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Five Seasons of Murakanime

“Five Seasons of Murakanime”
An Interview with Teen Titans Producer Glen Murakami

 It’s Glen Murakami – Producer of Teen Titans the animated series – in perhaps his most comprehensive TEEN TITANS interview ever. Glen takes some time to talk about how TEEN TITANS developed from season one through season five. The interview was conducted by Bill Walko, webmaster of

 TEEN TITANS Development sketches:

Pre-Teen Titans: Batman to Teen Titans

Bill Walko: Glen, thanks for taking some time to talk about your history with TEEN TITANS. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started working in animation?

Glen Murakami: I just kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to be a comic book artist. For years, I heard it was really difficult to get into animation. It was a small group that was hard to get into – so I never really thought about it. I liked anime and cartoons and stuff, but it didn’t seem like something I could get into. I considered myself more of a comic book guy.

But then a friend of mine got into animation and started working on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – a guy named Keith Weesner, who was a background designer. I was friends with him through junior high school and high school. He kind of stumbled into it too. He heard they were hiring artists over at Warner Bros. and he showed Eric Radmonski his portfolio.

Eventually, I was able to show my portfolio to Kevin Alteiri, Eric Radmonski and Bruce Timm. At the time they said they were looking and they had me take a storyboard test. They took one look at the storyboard and said, “well, you’re not a very good storyboard artist, but we’re looking for people so we’ll take a chance and bring you on and train you.” Bruce did say that I can draw.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketch of Beast Boy

BW: Right. Bruce Timm recalled that story on one of the dvd commentaries of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.

Glen: Yeah [laughs]. I like how the story gets retold: “Even Bruce Timm said that Glen was a crappy story board artist” But I really had absolutely no animation experience. So on BATMAN, I got all my training in animation. One of the really cool things about working with Bruce, is that he didn’t play by the rules. He knew how he wanted Batman and he knew that he wanted it different. So I think he let me do a lot of cool things – a lot of different things. Probably more than I would have done anywhere else.

BW: During BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, the writers and producers approached Robin as a much more mature and capable character. Was that something that appealed to you?

Glen: I remember after the first BATMAN [THE ANIMATED SERIES], I asked [Producer] Bruce [Timm] why we didn’t make him younger; I didn’t remember the reason. But then when we did the revamp, I was happy that Batman was paired up with a younger Robin. I thought that was more interesting. I liked that character dynamic. I think it took it back to the original idea of Batman and Robin.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketch of Raven

I wasn’t as involved with the stories on the previous BATMAN series. I was just starting out. I was primarily a character designer. Even on the revamp [THE BATMAN ADVENTURES], I was more Art Director than being involved with the writing on the show. But I did talk with Bruce about Robin being more of a teen sidekick.

I think the reason Bruce [Timm] made Robin in college was because that was the current continuity of the comics. And he also gave him that Neal Adams designed costume. I felt that the dynamic between those two characters wasn’t as interesting because Robin was so much older. I just think when you have a younger Robin, the contrast between him and Batman is more interesting. That’s why we had the younger Robin when we did the revamp.

After working on the first BATMAN, we got a chance to streamline everything. So when we came back with THE BATMAN ADVENTURES, we varied Robin’s age, Batgirl’s age, Nightwing’s age. We made it more of a ‘Batman Family’. That was interesting and different from what had been done previously. We still had their personalities to play with.

BW: At one time, Fox was considering a ROBIN solo series with his adventures at college. You even did some designs for that series. How far along was that developed?

Glen: Right, that was back when we were working on the first BATMAN [THE ANIMATED SERIES]. It’s so funny – it seems so long ago that I don’t really remember everything. I thought the idea of a younger Robin was cool.

BW: With BATMAN BEYOND, you began to take more responsibilities as a producer. Was that a big change?

I guess so. You never really know what a job is like until you do it. The whole time I was working with Bruce, I became his right hand man. Still, I didn’t realize what it took to run a show until TEEN TITANS.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketch of Cyborg

BW: So how did TEEN TITANS come about?

Glen: TEEN TITANS came about because Sam Register came on as Senior Vice President of development at Cartoon Network. One of the things that he always wanted to see adapted was TEEN TITANS. He had some other people working on it during the development stage. Then they brought it to me to take a pass at it; I think my take on it was close to what Sam wanted to do. So it went from there.

BW: Was it the Japanese-influenced design and storytelling that Sam liked?

Glen: Well, he said he wanted something different. He needed a show more for 6-11 year olds. [laughs] I think when I tell the story of the show’s development it seems like a very corporate decision. But, y’know, it’s a very valid decision; It was something different from the kind of shows that Bruce [Timm] had established. And having worked on all those shows before, it made it easier to do a show that was just different from the previous ones.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketch of Starfire

BW: Also, at that point, JUSTICE LEAGUE was happening. And JUSTICE LEAGUE was maybe the most mature of all the Bruce Timm superhero shows.

Glen: Yeah. I also think, going back to the first season of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – that was probably the most mature show we’ve done. No one else was telling those kinds of stories in animation at that time. But when we watch them now, we realize how slow they are. They have a much different pace to them. I watch those JUSTICE LEAGUE shows now, it it seems like everything is really rapid-fire. There’s a lot of story crammed into them. But by this time, we’ve established so much. Plus, we’ve all gotten better at storytelling and all that kind of stuff. And the animation is better, too.

I know the fans like the old BATMANs. And I know a lot of the fans will compare the modern stuff to those shows. But the thing is, we’re always experimenting; We’re trying to do different things. We’re trying to keep it new and keep it fresh. We say things like, Well, we already did that in the first BATMAN, so what can we do for the second BATMAN? Or, when we did SUPERMAN, how can we make this different from BATMAN?

I think sometimes people think we are being told to make these changes – but the reality is, we’re trying to do different things than we’ve done before. So fans don’t say, “Look, they’re doing the same stuff over and over.”

Even during the course of five seasons of TITANS, there’s some growth and change. I think some people just didn’t like it. It’s an evolution though. There’s things in first season that we moved away from. But then when we rewatch them, we would say, “Wow, that was really cool.” Or there’s some visual things that maybe we stopped doing. You’re always going back and forth and re-evaluating.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketch of Robin

BW: TEEN TITANS used a more Japanese approach to storytelling – with the super-deformed reactions and pictorial reactions. Was there any concern about doing that approach in a super-hero show?

Glen: I think the thing we tried with TITANS was an “anything goes” approach. We knew going in, that it wasn’t going to be a typical super-hero show. We didn’t know whether or not it would all work – but we didn’t think there was any reason not to try them. I think sometimes people are dismissive and they say, “Well, you guys are just doing fake anime.” I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to do that stuff.

We knew we wanted to do a show about a character. It was a show that focused on teenagers and more emotional things. So we thought it was a good way to express all that. We talked about exaggerating everything. When’s someone is embarrassed, they’ll look really small. We’ll experiment with that sort of style of storytelling. I think it’s not so much “ripping off anime” as much as its a kind of storytelling.

We asked ourselves, “Could we pull it off?” And we decided to try it. We hadn’t seen that sort of thing before in a super-hero show. And he hadn’t seen it in an American show. At first, I wasn’t sure how much we would use it, either. But we kept working at it. The writers tried some things and the story board artists started experimenting. Pretty soon, everyone would try to top each other. Then, we weren’t sure whether this stuff would look good once it got animated overseas. But the stuff came back looking great. And everyone started almost competing with one another. So it just sort of escalated.

BW: What were some of the influences of the TEEN TITANS series?

Glen: When we were doing BATMAN, we kept saying, “Let’s do film noir.” It’s like Hitchcock or Citizen Kane. The crew was all on the same page. But with TITANS, I was looking for the right analogy to use with the crew. At the time, I had seen “Fooly Cooly” before working on TITANS. So that became a reference.

We worked with this Japanese studio TMS when I worked on SUPERMAN and BATMAN BEYOND. I think I grew to appreciate anime even more through working with those guys.

Plus, all the old school stuff I grew up watching. All the live action stuff. The SENTAI stuff. In California, there was this show they aired called KIKAIDA, which was probably an influence on how I designed Cyborg. Then there was a show called THE GO RANGERS. These shows were created by a guy named Shotaro Ishinomori. He created a show called CYBORG 009. That had a big impact on me. More than I realized. I watched a lot of that stuff on UHF [note: UHF channels (channels 14 through 83) existed before cable television. The UHF channels were primarily independent commercial and educational or non-commercial stations]. I don’t speak Japanese or really understand Japanese, but all that stuff to me, as a kid, was more entertaining that the American stuff that was on at the time. [laughs]. Even stuff like KIMBA and SPEED RACER.

BW: How did you decide which characters to use?

Glen: Sam [Register] wanted to focus mainly on the Marv Wolfman/George Perez stuff. I was cool with that, because that’s what I grew up reading. It made sense to take those five characters. They were all iconic. I feel like I’ve told this story so many times [laughs].

I think they all seemed different. They passed the ‘squint test’, as Sam would say. The witch girl is different from the space girl – who’s different from the robot guy. Everyone had a different personality.

ABOVE: Glen’s moody Teen Titans

BW: Let’s talk about Robin on TEEN TITANS. With various incarnations of Robin – from the corny live TV show to BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES… How did you decide what ‘your’ Robin would be?

Glen: I think when I started doing TEEN TITANS, I wanted to approach Robin as something different – something that hadn’t been done on the two previous BATMAN shows. Everyone goes, “Eh, so what. It’s Robin.” And I wanted to prove that Robin could be just as interesting as Batman. We combined some different things. We even gave him some Burt Ward mannerisms by punching his fist into his hand. Stuff like that.

But the whole take on Robin was to make him more like Bruce Lee. Just give him more of an attitude – more of a chip on his shoulder.

That’s one of the things we came up against; Doing a show about Robin [with TEEN TITANS].. Well, what’s so special about Robin? And I had to keep telling people, “Stop thinking of this character as ‘Batman and…’ and start thinking of him as a whole new character.” I kept saying, he’s the kid who has something to prove. If his dad is Batman, than he’s really got something to prove. So he’d have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He should be like Bruce Lee; little bit of a daredevil. He’s a little bit of a skateboard kid. He’s a little punk rock, with his steel-toe doc marten boots and spiky anime hair. That’s how we decided what ‘our’ Robin would be.

We were also making the show for a new audience. So we didn’t worry about continuity. This was introducing Robin for a new generation, so we wanted to start thinking about Robin in a different way. That was the spin we put on Robin.

In the beginning, [David] Slack said “Isn’t it interesting that he doesn’t have any powers?” But I never wanted to draw too much attention to that. I definitely didn’t want him to whine about not having any powers. I remember there was the example that Slack gave, that Robin would run and jump off a roof and worry about HOW he was going to land on his way down. He was definitely more of a take-charge kinda guy.

BW: How do you think he progressed as a character during the series?

Glen: I’ve heard people say that they thought he was too mean. Or that he’s too serious. But we always thought he needed to be the anchor. But most people also don’t want him to make too many mistakes or appear too vulnerable.

As the series went on, we felt we had to raise the stakes. They should grow up a bit. We knew we took a big chance when had him give away the communicator in TRUST. But with Robin being so serious, I thought that made a lot of sense. That was him taking after his ‘dad.’ So that’s why we did it that way.

BW: So how did you go about adapting the Teen Titans comic book characters for animation?

Glen: You just try to re-imagine the characters, while keeping the essence of them. Sometimes people ask why we didn’t keep some of the elements from the comic books. Visually, some of the stuff is too hard to animate. And, well, character-wise, they were too old in the comics. We wanted to make them younger. We went in a different direction. I wanted them to feel like kids. I didn’t want them super-buff.

I think that’s what anime does that is sometimes more interesting. Robin isn’t Superman. He’s not Batman. He’s not super-buff. I think kids can relate to that. I wanted a 7 or 10 year old kid to look at Beast Boy or Robin and say, “Maybe I can be that character. ” I wanted girls to go, “I’m sometimes like Starfire” or “I’m sometimes like Raven.” We wanted that relatability. That was something [Story Editor] David [Slack] and I talked about when we were developing the show. That became very important.

We didn’t want to make them so ‘super-hero-y’ that you couldn’t relate to them. Plus, our target audience had never even heard of the Teen Titans. They don’t know the comics. They don’t know who these characters are. So things had to be relatable. You don’t want to get into an elaborate back story That’s why all the stories are so stripped down the first season. I remember David and I were talked about Starfire’s origin. And how we’d have this whole space armada – and it just seemed too complicated. We tried to do that with all the characters – just strip them all down, We wanted the viewers to concentrate on the characters.

That’s why we got rid of secret identities. And I know people wondered about that. But I think we proved that secret identities really weren’t important to the types of stories we were telling. I think in the beginning people were frustrated by these things. But just because everyone had told super-hero stories a certain way – that didn’t mean we HAD to tell them that way. I think that’s part of the reason the show also appealed to people who weren’t super-hero fans. I got tired of hearing how girls weren’t fans of super-hero shows. Well, if you keep telling girls they won’t like it, then they won’t watch it. But I think if you put interesting girl characters in the show, then girls will watch it. It doesn’t matter whether its a super-hero show or not.

BW: Well, you’ve been to the San Diego Comic-Con You can see that the show has plenty of girl fans as well as boy fans.

Glen: I think that’s great. I think it’s wrong to exclude girls from super-heroes. The most important thing was to do a show about interesting characters – who just happened to have super powers. We tried to show both the upside and downside to those powers. Like with Cyborg. Kids ask, “Why am I too tall? Why am I too short?” I think those are human traits. I thought that was the best way to interpret the material. Not everyone is 100% happy with themselves.

ABOVE: Glen’s graphic interpretation of the two-part APPRENTICE.

Season One: The Teen Titans Stand on Their Own

BW: Slade developed quite a bit during the first season. The original plan was to make him the generic mastermind, but he became much more that that. How did Slade’s role change during the first season?

Glen: Originally, they didn’t want the big bad guy to be as involved in the story. So as we were working on it, David and I had to quickly figure out the reason for Slade. A lot of times, I think it’s more interesting to just make the bad guy the bad guy. Sometimes when you explain the villains, they end up being sympathetic. So if you find out things about Slade, you could end up sympathizing with him – and maybe that makes the character more emotional or more human… But he’s the bad guy. He doesn’t need to be more human. My job is to make Robin more human. So I kind of like the fact that you don’t know who Slade is. That’s how I looked at him.

I remember we asked “What does Slade want?” So we thought, it would be the opposite of Batman. The series was a lot about Robin becoming his own man. Robin not having a father figure around. So the villain would be an evil father figure. So rather than Robin looking for a father, we would have the villain looking for a son.

Here you have Robin working so hard to move away from Batman and become his own man. So it makes perfect sense for the villain to look for a son.

Originally, we were told, just create a Dr. Claw type character [from INSPECTOR GADGET]. And after awhile, it was like, “Hey, who is this Slade?” So about halfway through the first season, they started asking us that. So we had to go back and that’s how we came up with the APPRENTICE arc. We didn’t worry about some of those details in the beginning, because that wasn’t the type of show we originally envisioned. But then, after awhile, people would ask why our show didn’t deal with some of those issues. We we later went back and started talking about those things.

ABOVE: super-deformed interpretations by Director Ben Jones.

I didn’t want to do the whole “Luke, I am your father” thing with Slade. I don’t like doing things were all the characters are related or connected in some way. I think sometimes relating them to each other take away what’s special about each of them.

BW: Did you ever talk about unmasking Slade?

Glen: I think we talked about it – but it never seemed right to me. It didn’t seem important. It amazes me that people are so fascinated by that. They feel that have to know who Slade is.

I think having mystery is very important to storytelling. I think people complain that we set these things up and then never explain them. I don’t think that’s true. And I don’t think that’s the point of the stories we’re telling.

It’s like with BATMAN. I don’t think Joker becomes a better character when you reveal that he was once a man who fell into a vat of chemicals. I don’t think that makes him a better character.

With BATMAN, we made people sympathize with the bad guys. That was something I think that series excelled at. [Writer] Paul Dini really got into that. The stories became these really tragic stories. And I think that really worked for BATMAN – but I don’t think it works for every series. And it doesn’t mean that approach works for every super villain.

Robin’s story wasn’t a revenge story. Robin’s story was a coming-of-age story. I don’t think you needed to unmask Slade to tell that story.

BW: DEEP SIX introduced Aqualad. How did you approach Aqualad in the series?

Glen: I think in the beginning we asked DC if we could use certain characters. And they did approve Aqualad. I always thought of Aqualad as being just a little bit older and more experienced than the Titans. So I thought it was cool for them to meet a character like that. With Aqualad, we tried to create a world where those other characters [like Aquaman] don’t exist. Because you have to make the characters come across as strong and independent – Just don’t mention that other stuff. I remember when we developed Aqualad in the first season.. We really didn’t want to show too much of Atlantis or those other characters, because that would take away how special Aqualad is.

It was the same thing with the Titans. We don’t see a lot of other teenagers in their world. The reason I didn’t want to bring Batman into the show is because I thought he would overshadow the characters. And I didn’t think that was what the show was about. I thought it was sort of about teenage characters running their own lives. And not being dominated by a parental figure.

And even when we brought Aqualad back later, we used him a little differently.

Evolution of a criminal mastermind! Glen’s early designs of Slade.

BW: Season One also introduced Mad Mod in the episode, MAD MOD. That episode pushed the boundaries of absurdity. Was there any concerns about pushing it too far?

Glen: I really like all that British stuff. The Avengers. The Prisoner. The music. I’m into all that. I went through a big British music kick where I was listening to The Jam and Style Council and The Who and The Beatles. And those Beatles movies “Help!” and “Hard Days Night.”

I also think it’s great when you can bring a villain in and they have a motif. Like the Joker. He’s got all those gadgets and the playing cards. It’s great, visually, to have a character like that. So Mad Mod had all the psychedelic music and the swirly patterns and all that. He seemed like a natural for the show. It fit with how far we wanted to go with the show. I always say — we took the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans and mixed them with the spirit of the Cardy/Haney Teen Titans.

Growing up, I didn’t like the Cardy/Haney Titans. It just seemed old and sorta goofy. But as I got older, I learned to appreciate them. They’re really cool and really out there. So that’s why we liked the Mad Mod so much.

I think a lot of people are discovering that now; That stuff was really different. You have writers like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison who are looking at that Silver Age stuff, and putting their own twist on it. So we tried to do that too – put our own twist on it. We would look at the old character and ask “Well, how can we put a new spin on it?” We wanted to make it all interesting for the fans. I love that MAD MOD episode. I think SISTERS and MAD MOD are two of the best episodes we’ve done.

I like the second Mad Mod episode as well [REVOLUTION]. We really did try to top ourselves with the second one, and we nearly killed ourselves. Every season, we did challenge ourselves to do something different.

Mad Mod designs by Character Designer Derrick Wyatt

BW: MASKS and APPRENTICE touched on some darker story elements. MASKS was the first episode that stayed ‘dark’ throughout. Did you see that as a turning point for the show? How do you balance that with the lighter tone of the show?

Glen: Once again, we just tried to push it. I think a lot of people dismissed us as being a corny, lightweight show. But we thought, once you establish these characters, you grow to care about them. We did want to tell serious stories. I think as we went along, we got better… But we never set out to just do goofy stories. It’s funny, because some people say the funny episodes are the “filler” episodes. That’s not the truth at all – we like the funny episodes. That’s what makes the show unique, From episode to episode, you never know what you’re going to get.

BW: Some of the comedy episodes are more intricate than the straight-ahead adventure ones.

Glen: Exactly. It sort of bothered me in the beginning. I never wanted Teen Titans to be a ‘typical’ show; We all wanted it to be unique and different. We wanted to keep it interesting. I always think it’s funny the way people react to the shows.

BW: Once APPRENTICE was completed, did it change the way you approached Slade as a character?

Glen: Well, you end up with some comparisons. Like with Darth Vader. It’s a little frustrating. I didn’t want to get into too much back story about who Slade is; It made the character too human. And then you begin to sympathize with the character. The Deathstroke character in the comics even became somewhat of a hero. So I didn’t want to go in that direction. I tried to keep the character as much of a mystery as possible.

What people also don’t understand, is that with a comic book, you can tell a lot more story over a longer period of time. With the series, we never know what order they will run the episodes. So we didn’t want to thread the storylines too much. So that was another reason why we didn’t do too much continuity. With a comic book, it’s much different. Someone new to the show may only catch one episode.

We talk about a lot of different things. Like the ‘evil Bruce Wayne.’ Not EXACTLY evil Bruce Wayne. Sort of an anti-Batman. I guess that’s a better way of saying it. That feels similar to the character that created the latest Batgirl [an father-figure assassin character named Cain]. I didn’t want to do anything too similar to that. It’s tricky. You go down a road, and then you realize you’ve have to explain it down the road. And then, the resolution may not be satisfying enough.

We had Wintergreen in the first episode, and then we never see him again. We talked about several different things concerning Wintergreen. We were going to change that character. It just got too complicated. It was hard enough to establish Slade, that, in the end, we didn’t have time for any of that Wintergreen stuff. We talked about everything. We talked about Slade’s character in the comic and his background. But there wasn’t too much that was relevant. And it would have taken too long to establish all of it.

Season Two: Terra Rocks the House 

BW: Season Two started with the memorable HOW LONG IS FORVEVER?, where you guys had a chance to use Nightwing. This was your second chance to design Nightwing, who you designed for THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES in 1997. What did you change and why?

Glen: [laughs] Well, everyone always gives me crap about the mullet. And it’s funny, because the only reason I did that was to give him long hair. On that series, everything was so stylized and streamlined. How do you give someone long hair that can be animated? Now, it looks kind of goofy. So I’m constantly living that down; Everyone ask me, “Why did you give Nightwing a mullet?”

We wanted to give him long hair to make him “the rebel”. But it had to be clean. It had to be stylized. So it ends up looking like a mullet. So that sorta sucks. [laughs]

BW: Well, he looks cool with long hair in HOW LONG IS FORVEVER?

Glen: Yeah, but in 10 years, that could look outdated, too.

BW: It’s got a very anime look to it.

Glen: The long hair is just a way to make him anti-Bruce Wayne. Bruce is so black suit, tie… Very neat. I wanted to make Nightwing have long hair and be a little “rock ‘n roll.” I wanted the new version of Nightwing to seem bulkier – he’s got a little more armor and stuff.

I dunno. A lot of this stuff is to just make some cool stories. Or we ask ourselves, “How can we do this different?” We say things like, “Oh, we have to do the psychedelic episode. We have to do the time travel episode.” Or we discuss stories on emotional levels. Like doing a story between Robin and Beast Boy. Or a story about Cyborg and Raven. What style of story haven’t we done? What emotional story haven’t we done? That’s another way we looked at the shows.

Terra and Beast Boy by series artist Derrick Wyatt

BW: Season Two also adapted the classic JUDAS CONTRACT storyline. How did you go about adapting such an intense story for your show?

Glen: You try to read it and then not look at it. You try to get the essence of it. You don’t want to get caught up in the details too much. If you’re too faithful to something, it limits you. You have to detach yourself a bit.

BW: Terra became a more sympathetic character than her comic book counterpart; Was it intentional to show more things from her point of view?

Glen: A lot of things with Terra in the comics we just couldn’t do. And a lot of that story relied on how the characters were outside of their costumes. That wasn’t going to support our story.

We knew that we wanted to do Terra. And we knew that we wanted to make her different than the comic book version. I wanted to make her more contemporary. I had her wear more normal clothes, rather than a straight super-hero outfit.

ABOVE: Glen’s early development sketches of Beast Boy.

We did want to play the character out longer in the series. But we ended up getting crunched for time and we couldn’t do that in the series. We wanted to show her being part of the group more. The in-between episodes were supposed to have Terra in them. So she felt like part of the group. That way, when the betrayal happened, it would have been more of a shock. It would have been nice to incorporate her into the title sequence. It would have been nice to put her in more episodes. But you run out time. And I know that’s what the fans. And we wanted it too. In the comic, the story just had more time to play it out.

I think we made the character more conflicted within herself. I think that worked a little better for us, and made more sense when we dramatically revealed the betrayal. The Terra in the comics – there was more of a black-and-white to it. For us, the mechanism didn’t work the same way. If she was just a bad guy, you blew it. I think the mystery was gone. I didn’t want the character to be as messed up as she was in the comics. The comics version was just really, really evil. Our Terra is just more conflicted.

In comics, you have more time to play things out. So we had some limitations there. I think our story is just different. Not so much better or worse, but just different. I think we did keep the essence of the story.

It’s tough; We make these shows so quickly. We have plans to play these things out a certain way, and then we get pressed for time and we have to make adjustments. It’s sometimes a bit rough around the edges; I wish we could go back sometimes and fix things. I watch the episodes, and think there are some things we maybe could have done a little bit better. But I think it came out pretty well, overall.

Early Speedy Designs

BW: Season Two also introduced some new Titans in WINNER TAKE ALL. How did you go about adapting and designing Speedy?

Glen: There’s a funny thing about those original Titans – they’re all red and yellow! [laughs]. Speedy was tough because I didn’t want him to come off as Robin’s twin.

BW: There was even a joke about that.

Glen: Right. When we introduced him, we didn’t have a lot of time to introduce his character. So as we went on, we decided to give him more of an attitude. He couldn’t just be Robin Jr. He needed his own personality.

Season Three: New Characters Expand the Titansverse

BW: Let’s talk about the overall story arc for season three, focusing on Cyborg and Brother Blood. How did that story arc develop?

Glen: We wanted to do Brother Blood – but we couldn’t do Brother Blood as a cult leader who hangs out in a pool of blood. We were afraid he’d be too similar to Slade. I think it was David [Slack] who said we shouldn’t do another guy who hides in the shadows says short, scary lines. So we made Brother Blood more flamboyant; He craves the spotlight. He likes being a super-villain whereas Slade is a loner who keeps to himself.

I felt as the character went on, we became more like Dracula. That kind of worked for me. He became a very difficult character to figure out. I wonder, if we did it again, if we could refine that.

BW: We went through a number of changes throughout the season.

Glen: Yeah, and honestly, I have to say, I don’t know if we figured it out quite as well as we did with Slade. It’s tough. There were a number of things we couldn’t do with him – things that wouldn’t be appropriate for a 6-11 year old cartoon. We weren’t trying to water down the character. So maybe it didn’t quite work. I didn’t feel I had a great handle on who Brother Blood was.

Teen Titans Villains

BW: Was there a reason you decided to focus on Cyborg in season three?

Glen: I think a lot of people don’t like Cyborg. I think the problem is, he comes across being one note. I saw him as the kid who suddenly got a man’s body. He basically went through puberty overnight. He went from being a teenager, to being the biggest kid, to being the most powerful. So he didn’t quite know how his body worked. But we didn’t get into that too much. And then when we did, the character sometimes came across as whiny. We talked about The Thing a lot [from Fantastic Four]. We didn’t want him to complain that he was a robot all the time.

We originally wanted him to be really gadget-y, but there had to be a limit. He would be stretching his arm, or rebuilding himself into another kind of machine. I envisioned him as a Micronaut. I wanted things to plug into him. Sort of like a swiss army knife. But then, also, that made him too powerful. We did talk about making him more gadget-y. But for the sake of time, we couldn’t do too much of that. If we weren’t going so quickly, we might have been able to spend some more time developing each of the characters.

I remember Slack talking about Cyborg. He mentioned that everything Cyborg does is emotionally BIG. So when he gets mad, he gets really mad. And when he’s happy, he’s really happy. I thought that was a good way of describing the character.

I like the character a lot. But I hear some of the criticism of the character. Our biggest fear was making him too whiny. In the comic book, he complained a lot about not being human. We didn’t want to go that way. But that’s why we pushed Robotman [in the Doom Patrol] so much. It was our way of saying, that if Cyborg didn’t get over it, that’s what he could turn into.

At one point, we talked about the fact that he was the oldest Titan. And that at one point, he could be the first to leave the group. And then we would bring in a new Titan. I think because he was the oldest, he sometimes seemed like the more mature Titan. I think that’s also a reason why maybe sometimes he didn’t fit in.

I don’t think the Brother Blood arc quite worked. We tried, but it was a lot too do. I was pretty burnt out after the Terra arc. That was probably the most emotionally-charged story [we did].

BW: Season Three also gave a large role to Bumblebee. Was she a favorite of yours?

Glen: Not really. [laughs]. She was another Titans character that was available. We thought Bumblebee was cool. I played around with the designs and gave her those pom-poms and a striped shirt; And she eventually became a favorite. It think that’s due to how we re-imagined the character. Sometimes it’s cool to take a character – and try to put a new spin on it and make it as cool as we can. And with a name like Bumblebee, it makes sense that she would shrink down the size of a bee. And we tried to make her a bit different from our female characters. That’s why we made her the leader of Titans East.

I think Mad Mod was like that. We took the character and gave him some edge. We try to do that with all the characters.

And I think it was David who said, “Why don’t we make her the leader of Titans East?” So we were like, yeah… Cool.

Mas Y Menos, created for the animated series

BW: You guys even created some character specifically for the show. Mas Y Menos were an example of that.

Glen: Right. I think Sam Register suggested that. I think everyone threw out ideas for those characters. And that’s part of the fun of the show. Sometimes we do things in a pinch, and it works out really well.

I think Sam wanted Titans East to be a bigger part of the show [than they actually became]. But we only planned on using them as much as we did. I mean, I like the characters. But it felt sometimes like we were doing “the spin-off.” As much as we liked Titans East, we were all fond of our five core characters. They’re such strong personalities.

I think when we thought about Titans East, we wanted to make them different [from our five main characters]. So we didn’t want Speedy to be too much like Robin. We didn’t want Aqualad to be too much like Robin. So that was hard. I think that’s when the strength of our casting comes into play. Like casting Wil Wheaton as Aqualad. I think he came off a little bit older than Robin, without upstaging Robin. That’s what’s great about our voice actors; You have more personality coming through. Our cast brought so much to those characters.

BW: You amped up Aqualad’s powers as well.

Glen: That came about because it seemed more anime. I’m not sure who thought to do that, but we were like, “That’s cool.” We thought, Terra is an earth-mover, so Aqualad could be a water-mover. So that seemed cool.

BW: Speedy’s personality evolved from his first appearance in season two.

Glen: I think [David] Slack said he was the rebel. He was the tough guy. That was after WINNER TAKE ALL. [In that episode], he was talking tech-talk with Robin [about their weapons]. And then he comes back later and he’s kinda the dumb guy [laughs]. But we realized that wasn’t the direction to go with the character. Because he was too similar to Robin.

BW: You played more to his comic book persona as “the bad boy.”

Glen: I’m not sure if we were even thinking about that. We just wanted him to be different from Robin. That’s funny, how that comes back around like that. And if we were going to do a sixth season, we talked about turning Speedy into Arsenal. It was going to be a surprise. We kept doing that with everything. I mean, even with Aqualad, he came off as half-Tempest. So some of that was happy accidents. We would look at what we did and say, “Hey that’s kinda like the comics.” [note: Aqualad’s adult persona – Tempest – controls water.] Aqualad’s costume is sorta like the revamped Aquaman costume [in the late 80’s]. It’s Aqualad’s comic book costume, with long pants, mixed with Aquaman’s camouflage costume.

BW: Right. And I always thought of your Robin like Robin juuuust before he becomes Nightwing.

Glen: Because he’s cranky? [laughs] I guess so. It’s funny, because I didn’t reread a lot of that stuff. Some of it I reread, and some of it I remember from reading in high school. Happy accidents I guess.

BW: And then there’s Red X.

Glen: I always liked those kinds of characters. Characters like Boba Fett [from Star Wars] and Racer X [from Speed Racer]. In the old comics, there’s that character Joshua [in Teen Titans #20]. Having seen that, would I have incorporated more of that? I don’t know. Maybe. And it’s weird… I saw that character after we did Red X. The parallels are always strange to me. I won’t realize how strong the parallels are. I mean, I hadn’t read that Titans comic in years. You go back and read the story – and we’re close to it without knowing how close we are to it.

We went around and around and around as to who that character was. But I never thought that was important. He was such a strong visual. I don’t think it’s important to know who is under the mask.

BW: Did you actually come up with who is under the mask?

Glen: Yeah. We did. We actually came up with someone who it might be. But I’m not going to tell you [laughs].

BW: [laughs] Is that something you kept in mind when you did stories with him?

Glen: Not really. Surprisingly. I just like the Red X character; I think it’s sorta neat that you have a good Robin and a bad Robin. It’s an interesting conflict to put the character in; You have a character that has to fight himself. What happens when Robin is evenly matched? That’s an interesting trope to put the characters through.

That’s how I look at Red X as a character. Sometimes, it’s that simple. We talk about these stories in a metaphoric way. “Robin has to fight himself.” Or, “Robin has to fight his brother.” And we don’t literally mean it’s Robin’s biological brother. That’s how we start to develop a story and we’ll think of it that way. That’s how we think of it on an emotional level. The mechanics aren’t that important. Once you get too literal, it doesn’t work anymore.

That’s a long way of describing who Red X is. But I’ll tell you, when we were developing the story, we’d say things like, “Ok, so someone gets the Red X costume, and they puts the costume on…” It starts getting bogged down. You stop telling an interesting story. Sometimes, it’s better to say, “It doesn’t matter who’s in the costume.”

I hope I’m not de-mystifying the show too much [laughs]. I think you can’t get too bogged down in the continuity of things. It gets in the way of telling good stories. Once you get bogged down in Robin’s back story or Slade’s back story, you lose what the story is about.

I think sometimes by oversimplifying, some people are let down by that [laughs]. “Oh, that’s all it was?” [laughs]

Murakami’s Raven

Season Four: Raven’s Story Brings Darkness and Light

BW: Season Four adapted Raven’s story, Was it challenging to tell such a dark story in kids animation?

Glen: We always said that Raven was “the girl from the wrong side of the tracks.” We always thought Raven was the most powerful of the Titans – but she constantly has to keep her powers in check; She was to hold back her power. We always thought that was interesting about Raven. She had a lot of control issues. She comes from a troubled past. It’s a different story from Terra’s. Terra is about being reckless, whereas Raven’s story is about self-control.

Season Three’s episode, HAUNTED, sort of built up to that. I really wanted to do that scene where Raven goes in Robin’s mind. I thought it would be very cool for Raven to have a bond with Robin that would be different that the other characters’ bond with Robin. That Robin could understand Raven on a different level. And that would help set up the Trigon story.

And we always wanted that on the show. We wanted all their relationships to be different. Robin and Starfire’s relationship is different than anyone else. And Robin and Raven’s relationship is different. It’s funny that everyone wants relationships to be romantic. Robin and Raven are similar in some ways; They have a certain understanding of each other. I think that’s cool. I think that’s how people are with family and friends. Beast Boy and Cyborg are like brothers; And Robin and Cyborg are like brothers. But all the relationship dynamics are different.

Well, in the first episode, we see the characters are comfortable enough with each other to bicker back and forth. A lot of people weren’t crazy about that first episode, but I think it does a lot of things other shows don’t do. The characters break up in the first episode. And one of the main characters doesn’t appear for a big chunk of the episode; I think that’s kind of cool.

So for season four, we wanted to build on the characters, and show their backgrounds in different ways. And we started that in HAUNTED. Some of the Raven stuff, we built up over time.

early Raven sketches


BW: I think throughout the series, there’s a certain amount of growth and continuity. The characters do change and grow.

Glen: I think if you look throughout the series, there’s character development throughout; We’re just doling it our differently. We just don’t go “Here’s the origin episode.” I think we say, “here’s a bit of character” and then “here’s another bit of character” so as the series goes on, you get to know the characters.

I think if you go back and watch the characters, you can see the personalities of each of the characters coming through. And you can see it building. I think we were consistent and true to that.

There’s that scene in AFTERSHOCK, where Raven is getting mad at Terra. That’s setting up Raven having problems controlling her powers. Terra provokes her. She didn’t trust Terra, and opened up to her, and was betrayed. That’s something in Raven’s character that’s true to her; She’s actually madder at herself for trusting her. She’s very closed off, and when she let someone in, it got used against her. So we were building that with her. Raven was never the type of character to tell you what she’s feeling.

I always used to say, “Don’t have Raven talk too much” because I don’t think she’s the type of character to tell you how she’s feeling.

A redesigned Trigon

BW: Trigon had an appearance in season one’s NEVERMORE; Was there a reason you redesigned Trigon for season four?

Glen: He just wasn’t cool enough. I looked back on that design, and it was good at the time for that episode. But now, looking at the story for season four, I thought he’s got to be scarier; He’s got to be meaner. He had to work better for the story we were doing now. I think the newer Trigon does look cooler.

We did things like that through the coarse of the series. Like with Plasmus. When the animation came back with Plasmus, I sorta thought “Well, that’s just like Clayface.” I remember the first character designs of Plasmus were closer to the comic book version. But I did want the animated version to be more of a monster. Then the animation came back, and he seemed sort of boring. So we redesigned him as we went on.

We did that with Dr. Light, too. He came back and we gave him a powerpack. We try to even have the villains grow. If we weren’t satisfied with the initial pass, we went back and refined them.

BW: Slade also returned in season four. Was he intended to be killed at the end of season two, or did you intend on bringing him back?

Glen: I think it made sense for the story. You know, sometimes I don’t like explaining things too much; Sometimes, you are creating these things movie-serial style. What’s important to the story in season two, was that Terra got her revenge on Slade and saves the day. At that point, it’s not about Slade, it’s about Terra. So we weren’t worried about Slade at that point.

Then we introduced some new villains and explored some new things. We went in a different direction with the show. So then when we do bring Slade back in season four, it’s a surprise.

BW: The original story, THE TERROR OF TRIGON, seemed to be a big influence, both in story and art. Did you refer back to the comics a lot?

Glen: Yes and no. I’ll tell you the biggest problem with Trigon: He’s too powerful. Here’s a character who’s like Satan and he comes to earth. Well, what’s he going to do? Why doesn’t he just level everything? On some levels, it just doesn’t make sense. So, what can you do storytelling-wise?

I like that arc, but it’s frustrating from a story-telling aspect. How do you resolve those issues? You can’t do a whole episode with Trigon blasting the Titans. How can you have the Titans fight him and make it believable?

But our director Ben Jones, looking back, actually had a pretty cool idea for the episode. He thought it woulda have been cool if Trigon turned all the Titans to stone before she blasted Trigon. And we thought that was great, but it was too late to go back and the change it. So we were like, “Darn it! We didn’t we think of that?!

A lot of things happen like that. There were so many little things in the fifth season that I wished we had done just a little bit differently.

ABOVE: It’s Robin v Slade!

BW: With all the world frozen into stone, did you guys discuss maybe seeing Batman or Superman frozen as well?

Glen: No, we couldn’t do that. But that’s ok. I think a lot of people ask, “When’s Batman going to show up?” But I didn’t want to do that. The second Batman shows up, he just upstages everybody else. I didn’t think that’s what the show was about.

BW: Season four also dealt with the Robin/Starfire relationship in STRANDED. Did you guys talk a lot about that relationship and how far you wanted to take it?

Glen: Here’s the thing about Robin and Starfire: I didn’t want them to be a real couple. I wanted them to like each other and make that pretty clear. But getting into an actual relationship was too complicated for what the show was. I think it would make the stories too complicated.

The show was always supposed to be really, really iconic. And be about metaphors. I wanted the characters to be universal. And make the characters relatable. And by coupling them up, the characters would start to be defined by their relationship – rather than by themselves. I thought that would take away from the characters. I think it’s enough to know that those two characters like each other.

Season Five: New Faces As The Titans Go Global

BW: Season Five had a different kind of storytelling approach by having one large arc. Was there a reason for the change?

Glen: After that big Trigon story, we thought we couldn’t take the Titans back to where they were. The show started off as a light-hearted show in season one. And by season four, our characters had grown up a bit. They saved the world. So I didn’t want them to just go back to the city. I wanted to take the characters out into the world.

It’s like, when the Titans defeated Trigon, they graduated. When they started out, they weren’t quite super-heroes. But after Trigon, they proved themselves as heroes. So we wanted to take them into a bigger world and face a problem that was big.

And I know some viewers didn’t like that. but I felt our characters needed change; They needed growth. I really liked season five because of all the ups and downs to the story. I think we could have refined it a bit – and added some more to it… But I really like the tone of those stories. They are really different from the previous seasons. That’s what I liked about season five.

I think after four seasons of seeing the group together as a team, we could split them up a bit. We all agreed it would be interesting to take the characters out of their element. We wanted to show growth. I thought that was a more unique approach. I know not every episode was perfect, but I think that the direction for season five was really solid.

Season five is also the most comic-booky. It’s a little geekier. [laughs] It’s a little more backstory-driven. It’s creating that feel of reading a comic book. “See issue #134”.. it has that feel to it. It led to the introduction of all the other heroes. And we really put our heroes in a lot of jeopardy. I liked that.

BW: Right. And some issues and conflicts weren’t resolved until a few episodes down the line.

Glen: I think a lot of people were like, “these stories suck,” but we were building an arc. I thought it all came together in the end. I thought it was cool.

All The new Titans in Season Five

BW: I think a lot of people really liked the conclusion to the season five arc. And that one a lot of people over. I think a lot of people didn’t see what you were building to.

Glen: Well, we felt like the audience grew up with these characters. And I didn’t want it to get boring. I mean, it seemed like we were starting every episode with some emergency at Titans Tower. And then Beast Boy would do some goofy bit involving food. Then they get called on a mission…. I felt we were getting a bit formulaic. And we were doing some of the same types of gags. And I didn’t want it to be like that. Even though the show was successful and we were doing cool things with it, I didn’t want to get in a rut. We needed to start having the characters grow and do different types of stories.

I liked seasons five because we shook the stable ground the Titans were on. We put them on unstable ground. We kept putting them in environments and situations they hadn’t been in before. Splitting them up. And I think by doing that, we saw some sides to the characters that we hadn’t seen before.

I’m proud of the fifth season. Those are the kinds of stories we wanted to tell. I think when you watch all five seasons, we see a definite growth. And I think we showed different ways to reveal characters and backstories.

BW: HOMECOMING featured the animated debut on the Doom Patrol. Was it fun to use the Doom Patrol? Were you a fan of the team?

Glen: Early on, when I was asked what cartoons I would like to work on, I answered “Teen Titans.” And when they asked me what other DC properties I was interested in, I answered, “Doom Patrol.” Once again, I thought they were characters who were really interesting. Stuff that hadn’t been done before. We showed the Doom Patrol as sort of cynical and jaded super-heroes. I thought that showed what the Titans might become if they aren’t careful. That was interesting to me – and then having Beast Boy recognize that.

I really liked the Doom Patrol. And I wanted to show some of Beast Boy’s back story And I think it was cool that Beast Boy’s costume was from his history with another team. And I liked to show that Beast Boy isn’t just a goofball – that he came from a serious background. I thought that was cool, because the audience wouldn’t think that’s where somebody like Beast Boy came from.

I also wanted to do the Brotherhood of Evil. I thought they were quite different from a lot of the villains we had seen before. I though that Slade was the only serious villains we had, and most of the others were sort of goofball villains. So I thought the Brotherhood was a group of villains that was as serious as Slade. I also thought that the Brotherhood mirrored the Titans in a way. They were like evil versions of the Titans.

 The Doom Patrol

BW: The whole series could be viewed as Beast Boy growing up. Even up to the last episode. Much of season five completes Beast Boy’s evolution.

Glen: Well, he’s the youngest character, so you learn the most through his eyes. I remember when I first designed Beast Boy’s costume, it made me think of Mento’s costume [from the Doom Patrol]. The black and the purple. I also wanted each of the Titans to have a specific color scheme. That’s why I changed Beast Boy’s costume from red-and-white to back-and-purple. I wanted each one to have their own signature. So when we did Doom Patrol, I thought that was really cool — he had his old Doom Patrol costume. I thought that was cool. It’s doing back story without being explain-y. You see it, and you instantly get it. And we added his Doom Patrol mask.

I also like that Beast Boy started out as being similar to Robin. He was a sidekick and he was very serious. And then he realized, he should lighten up. We also talked about Beast Boy being like a military brat. As a kid, he moved around a lot. He didn’t have friends. He didn’t really have a home. So that’s why he takes to the Titans so much. So it’s like a family and that’s his home. So al throughout the fifth season, it’s Beast Boy that doesn’t want to split up. It’s Beast Boy that wants to go home. He’s already been through all that, traveling around the world with the Doom Patrol. Being obsessed about fighting the Brotherhood of Evil. And then, you have Robin turning into Mento. That was the parallel.

And I know a lot of fans are like, “Why didn’t you do a Starfire arc?” It’s just, as the series went on, this last storyline really felt like a Beast Boy arc. That way, we could tie all these threads together and in the end, we could bring “Terra” back.

ABOVE: An early character study of Starfire.

BW: Season five also introduced a lot of new Titans.

Glen: Right. What we realized was, we knew how the five Titans related to each other, now it will be interesting to see how the characters relate to each other when you introduce a new character to the mix. Once you introduce a new character, it breaks up the dynamic of the team. And they have to deal with things differently.

BW: You finally got permission to use Kid Flash in season five. How did that fit into your plans?

Glen: He’s a little bit like JUSTICE LEAGUE’s Flash. But he’s not quite as goofy. And I liked using Michael Rosenbaum [who voices the Flash on JUSTICE LEAGUE]. I thought that was cool. That was my idea. I like that people asked about that – and wondered how that might fit into the continuity.

BW: Any theories on that?

Glen: [laughs] I don’t know! I don’t know why it bothers people so much. Can you explain that to me? Do you think it fits into continuity?

BW: Um, well, I think it’s one of those that you leave up to the fan’s imaginations. If you want Teen Titans to fit into the animated continuity, my theory is this: Teen Titans takes place before BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, but is told through Beast Boy’s point-of-view, which is why it’s a little goofier.

Glen: [laughs] OK.

I used to work at a comic book store, and people would bring up various Batman trade paperbacks and ask me which one they should read first. Then would ask “Where does DEATH IN THE FAMILY GO? Where does KILLING JOKE fit in?” I don’t understand why that’s always so important. If you read KILLING JOKE and like it, that’s good enough for me. If you read DARK KNIGHT and like it, that’s good enough for me. I don’t understand the need to make it all fit. I mean, Alan Moore’s interpretation of Batman is completely different from Frank Miller’s interpretation of Batman. Or Denny O’Neil’s.

I think sometimes people think we’re not comic book fans, before we don’t fit into continuity or we don’t tell Robin’s identity. And trust me, I’m not trying to betray those fans. But I’m not Bruce Timm or Alan Burnett or Paul Dini. And that doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for those guys. I’m just trying to make Teen Titans a cool show. Just because it’s aimed at 6-11 year olds, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a cool show.

Just because our JUDAS CONTRACT story isn’t 100% faithful to the comic book version, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the comic book version. It’s a weird thing to me. There’s certain DC things I can’t do or can’t use – but in our “animated Teen Titans Universe,” I think we’ve discovered some interesting things to explore.

BW: Were there ever discussions about doing a JLU/TT crossover?

ABOVE: Preliminary designs of Titans Tower.

Glen: We talked about it very early on. But we were going in different directions. It’s weird because, the Titans fifth season was really similar to the third season of JLU. It’s weird the way that worked out. We would do our shows independently, and then I would talk to Bruce, and we’d go “We’re doing an episode like this” and then go “That’s weird, because we’re doing an episode like that.” But came up with it completely separate from one another. It’s kind of spooky.

BW: Another Titan you introduced in season five was Red Star. Was that to give the arc an international flair?

Glen: Well, we wanted to take the characters all over the place. And I liked Red Star from the comics. We all liked trying to take things from the DC Universe and incorporate it in. That just makes it cooler – to see a character from the comics appear on the show. At least I think it does.

BW: Even obscure characters like Gnarrk.

Glen: I think he’s a cool character. It’s cool to take those characters and put them in the show.

BW: Is there any reason why you paired Gnarrk with Kole, rather than Lilith, who was his girlfriend in the comics?

Glen: Was she? I don’t know if I remembered that. I think Gnarrk and Kole just seemed like a cool pairing; This caveman and this indestructible girl. There was a neat contrast to that. An interesting dynamic that I think we hadn’t seen before.

Lilith is tough because she’s similar to Raven. We even talked about using Harlequin, but we couldn’t figure out a way to do that. A lot of times, we talked about characters like that, but that’s as far as it went. Even Jericho, I wonder if we used him enough, or even properly. Sometimes, you squeeze too much in, and you end up not servicing all the characters enough.

BW: There was a lot of really obscure Titans in season five like Killowat and Bushido. How do you guys decide who to use? What do you look for when you pick which characters to adapt?

Glen: We went through all the characters. and decided which ones we could use. Which characters do we need? Which ones would be cool? What were their powers? We make a list and go from there. We wanted to expand the Titans’ world. That was a direction we wanted to go in. We decided it’s like the Titans were in high school and they graduated. It’s like they went on to college. And when you go to college, you go see the world. That was something we were trying to parallel.

When you go to college, you don’t necessarily have the same group of friends. Some people go to different colleges. Some people stay in town. You make new friends. That’s what it’s like. So we wanted the characters to experience that.

Derrick Wyatt’s Red Star 

BW: How did you choose the new characters? Was it just pot luck who was available?

Glen: Kind of. I think the thing that happened with fifth season was this: we did look for the international characters. So it would seem like, oh here’s a Titan from this part of the world, and this part of the world. We thought that was neat. To see Titans all over the world.

BW: Were their any characters from season five that you were particularly proud of?

Glen: I think we did a lot of cool things with Kid Flash. [Director] Ben [Jones] was really excited about working on that episode. And I think he came up with a lot of Flash gags that were very different from Flash on JUSTICE LEAGUE. I thought we did a different interpretation of that character that was really cool.

BW: I thought Pantha turned out cool.

Glen. Yeah, I liked Pantha. Rather than all the girls being small, you had this big wrestler chick. Yeah, I thought that was cool.

We wanted a sense that the Titans were really going out into the world. So when they met new characters, we wanted all their personality types to be different.

An unused Jericho design

BW: Jericho played a big part in the end of season five. Was he a character you really wanted to use?

Glen: We just said, “Why the hell not?” Jericho is kind of an odd character. He’s sort of a wimpy character. So we wanted to try and make him cool.

BW: Well, in a lot of ways, he’s a hard character to adapt. His name has nothing to do with his powers, for one.

Glen: There’s a lot of characters like that. [Character designer] Derrick [Wyatt] asked, “Why is Trigon named Trigon?” He has FOUR eyes. There’s a lot of stuff like that. What does Jericho even mean?

A lot of the redirection of season five had to do with going toward other seasons. That was another thing; I wanted to start expanding so we had room to go into new thing.

BW: Did you do a lot of development on season six?

Glen: You know what? You always have to think that way. That’s the trick of doing episodic television. You do 13 episodes at a chunk, but you always have to keep in the back of your mind ” I can’t run out of story ideas. I have to have character development. I have to have some place to go.” So, that’s sometimes the way we end a series the way we do.

BW: With 65 episode and 5 seasons, would season six have re-branded the show like JLU did from JUSTICE LEAGUE?

Glen: I felt like we kind of did that with season five. Sometimes, you also have to be careful about making a show TOO big. But as the show went on, I did feel confident in making the show bigger and bigger. So that’s another reason why we went in the direction we did in season five.

BW: You guys finally got around to doing an origin episode with GO. How did that episode come about for a fifth season show?

Glen: We were bouncing around season five and we knew we wanted the big fight to be in episodes 11 and 12. And Amy and I really wanted to do that “Terra” story in episode 13. So in laying out the structure of the story, it felt really natural to put that origin episode in.

When were were going over ideas, I think it was Rob Hoegee who said, “Hey, we should do that origin episode.” And the more we thought about it, the more it made sense to do it. It helped bridge the Beast Boy story in HOMECOMING. It just fell into place. And I like that as the episodes were playing, and then you get to episode 10 and it’s a flashback episode – well, I thought that would be a little jarring and very effective.

People kept asking about the origin episode. And since we were doing a story that separated our characters, it would make sense to do the episode where they all get together. I think if you watch all the stories back-to-back in season five, I think it all plays out nice.

BW: Yeah. I think a lot of people didn’t see the scope of season five as it was airing.

Glen: I don’t think they did. Do you think people get it now?

BW: I think they do. I think people understood what was building when we got to CALLING ALL TITANS and TITAN TOGETHER. I think people really liked them.

Glen: But not THINGS CHANGE [laughs].

BW: I think it was a mixed bag. Some people understand why you did that story, Some people don’t want to accept that story.

Glen: Why do you think that is?

BW: I think people wanted a certain ending to the Terra storyline. I think people imagined, if she came back, she would be the sixth member of the team and start dating Beast Boy, The End. And that’s the typical “Hollywood Ending.” If you look at DVDs and alternate endings to movies, a lot of times the original endings were the ‘depressing’ ones. Maybe the hero doesn’t triumph, exactly. I think an audience has been pre-conditioned to want only happy endings.

Glen: Sure. I think when you watch the arc, I think THINGS CHANGE explains what the whole series is about.

BW: Right. It’s about growth. And change. Now, how did you guys develop THINGS CHANGE as an episode?

Glen: I think it was mostly [Story Editor] Amy [Wolfram] and I. And the main point of the story isn’t whether the girl is Terra or not. Even in the credits, she’s listed as “schoolgirl” or something. Sometimes, I think explaining a story is like explaining a joke: When you talk about it too much, it isn’t even funny anymore. I almost feel like I’d be effecting what the show means to people.

It’s interesting how mad people get about the Raven-Robin thing, or the Robin identity thing, or the Terra arc. Part of the point of THINGS CHANGE is that, well. things change. And not everyone is cut out to be a hero. What I like about Titans is that a lot of kids can look at Beast Boy and BE Beast Boy. There’s something about the Titans being vague, that the kids can project themselves onto the characters. I love when kids come up to me and tell me that they really like a character. I like that they really relate to these characters. I think that’s important to people. I think THINGS CHANGE is, in a way, a reaction to the fans taking it all way to seriously. Or projecting too much onto the characters. Like, thinking, “These characters HAVE to be in a relationship. These characters HAVE to like each other.” But in real life, you just don’t always get everything you want. I hope that makes sense.

BW: Where did the idea for that story come from? How far back did you plan that episode?

Glen: We figured it out when we were talking about what the fifth season was all about. I think we even talked about bringing “Terra” back during the Trigon storyline. But that didn’t make sense; It didn’t organically work with that. I was just too many things to try and do. And y’know, I really like the character. But sometimes that alone isn’t a good enough reason to bring a character back.

So Amy and I discussed the story and we decided what it should be about. Really early on, we figured out what the story would be and what it meant. And we both really liked it.

And when you start getting into a story and it becomes about, “How did she get unfrozen? Who did that? What form of science might bring her back?” When you start getting into those things, it gets away from what the story is about. At that point, it gets sort of fanboy and geeky. And you end up explaining things that don’t necessarily need to be explained.

BW: The storytelling was very unique in that episode. Were there some specific influences?

Glen: I really like “His and Her Circumstances.” Plus, I liked the contrast. We did this really, really, super-huge, massive action story. And then we do this really, really, tiny, small, personal story. The show was always about change and shifting gears. It was about being unpredictable. And I liked that. So that’s the reason why we wanted that storytelling in THINGS CHANGE. It’s supposed to be thoughtful. It’s supposed to be slow. It’s funny, because it seems self-explanatory to me.

Here’s the thing: I like all different kinds of movies and comics. And so does the crew. That’s something unique about our crew; I think everyone came from different and unique backgrounds. And I think we took that and brought that into the show. The show was about how all these different personalities work together, and that’s what we did. We thought that was really important.

So we wanted to make different kinds of shows. David [Slack]. Rob [Hoegee] and Amy [Wolfram] weren’t big comic book fans. So when I explained the show to them, I think they liked the fact that I just wanted interesting stories about interesting characters. And yeah, that’s what comics can be. And that’s what super-heroes can be.

 The “schoolgirl” in THINGS CHANGE

BW: Are you satisfied with THINGS CHANGE as the series finale?

Glen: Yeah, I am. I think it’s a nice cap to the “Terra” story. I think the thing people don’t realize about “Terra” is: she wasn’t cut out to be a super-hero. She had super-powers, but she wasn’t cut out for that. And that’s what makes her a tragic character. And I think that’s what makes that character interesting.

It’s hard to explain that sort of thing to people. Like, some characters are born to die. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t like that character. That’s the lesson of that character.

BW: Right. And some of the most memorable characters in comics are tragic. Like Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s girlfriend who died in the comics. Would she be as interesting if she was still around? Or is she more memorable as the tragically-killed girlfriend?

Glen: Exactly. And you don’t want those kinds of stories to end up cheap. You want them to be really convincing and you don’t want the audience to feel cheated. And you want them to feel that a story played out and have them feel satisfied.

Going into season five, we knew we were taking more risks and gambles. Like with TRUST. We knew going into that story that Robin was going to give up the communicator. So it’s hard when you are trying to play out that story, but viewers watch that episode and go, “Robin was dumb.” It’s hard to structure that story because we had to have Robin let his guard down and give up his communicator. But we wanted to establish how bad the villains are and how big the stakes are. And we wanted the audience to know that early on. And we wanted the cause of the problem to be Robin.

It’s hard, because you need to create drama in a story, so events like that need to occur. From the very beginning, we wanted to tell stories about teenagers that aren’t perfect. And I think what makes these characters likeable is that they are vulnerable. But to make them vulnerable, they have to screw up. They make mistakes.

And I don’t think we showed the characters in a bad light. I wanted characters to go through things that people go through in life. So I didn’t want Robin to be perfect. I wanted him to make mistakes. There’s a lesson to be learned.

The Titans Guys by Murakami

Titans Go: Wrapping Up

BW: And we have the TEEN TITANS: TROUBLE IN TOKYO direct-to-dvd movie coming up. Can you tell us anything about that?

Glen: It’s a longer story and we have more time to spend with it. We developed it between seasons four and five, so in some ways, it fits in between those seasons. But I don’t think that really matters much.

BW: If TEEN TITANS: TROUBLE IN TOKYO does well, do you think there’s a chance they might do more direct-to-dvd movies?

Glen: It’s possible. But I can’t really say either way, at this point, because I don’t really know.

BW: Were you disappointed when the word came down that they didn’t want any more episodes?

Glen: Yes and no. I think we had more stories and we could have gone further. I’ve had some time away from it now, but in some ways it was getting harder to keep doing the show and making it fresh. They don’t want any more right now,, But that doesn’t mean that a year from now, they might want more. Who knows? It’s like what happened with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. You never know.

BW: Have you heard any feedback about letter writing campaigns?

Glen: I’ve only heard what’s been happening online. But in the end, it’s about a bunch of stuff that goes beyond us.

BW: Let’s talk about some of the things you DIDN’T get a chance to do. What were some ideas that were left on the cutting room floor?

Glen: Oh, gosh. Let me think. EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY originally started as a Krypto story. We did talk about who funded the Titans Tower. I had an idea – really early on – about a Bruce Wayne story. There’s a lot of ideas that we talk about, but it never means it was going to happen. Sometimes when these things come up, you just talk through the story. Or you talk about back story And you zig-zag all over the place.

There was an early Titans bad guy, the Separated Man. That was sorta similar to our Plasmus story. Originally, my concept was: Plasmus is a big monster, it gets separated into individual parts and then the Titans fight the individual parts. So my original drawings had the Titans fighting the individual parts… Like fighting just his hand or just his head. And then I looked back at that Separated Man story and I was like, “Oh my God. That’s really similar to that first story.”

[Character Designer] Derrick Wyatt wanted to use Honey Bun and Mister Twister. We talked about the Ant. And we talked about how similar Red X was to Joshua. We’d do that a lot. We’d work on the show, then look back on the comic. Derrick Wyatt and [Director] Ben Jones were big DC Comics fans. So they’d look over old comics and say, “Wow, this story is similar to something we did.” and “Oh, why didn’t we do this?” We talked about using that biker character, The Scorcher. And then we realized that he’s similar to Jonny Rancid. So sometimes, we’d realize things like that and say, “Oh, why didn’t we just make him The Scorcher?”

The fifth season at one point was going to be 20 episodes. We were going to have Slade and the Brotherhood team up at one point. We didn’t get to use the Brotherhood quite the way I wanted. We didn’t get to use the Chief [the leader of the Doom Patrol]. I wanted to use him, but we just didn’t have time. I wanted to bring back Robotman for another story. There was a lot of stuff we wanted to do.

I do like evolving the characters and changing the characters. I wanted to bring back Thunder and Lightning. It would have been cool to bring Red Star back. Sometimes you wish certain characters were established better. It’s just that, you’re going so fast when you’re making the episodes. Either we ran out of time or the story took us in a different direction.

 Design for the DVD, Teen Titans: Trouble In Tokyo

BW: Did you ever talk about doing a season arc for Starfire?

Glen: Several times we talked about doing a Starfire story. We would talk about these really cool Starfire moments, but then it would get absorbed in a storyline. Rob [Hoegee] talked about doing an Omega Men story. And we were thinking about Starfire going home and tying the Omega Men into it. But every time we talked about doing a Starfire arc, it would get absorbed into a story.

To tell you the truth, when I was a kid, I never liked when the Titans went into space. I think they went into space at the same time that the X-Men went into space. It just seemed like those storylines went on so long. I remember thinking as a kid, “Gee, I wish they weren’t in space so long.” That might have been the other reason why I didn’t want to do a big intergalactic epic. I think the Titans worked best as earth-bound teenagers. I think you can’t really take that and continue into space.

Rob [Hoegee] also had an idea for a story of her going back home and realizing that she had changed. That was another thing; Starfire ended up not being like all the other Tamaraneans. In some ways, she was the outsider among other Tamaraneans. On Tamaran, she wouldn’t quite fit in as well as she did on earth. We realized that about all the Titans. In their own worlds, they don’t quite fit it. So that’s why them coming together as a group made so much sense. That’s the spin we put on it.

I remember David Slack also said he thought Starfire was the most foul-mouthed of all the Titans. Because she’s always cursing in Tamaranean. We always thought that was funny. The female characters ended up being the strongest characters. Both physically and emotionally.

BW: I suppose if you didn’t use Blackfire so early, you could have saved that for a big Starfire story.

Glen: Once again, though, with the way it was portrayed in the comics, there’s so much of that storyline that is so adult, we couldn’t do it. But I think Starfire was sprinkled into every story, so I don’t think we ever under-used the character. I think people were just frustrated that she never got an arc. And I think that every story idea we had for her ended up getting used throughout the show.

BW: Any plans or ideas for characters in the sixth season?

Glen: If we did a sixth season, we would have probably used Phobia. We would have used Mister Twister. I wanted to do another Mad Mod episode. We talked about Ravager for the sixth season, I think one concern with using her, was making it too similar to Terra. But we did talk about using her.

BW: Was there anything in the series that you didn’t get around to doing?

Glen: Here’s what I have to say about that: Sometimes we couldn’t do certain things or use certain characters – but a lot of those times, you can come up with something better. It’s really not that much of a big deal. Sometimes we want to use a certain villain, and then we can’t. Well, gee, that sucks. But then we come up with a new character. Or develop an existing one. Or we go into a different direction. And I don’t think that’s bad. I mean, I would have really liked to have used Wonder Girl. But I’m not all broken up that we didn’t end up using her.

I think that in the end, the show will stand for itself. And the work that we do isn’t limited to the characters we can use. I think it’s a really good show. And I’m proud of it.

Visit the Teen Titans Animated Series Guide for more information. Titans Go!

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