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Didio: Editing the Teen Titans

Didio: Editing the Teen Titans
by Matt Brady
courtesy of – 01-24-2008

We spoke with Teen Titans writer Sean McKeever about the series, the team, and the upcoming threat of the Terror Titans. McKeever also mentioned that, so far, things are going swimmingly with the series’ new editor – a guy named Dan DiDio, who also happens to be Senior VP-Executive Editor of the DC Universe.

It’s not every day a Senior VP of a comic publisher takes a job as a regular editor on a series, so we caught up with DiDio for a few words about the new job.

Newsarama: First off – why’d you pick up the editor gig on Teen Titans in the first place? This is like Paul [Levitz] choosing to write JSA or Joe Quesada stepping in to draw “One More Day” – you all have about a million other things to be doing. Why add this to your schedule?

Dan DiDio: There are a number of reasons – the primary one is that Eddie Berganza’s schedule has been jammed because of things going on with Final Crisis, and with Eddie being the editor of Final Crisis and the other Final Crisis series, we had to clear a few things off of his plate. He worked on Teen Titans for a long period of time with Geoff, and we were in the process of changing things over, so it seemed that this book would be the easiest to shake free, and Titans has a place close to my heart just because of what all we’ve been able to accomplish since I’ve been here. We use Titans as that high water mark as to how we can reinvigorate a franchise or change a series for the better and bring it back to its former glory, and that’s one of the things that I think Geoff and Mike and Eddie had done during their time with the book.

And also, to tell the truth, I wanted the chance to get back into the business of editing and sharpen up the skills, and this seemed like the perfect book to do that with. And of course, it gave me the opportunity to work with Sean McKeever, who I had enormous respect for – I was anxious to work with him and see what we could come up with on the series, and hopefully maintain the level that Geoff and Eddie and everyone before us had.

NRAMA: To be about as…blunt as possible, this isn’t a “figurehead” thing for you? That is, you’re scheduling the art, trafficking the pages, shaping the stories with Sean? You’re doing all the editor things for the book?

DD: I’d say I do most of the editor things – I have an incredibly strong assistant editor in Adam Schlagman, and sometimes I can forget who’s editing the book – Adam has been wonderful in making sure everything gets to the right place, especially when other things impact my schedule. He’s been making sure that all the trains are running on time here.

But yeah, it’s good to be able to get on the phone and talk story with Sean and work with everybody in preparing the covers, making sure the art’s moving along, and making things exciting and important.

NRAMA: Perhaps this is a question better suited for Sean, but in working with him, is he giving you the feeling that he’s on a higher tightrope? After all, and nothing against Eddie, but you kind of outrank Sean’s previous editor…

DD: It’s weird because there was more of that concern before we started than when we actually went into it. Once you get going, talking about the characters and the story and the direction and what you’re hoping to accomplish, you pretty much forget who’s who and all you’re concentrating on is putting together the best book possible.

It’s just…a lot of fun. As simple as that. I like these characters a lot. I’ve always liked the Teen Titans, and for once, it’s fun to get involved and get hands on with it just on a day-to-day, month-to-month level. It’s a fun book too, because we’re in an interesting transition time – Geoff made such a strong imprint with his run, and we’ve wrapped up the “Titans of Tomorrow” storyline, so it’s really a point for us to sit down and look at a bunch of characters who are, for the most part, really still ciphers in their own right. Between Kid Devil and Miss Martian and Ravager, we have some original characters here who aren’t featured in any other series, so we get to really explore them here rather than having to react to what other creative teams have done with them in other books.

NRAMA: That said, what kind of working relationship do you have with Sean on the storyline? Does he pretty much have his storyline set for the next year or so, or is the series’ future direction something that the two of you worked together to come up with?

DD: Sean has a real strong idea on what he wanted to do, and how he wanted to use the cast. What we do is just kick back and forth the best story ideas in which we can do what he’s looking to do. And you have to make sure you’re playing to the strengths of the characters, and that they’re played consistently with how people perceive the characters to be. The thing you really want to do is make sure that there’s a seamlessness when you move from writer to writer or artist to artist. There’s always an urge when you bring a new writer in to reinvent the wheel and launch yourself in a bold new direction, and often times, there’s nothing “bold” or “new” about them.

What I really wanted to do is take what we had, which wasn’t broken, and keep making sure it worked, and then build on some of these stories that have come before, and really enhance people’s understanding of who the characters are, and stay with the ride and bring new people in, or back.

It’s funny – when you look back to how series used to be done – writers would come and go, and the characters would remain consistent and strong. That’s the one thing we’re trying to maintain here – the consistency and strength of what’s made Titans great for the last few years.

Plus we’ve got a new Titans book coming out too…

NRAMA: Right- I was going to mention that. From your point of view, in terms of your story and guiding the book, how does a new series running in parallel impact what you’re doing?

DD: It doesn’t impact us at all. That particular book will have its own style, tone and characters. The good part about the Teen Titans book is that we have a series of characters in here that only appear here, as I mentioned. Nothing against the Titans book, but Nighwing has his own series, Starfire is appearing in a miniseries now, Cyborg and Raven will also have their own miniseries shortly. Everybody there is seen in other places. Not that it lessens that book any, but that’s not what we’ve got with Teen Titans. If you want to see this version of the Titans with, say, Ravager and Miss Martian, this is where you’ve got to be.

NRAMA: Fair enough. Okay – to take a look at the big picture Mr. editor – what does a Teen Titans story have to have in it to make it a good “Teen Titans” story?

DD: What we’re really trying to do right now, actually is try to establish every character in their own right, and figure out what role they serve,. Not only in regards to the team, but also in regards to the greater superhero community. What is the purpose of the Teen Titans versus any other team? This book and team should really have a different point of view and tonality.

NRAMA: Great in theory, but how do you implement that kind of stuff in a practical way?

DD: Well, one of the firs things we’re doing is bring in a new super-villain team, which is going to be confronting the Teen Titans – the Terror Titans. This is going to be a group of teenagers combating other teenagers. These are kids that could have been friends if they had all worked together, but instead, these are kids who are finding themselves at odds. That is giving Sean a chance to get inside the characters and explore the motivations for the kids to act as heroes rather than just be themselves. A lot of them have been trained to be heroes, but at the same time, like all teenagers, they’re looking to establish themselves in their own right, to find out who they are. There are some unique things that Sean is bringing to the fore with Robin in this series along those lines – how is he different from his father? How would Robin lead a team compared to Batman? You may think that Robin is perfect in all that he does like Batman is, but that’s not the case. He’ll get blindsided in the strangest way possible, which shows that these characters are still learning. They’re not their mentors, but they are heroes in their own right.

NRAMA: So is that kind of your job as you see it, to keep your eye on the larger picture, the overall goal, while Sean works it at the detail level?

DD: Absolutely. Sean’s greatest strength is the voice he brings to the characters. He brings a “young” voice to the Teen Titans – they feel like teenagers and interact like teens. That’s something that’s key to this book – that tone that he can focus on – you don’t want to read Teen Titans and feel like you’re reading Justice League of America wearing different costumes. There are concerns and issues that affect teens differently than adults, and Sean’s job is to pull those out, to get that feel across on the page level.

NRAMA: Wrapping things up, since you’re in this role now, you get the traditional final question – so what’s coming up? Who are the Terror Titans and what’s going to be going on with the Terror Titans?

DD: The Clock King will be coming back in a Fagin like role to the group, and one of the story beats that we’re getting out of Salvation Run and touched upon in Gotham Underground is that once all of these villains were captured and went away, a lot of their technology and weaponry was put aside, and we’re starting to see where it went and how it’s being used. So, we’ve got a new team of villains that have basically been assembled who are using the weaponry of villains who have either died or who are off on the Salvation Run planet. So these are brand new kids using their powers not for good, and that puts them into direct conflict with the Teen Titans.

And then, you might seem some of the threads of what Grant Morrison laid down early on in 7 Soldiers starting to play out as well in Teen Titans.

NRAMA: Whoa – you don’t just drop that last sentence and get to walk away…

DD: [laughs] Yeah, how about that one? I’m really excited about the series working with Sean and everyone else on the book. And again, it’s easy for me to step into this role because I’ve got so many professionals working around me. It makes my job very simple. Sean on the writing, Eddy Barrows on the art, and our team of inkers…and of course Adam – it’s all running smoothly and a joy to work on.


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