. “I’m devoting myself to these three big projects, and that’s it! All of them are in a major state of flux. I’m very excited about the Team Titans, because it allows me to write a grittier superhero book-I don’t mean gritty in the way that many of the British writers write gritty-I’m talking about a darker, heavier-action book.

“This feels like a second coming, in a sense, says Marv Wolfman. “After a couple of fallow years, things are interesting again, and I’m really enjoying 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